Skip to main content

11 things I loved and hated about my first Princess cruise

cruise ship Royal Princess

Booking a cruise on a new-to-me cruise line is always exciting, as I never know exactly what to expect. Whether the food, entertainment, or activities, it’s always interesting to see the good and the bad of what other cruise lines have to offer.

I recently returned from my first-ever Princess cruise, a 7-night Alaska sailing on the Royal Princess. Princess Cruises is one of the most popular American cruise lines, and they are most well known for their Alaska itineraries, in which they are a market leader.

Before my Princess cruise, I had heard excellent things about the cruise line, from the dining choices to the Alaska-themed programming, so I was curious to discover all my ship had to offer.

Like any cruise line, you’re sure to find things you liked and disliked during your time onboard. During my Princess cruise I found myself enjoying certain aspects of the vacation much more than others. While the ship shined in its itinerary and cabin design, it left something to be desired when it came to service and lounge spaces.

Here are 11 things I loved and hated about my first Princess cruise.

I loved using the Medallion instead of a traditional cruise ship key card.

Princess Medallion

Instead of a cruise ship key card, Princess Cruises uses what’s called a Medallion. Like a key card, a Medallion functions as a way to open your cabin door, make onboard payments, and embark and disembark your cruise ship in ports of call.

Unlike a traditional key card, however, it’s small and wearable. About the size of a quarter, you can wear the medallion around your neck or as part of a bracelet. This makes it much more convenient to carry around the ship, and you’re much less likely to lose your keycard when it’s attached to your body.

Aside from the convenience of wearing a Medallion were two other major benefits: the Medallion’s tracking feature and automatic cabin door opening feature.

Shipmate locator feature

The Shipmate Locator feature allows you to “track” your cabinmates from anywhere around the ship. If you split up and didn’t know where they went, you could click a button on the app to open a deck map showing your cabinmate’s exact location.

Another convenient benefit of the Medallion was that my cabin door would unlock automatically when I neared it. As I walked down my cabin’s hallway, my room door would ping to my Medallion, at which point it would unlock the door so I did not have to do it myself. While a small benefit, it was another helpful feature of the Medallion.

Although I wouldn’t say the Medallion is as “life changing” as Princess Cruises markets it to be, I still preferred it over a traditional cruise ship key card.

I hated the ship design of the Royal Princess, as it wasn't suited for cold weather.

Royal Princess cruise ship

I was taken aback by the design of the Royal Princess, and not in a good way.

Generally speaking, if a cruise line plans for a ship to sail in cold weather destinations, they will design the ship to offer the most comfort in chilly temperatures. It’s common to see ships with ample indoor spaces cruising to Alaska, many of which feature indoor pools and lounges with window views.

The Royal Princess, on the contrary, seemed better suited for Caribbean itineraries compared to Alaska cruises. There was no indoor pool space and hardly any indoor lounges with ocean views. This leads to a severe disconnect between passengers and Alaska’s stunning scenery unless they want to stand outside in frigid temperatures.

Related: Alaska cruise guide: Planning tips and best cruise itineraries

Even where there could have been indoor lounges, there were not. I was stunned to see jewelry stores placed against floor-to-ceiling windows in the ship’s atrium instead of comfortable seating near the windows to watch the views.

window on cruise ship

Fortunately we had relatively good weather during our June sailing, so we could sit outside with little discomfort. If you’re considering an Alaska cruise during a colder month, though, I would not advise sailing on a ship without indoor pools and ample ocean views.

I loved the option to do self-service laundry onboard.

laundry room

I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the Royal Princess had self-service laundry onboard. On every cabin floor was a laundromat with several washers and dryers.

Self-service laundry is relatively rare on cruise lines, most of which require you to send in laundry to the ship’s laundry services. The price of washing a bag of laundry this way is often exorbitant—it’s not uncommon to pay $35-50 to wash a small bag of dirty clothes.

Related: Guide to laundry on a cruise ship

On my Princess cruise, I paid $3 to wash and $3 to dry my clothes. A packet of laundry detergent was only $1.50, so washing a huge load of clothes only set me back $7.50.

This was an absolute steal, and it helped me save money on my Alaska cruise.

I hated the extremely small, crowded hot tubs.

hot tub

The hot tubs on the Royal Princess were laughably small, and they were often so crowded I was too grossed out to use them.

As mentioned previously, I found the design of the Royal Princess to be inadequate for an Alaska cruise. Because it was almost always too cold to use the pools, this resulted in many passengers crowding in the hot tubs at one time.

There are eight hot tubs on the Royal Princess, but each was probably designed to hold around four or five people. At times I saw around 10 or 15 people trying to crowd into one hot tub, and it definitely was not something I was eager to do myself.

I typically enjoy spending time at the hot tub on an Alaska cruise, so I was disappointed with the tiny jacuzzis available.

I loved the variety of soft serve ice cream flavors.

ice cream sundaes

Unlimited soft serve ice cream is a staple of any cruise vacation. Without a doubt, you’ll find dozens of passengers lined up at the ice cream station everyday, whether you’re sailing in the sunny Caribbean or chilly Alaska.

In my experience, most cruise lines offer just three ice cream options: vanilla, chocolate, and twist. Therefore, on the first day of my Princess cruise, I was surprised to see a banana flavor offered in addition to vanilla.

Throughout the week I enjoyed six ice cream flavors: vanilla, banana, strawberry, pineapple, raspberry, and chocolate. With the option to turn any ice cream into a sundae—complete with chocolate sauce and sprinkles—let’s just say I made it a point to visit the ice cream station every day of my cruise.

I hated the dining room menu, as it didn't often appeal to my tastes.

dining room menu

I don’t generally consider myself a picky eater, but I was disappointed in the Main Dining Room menu on my Princess cruise. Hated is probably too strong a word, as I did enjoy most of the dishes I tried, but I was not impressed overall with the options.

Princess Cruises seems to offer a more “upscale” dining experience, and this led to more adventurous appetizers and main courses in the dining room. As a vegetarian, I was often disappointed with the vegetarian options, which frequently centered around mushrooms or heavy, creamy sauces.

pesto ravioli

For example, Princess offered fettuccine alfredo every evening of the cruise, and while I ordered it once, I found it watery and overly heavy for my tastes. I would have preferred a more authentic and simple Italian dish, such as pasta with marinara sauce, over the milky fettuccine alfredo.

In addition, the menu mainly featured American or Americanized dishes, and I missed the variety of cuisines and cooking styles I’ve experienced on other cruise lines’ dining room menus.

However, I loved the Asian noodle station in the buffet, which was an explosion of flavor.

noodle soup

Although the Main Dining Room menu fell flat for me, I couldn’t get enough of the Asian noodle station in the buffet.

I’ll always choose international cuisine over standard American fare, so I was delighted to see an authentic, relatively healthy Asian noodle station every evening at the buffet.

This station served ramen noodle bowls, allowing guests to choose from a variety of vegetables, toppings, meats, and broths for the bowl. The end result was a rich, spicy, and downright delicious bowl of noodle soup, and I was obsessed at first bite.

I enjoyed a bowl of noodles nearly every evening of my sailing—I didn’t usually even bother to browse other options at the buffet! Of all the food on my Princess cruise, this is one dish I’m still dreaming about.

I hated the lackluster service I experienced onboard.

cruise ship bar

While I understand that cruise ship crew members work extremely hard, I was disappointed with the service on my Princess cruise.

Although we encountered several friendly crew members during the sailing—namely, our stateroom attendant and a few buffet workers, the majority of the service was standoffish.

For an American cruise line I expected American-level service, but I found the service to be more in line with a European expectation of customer service. There was little small talk between crew members and guests, and I missed the friendly “Welcome back onboard!” greetings after returning from a day in port.

The rushed, unfriendly service made me intimidated to ask questions to crew members. Several times, for example, I was unsure of whether a dish in the buffet was vegetarian, yet I was too nervous to ask about the dish after witnessing the impatience of a few crew members in the area.

Even though we certainly encountered friendly crew members during our time onboard, nothing wowed me about the service on my Princess cruise.

I loved visiting Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve.

Glacier Bay national park

Princess Cruises is one of the few cruise lines to have access to Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve, and it was a highlight of my time onboard.

Glacier Bay National Park is a 3.3 million acre park of temperate rainforest, jagged mountains, and colossal glaciers. It’s truly a remarkable place to visit on an Alaska cruise, yet only select cruise lines have permits to enter the park.

Related: How do Alaska's glaciers move and other questions

I spent the entire day on the outer decks of the Royal Princess as we sailed through the narrow fjords of Glacier Bay. From witnessing the majestic Margerie Glacier to spotting dozens of sea otters swimming near the ship, it was a memorable experience that allowed me to better immerse myself in Alaska’s grandeur.

I hated that the order-to-anywhere food delivery service rarely worked.

Order Now feature

Princess Cruises’ Ocean Now feature promises the ability to promptly get food and drinks delivered to you from anywhere onboard. If you’re at a bar and suddenly desire a cheese pizza, you are, theoretically, able to order the pizza on the app and receive it in around a half hour.

In reality, though, I found that the Ocean Now feature rarely worked. Time and time again, I tried to order snacks like quesadillas and cookies to my location onboard, yet I found that the order rarely arrived.

After placing an order, the Ocean Now order would update to the “Ordered” status, but it would almost never move to the “Preparing” or “Delivering” statuses. This left me in limbo of being unsure whether or not my food was actually being prepared, or if the app malfunctioned and I was waiting for nothing.

Related: Do Cruise Ships Have Room Service, and Is It Free?


In fact, the Ocean Now feature only worked for us two times during the sailing. The first was when we ordered two lattes, which came with an added cost compared to the free options. The second was when we ordered from our stateroom television instead of the mobile app.

I definitely enjoyed the free delivery service option when it worked, but I wished I could have successfully utilized it more during my sailing.

I loved my cabin design on the Royal Princess.

beds in cabin

I booked the cheapest cabin for my Princess cruise, an interior cabin, and I was impressed with the cabin’s size and layout.

Most interior cabins consist of one small room without any separation between the beds and other living space. Although adequate given the price, I never find myself spending much time in tiny inside rooms.

When I entered my cabin on the Royal Princess for the first time, I was pleased to see a spacious cabin with a large amount of walking space. Our bed was separated into two twin beds, which created extra walking space in the room, and our cabin had a large desk perfect for storing belongings during the sailing.

Behind a wall was a closet area perfect for changing and getting ready, and at the edge of the closet was our cabin’s bathroom. Having this separate area was convenient for us, as I could wait in the main cabin space while my sister got ready in the bathroom and closet area.

closet in cabin

This split design was something I hadn’t previously experienced in inside cabins, and it will be hard to go back to a standard cabin design on my upcoming cruises.

Interested in booking a Princess cruise? Check out more helpful tips:

Loading Comments