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Pictured left to right outside the new store are: Paul Hardwick, Fred. Olsen Travel Agents Director of Retail; Emma Bailey, Fred. Olsen Travel Agents; Tutti Taylor, Fred. Olsen Travel Agents; Councillor Candy Vaughan, Mayor of Eastbourne; Trevor Ridler, Fred. Olsen Travel Agents Business Development Manager; and Shirley Waters, Fred. Olsen Travel Agents..

Princess Cruises: from Rome to Athens

The British Airways check-in at Heathrow Airport was a breeze. Utilising the self-service kiosks, I swiftly scanned my passport, selected my seat, and printed my boarding pass and luggage tags. The entire process took no more than ten minutes, leaving me impressed as it had been a few years since I last flew with British Airways.

Upon arrival in Rome, we were warmly greeted by the Princess Cruises team, who guided us towards the transfer bus. The journey from the airport to the port took about an hour and was hassle-free. At the cruise terminal, check-in was remarkably swift and efficient. Staff efficiently processed our paperwork, collected our luggage, and directed us toward the ship. Upon boarding, we were met with a warm reception from the crew and treated to a Champagne lunch. The atmosphere was electric, with the crew singing and dancing, and an abundance of food and drink on offer, all accompanied by music blasting from the ship's speakers. I've certainly experienced worse welcomes.

I'd describe the accommodation as very modern; the cabin boasted all the usual modern conveniences you'd expect to find in a hotel room. There were plenty of plug sockets, a feature not always guaranteed elsewhere. The availability of tea and coffee facilities will surely appeal to British guests – after all, who doesn't love a morning coffee? The cabin offered ample wardrobe space and a decent-sized shower. Additionally, we were delighted to have a balcony, perfect for watching the world go by (literally!) and capturing truly stunning sunsets.

On my first-ever cruise, I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but the experience turned out to be so enjoyable that I'm already planning to book more in the future. Typically, I'm more accustomed to city breaks, so the idea of waking up in a different city almost every day felt like the perfect adventure for me.

After a long arrival day that began at 4 am in London, involved a flight to Rome, and culminated in boarding the ship just in time for a mid-afternoon Champagne lunch followed by a hearty three-course dinner, I was admittedly feeling rather tired. However, by 7am the next morning, I was up, showered, dressed, and ready to explore Naples.

The breathtaking view of Naples from our balcony set the tone for the entire trip. On our first full day, I leisurely wandered through Naples, soaking up the sights from the Castle overlooking the city and indulging in some authentic pizza. While you can book excursions onboard at an additional cost, I had pre-booked an excursion to Ephesus, Kusadasi in Turkey for the final day of the cruise. My port days were filled with exploration of beautiful destinations and sampling the local cuisine, in particular trying Swordfish in Chania, Crete was a standout experience.

The one sea day provided an opportunity to fully explore the beautifully designed Sun Princess®. From swimming in the ship's infinity pool with its stunning ocean views to taking a comprehensive tour of the ship, which even included a brief visit to the ship's gym for a workout to offset the indulgent meals, I made the most of every moment – I also took a stroll through the ship's many designer shops.

A definite highlight was treating myself to a specialty ice cream called 'The Godfather,' which turned out to be delicious and possibly the largest ice cream I've ever had! Whilst I was not able to experience the Glider, a first-at-sea attraction where you're suspended from above and glide around the ship's top deck, or the Dome, which hosts much of the entertainment, not being ready, I have no doubt that bot offer spectacular experiences.

What truly made the cruise memorable for me was the exceptional friendliness and helpfulness of the entire crew. They went above and beyond to ensure that every need was met promptly and with a smile, making the experience truly unforgettable.

One of the most impressive aspects of the cruise was its technology. The Medallion worn around your neck is embedded with a locator, it allows you to order food or drinks from anywhere on the ship via the Princess App, and the crew will deliver it directly to you. This same Medallion serves as your key, automatically unlocking your cabin door as you approach, a particularly handy feature when your hands are full. Moreover, the Medallion streamlines your embarkation and disembarkation process, logging you on and off the ship swiftly and effortlessly. The app extends its utility further, facilitating excursion bookings, dining reservations, and providing access to your onboard account. It's an incredibly convenient feature that saved us a considerable amount of time. Plus, you could even use it to chat with guest services staff, who responded promptly to any issues.

As for dining, it was another highlight of the trip. While the main restaurant predominantly offered American cuisine, there were also several specialty restaurants onboard, all delivering excellent food and service. One memorable experience was witnessing a cocktail-making session at the 'Good Spirits' bar. The mixologist entertained us with flair while imparting cocktail-mixing wisdom, creating a lively atmosphere that had us all laughing.

For me, the ultimate highlight was waking up to new and exotic destinations every day, relishing the breathtaking views across the Mediterranean. Even on sea days, I found joy in strolling the decks, basking in the sun (never once struggling to find a sun lounger), and indulging in the various pool facilities. Boredom was never on the agenda. Another standout moment was dressing up in my tuxedo for the inaugural formal night, listening to the captain’s speech, and soaking in the elegant ambiance of the occasion.

This cruise caters to all ages with abundant entertainment options for kids, such as dedicated kids/teens clubs, thrilling slides, refreshing pools, and a wide array of movies available on cabin TVs for days spent at sea. Meanwhile, adults can indulge in bars, restaurants, a fully equipped gym, invigorating exercise classes, luxurious spa treatments, and tailored entertainment.

Whether you seek an adrenaline-fuelled adventure or a serene retreat, this cruise offers both. Designed to ensure a spacious and uncrowded experience, the ship boasts expansive decks and ample sun loungers, allowing guests to tailor their experience to their preferences seamlessly.

One of my most cherished cultural experiences was embarking on a guided tour through the ancient ruins of Ephesus, nestled near Kusadasi, Turkey, a profound journey into the history of this Roman city. Our guide skilfully intertwined historical insights with humour, making the exploration both enlightening and enjoyable. Another highlight was wandering through the labyrinthine streets of Old Town, Chania, Crete, relishing a delectable lunch by the charming harbour. It was here that I savoured Swordfish for the first time, a culinary delight. Despite encountering brief morning downpours in Crete, the afternoon swiftly returned to brilliant sunshine.

Naples, with its unparalleled charm, captivated me like no other city. Traversing its streets on foot, I ascended the funicular to Castel Saint Elmo, treating myself to breathtaking panoramas of the city and its bay. Though demanding on the legs due to its hilly terrain, Naples' rewards enthusiasts with ample opportunities to explore. And who could resist indulging in the city's renowned pizzas, served in quaint hillside eateries?

My inaugural cruise aboard the Sun Princess® was a dream come true, an opportunity unlikely to repeat itself. Amidst the elegance of the ship and the dedication of its diligent crew, I relished every moment, despite the inevitable challenges that come with maiden voyages. I eagerly anticipate my next cruise, yearning to uncover exotic destinations, witness spectacular sunsets from the deck, and greet each dawn in a new locale.

You can find Darren at our Bury St. Edmunds branch.