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Saturday, January 21, 2017

Princess Plus: a Review of the Regal Princess

The Regal Princess—the newest in the Princess fleet—takes what we love about its ships and betters it:

More pizzazz in the piazza. The Regal’s stunning atrium is way bigger, giving a spacious and open feel to the hub of the ship. It’s all done up in marble and glass, with lounges that jut towards the center and tables positioned to eye all the action.


And action there is. In turns, there was a steel drum, varying bands and juggler, as well as the Captain’s Welcome champagne waterfall, a balloon drop—and on our trip, even a groom whisking his bride across the dance floor.

The International Café is as good as always, with its 24-hour array of terrific quiches, sandwiches, salads and desserts.

A robust buffet with better navigation. Princess has always had the best buffet at sea, with quality unmatched by the other mass market lines. This new Horizon Court stretches out on both sides of the ship, with a Pastry Shop in between—think “H” shaped.

Part of the buffet, “Horizon Court Bistro,” has lighter fare (Note: you can tell the difference because the furniture is white while in the regular buffet, it’s brown. This is important because my first time there, I got seriously lost.)

There’s never congestion or seating issues, and the options are seemingly endless—from American fare to Asian, some even with a bit of spice.

To this foodie’s delight, there were was papaya and smoked fish such as mackerel, Mahi-Mahi and trout at breakfast (there was even an “everything chocolate” section the last morning). There were good choices at lunch, but dinner is where the really special stuff made an appearance: poached salmon; shrimp; cheeses such as Stilton, Port Salut, Havarti and camembert; and dried figs, dates and apricots.


Desserts at lunch and dinner—such as opera cake, peach cobbler, various mousse-y-cakes, pineapple



upside down—were nearly always of good quality. And you could always rely on fabulous rolls at every meal, which varied from sunflower seed-studded to focaccia.

Love that Norman. The Norman Love desserts are knockouts—as yummy to eat as to look at. The main dining room had several—a kind of tiered chocolate, merengue thing, and a chocolate and pistachio dome. The Crown Grill featured a milk chocolate peanut butter bar.

A dome of Love in the main dining room.
MUTS is now a must. The Movie Under the Stars big screen is not just bigger than previous ships, but the picture is much sharper. We were really taken aback by the difference. It’s now actually worth watching a movie you’ve been wanting to see on that screen. And you get a blanket and popcorn to boot.


What could be improved
Like all the cruise lines and all their ships, not everything is perfect:

MDR a mixed bag. The main dining room food was fair, with a few decent dishes amid a sea of mediocrity and sometimes, dishes that just weren’t quite right. A mixed seafood skewer early on and lobster tail on formal night were well prepared and flavorful. But the red snapper and beef Wellington were neither.

Design flaws. The Regal has some of the same weirdness in layout of other Princess ships, with challenges getting to a few of the dining rooms. 

And the jogging track on Deck 18 was clearly an afterthought. While it has wide separate lanes for joggers and runners, it’s a small track (seven laps=a mile) and when we tried to use it one day, we were shooed away, as the crew was doing maintenance there—at 6 p.m.

A small room with a view. The standard balcony staterooms are smaller on the Regal than the Caribbean Princess. If you can afford it, it’s a good ship to spring for a mini-suite, a Princess specialty. If you pick the right ship, itinerary and time of year, you’ll not pay much more for a mini-suite, yet the difference is enormous. Think full-sized couch vs. two chairs. More storage space than we could even fill.
The mini-suite feels like a hotel room. Pick your trip right
and you won't pay much more than for just a balcony
.
The bottom line
Princess still deserves the crown for the best all-around cruise experience and the Regal delivers it best. Even the “Love Boat” “crew” thinks so.

Find this shrine to the TV show on the Regal Princess, Deck 5, outside Guest Services; the six
original cast members are the ship's godparents. 
Musing’s Top Tip: Princess now has an app you can use with the ship’s wi-fi at no cost to access your account balance, daily activities and more. No downloading is needed; simply put your phone on “Airplane mode” while you’re on board and bring up the cruise line’s website.

You can also text your cruise companions while you're on the ship, but this part of the app has to be downloaded with real wi-fi from Android or Apple online stores. You can do this for free if you download the app before the trip. See Princess' website for details.