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A Long Awaited Return To Princess


Onboard

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The vast majority of the cruises we take are on what we would consider to be traditional smaller cruise ships.  Every now and then we like to step out of our comfort zone and join what we would describe as a floating hotel resort …..

So we embarked on the Sky Princess with some trepidation for a 7-night Scandinavia cruise.  We were amazed by the ship's efficient hassle free embarkation process, which was one of the fastest we have ever experienced.  

We were initially struck by how busy and crowded the ship was as we made our way to our mini-suite on deck 8.

We were very disappointed on entering our mini-suite - think we should have paid more attention to the word mini on the description, rather than the word suite.  Our cabin was somewhat shabby to be honest, with the smallest balcony we have ever had, and a general feeling of being cramped.

The balcony door was extremely difficult to open, and when we raised it with our steward. We were told they knew about it and nothing could be done, frailer customers would not have managed it.  The floor lighting strip on the bedside cabinet was hanging off, as was one of the rubber seals on the balcony door.   The sound of the wind whistling was irritating where it wasn’t airtight.  Whilst the bed was reasonably comfortable, there was a lack of pillow options.  

There were two large TV screens with the usual limited live channels, but an impressive variety of videos - both film and tv series. Trying to regulate the air con to the right temperature wasn’t easy either - with an unresponsive thermostat.

Our mini suite was situated towards the back of the ship which was fine when accessing the higher decks but somewhat frustrating if you wanted to go to decks 5 and 6 where you were met with dead ends. We found this ship difficult to navigate, there was no lounge at the front and the promenade deck 7 was in sections.  There wasn’t anywhere on the ship where you could walk around the entire ship on the same level, even on deck 17- where the jogging/ walking track was located. 

We have completed 80 cruises on 50-plus ships but this was without a doubt the most crowded we have ever travelled on.  On many occasions, we gave up trying to find seats in a number of the lounges.

And on the outer decks while there were an abundance of sun loungers - there was a shortage of chairs, particularly on the aft.  

There didn’t appear to be enough restrooms/toilets, and those that there were were cramped and crowded. 

On the plus side, there were three speciality restaurants - a steakhouse, a fish/seafood one and an Italian - Sabatinis which we tried twice and really enjoyed - great value for money  ($35 for 6 courses) and excellent service, as well as a nice atmosphere.

Generally, we thought the standard of food on the Sky Princess was very good, even in the Buffett where there was also a wide choice of vegan and vegetarian food.  I had the best lamb rogan josh, and the best Caesar salad I had ever eaten on a ship.  

We also liked the fact that there was a 24-hour international cafe  (deck5), which we used once or twice for a late-night sandwich.

During the day on the pool/lido deck there is a small ice cream kiosk, pizza and burgers available - all included with no extra charge. 

Princess have their groundbreaking medallion app - which was really useful for booking meals in their main dining rooms.  There were no long waits, efficient and friendly service, and great food.  You can also see the daily programme on the app and indicate your interest in attending events, and if you are travelling with family/friends you can use it to locate where the others are on the ship. 

The medallion,  worn around your neck on a lanyard or on your wrist, also gives you access to your room - the door automatically unlocks as you approach.  You also use it for any purchases  on board as you would a keycard on other lines. In our experience the medallion was much more reliable than keycards tend to be.

The internet onboard was excellent, we need to work whilst away and it never let us down.  We purchased the princess premier package - which included internet for up to 4 devices, all drinks up to the value of $20, two speciality meals each, free fitness classes, free speciality desserts, gratuities and free juice bar.  This worked really well for us.

Regular readers of my reviews will know I’m not a big fan of Spas on ships as they tend to be overpriced, the spa on this ship was located on deck 5.  There was also a well equipped gym and yoga studio on deck 17, a jogging track, a basketball /football/tennis area and mini golf on deck 18.  There were also table tennis tables and a number of swimming pools and hot tubs, as well as a large outdoor screen where movies, sporting events and concerts were shown. 

There was a multitude of bars and lounges around the ship.  We particularly liked take five - the jazz lounge (deck 6) and Bellinis on deck 5 by the Piazza (Atrium).  We would have liked to have spent time in the wine bar - Vines also on deck 5 but could never get a seat.  

Much of the entertainment on the ship centered around the Piazza (Atrium). A variety of the live music acts performed there, game shows and dance classes happened too.

The Princess Live lounge on deck 7 was also a focus for quizzes and game shows, and the art auctions.  The Vista Lounge was the home of bingo and karaoke, amongst other things. 

Summary 

As we always say there are two types of ships, the smaller more traditional ones,  and the large ships that we term as floating hotel resorts.  It’s not about good or bad - it’s just different.  

We found this ship to be a bit daunting, and as we previously said this ship felt over crowded and led us to wonder what it would be like on a sea day if there was bad weather and everyone was indoors.  Having said that if you like hustle and bustle and a wide variety of things going on on, and don’t mind what can seem like an endless search for seats, then this could be the ship for you. 

It would be a great ship for families with things happening all the time aimed at appealing to a wide age range. We were impressed by both the embarkation and disembarkation processes, which were smooth and efficient 

If we compare our experience on the Sky Princess with our time on the larger but more populated Iona last year, the Iona felt less crowded and much easier to navigate with fewer dead ends and a promenade deck which stretched round the ship. 

If you are considering booking a cruise on Sky Princess we would advise against booking a mini suite (if we had researched properly we probably wouldn’t have done) and we would say book Princess Premier which we considered to be great value for money.  Also, we had expected there to be a maximum of 3600  people on board from advertising and it ended up being 4200.

In closing, for us the ship was too crowded, but the food is great, staff were friendly and the medallion was good to use, it’s a great innovation. 

Would you like to use it?

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@Onboard Thanks for sharing your Princess Cruises experience! I have heard such wonderful things about the Medallion. To be honest I think that's one of the most distinct highlights for the cruise line to date. I have yet to cruise with the device, but I know the additional costs can surely add up. I'm bummed you were on a very crowded ship and felt it too. Can you tell me other stateroom options you would recommend as a first-timer, instead of the mini-suite? I wonder if all of the balcony doors onboard are like this or if it was just this particular stateroom. 

Edited by Kendall James-Vargas
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We’ve been on the regal Princess which I think is the sister to Sky.  Basically the same observations as above except we didn’t have a mini-suite. We had a mini-suite on Coral Princess but knew we were only getting a bit more room than a standard balcony - no additional amenities like a Celebrity suite. 

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@FJB From what it sounds like the mini-suite is not worth the extra money. @Onboard I would rather just spend less on a standard balcony suite and spend extra on some awesome excursions! Unless I'm on a romantic getaway, I don't really spend that much time in my stateroom. I definitely don't spend enough time to really appreciate the extra 10 sq. ft. of space! What additional amenities come with the Celebrity suites? 

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