No Need To Stay Dry On A Sea Princess Cruise

6 February 2015

According to the little folding map we’re given on arrival the Sea Princess has 13 bars and entertainment areas.

My husband has counted them, and vowed to try them all on our six-day Tasmanian cruise. I’d just like to put my feet up on our stateroom balcony and relax for the week.

What neither of us has counted on is the array of activities and excursions that will distract us both from our respective missions.

 

We are big-ship cruise virgins, though at 1990 passengers, the Sea Princess is regarded as a mid-size vessel in the Princess Cruises fleet. It feels huge to us though and we’re grateful for the map as we blunder in the wrong direction every time we exit a stairwell.

Lost we may be, but we immediately feel welcome, with genuinely warm greetings from every staff member we encounter, from security personnel to our room steward.

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Glow Worms On A Cave Roof

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Topsails Bar on the Sun Deck is the prime spot for the ship’s evening departure from Sydney Harbour. The Sea Princess reverses out of utilitarian White Bay and into twinkling Darling Harbour before pointing her bow towards the Bridge.

The winking headlamps of bridge-climbers resemble glow worms on a cave roof, as we glide under the Harbour Bridge, and the sleek Opera House sails elicit a pang of pride for my adopted city.

Princess Cruises has a third of its fleet based in Australia or visiting regularly, and with many round trips from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Freemantle to choose from, it’s possible to cruise from Australia without ever having to set foot in an international airport.

 A cool drink and a cruise are made for each other (Getty)

Our six-night round trip from Sydney conveniently leaves and returns on a weekend, meaning we only have to take a week off work, and with the on board currency being Australian dollars, it’s all so easy. (It’s no wonder Princess Cruises carry more Australians for more nights than any other cruise line.)

They also offer one of the highest percentages of balcony staterooms, for not much more than the cost of an inside cabin. It’s an affordable luxury that makes you feel like a millionaire. The mesmerising ocean canvas, the bracing sea breeze, the rhythmic rush of water down the hull – all accessible from the sheltered privacy of your own balcony – is bliss in my book.

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1o Tonnes Of Food Every Day

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My husband is not so easily seduced (though he does like sleeping with the balcony door open). Food and beverages are what pique his interest, and there are plenty of options to choose from with ‘round-the-clock-dining’.

 Leave the world in your wake (Getty)

Along with two main dining rooms and buffet restaurant there is a steakhouse, patisserie, hamburger grill, pizzeria, ice cream bar and wine and caviar bar.

Behind the scenes award-winning chefs and 310 galley staff prepare the 10 tonnes of food consumed a day. The figures on a galley tour are head-spinning, from the 6000 pastries baked daily to the 21,000 glasses washed each day.

The maitre d’hotel, the entertaining Neville Saldanha, offers an intimate wine tasting for A$34. Joined by executive chef Antonio Cortese, we sample premium wines from the ship’s cellar paired with delicious morsels like ‘prawns in Driza-bone’ (crispy pancetta wrapped tiger prawns), red snapper mojitos and twice baked goat cheese soufflé.

The glistening Atrium with its twin glass elevators is the centre of activities (always a good landmark when you’re lost) and location of the Captain’s Welcome Party, where a champagne waterfall takes centre stage and provides a photo opportunity for guests dressed in elegant formal wear.


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How To Walk Straight In The Corridors

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In his welcome speech the good-humoured captain, William Kent, recommends drinking more to ward of seasickness as we cross Bass Strait – suggesting the ensuing headache will take our minds off our stomachs and enable us to walk down the corridor in a straight line.

The atrium is also the hub of shopping (I didn’t realise how seriously some people shop on a cruise). Apart from the boutiques, tables are set up daily selling watches, jewellery, handbags and ship souvenirs. There are gemstone lectures, art auctions and ‘outlet’ sales.

 Your home on the ocean wave

We spend our sea days taking a bridge tour, soaking in hot tubs, visiting the spa, enjoying a musical and snuggling under a blanket to watch a movie by the pool on the giant 28 square metre screen. And ticking off more bars on my husband’s list.

The cruise stops in Burnie, Port Arthur and Hobart and the range of excursions is enticing.

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Tasmanian Devils And Pagan Cider

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From Burnie we travel to Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clare National Park through eucalypt forests and button grass plains, stopping at Waldheim Chalet, a replica of the small guesthouse built in 1912 by Gustav and Kate Weindorfer and surrounded by alpine pandani. In the mist we meander through ancient King Billy pines and myrtle beech, spotting a wombat waddling amongst the rocks.

Behind sultry-grey Dove Lake snow-flecked Cradle Mountain disappears into the clouds as a chorus of frogs groan in the tussock. The lake circuit walk beckons, but a Pagan Cider awaits at Cradle Mountain Chateau where we head for lunch.

 There are many activities - relaxing is one of them (Getty)

From Port Arthur we visit a chocolate factory, heritage museum and Tasmanian Devil Conservation Park, before returning to Port Arthur Historic site for a poignant guided tour of the former penal settlement. There’s time to wander the formal Government Gardens, filled with cottage flowers and arching European trees, before heading back to the ship.

In Hobart we strike out on our own, catching the ferry to MONA, the provocative and intriguing privately-owned Museum of Old and New Art, followed by lunch at the Source Restaurant in adjacent Moorilla Winery.

When we set out on this cruise six nights seemed like a long time, but as we sip a final drink in the Atrium Lounge on our last evening, we realise it is nowhere near long enough to fully explore all the on board offerings, together with the shore excursions, and I now understand while some guests opted to stay on board while in port.

I’ve hardly had time to sit on my balcony and there are still more bars to tick off my husband’s list.

The writer was a guest of Princess Cruises.

Briar Jensen

Briar Jensen is a Sydney-based freelance travel writer and regularly contributes to Australia’s leading newspapers and travel magazines. She is equally comfortable scuffing around in thongs (flip-flops) on an adventurous getaway as sashaying around in stilettos on a luxury holiday. She blogs about her travels and love of travel gadgets at www.briarstravelbeat.com.au.