Our friends had invited us to join them on the Inaugural cruise of the Sky Princess for two weeks from Athens to Rome. Although we had cruised the Mediterranean several times in the past, and although we were veteran Platinum Princess cruisers, this seemed to offer an interesting itinerary and the excitement of being on the maiden voyage of a brand new ship. While we expected there to be some last minute adjustments necessitated by these circumstances, we thought that this would be compensated for by extras added in celebration. Disappointingly, there were no extras, only deletions.
These two weeks were actually two one-week cruises back-to-back, with different itineraries. Our major disappointment was in the caliber of entertainment offered. The first week featured a couple of outstanding comedians, one of whom was a clever ventriloquist as well, but this type of entertainment belonged in a lounge, not in a large theater. There were a couple of good singers, but once again, not suited to a large stage, especially with a lack of backup singers and dancers. Finally, on the last night of the first week (when many of the one-week cruisers were concerned about packing for the debarkation the following morning), the ship presented the premier of its Rock Opera, an over-amplified set of singers who sounded like they were screaming at the top of their lungs. Some of these singers appeared for us the following week in smaller productions and we were pleased to hear that they actually had pleasant voices when the sound engineers allowed them to project in a more natural way. Although the singers in Rock Opera strutted about the stage, there was still a minimal amount of dancing, if any.
Rock Opera was repeated during the second week, but we naturally declined to be subjected once again to the screaming. The only other production during the second week was the premier of a Jim Henson Muppet review, very cleverly directed by John Tartaglia (original star of Avenue Q on Broadway), who apparently trained the regular crew entertainers to be puppeteers. They did an outstanding job. My only complaint was that since this was performed in a small lounge we had to get there one hour early to obtain seats. The second week also featured a comedian who was better suited to entertaining elementary school students with his mock improvisations.
When we complained to the cruise director about the scarcity of large scale shows, he effectively blamed us, saying that we should know that inaugural cruises will be scaled down.
One outstanding bit of entertainment was the dance band, who performed every night in the Atrium. It featured two talented female singers.
Princess boasted about this being a Medallion Class ship, with many features available to us wearing the medallions around our necks or on our wrists. It was fun to approach our cabin doors and have them automatically greet us and unlock. We were also able to locate friends and family aboard the ship. But the medallions used four different apps that we downloaded to our cell phones. They were overlapping and perplexing and often unresponsive..
We had anytime dining, which generally worked well for us, since we arrived early. There were two entrances to the dining room with apparent lack of communication between the hostesses. For example, people who arrived at the starboard side entrance were sometimes told that, since there were no seats, they should scurry over to the port side to look for seats. The food quality was pretty good, and our servers were very pleasant, but it was all very slow. it seemed that the kitchen must have been poorly organized.
The large buffet on Lido deck was also poorly organized. Seating seemed to be adequate, since friendly cruisers tend to share tables. It was difficult to find things with meaningless signs over different areas, which seemed to serve the same things, except for just a few items. Where was the yogurt and fresh bread at breakfast? Where were the salads at lunch? Lunch, in particular, offered the same boring choices each day Princess should learn from the parent company Carnival, on how to create an appetizing buffet selection. Furthermore, the sanitation at the buffet was very poor. Although there were washing stations at the entrance, they were off to the side and no one was there to remind passengers to wash. At first there were no sanitizing dispensers, either. So it was not surprising that the Norovirus appeared after several days. At that point the crew had to dispense food at the buffet, but they had problems adjusting to this.
As for the rest of the ship, the balcony cabin was adequate, although the toilet paper dispensers in the bathrooms were placed in such a way that it was almost impossible to tear off more than one sheet at a time. While we had a large closet there was very little shelf or drawer space. The beds were very comfortable, though. As promised, there were many hot tubs outside, but it seemed that one-third of them were non-functional, perhaps part of the glitches on a new ship.
In summation, we will probably return to Princess in the future, especially with their innovative itineraries, but NOT ON AN INAUGURAL CRUISE!!