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My very first cruise – Royal Princess British Isles
I was very excited, if a bit apprehensive, to be given the opportunity to join the Royal Princess cruise ship for the last two days of the British Isles cruise. I have friends who have been on cruises for the first time and thoroughly enjoyed them but this one was a first for me. I really believe that you should be open to new experiences so I was determined to embrace the opportunity with no preconceptions though with a little apprehension.
We flew to Edinburgh on Wednesday afternoon and stayed at the Premier Inn, close to the city centre. That evening we dined at the Scran and Scalie, a gastropub is part of the Tom Kitchin group. The food was tasty, upmarket, pub food. Beautifully presented it was enjoyed by all.
The Premier Inn was quiet and the bed very comfortable so after a good night’s sleep, we were all set the following morning for the Bagpipes and Whisky tour at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society in Edinburgh. This tour is one of the excursions offered to guests on board the Royal Princess when it is docked at Queensferry.
As we arrived at the venue we were welcomed by Louise Marshall, the famous Scottish piper, who was playing the bagpipes at the entrance. This female piper has played at many high-profile events both in the UK and overseas and I’ve never heard the bagpipes played so well. We were then given some background detail on how the Scotch Malt Whisky Society came about and the process involved in making whisky by our host, Fin Anderson, before sampling three whiskies from the many casks stored by the society. I’m not a great fan of whisky but entered into the spirit of the tasting prepared to be convinced otherwise. I did prefer the second glass, from a cask first used to age sherry, but found the last one extremely peaty and I have to confess, I still wouldn’t choose whisky if I was given an option.
We then had a very amusing session with Louise using the bagpipe chanter which looks similar to a slimmed down recorder. This is used to practice playing before going on to the bagpipes proper and would take considerably longer than the time we had although we gave it a go and hit some of the notes.
We travelled on to Queensferry to take a tender to the ship. My first view of the Princess Royal, I was amazed at the sheer size of our ship, it looked so impressive moored out in the water. We were soon on board having quickly passed through security and were given our cruise cards, vital for entering our cabins and used on board for the purchase of any extras in the shops or bars.
We were then shown to our cabins, I was on deck 11 (there are 19 decks on the ship) and I was delighted to find my cabin had a balcony. It was also bigger than I thought it would be, with ample storage, a comfy seat and a bathroom with a shower, toilet and sink. There were plenty of towels and complimentary soap and toiletries as you would expect from a good hotel. My only issue was that I didn’t have an adaptor to charge my phone and the sockets were EU ones. Something to remember for next time!
Having settled in, we met for pre-dinner drinks at the Wheelhouse Bar located on Deck 7. Finding my way there was a good opportunity to get some orientation of the ship. Whilst we were sipping our drinks I realised that the ship was moving, we were well on our way.
We dined at The Crown Grill Steakhouse, one of several restaurants on board which charges a reasonable supplement to guests who want to try one of the speciality restaurants. I had a hearty dinner of black tiger prawns with papaya followed by black and blue onion soup and steak Mignon with crispy fries, creamed spinach, asparagus and wild mushrooms. For dessert, I shared a taster plate of the main choices as the other courses were very filling.
I slept very well that night; although you could feel the ship was moving it was very smooth with a gentle hum of the engines in the background. After breakfast in the Horizon Court (deck 16), a buffet with both cooked and continental options, it was time to have a tour of the ship to help us to get our bearings. We then met up at the Princess Theatre for a cookery demonstration with the Executive Chef Giovanni Sisto and Maître d’hôtel Nicola Furlan, one of many of the entertainment options on offer that day. It was a fun session and the chef gave us some handy tips for cooking pasta correctly. We had the chance to do a quick tour of the galley before having the opportunity to meet the chef and buy a signed copy of the book of ship’s recipes.
After a light lunch at the International Café on Deck 5 it was time for my spa treatment. I do love spas and I was really looking forward to having my Elemis Aroma Stone Massage. It lived up to my expectations and I came away feeling content and relaxed.
That evening the dress code was formal attire often the case for at least one evening during a cruise, a good excuse for everyone to dress up. We met for drinks at Bellinis Bar where, of course, I had to sample the signature drink of a classic Bellini – white peach puree, pomegranate and prosecco! We dined that evening at the Symphony dining room, one of the main options for eating included in the cost of a cruise. My starter was a crispy classic Caesar salad, followed by a delicious dish of roast pheasant with buttered roasted potatoes and green beans. For dessert a beautifully presented chocolate pudding.
After dinner we watched the Encore show at the Princess Theatre, a mixture of well-known opera and musicals songs before heading to the Atrium, (the hub of the ship), to see the stunning balloon drop.
I woke early the following morning as we had docked at Le Havre and I could hear the sound of fellow passengers preparing to go on shore excursions to Paris, etc.
Our group travelled to Honfleur, around 30 minutes by car from Le Havre. This pretty port has an abundance of artisan shops selling delicious biscuits and handmade chocolates. Despite the fact it was raining we spent several hours wandering around the town before lunching at l’Absinthe a typical French restaurant close to the harbour. I chose velvety langoustine soup followed by fillet of pollock and to finish the cheese board.
On returning to the ship we were treated to a tour behind the scenes at the bridge by the third officer. This large space covers the whole of the breadth of the ship and juts out so the officers can see on both sides. We were told that it takes two kilometres for the vessel to stop and that the bridge is manned 24/7 by a shift of crew members. The controls were very impressive though I was surprised there was no wheel for the captain to steer.
We dined that evening at Sabatini’s speciality restaurant, another restaurant available for a supplement. As you would expect the menu was Italian and the waitress very knowledgeably talked us through it. The food was excellent I started with artichoke and cheese soufflé, followed by seafood vongole which was prepared without tomatoes for me. For my main course, I chose the special of the day, Saltimbocca Alla Romana, which was tender and delicious. For dessert, I opted for an assortment of ice cream, once again too full to eat anything much more!
The Royal Princess docked early the following morning at Southampton having crossed the sea from Le Havre overnight.
Our final meal on board was breakfast, again at Sabatini’s. It was the perfect way to finish our time on board; freshly squeezed orange juice, a choice of delicious small pastries and a cooked option of poached egg with bacon.
Then it was time to collect our luggage and disembark. I certainly enjoyed my two days on board the Royal Princess, it was an eye-opener for me as I had never been on a cruise before. The food served on board was excellent, the staff friendly and attentive and there were lots of entertainment options on board. I would definitely consider a cruise for a future holiday if I wanted to visit a destination like the Norwegian Fjords or Alaska where I’m sure they would both be better accessed by sea.
We were guests of Princess Cruises joining the Royal Princess for the last two days of the twelve day British Isles Cruise.
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British Isles (with Dublin overnight)
August 17, 2018
Sailing roundtrip Southampton, ports of call are – Guernsey(St. Peter Port), Cork (Cobh), Dublin, Belfast, Glasgow (Greenock), Invergordon, Edinburgh and Le Havre (Paris/Normandy).
Prices from £1114 per person, (based on two guests sharing an inside stateroom)
British Isles (With Dublin overnight)
May 1, 2019
Sailing roundtrip from Southampton, ports of call are – Guernsey (St. Peter Port), Cork (Cobh), Dublin, Belfast, Glasgow (Greenock), Invergordon, Edinburgh and Le Havre (Paris/Normandy).
Prices from £1719 per person, with $100USD onboard credit, a bottle of red or white wine and a complimentary speciality meal per person (based on two guests sharing an inside stateroom) – offer valid until July 2, 2018.
For more information or to book a cruise visit www.princess.com, call 0344 338 8663 or contact your local travel agent.
All prices include accommodation, all main meals and onboard entertainment.