Coral Princess Review – Cruising the Panama Canal

Posted in Cruise, Cruise Holidays, Cruise Ships, Cruises, cruises, Princess Cruises, Princess Cruises, Travel, Uncategorized, Vacations with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 6, 2015 by beyondships

A Panama Canal cruise is not an ordinary cruise. While the sea days and the other ports of call are important, the focus is on the day that you spend in this unique and historic engineering marvel. Everything else is secondary.

Coral Princess specializes in Panama Canal cruises. It is what she was designed to do. In fact the ship was named in the Panama Canal by the President of Panama. And since the Panama Canal has been on her itinerary since she entered service in 2002, it has visiting the Canal down to a science.

The ship’s dimensions are Panamax, which means that she is the maximum size that can get through the locks of the original canal. Indeed, the lock walls are just inches away from the sides of the ship.

The voyage is built around the visit to the Canal. There are lectures about the Canal, documentaries on the cabin televisions about the Canal, Panama Canal souvenirs in the onboard shops and numerous shore excursions for the day in Panama.

While the highlight of this cruise is the Canal, the itinerary is designed to present a variety of experiences. In Aruba and Ocho Rios, you have well-developed ports presenting the familiar Caribbean cruise experience. In Cartagena and Puerto Limon, you have less established cruise ports and the experience is one of discovery for most North American passengers.

Onboard there is much to do. Entertainment includes production shows, comedians, live music and enrichment lectures. There are also the usual cruise ship activities such as trivia contests, karaoke and bingo. For just relaxing, the ship has two full pool areas and two small pools. There is also a spa and a fitness center although small by comparison to those found on the mega-ships entering service today.

Coral Princess entered service in 2002. The ship’s décor reflects those times with some public areas such as the atrium done in a Las Vegas style while the remainder of the public areas are done in a more conservative contemporary style. The ship seems well-maintained and clean.

This is not to say that Coral Princess is a time capsule from the last decade. Princess has refurbished the ship over the years and has added new features. One example is the delightful International Cafe, which occupies territory that was once part of the casino.

In our view, the food on the Princess ships consistently deserves high marks. On this cruise, Princess’ Master Chef Alfredo Marzi was filling in for the ship’s executive chef. Inasmuch as Chef Marzi is responsible for many of the dining concepts and menus aboard the Princess ships, his presence held great promise and Coral Princess did not disappoint. The food in each of the dining outlets that we tried was very good.

One feature that we particularly liked was the Alfredo’s Pizzeria. This concept premiered on Grand Princess as a new dining venue when that ship went in for a major refit a few years ago. It has since been developed further and is featured on Princess’ latest ships, Royal Princess and Regal Princess. It is not your typical pizzeria. Rather, it offers individual size gourmet pizzas made fresh when you order it. The taste is great and they are fresh. On Coral Princess, Sabatini’s specialty restaurant becomes Alfredo’s at lunch time so you also have the beauty of this Tuscan-inspired room. And it is all complimentary.

We were once again impressed by the Chef’s Table experience – – a fine dining feast. Princess originated the Chef’s Table concept and each one we have attended has been spectacular. This one was presided over by Chef Marzi and so it was even more special than usual. It began with a visit to the galley during dinner time. This was, however, more than a glimpse behind the scenes. Chef Marzi presented us with a seemingly endless procession of appetizers while Maitre d’ Neville Saldanha poured glasses of French champagne. We then adjourned to the Bordeaux dining room where a lavishly decorated table had been prepared for the group participating in this event. We were presented with more courses, most of which were prepared tableside by Chef Marzi. A sommelier poured the wine to accompany each course while presenting some background information. It made for a memorable evening.

Coral Princess is a spacious ship. She is an enlarged version of Princess’ Sun-class ships but carries just about the same number of people. Thus, there is more room per passenger.

Speaking of passengers, most people on this cruise were middle-aged in their 50s and 60s. This is not surprising as cruises of more than seven days duration tend to attract a more mature crowd. Also, school was in session in North America and so there were few children on the cruise. The great majority of the passengers were from the United States and Canada.

On past Panama Canal cruises, we have found that many of the passengers were seasoned travelers who wanted to see something out of the ordinary. However, on this cruise, we met quite a few first time cruisers. When asked why they had selected this cruise to begin their cruising careers, they indicated that they too were seeking to do something out of the ordinary.

Turning to Coral Princess’ nautical qualities, Coral Princess is long and sleek and capable of traveling relatively fast (24 knots). However, we did not get to see any displays of this speed as the itinerary is designed so that the ship only needed to keep up a leisurely pace.

Immediately prior to this cruise we had been on Princess’ newest ship Regal Princess, which is much larger than Coral Princess. The weather on the two cruises was about the same. However, the movement of the sea was more noticeable on the smaller ship.

This week on Beyondships, we have a new section devoted to Coral Princess, which begins at It includes a photo tour of and commentary about Coral Princess. There is also an interview with Coral Princess’ Hotel G

Coral Princess cruise ship

Coral Princess

eneral Manager Timothy Ellis as well as a collection of menus and a collection of daily programs and other information distributed onboard the ship.


Norwegian Breakaway Review

Posted in Caribbean, Caribbean, Cruise, Cruise Holidays, cruise ship dining, cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Photography, Ships, Travel, Uncategorized, Vacations with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 23, 2015 by beyondships
Norwegian Breakaway

Norwegian Breakaway

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This is a review of a cruise on Norwegian Breakaway to the Caribbean in February 2015. The bottom line is that this was a very good cruise experience.

Breakaway is a very innovative ship. She was one of the first ships built to the new model of cruising in which guests not only have a number of quality choices about dining but also about entertainment. Thus, she is not only bigger in size than most other cruise ships, she is different in kind.

Built by Germany’s Meyer Werft, Breakaway is a good quality ship. I was pleased to see that in the year since I was last on her, she has been well-maintained. No visible rust, worn carpets or furniture past its sell-by date.

In all, I have now been on Breakaway five times. Each has been a good experience.

The Itinerary – – This was a 12 day cruise from New York into the Caribbean. The ports of call were to include San Juan, Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, St. Lucia, Barbados and St. Kitts. Thus, it was a good mix of the more popular Caribbean ports.

There is always the risk of encountering a storm sailing out of New York in the winter. I have done it many times but have only been in a few significant storms along the route from New York to the Caribbean. Indeed, only a week before this cruise, I sailed nearly the same route on Quantum of the Seas and the weather was fine throughout.

This time, we were not so lucky. Breakaway encountered a major storm off Cape Hatteras and the ship had to slow down to provide a more comfortable ride for her passengers. Still, the ship pitched and slammed. (Slamming is where the ship rises up and gets hit with another wave usually on the bottom causing a loud noise and vibration).

The movement of the ship did cause some guests to take to their cabins. However, most people continued out and about, which is always a testimonial to a ship’s seakeeping ability.

I believe Queen Mary 2 has the best seakeeping qualities based upon her ability to remain stable in similar (and worse storms) as the one Breakaway encountered. While Breakaway does not rise to the same level, my general conclusion is that Breakaway handled the storm pretty well.

Because of the storm, Breakaway had to cancel her call in San Juan. Even running near full speed she could not get to San Juan in time to make a meaningful port call.

Here, I will pause to criticize Norwegian. At one time, the line prided itself in having some of the fastest cruise ships in service. Thus, when a Jewel-class ship such as Norwegian Gem encountered a storm while going up or down the east coast, it was able to slow up for the storm and then use her speed to keep to her schedule. Then there was a management change and those in a decisionmaking position could not see the point in fast cruise ships. They just seemed like an expensive luxury considering the seemingly ever increasing price of fuel. As a result, the Breakaway class ships do not have the speed of the Jewel class ships. On this voyage, we saw a consequence of that decision. With the recent significant decline in fuel prices, that decision seems even more misguided.

Once in the Caribbean, the weather was fine and the ship moved easily between ports.

Food – – I found that the food on Breakaway had improved significantly over last year. The new menus in the main dining rooms offered an interesting array of dishes. In addition, the chefs executed their task well.

On previous Breakaway cruises, I had never found a satisfying place to have lunch. The meals offered in the main dining rooms (Taste and Savor) at lunchtime are too much and personally, I do not like buffets which lets out the Garden Cafe. But now there is The Uptown Bar and Grill. It had a radical change of concept last fall. It now combines the attractive qualities of the Guy’s Burger Joints on the Carnival ships with the Tuti salads of the Royal Caribbean ships. In other words, it is now made to order burgers and made to order salads. These were quite good and are only available in the afternoon. Come early if you want to get a seat as this is a very popular venue just through word of mouth.

Of the specialty restaurants, we visited La Cucina, Le Bistro, Cagney’s and the Moderno. All were good but dining outdoors at Moderno on a warm Caribbean night was a great experience. The sea, the stars, the good-natured waiters bringing various tasty cuts of beef, pork, lamb and fish to the table all made for a tremendous atmosphere. In addition, I met a particularly congenial group of people on this cruise and so the after dinner conversation often lasted for hours. Despite this, the staff never attempted to hurry us or even hint that we should leave. A manifestation of the attitude of putting the customers first, which was common among the crew on Breakaway..

Service – – Breakaway was humming like a well-oiled machine. The staff knew what they were supposed to be doing and executed it well.

I also liked the fact that a pair of officers circulated through the Manhattan Room (one of the main dining rooms) each night asking guests whether they had any complaints and whether there was anything that the ship could do better. To me, this showed a real interest in the guests’ opinions and in providing good service.

Entertainment – – The main shows on Breakaway have not changed since the ship entered service. Since I have seen Rock of Ages twice before, I decided not to go again. I was not impressed with Burn the Floor. The dancers performed well but the show lacked a theme to bind the various scenes together into a cohesive whole. One of the people that I went with said that she thought it had too much violence against women.

Also in the theater was a tribute to Frankie Valey and the Four Seasons called “Oh What A Night.”. This was very well done and the songs are natural crowd pleasers.

In addition to the shows in the theater, Breakaway has other entertainment in more club like settings. Of these, I particularly liked the Second City Comedy Troupe who did various scripted and improvised shows. They also did an improvisation workshop that I enjoyed participating in.

Breakaway’s resident blues guitarist Slam Allen was not on this voyage. In his place was Charley Love and the Silky Smooth Band. They were good but I think Mr. Allen has more star quality.

Enrichment – – Norwegian does not place much emphasis on enrichment. On this voyage, there were no port lecturers or speakers talking about the ports or the history of the region.

Hypnotist Brenda Kaye gave several talks/shows and these drew large crowds to the theater thus showing that Norwegian’s guests do appreciate speakers.

This week on Beyondships we have several new items about Breakaway. There is a photo feature showing Breakaway in the various ports she visited in the Caribbean. There is an interview with Hotel Director Prem Kainikkara and Cruise Director Julie Valeriote in which they talk about the cruise experience that they try to present on Breakaway. There is an article about Breakaway’s single-occupancy cabins and her Solo Travelers program. We also have a review of the Uptown Bar and Grill. In addition, our menus page has been updated with current menus from the main dining rooms and the specialty restaurants on Breakaway. .

Quantum of the Seas cruise review

Posted in Cruise, Cruise Holidays, cruise ship dining, Cruise Ships, Cruises, Royal Caribbbean, Royal Caribbean, Royal Caribbean, Ships, Travel, Uncategorized, Vacations with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 2, 2015 by beyondships
Quantum of the Seas

Quantum of the Seas

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Quantum of the Seas is one of the most innovative but at the same time, most controversial ships, to debut in the last few years. In many respects, Quantum is significantly different than what Royal Caribbean and other cruise lines have done in the past. I find this quite exciting.

Naturally, people who like what was done in the past will need to get used to these changes. This process has not been helped by various technological glitches that plagued the ship early on. However, during this cruise, people who were at first skeptical of this ship seemed to be captured by the beauty of her interior and to become comfortable with her different way of presenting a cruise experience.

Should every cruise ship be like Quantum? No, but I am glad that there is a ship like Quantum. Indeed, I believe even Royal Caribbean would agree with this. As I wrote in this blog before Quantum entered service, there were at least three versions of the Royal Caribbean cruise experience within the Royal Caribbean fleet. Now, there is a fourth version.

By way of background, this cruise was not the first time that I was on Quantum. In November, Royal Caribbean invited members of the press to see its new ship. She was impressive at the press event. However, I wanted to see how she was in action with real people aboard. Since new ships almost always have teething problems, I decided to wait until January to cruise on her.

This particular was a 12-day winter cruise to the Caribbean out of Bayonne, New Jersey, which is part of the Port of New York.

The Quantum class ships were originally conceived as all weather cruise ships. Most modern cruise ships were designed with warm weather cruising in mind. They have lots of open deck space and they are at their best sailing the calm waters of the Caribbean or the Mediterranean.

A problem arises if you want to base a ship in a northern port such as Bayonne or Southampton, England during the winter time. The open deck areas cannot be used until the ship reaches the warm seas. In addition, the ship may be uncomfortable if it gets into a winter storm en route to the Sun.

Most of what would have been open deck on Quantum is covered. This includes the adults only Solarium area, one of the main pools, and the Seaplex, a section that roughly corresponds to the sports area on other ships. Consequently, those areas can be used throughout the cruise even in the cold weather of the north.

Quantum has also been designed so as to have improved seakeeping abilities. She cuts through the waves rather than bounces over them. As a result, I found her ride smooth and comfortable.

The interior of Quantum is also impressive. I have consistently found the ships built by Meyer Weft (e.g., Celebrity Solstice, Norwegian Breakaway, Brilliance of the Seas) to have excellent quality and attention to detail. Quantum is no exception.

When I first saw Quantum, my impression was that her interior looked more like a Celebrity cruise ship than a Royal Caribbean cruise ship. Her style is up-market and elegant. However, in operation, Quantum clearly has the upbeat feel of a Royal Caribbean ship thus proving that a cruise line’s style comes more from its people than the hardware.

I had no problems with the service on Quantum. In general, the crew were competent and friendly. Indeed, there were a few incidents where crew members who I had never met before went beyond what I expected. I found this particularly impressive because they had no relationship to maintain with me and no expectation of a financial reward.

Quntum takes a much different approach to dining than other cruise ships. It has no main dining room and thus has no traditional fixed dining system or even the now familiar flex dining system. Rather, under Dynamic Dining, guests instead have the option of dining in four (five if you are staying in a suite) complimentary restaurants and a battery of extra-tariff specialty restaurants.

I liked the variety offered by this system. It enabled me to have more dining experiences than on other ships. The food quality in each venue was up to the Royal Caribbean standard with the food in Coastal Kitchen (suite guests only) a knotch above the other complimentary venues.

The Dynamic Dining system is quite controversial. Quite a few guests said they missed not having the same waiter each night who comes to know your likes and dislikes. One of the benefits of the traditional cruise ship fixed seating system is that you do develop a relationship with your server over the course of the cruise. However, in the clourse of my travels, I have noticed that fewer and fewer people are selecting the traditional system. Indeed, at the late seating on many ships lately, there have been numerous empty tables. I would not be surprised if most lines eliminate or significantly modify the traditional system over the next decade.

In any event, I am not sure that this is a fair criticism of Dynamic Dining. I had breakfast in the American Icon Grill during the first few days of the cruise. Without making any special request, the same waiter served me each time and he remembered what I like for breakfast. Along the same lines, I had several meals in Coastal Kitchen and there the servers remembered me and my preferences from visit to visit. My conclusion is that the level of personalized service depends more on the skills of the server than on the dining system.

Another complaint often heard is that the restaurants do not vary their menus during the course of the cruise. Thus, if you go to one restaurant several times during a voyage, you will probably end up having the same meal more than once. The solution here is to try all the different venues. If you do, you will encounter as much variety as you would in a traditional main dining room over the course of a cruise.

Perhaps the biggest source of controversy with Dyamic Dining is the reservation system. In order to prevent everyone on the ship showing up at the same time at the same restaurant, guests are encouraged to make reservations ahead of time. You do not have to make a reservation but guests with reservations are given priority access.

Before coming aboard Quantum, I was concerned that having to make reservations would restrict my freedom to adjust the cruise to suit the circumstances. I do not know prior to a cruise what kind of dining experience I would like on a given day during a cruise. Similarly, I do not know much beforehand what time I would like to eat on a given day. It depends upon such things as the people I meet during the cruise, what happened during the day, what else there is to do on a given evening. One of the great virtues of the flexible dining systems available on most ships these days is that it allows you to be spontaneous.

But after experiencing Dynamic Dining, my pre-cruise concerns seem unjustified. I was able to adjust where and when I had dinner without much difficulty.

Another problem is that the reservation system does not seem to be a very good regulator of passenger flow. I generally like to eat late, roughly at the time that would correspond to the late seating under a traditional system. It was when I always dined on QE2 where I got my start cruising and it has just remained with me. As a result, I did not experience any lines and was always seated at the times specified in my reservations. However, I did hear that at the more popular dining times, even people with reservations sometimes had to wait to be seated.

This is not altogether surprising. When you make a reservation at a restaurant, the restaurant does not normally hold a table empty until you arrive. Instead, the restaurant accepts the reservation based on the assumption that a table will become free at the time of the reservation. If the people dining in the restaurant take longer to dine than the restaurant expected, people arriving at the restaurant will have to wait even if they have a reservation. When you are dealing with the number of people that travel on a large cruise ship, this problem is magnified.

Time should alleviate this problem. A restaurant learns from experience how much time it should allocate between reservations. In addition, it can find ways to speed up service so that the turnover is quicker and more efficient. Indeed, I heard from people who have done several cruises on Quantum that this problem has diminished even in the relatively short time that the ship has been in service.

Leaving aside Dynamic Dining, there are some other culinary features on Quantum that deserve special mention. First, since Quantum does not have a main dining room, it does not offer the Tuti Salad bar, which is an outstanding option offered at lunch in the main dining rooms on most other Royal Caribbean ships. You tell the chefs which of the wide array of ingredients you want and they build a salad for you. While not offering as an extensive array of ingredients as at the Tuti Salad bars, Cafe@270 on Quantum offers very good made to order salads. In addition, it has a nice selection of sandwiches, paninis and wraps as well as pastries.

But if you are looking for a lunchtime dessert, Quantum has great fresh baked cookies. These are available at the bakery counter in the Windjammer buffet restaurant. They can also be found in the Concierge Club.

Somewhat overshadowed by the introduction of Dynamic Dining is the fact that the entertainment offerings on Quantum are cutting edge.

In the main theater, there are no traditional production shows. Rather, Quantum has a full-length production of the Broadway musical Mama Mia. Although long – – two and a half hours – – this is nicely performed. The Abba music is universally appealing and overcomes the rather thin plot.

The other centerpiece show in the main theater is Sonic Odyssey. This is a multi-media spectacular utilizing such things as a stringed instrument that uses the entire theater as its sounding board. There are also singers, dancers, aerialists and a wall of drums.

The theater is also used for more conventional shows. That cruise ship standard, the Love and Marriage Game, is done here. Visiting comedians and singers also gave performances. Of these the most memorable was Marcus Terell & The Serenades. I have enjoyed them before on other ships.

On certain sea days, there were 3-D movies in the theater. The films were major Hollywoood releases from the last few years. Quantum’s theater is a very good venue for seeing such films and makes for a pleasurable experience.

Quantum’s second major entertainment venue is 270. This is a technologically enhanced lounge at the stern of the ship with comfortable living room style seating.

On sea days, the large LED panels perform “Robot Shows” in which they move about as videos produced especially for Quantum are played. These are quite clever and worth a look – – they only last about 10 minutes.

270 is also used for “virtual concerts”. These shows  were also produced for Quantum and involve projections on the screens that cover the windows in 270 with various artists performing in concert. Although more technologically sophisticated, I found these to be like watching a video of a live concert on the large LED screens that ships often have in their pool areas.

The centerpiece production in 270 is called “Starwater.” It involves  the ship’s singers and dancers, aerialists and of course, 270’s technology. The first time I watched this production was from the back, standing behind the seating area. My reaction was that this show was not much different than some of the production shows on Celebrity Cruises’ Solstice class ships and thus nothing new.

However, I went back again and saw Starwater from the seating area near the front. This was a totally different experience. The performers appeared all around me, coming from above, below and performing just inches away. I was in the midst of the show. It was much more exciting and enjoyable.

The plot of Starwater is not easy to discern. In fact, I did not think it had a plot. However, one of the performers told me that it is about the relationship between men and women. In the first part, the performers are at a urban fashion show. It is analogy to a cold world where the people do not interact. Then a muse appears, sings and flies around, which brings men and women together. The final part of the show based on tango dancing and music halls is a celebration of this new relationship. OK, don’t worry about the plot.

Quantum also has a number of day-time entertainment features. The North Star is a giant crane with a capsule at the end, which takes guests high over the ship. There  was a line of passengers waiting to take this ride seemingly all day, every day. It is a fun ride and the views are great. I do not like heights yet I was comfortable throughout this ride – – it was no more uncomforatble than riding in a glass elevator.

The other two action features debuting on Quantum were the sky diving simulator and the bumper cars in the Seaplex. I’m not big on amusement parks so I pased on these. Other people seemed to enjoy them, however.

In May, Quantum will be leaving North America and sailing half way around the world to make China her new home. To make the ship more attuned to Asian tastes and preferences, much will be changed on Quantum. This naturally raises the question why all the fuss and controversy over a ship that will only exist in her present form for a few months.

The answer is two-fold. First,  Quantum is the first ship in a class of ships. Anthem of the Seas and Ovation of the Seas will follow. Thus, the concepts developed for Quantum will live on in her sister ships.

Perhaps more importantly, there is the question of  how Qunatum’s innovations will impact other cruise lines. What will be borrowed  and what will be discarded in the ships that will be compteing with the Quantum class? Not everything  about Quantum is perfect but has raised the ante and by so doing changed the course of the cruise industry.

On Beyondships, we have greatly expanded our profile of Quantum including our photo tour of the ship. New features include interviews with her captain her hotel director and her food and beverage director. We have restaurant reviews of Coastal Kitchen Devinly Decadence and Jamie’s Italian. We also have an article on the single-occupancy or studio cabins on Quantum. There are also collections of menus and daily programs.

Change At Norwegian and Regal Princess Part Two

Posted in Cruise, Cruise Ships, Cruises, cruises, Luxury crusing, Norwegian Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Travel, Uncategorized, Vacations with tags , , , , , , on January 12, 2015 by beyondships
Kevin Sheehan

Kevin Sheehan


In my experience, it does not usually make much difference who is the CEO of a large corporation. Most of the time, the corporation just proceeds along much as it did in the past despite changes in the CEO. Perhaps there is some change in the corporate slogans or some acquisitions or spin offs but no meaningful changes.

This general rule, however, has not been true in the cruise industry. The three major lines have all had leaders who not only made a visible mark but who became synonymous with their companies. This has certainly been true at Norwegian Cruise Line.

Since coming to Norwegian Cruise Line seven years ago, Kevin Sheehan has turned things around. Prior to his arrival, the line had some quite creative ideas but you only had to go on its ships to see that there were execution problems and poor morale. When Sheehan arrived, he gave the line new direction and released the talent of its executives and employees.

Just about a year ago, I was on a press cruise on Norwegian Getaway. Mr. Sheehan made a short presentation to the assembled journalists. The charts and Powerpoint slides that he presented told a good story of growth and profitability. But what was interesting was the charismatic style of leadership. Sheehan was not the stereotypical MBA executive but rather delighted in playing the street-wise New Yorker, energetic, fun to listen to and likable.

He told us to talk to the crew about how they felt about the company, confident that we would find them solidly behind him. At that time, Getaway had just come into service and the cruise lines usually use their best people to bring a ship into service. Naturally, they were going to support the boss. But the next week, I was sailing on Norwegian Sky, one of the line’s older ships. How did its crew feel about Norwegian? I found that not only did those people enthusiastically support Norwegian but that they loved the CEO. To hear them talk, you’d think that Sheehan was a popular athlete or television personality.

As a result, it was disappointing to learn that Mr. Sheehan has now left Norwegian. When a person has done so much to change a company (or any organization for that matter), you have to wonder how it will fare without him. Hopefully, the corporate culture he created will endure but without his dynamic leadership, the future is clouded in mystery.

Mr. Sheehan’s successor is Frank Del Rio from Prestige Holdings, the luxury cruise company (Oceania and Regent Seven Seas) that was recently acquired by Norwegian. We wish Mr. Del Rio success in his new job.

This week on Beyondships, we have part two of our profile of Princess Cruises’ latest ship, Regal Princess. This includes interviews with the captain, the hotel general manager and the cruise director We also have a review of the Crown Grill specialty restaurant. Finally, we present a collection of menus from the main dining rooms and specialty restaurants on Regal Princess.

Cruise review Regal Princess

Posted in Caribbean, Caribbean, Cruise, Cruise Holidays, Cruise Ships, cruises, cruises, cruises, Photography, Princess Cruises, Sea and Ocean, Ships, Travel, Uncategorized, Vacations with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 5, 2015 by beyondships
Regal Princess

Regal Princess

Cruise 184

When I was in high school, I had a teacher who would give higher grades on book reviews if you savaged the book. He equated negative comments with critical thinking.

Alas, I am about to disppoint my old school master because I do not have anything negative to say about my recent cruise on Regal Princess. Quite to the contrary, it was an extremely well done cruise.

The cruise was a seven day voyage out of Fort Lauderdale to Princess Cays, St. Thomas and St. Maarten. Thus, it included Princess Cruises’ private island and two of the most popular Caribbean cruise ports. I’ve been to these ports many times now so the itinerary did not have the virtue of novelty. But, at the same time, these places are familiar to me and so I know how to structure my days there so as to have a good time.

Therefore, the focus of this cruise was on the ship. Regal Princess is the second ship to be built in her class. Royal Princess was the first. A third one is on order for Princess. P&O Cruises’ forthcoming Britannia is being built to the same design.

Regal Princess is a large ship and I find her quite spacious. She has a better passenger space ratio than the mainstays of the Princess fleet, the Grand and Super Grand class ships. Thus, I did not find her at all crowded.

On Royal Princess, one problem with the people flow has been long waits for elevators particularly at the midship elevator bank. This is primarily due to the fact that the stairs by these elevators do not run all the way up through the ship and so more people have to use the elevators. While Regal also lacks a midship passenger staircase, adjustments have been made to the elevators programming and I did not experience much in the way of delays.

Another adjustment that has been made is in the theater. On Royal, each row of seats extends all the way to the wall so that people have to go up or down via the central aisles. On Regal, space has been allowed between the seats and the walls so that guests can go up or down that way as well. This seems to have created a better passenger flow.

The larger size of this class of ship allowed Princess to add several new venues. Of these, Princess Live is the most memorable. It is a television studio which serves as the venue for lectures, game shows, and various other activities. Such activities are common on cruise ships but having them in a studio with cameras and monitors lends them a sense of excitement. Also, the sight lines in this intimate room are quite good.

The size also allowed Princess to expand the size of some venues. This is nowhere more apparent than in the Piazza, the ship’s central atrium. It has now become a grand room. In addition, whereas some entertainment was presented in the Piazza on earlier Princess ships, this larger Piazza lets the concept blossom so that this truly can be called an entertainment venue.

As far as décor, it would be difficult to tell the Piazza on Regal Princess from the one of Royal Princess. It is Princess’ philosophy to make ships of the same class nearly identical in décor so that passengers returning to the line will have a sense of familiarity regardless of which ship they book. Whatever the merits of that philosophy, the décor of the Piazza on Royal is so spectacular, it demanded that it be used again on Regal Princess.

Of course, the hardware only contributes so much to making a great cruise. In my experience, Princess consistently provides good service. Of course, you can always run into someone who is a jerk or who is having a bad day but as a general finding the people serving on the Princess ships seem genuinely interested in ensuring that the passengers have a good time. In addition, the cruise lines usually assign their top people to bring out a ship. By the time of my cruise, the ship had also been in service long enough to have gotten any kinks out. Consequently, the service was very good with no negative incidents.

How was the food? It is of course my personal taste but I always like the food on Princess and Regal Princess did not let the side down. A favorite venue for me is Alfredo’s Pizzeria. This is a restaurant specializing in gourmet individual pizzas. They are made and cooked as ordered. At the beginning of a cruise, people walk by but do not enter. They either assume that there will be an additional charge because it looks like a specialty restaurant or that they can get pizza up by the pool. There is no additional charge and while you can get pizza by the pool, you can’t get this pizza by the pool. As word gets around the ship about what Alfredo’s is really about, it gets busier and busier. By the end of the cruise, it is tough to get a table at lunctime. So let’s keep this between ourselves.

Entertainment was very good. High points were the shows by the Beatles tribute group Beatlemaniacs and the Sixties deck party in which the production cast performed along with the fountains on the pool deck. I also enjoyed the enrichment program. This included two authors, Sarah Jio and Claire Bidwell Smith, who spoke about their work and writing. Princess executive Chis Joly packed Princess Live with a talk on how cruise ships are built. On a cruise that involved three sea days, a good enrichment program is essential.

This week on Beyondships we present part one of our profile of Regal Princess. This includes a photo tour of the interior of the ship. as well as a daily programs page with Princess Patters and other inormational leaflets distributed aboard Regal Princess.

Cruising in 2015

Posted in British cruising, Cruise, Cruise Holidays, Cruise Ships, Cruises, cruises, Luxury crusing, Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, Royal Caribbean, Sea and Ocean, Ships, Travel, UK Cruising, Uncategorized, Vacations with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 29, 2014 by beyondships

At this time of year, it is customary to look ahead to the New Year. Therefore, I thought I would take a look ahead to see what may be in store for cruising in 2015. My conclusion is that 2015 promises to be an exciting time for several reasons.

First, 2015 will see an array of important new cruise ships go into service. Each of the top three cruise families will have at least one significant new ship.

In the Carnival family, P&O Cruises will receive its largest ship ever, the 140,000 gross ton Britannia. This ship will be a sister to Princess Cruises’ innovative Royal Princess and Regal Princess. As such, Britannia will present British cruisers with dining and entertainment options never before offered on a P&O Cruises ship.

Britannia will be facing some tough competition as Royal Caribbean’s new Anthem of the Seas will be based in Southampton for part of the year. This is the 167,000 gross ton sister ship to Quantum of the Seas. Anthem too will be offering Royal’s new Dynamic Dining concept and will feature the advanced 270 entertainment center as well as an upmarket sophisticated interior like on Quantum. Oh yes, there will also be the bumper cars, the sky diving simulator, and the North Star observation capsule. However, do not let such items cause you to think that Anthem is not a serious ship.

Not to be left out, Norwegian Cruise Line will be bringing out Norwegian Escape later in the year. At 163,000 gross tons, Escape will be a bigger and improved version of Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway. The Breakaway class embodies a new model of cruising where the passenger has multiple quality options with regard to both dining and entertainment. It will be interesting to see how Norwegian enhances this concept on the ships of the Breakaway-Plus class.

The German cruise market will be greeting AIDAprima. At 120,000 tons, she will be a quantum leap larger than previous AIDA ships. Meanwhile, rival TUI Cruises will be receiving the second ship to be built especially for TUI, the rather unimaginatively named Mein Schiff 4 (98,000 tons).

In the luxury segment of the industry, Viking Cruises will begin ocean cruising with the 48,000 ton Viking Star. The common wisdom in the industry has been that river cruising and ocean cruising are two different businesses and so none of the major ocean cruise lines has ventured into river cruising. Viking, the most successful of the river cruise lines, will test the common wisdom and demonstrate whether a river cruise line can break into the ocean cruise market.

The drop in the price of oil in the last part of 2014 bodes well for the cruise industry. Fuel is the chief cost of operation for the cruise lines. In addition, with consumers paying less at the pump and to heat their homes, they will have more money to spend on discretionary items like cruise vacations. The only cloud on the horizon would be a collapse of the economy of one of the oil exporting states, which could have an adverse impact on the world economy.

Another unexpected gift this fall was President Obama’s overture on normalizing relations between the United States and Cuba. The cruise lines are always looking for new destinations for their expanding fleets and Cuba, 90 miles from Florida, is an ideal location. However, before the cruise ships can start calling there, the lines will have to explore such things as whether the port facilities are adequate to handle modern cruise ships, the ability of the Cuban infrastructure to handle shore excursions and whether it would be safe for passengers to go ashore in Cuba. It may take awhile to get all of the ducks in order and so even if the diplomatic questions are resolved quickly, it may be beyond 2015 before the cruise ships come to Cuba in large numbers.

But with all of this happening, it is an exciting time in the cruise world.

On Beyondships this week, we have a new profile of cruise destination Ocho Rios, Jamaica. This includes a review/photo feature on Ocho Rio’s top attraction – – Dunn’s River Falls and a review of Prospect Plantation. We also have a new photo and video feature in which Caribbean Princess disappears and magically reappears.


Dunn's River Falls

Dunn’s River Falls, Ocho Rios, Jamaica


Economics and small ship cruising

Posted in Bahamas, Caribbean, Cruise, Cruise Holidays, Cruise Ships, cruises, cruises, Princess Cruises, Princess Cruises, Ships, Travel, Uncategorized, Vacations with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 22, 2014 by beyondships

Last month it was announced that Princess Cruises was selling Ocean Princess to Oceania Cruises. Ocean Princess is a small ship by today’s standards, coming in at just over 32,000 gross tons.

Originally, this ship was the R4 of Renaissance Cruises. She was one of eight nearly identical ships. When Renaissance went out of business, the eight ships were scattered and ended up in the fleets of Azamara, Oceania, Princess and P&O Cruises. Interestingly, although the eight ships have different they are still nearly identical.

Azamara and Oceania sell cruises on their ships as luxury crusing. Princess and P&O Cruises characterize their ships as offering the same main stream cruise experience as the rest of the ships in their fleet.

The sale of Ocean Princess is not surprising. It is difficult for a main stream cruise line to offer a small ship experience. The cost per passenger of running a small ship is greater than the cost per passenger of running a large ship because of the economies of scale. It thus follows that if you are charging the same or similar fares as you do for a large ship, you are not going to make as much money. (Bear in mind that the cruise lines are businesses with fiduciary responsibilities to their investors).

A luxury cruise line is able to charge more per ticket. Thus, the additional cost of providing a small ship experience is not as significant an issue.

People often ask me why isn’t anyone building small cruise ships anymore? In fact, there are small cruise ships being built. To illustrate, Regent Seven Seas has one on order now and Viking Cruises is building a series of ocean going small cruise ships. Seabourn and other luxury brands have also added new small ships to their fleets in recent years.

The question then becomes why aren’t the major cruise lines building any small cruise ships? The answer lies in the same econimcs discussed above. Looked at on a per passenger basis, small ships cost more to build and more to operate because they lack economies of scale. Thus, if you can only charge the same price for a cruise on a small ship as you can for a cruise on a large ship, it does not make sense to invest in building a small ship.

This week on Beyondships, we return to Princess Cays, Princess Cruises’ private resort in the Bahamas. Our section on Princess Cays has been re-done and a new video of Princess Cays has been added.

Ocean Princess cruise ship

Ocean Princess