Prior to the cruise we stayed at the Amerisuites in Fort Lauderdale. We got this hotel thru Priceline for $35.00 per night - a real bargain as they provide shuttle service to the airport and the port and a continental breakfast. Check in was painful - long lines and no seating. After finally reaching the counter, we were sent away to fill in more paperwork (which seemed to be consumer info for princess). Couldn't they have handed this out while we were standing in line? One and a half hours later we were finally on board. Our cabin was an outside on the emerald deck, very ceonvenient for the dining rooms and elevators. Tis was the smallest cabin we have ever had, and the bathroom was miniscule with only 3 small shelves for storage. It was nice to have a mini-refrigerator and our cabin steward was the best (Rogerio). The ship was immaculate at all times, but not as glamorous as some of the other ships.
The food in the dining room was quite good, the rack of lamb the best I have ever had, but the lobster was tough andtasteless.The steaks were OK but the primerib was excellent. However the waitstaff were not up to the standards we have come to expect on cruises and I can only assume that Princess new policy of pooling all tips is to blame. There is no incentive to go the extra mile now, as bad waiters and good receive the same amount. Even if you give cash tips they have to put it in the pool. For the first time cruising,we had surly waiters who did not even introduce themselves, and a couple of times witnessed them being rude to passengers. The Harvest buffet was adequate - we had breakfast there most days, the variety of food seemed quite limited and the traffic pattern very conjested. Again the waiters were slow in clearing the tables. The cruise directors staff seemed to be non-existant, the only time we saw them was at the shows and the few activies they put on.
There seemed to be a lot of time on board with no planned activities. The shows were mostly singing and dancing, most people seemed to enjoy them. By far the best was the crazy magician,"Micheal (the kid) James". Don't miss him as he had us in stitches at his bizarre sense of humor, he earned a standing ovation at his second show.
Princess cays was very nice,efficient tendering,lots of shady loungers and plenty of ice water available. Sunscreen and insect repellent are a must! In St. Thomas we shopped for our dutyfree liquor and then took a taxi to Magens Bay, $6.00 pp ew, and $3.OO admission. It is a beautiful beach but watch out for the iguanas in the trees! St. Maarten is the place to buy cigarettes, and there is a beach within walking distance from the pier. St. Vincentes is a good day to do laundry and relax on the ship. (Machines are free, detergent $1.00) On Barbados we rented a taxi and toured the island- about $20.00 per person for 3 hours, previous reviews warned of getting ripped off by the drivers,we had no problems and did not hear of any. Make sure you see the size of the taxi first - 4 people can be a tight squeeze in the little sedans! Antigua - it poured with rain so we just walked into town and the casino, which is right at the pier. Their machines actually paid out,unlike the ship!
Seadays there was not much to do - what activities there were overlapped, so you could only catch a couple. Plenty of deck chairs around the pool, but for a relaxing spot to read, try the upper front of the ship. No farewell party, they do a champagne waterfall instead, but they have done away with the formal receiving line and the interminable introductions of the crew. All in all, it was good value for the money - but RCCL does it better!
Cruise Lovers Beware: We just came off the Sun Princess and want everyone to be aware of a serious problem we had to live with for 9 days......Raw Sewage vapors permeated the entire ships ventilation system for 9 long days during our entire cruise. What a horrible experience.
Apparently, this is not the first time Sun Princess has had plumbing problems. The cruise staff and numerous passengers were sick with a persistant cough and sore throat....including myself. For my part, the cough began when the sewage vapors irritated my lungs. I am still suffering from it as is my husband. Don't take this boat!
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 Caribbean).
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 theday 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 noon.
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 exploringMazatlan: 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 months.
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.
Fort Lauderdale, Day at Sea, Day at Sea, Colon, Panama, Transit Panama Canal, Day at Sea, Grand Cayman, Day at Sea, Cozumel, Day at Sea, Fort Lauderdale
This was our 5th cruise and our 2nd on Princess the first one being our first cruise in 1995 on the old Star Princess. We were anxious to try Princess again and realized that a Panama Canal transit would attract older passengers, as would a 10-day cruise. We are from Northern Ontario in Canada and are 46 and 48 years of age and were celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary. We were also meeting up with friends Gerry & Don from Cape Cod whom we had met on an earlier cruise and had not seen for 4 years. We corresponded for over 4 years by e-mail and it was a wonderful reunion. Previous cruises wereStar Princess - 1995 Splendor of the Seas - 1997 Nordic Empress - 1998 Enchantment of the Seas - 2000 Sun Princess - 2002
We decided to arrive in Fort Lauderdale 2 days pre cruise and extend our vacation this way. I booked through Priceline.com and secured the Embassy Suiteson 17th Street for $55.00 per night. This was a wonderful hotel especially because of the great rate. It has a beautiful 13-floor atrium in the middle of the hotel with beautiful tropical trees, plants and lovely floral arrangements. The pool area was very nice with a little waterfall and had a sauna and hot tub as well. The grounds at this hotel were very lovely. Two years ago we stayed at Amerisuites and it could not compare to the Embassy Suites and we paid less. The hotel also sent its shuttle van to pick us up at the airport and provided the shuttle the day we got on the ship. We booked a time to go to the pier when we checked in. A complimentary hot buffet breakfast was also provided as well as a complimentary cocktail hour. We were all very pleased with the hotel and would recommend it.
We took the water taxi down the waterway system in Fort Lauderdale. We caught the taxi at the Marriott Marina Hotel, which was about a 10-minute walk from the Embassy Suites. Fort Lauderdale or Venice of America as it is called had some lovely, very expensive homes that we could see from the water taxi. The guide gave commentary of all the homes and whom lived where. Many expensive yachts were present in the waterway. It was unbelievable. We got off at the Riverwalk and explored a bit and had a drink at one of the restaurants. It was a great and inexpensive way to spend the day in Fort Lauderdale and highly recommend it. It only cost $5.00 per person to ride it all day.
We arrived at the pier about 11:45 am and were through security and had our picture taken by 12:15pm. Very quick and painless and well organized.
Our cabin was C306 on Caribe Deck and was a handicapped cabin. We had booked this cruise 15 months ahead of time and I had booked a category ii inside guarantee. The ship was very full and 4 days before sailing, Princess called my travel agent to see if we would accept a downgrade. They offered us a handicapped inside cabin and a $100.00 on board credit. We took the handicapped cabin and were very glad we did. It is easily twice the size of a regular cabin including the balcony cabin our friends were in. There was much more storage space and a large bathroom as large as our bathroom at home. It really never seemed like an inside cabin because of the size and the large mirrors. Wish we could get that cabin all the time.
Our room steward was Raul from Portugal and was very good. I asked for the Princess robes and he brought them right away. I also asked for an extra Princess Patter one day and he said he would leave us an extra copy every night. The first day we had received a bottle of wine from the travel agent and wanted a couple of wine glasses so he took the wine and brought it back in a glass ice bucket, with two wine glasses on a tray with two different types of snacks. I was very pleased with his service and left him an extra tip.
On one evening I decided late that I would like our bottle of champagne to be brought to the dining room table and he made sure it was there waiting for us at dinner
The ship was in excellent shape. It really was a beautiful ship. I must say with 3 previous sailings with Royal Caribbean that the atriums on RCI ships are more spectacular. One room I did not like was the Regency Dining Room on Princess. The room is too crowded and had very low ceilings so noise level was very bad. Also they had dark paneling on the walls with a minimal amount of light coming in so it made the dining room kind of drab. In comparison RCI ships have at least a two-tier dining room or 3 tier on the Eagle Class Ships. There is so much light and large windows on RCI. Walking into their dining rooms with the large staircase in very beautiful and makes you feel very 'regal' I found the Vista lounge had some bad site lines and was very crowded at some of the shows. The Wheelhouse lounge was a beautiful room with great leather furniture. I think the casino was nothing spectacular unlike the last one we experienced on Enchantment of the Seas.
The pool area was very good with lots of seating and two larger pools and two hot tubs. At the back of the ship was a smaller round pool with covering and 3 more hot tubs. Also at the front of the ship was a small splash pool for children. The fact that Princess uses fresh water is a plus.
The wrap around Promenade Deck was great for those early morning walks. Three times around is 1 mile.
There were about 2,000 passengers on this cruise with about half being over 60 years of age. I realized that this would attract an older crowd but saw many many passengers with canes, wheelchairs and rolling walkers. It was surprising that a handicapped cabin was available for us. Because of the age of passengers I believe the entertainment was geared to them. The shows were not always shown twice each night and because of late dining which we had we were not able to make it to all the shows. This was a disappointment for us as this is a part of a cruising which we enjoy. There were lots of seats available in the sun by the pool but hard to find one in the shade later in the day when you had had enough sun. Many of the passengers were from Florida.
Late vs Early Dining:
This was the first cruise that we had chosen late dining and we really did not like it. We would not choose it again. We felt getting out of the dining room at 10:15 pm which we did many nights was too late and it also meant that we were late for the late show and by then all the seats were taken. We were also so full from dinner and with not much happening on this particular ship after 10pm except the show there was not much to do to after dinner. We would chose early dining next time. It just suits us better.
FOOD & SERVICE:
We had many good to excellent meals on Sun Princess. The Filet Mignon was excellent as was the Beef Wellington, Lobster, Lamb escargots, crab quiche, and the pastas. I especially enjoyed the pastas and instead of a second course of soup or salad I had the waiter bring a smaller portion of the pasta dish which I had as my second course. Desserts were excellent and I especially liked the crème brulee, and their souffles and baked alaska was also very good. A couple of meals were not good and they were the Louisiana Crayfish and Roast Turkey the last evening. The turkey tasted like the boiled kind and not roasted at all. They also repeated a couple of appetizers with smoked salmon on two consecutive nights as well as lamb were served on two evenings. I did order a cappuccino in the dining room after dinner and it was good and they do not charge extra for it
Service was a bit lacking however. Our waiter and his assistant were both from Poland. Only on one occasion can I remember them holding the chair for the ladies and I don't ever remember them placing the napkin on our laps. Only a couple of times did they ask us if we would like fresh ground pepper and the pepper mill sat on the table. Our water glasses more than on 1 occasion went empty and in fact at least 3 times the headwaiter Jose came and filled them. Also twice my husband had to ask for more coffee. When he came over with the coffee he asked me if I wanted more I said 'No" but I would like more water. They were also very slow and we were frequently the last to leave the dining room. They only had our table of 6, a table of 8 and a table of 4 and those people only dined in the dining room about 3 times.
One thing that we noticed on this cruise was the headwaiter and how he was more available. He actually did a good job.
We brought on three different evenings our own wine to dinner and we were not charged any extra corkage fees.
On three occasions we went to Verdi's pizzeria for lunch and had pizza and beer. We both enjoyed this dining venue as the pizza was freshly baked and delicious. Our friends Gerry and Don actually went there for dinner one evening and Don said the ravioli was excellent. They do not serve coffee there but only soda, beer or wine.
They automatically charge the daily tipping to each of our accounts. It appears on your statement every day and including the waiter, assistant waiter and room steward it comes to $10.00 per day per person. You can have this adjusted up or down by going to the Pursers Desk depending on the kind of service you get. We did tip our room steward extra and I left him cash in a thank you card in the room.
PORTS & EXCURSIONS:
We were supposed to have Cartegena as a scheduled port but with political problems Princess eliminated this port about 2 weeks before the cruise. Instead they had us overnight at the canal by docking at Colon, Panama the day before our transit through the canal. We arrived about 12 noon. We then took a tour 'Atlantic to Pacific Railway Journey'. We boarded a nostalgic train and transversed the entire length of the canal from the Atlantic to the Pacific and back. It took about 1 hour & 15 minutes until you arrived at the train station on the Pacific coast where we boarded a bus to view the Miraflores Lock. Each car on the train had an informative guide who also came with you on the bus. After viewing the Miraflores Lock we again boarded the bus to the end of the Amador Causeway where we enjoyed a beautiful view of Panama City Skyline and the bridge of the Americas. I actually saw sunrise that morning on the ship on the Atlantic and watched the staff member raise the flag at the front of the ship and saw sunset over the bridge of Americas on the pacific side. As a side note because of local demonstrations about work conditions in Colon many people from the ship did not make this tour. Many streets were blocked off and not all the buses made it to the train station. We were lucky and highly recommend this tour.
Limon, Costa Rica
We selected and were very pleased with the Jungle River Eco Adventure. We were taken by bus to a covered boat to sail for about 1½ hours along the Tortuguero Canal in the jungle region. The guide was excellent as was the captain of the boat in spotting many wildlife forms like birds, sloth's, crocodile, and monkeys which we actually saw swinging from tree to tree including a mother with her babies. Before boarding the bus back we enjoyed fresh fruit and a live band playing music. On the way back we passed miles and miles of banana plantations. When we arrived back to the ship we did some shopping for Costa Rican Coffee and there is a nice market place right where the ship docks. We actually walked into town and found a grocery/market to buy our coffee where it was a bit cheaper.
Since we had never been to Grand Cayman we did the Stingray Sandbar Snorkeling. This was truly amazing and I am saying this as a non-swimmer. They took us out about a ½ hour boat ride to a sand bar where you get out and it is only up to your waist and in some parts mid thigh deep and I am only 5' 2" tall. I had to be coaxed off the boat as a non swimmer as it was over my head but only for about 6 feet until I was firmly on the sand and standing on my own. You can feed the Stingray if you want. Got some great photos here and if you have never done this make sure you do. This was the best excursion we did. We were only in Grand Cayman until 3pm so had little time to check out 7-mile beach but will do that next time but did manage some time to buy some rum cakes to take home and Tortuga Rum.
This was also our first time at this island. Sun Princess docked at a new pier right near a new shopping complex and across from Carlos and Charlies. The color of the water here is so blue it is amazing. We did our own thing here and grabbed a taxi with our friends Gerry & Don and headed to Chankanaab Park for snorkeling. We also watched the Dolphin encounter and my husband and Don saw the biggest iguana according to them it was about 5 feet long so they said. Kind of like those fishing stories men like to tell J The taxi ride was $10.00 each way for the 4 of us and admission to the park was $10.00 per person. After spending the morning and part of the afternoon there we headed back and did some shopping in Cozumel.
We had a 1 pm flight and were off the ship by 9:15 am and at the airport by 10 am. We took the Princess transfers and flew Delta. No problems with security and flights were good.
SOME RANDOM THOUGHTS:
· Princess has nice touches when it comes to having a refrigerator in the room (not a stocked fridge) for passengers to use, also the bathrobes to use are yours for the asking and we did. Also if you request the room steward will bring you a fresh fruit bowl.
· Fresh water in the pools
· Drink of the day prices were good starting at $3.25 for a 12 oz drink and included such specials as Mai tai, Strawberry Daiquiri, Pina Colada and Chocolate Banana and Rum Punch
· Usually went for our first coffee of the day at the Patisserie on Deck 5 to enjoy a good cup of coffee. They usually also had pastries like danish and croissants here as well. Found the coffee first thing in the morning the best here.
· We chose late dining and because of this we did not make a lot of the entertainment. For us, the eternal question of late vs early have been answered and will choose early so not as to miss so many of the shows.
· Princess does not do a lot of things around the pool area. There was only 1 pool game in 10 days at sea including 4 days at sea. They had a belly flop contest and my husband and I spend a lot of time around the pool so missed this aspect. Our previous cruises were on Royal Caribbean and we also found the band by the pool very low key. Also missed having the Horse Races by the pool. They held them twice in the show lounge and felt if they had it outside by the pool would have gotten greater response. We did not want to leave the pool area to attend a race indoors.
· In our opinion the nod for physical beauty of the ships and public areas goes to Royal Caribbean. The public areas on Princess are very similar in choice of color but the dining room in particular is much more stunning on Royal Caribbean as is the casino, atrium and show lounges with excellent sight lines. Prefer the Schooner Bar on Royal to Wheelhouse on Princess. I felt the Windjammer and Horizon Court are very much alike except that on Princess in the Horizon they do not provide a tray to carry your food on but a large oval platter. With many elderly passengers on board it got a bit tricky to negotiate in the buffet line in the Horizon.
· We noticed that the smoking policy on the ship was not clearly defined. We saw no mention of it in the Princess Patter. On Royal Caribbean you cannot smoke on the starboard side of the ship outside on open decks like around the pool. On more that one occasion my husband got up and moved on the pool deck when someone who smoked sat next to him. In one of the lounges they had little cards sitting on the table to indicate smoking and no smoking. We actually saw people just moved these cards to a different table and thus they felt they could smoke even though they were now in close proximity to us.
· One of my favorite shows on a cruise is the Newlywed Game. I looked forward to this and they held it on the last evening of the cruise at 9pm. With late dining starting at 8:15pm there was no way we could make that show. Also I considered not going to dinner in the dining room but since it was our last evening we wanted to say goodbye to our waitstaff and it was the baked alaska parade.
We had a wonderful, relaxing cruise and totally enjoyed our time with our friends Gerry and Don. Princess does many many things right and I experienced many friendly staff in the halls and public areas. We feel that we prefer Royal Caribbean by a slight margin mostly because of the entertainment factor and the more visually appealing public rooms. I realize that it is all a matter of opinion but these were our thoughts only. Would love to answer any questions and feel free to e-mail me
We are an Australian couple, me 40 and my partner Paul, 38. This was our first cruise and my first overseas holiday so I really had no idea what to expect; the wait was almost too much, I was so excited.
We booked our cruise about 2-1/2 months in advance after not being able to go to Hong Kong and Singapore because of the SARS epidemic. We had never had the urge to cruise before, but the Alaskan scenery in the brochures we got from our travel agent changed our minds.
We boarded our Air Canada flight Sydney to Vancouver via Honolulu at 9:30 a.m. Saturday morning and got into Vancouver at 9:35 a.m. Saturday morning... a long flight but we lost no time at all. We then took another flight to Anchorage and met some very friendly Canadians on board also going on a cruise. I think most people on this flight were cruising!
Anchorage: The downtown area is for tourists -- lots of souvenir shops, galleries and restaurants. Saturday afternoon we walked to the markets. They were great, lots of little stalls. I tried, for the first time, some deep friedhalibut, which was good but not a fish I would regularly eat. The weather changed and it rained, so we wandered around the shops looking for knitted hats to buy, and we really did need them, too. We took a trolley tour Sunday morning for $10 each; it was one hour and quite fun, well worth the money. We rented bikes in the afternoon and rode the coastal trail; it was a very warm afternoon and we had a great time. We saw some birds doing a mating dance (they were like egrets), a fox and a tiny squirrel. Had a great pizza for dinner at a little pizza parlor in the downtown area.
Monday morning we went to the convention center to await our bus down to Seward. We were asked if we wanted to upgrade to the train for an extra $35 apiece, but we declined. At 1:30 p.m. we left Anchorage and took a very pleasant bus ride stopping at Explorer's Glacier on the way to Seward. We boarded the ship about 5 p.m. after waiting in a steadily moving line of other passengers; it took about 30 minutes.
Recommendations: Rent a car if you're staying in Anchorage for more than one day, and to transfer to Seward or Whittier, as you can stop whenever you want and go to the places you want to. Otherwise take the very early morning train to Seward so you can spend some time looking around, which we wanted to do but did not get time to.
The ship: Very easy to navigate around, looks great, very clean and the staffers were all friendly. The atrium is lovely to look at and the glass elevators were the quickest to use for us, as we were on level 8 at the top of the atrium. There was always something happening -- bingo, trivia games, wine tasting, art auctions (I considered the art auctions a joke and waste of time). The library was well stocked, there were lots of games in the game room, and surprisingly both rooms were always occupied. I only used the casino once, but Paul played the slots a few times and won $100 one time, which more than paid for all the money we spent there. The pool areas were nice; we used the spa/hot tubs more than once. The small pool at the aft end of the ship was very warm... it was like a bath.
We never saw kids anywhere they weren't supposed to be and only saw some small groups of them on our last sea day, when it was warm enough to sun-bake and swim in the pool. There was a group of about four 10 year old boys running amok during the week, and their parents did get called to the Purser's desk because of complaints by some older passengers. (I found all this out from a friend of one of the complainers.)
Our Cabin: We had an inside cabin, as our travel agent told us there were only four cabins still available when we booked, and they were all inside. We didn't have a problem with it, though; it was warm and quiet and had plenty of closet/drawer space for us and surprisingly was never totally dark at night.
The bathroom was small but I was expecting this. Our room steward did his job well, always had our room looking neat and tidy. I did have to remind him on day three to get the robes that I had asked for on day one, we used them for the hot tubs. Our luggage did not arrive straight away, and one bag did not arrive at all. We had to put in a lost luggage claim after our dinner on the first night. It turned up at midnight with a broken runner, so we then had to fill out a claim for damaged luggage. Not a good start! We did have travel insurance and the bag has since been fixed and we are not out of pocket for the repair cost.
Dining: The Horizon Court was good for lunch, but we preferred to eat in the dining room for breakfast and dinner. We had Personal Cruising dining, and we liked this because we could just go to the dining room any time we wanted. The waiters were efficient but not terribly friendly; I think this is because they were so busy and never saw the same face twice at each meal. Next time we cruise we will try traditional dining just to see the difference.
Formal dining dress seems to be the cause of much debate. We did dress up for our first formal night and shared a table for 10. Most people were in suits and dresses, but I only saw a few tuxedos. I would say the dress sense was similar to what you would wear to a wedding, but not as dressy as you would wear to a ball, i.e. long ball gowns. On the second formal night, I dressed up but Paul didn't want to bother so I went alone. It was less formal than the first; most men had a shirt and tie, some with jackets, but I did not see any black suits except on the waiters!
College Fjord and Glacier Bay: Awesome! The glaciers were what we came to see and they were breathtaking; the weather was cloudy and the main deck was quite cool, especially while cruising. The naturalist on board was very good, it made our experience that much better for having her there. We saw some whales, puffins and sea otters while in Glacier Bay. After visiting Majorie Glacier, Paul and I went down to our cabin to change and spent the journey out of Glacier Bay in the hot tub at the aft end of the ship. We have some fantastic pics from this spot, with both of us in the tub and the glaciers and mountains as a backdrop. It was our best day by far.
Skagway: We took Skagway's Original Street Car tour and I thought it did not live up to what the Princess brochure said about it. I would not recommend this tour unless it is the only one you do there. We also did the Yukon Photo Safari, which we booked ourselves with Southeast Tours, and we had a great time. Nigel gave us all the info of the morning tour as well as extra stuff on the Yukon (this is also another reason why I felt the earlier excursion was a bit of a waste of money). Our day in Skagway was quite chilly, cloudy and foggy, and it rained after lunch. They canceled all water excursions for the day so we had another couple with us on this tour, as they couldn't do their fishing excursion. We saw bears on the side of the road and got to see some beautiful scenery. We could stop whenever we wanted for photos and got a train stamp in our passports... very cute. It was a great day made very special because of the bear sightings and our new friends Leon and Renee.
Juneau: Paul had arranged with an Internet friend to pick us up at the dock and drive us around for the morning. They were a very nice father and son and we were taken to Mendenhall Glacier, and to their house, which was right on the water with great views; we were very envious. We also went over the bridge and to many other places to view eagles and sea otters, to the fish hatchery and then back into town. We bought them lunch to say thank you for spending the time with us; it was a restaurant on the water and the food was excellent, I had clam chowder...yum. After lunch, Paul and I went on the tram, which gave us great photos of our ship and the port of Juneau. Overall we had a wonderful day made even better because we got to meet Paul's Internet friends.
Ketchikan: It was a sunny day, no rain in sight, just a few clouds and we took the Land and Sea Excursion, which we both enjoyed, but I didn't think it was worth the money we paid ($95 each). I think the money would have been better spent on a Misty Fjords flight-seeing tour. This is mainly because half our tour was on the water and we really didn't see much out there. When we came back from the tour we walked over to Creek St. We got some really good photos and used the Funicular which is about half way down Creek St., saw some totem poles at the top and then walked back down to the creek. We bought some candy from the Ketchikandy shop and then used the Internet for about an hour at a place at the dock. Another great day.
Last sea day, Sunday: We had a relaxing day out on deck; I read about half of one chapter of my book, there was too much to see to bother reading. We also got all our photos burned onto a CD in the photography studio. Luckily Paul asked them to check the CD – a good thing, because they had burned someone else's pics onto it, and we had to get a new one done. While we were there we bought some of the pictures the ships photographers had taken. Hint: Every time you see one of your photos on the boards, take it and put it on the very bottom of the rack, and keep putting all your photos there together. The staff does not move them, and it saves you having to look for them all later on as they take them off the racks to put new ones up. We packed late and left our luggage out in the hall after dinner.
Debarking: Princess would not give us transfers from the ship to Seattle prior to departure from Australia, so we bought them on the ship... with no problems at all, so I'm not sure why they wouldn't give us the transfers beforehand. We got new color tags and had no hassles getting to the buses and on our way to Seattle.
We spent two days in Seattle and then went back to Vancouver and flew to Honolulu for another couple of days before going home -- a long journey but one that gave us a taste of different cultures and experiences that we will never forget.
Overall: I would recommend that any first-time cruiser find a travel agent that has cruised before. Ours had not, and I felt we could have been given more information and recommendations from someone who had. I also thought Anchorage, Skagway and Ketchikan were all way too touristy for my liking (there is no need to have THAT many jewelry shops in those towns). I have found out since this trip that the cruise lines own many of the shops, buses and tour companies, so this is why there are so many of them. Apart from that, we thoroughly enjoyed our cruise and the experience of going to Alaska, and would highly recommend it to everyone, and we do on a regular basis!
Sun Princess's cruise from Vancouver BC thru the Inland Passage was really an experience not to be forgotten. Departure was timely and service by the ship's personnel was terrific. The Sun is a beautiful ship which rides well and little or no vibration is felt even when swells are high.
The interior of the Sun immaculate and well kept.Food was presented in a first classmanner and the waiter and his assistant (a female) whose names I fail to recall were terrific. I would suggest anyone making their first trip to Alaska be certain to book as many tours you possibly can,especially the railride in Skagway and the trip to Mendenhall.You can go wrong selecting this tour for I have sailed 16 times and this is one of the best
We had a wonderful cruise on Sun Princess northbound from Vancouver to Seward. Let me preface this review by saying that DH and I are quiet and do not do the party life. This was our second cruise. The first was on Carnival, and we liked Princess much better. Some of the differences could have been attributed to Alaskan vs. Caribbean itineraries, but Princess has a more refined atmosphere. The Sun Princess was beautiful, with a shining brass atrium, but it is not showy like Carnival. There was a casino, bingo, etc., of course, but all that wasn't being constantly pushed on us. We only saw one couple inebriated enough to disturb other passengers.
We flew into Vancouver the night before and stayed at the Pan Pacific Hotel, which is right at the dock. It was neat seeing two HAL ships as they sailed the night we got there, then waking up to see the Sun Princess waiting for us. The Pan Pacific is a very nice hotel, but you pay for all these privileges. Next time we'll go somewhere less pricey and take a cab to Canada Place when itis time to board.
Embarkation was very easy. We had Express Check-In since I had filled out all the forms on line. But even those not in the express line didn't have hours-long waits like we did on Carnival. Princess somehow manages to keep all lines short: embarking, at ports of call, in the buffets, in the photo shop, disembarking -- everywhere. One way they did this was to open more lines, and in the photo shop, to stay open longer hours so everyone didn't have to crowd in at the same time.
Our cabin was small, but we had more room than we needed in closets, storage spaces, drawers, etc. You just had to keep picking up and putting away. When we got to our stateroom, the in-room safe was missing. We reported this, and they brought one up early the next morning. We loved having our own balcony and we spent a lot of time sitting there, watching the beautiful scenery pass by.
Everyone in the crew spoke English very well (not true on Carnival, where most could only communicate about what they generally expected to hear while doing their specific job). Crew members were polite and friendly, and went out of their way to be sure that you were completely happy.
On Carnival I had asked for a salad dressing not listed on the menu, but was told that only those listed were available. I just assumed that would be true industry-wide and didn't even ask on Princess. When I didn't like the dressing on my salad one night on Sun Princess, I thought the wait staff was about to cry, they were so distressed. The assistant waiter called over the waiter and they apologized profusely as if they were somehow to blame. They insisted on bringing me an alternate salad that I would like. They emphasized that if I wanted something different, I should just ask. When our waiter found out I especially like Alaskan King Crab, he brought me seconds without my asking.
We loved Personal Choice dining. We had the freedom to eat around our activities, rather than plan our activities around a meal schedule. After the salad fiasco, we asked for the same waiter each night and were taken to one of his tables immediately. We never had to wait, even though we didn't make reservations. We didn't care for the lunch buffet on Horizon Court; there wasn't much that appealed to us. And desserts are not a Princess specialty.
Being from the deep South, I didn't know what to expect weather-wise. I've never heard of having both fall and winter coats (most people down here don't even have one coat). We were blessed with cold but beautiful weather. Temperatures ranged from the low to mid 40s (a fairly cold winter day for us Southerners). That wouldn't have been bad if not for the constant cold wind. Most people we met were from the northern states or Canada. Everyone we saw, including the crew, wore what appeared to my Southern eyes to be warm jackets. The crew's appeared to be down. Everyone wore hats. Get something that covers your ears - it makes a big difference. A hood or a scarf was helpful. Even with layers, warm jackets, etc., we saw many people with blankets. The public viewing decks were very windy. It was more comfortable on our balcony, where we were somewhat protected from the wind. I would suggest zip or button-front sweaters. I was constantly pulling off my sweatshirt when we went inside for a while, then putting it back on to go outside.
I wore layers and a down jacket I got on sale from Land's End and still wanted a blanket, but I do get cold easily. DH wore a T-shirt, long-sleeve shirt, wool shirt with a quilted lining, and one of those Stearns double-layer nylon rain parkas, and a skull cap, and was fairly comfortable. In short, IT WAS COLD! But it was fair or sunny the whole week.
We saw eagles in Ketchikan, but no other wild life until we left Skagway. Then we saw harbor seals, sea lions, sea otters, black bears, and both humpback and killer whales. Most of these sightings were in College Fjord. The naturalists' talks were broadcast on Channel 35, so we could hear even when we watched from our balcony. A warning: Don't believe the naturalists when they say you'll see the same things going out from the opposite side of the ship. Most of the sightings in College Fjord were on the port (left) side of the ship. As we sailed in, the animals were out sunning themselves in the early afternoon sun. Returning later, either the wildlife was no longer there or the naturalist wasn't broadcasting any more to point out where they could be seen. (There are islands, coves, etc. where particular species are often seen.) Also, they describe the scenery going in but don't repeat it going out, so if you were sitting on your balcony (starboard) expecting to see it on your way out, you didn't know what was what. The best place for wildlife viewing was on the lowest public deck (Promenade on Sun Princess).
Take the helicopter trip and land on a glacier. It was well worth the expense and was the highlight of our trip. A picture just doesn't show how pretty it was to see in person.
We took the train from Seward to Anchorage and were glad we did. It was very comfortable, and the scenery was beautiful. While some of the trip paralleled the road, part went inland where we saw scenery not visible from the road. We saw an eagle up close, and mountain goats that looked like they were posing just for us. I saw a moose just as he turned to go back into the woods, but we got another really good view of a moose - in downtown Anchorage. They have so much greenery and parks in Anchorage that moose, and occasionally bears, actually wander around in town. Beware! They are said to be irritable and dangerous. The train will let you off at the airport or take you to the Eagan Center, where they hold your luggage while you sightsee. You have to tell Princess ahead of time where you plan to get off, so your luggage will be waiting for you.
The tips I picked up from the Message Boards were a big help. One of the best was to order sandwiches from room service the night before an excursion. We kept them in the refrigerator overnight, then packed them in a soft-sided collapsible cooler for lunch when we were away from the ship. (Be sure to take sandwich bags.) On both train rides (White Pass out of Skagway and Grandview from Seward to Anchorage) we enjoyed our picnic lunch while everyone else complained of being hungry. On the White Pass train, the promised snack consisted of a bottle of water. The Grandview had a sweet roll and water.
The other best tip was to use those bright straps around your luggage. They not only hold it closed, but provide easy identification. We also tied bright yellow ribbons on each handle. The strap and ribbon were a big help on the airline baggage turntables. They were an even bigger help in claiming our luggage when we disembarked. Luggage was stacked in many long rows, and ours was at the far end of three of these rows. As soon as we got close enough to see to the end, we recognized our luggage instantly.
We tied balloons to our balcony rail so we could find our cabin from shore at our ports of call. It's neat being able to point to our room in our pictures.
They only recommended item I never found a use for was the duct tape! The balcony door stayed open by itself. The beds stayed together. Our luggage didn't break.
Overall, this was a wonderful cruise. Alaska is so beautiful. We will definitely cruise with Princess again!
This was my 2nd time on the beautiful Sun Princess and my 5th time to Alaska in as many years. I have now done just about every type of Inside Passage cruise available: Northbound and Southbound Gulf of Alaska, Roundtrips, Pacific Coastal, Intra-coastal, big liners, and small craft. I still prefer Northbound, so that you build up in the "wow" factor instead of hitting the "wow" factor first, then everything kind of builds down on the excitement level. The air schedules are going to be bad anyway you look at it. Plus, for a Northbound cruise, you can fly into Vancouver a few days ahead of time and see the sights, day-trip over to Butchart Gardens in Victoria before getting on the ship.
I arranged my own air transportation from Charlotte, NC to Anchorage on United Airlines, and back from Vancouver. Since Princess Cruises allows you to pre-book your Shore Excursions on-line (it also tells you how many spaces are available and if it is already SOLD OUT or not), this was done before leaving home...very convenient! I did the White Pass train in Skagway (do the afternoon tour to let theclouds burn off a bit); Wildlife Sightseeing in (we saw tons of Humpbacks, orcas, bald eagles, etc) and a wonderful Salmon Bake (all you can eat, home-spun music, and a beautiful waterfall) in Juneau; Kayaking in Ketchikan (was a blast); and 1/2 day city tour in Vancouver (before flying out). The Liarsville Salmon Bake in Skagway is better, but was sold out. Do a helo tour in Juneau...incredible sights to see.
Transfers from Anchorage airport down to the port of Seward take 3 hours along the scenic Turnagain Arm waterway. Even here wildlife can be seen on the craggy cliffs and in the sea. Best bet is to sit on the right side of the bus for good views.
We checked-in around 6pm and the ship left at 10pm...I was asleep by then after a long day. The next morning we were in College Fjord well before sunrise...and left the fjord before 7:30am. If you want to see this get up early! The cruise across the Gulf of Alaska was smooth and we arrived at Icy Strait and Glacier Bay with low hanging cloud cover, streaming mist, and rain....that's Alaska for ya! Most passengers sought protection from the weather on the Promenade Deck beneath the lifeboats while the ship hovered off of Marjorie Glacier for an hour. The ship cruises past the same glaciers coming in and going out, so it truly does not matter what side of the ship your balcony is on.
Skagway, Juneau, Ketchikan, our last day at sea, and Vancouver also had rain and overcast in varying degrees. In the last 5 years I have been to Alaska it has rained almost all week on three of these years. Alaska doesn't always look like the brochures, trust me, but the weather adds a softness and temporal mood to your pictures. Smile, do the excursions, and get the most of your experiences. Dress in layers, take a rain parka, and wather-proof your shoes. Wool hat, gloves, and scarf will also come in handy. Average temperature was 52 degrees, but the rain and wind made it feel colder at times.
I was assigned 2nd dinner seating, but did eat in the Personal Choice dining room once without making reservations ahead of time. Seating was on a first-come, first-served basis and the food service was quite rushed and very intrusive. Verdi's for lunch was fantastic, for dinner even more amazing. No reservations required. And as for the Sterling Steak House, it was 10X worth the 8$ cover charge per person. Order wine and get a free side-dish surprise. Make reservations early!
After dinner we adjourned to the Wheelhouse Bar for drinks, music, and card playing. Entertainment was reportedly good-excellent, altohugh I never saw the shows myself. First-run movies are shown on TV and in the Main Lounge during the day. Trivia contests, Galley Tours, and art auctions (hate them) fill the reast of your days. There is little to keep you occupied while the ship is docked in port, so get off the ship and see things. Take a book to read in case you get bored.
Disembarkation was smooth. We were alongside Canada Place before 7am...the first group started off the ship by 8am. Everyone is off the ship by 10am. Allow 2 hours at Vancouver airport due to multiple lines that you must proceed through before getting to your gate.
Princess does an excellent job in Alaska. Highly recommended!
For the Fourth of July weekend, we decided to do something different this year. My family of five decided that an Alaskan cruise was a NEW adventure and excellent choice. We took our 7 year old daughter, and my wife's parents with us (healthy seniors in the late 70's.) This was our first time cruising, so we had HIGH expectations!
The ship: I was unsure about the SUN Princess since it is not the newest ship on the Princess line. No problem there. It was not crowded, everything was clean and in excellent shape.
The room: We had inside cabins with no upgrade. Since we were rarely in our rooms, it did not matter to me. The fridge was handy, and the room attendant was there immediately answering all of our questions.
The food: We choose Personal Choice Dining. It worked out well for my family. We DO NOT like to dress up to eat. I used the dining room more than the rest of my family, and preferred to sit alone or asked for a table for two. NO PROBLEMS! We usually had a reservation for dinner "just in case," andoften we would change that as well, to a more convenient time. Again, NO PROBLEM! I highly recommend Personal Choice dining.
Personally, I have a difficult time eating with strangers. I have nothing in common with old grumpy seniors that have cruised many times and complain all the time. (We did see our share on this cruise!) But, having a young family the ship's crew went out of there way to accommodate us. The food and the food staff EXCEEDED our expectations very time.
The pizza place was great too! I had "heard"' that the pizza was really bad. THAT IS NOT TRUE! It was pleasant, fun, and my daughter loved it.
Horizon Court's 24 hour a day food, was OKAY, but not great. It was better than eating at Denney, but the dining room food was so much better, that I wondered WHY folks choose to eat there. But, my wife and in laws liked Horizon Court, so, it is probably a matter of taste.
The tour of the ship's kitchen was fun.
The SPA: This was an excellent place. We all enjoyed the hot tubs, and the excercise classes.
Boarding: VERY EASY! We used the internet to post all of the paperwork in advance. Within five minutes we were on board and going up to your rooms.
Dislikes: The entertainment was nothing to write home about. We saw very little wildlife. Yes, a few eagles here in there, but no bears or whales.
It took over 5 hours for them to deliver our bags to our cabin. I was disappointed. Be certain to take a carry on bag with you when you board. We wanted our exercise and swim suits immediately, and had to wait a long time...since we packed them in our suitcases.
Likes: The crew. Every staff member was friendly, and said YES to every question or request. Glacier Bay. Stiing in the hot tub watching the glaciers calving was a once in a life time experience.
Off shore excurisions: The float plane trip in Ketchican was an incredible experince. Alaskan towns are very much the same. Juneau's Mendenhall Glacier has an incredible National Park Visitor's Center, and is a MUST SEE!
We loved Alaska. When in doubt, stay on the boat. Many of the ports look the same. Princess exceeded our high expectations, and it was a great value for the money.
A little background - I booked this Panama Canal cruise specifically for my husband. I figured he'd be more interested in the history and workings of the Canal than the usual cruises and T.T.'s (Tourist Traps). As well, 2002 celebrates our 35th Anniversary (we're 57 and 55) and I felt we needed to do something special. Hubby's a very comfortable, at-home, kind of guy. It takes a lot to make him laugh and he feels most relaxed with people he knows well. I, on the other hand, am more like horse dung. I'm most comfortable when I'm on the road. So I compromised - I booked the T.T.'s for me, the Panama Canal for him and invited another couple along. Knowing he had someone to talk to in the "awkward" moments made him much more amenable to coming along.
So here goes from the beginning.
If you need to fly to your point of embarkation, try getting a U.S. flight. Being Canadians from southwestern Ontario, we usually fly from Toronto. Our Travel Agent (TA) found us flights via Champion Air from Detroit at about $400 Cdn less per person. Flight and transferto ship at FLL was uneventful.
Cruise was at and over capacity so no chance for stateroom upgrades. From all I'd heard, I expected our inside cabin to be dark and small. What a wonderful surprise when we found it to be well laid out with more than enough room for the two of us and all our belongings. And to combat the darkness at night, we took along a little night-light. Perfect!
Stopped at five ports of call:
Cozumel, Mexico - snorkeling was great. Don't miss Carlos and Charlie's! Grand Cayman, BWI - home of over 500 banks. Beautiful, neat and clean. Experienced Seven Mile Beach, saw the Turtle Farm and went to Hell. A great submarine tour as well.
Puerto Limon, Costa Rica - Hubby's favourite port. It rained a little that morning but certainly didn't dampen the spirits at all. Was dry and hot by mid-morning. There isn't much to see at the dock, but don't miss the Flea Market. Took both a bus and boat tour and learned about Ylang Ylang, Banana plantations, sloths, monkeys and anhingas. Ate my first fresh coconut in 15 years - delicious!! Watched a gentleman create grasshoppers out of the local reeds and enjoyed some local music. Terrific!
Panama Canal - there's absolutely no way that ship got through those locks! There wasn't much more than a whisper between the ship and the walls. Incredible. One trip we wanted to do but missed was the train ride from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It's a new feature this year and was already fully booked by the time we got to the Excursions desk. If you get a chance, book it right away. From all accounts, it was great.
Cartagena, Columbia - this was my favourite. A tour of the City, as well as the fortress and the Popa Monastery. Even met "Juan Valdez". Bought emeralds, topaz, coffee, etc. at the reputable stores. Bought tee-shirts, hats, etc. from street vendors. They can be VERY aggressive but just be firm if you're not interested. And don't buy stuff at the beginning of your tour. Wait till you're almost back. The prices drop considerably as the day goes on and you can do some real impressive bargaining just before you go back to the ship. Guards with dogs (drugs) met us on our return to the ship and were a visible presence as we reboarded. A young crew member was detained.
Sit back and enjoy yourself! Soaked up the sun on our "at sea" days. I don't usually burn or tan much so never worry about sunscreen. However, the farther south we got, the hotter the sun got so I broke down and bought a "25 SPF" spray from the little store on the ship. Wow! I've got my best tan ever. We only had one day when the waves were about 12 feet. But there wasn't any problem. They put out the stabilizers and we carried on. It was fun watching the water in the pools slosh over the edges.
We elected to have Personal Choice Dining and would do it again. We met some wonderful people and hope to keep in touch with them. Even though we weren't in the "traditional" dining room with first and second seating arrangements, the smart casual and formal evenings were honoured throughout the ship. In fact, no shorts were allowed in the dining rooms on any evening. Only very few passengers wore shorts in the evening if they were in the Horizon Court buffet area and they were conspicuous. Of course, those who ate at the outdoor grill near the pool(s) were very casual. We found the air conditioning in the dining rooms to be a bit on the aggressive side. Wouldn't hurt to bring a light sweater if you feel the cold. The Sterling Steak House was superb. One of our crew was a butcher by trade and he'd never cut a 14 oz. Filet Mignon. But it was so good, we ended up there twice, even with the $8.00 per person extra charge. Cooked to perfection and delicious. All meals were exceptional. The Crème Brulee was to die for! My only complaint was the coffee. I know it was brown and the pot said it was "Coffee" but my tastebuds didn't agree. I drank tea instead.
The Entertainment was really good! The comedians were funny, the singers stayed in tune, the magician amazed us and the juggler kept his balls in the air. I even got a chance to watch "Shrek" - a most enjoyable film!
The beer was cold and the 'ritas were delish. They also had a chocolate banana thingy that was good, too.
Search out Anna and UB (pronounced you-bee) at the Sundowners bar, Marion from Romania (a "he", not a "she") in the Horizon Court and if you're really lucky, you'll get Evelyn as your Stateroom Stewardess. Exceptional people. Service provided by all staff was outstanding.
The ship itself was beautiful. Save your money in the casino or play the nickel machines if you're into slots.
So, how did Hubby like his first cruise experience? The day before we were to disembark, he wanted to hide under the bed and stay on the ship. We hadn't been to Topsiders Bar, the Library, the Trumps card room, we hadn't bought any ice cream yet, we hadn't seen all the shows. Ten days wasn't long enough. I think he's hooked. We give this cruise two thumbs up. In fact, we already know what our next two cruises are going to be - we just have to figure out the dates.
If I haven't answered a specific question, or you want more information about the Sun Princess, don't hesitate to get in touch. We'd be happy to help if we can.