The sea day entries, as they have been on the last few of our trips, will not be specific to the activities we did on these days, as generally we take sea days very mellow. Instead, these entries will be focused on a different aspect of the Royal Princess, the ship we are on for this cruise — its amenities, staff, and public rooms.
Today’s entry — Food and Dining on Board
For a ship of only 700 passengers, we were intrigued to see how Princess might change or alter the on-board food options given the smaller size of the vessel, but we are happy to report that they kept many of the same elements from the larger ships and simply shrunk them down a bit to make everything fit.
The main dining room on-board (and there is only one) is called the Club Restaurant. It is a single level dining room, with most tables maxing out at 8, versus 12 or even 15 on larger ships. The restaurant is overseen by a Maitre D’ and two head waiters (Alfonso, mentioned earlier has been fantastic). They offer two fixed seatings for dinner in this restaurant at 6pm and 8:15pm, and in the later seating, we still have empty tables in the dining room, so there is plenty of room for most everyone. The only potential hiccup is that the tables are very close together, and this can make for some interesting squeezes by the Wait staff as they perform their work. I might prefer fewer tables and a little more spacing, but this is a very minor issue, and knowing that the late seating is always less busy than the first, they probably need all of the space for the 6pm meal.
Anytime dining is only offered upstairs in the Panorama Buffet (No Lido deck on this ship) and in the evening, they put tablecloths out and have wait service in an area called “The Bistro” for folks who want to ditch the traditional evening service.
The Panorama Buffet opens at 4am for Continental Breakfast, and serves almost continuously through until 11pm at night with Breakfast Buffet, Lunch Buffet, Cookies and Ice Cream in the afternoon, the Dinner Buffet, Bistro Service, and late night sandwiches, snacks, and desserts.
In the buffet, there is also an egg station for scrambled eggs and omelets in the morning, which transitions to a pizzeria from lunch until the late evening.
Outside, there is a grill with the standard fare hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken breast, french fries, etc. that is available from 11am – 7pm everyday.
For the most part, everything is here, just a little smaller, or with slightly less hours of operations.
Room service is available 24 hours a day, and is the only option between 11pm – 4am, but that has never been an issue on any ship, as we do not need to eat in the middle of the night.
One other minor loss is that on this ship, there is no self-serve ice cream station available around the clock. The Royal offers a ice cream and cookie hour between 3-4pm every day and ice cream can be ordered from the dining room for lunch and dinner service, but sometimes just grabbing a cone on your own schedule would be appreciated. Hardly a deal breaker, and overall, the lines are non-existent, the quality very good to excellent all the way around, and the service staff have been very friendly, helpful, and always engaged with the passengers vs. just “doing their job”.
We have two formal nights on the cruise, and these consist of Filet Mignon and Lobster offerings, which were well done with excellent cuts of meat. Formal desserts also include Bananas Foster and Baked Alaska.
We have seen an over so slightly higher than normal push for specialty drinks on this cruise (we did have St. Patrick’s Day on-board, so the push for Irish coffees was a major event), but after a single “No Thanks” the sell stopped and passengers were left to enjoy their meals in relative peace.
In addition to the locations mentioned, somehow, the Royal still managed to pull off two specialty restaurants, Sabatini’s (Italian) and Sterling’s (Steakhouse). Though they are much smaller than on larger vessels, both restaurants are available most nights of the week (not every night — must phone ahead for reservations for their open days on your itinerary), it is the same specialty dining experience (along with the nominal and well worth it cover charge of $20 per person) that you will find on any Princess ship.
Overall, food and beverage on-board the Royal receives high marks for consistent quality, excellent service, and ability to deliver on a large ship set of offerings, even on such a small vessel.
Tomorrow — Public Areas of the Ship