If you’ve read my other posts about cruising the Mediterranean and the things you need to know beforehand, hopefully, you’ll be getting excited about boarding the ship for the first time. A lot of people (myself included before I did my first cruise) make the assumption that there isn’t much to do onboard and that the cruise is all about the places you go to – the destinations, rather than the journey. One of the coolest things about a cruise, as the old saying goes, is that the journey IS the destination.
I can’t deny that I was excited about visiting Spain, Gibraltar, France and Italy all in the same trip. But what really surprised me was just how much there was to do on the ship itself! By the end of the trip we’d had 2 days at sea, and I could happily have had an extra day to keep exploring the ship. It doesn’t seem to matter if you’re young in years or young at heart – there’s something to keep you entertained whatever age you might be. I didn’t try the kid’s clubs personally (I’m a little old for that by now), but they come highly recommended and will give any parents onboard some valuable me-time to enjoy some rest and relaxation elsewhere on the ship.
A typical day at sea can begin as early or late as you want – with so many food options maybe you’ll have a long lie-in and grab an early lunch, but if you prefer to be up with the sun then ask room service to deliver your breakfast and watch the sunrise from your cabin. The more energetic amongst you might want a morning workout in the gym, a yoga session on the deck, or even a bit of mini golf or tennis.
If you feel like learning something during your downtime between ports, how about taking a dance class or attending a GoPro camera workshop, to ensure you get the best photos once you reach the next stop. If all this sounds far too much like hard work though, rest assured there was plenty of time and space to relax by the pool, cocktail in hand, soaking up the sun. The kitchen gets through 160kg of ice cream each day too, and enjoying one of them while lounging on the deck as the ocean glides underneath you is a wonderful way to spend the day.
One of my personal highlights had to be the Sanctuary Spa. I had one of the best massages of my life – the Elemis Spa lime & ginger salt rub removing not just my dead skin cells but seemingly every ounce of stress I may have had at the time. Then after a tea-tree moisturiser to finish off I felt like I was walking on air, when in fact I was still cruising on water. The Sanctuary also lived up to its name and remained surprisingly quiet during the whole week – during a return visit later on, I indulged in Afternoon Tea, a swim with the whole pool to myself, and some quiet reflection watched over by a monumental Buddha.
One evening, budding astronomers were offered the chance of stargazing with their “Discovery at Sea” class, but sadly on that occasion, the weather was not on our side and the clouds obscured our view. It sounded like a really interesting idea to learn about the blanket of stars above our ship, so hopefully, on my next cruise, the clouds disappear at the right time.
There were 2 nights on board that were the “formal nights”, where everyone gets dressed up in their best suits and ball gowns. It really is quite a sight to behold, as the entire ship – all 3000 passengers (and 1200 crew) – suddenly morph from casual beach clothes into elegant evening wear. Once I was in my best threads, it also seemed the appropriate time to start working my way through the amazing martini menu at Crooner’s Bar, but with 85 to choose from, I had my work cut out for me! Once you’re dressed up, a visit to the ship’s theatre for one of their Broadway-style productions is a great way to maintain the glam lifestyle. During our cruise, there were comedy nights and my favourite, “Magic To Do” by the Oscar-winning composer Stephen Schwartz, full of impressive song and dance routines that lingered in the memory.
Another favourite of mine, in the evening the Crown Princess has one of the most scenic and unusual cinema screens possible – Movies Under The Stars. Imagine watching the latest Hollywood blockbuster with the roof and walls removed, your seat replaced by a sun lounger, under a canopy of clear skies and twinkling stars – going back to your local multiplex after that is going to be hard! For something a little livelier, there’s also a small nightclub (Skywalker’s) at the back of the ship, if you feel like dancing the night away after a day by the pool.
Spending time onboard a ship like the Crown Princess was a real joy – making the whole trip feel that the journey to get between destinations was just as much as fun as the cities and regions we visited.
All words and photos by Lee Hubbard, Lee was a guest of Princess Cruises but all his opinions are his own.