Royal Princess Ship Review

Royal Princess sets sail on her maiden voyage this coming Sunday. Photo courtesy of Princess Cruises
Royal Princess is partly distinguished by its size (carrying 3,600 passengers it is the largest ship in its competitive set), several innovations, and the number of dining and entertainment options offered, including some new to Princess Cruises. Photo courtesy of Princess Cruises

We provide you with photos, videos and the hard facts — plus, we share our own experiences to make ours the best Royal Princess ship review to help you make informed vacation decisions. We want your input too. Please leave your questions, comments or share your own experiences in the comments section. 

Overview Of Royal Princess

Introduced in June 2013, Royal Princess carries 3,600 passengers on a vessel that brought several innovations as well as signature features that differentiate the new ship in its competitive set. Royal Princess represents Princess Cruises’ first new ship design in 10 years.

Among the new features and innovations for Princess Cruises on Royal Princess:

  • A larger and expanded three-deck, piazza-style atrium with new entertainment and casual dining options.
  • Princess Cruises’ largest top deck pool ever with a water & light show.
  • An enhanced Movies Under the Stars screen.
  • Interactive, in-stateroom flat-panel televisions with complimentary programming, including new release movies.
  • SeaWalk, with views through glass panel flooring 17 decks down
  • The SeaView Bar
  • A Sports Complex on Deck 18.
  • Gelato, serving, of course, gelato for a charge
  • The Ocean Terrace Seafood Bar
  • The Pastry Shop, which Princess says is the largest of its kind at sea
  • Bellini’s, serving Italian-inspired Bellini and other cocktails
  • Princess Live!, a television studio where the audience can watch live ship programming
  • Bullseye Shooting Simulator, an environmentally friendly alternative to skeet shooting at sea
  • Super Tuscan Wine Collection, in Sabatini’s, comprised of 25 of the 29 Super Tuscan brands worldwide, the largest collection at sea.

If you are a Princess Cruises fan, you’ll likely love the new Royal Princess. Aside from its new features and innovations, Royal Princess is an attractive and comfortable ship with beautiful public spaces, attractive color schemes, multiple venues to dine or have a drink, fun entertainment (including an expanded Movies Under The Stars), fitness facilities and a spa, and of course, no shortage of balcony staterooms.

Those who have never experienced Princess Cruises may be impressed by the new vessel’s array of offerings and its brand promise to deliver cruise vacations that allow guests to “Escape Completely” under the patronage of the “Consummate Host,” the role to which Princess Cruises aspires.

There’s lots for families, while features such as The Sanctuary as well as The Retreat provide private havens for adults who desire complete escape (if you’re budgeting for your vacation, make note that gaining access to The Sanctuary costs $15 for a half day and $25 full day.)

Royal Princess: Is It A Ship For You?

Royal Princess likely will appeal to those who enjoy the diversity that a big ship like this one can deliver but with premium touches that  put it a notch above ships operated by Carnival Cruise LinesNorwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean.

Check out Six Types Of People Who Would Enjoy A Royal Princess Cruise: Are You One?

Royal Princess competes head on with Celebrity Cruises‘ Solstice-class ships, which are strong contenders in this segment, and perhaps to a lesser degree, because of their smaller sizes, the ships of Holland America Line.

Points of distinction between these three companies are, in fact, subtle within the competitive set. Each of the lines thrives on service, dining, entertainment, accommodations and onboard experiences, and all succeed admirably in those areas, delivering high satisfaction levels as indicated by guest surveys.

Public Debut, Royal Princess

Public Debut, Royal Princess

After arriving from the shipyard where it was constructed in Italy, Royal Princess docked at Ocean Terminal in Southampton, England. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Happy Crew

Happy Crew

Princess is known for its friendly and professional crew. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Deck 17, Above The SeaWalk

Deck 17, Above The SeaWalk

The "hole" in Royal Princess on Deck 17 outlines the SeaWalk, one deck below, on a beautiful night sailing to Southampton. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

The Atrium

The Atrium

The three-level atrium is 50 percent larger than on other Princess ships. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Packed Piazza

Packed Piazza

All three decks, standing room only, during festivities around the Royal Princess naming ceremony. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Zumba!

Zumba!

Entertainment and fitness mingle one morning in the atrium, which features all-day (and evening) programming, ranging from classical music to acrobatics. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Princess Live!

Princess Live!

A new television studio aboard Royal Princess, featuring programming throughout the day, with seating for nearly 300 passengers. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Movies Under The "Sunset"

Movies Under The "Sunset"

On Royal Princess, the 34-foot-by-20-foot screen for Movies Under the Stars is 30 percent larger than on any other Princess vessel and is the largest outdoor movie screen at sea. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

The Retreat Pool

The Retreat Pool

Come on in. The water is just right at the adults-only Retreat Pool. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Shaded Seating In The Sanctuary

Shaded Seating In The Sanctuary

The adults-only Sanctuary space is 20 percent larger than on other Princess ships and features lots of cozy seating. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Lotus Spa Treatments At The Sanctuary

Lotus Spa Treatments At The Sanctuary

The Sanctuary also features two Lotus Spa Cabanas, featuring living areas and couples' treatment rooms. Packages range from around $300 to $3,000. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Retreat Pool & Bar

Retreat Pool & Bar

The adults-only Retreat Pool, lined with cabanas. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Sanctuary Cabana

Sanctuary Cabana

There are four Cabanas at The Sanctuary, renting for $80 for a half day or $130 for a full day. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Water Fountain Show

Water Fountain Show

A new feature for Princess Cruises, a top-deck water fountain show to complement Movies Under The Stars. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Virtual Vertigo

Virtual Vertigo

Don't worry. High railings fence off this open area adjacent to the SeaWalk. The perspective, however, shows just how high above the sea you are when walking the SeaWalk. Want to walk it? Check out the video for a virtual stroll along the SeaWalk. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

The SeaWalk

The SeaWalk

The SeaWalk, Seen From Below

The SeaWalk, Seen From Below

Photographed from the Promenade Deck (deck 5), the SeaWalk, beautifully lighted at night. Check out the video for a virtual stroll along the SeaWalk. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Serene SeaWalk

Serene SeaWalk

The SeaWalk adds an unusual element to Royal Princess, especially at night, as in this photo as we made our way to Southampton. Check out the video for a virtual stroll along the SeaWalk. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Midships Pool & Water Fountain

Midships Pool & Water Fountain

A near-empty pool area on Royal Princess. It wouldn't be that way for long. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

A Stop Along The SeaWalk

A Stop Along The SeaWalk

Looking down 5 from the SeaWalk on Deck 16 to Deck 5 below. Yes, the tiny specks are people on the Promenade Deck. Check out the video for a virtual walk on the SeaWalk. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Princess Theater

Princess Theater

During rehearsals for the evening performances. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Casino

Casino

The casino features a number of gaming tables and slot machines. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Churchill"s

Churchill"s

A smoker's lounge on deck 6. Featuring fine cigars and cognacs. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

The Wheelhouse Bar

The Wheelhouse Bar

Sit here or at tabletops for libations or the popular daily pub lunch, served at no charge everyday. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

The Wheelhouse Bar

The Wheelhouse Bar

On the way to the attractive, nautically inspired Wheelhouse Bar. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

The Library

The Library

Adjacent to The Wheelhouse Bar on deck 7. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Shops & Casino

Shops & Casino

A winding staircase leads from deck 7 to deck 6 and the casino. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Have A Seat

Have A Seat

I found these "pods" to be as comfortable as they were stylish during my voyage in June. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Deck Chairs

Deck Chairs

Relax on the teak deck chairs on deck 5. Walkers may want to note that Royal Princess does not feature a wrap-around promenade but does features a running and walking track on deck 18. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Atrium View

Atrium View

On deck 5, view of the atrium's lower level. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Not Just Another Face In The Crowd

Not Just Another Face In The Crowd

All smiles, Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, godmother of Royal Princess. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Trouble viewing our slideshow? View it on Flickr instead.

What distinguishes Royal Princess?

Its size (carrying 3,600 passengers, it is the largest ship in its immediate competitive set) and perhaps by virtue of its size, the number of dining and entertainment options offered. So if you’re someone who wants lots of options and more upscale cruise experiences than those offered on Carnival, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean, Royal Princess may be your ship.

Kate MIddleton
Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, arrives in Southampton to name the new Royal Princess. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Royal Princess holds one major distinction. The ship was christened by Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, whose portrait is displayed on deck 5 between the Atrium and Guest Services. Also see In Photos: Kate Middleton Names Royal Princess In Southampton.

The Avid Cruiser’s Take On The Royal Princess

I enjoyed my time on Royal Princess and would like to return to cruise with my family. There’s enough to satisfy discriminating adults (including those great getaways at the Sanctuary and Retreat), and there are programs to keep children and teens happy and busy.

The cuisine was memorable in most restaurants (ah, Sabatini’s) and satisfying in others. The lounges were lively, and there was always something going on for those who wanted it, including the persistent and pleasant bustle in the atrium/piazza, and quiet venues for those who wanted to enjoy the solitude of being at sea.

Staff was friendly, greeting me at every encounter, but that’s something to be expected on all of today’s ships. Staterooms were well designed, with bathrooms and balconies large enough for actual use.

What distinguished Royal Princess was the variety of quality experiences, from exquisite dining to enjoyable entertainment, from acres of pool space (and plenty of lounge chairs) to facilities for active cruisers (the Lotus Spa Fitness Center, Sports Central and Center Court). And as noted, staff was friendly, staterooms won’t make you feel squeezed in. Princess Cruises certainly delivered with its new vessel, royally, you might say.

See our full photo gallery Royal Princess, In Photos

That said, I did hear a few grumbles, primarily about the lack of a midships stairwell. Because of that if you’re in the atrium, there are only two ways to get to your stateroom, wait on an elevator, or walk forward or aft to take the stairs. Say you’re on deck 7 in the atrium and you need to get to deck 8 (or above) to your stateroom. You’ll need to take the elevator — or walk to the stairwells forward and aft. I found this to be a minor irritation, as did others who remarked on the lack of a midships stairwell during my six days on board in June. There is a simple way around it, and that is to be prepared for it and plan to use the aft and forward elevators and stairwells. The upside? Walking counteracts calories, and there are plenty of those available on Royal Princess.

 Interested in the engineering? See 51 Royal Princess Photos During Its Construction

Royal Princess Restaurants, Plus New Lounges

Royal Princess Main Dining Rooms
Royal Princess features a slew of specialty restaurants and three main dining rooms – Allegro, which features Chef’s Table Lumiere; Symphony and Concerto, both featuring wine cellar tables for special dining experiences. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Royal Princess features a new concept for Princess Cruises: the Chef’s Table Lumiere. Situated in Allegro (one of three main dining rooms), Chef’s Table Lumiere casts new light, literally, on the company’s popular — and the cruise industry’s first — chef’s table experience at sea.

Guests sit at a custom-made glass table in an area surrounded by strands of lights that form a curtain. The effect is a soft wall of privacy in the middle of one of the main dining rooms. The dining experience, which includes the chef’s specially prepared meal, goes for $115 per person.

The other main dining rooms, Symphony and Concerto, feature the Wine Maker’s Dinner, which goes for $40 per person, in a venue inspired by wine cellars. The circular areas, surrounded by wine bottles, seat up to 12 people each. Developed in conjunction with noted winemakers, the speciality menus are paired with wines and include classic carved meats such as crown of veal rack, lamb Baron and veal rack a l’Orlov.

You’ll likely want to make reservations for dining at the Crown Grill, a premium seafood and chop house featuring chops, seafood and premium Sterling Silver steaks. The cover charge is $25, except for the complimentary pub lunch, which is offered each day in the adjacent Wheelhouse Bar on deck seven aft.

Read more about Royal Princess Restaurants & Lounges

Staterooms & Suites On Royal Princess

Mini-suite, Royal Princess
Larger than a balcony stateroom, the Royal Princess mini-suite includes all the same amenities of a balcony stateroom, plus these added luxuries: welcome glass of champagne, separate seating area, sofa bed, two flat screen televisions, marble top furniture, a spacious closet and bathroom tub. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Royal Princess features five categories of staterooms and suites. During my June 2013 voyage, I was able to step inside all of them, and I’ve included photos in the slideshow at the bottom of this post as well as a video of my stateroom.

That was a Deluxe Balcony Stateroom, number D508 to be precise, on Dolphin Deck. The Deluxe Balcony Stateroom is a new category for Princess Cruises. It’s defined as an “extra spacious” balcony cabin with a comfortable sofa bed (in addition to the comfy queen-sized or twin bed configuration) and a smattering of the upgraded amenities found in the Mini-Suites, plus enhanced bathroom amenities such as terrycloth towels, waffle bathrobes and an upgraded duvet. Click here to read more about Royal Princess Staterooms & Suites, including a video tour and photo slideshow.

Lotus Spa & Fitness on Royal Princess

Table Tennis On Royal Princess
Play Ping-Pong at Sports Central or work up a sweat at Center Court on the new Royal Princess. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Increasingly, spa and fitness facilities are gaining prominence on cruise ships. Some vacationers simply don’t want to break their fitness routines, and so they appreciate it when they find extensive gym facilities — and classes — on today’s modern ships. Others seek restoration and rejuvenation in ship spas while cruising.

During my June 2013 voyage on the new Royal Princess, I enjoyed both activities. I visited the Lotus Spa for a Thai Coconut Poultice Massage ($155 for 50 minutes) and the Lotus Spa Fitness Center, where I worked out each day for about 45 minutes. Burning calories gave me justification for another ice cream each time I passed Gelato, situated in the atrium on deck 5 on Princess Cruises’ newest vessel.

What’s your interest? Do you enjoy working out on cruise? Or do you want to be pampered? Certainly, you don’t need to choose. You can do both — as I did on my voyage. For a full overview and our most up-to-date post about the Lotus Spa and Fitness Center on Royal Princess, click on this link Photo Tour: Royal Princess Spa & Fitness.

Bigger Piazza-Style Atrium

Royal Princess Atrium
The three-level atrium is 50 percent larger than on other Princess ships. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Few travel experiences can top sitting in a piazza, watching the world pass while sipping a cappuccino or a glass of chianti, or digging at a delicious dome of gelato. You can do all of those things while sitting in the piazza on Royal Princess.

Royal Princess’ expanded piazza-style atrium feature new casual dining options including Gelato, an Italian gelateria and the Ocean Terrace Seafood Bar. Guests can enjoy live entertainment in a nearby bar or lounge, such as Crooners, where pianists perform while guests sing along.

Overlooking the Atrium, the new Bellini’s bar offers a prime location for watching the action in the Piazza below. This bar serve ups a variety of Bellini-inspired drinks, including the new signature “Royal Bellini.”

Larger Pool Area On Royal Princess

Midships Pool & Water Fountain
A larger pool on Royal Princess, with lots of lounge chairs. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

The new Royal Princess features Princess Cruises’ largest-ever top deck pool. The pool also features daily and nightly performances of new dancing fountains, featuring four shows, ranging from a Frank Sinatra theme to James Bond.

Boasting Princess Cruises’ largest Movies Under the Stars screen, Royal Princess offers guests the chance to relax in comfortable lounger snuggled under a cozy fleece blanket while enjoying complimentary fresh-popped popcorn or cookies and milk. Princess’ signature poolside theater  also features a variety of movies and concerts playing on the big screen.

One new feature on pool deck is the  SeaWalk, a vertigo-inducing walkway that extends 28 feet beyond the side of the ship. Read more about the SeaWalk and the pool deck.

Check out our pool deck slideshow.

Royal Princess Entertainment

Princess Theater
During rehearsals for the evening performances. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Four new productions are featured aboard Royal Princess, including “Colors of the World,” an experiential journey through the destinations visited by Princess ships; “Spectacular!” a musical revue extravaganza; “Sweet Soul Music,” an upbeat tribute to Rhythm and Blues; and “What the World Needs Now,” a timeless, elegant show celebrating the music and style of the ’60s.

Royal Princess Casino

Royal Princess Casino
The casino features a number of gaming tables and slot machines. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

For gamblers, the Princess Casino aboard Royal Princess features the latest new slots and table games, from blackjack to Texas Hold’em and roulette to slot tournaments. Standing at the heart of the casino is a spiral staircase that leads up to Deck 7 and the onboard boutiques, while an adjacent bar makes it easy to pop in for drinks between games.

We’re always interested in your experiences aboard, so please leave comments if you have something to add in the section below. Our goal is to build a collective cruise community of voices that help all of us make informed cruise vacation decisions.

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