Regal Princess is unmistakably elegant, accomplishing something mainstream cruise ships occasionally struggle with: finding a balance between fun and refinement. The decor is comfortable, with warm tones and plenty of wood and marble. The Piazza, a hallmark of the line, is truly grand; it's large, encompasses three decks and has three bold spiral staircases. At night, it's where you'll want to spend your time watching people, listening to music or sipping cocktails.
Regal Princess is a near twin of fleetmate Royal Princess, so it has mostly the same features. These include the SeaWalk, a cantilevered glass walkway that juts out from the Lido Deck, allowing passengers to take in unobstructed views of the sea below. It's a fun touch, though it loses its appeal after you've taken the walk once. Editor's Tip: For a fun photo, station one person on the promenade on Deck 7, directly below the SeaWalk. Have the model look up to the SeaWalk and wave. Snap a pic looking down through the SeaWalk.
When Royal Princess debuted, passengers complained that two staples on the lines' other ships were lacking: the aft pool and the promenade deck. In response, Princess made changes to get versions of those on Regal Princess, with some success. The aft pool is a solid, though small, addition to Regal Princess, but the promenade still misses the mark. It doesn't wrap the ship like a true promenade; instead, it comprises two outdoor decks -- one portside, the other starboard side -- that are only accessible by cutting through the ship.
A highlight onboard is the food, which we enjoyed in most venues. The buffet offers tremendous variety, with many options for international palates, and the for-fee restaurants -- specifically Sabatini's and Crown Grill -- are reasonably priced. Still, those who don't want to pay have enough options that they won't feel slighted. Conversely, those who want to splurge on the Chef's Table and the Winemaker's dinner will likely feel as if it was money well spent.
Regal Princess is part of Princess' Medallion Class of ships, which makes use of the innovative OceanMedallion. The system includes a wearable OceanMedallion, which is used to make purchases and automatically unlock your cabin door when you approach it. It also involves a robust smartphone app that lets passengers send messages and locate each other on the ship, as well as navigate their way to onboard venues. You can also use it to order food, drinks and other retail items to other location, such as your poolside deck chair.
While this new technology represents a major evolution for the line, Princess fans will still find the things they love about the line onboard this ship. The overall vibe is relaxing and fun -- exactly what you want a vacation to be.
Daytime: During the day, casual is the name of the game, with shorts, swimsuits and flip-flops the norm.
Evening: In the evening, passengers wear resort-casual attire. For men, that generally means khakis or slacks and button-down or collared shirts. Women wear dresses or skirts, capris or slacks and blouses. On formal nights, evening attire is the standard. For men, that includes suits (jackets optional) and slacks or the occasional tuxedo. Women wear cocktail or evening gowns or formal pantsuits. Cruises of four days or fewer won't have formal nights, but those with five or six days will feature one formal night; seven- to 13-day sailings will have two formal nights; and voyages of 14 to 20 days will feature three formal nights.
Not permitted: In the dining rooms, items such as shorts, pool wear, distressed jeans and baseball caps are not permitted; shoes must be worn at all times.
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The bulk of the performance action takes place in the Princess Theatre, located on decks 6 and 7. The theatre is a bit of a throwback (in a good way), in that the seating is palladium style. The theater is deep, though, and if you don't arrive early enough, you might find yourself stuck in the back, which is pretty far from the stage. Even so, there aren't any bad sightlines or obstacles. The theatre doesn't have drink holders or tables, though, so if you come with a drink or order one preshow, you'll have to hold it or set it on the floor.
The entertainment is varied and excellent, with a nod toward tradition and a beat that is clearly innovative. "Bravo" might be best described as "popera", with performers singing opera classics like "Time to Say Goodbye" and "Habanera" from "Carmen." In between, you'll catch modern tunes like "Skyfall" from Adele. Combined with a subdued set and large orchestra, the effect is a strangely seamless and ultimately delightful performance.
"Born To Dance" is a high-energy production featuring scenes from "West Side Story," "Chicago" and "A Chorus Line." A low-key highlight is the male vocal group, Modern Gentleman, who are Frankie Valli's backing band, the Four Seasons, when performing on land.
In addition to the production shows, the theatre hosts other acts that include comedians and instrumentalists. A fun event is The Voice of the Ocean, based on the TV show, "The Voice," complete with three 'coaches' in red chairs that spin around when they press the buzzer in support of a contestant. Passengers compete during the week to be selected for the final on the last day of the cruise, with the audience invited to vote for the winning singer using a keypad device.
During the day, action takes place throughout the ship. On port days, the options are more limited, but in general, common activities include trivia, name that tune contests, sports tournaments and seminars on health or history. Many activities happen in the various indoor lounges, such as the Vista Lounge and Club 6. Destination lectures take place in Princess Live!, where they are recorded and will appear as on-demand options later on your TV.
Throughout the day, concerts and movies are shown on the big screen poolside on the Lido Deck, and there are no repeats (often films are added to in-cabin television menus as soon as they've run on the big screen). You'll also get live music on the stage between the Fountain and Plunge pools.
The large Princess Casino is located on Deck 6 and features the usual assortment of slot machines and table games.
The bulk of the evening's entertainment takes place in and around the Piazza; you might see a string quartet or a two-person acrobatic act. Piano players abound, and you can get a variety of entertainment just by walking around the Piazza. Rock music lovers should get there early for the one-night show, "Rock Orchestra", with an excellent band playing big hits by Bon Jovi, Guns 'n' Roses, AC/DC and many more.
Princess Live! hosts games and entertainment offerings, such as a cruise ship version of the liar's game (fun, though somewhat sophomoric) and a pop star singing competition. The Vista Lounge, on Deck 7, is a true show lounge, with ample seating and a large stage. Comedians, illusionists and musicians perform there.
Movies Under the Stars are available on the Lido Deck most nights. Passengers can watch newer movies from the comfort of padded chairs. Princess really has perfected this option, offering blankets, fresh-popped popcorn, and cookies and milk. The Lido Deck also hosts fountain shows, where lights and streams of water are set to music.
While each bar around the Piazza has its own name and unique drink menu, the open space means you can look across, up or down to see what's happening in the others bars and move on to a venue that appeals to you. More passive passengers looking for some quiet chat will prefer Bellini's, Vines or the Wheelhouse Bar. Those who want an interactive, high-energy night will be right at home in Crooners or the Club 6 disco.
In general, the wine selection onboard is excellent, with prices and options for nearly every taste. We were disappointed in the beer selection, though, where the most "exotic" options are Beck's and Grolsch. We'd love to see more craft beers available.
Vines (Deck 5): Vines butts up against Sabatini's and is the perfect spot for wine-lovers. It has an impressive wine selection, and delicious Italian-influenced tapas during pre-dinner hours, are included with the purchase of wine.
Good Spirits At Sea (Deck 5): Overlooking the Piazza is this small bar that hosts two or three cocktail presentations on select days. A mixologist demonstrates how to make a specialty cocktail and then passengers receive recipe cards to make their own. Check the Princess Patter newsletter for presentation times in the late afternoon and early evening.
Bellini's (Deck 6): Grab a seat at Bellini's, and you'll find yourself in the best spot for watching the Piazza action at night. The drinks are fun and fruity, with many options, including the traditional Bellini (prosecco with white peach puree).
Club 6 (Deck 6): At night, Club 6 is the place for those who love dancing. It's a true dance club, with cushy seating and TV screens for video.
Churchill's (Deck 6): This is the ship's cigar bar, though cigarette smokers are common there, too.
Wheelhouse Bar (Deck 7): The Wheelhouse Bar is essentially an extension of the Crown Grill, and it does most of its business during predinner cocktails. On one sea day per cruise, Regal Princess hosts a complimentary British-style pub lunch there, complete with absolutely delicious fish and chips, bangers and mash and the most decadent bread pudding. Keep an eye on your daily cruise guide to find out which days, and show up early: Lines can be long for this popular option.
Crooners (Deck 7): Crooners is the ship's martini bar; at night, entertainment there generally involves a peppy piano player and group sing-alongs. If you don't want to participate, don't sit front and center, or you might find yourself dancing with the entertainer or singing along on the mic. During the day, Crooners hosts a popular afternoon happy hour. The best seats are the two-tops that overlook the promenade deck.
Mermaid's Tail (Deck 16): This is the main Lido Deck bar, and, as with any pool deck bar, it gets fairly busy on sea days.
SeaView Bar (Deck 16): The SeaView Bar sits near a cantilevered walkway on Regal Princess' starboard (opposite the SeaWalk). It's a small bar that's more of a novelty than a place to spend much time, but the bartenders are entertaining, and if you catch them at the right time, you'll see bottle-flipping and -spinning.
Outrigger Bar (Deck 16): This is one of the most underutilized spots on the ship. With amazing views from the ship's aft, Outrigger is generally less busy than other bars onboard -- but service was the worst we've experienced in any bar at sea.
The main pool is the Fountain Pool, located on Deck 16. This is the largest of the pools onboard, which generally are on the smaller side, but that doesn't seem to be a problem -- even on sea days. With smaller pools, there's plenty of space for loungers, and the usual elbowing for space on the Lido Deck is reduced. The smaller Plunge Pool is adjacent to the Fountain Pool. Both are surrounded by shallow tiled areas that allow passengers to keep their feet wet without diving in. Two hot tubs flank the pools.
The Terrace Pool is located on Deck 17 aft. The aft pool, a favorite among fans of the line, was missing from sister ship Royal Princess. After feedback from loyal passengers, Princess decided to add it to Regal Princess. It replaces the outdoor play area that occupies the same space on Royal Princess. We love that Princess listened to its passengers and made changes, but the pool is pretty tiny -- not much bigger than a hot tub. Still, the area is beautiful, and the views are stunning. It's worth grabbing a spot back there, especially on sea days.
Located on Deck 17, the Retreat Pool is an adults-only pool space that provides a serene escape from the crowds on the Lido Deck below. Passengers can rent cabanas, but it's perfectly comfortable to hang out on the loungers, in the pool or in one of the two hot tubs. It has its own bar and is just generally a quiet space to spend some time when you need to decompress.
The bulk of Regal Princess' recreation options is located on Deck 18, in an area dubbed "Princess Sports Central." There, you'll find a game lounge, table tennis, a full basketball court (that can easily transition into a volleyball court), putting greens, a golf practice cage and laser shooting range. On Deck 19, The Lawn Court is available for putting, bocce, croquet or lawn bowling.
The Sanctuary, Princess' adults-only pay-for-access oasis, is located on Deck 17. Access to the ultra-peaceful retreat costs $20 for a half day or $40 for a full day. Passengers who chill in the Sanctuary can lounge on thick padded loungers while waiters are available to bring you a variety of light spa-inspired meals like parfaits and gazpacho; there's a $3 service charge per person, per delivery. Cabanas are available for rental ($140 per half day and $220 for a full day's use), and those who truly want to splurge can purchase either the full-day Regal Indulgence ($3,000 for up to four people) package or the half-day Princess Pleasure ($1,500 for up to four people). Both packages provide enclosed, private cabanas and unlimited alfresco spa treatments, including massages, facials and body treatments. One tip: On our cruise, loungers in the Sanctuary were fully reserved on the cruise's first day so do plan to book accordingly.
Regal Princess also boasts sun deck areas on decks 18 and 19, as well as the Horizon Terrace, a peaceful area aft on Deck 16, adjacent to Outrigger Bar, that provides a mix of sun and shade. Two hot tubs on Deck 17 overlook the main Lido Deck area and are perfect for checking out the action or watching the movie screen.
Regal Princess' Grand Piazza serves as the ship's hub, and nearly all of the services on the ship can be found near there. Passenger services and the shore excursions desk are adjacent to each other on Deck 5. This is also where the internet cafe, with a small number of computer terminals, is located. The cafe is open 24/7, but on-duty managers have limited hours, which change based on itinerary.
MedallionNet Wi-Fi is available throughout the ship, and is fast enough to stream video and make calls. Passengers can purchase one-day or whole-voyage internet packages; purchase your package on the first day of your cruise for a deep discount. For one day, one device costs $19.99 or connect four devices for $29.99. For the whole cruise (seven days in our case), the cost is $59.99 pre-pay or $69.99 after the cruise commences. Four devices for a seven-day voyage costs $129.99 pre-pay or $139.99 after it commences.
You'll find Ocean Front, the spot for all your OceanMedallion questions and accessory purchases, on Deck 6. The lines on the first day of the cruise (after the ship has departed port), tend to get long, so if you've got your heart set on a specific accessory, we recommend purchasing before you cruise and having it shipped to you at home.
A large photo gallery, where passengers can peruse the photos taken of them during the trip, is right next door on Deck 6. It's one of the old-fashioned styled photo galleries where you have to search high and low to find your own photos. The bulk of the shopping takes place on Deck 7, where passengers can buy jewellery, forgotten necessities, logo items, souvenirs, perfume and toiletries. Passengers can book future cruises or visit the Captain's Circle Desk on Deck 7. A much-too-small library, with a selection of games and books, is also located on Deck 7. Regal Princess also has an art gallery on Deck 7.
Passengers who need to do laundry can use the ship's self-service facilities; one laundry room is located on each deck from 8 through 15. The washing machine and dryer cost $3 each, and laundry detergent and fabric softener are $1.50 each from vending machines. Using the iron and ironing board is free.
The ship's wedding chapel is on Deck 14. While ostensibly for weddings, this also hosts religious services and gatherings. The ship's formal photo studio, Platinum Studio, is located on Deck 17.
Regal Princess' Lotus Spa is located on Deck 5. The large space is serene, with decor that employs natural stones and plenty of browns, creams and greys. Treatments include Swedish and deep-tissue massages, facials and Ionithermie. The spa also has "villas" designed for couples massages, an indulgent room that includes a giant tub for two, steam room and private bathroom. Those who book a couples session can spend time in the room playing cards or sharing a meal, which they can have brought to them.
The Enclave is located in the spa. This coveted space includes a therapy soaking pool, waterbeds, steam showers, steam rooms and ceramic loungers. The Enclave is small -- probably too small -- for a ship the size of Regal Princess, and the line limits the number of people who can use the Enclave to those who purchase cruise-long passes. A pass costs $30 per day or $179 for the entire voyage. Another bummer: Those who purchase spa treatments aren't entitled to use the Enclave. Demand is high for the Enclave, so if you're interested in booking, do it right away on your first day aboard.
A beauty salon is adjacent to the spa, and passengers can book the usual assortment of treatments, including cuts, styling, waxing, manicures and pedicures.
Regal Princess' fitness centre is located on Deck 17. The space is long and narrow, with cardio equipment, including treadmills, ellipticals, stationary bikes, rowers and spin bikes. It also has a solid selection of weight machines, as well as a cable machine, Smith machine with plates and free weights up to 100 pounds. Even during busy times, the flow is well managed, and wait times for equipment are short. The fitness centre also has a large aerobics space, used for spinning, Pilates, boot camp and TRX suspension training classes; most classes require a fee. Beware: Many of the popular classes like TRX and bootcamp require you to sign up for multiple classes, which might not all be at times that suit your schedule. There is no true space for stretching, so passengers who want to spread out should head to the aerobics room, which is often busy with classes and seminars. Another nit: The fitness center doesn't open until 7 a.m., so if you like to work out in the morning, it's tough squeezing it in on port days.
A two-lane jogging track is located on Deck 18, and the line designates one lane for walkers and the other for runners. We found passengers generally adhered to those rules. Seven laps around equal one mile. Various pieces of resistance equipment, which work using body weight, are located in clusters around the track.
While there are plenty of for-fee dining options onboard, passengers who would rather not pay have enough variety and quality to satisfy. For those who seek tradition, there are the ship's three main dining rooms: Symphony, Allegro and Concerto. Horizon Court and Horizon Bistro, the ship's buffet options, provide a more casual vibe. Those who want to grab lunch in their swimsuits can get a slice at Prego Pizzeria or a burger from Trident Grill on the Lido Deck. Indoors, Alfredo's offers up delicious thin-crust pizza, calzones, pastas, salads and desserts.
Allegro Dining Room (Deck 6)
Meals: Dinner (D): Allegro is typically the ship's only free option for traditional set dining at dinner. Passengers can eat at either 5:45 p.m. or 8:15 p.m. Menus at Allegro are diverse and always offer an appetizer course, a soup or salad course, a pasta course (which can be ordered as an entree) and an entree. There's also a dessert menu. We found the food to be generally quite good, especially the seafood offerings, which can be difficult to get "just right" when preparing them for a large group of people.
On some nights the menus include a "Crafted by Curtis" option from celebrity chef, restaurateur and Iron Chef Curtis Stone. Stone, whose Share speciality restaurant are also found on Ruby and Emerald Princess, is known for creating healthy and inventive regional cuisine, and on our Caribbean cruise the items included mahi-mahi with curried plantains, pork tenderloin with sweet potato puree, and flank steak with black beans.
Another inventive Princess Cruises culinary partnership is with chocolatier Norman Love. On formal nights, don't miss his dessert offerings on the menu.
Regal designates dishes like the fried chicken as "home-style cuisine," and menus offer one such option each night. Other home-style selections include meatloaf, pork shoulder and chilli. A number of vegetarian options in each course are included each night, designated with a "V". Frustratingly, healthier options aren't noted as such on the menus, but look for keywords like "low-fat" or "sugar-free" in the item descriptions. Standard items designated as "always available" include shrimp cocktail, Caesar salad, salmon, a BLT burger and a grilled chicken breast.
Symphony Dining Room (Deck 5)
Meals: Dinner (D): Symphony serves dinner "anytime" style; passengers show up when they feel like eating, any time between 5:30 and 9:30 p.m. There is no set table and therefore no set tablemates or waiters. The menu in Symphony is the same as in Allegro and Concerto.
Concerto Dining Room (Deck 6)
Meals: Breakfast (B), Lunch (L), Dinner (D): Passengers looking for a main dining room experience for breakfast or lunch will find it in Concerto, which offers anytime dining for dinner, as well. Breakfast generally is served 7 to 9 a.m., and includes standards like omelettes made to order and eggs Benedict, as well as fruit and yoghurt. Lunch is generally served noon to 1:30 p.m. on embarkation day, and sometimes on sea days. The lunch menu offers appetizers, soups/salads, pasta and entrees along with sandwiches and burgers. Portions are appropriately sized for lunch, and it's a quieter experience than you'll find in the buffet. Dinner is served from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.; the menu there is the same as in Allegro and Symphony.
Horizon Court and Horizon Bistro (Deck 16)
**Meals: Breakfast (B), Lunch (L), Dinner (D): We were blown away by Horizon Court and Horizon Bistro, the ship's buffet. The space is huge, with plenty of seating, including coveted spots by the windows. The selection, too, is massive, and we found the best approach was doing a full walkthrough before even picking up a plate; this helped us make sure we got to try the things that really appealed to us without the waste. We also liked the hand-washing stations located throughout, giving passengers the opportunity to actually wash their hands without traipsing off to a bathroom. Quality at each meal was generally good for a buffet, where dishes often sit out for too long. On Regal Princess, meat doesn't dry out, sauces don't break, and sides stay fresh.
Breakfast starts at 5 a.m. with a continental option. A full breakfast is served from 6 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Options include muesli, scrambled eggs (plain and also with add-ins like shrimp and scallions), pastries, oatmeal and cereal. There's also an excellent international selection, including rice, hot soups, baked beans and grilled tomatoes. Eggs and omelettes can be made to order, and it was actually one of our favourite parts about the buffet. You place your order, and the chef hands you a ticket. Once you're seated, a waiter takes your ticket and brings you your order when it's ready. This is similar to the approach used for beverages; you order orange juice or coffee, for example, from a waiter, and he or she will bring it to you. This eliminates lines at omelette and beverage stations. Breakfast items are good, especially the made-to-order eggs. Fruit options change each day, but there's plenty for those looking for something a little lighter.
Lunch is served from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily. The options at lunch, too, are varied, with carving stations, made-to-order sandwiches, cold salads and salad bars. We especially liked the salad bars, which grouped items together by salad type, so you could throw together eggs, bacon, avocado and greens for a Cobb salad at one station or romaine, anchovies, lemon, Parmesan and Caesar dressing for a Caesar salad at another.
Dinner, from 5:30 to 11 p.m., offers themed options on certain nights. One night, you might get sauerkraut and various sausages for German night; another you might find fried fish and chips for English Pub night.
Teatime takes place each day from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. An elegant tea service is also available on sea days in the Piazza; this one comes at a cost of $10 ($20 if passengers opt for the addition of sparkling wine).
Pastry Shop (Deck 16)
Meals: Snacks: An extension of Horizon Court and Horizon Bistro, the Pastry Shop feels like a real pastry shop, complete with glass cases that show off the work of the pastry chefs each day. The selection is pretty typical of a cruise ship dessert buffet with one addition: Special chocolate desserts, whose recipes are crafted by Norman Love, are available for a fee (in the mornings, there's usually a dedicated Norman Love pastry, but get there early as it usually runs out). Some days, you can find a chocolate fountain there; tell the server which items you want for dipping (things like pound cake, strawberries and pineapple), and he'll stab them for you, a tasty and hygienic approach to this popular option.
International Cafe (Deck 16)
Meals: B, L, D: International Cafe is the ship's coffee shop, and while the coffee is priced a la carte, the pastries, paninis and salads are free. The selection often replicates what you'll find in the buffet on the Lido Deck, but the convenience -- right on the Piazza -- is a plus. You can buy a coffee punch card to use during your trip, which also allows you to get free premium teas, a nice perk. You can also use your coffee card to purchase a sweet treat at Gelato, and unused punches carry over to your next cruise. The International Cafe is open 24 hours a day.
Alfredo's Pizzeria (Deck 6)
Meals: L, D: Princess has perfected the pizzeria at sea with Alfredo's, which offers a selection of tasty thin-crust pizzas, salads and pastas. The Pizza Regal Princess, with Parma ham, cherry tomatoes and shaved Parmesan, is a salty bit of goodness on a crust, and Pizza Hawaiian is familiar -- with ham and pineapple -- but the addition of chicken is unexpected and quite good. Chefs hand-slice the prosciutto on-site, which is actually a lot of fun to watch. Editor's Tip: Grab your lunch there on embarkation day while everyone else is at the Horizon Court/Bistro; you'll have the place virtually to yourself. Alfredo's is open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Swirls Ice Cream Bar (Deck 16)
Meals: Snacks: Swirls is located on the Lido Deck, and during the day, you can grab soft-serve ice cream there. At night, it's where you can find popcorn to enjoy while watching Movies Under the Stars. Swirls is open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Prego Pizzeria (Deck 16)
Meals: L, D: Prego is convenient for those passengers who are spending time at the pool and don't want to head inside for a meal. The pizza doesn't compare to that served at Alfredo's, though, so if you're really craving good pizza, head to Deck 6 instead for a great pie. Prego offers a typical selection of pizza -- pepperoni, Margherita or cheese, for example. Prego Pizzeria is open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Trident Grill (Deck 16)
Meals: L, D: During the day, Trident Grill serves burgers (both meat and veggie), hot dogs and grilled chicken breasts. At night, it becomes a barbecue joint (though burgers are still available). This, too, is a nice poolside option, but Horizon Court and Horizon Bistro are so good, you're better off there. The Trident Grill is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; the BBQ starts at 6 p.m.
Room Service: The room service menu is solid, with egg sandwiches, fruit and cereal for breakfast and sandwiches, soups, salads, hot entrees and pastries for lunch and dinner. Typically, there's no charge for room service (with one exception: if you order pizza, you'll be billed a nominal charge). Tipping of a dollar or two is appreciated. Room service is served 24 hours a day.
Passengers have plenty of options for spending money on dining on Regal Princess, but the ship really only has two true restaurants: Sabatini's and Crown Grill. Each is a good value when compared with other fee-at-sea restaurants.
**Gelato (Deck 5); a la carte pricing** **Meals: Snacks** Get dishes, cones and sundaes, as well as crepes, at Gelato. It's open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. **Sabatini's (Deck 5); $25 per person** **Meals: D** The Sabatini's menu offers an appetizer/soup/salad course (many people order several of these), a pasta course and an entree course. There's also rotating "off-the-menu" chef's specials each night. Items are fairly traditional, and they lean heavily toward seafood, though people who don't eat fish will still have plenty to choose from. Make sure to try the calamari cone, which is good for splitting with two or more, as well as the burrata, which is supremely creamy and salty and tastes really fresh. The lobster three ways is also excellent, but it's small (and really, it's lobster two ways, with a lobster sauce). Those looking for something traditional and rustic should try the lombata, a delicious veal chop served with a spiced ragout and tangy Barolo glaze. Disappointing at Sabatini's is the lack of atmosphere. Lighting is bright and there's no background music to soften the mood. We also found that wait staff were neither educated about the menu or the wine list. Sabatini's is open for dinner from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. **Winemaker's Dinner (Symphony, Deck 5, and Concerto, Deck 6); $40 per person** **Meals: D** Passengers can dine in semi privacy in small areas in the Symphony and Concerto dining rooms. The Winemaker's Dinner is a special menu that pairs each course with a specific wine from one winemaker. The winemakers vary each night, so wines (and menus) change for each dinner. The menu is set and includes a chef's prelude, appetizer, soup, entree and dessert. Wine is free flowing, and chances are good that you'll find at least one to spark your fancy. Contact guest services to find out when and where the Winemaker's Dinner is available. **Chef's Table Lumiere (Deck 6); $115 per person** **Meals: D** The Chef's Table Lumiere is really an experience, rather than a venue, though the table space -- part of Allegro Dining Room -- is something to behold, with its crystal privacy "curtains of light" and incredible Murano glass table centerpiece. It includes a tour of the main galley, hosted by the maitre d' and executive chef, where you'll sample appetizers and partake in a Champagne toast. The dinner includes a specially created menu and wine pairing. Contact guest services to find out when the Chef's Table is available. **Crown Grill (Deck 7); $29 per adult, and $14.50 for children ages 3 to 12** **Meals: D** Crown Grill is a true chophouse, serving beef (one person at our table pronounced the ribeye the best she'd ever eaten), veal, lamb and pork chops, as well as a variety of steaks. Sides are served family-style, and appetizers (including the lamb loin Carpaccio) are excellent, though wholly unnecessary for a meal that size. Servers take the time to explain the various cuts of steak (when you enter the restaurant a maitre 'd shows you a meat cart and explains each option). One interesting feature on the menu is its gourmet salt choices – these include varieties such as Hawaiian Black, Smoked Applewood and Himalayan Mountain Pink.
Save room for dessert, and give the sampler a try -- that way, you don't have to choose. Crown Grill is open 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.
**Ocean Terrace Seafood Bar (Deck 7); a la carte pricing** **Meals: D** Located on the Piazza, passengers can have drinks there in addition to tapas portions of sushi, ceviche and caviar. Edamame, wakame and various small salads are "free" with the purchase of drink. Sushi, sashimi, nigiri and poke are fairly standard, with mostly tuna and salmon options. The oyster shooters are fun and spicy. A surprisingly large variety of smoked and cured fish is available, and it can be paired with premium vodkas. Ocean Terrace Seafood Bar is open from 4 to 11 p.m. **Crab Shack (Deck 16, in the Horizon Court); $29 per person** **Meals: D** Offered as an alternative to formal night dining, which on our cruise was held twice, a portion of the Horizon Court turns into a traditional crab shack, with brown paper on the tables, lobster bibs and cracking tools galore. Menu options like hush puppies, mudbug boils and steamer pots are really meant to be split between at least two. The food is good (try the shrimp spiced with Old Bay), but there's nothing available for those who don't like seafood. Waiters are more than willing to get something for passengers off the buffet or from the main dining room menu, however. While there's a fee for the restaurant, it's not private, and you'll be dining nearby others who are eating at the buffet. When it's open, the Crab Shack operates from 6:30 to 9 p.m.
A whopping 1,438 cabins (81 percent) on Regal Princess have balconies. Thirty-six cabins (29 balcony cabins and seven interiors) are wheelchair accessible. There are no oceanview cabins, so if you want to see the outdoors from your room, you'll have to book a balcony stateroom. Cabins are decorated in neutrals: shades of brown and cream, with dark wood. On the whole, the sizes are in line with the industry average, though balconies are on the small side. (The exception is for true suites, which have large verandas with plenty of room for sprawling out.)
All cabins have hair dryers, safes and mini-fridges. Flat-screen TVs are large, and in-room movies and TV shows on-demand are free, a unique and much-appreciated touch. The selection is current, with plenty of options for all ages including a large on-demand menu of shows from the various Discovery Network channels, as well as several episodes of "The Love Boat." The daily show, featuring the cruise director discussing upcoming events, is also available on demand, as are some shows about the various ports you'll visit on your trip. (Some programs are better than others, and not all ports are included.)
Each cabin also features two twin beds that can be converted into one queen bed, a closet, phone and desk with chair. Bathrooms are small but comfortable enough, with showers (featuring ledges that can be used to prop up a foot for leg-shaving), toilets and small sink areas with shelves for storage of toiletries. Showers have curtains, but they're big enough that they won't cling to you. They include dispensers for shower gel and a shampoo/conditioner combo that isn't really great at shampooing or conditioning. Fresh fruit and bathrobes for use during the cruise are available; just ask your cabin attendant.
Regal Princess has 10 interconnecting balcony cabins (each with room for three) and 10 interconnecting mini-suite cabins (also three berths each), so families of up to six can book two connecting cabins to accommodate.
Interior: Regal Princess offers 342 interior cabins measuring 166 to 175 square feet. Interior cabins are found on decks 8 through 16.
Balcony: As is the trend with new-builds, balconies on Regal Princess are small, even at the mini-suite level. We still were comfortable sitting outside and watching the world go by, but enjoying a meal or stretching out was tough. The ship offers 1,092 balcony cabins, located on decks 8 through 16. The 732 Standard Balcony cabins measure 222 square feet, including 41-square-foot balconies. The 360 Deluxe Balcony cabins measure 249 to 333 square feet, including 41-square-foot balconies. Whereas Standard Balcony cabins have chairs, Deluxe Balcony cabins have small loveseat/sleepers that can each accommodate a third passenger. Each balcony includes two mesh chairs and a stool-sized metal table.
Mini-suite: The ship's 306 mini-suites are located on decks 10 to 16. Square footage ranges from 299 to 329, including balconies that range from 36 to 105 square feet. (Editor's tip: Look for angled balconies midship for larger outdoor space.) Mini-suites include a seating area with full-size sofa bed coffee table and chair, separated from the sleeping space by a curtain. Cabins at this level have two flat-screen TVs -- one each in the living area and the sleeping area. Bathrooms have shower/tub combinations. Balconies are equipped with a pair of mesh, reclining chairs, an ottoman, and a dining-height table, but are pretty tight, space-wise. Passengers in mini-suites get welcome glasses of Champagne.
Suite: Regal Princess has 40 suites, which fall into one of three categories: Penthouse Suites (Deck 14), Premium Suites (decks 9 through 12) and Owner's Suites (decks 8 to 15). Penthouse Suites are located midship and offer 440 square feet of space, including 72-square-foot balconies. Each includes a separate sleeping area and living area with a couch, table and chairs. The bathroom includes a separate tub and shower, and surface areas are made of marble. Balcony furniture at the suite level is upgraded, too, with two wood chairs and two loungers and a larger table.
Premium Suites are about 554 square feet, with 69-square-foot balconies. They are located all the way forward on the ship and offer a little more privacy than you will get in other suites. These are laid out exactly the same as the Penthouse Suites, though they have slightly larger interior space.
Owner's Suites on Regal Princess are located at the aft corners on each deck, which means they have fabulous wraparound balconies with plenty of space. Owner's Suites are 587 to 682 square feet, including 158-square-foot balconies.
All suite passengers get upgraded amenities, including in-room DVD/CD players, complimentary laundry and dry-cleaning, and a one-time mini-bar setup. (The initial mini-bar setup, with assorted soda, water and alcohol options, is free; once the bar is restocked, passengers will pay for the beverages.) They also have exclusive access to the Concierge Lounge on Deck 14, which, with its interior location and lack of view is not terribly appealing, but comfortable enough for reading, relaxing and noshing on hot and cold snacks. Staff there will arrange for dinners at the alternative restaurants or shore excursions, so suite passengers can skip long lines or phone wait times. Another perk: Suite passengers can eat in Sabatini's for breakfast.