Length: 856 ft
One of the smallest 1990s era ships, lovely but quiet, good for quiet relaxationBest For People Who Want
Elegantly understated decor reminiscent of the Grand '90s, 1990s that is, before ships became floating Las Vegas theme parks. A choice between traditional or personal choice dining options, unusual shore excursions, water sports (Caribbean sailings); facilities for the disabled; outdoor movie viewing on the "biggest LED monitor you have ever seen".Should Be Avoided By People Who Prefer
Mega-ship activities; world-class cuisine with lots of alternative dining choices; casual attire ships. To meet other singles and party.Onboard Experience
When Sun Princess floated out in 1995, it is hard to believe that at a mere 77,000 tons it was at the time the largest cruise ship in the world. It didn't take too long for that distinction to be surpassed, but in any case her beauty, especially internally, was classic enough for Princess for build three more sisters; Sea, Dawn, and Ocean Princess. Sea and Ocean have been relocated to Europe.
At its best, Sun Princess pulls off the remarkable trick of being vibrant enough for the active cruiser, and refined enough for the most demure. At 77,000 gross tons, she belongs to what are called the "mid-class" size vessels today, but actually seem comparatively small amidst the abundance of leviathans in today's cruise fleet. And so, even though the ship provides everything needed by any definition of cruiser, keep in mind that everything is of a smaller scale which tends to put a lid on the "wow factor." Such ships tend to attract older passengers, unless it's a 7-day Caribbean cruise during holidays or summer vacation.
Still, Sun Princess boasts a near-perfect interior design for convenience and traffic flow, and by the end of your first day, you'll know where everything is, and the best way to get to it. Of course, convivial types may focus on the downside of such spaciousness - that in the natural course of things you will make fewer friends as on other ships. Indeed, if you don't choose traditional dining (and thus share a table with strangers), you could, in theory, make no new friends at all during your cruise. The great popularity of the coin-operated washers and dryers on all cabin decks suggest that many passengers are desperate to meet in any way they can, even while folding laundry!
The cabins are comfortable and cheery, but the age of these vessels makes them lean towards the small end of the scale and limits the number of available balconies. But you can almost always find a bargains on lead-in priced lower inside cabins. Announcements are pleasingly infrequent for a mass-market ship, and only in English even in Europe, which may or may not be good news to anyone reading this!Decor
You need go no farther than the marble-floored Grand Plaza atrium, with its brass staircase, to realize that a lot of luxury awaits you. Especially when the view is accompanied by a string quartet or grand pianist expertly fingering glissandi. All in all, Sun Princess is one of the most gorgeous vessels at sea. Combining varnished hardwoods, marble, etched glass, granite, and textured fabrics, the decor juxtaposes classic and modern influences in a way that does not take your breath away, but creates a quietly pleasurable ambiance. The ships each boast a remarkable art collection valued at nearly one million dollars.Cuisine
According to the new Princess Personal Choice dining you can choose fixed seating dinners at 6:30 or 8:30 p.m. in the Regency Dining Room, or opt for making a reservation in the open seating Marquis Dining Room anytime between 5:30 and 10:00 p.m.. It matters little where ambiance and decor are concerned, both are identically furnished. The difference lies in whether you prefer the traditional cruise ship dining service of having the same team serve you for every meal, usually leading to friendlier, more interactive service as they learn to anticipate your dining preferences. The open seating option gives you the freedom to dine at the hour you choose even if it is different every night, with whom you choose. You will be seated at your own table, as at a restaurant ashore, but expect slightly less personal service than if you have the same service crew every night.
Princess has clearly improved the reputation of its food, especially in the areas of pasta and beef dishes. The Sterling Steakhouse features special cuts of Angus beef from its own celebrated brand. Passengers choose either rib-eye, New York strip, porterhouse, or filet mignon from a presentation tray, and watch -- drooling, in most cases! --- as the chef cooks it to order. Starters include chili, blooming onion, jalapeño poppers, and fresh Caesar salad, as well as the traditional baked potato or fries, sautéed mushrooms, creamed spinach, and corn on the cob. The ships' pizzerias make your pie to order, and chances are that it will be scrumptious. Desserts are unfortunately not always the grand finale one would expect in such surroundings. Adding insult to injury, the ice cream bar levies its own charges.Restaurants
Aside from the Personal Choice Dining in the two main dining rooms, for those feeling a bit more casual, there are a patisserie, a hamburger and hot dog grill, a sushi bar, and a 24-hour restaurant in the Horizon court next to the pool area. And of course there is always 24-hour room service, but with a limited menu. The pizzeria seems authentically Italian. The Grill restaurant adjacent to the pool offers casual breakfast and luncheon buffet, and is partially transformed in the evening into the Sterling Steakhouse, with decorative table linen, fine cutlery and table lanterns. (Since seating is limited to 70, reservations are encouraged. The Steakhouse charges $15.00).
A gratuity of $10.00 per person per day for dining and cabin staff is automatically applied to shipboard accounts regardless of which plan you choose. Passengers may increase or reduce this amount at their whim.Service
The staff, from all over the globe, is both wonderfully personable and attentive to detail. Boarding passengers are met at each stairwell and smilingly directed or even escorted to their cabins. Turndown service with chocolates on the pillow is provided in the evening. Charmingly, wooden deck chairs with steamer blankets are available for the asking on ships bound to or from Alaska.Tipping
For dining and stateroom personnel charge, $10 per person per day (including children) is automatically added to your stateroom account, whether or not they choose traditional or restaurant-style dining. You can talk to the ship's purser about raising or lowering this amount.
All beverage tabs automatically have a 15-percent gratuity added. In the spa and casino and with other staff, let your conscience be your guide.Entertainment
The single-story showrooms offer unobstructed views from every seat, several spaces in the back for wheelchair-users, good sound, and state-of-the-art lighting. The smaller Vista Lounge offers comfortable cabaret-style seating, while the elegant, nautical-themed Wheelhouse Bar is the perfect spot for pre- or post-dinner drinks and conversation.
Even though these ships are small by today's standards, they get an "A" for effort when it comes to the themed production shows. You won't be razzle-dazzled with pyrotechnics and laser lights, but you can walk away humming familiar show tunes or hits from your youth as you reflect upon how it used to feel to be as agile as the pas de deux dance team.
Expect a slate of individual performers such as comedians, jugglers, singers or magicians to fill in the other nights. Like most smaller ship entertainment, enjoyable for people who are not overly critical.Cabins
Tastefully finished in blond wood with pastel colored spreads, cabins are divided into some 28 categories, though in fact there are fewer than 10 real-life configurations; the category distinctions actually reflect differences in location (amidships versus aft, and so on), and thus price. More than 400 cabins on each vessel boast private, if very narrow, balconies. The ships' most popular staterooms have 178-square-foot balconies but only 161 square feet of living space, and thus are not for the claustrophobic. Mini-suites with two rooms are among the largest at sea: 374 sq. feet, including balcony and large marble bathroom. Closet space is at a real premium in the standard outside and inside cabins.
All that noted, there's no denying the generosity of the ships' amenities package: color TV with movies and CNN; hair dryers; terrycloth robes; safes; mini-refrigerators; and beds that convert from twin to queen size. Three hundred cabins will accommodate third passengers in upper berths. Nineteen cabins on each vessel offer wheelchair accessibility.Fitness/Spa
A great many American towns' chambers of commerce would love to get their hands on fitness facilities comparable to these three ships'. Indeed, from the Princess Links computerized golf simulator, which lets you virtually play the trickiest holes at the world's most famous golf courses (for a separate charge) to a separate jogging track, there aren't many athletic activities you can't enjoy aboard.
The stunning multi-level Spa offers whirlpool, exercise equipment with personal trainer, and Steiner's salon. A splash pool on Sun Deck supplements the ships' main pool, on Riviera Deck.Attire
Seven-night cruises offer two opportunities to put on the Ritz in formal attire. Many men opt for a dark suit instead of tux while their companions prefer dressy pants to dresses. The rest of the time, think smart casual. By day, don't even think of wearing anything other than shorts, sneakers, a polo shirt. If you want to toss in a baseball cap that's up to you, you can even turn it backwards.
I have just returned from a cruise on the Sun Princess. You can find my detailed review here.
Photos of the ship can be viewed here.
You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any queries and I'll try to answer them for you!
Sun Princess Cruise Southern Caribbean Medley-10 nights November 20-November 30, 2006 Captain Roger Bilton, Sussex, England Cruise Director John Cleford, England
DH and I are in our mid fifties. We've cruised four times before on Carnival Inspiration, Carnival Elation, Grand Princess and NCL Sun. Our favorite of these was the Grand Princess. This was a rest and relaxation cruise for us.
The flights to Ft. Lauderdale were uneventful, unlike the flights home.
We stayed the night before our cruise at the LaQuinta Inn, Hollywood, FL. It's a nice hotel with friendly people and a shuttle from the airport to the hotel and from the hotel to the port. The shuttle left the hotel at 11:00 AM on Monday and we were at the port terminal before 11:15. As soon as we got off the shuttle a porter took our checked luggage and, while there are signs saying tipping is not required, we tipped him $6.00 (3 bags).
Embarkation went very smoothly. We waited just a few minutes outside. When we entered we were given a piece of paper with a number on it. We found seats and they immediately began calling numbers. After aboutfive minutes our number was called and we went to check in. The lines are divided by deck. We were in the Caribe line and it took about ten minutes to check in. Onward to the embarkation photo, then onto the ship! This was the only photo that was taken of us the entire cruise and it was awful, so we didn't buy it.
Since this was a longer cruise, there were very few children on board. We overheard someone say there were forty, but we never saw more than four or five at a time. Most people were our age or older, which was fine with us.
We went to our cabin, C417, a balcony cabin on the starboard side. It was ready for us and we unpacked our carry-on's and checked out the cabin. It was smaller than some cabins we've had, but very well laid out. We met our wonderful cabin steward, Imran, who asked what he could do for us and was very efficient and friendly throughout the cruise. We told him the closet doors squeaked (like fingernails on a blackboard!) and by the time we returned to the cabin they'd been fixed.
About the Cabin: To the right of the entrance is the bathroom. There were three shelves to the left of the mirror and a shelf underneath the sink. The shower was the largest I've ever seen on a ship! There was a small shelf in the shower for travel sized shampoo, etc., and a small shelf for the soap. The shower controls were different from what we've seen before. There's an on/off control and a temperature control. We left the temperature control set and always had the right temperature without any adjusting. The water temperature didn't fluctuate, as it does on some ships. The shower curtain (cloth) had weights at the bottom and didn't "chase" us! The toilet is between the sink and the shower and makes the usual "whoosh!".
Across from the bathroom is the closet. The left side had a shelf at the top and room for hanging longer clothes (great for me, as I mostly wear sundresses). There's also a full length mirror on the inside of the door. The right side had two poles for shorter clothes. There's also a tie rack on the door. Next to the closet is an area with shelves, the safe (you put in your own combination), and two shallow sliding wire drawers. The top shelf is taken up by the life jackets.
There's a small shelf with a mirror next to the bathroom door. This was perfect for me to put on makeup. Under this shelf is an outlet! Unless you looked for it you might never see it! It was a perfect place for a nightlight and for recharging the cell phone. There's one nightstand with a drawer and two open shelves.
Next to the TV is a small shelf. Under the TV area are three small open shelves and the refrigerator. The refrigerator kept our soft drinks quite cool.
There's a small, but fairly comfortable club chair and a small stool/table between the TV area and the desk. The desk has three drawers on each side, an outlet, a mirror and the hair dryer is mounted on the wall next to the mirror. DH found the hair dryer to work fine for him. My hair is very short and curly and "air-dries".
The balconies on this ship have been cut out of the hull and are very small, but fine for two people. There were two chairs and a small table on the balcony. Being cut out of the hull, the balcony was covered. Remember not to open the balcony door and the cabin door at the same time. You'll create a "tornado" and anything not held down will go flying!
The Ship: As the Sun Princess is a relatively small ship it was quite easy to find our way around. I enjoyed the décor, which is wood and earth tones. There are two main entertainment areas. Forward is the Princess Theater and aft is the Vista Lounge. We didn't go to any of the production shows, but we did see a comedian, Carey Long, in the Vista Lounge. We didn't see much of the Cruise Director, but he seemed okay on the Morning Show.
We never had trouble finding a place to sit anywhere on the ship. (We don't sit in the sun, so we didn't have the "chair hog" problem.) Our favorite place to have a drink and "people watch" was the La Patisserie bar on the port side of the Atrium. There were two wonderful bartenders there, Ted and Girlee, both from the Philippines. They were very friendly and remembered what we liked to drink. The Wheelhouse bar was very nice, but too crowded and noisy for our tastes. We never made it to the Shooting Stars nightclub, but heard that it was a lot of fun.
We chose Personal Choice Dining in the Marquis dining room since we don't like to eat at a set time and we enjoy being seated with different people. We found the food in the dining room to be very good. On Thanksgiving evening they served twin lobster tails which were the best I've ever had on a ship. The service was good and we were happy with everything we ordered. We also ate in Verdi's Trattoria a few times and at the Horizon Court buffet once. The pizza at Verdi's was very good. The buffet was, well, a buffet… Edible, but not very good. We do like the setup of different stations but, as usual, some people tried to line up like they were in a cafeteria.
I don't enjoy the casino, but DH enjoyed it and "donated" enough for the both of us!
Ports and Excursions: After two sea days just relaxing, on Thursday we ported in Willemstad, Curacao, Netherland Antilles. We had an early excursion, Jewish Heritage in Curacao, planned with an independent operator after Princess canceled this same tour. We enjoyed this tour very much. We also enjoyed watching the QueenEmma pontoon bridge. The ship docked across the bay from Punda and you could either take a free ferry across or walk the floating bridge (if it's not open to let ships through!).
Our next port, on Friday, was Isla Margarita, Venezuela. We didn't plan a tour here so we just got off and shopped at the small market on the pier. We met a woman here who posts on the cruise boards and I bought a very pretty blue cat's-eye bracelet from her.
On Saturday we ported in Bridgetown, Barbados. Here we took the ship's tour, Island Highlights and Sudbury Plantation. We enjoyed this tour with stops at St. John's Church, Gun Hill Signal Station, and the Plantation. All three stops were interesting and offered great views for photos.
Sunday was Roseau, Dominica. We shopped a little at the pier in the morning and then took the Whale and Dolphin Watching tour. This was the only tour we had pre-booked. We enjoyed the boat ride, but the only things we saw were some flying fish!
On Monday we ported at Crown Bay in St. Thomas, USVI. We had to get up early to go through immigration since we were back in the US. It went very quickly and we took an early tour, St. Thomas Island Tour. We went along Skyline Drive, stopping occasionally for photos. We also visited Mountain Top and St. Peter Greathouse. After the tour we decided to stay in town and shop a little. We took a taxi back to Crown Bay for $4.50 each. The shops there are not open yet, but we did see people working on the inside.
Tuesday was another sea day, and we really needed a break! Five ports in five days is a lot!
Wednesday we tendered into Princess Cays. Princess Cays is actually on Eleutherea Island, Bahamas. That's why you have to fill out a Bahamas Landing form early in the cruise for any cruise going to Princess Cays. The tender ride to and from the island was a tour in itself! We're not "beach people" so we just walked around, had a Bloody Mary, checked out the shopping and went back to the ship.
That evening after dinner we packed our large suitcases and put them outside the cabin door. We left the automatic tipping on and tipped extra to our wonderful cabin steward, Imran, and to our great bartenders at La Patisserie, Ted and Girlee.
Thursday was disembarkation day. Earlier in the week they had sent a form for us to fill out with our flight information. We were scheduled to fly out of Ft. Lauderdale at 12:20 PM, so we were called in the third group to leave the ship. We went to breakfast at Horizon Court, and then went to La Patisserie to wait for our number to be called. We were off the ship and on the Princess transfer bus by 8:30 AM and at the airport before 9:00 AM. There we learned that our flight had been canceled because of snow and sleet at DFW, but we were able to get an earlier flight. We also got an earlier flight from DFW, but spent over 3 hours on the tarmac waiting to get de-iced! By pure luck we were assigned seats next to the emergency exit and were at least able to stretch out. We got home (finally!) at 9:00 PM.
This was our best cruise, ever! The only problems I can think of were the closet doors, which were fixed almost immediately, and one time we got the wrong tour tickets. I took them back to the shore excursion office and that was also taken care of quickly and with a smile. Apparently no one else had many problems, either. Until the last day when people were settling their accounts, there was never a line at the Purser's Desk. I've never seen a less busy Purser's Desk! The few times we went there to get a printout of our account or get change we walked right up to the desk.
We enjoyed this cruise so much that we were ready to cancel our cruise next year on Caribbean Princess and book the Sun Princess again, but found out that it will be going to P & O Australia in 2007. We hope to sail the Sun Princess again in 2008!
This ship is truly awesome! From the first formal night (where the staff really makes the passengers feel like glitterati) to the on-board shows (the tribute to Broadway was so fun) to the housekeeping and wait staff (be sure to chat with the Maitre D' Luigi ... he's great), everything was marvelous.
Our steward was Francisco, and he made our stay quite confortable. He straightened the cabin twice a day, leaving yummy treats on the pillows when turning down our bed at night.
Lucin and Odiban were our waiter and junior waiter, and we couldn't have asked for better. Lucian kindly shared with us pictures of his wife and son, so he wasn't just a person delivering the food, he's a kind person who treats us like family.
The second formal night, the maitre d' built a 645 glass tall champagne waterfall. It was lovely. And not only that, but he stood there for hours allowing passengers to take pictures with him and smiled the whole time.
The Captain, Ian McNaught, was friendly and approachable. It's clear from meeting him that the warm and welcoming attitude starts with the top officers.
The ports ofcall were the reason we took this cruise, but honestly became secondary to the ship in importance to us. I can't say enough good things about the Sun Princess. If you want a relaxing vacation desgined to re-charge your batteries and make you feel great, this is the ship to choose.