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Cruise Ship Review
Regal Princess
By
Cleo & Bob Browne

Regal Princess Panama Canal Cruise April 1997

This was our third cruise on Princess, the second on the Regal Princess. Our other cruises have been on Royal Caribbean. We had booked an outside cabin with verandah since we thought that it would help in the canal passage. About a month before departure our travel agent called and informed us that we had been upgraded to a mini-suite. This is the second year in a row that this has happened. Last year it was on the Sun Princess. The mini-suite on the Sun was more like a two room suite with a curtain that could be used to separate the sitting area from the sleeping area. There was also a sliding glass door to the verandah instead of a regular door. The room on the Regal was more like a good spacious hotel room. I'm not complaining though, it was great. More about the cabin a little later.

Since we live in Sarasota and it's only a 3 1/2 hour drive to Port Everglades I can't tell you about air arrangements, etc. I can say that the cruise lines run free busses from most of the cities in this area. We tried this on our first cruise and swore never again as long as we are able to drive ourselves.

We arrived at the Pier 2 cruise terminal about 11:15 A.M. I unloaded the luggage, turned it over to the porter, left Cleo guarding our carry ons and drove right into the parking garage right beside the terminal.

After a short wait, boarding began a few minutes before noon,and we were in our cabin by 12:20. We went to the Palm Court dining room where lunch was served until 1:30. When the dining room closed they opened the Cafe Del Sol buffet on the lido deck for those who arrived after 1:30. We reacquainted ourselves with the ship during the afternoon, participated in the muster at 4:15 and went up to the Sun Deck (14) for sailaway. We were a half hour late sailing due to waiting for a late plane with 45 passengers and, I heard later, a late bus from Sarasota.

CABIN

As mentioned before our cabin, A147 on the Aloha Deck was a Mini suite. There were two single beds already put together to make a queen size, a sofa, two comfortable chairs,a coffee table (which was replaced in the middle of the cruise by a brand new glass one. They did this in all the cabins on our deck) Along one wall was a long dressing table/desk , at the far end of this was the tv. There was a very spacious closet with a shelf and more hangers than you could ever use. On the wall next to the closet was a set of 9 drawers and on top of them was a small closet containing the life jackets and a programmable safe.

The bath was plenty big, with a tub and shower combination, a marble sink and two medicine cabinets. This was the first cabin we have ever had with enough cabinet space in the bathroom.

Drawer space was more than ample with a total of 25 drawers. Our cabin steward, Lenard from the Phillipines, was a jewel and the best one we have ever had. They have all been good and we never had a complaint but Lenard outshined them all.

The verandah had two high back chairs and a small table and was great for watching our passage through the Canal, and for a quiet place to read for an hour or two. I went out there several nights after we came in for the night and fell asleep in the chair.

THE SHIP

Most of the public rooms are on deck 7 including The Palm Court Dining Room, The Adagio Lounge, The Bengal Bar and the main floor of the International Show Lounge. The Princess Theatre (movies, lectures, religious services, etc) is on deck 6. Shops were on decks 6 and 7. Pursers office, shore excursion office and La Patisserie coffee bar and cocktail lounge are on deck 5. Stage Door Disco, the Library, etc on deck 8 and the dome on deck 14 has the casino, a cocktail lounge, and a nice semi circular observation area. On The Lido Deck (12) is The Cafe Del Sol Buffet, Bravo Pizzeria, Characters Lounge and the Waves Pool and Swim-up bar.

DINING

First off, my wife and I are not gourmets. We like good food and on the Regal we thought the food was very good and this opinion was shared by the other two couples at our table. I know that there are those who would disagree but, food is a subjective thing, I am sure there are many who would have not liked the food.

Our waiter Joao from Portugal and his assistant Damien fro Poland were gems. They could not do enough for us. They brought us extra dishes without being asked if they even thought we might like them. One night there was a cold Pina Colada soup laced with rum. One of us at the table remarked how much we liked it, the next night here came Joao and Oscar the head waiter with a real Pina Colada from the bar for each of us. I could give example after example but will stop with one more. The last night, there was the usual Baked Alaska parade by the assistant waiters. When serving time came we each received a giant serving, I mean 3 or 4 times bigger than I've ever been served before.

Oscar, the Headwaiter was really involved, more so than any other we have had. The same could be said for Beniamino Acler the Maitre d' Hotel. Food was served fast and it was hot, the menu was adequate and always had something for everyone. All in all dining in the Palm Court was a good experience.

The same cannot be said for the Cafe Del Sol. The food was, for the most part good, but the lines were long and especially at breakfast by the time you went through the line, got all your food and got to your table the food was cold. This can be avoided by eating in the Palm Court, which we did on several mornings.The buffet selection for both breakfast and lunch was pretty good with one exception....why Princess serves french fries for breakfast I'll never figure out. This happend on two days of this cruise and on both of our other Princess cruises.(The Palm Court serves hash browns or home fries every day, no french fries).

 

Except for the breakfast food getting cold the food here was ok, nothing special, except for the desserts, but ok overall.

Bravo Pizzeria is great. The pizza is good and if you pick your time and day correctly it's not crowded. We picked port days when most people were off the ship. You have to eat the pizza in the restaurant, you can't take it out. We were told that if they allowed take out they could not keep up with the demand and that makes sense to us.

We saw two shows. Lets Go To The Movies and Ports Of Call. We are not big on shipboard shows but, these were both good.

Entertainment in the Dome Lounge was by "Punch & Judy" a husband - wife duo who played and sang for dancing. They were pretty good.

The Bengel Bar had music by the Tofino Trio alternating with Island Groove (they double as a dance band and the on deck calypso band). The Adagio Lounge had Piano music by David Moore and Neil Chambers. We did not attend any of the movies but they included The Rock, Dragonheart and My fellow Americans. Island Groove played Calypso Music on deck each afternoon and played for the on deck "Island Night".

PORTS

Since we are "Days At Sea" people we do not get off the ship on a lot of occasions, especially if it's a port we have been to before. On this cruise we did not get off at Limon, Costa Rica except to buy some gifts and T-Shirts on the dock.

We did get off in Cartegena, Columbia and took a taxi tour. The contrasts are amazing. An old, old town with beautiful Spanish style buildings, run down in many cases, and an amazing number of very modern, tall condos and office buildings. It's like night and day. My guess is drug money.

Cozumel, our second visit here. We tendered in and as we got off the tender the flood gates opened and we, along with everyone else, got soaked to the bone. No strain, we went straight to Carlos N Charlie's and things were fine, noisey but fine.

The Panama Canal

Our first time here and it was well worth seeing. We only went through the Gatun Locks and then anchored in the lake for about an hour before making the return passege through the locks. What a great achievment the canal is!

AFTERTHOUGHTS

I forgot to mention our dinner companions. They were the best we have had on any cruise. Two other couples, Debbie and Randy from California and Pat and Ray from Chicago. We just really blended together and had a blast every night at dinner. We included Joao, Damien and Oscar in our carryings on and they really seemed to enjoy it. We had the second dinner seating and we all met for drinks every night in the Adagio Lounge.

At the Captains Circle party, Captain Giuseppe Romano said that at the end of the Trans Canal cruise which departed Saturday evening (April 19), the ship was going to have a 3 day refitting and refurbusing before starting her Alaska cruises on May 11. The bar stewards also told me that new uniforms would be issued at that time. Other ships in the fleet already had them.

The Captain also said that the Crown Princess was going into drydock next year and their Lido Buffet would be converted to the 24 hour dining option ala the Sun Princess. He also said that the Regal Princess was going into drydock in 1999 and their buffet, the Cafe Del Sol would be converted then. He said that the third Sun Princess class vessel would be named Sea Princess.

Debarkation

We were off the ship by 9 AM but then there was a problem. We sailed from Pier 2 in Fort Lauderdale and returned to Pier 19. This meant that I had to take a shuttle to the parking garage at pier 2 to get the car while Cleo stood guard over the luggage at pier 19. We missed one shuttle and had to wait for 30 minutes for the next and when I got back with the car a large traffic jam had developed so we were delayed some more. All in all it was well over an hour total delay.

I would do this trip again in a minute. We had a graet time. There is no perfect cruise and I don't claim that this one was as there were several things that were at the very least annoying, but we went with the idea of enjoying ourselves and thats what happened. Princess does a good job and there is no use getting all excited about the little things that are bound to go wrong when you are trying to satisfy almost 2,000 people.


Bob and Cleo Browne live in Sarasota, Florida where Cleo is a surgery counselor for one ot the leading cataract surgeons in the area and Bob is a retired newspaper advertising executive. While they await the birth of their first grandchild, Bob and Cleo are busy planning their next cruise. They can be contacted at: cleo1bob@worldnet.att.net.


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