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Feel like a Princess on Kate's ship

If it's good enough for world royalty, it's good enough for me. And the Princess Royal, the latest addition to the Princess cruise fleet, is no exception. Christened by Britain's Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton in June, this sleek, upmarket vessel has earned itself almost as many column inches as Kate herself.

Keen to find out what all the fuss was about, my husband and I eagerly joined the ship on her maiden season through the Mediterranean.

There are echoes of old Kate throughout ship – from the huge portrait of her hanging near reception, to sumptuous finishing touches fit for a member of the Windsor clan. If you're not a royal fan, watch out.

Many describe cruise ships as floating hotels, but Princess Royal is very different: it's a huge floating holiday complex, catering for 3,600 passengers, but at a higher price than similar-itinerary Med cruises with the likes of Royal Caribbean or MSC.

It's one for the honeymoon or if you're retired with cash.

The ship is very calm, and very spacious. In fact, I got lost several times while trying to find a bar, or a restaurant!

My husband and I are both keen travellers and enjoy being independent, so we were both a little reserved about going on a cruise. Would it be full of old people? Would we get bored?

But we were put at ease as soon as we saw our room. With floor-to-ceiling windows, a balcony, and enough space for my 'cruise wardrobe' (which consisted of most of the maternity range at several main street shops), we were more than happy with our place to unwind after a hard day's cruising.

We didn't have to worry about the age issue either. Yes, there were some older passengers, but families and younger couples were the staple on the Princess Royal. It wasn't noisy, either. The children were really well-behaved (more so than my husband), and while they could happily splash around in a top deck pool, we could escape to an exclusive adults-only area.

 

COCKTAIL

 

THE RETREAT IS THE PERFECT PLACE TO LAZE IN THE SUN WHILE SIPPING A COCKTAIL OR TWO, AND THE POOL AREA – THE SANCTUARY – IS GREAT FOR A LEISURELY DIP.

Thanks to a good selection of port excursions, we had plenty to keep us occupied throughout the journey. We would dock for the whole day, giving us a chance to do lots of sightseeing.

Naples was our first port of call in Italy, and an air-conditioned minibus whisked us from the dock to Sorrento, about an hour's drive away. The Amalfi Coast looked stunning as we climbed the hills, and whizzed past olive and lemon trees.

There was a lot to cram in on excursion days, and trips usually lasted around eight hours, but it was worth it, especially in Rome.

Our tour guides were great fun too. Nicole at Pompeii wanted to show us all "the dead bodies", while Marco in Rome laughed at Hollywood blockbuster Gladiator: "At no point did the gladiators fight against many soldiers - they fought one-on-one." So, consider yourself told, Ridley Scott.

After each day trip, we were exhausted. However, it was easy to forget our achy feet and sunburnt skin as we relaxed in the on-board spa - the dark, quiet and soothing Lotus.

The quality of food had also been a concern, but we needn't have worried. Upon docking in every port, fresh food is delivered to the ship.

The on-board steak house, Crown Grill, was very impressive. Huge hunks of beef were on display, showing us exactly what we were about to devour.

The Winemaker's Dinner, held in the Symphony dining room, was another treat. We were tucked away in a private dining room, surrounded by hundreds of bottles of expensive wine. As well as the main dining rooms, Symphony and Concerto, there are plenty of other restaurants to choose from on the ship, making it a lot easier to avoid eating the same thing every night.

Sabatini's is a great Italian, where I gorged on lobster and tiramisu, while Alfredo's is perfect for a quick Neapolitan pizza and a few glasses of wine. The chef was trained in Naples, and was very keen to stress that he followed traditional recipes.

There are also plenty of bars dotted around the Atrium. Our favourite bar was Vines, with its brilliant wine list and endless canapes. Tray after tray of food was brought out, and I was appreciative of my elasticated maternity trousers.

When we first looked at our itinerary for the trip, I thought we'd be a frazzled, claustrophobic mess when we docked at our final port, Barcelona. That couldn't have been further from the truth.

I was stress free, relaxed and not very enthusiastic about leaving the ship.

Yup, you'll end up feeling like a Princess – if you've got the cash to splash.

FACTFILE: Check out www.cruiseholidays.ie, www.cruisebroker.ie and www.e-travel.ie for prices and deals


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