Regal Princess (II) - 4-Day Summer Seacation
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, cruising was suspended in the UK from March 2020.  Eventually, the UK government gave the green light for cruising to resume from the 17th May 2021, beginning with UK cruising only.  Foreign ports would operate under the traffic light system, the same as flights.  We had been looking for an alternative to the lost Marco Polo cruise we had booked to Norway for my dad's 80th birthday.  He chose Regal Princess, rather than book Britannia or Iona and wait for Cunard et al to release their itins.  We had booked Crown Princess for May, which was changed to Sky Princess before being cancelled.  The cruises were advertised as going on sale at 8am on the 24th March but went live almost 15 minutes later.  I booked the 3rd-7th August 2021 and our friend Maureen Hunt booked solo after I told her what I'd gone for.  They weren't selling insides (unlike some lines) but gave an option of deck and location for the guarantee cabin.  I chose aft of deck 15.  The Princess Plus fare included wifi, premium drinks and gratuities.  With discount, it was £539 per person.  Cabin A537 was allocated on the 14th July but the Medallion app is rubbish.  Despite it being downloaded, Google Play said I had to install it, which you couldn't do.  Mine had updated on its own back in May but my dad's was still the old version.  Everything was going fine until they added the Passage Contract.  No matter how many times I read it or pressed Acknowledge, it wouldn't accept it.  They had taken away any online option.  With less than a week to go, they made it work but the health questionnaire was hidden rather than be in the Travel Checklist as you would expect.  Finally we were in the Green Lane!

Time to head over to Mayflower Terminal and experience a whole new way of cruising.  We were Arrival Group A between 11.45am-12.15pm.  If you arrived by another other means than your own car, you had to go to the testing tent.  We got a taxi from the station, our cases were taken on arrival then we crossed the road.  Despite it being before time, there were loads of people already there but the queue moved pretty fast.  You had to show your NHS vaccine passport and arrival group on the Medallion app.  Once you entered the tent, they checked your mobile number, sent a text and did the lateral flow test up the nose only before putting a strap around your wrist then you waited half an hour for the result.  Your details were checked in the terminal, including passport, you were given a card then went to join another queue to collect the Medallion, which had replaced key cards.  Security then onboard.  The whole thing took about an hour from arrival to boarding.

Cabins were ready so we went straight there.  Princess were still going up to 50% capacity.  Once we'd dumped everything we headed up to Horizon Court for lunch, which wasn't self-service.  Typically, my dad found the chef, who helped him with his food and carried it to the table!  There was a lot of social distancing and you were led to a table with seats closed off.  Masks had to be worn except when eating and drinking or were outside.  Once we'd finished we returned to the cabin and checked all the paperwork on the desk.  There was a card for my dad's birthday to take with us and hand over on the day as well as one each about dietary requirements, also handing in each night.  Our steward introduced himself and asked if we wanted service in the morning or evening.  I opted for morning.  I also had the Elite free minibar changed to soft drinks.  Unlike the one on Royal who filled the entire fridge with Coke cans, this one was a straight item swap.  After calling for our friend Maureen in the next cabin, we went to do the first part of muster.  This was a good change where you went to your muster station at any time before sailaway and watch a video on the telly.  We did that then went to Crooners for a drink and managed to find a vacant table.  We'd all booked the Princess Plus fare so premium drinks, wifi and tips were only £40 a day.  Back to the cabin afterwards to watch the muster video so we weren't one of the numbered the Cruise Director kept saying had to do it.  Due to my dad's faffing about, my Medallion wasn't logged at the muster station so I had to do it again.  I realised I'd forgotten my mask but they gave me one from behind the bar.

I went on deck for sailaway but my dad stayed in the cabin.  They were giving out hand-held flags and we had two performances from the singers and dancers.  Somebody called Fortuna Luck was there as well, interrupted by the Love Boat horn.  As we were the wrong way round, we had to turn  Despite giving Queen Elizabeth a blast of Love Boat, the Cunarder stayed annoyingly silent.  It wasn't the first time she was rude when I was in the next berth on a Princess out of Southampton.  She buggered off without so much as a by-your-leave when I was on Royal for the maiden.  Once we passed Town Quay, I went back to the cabin.  With the Medallion, I heard the door unlock two corners away if you came from forward but noticed it didn't until you were there coming from the aft lifts.  The steward brought a kettle, apologising for it not being there.  After collecting Maureen, we went to dinner.  We did have paper menus but they were single use to be thrown away so I kept them.  Our head waiter for that part of the restaurant was called Marco, which was ironic since we were supposed to have boarded Marco Polo that day for a 9-night cruise to Norway.  We'd asked our steward to open the balcony partition but hadn't realised it would give us less room, especially getting in and out of the door!  Iona passed as did Disney Magic, both heading to Southampton.  It was very windy on the top deck.  A quick nip to the International Cafe for my first midnight munchies of the cruise then back to the cabin.

The 4th was my dad's 80th birthday!  It was also a very lazy day as we tootled about.  Breakfast in the buffet and trying to get a cup of tea became a bit of a farce.  I was brought tea and milk.  No sugar, only sweetener.  When I asked for a spoon so I could stir it, I was given an entire new set of cutlery wrapped in a napkin.  Back to the cabin and the telly had gone screwy so an engineer was called by our steward after he had a look.  Stewards aren't allowed in the cabin when passengers are there currently but ours did regardless at times.  Poor engineer bloke came pretty quickly and told us he fixes tellies, PA systems, screens etc all on his own!  Once he got it working again, it was nap time.  We couldn't be bothered fighting the crowds so tried the app for room service.  I ordered a roast turkey sandwich and my dad wanted tuna.  You can also select condiments.  Some things were chargeable but there was plenty free.  It keeps you updated on the progress with "Ordered", "Preparing" and "On the way" which is brilliant.  When they arrived, mine was beef.  It wasn't bad though.  Then just chilling on the balcony during the afternoon.

It was Dress To Impress night, aka formal but basically optional.  I'd pre-booked the Crown Grill back in March but after they pushed everything onto the app, I couldn't find it listed anywhere.  After collecting Maureen, we made our way to the restaurant.  The bar was packed with people not dining in there but a couple offered us the seats opposite while Maureen made herself comfy on her walker.  I ordered another chocolate martini, which are just as good as Celebrity and included.  My dad was given a little cake but thankfully no singing.  We were in there nearly three hours.  It had been a great night but back to the cabin.

The 5th started off miserable weather-wise.  It had also been a bit bumpy during the night but not as much as I wanted.  The balcony door wouldn't open.  We went to the Allegro for breakfast and had one of the most miserable waiters!  At least the toast was actually hot so the butter could melt.  Another lazy day with room service lunch.  I also went to get the photos.  Due to restrictions, you weren't allowed to touch them and there was a barrier in front of each display rack.  Five pics and you had a ship USB.  Despite being Elite, there was no discount as there should have been and was in every other shop.  The weather was so much better and Scarlet Lady was outside out balcony.  Dinner in the Allegro and a different table.  The waiters were a good laugh though.  We went back to the cabin for a while before I went ship stalking in the wind.  Sky Princess was heading our way from Weymouth anchorage but I couldn't get the balcony door open so I went and found the disembarkation information.  They don't waste any time!  Later I headed up to the top deck.  Just caught Iona returning to Southampton from Deck 17.  Disney Magic was also going that way but it was too blustery midships so I returned to a bit of shelter.  Queen Elizabeth was in their wake, having passed Sky Princess by the time Sky was behind us.  We went into Lyme Bay but unfortunately it was impossible to see QM2 out there so I went to bed.


© Patricia Dempsey 3rd-7th August 2021
Not to be reproduced without permission