This was Joshua’s first press trip. So I guess that officially now makes me a Luxury Mummy Blogger. Princess Cruises had invited us to join the Sapphire Princess on the second half of her 10 day cruise from Rome to Southampton. The newly refurbished ship was the first in the Princess fleet to be designed specifically for the Asia market. This makes her slightly different to her sister ships, not only with the multi lingual signage, but with the addition of the tiered pool area at the back of the ship, which was a real favourite with everyone onboard.
You will see the results of the refurbished areas and new features, as I share my experience of our time onboard.
Day One – Gibraltar
I have never been to Gibraltar before. Of course I have heard of The Rock, but didn’t think we would get the opportunity to see it for ourselves due to time restrictions.
After we landed, at what I later discovered to be one of Most Dangerous Airports In The World To Land, I turned around to take a photo of our aircraft. SURPRISE!!
Cruises don’t tend to start in Gibraltar, maybe this is why, but here is a photo (source: Wikimedia), that shows a rather short runway surrounded by water and a great big rock. I actually think it’s quite exciting and would do it again and again and again. Any nervous flyers, would have been a little put off as Josh announced with amusement, “We’re going to land in the sea!”
After no more than a ten minute taxi ride, we arrived at the port to board Sapphire Princess.
As soon as we stepped onboard, we went to our room to drop off the bags and get changed into our cruise clothes. As we entered the room I spotted a lovely welcome gift of champagne and rather smartly dressed chocolate strawberries. My impatience got the better of me, so I popped the cork, poured a glass and shared the strawberries with Josh. I stepped out onto the balcony with a glass in my hand, took a deep breath of sea air and smiled. Well, who wouldn’t?
I wasn’t the only one with treats. On the bed was a big teddy bear named Stanley. It didn’t take long for Josh to notice the huge wide screen tv on the wall and soon he was flicking through a choice of free movies including Cars 3, The Greatest Showman and a whole host of other favourite movies.
But there was no time for that. First thing any parent must do when they get onboard a cruise, is get their child registered in the kids club. Most cruise lines will have a welcome table on embarkation to give the kids wristbands, but as we were boarding mid cruise, it was for me to go and say hello. It was handy that I was able to complete a permission form online before our cruise, as it was one less thing for me to do when we arrived.
Part of Sapphire Princess’s refurbishment, included a totally new kids club theme. In partnership with Discovery™ the cruise line has given each centre an engaging theme that helps children to discover new interests and the world around them.
For 3 – 7 year olds the former Pelicans Club has been rebranded The Tree House.
Princess Cruises are very generous with gifts. Joshua came back with three soft toys, a penguin, an eagle and a whale, a pirates hat with treasure, a rucksack and a teeshirt. All the children get these (apart from Stanley the Bear, who cam be purchased onboard).
The session times on sea days are 9am – noon, 1pm – 5pm and 6pm – 10pm. However when in port, they offer extended opening hours including lunch. These are all complimentary unlike other family cruise lines.
When we cruised on Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas last year, there was an additional charge for the lunch, which was $14. You also only get 3 x 3 hour sessions per day for free on Royal Caribbean, whereas Princess Cruises offers 1 x 3 hour session and 2 x 4 hour sessions per day for free.
There is an under 3’s area with soft play that parents can enjoy with their toddlers.
8 – 12 year olds have a new space called The Lodge, and teens have The Beach House. They have also introduced the Club 18-20, which is such a great addition. It was only last week my 18 year old daughter said that she was at the worst age for a cruise, as she wasn’t a kid or an adult. Well Princess Cruises have taken care of that.
After registering Joshua at the kids club, we grabbed our swimming gear and headed to the pool.
Staying onboard when you are cruising with kids really has it’s benefits. You practically get the whole ship to yourself. It might seem like a waste of a cruise not to get off, but when you take into account the experience you are having onboard, you are still creating wonderful memories with your family.
Here’s a short video to show you what a lovely time we had, with the pool all to ourselves.
After the swim, we headed back to our room to get ready for the evening. Princess Cruises pride themselves on their incredibly comfortable beds. As someone who never sleeps through the night, I can vouch for these beds being ultra relaxing, as I slept right through every night I was onboard. I even had to wake Joshua up, one morning it was as late as 10.30.
A lovely amenity kit in our bathroom included a calming spray for our pillows and a gel eye mask. I’m not sure if this is standard in every room, but it was certainly a welcome gesture.
Once ready, we there wasn’t much time left until I had to meet my group. I needed something quick. Our room was in a great location at the forward on deck 15. It meant we could just walk out of our room almost straight out to the pool and right by the Pizzeria. Joshua made his way through one of these huge slices of freshly prepared pizza, while I looked on longingly.
I dropped Josh off at the kids club and headed to Vines Bar to meet the group. Here we were greeted by Generoso, our charming and very hard working, Italian maître d. We were treated to some hor d’oeuvres and champagne.
After some very lively and fun conversation, we went into the Savoy Dining Room, which is one of the main dining rooms located on deck 5. The meal was delicious and the service was superb.
A beautiful view to end a beautiful first day onboard Sapphire Princess.
Day Two – Lisbon
Waking up to this view is something I will never get bored with.
After dropping Joshua off at kids club, I went to the International Cafe to enjoy a cappuccino.
As part of their new entertainment programme catering for the British cruisers, Princess Cruises had featured a cool display of iconic outfits worn over the years by The Beatles.
At midday, we were due to arrive in Lisbon. There was a commentary being broadcast out on the decks for the 30 minute cruise into port.
After a quick lunch with Josh, I headed to The Sanctuary for some real Princess Cruises luxury. This is an exclusive over 18’s only area which offers deep cushioned sun loungers, extra fluffy towels, private cabanas where you can enjoy a massage, fruit infused water, complimentary light snacks and attentive service. This would be especially beneficial on a sea day when the main pools are busy. Although I can’t imagine that happens very often with five pools to choose from. Located at the front of the ship, you can enjoy sweeping views in every direction.
The pool deck all ready for Movies Under The Stars. There are usually two showings one around 7pm and the other around 10pm. Some ships serve fresh popcorn, but we didn’t have any on this one. The movie of the evening was the latest Jumanji – Welcome To The Jungle starring Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black and Kevin Heart.
We returned to the Savoy Dining Room again and had another delicious meal.
Day Three – At Sea
Josh and I couldn’t contain our excitement. We had both been invited to the Ships’ Ultimate Tour. This is a two hour behind the scenes tour of the ships crew areas. For security purposes, these two guards escorted our group at all times. As you can see, someone needed a more hands on approach.
Our first stop was the best one of all. The Bridge. Oh I love Bridge visits. Josh had never experience it before so I was extra excited for this one. I think this is the first time the Captain has actually been there when I have been on a tour. Usually I find it it the First Officer who does it.
We had been asked to keep questions to a minimum, but Joshua was bursting to ask about everything. Thankfully our wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, did I say wonderful? Captain Paolo Ravera was erm wonderful with Josh and I can’t begin to tell you how that made me feel. It was very moving for me. To see your four year old son have a one to one with a Cruise Ship’s Captain is something dreams are made of.
We had an onboard photographer with us to capture the moments between Joshua and Captain Ravera.
After the Bridge tour we visited the laundry facilities and the theatre. Joshua was getting a little restless by now, so we left the group in peace and went to get some lunch in the buffet.
There is always so much to choose from and everything is freshly made.
It’s a great place to enjoy lunch with a view. There is ample seating and once you grab, one of the waiting staff will come and offer to get you a drink.
After lunch I took Joshua to the kids club and wandered around the ship, enjoying the views and talking to people.
That evening we dined at Sterling Steakhouse, a speciality restaurant. There is a small cover charge which is subject to change but usually around $25. The meal was certainly delicious, but I can honestly say that I loved the main dining room and would be more than happy to dine in there every night. You don’t need to go to a speciality restaurant on Princess Cruises, to experience exceptional food and service. However Sterling Steakhouse and other speciality restaurants, just offer something different if you want it.
It was the end of another lovely day onboard the Sapphire Princess. We still had two more days left onboard, but for now it was time for bed.
Watch out for Part Two as Sapphire Princess arrives in Southampton for the first time, where she will homeport for the season.