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Rick Schneider

Age: 56

Occupation:Internet Executive

Number of Cruises: 20

Cruise Line: Princess

Ship: Royal Princess

Sailing Date: 2009-12-19

Itinerary: Amazion River to FLL

We have taken many cruises through the years but this was our first on Princess and our first small ship experience. The Royal Princess, formerly part of the Renaissance fleet, is still a gem! With around 700 passengers, the small cruise experience won us over the moment we embarked on her decks. Embarkation was easy in Manaus and we were very impressed with the English Country Club ambiance once we settled in.

Food overall was good, although not quite the caliber of Celebrity’s food. From previous reviews, I was expecting a bad culinary experience, but most of our meals were quite good. At times, the main dining room failed to deliver on mass appeal menu items, opting instead to try and provide a fancier and gourmet menu selection, which for us, missed the target. Their soups and salad dressings fell short of Celebrity’s freshly made flavors, but we did enjoy several dishes and never really had a bad meal.

The lunch buffet was much weaker than Celebrity’s offering and failed to provide freshly made sandwiches in the buffet line. The bright spot was the pool grill which always served up freshly grilled chicken, burgers and hot dogs. They were yummy and a nice alternative.

Our cabin was well located on the port side of the ship forward. This gave us easy access to the pool, spa, buffet and showroom. But in all candor, there really isn’t a bad balcony cabin on the Royal, as her size makes it a breeze to walk from bow to stern in about two minutes. Great location - Port side and towards the front of the ship - Cabin was close to pool, buffet, theater and spa. Ample space but short on drawer space. Television programming needs to be updated. Bathroom was small but functional.

We never felt crowded and the small ship ambiance gave us a chance to actually get to know some of our fellow passengers. Our balcony cabin was quite comfortable and large enough to give us room to move about. The television entertainment was weak and again fell short of the new Celebrity ships which offer interactive TV and on demand movies. This isn’t very important on short sailings but for two weeks and over, these sorts of amenities do make a difference. We also liked the fact there was a laundry room on Deck 7 which was convenient to freshen up our clothing.

The entertainment was VERY WEAK. Because of her size, the theater wasn’t very impressive and limited the scale of the productions that could be produced. We stayed away from most of the shows as they really were not very good. But all the other pluses of the Royal more than made up for some of the detractions.

While we were quite pleased we were not hassled throughout the day with dreadful loud speaker reminders of trivia and bingo games, we found there wasn't much to do on the ship for our age group. There we several good lectures on destinations, but when it came to music and entertainment, it was geared to the 65+ crowd and left much to be desired.

If you enjoy the spa, I highly recommend you wait until the second week of your cruise. It was evident that as the days past, the Spa’s marketing efforts accelerated with specials and promotions that were actually very attractive deals. The Royal offers a hydro-therapy salt water pool within the spa we did not find it worth the $25 per couple per day fee.

We always book our own land activities. We have been lucky to find dependable taxi drivers who will either give us a local tour or take us to a hotel with a beach where we willingly pay a day charge to use the beach, chairs and the bar. We have always found the ship’s excursions to be far too expensive. When booking your own tours, you can sight-see with privacy without fifty other passengers. Just make sure you ask for a driver who speaks good English!

We spent out pre-cruise night at the Tropical Manaus Business Hotel. It is the best property in the city, which is a sad statement, but none the less true. I recommend the Business Hotel rather than the leisure side of the property. The price is less and the tower rooms are newer and offer nice views. The hotel is older and needs renovation, but like I said, it’s the best in town.

We found our own tour from the hotel desk in Manaus. We enjoyed a short boat trip to a real Indian village along the Amazon which included tribal dances with topless Indian dancers. (Not those kind of dances)

Our last cruise was on Celebrity’s Solstice during a New Year’s cruise. While we have always loved Celebrity and have another cruise already booked on Equinox, we found that holiday cruises on the larger ships are just too much of a headache. Too many young kids, the need to seek out and lay claim to a poolside chair due to the crowds, just don’t sit well with us. We are both in our mid 50’s and have already done the vacations with our own children and we much prefer the serenity of kid free cruising. On the Royal Princess, even though we cruised over the holidays, we found few children and we never had to rise early to secure a lounge chair at the pool.

The Good Stuff: GREAT SERVICE. We really enjoyed our dining room waiter George from Romania as well as our Cabin Steward, whose name is also George and is also from Eastern Europe. They among many other crew members consistently delivered top notch service and they were a pleasure to be around for two weeks.

The itinerary was remarkable. It was almost as if we had taken two distinctly different cruises. The first week was spent on the calm and very warm Amazon, with all of the fascinating ports it had to offer. The second week was more your typical Caribbean itinerary, so it was really the best of both worlds.

In Summary: My wife and I truly had a wonderful two week vacation. I would highly recommend this itinerary to those over 40 who are traveling without kids. If you are seeking a party till you puke type of experience, this cruise is NOT for you. However, if you are seeking a relaxing two weeks with an opportunity to see a part of the world few will ever see, then I highly recommend this cruise.

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