Cruising

True Travels: Life on the Regal Princess

True Travels: Life on the Regal Princess

It’s been a full month since I left behind life on the Regal Princess, and I can say with much conviction that I miss it. I had mixed expectations going into the trip—mostly fear of the great wide open—but everything changed once I stepped on board. In today’s post, I’m going to take you step by step on every turn of our trip, from the excitement of embarkation to the homesickness I felt for our little stateroom the moment we checked out.

Since cruising had never been on my personal radar until Princess Cruises invited me to experience their eastern Caribbean 7-day itinerary, I realized I had never thought about what it would take to get on a cruise ship. If you’re as curious as I am, you want as much information as possible before you commit yourself to a new adventure (as such, this post is not for experienced cruisers…you may find the details a bit of a yawn). However, as soon as we drove up to the port, I felt a flash of coastal familiarity. Growing up in Seattle, I’m no stranger to ports and docks and big ocean rigs lined up along the coastline. My dad has always been a seaman. However, I’d never seen anything as big as the Regal Princess anchored in a marina before. Standing next to it, you feel like less than a peanut shell. It’s unfathomably large. My first thought was along the lines of how-in-the-world-do-you-get-an-airplane-in-the-air…how could this thing possibly float?

True Travels: Life on the Regal Princess
True Travels: Life on the Regal Princess

Our shuttle dropped us off around the corner from the customs entrance, which was actually kind of a cluster. We filled out medical forms before finding a desk agent to check us in, but from there we were given key cards and a map of the 19-deck ship and sent to walk the plank. (Fine, it was more of a gangway, straight into what felt like a little cubby door in the side of the ship.)

Embarkation day is madness. We had to wait a thousand years for an elevator because my mom and I are nice people and let the forty-five million old people that were on the ship go first. That was one thing I was expecting on board—most of the cruisers were retired and experts at life on board. However, we felt right at home when we made it to our stateroom.

True Travels: Life on the Regal Princess

I could write a whole chapter of a book on what it feels like to stand on the balcony and look out over the endless blue of the Atlantic. What I thought was going to be the most frightening element of my trip ended up being my favorite. I loved watching the wake flutter along the back of the ship. I wondered how many sea creatures were chilling out below the surface and might be aware of our passing. I wondered at how many knots we were traveling (usually about 18, according to Captain Perrin) or how far away the nearest ship might be sailing (we actually passed quite a few cruise ships that were in clear view and almost within earshot).

The ship moved more than I anticipated. We learned towards the end of the voyage that there were a few uncommon factors in play, one of them being a day and a half we were traveling at full speed to deliver a passenger to emergency medical services at Turks and Caicos! The speed caused a substantial amount of rocking, but it tended not to bother me. There were days I felt it more than others, but it was not much more than a moment of dizziness. I felt it most when I was off the ship in my own bed on land. My body was so used to the waves that it didn’t stop feeling them for two days following. Sounds miserable, but I loved it. It was comforting and helped with the homesickness I was feeling for the Regal Princess.

Our quarters were modern and tidy and roomier than we expected. There are several variations of staterooms onboard, from inside rooms to balcony suites, and we were assigned something in the middle. It was nice to have the desk space for jewelry and accessory storage, but I would say that’s something of a luxury if you’re trying to stay within a certain budget. I’d be down to experience a room with just a porthole, but coming off of this balcony experience, I highly recommend going with a room that will let you escape into fresh air whenever your heart desires.

True Travels: Life on the Regal Princess

The food was exactly what I expected. Princess flies in five-star chefs from all over the world to design their menus and prepare meals for all passengers. You can eat as much as you want while you sit there—it’s all paid for with your trip—and it’s always worth saying yes to dessert. As a vegetarian, I experienced several different pasta or vegetable dishes (all divine), but between the espresso brûlée and salted caramel mousse, my sweet-tooth was more than satisfied. On formal dining nights, there isn’t as much pressure to dress up as I expected there to be, so for me, I just put on my favorite black dress and enjoyed looking at everyone else’s getups. A ton of the ladies and gents go all out, and seeing all of the glitz and glamour is almost like a window into the past of how snazzy cruises used to be.

If I were writing a book on Princess Cruises, I would dedicate another chapter just to talk about the crew. I’ve never met people more excited about pleasing their passengers. Every crew member I met went above whatever I could have expected, whether it was learning my name after the first time they saw me and making a point to say hi throughout the week or helping my mom and I through time-consuming questions about how to best spend our days ashore in port. Their staff is from all corners of the world, from Japan and Romania to Australia and Wales, and let’s be honest, half of the men look like male models in their uniforms.

And, because I'm writing this post on behalf of Princess, you might be thinking the staff gave us special treatment on board…and that’s a no. The Princess PR team exclusively coordinated the trip, and there are so many staff members on board (over 1,500) that there’s no way our steward or anyone else on board could have known we would be writing about them in the following months. We did get a few phenomenal perks, like a Chef’s Table Lumiere evening dinner, fresh flowers and champagne delivered to our rooms, and a tour of the bridge (we even met the legendary Captain Edward Perrin!), but all through the lovely Sara, Princess’s PR maven. That’s how stellar the ship’s staff is, and the reason that I miss all of them so.

True Travels: Life on the Regal Princess

You may also be thinking I’m remembering this all with a rose-tinted lens, but I’ve been writing this post since I stepped on board through a series of notes on my iPhone. My 7-day stay on board the Regal Princess was a trip I’ll never forget, especially since I got to spend it with truelane’s number one fan: my mom. If you have any questions about cruising, leave them here in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them or tap my connections at Princess to help!

Thanks to Princess Cruises for sponsoring this post!




True Travels: Expectation vs. Reality

It doesn’t happen often that I visit a new place and it’s not what I expected. Of course, there are a million factors that affect one’s experience in a new place. Sometimes the conditions don’t add up to exactly what you had in mind, and most recently, that happened to me on the friendly and beautiful island of St. Maarten! It was the third and final stop on my recent 7-day trip with Princess Cruises. Click here to read about our days in port at Princess Cays and St. Thomas!

When I first heard about the island with a split personality (half of it is Dutch and half of it is French), visiting both capitals sounded absolutely charming to me. Philipsburg, the Dutch side, sounded a little more rugged and saturated with historical culture, while Marigot, the French side, sounded dazzlingly charming and like a good place to tide myself over until I visit Paris for the first time.

Our morning kicked off with a drive-around tour of the island, an experience that was essentially tailored to retired couples, so right away we realized we may have made the wrong decision. Oops! The drive through the Dutch side was quick and painless, which gets the job done if that's the kind of travel you're looking for. I learned several facts about the capital, like when slavery was deemed illegal for both sides (1848 for French and 1863 for Dutch, respectively).

True Travels: St. Maarten | truelane
True Travels: St. Maarten | truelane
True Travels: St. Maarten | truelane
True Travels: St. Maarten | truelane
True Travels: St. Maarten | truelane
True Travels: St. Maarten | truelane

The tour guide for the trek, Jasmine, was friendly and eager to give information about her country, and also eager to single me out as the only person on the bus under 50—she settled on calling me Best Friend for the duration of the drive. But my favorite thing she said was a phrase she used in passing (about a topic I can’t quite remember): “They’re all over, like butterflies.” I was immediately enchanted by the fact that anything in everyday life could be as abundant as the number of butterflies on an island. I don’t see many up in Minnesota, and of course, wish I did, because how wonderfully charming would that be.

They dropped us off downtown to shop and stroll for about an hour, and I found a few charming pockets of Marigot to shoot in. Although I was Paris dreaming, Marigot gave off much more of a New Orleans vibe than the City of Lights. It was a little gritty with a lot going on, and it was definitely a memorable experience.

True Travels: St. Maarten | truelane
True Travels: St. Maarten | truelane
True Travels: St. Maarten | truelane
True Travels: St. Maarten | truelane
True Travels: St. Maarten | truelane

 

The beauty of the island can’t be denied—however, there were more houses in shambles and dilapidated buildings lining the streets we drove through than I anticipated. I’ll admit I was a little shocked by the state of most of the houses I saw until I heard that residents don’t have to pay taxes on homes that are deemed “unfinished…” Such a different way of life; I was immediately intrigued.

I love learning about new places and am truly pleased I got to experience The Friendly Island for all it is. There were some lovely sights and moments—I can’t hide my love for island towns! But my experience on St. Maarten is a good reminder to do your research: make sure you find a tour available that is suited to your tastes...and maybe aimed somewhere in the range of your age demographic?

Thank you to Princess Cruises for sponsoring this post, and for the unforgettably fabulous trip through the islands of the Caribbean! I literally miss life on the Regal Princess at least once a day... 




21 Reasons You Should Cruise This Winter

21 Reasons You Should Cruise This Winter | truelane

1.     OCEAN BREEZE

It’ll wake you up the second you set foot on the ship. For the long-haired gals and guys out there, you’ll end up wearing a ponytail more often than not, but there’s nothing like the spray of the sea on a warm winter’s day.

2.     FREE ICE CREAM

Do I even need to explain? I basically lived at Swirl on the Lido Deck of the Regal Princess. Especially since they solve the decision of chocolate versus vanilla for you with the crowd-pleasing, combination swirl cone.

3.     PEOPLE WATCHING

One thing I was looking forward to seeing on my first cruise? Cruisers. The people who cruise like it’s their job. We met people from all over the world who have literally gone on ten cruises and more, from Australia to the Panama Canal to the Grecian coastline. They know what they’re doing and they know what they like—even Cruise Ship Santa, a guy we saw around every single day that looked exactly like he sounds. #santaonvacay

4.     LOUNGE CHAIRS

There’s nothing more relaxing than the sight of a row of empty lounge chairs, just waiting for you to lie back and slow down.

21 Reasons You Should Cruise This Winter | truelane

5.     FREE ROOM SERVICE

My mom and I ended up ordering breakfast in more than we ventured out. The continental breakfast reminded me of what I’ve had abroad with croissants and delicious yogurts and honestly? The best butter I’ve ever had in my life. Princess, where u get dat butter?

21 Reasons You Should Cruise This Winter | truelane

6.     CUTE CREW BOYS

Another one I don’t really need to explain. #uniforms

7.     WHALE WATCHING

It doesn’t happen often, but my mom and I got lucky. Halfway through our voyage, we were turning around to go back inside when a VASTLY GIGANTIC TAIL slid slowly back into the water. We watched him swim a few strokes away before he was gone. One of the more satisfying and humbling moments of my twenty-four year old life.

8.     RESORTWEAR

Who doesn’t want an excuse to buy summer clothes in winter? The shops were just releasing their resort collections when Mom and I were shopping for our cruise ship wardrobes, and I have to say, I’ve never understood the point of resort collections until I went on a cruise. They’re the perfect vibes for both daytime and nighttime events on board.

SHOP RESORTWEAR:

9.     MID-WINTER TAN

We’ve all felt that pang of jealousy when a coworker or friend makes an appearance in mid-February with that perfect, sunkissed glow…which you can get when you sail for a week through the Virgin Islands. Make sure you wear sunscreen though! Do! Not! Forget!

10.  STAR-GAZING

I took a college astronomy class during my last two years of high school and fell in love. With a boy in class, yes, but also with the sky. I’ve felt such a connection to the stars since then, but living in the city, I rarely get to see them. Out in the middle of nowhere on the only ship around for miles? I got to reintroduce myself to some of my favorite constellations.

11.  MULTIPLE DESTINATIONS AT ONCE

My goal in life is to hit as many towns and countries as I can, and thanks to Princess Cruises, I can check four off of my list, (Ft. Lauderdale, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, and Princess Cays) not to mention cruising the eastern Caribbean Atlantic Ocean, all in a week’s time.

21 Reasons You Should Cruise This Winter | truelane

12.  CRUISE SHIP LINGO

Port. Stateroom. Bridge. Lido. Starboard. Ahoy. Berth. Aboard. Ashore. Tender. The Loveboat. Come on, when else do you get to surround yourself with things you never get to say?

13.  WORLD-CLASS DESSERTS

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll have heard everything about this already. From casual dinners to formal nights to the pièce de résistance, the Chef’s Table Lumiere, you’ll never have chocolate like you have aboard the Regal Princess. Even if you’re not a chocolate fan, there’s plenty to choose from between the fresh sorbets, crème brulet, hazelnut bars, fruit tarts, cheesecakes, and more…

21 Reasons You Should Cruise This Winter | truelane

14.  WINE-TASTING

There are a ton of different activities on board (seriously, I can’t even name them all), but one thing I’ve always been interested in and never got around to doing is wine tasting. I’ve just started getting into wine over the last year, and it was awesome to learn more about reds (I’m currently not a fan, but I’m developing a taste!), alongside some tapas before dinner. I’m still daydreaming about the cabernet blend!

15.  THE VOICE OF THE OCEAN

This one is Princess specific, but if you’ve ever watched The Voice, prepare to have your mind blown attending this show on board. They hold passenger auditions early on the ship and pull together three judges to participate in the finale show on the last night of your voyage. It was absolutely adorable hearing the maître d'hotel, a ship performer, and comedian giving thoughtful and sometimes hilarious commentary to the contestants. If you’re into a lot of laughs and some fun, redone classic tunes, you’ll probably laugh and cheer as much as my mom and I did.

16.  A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP

The number one thing I miss after coming back to the mainland is the constant and calming rock of the boat. Although a little strong for my taste once in awhile, the movement was quite effective in lulling me back to sleep. The first night back in my own bed, I could still feel it even though I was back on solid ground!

17.  ZUMBA LIKE NO ONE’S WATCHING

I’ll be honest, I didn’t get to participate in any of the exercise classes (our time was pretty full of pre-scheduled blogger events and spa appointments), but I thought of this later…you’re never going to see these cruise people again, so let loose! There are a ton of fun fitness activities on the top deck of the ship, besides just gym equipment, so take advantage…even if you’re like me and feel a little sheepish shaking your thing in front of strangers.

18.  BETTER THAN AN ALL-INCLUSIVE

Sailing with Princess, you get the convenience of an all-inclusive resort with the benefit of exciting sea life! Seriously it adds a whole new element to the experience. I’ll never tire of waking up anchored in the port of a new island every day.

19.  EMBARKATION DAY EXCITEMENT

There’s nothing like it. You have to see it to believe it. The ship’s horn is blaring, music is playing, everyone is cheering and waving from both the shore and the ship…Mom and I were so moved by the ordeal that we got a little choked up pulling away from Florida into the open sea.

21 Reasons You Should Cruise This Winter | truelane

20.  SOME OF THE BEST FOOD YOU’LL EVER EAT

And that is no exaggeration. I still remember the espresso brûlée and the manicotti I had on the first night, to the Chef’s Table Lumiere eggplant main dish and chocolate dessert concoction. The galley staff (the entire crew, really!) takes so much pride in their work and it’s clear when it hits the table.

21.  THE WAKE

There were a lot of great moments on board the Regal Princess during my 7-day Caribbean cruise, but none really moved my soul like standing at the aft (the back) of the ship and staring at the waves the ship left behind as we glided through the waters. It’s quiet back there, protected from the wind, and you just can’t believe the blue of the sea and the sky unless you’re standing there staring at it. And I promise you will be, because it’s impossible to make yourself look anywhere else.

Thanks a million to Princess Cruises for sponsoring this post!