We just returned from the ten day Eastern Caribbean Voyager route on the Sun Princess. In general it was a good cruise. We unfortunately booked this cruise w/o knowing that Princess had booked 800+ members of the Florida Condo Association as a group on this cruise. Having somewhere between 800 and 900 seventy year old plus cruisers on board really changes the dynamic of any cruise. I would suggest that with any cruise booking have your travel agent check with the cruise line to see if a group like this is booked.
As a Marine Surveyor I was amazed at the condition of this ten year old ship. The maintance officer and his crew are doing a great job. The public rooms are in amazing shape for a ship that has been at sea for ten years. Everything is fresh and well appointed. The majority of "wear and tear" that I saw was in the public restrooms and in the cabin restrooms. Before booking I had read that the "sewer gas smell" on a number of decks was still a problem. I called Princess before making my final payment to see if the problem had been resolved, they assured me that it was repaired in the resent "yard period" the Sun had been in. Well they "LIED". We had a very strong "sewer gas odor" in our cabin for seven of the ten days of the cruise. The smell was especially bad on Caribe Deck port side between C406 and past C538. At first Princess told us it was our imaginations. When about 20 of us showed up at the pursers desk with the same complaint the story changed and on the 8th day of the cruise the smell was somewhat abated.
We had balcony cabin C538. It was in excellent shape, except for the bathroom floor. The tile floor in the bathroom showed its age and many of the tiles were loose. It was repaired during the cruise. Princess has never been known for "large cabins" and this cabin was true to form small but functional for two, very little closet space. It was much smaller than we had encountered on other cruise lines and even on other Princess ships. The real weak point of all cabins, that are not suites, is the bathroom area. I have never in 20 cruises seen a bathroon this small. If you are tall or fat don't book a standard cabin of any kind. I am only 6'1" and my knees were bumping the door when setting on the john. The high point of our "sewer gas " cabin was the Cabin Steward Carlos Caro. I have been on 20 cruises now and have never had a steward this good. If you book on Caribe port side you have a chance of getting him......if you do you will be very lucky.
I don't know about the other people on this cruise but my wife and I thought this was one of the best crews we have encountered. They were extremely friendly and worked with you when there was a problem. The bar staff was exceptional. Cruise Director Dan is excellent as is his staff. The only place we saw the crew fall down consistantly was in the dining room, more about that later.
Well every cruise has to have a low point. Food on the Sun Princes is "Sub-Optimal". That is being kind. Dining Room Service in "Anytime Dining" is "Sub-Optimal". That is being very kind. Whoever makes up the "menu combinations" for the Sun Princess Dining rooms needs to have his or her employment status reviewed. The Horizon Court was a total zoo. The cruise before ours they had an outbreak of Norwalk that had put 80+ passengers and crew on the sick list. The Horizon has been reorganized where no passenger can serve his or herself. Extra crew has been assigned to serve everything right down to handing you individual salt and pepper packages. Everyone understands that this is to help control the chain of infection but it is still a real hastle. When entering any food service area large containers of "hand sanitizer" are positioned at the entrance and you are not admitted until you sanitize your hands. Every day in the Patter you are encouraged to wash your hands at every opportunity and to refrain from using the "public restrooms" as much as possible. You really love hearing this stuff on a cruise.
There were two "high points" in the Sun Princess food service story. The first being "Verdi's Pizzeria". Great hand made custom pizza and wonderful pasta and deserts. Service is outstanding. The second bright spot is the "Sterling Steakhouse". Many of us that have sailed on the newer Princess ships have eaten in the Sterling Steakhouses that are setup as an individual restruant. On the Sun they just close off the forward observation area of the Horizon court, add table cloths and candles and that is the steakhouse. The food is great, the service is great, where it is at sucks.
A warning about ships coffee. They do use "coffee concentrate" and it is really bad. If you want real coffee try the "Patisserie" on deck 5.......real coffee including expresso and lattes.
I have been on two cruises where we have opted for anytime dining and they were both successful, we enjoy the option of dining when we want to. I do think that service is poor overall in anytime dining. This was the third time we had requested anytime dining.....it was a total disaster. The tour operators that handled the "Condo Association" groups on board booked them all into the first seating of triditional dining and made standing reservations for the remainder in the anytime dining between 6 PM and 8 PM. Needless to say this pissed off a lot of other cruisers. We consistantly waited for one hour to one and a half hours for a table if we wanted to eat early to try to catch a show. This is a great example as to why you need to know what "group" you are cruising with. We were assured by the dining room staff that his was not the norm and I'm sure that is true. We never waited longer than ten minutes for a table on the Star Princess.
Princess is not famous for its entertainment. The stage productions with the singers and dancers were entertaining but far from outstanding. The other entertainment consisted of second rate comedy. The lounge bands were good. The "on deck" bands were great.
One of the big entertainment problems on the Sun is the size of the Princess Theatre. Compared to any ship you have been on it is very small. To get a seat you had to show up 45 min minimum prior to the show. Every night they "turn people away" and tell them to try to come to one of the repeat shows the next night. They also have at least one production show in the Vista Lounge aft during the trip.......every seat is a "bad seat" for a production show.
The Ports of Call:
I'm not going to rate the ports of call......everyone has different tastes. We did not even make St. Vincent because the Capt. had to turn the ship around and head for San Jaun to meet up with a Coast Guard Chopper to take a medical emergency off of the Sun. We ended up with an extra sea day.
A comment about Graneda. The people on Graneda are working very hard to get their island back into the tourist game. They are wonderful friendly people and you find yourself really wanting to help them out; but don't expect this port to be 100%.
For you Princess Cays lovers you will be happy to know it is "open for business". I think we were the 2nd ship to use the new facility and it is great. I consider it the "highlight" of the cruise. Everything is new and up and running. It was also the first place they allowed us to serve ourselves food....last day of the cruise, no risk to Princess.
There is no such thing as a totally bad cruise......unless you have Norwalk. There were a lot of things I enjoyed about this cruise, but would I take it again? The answer is no. For those of you who will be taking this cruise in the future you will find an excellent crew for the most part ready to make your trip as good as it can be.
We were on the cruise before you (ending 1/18/05) as well as the one prior to that (ending 1/8/05), in other words a back-to-back for 20 days aboard the Sun Princess. I concur with most of your comments, but would like to add a few especially since we had the opportunity to experience the first cruise WITHOUT the Norovirus (Norwalk) and the second WITH it.
Also, we have sailed 22 cruises with Princess, so obviously we enjoy Princess, although it is nothing like its predecessor, Sitmar Cruises....which was superb! We have also sailed two Royal Caribbean cruises and one Carnival.
For our first ten-day segment, we were on the Aloha Deck (A305) and then the Riviera Deck (R328) next; both forward and did not encounter any sewer smell at all. Yet, I have experienced such on other cruises, so I know what you mean. Not pleasant! We had excellent cabin stewards on both decks, the best we've ever had.
I should mention that the only reason we switched cabins was because a family of three cabins was booked where we were on Cruise #1, and we didn't want to cause them to separate their family unit. We opted to move and did so gladly, since we've traveled with multiple family cabins ourselves and know how much more pleasureable it is to be together. Plus, we thought it would be fun to experience two different areas, although just a few cabins apart and one deck above, and break up our two cruises somewhat.
I will add that the move on our "disembarkation/re-embarkation" day was extremely smooth. Princess did everything to make it easy, although we did most ourselves, since we know the cabin stewards need every possible minute during the very quick turn-around time between voyages.
Cabin size....I agree, Mike H., and prior to our departure, we wondered if we'd be "struggling" with being on top of one another by the end of the 20 days! Not really, but both my husband and I did admit we were looking forward to "spreading our wings" with normal space at home, especially in the bathroom. They ARE small on the Sun!
On Cruise #1, there was no Norovirus, so passengers served themselves at the Horizon Court. There were hand sanitizers even without a virus outbreak. However, we just sailed the Sapphire Princess in November 2004, and there were hand sanitizers everywhere as well and no Norovirus outbreak. Just becoming a standard sanitation precaution, perhaps industry-wide, we assume.
The difference between self-serve and crew service was very noticeable. It wasn't really a problem, just an inconvenience. When the need for crew service occurred at the beginning of Cruise #2 when the Norovirus outbreak occurred, it was obvious that it had a HUGE impact on staffing and many crew members were working overtime. Suddenly there was a need to staff each station, right down to the salt/pepper packets and beverage service. It took a few days to iron out those staffing wrinkles. Crew was disorganized at first and obviously "mixed up". They weren't happy about it either. But it wasn't really that bad....just inconvenient and at times, a hassle (see coffee/beverage below).
We agree with the coffee! Not the best. In fact, the coffee carts outside on the Lido Deck closed up at the beginning of Cruise #2, meaning no longer could a passenger just go for coffee or juice, etc., but instead, had to go through the Horizon Court line, the sanitation procedures, etc. just for a cup of coffee. A hassle! I wish I had realized the La Patissiere coffee was better! Oh well...
We had First Seating on both cruises. As tempting as Anytime Seating sounds, I've read and/or heard similar comments to yours, Mike H., and thus, we opted to remain with fixed seating. We were so pleased with our dining room steward (an old Sitmar Cruises person with outstanding service) that we requested to remain in his area. The food was just okay, not the "wow" affect of previous cruises. However, the pro and con to a back-to-back is that if it's Day #2, for example, the menu will be such-and-such. That gave us the opportunity pick and choose when we ate in the dining room on Cruise #2. There were several nights that we just didn't enjoy the menu enough to go for 'round two' and opted for something different then.
The Verdi Pizzeria was outstanding! An excellent dinner option, and the service was superb. We enjoyed several meals there very much.
We didn't go to many of the shows, just not our thing, so I can't comment much there. I agree that the Riviera Deck band was excellent. The cruise staff does an excellent job, and Dan the Cruise Director is a natural.
Our stop at St. Vincent was delayed by four hours, putting us in port at 4:30pm, because of the three days of bad weather and sea conditions, slowing us down considerably. Nothing was open when we arrived, not a shop or vendor anywhere! However, after three days of extremely rocky seas and gale-force winds, most passengers were just glad to step foot on solid ground for a few hours. Everyone just walked around or sat...enjoying solid ground! But arriving at 4:30 and leaving at 8:00 on New Year's Day.....we should have skipped that stop. Waste of time and fuel!
Unfortunately, our Grenada stop fell on a Sunday, as have our two previous Grenada stops on other cruises. Grenada is closed up tight as a drum on Sundays, period! Once again, not a shop open, nothing, nadda. Disappointing because we expected the Grenadians to jump at the chance for the passengers' $$$. The devestation to their island was very noticeable was we arrived in port. Sad, but money was burning in passengers' pockets! Nothing open.
Princess Cays was abandoned on both cruises, with Nassau substituted on Cruise #1 and an extra day at sea on Cruise #2. I should mention that the itineraries on both of our cruises were different. The only duplication was St. Thomas and Princess Cays, which we knew beforehand would be either abandoned, or great and we'd be happy for another day there. So the only double stop was St. Thomas; we have family friends there, so that was just fine with us to go twice. All other ports on both cruises were different.
I spoke with one of the crew nurses midway through Cruise #2 and learned that they had traced the source of the Norovirus to a passenger who admitted that he "lied" on the required affadavit about being sick prior to embarkation. He didn't want to miss the cruise, and instead, infected 89 passengers and 5 crew, including 2 of our dining room table companions. Obviously, the medical staff was extremely unhappy with this fellow, as were those other 89 and 5 people! I will say that Princess handled the situation very well, in our opinion; and 94 people out of 2,100 plus crew could be considered somewhat successful. Not to those sick people, of course, but it could have been much worse.
Royal Caribbean had a similar outbreak when it returned to Ft. Lauderdale the same time we did on 1/8/05 (end of Cruise #1 and start of Cruise #2). It's not a good thing, that's obvious, but one can get sick from a restaurant, on an airplane, a daycare center, school...so many places where there are so many people. The food handling inconvenience and yes, hassle at times, was just that....an inconvenience and hassle. But necessary.
Would I sail Princess and/or Sun Princess again? Definitely. Our only disappointment is the gradual decline in cruising quality overall. As prices drop and ships are built to hold more and more passengers, there are more people, more problems, cuts here and there to keep prices down, and yes, a drop in quality from years ago.
However, something you have said, Mike H., that we have never thought of: Find out about larger groups BEFORE you book. We, too, have been onboard when there have been HUGE groups, and it's not fun. For example, our wedding group of twelve in a quiet private spot was suddenly overcome with a group of several hundred for "their" pre-dinner cocktails!
We now have the luxury of traveling when we want and, thus, can avoid school holidays and all the children everywhere. Our kids are grown, we've "been there, done that " onboard with them and the daycare atmosphere at the pool, etc. for example. We loved every family minute back then, but now enjoy quieter, adult times. And no, we're not ol' fogies, either! But we will also inquire about large groups. It's not fun to try to enjoy a quiet spot somewhere and a huge group takes over.
Mike H. Thank you for your Sun Princess review. I had a couple of questions regarding the Sun and would appreciate if you have the time to answer those questions.
1. Sewer Gas Smell - I am reading that there any other ships that have been having the same problem with an odor. Example: Zuiderdam, Dawn, etc.
We were on the Coral Princess and when we were in port, as we walked to the front of the ship the odor was really bad. They were unloading trash. Is there a possibility that the odor maybe coming from the trash on-board?
2. Food on Sun is 'Sub-Optimal.' - 'Whoever makes up the 'Menu Combinations' for the Sun needs to have their employment status reviewed.'
I have found that on Princess and other cruise lines the menus are about identical on all that cruise line ships. So, the only difference we have found was the seasoning of the food to be somewhat different. In fact, I carry Princess menus and see basically the same menu on each Princess ship. Princess has changed one or two dinners, but overall they are the same and have been for years.
What were the menu combinations that you found to be 'Sub-Optimal?'
3. Really love hearing/seeing in the Patter everyday: 'Wash your Hands...'
I have been on cruises with the virus and people do not take precautions to ensure that they sanitize their hands. In fact, I was on one ship where the virus was existing for 4 cruises. The first day passengers were told not to use their hands to pick up food in the buffet. Guess what, people still used their hands even though they were to be served by the crew. When told not to pick up the food using their hands they became outraged and chewed out the crew member for saying something to them. Some people are just thick headed and do as they please and not what is safe for others. Some people on the cruise thought that the sanitizer was 'after shave lotion or perfume for the passengers.'
4. Princess Theater - Regardless of the cruise line/ship, many passengers complain about this. Especially on the bigger ships. Some people wait until the last minute to get a seat, others try to enter after the show starts. This is a big complaint by many passengers. Cruise lines tried to issue tickets to control the number of passenger to an evening performance. That was a big complaint by passengers who felt they should go to the show they want to and not have to have a ticket. No win situation.
5. Vista Lounge 'every seat is a bad seat' - Fully don't understand that at all. That is one comment I have not seen very often, if at all. On some of the other ships, people complain about post being in the way. But to say every seat is a bad seat for a production show?
6. Entertainment - 'Far from outstanding.' What cruise line does have outstanding entertainment now? Many people are saying they expected Broadway type shows, top name entertainment and it just wasn't there.
I am not flaming you, just trying to get a better understanding of what people expect of a cruise now. Cruising has changed in the past 10 years. People want it all, but don't want to pay the price for all of it. It being, the best food, entertainment, all inclusive pricing, etc.
Like you said 'there is no such thing as a totally bad cruise.' Other cruise lines are receiving the same comments from passengers about food, entertainment, weather, illness, etc.
Was the bad experience the 800 + group? I don't think that any cruise line will limit the number of group passengers. Recently, there were 800 + kids on a ship. That was a problem for some of those passengers.
Bottom line, it is not one cruise line, one ship, one cruise. It can happen anytime, anyplace. You cited so many positive that I was surprised that some of the things I have focused on were really that bad. Regardless, do enjoy your next cruise. Whatever cruise line/ship.
Re: Re: Sun Princess Review , Just Returned 1/28/05
(Mike H), good review, much better than mine (1011).
(Pato), I was on the JAN 8th sailing with you. Did you like the big waves? I got some good pictures of the waves hitting the life boat deck.
Verdi Pizzeria was awesome! I went multiple times since I did not like dinner to much.
My brother and I liked to mess around with the crew. For the hand sanitizes at the buffet, we would use it before and after eating. We would put it on our arms acting like were taking a bath in it. We got a lot of crew members to laugh. We did that all the time so that's what made it even more funnier for them. I think I used to much of that sanitizes because my hands tuned really white.
(Pato), maybe you saw me at the buffet area, I was always with my brother im 25 and my brother is 29. I always wore airplanes shirts. If you got ice cream the polish girl was nice. She always gave me extra scoops. The guy making the gilled sandwiches was nice to. He was also from Poland. Every time he saw me and my brother he would already put on the English sandwich even though sometimes I was not even going up for sandwiches just ice cream. Most of the other crew members up at the buffet were upset because they had to do everything for us. That's what made it kind of bad at the buffet.
I probably would go on Princess again. I just wish that they would change something's on the menu. All the ships are the same food menus. I know it might be hard to change it, but at least change a few things. I have noticed that the service has gone down hill since two years ago on Princess.
Im going on Holland America the Ryndam in May the 3 day transition cruise from San Diego to Vancouver. They improved their service. They re-done the entire ship. They have all new flat screen TVs in there staterooms with a dvd and their suppose to improve their food and service. I want to see the difference since last time I was on the Ryndam. I did notice that their prices for cruises did go up about $500 from last year to Alaska. I will see how they will be. If its awesome service I don't mind paying more money.
Re: Re: Sun Princess Review , Just Returned 1/28/05
Boy you need to work for Princess Marketing. I expect a reasonable return for my money. I don't think I received that on this cruise. I think that the time has come for those of us who cruise on a regular basis to not only let the cruise lines know how we feel about their product; both good and bad, but to let future cruisers know what we ran into so that it might help them know what they might be getting into.
I am 100% for giving compliments where due but I am also for providing information on what is not so complimentry in cruising. It is time for the cruise lines to hear more of the truth....both good and bad.
Thanks for the very informative review of the Sun, Mike and Pato. We will be sailing on her April 8th for a 10 day Eastern also. We just received our pre cruise info packet. Now we have to decide what we want to do and the times. We were in Grenada May 04 we also found the people to be nice and friendly. Looking forward to going back there and help the economy (shopping). We are anxious to do this 10 day cruise and visiting islands that we haven't been on. I appreciate your honesty in your posts, we always say you can't have a bad cruise. thanks for the tip about the coffee, I like to get mine early in the a.m hopefully the Patisserie is open. Also we opted for early traditional dining, like to have the same wait staff every night. I honestly think all buffets need to improve on all lines. Its like a circus, passengers just seem to push and shove like there will be not enough food for them. Hopefully this will be a great cruise, it will be nice to be away (just the two of us) and enjoy the time together. We are definately spending our kids inheritance!!!!
Mike: 'Boy you need to work for Princess Marketing.' - Would love to work in Princess Marketing or any cruise line marketing.
' I expect a reasonable return for my money. I don't think I received that on this cruise.' - Sorry to hear you were not pleased and did not receive your money's worth.
'I think that the time has come for those of us who cruise on a regular basis to not only let the cruise lines know how we feel about their product; both good and bad, but to let future cruisers know what we ran into so that it might help them know what they might be getting into.'
- Agree that people should post their experiences good or bad. It does help others.
How many cruises have you been on? How many Princess cruises? Just curious, since you were dissatisfied with the food. Did it really change that much?
Still would like to hear why the menu combinations were not to your satisfaction. I am not trying to dispute your opinion. Just wonder what people base their opinions on. Has Princess changed the combinations recently?
Well I thought all the reviews were good, I liked the thoroughness.
We LOVE personal choice dining, and frankly it sounded like the group of 800 messed up the dining experience by being allowed to hog reservations. On our April cruise on the Golden we never waited more then 10 for a table.
As for the food, well, we figure it is banquet food, and we accept the limitations. We pay 100 + dollars for a great dinner for two at home, we do not pay that on a cruise, so we do lower our exspectations.
The sewer gas smell, I have not heard of that problem on the Golden, or the Grand, and those are the only two Princess ships we have sailed on. I have defianately seen complaints of it before though. The the cruiseline should work on the problem and stop LIEING to people " told us it was our imaginations" that would piss me off more then sub optimal food, I do not like being told that I am imagining things, HOW DARE THEY!
Shame on Princess.
As for the NOrwalk, I personally saw a well groomed middleaged woman emerge from the bathroom stall beside( the bathroom outside the thearte) and she simply checked her hair in the mirror and left WITHOUT washing her filthy hands.. It made me so mad I felt like chasing her down and telling her to march right back in and wash up. Piggy.
It was on the news here that Norwalk is now hitting some nursing homes in our area, so it isn't a cruise ship thing it is a crowd of people thing.
oh boy you are scareing me. do to cruise on sun 02/26/05 to the southern carb. my only vaca. booked a mini suite in the stern b755. we enjoy cruiseing. have been on ocean [- now with p&o and coral when it first was launched in jan 03. i work hard all year for this - tell me i am going to enjoy these 10 days. i loved the ocean princess - layout ect which is the sister ship to the sun. last year on celebrity - murcury - had a sky suit - nice but i think overated. any comments on the ship or excursions would be great . email to email@example.com thank you very much nervous in RI.
Okay, so what does "sub-optimal" mean? Not quite perfect, standard everyday fare, or army mess hall quality? It's amazing how people have reacted to such an imprecise opinion of a subject that is entirely subjective anyway. In my line of work, "optimal" is damned difficult to achieve, but "sub-optimal" can still be pretty darned good and worthy of bonuses.
Boy, I was worried about there being NO younger people on our March cruise and now I'm even MORE worried! We'll have 2 in their 20's, one 19 yr. old, and 2 sets of barely over 50 parents. My DH and I booked this cruise BEFORE we knew the others were going to come along or we never would have chosen this particular ship. Price seemed good for 10 days - about the same as Caribbean Princess for 7. But I am afraid this cruise might be a disaster due to the continual comments I see on this and other boards about the older folks on it. I keep HOPING that there might be more young people since it's spring break time, but realize that even my own daughter is missing an extra 2 days of school. Everything about the entertainment and things to do sounds "old" on this ship. Please, SOMEONE tell me they've been on this ship and it was a bit more lively and FUN, and they saw some young people!!! And, if anyone sailed this ship during a popular break time, WERE there any kids?
Thanks for the Recaps of your cruises on the Sun Princess. I'm leaving for FLL one week from tomorrow to cruise on 02/27. I can't wait.
MLB - Relax.. You are worrying too much. Especially the concerns dealing with adult children on your sailing. Honestly.. there is no reason to worry about them and it's not like they are little and they need to match with playmates. As I posted in another thread, I've taken my college-aged kids cruising. If anything, they will be annoyed with the small children hogging the pool during spring break. If you take in every little negative thing someone posts - you are bound to spend wasted energy and end up making a point to look for non perfections. Go.. have a good time.. After all it's a vacation that's supposed to be fun. Hope you have a wonderful cruise.
Re: Re: Sun Princess Review , Just Returned 1/28/05
Thanks iluvcruisin. You are right, of course, but every now and then I get a glimpse of my 19 yr. old's concern over whether there will be anyone her age onboard and frankly, I don't want to hear the complaints that I KNOW will come, though the warning was placed already not to rag me about it if it happens.
And Over the Hill Gang, I meant no disrespect! I'm GLAD there are over 80's still cruising. Hope I am one of them one day. Wish my own mom (82 and recovering from a surgery of 2 wks. ago) felt fit enough to come w/us! Doesn't bother me to have young older folks on board. I am just one of those people who DO like lively atmospheres and mostly think I am supposed to make sure everyone ELSE in my group is having a good time. I know what it's like to be on ships in March and all the children, etc. We do it every yr. But I also know that if I were younger, I'd definitely find more to do on ships like the Voyager or Grand Princess. My sister knows a young woman in FL who just went on a cruise (Fascination) for her honeymoon. She came back crabbing about all the "old" people on board and now has the idea cruising is only for those over 50!
Thanks to you both for your replies and sense of humor!
We sailed on the Jan. 28th cruise and the gas odour was only part of the problem. We had a black oily sludge inside the toilet bowl almost every day. Some other passengers instead reported the same black oily sludge coming up from the shower floor drain. Our cabin was on the starboard side near the aft on Baja deck. On the 5th day I complained and the problem did subside. Earlier on during the cruise apparently a valve on the ships holding tank was malfunctioning and so we skipped barbados to visit St. Maartin ahead of schedule. Perhaps there was a link between the 2 problems?