My normal Saturday routine goes something like this – work from 8-10am, do the housework, do the weekly shop, go for a bike ride, have a takeaway in the evening whilst watching X factor. I think you’ll agree, it’s a pretty exciting Saturday.
Except last Saturday, I did something much more enjoyable – I spent the day on board the Emerald Princess, one of Princess Cruises’ ships (ship not a boat).
I headed down to Southampton very early in the morning … VERY early, as it is a 2-3 hour drive from Kent. Had the obligatory wee/coffee stop at Fleet Services (Dexter’s favourite service station don’t you know?), and Siri got me there in one piece. As I went to get my parking ticket, I got talking to the parking attendant who happened to mention my passport. The passport you need to get on board. The passport that I’d left at home.
Minor panic ensued, but, as always, the first rule is … don’t panic. Which I had clearly disregarded, but the second rule is find a plan B, which I did, and after meeting the lovely PR team, we were soon on board enjoying an exotic cocktail (or two). Oh, and a jam doughnut.
The reason myself and a group of other bloggers were on board was to have a tour of the ship and eat lunch… quite frankly, I can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday.
I have sailed with Princess Cruises once before, when I did an assignment for Cruise International Magazine, after winning their Royal Correspondent writing competition, and so I was really excited to see what another one of their ships had to offer. Although unfortunately, there were no Bruce Forsyth photobombing opportunities on this ship – it’s a long story.
So after our cocktails and doughnuts, we were shown around the ship. First stop was to check out the brand-new restaurant on board called Share, which is headed up by the very lovely Curtis Stone who, very unfortunately, wasn’t there. I know him from my Australian Masterchef addiction and he is a fantastic chef, the perfect person to head up this restaurant. They’ve spent £1million refurbishing this area of the ship, and the restaurant is stunning. The whole premise behind Share is to bring people together and the menu features home-made pastas, premium quality meat and extremely decadent desserts. This restaurant doesn’t come included in your dining package, you have to pay extra, but I think it would definitely be worth it, especially if you are on board celebrating a special occasion.
I thought I would give you a link HERE to what all of the dining options are, what is included, more details of the speciality restaurants and the various packages you can choose from.
We were then lucky enough to have a look around the kitchen, a real behind-the-scenes tour that you would never normally be privy to, and our host, Roy, the head of Food and Beverages, was the font of all knowledge. From the tonnage of flour required every day (a lot) to the amount of separate rooms they have to store each food item (again, a lot), it’s amazing to think just how much work goes into running a ship like the Emerald Princess.
All of the staterooms we saw were surprisingly spacious, and I was particularly interested to see what the inner rooms looked like, the ones that didn’t have a balcony. OK, they’re not quite the same – clearly, they don’t have a balcony, but they’re not claustrophobic at all and when you think about how much time you actually spend in your room, and how much you’d save (if you’re on a budget), it’s well worth considering.
We briefly popped into the kids’ clubs, and if you’d like to know more about them, then just click on the link HERE to read more. But suffice to say, as could be expected, the level of childcare is extremely high, each club covers different age ranges so all activities are age appropriate and, let’s be honest, the childcare is so good that if you only wanted to see your children for breakfast/dinner, you could. Just putting that out there!
Before I share lots of gratuitous shots of the luscious lunch we ate, I just want to tell you about two of my favourite things about the ship.
Firstly, there’s an area of the ship that’s either at the front … or back, I got confused, but it’s for adults only and is called The Sanctuary. You pay a surcharge but you can escape completely to this plush, outdoor spa-inspired setting with signature beverages, light meals, massages, attentive service and relaxing personal entertainment. Oh, and luxurious his and hers massages together in a covered cabana. Nice! It’s located on the upper deck and is $20 each for half a day (with extras on top of course.)
And the other thing that I thought was a really lovely touch was the ‘Movies Under The Stars’ events where, as the name suggests, you watch movies on a massive outdoor screen sitting besides the main pool. They show sporting events and feature-length films, and provide padded cushions, warm throws, cocktails and popcorn! And, of course, there are eateries dotted all around the ship that provide food that you can take with you – you need never go hungry!
A quick word about our lunch. Delicious!
(The photos speak for themselves.)
A big thank you to Princess Cruises for inviting me and making me feel so special … the gift of handmade chocolates went down very well!