Have you ever heard of a seacation? Well, neither had I until I booked my first ever cruise aboard Sky Princess in September 2021. A seacation is a cruise experience with all of the glitz except for one thing: the ship doesn’t dock at ports for you to get off and explore. This is what intrigued me most, I’ve heard so many good things about cruising, particularly as a disabled cruise passenger, and I thought what better way to dip my toes into the waters of the cruising world than to spend the whole time aboard and immerse myself in the cruise culture without the worry of trying to fit in different cities or countries on the way?
Booking A cruise with Princess Cruise.
This cruise adventure was extremely last-minute and one which I was geared toward by fellow travel blogger Kirsty Leanne – so in this instance, I did a small bit of research and used the Princess Cruises phone line 2 book and pay for my cruise trip.
I was not the only totally blind person, my friend Lauren was joining me and together we found the support of the princess cruises Staff; both over the phone and via email extremely helpful. We had all correspondence from the access team via email and you can email the Princess Cruises access team for any information, they reply on average within 2-3 working days.
The Princess Cruises website is accessible but I’m the type of person that likes to speak to another human when booking something new, this way I can ask all the questions I need to know without any stress. Email correspondence is also great for a paper trail so to speak and a great way of having your information in an accessible format.
Princess Cruises cruise packages.
Princess Cruises offers two different fare types for the Sky Princess: the standard ‘Princess Fare’ and the ‘Princess Plus’ (all-inclusive) Fare’.
The standard Princess Fare includes accommodation, dining (selected fine-dining and casual options), basic Wi-Fi, entertainment, and the OceanMedallion™ on-board technology.
The Princess Plus Fare (all-inclusive) includes all of the above plus premium drinks (unlimited soft drinks, speciality coffees, and up to 15 alcoholic drinks) and unlimited Wi-Fi and crew incentives. The Princess Plus Fare is just £30pp per day more than the standard Princess Fare.
The ocean MedallionClass and app.
The ocean medallion class is a superior way to experience cruising. A personalised and Digital way to upload and save all your documents, fast track boarding the ship and an array of features that create a true VIP experience.
All U.S. guests receive A free Medallion device either in the mail before leaving home or when they arrive at the terminal. International guests can pick up A Medallion device at the port. This button-like device can be worn in several ways. Carry it in your complimentary lanyard, or purchase additional accessories to wear it as a bracelet, necklace or clip.
The ocean medallion app was not accessible when we booked our seacation Or at any time during our cruise. We didn’t notify Princess cruises who were apologetic but did not rectify the situation or give us any updates during or after our voyage. I have retained the app and through my own investigations, the app (as of May 2022) seems to be accessible to those who use screen readers.
Boarding sky princess at Southampton.
This was a five-day and four-night cruise aboard sky princess starting from Southampton UK, sailing through The English Channel and onto the Bay of Biscay, before turning around and heading back. As a disabled passenger, you can request pre-boarding and have a member of the crew meet you at the ocean terminal to escort you through security and onto the ship. I called my contact just as we were pulling up to the ship’s dock and we were promptly met by Stephen whose joy was infectious, even if we weren’t already excited enough!
Preboarding checks included receiving a complementary PCR test and waiting only 30 minutes for the negative results before embarkation. Security checks including all valid paperwork, PCR test and passport Control were all thorough but swift. Every member of the crew was enthusiastic, supportive, warm and knowledgeable. Sky princess operated a fully vaccinated ship, all passengers and crew had to be fully vaccinated and presented a negative PCR result before even being allowed to go through security. Hand sanitisation stations were prominent and social distancing and mask-wearing were implemented throughout.
Once through security, each passenger is given a medallion. This compact yet stylish magnetic button has a range of exceptional features that are perfect for accessibility. A truly personalised experience, each crew member knows your name and even your dietary requirements ahead of time. Contactless payments-perfect for the Covid era but also great for handling cash in a different currency when you are blind. Unlocks your stateroom as you get to the door. Being able to locate friends and family on board Sky Princess. Ordering food and drink to your room, or even your exact location. access to security announcement and walk-through.
You can also request a guided tour of the ship to allow you to orientate yourself and find your way to your room. Which is exactly what Lauren and I did. Having never stepped aboard a cruise ship before, I knew it was going to be expansive, the guided tour was invaluable and really made the ship come alive. It was fantastic to be able to create a mental map of the main decks and orientate ourselves accordingly. A really special touch was the greetings of applause, cheers and beaming smiles as we crossed the gangway from land to sea.
Exploring sky princess as a blind traveler.
Sky Princess is majestic, opulent and completely welcoming. The cacophony of what seemed like an entire orchestra, peoples jubilance of being able to travel once more, The Plush carpet under my feet, and magnificent smells assaulted my senses in the best way possible. Lauren and I took our first cocktail at good spirits and boy did it delight us! After an hour of exploring Sky Princess, we were supported to our room where the crew had already deposited our bags and left us canapés and champagne!
We were also given a thorough walk-through of our stateroom by Reece our housekeeper, and several times throughout our voyage he was invaluable to us! Sky princess cruises are brightly lit and have lots of contrast allowing those with low vision to be able to target signs or stations. I was beyond excited to see that Braille was everywhere: from the lifts and staterooms to restaurants and facilities-even if you were lost like Lauren and I were a few times – you could still get your way around independently. And that’s if you gave it less than 10 seconds before a member of staff found you, chatted with you about your day and then helped you on your way.
Everywhere also had tactile and large signage so even if you don’t read Braille, you would be able to feel and possibly even see the tactile numbers for each deck/restaurant. The lifts also talked so it was yet another layer of inclusive design throughout the ship.
Cruising was a true VIP experience, whether Lauren and I were following our noses and rocking up to a new restaurant, enjoying some retail therapy, taking part in the quiz night, immersing ourselves in the theatre or grabbing yet another cocktail from one of the mini bars every single crewmember greeted us with a gigantic smile, introduced themselves and called us by name.
Dining was a particular highlight for both of us: every member of the crew would introduce themselves as they approached us, perfectly executed sighted guiding us to a table (or the bathroom), tell us exactly where they were placing things on the table, and again which side they were taking our empty plates and glasses from. It was completely seamless and didn’t feel like any effort was involved, it was just a part of the excellent service! The interaction and banter between the staff made it feel like one big family every mealtime.
As someone who is used to Staff either ignoring my prescience or speaking to the person that I am with, almost any time I leave the house, it was truly refreshing to be treated like everybody else with accessibility being in harmony with every interaction.
Mini suite aboard Sky princess.
We stayed in a mini-suite where everything was accessible to us in one form or another, and if we ever had any questions we would use the onboard telephone to call housekeeping and ask for their assistance. In all cases took just a matter of minutes for them to arrive at the door and help us solve our problem.
Our mini-suite came with a bathroom including a combination bath and shower. – apparently, this is a big deal on a cruise ship which made us feel even more like VIPs!
Key accessibility features aboard Sky princess cruises.
Guide Dogs and other assistance dogs have specific areas to go to the bathroom (it’s usually deck 7 outdoors) where a box with wood chips is used. Guide dogs are given their own medallion and lifejacket. They also have 28 ADA Public Toilets, ASL interpreters for theatre shows, 39 fully accessible guest staterooms (with roll-in shower), 8 inside staterooms, and 23 balcony staterooms. 6 mini suites, 2 suites.
Guests can access deck 18 via a regular guest elevator then once at Deck 18 aft, Sky princess has an outside chair lift that can take guests from deck 18 to deck 19 (sports court and jogging track). There are also accessible lifts to onboard swimming pools and hot tubs and Swimming pool lift machines are available. The machine is called a pool lift.
Guests should contact the Passenger Services Desk onboard to make arrangements to use the equipment.
Guests may also contact the Access Office at email@example.com prior to their cruise and we will contact the ship to have them run an equipment test. The guests are 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. Pool lifts are available on all ships. The maximum weight for the pool lift is 130kg / 286 lbs.
I cannot emphasise how truly spectacular our entire cruise experience was: from the moment we booked two hour last goodbyes with the crew as they helped us into our taxi homeward bound. Considering this was a seacation and we never left the ship, Lauren and I both felt that we still didn’t scratch the surface of the joy to be found aboard Sky princess.
The crew were exceptional, standards are impeccable and accessibility is 2nd to none. Having a cruise experience like this reminded me of how accessible the world can be, in particular the travel industry, if people make inclusion a priority. The one and only drawback was the ocean medallion app not being accessible to us during our voyage but now that it seems to be rectified, I honestly don’t think there could be a better experience for a disabled person than a princess cruises vacation.
Have you ever been on a cruise? If you have any questions drop them in the comments below. And don’t forget to check out my blind girl adventure cruising series on YouTube!