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First Aboard!

Since I basically wrote a thousand page essay on my last blog, I’ll make this short-ish. We had a few experiences today that I think might be fun to relate …

Once we made it to the port, checked in, assured the Princess people we were free (for the moment anyway) of communicable diseases, we got to be some of the very first people in line to board. Because I am, luckily, Elite on Princess which gives me priority boarding, my traveling companion and I were the very first on board … and that was so cool. I’ve never done that before.

As it turns out, there were sufficient people onboard already doing back-to-back cruises that we still didn’t get to sign up for the Sanctuary for our upcoming sea day, but it was still wonderful to be onboard again! The staff, all of whom were masked but clearly smiling, were jubilant and welcoming, and it was SUCH fun to be here again. My last cruise was on this same ship — the Regal Princess — in February 2020, and it is kind of neat to be back on this particular one.

Some observations about changes:

  • No more turn-down service unless you specifically request it. We didn’t. It’s not all that important to me but it’s interesting that it’s changed.

  • Weird, WEIRD main dining room changes. The menu is different (that will be my next bullet point) but the overall experience was weird, too. Since we said we wanted to eat in one of the onboard dining rooms every night (except the two we are going to a specialty restaurant) we assumed we would be assigned a table like before. Not so. It seemed to be catch-as-catch-can in terms of seating and my observation was that those without a dining reservation got seated quicker than those of us with one. We sat much closer than we thought we would, too, as there were seemingly no more efforts at distancing, and the tables were the same they had been back in February 2020. But the weirdest thing was that the MDR was packed. Absolutely every table was full. I have never, in all my 20+ years cruising, seen a dining room that packed at 8 p.m.

  • The menu is different. Some good parts are that it’s set up clearly and neatly and there are still good choices. But some things are notably missing like the Princess Burger, which was a staple.

  • The food was great. We’d been reading the Facebook threads that decried the choices and quality, and so far I would say they are dead wrong. While I did think the portions might have changed — our neighbor had the Diver Scallops, something I’ve enjoyed on ships many times — and the scallops were smaller, though there were more of them. That seemed to be a theme. I had something I’ve never had aboard, pulled pork with a spicy Asian themed glaze and vegetables, and it was fabulous.

  • The buffet is different. While the crew aren’t burdened with serving everything, they are there and very helpful. This morning I was looking for the small, square pieces of dried papaya they used to have for my plain yogurt and a lovely young woman took me all over trying to find them. They don’t have them anymore. Nor do they serve guacamole with the chips at lunch. Nothing big, just some small changes.

  • There’s a quarantine section of our floor! We have an aft-facing cabin, my very favorite kind, and we thought we’d walk up the port side of the ship yesterday instead of the starboard side, to access the elevator. We got to a point where there was a door closed — weird, but whatever. A staff person was walking out the door and held it open for us, and then immediately realized what he did and ran after us … we were already thinking, “Why are there red signs on all these doors?” He caught up with us, we told him we were going to the elevator, and he told us it was the quarantine section for new crew coming onboard. Princess policy is that they quarantine for two weeks, and they put them in balcony cabins on regular floors, like this place. We were surprised, but, after our, ahem, eventful day yesterday NOT surprised that, within an hour of coming aboard we managed to walk into a restricted area. If you don’t know what our eventful day was yesterday, I suggest you read my previous blog.

  • The Medallion has its challenges. Yesterday I was trying to find out the time of our dinner reservation and it kept telling me I couldn’t book a reservation until I paid for the cruise that I was already clearly on! We can’t access our shipboard account, or anything else much through the app except the ability to order food and drink wherever we are, which is an amazing thing. Even though the app apparently views me as a deadbeat who goes on cruises she hasn’t paid for, it didn’t stop me from ordering food and drinks … go figure.

  • The spa is interesting. I’d say the level of sales is much reduced, and that’s good.

  • The staff everywhere are wearing masks.

  • The best thing of all: There are about (this is a guess) 2500 people aboard, which is about a thousand less than the ship can hold, and that is absolutely wonderful. Nothing is crowded, even the pools, and it’s great fun.

So far, so good.


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