I'm not a big fan of boats, so I've always been a bit sceptical about going on a cruise. However, when I was offered a trip from Perth to Adelaide on the Majestic Princess, I was intrigued.
The ship is a floating palace complete with two swimming pools, eight jacuzzis, a luxury spa, 1000m2 of shops, and countless bars and restaurants – pretty much all of my favourite things, along with a sea view, so surely it was worth a try?
The first thing I noticed when I boarded the ship in Fremantle was what a slick operation the Princess team runs. There is one crew member for every 2.5 guests, so there's no floundering around, waiting to find someone to help you. My documentation was assessed in a flash, my luggage whisked away and I was swiftly adorned with a medallion that not only got me into my room, but also connected me to on-demand food and cocktail delivery.
The ship (I'm advised you never call it a boat) really is magnificent – and gigantic, with 1780 guest rooms. I have no sense of direction, so I was convinced I would spend most of the time wandering around aimlessly. But I needn't have worried – there are interactive maps everywhere that connect to your medallion, telling you where you are and how to get to your preferred destination. The medallion also locates friends and family for you too – if they agree to it!
Aside from that, everyone – not just the crew – is super- friendly and helpful. There really is a community feeling to being on a cruise. I talked to loads of people who had done more than 10 cruises and none of them had any plans to stop. One couple, Phil and Julie Garvin, were treated to a special dinner with the crew as they'd spent 700 nights cruising. (Phil's first was in 1971!)
"We just love it," he says. "We don't have children and the crew have become like our family. You get looked after so beautifully. The food is wonderful, everything is easy to access and if you run into any trouble, there's a medical crew on board."
I spent a lot of time wining and dining at the various different restaurants – and got a chance to chat to the executive chef, Barbu Oprea, who oversees a team of 290 chefs on the Majestic Princess. He joked that he receives endless compliments from the thousands of guests who dine at the ship's restaurants and ceaseless complaints about his cooking from his three daughters when he returns home to Romania.
When I wasn't stuffing my face or indulging in one of the carefully crafted cocktails, I was at the gym – a swanky set-up with rows of cardio machines and stacks of weights. (Running on a treadmill while looking out at endless ocean is a surreal experience.) Or I was taking advantage of the Lotus Spa. I indulged in not one, but two, Thai massages.
I also spent many happy hours wallowing at The Enclave, a relaxation wonderland featuring a hydro-therapy pool with massaging air-jets, a Turkish-style steam bath, a sauna and a steam room. Bliss!
Entertainment on the ship is plentiful too. I had a ball in the audience of Sweet Soul Music at the Princess Live Theatre, plus there are quizzes, tai chi, karaoke, dancing, a casino, movies under the stars and loads of other options.
We had two stops on my leg of the cruise. The first was at Port Lincoln, where we were treated to oysters fresh out of the ocean from Coffin Bay Oyster Farm, paired with local Lincoln Estate sparkling wine. It was an unspeakably good combination – definitely go there if you get the opportunity! Before we reboarded, we had some delicious goodies from the award-winning L'Anse French Café and Croissanterie, which is walking distance from the port if haven't organised a trip further afield.
You can research and book off-shore excursions through the MedallionClass app or on the Princess website.
The second stop was Kangaroo Island. More than a third of the island is protected by nature reserves, so it's a stunning sanctuary for sea lions, koalas, echidnas, wallabies and of course kangaroos. Our driver Curly informed us that the local roos are unique – smaller and furrier than their mainland counterparts.
In one of the highlights of the trip, I got to swim alongside dolphins with Kangaroo Island Ocean Safari. It was absolutely magnificent – I'm a very average snorkeller, but thanks to the skill of our guide, who dropped us exactly where the pod was about to swim, I ended up face to face with a dolphin. I swear it gave me a quizzical look. Still buzzing from my close encounter, I finished the outing with a mouth-watering gin flight at Kangaroo Island Spirits, South Australia's first gin distillery. I highly recommend the Mulberry Gin.
Sadly, the six days came to an end far too quickly. Of course, leaving my majestic home the following morning was seamless – all expenses are loaded on your medallion, so there are no surprises. Plus, a transfer was organised to Adelaide Airport by the cheerful and endlessly accommodating staff. I left the ship a very well-fed, relaxed and content cruise convert!
To find out more about Princess Cruises, head to princess.com.
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