We chose this cruise entirely due to the itinerary, with some pre-cruise reservations due to the large size of the ship and its ability to manage the daily passenger flow at the ports of call. We are veterans of many cruises and different cruise lines. We had previously sailed with Princess but had not done so recently. Furthermore, we had not sailed on a 4000+ passenger ship. The ship is huge with many lovely public areas and a myriad of entertainment options. It is reasonably well maintained. It was very comfortable under sail. Our cabin was perfectly satisfactory with adequate closet and storage space. Our room safe was non-operational and was never repaired despite reporting the problem but that was a truly minor issue.. Our cabin steward was excellent, as good as we have had on any cruise. The balcony was tiny but for this cruise where we expected to spend very little time on the balcony, it was fine.
Dining overall was a bit of an enigma. The quality of the dining in the Allegro dining room was excellent. The variety, selections and overall food preparation was first class as was the service. Given this degree of excellence in the dining room, we were dismayed by the quality in the Horizon buffet. In a word, it was terrible. While there certainly was sufficient quantity, the quality was extremely disappointing. It was inconsistent, unappetizing and unappealing. Its real value was as an appetite suppressant to encourage dietary restraint on a cruise. The open deck choices (Trident Grill and the pizzeria) were both very good and provided a welcome relief to the disappointment that is the Horizon buffet. One thing that deserves special mention is our beverage package. Most of our group purchased the soda package prior to the cruise. These packages vary from cruise line to cruise line and we had been used to receiving cans of soda as part of the package. That is not the case with Princess. The soda package consists of fountain drinks available only from servers, usually with a significant delay. They are served in small (juice sized) plastic glasses. During much of the cruise, the quality of the syrup used or problems with carbonated water created poor quality drinks. I would avoid this package completely. It would be much better to pay by the can (you can get a can of soda if you purchase them individually). This seems very much to be an effort to maximize profit rather than to provide a quality product. I would gladly pay a bit more and actually get what I want.
Entertainment was fine although the ship's main theater is extremely cramped. While other lines offer a more open and spacious theater, Princess appears to have abandoned that idea to maximize cabin space and get just as many passengers as possible on board. It is very difficult to see from the rear of the auditorium. There is nothing open or relaxing about the venue. Again, for a "new port every day" cruise itinerary, this was not a big problem for us. We simply avoided the shows, although the few we did attend were of good quality albeit in an uncomfortable venue.
Dining and cabin service was excellent. It is as good or better than on most other cruise lines we have utilized. However, guest services seemed harried and disorganized. We were able to resolve questions, but it usually took several visits. This was undoubtedly due in part to the vast number of passengers on board. We pre-purchased an internet package. On board, that package was not honored. We were told to pick "the closest option to the one we had previously chosen" and to utilize that even though it meant not receiving the full value of the package we had purchased. As an amenity with out booking package, we were credited with an alternative dining venue for one meal. Without any input from us, the ship scheduled that particular meal during a time we were not available to take advantage of it. In and of itself, this really was not a major issue but it was part of the overall compendium of small frustrations and annoyances that accompanied the cruise.
The ports of call were spectacular. We took a single ship's shore excursion that turned out to be quite good although very expensive. The description of the shore excursion in the ship's brochure did not match what we experience, though I suspect our actual tour was much better than what was actually sold. The ports of call are excellent. We prefer to book private excursions through non-ship vendors and have done this for years, despite the concerns voiced by the cruise companies that if a private tour returns late, you will be left by the ship. With careful planning and some pre-cruise homework, shore excursions can be vastly better done privately in both cost and experience. Our private excursions were superb and met all of our expectations. Since itinerary was the purpose of choosing this cruise, all of our expectations were met despite some of the on-board frustrations.
In retrospect, this vacation would have been better managed as a land trip rather than as a cruise. The Royal Princess is simply too large to easily accommodate this particular itinerary given the fact that several of the ports require tendering. All of our group were pleased with the end result but most of us felt disappointed with a number of the on-board experiences with Princess.
Well designed with good space utilization. The closet space is excellent and the overall storage area is very good. The bed was comfortable and in-cabin amenities were fine. The balcony is very small and would not be suitable for spending any length of time outside, but that was not a consideration on this particular cruise.