A quick review of the Regal Princess.
Following heart surgery earlier this year, I got to spend 3 months doing nothing, this lead to some questionable choices, including booking a rash of cruises and way to much shopping on Amazon. One of the cruises I booked was for our bi-annual cruise with friends, we met them on our honeymoon and have stayed friends with them and their kids since.
A fantastic deal showed up on Princess.com , a deluxe balcony room + $200 in on board credit for $799 for a 1 week western Caribbean cruise, this is how it sat for a few months until our friends messaged us asking if we would mind switching to a cruise a week later so their kids could come, now as we regard them as another niece and nephew, having watched them grow from 7 and 5 year olds there was no hesitation, so to allow them to finish their college semester we switched to an Eastern Caribbean itinerary, honestly, not that exciting to us, we've done this cruise probably a dozen times, but....We get to spend time with our friends and also, I get to spend the day sitting at Maho, so a win win.
2 weeks before the cruise we get a call from Princess asking if we would like to upgrade to a mini suite for $149, after confirming that our friends could also upgrade we snapped up the offer, we also moved their kids from an inside to a balcony cabin for $100.
1 week before the cruise I get a call our friends, their son, who had been having issues with leg pain was being rushed in for emergency surgery, after a year of trying to figure out what was going on with his leg an MRI
of his spine showed that a nerve had been damaged and had split, forcing itself between 2 vertebrae. This of course sunk the cruise for our friends, but to give Princess a pat on the back, they went above and beyond, with a quick fax of a letter from the doctor our friends received a full credit for the amounts payed for a future cruise, Princess really didn't have to do anything, but they stepped up so way to go.
The cruise itself.
We boarded at FLL
terminal 2, this is our normal terminal for a Princess cruise so we figure we knew what to expect....Well we were wrong, on previous cruises the port would have 4 lanes of traffic open making the bag drop very easy, this time there was 1 lane.....1 whole lane open for 4200 passengers to be dropped off, meaning of course it was a long wait to even get to the terminal, however, once we actually made it, it was a breeze, lots of open desks with staff waiting to help, because of course, nobody could actually get to the terminal to check in.....
The ship, gone is the shopping cart handle of the grand class and the vast majority of outside rooms now have balconies. The layout is a little different than the grand class, but navigation was easy, for a huge ship 144,000 grt she seems far smaller, the layout is very efficient at moving people around and the ship with 4200 pax on board never seemed crowded, honestly, she reminded me a lot of the R class ships, lots of room to roam around, the decks never seemed crowded.
The mini suite is a nice size, we did enjoy having the ability to draw a heavy curtain across and turn it into two separate areas, we go on cruises to relax and being able to have one of us take a nap while the other watches tv is nice. There are 2 32" tvs in the room, one small issue being, without the curtain drawn is was very easy to take control of the other tv by accident.
If there was one thing that I disliked about Princess in the past it was the beds, for some reason princess saw fit to have a mattress that could have very easily been used by the Spanish Inquisition as a torture device, to the point where we would actually buy a temperpedic topper and put that on top of it so we could sleep, of course this is subjective, if you liked rock hard beds with random 1 inch knobs sticking out of it, you would have loved it ! However, Princess saw fit to put a new mattress on the Regal, one that, now wait for this, was comfortable !!!! Yep, after many years of cruisecritic bitching about the beds Princess listened, or more likely the older style finally stopped being made so comfort it is. Another upgrade Princess saw fit to do is the plug situation, the vast majority of cabins have 1 110v outlet, Princess has fitted another ! Yep, we now get 2 whole 110v outlets, which of course means a power strip is still needed to charge the cameras, tablets and laptop...Oh well it's better than 1.
system is now on demand, gone are the 3 channels from Denver and a couple of movies of a 24 hour rotaion, it's now probably 50 movies on demand (most relatively new) and the same for regular tv, though there are live channels, they were the news channels, BBC, Fox, CNN and MSNBC, though I would have been happy to see some other channels added, just so I could catch the NFL
games, they were not really missed and overall it was a huge improvement over past systems.
Now the disappointing part, the balcony, on the Grand class there is a not so well hidden secret, the Carib deck balconies, these sit above the mini suites, so you end up with huge balconies, enough for a couple of loungers and a table with 4 chairs, great for entertaining on or just laying out and enjoying the Caribbean, on the Royal class, yeah not so much, the balconies are tiny, just big enough to hold a couple of chairs, as such, the balcony saw far less use than before.
I have always found the food on Princess to be good, this cruise was no different, the staff were more than happy to sit down with me and go over some dishes I could eat thanks to my new found dietary needs and in general it was all very good.
We did eat at the specialty restaurants, Sabatini's and the Crown grill, now, Sabatini's has gone though a transformation over the last couple of years, it is now a more traditional Italian sit down restaurant, the food is still excellent, the service almost perfect, but there is now something missing, I could try and describe the older version of Sabatini's, but, there is a poster over on cruise critic that did a far better job than I could ever do, so here is Sailorjack's review of Sabatini's. I also would highly recommend reading all his reviews, he has a gift for writing.
Day 3 – At Sea – Dinner at Sabatini’s
Before describing our confrontation with this dining venue, readers need to be aware that Sabatini’s spelled backwards is “S’in-it-abas” – an ancient Roman phrase which roughly translates as “eat-till-you-drop”. As we were to find out, dining at Sabatini’s comes close to qualifying as a contact sport – pitting you against a team of highly skilled waiters.
Our first indication of looming trouble was when the Maitre d’ introduced us to our TWO waiters – who informed us that the only decision we had to make was the entrée. Upon inquiring as to why we couldn’t select anything else – an appetizer for instance – the response was a wide grin that would have been the envy of the Cheshire Cat. After making our entrée selection, Waiter #1 appeared with a plate the size of a Spartan shield - piled high with antipasti – and downloaded onto our plates sweet, succulent sundried tomatoes, porcini mushrooms marinated in EVO and tarragon, zucchini slices bathed in an aged balsamic oleo, and lightly spiced artichoke hearts. When he finished, Waiter #2 arrived and proceeded to pile onto our plates finely marbled slices of prosciutto, ripe, juicy melon balls, and slices of air cured beef in a Mediterranean tapenade.
As he departed, Waiter #1 reappeared. It turns out he hadn’t been finished at all – he had simply gone back to the kitchen to reload! This time he brought steamed mussels in a rich garlic sauce, deviled crab cakes topped with caviar, potato latkes, cubes of rich, pungent goat cheese and baby shrimp basted in a delicate herb butter sauce.
Successfully, if not somewhat dazedly, we worked our way through this mélange of delicious antipasti and awaited our entrée. It was not to be. Waiter #2 returned bearing plates of seafood mousse, lightly fried and breaded brie, fillets of anchovies, and fresh salmon roe. Demonstrating that we were up to the challenge, we again ate all that was placed before us. Basking in victory, I unnotched my belt a couple of notches.
But our waiters were not yet ready to accept defeat and retaliated with bowls containing spaghetti alla scoglio, cannelloni stuffed with ground sirloin and ricotta, and gnocchi in a creamy Alfredo sauce. It’s OK
, I told SailorJill. We just have to make sure that they don’t give us anything else. “Just say, No!”
Apparently anticipating our plan, our waiters countered with a clever diversion. Our Maitre’d stood on one side of our table and charmed us with stories about his native Tuscany. His descriptions of the Tuscan countryside were so enthralling that we failed to notice the stealthy movement on the other side of the table. Too late, I turned to see our plates were now holding slices of hot pizza – loaded with a variety of enticing toppings.
Outflanked, but not defeated, we called upon our reserves and demonstrated that we were made of sterner stuff; only to then be confronted by bowls of savory, aromatic minestrone soup. It’s OK
, I again told SailorJill. “We can do this.”
Upon finishing our soup, Waiter #1 appeared - bearing a slightly disappointed look. “Congratulations”, he said, “not many people make it this far.” Frankly, I felt that I had just made the Sabatini Hall of Fame. I was beginning to wonder why he was taking defeat so easily, when, with a big grin he stepped aside and Waiter #2 appeared. My God, I had forgotten about the entrée! With a huge grin, Waiter #2 placed before us platters containing two coldwater lobster tails with clarified butter, grilled jumbo sea scallops, and a half dozen tiger prawns. Their smiles, however, where short lived as I unleashed my secret weapon – Sans-a-belt slacks. Undoing my belt, the elastic waistband expanded by three inches and I cruised through the entrée – but with little room to spare.
That’s when they applied the coup de grace – the dessert cart. Seduced by the aroma of strong Turkish coffee, we each take a piece of Hazelnut and Brazilian Chocolate Crème Brule topped with vanilla infused whipped cream and crowned with raspberries steeped in Grand Marnier. But try as we might, we could not finish it. We surrendered.
As we staggered out of Sabatini’s I am sure I heard our tag team of waiters cry out, “Next challenger, please.”
So gone are the days of the multi course meals, it's now down to a regular 3/4 course meal, as I said, the food was very good, but it is now just a high end Italian restaurant.
The Crown Grill
Princess does a lot of things right, until this cruise the Crown Grill has not been one of them, for whatever reason Princess went with the high end steakhouse look serving Sizzler type food, on plates with the Stars and Stripes across them, very strange, however, on the last night of the cruise the main dining menu didn't look that great, so we called to make reservations, sadly both the Crown grill and Sabatini's were booked solid, so we decided to hit the buffet (which was good all cruise long) instead, however, while sitting down with the art director to finalize the paperwork on some paintings Mrs Jetwet1 decided to buy, and in turn pay for the next Princess ship I asked the director if he had any pull in getting us into the Grill for dinner a quick phone call later and we had a table, ready for us to us whenever, i'm not going to say how much Mrs Jetwet1 spent in the gallery, but I knew i was in trouble when walking past I heard her moan and then pant the word Yanke, there I was thinking maybe she was having a flash back to some civil war previous life, but know, he favorite artist Tim Yanke's work was present front and center, I knew I was in serious trouble when the soon to be new best friend in the whole world told her that they had 4 originals on board and would she like to view them.
I ran off and quickly listed a kidney on Ebay to pay for what was about to happen, but hey, we did get 150 free minutes of internet service, which for once was not 28.8kbs speed !
Anyways, the food was great, I would rate the steak somewhere around a Craft Steak/ Double Eagle steakhouse level, served on plates that did not have old glory printed on them, score ! However the real winner of the night was the sea bass, there are very few words to describe this dish, but orgasmic comes close, truly a spectacular dish.
Great, pure and simply great, always friendly and ready to help, I could say that there was one issue with them, but that would be unfair, the issue is more of a management thing than a crew thing, here it is.
In the Horizon Court (buffet) there are plenty of servers to get you something to drink....Or so it seems, the reality is, if you would like to buy a coffee card, just raise your hand and say coffee card and you will have 10 servers there ready to sign you up, the same applies for the wine tasting, this replaced the old wine packages which were great value, so of course had to go, replaced by as far as I could tell by 4 glasses of handpicked wines to suit your pallet from such renowned vineyards as costco and wine in a box, all your for just $49.......... But a glass of water or a coffee (not from the coffee card but regular coffee) and you suddenly become invisible.
Now, i am all for creating new revenue streams, however, when these new revenue stream impact your core business, or in this case my morning coffee, they need to be looked at again.
Anyways, the crew was great, the room steward, well those of us that have cruised have all heard the jokes about leaving the room for 2 minutes and it being transformed from something out of Animal House into a pristine version of the cabin, well, this guy did it, we would leave the cabin for 5 minutes, come back and the room would be spotless, bed made, new towels, trash emptied, no idea how he did it, but boy those guys and gals work hard.
Still with me here ?? Or ignoring me to read SailorJack ??? Don't blame you.
Princess's private island, over the years it has transformed from a private beach with BBQ pits into a private beach with private cabana/huts or a whole private section just for a one lucky couple all for a few hundred /thousand dollars, though we still enjoy going there, it's a tender port and one quick look at the sky had me staying on the ship for the day while the majority of the passengers went of to play in the sand and sea, then play the game off 150 people cramped into an enclosed boat getting tossed around, not my cup of tea.
As I said earlier, we have been to St Thomas many times, in fact I spent a number of summers living on the island as my father had a restaurant there, over the years i've watched turn from a nice sleepy back water into a shopping mecca, while I am sure it has brought money to the island, it has in the process lost it's charm. We decided to go for a quick walk around then go back on the ship, however, during the walk around Mrs Jetwet1 came up with the idea of going over to St John, a place I had somehow never managed to make it to, so a quick cab ride and ferry trip over and we are in paradise, there are some places you go to that just feel "right" as soon as you get there, St John was one of them for me, though we only had time for a quick walk around Cruz bay and lunch at one of the bay front restaurants it was clear that we both loved the island and will be back.
Now a funny thing did happen on St John, one thing that sort of irritates the wife is when we are out and about back home, for whatever reason any time we walk through a casino there is always someone I know, over the years she has gotten used to hearing my name yelled out, however, upon entering the restaurant on St John I really don't think she was expecting to hear my name called, it actually came as a shock to me, however, it turned out that one of the staff was someone I knew from my childhood on St Thomas, we hadn't seen each other in close to 30 years, but what a great way of reuniting with old friends.
Mrs Jetwet1 made it clear that if I was going to go over to Maho and watch/photograph planes landing at SXM
then she was going to stay on board and hit the spa, it took almost 5 seconds for me to think this through, but lets just say, she got to spend a few hours being pampered, I got to spend the day doing something I enjoy, win win I think.
Also, I got to answer a question that came up on here a while back, there was a thread showing a plane coming in very low, questions were asked about the height of the fence, well yes, I did take a tap measure with me, the fence itself is 6 ft hight, with 8 inches of barbed wire on top, the police officer really did seem bemused by the stupid tourist measuring the fence, but after seeing my camera gear set up he may have semi believed me, but no matter what, he left me with a reminder not to fence surf.
Anyways, all in all a great cruise, much to short, but a great way to round out an interesting year, if you have any questions feel free to ask.