My husband and I were on the 28-day Grand Mediterranean Adventure on the Sky Princess, the fourth in the line of Royal-Class Princess Ships. The cruise was early of the inaugural season, and it wasn’t without some bumps, but overall, we ... Read More
My husband and I were on the 28-day Grand Mediterranean Adventure on the Sky Princess, the fourth in the line of Royal-Class Princess Ships. The cruise was early of the inaugural season, and it wasn’t without some bumps, but overall, we believe the Sky Princess is a good ship that offers something for everyone.
Overview: The Sky Princess is an exquisite addition to the Princess Cruise Line’s Royal-Class ships. Returning guests will find many well-loved familiar features, such as the multi-story Piazza Atrium, International Café, the Vines Wine Bar and an expanded Princess Live.
There is also a new gathering spot, Take Five, a large jazz club that offers a terrific location for those seeking a cocktail and some quiet jazz music. It’s worth noting that this was a somewhat controversial move; Take Five supplanted Crooner’s and the Wheelhouse. Perhaps in response to the outcry from passengers, the Enchanted Princess, the next in the Royal Class line, will offer both Crooner’s and Take Five, according to the cruise line’s website. The ship also features an all-new Phantom Bridge escape room, although it was not ready when we boarded. We heard it would open during December 2019.
Service: We were told on several occasions that the staff for this inaugural cruise was “hand selected.” If that’s the case, they selected well. Throughout the ship, service was, as far as we are concerned, five-star. Yes, guests will be asked to wait for a table during peak times for Anytime Dining, but that’s to be expected. We found the table service in the Main Dining Room and the Specialty Restaurants to be outstanding.
Captain and Cruise Director: Captain Laakkonen was among the best we’ve experienced on the Princess Line. His noon briefings from the bridge were always entertaining, and we were impressed with the number of appearances he made throughout the day, including a Cruise Director Q&A that was informative, entertaining and humorous. Our Cruise Director, Alex Yepremian was also among the best we’ve experienced on Princess. He was thoroughly involved in guest activities and maintained an upbeat presence 24/7. We’ve never seen a Cruise Director who was so visible, and guests seemed to love it.
Cabins: We love the new softer, and more spa-like, look of the cabins. In addition to the traditional plugs, the lamps feature USB plugs for charging computers and smart devices. Our balcony felt slightly larger, but we can’t fact check that. We did enjoy our time on the balcony, which featured two lounge-like chairs that recline as well as a small dining table. Unfortunately, the extra interior chair and table has been removed from the cabin, leaving only one desk chair. At times when we ordered room service, we moved the balcony chair into the cabin. It is also possible to request a larger “dining” table for a meal, but it made for crowded service.
Bathroom: We were happy with the bathroom. The shower, while small, was serviceable. We were particularly impressed by the water pressure, which was outstanding. Others have noted the odd placement of the toilet roll under the vanity, but that area offers additional storage if you prepare for it. We brought a tray that we bought at Target (Dimensions - 13.78 L x 10.24 W x 2.4 D) that quite coincidently fit perfectly under the vanity. I stored my make-up there and moved it to the desk/vanity area when applying make-up.
Gym: The gym on this ship is enormous, with something for everyone. We were particularly pleased that, while crowded, we never had to wait for a treadmill. On the other hand, we were extremely disappointed that the treadmills, while brand new, did not offer any fan feature whatsoever. This, combined with the stale air frequently found in a crowded gym, made for an uncomfortable experience. Otherwise, the gym was five-star.
Dining: We really enjoyed the menus in the Main Dining Room. Because we were onboard for 28 days, there were several “repeat” menus, but there was enough variety that we were typically quite happy with our options.
Buffet: The buffet is enormous and well stocked with a variety of International foods. We don’t tend to eat at the buffet, but on the occasions that we did, it seemed that there was something for everyone, although clean and available tables could be hard to come by.
Speciality Restaurants: Bistro del Mar: Bistro del Mar was a major disappointment for us. As background, we had not heard great things about the specialty dining restaurant, but we like to try things for ourselves. The escargot fried balls appetizer was greasy and almost inedible (and we love escargot). My husband’s duck was serviceable, although he admitted that he makes better duck at home. I ordered the fish and chips, which presented more as fish sticks just a bit larger than French fries. Overall, a big disappointment. But the most disturbing aspect of Bistro del Mar is its placement. It’s an on the Promenade Deck 7 overlooking the Plazza. There are no doors or any form of soundproofing to separate activities occurring in the Plazza. That would be fine if the Plazza were featuring a string quartet (as it often does), but on the night we dined, they were hosting some sort of disco trivia night. To add insult to injury, in addition to ambient sound, they actually broadcast the disco trivia festivities into the speakers in the restaurant. We left before dessert in frustration.
Sabatini’s: In the past, Sabatini’s has been more of a “chef’s table” experience, where most courses are preselected for you and you have a choice among a few items. The new menu offers more choice, but we found it slightly less satisfying. The fondue was actually more of an overly rich soup, although the pasta dishes were (as always) absolutely delicious. The main dishes were quite good, but, overall, we prefer the “old” Sabatini’s.
Ocean Terrace: We loved the sushi bar, which features something for everyone (even those who don't like sushi.) Prices were outstanding there and they offer nice appetizers with purchase of a drink.
The Ocean Medallion Experience: This is where Princess will (eventually) shine. They are currently treading a thin line because a portion of their guests are older and would prefer to leave their smart phones (if they have them) at home. We, however, loved it, and look forward to the day when it adds more functionality, including daily menus, a full listing of program activities, etc. Currently, our favorite Medallion features include the “find a shipmate” feature that allows you to locate friends on board, as well as the feature that allows your Medallion to open your door upon arrival. We found the feature that allows you to order a drink delivered to your table to be overly difficult to use. We did figure it out, but it was glitchy during our voyage, and often didn’t register the orders. In the end, we mostly opted to stand in line at places like the International Café, although it’s easy to see that this feature will be terrific once it gets worked out.
Shops: It appears is much more space devoted to shopping, a trend we’re seeing more often on cruise ships. We don’t shop in the stores – they tend to be overpriced and we’d rather spend our money ashore – but it did seem that folks were enjoying the shopping experience.
Library: The ship no longer offers a library, much to the disappointment of many guests. There was, however, a “mobile library” that featured a range of new best sellers. Guests found this difficult, because the mobile library was available only during brief times. Cruisers on the Sky (or other future Royal ships) would be well advised to bring their own books, or download them to their smart devices.
Production Shows: Seeing a production show requires advance preparation (the Princess Theater does not offer adequate seating), so guests must try to get to their seats at least 30 minutes in advance. We’d heard great things about a new show called “Five Skys,” so we arrived at the theater an hour prior to showtime and were among the last to get a seat. We were blown away by the costumes, dance, singing and staging. The storyline for “Five Skies” is odd at best. It’s built around a gamer (yes a gamer) who is trying to reach all the “fifth sky.” I’m not sure why Princess thinks there will be gamers in the audience, since they make up a small and very specific portion of the population. Coincidentally, my husband is a serious gamer (he loves international travel because he can collect unique Pokémon characters), but even he found the premise for the show ridiculous. Storyline aside, though, it was thoroughly entertaining.
Medical: Unfortunately for me, I had an opportunity to experience the Medical Services on board the ship. I had contracted an acute upper respiratory infection that required treatment. I found the medical professionals on board the Sky to be top notch. They triage guests efficiently, and treat all with respect. Because I had a fever, I was put into isolation until my fever was normal for 24 hours. It took 48 hours, during which time I discovered that those in isolation can order room service off the Main Dining Room menu, which is a nice touch for those who want it.
Lotus Spa: Shortly after being released from medical isolation, I decided to treat myself to a hair styling in the Lotus Spa. While the wash and blow dry was fine, I must say the tactic of “hair shaming” – pointing out dryness, lack of body, etc. – in an attempt to upsell to a conditioning treatment to be tasteless. I’d have had no issue with an offer to add a conditioning treatment, but my stylist talked throughout my blow dry session about the quality of my hair. It was extremely unpleasant and I made a note not to return.
Enclave: The Enclave is a favorite spot for us during sea days. It’s pricy, but if you have sufficient on-board credit (as we did by combining a $1,000 OBC Landmark Sale with $300 in Future Cruise Deposit dollars and a $250 Shareholder OBC), it is, in our opinion, a terrific expenditure of dollars. It should be noted that the Enclave is a very different product to the Thermal Spa on pre-Royal class ships. The Thermal Spa is nice, but does not in any way compare to the luxurious offering of the Enclave, which includes 12 hot loungers, steam showers, three spas and a large hydro pool. In the past, we were told passes were limited to 40, but we’re not sure that they were as limited during our voyage. It was, at times, quite crowded, with people having to wait a bit to get a hot lounger, which is “home base” during a visit to the Enclave. Read Less