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I’d been looking forward to our 7-day trip with Princess Cruises from Southampton, but I was also a little nervous. I had no idea what to expect and, on realising that, was hurled completely out of my travel comfort zone.
Walking onto the Sapphire Princess, I had to stop for a moment to take it all in. I knew cruise ships must be pretty big but, from down here, it looked HUGE.
I wondered if it wasn’t the only thing that was huge… perhaps this was all a huge mistake.
Over the course of the following week, though, I began to feel totally at home. I found my sea legs, sunk into cruise ship life and had an incredible week cruising with Princess Cruises. As we pulled back into Southampton at the end of the trip, I didn’t feel ready to leave – and noone was more surprised than me!
Our Sapphire Princess itinerary
I took a 7-day Princess cruise from Southampton, stopping in La Coruna, Bilbao, Bordeaux, Guernsey and ended back in Southampton.
Over the course of one week, we visited four countries and also had two sea days on board the Sapphire Princess. Isn’t it amazing what you can squeeze into a week?
7 days in Europe
This was our itinerary for the 7-day cruise on the Sapphire Princess:
Day 1: Southampton. Board the Sapphire Princess and sail away at 4pm.
Day 2: Sea day. Our first day was spent at sea, which gave us time to explore the ship. Even after an entire day, there were still parts of the ship I didn’t get to see!
Day 3: La Coruña, Spain. Our first port day took us to the the Galicia region in Northern Spain. La Coruna port is right in the middle of town, so there was no need to book any transport or excursions. Instead, we spent the day exploring the city, trying local food and discovering cool street art.
Day 4: Bilbao, Spain. For our second port day, we had a jam-packed day booked. A one-hour drive took us to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, the filming location of Dragonstone in Game of Thrones. My foot hadn’t healed enough to do the hike, but it didn’t matter – the views were still incredible! After that, we visited a cute fishing town, had pintxos in central Bilbao and ended the day at the Guggenheim museum.
Day 5: Bordeaux, France. Our second organised excursion was to two vineyards (or “chateaux”) just outside of Bordeaux. I couldn’t take part in the tastings because I’m allergic to wine, but the grounds were so beautiful it didn’t matter! We enjoyed a 4-course lunch at the Chateau Rousseau de Sipian before heading back to the ship.
Day 6: Sea day. Our second and final day gave us a much-needed day of rest. We checked into the Sanctuary, the adults-only area of the ship, for half a day and we CHILLED. We also tried out the spa, enjoying a lime and ginger scrub followed by an incredible massage.
Day 7: Southampton. Exactly one week after we joined the cruise from Southampton, we woke up back in the port again. After a leisurely breakfast in the buffet restaurant, it was time to say goodbye to the Sapphire Princess and (reluctantly!) disembark one final time.
The Crown Princess will be cruising the same route (in reverse!) in October 2020.
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Taking a cruise from Southampton
Because our Princess cruise took a round-trip that started and ended in Southampton, it was as easy as travel can be.
On the day of trip, I took a one-hour train from Clapham Junction to Southampton Central, then hopped in an Uber for the short drive to the port.
With no need to book flights anywhere, it almost felt like I hadn’t left the UK – until we arrived in Spain, of course! Once I had my first pintxo and cortado, I knew I was definitely on Spanish ground. But it was amazing how relaxed the entire journey felt.
Not having to fly also meant there were no restrictions on luggage. Which was lucky because my parents had to rush deliver me a bag of dresses to take for the formal nights!
Things I loved about my first cruise
I felt a little reserved as I boarded the Princess cruise in Southampton, and most of that anticipation came from the fact I didn’t really know what to expect on a cruise. But I needn’t have worried! There were loads of things I really loved about the whole cruise experience, including some that hadn’t even crossed my mind.
Waking up in a new destination every day
One of the best things about being on a cruise was being able to just relax and forget about the logistics. Every morning, we would wake up in a brand new destination refreshed and ready to go. A super comfy bed and 24-hour room service definitely beats an overnight flight.
Being able to unpack for a week
Given that I live out of my suitcase, I’ve become pretty good at not unpacking. But that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it when I do!
My Princess stateroom came with a walk-in wardrobe, which I made full use of. It was so, so nice to have the space and time to unpack, and really settle in on the cruise.
Not having to deal with airports
Confession: I’m one of weird people who actually enjoy airports. I just love the idea that everybody is going somewhere, and wondering where that somewhere might be.
Of course, I don’t love everything about airports. Airports are stressful at best – and completely soul-destroying at worst! – and it was nice to have a break from the chaos. Especially as I’d spent the last few weeks jetting between Patagonia, Peru, Canada and Antigua.
How much (or little!) you can do.
One of the main reasons I’d never taken a cruise is because I like to get to know places. After all, I usually spend anywhere from two to three months in each destination!
With only one day in each port, I was worried that there wouldn’t be enough time to see anything.
Of course, we saw much less than I might have liked. But I was surprised at just how much you could see on a shore day. With a packed itinerary that didn’t feel rushed, Bilbao showed just how much you can squeeze into one day – without feeling squeezed.
Furthermore, it’s a great way to get a taste of several places so you can find places to go back to. And if you see it that way – as a kind of travel ‘taster’ – then it’s an awesome way to see somewhere new.
On board the Sapphire Princess
The Sapphire Princess was the ship that took us on our 7-day Europe cruise.
I didn’t have much to compare it to because it was the first cruise ship I’ve ever been on. I guess I didn’t really have any expectations, either.
I’ve already said it, but the first thing that struck me was just how massive it was. I can’t say it enough times but I don’t think I realised just how big it would be! The biggest vessel I’d been on until then were probably the Greek Island ferries…
On board, there was everything you need for a one week cruise. In fact, there was probably everything you need for a long, long time. The ship was like a small town with everything you need, including a medical centre, shops and even a laundry room. And with a population of around 4,000 passengers and crew, it was almost half the size of my hometown!
There were so many different bars, restaurants and entertainment options to enjoy, that a week wasn’t really enough. You could spend an entire 7 days at sea and still not get to try everything. It’s almost hard to drag yourself off the ship to see the ports sometimes…
The stateroom was also much bigger than I expected. Located on the 14th deck, my room came with a walk-in wardrobe area, desk, kitchen amenities and a generous balcony. It was bigger than some of the hotel rooms I’ve stayed in before – which I didn’t expect!
Other Princess cruises from Southampton
If you fancy skipping the airport and trying a cruise from Southampton, you don’t have to stick to the same itinerary! In fact, I was amazed to find out how many routes start and/or end in Southampton.
Princess cruises from Southampton can be as short as 4 days and visit destinations that might surprise you. If I were to book another Princess cruise from Southampton, it would be a tough call between this Scandinavia cruise and the European Explorer.
And then there’s the one I think would be truly incredible: this Princess cruise to the Norwegian Fjords. I’ve visited the Lofoten Islands by land and, as beautiful as it is, it’s not the easiest place to get to! Flights are expensive and there’s a lot of driving involved. In that respect, I can now see how it would be the perfect cruise destination.
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