By Craig Forsyth - Partnerships, CLIA UK & Ireland Sailing with Princess Cruises – Academy at Sea onboard Emerald Princess
Last month I was lucky enough to be back on board Princess Cruises, but this time it wasn't just for a ship visit as part of a CLIA event. I joined around 40 UK travel agents on board the beautiful Emerald Princess for Princess Cruises, Academy at Sea - an annual fam trip programme giving travel agents that all-important first-hand experience of cruising. We were in the capable hands of Mark, Nicki, Zoe & Kayleigh and we were sailing from Southampton to Dublin (Dun Lagaohrie), visiting Cobh (pronounced Cove) & Cork on the way. We were originally scheduled to stop in St. Peter Port, Guernsey, but as a sign of respect to her late Majesty the port was closed on the bank holiday, the day of the funeral. Princess Cruises handled this last minute schedule change superbly and made special provision on board for passengers to watch the funeral in private or public around the ship and no activities were programmed to allow people to choose how to pay their respects/ spend the day.
We sailed through check-in and were given our personalized Medallion - it actually has your name on it - and calmly embarked with hardly any queuing at all. I had a small case only which I took on board with me, which meant I spared no time finding my stateroom on the Aloha Deck A435, midship - great location. The crew were extremely friendly and very helpful and I was told I was a VIP! Thank you Princess Cruises - nice touch. As part of the programme I had the Princess Plus Package including great wi-fi & drinks, alcoholic & non-alcoholic under €12,00. The Medallion made life so much easier on board - even opening your stateroom door once you approached, and you could check on your account, find fellow passengers, reserve all kinds of activities & much more on the Medallion App. Ordering drinks at all times of day or night (in person or via the app & have the drinks waiter find you) and disembarking & embarking at itinerary stops, all handled by this clever medallion! Brilliant!
Once settled in to my very comfortable stateroom it was time to explore and get my bearings. Safety video watched I headed to check in at my muster station - another seamless process. Full of good intentions I then headed straight to the fitness centre with state of the art equipment & Lotus Spa on Deck 16, the Sun deck at the front of the ship. The treadmills afforded an amazing panoramic view out to sea of where we were headed & the Lotus Spa looked amazing. The Lotus Pool with jacuzzis offers a quiet corner for a dip and to soak up the sun and the beauty salon and treatment rooms are there for also. The Sanctuary one deck up on the Sports deck, an adult only Spa area looked like an oasis of calm, but all other pool areas, of which there are many never seemed too busy throughout the cruise. The Movies Under the Stars – midship deck 16 - with an amphitheatre-like set up of sun beds & reclining sun chairs would be the ideal place to watch a blockbuster, in the sunshine or wrapped up in a blanket on cooler days & at night.
The Treehouse & The Lodge at Camp Discovery plus The Beach House Teen Lounge – midship deck 17 - looked great, but quite rightly there dedicated for the young cruisers and are adult-free zones. Keeping tabs on your young ones is made easy as the medallion logs their location & you can track them down on the app!
I enjoyed a couple in-stateroom breakfasts was a frequent visitor to the Salty Dog Grill for a dog, a taco or a burger and the adjacent The Mix pool bar for a drink or two. The Fresh Food Market Place offered up a dizzying array of eating options and we dined in the Da Vinci restaurant a couple of times which was fantastic. There are 3 restaurants aboard: The Da Vinci Michelangelo offer anytime dining, and the Botticelli has a fixed time dining format. If you fancy a treat you should try out one of the speciality restaurants; Crown Grill – steakhouse or Sabatini’s gourmet Italian. After drinks in Adagio we moved next door to Sabatini’s for our speciality dinning evening and it did not disappoint.
I have to admit I sloped off early on the first night to take full advantage of what has to be one of the most comfortable beds I’ve ever slept in, but there were lots of evening entertainment options on board and some great shows. Skywalkers Nightclub, a great night club was the scene of some questionable dance moves, mainly my own, but I always left before the lights came on, some didn’t!
The service was exceptional throughout the cruise, with all crew going that extra mile & always with a smile. Thanks very much Princess Cruises and job well done to Mark & the team.