MOONLIGHT, a bubbling hot tub, a refreshing cold beer and a Hollywood blockbuster playing on a giant TV screen above.
Life doesn’t get much more relaxing than this. Or maybe it does . . .
For this is Movies Under The Stars on the pool deck of the Sky Princess cruise ship as enjoyed on a blustery autumnal evening on the Irish Sea.
One can only imagine how cool it would be while sailing off the coast of Spain or around the Canary Islands.
And that is something Sky Princess passengers can look forward to in the months ahead as the cruise industry gets back to normal after the height of the pandemic.
The 3,660-passenger Royal Class ship is the newest in the 14-strong Princess fleet. It made its maiden voyage in October 2019, but the arrival of Covid-19 meant that, after a temporary halt to all cruises, Sky Princess was then restricted to seacations around the UK.
But with restrictions easing, the 1,083ft-long ship has an enticing expanded itinerary for 2022.
And the good news for UK cruise-goers, particularly those who prefer to avoid flying, is that Sky Princess will be the company’s “home ship” next year with a variety of cruises sailing from Southampton between March and October.
Round-trip destinations will include Scandinavia, the Baltics, Iceland, Spain, France, Portugal, the Canary Islands, the Mediterranean, Canada and New England.
On its final cruise from Southampton in 2022, the ship will sail to its winter home port of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
The Sky Princess’s 19 decks house an impressive range of facilities. Describing it as a “floating hotel” hardly does it justice. It is more of a classy holiday resort.
The spacious main pool deck features two pools with plenty of seating. The centrepiece is the 3,000-square-foot TV screen which boasts stunning picture quality and excellent sound.
As well as movies, selected sports events also get the big-screen treatment on occasions.
Passengers cheered British tennis sensation Emma Raducanu to victory when the US Open final was shown during a seacation in September.
If you prefer to avoid the on-deck entertainment, there is a separate adults-only Retreat pool, while the infinity-style Wake View pool at the stern provides a mesmerising vista as well as its own bar.
If you really want to get away from it all, you can book a lounger or cabana for an extra fee in the exclusive Sanctuary hideaway on the top deck.
Go for a post-lunch slot and you’ll be treated to afternoon tea including cakes, scones and sandwiches.
Spa facilities are also available for an added charge, including The Enclave, a thermal suite where the features include a hydrotherapy pool with a cascading rain shower.
There are multiple dining options included in the cruise fare — too many to list, in fact — and the standard of the food is excellent from the poolside pizza and burger bars to the World Fresh Marketplace buffet and three main restaurant dining areas.
For an extra charge, passengers can also enjoy a meal at several top-class restaurants featuring menus put together under Princess Cruises’ Chef Partnerships scheme.
For example, the Sur La Mer is a French bistro with a menu designed by three-Michelin Star chef Emmanuel Renaut.
For a really indulgent treat, Ultimate Balcony Dining gives passengers the chance to enjoy breakfast or dinner with personal service on their balcony, a quirky and charming experience well worth the charge, per couple, of around £33 for breakfast or £72 for dinner.
GO: Sky Princess cruise
Sky Princess 2022 cruises from Southampton start from £489pp (or £699pp all-inclusive fare) for a seven-night Spain and France sailing, calling at Bordeaux, Bilbao and La Coruna.
See princess.com or call 0344 338 8663.
Other ways to enjoy your time at sea include a large gym, a casino and various bars and lounges.
Evening entertainment includes stage shows at the ship’s theatre featuring West End performers and quizzes and comedy in the popular Princess Live lounge area.
Holidaying at sea may not be everyone’s cup of tea and only by giving it a try will you know if it suits you. There is certainly nothing stuffy about cruises these days.
The dress code is as casual or as formal as you want it to be, as are the dining experiences.
Cruising is definitely a good way to tick off places on your bucket list in a relatively short space of time although one drawback for some might be the limits on time spent at on-shore destinations.
This particular seacation included two stops — at Greenock, near Glasgow and Belfast — and the two hours spent at the Giant’s Causeway on the coast of Northern Ireland was not really long enough to fully explore one of the UK’s most spectacular natural attractions.
Holidaying at sea may not be everyone’s cup of tea and only by giving it a try will you know if it suits you
On-shore excursions are not included in the price of your cruise and, as already indicated, some experiences on board also come at an additional fee.
If you are on a tight budget, a full and enjoyable break can certainly be enjoyed without forking out for on-board extras.
But it does probably make sense to upgrade to the Princess Plus package at £30 per day per person as, on top of a £15-a-day allowance on the vast majority of alcohol by the glass — this will cover bottled water, all branded non-alcoholic drinks and speciality coffees and teas.
And there is the added bonus of unlimited use of the wifi.
Central to the Princess Cruises experience is the innovative MedallionClass — cutting-edge new technology now installed on the fleet.
Each passenger is issued with an OceanMedallion, a personalised device about the size of a 10p coin which interacts with thousands of sensors on the ship.
Among the many benefits of the system are your cabin door automatically unlocking as you approach, making dinner reservations and ordering drinks and food to pretty much any location on the ship without leaving your seat.
To get the most out of the experience, you will need to use the MedallionClass app, which contains wide-ranging information about the ship and cruise.
Cruising is definitely a good way to tick off places on your bucket list in a relatively short space of time
On the whole, the system works brilliantly, with orders made via the app delivered within minutes by the friendly and efficient staff. The app, though, does operate better on some mobile devices than others, which can be frustrating.
Hopefully these minor problems will soon be ironed out, with the company assuring us that they are aware of some issues with the app and are working on improving the experience for all users.
If you do not get on with the app, it is not essential once on board. Passengers can use large touchscreens situated around the ship and the TV sets in each room also allow you to access MedallionClass features.
And, of course, you can still use the old-fashioned approach to ordering drinks or making bookings by simply asking a crew member.
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