This cruise on Sky Princess was our longest to date. We visited eight ports in all and crossed the Atlantic twice. We were told that the ship was not full. Plus including us there were 600 (or so) Elite and Platinum Captain’s Circle Members onboard.
This cruise was almost 10 days later leaving Southampton than our earlier Canada and New England cruise on Emerald Princess. Unlike the earlier cruise the weather on both crossings was not great due to high winds, rough seas and days of fog!
The confusion about Covid documentation and the advice we received made preparing for this cruise more stressful than usual. We needed to have a negative monitored LFT before boarding, complete the ArriveCan smartphone app with our vaccination details, enter all the details in the Princess Medallion smartphone app (NOT their website). Despite calling Princess’ call centre we were still given wrong conflicting advice about what was required – really not acceptable.
The ship is a “Medallion Class” ship and we enjoyed keyless entry to our room and being able to easily book room service on our phones.
Hurricane Fiona had ravaged the Canadian Maritimes and we were unable to land at Charlottetown or Sydney. Both of these places we were very much looking forward to visiting again. Princess re-arranged the cruise on the fly and instead we went to an extra visit to St John and had an extra day in New York (Brooklyn).
Uncomfortable lack of Covid precautions
For the first seven days the ship was running under Covid restrictions with mask wearing when not sitting eating or drinking. The way the Captain reported lifting of these restrictions removed all caution from the majority of guests and mask wearing, washing hands and care not to pack lifts with guests were abandoned. In our opinion the way this was reported totally de-emphasised the caution needed by guests especially after visits to New York. Port side mid-ships on our deck was where Covid patients were isolated.
We continued to wear masks just like the staff on the ship but we were very uncomfortable in crowded places on the ship and was a low point for us for the remainder of the cruise.
To Canada across the Atlantic
We had five days crossing the Atlantic with fog and high winds before reaching Corner Brook. This cruise being later in the year meant that we really didn’t see much sea life, just a glimpse of one whale’s spout.
The entertainment was patchy on the ship and we rarely went into the theatre (unlike our last trans-Atlantic). Plus we were uncomfortable at the number of passengers not wearing masks.
The main performers were Dani Monique and a three singers called MoBo. In usual Princess style each did one concert and then one joint concert. We really enjoyed these three shows. The ship’s entertainers did “Rock Opera” which had some excellent vocals and covered a wide variety of music.
Corner Brook, Newfoundland, was a new port for us. We walked into the town and enjoyed their celebrations as well as out visit to a local micro-brewery. We then had another day at sea before we made our previously unscheduled visit to Saint John. This was a longer visit due to favourable tides and we walked to the bridge to watch for the reversing tides.
At Saint John another performed joined the ship. The violinist, Chris Watkins, had been travelling for days trying to catch up with the ship after the changes to the itinerary. He did one show in the evening and one in the afternoon – very different types of music.
We fell into a rhythm of going to the Captain’s Circle in the late afternoon in the Vista Lounge before dinner. There we chatted to ship’s officers and one lady in particular who was the manager of all the ship’s bars. She explained the lack of Malbec was due to the supplier in Southampton not delivering the correct brand. To my personal appreciation she did have some cases put in the bar so that I could have Malbec in the Vista Lounge!
We had had five day refund of our Internet package as the coverage and bandwidth across the Atlantic was not very good.
To New York
After Saint John we had another sea day with rough seas.
We had been now seen the ship’s house band performing, Ocean Boulevard, in the Piazza and took every late night opportunity to go and hear them play and have a dance.
Our arrival in New York was early in the morning and I just managed to make it outside as the ship passed under the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge. The rain was teeming down but there were quite a few hardy passengers (and crew) to watch as we sailed by Liberty Island. The ship docked at the Brooklyn Cruise terminal after spinning in the Hudson reversing slowly to her berth.
After Immigration we went to try and get to Manhattan on the water ferry but the queue was enormous. So our first trip was on the subway. We went uptown and caught the subway back to the Wall Street Pier. We had hailstones and torrential rain so not a great first visit. Next day we went to Liberty and Ellis Islands. On our last day, we were now regulars on the water taxis and we went up to 18th Street (should been 35th). We walked around mid town before going to the 35th Street pier.
President Biden came to New York in the evening and as we all waited on deck to watch the sailaway we were treated to Marine One and associated Marine Ospreys flying up the Hudson. The US Coastguard sealed off the the Eastside of the river and NY Police the roads around the Wall Street pier.
Our next ports were Newport Rhode Island and Boston. In Newport we took a local policeman’s advice and walked up Thames Street to an authentic American diner for breakfast. We walked around both places enjoying the clear weather and some new places to eat. Bar Harbor was our second new port and after leaving the ship’s tender we walked around the shore and spent time in the bustling resort. Lunch was at a fabulous diner. Definitely a place to visit again.
We didn’t visit the theatre as comedians, instrumentalist or ventriloquists don’t rock our boat. But the house band continued to shine in the Piazza.
Back to Canada
After Bar Harbor it was only a short hop to Saint John. A Canadian national holiday so we didn’t spend much time ashore as what few shops there were downtown were mostly closed.
Halifax is one one of our favourite places and we walked along the boardwalk, explored the town more (no visit to the Citadel) and had a great lunch OUTSIDE on the boardwalk.
The show, “5 Skies”, in the evening was excellent and after seeing it we understood why its staging had had to oust props of the other shows! Another sea followed but this time with an excellent talk in the theatre. The Captain’s Circle cocktail was missed by the new Captain as he was unwell.
Our last port was our scheduled visit to St John’s. We walked out towards the headland beneath the Signal Tower and on our way back stopped for coffee. Lunch was in a very busy bar that had lots of local (and not so local) micro brewery beers. The ship was delayed leaving so going through the Narrows wasn’t as good a photo opportunity as planned. The house band were finally given a stage and played in the Vista Lounge to a packed house. They played “Hotel California” for me after I had mentioned that another ship’s performer had “murdered” it earlier in the week.
Back across the Atlantic
After St John’s we had five days to cross the Atlantic. The weather for the latter part of the passage was not kind with high winds, rough seas, hail, rain and even fog again.
We went to the see the Trawlerman in the theatre and skipped their later performance… This experience unfortunately put us off attending the Westenders’ first performance but we did see their excellent second show. Neil Lockwood, ex ELO vocalist, did a fantastic show.
As the ship neared the southern tip of Ireland the Staff Captain announced that we had medical emergencies and due to weather and other factors a medevac was not possible. Instead the ship would now run at full speed and dock in Southampton early.
Leaving Sky Princess in Southampton was chaotic. The baggage hall was crammed with cases BUT passengers were leaving the ship before their slots and blocked the paths through the luggage. The luggage was laid out in reverse order and we had to walk through all the later leaving passenger’s cases to get to ours. The early leavers were blocking everyone else from getting to their luggage.
Our issues with the cruise
In my first blog of the cruise I will cover all the contrary advice we received about preparing for this cruise particularly advice about Covid documentation.
As mentioned above the first Captain had so emphasised not wanting masks that for the last two weeks mask wearing was hardly the practice – not a great advert for passenger health. Our deck was where Covid isolation took place forward of our cabin. This explained why we could often smell cigarette smoke as folks in isolation were allowed to smoke on their balconies . . .
For some reason on Deck 7 access to the bow and often the stern was not allowed even when the seas were calm. This safety paranoia being in complete contrast to making real efforts to keep passengers safe from Covid!
Eating at the International Café was always difficult as passengers sat in the Piazza during daylight hours sleeping , playing cards or reading.
We missed the casino as smoking continues to be allowed in there and just walking through from the theatre was pretty disgusting.
The Medallion has a battery it seems. I only found this out when mine stopped working on Day 23. Princess Cruises really should tell passengers how to properly dispose of them as putting into a regular bin would not be great for the environment.
We had issues with being charged for a BOTTLE of wine as the tills didn’t do an “Are you sure?” check. Most of the bars and the servers didn’t have readers for the Medallions and we heard about passengers being wrongly charged throughout the voyage.
Sadly this cruise did not have a Captain’s Log given to leaving passengers.
And finally what was really good
Sky Princess passed US Coastguard and Canadian health inspections plus a US Coastguard safety inspection with flying colours.
Our special meals in the Crown Grill were excellent. Lunch at Alfredos for pizzas was always special. In the evening we tried all three dining rooms and always found something good to eat. We had the drinks package and this was a good choice. We never came anywhere near the limits of the package!
This was the first cruise that we never ate in a restaurant for a lunch. We even stopped eating in restaurants for breakfast after a few days, instead choosing the second buffet on Deck 16.
There were some outstanding performers in the theatre but musically the house band made the cruise for us – Ocean Boulevard were excellent!
I had my first ever visit to a ship’s doctor in over 30 cruises. I received a very thoughtful consult and came away with antibiotics that completely cured the abscess beneath my tooth.