Singapore: Graded 'A'
Due to the long, long flight and the time changes we decided to fly into Singapore two nights early. We stayed at the Ritz Carlton Millennia Hotel, and it had to be the best hotel experience ever. We were on the Club Level and the service and attention to detail were unsurpassed. The hotel had the most wonderful pool and spa, as well as fabulous food. Every wish was granted, sometimes even before you knew what you wanted yourself!
This might have spoiled us for the Regal Princess, as it was slightly downhill from there.
Embarkation: Graded 'C'
The Regal Princess was at a mundane container ship dock, due to the ships of the Star Line taking up the cruise ship terminal. We were all in the rain waiting to board the ship, trying to huddle under some tiny tent with a handful of folding chairs. The check-in process was manual and very long and frustrating. I need to say that Princess has you fill in every conceivable bit of information before you leave the US and before they send you your tickets, but they had none of this info at the pier or on the ship. We were constantly given the wrong information and asked to fill out forms that had already been filled out.
We boarded the ship and waited for hours for our luggage. We received our luggage eight hours after we boarded and only after staking out the service elevators in search of our bags.
The Ship: Graded 'B'
The Regal Princess had just emerged from a major renovation and the areas they touched were well done. The atrium and lobby were stunning and the new Café Del Sol was very nice. Also, the carpets were all new. Some areas of the ship were not renovated and it showed. The Pizzeria was a bit tired, as well as the Characters bar with stained furniture and tacky Disney character puppets hanging from the ceiling.
The ship also had a nasty smell that popped up in various areas of the ship and hit you when you least expected it. It smelled like rotten food and garbage.
I hate cheap Astroturf by the pool and that is just what the Regal has. Itís all bubbled up and faded, making a nice pool area look cheap. Please Princess, leave some towels out by the pool! I was tired of hunting down my cabin stewardess to ask her for towels every time I wanted to go sit by the pool! I know they are supposed to be in the cabin, but our cabin attendant never seemed to get the concept.
The gym was on the lowest deck of the ship. It was small and serviceable, but certainly did not beckon you to work out. It was crowded with passengers and crew and warm. I guess it gave me an excuse to take two weeks off from working out!
The two lounges amidships were nice (the Adagio and Bengal Bar), as was the show lounge in the front of the ship, though I think the showcases can be "spiced up" a bit: it still echos the early 90ís/late 80ís décor and is very plain.
Our Cabin: Graded 'B-'
We had cabin E169 on the Emerald Deck just off the Main Atrium. The cabin was OK in size but I would not call it large by the standards of other ships we have been on. The bathroom is tiny and plastic-looking, though the shower is large. I thought there was wasted space in the cabin like the area just below the refrigerator: a locked cabinet. Except for new carpet and a new desk chair, the cabins did show wear with scratched walls and old bed linens. The cabin came across as very minimalist and cold. Suitcases did not fit under the bed so they were in the way the whole trip and took up most of the closet floor space.
This was a VERY noisy cabin. This was the first time I ever experienced what people talked about in other reviews about hearing the guests next door. We could hear everything, and every morning, along with other noise I will address later, we would be woken up by drawers opening and closing next door.
Also we had the pleasure of being below the shuffleboard court, and all day and night (they never took the equipment away) we would hear the shuffleboard disks sliding back and forth. It was like having a metal ball loose, rolling around in the ceiling.
Our second week, they decided to chip the paint off the ballast tanks a few decks below our cabin. Our sea days were filled with non-stop banging from 7AM to 7PM (it echoed up through the walls). So much for relaxing in the cabin on those sea days. They finally stopped (after three or so days) after several passengers complained and the banging started to get to the Purserís Desk near our cabin.
The Food: (Bistro 'B+', Palm Court and Café Del Sol: 'C')
The food in the main dining room was bland, cold and tasteless, with salty soups, poor salads and poor desserts. There were instances of entrées being sent back two or three times until they were correct. The dining room was such a disappointing experience that we began to take most of our evening meals in the Bistro, which is the conversion of the Café Del Sol in the evening. The food in the Bistro is limited, but it was cooked to order, so it arrived hot and relatively fresh.
Breakfast and lunch in the Café Del Sol were fine, but nothing really tasted fresh. Desserts looked old, breakfast was bland and, unlike other cruise lines, it was not easy to get anything special ordered.
The Service: 'B'
The service was spotty; our cabin stewardess and waiter were nothing special. They never learned our names (our waiter learned mine at the end of the cruise) and our assistant waiter never quite got that I like tea after dinner, or anything else I asked for every night.
The Purserís Desk staff was nice -- they always were willing to help out or chat about ports or the cruise line. The staff encountered around the ship always smiled and was for the most part pleasant.
Entertainment: (Production Shows: 'A', Other 'B-')
The production shows were very well done and professional. There were three full shows on our 15-night cruise. The other nights we were treated to a banjo player and a guy who could juggle Ping-Pong balls with his mouth. Enough said!
The Ports: 'A+'
Na Trang, Vietnam:
This was a short port visit and we had just enough time to see the atomic bomb museum and memorial as well as some gardens near the ship.
With such amazing ports how could the cruise be bad! We loved seeing Asia, and the faults of the ship were not enough for us to have a bad cruise. They were enough though, for me to think twice about sailing Princess again. Would I? Well, if I saw one of those dirt-cheap deals in the paper and it was only a seven-day trip, sure I would. At least now I know what to expect from Princess. Princess is a nice mainstream cruise line and provides a basic cruise experience.
PHOTOS courtesy of Princess Cruises
James Tagliani lives in San Francisco and is a veteran of over 30 cruises on most of the major cruise lines. Currently, James is working in real estate for a large retail company. James may be reached at: James_Tagliani@gap.com.
If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please