March 6, 2023
Princess Cruises – Ready to welcome you onboard
We are cruise virgins, so when we were invited by Princess Cruises to enjoy a trip from Southampton for seven nights, taking in Guernsey, La Rochelle, Bilbao and La Caruna, and returning to Southampton we jumped at the opportunity. (Please see the route and itinerary here.)
We packed our cases, booked our car parking in Southampton, completed the necessary info and drove to meet the Sky Princess Ship for our allotted check-in time, we checked in the car and ourselves and boarded the ship, in awe of the size and beauty as we made our way to our mini-suite, all very uncomplicated and speedy.
Our mini-suite on deck eight was spacious with a fabulous balcony, on which we were lucky enough to be on the sunny side of the ship a lot of the time, the ideal spot for that pre-dinner cocktail that was delivered to the suite within minutes of ordering it through room service. The bathroom was perfectly adequate with a powerful shower, and plenty of storage space for toiletries, we also had a fluffy dressing gown each. The mini-suite included a sofa, tea and coffee making facilities, a desk, coffee table, large wardrobe with loads of hangers and of course the famous fabulously comfortable bed. We were pleasantly surprised at the space we had and the quality of the soft furnishings were that of a five-star hotel.
When I say the whole seven days and nights ran like clockwork, from embarkation and check-in, the mini-suite concierge service, restaurant bookings, excursion experiences, security, spa treatments, pool visits all the way through to disembarkation, car drop off and pick up was no exaggeration, it was seamless. The Sky Princess onboard team were helpful, polite and knowledgable, the entire cruising experience for us was absolutely fabulous, the sun even shone for us for the whole trip.
One of the reasons the ship runs so smoothly is due to the ‘Medallion App’ which needs to be downloaded and completed before you set sail by each guest. The Medallion is a technological wearable device that enables a complete personalised service. Through the app you can book your whole trip, from dining and spa treatments to excursions and entertainment. The wearable device is your security, and your method of payment for extras that are not included in your chosen cruise package, of which there are three, please see here.
The ship was full, 3,200 people, many of them repeat customers of Princess Cruises which is always a good sign, and they were all ready and eager to impart advice and information to ensure we gained the best holiday. We did get lost once or twice, but this only helped us to achieve our 10,000 steps each day! Not once did we feel the ship was overcrowded, it was so spacious, vast in fact.
Each morning we chose a different breakfast venue, our favourite being The International Café, where we could choose from pastries and yogurts to toasties and fresh coffee. In the evenings we managed to dine in most of the restaurants over the course of the trip. The Crown Grill served delicious steaks and is actually named one of the ‘Best Cruise Ship Steakhouses”. Another restaurant is Sabatini’s a super Italian dining room serving modern and rustic dishes. The Chef’s Table is also a superb restaurant, this is a fine dining experience with wine pairing and more. We found it easy to book a table in all of these and enjoyed tasty meals in each one and the service was impeccable. (These restaurants fall into the ‘speciality restaurants’ category and depending on the package you’re on there may be an extra charge).
There are a number of other restaurants, the Market Place is the buffet-style option serving everything from great salads, to different cuisines from Spain, France, China, India and Mexico, with a huge variety of sweet delights too. We enjoyed Alfredo’s for its tasty pizzas and the Sushi Bar for a lighter option.
The ship generally sailed overnight to the next port of call with excursions taking place during the day. At each port there were several options to visit various historical sites, museums, churches, or even culinary tasting trips, alternatively, you could just go ashore to enjoy these coastal towns, enjoy a beer, a coffee or even dine in a delightful fresh fish restaurant, of which there were plenty. The excursions are well organised, you can see the options here for this particular cruise.
On our return to the ship following the excursions we were lucky enough to enjoy some vitamin D, the sun shone for the whole trip. The sundecks on Sky Princess are great, there’s a real party vibe on the Top Deck pool with a huge TV screen playing music all day, there’s also a jacuzzi and a couple of takeaway-style dining options for pizzas, hot dogs and burgers, and of course a bar. We chose to go to the quieter pool, The Retreat Pool, at the front of the ship, where there was an upper and lower deck also with a jacuzzi and another great bar, we enjoyed several Margaritas and Bloody Marys here.
We were also lucky enough to be invited to spend an afternoon in The Sanctuary, a luxurious spa-inspired top deck retreat, deck 17 to be exact, reserved just for adults. The Sanctuary features plush lounge furniture, attentive Serenity Steward service, soothing music, refreshing beverages and spa fare, and even an open-air massage in your own private cabana if you fancy it! It was heavenly.
If you are not a sun worshipper or just fancy a break from the sun the onboard options to keep you busy are endless, from mini-golf, a casino, basketball court, wine tasting, a shopping mall, spa, art galleries, book club, dance classes, a gym, yoga and so much more. In the evening there is a huge variety of entertainment in the onboard theatres featuring great comedians, movies under the stars by the main pool, West End style shows and live music of all genres.
Please see the onboard entertainment and activities on Sky Princess here.
The hub of the ship is The Piazza. You can take a stroll into the European-style Piazza and discover old-world charm as you venture through the stunning decks, it’s a hive of activity, inspired by the vibrant squares of Europe. There are roving street performers, quaint boutiques, a spiral staircase and several glass-walled lifts. This is the spot to take afternoon tea, a pre-dinner drink, meet with fellow cruisers or just relax and read a book with a coffee and cake. The impressive atrium spans several decks and features duty-free shops, International Café, Gelato, bars and most of the restaurants, over three decks.
The ship took three million man hours to build, features 200 tons of marble, is 330 metres long, 68 metres high that’s taller than London’s Tower Bridge. There are 18,000 bottles of wine and champagne on board, weekly there are 21,200 towels used, there are 4,000 pieces of art onboard and 54,600 napkins are washed each week, it’s mind-blowing and impressive in equal measure.
I was a little worried about cruising as I suffer from motion sickness, but even The Bay of Biscay didn’t faise me, you honestly would think you were in a hotel until you see the sea. The sailing was smooth and quiet, even at night, we slept like babies, but that could be due to the most comfortable beds on any cruise ship, anywhere.
In conclusion, apart from the dreadful wifi, we had a first-class experience. We loved the freedom of dining as and when we wanted in a vast variety of restaurants, we also loved the pool options and being able to order a poolside cocktail or snack. The spa treatment choices were fabulous, I had a superb massage and facial in relaxed surroundings by a lovely therapist. The Sky Princess team, each and every one of them made the cruising experience most special. Our mini-suite was fabulous, but we barely spent any time in it as our days and evenings were filled with so many activities.
All-in-all this was a truly fabulous week of great food, and amazing entertainment, sprinkled with a touch of relaxation.
W: Princess Cruises
T: 0344 388 8663
Written by Global Editor for the Luxuria Group Debbie Stone