My parents and I recently returned from a 12-day cruise around the British Isles on Princess Cruises ‘Royal Princess’. Despite being the closest to home we’ve ever sailed, it was a really special trip for so many reasons, one being that we celebrated a special occasion on board (happy 70th dad!).
Royal Princess is the biggest ship I’ve ever been on and far exceeded my expectations. Here are a couple of reasons, in no particular order, why I love this beautiful ship.
I say this is in no particular order, but this one definitely needed to be top of the list. Most ships we’ve sailed on have had some sort of central space, from the larger ones on Azura and Sapphire Princess to the dinky space on Adonia.
Royal Princess’s Piazza is the largest and most beautiful central space I’ve seen on a ship so far – it was the first thing we saw as we boarded on embarkation in Southampton – it’s bright and dazzling, a beautiful contrast to the grey British skies outside!
It really was the main hub of activity – one of the things I love about Princess’s Piazzas is there is always something going on. There’s always hustle and bustle in the evening, a great place either to dance the night away or just enjoy a drink or people watch. From art and dance classes to gentle melodies from a string trio or party music from Evolution. I’ve never seen dance floors so full every evening!
Gelato is found on the 5th floor, the ground level of the Piazza. Tucked off to the side, this ice cream parlour did some absolutely amaaazing sundaes! The Nutella ice cream was just incredible, and you could choose from all sorts of toppings. These ice creams did come at an additional cost but were so much nicer than the soft serve you get on the Lido deck (although don’t get me wrong, I had a fair few of those as well.)
Sticking with the area around the Piazza, Crooners Bar on deck 7 became one of our favourite haunts of an evening, mainly due to Kory, the pianist. As well as being a really talented musician and a fab singer (think Michael Buble combined with the Duracell bunny), the bloke was hilarious. Plus he played Lady In Red while I was rocking the colour on formal night so, you know, brownie points. Also, major brownie points for the bar staff because the drinks in this bar are SO strong! God bless free pouring. We worked out that prices are pretty much in line with any Liverpool bar (we actually think it’s cheaper than P&O with the exchange rates).
The Balloon Drop
This isn’t restricted to Royal Princess, I think this is a Princess thing in general, but it was only my second experience so it was still very exciting! Grab yourself a drink, get on the dancefloor and don’t miss out on the experience!
The Princess Theatre
We got to go on a backstage tour of the theatre on one of the sea days, which was very exciting – the space behind the stage is so cleverly designed with costume rails that go up into the ceiling and spaces for the scenery to be tucked away. What really impresses me on Princess is the quality of the productions. While some shows we saw on Sapphire weren’t my favourite shows at sea, you can’t deny how stunning the costumes and scenery are. Royal Princess had huge LCD displays at the back and sides of the stage which allow them to use any backdrop they so wish.
The two shows that really stood out for us were Encore and The Secret Silk – the latter of which I’d been very excited for. It featured original music by Stephen Schwartz (yes, the Disney and Wicked composer) and puppets from Jim Henson’s Creature Shop – the story was a little predictable and I wasn’t quite sure why one of the puppets was necessary but the whole thing was so visually stunning and beautifully performed you forgave it.
Because the cruise was so port intensive, we found ourselves coming back, relaxing getting ready for dinner and then not actually seeing a whole lot of entertainment other than the theatre shows. The few game shows we did go to were hilarious though, and the cruise staff we did get to meet and talk to were all lovely.
Come on, I couldn’t possibly go that long before talking about food, could I? The layout of Horizon Court is quite different to any other ship I’ve been on, with separate aisles for different foods. There was even a section called the pastry shop full of tasty looking treats (never much in the way of gluten free though).
Thankfully in the main buffet, the sous chefs were always happy to take a minute or two showing me along the line pointing out the gluten free options – I guess due to the size of the place, I found there was a pretty wide choice of what I could have, and it was always delicious. A lot of times we were in the buffet I opted for the carvery style set up with meat and vegetables, but I also got to have some incredible ratatouille and some egg fried rice and stir fry that was all gluten free.
In the restaurant we followed the usual procedure of ordering the night before, and I had some really delicious evening meals. We also ate breakfast in the Dining Room most days – we found the service to be quite slow but got to relax of a morning and chat to fellow passengers and the waiters. Vlad, if you see this, I hope you got your promotion!
The Soft Drinks Package
Moving on from food to beverages – if you’re not a huge boozer (says the gin fiend) it’s worth considering this package. We got the Soda & More package, which includes soft drinks, mocktails and hot chocolate. At £6 a day, you only really need to have about 3 drinks a day to make it worth it (bear in mind the mocktails are $5.50 anyway!). We also established a routine of grabbing a hot chocolate from the International Cafe to take back to our cabin each night.
The Outdoor Space
All ships are better in the sunshine, let’s face it, but I think this one would be heaven in somewhere like the Caribbean (yes I’m biased in my cruise destinations). The central lido area contained two pools, a load of hot tubs and a fantastic raised area that turns into a fountain show at night. There are also sports areas on the top deck if you’re that way inclined – although the ship is missing a prom deck there is still plenty of space to walk around.
A quirky feature is the Skywalk, basically a curved sticking out walkway, part of which has a glass floor so you can see down to the deck and sea below. Apparently, this is a feature they have on the bridge to help them park the ship, so it’s cool that we get to see something normally only the officers would see.
This adults-only pool is an oasis of calm, sat at the front of the ship. It features well spaced out sunbeds, cabana that you can hire at a daily rate, and of course a bar. Further forward still is the Sanctuary, the more exclusive outdoor space, where you can relax in cabanas which include a sofa and tv, or one of the plush loungers or daybeds. $40 a day gets you a space in this safe haven, with steward service offering healthy refreshments.
Although this was only my second Princess Cruise, it’s already clear that they are very port intensive. On our British Isles Cruise we only actually had 2 sea days over the 12 day cruise – the first 6 days were one after the other, and they were long days.
There are so many incredible routes the fleets offers – from the quaint streets of Europe, to the beaches of the Caribbean to the ancient wonders of Asia.