Like other Princess Cruises ships, Royal Princess embraces many traditional components cruisers love and, through partnerships and technology, adds extras appealing to first-time cruisers. It combines a full afternoon tea with craft cocktail presentations. Bingo, trivia and game shows dominate the daily program and hosts special destination-themed events, like Puppies (or Parrots) in the Piazza, depending on the itinerary. Evening entertainment is mostly production shows and music events; you can also watch a recent release at Movies Under the Stars.
The modern and high-tech OceanMedallion, a personalization technology, is meant to make your cruise more convenient and service more intuitive. OceanMedallion, a small disk replacing the keycard, is used to open cabin doors automatically, embark and disembark, register food and drink preferences and many more, particularly when paired with several apps. Unfortunately, on our Alaska sailing, OceanMedallion didn't live up to the hype. Spotty Wi-Fi hindered ordering drinks using the app in most locations or finding our cabinmate using OceanCompass. Similarly, bartenders or waiters rarely consulted iPads; most interactions used our room number, like always. The MedallionNet internet, billed as strong enough to stream, was inadequate to download email. The hotel director told us the system works better outside Alaska, but at least passengers on our sailing seemed to enjoy wearing the Medallions, even if they eschewed pulling out their phones.
Royal Princess shines in its partnerships and programming, even if these lack major signage and branding within the daily Princess Patter. Chocolatier Norman Love's Chocolate Journey desserts stand out from the menu. The North to Alaska enrichment lectures, such as a talk by Libby Riddles, the first female Iditarod winner, were excellent. The Princess Luxury Bed by sleep expert Dr. Michael Breus is one of the comfiest we've experienced at sea. Animal Planet- and Discovery Channel-branded shore excursions were passenger favourites. A nice choice for people who love a traditional cruise's comforts and rituals, Royal Princess is big enough, with an impressive array of restaurants, to appeal to first-time cruisers. It's not trendy, but it's hard to be bored here -- that's enough for most Royal Princess passengers.
Daytime: Casual, with shorts, T-shirts, jeans and leggings most common inside the ship. Bathing suits and cover-ups are the main outfits on the pool deck.
Evening: Smart-casual most nights leans toward casual than smart; many wear the same attire during the day and at dinner. Women wear capris, nice jeans/pants; men wear khakis or nice jeans. Two formal nights on most cruises are laid-back -- few jackets, ties and beaded dresses. Men wear a dress shirt and nice pants; women wear maxi or cocktail dresses.
Not permitted: No swimwear, casual jeans (defined as ones that are frayed or with holes), tank tops, ball caps or shorts are allowed in the restaurants at dinnertime.
The Princess Theatre seats 925 and offers uninterrupted sightlines from every vantage point. A variety of technology, such as high-definition screens, enhances the shows -- mostly musical productions, guest comedians or magicians. Vista Lounge, at the back of the ship, offers an alternative performance venue to the Princess Theater, hosting live bands, comedians and illusionists, plus themed parties and special events. Finally, Princess Live!, located just aft of the Piazza on Deck 7, made its mark as the first television studio at sea. Three rows of tiered seats (with seating for 280 passengers) are flanked by a stage -- on which the cruise director hosts "The Wake Show," his daily David Letterman-esque talk show. Princess Live! also is the site for game shows, Q&A sessions with ship's officers and staff, cooking demos, art house films, enrichment programs and murder mystery and trivia games. Acoustic and smaller-scale performances by the ship's musicians and comedians also take place there. The great thing about this space is you can come and go as you please and watch or participate at your leisure (if the shows allow participation).
The atrium in the Piazza is another primary entertainment venue and hosts everything from Cirque du Soleil-style acrobatics to art auctions to daily trivia. You'll also find scavenger hunts, game shows, crafting sessions, trivia, bingo and more scattered throughout the ship's lounges. Royal Princess has an array of enrichment activities, which might include wine tasting and food demos (in Princess Live!), ceramics classes and onboard lectures. During Alaska sailings, look for special North to Alaska presentations from speakers and naturalists. There are also a variety of wine tasting events, such as the super Tuscan-themed event in Sabatini's, with costs ranging from $25 to $45 per person. The Lido Deck is a source of activities during good weather, with concerts and movies shown throughout the day.
On sea days, there is often live music on the stage between the two pools. OceanMedallion, the line's branded multiuse technology, has a games feature that allows you to play casino and trivia games on your smartphone. It also allows you to create an onboard avatar, called a "tagalong" (a turtle, fish or starfish). Once you build your tagalong, you will see it appear on electronic boards when you walk by. And at least once per cruise, you can play Games Under the Stars on the top deck big screen, using your tagalong to race others.
The Piazza has nightly dancing, often with a theme such as music from the 50s, 60s, 70s or country. Even if you aren't dancing, grab a spot at a bar or lean over the railing to watch the fun. On the last formal night, a large balloon drop is a very celebratory occasion. The Voice of the Ocean karaoke competition, modelled after the TV show "The Voice," takes place over an entire voyage, with a night of auditions as well as semifinals. The actual finals are on the afternoon of the last sea day and draw a crowd. The Princess Casino has a selection of slots and table games, including blackjack, Texas Hold'em and roulette. Its main feature is a stunning spiral staircase, which leads up to Deck 7 and the onboard boutiques; an adjacent bar allows gamblers to grab drinks between games.
Royal Princess features the largest version of Princess' signature Movies Under the Stars poolside theatre. The big screen shows a variety of movies and concerts, day and night. Filmgoers will be able to grab fleece blankets, free freshly popped popcorn, and cookies and milk. At night, the pool area on Deck 16 midship transforms for the Water & Light Show, and the island area becomes a stage with an interactive sound and light show featuring dancing fountains. With a sophisticated lighting and sound system, and a computerized fountain featuring 85 water jets, streams of water shoot 33 feet into the air.
There's a wide variety of bars around Royal Princess, but most of the main action happens in the ones around the Piazza. It's rarely quiet here; as soon as one activity or band dies down, another starts up in another venue.
Good Spirits (Deck 5): This craft cocktail bar, located off the Piazza, is a must-visit if you love interesting drinks. There's a little show with featured bartenders, brought on as entertainers, in the evenings. The cocktails were developed by mixologist Rob Floyd and are truly delicious.
Vines (Deck 5): Also located off the Piazza, the ship's wine bar has some interesting, although not as varied as you might expect, offerings by the glass. Bellini's (Deck 6): Overlooking the Piazza, this small spot is a great place for people-watching -- and is therefore quite popular. During prime activity hours, it's hard to find a seat. Club 6 (Deck 6): The ship's dance club has a DJ on duty nightly, who spins his own picks and also allows people to request music through an iPad setup. The dance floor is only part of the club, so you can go and listen to the music, without feeling like you have to get up and join in.
Churchill's (Deck 6): Churchill's cigar lounge is the only place onboard where stogie smokers can go; unfortunately, cigarette smokers are also allowed here (even though they have another place to go on deck). Perhaps to make up for it, bartenders do come in and take drink orders as there's no bar inside.
Crooners (Deck 7): Crooners does double duty as the ship's martini bar and also its piano bar. On our sailing, the piano was manned by a crotchety singer who told inappropriate jokes and sang every song in the style of Frank Sinatra, whether it fit that way or not, so the atmosphere can really depend on who the ship brings in as an entertainer.
Wheelhouse Pub (Deck 7): This British-style pub adjacent to the Crown Grill has a clubby atmosphere and live music before and after dinner.
Princess Live (Deck 7): The small bar adjacent to the Princess Live TV studio serves up drinks, as well as specialty coffees in the morning.
SeaView Bar (Deck 16): Located near the SeaWalk, Royal Princess's glass walkway that juts out over the side of the ship, the SeaView Bar is a small space that sees action primarily on sunny sea days and before Movies Under the Stars.
Mermaid's Tail (Deck 16): The main bar for the Lido pool area has the typical cocktails and drinks that you'd want for a relaxing day in the sun.
Outrigger Bar (Deck 16): Located at the back of the ship near the buffet, this bar specializes in Bloody Marys, with a whole menu of options, during the daytime and margaritas at night. Retreat Pool Bar (Deck 16): The main bar for the adults-only pool area.
The main pool deck, Deck 16 midship, features two freshwater swimming pools, which are pretty small, considering the size of the ship. In the middle is an "island" surrounded by faux palm trees and dotted with loungers, which transforms at night for the Water & Light show. There's a lot of acreage given over to the water feature -- at the expense of sun loungers -- and this area can get awfully crowded on sunny days and warm nights. There are two hot tubs in the main pool area, as well as two on the deck above. There is a number of different styles of seating options, including circular loungers, garden-style furniture, bar-height tables and stools, and chaise lounges.
If you want to get away from kids, the Retreat Pool is an adults-only pool that can be a nice escape from the regular crowds on the Lido Deck (it's also a deck above the regular pool area, making it feel more secluded). There are cabanas that you can rent, but also plenty of loungers where you can hang out. The area has two hot tubs and its own bar. Highly recommended on an itinerary with lots of kids.
The Princess sports complex is located on Deck 18. There's a sheltered outdoor game lounge, with Ping-Pong, putting greens, foosball, a golf practice cage, a full basketball court and a laser shooting range that the line uses to bring back an old cruising favourite, (virtual) skeet shooting. The Lawn Court on Deck 19 hosts bocce and croquet.
If you want to truly get away from the madding crowds, look into The Sanctuary, a private area that carries a fee ($20 for a half day, $40 for a full day or $30 per day if you purchase a pass for the length of the cruise). The cost includes access to thick padded loungers, each with their own MP3 players and Bose headphones. If you're hungry, you can nosh on bites inspired by the Lotus Spa, but expect to pay a service charge of $3 per person, per delivery. Couples can also opt for alfresco massage packages in The Sanctuary. Four Sanctuary Cabanas offer amenities like a personal television with noise-reducing wireless headphones; sofas, robes and slippers; a welcome cocktail; snacks, including fresh fruit and nuts; and a fully stocked mini-bar with soft drinks, beer and wine. Sanctuary Cabana rentals start at $140 for a half day and $220 for the full day. If you don't want to pay while you sun yourself, other sun decks include the space around the pools, plus areas with loungers on Decks 18 and 19\. There are also a few loungers, tables, chairs and sofas at the Outrigger Bar in the ship's aft.
The guest services and shore excursions desks are both located on Deck 5, just a few steps from the Piazza. The area can get pretty crowded on port-intensive cruises (such as Alaska). Royal Princess is a Medallion-class ship, which means it's outfitted with MedallionNet, purportedly one of the fastest internet offerings at sea. This claim falls down in Alaska, where the internet was often slow and even nonexistent in places. The hotel director told us that on other itineraries, such as the Mexican Riviera, the signal is strong enough to stream and use apps such as Netflix and FaceTime. That was definitely not the case on our cruise. The ship has an internet cafe, open 24/7, with several computer stations. MedallionNet Wi-Fi is also available throughout the ship, with prices starting as low as $9.99 per day for one device when purchased for the entire trip (it jumps to $19.99 per device, per day if you buy one day at a time). Family plans for up to four devices also are available. One nice thing about MedallionNet is that you don't have to log in and out.
The OceanMedallion system also makes use of electronic touchscreens near elevators that can show you the daily schedule and help you navigate your way around the ship. If you download the OceanMedallion apps OceanCompass and JourneyView, you can also find this information on your smartphone. The postage stamp-sized Library and Writing Room is a disappointment on a ship with Princess' traditional values; there's barely enough room to turn around, bookcases are locked, except at certain times and the selection is pretty small. The Wedding Chapel on Deck 14 doubles as a conference centre; the flick of a switch reveals stained glass windows or a whiteboard. Royal Princess holds a vow renewal in the Piazza once per cruise. Self-service laundry units are located toward the aft of the ship on each deck.
The massive Photo and Video Gallery is located on Deck 6 and features touch-screens and facial-recognition software for your photos, along with a tremendous range of photographic equipment for sale. Royal Princess has given over a sizable chunk of real estate to shopping, centred principally on the Piazza on Deck 7. This includes the Fine Arts Gallery, which also hosts art auctions; Essence, for brand-name cosmetics; Meridian Bay, for duty-free fashion and gifts; Facets, for fine jewellery; Limelight, for daily promotional events, such as jewellery sales; and Calypso Cove, for sundries and branded items. (A Calypso Cabana is also located on the Pool Deck to save you from making a journey down to the shops for sunscreen.) None of the shops were particularly distinctive or appealing. The medical facility is located on Deck 4.
Spa-goers searching for pampering on Royal Princess no longer have to trek to a top corner of the ship -- the standard area for cruise ship spas -- because Princess has put its 10,000-square-foot Lotus Spa on Deck 5, just off the Piazza. An unavoidable drawback associated with its easy-access location is that the Lotus Spa receives less natural light in its facility than many other cruise ship spas, but we didn't miss it; the facility is absolutely beautiful and serene. One exception is the beauty salon, with its barber shop for men, which is flooded with light.
What Lotus lacks in light, it more than makes up for in treatment options. The spa covers all the bases with a full-service salon, teeth whitening stations, a barber shop, plush mani-pedi areas, a relaxation room (for a spot of herbal tea, pre-massage) and 18 treatment rooms (some with windows). And, that's not to mention the amenities in enhanced thermal suite, The Enclave. Additionally, two Couples Villas, aimed at cruising twosomes, provide side-by-side massages, followed by an hour's relaxation in a whirlpool bath or sitting area with ocean views. The Enclave offers one of the largest thermal suite in the Princess fleet, complete with a hydrotherapy pool and accompanying rain shower. Inside is spaceship-like lighting and passengers can try out heated tile loungers or waterbeds, as well as sensory showers with mood lighting and therapeutic aromas. Three named rooms offer a variety of heat-based experiences: the Hammam, a Turkish-style bath, featuring a marble slab for mud or salt treatments; the Caldarium, a ceramic chamber infused with herbal aromas; and the Laconium, a dry sauna.
Day passes to The Enclave start at $39 per person, per day, and full-voyage pass rates start at $149 for individuals, depending on the length of the cruise. The Scrub & Shine Bar, located near the Lotus Spa's reception desk, offers sugar and salt scrubs mixed with herbs, created individually for each passenger by a "mixologist." Passengers can get recommendations for the perfect scrubs to complement their treatments, and the blends are applied before spa treatments or a trip to The Enclave. The scrubs are also available for purchase if you aren't getting a treatment. Prices for basic treatments, such as facials and manicures, at The Lotus Spa are cruise standard -- expect to pay about $45 for a spa manicure and $119 for a 50-minute Swedish massage (not including the tip). There are also two Lotus Spa Cabanas set in an exclusive area at the bow of the ship's top deck. They feature a comfortable resting area with a television and plush chairs, a treatment area with two massage tables and beautiful ocean views looking out over the front of the ship. A variety of customized packages is available for the Lotus Spa Cabanas, but it's also possible to book treatments individually or as a couple from the Lotus Spa menu. The top-of-the-line package is a "Royal Indulgence" package for four people (expect to pay several thousand dollars). This exclusive experience provides the ultimate in pampering with all-day massages and gourmet food and drinks. The price tag includes unlimited spa treatments, caviar, a bottle of Dom Perignon Champagne and butler service. Access to a special menu of healthy snacks and salads is free, but juice "mocktails" cost extra.
Below the outdoor sports deck (Deck 17), passengers will find the fitness centre with the expected array of equipment, including treadmills, elliptical machines and free weights. Additionally, at the back of the gym, a private aerobics studio offers fitness classes that include TRX suspension bodyweight training, body sculpt boot camp sessions, spinning classes and an aromatherapy yoga class. Class prices are $15. On our sailing, fitness instructors offered a complimentary Zumba class in the Piazza that was great fun.
Among the usual sweaty suspects, Royal Princess features a few fun twists for fitness and leisure: A portable batting cage and a new take on the at-sea jogging track, with a circuit program offering outdoor exercise stations, are a couple of the more unconventional offerings in the multisport area on Decks 18 and 19, known as Princess Sports Central.
Royal Princess' free laser shooting range offers moving targets displayed on a screen -- an arcade-like offering that compliments the Shockwaves (ages 8 to 12) and Remix (ages 13 to 17) game lounges' Xbox Kinect gaming systems. The ship features a double-lane jogging track with separate paths for runners and walkers. The track area is decorated with art, picturing iconic global travel destinations, giving passengers the opportunity to "run around the world." Seven laps equal a mile.
Princess Sports Central also features a golf driving facility, multiuse court (basketball, volleyball, tennis) and table tennis. On the upper deck, a Lawn Court offers an artificial grassy area for bocce, croquet and lawn bowling, as well as a putting green.
Royal Princess presents a wide variety of dining options, most of which are generally tasty. It's a ship that offers something for everyone, from grill bites and two pizza joints to specialty seafood, steaks and Italian. Look for "one time only" eating options such as the Crab Shack and Pub Lunch; both are worth advance reservations once you're onboard. Most dietary preferences and allergies are accommodated, although these aren't necessarily marked everywhere. Princess has worked on improving its wine list, teaming up with wine expert Doug Frost, one of four people in the world to have both a Master of Wine and Master Sommelier certification. The redesigned wine list encompasses 142 choices from around the world, most at prices under $50.
Allegro, Symphony and Concerto (Decks 5 and 6)
Meals: Breakfast (B), Lunch (L), Dinner (D): For the main dining room experience, Royal Princess offers "anytime" and "traditional" modes of evening dining in three different restaurant venues. Allegro, on Deck 5, offers only set-seating/set-tablemates options (typically at 5 and 7:15 p.m.), while Symphony has open seating between 5 and 9 p.m. Concerto offers a mix, with a first seating at 5 p.m.; anytime dining starting at 7:15 p.m. and Club Class dining from 5 to 9:30 p.m. All offer the same menu, with the most special menu items occurring on formal nights. Allegro is the only one of the three to be open for breakfast daily (7 to 8:30 a.m.) and lunch on sea days (noon to 1:30 p.m.). Allegro is also the site of the ship's free afternoon tea from 3 to 4 p.m. daily.
All three MDR's offer vegetarian, heart-healthy and Lotus Spa (lower in sodium, fat and cholesterol) menu items for those with dietary restrictions. The restaurants have a nice range of table sizes, including plenty of two- and four-tops for more intimate dining, and also larger tables for groups of eight or more. One note, though: Those who opt for the open-seating venues at busy times may be encouraged to dine at large tables with other passengers, even if a smaller table is requested, to avoid a longer wait time.
Horizon Court/Bistro (Deck 16)
Meals: B, L, D: The Horizon Court buffet has a station layout with food "venues" that include a taqueria, rotisserie, sandwich shop and Japanese hibachi grill. It never feels too crowded, even at peak times. At night, the Horizon Court becomes the Horizon Bistro, offering an interactive experience with themed events and speciality serve-yourself dinners. On certain nights, passengers may find a Brazilian churrascaria, Argentine gaucho theme, German beerfest, European bistro or British pub. There is no extra fee for themed events. Within the Horizon Court is The Pastry Shop, a dedicated room for all types of free baked goods; classic and modern desserts at lunch and dinner; tea sandwiches, cookies, desserts and waffles at tea time; and special show pieces and flambes in the evening. There are also pastries available elsewhere in the Horizon Court.
Prego Pizzeria (Deck 16)
Meals: L, D: This pizza counter by the pool offers three types of grab-and-go slices (compared with the more varied menu that includes salads and thinner crust pizza at sit-down Alfredo's).
Trident Grill (Deck 16)
Meals: L, D: Another poolside venue; during the day you'll find hot dogs, hamburgers and chicken sandwiches here. At night, the Trident Grill is transformed into a traditional "smokehouse-style" barbecue.
Swirls Ice Cream (Deck 16)
Meals: Snacks: Free soft-serve ice cream, located by the pool.
Wheelhouse Pub (Deck 7)
Meals: L: Once per cruise, there's a British pub lunch in the Wheelhouse Pub and adjoining Crown Grill, serving up a simple menu. It does get popular, however, so best to arrive early.
Alfredo's Pizzeria (Deck 6)
Meals: L, D: This Neapolitan-style pizzeria offers traditional, hand-stretched pizza, along with antipasti and desserts, in an enclave just off the Piazza. It's fun for people-watching, and the pizzas are generally good.
International Cafe (Deck 5)
Meals: B, L, D: The coffee drinks here cost money but the food is all free. Located in the Piazza and open 24 hours, this spot works well for a light bite anytime. You'll find a selection of delicious pastries, quiche, hot breakfast sandwiches, freshly baked cookies, panini sandwiches, salads and desserts. Room Service Room service is offered 24 hours a day, with salads, sandwiches, hot dogs and hamburgers available, as is a continental breakfast via a door-hung card.
Sabatini's (Deck 5); $29 for adults, $14.50 for children ages 3 to 12
Meals: D: Sabatini's focuses on Northern Italian food with dishes that include pasta, seafood and traditional entrees. It's an elegant spot, with a centrepiece featuring a wine display. The veal dishes are outstanding, as are the pastas. Vegetable antipastis also stand out.
Gelato (Deck 5); a la carte ($2.75 to $6.50)
Meals: L, D: This space on the Piazza feels more like an American ice cream parlour than a traditional Italian-style gelateria. It serves ice cream, sundaes, sweet crespelle (Italian crepes), fruit smoothies, shakes and homemade waffle ice cream cones.
Chef's Table Lumiere (Deck 5); $115 with paired wines, $100 without
Meals: D: Held once per cruise, this new approach to a chef's table has an executive chef cooking dinner and explaining techniques to an exclusive group of passengers. Royal Princess' version adds a "curtain of light," which surrounds the diners and creates a private, softly lit space in the centre of Allegro. It books up quickly so reserve in advance.
International Cafe (Deck 5); a la carte
Meals: Snacks: While the pastries are free in the International Cafe, you can also have an extra-fee upgraded version of tea (known as the Royal Tea, with proper tower of savouries and sweets versus waiter-served one-offs at the free one) or with Champagne, every day at 3 p.m. Specialty coffees are also available at all times for a fee.
Wine Maker's Dinners (Deck 5 or 6); $40 per person
Meals: D: Surrounded by wine bottles, these circular and private spaces off the Symphony and Concerto dining rooms are inspired by wine cellars and seat up to 12 people. Diners can enjoy speciality menus developed with winemakers and paired with wines. Bookings can be made at the reception desk.
Crown Grill (Deck 7); $29 for adults, $14.50 for children ages 3 to 12
Meals: D: With its signature theatre-style open kitchen, the Crown Grill has a menu of chops, seafood and premium sterling silver steaks. This is lovely place for a date night.
Ocean Terrace Seafood Bar (Deck 7); a la carte ($4.50 to $70)
Meals: L, D: Princess' response to the increased demand for raw bars at sea serves sushi, sashimi, ceviche and caviar. You also get a complimentary dish, such as edamame or wakame, with each drink. It's in a great spot on Deck 7 overlooking the whole Piazza.
Crab Shack (Deck 16); $29 per person
Meals: D: Once per cruise, Princess also offers the Crab Shack, a fun spot cordoned off from the buffet that comes with mallets, bibs and buckets. Dishes include crawfish in a bayou-style "Mud Bug" boil, spiced peel-and-eat shrimp or a mixed steamer pot filled with snow crab legs, jumbo shrimp, clams and mussels. Walk-ins are welcome, but reservations are recommended.
The cabins on Royal Princess are generally smaller than you find on older Princess ships, with noticeably smaller balconies. They do, however, feature the line's Princess Luxury Bed, designed in collaboration with "Dr. Sleep." It's one of the most comfortable that we've experienced at sea, and while it takes up more space, the extra size is worth it. The 1,780 cabins fall into five different categories: 36 Suites, which are made up of _Owner's Suites_ (14), Penthouse Suites (14) and Premium Suites (eight), of which one is accessible; 314 Mini-Suites (six are accessible); 358 Deluxe Balcony; 730 Standard Balcony cabins (22 accessible) and 342 Inside cabins (seven accessible). Fifty adjoining cabins are available for large families needing more than one cabin.
All cabins have two twin beds or one queen and all the usual amenities, such as a flat-screen television with video on demand, small desk, in-room safe, direct dial telephone, a small armchair and a small fridge. There's a small closet with some storage, and suitcases can go under the bed. One noticeable fault we saw: Power sockets are on the vanity, not near the bed, and do not have USB ports. Bathrooms have large showers with hand-held showerheads, although the shower curtains are clingy. Sinks are square to provide more vanity space, mirrors feature built-in vanity lighting and beds have pillow-top mattresses and upholstered headboards. Basic toiletries (shampoo and shower gel) are located in the shower.
Interior: Inside cabins come in at 161 square feet, which is fairly standard for Princess. The seven accessible inside cabins are a generous 240 square feet.
Balcony: Standard balcony cabins are 222 square feet (181-square-foot cabins with 41-square-foot balconies). They include all the features of an inside cabin, plus spacious closets. Private verandas are each outfitted with two mesh chairs and a cocktail table. The Deluxe Balcony cabin is only deluxe if you compare it with the standard balconies; while pleasant, they are small. They come in at 233 square feet (192 square feet inside, plus a 41-square-foot balcony) and include some of the upgrades found in a Mini-Suite stateroom, including enhanced bathroom amenities (lotion in addition to the pumps of shower gel and shampoo), waffle bathrobes (you must request them, however) and upgraded duvet. The only real difference is a couple of extra feet in each stateroom for a loveseat. They each have a decent-sized space for hanging clothes, but the shower-only bathroom, the same as those found in the lower-category cabins, is ridiculously cramped for a modern cruise ship -- and it's got the dreaded clingy shower curtain. Its balcony layout is identical to that of the standard veranda staterooms.
Mini-Suites: These cabins measure 299 square feet each (258 square feet inside, plus a 41-square-foot balcony). The big draw here is a curtain -- you can draw it close -- which has been added to separate living and sleeping areas. Mini-suites get the same general stateroom amenities and decorative central lighting fixtures, marble-topped counters and two flat-screen TV's instead of one. The biggest disappointment with mini-suites? They get the same tiny, narrow balconies as standard staterooms, with the same furnishings. The solution is to book a Club Class mini-suite, which come with extra benefits such as priority embarkation and debarkation, a special open-seating area in the dining room and evening canapes. Note that not all mini-suites are Club Class; generally, these are midship or at the back of the ship. Club Class isn't a good choice, however, if you are travelling in a group with people in a non-Club Class cabin, as they won't be able to eat with you in the special dining area.
Suites: There are three styles of suite accommodations on Royal Princess. Owner's Suites are the largest and range in size from 576 square feet to 705 square feet. Each features separate living and sleeping rooms, a mini-fridge, an extrawide balcony with upgraded furnishings, a bath with separate shower and tub, and a powder room. These are corner cabins, so balconies wrap around two sides of the ship. Penthouse suites (440 square feet, with balcony) also feature separate sleeping and living spaces, a full bath and a powder room. The plus is that these are located adjacent to the new-to-Princess Concierge Lounge. The minus? Despite attractive wooden balcony furnishings, the verandas aren't very big. Premium suites (554 square feet, with balcony) are located all the way forward, though, oddly, there is no view out of the front of the ship -- just to the side. The Premium suites are the exact same layout as Penthouse suites, and they enjoy the same features with slightly larger balconies and indoor space.
Each suite, regardless of category, features a 42-inch television, a bathroom with two sinks, a separate bath and shower with both hand-held and fixed sprays, marble floors and countertops, special toiletries and accent lighting. Suite passengers (not including those in mini-suites) also are entitled to a number of extras, including complimentary laundry and cleaning services, suite-only breakfast from Sabatini's and an extended in-cabin dining menu, and access to the Concierge Lounge. A first for Princess Cruises is the Concierge Lounge on Deck 14, beside the Wedding Chapel. It caters exclusively to suite passengers (which could be tricky if they all come at once -- it seats only 24 people) and serves a selection of hot and cold snacks and beverages that include wine (for a fee). There is limited space and no views, but it's a nice place to relax, read a magazine and have an aperitif before dinner. The real benefit is that you can avoid traipsing down to Guest Services and having to deal with the lines there. A dedicated staff member deals with queries on shore excursions, accounts, specialty dining and spa reservations.