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Long weekend

A mini-break cruise to Northern Europe means true love

Princess Cruises ship Sky Princess first sailed in 2019 and will reposition to the Caribbean in the autumn. Sailawaze joined the vessel for a mini break to Northern Europe.

Words by Harriet Mallinson

I’m chatting to Elton John. In fact, I’m chin-wagging with not one but three Elton Johns while gaily swigging on my third martini; you could say I’m feeling the love tonight.

The emotion is entirely on brand. I’m being whisked away for the weekend to Northern Europe by Princess Cruises, the original Love Boat cruise line, and we know what Bridget Jones says about mini breaks – they mean true love.

Accordingly I submit to the smorgasbord of sybaritic pursuits available onboard Sky Princess, from a morning breakfast feast on my balcony and a massage in the spa to gleefully accepting steak with wine pairing recommendations, and an evening, well, enamoured by Elton number two, fresh from his variety show tribute act.

All-singing and all-dancing performances prove to be a theme throughout the weekend; Princess lays on Fun with a capital F. At the traditional Sailaway Party, sailor-outfitted performers cavort around the pool deck enticing guests to join in the boogieing while nightly live music in the atrium regularly gets passengers of all ages jiving with abandon.

Talking of which, if you’re looking for a more, shall we say, youthful voyage, a mini cruise like this is your best bet – although an itinerary that includes Amsterdam will always help draw in the younger holidaymakers, let’s face it.

As with all cruise lines, Princess Cruises provides an array of guided shore excursions at each stop and is quick to sort alternatives if plans change. In Rotterdam I soak up the rosy blooms and heady scents of the annual spring Tulip Festival at Holland’s Keukenhof Tulip Gardens while in Bruges a local expert explains the highlights of the beautiful Belgian city and takes us on a boat ride along the charming canal network before we have free time to explore.

I dutifully ogle the gothic architecture and nod approvingly before Michelangelo’s 16th-century Madonna of Bruges before remembering the amorous theme of my trip – and giggle uproariously at the chocolate phalluses proudly displayed in chocolate shop windows.

I’m further titillated when I learn that men in the Middle Ages would come to the city’s bathhouses for everything from shaving and supping to shagging and socialising. Spas aren’t what they used to be, hey?

While there’s less, well, open carnality, back onboard Sky Princess, there’s certainly no shortage of wellness.

The acme of my onboard experience is time spent in The Sanctuary, an exclusive adults-only retreat tucked away at the back of the ship where space can be reserved for half a day or a full day for $20pp of $40pp respectively – and you’re pretty much guaranteed a spot in the jacuzzi away from the madding crowds.

Fancy the full VIP experience? Reserve a cabana for $140 (for a half day) or $220 (for a full day) and benefit from ample amenities plus food and drink. Waiters even bring afternoon tea to your sun lounger! Lovin’ it.

If you want a kid-free environment but with more of a buzz, hit up the adjacent Retreat Pool, an adults-only area that anyone can access for free. The vibe is great and anyone who’s treated themselves to a drink package can make serious inroads into the bar’s cocktail list. Ok, go on, another martini.

No need to drink on an empty stomach, though; there’s food aplenty on Sky Princess, from poolside pizza joints (said to be the best slices at sea) to high-end seafood restaurants. You can even order 24/7 room service on the nifty Medallion App – just don’t fall asleep after a night of hedonism before it arrives, as I learned the hard way.

For delicious Italian fare head to Sabatinis – all pasta is freshly handmade onboard daily and dessert cocktails are divine – while for a celebratory repast there’s sexy steakhouse Crown Grill where the meat is marvellous, the sides splendid and the servers super.

Dinner done, it’s off to a show (or karaoke, or quiz or comedy) and, if you’re lucky, some schmoozing with the stars afterwards. Those in the know head to chic jazz lounge Take Five – although I can’t promise Elton John (one, two or three) will be there.

Set Sail

Scandinavian Sampler with Princess Cruises

When: May 19, 2024

Duration: 5 nights

Where: Southampton, UK | Oslo, Norway | Skagen, Denmark | Southampton, UK

Ship: Sky Princess


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Published 03.03.23