Seeing the long line waiting to board the Regal Princess, I thought I would be standing there for quite a while. I was wrong. Boarding the big cruise ship was a breeze.
What made embarking so efficient and quick? The well-organized Princess staff kept the line moving quickly and most passengers had prepared their pre-boarding forms via computer at home. That meant passengers arrived with boarding passes in their hands.
Ah, the joys of technology!
In the comfort of my home, I had leisurely completed typing in the necessary information and printed out my boarding pass.
Princess also had sent me several emails before my cruise date reminding me of any information they might still need. Three days before the cruise, I received an email with “Final Information Before You Sail.”
The email listed what I needed to bring – my ship boarding pass, passport and any medication. I also received a luggage tag on line to print and staple to my suitcase handle. The tag had my name, ship name and cabin number. I travel with carry-on luggage and my computer bag so I stapled the luggage tag on my suitcase and was ready to go.
CRUISE SHIP SHUTTLE
Before leaving home, I also had booked the cruise ship shuttle from Fort Lauderdale airport to Port Everglades terminal. Cost was $38 per person for a shuttle to the ship and a shuttle back to the airport at cruise end, a bargain for not having to hail a cab in the airport chaos.
When my plane landed, it was easy to find the Princess shuttle kiosk in the baggage claim area. The Princess rep checked my name off the shuttle list, gave me a big blue laminated card with my shuttle number and directed me to a seat to await the shuttle.
When the airport shuttle boarding time arrived, the Princess rep led a procession of cruisers to the big transport bus. Since I take carry-on luggage and a backpack, I took my two pieces on the bus. About six other passengers did the same. The other luggage was stored underneath the bus and passengers would not see it again until it was delivered to their ship staterooms.
I prefer to keep my luggage safe at hand, if possible. I realize that not everyone can do that. Their luggage might be too cumbersome or too much of a hassle to carry. The odds of luggage getting lost on its way to a cruise ship are very slim. In all my decades of cruising, I have seen it happen only a few times and it is miserable. On a different cruise line last year, two passengers on my deck never did receive their luggage. Also in my carry on, I have notes and work to do after boarding the ship so want to have those available in case I have to wait for my stateroom to be ready.
The ride to the ship terminal took about 15 minutes. In the terminal, I saw the long line and thought this is going to be a mess. There is a shorter speedier “Preferred Check-in” line for some repeat customers but that wasn’t one of my perks.
My line moved surprisingly fast. Even going through the security machines and having my carry-on bag scanned was no problem. I didn’t see anyone being stopped for having something in their pockets or their bags that they shouldn’t have.
The Princess people at the terminal check-in desk certainly knew what they were doing and they did it very quickly. Even sooner than I expected, I was walking up the boarding passage and into that glorious Piazza.
CABIN WAS READY AND WAITING
It’s always fun to step onto a new ship. The Regal Princess décor is lovely and subdued – warm woods, glistening marble, sparkling crystal, gleaming brass, bunches of windows, plenty of glass and light. The feeling is very open and airy.
My cabin was already ready. That doesn’t always happen on cruise ships. I have had to wait several hours on other cruises while my cabin was being cleaned from previous cruisers. I understand the delay because turnover must be a very difficult day for the crew – passengers getting off, new passengers coming on. So, I was quite happy to find my cabin, drop off my carry-on bags and head to the upper Deck 16 for something to eat.
I don’t eat airport food so I was ready to enjoy what I knew would be delicious offerings in the ship’s main dining buffet. On the Regal Princess, it is called Horizon Court. The adjoining buffet dining spot is called the Horizon Bistro. In between is the Pastry Shop, supposedly the largest dessert station on any cruise ship. My, oh, my, the sweets I glimpsed in there.
While I was on the upper deck, I took photos of that unusual SeaWalk that juts out from the Lido Deck. It is a strange stomach-churning feeling to walk on that cantilevered glass walkway and see the ocean 16 decks below.
I saw passengers stroll out on the SeaWalk, bend over and wave to someone below who was taking a pic of them. Then the people on the SeaWalk would snap a photo of the person waving below. Oh, the things we do to entertain ourselves.
When I was at home, I also had paid online for the Unlimited Soda & More Package for a total of $56.35 for the week cruise so my boarding card already had the designation that I had paid for the program.
Paying ahead of time online for that Unlimited Soda package is another time-saving tip. Instead of having to find the table aboard ship that is selling the beverage packages, my cruise card was already ready for use.
A passenger seated at a table next to me had bought the Premier Beverage Package before boarding and already had a tasty-looking Bahama Breeze cocktail. The premier package costs $59.99 per day per person plus 15 percent gratuity and includes unlimited (costing $12 or less on the menu) cocktails, wine, beer, bottled water, soda, and specialty coffees.
The Regal Princess emphasizes health practices and signs of that are abundant around the ship. Along with the customary hand sanitizing stations, the ship also has little alcoves with sinks, soap and paper towels before entering Horizon Court.
As noted in a printed health advisory given to us when we boarded the ship, “Hand sanitizers are only partially effective against norovirus and should therefore be used after and not instead of hand washing, particularly before eating in the buffet.”
Rather than having to find a bathroom to clean my hands before eating, those hand-washing stations are very handy. A great idea.
OCEAN MEDALLION PROGRAM
So I’m on board the Regal Princess for my weeklong cruise. Notice all those online computer references I’ve mentioned? Technology has made this boarding process so much simpler and I haven’t even told you about the biggest Princess technology yet – the new Ocean Medallion program – the first of its kind on ocean cruise ships.
I’ve just boarded the ship and already have seen one nice advantage of the Ocean Medallion. When I checked in, along with my cruise card I was given a round silver and blue medal medallion with the Princess logo, my name, the name of the ship and the date of our cruise.
The medallion was on a Princess lanyard to wear around my neck. When I walked up to my stateroom with my backpack in one hand and my suitcase in the other, the Ocean Medallion magically unlocked my door. I didn’t have to do anything. Just stand there and the door was unlocked.
It’s supposed to be quite a high tech deal so I’m looking forward to finding out more to share with you. Stay tuned.
Photos by Jackie Sheckler Finch