My First Cruise

My cruising cherry has been popped and the itch to go again has already started. If you haven’t gone on a cruise before and have been thinking about it, jump on the bandwagon because it was a pretty fantastic experience. We went on the European Explorer itinerary with Princess Cruises aboard the Sapphire Princess.

I figured I’ll start with my impressions as a first-timer, then move on to the stops we made. 🙂 And off we go!

If I missed any aspect of the ship or you have other questions… leave a comment!

Checking In

The check-in process is really similar to when you’re flying. You check your bag and it magically appears in your stateroom later. There is an option to carry items on with you. Luggage doesn’t immediately appear in your stateroom, so I kept a few things on me that I thought I might want right away, like my purse, toiletries, phone charger, and clothes in case I wanted to change.

The Ship

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The sheer size of cruise ships is mind-boggling! The majority of the decks are filled with staterooms, but there is plenty of room for the several dining rooms and pools. As we entered, all I could think of is how powerful water must be if it can cause this ginormous piece of machinery to heave and ho.

Similar to hotel folklore, our ship did not have a 13th deck.

Stateroom

The room was bigger than I thought it would be but definitely smaller than your average hotel room. There was a large flat screen in the corner, a desk for keeping items, a HUGE mirror above the desk, two nightstands that were the same width as the space around the bed, a good size closet with lots of hangers, and a small bathroom. The shower is stall style BUT was roomier than I’d been preparing myself for. As an average-sized, 5’6″ person, I didn’t have any problems.

We upgraded from an interior room to a room with an “obstructed view.” I’m so glad we made this decision. Having the window for natural sunlight was great! I think it contributed to the room feeling bigger also.

Back to the closet, I loved being able to hang all my dresses and some shirts I brought so I wasn’t living out of a suitcase like I typically do in hotels. There are seriously SO many hangers! At least 30 so we both had plenty and then some. The robes were soft and I ended up lounging extra long in mine after showering.

Stateroom Steward

img_5252We were serviced by Agnelo each day. He was the sweetest and most pleasant person to see each morning, after my husband of course, haha. He always greatest us and asked how we slept, if we needed anything special in the room, and how our day was. He was very knowledgeable of the services on board and even the port call times. We were very impressed with his level of service. The bar has been set high!

For my sanity, I was grateful to find a really decent selection of movies and tv episodes to stream in our stateroom. We watched a few that we hadn’t caught in theatres and rewatched favorite tv shows during downtime and after turning in for the night. One of our favorites was Ocean Treks with Jeff Corwin. Yes, he’s still making content people!

On a side note, we did get chocolates on our pillow, some yummy chocolate covered strawberries (Thanks Monticello Travel!), and a pillow animal one day.

 

Amenities

A tour of the spa and relaxation area did not disappoint. Thermal steam rooms and saunas, heated relaxation chairs, a hair salon, acupuncture, workout facility, and more are offered onboard. It’s all extra $$$, but you’ll read more about how we did indulge some.

Sapphire Princess is home to five pools and six hot tubs. Each night, and some days, there was a Movie Under the Stars at one of the outdoor pools. If there was a shortage of anything, lounge chairs is not one of those things. There are stacks and stacks of them everywhere there is an open space on an open-air deck!

There’s also no shortage of food options. There is one 24-hour option, several dining rooms, and informal stations to get quick food to-go. We quickly found the ice cream station and got a swirl cone as we continued to explore the ship.

There are some retail stores if you need something quickly or have a shopping bug. Pretty much anything is available from apparel, makeup, skin care, jewelry, purses, and personal items in the many stores on board.

Overall, this ship is literally a mini-city that floats. My husband was even able to get his suit dry cleaned on board! The only thing it was missing is data service and wifi I didn’t have to pay for. I was pleased that if any needs came up (and a few did) that I wouldn’t have to summon my inner McGyver to get through a sticky situation.

Food

We chose to do the traditional dining rather than any-time dining, something I was persuaded to do with some reluctance. After the first night, I was really pleased my husband pushed this suggestion. Our waiters, Daniel and Anna, were fantastic. They have the same level of service and personality as our stateroom steward, so seeing them each day was an enjoyable experience.

I was pleased with the menu each day BUT wish there had been a larger variety when it came to ethnicity for entree options. Yes, most people enjoy steak, chicken, and their occasional veggie dishes, but I was lacking the diversity of flavors. Maybe I was too picky or didn’t order the right things. I ordered Pad Thai once, one of the few Asian-inspired dishes I saw on the menu during our time at sea. It was good, and a nice change from the seafood and red meat I tended to order.

img_5251Overall…

In many ways, our first day on board was exactly what I expected. The ship had more than I thought it would and the activities offered on board were sure to keep us occupied. We had a nice blend of scheduled items, downtime, and port visits. We even managed to log decent sleep each night. Sorry, this old couple isn’t jamming at the Skywalker Lounge until 2:00 AM anymore, but it was there if we wanted to. 😉

Our Ports of Call

I’ll make these links to each location once posts are written. Here’s what you have to look forward to reading about.

Livorno/Florence, Italy
Monte Carlo, Monaco
Barcelona, Spain
Gibraltar, UK
Lisbon, Portugal
Le Havre/Normandy, France

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