After a very relaxing first day on board Princess Cruises’ Island Princess our second sea day was packed with all the things which are guaranteed to have me jumping up and down with excitement – food, sailing stuff and kitchens, it was time to go behind the scenes!
After a hearty breakfast of veggie eggs Benedict, pastries, tea and toast in the main dining room we began with a visit to the Bridge. We reported promptly as directed and were whisked behind the scenes by two smartly uniformed security men – the Bridge tour can be booked by any passenger when the ship is in port but ours was a little special as Island Princess was on the move!
Bristling with hi-tech navigational equipment, manned 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and with a view to die for, Island Princess’s bridge makes our cockpit on Chiron look very small indeed – but Mr TS and I shared a secret grin when we saw the minuscule joystick and tiny buttons which steer this giant…
Because our wheel is HUGE!
Our steering position is exposed to the elements though and I am frequently doused with gallons of water as we plough through the waves! Gazing out of Island Princess’ gigantic windows, over the crew’s sundeck and out to the beautiful blue of the Eastern Mediterranean, I stood on the glass window onto the sea below and not even a drop of cold water was thrown over me!
I was pleased to see that the Captain and crew weren’t totally reliant on high-tech equipment and that they, like us, have a back up plan should things go wrong. A sextant means that if all the navigational equipment fails the crew can navigate the old-fashioned way using the stars.
I promised you a picture of Mr TS in this week’s post – neither of us could resist a go in the Captain’s chair, I think he looks in total command, don’t you?!
The Bridge tour was followed by the thing I had been waiting for ever since I’d read our itinerary the day before – a tour of the kitchens! We walked across the vast dining room and through those wonderful swing doors, which always tempt me in any restaurant, before descending on escalators to the kitchens below! Here, we were really in luck – our tour was conducted by Commedantore Alfredo Marzi, master chef of the whole Princess fleet. He was amazing. I was in awe! Once he’d recovered from finding out that both Mr TS and myself are vegetarians he made sure that there were canapés suitable for us to eat at each station on our tour and, when he found out that I write about food, we became firm friends – a shared love of cooking is usually an instant bond!
It was fascinating to see how catering on such a massive scale is carried out. Everything is cooked from scratch using the $1.5m worth of ingredients which are brought on board at the beginning of the cruise. Fresh local produce is brought on at each port and Alfredo is rightly proud that his menus reflect the dishes of the countries the ship visits on its travels.
Below decks 200 chefs were preparing meals for 2123 passengers and over 900 crew. Each chef had their own station and their own job which they carried out with aplomb. I loved the atmosphere down there from the mountains of fresh vegetables, sacks of pasta, rice and flour to the camaraderie between a crew drawn from so many nations – I could’ve spent all week happily chatting away!
I was regretting the size of my breakfast as I nibbled on canapés and sampled expensive wines from the vast wine store on board (it’s a hard life being a freelance writer, I know you are feeling sorry for me)
But I did manage to find a little space for one or two (or three, or four) of these unbelievably beautiful and incredibly tasty chocolates. Created by master chocolatier Norman Love as part of the Chocolate Journeys experience right across the Princess fleet, they were divine. My particular favourite was the basil flavoured truffle – I had to try a few, just to make sure, they are the green ones on this silver platter.
Mr TS and I spent the rest of that day together as Island Princess sailed on towards Turkey. We played a bit of table tennis and some giant shuffleboard on the top deck and we passed a few very happy hours on teak loungers on the promenade deck, reading and chatting and generally catching up with each other.
We dined that evening in Sabatini’s* the specialist Italian restaurant and, as night fell, our whole group abandoned the table before dessert to lean over the railings with the warm breeze in our hair. We watched the lights of small villages and towns drifting past us, as this gigantic ship made her way carefully up the narrow straits of the Dardanelles. I slept peacefully in my bed knowing that Captain and crew were up there in Mr TS’s seat on the Bridge, keeping a watch and ensuring we reached our destination safely.
Next morning I threw open the balcony curtains to see Istanbul passing by. I dragged my sleepy husband out of bed – this was one of Those Moments, not be missed; we had arrived in our second city and I hadn’t had to pack or unpack a thing.
You can read the next part of our adventure next week when we visit Istanbul, taking in the sights and sounds of this incredible city.
We travelled on board Island Princess with Princess Cruises as part of a press group. All our expenses were covered. You can see my write up for Cruise International Magazine here.
GETTING THERE Princess Cruises offers a 12-night cruise on Island Princess from Venice to Barcelona, with ports of call including Istanbul, Mykonos, Athens, Naples and Toulon from £949pp, based on two adults sharing an inside stateroom, cruise only. Price includes accommodation, all meals and on board entertainment. For more info or to book visit princess.com/discover or call 0843 374 2403.
*Sabatini’s Specialist Italian Restaurant comes with a surcharge.