This was the Sky Princess’s 1st cruise in 17 months and it’s inaugural sailing from Southampton UK. Well what a few years it has been for us all! Sadly many haven’t survived and many are still very sick, companies have been hit hard and it has just been really rough. In this Pandemic I was shielded as I was classed as clinically extremely vulnerable. I have been at home for 21 months, not allowed out or to see anyone except my medical team and like many we had a lot of cruises either cancelled or moved. We were very lucky to be able to book and go on Sky Princess’s 1st UK seacation from Southampton for 4 nights as we both had been double vaccinated, so here is our journey from the beginning…
Day 1, We booked car parking with CPS and although we have used them many times, we were a little nervous as many changes have had to happen due to covid. We didn’t need to be nervous though! The Sky Princess was docked at Ocean terminal dock gate 4, however we had to go via dock gate 10 to Mayflower terminal to prove we had been double vaccinated and then have a drive- thru covid test. The covid drive- thru testing area doesn’t open until 11am and if you arrive too early they will turn you away as they do not want a large queue building up on the road. We arrived 5 mins early and staff asked us to wait, at 11am the gate opened. I must admit we had no idea what time the covid testing drive-thru opened as it was not told to us anywhere we just had a boarding time. We were the first in, passports and proof of covid vaccines checked. We went on to the covid testing site and was all completed by 11:05am, it was really quick and easy.
After this we had to get back onto the main road to get to dock gate 4, about a 5 minute drive. (unfortunately not all the dock gates are connected) Once we arrived at Ocean terminal we were directed to the CPS area and were asked to park up into lanes. CPS done their usual checks and photos of your car and requested that the windows remained open. We couldn’t park in front of the terminal like we usually do but I’m not sure if this is a new procedure or to do with covid. It wasn’t too much of a problem but being in a wheelchair in the middle of the road trying to find a dropped kerb with all our luggage was more challenging as no help was offered. So now we are safe on the pavement next to the terminal and we handed our suitcase to staff at the correct drop off zone. Next we entered the terminal where we were directed to the first floor and had to check our health declarations. As this was a medallion cruise we completed this all on the app so it took less than 5 minutes here, they only asked us if anything had changed. Because we had completed all of this we were in the green lane which basically means fast lane. If you don’t complete your details on the app prior to arrival you can be placed in either the blue or yellow lane but don’t worry as the staff there will help and fill everything out with you, it just takes a little longer. Now all we needed was the text message to say we were negative so we could collect our medallion. We didn’t even get to take a seat as we both got our texts at the same time to say we were NEGATIVE.
We went up to the desk to collect our medallion’s however I quickly became aware that there was no accessible desk for wheelchairs, the desk height was at head level with a plastic screen going up towards the ceiling and they were all standing. The person I tried to speak to couldn’t hear me, bearing in mind we are all wearing masks and I’m at a lower level, in the end my husband had to take over to collect our medallion’s which made me feel a bit excluded.
MEDALLION WARNING – the medallion uses RF and magnetic technology which can interfere with a pacemaker or ICD’s, so cannot be worn on a lanyard as has to be a certain distance away. I have a pacemaker so I wore mine on my right wrist (opposite to pacemaker) Be prepared for the check-in staff to know nothing about this or how to remove the medallion from the lanyard holder. My husband had to put his foot down with them as they were very dismissive of taking the medallion out and he had to explain in detail to them why and cue the blank stares… My husband managed to get it out with their help eventually and I popped it into my sport band nice and easily. You can purchase the medallion accessories on the app when you order your medallion, or you can buy on the ship. I got mine from US Amazon as it worked out cheaper but I will add, a lot of people are using certain Fitbit bands or the apple airtag wrist bands as these are not magnetic and are a lot cheaper. The reason I chose the official magnetic one was because I was afraid I would lose the medallion.
We were cleared to board at 12pm so proceeded through security check point and was 3rd or 4th in line. We then proceeded “TO THE SHIP” and the excitement started to build as we entered the zigzag gangway. As we entered WOW what an emotional, exciting, loving, fancy and huge welcome by the staff. Many tears from us and the staff, you can tell just how happy they are to be back.
After that amazing welcome we composed ourselves and made our way to our stateroom which was an Adapted Club Class Mini Suite B433. The mini suite was a great size and lots of storage, sleeping up to 4 guests, 1 on the sofa and 1 on a pull down. The suite can be separated via a curtain shown in the pictures at each side of the room. There is also a video of this stateroom on my YouTube channel if you want to take a look, here is the link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3PkEWe4I6pw I was disappointed that the door wasn’t automatic, although the medallion unlocks the door as you approach.
The bed is a little high, if your wheelchair doesn’t raise and you transfer via a slide board it will not work and you would need a hoist or you can hire one from mobility at sea. Both sides of the bed have access to all lights.
One wardrobe had a lower rail, although the other did have hooks for one so could ask to get it lowered, this can been seen in my YouTube video link above.
Storage is almost all at wheelchair level except one cupboard which has shelves up high. There are 2 telephones, one next to the bed and the other on the dresser. There are also two televisions, one opposite your bed and the other in your lounge area opposite the sofa which was lovely. There is also a fridge under the dresser and if your elite or in a suite you get a free mini bar set up. There were 3 usb points on the lights next to the bed and the other next to the sofa. The plug sockets were 1 euro and 2 USA located around the dresser, one is used by the kettle. Princess also supply 1 multi adapter to use.
The balcony is an odd shape narrow one end and wider the other, but with a little change of table and chairs I could get out and turn around to come back in, unlike a lot of the new ship’s balconies these days. The balcony door is manual and heavy. When your at sea and trying to open the balcony door this can be very difficult due to the air pressure difference inside and out resulting in when the door opens it feels like your inner ears are being sucked out momentarily, but this is a common cruise ship thing no matter what Balcony just that it’s impossible for us Wheelchair users to open.
I found the Wetroom a little small and no lower storage at the sink, only in the shower. The Wetroom door is a little heavy opening outward, meaning you have to reverse back to open then drive into Wetroom, turn around and drive back out to get door handle and reverse back into Wetroom, it can be a little challenging.
Yes you heard correct earlier, there is a kettle in your stateroom if sailing from Southampton.
They also supply tea and coffee facilities which was nice to have. Overall I felt is was a great mini suite also located midship, not far from lifts but nice and quite.
So a big change is how the muster drill is done, you have a choice of watching it on your stateroom tv (like I did) or on your mobile device (like hubby did). When you have finished watching the muster drill video a green tick shows next to your name. Then you need to proceed to your muster station, ours was station D on deck 6 located at the photo gallery. Here they scan your medallion and then the second green tick shows by your name and that’s it, your all done! This process is so much better now and you can do this when you want but it must be completed before you set sail. Unfortunately we were delayed due to over 600 guests not completing this simple and easy task straight away and therefore had to be reminded over the tannoy by the captain multiple times. It is so much easier to be honest and there are no excuses not to get this done straight away so you don’t delay your fellow cruising guests and staff.
After we completed the muster drill we went up to deck 16 the Lido deck and got our 1st cocktail of the cruise along with some lunch, ordered by the medallion app for the 1st time. By now the time was 13:15pm so you can tell how quick this whole process of embarkation and muster drill was.
That evening we had our dinner in the Estrella main dining room using our club class dining. There were no queues and the service, staff and food was amazing. Plenty of room for wheelchairs with good separation of tables and chairs for access. After our dinner we went and unpacked and ordered a few more drinks to the stateroom, the app is dangerous that way as you couldn’t do this before, however we had Princess Plus which includes, Premium drinks package, WiFi and gratuities. We then got into bed and fell asleep before the film finished, what a great day this was.
Day 2, We looked around the ship and tried to take note of accessibility and noted the public accessible toilets had heavy manual doors so you would need help using them. The main pool (pictured above) is split into two by a seating area where MUTS (movies under the stars) is with 3 hot tubs. The only access to these pools and hot tubs are via metal and wooden ladders, which isn’t accessible for many disabled guests which was disappointing to see and no hoist at either pool.
At the aft on Lido deck there is a wake pool (pictured above) small and shallow but again ladder only and no hoist. I did get into this pool though via hubbys help by plopping down on the waters edge and then bum shuffling to the pool edge and rolled in. **I do not advise this but I love to be in the water and swim and I know what my body can and can’t do.
The Retreat pool (pictured above) is on deck 17 however it is also ladder only and no hoist. The retreat pool is adult only and is the deck under the Sanctuary which is deck 18 and that’s not free to enter and only has a hot tub. To be honest the pool felt enclosed and small for the size of ship.
The enclave hydrotherapy pool is in the spa but again has no hoist but this one does have graduated steps into the water. This is also not free, we were quoted $40pp all day however pricing does seem to differ, so best to ask once on board. The enclave is wheelchair accessible and to be honest it’s the best spa I’ve seen at sea for a wheelchair user, we will come back to the spa later.
This blog will be slightly different as the ship was only at 40% capacity. It holds around 4000 but there were only 1600 guests on board so it was quiet. The covid protocols on board were mask wearing while moving around ship, maximum of 4 people in the lift from the same party (see picture below) The theatre has its own rules which you’ll read about further down. When sitting down to eat and drink you could remove your mask and on open decks and stateroom.
While we were looking around I got a message from the captain on Instagram that he wanted to meet me. We met captain Tuvo aka captain bye bye on deck 6 at the captain circle desk. We had a great chat and of course a hug and a photo, what a lovely man he is. While we were at the captain circle desk we enquired about the stickers for the Princess passport, this is something we always do but unfortunately Princess have now stopped this.
I had pre booked our dinner tonight at the Crown Grill and just like previous visits it didn’t disappoint. Accessibility in the restaurant is good, tables are well spaced and plenty of access for my wheelchair.
The food was amazing and we both ate far too much.
In the theatre masks had to be worn at all times except to sip drinks. We had a look around the theatre which you can access via deck 6 lower and deck 7 upper. There are around 8 wheelchair spaces at the front on the end of the rows or up on deck 7 there are another 4 either side making a total of 8 with companion seats. You can see my YouTube video of this via this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Veyf0aN-I7c For the show that evening we were on the upper level and had a great view of Rock Opera which was out of this world, amazing.
Day 3, We woke up to sun so decided to find a pool I could get into as already mentioned there are no hoists or graduated stairs, just ladders into the pools. We went up onto the lido deck 16 to the main two pools and it was already busy with people lying on sunbeds but covered in blankets. This pools in itself was quiet, cold and no one was in it and all 3 hot tubs were taken. We then tried the back of the ship at the wake pool. Two people were in there and it was nice and quiet. This pool was so much warmer so we undressed and hubby helped me flop into the pool. It was lovely to finally be swimming on a cruise ship again.
After an hour we got out and sat on the side of the pool to dry and ordered a couple of drinks off the medallion app.
Talking of the medallion app, this was our 1st cruise using it and we found overall it was pretty good. We were able to order drinks, food and even gifts from the shop anywhere on the ship and a member of crew brought them to you. The only thing you must remember is to only order 1 drink at a time otherwise you will get charged if you have the drinks package. On the app you can also contact guest services rather than standing in line at the desk or even order room service amenities and even an evening turn down service to extra or exchange pillows etc.
By lunchtime we had changed and done some filming which is already up on my YouTube channel and then we got ready for the evening as we had booked the ultimate balcony dining. As the ship had now turned around the sun was setting on the other side and we had a chilly wind on the balcony so as we were in a big suite we had our meal inside. As usual the meal was wonderful and again we were treated like royalty.
After 6 courses we were absolutely stuffed and planned to chill for an hour and then go to see the show. We woke a few hours later from what must have been a food coma, so instead we had a cuppa and ended up going to bed. We are so rock and roll.
Day 4, We woke again to our wonderful room service manager at our door bang on time and with even more extras! If I haven’t mentioned this before he did this from our 1st morning on this cruise and kept adding more extras each day. He was such a lovely man and we really do hope we get to see him again.
After our breakfast off we went to the spa for couple massage. The Sky Princess has the biggest spa I’ve seen on a cruise and it’s very accessible. There are at least 12 treatment rooms plus the couples rooms.
We both enjoyed our massage it was long overdue and felt so much better after. We went back to the stateroom and enjoyed the sun on the balcony then took a shower.
The time had passed quickly and it wasn’t long until afternoon tea was being delivered to our stateroom, so back to the medallion app and ordered a few drinks while we waited. (Afternoon tea in the stateroom is an elite perk) Guess who brought us the afternoon tea? Yup it was our very friendly room service manager with two tables worth of food enough to feed 4/6 people easily, plus posh coffee and tea’s. He left us to it but we did struggle with the amount of food delivered. We have to say it was lovely to have this in our stateroom but the actual food was just ok. Personally we think that P&O does a better afternoon tea.
Once we finished our afternoon tea we went for a wonder around the ship and visited the photo gallery to collect an order and brought some goodies from the shop. We then took a seat in the atrium. We noticed as soon as guests left a table a crew member placed this disc on the table to show it hadn’t been cleaned and to not sit there (pictured below) As we were disembarking tomorrow the packing needed to be done so we headed back to our stateroom.
When we arrived back to our stateroom we noticed on our door display a happy anniversary picture which was different, I guess this replaces the old certificates that they used to put on your stateroom door. We then packed up most of our stuff ready for the mornings disembarkation. We generally choose express self walk off as we have about a 3 hour drive home, so we keep all our bags with us. (We travel light even with all my medical equipment and medications) I’ve learnt to travel light which is extremely handy these days. As it was going to be an early start the next day we snuggled in bed and watched a movie and went to sleep.
Day 5, We got up at 4am, not planned but I was in a lot of pain with my stomach due to one of my conditions, so I had some medication and a cuppa while we watched the arrival back into Southampton. Express self walk off started at 07:30am on the disembarkation notice so we left the stateroom and was sat in the atrium by 07:20am. We had only been there for not even 5 minutes when security opened the barrier and we were clear to walk off. It was nice and quick and we got back home for around 10:30am to do our washing and see our boys. We really did have a wonderful cruise. Princess have done really well with their protocols and safety and made you feel safe the whole time. We wish it was longer but we are just so happy, lucky and blessed we are here and able to cruise. On finishing this blog it has been just over a week since our return, we haven’t been pinged by track and trace and our LFT’s have all been negative. This just goes to show with the right protocols in place even the vulnerable are protected.
Ship Accessibility Summary
Overall from a wheelchair point of view getting around is relatively easy on this beautiful new ship. However it is quite disappointing to see the doors are not automatic in the stateroom, Wetroom, balcony and on the public accessible toilets around the ship, meaning you cannot be independent and need someone to open the doors as they are too heavy.
Also there are very high lips on the door ramps on deck 7 leading into and out of the promenade outdoor space, where even my electric wheelchair struggled unless I was lined up straight which was very difficult as it was so narrow, this can be seen on my YouTube video via this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8H2E7LfSZM
The portals for the medallions are about waist height and face upwards which meant for me in a wheelchair and having to wear my medallion on my right wrist due to pacemaker my husband had to pull my arm up and twist so they could read my medallion. There was no option for these to move or any extended leads. It would be nice in future if this was changed to accommodate wheelchair users, if you have it on a lanyard this wouldn’t be so much of an issue.
As mentioned no hoists at any pools or hot tubs so if you rely on one you can use them. The only access is metal and wooden ladders which I know a few of my subscribers also cannot use like myself. So leaving the pools and hot tubs not accessible to all. As I’ve said previously how I get into the pools isn’t ideal or advised and it is embarrassing but why should I not be included due to my disability and lack of inclusion from Princess? The spa Enclave does have graduated steps into their hydrotherapy pool but no hoists.
The only place on the ship where wheelchair spaces and companion seats are is in the theatre. Deck 6 lower level has them in front, on the ends of rows and deck 7 upper level has 4 spaces and companion chairs either side. On the 8pm show all of these were taken plus more squeezed in and that was only at 40% capacity, so at full capacity I would really recommend to get there at least 30 minutes to get a space.
Overall the lack of accessibility features on a new ship is disappointing. It seems that they put in accessible staterooms and public toilets to tick a box and that’s where it ends and even here you still need help as the doors are heavy. You would like to think in 2021 disabled guests were more included and thought of more rather than an afterthought as that’s how it comes across and feels. We love Princess but do think they can do better with accessibility and inclusion.
Blog update after contacting Princess accessible team about lack of pool hoists
I sent my blog over to the Princess accessibility team to read for an honest review from a point of view as a wheelchair user, I have done a lot of cruises with Princess and when I got told this information I was shocked, surprised and a little disappointed that no one had told me this at all before. Here is the information I was given from Princess ….
Please note, there are pool lift hoists on every Princess ship.
On Sky Princess the pool lift can be set up in the Retreat or Fountain Pool (main pool) upon request.
Please contact the Guest Services Desk once onboard to make arrangements to use the equipment. There is a period of time necessary for the lift to charge before using. You will be shown how to operate the lift. Please note that the guests must be accompanied by a family member or traveling companion to operate the lift and monitor the guest in the lift and pool. The ship’s staff are not permitted to lift the guest nor operate the machine for them. The maximum weight for the pool lift is 130kg / 286 lbs.
I’m a very glad to know that there is an accessible piece of equipment available for us to use and for future reference but also still a little disappointing that you have to book your times as that’s still not being fully inclusive and I know many of my subscribers feel embarrassed using a hoist as many people do stare and just wished that the pools were more accessible by graduated steps or even a ramp which we could use at anytime and not have to book or wait for it to be charged up.
However as I now know this information and I can share it with you all it’s better than not having anything at all even though I still keep to my opinion Princess can do better but I still love them.