Ah.. this is life

Ah.. this is life

There is a new cruise brand coming into Singapore and Asia – Princess Cruises.

Princess Cruises, a leading global cruise line has begun homeporting in the region for the first time ever. This is the largest deployment ever by a premium cruise line in the region, bringing the Sapphire Princess to Southeast Asia for a four-month season from November 2014 to March 2015. The Sapphire Princess will be sailing to a variety of Southeast Asian destinations, operating 16 roundtrip cruises and carrying approximately 40,000 passengers.

Safety drill before the ship sets sail

Safety drill before the ship sets sail

Earlier in February, Rachel and I brought Asher for a 3D3N cruise from Singapore to Penang and Kuala Lumpur and back.

Sapphire Princess in Penang

Sapphire Princess in Penang

The ship has a passenger capacity of 2,670, and more than 55% of the cabins have balconies or are suites, just like this room we stayed in for a family of three:

Our room which has an excellent balcony

Our room which has an excellent balcony

Awesome view from the balcony

Awesome view from the balcony

View of the room from the opposite angle

View of the room from the opposite angle

Large King-size bed

Large King-size bed

Bathroom and wardrobe

Bathroom and wardrobe

Inside the bathroom

Inside the bathroom

Unique on board facilities include Movie Under the Stars, fine-dining and other entertainment activities and workshops. I will be sharing more a bout all these in my Cruising with Princess Cruises’ Sapphire Princess, three part series.

This is the third time Asher been on a cruise. The previous two cruises he went on were with Royal Caribbean Cruises. Asher just turned three last October, making him a seasoned cruiser, averaging one cruise trip a year.

Asher going on his third cruise adventure

Asher going on his third cruise adventure

Contrary to the common perception in Singapore that cruising is just for retirees, old folks and gamblers, increasingly, more young adults as well as parents with young kids are jumping on board the cruise experience.

For busy working adults like me who have a bad habit of checking emails and my mobile phone on-the-go, even when travelling, cruising is a good way to kick the habit. Wifi and internet connection are extremely expensive when cruising as the network is routed via satellite when in open waters. It’s a good excuse to tell your boss that you really have limited or no internet access when you are away on a cruise holiday!

Rachel and Asher enjoying the sea breeze

Rachel and Asher enjoying the sea breeze

For parents with young kids, the benefits are aplenty. Let explore how Princess Cruises fit into the picture.

Why Cruises are Ideal for Parents with Young Kids:

1. Your kid can run all over and not get lost

The ship is 952 feet long and 205 feet tall with 18 decks. That’s an awful lot of confiend space for little kids to run around, yet you know you can still find them.

Asher can run all over and I won't be afraid of losing him

Asher can run all over and I won’t be afraid of losing him

We explored the top decks

We explored the top decks

2. Food is provided for 24-7, including fresh fruits

There are five main dining rooms on the ship. Dining options include Sabatini’s trattoria; Sterling Steakhouse; International Café; Vines wine bar; Alfredo’s Pizzeria; Trident Grill – poolside hamburger grill; Prego – poolside pizza bar; Sundaes ice cream bar; Horizon Court – buffet/bistro; and 24-hour room service.

You and your kids just can’t go hungry:

The buffet bar which is always loaded

The buffet bar which is always loaded

Fresh fruits which we ordered to our room at no extra charges

Fresh fruits which we ordered to our room at no extra charges

Asher enjoying an ice cream after a swim

Asher enjoying an ice cream after a swim

We felt like having pizzas and so we did.

We felt like having pizzas and so we did.

Asher wanted more pizzas

Asher wanted more pizzas

3. You can introduce your kid to the concept of fine dining

Instead of heading for the buffet restaurants, bring your kids to the sit-down a la carte restaurants to introduce them to the concept of fine dining.

It won’t burn a big fat hole in your wallet as food is inclusive on board (except at the specialty restaurants where you need to top up).

Asher has since learned how to work his cutlery outside in and lay a napkin on his lap before starting to eat:

Asher learning the art of fine dining

Asher learning the art of fine dining

Asher enjoying fine dining

Asher enjoying fine dining

We brought Asher to enjoy high tea

We brought Asher to enjoy high tea

4. You can bring as much luggage as you want as there is no weight limit

We tend to overpack when we go on cruise holiday. After all, it’s better to bring more than less since there is no weight limit. Perfect for kiasu parents.

Asher got to pack all his swimming gear such that he can dress up like Bumblebee from Transformers when going for a swim:

Asher dressed up as Bumblebee from Transformers to go swimming

Asher dressed up as Bumblebee from Transformers to go swimming

5. A service staff is always within arm reach to render help

There ship has a passenger capacity of 2,670 and there are approximately 1,100 staff on board. That’s a ratio of around one staff for every 2-3 passenger.

Help is always within in reach:

Top service staff on the ship

Top service staff on the ship

6. There are other kids for your kids to make friends with

Kids make friends easily and there are plenty of common play areas for them to run around, interact and make new friends:

Activity centre

Activity centre

7. Facilities and amenities are wheelchairs and strollers friendly

There are lifts everywhere, even if it’s just a floor up or down. I saw many elderlies in wheelchairs and they got around fine, just about everywhere on the ship. I spotted some strollers too, although these were less common.

Yes, there are even lifts for the club floor

Yes, there are even lifts for the club floor

8. There are plenty of programs and activities catered for kids

I will elaborate more on the entertainment and programs available on board Sapphire Princess in a later post. They have a good mix of activities for both young and old so that the little ones won’t feel left out:

Giant jenga for kids

Giant jenga for kids

Acrobatic performance

Acrobatic performance

9. Your kid can get to swim all day

There are a total of five pools on the ship, not to mention the smaller whirlpools. Your kid can visit a pool each day and swim all day long or just soak in the pool to enjoy the sea breeze.

Gone swimming

Gone swimming

Poolside

Poolside

10. Best of all – there is free childcare available!

Rachel and I were extremely impressed by the standard of service and the facilities for the free childcare centre (you only have to pay for the services for night-time babysitting).

We brought Asher to the centre on the third day morning and left him there for about two hours. There was no other kids around as many passengers had chose to disembark at Port Klang in Kuala Lumpur. As such, the ratio of staff to kid was three to one!

Asher was like a little emperor as he ran around to explore the facilities and try out some of the suggested activities together with the staff:

Childcare entrance

Childcare entrance

Kids' play room

Kids’ play room

Kiddy pool

Kiddy pool

Indoor playground

Indoor playground

Colouring activities

Colouring activities

Asher's little kingdom for two hours

Asher’s little kingdom for two hours

Pager for parents in case your kid gets unruly or misses you too much

Pager for parents in case your kid gets unruly or misses you too much

There's childcare available up to 13-17 years old age group - although I think a 17 year old will be very unhappy if you leave him or her there

There’s childcare available up to 13-17 years old age group – although I think a 17 year old will be very unhappy if you leave him or her there

Sapphire Princess Homeporting Season in Singapore

The homeporting season runs for five months through March 2015 and features 16 cruises sailing roundtrip from Singapore which can be combined to form 25 distinct itineraries.

For the current season, only the following is still available for booking:

17-day Grand Asia: Departs March 24 with calls at Bangkok (Laem Chabang), Ho Chi Minh City (Phu My), Hong Kong, Shanghai, Nagasaki, Busan and Beijing (Tianjin).

Further information about Princess Cruises’ roundtrip Singapore cruises is available by calling (+65) 6922-6788, or toll- free for Malaysia at 1 800 806656, or by visiting www.princess.com.