by Wendy Irvine
Remember faded postcards from summers long ago? They pictured seashores and boardwalks with strolling kids clutching cotton candy, dripping cones and bright balloons. That’s Ocean City — all sparkling sand, mild blue surf and a charming yesteryear boardwalk. However, as you might expect, a property sitting on such a quaint boardwalk will cost you a pretty penny. But here’s a pearl of travel wisdom that will transform your vacation bill: stay in a fabulous property on the periphery of the main action and drive home with money in your pocket.
Case in point, the Princess Royale Resort sits four miles up the coast from the Ocean City boardwalk, but packs a wallop of a deal. This all-suite, all-kitchenette beachfront property has most of the amenities of the fancy boardwalk hotels, but for a more affordable price.
Sun hats off to whoever designed the Princess Royale — parents will love both the suite’s kitchenette with a full refrigerator, small stove and dishwasher and the close proximity of the hotel to the ocean. Kids will be delighted with the four-story atrium that umbrellas the large indoor pool and video and arcade games. Just keep doling out those quarters and sink into your frozen daiquiri while the kids have a blast.
The 10-story Princess Royale gives you the choice of glorious oceanfront, side ocean or pool-view guestrooms. Plan to enjoy your first cup of coffee watching the sunrise over the Atlantic. Later, hit the glittering beach that fronts the Princess Royale. Don’t feel like schlepping everything you need to the beach? Rent a chaise, umbrella, and even a boogie board at a rental spot in front of the Princess Royale, whose staff is ready to set you up for a beautiful day in the sand.
If in the mood for a home-cooked meal at the end of the day, drive across the street to the Super Fresh grocery store and pick up practically everything you could possibly need for a complete dinner. Don’t feel like frying so much as an egg on your trip? Stop in at one of the many dining spots at the Princess Royale. How about a bit of pampering? Stretch out in one of the two outdoor hot tubs while the kids play in the pool or get a massage or manicure in the spa or salon that both beckon from the first floor and offer a large menu of services. Parents will also appreciate the small fitness room, laundry machines and convenience store in the Princess Royale Resort. In the evenings, turn off that TV and hang out on your balcony as you listen to the night music of the crashing waves.
It’s true that a stay at the Princess Royale won’t put you on the boardwalk, nor does the Princess Royale have a fancy outdoor activity pool that the ritzier properties boast. But you will enjoy an old-fashioned beach vacation minus today’s scary price tag at this Ocean City gem.
Our Editor Loves
- All-suite beachfront hotel with kitchenettes
- Four-story atrium enclosing spacious indoor pool
- Two- and three-bedroom condos with kitchens
- Water Sports
- Family Room 5+
- Onsite Dining
Rooms & Rates
The Princess Royale is an all-suite and all-kitchenette hotel that comes close to perfect for a quintessential beach vacation. Check out the Princess Royale Web site for good deals throughout the year. When you book one of the 340 guestrooms or suites, choose between an oceanfront, partial-ocean or a pool view room. Tip: Consider requesting a second floor suite that's level with the pool. Kids can run in and out of your suite to the pool and you can supervise almost effortlessly.
Need more square footage than a one-bedroom suite allows? Ask about the Princess Royale's two- and three-bedroom oceanfront condominiums that are available with ocean views, full kitchens and a washer and dryer, located on floors six through 10.
The one-bedroom-suites -- on floors one through five -- boast a small living room with a sleeper sofa, TV and a small dining area that leads to a kitchenette, a small bathroom and a bedroom. The bedroom comes with your choice of one king or two queen beds (some king rooms come with a Jacuzzi). Large families will love that a suite with two queens and the sofa bed can comfortably sleep six people (keep in mind that kids 12 and under are free, while kids 13 and older are $20 extra a night, plus tax). The bedroom also has a large flat-screen TV, dresser and two small deck chairs on the patio.
The best part of the Princess Royale suite is the kitchenette with a two-burner stove, tiny dishwasher, microwave, coffee maker and full-sized refrigerator. The cupboards hold plates, bowls, cups and glasses for four. You'll also find cooking pots and pans. Tip: This kitchenette doesn't have an oven, blender, toaster or cutting board, so bring items along if needed.
The bathroom is small with a regular-sized tub, and a clothesline for wet bathing suits! These babies are fantastic because you won't spend your vacation with wet bathing suits and towels draped throughout your suite.
You won't find an iPod docking station or a DVD player in the suite, but you will find complimentary Wi-Fi and a cable package that includes HBO and several channels for kids.
A cot can be requested at a price of $15 per night, and Pack 'n Plays are available for $15-per-night fee.
We took our grankids (4 & 8) to see Winterfest of Lights on December 7-9. They loved the hotel. Everything was clean, the beds were comfy and everyone was super nice. The pool is awesome. We will stay here again.
We took our youngest daughter and grandchildren to the Winterfest of Lights in Ocean City. We decided to stay the night and get room service so we booked ahead to secure a room. Excellent ocean side view suite with plenty of room for us all. Comfortable beds and I think new flat screen TV's since the last stay. Room service was excellent and the Schooner's Bar and Grill staff helped us with drinks and a little quiet time.
The white sand beach and the gorgeous Atlantic are the centerpieces of a trip to the Princess Royale. Bring digging toys for the kids, boogie boards for the teens and rent a chaise and umbrella for yourself. (the Princess Royale does not provide beach towels or digging tools for the kids, so haul items from home or pick up supplies at the Super Fresh market across the street from the hotel).
When you're ready for a break from the sun, the Princess Royale has an impressively large indoor pool. There is a lifeguard on duty June through August, and pool hours are 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. year-round. Shouldering the pool is a small hot tub and two portable dry saunas. All of it sits under a four-story atrium that has floor-to-ceiling glass on the side facing the ocean. Next to the pool area sits 20 arcade and video games including air hockey, foosball, Ping Pong, a billiards table and more. Towels are provided and a food bar sits poolside, serving up snacks and drinks. Immediately outside of the atrium are two small hot tubs on a sun deck that hold four people, face the Atlantic and are open year-round. Note: Children must be at least 16 years old to use the hot tubs.
Every Thursday evening in July and August, a movie splashes onto the beach at Princess Royale. The 16-foot screen and projector aren't far from the waves, so unfurl towels and blankets and enjoy a complimentary PG-rated movie, such as "Despicable Me 2," "Finding Nemo" or "Monsters University." The show starts at 8:30 p.m. and popcorn and refreshments are served. Best of all? If you hear the rumble of a summer storm, everything is brought inside for a unique indoor movie experience under the four-story Princess Royale atrium.
Schooners Oceanfront Restaurant and Lounge spreads out a beautiful breakfast buffet on the weekends -- and sometimes during the week depending on occupancy -- that includes eggs, meat, French toast, pancakes, pastries and fruit. Adults are $9.95 each and kids up to age 12 are half-price, while the 4-and-under eat free. Guests also have the option of ordering from a breakfast menu with a variety of entrees.
For lunch and dinner, the restaurant becomes a casual dinner spot that features a different theme every evening. One night might be "Happy Hour All Night Long" while another is "Early Bird Meals All Night." Mexican night is popular for parents with Schooner's $2 margaritas. The regular dinner menu offers artisan pizzas, burgers and salads.
Room service from Schooners is available from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
At the Atrium Bar, sit under the Princess Royale's enormous atrium and watch the kids play in the pool. You'll have the choice of light lunches and frozen cocktails. The Atrium Bar is open in July and August only.
The Princess Royale has a sweet strip of grass in front of Schooners that's dotted with tables and palm trees and makes up the CafÃ© on the Green. This pretty dining spot offers burgers, sandwiches, desserts and cocktails daily from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in July and August. Views of the Atlantic are complimentary.
The Gazebo Bar serves up drinks and snacks on the sand so you don't have to leave the sunshine. It is open in July and August only.
Don't want to trudge from your beach back to your room? Grab a quick bite at the outdoor food court that features hot dogs, hamburgers and chicken breast sandwiches, pretzels, chips, lemonade and soft drinks. This one is also open in July and August only.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
The Princess Royale Resort tacks on a daily resort fee (which includes Wi-Fi) of $5.95, plus tax and a "for your protection" electronic safe fee of $1.50 per day (whether you use the safe or not).
Self-parking is included in the resort fee. Valet parking is available in the summer months at $6.95 per night.
A washer and dryer sit on both floors four and five. Bring $1.50 in quarters for the washer and $1 for the dryer. Soap can be purchased at the Princess Royale's first-floor convenience store.
An onsite business center is available for families looking to print coupons or tickets for local attractions. You'll also find a compact fitness room on the first floor that offers cardio machines, a weight machine and free weights.
The Art of Smart Timing
In Ocean City, the party begins Memorial Day Weekend in May and doesn't let up until after the Labor Day weekend in September. For three rollercoaster months, everything is exciting and wild and fun in Ocean City and at the Princess Royale. But if you're not into crowds, visit the Princess Royale from late September to early May when everything is whisper-quiet.
Gorgeous beach temperatures reign from June to September hovering somewhere in the 70's and 80's. In the fall you'll find lovely temps in the 70s and in the winter months you'll need a coat because Ocean City stays at a chilly 50 degrees. April sees the temps climbing back up to 60 and in May, Ocean City hits a respectable (for beach play) 70 degrees. If you're visiting anytime from September through May, plan to wear layers and peel off each layer if you get warm.
If you're driving to Ocean City, you'll take highway 50 from the west and drive over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge (commonly called the Bay Bridge). Keep in mind that bridges can be seriously jammed in this region at any hour of the day. From the south, take US-13 north over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel (not to be confused with the Bay Bridge), which extracts a whopping toll of $13 to $15 both ways. And from the north, you'll take US-13 going south.
If you're heading to Ocean City via plane, you have a bevy of airport choices, but your best bet is to fly into the Philadelphia International Airport, which gives you a relatively easy 2.5-hour drive to Ocean City with no bridge crossing. If you need to fly into Washington D.C., the region is home to three airports and all are under a three-hour drive to Ocean City, but you'll be sure to hit traffic. If you must use one of these airports -- Baltimore/Washington International, Washington Dulles International Airport and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport -- you might lose a day of your precious beach time sitting bumper-to-bumper.
Another option that you might consider is Virginia's Norfolk International Airport. This airport will give you a 2.5- hour drive to Ocean City and will take you on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. Just remember that the toll is $13 to $15 coming and going.
Lastly, the Salisbury/Ocean City/Wicomico Regional Airport (SBY) offers daily scheduled service provided only by US Airways.
For Mom and Dad
Princess Royale features Waves of Laughter Comedy Club every Monday through Saturday evening, from June 27 to August 31. A $15 per-person entrance fee sends two sodas to your table and a $20 entrance fee delivers two cocktails. The laughter starts at 9:00 p.m. and two comediennes later ends at 10:30 p.m.
The Creative Day Spa that sits inside the Princess Royale offers a generous menu of services and packages including a Cool as a Cucumber Pedicure -- a luxurious 60-minute pedicure ($60) -- and a Body Butter Ecstasy Wrap ($70) that exfoliates and wraps you in Shea nut butter. A scalp and temple massage is included. Golfers might love the Golf Ball Massage which delivers 50 wonderful minutes of massage focusing on muscles a golfer most uses ($125). Tip: Use the code GOLF and shave off $10 when you book online.
The long beautiful and casual bar in Schooners offers every cocktail imaginable. Try the sangria with a Kahlua chaser for dessert.