Trouble On The High Seas: My Regal Princess Experience

Regal Princess Princess Cruise

Last fall I was invited by Princess Cruises to attend the christening of their newest ship, the Regal Princess. To sweeten the deal, they invited the entire cast of The Love Boat to participate in the event, along with more than 20 former guest starts of the iconic show of the 70s and 80s. Captain Stubing, Florence Henderson and Charo? There was absolutely no way I could say no. I was also honestly eager to experience Princess Cruises for the first time. I’ve been on several cruises, but never with Princess and looked forward to seeing what sailing with them is like. Sadly, the experience wasn’t everything I hoped it would be and so I feel compelled to offer an honest review of the Regal Princess and Princess Cruises in general.

The Ship

If I hadn’t been at the christening, I would be shocked to find out that the Regal Princess was brand new. I don’t mean it doesn’t look nice and shiny – it certainly does. But the layout of the ship is so antiquated and confusing, it’s hard to believe it was designed and built in the 21st century. The ship is split between decks so that when I wanted to eat dinner at the restaurant on the 5th deck, I would have to go up to 7 and then walk down to 5. When it comes to recreation areas, they are pitiful. None of the lounge chairs have any kind of shade or umbrellas, so if you are fair skinned you will bake. Wait, I stand corrected. They do have a beautiful and relaxing area with plenty of shade and umbrellas, but you have to pay extra to access it. That nickel and diming was rampant and I was shocked to see that little was free and instead Princess associates a fee with everything. Even when we anchored in the Bahamas, the beach umbrellas were $29 for the day. It’s outrageous and I’ve never experienced that insane level of nickel and diming on a cruise before.

There was also little to do onboard the ship. There were a few pools, a rec center and a casino, but nothing fun, innovative or exciting. No sky diving or bumper cars on this ship no, instead your choices are trivia night with the crew or bingo. I imagine retirement homes have better options.

Service

This is where Princess really lost me and I’m still reeling from the spectacularly bad service I experienced onboard the Regal Princess. At first when I noticed small moments of poor service, I chalked it up to new staff just getting used to things. Then I learned that the Regal Princess had been servicing guests for six months and I instantly lost a lot of respect for the people who worked onboard the ship.

Rather than one glaring example of bad service, my experience was instead a death by a thousand cuts. When I sat down to get a soft drink, the waiter promptly began telling me how much he hated his job. I listened as I went on to tell everyone else the same thing while pouring their drinks. I saw multiple servers get really rude and sarcastic with guests, one senior staff member actually yelling at a passenger. In the gym I made an appointment with the staff and they never showed up. It goes on and on. Like I said, there was no one horrible encounter, instead nothing went the way it should have. In hospitality the guest is ALWAYS right. Even if it means gritting your teeth and saying “Yes ma’am” or “Sir,” but open conflict should never happen. Of course this doesn’t occur in a vacuum and ultimately points towards what is the larger corporate culture.

I saw this lack of respect on display while waiting to board the tender (small boat) to take us back to the cruise ship after spending the day in the Bahamas, our port of call. There was a 45-minute line for the tenders and it was not a fast moving line. As I got closer, I saw one of the cruise ship staff members ask the folks in line not to board the empty tender and instead, his coworkers spent 20 minutes loading beer and wine onto the boat. Meanwhile, guests waited in the intense heat watching as they were shown by the actions of the crew just how unimportant they were. It was shocking and I thought a riot was going to break out amongst the guests around me. But it goes to show how little the crew thinks about customer service.

Food and everything else

Wow, it really seems that I hated my experience onboard the Regal Princess, but that’s far from the truth. We had a decent time, but there are significant problems that need to be addressed. Food is another one. All guests are entitled to eat in the general buffet restaurant as well as at a few other dining rooms without reservations. Here’s the kicker. I selected anytime dining, which means there was no set time and theoretically I could go and eat whenever I wanted to. Except that’s not technically possible. My partner and I showed up at the anytime dining restaurant and were promptly asked if we had reservations. Dumbfounded I said no, this was anytime seating. Turns out anytime seating requires reservations in advance! While yes, theoretically you can show up and eat apparently demand was too high so they switched to an impromptu reservations system. It’s absurd and was just one more disconnect on a ship full of them. I might not have minded as much had the food actually been good, but it wasn’t. It was as unimpressive, unimaginative as anything I’ve ever seen and I doubt the menu has changed much in the past couple of decades.

Having cruised many times in the past, I was shocked at my experience onboard the Regal Princess. The problems were many and by the end of the short three-day trip, my partner and I were more than ready to leave. We weren’t alone either. I chatted with a lot of guests who paid for the cruise, who were there to enjoy a few days away from home and to a person no one was happy with their experience. One gentlemen I met told me that he’s sailed 20 times with Norwegian and dozens more times with other cruise lines and that three-day cruise onboard the Regal Princess was one of the worst he’s ever experienced. That says something.

But it also wasn’t the worst experience I’ve ever had and if it’s your first cruise then you’ll probably like it. But if you have anything at all with which to compare it to, prepare for some serious disappointment.

Have you sailed with Princess Cruises before? What did you think?

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By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer. Also follow Matt on Twitter, Facebook and

37 Responses

  1. Samantha

    I was on the Crown Princess for a 30 day cruise a few months ago and it was incredible, the staff was amazing, the layout was great, the food was awesome. Then a few weeks later I sailed on board the Royal and had a lot of the same issues as you. While everything was shiny and new and beautiful, the layout left me dumbfounded a lot of the time. It was so difficult to get around on that ship. The lack of pools for a ship that carry that many passengers was also surprising, I found it very difficult to find a spot to even lay out. I also experienced the same problems in Princess Cays, I think we waited over an hour to tender back to the ship because it was at the end of the day and they were filling tender boats up with supplies instead of paying guests. The staff wasn’t nearly as friendly. In all, I loved the cruise because the ports of call, but the ship itself really was a disappointment!

    Reply
    • Matt Long

      While I’m sorry you had a bad experience, I’m reassured to know it wasn’t a case of me just being too picky. Thanks for sharing!

      Reply
      • Dee Tillotson

        Matt, we enjoyed reading your candid review of the Regal Princess. One would think that since your cruise with the Regal was a special one with the christening and special invitations to celebrities and to cruise critics, the staff of the Regal Princess would have gone overboard (no pun intended!) to make sure that all was perfect for the occasion. It was not like you were an undercover guest. I wonder what’s going on there.

  2. Shobha

    Yikes! Good thing it was only 3 days. I would’ve gone just to see the Love Boat cast. I remember thinking as a kid that Julie was so pretty and had the best job as cruise director. It’s a shame about the ship though.

    Reply
  3. Igor

    Thanks for sharing your experience. Do you have a favorite crusise line that you can recommend?

    Reply
    • Matt Long

      I really enjoyed Celebrity, if you mean larger ships.

      Reply
      • Neli

        Hi Matt,
        I’m looking at the Celebrity Silhouette or Equinox for my honeymoon.

        Can you please recommend one over the other?

        Thanks for your help!

      • Matt Long

        Equinox

  4. Michael R Wilson

    Your Review really blew me away,
    My Life Partner and I wanted to book the Princess Panama Canal Cruise in Nov. of this Year as a early christmas gift,,out of Fort Lauderdale,, But reading Your Review Made me re-think that we may do something else,,,
    We too are cruise lovers and have been on many a cruise and only have one disagreement with your review,, Carnival-Cruise Lines Nickles and Dimes The worst of all the Lines,,,,

    Reply
    • Matt Long

      Well I can only say that this was my personal experience on this one particular ship. I haven’t tried all of Princess’ ships so I can’t speak for them. And Princess is owned by Carnival, so…

      Reply
  5. Shirley

    Had pretty much the same experience on the coral Princess, except we were left in an deserted unairconditioned port for 4 and a half hours in Colon, Panama. We had no access to water or food during this time. There were a lot of elderly people and limited seating. It was a horrible experience that I will not be repeating. The only thing good about this trip were the staff all who were excellent and of course getting off the Coral Princess when the trip was finally over.

    Reply
    • Matt Long

      Yikes! So sorry to hear about your experience!

      Reply
  6. Chris Tailor

    Wow. I’m really surprised to read this poor view of Royal Princess. I went on a Princess cruise in Australia last month and thought it was really terrific, as did the rest of our largish group. The standouts were actually the service (often joyous) and the food, which doesn’t match your experience at all. I am in the process of writing a review – will come back and post a link when it’s done.

    Reply
    • Matt Long

      Great to hear about your experience and no doubt experiences will vary from ship to ship. For whatever reason, the crew on our ship really soured the experience.

      Reply
  7. Amateur Traveler

    We went on the Ruby Princess in the Caribbean a few years ago when it was a new ship and overall, it was great. Although, I agree with what you said about the layout – going to 7 & back down to 5 to eat, way too much nickel & diming on their ships for sure. Also, we considered the Regal for a Med cruise last year but prices were so high we decided against it. Sounds like it was the right decision.

    Reply
    • Matt Long

      Check out Azamara or Celebrity for Med cruises, you’d like them more.

      Reply
  8. Cathy

    We are longtime Celebrity cruises and have come to expect a certain level of elegance and grace aboard ship. We took a family Princess cruise to Alaska a few summers ago, and boy was I let down! The decor on the Sapphire Princess was downright ugly, and the ship was full of dead ends, or what appeared to be, until you found a tiny passageway! What is the deal with that?? What happened to flowing spaces?? That, plus the four small low ceilinged dining rooms made me crazy. I will just keep happily sailing Celebrity for the foreseeable future!

    Reply
    • Matt Long

      Very similar experience here obviously and I too love Celebrity, such a great line.

      Reply
  9. Mike | VagabondingMike

    I know many truly enjoy the relative ease that some cruises provide but to me they are just one giant money suck. To each his own though…

    Reply
    • Matt Long

      I like cruises in general. I did not care for this one.

      Reply
  10. John Domaschofsky

    My wife and I have been on several cruises,but our only experiance with Princess was when we sailed on the Diamond Princess. It is a beautiful ship and the service was fantastic. It wasn’t the formal service you would see on Norwegian but we felt pampered. The food, especially in the specialty restaurants,was as good as any we have tasted. From our experience we would sail with Princess again.

    Reply
  11. Elaine Thornton

    I have cruised with Princess many times. I found the layout of the Royal, sister to the Regal, horrible. The theatre was especially awful. I did though find the nightly water shows fun. Never have I found fault with service or food , and would not hesitate to use Princess again, just not either of these 2 ships.

    Reply
  12. Emma

    Wow! What a disappointing experience.

    Reply
  13. Amanda

    I went on my first Princess cruise last year to Alaska, and couldn’t help but compare it to the other Alaskan cruise my family did with Royal Caribbean. Princess offers much better packages (we did one of their cruisetours, with a land portion before the sailing bit), but I didn’t find the service to be as great as other cruise lines I’ve been on (I’ve also sailed with Carnival and Norwegian). That being said, that particular cruise was fantastic, but I think a lot of that had to do with Alaska and the scenery rather than the ship or cruise line.

    Reply
  14. Philatravelgirl

    My first Princess cruise was on the Emerald to the Baltics and it was good. I’ve sailed other cruise lines and keep coming back to “this isn’t Celebrity” which so far has been best for me traveling solo. I’m struggling now with writing my Epic disappointment with NCL Epic transatlantic where the staff continually said “no” and argued with guests even seeing restaurant manager bully a women into eating a clearly well done (not medium rare) prime rib – the cruise lines are clearly missing out on opportunities as they try to serve everyone the same

    Reply
  15. Bill Grumhaus

    In the first paragraph you say that you have cruised “several” times but in the final paragraph you say you have cruised “many times”. Which is it?

    Reply
  16. P David Miller

    Having sailed our 25th cruise, I can relate to this article. We have been on almost every line from Carnival, NCL to Seabourn, Crystal. Obviously the experience differs significantly. I can say, however that our one cruise on Princess ranks as the overall worst experience we’ve ever had. We just got back from the NCL Hawaii cruise as there really isn’t anything else that does a week cruise there, and although the ship portion of the cruise was hit or miss, it beat Princess hands down.

    Reply
  17. Lee turner

    Just come back from a two week cruise on board the regal princess and it was not a great one, the food was terrible anytime dining is a JOKE I could go on but I won’t have booked three weeks December 2016 on the Royal princess but have cancelled

    Reply
    • Matt Long

      Smart decision, sorry you had to go through that at all!

      Reply
  18. Anne

    Wow, I am so surprised that you had such an awful time. I guess I am just lucky that I’ve never had a bad experience with Princess in the 15+ times I’ve sailed with them. I’ve also got NCL, Carnival, RCCL, and Celebrity to compare them too and I would never choose any of them over Princess if given the choice. That being said, I’ve yet to sail on the Regal/Royal, but will be in less than a month. I hope they have fixed the problems in service by then. My parents told me about the stairs they took out in mid ship and I can see how that can be an annoyance for the elderly people, but for me the extra walking = one more bite of pizza lol.

    Reply
  19. John Winter

    We were on the Regal in 2014 when it was 6 weeks into its first season. Agree with the design issues. Venice to Barcelona. Nothing spectacular, but nothing really went wrong either. We’ve also been on Island Princess (2009 balcony), Oasis (2010 Outside balcony), Dawn Princess (2011 inside), Rhapsody (2013 ocean view), Queen Mary 2 (2014 balcony) and Voyager (2015 promenade). Best experience? Oasis hands down. Worst experience? Queen Mary 2 (had lots of past pax agree with us on that one!) Best value for money? Rhapsody (got a last minute deal with air!)

    Whilst we haven’t done many cruises, we’ve spoken with lots of others and we’ve all noticed a general trend. On the mainline ones, prices coming down and everything else is coming down with it.
    We’ve also concluded that if you pay full price etc, you may not get value. You’ll probably find others on board who have paid far less, so that’s less revenue for staff, food, etc. How many of them may determine the quality of that departure’s entertainment and food!

    We are booked again on the Regal this year, because we got a good deal for a Baltic cruise. Someone at Princess put in a wrong code resulting in about a 30% discount. We would not be going on it at full price. OK, it’s a ‘cardigan’ ship which is a bit strange for its flagship. But we like quizzes. Even win a few too – that helps! Also, with the discount and with lots of new ports, it should be fine for what we want.

    However . . we are looking forward to the Ovation of the Seas in November. Lots of those RCL toys! Hope we get that great feeling which we haven’t had since the Oasis in 2010!

    Reply
  20. Cruise Review: Royal Princess – Travel in US

    […] & definitely felt like it. While it never felt crowded, the choppy layout of the ship made it confusing to navigate – a complaint many have had for both Royal & Regal Princess – not every floor allows you […]

    Reply
  21. tammigirl

    I guess there’s a choice for everyone, and that’s good. We were on the Regal Dec 2016 and it was great. The two of us never had any issue getting a table with the anytime dining. The crew were friendly – every last one of them. We had some good meals, some great meals, and some fantastic meals. We didn’t use the pools at all, and only used the hot tubs after dinner, when they were mostly empty.

    I will say the tenders from their own island back to the ship are horrific. Bake in the sun for a long time, relived to get a tender, then sit in the tender banging up against the ship for 30+ minutes. I have already told my husband I will be staying on the ship if we visit their island again. Other ports were no problem, so maybe it’s the loading of supplies as you witnessed.

    Does a cruise ship need bumper cars and sky diving? Mine doesn’t, yours does. We enjoy roaming around the ship, reading, people watching, meeting new friends, joining in some of the trivia and other fun. We also watched some of their free in-room movies since there were a lot of great options. Way better than previous cruises with very little choices. Our balcony earns some of our time as well.

    The way you seem to feel about Princess is the way I feel about Royal Caribbean. The dinners at the big table were great and we met quite a few new friends. Dining room service was fantastic. But the staff treated us like cattle when disembarking for ports, just plain rude.

    We have another date with the Regal soon, and we’re looking forward to it like kids at Christmas. I’m not saying I would never sail Royal Caribbean again, but it would take a fantastic deal to get me back onboard.

    This is just a guess, but it seems to me that the shorter the cruise, the worse the service. Have you taken trips of different lengths and noticed this as well? Our Royal Caribbean cruise was only 5 days, and I wonder if this is why our experience was not as nice?

    Reply
  22. Cruzer

    Hi Matt,
    We were going to book a cruise with princess, glad we saw your review.
    We are planning a cruise for 7 days in start of February for 7 days , can you please recommend a ship in Florida to eastern carribean WITH GREAT SERVICE. We appreciate your input . As we too have been the victims of bad service and food, especially staff on a royal carribean.

    Reply
  23. Mitch

    Happy 2018 Matt! We had luke warm cruise experiences on Royal Caribbean and Celebrity, and a Very Magical excellent experience on Disney. We decided to try a Princess cruise in 2017. A big mistake. We agree with your comments in your blog. Our big issue was our room. When we reported that it was shaking, the manager agreed and said the room was “rocking” but said he had no other rooms. We pushed him for some type of accommodation, he said no, there was nothing he could do, smiled and left. We saw him several times over the next few days, and each time he said he had spoke to upper management and could do nothing. We were only left to suck it up and deal with it and then never cruise with Princess again. Next cruise is Viking ocean cruise and one day another Disney cruise for sure!

    Reply

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