Tag: Sky Princess (Page 1 of 2)

All At Sea

Today is an ‘at sea’ day which means a lot of doing nothing. There’s breakfast, lunch and dinner and some cocktails in between.

So rather than describe a whole lot of nothing, here’s some general observations about cruising:


Family holidays are great – we know because we’ve had a few in our time. But on a cruise? No chance.

By day, the pools are full of kids so there’s no room for adults. There’s also a distinct scummy film on the surface of the water. By night, they run across the deck in packs, their thundering heavy footfalls echoing loudly in our cabin stateroom until well after midnight.

Call me a grumpy old man, but the adults-only Princess Cruises we went on last year were much more enjoyable.

Top tip: The water will be absolutely filthy if the kids have been in the pools. Head to the adults-only pool towards the front of the ship instead.

Sunbed etiquette

Brits love to complain about Germans and their penchant for getting up early to reserve sunbeds at beach resorts – but just you try and get a deck chair onboard a cruise ship. Like their teutonic counterparts, there are dedicated cruisers who head up to the deck before 8am to reserve groups of sunbeds before heading off to breakfast. Many will not return until several hours later.

Top tip: There is a very small number of deckchairs located on Deck 7. You will normally only enjoy sun for half of the day (the deck is in the shadow of the ship at times), but you do have a slim chance of scoring a sunbed.

Tomorrow we land in La Rochelle, France. Still no idea what we will do when we get there though.

La Rochelle – Famous Pubs

With the exception of Paris, I never have particularly high hopes when visiting France. So we went into La Rochelle with quite low expectations.

Because the ‘international cruise terminal’ is actually a working dock, you need to get a transfer bus into the city – fortunately these were laid on at no additional expense by Princess Cruises. From our balcony we watch dozens of coaches start lining up on the dock as the ship comes into port.

After breakfast, the chaos of boarding begins. In the plaza area of the ship, guests are given tickets with a group name – as the name is called, they are herded down the gangway and off the ship to a waiting bus. As a show of their post-Brexit ire, French border officials force every single passenger to make a detour through the immigration hall – and then do not check a single passport.

Eventually Lin and I make it on to a coach and we’re driven to a spot just outside the centre of the town. The journey takes around 12 minutes – not 25 as the cruise director assured us. Then it’s a short walk in the gusting drizzle along the seafront and into the centre of the old town.

As we pass the Chain Tower, we come across a number of boats offering tours out to Fort Boyard (€20 each). We seriously consider it for a while, but decide we should explore a bit of the town instead, especially as the rain has stopped.

We wander up a few lanes and take a look at the ‘famous’ market. It’s OK. Then we run out of ideas – the local escape room hasn’t responded to my queries, and it’s a risk to catch a bus out of the centre of the town without confirmation they will be open. So we wander around a few more old streets, heading back to the old harbour.

Afterwards, a stop at ‘The Famous Pub‘ on the quay for a beer. We snag a seat on the patio and in my crappy GCSE level French order a Kronenbourg (Lin) and an Atlantic Grand Cru (me) for €14. Mine tastes like cider. Then it starts to rain. Heavily. We retreat indoors to finish our beers.

Beer drunk, we give up on La Rochelle and head back to the ship. We head down to the main dining room for afternoon tea – sandwiches, cakes and scones – served at record speed. We return to the cabin stateroom to watch as we leave port – and the ship is delayed while we wait for one of the private hire tour groups to return.

Afterwards we grab a drink and head to the Princess Theatre for the early showing of Rock Opera. As you would expect, there are lots of rock songs performed operatically – and a few opera songs sung in a rock style. The men’s acapella rendition of Simon & Garfunkel’s Sound of Silence is a particular high point.

Overnight, the captain will be spanking the Sky Princess – we’re due to dock in Getxo (Bilbao) by 7am…

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.

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.

Boarding Sky

Thanks to jet lag we’re both awake long before 6am so I volunteer to go and get coffee. After convincing the sleeping desk clerk to open the front door I realise it’s raining. As I step into the street I realise it’s raining

I cross a few blocks without finding a single open coffee shop. For a city that never sleeps, New York seems to be closed a lot. Disappointed I return to the hotel and we both wait for breakfast.

The shower in our room is rubbish, as is the WiFi, but the toiletries are decent. The breakfast is limited in choice but plentiful. We both agree that The Wall Street Inn is actually pretty decent and has much more character than one of the hundreds of chain hotels in the city. We would come back.

We check out just after 10am and walk down to Pier 11 to catch the ferry to the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal in Red Hook. The trip will cost $4 each and drops us right next to the ship. Once there however, it turns out that the ship is not yet ready to accept new arrivals. The terminal fills up quickly with stroppy cruisers who want to start their holiday.

Finally we are allowed on board Sky Princess. We stop for our customary sandwich and cocktail in the Plaza and then head up to our cabin stateroom to unpack. This time round we have booked a balcony room and the reduction in space is quite noticeable. But such is life.

With nothing planned, we spend the rest of the day chilling onboard the Sky Princess. Tomorrow we will do a little more exploring.

Back to the city

Initially we had planned to do some dark tourism on Roosevelt Island, but in the end we decide it’s too much hassle to catch two NYC ferries upriver.

Instead we decide to go full tourist and head towards Times Square. Seeing the enormous queue for the NYC ferry, we opt to walk to the nearest subway station (Smith-9 Streets). 

Top tip: You can save a few seconds by buying tickets through the NYC Ferry app. This will allow you to sidestep the ultra-long queue at the ticket vending machine.
Given that there are many hundreds of cruise passengers waiting for each ferry and that this particular route only runs every 40 minutes, you may need to consider the long walk to the subway.
Downloads: iOS / Android

It’s a good 20-25 minute walk through some areas that Linda thinks are a little ‘sketchy’. But hey, that’s Red Hook for you. And it’s still faster than waiting for an NYC ferry that we might not even get on.

Thankfully, it’s straight through on the ‘F’ train to 42 Street-Bryant Pk. Once there we take the obligatory tourist pics in Times Square, then head towards the Garment District because Lin wants to buy some zips. We trawl through a few shops without success before giving up. 

Heading back to the subway we stop at Yard House to sample some of their 260 beers on tap. It’s not cheap, but at least we get to try as many as we like before committing to a full glass. The classic rock soundtrack is pretty cool too.

Afterwards we decide to go straight back to the ship. Even though we don’t sail until 7pm, we don’t want to get caught up in a mega-queue for the NYC ferry again. We arrive 30 minutes before the next ferry and are both extremely relieved to find the queue is quite manageable at Pier 11. But it starts to grow. And Grow. And grow.

As we queue, the ferry employees announce that President Joe Biden will be in town tonight – and that the ferry will close from 5pm for a few hours to accommodate him. That could cause some problems for cruisers returning after dinner! We’re entertained by a constant procession of helicopters landing at the pier side heliport – and the presidential air convoy as it passes overhead.

Back on board we watch as Manhattan slips away in the darkness. It looks spectacular from the water. 

Tomorrow we arrive in Newport, Rhode Island.

More than a feeling

Another day, another port, another ridiculous accent. Today we’re in Boston, the city where the British Empire began to crumble.

There’s a massive crush leaving the ship – the city has laid on several shuttle buses to take the assembled masses into the city centre. Even cooler, the shuttles are actually the big yellow school buses so ubiquitous on US TV. Obviously, this entails much moaning from entitled cruisers – which is weird, because the buses are free.

We’re dropped off near the city aquarium and immediately head off looking for some dark tourist sights. Our wander takes us along some of the ‘world famous’ Freedom Trail, and we do encounter a few sites that were pivotal in the American Revolution. Obviously, we’re not taught about this episode in British schools, so the significance is somewhat wasted on us.

We managed to grab a few geocaches on the walk, eventually arriving at Copp’s Hill Burying Ground. There’s some impressively old gravestones to check out and the visit is enlivened by a re-enactment troupe doing their schtick.

Dark tourist tendencies sated, we head back in town in the hope of finding somewhere selling a Boston Cream Pie. We fail. Instead we stop for a beer in the sunshine at The Landing overlooking Central Wharf. Being in Boston, it has to be one of the Samuel Adams variants for me.

Bah Hah Bah

Today we’re in Bar Harbor, another famous New England town. With another fun little tender trip into port.

Annoyingly, it’s Sunday, so there’s not a lot open. Worse still, the cruisers are mutinous and the level of anger is higher than normal – no one wants to queue for tenders.

When we finally arrive onshore, we head up the slope into the centre of town. All the usual tourist traps are open flogging ‘Bah Hah Bah’ tat. But none of the bars are open. In fact, many won’t be opening until it’s time for us to embark Sky Princess.

We kill some time geocaching before making an early trip back to the ship.

Top tip: Don’t visit Bar Harbor on a Sunday, and don’t expect an early afternoon beer.


Overnight we’ve crossed the international border, docking in the early morning at Saint John on the Bay of Fundy. The port is right next to the town, so it’s only a short walk after disembarkation.


Not so great – it’s Canadian Thanksgiving and everything is closed. Everything.

We wander up steep streets into the middle of the city – again, mostly deserted. Eventually we discover the local market has opened specially to capture business from the tourists on Sky Princess. Annoyingly, there’s nothing we’re really interested in buying.

Perhaps worst of all, we can’t even score a local beer. Early return to Sky Princess.

Definitely not Yorkshire

Today we’re in Halifax, Nova Scotia, which is nice. claiming to be ‘The World’s Friendliest Cruise Port’, we’re even greeted by a bagpiper down on the dock.

In the cruise terminal, a local guide directs us towards a bus that will take us out to a true dark tourism site – the Fairlawn Cemetery. This is the final resting place for the majority of victims recovered from Titanic. The range of ages and occupations is extremely interesting – as is the fact that some of the people still have not been identified.

Afterwards we take a walk to a local shopping mall. On the way we pass a much less well-known dark tourism site, the West End Cemetery. This unassuming black-fenced lot is the final resting place of 125 victims of the Halifax Explosion – an event that levelled most of the city in 1917. I doubt that any of the cruise excursions go past this relatively anonymous corner of the city.

Another bus back from the mall and we stop at the Garrison Brewery on the dock. This is a great excuse to try out one of their beer flights – and sample five beers at once. It certainly makes up for not trying any local brews yesterday.

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