Category: Cruise (Page 1 of 6)

Useful tips and tricks when travelling on a cruise ship, including what to see and do.

Bilbao – Spider

Another day, another port, another stop with no definite plans. Again, Princess has laid on free buses to transfer us from the port in Getxo to the centre of Bilbao, not far from the Bilbao Guggenheim art gallery.

Top tip: Getxo port is miles away from Bilbao city centre. If your cruise line does not provide transfer buses, you may have to catch a local train from Getxo instead.

On the way we decide we should visit the picturesque old town. We also decide to do some geocaches on the way in the hope of finding our 700th, starting on the waterfront behind the gallery.

I have history of getting into trouble when visiting modern art galleries, so we don’t bother going into the Bilbao Guggenheim, opting instead for a walk along the waterfront. There are a couple of inventive geocaches along the way which makes the walk fun.

Eventually we arrive in the old town and head to the Plaza Nueva for a well-earned beer. As we imbibe a Mahou, a group of teenagers on a school trip begin an impromptu sports day. A few relay races are followed by several games of tug o’ war. The kids all look like they are having fun – and this is definitely not something you would ever see in Britain, let alone in the centre of the city.

We walk back towards the drop-off point and collect a few more geocaches on the way. The queue for the coaches to the ship are quite long, but move relatively quickly.

Because we’re back on ship long before sailing, we head down to the Goods Spirits bar and collect a drink (Prosecco for Lin) before going to afternoon tea. Afterwards we watch our departure from our balcony – the Spanish coast is quite impressive.

CA pilgrimage near Coruña

Normally we don’t bother with cruise excursions (too expensive). But given the difficulties of getting to Santiago de Compostela, we have decided to take an official guided tour to ensure we get there and back before the ship leaves. Mainly because it’s too far and too complicated to get there ourselves.

We’re met on the dock by our incredibly enthusiastic tour guide who herds us onto a coach for the journey along “The Way of St James“. We’re treated to a commentary about how Santiago de Compostela came into existence and the legend behind the town. Something to do with a pair of dudes transporting the corpse of St James from Israel to Spain in a stone boat and then leaving it in the forest where it is discovered accidentally by a farmer a few hundreds years later. I think.

Along the way we have been warned that the city is very busy with many more pilgrims visiting than usual. We’re rushed off the bus and into the main square outside the church. We’re given some more details about the church and meaning behind the various figures on its walls.

The queue to get into the church is mercifully small, so we’re set loose for 20 minutes to have a look. To say the altar piece is spectacular would be an understatement. We’ve been to Rome and still not seen anything quite like this.

Outside the church our guide realises that the queue to see the reliquary of the Apostle James is very, very short. So we queue to go into the church again through another door. Apparently we have arrived during the year of jubilee – James’ tomb is only open every ten years, so we have got lucky.

Afterwards we see a few more sights and then are left to our own devices for an hour. After searching for ages we finally find a bar that sells Estrella Galicia – we’ve been waiting to try it ever since watching Money Heist. Fortunately it’s not too bad. we also manage to find our 700th geocache while we wait for the rest of the tour party in the main square.

We head back onto the coach and drive back to the port. We have enough time to take a quick look at A Coruña but decide to head back onboard the ship to grab some lunch. We will have to come back another day to see what we missed.

We’re also “lucky” enough to catch one of the Disney Cruise ships leaving. Although they get a fire ship fountain send-off, the ‘When you wish upon a star’ horn is embarrassingly poor – even Princess’ ‘Love Boat’ theme is meatier. They get a good blast from our captain as they depart.

Again, the view as we leave port is impressive. We can clearly see the Lighthouse of Hercules from our balcony which is a nice treat.

A picture of the Roman lighthouse which can be seen just outside A Coruna
This lighthouse is about 1500 years older than America

The evening is another whirl of drinking and dining. And we have a day at sea tomorrow, which is nice.

At sea again

Another day at sea and another opportunity to share some random observations.

The Princess Medallion

Every passenger is issued with a Princess medallion that works very much like Apple’s AirTags. The device is worn on a lanyard and can be used to ‘pay’ for goods and services on board. It is also used by the crew to locate you when placing an order for table service. And it unlocks your cabin stateroom door too. Clever stuff.

Notably, each medallion has a colour that relates to Princess’ Captain’s Circle loyalty program. First time cruisers are blue. 2-3 trips and you upgrade to gold, then ruby for 4-5, followed by platinum for 5+ . Hardcore cruisers attain elite status (black) after 15 voyages or 150 nights at sea.

The trouble is that when your Princess medallion is hung around your neck, everyone can see your status – and there’s a definite snobbery between travellers. Unlucky blue newbies – everyone is judging you.


There is only really one topic of conversation on a cruise – cruising. Cruisers love to brag about how many cruises they have been on and with which cruise line. Sometimes it seems like number of cruises you have been on is actually more important than where you went.

Anyway, Guernsey tomorrow.

A night at the Moxy

Departure port: Southampton
Destinations: Oslo, Copenhagen, Skagen
Cruise Line: Princess Cruises

We had a decent journey down to Southampton, taking just 2.5 hours. Before checking into the hotel we drive down to the Town Quay car park so we can watch the MSC Virtuosa sail. We’re considering booking a cruise on the ship in December, so we’d like to see what she looks like – and to catch what turns out to be a decent sunset.

She’s big.

Afterwards, we go back to the West Quay car park, using the ‘secret’ back door on level 1 to exit into the car park behind the Moxy hotel.

We’re both tired and can’t be bothered to go hunting for food, so we opt to eat a pizza in the Moxy ‘restaurant’. £10 is a lot for a frozen pizza, but such is the cost of convenience – at least they have beer on draught.

The room is comfortable and familiar (we have stayed here before). Unfortunately we have a rear-facing room – great for keeping traffic noise out, but you can’t see the ships that dock at City Terminal in the morning.


Top tip: Unless you’re an avid collector of Marriott Bonvoy hotel points, book through ebookers or to get the best rates – you should be able to pick up a room for about £70 if you book in advance. Plus you will earn cash back or points through their loyalty schemes too.

Come sail away

There’s only one ship in town today, so the roads around Southampton are far less busy. Embarkation at City Terminal is smooth and painless – especially as we have now reached Platinum status with Princess Cruises. This entitles us to priority boarding, which is nice. There is also no longer any need to provide proof of a negative Covid test, which dramatically speeds up the check-in process.

Onboard, and everything feels very familiar. We have a sandwich and a cocktail, visit our cabin stateroom, enjoy the ‘complimentary’ glass of bubbles and head down to the dining room for lunch. Later we go out on deck to witness our departure from port to the strains of Styx’s classic Come Sail Away.

Later after dinner we visit the Vista Lounge in the hope of playing in the quiz being hosted by celebrity chef, John Torode. It’s standing room only, so we head back to our stateroom and watch a movie instead.

Tomorrow is a sea day, so everyone onboard is hitting the bars hard. Things could be messy at breakfast.


Sea day

A day at sea means little more than eating, drinking and lazing. Which is nice.

After dinner we head to Crooners Bar on Deck 6 and score two seats at the bar. This turns out to be a risky move as Richard, head bartender, rarely serves the drink you order. Instead he will yell ‘boring’ before presenting you with another drink he thinks you will prefer – and he’s inevitably right.

Top tip: Do not order a ‘Dirty Banana’ from Richard – this is guaranteed to make him yell ‘Boring!’

Later we head down to the Princess Theatre. Tonight I made the mistake of submitting a terrible joke / question for the celebrity cooking show in the main theatre. On the plus side, I got to eat an inch-thick porterhouse steak and deep fried squid cooked by John Torode, so there is that.

Oslo tomorrow.

Coping in Carlsberg, Copenhagen

Docking at midday, we had initially planned to spend the day at Tivoli. However, the weather looks pretty poor so we decide to try something different.

Boarding the 164 bus from the stop directly opposite the cruise terminal, we head down to the Nordhavn train station. We then jump on the ‘B’ train down to Carlsberg station (definitely not probably the best station in the world).

Top tip: You can buy a 24 hour ticket valid for all public transport for 80 DKK from the vending machine next to the kebab shop opposite the cruise terminal

This area used to be the home of the original Carlsberg brewery and there are some great brick building reminders. However, we’re here for the Elephant Gate:

Suspicious elephant seen, we’re back on the bus towards Assistens Cemetery for some more dark tourism. Here we come across two ‘celebrity’ graves – Hans Christian Andersen and Nils Bohr. The graveyard is surprisingly busy – not with tourists, but dozens of Danes walking and jogging.

There are also some quite unusual headstones to see:

We walk back up to the Nørrebros Runddel metro station and hop on the M3 to Copenhagen central station. We score an outside table at the very welcoming Jernbanecafeen and sample a local ale. The pub is a family-run affair and very well looked after – apparently it is also the third best bar in Copenhagen. Again, not cheap, but more pleasant than many we have visited.

Afterwards it’s back to the ship and a quick snooze before dinner.

Hop on, hop off

We’ve been to Copenhagen before, doing our own whistle-stop tour of sights from The Bridge. Because the ship sails early at 4pm, there isn’t a huge amount of time to do anything.

We decide to take it easy. There’s two or three geocaches (#GC4GQMG, #GC85DRJ and #GC5752N) within easy walking distance of the ship, so we decide to find those, then spend the rest of the day lazing onboard.

The caches take us an hour or two, then we try out the hot tubs. That’s plenty of activity for today.

Skagen tomorrow.

Fishy town

We arrive in Skagen early in the morning. As soon as we open the balcony doors we are greeted by the overwhelming smell of fish – this is very much a working fishing port.

We had planned to do an escape room in Skagen, but realise it’s further from the port than we initially thought. We then discuss doing the six mile round trip to the Skagen lighthouse on foot.

Instead we buy two shuttle bus tickets. One for the short journey into the centre of the town and a second for the trip to Grenen. We take the opportunity to grab a quick geocache (#GC3C3KE) in the centre of town before boarding the second bus. This takes us out to the very end of Denmark, the point where the North and Baltic seas meet.

Even from Grenen car park, it is a considerable walk across sand dunes and the beach, but eventually we reach a very long, thin sand bar that marks the meeting point. Rolling up our trousers we do the tourist thing and stand with one foot in each sea. Clichéd perhaps, but still good fun – and the weather is lovely.

For dark tourists, there are several WW2 bunkers left behind by the Germans in varying states of disrepair.

After the epic walk we are glad we bought the shuttle bus tickets – even though we have to queue for about 45 minutes for the next bus.

Skagen itself is fairly unremarkable, but it was apparently incredibly popular with Danish artists over the years. Something to do with the light apparently. Lin reckons she could spend another day easygoing here, looking around and maybe enjoying one of the local restaurants.

Tonight is formal night and we have been invited to the Elite Captain’s Circle cocktail party. Held in the Vista Lounge, one must pass a phalanx of senior ship crew who applaud you as you enter – a little disconcerting for us as relative newcomers to cruising.

Once seated we are treated to free cocktails and a short presentation by the chief officer for guest loyalty. The three most travelled guests are each awarded a bottle of champagne and then we are sent on our way once more.

Afterwards we take our chances at Crooners Bar once more. It’s fun.

Homeward bound

Another day at sea is another excuse to try out the hot tubs on deck. We are lucky and manage to secure a space in one on the main deck. I even do a few laps of the (unheated) swimming pool in a fit of madness.

The day is unremarkable. After dinner we go to the Princess Theatre, this time to catch celebrity chef and presenter of BBC’s Saturday Kitchen, Matt Tebbutt. Although he cooks a couple of dishes, the session is mainly memorable for the banter. Matt is hilarious and interacts well with a group of alcohol-fuelled ladies who heckle him almost continuously. We have a great time.

We’ve really enjoyed this voyage, so it will be a shame to wake up in Southampton tomorrow. Fortunately we have a trip to New York booked for early October…

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