A Two Week Transatlantic Cruise to Europe on the Caribbean Princess
I recently returned from a transatlantic cruise with my husband. The cruise left from Fort Lauderdale, Florida and included port stops in Bermuda, Ireland, England, France and ended in Southampton, England. The cruise lasted fourteen days and included nine days at sea. We traveled aboard the Caribbean Princess cruise ship.
If you have ever thought about cruising across the Atlantic Ocean, but thought you might be bored, read on to discover all the activities I did that you might also find interesting. If you enjoy days at sea, a transatlantic cruise is perfect for relaxing with nowhere to go except on board your cruise ship. If you need lots of excitement in your life and get bored easily, this might not be the optimal cruise for you.
First Port Stop: King's Wharf Bermuda
We left Fort Lauderdale, Florida on a Thursday evening, had two days at sea and stopped at our first port stop: King's Wharf, Bermuda. Although we had many choices of tours, we chose to take a ride on a glass-bottomed boat. The tour also included the chance to snorkel or wade ashore to a beach area. At the end of the tour, on our way back to the port, we were to be given rum swizzles, a favorite drink in Bermuda.
The day started off beautifully, and we had high hopes for an excellent experience in Bermuda since the skies were sunny and we even had room service and ate breakfast on the balcony of our room. We walked from the ship to a nearby glass-bottomed boat, but the tour started on top of the boat on benches where we listened to the captain as he took us on a tour of the Harbor.
About fifteen minutes into the tour, the sky started to get cloudy, and the air got noticeably cooler. We were relieved when the captain told us to go downstairs and sit on the benches. In front of each set of benches was a trough with high sides and the bottom was glass so we could see underneath the boat. The captain took us to an area near a coral reef where the remains of a shipwrecked boat, the Vixen lay, covered in so much sand and coral that you could barely make out the outline of the ship. Fish swam around underneath us, and it was amazing to see how close they got to the boat. After about 30 minutes of this, we anchored near a very small cove and were told we could snorkel here, or wade to the beach.
There were 14 people on this cruise excursion, and only one decided to go snorkeling. I had never wanted to snorkel but was really looking forward to walking on a Bermuda beach. The water was 68 degrees so as I lowered myself into the water on that gray and cloudy day, with only one other person getting off the boat, I was a bit apprehensive. Fortunately, I could touch the bottom, and as soon as I felt the sand under my feet, I felt better and just headed to shore as fast as I could. Five minutes after I got off the boat, another woman joined me.
The beach was not what I expected. It was actually a very small cove, and there were no shells on the beach and no pink sand that Bermuda is famous for...just a lot of rocks and some sea glass. The captain said we were not allowed to bring shells or rocks back from Bermuda, as it is a Bermudian law. I only spent about 20 minutes on the beach. The other woman and I talked a bit and took as many pictures as we could of things we thought our friends back home might be interested in seeing. We then we headed back to the boat where everyone else was already enjoying their rum swizzles!
Once back on board and I changed into warmer clothes, my husband and I enjoyed our rum swizzles, which were mostly swizzles and not much rum, but that was fine with us.
When our boat ride was over, we stopped at the Bermuda Crafts Market where we purchased postcards and a Christmas tree ornament which had the pink sand we had missed at the beach.
Seven Days at Sea
After our stop in Bermuda, we had seven days at sea. Some people don't enjoy sea days on a cruise as they get bored being on a ship for that long a period. My husband and I enjoy our time on the sea days. He has his own business which he runs from home, and cruising at sea means he won't get phone calls and he only reads his email every few days. This is a very relaxing time for him, and I enjoy it as well.
Here is a list of the things I did during our two-week cruise when we weren't at port stops:
- Read two books (A Christmas Grace, and The Princess Diarist)
- Watched nine movies: (La La Land, Elsa and Fred, Hello My Name Is Doris, They Came Together, Austenland, Brooklyn, Song One, Maggie's Plan, and My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Princess Cruises has a wonderful large movie screen above the pool area, and it is great fun to watch movies under the stars. They provide blankets, pillows, and popcorn all of which are well received by passengers.
- Attended two educational lectures of famous artists (Thomas Kinkade and Peter Max)
- Did three loads of laundry (Princess Cruise ships have laundromats on board so passengers can do their own laundry less expensively than if cruise personnel does it).
- Walked daily around the ship for exercise on the Promenade deck, which helped me rack up an average of 10,071 steps per day...that's better than what I do at home!
- Visited the ship's art gallery
- Attended three "Sales at Sea" and came away with a beautiful new beach cover-up and a new blouse that looks very flattering on me
- Attended a "Hollywould You" trivia night sponsored by the cruise staff
- Attended an onboard church service on Good Friday and Easter Sunday (Princess cruises always offers an onboard church service on the days the ship is at sea)
- Watched the following on TV during the cruise: 1 travel show about Ireland before our port stop, watched a documentary about the thefts of art owned by Isabella Stewart Gardener, watched a travel show about Amsterdam and watched a documentary about the Impressionists in Paris including Monet, Degas, and Renoir
- Attended a "Captain's Circle" party for frequent Princess Cruises passengers that was sponsored by the ship's captain and offered free music, appetizers, and drinks
- Attended two Broadway-style shows put on by the ship's singers and dancers
- Attended port talks on Cobh, Ireland and Falmouth, England
- Enjoyed free appetizers for repeat cruisers in a special lounge
- Attended a ventriloquist show by Kieran Powell
- Attended a musical impersonator show by Shaun O'Shea
- Attended a show by comedian David Deeble
- Attended a show featuring cruise ship passengers singing called, "The Voice of the Ocean."
- Walked in an onboard 5K walk for the Susan G. Komen breast cancer awareness program
- Went dancing with my husband
- Attended a Princess Pop Concert featuring a choir made up of cruise passengers
- Outlined six articles to write when we returned from the cruise
- Saw a school of dolphins jumping over the waves made by the ship
- Ate three meals per days at wonderful restaurants both on board and in the countries we visited
- Gained SEVEN pounds (oops, maybe I shouldn't have written that part, but since the average weight gain on a 7-day cruise is 7 pounds, 7 pounds on a 2-week cruise doesn't seem that bad!)
There were many more options of activities to do at sea, but my husband and I have already done many of them on previous cruises and were not interested in doing them on this cruise. Here's a list of other activities that we didn't participate in on this cruise:
- Art auctions
- Trivia games
- Ballroom dance classes
- Zumba classes
- Bingo games
- The Casino
- Vegetable carving demonstrations
- Ice carving demonstrations
- Wine tastings
- Ping pong competitions
- Old English Pub lunch
- Using the spa
- Working out in the gym (my husband did this, but I chose to walk instead)
- Swimming in the pools (it was a bit too cool for me, but some people did swim in the outdoor pools)
- Use the hot tubs
Sea Day Poll
Do You Think You Would Enjoy a Cruise With a Lot of Days at Sea?
A Port Stop in Cobh, Ireland
After seven days at sea, we stopped at the cruise port of Cobh in Ireland. My husband had never been to Ireland before, and I had been once and couldn't wait to bring him. The port of Cobh is the last stop that the Titanic made before taking to the open sea and her disastrous sinking. Although there is a Titanic museum right near the dock, I wanted my husband to see the beautiful countryside of Ireland, so we had booked a tour which included a snack and lunch.
Our first stop was in the picturesque town of Clonakilty, Ireland. We were treated to a traditional Irish scone and tea (or coffee) in the Emmett Hotel. After our snack, we were free to walk around town for an hour. I loved this sweet little town and had a wonderful time taking pictures.
Our next stop was to the town of Glengarriff. This town was a bit smaller than Clonakilty, but it had beautiful scenery and some nice shops including the Quills Shop where we bought some souvenirs and postcards. I ran around town like a crazy woman getting pictures. The mountains here around the town were beautiful.
We were then driven to a small hotel at the Gougane Barra National Park. The hotel, The Gougane Barra Hotel (of course) served us a delicious lunch of carrot and root vegetable soup, chicken with mashed potatoes and vegetables, and a delicious apple pastry for dessert. Drinks provided were anything from soft drinks and orange juice to a choice of three draught beers: Guinness, Murphy's or Heineken. I am not much of a beer drinker, but when in Rome...as they say, or in this case, Ireland, I thought I should give it the old Irish try! I chose Murphy's as I had tried Guinness before and it was too strong for me. But I enjoyed the Murphy's, and it went well with the delicious meal.
After eating we had thirty minutes to look around the grounds. The mountains in Gougane Barra were beautiful. There was a small chapel on the grounds and two lakes. I enjoyed this stop very much.
After our allotted time we climbed back on the bus and headed through the Gougane Barra National Forest and saw many hikers and families out for hikes.
Upon reaching the dock, we were greeted by a band playing Irish music. The only one I recognized was "Oh Danny Boy." The band played for at least 45 minutes and many people from the town of Cobh were at the port to wave the ship off. It was a touching moment.
A Port Stop in Falmouth, England
The very next day we had our next port stop in Falmouth, England. This is in the Cornwall area of England.
Our first stop on the tour we booked was in the small fishing village of Charlestown. Old boat restoration of wooden boats is the main activity here, and it has only recently been opened up as a tourist area.
The amazing thing about this area to me was that at the end of the pier there was a beach, but the beach had no sand...only rocks leading all the way down to the water. I would think this would deter sunbathers for sure!
After this stop, we headed to the absolutely stunning fishing village of Polperro. I can't say enough about how much I loved our visit to this town...and I won't say too much because I am going to write a separate article about it! But I will say it is also now a tourist attraction and for the most part tourists can't drive here but instead park in a lot at the top of a hill and walk down into the village. The road has many villas for rent for vacationers, and there are shops and restaurants along the narrow roadways all the way into the center of the village.
We wanted a traditional meal here, so I ordered a crab sandwich, and my husband had french fries with cheese and crab meat which was unusual but delicious. My lunch special included a crab meat sandwich, and tea and a scone with clotted cream and jam for dessert. The dessert was delicious. I really enjoyed trying the clotted cream and that combined with the jam on an English made scone made my whole meal extra special.
A Port Stop in LeHavre, France
Our final port stop before the cruise ended was at LeHavre, France. We decided to take a tour into Paris, which included lunch on a glass-windowed boat on the Seine River. If you ever go on a cruise and you have a chance to see Paris, this is the way to do it, especially if you don't know if you will ever return to Paris. We once did a "Paris on Your Own" excursion which just included a three-hour bus ride to and from Paris, and you are on your own to see the city. Because the ride to and from Paris from the port of LeHavre is three hours long, you only have three hours in the city. A guided tour can get you to the major sites in Paris much more efficiently than you can see them on your own.
Our first stop was a 10 minute stop across from the Eiffel Tower to take pictures. I took 20 pictures of the Eiffel tower because I was determined to get at least one shot that I loved.
After that stop, we were driven around the city and shown all of the important places which included the Louvre Museum, Maxim's restaurant, the Arc De Triomphe, the Champs De Elysee, and a few other places.
We then were dropped at a pier and boarded a windowed glass boat for our luncheon ride. We were served a roll with butter, a salad plate with a pate, another chicken meal with a separate bowl of the potatoes that were the most creamy and delicious mashed potatoes I have ever tasted and a wonderful dessert which tasted something like an eclair. We were fortunate enough to get a window table on this cruise which included live music (a man singing French songs in English) and saw the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre again, but also had a nice view of the top half of Notre Dame, which was truly amazing.
The final stop of the day was at the Champs De Lycee, from which we could see and take pictures of the Arc De Triomphe. We had twenty minutes here...just enough time to snap a few pictures and buy some souvenirs. This was not the real Paris experience that many people long for, but a wonderful overview and well worth it in my opinion.
The Ending of the Cruise
The day after our port stop in Paris, the Caribbean Princess docked in Southampton, England and that signified the end of our cruise. Because we had planned to spend a little time in London, and we needed a way to get there, we booked one final excursion through Princess Cruises. This excursion was to Windsor Castle and was designed for cruise ship passengers who were flying out of Heathrow Airport after 4:00 pm. We had booked a hotel near the Heathrow Airport, so after the tour of Windsor Castle, we were dropped off at Heathrow and took a shuttle to our hotel. I am not including information about that tour as that will be covered in another article, but it was a wonderful way to end our cruise and a convenient way to get transportation to the airport and learn more about England.
So that covers our cruise. What did you think? Is a transatlantic cruise one you think you could enjoy or were there too many days at sea? Please weigh in with a comment below.
Which Port Was Your Favorite?
To see the Caribbean Princess for yourself, see the video below
© 2017 Karen Hellier