Royal Princess (III) - Maiden Voyage
Princess Cruises announced on the 14th February 2012 that their new ship, Royal Princess, would have her maiden voyage from Southampton on the 16th June 2013.  She would also have two three night preview trips to Guernsey preceding it, to go on sale at a later date.  The maiden would be a week to Barcelona and go on sale on the 15th March at 2pm and you had the option of adding the following twelve night to it.  I phoned one minute before the hour and, to my shock, it was answered straightaway!  I had expected a massive queue.  So within 18 minutes, I was in M208, since I couldn’t afford over £2400 for a balcony.  It’s a shame all outsides have a balcony, which means more $$$$$$ from us ripped off singles.  My flight was assigned on the 16th October but via Munich.  Olivia Braddock, an award-winning Princess Cruises specialist, said she could get me a better one.  This went direct from Barcelona to Gatwick and cheaper.  On the 6th February, I discovered my flight of BA2705 at 8.10am was now BA2707 at 10.30am with the earlier one no longer listed.  I contacted Olivia, who phoned me the following morning when I also paid the balance.  For some reason I didn't receive updated flight details for either of those flights but didn't think anything of it.  However, I did not receive my email flight documentation but hadn't noticed until the night before the cruise.  I'm so used to everything being together, such as Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and NCL, while the flight was on my cruise ticket for Cunard, so I didn't even think about it.  They said you can't access your cruise personaliser from five business days prior to the cruise which wasn't true.  By the 15th though it was only you boarding pass, luggage labels and travel summary available.  Why they couldn't have flight documents in there is a mystery.  My first time flying with Princess was already becoming a pain in the bum.

Well here we were, my first proper maiden since Celebrity Equinox in 2009 and I hoped Princess would mark it better than Celebrity had, which was no mention whatsoever!  NCL had initially called the transatlantic of Norwegian Breakaway the maiden voyage but then changed it so we didn't get half the things they have on post-naming Bermuda cruises, including travel agent/journalist jolly.  The weather was crap and wet so my dad helped me with my luggage across to Town Quay, where I got a taxi to the terminal once I arrived at 11am.  When I went up to departures, the terminal was packed!  I was given Green L for priority, although it started at H.  There was a technical problem at the check-in desks apparently.  Matt Sudders and Mark Oelbaum from the Ocean Liner Society were there.  Mark I'd seen a year before for the Seven Seas Voyager visit but hadn't seen Matt since the OLS cruise on Norwegian Gem in 2007.  At 11.45am check-in began and Green H was called.  What was really annoying was those with other letters such a M were joining the queue without being checked.  Only after several Americans complained did the staff bother making sure only those with the correct cards went through.  They kept telling people to sit down even though there were hardly any seats.  Once I'd checked in, they were doing the letters for security too, which seemed a bit pointless as a queue for that is long regardless.  In the end it took half an hour from check-in opening to boarding so I dread to think how long others had to wait.  We went on via deck 7, one of the bits of Prom deck allocated to passengers, and were told to go the the atrium lifts.  Some people had waited a while only for others to push in front to enter the lift and none of the crew stopped it.  I made my way to my cabin.  Unusually the lift buttons just have numbers rather than the name of the deck so I had no idea it was deck 15.  It wasn't a bad room for an inside, although I did notice the door doesn't quite fit.  You have to make sure it's closed completely to lock it.  The safe had a loose metal shelf inside which clangs rather loudly each time you knocked it, which could be every time your hand went in or came out of it.  The bathroom was a major disappointment.  Most cruise lines are building bigger ones and this was on par with the Sun class (Oceana in P&O).  The toilet roll holder was underneath and really difficult to get to.  Has the designer ever set foot on a cruise ship???  I did like the soap dish and the shower was detachable.  My airport transfer was waiting for me on the table, which was a relief as the Princess information says you will get your flight and transfers nearer the time, only nothing arrived.  I went to Horizon Court for lunch after trying out the much-touted Sea Walk.  Many people, myself included, refer to this as Sky Walk instead.  This and the dancing fountain are Princess's gimmicks, even though the fountain has been on most of Celebrity's Solstice class since 2008 and also appears on Oasis and Allure.  I have a fear of heights so the glass is a little disconcerting with concrete directly below but I managed to get on the thing then went to eat before a little exploring.  There was a very large selection of fruit instead of the usual bowls containing apples, oranges etc.  The whole area is split in two with Horizon Bistro when you come in from the pool leading to Horizon Court proper further along with the Pastry Shop inside the Bistro part.  People on visits and the booze cruises remarked the layout is much easier but to me it was on par with Kings Court on QM2, which is possibly the most complained about buffet design on the high seas.  There are no trays while cutlery and napkins are on the table, with the napkin being a small, square one.  After bar staff and waiters being rarer on Aurora than money-producing toenails, it was a shock having so many around the place.  Service was incredibly fast too.  My steward was called Christian, who was an absolute star!  Being Elite I was entitled to one free mini bar set up.  I didn't want miniatures of booze and most of what was already in there so asked for it all to be just Coke.  I rarely drink the stuff on land but don't touch the water on cruises because it makes my feet swell so poison my system with that instead.  Rather than me ringing Housekeeping, he changed it all himself.  As I was wandering a bit later, I heard my full name called in Crooners and turned to see Jeff Newsway from Facebook with Mike (who I'd last seen on Oriana for the Grand Event) and friends.

Muster was at 4.15pm.  Because Mark's cabin was next to mine we had the same station which had bugger all seating so a really stupid place.  Everyone waiting was told to go to the casino below only to be told down there we were in the wrong place until a colleague told her Muster Station B was there as well now.  They scanned your cards and made you put on your lifejacket which is what P&O and Cunard need to do.  They must be the only ones not to do a roll call despite the drill being mandatory.  The jacket was a new type.  As well as the usual belt, there was a buckle near the top, choking you once it was fastened.  Mark and I had sat nearest the door so we could get out fast and nab the lift.  Once we got out onto the deck, I spotted Arcadia already on the move - bitch!  Around the other side, Betty was even worse - double bitch!  Arcadia and us greeted each other but ours was the usual horn rather than Love Boat.  Matt was already on deck waiting for our departure.


© Patricia Dempsey 16th-23rd June 2013
Not to be reproduced without permission