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Cruise in Middelhavet: This is what it's like to go on a cruise for the first time

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We went on a cruise in Middelhavet with Princess Cruises' newest ship. For the very first time.
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Cruise in Middelhavet: What it's like to go on a cruise for the first time with Princess Cruises is written by Anna Christensen.
The editors were invited on the trip by Princess Cruises. All opinions are, as usual, those of the editors.

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5-star cruise: Step aboard the floating city

"It's the biggest ship I've ever seen."

That's my first thought when I look up at Sun Princess. It is the newest and biggest of the Princess Cruises' cruise ships, and it will be my home for the next week on the journey in Middelhavet from Athens to Barcelona.

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I can't even capture half of the ship on my camera as I stand under the setting sun on the port of Piraeus in Athens looking up at the impressive 5 star ship.

I never really considered going on a cruise. I don't know why, because I'm the type of person who over-plans a hundred and twenty activities and sights on every trip. I love to see and experience things - and my motto is always "the more the merrier" - so the thought of waking up to a new destination every morning is sweet music to my ears.

Princess Cruises has a total of 16 luxury cruise ships and I was lucky enough to be invited aboard the newest and most modern of them. Sun Princess was launched in February this year and will spend the summer in the Mediterranean and autumn and winter in Caribbean, until it again ends up back to Europe and the Middlehavet until March. 

Everything runs smoothly from baggage drop to the delivery of my 'all inclusive' medal, which hangs and dangles like a hypnotic pendulum around my neck, reminding me that now I don't have to lift a finger for a whole week.

In the waiting room there is both coffee, food and all kinds of drinks and cold cloths for free use. You can clearly see that Sun Princess is a 5-star cruise experience.   

Then it's my turn to board with the rest of Group 2 and my first cruise adventure begins.

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Welcome to a Slaraffenland of food experiences

I quickly feel like a fish on land as I walk around the huge cruise ship. I stroll past a restaurant and feel my stomach rumbling, so I decide to give the ship its first food test.

I politely ask one of the employees if the food in this restaurant is included. She laughs and asks me knowingly if this is my first time on a cruise with Princes Cruises. I smile back and say yes.

Everything is included, she says and throws out her arms, and I begin to understand what slafferland I have landed myself in.

The cruise is at the same time everything and nothing of what I expected.

There is plenty of food on board; in fact, there are a total of 29 restaurants and bars on the Sun Princess. Or 31 if you count the two 24-hour room service stations. And then there are 253 chefs on board to take care of you and make sure to prepare the entire 220 tons of food and drinks that are delivered on board every week.

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I grab my first breakfast at The Eatery. It's the big buffet at Sun Princess, and there's everything your heart desires. In fact, there are so many possibilities that I wander around for a few minutes in a frenzy to see it all. Everything is behind glass cases, so it's the staff who bring you the food, which seems absolutely brilliant. 

After walking around myself a few times, I decide to have an omelette. An older American gentleman also orders one - it just has to be with cheese and bacon. And when the friendly chef who makes omelettes asks if he needs spices or vegetables, he laughs and winks: Yes, additional bacon. 

My first prejudice is confirmed. Americans love to cruise. And I'm starting to understand why.

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It's always cocktail time somewhere in the world

It's also pretty easy to quench your thirst in one of the 12 bars. There are different types of bars on what seems like every corner, serving everything from exotic drinks to draft beer. Over 200 new cocktails have been created for Sun Princess, so there is plenty to choose from.

There's even an Aperol booth on one of the top decks where you can toast the summer vibes. You quickly notice that here on this floating island the saying "it's always cocktail time somewhere in the world" seems to be completely legitimate.

                                                                 

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A small tip, if you go on a trip with Sun Princess, is to go to the Crooners Bar on deck 8 and order the drink "ROSE". It's the most beautiful drink I've ever had.

Although the impressive cocktail list seems to go on and on on Sun Princess, it's the food on board that I've been looking forward to the most. And it certainly does not disappoint. Mediumhavet and food belong together.

On the cruise, I tried two of Sun Princess' total of 10 specialty restaurants – Crown Grill and Umai Teppanyaki, respectively, both of which were two fantastic dining experiences.

The special restaurants cost extra to visit, unless you have the Princess Premium package, where two visits are included. But the 'regular' restaurants that are included, regardless of whether you choose a package or not, are also really good.

I ate at Horizon most nights. It reminds me of a good restaurant here at home, where the menu changes every day. There is also The Eatery, which is Sun Princess' buffet, and which offers food from all over the world.

The Alfredos restaurant has a chef who has been nominated for the best pizza chef on a cruise ship, so if you're into Italian, it's definitely a must. I stopped by twice and it certainly did not disappoint.

Let's just say there is something for everyone and I quickly turn to the luxury of just beeping my locket and ordering whatever my stomach is asking for that day.

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If the sun and the exotic drinks have gone to your head, you can also simply order room service – which is open 24 hours – with a single click in the app and enjoy the food in your own cabin, which is free with one of the two packages .

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Is there such a thing as cruise time?

It's 17pm and I feel like I've lived through three days already. You really experience a lot if you want to, and my inner time optimist is in seventh heaven.

Is there such a thing as 'cruise time'? If you don't already, you should, because it's like time goes differently here. As if you live in your own little bubble outside of time and place on a floating island, where time goes slower and faster at the same time. 

And then of course there is the practical aspect of jumping between time zones; we set the clock back and forth three times during the week I was away in Middelhavet. But you don't feel it, because it's as if the cruise ship has its own time zone.

It almost feels like you have a time machine with everything you manage to see in a day. I disembarked at all four destinations in Middelhavet and still managed to participate in several of the activities later in the day. And relax by the pool.

We visited Montenegro, Korfu, Sicily og Napoli, all of which are fantastic Mediterranean destinations. And precisely the destinations are also one of Princess Cruises' major focus areas, no matter which of their cruise ships you sail with.

This means that they have many routes with only a few days on the water, so you can experience as many destinations as possible. It is certainly a big plus in my book that Princess Cruises focuses on the destinations, because for me it is an important part of the experience. 

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Experiences on board – are you into bingo or Silent Disco?

While on the Sun Princess, I feel like I've mysteriously stepped through the closet to Narnia and into another world where every corner holds a new adventure. Acrobats, musicians, dancers and entertainers seem to be everywhere, and they deliver one experience after another.

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Sun Princess has a multitude of activities that you can keep an eye on in the app, where you can also order food and reserve a table. You also get the daily program in the cabin every day. There is everything, and I really mean everything. From knitting club, bingo and Bible reading to fitness classes, quiz shows and line dancing.

I skipped bingo and Bible reading and jumped straight into 80s line dancing; It's been a long time since I've laughed so much.

There is a tight schedule every day, and although I wanted to try it all, I soon had to realize that it was completely impossible. However, I managed to participate in quite a few activities. Some of my favorites were line dancing, movies under the stars in the evening on the open deck, silent disco and the many game shows.

However, the coolest experiences were probably the fantastic shows on board. I was overwhelmed – even to tears at one of the performances – by the talented artists on board. It's hard to choose my favorite show, because they each did something, but the Princess Cirque Show took my breath away.

I would guess that there are over 50 different activities daily that one is free to participate in, but if you are more into pure relaxation, you can always just relax by a pool. Or you can do both, which ended up being my strategy. Because on a cruise, time is your own.

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Fine facilities: Shops, fitness and spa

On day two, I grab a coffee and explore aboard the large luxury ship to explore the various facilities. I only get lost a few times on the huge ship, which is a big improvement from the previous day.

First stop is the gym. Let's just say I lost both my nose and my mouth when I entered the gym.

It's 08.45:XNUMX a.m. and there isn't a single machine available. My preconceived notion that people on cruises are there to drink long lines and order poolside food fades, and I begin to feel guilty that my workout clothes are still in the suitcase.

I decide my time is better spent elsewhere and move on to my discovery on the big ship.

Each tire can do something different. On deck 7, for example, you will find 'Entertainment', where there is comedy, the Sun Princess theatre, karaoke, banking and the Irish pub O'Malley's with live music, where you can meet the pirate queen who holds poker tournaments.

On deck 8 there is a large casino and several shops filled with luxury brands and diamond jewellery.

For the youngest, there are three children's clubs for different age groups, and on deck 19 a 'fun park' with a climbing wall, a water slide where you fly over the cruise ship and much more.

There is also an award-winning spa department where you can get the latest Hollywood treatments, and with a nail salon and hairdresser. And then of course there are five pools and nine hot tubs distributed over the ship, from where you have the most beautiful view over Middelhavet.

It is like a floating city with everything a heart could desire and every need can be met.

  • Montenegro Mediumhavet
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Aren't there many people on such a cruise?

One of the questions I got the most before going on a cruise with Princess Cruises was this: "Don't you think you're going to feel trapped with so many people on board a ship for a week?"

I also had my fearful premonitions. But after spending a week on board the Sun Princess in Middelhavet, let me just say that my answer is no. In fact, I've felt more overwhelmed by people on other vacations down south than I ever did here.

                                                                 

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The er many people on board. 4.300 people on this trip to be more precise, but I didn't feel it. 

In fact, only twice did I feel that there were many people. The first time was at the breakfast buffet, when I ate at 9.15am instead of 8am like the other days. However, everything still went quickly, and it was just like at a normal hotel for the breakfast buffet. 

The second time was when I was going on an excursion to Taormina in Sicily. I manage to feel for a moment that I am in the swimming pool and green time is over when I get a silver sticker with the number 11 slapped on my chest and am guided into a section full of other expectant guests.

A few minutes later we are called out by color and number. The system works, because less than 10 minutes later I'm on a bus with the rest of my group and I'm on my way to Taormina.

And don't worry: you don't need to reserve a sunbed with your towels in the morning – there are plenty!

There are many Americans here. In fact, more than half of the guests on this trip are from the United States. In second place comes Canada, and Australia sneaks into third place for the most guests on board, so English must be said to be the most spoken language on board. There was an open, happy and cozy atmosphere, which, by the way, is often where Americans go on holiday.

However, the crew is a bit more spread out from all over the world. In fact, there are a total of 1.600 crew members from 60 different nationalities on this Princess Cruises ship.

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The practicalities of the cruise – from standard to premium

I quickly learned that there are many ways to go on a cruise. Some choose to lie on the sun deck all day and enjoy all the benefits this floating city has to offer, while others are here to experience the destinations and activities on board. And then there are all those in between.

People also choose from different shelves of luxuries on board. The cabins range from indoor cabins without windows to large luxury suites with private terraces. I am not surprised to hear that the various types of suites are the first cabins to sell out.

There are different packages you can choose from. Princess Standard is included when you buy a cabin and includes ad libitum food in the standard restaurants and all the shows and activities you want to attend.

You can also choose two different types of packages; respectively, Princess Plus and Princess Premium, which include free Wi-Fi, beverages, multiple types of restaurants, gratuities, unlimited sports teams, and free room service and food and beverage delivery no matter where you are on the boat.

Whether you choose a package or not depends on the type of cruise you want to go on, so you can tailor it to your needs.

It doesn't get any easier than a cruise in Middlehavet

One of the things that appeals to me most about cruising is how easy it is. Every morning you get up and walk towards one of the breakfast restaurants, and then the day starts there. I got to try three, with the international cafe being my favorite, both because of the convenience and because they had the best coffee on the ship.

Then you just beep your locket and voila, there is food.

You can also use the Princess Cruises app to have things delivered, no matter if you want it to your sunbed, to your room or somewhere else on the ship.

I think several times that I will have to remember that you can't just walk away from the bill when I get home, because I got so used to just ordering something, getting it and then leaving.

Another really big plus is that you don't have to think about either transport or luggage while traveling around, and that, I must say, was incredibly liberating. 

I used to travel from place to place every day, on boats InterRail og roadtrip, and I loved it because you see so many places in a short time. The only downside in my book to those forms of travel is that you never really get the chance to unpack. You always feel like you're living in your bag. That's the cool thing about a cruise where you travel around but still have the same room every night.

Before embarking on this 5-star cruise, I had never considered going on a cruise, but Sun Princess and her amazing crew have magically changed my view of cruising. 

Several of my prejudices were put to shame, and those who lived up to expectations did so in the best way.

The biggest minus I can think of was the last day on havet, where the waves were a little too high for my taste. Otherwise there would not have been any during our journey in Middelhavet. Let's just say I enjoyed having a nice big cabin where I could relax most of that day.

If you had asked me before my trip in Middelhavet with Princess Cruises, if I were the cruise type, my answer would probably have been no. But after stepping through the closet and into this world of cruising, it's hard to look back.

Princess Cruises' new slogan is “I love this”, and my conclusion after a week on board the Sun Princess is that I completely agree.

Really good trip on a cruise in Middelhavet!

cruise in Middelhavet

5 fantastic experiences on a cruise with Sun Princess in Middelhavet

  1. Princess Cirque Show in The Dome
  2. Movie under the stars
  3. Sunset over Middelhavet on deck 17
  4. Viva la Musica – Sun Princess' own production
  5. The food on board – Crown Grill was fantastic
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Anna Christensen

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