I am standing on my balcony aboard the Crown Princess. Glass of fizz in one hand and a chocolate covered strawberry in the other thinking: "Life doesn't get better than this!"
Cruising out of Southampton on a balmy Saturday evening heading off to the Norwegian fjords is just the perfect summer cruise itinerary. Expertly sailing along The Solent with a quick glass raised to Portsmouth and all who have sailed into her – this is an amazing start to our holiday before heading into the North Sea to Stravanger, in Norway, to begin our latest adventure.
My partner John and I had spent months deliberating where our next cruise would take us and which liner we would sail aboard.
Crown Princess is one of three ships within our budget cruising from the UK to the fjords and, as we had never travelled with Princess Cruises before, we thought we would give them a whirl!
The ship is simply stunning and one of the easiest I have had to navigate. There is little chance of getting lost as there are maps of the ship's walls at every turn, just in case the old inner satnav is a bit off kilter.
Our room, Caribe deck 631 is perfect. Because we had already checked it out via YouTube and, thanks to Scott Singer's excellent tour of the cabin, it lived up to all expectations. Lovely and spacious, with plenty of hanging and drawer space, and kept immaculately spotless by our steward the wonderful Edgar.
The balcony is huge, plenty of room for a candlit supper – and yes, if I can have one of these if I so choose! Balconies on the Caribe deck are the largest on the ship, and being partially sheltered means that even if the weather takes a turn for the worse, I can still stand outside and watch the world go by. And watching the world go by is never a bad thing, especially when I am looking out over some of the world's most beautiful scenery.
Back inside the ship, the atrium on Crown Princess is the heart and soul of the liner and at any point I may feel I am losing my way around I head off to this magnificent space. Surrounded by shops and public areas such as the International Café and the Casino, the atrium is the place to be for any seasoned cruiser – and shopper. I am loving this area, it is simply the perfect place for people watching and there are certainly plenty of holidaymakers on board to study that's for sure.
Crown Princess was launched in 2006 and is part of the Grand-class cruise ship. Owned by Carnival PLC her capacity is a little over 3,000 passengers and at a huge 16 decks high there is plenty of room to spread out. There are four pools, three main dining rooms, speciality restaurants, an ice cream bar and a buffet restaurant.
There is also ample opportunity for me to eat pizza by the pool, watch movies under the stars, putt a few balls on the Princess Links and strut my funky stuff in Skywalkers Nightclub. In fact, there is no excuse for me to be bored at all – and I'm not.
I can even make my way to the Speakeasy and treat myself to a half corona (cigar) after watching a show in the theatre if I choose. Nah, don't think I’m going back down that route of smoking again but I can tell you that the whiff of cigar smoke can turn the head of the most ardent non-smoker!
Again I am standing on my balcony gazing at the breath taking Norwegian scenery. It really is stunning and everything I expected it to be. Something akin to a scene from the cover of a chocolate box. Beautiful. Norway is so clean but pricey and the best way to explore if you don't fancy walking is by open top bus and road train. Again, not cheap but when I am paying nearly £10 for less than a pint of lager what's another 20 odd quid for a bus ride?
A highlight of my holiday is a tour of the bridge and meeting the captain – and resisting the temptation of singing "Everybody Was Dancing With The Captain".
Not everyone gets to visit this part of the ship and I am delighted that John and I have been invited to have a look around the room with the best view ever! Among the many things I learn is that the North Sea is only around 25 metres deep and the shallowest the captain has sailed in is a metre deep. Scary times – thank goodness him and his team know what they are doing!
I don't want my holiday to end, it's the most relaxed I have been for months and it is precious time spent with John. The perks of cruising with Princess are top notch. Slippers and robes delivered to your room if requested, 24-hour room service which I use to the enth degree, smartphone app which keeps me up-to-date with what is going on around the ship and how much of a bill I am racking up, this is just to name but a few.
There are so many restaurants and bars scattered around the ship that we are spoiled for choice where to wine and dine each evening but the main dining room is where we hang our hats most evenings before checking out the entertainment in the theatre.
I have a glorious time aboard Crown Princess and I can't help but check out next year's cruises and guess what - I have found the perfect one. Canada and New Hampshire in the Fall – another dream come true, I just need to check out flights to New York and then it's all systems go, go, go!
Caroline and her partner travelled with Princess Cruises for the Norwegian Fjords itinerary. To cruise this itinerary for 2018 - Southampton (UK), Stavanger (Norway), Olden (Norway), Hellesylt (Norway), Geiranger (Norway), Bergen (Norway), Southampton (UK) - prices start from £999 per person for an inside cabin. For more details head to the website at www.princess.com
Getting to Southampton was a breeze thanks to Cruise Connect, a coach transfer service which provides Cunard Line, P&O Cruises and Princess Cruises passengers with a simple journey to and from the cruise ship via 50 collection and drop-off points throughout the UK. We chose to board the coach at the Crown Plaza at the NEC, in Birmingham. Booking for July 2018, the cost is £77 per person return to Southampton. More information is available here