When boarding a mega cruise ship, it’s easy to feel lost with the sheer number of guests and the overwhelming activity options. We set sail to the Caribbean on the Regal Princess — a 1,083-foot vessel that’s longer than the height of the Eiffel Tower — with more than 3,500 other passengers and found ways big and small to upgrade our experience.
Here are our tips to help make the most of your Regal Princess cruise:
Ditch The Buffet
Don’t line up for the morning spread. Instead, wake up early to snag a seat in the Concerto dining room (open from 7 to 9 a.m.), where you’ll sit at a white-cloth-covered table and be served by a waiter in a crisply pressed white jacket. There’s no angling with others to snatch some of the new batch of sausages. The attentive waitstaff, bread service and made-to-order dishes like scrambled eggs with chopped asparagus and a pile of crispy bacon will make your breakfast an elegant affair.
During lunch, cruisers flock to the buffet and poolside restaurants for their proximity to all of the action. But you should make a beeline to the underappreciated Alfredo’s Pizzeria, where you can again get table service and watch the chef in the open kitchen make an individual Pizza Regal Princess pie topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, parma ham and shaved Parmesan and pop it into the oven. Or go for pasta, like agnolotti pockets stuffed with veal, beef and Parmesan. Alfredo’s is a good nighttime snacking spot, too (open till 11 p.m.).
Spring for the Extra Restaurants
Partake in some of the best dining options on the ship with a small extra free. The choice place is Crown Grill. In the dark-wood-filled steakhouse, we started with the rich “black and blue” onion soup sealed with a gooey Roquefort layer, then moved onto the indulgent surf ’n’ turf for a tender 8-ounce filet mignon and Maine lobster tail.
A nice touch is Crown Grill’s salt program, where you can choose among Hawaiian black or Himalayan mountain pink salts. We favored the smoked applewood, which gave our steak a boost of smoky flavor.
As part of the meal, you receive as many sides as you wish, including creamed spinach or redskin mashed potatoes, and dessert. Opt for the Crown Dependence to get a sampling of all the sweets on the menu, including a seven-layer s’mores stack, a lemon meringue pudding tart with macadamia nut shortbread, and a milk chocolate peanut butter bar.
Sabatini’s is a dining highlight that comes from Angelo Auriana, chef of Los Angeles restaurants The Factory Kitchen and Officine Brera.
Secure a seat at the Northern Italian-inspired trattoria and prepare for a full dinner — aperitivo, antipasto, pasta, main course and dessert. Of the plates to land on our yellow-and-white-checkered tablecloth, we most enjoyed the burrata with roasted golden beets, fava beans, mint-basil vinaigrette dollops and a sprinkle of toasted hazelnuts, along with the housemade tortelloni with roasted lamb, pecorino crosta nera cheese, broccoli rabe and cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper) sauce.
Visit the à la carte Ocean Terrace seafood bar for lunch or a snack. Try light, delicious dishes like the poached lobster tail with claw meat atop egg salad with sides of micro greens and diced cucumber, or the Alaskan king crab cocktail with dressed crab legs, pickled cucumber, seaweed and lotus chips.
Look for Alternative Entertainment
While the flashy musicals tend to draw the most attention, look beyond the bright lights of the main stage and you’ll find some extraordinary talent.
Turning out illustrious improv alumni such as Ryan Stiles and Colin Mochrie of Whose Line Is It Anyway?, Vancouver TheatreSports would be a hot ticket if you were visiting Vancouver. So, it was a treat to watch the troupe perform aboard the Regal Princess in the more intimate Princess Live! studio that seats just under 300. The quick-on-its-feet, witty cast easily brought in laughs during its handful of interactive shows during our cruise.
Because everything is improvised based off of audience suggestions, each show is brand new and you can see the talented comedians coming up with fresh material night after night. It was the best entertainment we saw on the cruise. The troupe was there for a temporary residency, but it may be back in the future, according to Regal Princess officials. Keep an eye out for this kind of entertainment.
Also look for the wine-related activities. At our food-and-wine pairing class (an extra fee), the sommelier taught us about Super Tuscans, blends from Tuscany that incorporate non-indigenous grapes. The tasting included sips like the rich, intense Terre More Dell Ammiraglia and lamb chop bites.
Find The Sanctuary
Hidden in deck 17 forward, you’ll discover a tranquil respite. It will be an additional cost to secure one of the padded chaise lounges or, for more privacy, cabanas with TVs and sofas for a half or whole day. But it’s worth it.
The Sanctuary is an adults-only hushed haven where you can stretch your legs and read or simply let the lapping waves lull you to sleep. A dedicated staff awaits to fetch mocktails like strawberry-raspberry soda, and healthy dishes, like grilled tomato gazpacho, sesame tuna salad or shrimp skewers over white bean salad.
There’s even a private massage cabana, where you can enjoy a deep-tissue massage or an Elemis Pro-Collagen Quartz Lift Facial, which uses micro-crystals to smooth away wrinkles and firm up skin. Afterward, peer at the ocean vistas from the floor-to-ceiling glass cabana windows.
Just be sure to book your lounger or cabana early, as savvy Princess veterans fill the slots for this peaceful hideaway on day one of the cruise.
Retreat to the Spa
The Lotus Spa is an obvious onboard oasis where you can indulge in everything from a bamboo massage (where a bamboo shoot rolls out your knotted-up muscles) to acupuncture to aid with stress relief in the stonewalled treatment rooms. But many don’t know about the spa’s Enclave. Called a thermal suite, it is more akin to the wet area of a spa.
Purchase a day or voyage pass for unlimited access to a hammam (a Turkish steam bath), caldarium (an herbal steam room to warm you up and relax you), the laconium (a dry heat sauna to detox), sensory showers (choose your own color therapy water experience: tropical rain, cold mist, rain or Siberian), heated stone beds and cushy waterbeds. Though you might just want to visit for the rejuvenating hydro-therapy pool with air jets and a cascading water feature in the dimly lit, quiet respite.
Upgrade to a Suite
A cream-and-light-wood suite will give you much more space than the typical stateroom. You’ll have a balcony with a pair of loungers, four chairs and a table and a separate living room with a sofa bed, a large desk and two tables.
In addition, you’ll receive VIP perks, such as priority embarkation and disembarkation, preferred dining reservations, complimentary same-day laundry services and shoe shines, in-suite afternoon tea service, wine and evening canapés delivered to your room, access to the Elite Lounge that serves hors d’oeuvres and more.
Club Class Mini Suites also are worth checking out. They are smaller, measuring 323 square feet as opposed to the 460- to 932-square-foot full suites, but come with many of the same elevated benefits.