I have to admit, I probably wouldn’t have gone out of my way to add a cruise to my 2018 bucket list however having just disembarked off an eight day cruise around Scandinavia and Russia with Princess Cruises, I am already browsing destinations to board my next in.
There’s something very addictive about cruising. About putting your feet up, watching the world go by from the ocean and crossing multiple destinations off your bucket list without so much as one baggage drop or collection between your outbound and inbound flight from home.
I found the majority of guests I spoke to on board were three, four, five or more cruises deep. The love floating around the ship (for Princess Cruises) was real and by the end of my cruise, I could completely see the obsession.
I think cruise holidays are a ‘you’re either going to love it or hate it’ kinda thing. If you love it, well… may nothing stand in the way of you and your journey to Elite member status.
In this post I’m going to (try to) give you an idea of what it’s actually like to be on a cruise because know it’s a hard concept to get your head around if you’ve never step foot on one before.
The scale of the ships is pretty overwhelming and it was only by day 8 (the day I left) that I could make my way to breakfast without ending up in the spa.
They are big, they are awesome and they are jam packed with memories ready to be made.
But before I get into the nitty gritty, let me give you a little back ground on Princess Cruises, the cruise liner that hosted me for my 11 day route around the likes of Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Russia, Estonia and Norway.
Who are Princess Cruises and where do they sail their ships?
Setting sail with their first ship in 1965 to Mexico, Princess has now grown to become of the leading cruise lines in the world with 18 ships and more worldwide destinations than any of its competitors. Princess Cruises now offers more than 150 itineraries between six continents, calling at over 300 ports over the world with it’s guests.
They sail the likes of the Caribbean, Alaska, Mexico, Hawaii, India and Africa. Places I hadn’t even considered would be an option with a cruise!
You can see all of their destinations and itineraries here.
Princess Cruises actually got their turn in the spotlight in 1977 when one of it’s ship Pacific Princess was cast in a starring role on a new television series called ‘The Love Boat’ and the light hasn’t faded since.
My recent adventure with Princess Cruises actually had me step on board one of the three newest ships, Regal Princess.
The Regal Princess…
Let me introduce you to her.
This right here was the ship we were blessed to call our home during our adventure…
My room on board the Regal Princess…
I stayed in a stateroom with a balcony and I loved it. No complaints.
The bed was super comfy, there was a wardrobe, a dressing table, a fridge, a hairdryer, TV, bathroom with shower and a balcony with a table and chair for a morning cup of tea. The morning cup of tea, may i add, can be accompanied by breakfast and delivered to your room upon request. Free of charge.
What route did I experience on Regal Princess?
The route of this cruise was the biggest temptation that led me to step on board in the first place. Each of the countries listed on this 11 day Scandinavia and Russia cruise stand loud and proud in their own right. They are cities that every wanderluster out there will have on their bucket list, that’s if they haven’t explored them already.
Cruises are a great way to tick off some of your dream destinations but also discover some that you’d never have otherwise planned. For example, on our itinerary I was getting to cross of dream destinations such as Stockholm and Copenhagen but I also got the chance to experience St.Petersbourg, Russia (which I wouldn’t have booked myself) and I discovered Tallin, Estonia (which I never even knew existed). Tallin is definitely somewhere I’d be keen to return to but wouldn’t have otherwise known about if it wasn’t for my Princess Cruise experience.
The 11 day cruise itinerary that I experienced looked a little something like this…
Day 1 – Embark the ship in Warnemunde, Germany
Day 2 – At sea
Day 3 – Tallinn, Estonia
Day 4 – St. Petersburg, Russia
Day 5 – St. Petersburg, Russia
Day 6 – Helsinki, Finland
Day 7 – Stockholm, Sweden
Day 8 – At sea
Day 9 – Copenhagen, Denmark
Day 10 – Oslo, Norway
If you’d like to uncover more about the destinations and know my must sees and do’s for each one, my ‘6 countries in 7 days’ blog post is coming very soon.
Things I loved most about cruising…
Going to sleep and waking up not only rested but in a new destination
This was probably what I personally loved most about my Princess Cruise adventure and the reason I guess also that the average age on cruises tends to be higher. It’s SUCH an easy way to travel. All the hard work is done for you. Not only do you save the energy that you would use flying between these destinations (going through airports, transfers, security, air time etc) but you also save the time that this would take and you can sleep right through it. You go to sleep in one country and wake up as the ship pulls into another.
7 countries in 11 days
If you don’t get much time off in your calendar and have an extensive bucket list going on, cruising is a fabulous way to tick off multiple destination in a short space of time. Ticking off 7 countries in 11 days (like you do on this particular route) would be an unrealistic itinerary if you were flying between the countries and self navigating this adventure. With cruising though, as mentioned in the previous route, the hard work is taken from you and you can maximise the adventure.
Access to food 24 hours a day
One thing you will never be on board the Regal Princess (which im pretty sure which apply to all the cruises) is hungry. There are SO many different options that cater for taste buds from all walks of life. On top of the dining options included in your cruise package, there are also speciality dining restaurants where you can pay a little bit extra and have a next level feast. Honestly, I would have been reluctant to pay extra for food over whats included in my package but having tasted the difference I can say the food in the speciality dining restaurant is worth every penny. My favourite being the Crown Grill.
Here are some of the dining options available on the Regal Princess:
- The Main Dining rooms Concerto, Symphony and Allegra – Dining included in your cruise, drinks extra.
- Horizon Court Buffet (international dining options) – Dining included in your cruise, drinks extra.
- Horizon Pastry Shop (all the freshly baked goodies and cookies) – Dining included in your cruise, drinks extra.
- Gelato bar (ice cream shop) and swirls (poolside ice creams) – Dining included in your cruise, drinks extra.
- Alfredos Dining included in your cruise, drinks extra.
- International Cafe (24 hours) Dining included in your cruise, drinks extra.
- Trident grill (burgers, hot dogs and sandwiches by the pool on top deck) – Dining included in your cruise
- Prego Pizzeria (freshly baked pizzas by the pool on top deck) – Dining included in your cruise
- Ocean Terrace Seafood bar*
- Wheelhouse Bar*
- Crown Grill*
- Winemakers dinner*
- Room service (free of charge at any time, except on the day of disembarkation when the whole ship goes into switchover mode)
* Supplementary, speciality dining option. Surcharge of $25-40 USD.
Opening your blinds to the ocean and having ocean air at your disposal
I stepped out on to my balcony so many times, looked straight over the ocean to the horizon, filled my lungs with ocean air and had a the biggest smile on my face. If you have an open spaces and ocean side living kinda soul like I do, it’s a beautiful environment to be in.
I love waking up to the ocean and every morning i’d push the curtains aside open the glass windows and allow the sound and smell of the ocean through my door before snuggling back up in bed for 10 minutes…
You can order breakfast to your room and have it overlooking the ocean
Add this option to the latter point and opt in the night before to have your breakfast overlooking the blues. Admittedly though sometimes, by the time you wake up, you’re in a port that’s located outside the city and you get a more industrial view.
Fully fledged gym and juice bar
I was pleasantly surprised by how great the gym was on board. There was an extensive variety of equipment, weights, machines and there was even a studio where they hold fitness classes. When the classes aren’t in action you can use the studio to conduct your own workouts. If you head up to deck 17 they actually have an outdoor track where you can run / walk in the fresh air.
Top tip: I took my yoga mat with me and set up in the studio most evenings for a stretch out and HIIT workout.
You have no chance of getting bored
There’s just way too much to see and do on board to every get board. Hence why I was keen to stay another week by the end. Even now i’m reading the other girls and boys reviews (I was on this cruise for a press trip) and i’m like ‘What?! I never knew that existed!’.
It’s kind of like Burning Man (but not), you will never see and experience everything. You are kept on your toes and always entertained.
I didn’t have to pack and repack every day for a new destination
Hands down my favourite thing about trips these days. When you’re used to a GO GO GO travelling style like I am with backpacking and with my career, it’s actually HEAVEN to keep your stuff unpacked and in one place for longer than 2 days. On the cruise it was stationary for 8. Happiness.
The housekeeping were like fairy godmothers
Honestly, I was so impressed by the housekeeping. If any housekeeping system in the world had a reason to be flawed, it would be that catering for thousands every day.
I would leave for breakfast and my bed would be made when I got back. I’d go for dinner and my bed would be made with two nighttime treats by my pillow by the time I got back. It’s like they KNEW, or that I had a personal housekeeper.
WIFI was great
Since November 2017, Princess Cruises implemented Medallion Net WIFI access for guests* – the best WIFI at sea.
*This comes at an extra cost of around $10 a day but if you’re someone needing internet, it’s there, and it’s got a fast and reliable connection. That’s coming from a blogger.
The Princess Patter that was delivered every evening prior to the morning adventure
As you can see pictured below, the Princess Patter gave you the low down on the next country the ship was to dock in and assisted you in planning your day, disembarkation guidelines and in not entering a country blind.
You were in a place long enough to cross paths with people and recognise people, a real sense of community
Contrary to what people say about cruises e.g. ‘You don’t get to mingle with the locals and stay in the cities themselves’ I actually feel like the ship delivered a real alternative experience which in no way compromised the beauty of travelling. Even though the ship is large in size, you soon get to recognise people in the rooms near you, in the restaurants and in the communal areas. You’ll start sharing stories of your days exploring off the ship and you’ll get all the travellers stories and more. There was a lovely sense of community on the ship and at the forefront of that was the incredible welcoming and social staff that Princess employ.
The nice personal touches like the welcome chocolate strawberries and the treats on the pillow every evening.
Live music and entertainment, everywhere.
There were live musicians, live game shows, live theatre, water and music shows, dance lessons, bingo – you name it.
The Lotus Spa, obviously…
Top tip: Get yourself the lime and ginger scrub with a deep tissue massage. Hands down the best treatment i’ve ever had. After your treatment you have free access to the Enclave for the day. Heaven…
Honest downsides for me about cruising…
The ship doesn’t pull right up to the city centres
Understandably, the ship cannot always dock right up in the city centre because of rules, licences, it’s size and more I assume. There are transfers available (at an additional cost) and for some public transport is a feasible option but for places like Stockholm it was an hour drive into the centre so you can’t just ‘hop off and explore’ some of the destinations.
Initially I found the food choices weren’t to my particular taste and the vegetarian / vegan options were limited. The food and drink menus on board are very ‘American Style’ dining and the buffets are built to cater for the masses with a serving time that has to suit everyone (the food stays under heaters). Saying that, I do completely understand that they can’t be cooking fresh for thousands of guests and actually, a lot of people love this style dining so this is a very personal opinion.
But… I was pleasantly surprised by the main dining room menus and too the speciality dining that I experienced later on in the week. On one of my last days I even found a juice bar located at the back of deck 16 that served fresh juices in a juicer! I’m gutted I didn’t find it earlier – I think things like that should be exposed more for those with a fresher taste bud.
At the end of the day too, a cruise is a holiday and the intention isn’t to stay ‘on track’. It’s time to indulge and the cruise offers that luxury in abundance.
The environmental impact
I can’t deny that there were many occasions in which the sheer size of the boat and the direct involvement I was having in such a big operation had me concerned about the environmental impact.
But… the cruise (although no angel) is a representation of what we as a population are contributing to negative environmental impacts. It’s certainly made me think twice and reflect on a lot of things at home on a smaller scale like food waste, plastic consumption and even printing and paper use. See more about which Princess are doing to reduce their environmental impact here.
The average age is a whole generation or two away
Whilst I think cruises can entertain all generations, there’s no denying that the majority of people on board are older. Think grandma and grandpa on their holidays. It definitely wouldn’t put me off cruising again but at the same time, it’s no Yacht Week.
My honest opinion about cruising…
Honestly, the cruise grew on me majorly throughout the week and by the end I actually really wanted an extra week on board. As a complete millennial I would be lying if I said it didn’t feel like a time warp walking onto the ship. Usually drawn to the likes of Shoreditch and Byron Bay on my travels, I definitely found the Regal Princess a more dated environment to be in but there was certainly a charm that I warmed to pretty quickly.
I would 100% go on another cruise. I think for me it would be price and location dependant. For example if I wanted to go to location A, B and C and it would cost £1000 on a cruise but £500 to self navigate, then i’d go with the cheaper option. If there wasn’t much in it price wise, then i’d be inclined to mix up my adventures and throw in another cruise for sure. Also for places like Alaska and Antarctica, I hands down think a cruise would be the best way to see it! Imagine that from the water!
I think with a few adjustments, cruising has the potential to lower it’s audience’s age considerably and with that it would become a lot more attractive an option for younger travellers to opt in.
FAQ’S and my answers…
- ‘Don’t you feel the boat movement the whole time?’
I guess some are more sensitive to motion than others but honestly the ships is SO big and stable you don’t feel it. The only time I noticed it was when I’d lie still in bed at night. Obviously you’re used to the world and your environment being completely still, so here you do notice the slight movement. Nothing drastic, just odd!
- ‘If i’m prone to sea sickness, where’s the best place to stay on the boat? Can you request a room location’
For people prone to sea sickness, Princess Cruises recommend picking a stateroom on a mid-deck, positioned in the middle of the ship. Guests can choose their stateroom location when booking and this is the reason Princess Cruises advise booking early, to ensure guests get their preferred choice.
- ‘Does it feel like a school trip’
Not at all. I guess if you book onto the excursions then you are going to be shipped around with fellow guests (which a lot of people love). On the excursions, again you are option for easy travel. If that’s not you (it’s not me) you are welcome to navigate yourself into the centre and explore on your own time. Just remember if you aren’t back on the cruise at the given time, it won’t wait for you!
- ‘Are cruises worth the money?’
It depends what kind of travellers you are and what you consider value for money. If you opt for the basic room package, you can get cruises seriously cheap and it will seriously rival a hotel and flight package. If you’re looking for an easy break, with lots of locations and to be waited on like a Princess (forgive the pun) then yes, Cruises are so worth the money!
- ‘Are the restaurants on the ship open when the ship has docked?’
Yes! Restaurant dependant. There’s always something open.
- ‘How much time do you get in each place?’
For all the destinations on our route barre Russia we had one day. Usually it’s a 9-12 hour stop, enough to get off, explore and get a taster for a new destination. But it really is a taster, you can’t get a wholesome feel and comprehensive experience of all the countries on a cruise.
- ‘Extras? How much extra do i need to spend on board on top of the price?’
It totally depends on the nature of your drinking and eating habits, how much you dine in the speciality restaurants and how many excursions you book onto. There are different drink packages that you can add on to your cruise and you can always keep an eye on your tab at customer service or on the Ocean Medallion online system which everyone has access to.
- ‘What are the cruise lines doing to address the environmental impact they have?’
Princess Cruises takes their environmental responsibility extremely serious. On Regal Princess that they are trialling only providing straws when a guest requests them. More information regarding how Princess is protecting our planet can be found here: https://www.princess.com/aboutus/environmental-responsibility/
- ‘When’s the cheapest time to book? How far in advance can you book?’
There is not a set time in the year when cruises are the cheapest. Throughout the year Princess Cruises have various offers on different cruising destinations. For example, at the moment there’s a ‘3 for free’ offer live on over 600 sailings across multiple destinations. This entitles guests to a free shore excursion, a free speciaility dining experience and a free bottle of wine when they book their 2019 cruise before 2 July 2018. Cruises go on sale around 18 months before sail date so for example the Europe Summer 2019 holidays were available from December 2017.
- ‘What’s the cheapest way to do a cruise as a solo traveller?’
On Princess, there are no single occupancy cabins like on other cruise liners. However, once onboard there are plenty of opportunities for single travellers to meet other solo travellers onboard, as well dine with other people who are willing to dine at shared tables.
Read more about cruise myths and let Dan from DanFlyingSolo debunk them all for you in his post here.
Have you ever been on a cruise? What did you think?
Would you ever think to go on one?
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