Princess' Royal Princess 2019

April 27th to May 4th, 2019

Our First Princess Cruise...
and Our First Medallion Class Experience (Wow)!!!


Royal Princess anchored off of Cabo San Lucas April 29, 2019


     Royal Princess:  After decades of sailing exclusively on Royal Caribbean and Celebrity cruise ships, and getting ourselves up into the stratospheric realm of Diamond Plus (Royal Caribbean's Crown & Anchor Loyalty loyalty program) and Elite (Celebrity's Captain's Club loyalty program) where it seemed almost unthinkable to consider another cruise line, we started watching videos on YouTube about this wondrous ship and we began to consider trying her out.  With inquiries to fellow Diamond Plus passengers who've cruised on Princess ships, and of course, with some investigations at, we began to see that most seemed very happy with their Princess experience.  In fact, many said that Princess is perfect for passengers like us in that this line has elements of Royal Caribbean and Celebrity and in many ways, Princess actually surpasses them both!  We found this to be a very accurate picture.  Rather than compare the fleets (which in some respects may be unfair) throughout this review, I will make a few quick comparisons here based purely on our experience aboard Royal Princess:


     That is a quick overview of how Royal Princess compares to our experiences with Royal Caribbean and Celebrity ships that we've sailed on.  We definitely put Princess above Royal Caribbean in quality, and she's at least as good or perhaps exceeds our expectations from Celebrity.  Now, it should be noted that the Royal Princess, while older than her same-class ships (Royal class: Royal, Regal, Majestic and this year's Sky and next year's Enchanted!) is very elegant.  Sure, carpets are in need of replacing in some spots, and rust can be spotted here and there (as on all cruise ships), but overall, she's a stunningly gorgeous lady!  Her layout in some respects reminded us of a supersized Celebrity Solstice class ship.  At 142,000 tons, she's larger than the Royal Caribbean Voyager class ships, but smaller than their Freedom or Quantum class ships.  She's larger than any of the Celebrity ships currently sailing.  We LOVED this ship, and we absolutely can't wait to sail her new sisters as well.  We were so overwhelmingly impressed (and the review below will make it clear why) with Royal Princess that we took the unprecedented step (for us) of canceling a Celebrity cruise aboard the new Celebrity Edge (we'd been following this ship and counting down the days till our sailing!) and booking (while aboard Royal Princess) a cruise on Sky Princess!  We never expected to be so blown away by our experience!


     Medallion Class Experience: There's nothing like it on any other cruise ship... it's so amazing, I'm sure all other lines will roll out something similar.  Simply put, Medallion is a small US Quarter-sized thin disk that all passengers receive as part of their cruise (Princess will mail them to you or allow you to pick it up at the port).  You are given a lanyard to wear it while aboard the ship or you can buy (as I did) a sports wrist band ($12) to wear it on... or jewelry as a bracelet or neckless piece.  With the Medallion, and a few free apps loaded onto your smartphone (I use an Apple iPhone8+), you had some fantastic technology at your fingertips to make your cruise easier!  Frankly, I'm not sure how any cruise without this tech will ever be as good!  With this technology, which completely replaces the old seapass type of cards, you could unlock your cabin doors simply by approaching your door, order drinks to be delivered to you around the pool or in a lounge or in your cabin, buy stuff, board and leave the ship, etc.  The best part of Medallion for us was the locating capability that helped you find members of your party (via maps on your phone) or even chat via texting with them.  Further, these apps would help you navigate the ship to get to a missing party member, or just get around the ship.  The Medallions also worked with large information screens scattered about the public spaces aboard.  All of this is free, and doesn't require you to buy their internet package at all.  Being a new system, Medallion isn't without it's faults... there were frequent and sometimes annoying drop outs of signal (I suspect based on wifi weak spots) but these are things that will be easily ironed out.  (We were on a bus going over from our pre-cruise hotel to the ship with a Carnival rep- Carnival Corp owns Princess- and she was there helping them and testing Medallion.  She was a great person, and we ran into her once aboard... she was very excited about this tech and she explained some stuff to us about it.)  There are other apps that allow you to play games along with the other guests aboard... or a casino app that allows you to gamble from anywhere aboard (note: watch your wallot!  lol) or submit photos of your trip!  Princess is using this service to the hilt and so far, I can imagine many ways they can get more out of it.  Medallion truly puts Princess over the top of all other cruise lines (as I write this in 2019)!

My Medallion... I purchased the sports band to wear it on instead of the clunky lanyard!


Walk to a bar?  Wait for a waiter? No!  Bring the drink to me! (Screen shot from my iPhone)


Approach your cabin door, and the Medallion unlocks it for you!


Where is Diane?  Oh, she's back in the cabin!

     Cabin Experience:  Diane and I have found that cruising in an Inside cabin allows us to save money, and therefore go on more cruises, so we do that more often these days, but interestingly, Royal Princess cabins come in much less expensively than those on Royal Caribbean/Celebrity.  While it's true that the cabins are smaller overall on Royal Princess, they are very comfortable.  So when we started to get involved with this booking, I was surprised to see that their Mini-Suite was actually less expensive than a normal balcony cabin on say, Celebrity.  We therefore opted to book the Mini-Suite, M228, on the Marina Deck (deck 15).

Our Beautiful Mini Suite... looking towards the balcony and large sofa!

Our Mini Suite looking towards balcony and makeup table/desk.  Note TV on wall, one of two! 

Our Mini Suite looking towards the large comfy bed.  Note 2nd TV on wall!

     While a "Junior Suite" is larger on Royal Caribbean (and way more expensive), the Mini-Suite was very large and comfortable.  It seemed wider than the typical shoebox balcony cabin of other ships.  The balcony was wide but not very deep (don't expect to sit facing the sea with your feet up).  The bathroom, which included a bathtub (baths at sea!), was larger than most and off set differently from the way we're used to... and it had plenty of shelf space for odds and ends you use in a bathroom.  Right out of the door of the bathroom is a large closet space with shelving to the left (and a mini-safe) and plenty of hanging space and room for shoes.  It served as a nice dressing area with a full length mirror on the wall opposite! 

     There's a large super comfortable bed (queen sized with excellent sheets) with a large screen TV on the wall opposite the bed, and a room with a three cushion couch and a makeup table opposite of that with another large screen TV (!) across from the couch as well.  Between the bed section and the living room type area is a curtain that could be closed off if someone wanted to sleep while someone else watched TV in the "living room".  Our couch was a fold up bed as well and there looked to be an drop down bed from the ceiling (although we never investigated this)... which means that this cabin could probably sleep four to six pretty comfortably.  There was a small coffee table in the living room area and a small chair as well.  These didn't get in the way at all during our cruise.  There were more than enough drawers around the bed and at the make up table... some of which we didn't even use.  There was a fridge in a compartment at the makeup table as well.  Our cabin steward, Elvie, was magnificent.  He kept ice (we requested on first day and never had to ask again) in a bucket in the fridge for us (a nice touch, keeping the ice colder longer!).  We had two glasses of champagne waiting for us in the cabin on the first day... not sure if this is because we were in a Mini Suite or just a Princess practice.  All of our luggage fit easily under the bed.


Embarkation Day  Embarkation at the Port of Los Angeles (in San Pedro), CA, was very smooth.  We took a van over from our pre-cruise hotel with several others, including a Carnival Rep who just happened to be staying at our hotel as well.  She was there as part of a team working out bugs of the Medallion system and getting passenger feedback.  At the port, our luggage was collected by porters, and we went through security very quickly (even though the lines were long) and we then were directed to a large and comfortable waiting room after our Medallion check-in.  Medallion check-in consisted of waving our medallions over a reader and checking to see that our pictures were loaded to it properly.  (We uploaded pictures to Princess a few weeks before they sent us our medallions)  Once aboard, we were surprised to discover that our cabins were all ready for us!  You always wait on Royal Caribbean and Celebrity.  This was wonderful as we could drop off our carry-on luggage before proceeding to the enormous buffet for lunch!


Patty and Diane awaiting our call to board! 

My first lunch in the Horizon Bistro!


Ship's Pool and Recreation Areas  Impressions of pools and sports decks and Spa and gym. Pictures where needed

Sail Away Show at the Main Pool

Main Pool and Movie Screen at Night 

Dipping Pool at Main Pool

Ship's Bars and Night Clubs  Impressions of bars, discos, etc - Pictures where needed

Mermaid's Tail Bar at the Main Pool

Sushi Bar  

Vines Bar

Ship's Dining Experience  I'd heard and read that Princess dining tends to fall between our perrenial favorites, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity (our #1 favorite for all around BEST food) and on this, I have to say, I agree 100%.  Princess has it's ups and downs at various locations (and it's all about location), but it never stoops below Royal Caribbean and often rises to and surpasses Celebrity.  Because of this, we see a diminishing likelihood that we'll be cruising on Royal Caribbean ships going forward (unless Royal Caribbean makes some major changes).  From now on, it's going to be Princess or Celebrity for us with a heavier focus on Princess.  This ship has a huge selection of restaurants and snack stands... we didn't get to do them all (where to find the time?).  Here's the rundown on the restaurants we visited aboard (all included in the cruise fare except where denoted with "fee"):

Concerto (Main Dining Room - Table 259 - late seating) This restaurant was very nicely appointed with a friendly staff. (special shout out to the Maitre'D who handled an ugly table seating situation for us in a prompt and very friendly way once I huffed and puffed at the poor woman at the door that this had to be changed "immediately"- lol)  Food here was nothing special, but nothing bad, either.  In this, I'd say it was about what we've come to expect on Royal Caribbean ships. (but of course, far below Celebrity main dining room offerings) Our waiter and assistant waiter were polite, but always seemed rushed to take orders and slow to clean up dishes, even when the restaurant had a slow night.  We didn't form any sort of connection with them, nor did they ever welcome us by name (Which is odd considering that they could see our names via the Medallion system on their station laptops.  The menu offered something for everyone.  I'd say my biggest complaint were the rolls served each night... consistently hard as rocks on the outside and sorta soft inside.  This was odd to me as the buffet a few floors above had amazing rolls.  We never ate lunch here (although I wanted to) but we did have a forgettable breakfast there (ok, Royal Caribbean's MDRs serve magnificent breakfasts and lunches)... not awful, just ok.  On a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being awful and 10 being excellent), I'd give this restaurant an overall score of 7.  Some good rolls with varying types each night would kick this location up to an 8.  A more exciting menu selection would help as well.


Horizon Bistro (ship's buffet) This buffet is simply magnificent and bountiful!  All the quality of a Celebrity buffet, but probably 2 to 3 times larger and with a Pastry section!  We absolutely LOVED the buffet.  My sister and her husband don't like buffets as a rule and only reluctantly go... on Royal Princess they couldn't get enough of the place!  We actually ate dinner there on our last night on purpose because it was so good!  Seriously, if Princess wants to know what to leave alone in their restaurants, leave this place be... it's perfect already!  My sister was on a diet where avoiding sugar was a must, but she raved about the sugar-free options here!  Very attentive and courteous staff.  On a scale of 1 to 10... absolute 10!  Don't miss this buffet!  There's definitely something for everyone at the Horizon Bistro.


Alfreddo's A sit down pizza place (but not only pizza) with menu at the ship's gorgeous Piazza ("Pizza at the Piazza") that is FREE!  Their freshly made pizzas (made to your order) and salads and noodle concoctions were excellent!  This is already a favorite haunt of Princess regulars, but now it's one of our's as well (although I talked to a man who was on a 40 night cruise on the Royal Princess just before our cruise, and he said he ate there for lunch on 38 of the days... I think that's overdoing it! LOL).  We had such a great time at this restaurant... super friendly staff there.  Loved it!


Crown Grill (fee) Ok specialty steak house restaurant (definitely not up to the standards of Royal Caribbean's Chops Grille or Celebrity's Tuscan Grill), but I don't think I'd give it another try on any other ships unless I get some more positive feedback from other Princess cruisers.  We were attracted by the low entry fee ($29.99/person) for this location.  My selections were all very good, but Diane had to send her filet mignon back three times (!) as they kept making it rare rather than medium as she ordered it.  Also, there was a very frenetic rushed feel here.  Pretty restaurant and cool location.  I'd give it an 8, but I'm guessing Diane would say 5, so lets say about a 6 or 7 here.  With very little tweaking it could become a 10 though.


Sabatini's (fee) Excellent italian specialty restaurant!  Here the pace was more laid back, with wonderful service and a genial staff.  We loved our selections, and at $29.99/person, we felt it was a real bargain (unlike Crown Grill)!  The calamari cone is NOT to be missed!  The atmosphere and setting of the location is warm and inviting.  Great relaxing place for a delicious Italian dinner.  Not to be missed.  10 out of 10!


Prego's Pizza (Poolside) A delicious place to grab a slice of good pizza right by the main pool!  The adjacent BBQ place served hamburgers (nothing spectacular) and hot dogs.  


Ship's Entertainment This ship had some of the best talent ever... not only in the guest singers, but also in the ship's large production cast.  It was also nice to see a live band again instead of pre-recorded music.  I'm generally not a standing ovation kind of guy unless I'm really blown away by the talent... we were all standing a lot at the shows on this cruise.  Notable were Lou Gazzara (guest singer) and Barbie McCulloch (guest singer) as well as the comedian.  (He was very funny, but I forgot his name!)


Ship's unique or new features:  Medallion Class!  It's all about the Medallion Class!  We LOVED it!  This was the first time on any cruise ship ever where I knew (by glancing at my iPhone) where the rest of my cruise travelers were!  Any seasoned cruiser will tell you that so much time is wasted on a cruise just trying to locate someone aboard the ship.  Further, you could Chat with someone using the Medallion service and it's associated phone apps... or you could find your way around the ship... or you could order drinks or food and have it sent to you (in most locations) where you were... or you can gamble while lounging by the pool!  Medallion made so much of the tedious stuff like embarking/disembarking from the ship, or paying for a drink or getting logged in at the Muster station a quick and painless event.  We found Medallion so useful, that we really can't stand the idea of going aboard another cruise ship that doesn't have this or something similar!  Truly, I'm sure the entire industry will do copycat versions of this.  (Btw- for you privacy advocates, yes you can opt-out of Medallion location settings in the apps)


Our Itinerary  Where did we go?  Overview of this itinerary.  Pictures throughout itinerary


Cabo San Lucas We did the Hotel California Tour (yes, THAT Hotel California of the Eagles song fame) and it was spectacular!  Excellent scenic drive in clean busses right from the water shuttle location at the pier (Royal Princess was anchored off shore) and some stops in the gorgeous Mexican town of


Mazatlan We spent a gorgeous day shopping and then about four hours at beautiful resort where we were served a delicious Mexican lunch and we had an all day poolside open bar (!) and very attentive and friendly staff.  Beautiful beach and clear ocean and a huge pool.  Clean restrooms where you could change as well.  Loved our day here!


Puerto Vallarta Our worst tour was here at Puerto Vallarta... we took one called (ironically) "The Best of Puerto Vallarta".  While it had it's plus points... it took us to some beautiful churches and a dramatic over view from a high cliff and a beach front stop... all of the rest of the stops (where there was a lot to do) were about 15 minutes long (you just barely had time to get off the bus and get your barings) and there was no lunch offered (nor listed on the description) but you were taken to a Tequila Factory (back down a dangerous and rough dirt road with very poor dwellings surrounding you) where there was an outdoor restaurant where you had to pay to eat (nothing else around) or just go without eating (I chose not to be forced into eating at this rather dirty looking location).  The tequila tasting was delicious (and free) and had ample varieties to savor... but again, this location looked dangerous to be in!  We took the extremely rare (for us) decision to file a complaint (didn't want our money back... we just wanted to let them know) with the Excursions desk.  This should be called the "Mostly Shoddy and Dangerous Tour of Puerto Vallarta".  If we're ever lucky enough to get back to Puerto Vallarta (because what little we did see of it from the distance looked beautiful), we'll take a tour that takes you to a resort instead.


Concluding Remarks Speaking as a Royal Caribbean/Celebrity Fanatic, I can definitely say to my (new) Princess Brothers and Sisters, "Okay... WE GET IT!  Princess is fantastic!  We now have a new cruise line to be in love with!  Seriously (and I never thought I'd say this), we aren't even thinking about a new Royal Caribbean cruise for the foreseeable future... and we actually CANCELED our much anticipated Celebrity Edge cruise (!) for next year to do another Princess cruise.  That in and of itself speaks volumes!  We will definitely still sail on Celebrity ships (who can resist the lovely Solstice Class ships?!?) but if Princess does up the ante on their main dining room selections... it could be curtains for Celebrity as well!  You have us, Princess!  We love you!  (An inordinate number of Princess regulars complained to us about this ship saying, "it's not up to par" or "it's too big" -they didn't know its size before booking?- compared to other Princess cruise ships.  I can only say, "Wow!" in response!  It should just keep getting better for us then!)


Final Goodbye Shot of Ship


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All photography on this page done by Paul and Diane McCullough