Special guests and entertainment aboard cruise ships2018-11-13
If you happen to be a regular reader of my column, you’ll have seen that I was for a long time with Princess Cruises – in fact I served in all Navigating Officer ranks up to the rank of Staff Captain.
My favorite Princess ship was the original Pacific Princess (built in the early 1970’s and also known as The Love Boat!) and she carried just 650 passengers and had a crew of around 290 if I recall correctly.
This week’s article on the front page of The World’s Greatest Vacations about Princess Cruises’ newest build Enchanted Princess, which is due to enter service in June 2020, makes me ponder not for the first time on the massive increase in the size of the average cruise ship since I started my career back in the late 1970’s.
Enchanted Princess and her sister ship Sky Princess, which will debut in October 2019 have a passenger figure of some 3,660 guests and an incredible 1,346 crew…!!! At this point I should also add that these are by no means the biggest cruise ships ever – there are bigger ones already in service right now!
I believe this is one of the main indicators of just how well the cruising industry has done over the last 40 years or so. It has been a story of phenomenal success, even brushing aside the most recent global downturn which started around 2008-2009 and which some would argue, we are still recovering from. It seemed that folks would give up many things at that more difficult time, but if possible not their vacations and especially not their cruises!
The main advantage of the bigger cruise ships is of course their ability to simply offer more choice to the guests because of their extra size and therefore the bigger scale of the on board venues. Gone are the days of “ First Sitting dinner is at 6.30pm and Second Sitting dinner is at 8.00pm – take it or leave it” or “this evening’s entertainment is a piano recital in the theatre and a quiz in the Pub”….!!
Nowadays it is choice, choice and more choice and this is what today’s cruise guests expect and enjoy. Sky Princess and Enchanted Princess will feature a multitude of dining options around the ship and at pretty much all hours of the day and night. As Princess describes it: “there are unparalleled inclusive dining options throughout the ship with a wide range of culinary delights to suit any palate, from endless buffet choice to gourmet pizza, frosty treats, decadent desserts and much more”.
As for the Entertainment, well there’s everything from original musical productions, movies under the stars, featured guests entertainers, deck parties, music and dancing and much much more!
As I walked around the ship as Captain on the older smaller vessels making my “rounds” or inspections, I used to try to greet passing crew members by name as much as possible. It was difficult enough on Queen Mary 2 due to her large size but I certainly pity the Captains of these latest gargantuan vessels!
On Friday of last week my wife and I were fortunate enough to be invited to visit Clarence House in London, which is the official London residence of Charles the Prince of Wales and his wife Camilla the Duchess of Cornwall, for a Festive Sale in aid of the Prince’s Trust charity, which is Cunard’s adopted charity.
Clarence House stands on The Mall in London, next to St James’s Palace and near to Buckingham Palace and from 1953 until 2020 it was the London home of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.
Although we didn’t meet Prince Charles or Camilla on this occasion, it was such a treat to be be invited into the Royal residence and to meet many other notable shoppers! It’s not every day that you find yourself choosing festive gifts to buy along with the likes of Penny Lancaster who was choosing some presents for her husband Rod Stewart…!! Of course, now that he is Sir Rod Stewart, I should really be referring to Penny as Lady Stewart!
However, I have had the honour to meet Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall officially, as she is the Godmother of the Cunard ship Queen Victoria and in 2012 when it was that ship’s 5th birthday, Camilla visited the ship for lunch and to unveil a newly painted portrait of her, which to this day is hung in the main atrium of Queen Victoria.
I was lucky enough to be Captain of Queen Victoria at the time and to not only receive the Duchess on board, but also to host her for lunch in the ship’s main dining room, the Britannia Restaurant. As we were being seated at the lunch table, I had one of my greatest thrills ever when Camilla said to me “do you know, I’ve always dreamed of sitting at the Captain’s Table..!” That’s not a bad compliment to receive from the person who is after all the wife of the next King!
Happy travels and stay safe!