Before I went on my first cruise with Princess Cruises, I’d always wondered what made cruising such a popular way to travel. It wasn’t something that made me think ‘I really want to do that’, but I’m the kind of person who will try something at least once. It often reinforces my preconceived idea that something is not for me, but in this case I was really surprised that I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected. I can safely say that I am a cruise covert and you can read more about my experience as a first time cruiser.So here I’ve laid out what it was like cruising Spain, France and the Channel Islands with Princess Cruises.
Table of Contents
- 1 The Cruise Itinerary
- 2 Cruising Spain, France and the Channel Islands
- 3 Check out my other articles about cruising
- 4 Like this post? Pin and save for later
The Cruise Itinerary
It was a 7-day cruise on board the Sapphire Princess, a recently refurbished 18-deck ship that accommodates 2,670 guests and 1,100 crew.
The trip included two days at sea and four days on land, exploring the different destinations in Spain, France and the Channel Islands in the UK. They included A Coruña and Bilbao in Spain, Bourdeaux (Le Verdon) in France and St Peter Port in Guernsey, Channel Islands.
Here is a map of the itinerary.
Cruising Spain, France and the Channel Islands
Day 1 – Embarkation at Southampton, UK
I loved that I was able to depart from my local port, so I didn’t have to catch a flight to the departure point. The check in and embarkation process was super quick. I arrived at 11am and by 12.00pm I was having lunch at the buffet restaurant.
After lunch we explored the ship a bit, getting to know where everything was. There were 15 cafes and restaurants, over 10 bars, a theatre, 5 pools, a spa, and many more facilities to locate.
We then gathered with most of the ship’s passengers by the bar on Deck 15 where we got ready for the sail away party and to wave goodbye to the UK. There was live music and the atmosphere was electric with everyone’s excitement for the adventures that laid ahead.
We ended the day with a delicious dinner and a session of karaoke at one of the bars until it was time for after an exciting first day.
Day 2 – At Sea
On our first day at sea we had a tour of the ship and briefly went to say hello to the Captain and the bridge crew. We got to see how everything works behind the scenes, from the kitchens to the laundry rooms. It was a pretty impressive operation. The Sapphire Princess really is like a floating city with all the facilities you need and the team behind them to run them efficiently.
Princess Cruises offer the Ultimate Ship Tour on a sea day, so if you are interested in what’s going on ‘backstage’, I highly recommend it.
We had free time to roam around and enjoy the facilities on the ship. And also to get ready for our first formal night! Formal nights on cruises are a great chance to spruce up and be a bit fancy. Our ship had two formal nights as part of the itinerary, and on the first one, everyone gathers round in the main atrium before dinner to hear the Captain’s welcome speech and witness (sometimes even take part in the pouring of) the Captain’s Champagne Waterfall.
Day 3 – A Coruña, Spain
Time in port: 7am – 3.30pm
A Coruña is not far from where I grew up, so I’d already been there numerous times. However, I’d never visited as a tourist so it was refreshing to explore this Northern Spanish city from a visitor’s point of view.
I did my own thing in A Coruña and got to explore the Old Town, walked along the promenade and tried some local tapas. But my highlight was to visit the world’s oldest working lighthouse from Roman times, and in particular, I got to visit the statue to Brogan, the Celtic King. You can read all about my day in A Coruña here.
If you prefer to be shown around, you can book city tours onboard that include historical walking or driving tours in the Old Town, as well as foodie tours that focus on the local gastronomic heritage. There are also day trips to nearby towns such as Lugo, where you can visit the very well preserved Roman Wall, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, or Santiago de Compostela, where you can visit the famous pilgrimage site of Santiago Cathedral, and explore the charming Old Town.
Day 4 – Bilbao, Spain
Time in port: 8am – 5.30pm
For Bilbao, we booked a tour that took us to explore one of my favourite discoveries of this trip, San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, the now famous filming location for Dragonstone in Game of Thrones.
We also visited the colourful fishing village and formerly whaling port of Bermeo. For lunch we went into Bilbao Old Town, where we got to sample a variety of delicious pintxos, and we ended our day with a visit to the striking Guggenheim Museum. Read more about my day in Bilbao here.
Other tours you can book onboard include a walking tour of Bilbao Old Town, where you can discover the historic part of the city. There is also Basque cuisine masterclass, where you can learn new recipes, sample award-winning dishes and learn cooking techniques from a Michelin Star chef. Alternatively you could do a day trip to San Sebastian and visit its famous Bay of La Concha, and to Hondarribia, an old medieval fishing village on the French border.
Day 5 – Bourdeaux (Le Verdon), France
Time in port: 7am – 5.30pm
For Bourdeaux the ship docked in the port of Le Verdon-sur-Mer, about two hours drive from the city and within the Médoc Wine Region. So we booked a tour with a local expert where we drove along the ‘Route des Chateaux’ and visited Chateau Branaire-Ducru. Here we got to visit the Chateau’s vineyards and learnt about how they produced their wine, how they use the first gravity sorting system in the region, and we also had a wine tasting session.
We also visited Chateau Rousseau de Sipian, an imposing renaissance style chateau with a vineyard of over 10 hectares, where we tasted some more wine and had lunch in the chateau itself. It was a great experience and it made me realise that I would love to go back to this area and explore further.
Other tours you can book onboard include the highlights of the city of Bourdeaux, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a visit to the Hennessey Distillery, where you get to learn all about this premium brand of French Cognac, and of course you get to try it too.
If you are interested in WWII history you can book a tour that will take you to the famous bunkers that Hitler built along the Atlantic seaboard from southwest France to Norway. This tour is pretty special as it is led by someone who was 3 years old when the bunkers were built and has dedicated his life to restoring them as a testament to this dark time in France’s history.
Day 6 – At Sea
Our second day at sea was another chance to relax and enjoy the facilities and entertainment onboard. I started the day slowly. As room service with Princess Cruises is free and 24/7, I had my breakfast delivered to my stateroom. This is one of my top tips to any first time cruiser.
I spent the morning enjoying some of the entertainment on offer. We went to a 90s music quiz and we won a bottle of prosecco. Breakfast in my balcony and free prosecco. Could the day get any better? Well, it did!
I booked some time away at The Sanctuary, the adults-only retreat onboard, were I had a lovely afternoon tea with some delicious cakes and soothing sea views. I then had a lime and ginger salt glow massage treatment at Lotus Spa that left my skin feeling like a baby’s bottom, ready for our second formal night of the trip.
After dinner, Movies Under the Stars was on with Bohemian Rhapsody and it was really popular. It was the perfect day of rest and relaxation at sea.
Day 7 – St Peter Port, Guernsey – Channel Islands, UK
Time in port: 7am – 5pm
Our last day took us to St Peter Port in Guernsey. The port here is too small and shallow for a cruise ship, so we docked a bit away and we took tender boats out to the island.
Once in St Peter Port, I explored the charming old quarter, with its eclectic mix of antique shops and local craft shops, visited the famous Little Chapel, built with broken china, and enjoyed the award-winning Victorian Candie Gardens, which are home to the oldest heated glass-houses in the British Isles. I also visited Hauteville House, the former home of Victor Hugo, where lived here for 14 years while he was in exile and where he wrote Les Misérables.
For such a little town, St Peter Port certainly packs a punch. If you are interested in WWII history, you can visit the La Vallette Underground Military Museum, which covers Guernsey’s military history including the German Occupation of the island during WWII.
You can also book tours onboard where you can explore the highlights of the whole island, such as the dramatic western coast and plenty of scenic villages, or take a trip to Herm for a walking tour of this off-the-beaten-path island. You can even discover Guernsey by following the steps of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society tour, a heartwarming book and film based on the German Occupation of the island.
Do you have any questions about cruising Spain, France and the Channel Islands with Princess Cruises?
Let me know in the comments!
Check out my other articles about cruising
- Confessions of a First Time Cruiser – Is Cruising for Me?
- 33 First Time Cruise Tips – Everything You Need to Know Before Your First Cruise
- Things to do in A Coruña, Spain – Cruise Itinerary
- The Perfect Itinerary for One Day in Bilbao, Spain – Cruise Itinerary
- 10 Adorable Things to do in Guernsey, Channel Islands UK – Cruise Itinerary
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Disclosure: This trip was taken in partnership with Princess Cruises, who hosted me on this trip. As always, all views are my own.