Our first port call on the Royal Princess cruise was at Princess Cays for a beach barbecue. I always enjoy the serenity of this beach day. We took a tender to get there, which is an adventure in itself.
Once ashore, we scrambled to find a spot in the shade. Getting a rum punch became our first order of business. After finishing this drink, I trudged through the sand to stick my feet in the water. The temperature was cool but not cold. I could have gotten used to it, but I had no desire to wade in among the seaweed and get all wet. We have lovely beaches in Fort Lauderdale and our own pool at home. The barbecue offered an array of delectable items. I got a burger with accompaniments and chowed down in the covered picnic area.
Then we baked in the heat a bit more before deciding to pack it up and leave. We stopped in the few Bahamian shops on the way back to the tender. If you’re looking for a souvenir, you can find something here. The shops are not as plentiful as on the RCCL beach stops, though. It was a pleasant day on a beautiful sunny afternoon.
A rainbow greeted us as we approached the island of St. Thomas. The day promised rain, so we fortuitously brought our umbrellas that we’d packed when we went ashore.
As the ship docked by Havensight Mall, we took a taxi into town for $4.00 each. Here we roamed the main streets, glad to see most of the shops open for business after Hurricane Irma. Some places were still shuttered, perhaps with water damage or without power. But most shops were open and welcomed visitors, and I bought some items that caught my eye. It began to rain off and on, and water quickly pooled in the saturated streets.
We’d been here numerous times before, so we had no need to do a sightseeing tour or go farther afield. We went back to the ship for lunch, and then strolled around Havensight Mall. You’ll get a greater selection of goods in town, but this shopping center has representative shops for most of those places. You can find plenty of souvenirs, liquor, or jewelry items here as well. After a satisfying day, the ship sailed away to music from the steel-drum band.
Royal Princess Ship Review Dec. 8 – 15, 2013
Itinerary: Princess Cays, St. Thomas, and St. Maarten
We thought the entertainment and music on this ship were excellent. You could go from one show to another each evening, and the lounges held different music groups nightly. I would like more concert level performers. This cruise had Ray Coussins, a pianist for Frank Sinatra. He had his own show, and he played in the lounges. Down in the central atrium is a dance floor that always has a band playing there. Unlike other ships which are Deadsville at night, this one has plenty to do. You could always go to Movies Under The Stars, a wide-screen movie screen showing popular films each night by the pool.
Speaking of movies, I loved the widescreen TV mounted on our wall in the stateroom. I got to watch two movies I’d been wanting to see: Austenland (a romantic comedy about a modern woman who gets immersed in a Jane Austen experience at a themed attraction) and Disney’s Brave. The only disadvantages are the lack of menu controls and no close captioned option for the hearing-impaired.
We enjoyed the breakfast selections at the buffet. There is an omelet station if you can find it, but otherwise fried eggs, quiche, breakfast sandwiches, and other egg concoctions are available at the Horizon Court. So are fruits, smoked fish, pastries, waffles and pancakes, and more. I loved having the fried eggs available without asking and wish other cruise lines would adopt this practice.
Dinner menu choices were generally good. The alternate selections included shrimp cocktail, Caesar salad, plus beef medallions, grilled salmon, chicken, and more. Vegetarian entrees were offered each night at dinner and seemed appealing. There were always appetizers, soups, pasta, entrees, and dessert.
Dessert selections surpass other ships we’ve been on. At the Horizon Court, there’s a separate Pastry station with all kinds of pastries, cookies, puddings, and other creations. However, our dinner table mate complained that they only have one sugar-free selection per day. Being diabetic, she would have liked more choices.
And since I’m a foodie, I enjoyed the cooking class and free galley tour. I was also thrilled that this cruise line still offers Baked Alaska on the last night.
Storage space in the cabins was adequate even though the staterooms themselves are small. We had plenty of room to stash our luggage upright in the closet area instead of having to shove the pieces under our beds.
The shower space is an improvement, with a ledge for putting products or for aiding a lady in shaving her legs. On other ships, you have to stick your foot in the sink to do the job. This larger space was much appreciated.
Blackout drapes are very good. No lights shine in your eyes at night like on one of our other cruises, where we faced the door peephole and light streamed in like a beacon. This cabin was sufficiently dark and the temperature comfortable. Nor did I hear our neighbors except when they went out on the balcony.
We didn’t have many children on this cruise that saw an average age group well into the sixties, but there is an adults-only Retreat area that’s quite pleasant. For a daily fee, you can rent a covered cabana or pay for the more exclusive Sanctuary enclave.
The bedding (i.e. pillows and comforters) didn’t seem as comfortable as on other ships. The pillows seemed too large, so you could get a crick in your neck with two, but one alone was too flat.
Elevator break-downs are common, and the elevator capacity is much smaller than on other ships.
The lack of a central stairway is highly annoying. One exists, but it’s for crew only. You have to take the elevators mid-ship or else walk aft or forward to reach the stairways.
Our room safe failed during our stay, and we had to call maintenance to change the four AA batteries that power the thing. It was an inconvenience, but service was prompt.
You’ll miss the outdoor promenade deck that goes all the way around a ship under cover on deck 4 or 5. This ship has a few seating areas on this level but they end. If you want to walk all the way around, you have to go at the pool deck or higher and be in the sun.
I would prefer a glass shower door to an unsanitary curtain.
The four rows of rear seats in the Princess Theatre need to be tiered. Seats are crammed into the theatre with central aisles only and no drink holders.
Our dining room service was very slow, but that may be the fault of our assistant waiter who did nothing except carry the meal orders from the dining room. Our waiter refilled the water glasses at our request, and he never once asked if we wanted more rolls or went out of his way to do anything special.
Cabins are very small with no sofas like in the balcony staterooms on RCCL. The standard balconies are even smaller. They barely fit two chairs and a cheap table.
Ports of Call included a barbecue beach lunch at Princess Cays in the Bahamas, St. Thomas and St. Maarten. I’ve written about these before in previous posts and didn’t do anything new this time except walk around, shop, and lunch in town. Look under Cruising in my blog Archives if you want to catch up on prior voyages. We had lunch in the Greenhouse restaurant at both locations. The one at St. Maarten had free WiFi if you sat inside, which still has an open air view of the water.
On our last day at sea, we went out on deck in the morning after a rainstorm to see a brilliant rainbow stretching all the way across the sky. How fantastic is this, folks?
Here we took RCCL’s Best of St. Thomas tour to see the St. Peter Greathouse which opened to the public fairly recently. Owned by a governor initially, the house passed into various hands before being turned into a tourist attraction and catering hall. Our open air bus made two stops along the way at scenic overlooks, but the view from this impressive estate surpassed them.
The house itself exudes tropical ambiance with its expansive windows and comfortable furnishings.
Along with a gift shop and snack bar, there’s a planked nature walk that I enjoyed the most. Surrounded by lush tropical foliage, you descend a boardwalk into the jungle via a series of steps and then climb back up. It’s not too strenuous, and the fruity rum punch we had beforehand fortified us. This is a worthwhile tour if you want to get a taste of St. Thomas’s lush beauty. It took about 3 hours, so if you book an early morning excursion, you’ll still have plenty of time for shopping in town.
Back at Charlotte Amalie, the port town, we had lunch at the Green House. I recommend this restaurant or Café Amici in an alley near A.H. Riise. Once fed, we trekked uphill about 3 blocks to visit the old Jewish synagogue. It’s a sturdy building that has been here since the 1700’s. Sand covers the floor, and there’s a small gift shop off to the side.
Back downhill, we stormed the shops along Main Street. My favorite stores are Imperial Jewelers, Cardow’s, Ballerina Jewelers, and Royal Caribbean (not related to cruise line). A.H. Riise still has the best liquor selection, cosmetics, perfumes, rum balls, hook bracelets, and more. If you dock near Havensight Mall, you have a chance for more last minute shopping before the ship sails.