We just returned from a 10-day cruise on the Sun Princess to the
Mexican Riviera. This was only our seventh cruise so we aren't
experts, but are able to make general comparisons based on our
personal experiences. Our previous cruises were on Carnival
Inspiration (Southern Caribbean), HAL's Veendam (Western Caribbean
and Alaska), Sea Princess (Western Caribbean), RCI's Radiance of
the Seas (Pacific Coast) and Celebrity Millennium (Eastern
We enjoy warm-climate cruising, and we chose this itinerary
because we wanted to try a 10-day cruise and the price was right.
Having been on the Sea Princess, we knew what to expect from the
ship, but we had never seen the Pacific side of Mexico and thought
it would be a nice change.
As usual, we flew in a day early and spent the night at the San
Pedro Hilton. We booked the cruise through Pat, our travel agent at
Cruisestar.com, and booked our own air. We got a rate of $45 at the
Hilton through Priceline. We met with friends that live in the LA
area and enjoyed dinner at an Italian restaurant in San Pedro. We
always try and fly in the
day before, as it is such a relaxing way to start the cruise.
Friday morning, we got to the port terminal about 10:30 a.m. The
ship had been in dry dock before this cruise, so there was no
off-loading of passengers. Porters are available at the drop-off to
take your bags. Inside, Princess started checking in passengers at
11 a.m., and it was very efficient. We had completed our
information on the Princess web site, so we qualified for Express
Check-in, but our line was longer than the regular lines. We were
checked-in after 15 minutes, but had to wait almost an hour to
board. Platinum members board first, and others by group numbers,
depending on when you checked in. We were on board shortly after
We dropped our carry-on in the room and headed to the Horizon
Court for lunch. Getting on the ship early not only gives you extra
time to explore, but it's a great time to take pictures because
there are few people in the public areas.
The Sun Princess has been around for several years, and I agree
with other posters that she is beginning to show her age. The
interior seemed immaculate and it looked like they had installed
new carpet throughout. But on the exterior, the colors are fading.
There is no visible rust visible, and crew members continuously
paint and keep up the facilities, but it certainly didn't compare
with the newness and freshness we'd experienced on Radiance or the
Millennium. That being said, I wouldn't hesitate to cruise on this
ship again. She's in great shape, with great facilities. I love the
Promenade Deck -- comfortable lounge chairs with a great view and
shade if you want it. It was my favorite place to read and nap out
of the sun.
The public areas, including lounges, atrium, Princess Theatre
and Vista Lounge, are in great shape. We heard that Lord Sterling,
the CEO of P&O Princess, was on-board for most of the cruise
and that extra effort had been taken to spruce the ship up. Rumor
also said that P&O plans to transfer the Sun to P&O and
re-name one of Princess' upcoming ships the Sun. I don't know if
any of that is true.
We booked an Inside Cabin Guarantee and were given C-208 on the
Caribe deck--right in the middle of the ship, a great location. Our
cabin was located toward the bow, which made for a bit of a walk to
the stairs, but we were pleased. Previously, we've had a
mini-suite, balcony cabin and outside cabins, but we prefer an
inside cabin for cost and convenience. We seem to sleep better in
inside cabins and since we spend so little time in there, we
probably will keep booking them. Our cabin space was fine, with
plenty of storage, even for a 10-day cruise, a nice bathroom, a
safe, and a mini-fridge with a bucket of ice that is refreshed each
day. There is one electrical outlet in the room and one in the
bathroom. The hairdryer is not in the bathroom, but at the small
desk in the cabin. Soap, shampoo and conditioner are provided. Our
cabin steward, Ricky, was very friendly and did a great job.
The on-board entertainment was fine for us, but I heard many
people complain about the quality of the shows. Sun Princess has
two theaters, the Princess Theater and the Vista Lounge. Two shows
are going on in each venue almost every night. Unfortunately, two
of the shows -- "Words & Music" and "Rhythm of the City" --
were the same shows we saw on our Sea Princess trip more than a
year and a half ago, but they were performed by different
entertainers, so it was still enjoyable. A third show, "America's
Music," was new and very well done. The lead male, Joe Sackenheim,
is the most talented entertainer we've ever seen on a cruise ship
-- a great singer. The comedian, juggler and ventriloquist were
only average. They also showed current movies in the Princess
Theater -- not the best quality, but good movies. "My Big Fat Greek
Wedding" has to be the best surprise movie of the year.
For the first time, we selected Personal Choice Dining, which
meant that we didn't have assigned dinner seating. We were free to
eat in any of the six restaurants at any time. The Princess Horizon
Court is still the most ill conceived, congested dining option, but
it is open 24 hours. We ate breakfast there every day -- a basic
breakfast, with eggs, bacon, sausage, cereals, fruit, breads,
pastries, etc. Pancakes and French toast were also offered. The
scrambled eggs were horrible. They must use powdered or processed
liquid eggs. But at the end of the line is a grill cook who will
prepare real eggs to order.
We ate most lunches in the Horizon Court, Verdi's Pizzeria or
the Terrace Grill. Verdi's is also a nice place for dinner, with
other pasta dishes besides a fair pizza. Most dinners we ate in the
Marquis Dining Room. This dining room is for all personal choice
diners and we never had to wait more than a few moments for a
table. In fact, we met several nice couples there on the second
evening of the cruise and met up again with them for dinner on
several other nights.
Upstairs, the Regency Dining Room is for those with assigned
dining. Don't bother with the Sterling Steakhouse, the alternative
dining experience with an $8 surcharge. The restaurant is really
out on the deck overlooking the pool. It is the Terrace Grill
during the day. Friends who ate there said the food was good, but
people were walking through constantly and it was noisy from the
pool deck below.
We enjoyed the flexibility of personal choice. The only down
side is that you have new waiters every night, and we missed the
enjoyment of getting to know one waiter. The service in Personal
Choice is more like your normal restaurant. It is nothing like the
personal service in the typical cruise dining room with the same
waiter. Whether dining flexibility is worth the loss of this
service is something we haven't decided yet.
My wife was disappointed with her cut and color in the beauty
salon, mainly because the stylist kept pushing products for sale.
My massage treatment was a bit expensive, but she did a great job
and once she knew I wasn't interested in buying anything, she quit
with the sales pitch. Compared with the spa facilities on Radiance
of the Seas and Celebrity Millennium, these looked a little second
rate. Treatment rooms are small and closet-like. On Radiance and
Millennium, they are much larger and most face floor-to-ceiling
windows over the ocean. The steam room is nice and the area was
never crowded. I loved early mornings in the whirlpool on top near
the back of the ship. There's nothing like sitting in a warm hot
tub with cool morning air outside and great views.
For the first time cruising, I needed to visit the doctor. It
was actually two visits, and I found the doctors and nursing staff
very professional and well equipped. I wouldn't mind going to these
people at home.
We tend to avoid the ship excursions and do things on our own. I
also like to avoid the tourist areas and get back into the real
town to see how the locals live.
Cabo San Lucas: This was our fist stop and we actually booked a
kayaking and snorkeling excursion here. Passengers are tendered
into the port and there we caught a water taxi over to a small
beach for brief instruction and getting our gear. This is a fun
excursion and we all paddled out to Lands End and the arch that is
so beautiful. Seas were a bit choppy, but the kayaks ride high in
the water and there were no problems. Several people got a little
fatigued and several said they would not do it again. We liked it.
It gives you great views of the arch and a nearby rock covered with
sea lions. From there we paddled back to a small beach for
snorkeling. The water was too rough to stop at the regular beach
and here the snorkeling was worthless. The water temperature was
great, so I enjoyed it more for the swim than anything else. The
whole excursion took about two hours and from the kayaking facility
we walked back into town for shopping and general exploring
Mazatlan: Here we explored on our own. Walking out through the
regular taxi stand, we found a guy with one of those souped-up golf
carts. He agreed to give us a tour for $15 per hour. We felt that
was fair since most inside were going for $20 per hour. He drove us
up to the hill for some great shots of the ship and surrounding
beaches. We also drove by all the typical tourist stops, the fish
market on the beach, and then took us into the real town to the
park, plaza and cathedral. He waited while we walked through the
central market and even drove us by his house to meet his family.
It was a great day. This is how we like to see a city.
Acapulco: Best described as a beautiful setting around a
gorgeous beach and bay, but surrounded by four million people and
lots of traffic. Here we explored on foot and walked forever and
ever. Going left out the port, gate we walked several blocks to the
plaza and cathedral. This was interesting because there was a group
of school children demonstrating for government support to build
them a school building. They currently meet on a hillside, without
any facilities. The cathedral here is not that spectacular. From
the plaza we walked up into the side streets to the central market,
back down the beach and on to Papaguayo Park. This is a beautiful
park with lots to see and many locals to visit with. From there we
took a brief cab ride through the hotel zone and up to Las Brisas
-- beautiful views and lots of nice homes. Just too many people and
too much overbuilding! We passed on the cliff divers. Vendors and
taxi drivers are very aggressive here. Saying 'no' two or three
times is generally not enough. This seemed more like Jamaica than
Mexico, and that is not a good thing. It was nice to leave port at
10:30 p.m. and see the town at night.
Zihuatenjo/Ixtapa: A beautiful bay and wonderful smaller town.
Passengers are tendered into town, but from there it is easy to
walk through most of the town. Get back off the main streets for
some of the smaller shops. For $5 a cab will take you over to
Ixtapa which is a mostly a new hotel area along a beautiful beach.
We made the trip just to say we had been there. This is a nice area
and we would come back again. I really like Zihuatenejo. We met one
couple that had taken a water taxi across to Las Gatas Beach and
there they were able to use the beach at a small hotel. Great
service, beach chairs and tent were free to use. Again, only half a
day in this port. I would have enjoyed more time here.
Puerto Vallarta: Easily my favorite port on the trip. We had met
on-line an American who lives in PV and works close to the port. We
walked over to her office to visit and she gave us a map and
general directions. From there it was a four-peso bus ride into
town. Don't bother with the taxis. If you have pesos, just wait for
the bus marked "Centro" and ride into town. Get off at Hidalgo
Plaza and from there you can walk along the boardwalk through town.
The cathedral in PV is beautiful and we ate lunch at Las Palomas
right along the main street facing the beach -- reasonable prices
for good Mexican food and a great view of the ocean. We continued
to walk over the bridge into Old Town. This is a great walk and
again here you see more of the local flavor and shops with much
better prices. If you're shopping for medications, try Farmacia
Guadalajara in Old Town. We found the best prices here over any of
the other ports and it seemed to be a v We walked back to Hidalgo
and caught the "Marina" bus back to the ship for four pesos.
As usual, several people were delayed getting through customs so
the other passengers had to wait on them. It was a fairly long
wait, but eventually they began calling colors and numbers, which
are given out based on your flight time. The lines became very
crowded trying to get to the doors exiting the ship. It was 9:30
a.m. before they began disembarkation. We were off the ship by 10
a.m. and had arranged for transfers through Princess. Upon arrival
at LAX, American had plenty of help and we were on our way to the
gate within 15 minutes of being dropped off by the bus. That
certainly beats the four-hour wait to check our baggage that we
experienced in Fort Lauderdale.
All in all, this was an enjoyable trip. In summary:
1. A 10-day cruise is wonderful. There did not seem to be as
much pressure to hurry and try to experience everything because you
only have a week.
2. Princess provides a great cruising experience. Food was
excellent, entertainment adequate and service was great.
3. The Princess beverage sticker allows you to pay a one-time
fee of $20 for soft drinks throughout the cruise, including
fountain drinks, soft drinks and soda water from the fountain.
Canned drinks are not included. It can be used anywhere on the ship
and the service staff seemed more than happy to oblige even though
no additional tip is charged. All you have to do is show your card
with the sticker. You don't have to sign anything.
4. Zihautenejo and Puerto Vallarta were easily the best ports on
this trip. These were the only two places we visited that I would
return to for a week's stay.
5. The LAX experience for the flight home was better than what
we experienced at Fort Lauderdale, Miami, San Diego, or Seattle.
This is a great airport for handling cruise crowds.
1. The weather was hot, hot, hot. If it had been snowy back
home, this might not have felt so bad, but fall is beautiful in
Oklahoma. This is not an itinerary for people who don't like the
heat and humidity. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad during the winter
2. Every port is in Mexico. With the typical Caribbean cruise,
every port is so different. One island might be French and another
English. On this itinerary, all the ports are the same, with the
exception of size, location and other small differences.
3. Acapulco. Four million people crammed around a beautiful
beach and bay. Way overbuilt and outside of the hotel resort area,
this is really an unattractive spot. The vendors and taxi drivers
are very aggressive.
4. Princess now leaves two pool towels in your room; they are no
longer provided on deck. That means you must remember to bring your
towel on deck and you're limited to one, unless you ask your room
steward for more. I missed being able to grab fresh towels up on
deck. They do have towels in the spa changing rooms, but those are
not supposed to be taken out on deck. I know. I tried.
5. Spa prices are still way too high.
I would be happy to answer any questions you might have.