Well, we’ve been on the Sea Princess now for a month and how time has flown. But what a time we’ve had!
So I thought it was time to write you a letter, about what life is like on board.
Letter from the Sea Princess.
Much of the time on this first leg has been spent on the high seas with long sea legs between ports and initially some pretty rough weather, but we’ve been really busy and had many interesting and exciting experiences.
In this time we’ve transformed from newbie cruisers into seasoned salties! Lol!
The first three weeks were absolutely hectic with hardly time to breathe as we got used to the new environment and routine. I was working round the clock to accumulate information, meet and interview people, prepare and publish blogs and social media posts as well as getting used to a new way of operating from a ship’s cabin shared with Dave rather than my spacious home office, and of course much slower internet. Initially, I have to say, there was quite a bit of stress in amongst all the excitement and getting the right balance of mixing business with pleasure wasn’t easy.
Dave had to learn to relax and leave his normal work behind, but report to an even harder taskmaster – Jo! He’s been great in so many ways, such as taking over all the photography and photo editing side of things, helping me with blog post ideas and videos, and asking pertinent questions during interviews.
What is there to do on board?
There is so much to do on board, and the nightly Princess Patter Newsletter outlines everything there is to do. Initially we tried to sample it all, but have calmed down a little bit now. There’s everything from choir to zumba to crafters corner to Mahjong to table tennis to … you name it! Currently Dave is ensconced in an enrichment lecture series about Opera which he’s loving. Today he’s learning about great operas of the Mediterranean – Tosca, Aida, and Othello. I really enjoyed a series of Positive Psychology Lectures on the first leg of the cruise, parts of which will reach the blog in due course.
The Wake Show
In the first week I had to step up to the mark and was interviewed on The Wake Show – the Sea Princess’s Answer to breakfast TV which was fun but a bit daunting, as I’m far more comfortable writing words on the blog, rather than speaking on air! But Stuart the cruise director was lovely and asked me easy questions!
And over three weeks we’ve done various interviews and photo shoots with the ship’s video producers who invited us to experience a Legacy Video which is a lovely way of preserving family memories and passing a story legacy on to future generations. Lovely Sophie and Waide are the video producers who compile the Legacy videos on board.
If you’re on a Sea Princess cruise – do it!! If you’re not, then why not read the Legacy post here and make a story legacy yourselves?We’ve been very privileged to be able to meet and interview a lot of the crew and learn what happens behind the scenes on a cruise shipWe’ve chatted to the Captain and spent time on the Bridge. We’ve interviewed the Customer Services Director, and the Hotel General Manager (blog post coming soon) who started his career 41 years ago as a Bellboy on the Oriana and the Canberra, which was interestinglycommandeered as a troop carrier in the Falklands War. We’ve also interviewed the Entertainment Director with whom we’ve become good buddies.
The entertainment on board has been really impressive with a highlight a few days ago of a song and dance show that was absolutely spectacular by a new cast that joined the ship in Dubai – mainly East European dancers – fantastic – like a West End production. We were also invited and had the opportunity to see one of the big show productions, ‘British Invasion’, (which was like something out of Broadway) sitting quietly with the production manager and crew in the light and sound box. Seeing how a show is put together from a technical point of view was fascinating.
We’ve had many magic moments, a few days ago as we sailed towards the Red Sea we sat on our stateroom balcony with a bottle of champagne and gazed out on a fiery Arabian sunset watching two pods of more than a hundred dolphins swimming by. To top it all a crescent moon rose in the night sky straight out of an Arabian Night, and we spent the rest of the evening chatting the night away with a lovely plate of snacks we’d retrieved from the buffet 😉
Vast sea distances
The first month of this world cruise didn’t include many ports as there were such vast distances to cover. After Sydney we stopped in Melbourne and Adelaide (did our own thing in Sydney and Melbourne then from Adelaide enjoyed a lovely tour of the Barossa Valley wine region) before carrying on to Fremantle. Due to storms in the Southern Ocean the ship had to seek shelter one night in Esperance Bay which meant we were running a day late, so we missed Colombo which was originally on the itinerary and headed directly for Dubai requiring 10 days at sea. Afterwards we learnt that this was the first time this ship has ever done 10 sea days at once, and there had been some sleepless nights and major logistical challenges for the crew to make this work!
Dubai was very hot and hazy but we had a wonderful ship’s tour arranged by Princess Cruises which took in the museum, the gold and spice souks, Jumeirah Mosque and the Burj Al Arab. Instead of exploring on the second morning in port, Jo spent quite a few hours in the Dubai Terminal, where there was free internet, trying to catch up on blog related work, and phone a few family members too.
Our next port of call was Muscat in Oman – cruising into Muscat couldn’t have been a bigger contrast to Dubai. Whereas the glass and steel towers of Dubai shimmered like a mirage rising from the desert sands, Muscat, on the other hand, was like another planet – all ancient watchtowers, spires and minarets behind which mystical mountains folded into the distance.
We decided to do a 4 x 4 adventure tour to explore the hinterland which encompassed a 330km round trip into the mountains through Wadi Al Arbreen. It was a geologist’s dream and Dave was in seventh heaven as we drove and bounced through this ancient landscape. The ubiquitous rock exposures in the craggy mountains told of millions of years of geological history. Our guide, Mohammed, was humble and interesting and he made our trip even more memorable as he answered all our questions about the culture and history of Oman. The outside temperature was 45 degrees Celcius when we got out at an oasis in the mountains! It’s a country that Dave and I would love to see more of, especially during cooler weather.
Then we cruised northwards in the Red Sea towards Aqaba, Jordan, and our next destination is very exciting as we are going to travel inland to the Lost City of Petra one of the 7 modern Wonders of the World. A rose coloured city carved into the ancient sandstone – the ruins are more than 2000 years old. We are expecting very high temperatures tomorrow (41 C) and we have a 10km round walk if we want to see the entire site. We are currently planning how best to avoid heat stroke or too much sun exposure, as of course we can’t wait for a cooler day!
Because the next day we head from Aqaba to the Suez Canal and then onto the Mediterranean Sea and our first port of call there will be Sorrento in Italy. At Sorrento we’ll visit Pompeii as well as Capri.
After Sorrento we head to Rome, Lisbon, Brugge, Amsterdam and then to St Petersburg, Helsinki, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Berlin and on to Dover, which completes the second leg of the four legs of the World Cruise.
The food on board is 24/7! The potential to blow up to the size of a house in a very short time is high. The good news, and much to our relief, is that we have got through the first month without putting on any weight, but it’s involved a daily fairly intense exercise regime coupled with trying to eat as sensibly as possible.
“No I won’t have that cake thank you!” is something I’ve had to commit to memory as a standard response! And “Yes, I’d love to spend an hour sweating in the gym,” (which I don’t enjoy) has also been branded into my vocabulary! Avoiding temptation is my biggest challenge – I think for the last two weeks of the cruise I’m going to Eat All Of The Food and Drink All of The Cocktails and Lie By the Pool all day!
There have been a number of formal dining nights (above – with professional photographers on hand) and we also attended a Captain’s Cocktail party. We’ve been invited to an exclusive 12 person dinner with the executive chef and a behind the scenes galley tour in a few days time, which we’re very excited about. And we’ll be dining under the stars with the General Manager and Customer Services Director in a week’s time which we’re really looking forward too.
Who else is cruising?
A three and a half month world cruise is not a young person’s domain and funnily enough for the first time in a long time we feel quite young! Of course there are people our age and younger, and we’ve also met a gorgeous young couple in their 20s. There are also people up to and around 90, and we dine at a (set) table in the formal dining room with four intrepid and enthusiastic older people, one a delightful couple from New Zealand who are in their mid 80’s.
Of course the reason for this age group on a 104 night world tour is mostly time – think retirement. After all who wouldn’t want to do a long world cruise if it wasn’t for time or money? But it’s definitely worth taking long service leave for – Lol!
As well as different age ranges, there are 42 different nationalities of crew on board and talking to them and hearing their stories is all part of the cruise experience which is absolutely fascinating.
The facilities on board are excellent. There are 3 swimming pools, 5 spas, a well equipped gym, two large theatres, multiple bars and restaurants with excellent resident entertainers including a contemporary guitarist, virtuoso pianist and a classical trio – it’s always pleasant to have a pre-dinner drink listening to these talented live entertainers in one of the lounge bars.
We are working hard and our major challenge is the ship’s satellite internet connectivity which is slow and intermittent – not through the fault of Sea Princess, but just generally. Although we also keep saying how marvellous it is to have it at all!! But for all those of you who might feel a bit deserted, I say a big ‘Sorry’ for not keeping in touch privately via email, blog comments or private Facebook messages as I would normally but there just isn’t the internet capacity on my ‘plan’ to be able to do this
All in all though we are having the most amazing experience. I can’t begin to express how amazingly fortunate we consider ourselves to be on this incredible World Cruise to be able to live in the moment, enjoy the exotic destinations, and chat to many interesting people.
What we’ve learnt is that cruising is no longer the domain of the rich and famous but now attracts a much broader demographic, and cruising around the world in luxury, visiting places we have only previously ever dreamed of is a holiday that is not out of reach for people who have time, passion and adventuous spirit.
I’m a guest of Princess Cruises but all opinions are my own.
Must sign off now as Dave is off to the opera lecture and I have a blog post to get out.