regal princess - princess cruises - cruise ship review and photos

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In July of 1988, in a bold move, Princess Cruises acquired Sitmar Cruises and inherited not only a few older ships, but also a new building order for three large new cruise ships to be delivered between 1989 and 1991. The first of these, to be named FairMajesty by Sitmar, appeared as Star Princess in 1989. The second and third new building were delivered from Italy's Fincantieri yard in 1990 and 1991 respectively. Designed by famous Italian designer Renzo Piano, Crown Princess and Regal Princess stunned the world when they first showed their dolphin-like domes, short, stubby bows and "dustbin" funnels. Some loved it, others disliked it, but in the last decade both ships have done very well for Princess Cruises.

On a dull and dreary Sunday in May 2003, I visited the 70,285 ton Regal Princess in Amsterdam, where she paused while on a positioning cruise from Barcelona to Copenhagen. To be honest, I have never really known what to think of the design of the two "Piano"- ships. I liked their short bows and dolphin-head domes, but I couldn't get used to their uninspiring funnels and plain sterns. Seeing Regal Princess docked at the Passenger Terminal Amsterdam changed my idea of the ship somewhat. For one, she is a lot bigger than I had expected. But it is seeing the ship from the inside that made me develop a soft spot for Regal Princess.

We start our tour in the three-deck high atrium, called The Plaza in true Princess fashion. The atmosphere is just right and the area feels like a plush oversized hotel foyer; the crossroad of shipboard life. The Plaza consists of a central open area, overlooked by shops and the very elegant Bacchus Wine & Caviar Bar on the uppermost level. The color scheme and lighting are just right and the whole area exudes an inviting atmosphere, only enlivened by the upbeat La Patisserie Coffee Bar on the lowest Plaza Deck level. Here, passengers can order specialty coffees and teas, as well as pastries, cakes and chocolates (not included in the cruise fare) while enjoying the hustle & bustle at the 24-hour Purser's Office across the room.  A grand staircase leads from Plaza Deck to Emerald Deck, while another less glamorous staircase brings you further up to Promenade Deck. On Emerald Deck, you will find cabins, two shops and the Princess Theatre, used for movies and church services. Directly adjoining the atrium area on Promenade Deck are more shops.

All the way forward on Promenade Deck is the Regal Princess' entertainment center, the two-deck high International Show Lounge. The large stage, which doubles as a dance floor, protrudes well into the room and really makes you feel in the middle of the action. The entertainment on board is typical of Princess Cruises, including some high quality Las Vegas production shows. All major shows are performed in two sittings, one of each dinner sitting. Sightlines in the International Show Lounge are fine as the floor slopes down towards the stage. Strangely, there is no possibility to move from a deck up or down once you are in the room; if you want to join your friends on the balcony, you should get out of the room, walk to the forward stairwell, climb up one deck and walk back to the showroom.

Directly aft of the balcony level of the International Show Lounge are a smallish Card Room and Library, both window-less. The book selection in the self-service library is limited and the bare fluorescent lighting in both rooms doesn't add to their appeal. So let's quickly bypass both rooms and see what Promenade Deck has to offer.  Outside, there is a fine teak wooden Promenade running on both sides of the ship. While attractive, wide and uncluttered, there is no possibility to walk around the ship here, as the dining room blocks the aft part of the Promenade Deck. Back inside, there is another twin promenade running from the amidships stairwell to the dining room aft. In use as Photo Galleries, these indoor walkways are a bit like the twin indoor promenades on Norway, albeit on a much smaller scale.

A few public rooms open directly onto the galleries. First there is the unique Bengal Bar; the ship's ballroom and main bar. Decorated in a colonial look with a high ceiling, rattan chairs, ceiling fans and a life-sized gold leaf sculpture of a tiger, this is the place to go dancing at night to the sounds of the ship's orchestra. On one side of the Bengal Bar is a slightly raised stage and dance floor, overlooked by the large, high bar on the opposite side. Regal Princess' main watering hole features lots of brass accents, and exudes a "pubby" feeling, harking back to Princess Cruises' British roots.

Next door is the Adagio Lounge, a stylish Art Deco nightclub featuring a huge mural inspired by the "Roaring Twenties". The zany carpeting (bring your sunglasses!) is offset by very neutral chairs and tables, while the stained glass partitions to the indoor gallery filter the light in an attractive way. Adagio opens onto the indoor promenade and is therefore easily accessible. At night, a combo or pianist plays here and the mood is decidedly relaxed. An inviting bar serves up all sorts of liquid refreshments and seems like the perfect place to "chill and hang out".

The ShipTour of Regal Princess is continued on the next page, where we will have a look at the expansive Pool Deck, the dining areas and the (in)famous Dome.


All photos and text: 2003 Bart de Boer -

Originally published on July 5, 2003. This version published on July 22, 2007

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