Background: In Spring of 2013, I traveled to Venice, Italy with Princess Cruises to visit the Fincantieri Shipyard in Monfalcone. The Royal Princess was under construction and The Regal Princess was ready for her first dip into the water with the Regal Princess Float Out Ceremony. November 2014 was the Regal Princess Naming Ceremony with the original cast of The Love Boat as godparents. My husband and I were fortunate enough to be invited to attend the naming ceremony and experience sailing on this Royal Class ship for a brief introductory cruise. And here we are, a decade later, taking week long cruise on the Regal Princess enjoying a Western Caribbean Itinerary and a relaxed exploration of all this beautiful ship has to offer.
I have a deeply personal relationship with Princess Cruises. As a child, I watched episodes of “The Love Boat” dreaming of travel to exotic destinations. It was also the first cruise line I ever sailed on, and I am fortunate enough to have fond past travel memories with this cruise brand. However, it’s been almost a decade since sailing on a Princess cruise ship. Halfway through each winter, my husband and I plan a few adventures while his work schedule slows down a bit. When I asked him where he would like to go this winter, he replied. “A long cruise.” Easy peasy, or so I thought.
We searched around for itineraries and cruises, deciding to return to Princess Cruises, since the dates seemed to work with his schedule. Our first choice was Sky Princess, a newly launched ship to the Princess fleet. Unfortunately, by the time we decided to pull the trigger, all the balcony cabins were booked, which is my personal stateroom preference. Our second choice was the Regal Princess, a ship that we were lucky enough to be onboard for her Naming Ceremony in November of 2014. That was almost 10 years ago!
While it is fun to check out new cruise ships, I realized with this recent experience, that revisiting a former travel memory brings a new level to the cruise experience. It’s like visiting an old friend one hasn’t seen in a while. Our cruise was booked and we began to plan our adventure!
Our true purpose on taking a cruise was to relax and spend time together, somewhere warm. For us, it didn’t matter which ports we visited while planning our winter escape. This particular itinerary included Princess Cays (the cruise line’s private island in the Bahamas), Grand Turk, Jamaica, and Grand Cayman. All offered sandy beaches and warmer weather.
We flew into Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport a day before our scheduled sailing, just in case there were delays. I had visions of an early arrival to our hotel with an afternoon at Ft. Lauderdale Beach or the hotel pool. Our departure from Boston was the morning of record low temps and we ended up sitting on our plane parked at the gate for two hours while maintenance attempted to fuel the plane in the below freezing weather. And then we waited to taxi with all the other delayed flights. We didn’t arrive into Florida until after noon, and by the time we were able to find a Lyft driver, it was 2pm when we checked into our hotel.
We finally made it to our Florida overnight destination by the early afternoon and checked into a convenient cruise port hotel, the Hilton Ft. Lauderdale Marina. In keeping with the day’s theme of delays, our room wasn’t slated to be ready until after 5pm. As Diamond Hilton Honors members, we’ve stayed at this hotel a few times in the past, and were excited with anticipation to experience the newly redecorated rooms. Plus, we were located less than ten minutes from the cruise ship.
We did the only thing we thought could add more positive flow to the Getting There experience: we had a glass of bubbly to celebrate finally arriving, then managed to snag dinner reservations at Joe’s Stone Crab in South Beach (a splurge for sure, but a favorite splurge). By the time we returned from dinner, our room was ready. And it was worth the wait. The newly renovated rooms at the Hilton Ft. Lauderdale Marina looked refreshed and welcoming compared to our previous visit during the Pandemic.
We sat on our balcony, taking in the warm salty breeze and letting out a sigh of relief that we finally made it to our destination and would be stepping onboard the Regal Princess the next day. I put away my sweater and boots, placing a cotton dress for me, a short sleeve shirt with khakis for my husband and sandals out for both of our morning preparations.
The next morning we hopped into a $15 taxi to the cruise terminal, handed off our luggage to the porters, and joined the rapidly moving line into the cruise terminal. Our check in for the Regal Princess was fast and hassle-free. We had filled out all documents online through the OceanReady on the Princess MedallionClass App and the only thing left was to grab our Princess Medallions and step onboard. Our Mini-Suite stateroom (E409) was ready for occupancy and that’s where we headed first, to drop our backpacks, and to begin our week of relaxation.
Special thanks to Princess Cruises and the crew of the Regal Princess, who hosted our experience.