Sky Princess Review: What's it really like to cruise the UK onboard Sky Princess?
Princess Cruises ship Sky Princess was one of many cruise lines offering UK 'seacations' in 2020 - so what's it really like to sail on the ship? Our review reveals all.
The joy on my sister Amber’s face as we open the door to our mini-suite on Sky Princess is palpable. ‘Ooh, it’s lovely,’ she exclaims, ‘and so roomy!’.
On our way to join the ship at Southampton, we’d been trying to work out when we last shared a room. We reckoned it had happened only once since childhood – at a grotty hotel in Greece, some time during our twenties.
So this six-night ‘seacation’ cruise would be a real treat, and a chance for us – now in our busy fifties – to catch up in the luxurious surroundings of Sky Princess.
Princess Cruises’ ‘seacation’ cruises around the UK this year have been a real success, with both seasoned cruisers and those new to cruise joining in the onboard fun. And no wonder, as these trips offer the chance to enjoy a no-fly holiday with stops at a couple of popular UK destinations.
This is my first time on a Princess ship, and as we board I am very impressed. The crew are genuinely pleased to see us, the atrium is gleaming and, thanks to the wizard technology of OceanMedallion, finding and opening our suite is a cinch.
Combined with a very easy-to-operate app, OceanMedallion is the line’s little wearable gizmo to make your cruise experience as easy as can be. Not only does it open your cabin door and help book you a table in the ship’s restaurants, it also enables you to order drinks and snacks from anywhere onboard, 24 hours a day (more about that later).
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Sky Princess made her maiden voyage in October 2019, but Covid put paid to her 2020 cruises so she still feels like a brand new ship.
Like many of our fellow passengers, we’re happy to surf up and down the lifts, discovering something new on every level.
With accommodation for 3,660 guests over her 19 decks, you may worry that she’s a bit too big. But take it from me, this is one of the best designed big ships afloat, and you’ll soon find your way around. Even better, if you do get lost or you can’t find your cruise pals, OceanMedallion will help you to relocate them. Genius!
Sea days always seem to divide regular cruisers, with some loving the chance to explore the ship and enjoy all that’s on offer, while others can’t wait to disembark and discover new destinations ashore. Personally, I think a mixture of the two is the perfect recipe for a successful cruise – and with two port stops, that’s just what this trip provides
Kicking our voyage off in style, we head to the deco-inspired Take Five jazz lounge for pre-dinner drinks. Like us, most guests seem to have opted for the Princess Plus package, at £30 per day, which covers all-inclusive drinks, unlimited wi-fi and gratuities. Martinis all round then.
Complimentary dining options include the three main dining rooms – Soleil, Estrella and Cielo – but on our first night Amber and I head for the popular Crown Grill, where they specialise in steak and seafood. It’s a great choice. Decorated in dark wood like a real American steakhouse, it’s super-buzzy and has a large menu to suit the most pernickety of diners.
It’s my first meal on my first Princess cruise and I’m blown away by the quality. My steak is super-juicy, all the sides are cooked to perfection and beautifully presented, and the warm chocolate mousse trifle that follows is a total work of art.
Like the other speciality eateries on board, Crown Grill has a cover charge of $29 per person, which includes a starter, salad or soup, one main course and dessert. It’s incredible value, and wine can be added via your drinks package.
The only downside is that the speciality restaurants get booked up quickly, so be prepared to make reservations as soon as you get on board, either through the Princess app or by calling directly.
I’m a notoriously fussy eater (just ask my sister) but throughout our cruise I continue to be impressed by the standard of food and drink on board. Whether it’s eating for free at one of the three main dining rooms or spending just a little extra on a special meal at the Crown Grill, Italian eaterie Sabatini’s or French-style Bistro Sur La Mer, the food and the service are uniformly excellent.
- READ MORE: Cruise dining, food & drink guide -
And judging by the happy cruisers enjoying lunch or a buffet-style dinner at the World Fresh Marketplace on deck 16, and the cake lovers at the International Café on the Lido deck, I’m not the only one indulging myself on this trip.
Thanks to mild autumn weather, it’s surprisingly hot enough to take a dip in one of the ship’s two outdoor pools – and this is yet another occasion when OceanMedallion comes in very handy. Fancy a prosecco and a side order of fries straight after your swim? By the time you’ve dried yourself off and remembered where you put your book, your order will have arrived. Be warned though – it’s all so easy that it becomes highly addictive, especially when the staff get to know your drink preferences.
After a fantastic two days on the ship – during which we enjoy a quiz and bingo at Princess Live!, learn how to make cocktails at Good Spirits and sing along with the Rock Opera cast at the 900-seat Princess Theatre – we’re ready to disembark.
One of the joys of this year’s ‘seacations’ has been the chance to visit parts of the UK that probably wouldn’t be on top of your bucket list. Our first stop is Glasgow, and as we disembark at Greenock, I can’t help hearing Billy Connolly’s voice in my head. ‘The great thing about Glasgow,’ he used to say, ‘is that if there’s a nuclear attack, it’ll look exactly the same afterwards.’
- READ MORE: What's Sky Princess' Mini-Suite really like? -
But that was then. Modern-day Glasgow is known for its culture and cuisine, and on a whistle-stop tour of the city we enjoy a visit to the quirky Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and the thirteenth-century cathedral. Half a day is nowhere near long enough to appreciate this proud city, but never mind – I’ll just have to come back.
It’s been a strange year all round, but especially in travel, so a second visit in two months to Belfast doesn’t seem so odd. In the summer I’d enjoyed the excellent Titanic Experience, but this time my destination is the famous Giant’s Causeway.
A UNESCO World Heritage site, this amazing natural phenomenon is one of the most popular attractions in the UK. Situated 60 miles north of Belfast on the coast of Country Antrim, it’s a cluster of about 40,000 perfectly hexagonal basalt columns, created between 50 and 60 million years ago by a volcanic explosion.
From the visitor centre, you walk down to the beach and suddenly there it is – a truly magnificent sight. Many people are clambering across the rocks, and there’s nothing to stop you doing that, but Amber and I are happy just to gaze at the rocks in awe, then send a few ‘look at us’ snaps on our family Whatsapp.
Back on board, over a last drink at Vines Wine Bar, we agree it’s been a great cruise. ‘The beds are like sleeping on fluffy clouds and I think I’ve worn out my OceanMedallion,’ says Amber.
For me, the highlights of the trip have been the ship itself and the excellent restaurants and bars onboard. But perhaps the best thing has been the chance to spend a fun-filled week with my sister. And yes, we’re already planning our next Princess cruise together...
Get on board
Six-night ‘Norwegian Fjords’ cruise aboard Sky Princess, round trip from Southampton via Bergen, Skjolden, Olden and Stavanger, departing April 23, 2022, from £589 princess.com
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