'Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.'
The paragraph above is supposedly from Mark Twain, although my research tells me otherwise. It doesn't matter who wrote it, I just happen to think that it's sage advice. It's also pertinent to travellers, like me, who have rarely ventured out to sea... but might wish to do so.
The last time I was on a boat of any kind was in spring last year when we were whale watching in Eden. The swell was bad and I felt so seasick that I spent the entire time at the rear end of the vessel with my head in my hands.
I have had mixed feelings about ocean liners. Firstly because of my genuine fear of the sea and, secondly, because I don't like being nauseous. But I must say I have been curious.
So when an invitation came from Princess Cruises, generously offering me 'an exclusive, behind the scenes immersion day aboard the flagship vessel, Golden Princess – the biggest cruise ship ever to be based in Melbourne' and promising 'a specially tailored experience where you’ll get to explore the very best the ship has to offer... with a hands-on cooking experience with the ship's top rated chefs, and state-of-the-art pampering and relaxation facilities', I could hardly say no.
This would be my chance to dip my toes into the water on a cruise ship and catch the wind in my sails, as it were - even though the ship wasn't actually going to sail away from the safe harbour of Port Phillip Bay.
Postcards and morsels - a day on the Golden Princess...
Our culinary immersion on board the Golden Princess started in the International Café, where we were greeted with platters of Norman Love pastries and cakes, as well as a selection of fresh and tasty canapés. Princess has partnered with renowned chef and chocolatier, Norman Love, to create a series of delicious new chocolate products, including breakfast treats and a premium chocolate cocktail.
Now I wouldn't normally eat Tiramisu for breakfast, but in order to report back to you in full I felt I should indulge in the savoury and sweet breakfast treats. What can I tell you, dear readers, it was rich but divine.
Yes, I admit that I also ate at least half a dozen of these fresh and tasty morsels featuring smoked salmon, avocado, tomatoes, cucumber and cheese. It was only early in the day, but both the food and the service were outstanding.
Trained in France and a former executive pastry chef of the Ritz-Carlton, chef Norman Love has been recognised as one of the top 10 Chocolatiers in North America by Dessert Magazine. His sweet creations for the Golden Princess include his signature chocolate soufflé with white chocolate sauce; chocolate berry tartlets with coconut mousse; milk chocolate chantilly eclairs; baked chocolate tart with lemon chantilly; chocolate raspberry clafoutis; vanilla chocolate chip cake.
The new chocolate range adds to the existing indulgence of chocolate desserts, drinks, spa treatments, cooking demonstrations, chocolate and wine pairing, petit fours and formal night treats already offered on the Golden Princess. If you love chocolate as much as I do, you had better pack those stretchy pants or muumuus, dear cruisers...
Come with me on a tour of the Golden Princess...
After morning tea, me and my fellow travellers were escorted on a tour of the Golden Princess. What a warm and honourable welcome we received! The photo of my "name in lights" deserves an exclamation mark or two, methinks!
As you will see from these panoramic photos, on the Golden Princess there are four passenger pools - Neptune's Reef & Pool (from where you can watch movies under the stars), the Terrace, the Calypso Reef & Pool (with a retractable roof), and The Sanctuary (a leafy adults only pool and bar... look for me here) - as well as a small outdoor pool in the Lotus Spa area, together with nine whirlpool spas. With this many options, water babies should have no problem finding space to splash or swim.
Rows of sun lounges on the decks will ensure that you get plenty of Vitamin D on your cruise.
Step inside the Golden Princess...
At the heart of the Golden Princess is the magnificent Italian-inspired atrium piazza. This is the arrival point and the gateway to the numerous areas on board this mammoth 108,865-tonne ship. Indeed, Golden Princess is the largest cruise ship ever to be based in the Victorian capital.
The ship has two main show lounges (both theatre and cabaret style), plus an Explorer’s Lounge, Wheelhouse Bar, Skywalkers Nightclub, a Whisky Bar, Player's Cigar Bar, the Promenade Lounge and Bar (for refreshments, entertainment and dancing), and the Grand Casino.
There are three main dining rooms (the Canaletto, the Donatello, and the Bernini), as well as Sabatini’s Italian restaurant, the Crown Grill (for steak and seafood), the International Café, Vines Wine Bar, the Horizon Court buffet restaurant, the Trident burger and hot dog Grill, and Prego poolside Pizzeria.
Shoppers will enjoy the duty free boutiques, while those who enjoy quieter pursuits will most likely seek sanctuary in the library, internet café, or the art gallery on board.
I always thought I might be bored on a cruise ship, but in addition to the pools and restaurants there's a fitness centre, a spa and a sports deck, as well as a lawn court with golf putting and other games.
And one can rest assured knowing that there's a fully equipped medical centre on board, as well as 22 lifeboats and two rescue boats. Phew!
The rooms on board the Golden Princess...
As we were touring the ship, hundreds of excited passengers were starting to board for a cruise to Tasmania, but we did manage to poke our heads into a few different cabins. It made me smile to see "The Love Boat" screening on the television in each one.
The images in the slideshow below appear courtesy of Princess Cruises, and depict just a few of the different types of rooms available. With 1,318 passenger staterooms that can host up to 2,600 guests at any one time, the Golden Princess is double the size of Melbourne’s largest hotel. Guests can choose from 33 suites, two family suites that have interconnecting cabins, and 178 mini-suites with private balconies. There is also seven window suites, 523 balcony staterooms, 208 oceanview staterooms, and 367 interior staterooms. I should also mention that there are 26 wheelchair accessible state rooms.
Behind the scenes galley tour on the Golden Princess...
What a treat to have an exclusive behind the scenes tour of one of the galleys on the Golden Princess with Executive Chef, Gaetano Patamia (above), who introduced us to Martin May, Hotel General Manager; Karen, the Food and Beverage Director; and a team of their chefs - including Butar and Antonio (pictured below). Sorry about the blurred image, by the way... the chef speaks with his hands!
Karen and Gaetano explained the chain of events that culminates in the shopping, preparation and serving of around 115 tons of food to feed up to 2,600 guests and 1,100 crew. The shopping list consists of food from all over the world, and a team of storekeepers, butchers and fish and vegetable prep specialists work against a tight schedule to make sure that the produce makes it to the galleys on time. In the kitchens, teams of chefs turn the raw ingredients into a feast of delicious meals.
The enormous (and shiny clean) kitchens on board the ship are a hive of culinary activity and feature 162 refrigerators, 92 stoves and 19 coffee machines. On an average day the chefs on the Golden Princess prepare and serve a whopping amount of food. Think 1,200 sandwiches, 5,000 pastries; as well as 2,268kg of fresh fruit, 1,360kg of fresh vegetables (including 1,020kg of potatoes), 590 kg of fish, 90kg of pasta, 2,080 litres of soup, 6,000 eggs, 540kg of salad, 500kg of beef, 500kg of chicken and more than 1,500 litres of coffee. And something like 50,000 dishes and 20,000 glasses are washed each day, while passengers use 10,500 linen napkins daily.
Me in chef's whites and a dessert cooking class...
Next, we washed our hands thoroughly and donned chef's jackets in preparation for our dessert preparation experience. Under the watchful guidance of Gaetans, Antonio and Butar, we 'created' a chocolate raspberry mousse with vanilla crème brulee and crunchy shortbread. It was a little bit of fun, and most of the work was done for us. We only had to assemble the dessert and then smile for the camera. Do you like my raspberry coulis 'smear'? I think chef Butar's plate (below) looks much neater. : )
Lunch on the Golden Princess...
Two and a half hours after boarding the ship, and a lot of hard work on my part (ha!), it was time to sit down for lunch in the Donatello Dining Room. The regular luncheon menu offered numerous delicious options and Princess Cruises was also keen to unveil the new SHARE menu by Curtis Stone.
For entree, I chose the avocado with Bay shrimp with limoncello aioli. The avocado was particularly good. Although I could not taste the limoncello.
For mains, I could not go past Curtis Stone's roasted pork belly with homemade apple sauce, potatoes and greens. The pork was tender and I liked the portion size, which would have been perfect for an evening meal, too.
And for dessert, I chose a simply delicious apple tart tatin with ice cream and apple puree. Again, the portion size was just right and the dessert itself was flavoursome.
A spa treatment...
The original invitation from Princess Cruises offered me a day of relaxation and pampering on board the Golden Princess. The experience was just that... and then some.
At 13.30pm it was time for some serious relaxing and pampering in the Lotus Spa. My massage therapist, Tanyarat (pictured below), a young lady from Thailand, was about the same age as my daughter. As her skilful hands pummelled out the knots from my shoulders, we talked about life, work and cruise ships.
Do I look chillaxed in this 'selfie'? I should! I felt quite like a Princess after my day of indulgence, relaxation and pampering on board the Golden Princess. The only thing missing on such a glorious day was the opportunity for a dip in one of the pools. Oh, and I should mention that this photo is untouched... the sea and sky really were that beautiful.
Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post, but my day on board the Golden Princess was hosted, as was my return travel and overnight accommodation. I spent the day with fellow travellers Jessica, Lewis, Paula, Jo, Sesame, and Janet.
Thank you kindly to Princess Cruises and Fuel Communications, who flew me to Melbourne, accommodated me overnight and treated me to a delightful and delicious day on board the Golden Princess. It was a wonderful experience... now I'm actually looking forward to trying a short getaway cruise.
I'd love to hear from you...
Tell me dear readers, have you ever been on a cruise? Where did your adventure take you? What do you like most about cruising? Or are you still toying with the idea of venturing out to sea and waiting for the opportunity to explore, dream and discover?
Hello. I'm Liz, a writer, cook and traveller based in Canberra, Australia.
Join me as I share with you my favourite recipes, postcards and morsels from my adventures, conversations with cookery writers
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.