On this school holiday cruise we had taken our grandson for his first cruise. Our cruise started on Saturday the 26th May in Southampton.
Our cruise on Sapphire Princess would take us to Belgium, Denmark, Sweden and finally to Norway.
To the Sapphire Princess in Southampton
We had forgotten that this was a holiday weekend and the M3 was very busy. We were held up at various places especially around Winchester. We went into the docks through Gate 20 and avoided the worst of the traffic around the other dock entrances. Then we joined the queue to park outside the terminal.
After a longer than usual wait the car was driven away by CPS from outside of the Mayflower terminal.
We were soon onboard the ship after a chat with the check-in lady who had carefully checked our grandson’s paperwork. It seemed that other cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean would not have accepted the form we’d brought as it was not notarised.
Our cabin was ready but arriving so late meant that our luggage had yet to arrive. Rather than unpacking we headed up to the Horizon Court for lunch. As we expected it was very busy and we found it hard to find a free table. I had a couple slices of roast beef, potatoes and glazed carrots. The dessert station had its usual array of treats and I settled for pecan pie and a custard square.
Out on deck we could see the other cruise ships in the port.
Our cases had arrived outside the cabin but we were short of time to unpack as the safety briefing was due soon. To our surprise our cabin steward told us that we should not take our life jackets to the briefing. This was definitely a first for a cruise.The corridor was full of passengers assembling for the C, D and E muster areas. We made sure that our cards were read and headed into Sabatinis for a seat while we waited.
The briefing was pre-recorded and started with a song! The voice was not that of a Captain but was a cheerful, joke cracking American lady. This definitely made it easier to concentrate rather than having to listen to a Captain who was clearly bored with it all. The briefing ended with a life jacket demo from crew members and then another safety song!
Sailaway and our room
Back in our cabin (sorry stateroom) we set too and unpacked. This was a little harder as there were three of us but the good news was that was a lot of space unlike our last cruise on P&O Arcadia when we were cramped for space. The cabin was set up for the Pullman beds in the ceiling to be deployed so we had two single beds rather than a double. Under both the beds we had bedding and quilts for the Pullmans and this did make life difficult to store our suitcases and carry-on bags. I stuffed one of the packs of bedding above the racks in the open wardrobe so we did manage to get all the suitcases stored.
The room only had a couple of US plugs for charging phones and the shaver socket was not compatible with our electric toothbrushes. The sockets on the desk were so close together that only one could be used at a time with a USA-UK adapter.
Out on deck we watched as the ship left the port and followed the Celebrity ship down the channel.
We came up behind the SS Shieldhall who gave us a rousing series of toots before she turned to return to Southampton.
We walked through the covered pool area which already was very busy. Some of the signs were uniquely in Chinese a reminder that this ship had been home ported in Asia for a long time.
First evening on board
On this cruise we had chosen anytime dining and after getting changed we headed to Deck 5 to where there were two restauarants off the Atrium/ One of these was fully booked as other passengers had ‘booked’ set times to eat in any time dining.
We were placed on a table for four at the back of the other restaurant and we all relaxed after a busy day and looked forward to our first evening meal. I was hungry and doubled up on starters having a Caesar salad and a prawn dish. For my main course I chose the meat and potato pie served in a dish with a crust. Our waiter cut the crust off with a flourish and placed on the otherwise empty plate. I asked if I could have some vegetables with the meal.
The others’ meals all came loaded with vegetables around the meats so it was just mine that was vegetable free. I hung in there for 10 minutes and a plate of assorted vegetables arrived but no potatoes. After a further 5 minutes a jacket potato arrived. The pie was still piping hot so the wait was no problem. I should have remembered that on US ships if vegetables are not mentioned on the menu then there won’t be any on the plate. I rounded off the meal with a the always available New York cheesecake/, which was delicious.
On the way to the Theatre we had a quick stop at the shops to take advantage of the extra 10% offers available for the first three days of the cruise. As we walked into the Theatre we we were greeted by one of the entertainment team who we had met on Coral Princess last year. She was from Nottingham and had gone to the same senior school as I had (but with quite a few number of years between I do need to add.)
The show was ‘Do you wanna dance’. This was a combination of songs and dance routines. The Theatre was packed for this early show but we did manage to find three seats together near the front. The show itself was very professionally done with great voices and some amazing dance moves by the cast.
The evening was also the European Cup Final in Kiev. We had missed the first half and headed off to the other end of the ship to Club Fusion. A quick look around and as there were a lot of youngsters in there watching we all went in to watch the big screen. As we sat down Gareth Bale came on as a substitute for Real Madrid. The score was 1-1 and we settled down to watch. Within minutes Bale scored with an amazing scissors kick and the bar went quiet as the Liverpool fans took in what had just happened.
I went to the bar to order some drinks and came back with a bottle of Bath Ales Gem.
I was still getting used to not having any receipts when buying drinks on a princess Cruise ship and I had no idea how much this beer, the white wine or the soft drink cost!
As I sat down Bale scored again for Real Madrid and that was that for Liverpool. After all the excitement of the football match it was now quite late for us all. My cruise card had been used in the evening and somewhere the magnetic strip had been wiped. This meant I had to take a detour for a new card.
While I queued at Reception I heard lots of queries about how non-EU passengers would have to go through face-to-face Immigration at 8 am in the morning. This time clashed with the first princess organised trips so not unreasonably passengers were confused and concerned at the same time. The resolution was to register with the trip and then head off to Immigration and the trip would wait.
Back in our cabin the Pullman bed was now set-up and I started my first night on the ‘bottom bunk’.
The next port being in Belgium, we also were to loose an hour’s sleep.