Our Cruise on Royal Princess
around the British Isles
July 2003

For our 20th cruise we chose to return to the Royal Princess, which we had loved for the Amazon. The ship was all we remembered her to be, and this cruise was a wonderful experience all the way through! It truly will be some of the memories of a lifetime for us.

THE SHIP: A full virtual tour of Royal Princess can be found on Parnami's Cruise Pages. She is truly a beautiful ship and we loved every minute on her.

Due to a late flight from our stay in Iceland we missed the ship at Southhampton! However we were met at the airport by a Princess rep who directed us to Paddington Station and the night train to Falmouth. The famous Brit Rail system worked smoothly for us and everyone we encountered was friendly and helpful, from the cabbie to the conductor to a nice drunk lady who showed us where to store our luggage. Right on the dot, we arrived in Falmouth in the morning just shortly after Royal Princess docked, and caught a cab to the port. A Princess purser was waiting with a list of the several couples who had missed the ship, and he got us and our luggage right on board and checked in. After this little "adventure" we did not really want to tour Falmouth, but just headed for the buffet and then relaxed around the ship.

The public rooms were well appointed, and are not showing their age very badly. We pretty much tried them all out, from the Princess Court to the theater. Our favorite was the Horizon Lounge 9 decks above the sea, which oddly enough was not very much frequented. We tried the movie theater for My Big Fat Greek Wedding and it was very nice. Few new ships have dedicated movie theaters. The entertainers in all the lounges were quite talented. There was Alan and Alana, pianist and singer, in the Princess court, a pianist named Selwyn (?) in the Horizon Lounge, and a nice trio in the dance lounge.

We played Trivia almost every day. We won Princess make up bags, which are very nice, and the best prize all week, the silvery Princess cold drink mugs! That one was on a tie breaker ... "How many cards in a Tarot deck?" Do you know? I knew it was a big deck so I guessed 70 and it turns out to be 78, so we won that one! We lost a couple of other close tie breakers during the week, too!

The entertainment was fine for a cruise ship. We were not wildly enthused, but sufficiently entertained. There were four big production shows, a comic, a country singer and a "deceptionist." In additon they had the usual games like Liar's Club and Pub Night (beware, ladies, when they ask you to come up on the stage and play ... unless you like those handsome boys from the cruise staff bouncing up and down on your lap!) Some nights we lasted through it, and some nights just went down to the cabin for much needed sleep!

There are three desktop computers in the Library which are open limited hours, with a pretty good satellite connection. There are also several laptops available from the Purser's office 24 hours a day. Either one costs $7.50 for 15 minutes. Platinum members were sort of disappointed that they were only allowed free use of the laptop ones.

The photographers were of course all around, and we got some great pictures from them. It seemed that each night they had some new background for a portrait. We used the photo developing service often and it was prompt and very good.

The breakfast buffet features everything necessary for a good American breakfast, including eggs and omelettes to order and freshly toasted bread, bagels, or English muffins. It caters to the European taste with lunchmeat, cheese and fish every morning too. Hot cereal was always available and potatoes, scrambled eggs, bacon sausage and so on. Taking breakfast out back to the Lido deck was a great way to start the day! The only complaint I have is that the juice glasses are very small (6 oz I think) and I usually had to fill up three of them and balance them on my plate!

The lunch buffet is nicely laid out and always had a plentiful supply of everything necessary, including fresh fruit and a nice salad bar. There was always a couple of hot dishes, a freshly made pasta, a nice soup, sandwich fixins as well as burgers and hot dogs with fries. We usually tried to eat on the back part of the deck outside as it was a beautiful place to enjoy your meal.

The pizza parlor opened at 4:30 and served 9" personal pizzas in several varieties. We found them quite good. You can get a salad at the salad bar in the snack line, as well as fruit and dessert.

Once we tried the bistro dining and found it a very nice thing to do for a change from the dining room. It is not anything special, like Sabatini's, but serves steaks, salmon and lamb as well as one dish selected from the dining room and one specialty pasta. The wait service all over the ship, buffet, pizza, bistro and of course in the dining room, was superb every time!

Now ... we come to the dining room! We were on second seating, at a table for 6 with two other wonderful couples. We hit it off right away!

There were only two formal nights, and most people dressed up quite a lot. Of course this longer exotic cruise had a great many seasoned cruisers on board, and pretty much an older crowd with very few children. Even the casual nights saw pretty good dress on most passengers. I even put on a coat and tie a couple of extra nights, and Renée wore several very nice dresses and we did not feel overdressed.

Our waiter was named Joaquin but we nicknamed him "Yes, sure" because that was his invariable reply to anything you asked him to do! "Joaquin, can I have the garlic mashed potatoes and sugar peas instead of rice and brocolli with my fish?" "Yes, sure!" "Joaquin, can I have three appetizers and then pasta on the side with my entree?" "Yes, sure!" "Joaquin, do you think an extra lobster can swim on to my plate?" "Yes, sure!" He was efficient, professional and unfailing pleasant and took care of our every need. It was a good thing, too, because we rarely saw our assistant waiter who seemed to be so busy bringing things from the bar he had little time for other duties.

Tipping was "automatic", with the Purser's office adding $10 per day to the shipboard account. I talked to the Purser on duty and she confirmed that the tips are pooled and divided among all the staff. She also confirmed that it is possible to raise or lower the pooled tip amount. They did have envelopes out for additional tips. They required your room number on them, and the Purser told me that if you have removed or lowered the pool tip, your waiter has to contribute any amount you give him to the pool. But, if you have paid your full tip to the pool, your waiter gets to keep any extra amount. Joaquin told us he was going on a bus with the crew to Paris on the last day ashore, so we gave him his extra tip amount early in Euros to spend in Paris!

The food was unfailingly good, although one of our table mates was disappointed with the quail. I had seafood most nights and loved it. Princess has me thoroughly spoiled with their cutting the crab legs right in half so the meat is easy to get out! Three lobster tails was all I could handle on formal night. I will say that they seemed stingier with the caviar than they have been in the past. I guess the worldwide shortage is affecting them. However, when I asked Joaquin to bring me another plate of caviar, guess what? "Yes, sure!" And how do they time all those wonderful Grand Marnier Souffles to come out of the oven at just the right time?

The Headwaiters were ominpresent, making custom pasta every night and flaming desserts occasionally, and never failed to check with us each night to see that things were "Excellent"! Somehow, my little Italian wife managed to strike up quite a flirtation with Renzo, the maitre de. When she chided him for not having Zabiaglone on the menu, guess what? The next night, six specially prepared servings of zabiaglone showed up on our table!

There was a great cooking demonstration, although the audience was a bit puzzled when Renzo announced they were making "prunes in vodka"! As he began to describe how to sautee the "prunes" until they turned red in their shell, we realized that his accent was changing "prawns" into something unexpected! Afterward Renée bought the Princess cookbook and had it signed by almost the whole cooking staff, I think. The first pasta cook who made the polenta particularly won her heart.

CONTINUE
with our report on
the great Shore Excursions.

Our pre-cruise trip to Iceland.

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