Some luxury travelers dismiss cruising altogether. My feeling is: they're not looking at the big picture.
Why? Cruises are a way to see more: they stop at a different destination almost every day -- without forcing you to drive, chase planes or trains, and move from hotel to hotel.
There are a cruise ship and a cruise itinerary for everyone. In this story, you'll see if the much-talked-about big ship, Regal Princess, is for you.
What Is Regal Princess?
In 2014, the highly anticipated Regal Princess ship joined the Princess Cruises fleet. Regal Princess is nearly identical to Royal Princess, which debuted a year earlier.
Where Does Regal Princess Sail To?
Regal Princess follows the world's most popular cruise routes. In the warm months, it sails the Adriatic, Aegean, and Baltics. In winter, it crosses to the New World to sail the Caribbean. In fall, Regal Princess sails from New York to Atlantic Canada.
Cruises range from five to 11 days. The ship calls on all the famous ports, and some lesser-known ones, too.
Regal Princess Fares
Cruise pricing is notoriously variable. This is one mode of travel where advance booking is generally not going to be your best deal.
• Learn how to find a great cruise fare
• A good bet: Princess Cruises' deals page (you can sign up for fare alerts)
What Is a Mega-Cruise Ship?
Regal Princess is a mega-cruise ship, a behemoth of the sea that is one of the world's largest passenger ships. A sleek yacht this is not.
• It is 1,083 feet long, with 19 deck levels
• It hosts 3,560 passengers in over 1,700 attractive cabins
• Not too many hotels are as big or offer as many guest options
What's the Deal With Regal Princess Being So Big?
Regal is like a giant resort afloat. And as with any huge resort, the upside of Regal's gargantuan proportions is variety. Passengers have a vast choice of accommodations, dining, entertainment, recreation, and relaxation.
• The ship's happiest passengers are those who love the endless options and buzzy feeling of a big cruise ship
• However, if you were seeking a cozy, private vacation with few other people around, a big cruise ship is not for you
Who Is Princess Cruises?
California-headquartered Princess Cruises has been sailing since 1965. It became famous in the 1970s when its Pacific Princess ship "starred" in the TV series The Love Boat.
Today, Princess' fleet of 18 ships sails the world. This cruise line claims legions of repeat passengers who are proud of their club points, upgrades, and other frequent-sailor perks.
Who Sails on Princess Cruises?
Regal Princess has broad, mainstream appeal, and its dining and entertainment are good enough to satisfy connoisseurs. Its ships are impeccably maintained, with glitzy public spaces.
Like other Princess ships, Regal Princess attracts many American passengers. But it draws customers from a range of other countries, including Canada. Mexico, Brazil, the UK, France, Russia, Israel, India, Taiwan, Japan, China, the Philippines, and more. The ships' crew is global as well.
As is true of all cruise ships, quite a few passengers are Baby Boomers with time and money to spend. But you will also encounter many young couples, families, and some solo voyagers.
Upshot: Regal Princess feels international and diverse.
Will You, Personally, Like Regal Princess?
Regal Princess could be your ideal cruise ship if:
• You seek a stressless vacation
• You like being on a ship, feeling the ocean breeze, and watching the sun set
•You want to see a lot on your vacations, and not stay in one destination
• You enjoy being around lots of other people
• You prefer a lot of dining and entertainment variety
• You like all-inclusive plans, with the occasional restaurant cover charge
• Your idea of glamorous surroundings is new, marble, and gilt
• You crave live entertainment, from Broadway-style shows to piano bars to karaoke
• You need fitness facilities and a full-service spa
• You require a reliable, low-cost (or free) wifi connection (this ship's is stronger than most)
• You will love messaging your shipboard companions on the free Princess@Sea app
Regal Princess probably won’t be your ideal vacation if:
• You're a landlubber and don't like being on the water (though seasickness is not an issue on such a large ship)
• You seek a secluded romantic getaway where you hardly see anyone else
• You like extreme quiet; this ship is jovial, busy, and at times cacophonous (though it has some tranquil spots)
• You like big hotel rooms, and a trim cruise-ship cabin will make you feel squeezed (and you don't want to spring for a pricier suite)
• You like to dig into a destination, and eight hours in a historic port won't be enough for you
• You like vintage surroundings
• You have a poor sense of direction, or tend to get lost easily (the ship's design, with a dead-end deck 7 where you have to change elevators or staircases, can be frustrating)
Cabins and Suites
Regal Princess's 1,780 staterooms come in a vast range of categories. 95% of them face the water, and over 80% of those have balconies.
The majority of Regal Princess cabins are Balcony Cabins and Deluxe Balcony Cabins. They are like most cruise-ship cabins: trim but not tiny. (With all that the ship offers, most passengers don't spend much time in their cabins)
• Beds are either two twins or a queen, and very comfy, with a duvet
• The balcony is big enough for lounging or sharing a drink
• Storage space is more than adequate, with a closet area, night tables with drawers, a desk or shelf
• A large-screen TV offers a wide selection of free movies
• Room amenities include a safe, fridge minibar, free bottled water, fruit bowl, terry robes
Is This a Tiny Cruise-Cabin Bathroom? No!
The bathroom is bigger than most passengers expect, with a good-sized shower stall, sink, and plenty of shelves.
The Few Drawbacks
• Only suites have an iPod/iPhone dock (though the TV offers a range of good music channels)
• The Egyptian cotton sheets are not silky-feeling
Minisuites and Suites
Minisuites are bigger than standard staterooms.
• They are around 300 square feet, with a tub, lounging area with a second TV, plus a bigger balcony
30 Suites, in three categories, are around 400 square feet.
• They add a separate tub, more balcony space, and deck furniture
• Suite passengers have upgraded amenities like a choice of mattresses, alcohol mini bar, laundry and dry-cleaning service, and access to the Concierge Lounge (with bar and concierge service, like a hotel club-floor lounge)
Cabins and Suites
Cabin décor is crisp and quietly elegant. The configuration is sensible.
• Cabins are not showy, like Regal Princess' public areas and restaurants
Every cabin is serviced by a cabin steward, who is a combination of housekeeping manager and personal attendant.
• Service is personal. You may be one of over 3,000 passengers, but you are treated and served with individual attention
• Regal Princess' good service begins when you start the booking process, thanks to the ship's interactive and helpful website
The Social Hub: The Atrium and Piazza
The Atrium & Piazza is a unique feature of Regal Princess (and its sister ship, Royal Princess). It is the perfect place to people-watch.
• This is a three-story, open atrium midship (in the center of the ship)
• It is lined with places for passengers to eat, drink, snack, lounge, and shop
• Wifi is strong here: passengers catch up with their email, as at a café
• The ship's hard working entertainers stage mini-productions at regular intervals
• It feels like a village square (if your village is Beverly Hills)
Where to Ocean-Watch: The SeaWalk
SeaWalk is a unique feature of Regal Princess and a favorite photo opportunity for passengers.
• SeaWalk is an enclosed glass walkway across the prow of the ship
• The effect: walking through air with the ocean below
There are dozens of dining options on Regal Princess. It's possible to have three meals a day on a week-long cruise, and never repeat restaurants.
The ship's inclusive cruise fare covers meals at many of the ship's restaurants
• These include the more casual eateries
• The very good buffet restaurant, Horizon
The inclusive fare allows passengers to dine at no extra cost at three menu-service restaurants.
• Their similar menus feature bistro favorites (like salmon and pasta) and comfort food (such as burgers and fried chicken)
• The restaurants are Allegro, Symphony, and Concerto
Regal Princess offers a dizzying array of casual eateries where you won't incur a fee.
• They include a pizzeria, trattoria, pastry shop, coffee bar, ice-cream bar, burger bar, several snack bars, and a ribs joint
The ship handles its premium dining this way: there's a cover charge, which as of 2016 was generally $25 per diner, with a few higher exceptions. Beyond this, passengers don't pay for food. Drinks and wine, however, are extra.
For-fee restaurants include:
• Sabatini's, a high-end Italian restaurant, with refined seafood, pasta, and meat dishes; ask about the fresh fish du jour
• Crown Grill, an outstanding, traditional steak house, where you choose your Colorado-sourced Sterling beef cut from a cart display (I loved my New York strip steak). Desserts here were my favorite
• Chef's Table Lumiere in Allegro Restaurant is the ship's most exclusive dining experience, with a tasting menu and wine pairings in a beautiful private dining room circled by a curtain of tiny lights
• Also for a fee: Crab Shack, Fondues, Ocean Terrace Seafood bar (for sushi and caviar)
Best Meal Deal
The ship's Winemaker's Dinner is a great value ($40 per diner in 2016).
• The dinner is four courses, all of which showcase a particular wine from a different winemaker.
• At least one will be a fine California winery such as Mondavi
Regal Princess room service is available 24/7.
• It is included in the cruise fare
• The menu is far-reaching, with breakfast favorites, salads, sandwiches, and dinner entrees
Passing the time with a colorful cocktail in your hand is a classic shipboard tradition. Regal Princess makes it easy, with a plethora of bars. Several are right off the Piazza, making bar-hopping a cinch.
• They include Vines Wine Bar, The Wheelhouse pub, Bellinis for bubbly
• Outriggers, perched on an upper aft deck, has a sea view; one signature cocktail here, a fresh strawberry-ginger martini, would've stood out at any bar
• Some cocktails are made with a prepared mix; if you like fresh ingredients, ask
Regal Princess, like Princess' other ships, has gone crazy for cacao.
• Regal Princess now features high-end chocolate treats -- breakfast dishes, desserts, bonbons, martinis, tastings -- throughout the ship, all designed by the Florida genius, celeb chocolatier Norman Love.
Port excursions are a unique aspect of cruise travel, and Regal Princess' excursions are exciting.
• Passengers have a choice of excursions in each port
• They focus on differing aspects of the port: history, nature, wine, etc.
• Generally, you can choose a short tour of a few hours or a longer tour
• Tours are led by local experts (not cruise employees), and they really know their turf
• Excursions are easy: once you've signed up, all you have to do is follow the group
• Excursions include all on-ground transportation, admissions fees, and, often, a bite to eat
Some Passengers Plan Their Own Port Excursions
Some passengers avoid shipboard tours altogether.
• They explore the port themselves on foot or by renting wheels (bikes, motorbikes, Jeeps)
• This m.o. involves research, planning, and uncertainty (will there be any wheels left to rent?)
• As you will hear on board, hiring unknown guides is a personal security risk. New-best-friends are always a bad idea when you travel. And you should never follow a stranger into a dark or empty place
• However, passengers can engage licensed guides by prearrangements you've made online
To Benefit Most From a Port Excursion
• If you don't mind being part of a group -- often large -- take the ship's tour excursion
• To feel like an insider, attend Regal Princess's informative port lecture first, or watch it on your TV
• Bring something to read for any waiting you'll do
• Ask questions of your guide; he or she knows a lot more than will be covered
• Don't hope for bargains from your excursion's retail stop at the rug shop or pottery studio
• Don't expect much from restaurants that tour excursions include; they are often tourist traps
• Consider choosing scenic excursions that allow you to have lunch onboard
Recreation and Relaxation
There's a lot to do on Regal Princess. Many passengers relish their cruise's "at sea" days so they can explore the ship and its offerings.
• Three sunny pools on board are bigger than the usual
• One is for adults only, with cabanas for rent
• Pools are surrounded by lounge chairs, for the resort effect
More Outdoor Recreation Options
• A running track
• A basketball half-court
• An outdoor exercise circuit
• A good-sized gym is stuffed with cardio machines, circuit-training equipment, weights
• The music soundtrack is on the loud side
• Fitness classes are held, mostly for a fee
• The gym is not 24 hours, which annoys some passengers
The Sanctuary: Private Retreat
The Sanctuary, a quiet expanse on an upper deck, is an oasis of calm on this busy ship.
• It is for adults only
• It's lined with loungers and a few private cabanas
• Fyi, loungers placed in the few shady spots are claimed quickly; bring your SPF
• There's also a spa room for couples' treatments
• Waiter and bar service is provided by "Serenity Stewards"
• The Sanctuary is accessible to passengers who pay a low fee ($15 per day or so)
• It's worth it!
The ship's spa is full-service.
• It's just like a destination or hotel spa, with a varied spa menu
• Couples' massages are a specialty
• The spa features the Enclave, a series of hydrotherapy pools and hot or chilled environments
• The Enclave is offered to spa patrons, and, for a fee, to passengers without appointments
Regal Princess's live, full-cast shows are enthralling, with very high production values.
• Shows are performed in the Broadway-style Princess Theater
• They are first-rate in every way: the acting, the voices, the dancing, the direction, the costumes, the music. the lighting...
• Shows go up after dinner (10 pm) and last under an hour
• Some have plots (like Fiera), while some are revues (like Bravo)
• Music may be recorded or played by a live orchestra
• Bottom line: do not miss Regal Princess' shows!
• Vista Lounge is the ship's nightclub, with a sophisticated lineup of vocalists, comedians, and other entertainers
• By day, Vista Lounge spotlights "port enrichment" lectures by experts, art auctions, and other events
• Princess Live! is a TV studio with participatory game shows, late-night comedy, and karaoke (do you dare?)
• Club 6 is the ship's disco nightclub
• Movies Under the Stars, nightly, features the largest outdoor movie screen at sea
• Nearby, a nightly water and light show delights passengers with neon-lit dancing fountains
• The Library is a quiet spot with maps, jigsaw puzzles, and books to browse or borrow
• It's not just slots, but table games too
• As elsewhere on Regal Princess, the casino currency is the US greenback
For Young Passengers
While kids are not the focus of this cruise ship, youngsters will feel cared for and entertained.
• Kids and teens have their own dedicated social centers indoors and out
• Supervised activities include a DJ booth, team sports, video games, competitions, etc.
• Shipboard restaurants offer kids' menus and youngsters' favorite dishes