It was our 14th cruise. This one - more as a trial run, since my wife became "legally blind" earlier this year, due to Macular Degeneration in both eyes. Already as an amputee for the last four years, and now with eyes, both of us were a little bit apprehensive, that perhaps this cruise might end as our last one. Well, the cruise was just great, both of us loved it, wife made out as a real trooper and here is the review.
Getting to Ft. Lauderdale and the Embarkation
For our rt flight to Ft Lauderdale, I've cashed my ff miles (80k) for the first class fare. It was a pre-cruise day at FtL Marriott North. Since I,ve made the flight arrangements on my own, I thought it would be prudent to get there a day earlier, (so much for my trust in USAirways.) To our surprise, we found a total of two bus loads of passengers the next morning, all staying at the Marriott and all going to Sun Princess. The bus was wheelchair accessible and we were surprised to meet an unusually high number of handicapped people, youngand old.
Once in the Princess Terminal, it took no more then five minutes to get through the formalities and presto, we were in our stateroom. The cabin D 315, Dolphin Deck was a HP cabin, quite large and well appointed. The Sun is an older vessel and there were no HP cabins with a verandahs (unless I would be willing to dish out an additional $1800.- for one and only HP cabin way on top deck, a mini suite. Bathroom was equally accommodating, plenty of room for the wheelchair, plenty of knee room under the sink and a lots of grab bars all around. There was one minor problem during the night. To get inside the bathroom, my wife had to open the heavy door and at the same time pull herself up over a rather steep ramp. She did this well during the day, but at night, I had to help her, (which meant to synchronize our timing. for the bathroom!). We were well acquainted with the ship from our previous cruise on Dawn Princess, same layout for the two sister ships. From top to bottom all areas were very well accessible, elevators worked perfectly and not to neglect a nifty interior design, abundance of off-white marble, unbelievable workmanship in exotic wood paneling, pretty plants and a number of well chosen paintings throughout the ship. In reference to passengers' comments from previous cruises on the Sun. I remember reading their reports of a foul sewer smell amidships. I have to agree , but only a little bit noticeable at ports. In fact my first comment upon entering our stateroom in Ftl.: "gee, it is true what they've said about Sun". Again at St Thomas and later in Antigua we did notice the same odor. The air was nice and clear at sea.
Food and more food
In contrast with Celebrity and RCI, there is no available assistance on Princess ships for the HP passengers on top at the Horizon Buffet Court. It meant that I would have to first find a table for two, seat my wife, get her a cool drink, and then go over with a tray to the food counters, pick and choose what I thought she might like, take the tray to our table and then repeat the same procedure for myself. Needless to say, we did this on the first day for lunch and for the rest of our cruise we ate at the main dining room, breakfast, lunch and dinner. With the exception of our assistant waitress Eva, at our assigned table for dinner, I have to say that the service was excellent on unassigned tables, mornings and noon, the waiters extremely friendly and eager to please. Contrary, at our table for six at dinner, we always had the feeling of being rushed, only Eva tried very hard to make us comfortable and happy. It was our ninth cruise on Princess and according to my expert gourmet cook at home, my wife, it is our humble opinion that the food, at least on this ship, slipped considerably. On a plus side, examples were prime rib, veal, lobster and pastry. We ordered fish once, it tested fishy and that was that. Indeed, one could order something else, but we knew from our previous cruises, if one shows a slightest dissatisfaction it causes a major commotion from top and down to the waiter, the poor guy, that really has nothing to do with food quality. Our waiter Dave, from Mexico did not seem to be "with it" and at the last day onboard we've found out why. It was his last day of service, a nine month work contract aboard ship, he would get off with us at FtL and fly home to open a baby furniture store. As I've said earlier, Eva did as much as she could to make our dining pleasant. All in all, we did expect the food to be better, but both of us agree that we would sign up for another Princess cruise in a heart beat!
We are not bar people by any means and so there were not too many choices for after dinner entertainment. The Sun has a large theater and a smaller, more intimate one also.. We attended each every other night. There were at last three rows of seats in the back of the main theater designated for the HP only. The Celebrity Summit, for example, had none. The cruise director did not floor anyone with his talent this time and following him the ship's song-and-dance troupe did their thing, excelling with energy, but not in subject. The Vista Lounge, the smaller theater had so-so performers, one stands out as a talented young man that combined parody, magic and humor with a great degree of energy. The Casino happened to be on the same deck as our cabin and so we generously contributed to the Princess coffers by playing slots. Glad to say, that thanks to my wife we ended up with a tiny gain. If one of us would win on a particular evening, she would pocket the change and head for the cabin. It did not always work out, some evenings we ended up home before 10 o'clock and this meant either the TV or books. In my wife's case, listening to book' tapes. The Sun Princess did not do well with movies onboard. One, "The Italian Way" was ok, but "the Plot with a View" has to be the most stupid thing I've ever seen. Would you believe it, it's ending contains a couple dancing on the top deck of Sun Princess, on the way from UK to USA!
Our itinerary included the three saint' islands, St Thomas, St Vincent and St Maarten. Also Antigua and Barbados. For the most Caribbean Islands, we've "been there-done that" on our other cruises, so this time we did a little shopping only at St Thomas and Barbados. The Islands are not at all handicapped- friendly and frankly, both of us are quite happy to stay onboard and have the whole vessel to ourselves! I did get off in Antigua, but not for long, it happened to be their Independence Day, with a long parade and a number of visiting Navy ships from the neighboring Nations. The Sun itinerary, originally included the Princess Keys. For some unexplained reason the Princess cancelled the stop and gave us a $ 100.- pp onboard credit.
Our flight back home was from FtL at 12.36. Well, it was a miracle that we made our flight on time. Getting off the ship was no problem, although there are always passengers that "did not bother to check out at the pursers desk" and so hold up the whole process. We were off the ship, identified our luggage and in short time we were on the bus on the way to FtL terminal. And this was THE problem! There were four other ships at the Everglades Port, all disembarking and most of some ten thousand passengers aiming for the FtL Airport. A crisp $10.- did the trick and a nice porter got us up to security. More problems. My wife's prosthesis and her wheelchair create an immense confusion at any airport, every time. It took at least ten minutes to screen her and we were finally at our seats with not a minute to spear. Earlier, I did say - our seats in first class USAirways. What a total waste of money for those passengers that paid up to $1200.- for their seats! Foolish me, expecting linen, china and silverware for our lunch. We did not have to pay anything, as they do at the coach class, but for starters, coffee came in a Styrofoam cup, a packaged egg sandwich and a soggy cookie on a plastic tray. Good thing we'd only paid $5.-pp for our seats (and oh yes, 80.000 miles).
In summary, in spite of my little negative comments on and off, both of us would not hesitate for a moment to book again soon. Simply, I cannot find words to portray our enjoyment of clear blue skies, warm weather, turquoise sea and the great cruise ship.
10-Day Eastern Caribbean C402 - Covered Balcony Traditional Dining Late Seating 4-8-05 to 4-18-05 St. Vincent, Grenada, St. Lucia, Martinique, St. Thomas, Princess Cays Charles and Judy Crain - 47 and 50, engineer and homemaker, respectively Western Caribbean (Star Princess) - 12/2004 Panama Canal - Partial Transit (Island Princess) - 1/2004 Mexican Riviera (Sea Princess) - 1/2002 Alaska (Ocean Princess) - 6/2001
OVERVIEW OF REVIEW:
Since this was the last Caribbean cruise of the Sun for this season, a detailed day by day log would not be applicable. Instead I will concentrate on things that will probably not change on the Sun and that will be of interest to future cruisers on this or other itineraries.
SUMMARY - THE HIGHLIGHTS:
Overall, a very good cruise. Better than the Star in December, but then 10 days is better than 7 anytime, but still not quite as good as the Island in 1/2004.
The highlight of the cruise was the CC people on board. From the meet and mingle during sail-away to debarkation at the Horizon Court we were running into people we knew from the sail-away.
Embarkation was handled well. It only took 25 minutes fromcurb to get on board to our cabin. A new record. Debarkation was its usual madhouse, but it was customs fault, not Princess. Only one agent was collecting declarations forms.
The ship is in excellent condition from top to bottom and stem to stern. She has held up well and yes a slight sewer smell was evident in certain places, but I think that was due to wind directions. After all, the black water tanks must be vented and eddy breezes can do strange things.
Our Caribe deck balcony cabin had the smaller opening, but we also were up against a structural bulkhead so the wall forward was solid. This layout allowed for maximum protection from wind and rain and allowed us to keep the sliding door open every night of the cruise. Storage, while small, was adequate and even the shower was bigger than I remembered.
Entertainment was hit and miss. Some comedians were good, other just ok. We didn't make any production shows. Island night was great, country night was hot. We never made it into shooting stars (disco). Just way to much to do and not enough time.
Ports of call ranged from ok to wow. St. Vincent was pretty hectic when we arrived. Grenada still had major damage from the hurricanes. St. Lucia was very pretty and fun. Martinique had some surprises for us snorkelers, but St. Thomas was gorgeous for snorkeling and shopping.
Food was good to very good, only a few things that were bad and a few things that were excellent (lobster tails for one), but well above average on the whole. Verdi's pizza was a great find for lunch and would have liked to try dinner, but we were having too much fun in the dining room.
Service was overall excellent. Our cabin steward was very efficient and personable, our waiters, after the changeover, were full of energy and engaging, although somewhat too touchy or afraid of making a mistake - they needed to loosen up some more.
NOW FOR THE DETAILS:
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE CRUISE:
The highlights of this cruise were the CC people on board and our two table mates for dinner. Cookie and Barry (61 and 68) will be married in September and this was their first cruise. It was great for Judy and I to contribute to their overall experience. They really enjoyed themselves and even when things weren't perfect, they still were awed by the overall experience. (A refreshing attitude that some more "experienced" cruisers forget when their martini is not quite dry enough!)
The CC people were awesome and the experiences we had were way too much fun. From Smilin Bob's ascension to Mr. Sun Princess (and his dive certification as well) to gvre's gift to Judy of the official cruise critic hat (thanks again Richard and Deb), to the breaking of the 18 lobster tail record and to the many conversations, lunches and meals, traveling with a fellow group of NUTS is the only way to go.
This was a much younger crowd than our previous 10-day cruise. Probably only about 10-15 kids on the whole ship, but the average age looked more in the 35-50 range, rather than the 50-60 range.
The princess embarkation at Terminal 2 was almost flawless. Yes, two additional forms had to be filled out (Bahamas and noro screen), but no big deal. The only line at the door was the line due to passing out the two new forms. Once filled out, it was a 15 minute walk to our cabin. We arrived at the terminal at 12:25 and were in Verdi's pizza for lunch at 1:15.
Debarkation was its usual hectic mess and looked pretty bad, but the main reason for the exit lines was the sole customs agent collecting the declaration forms instead of the normal two. All of those people channeling through one person. In spite of that, our color was called at 0945 and we were at the Frontier check in counter in the airport at 10:35.
The Sun class remains our second favorite class - a very close second. The Coral class is our number one. (The additional deck on the Coral class that contains the explorer's lounge, Sabatini's and the Bayou café is the major difference.) The recent dry dock also involved a total change-out of the gym equipment, a large internet café, new carpet and fresh paint on everything that doesn't move. The ship is simply in great shape and she is still gorgeous. I think she looks better than Celebrity M-Class. The all white exterior just sparkles.
We had a Caribe deck balcony cabin. The sun class balconies were an afterthought and were actually cut out of the hull plating. The Caribe deck openings are smaller than the ones on Baja and Aloha. This smaller opening allows much less wind and rain into the balcony and makes it much more private. This allowed us to keep the door open at night throughout the cruise. The Dolphin deck mini on the Island and the Baja balcony on the star allowed too much wind into the cabin if the door was left open. In addition, our Sun balcony cabin was near the front stairwell and low, just above the lifeboats. This meant the bow slicing through the waves made a sound like waves whispering onto a beach in your backyard. One of the most romantic sounds, but relaxing as well. We slept the best on this ship we have ever slept.
We requested the egg crate mattress, based on tips from this board. It made a HUGE difference. I have never slept so well on a ship's mattress before.
We also had the opportunity, thanks to Richard and Debbie (gvre), to tour the Sun class mini-suite. An awesome cabin to die for. Two cabins wide, with the corresponding double wide double door balcony, has one side (one cabin's worth) dedicated to a couch and entertainment and part of the walkthrough bathroom. The sleeping side (another cabin's worth) has a walk in closet and bathroom with Jacuzzi tub. They charge a lot more for a sun class mini than all of the other minis on the coral and the grand classes, but you get a whole lot more.
The comedians will change throughout the next year and we did not go into any production shows, but the entertainment staff is top notch. Cruise Director Gavin will be gone soon, replaced by Trevor Bradford (he was on the island with us and is a great guy), but the activities planned are excellent. There is line dancing with Rachael, ballroom dancing with Mandy, pool games, trivia, putting contests, wooden horse racing and a host of other activities. We were never bored, unless we wanted to be.
Country night started too early at 9:30. Late seating dinner did not get out until 10. Regardless, we joined in late and had a blast line dancing on the Riviera deck. The party pretty much petered out around 1100.
Island night was a real blow out. Dancing, conga lines and the Mr. Sun Princess contest. After previously competing in a Mr. Sea Princess contest, I opted out, but ole Smilin Bob joined in and based on the cheers from the CC group and his friends we got him anointed. We had a 230 person conga line to close out the Sun Princess 2005 Caribbean season.
PORTS OF CALL
St. Vincent was a short stop. We only walked into town, no excursions, and looked around for a couple of hours. The vendors here were not too aggressive.
We snorkeled in Grenada and gave the tour operator very poor marks. A lady slipped and fell on the deck of the catamaran and split her lip wide open. There was no first aid kit on board, nor was anyone trained in first aid. Our group included 5 nurses and they had to administer ice and a towel until we got her back to the ship. She might have had to have stitches, but we never found out. The snorkeling was good with a large variety of trumpet fish and coral. I got some great underwater shots and the tour would have scored much higher, but safety should have been a higher priority.
In St. Lucia we did the pigeon island kayaking and then hiked to the top of Fort Rodney. On a clear day you can see Martinique. The kayaking was fun, but wet. We had the option of snorkeling or hiking. We hiked with a local guide who showed us a variety of nut and fruit trees everywhere we went. The view from the top was pretty awesome as well.
In Martinique we snorkeled off a quaint little village with a topless beach. The view was pretty awe inspiring, both above and below the water line. We snorkeled with two schools of squid. I got some great underwater shots and video of the squid. Then we moved to the bat cave where you can snorkel into a cave with bats. Not recommended to snorkel too close to the guano zone, but you can definitely hear, see and smell them. We didn't go into town, but heard the shopping was pretty expensive.
In St. Thomas, we shopped and BOBed. The shopping was very convenient and some things were reasonably priced, some bargains (booze mainly) and some prices much higher than the states. The little shopping mall is handy for last minute things not available on the ship. BOBing was pretty cool, but a once only deal for me. I'd rather scuba dive. Judy got a little claustrophobic in the helmet, so she didn't care for it. But the crew was a lot of fun. However, the fish life in the water, the water clarity and warmth rivaled Grand Cayman. Large jack fish, a 30" barracuda, sea turtles and a school of bait fish 100 yards long and 20-30' thick was just simply incredible. Snorkeling through this was great. Diving would have been awesome. BOB is a good compromise if you want to try something different.
Princess Cays was simply lovely. A great way to end a cruise. Rather than snorkel, we beach combed to the north. You can actually go for quite a ways, probably several miles if you want. There are coral and sand beaches and small tidal pools to explore. The BBQ was great. Hamburgers, huge hot dogs, chicken, ribs, salads, what more can you ask? New sand has been brought in so the beaches are a little sparse. I would highly recommend water shoes while snorkeling or wading.
My philosophy on a cruise is to taste everything I can't pronounce. This cruise was no exception. I found out several interesting things on this cruise. By being on the Star in December, I know that the menus are identical across the fleet. What I didn't know is the latitude a ship's chef has in making the dishes. The tastes for the same menu items were totally different - except for the lobster. That was excellent and did taste the same. One specific example was the eggnog ice cream. On the Star the flavor was light and very good, on the sun the spices were heavier and overwhelming - same menu item totally different result.
The cream soup's were the highlights for us. European style cream soups heavy with the vegetable's flavor (broccoli, asparagus) were all very good.
The head waiters still cook pasta on Italian night, cherries jubilee on Continental (ne-French) night and other times as well. The pasta on Italian night was perfect, but the next night he tried smoked salmon over fettucini with a heavy cream sauce. The smoked salmon overwhelmed everything. The dish was simply too fishy for us.
Verdi's pizza was a great find for lunch and would have liked to try dinner, but we were having too much fun in the dining room. Verdi's menu doesn't look too varied, but they will mix and match anything on the menu. Judy liked the vegetable pizza, but wanted meat on top, so she ordered double pepperoni on the veggie pizza. It was great. I stuck with the Calzones, which were fresh and very good.
The buffet was fair, but not unexpected. It's a buffet for pete's sake! Unlike the Star and the Island, there were no special taste treats on the Sun. This repeated our experience on the Ocean Princess buffet on our first cruise as well. Remember though at 3:30, they have a 2 hour ice cream buffet line in the Horizon court. At 3:20 the sharks start circling, and by 3:29 they're looking for blood in the water.
Lunch in the dining room was good. Service was a little impersonal, but efficient. Food was of better quality than in the buffet and there were some tasty bites here and there.
Overall food was good to very good. Only the head waiter's pasta on Italian night would be categorized as fantastic/excellent, but then maybe the free bottle of wine helped. Only a few things were "bad". The beef Wellington tasted spoiled. The cut of prime rib was too dry - she thought I said well done and it was. The fruit tartett's in the buffet were a major disappointment. They were so good on the island and the star, but not good at all on a couple of days. But the good outweighed the bad by a long shot.
Service was overall excellent. Our cabin steward (Bethoven) was very efficient and personable. He did a great job and only missed ice once. We tipped him extra when we left the ship.
Our waiter (Fernando) got hurt on the second day. He was proper, efficient, but stiff and formal, not very personable and hard to understand through the thick accent.
Gabrielle, the asst waiter, took over and her new assistant (Kasha) stepped in. These two girls were full of energy and much more personable, still a little stiff and afraid to make a mistake, but the energy level at all three tables went up. We did tip them extra because they did contribute to a very enjoyable dining experience. So much so that when Barry offered to take us to Sterling for a dinner, we declined because we were having so much fun in the dining room.
Francisco, the head waiter, was personable and a pretty good cook. On the second night, the matre' de asked if we could move to the table near the window for 4, from our table for 6. We said no problem, and then Smilin Bob's group shows up to take over the table for 6. We then had this parade of people thanking us for moving a whole 3'. They were going to buy us champagne one night, but I already got a free bottle from our TA, so I negotiated a free bottle of wine for Italian night that was really good stuff.
Since this was Judy's b-day cruise, I ordered flowers and a bottle of Absolut. They were in our cabin when we arrived. The flowers were absolutely gorgeous. I also popped for a sea weed wrap and massage for her. I called it her sushi massage. She loved it.
For workouts, Judy did cycling (spinning) and I basically ran on the ellipticals. The gym opens at 0600 so I was able to get in two workouts a day on sea days, one on port days and only missed 2 days on the whole cruise. No problem getting a machine whenever I showed up. Judy's spinning class did a sunset bike on the deck one evening which she really enjoyed.
This was my 3rd cruise with Princess, and my 2nd in this class of ship. Overall, I have sailed on 11 cruises with various lines.
To begin, I most likely will not sail on Princess ever again. While I can report that the overall experience was generally OK, it was the culmination of several isolated situations/problems that left me exasperated.
Example 1: Only after my 4th request did our cabin steward finally comply with my (only) request - that we be supplied with 4 glasses and ice twice daily. On one occassion, after indicating the ice had not been replenished upon my return from the 1st dinner sitting, the steward questioned my obervation.
Example 2: In the Horizon Court one morning I opted to have a pancake, however, the syrup container was almost empty. I alerted the employee to the situation without any reply on his part. Sensing he may have not heard me, I repeated the comment and this time, without looking towards me, he said "I heard you the 1st time" and proceded to find more syrup.
Example 3: Service delivery at the Terrace Grill is almost non-evident at peak times sinceonly 2 employees are on duty. While most polite and efficient, the service staff clearly cannot satisfy passenger needs.
Example 4: Having not finished a bottle of wine one evening the wine steward was clearly told to dispose of the bottle. Nonetheless she badgered us without success to cork it for the next night. The next night the wretched bottel appears. She would not take no for an answer so we took the bottle, poured it into a glass, and proceded to enjoy the meal. Upon leaving the table we left the glass of wine sitting there as poured and not consumed.
Example 5: During our evening meal in the dining room one night, it was clearly evident by the verbal exchanges and body language of some dining room staff serious friction existed bewteen them. Such a public display was most unsettling to all of us in the group.
Example 6: After disembarking from the tender to climb the staircase from level 2 to 4, our group had to briefly while while a female crew member ahead of us considered whether to accept and offer from a male crew member behind us to meet later for a drink or something.
FOOD While I had winessed a vast improvement in food quality at dinner this time around, the same could not be said for breakfast and lunch. It seemed to me that even though the volume was geat, the quality was less than before. It was as if one were in a cafeteria evironment at home rather than on a ship whose marketing boldly promotes fine dinging choices. Even after allowing for the fact the cruise was priced less than (say) a Celebrity cruise, the food fare was just not commensurate with my expectations.
One other comment concerning the dining experience is with regard to the fixed and freestyle options now available. Frankly, since this class of ship was not originally designed for both types to simultaneously operate, I found it problematic for us as 'traditional' diners. We were relegated to the lower dining room for which access is difficult because of where the kitchen is located. Furthermore, it seemed to us the seating area was more crowded than our previous sailing experience when freestyle dining did not exist. For example, waiters were constantly hitting us from behind as they passed through the seemingly tight confines between the tables.
So, sadly, I will look eleswhwere next time we cruise. To those who still enjoy the Princess experience that is great, however, perhaps my experience may also stike a familiar chord with other experienced PAX (passngers) having recently sailed with Princess.
Once again my husband, Manny and I drove south from Atlanta to enjoy a 10 day winter cruise leaving from Fort Lauderdale. This time we chose the Sun Princess. Destination is important and this trip included islands we hadn't seen before. On the Dawn Princess to Alaska in 2001 we were impressed with the soothing décor, the entertainment, the staff and the "Personal Choice" seating which allowed us to meet new people every day. These are the reasons why we chose the Sun Princess cruise. Much to our surprise, because this was our second cruise with Princess we became gold card members which entitled us to a few extras like on board credit and a lovely cocktail party for frequent Princess travelers hosted by the captain. No matter what we did on this ship, including going through customs, it was handled quickly and efficiently.
It took us only 20 minutes from curbside drop off to embarkation, which was well organized and hassle free. We grabbed a bite of lunch at the buffet while our luggage was being delivered to our room. Among the papers in our stateroom was information stating that theNorwalk virus had affected (or should I say infected) the previous cruise and the ship had been completely disinfected stem to stern and released by the health department to sail again.
We're not worriers or complainers and the fact that most viruses are brought on board by passengers gave us no hesitation about our forthcoming cruise. At lunch, we discovered that dispensers had been installed in front of all food service areas and passengers were instructed to hand wash with an alcoholic disinfectant that dried instantly and was not at all unpleasant to use. It's a small price to pay for keeping a relatively germ free atmosphere.
During the cruise, the buffet was staffed by servers wearing plastic gloves. Passengers were not allowed to touch anything including the sugar packets or self-serve drink machines. This proved a wise decision and our cruise was virus free. It was obvious that the staff worked extra hard because they usually don't serve in the buffet. I know for a fact that they get little time off daily normally, so it's safe to say this crew worked extra hard, never showing anything but patient, courteous service. I was impressed with the serving staff in the buffet and in the dining rooms. If I requested something not on the menu or on the buffet, someone invariably went searching and fulfilled my wishes.
The food on the extensive menu in the dining room was exceptional, including the desserts which (unfortunately for any hope of watching my diet) were as tasty as they looked. The buffet, which on most ships usually tends to be less inviting than the dining room, was surprisingly good. High tea in the afternoon was lovely in the dining room but if we wanted it later, it was also available (as self-service) in the buffet.
Many handicapped folks, young and old, like cruising and the halls were filled people using walkers, wheelchairs, canes and scooters. Their attitude impressed me. It appeared that everyone was there to have a good time and they did just that. We met lots of happy people, with a good sense of humor about ageing and life in general.
One night there was much excitement on board because a helicopter flew from San Juan and landed on our ship to pick up a passenger and fly him to a hospital for emergency surgery. In the morning, the captain gave us the good news and the bad news. The good news: The patient was in San Juan and survived the surgery. The bad news: Because the ship had changed course to meet the helicopter, we were unable to make our scheduled port of St Vincent and would be at sea for another day before arriving at St Lucia. (They returned our port fees, which amounted to $7.50 per person, which was both considerate and amusing.)
Naturally, all 2000 passengers were relieved to hear that a medical emergency was handled so competently, but still we joked among ourselves about being at sea for two days since leaving Fort Lauderdale, anticipating our first stop and suddenly it seemed like a third day in a row without seeing land meant we were on a trans-Atlantic crossing and surely we'd wake up in England. Of course the entertainment on this cruise ship is non-stop and top-notch. It's a floating resort and many passengers cared not at all about ports of call. We met some who stayed on the ship for the entire cruise, swimming, sunning, eating and enjoying all the shipboard facilities, entertainment and activities.
The Caribbean was warm and sunny and offered all the tropical beauty we expected. But what we were not aware of was the fact that Hurricane Ivan did immense damage to several islands wiping out 80% of the homes plus destroying tourist hotels and spice crops, their two main industries. Anyway we visited the weather-beaten but still beautiful, St Lucia, Grenada, Martinique, St Thomas and Princess Cay located on the southern tip of Eleuthra. We learned that Princess Cay was completely wiped out and extensively rebuilt as quickly as possible. We were the first Princess ship to visit since Ivan's wrath. Looking at the beauty of the island, the docks, the pavilions, the piers, the beach and the landscaping, one would never know that it has been severely damaged only months before.
The ports of call were interesting because they were unfamiliar to us. We took tours of St. Lucia and Grenada and were left with a sad feeling for the islanders who are still trying to rebuild their homes and scramble for an income at the same time. Our desire to take the semi-sub in St. Thomas to view the coral reefs was thwarted because the tour was full. We had wanted to see them without having to do a long day of snorkeling. As it turned out, the day was cloudy and a little choppy and most water tours were cancelled after all.
The ship's internet café had 30 computers and reasonable charges for internet use which made my husband, Manny happy because amid all this fun he could stay in touch with the outside world. All shipboard activities and entertainment were superb. The shows were professional and the performers in the lounges were excellent. One comedian did different shows each night and was so good that we went to see him again. Actually every performer was impressive. We were busy most days partaking of the various activities. For quiet time, sometimes we sat in the library, sinking into comfortable window-facing soft leather lounge chairs alternating between reading books and staring at the turquoise waters or distant peaks of small islands jutting into the horizon. Occasionally fellow passengers emitted soft snores, mesmerized to sleep snuggled down in a bliss of comfort.
To sum things up I would say the Princess ships are run very efficiently and truly have the passenger's best interest in mind. The daily newsletter is clear, concise and well planned, offering a wide variety of activities and plenty of information on ports of call. The staff is friendly, helpful and considerate. I also like the fact that the tip is automatically charged our bill. Because we're never required to use cash on board, we don't usually have much on hand. The Princess solution makes it much easier than gathering and dividing up cash into envelopes and then searching out the individual recipients. Also it guarantees that passengers won't "forget" to tip the hard working staff. The money is divided equitably by the ships accounting office making the whole experience more pleasant in our opinion. I commend the Princess lines for their two best innovations: Personal Choice dining and tips automatically included.
In conclusion, at the captain's cocktail party, we learned that of 1800 passengers on our cruise, 1,080 or 60% had been on two or more Princess Cruises. Three couples had amassed over 300 days of cruising with Princess Lines. That is a tribute to the satisfaction Princess earns with their passengers. Hubby, Manny is an arithmomaniac and he was so impressed with this information that he asked me to include it in our review. Honestly, we do not work for or have any connection with Princess other than being satisfied customers. firstname.lastname@example.org
Im 25 years old and went on this cruise with my family on Sun Princess the Jan 8-18 2005. The ship looks great still for being 10 years old. Food was not that good in the dining room. The buffet was pretty good. Most of the crew were not to nice. The anytime dining was not good. The service was very bad. We had waiters refusing to let our steaks be well done, we had another waiter pressuring us to get alcoholic drinks after saying know twice then got a snotty remark back. The( hot dog Nazi) what we called the hot dog guy at the Terrace grill was very rude. The first day my sister asked if she could get Sauerkraut on her hot dog and the hot dog Nazi jump at her and said in a mean sarcastic voice "yes miss!"
Our ship did have people sick with the Norwalk Virus. The first day was fine, but the 2nd day of the cruise we could not serve ourselves at the buffet. We could not even touch the salt and pepper or the sweet n low for ourice teas. Later that day we got a letter in our room informing us that some passengers have the Norwalk virus and explained how to prevent it. The Captain also talked about it the next day. It was pretty bad on the ship. The crew was pissed off since they had to do everything for us. It was a big pain not being able to touch anything. Three days into the cruise the cabin across from us got the Norwalk and workers would come in everyday in special protection suits with masks and clean and spray the rooms down. They did that everyday. Also, the entire ship was always being sprayed with some kind of spray. The cabin next to us also got the Norwalk virus and you could hear them flushing the toilet 50 times a day for at least 4 days. We had 4 cabins just in our area with Norwalk virus. The cabin that had it bad next to us was B-224 and B207. In the buffet area, you had to wait a long time for a table until it was sanitized. Their was not enough help since the crew had to get every thing for us. Sometimes you would wait 4 minutes for an ice tea. They also shut down one side for the buffet since their was not much help. So you had longer lines.
My sister heard that if someone vomited in a certain area, that they would quarantine the entire area and everyone inside. So if that happen around us, we would run out like hell. The cabin next to us was not able to go out at all since they had the virus. We saw a lot of doctors going into people rooms so when we saw that we would run away. Not to many people knew what was going on. Or the crew was trying to keep it a secret. A lot of crew members were very rude and treated us like all of us had the plague. I really did not care for this cruise. I did try to make the best of it. I been on Princess 8 times now and now I don't know if I really want to sail on them anymore. Not because of the Norwalk, but because the service was terrible everywhere and just had a lot of rude workers. The two knew girls up in the buffet area were the only nice ones and the dinning room service was so bad that I only went there three times. Something is wrong with princess they are really starting to go down hill. Im not hard to please but this service was pathetic. The pizza place was very good. And the service was better there than at the dinning room so all of us went there 6 times. The pay steak house was pretty good. The charge is $15 per person. It's wroth going to at least once. It use to be a lot better but it's still pretty good.
The last day of the cruise, My sister asked one the of peruser desk workers if they knew how many people were effected. They did not know how many, but they did say that it was started by a group of passengers that had the Norwalk virus on another ship the week before they came on ours and lied about that they did not have any Norwalk problems before coming on the Sun Princess. So now I know that at least 89 passengers were sick. I felt so sorry for the people in the cabin next to us for all their bathroom problems. It was there first time on Princess and they get the Norwalk virus. We had high waves most of the trip. The waves were higher than the life boat deck. We had 13 to 14 foot waves on 4 days of the trip. We were flying at times. That was fun! I was in B-216 way in the front so we really felt the ship moving.
The ship is great Nice and clean. You would not even know that its old. The food needs major improvement and the service needs help. I can take bad food, but what ruined my cruise was the workers being very rude. Hopefully it was just this cruise. Maybe we had a lot of new workers and they were still learning. I have been on Princess 8 times and they always been great. The Sun Princess last year was Awesome. I don't know how this ship can go from Awesome to terrible with in a year? I have been on Cruise West twice an all American crew so I can put up with bad service, but this was reticules. Maybe this cruise everyone just woke up on the wrong side of the bed? Even when I was on the Statendam it was struck by a barge that put a big whole in the side of the ship and lost an engine that brought us in a day and half late, the service was still awesome.
With all the bad things said, the good things was going to the nice beaches. If you go to Antigua. Deep bay beach is really nice. It's on a nice hotel and you have no beggars or people bugging you. The taxi was only $13 one way for all 4 of us. The town itself sucks, but the beaches are very nice. Im very nervous to go back on Princess. I just like Princess because I get free Internet. Im going to try Celebrity Cruise lines to see how they are. I heard very good things about them. Im 25 years old and Im just afraid I may not fit in with Celebrity. But, I like Holland America.
If you go on the Sun, hopefully they will improve by the time you go one them. I really can't tell you how it will be, but Princess use to be good. I still will go on Princess but will not spend much money to go on them. Don't be afraid of my review because it may be just my cruise, make sure you read current reviews of the Sun before deciding to go on it. I don't want you to be afraid to go on the Sun. The Sun Princess is the perfect size and really is a cool ship. I just hope that it was my cruise that was bad.
Brian Lashchuk Bdadylash@aol.com
This was our fourth cruise on the Sun Princess and our 14th cruise in all, 13 of them being on Princess ships. This review will not be a comparison of Princess to other carriers but a subjective review of Princess and the Sun. Pre Cruise - Being from the snowy North (Michigan) we opted to fly into FLL a day early. We booked a pre cruise as offered by Princess at the Marriott North in Fort Lauderdale for $69 pp including all transfers. The rooms, if booked separately were over $200 per night. The Princess package was an exceptional value. We were picked up at the Hotel at about 12:45 on sailing day. The ride to the ship was about 20 minutes.
Embarkation - Embarkation was a breeze, as always. From the time we got off the bus until we were on the ship was about 10-15 minutes. The only bad experience we have ever had with Princess embarkation was in New York City.
We had lunch in the pizzeria - our luggage arrived about 3:30. We had an inside room as we normally do. Since we only sleep and showerin the room we don't feel we have to go the extra expense for an outside or balcony. There was adequate room to store all of our stuff in closets and drawers and our luggage under the bed. We had 2 29" pullmans, 2 airline carryons and a medium size rolling duffel. Yes, we always pack too much. Our cabin steward Jose fixed us up with robes and hangars and a few other requests in a prompt manner. I noticed some loose hinges on the closet doors and asked Jose if he could get them fixed. An hour later a maintenance man was in the cabin repairing the hinges.
After unpacking and muster we went up to Topsiders at sailaway to meet some fellow cruise critics and have a sailaway drink.
Ship condition - The ship was in excellent condition, as it was on our first Sun cruise in 1997. Crew was constantly painting and refurbishing deck chairs and boxes.
Food - The food, as always, was excellent - not true gourmet quality, but as good as or better than most 3 and 4 star restaurants that we have dined in. It looked as if they had some new items on the menu. We usually eat all of our meals in the dining rooms as opposed to the Horizon Court buffet. We think the food is better, hotter and we enjoy being waited on.
Ice Cream - I know there are a lot of complaints about having to pay for the Hagan Daaz ice cream. The Princess ice cream is made on the ship and is better than Hagan Daaz and can be had with breakfast, lunch, dinner and at 3:30 in the Horizon Court - How much more ice cream does a body need?
Entertainment - The production shows were the same as we have seen on previous cruises but with different singers and dancers. We still enjoy watching them perform. We had seen the comedian and singer on previous cruises but they had some new material and were good. The lounge entertainer in the Atrium Lounge at night was very good. He sang and played mostly show tunes from Gershwin and Cole Porter. He had an extensive biographical knowledge of the Gershwin brothers, Cole Porter and their music. He also had a different type of humor which some people did not care for but he had standing room only every night. He picked on everybody in the audience or walking by with no regard for anything - kind of a Don Rickles type of humor - We thoroughly enjoyed him and were in the audience every night.
Antigua - We arranged an independent tour with a local for $20 pp. He took us on a 4 - 5 hour tour and offered a beach stay for two hours. He was very good.
Barbados - We had been to Barbados before so we just wandered into town.
St. Vincent - There is nothing in St. Vincent - it appeared to be a cheap fuel stop for the ship.
St. Martin - There were a total of 5 ships in port here - the town was severely crowded - St. Martin is a good place to get booze.
St. Thomas - We booked an independent tour with a local here also. He offered a 2 hour tour - 2 hours shopping and 2 hours at a beach for $20 pp. Very good.
Disembarkation - Disembarkation went fairly smooth - it seems there is always a madhouse in the terminal looking for luggage. Princess needs to organize this a little better. The Disney people (we have taken one Disney cruise) really do it good, but I don't know how. They disembark by early or late seating. After you eat breakfast you leave the ship - there are porters who will ask you your cabin number and number of bags and he finds them quickly with no tangle of people wandering around looking for their bags.
Overall - Overall we really enjoyed the cruise - the food quality was some of the best we have experienced on Princess. Why do we keep going back to Princess? "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
Just got back to England following a cruise on Sun Princess and thought I would share my views. The Sun despite not being the newest ship afloat is well maintained although I too noticed the foul odour on occasion as mentioned by other reviewers. We had an inside cabin which was more than adequate and impeccably maintained by the room steward Armando (Emerald deck) Food was generally of a high standard although the dining experience in the Horizon court was spoiled by the withdrawel of all self service even to the extent of wrapped items.Cofee and water machines were also withdrawn. It is clear that there was some sort of health problem and rumours were rife mainly because Princess did not tell passengers what was going on. It is disquieting when you meet someone in protective clothing spraying every conceivable surface without knowing the reason.I have no complaint about Princess being scrupulous on health matters but why can they not treat passengers as adults-if you do not tell people what is happening they invariably make it up.
Back to dining we chose the early seating and shared a table with 2 American coupleswho were delightful company through-out. The entertainment was rather poor in our opinion although it must be said that American guests seemed happy with it. I am not being a little Englander here-the resident group "Storm" were English and frankly not very good-I imagine you get what you pay for. The ports of call were generally very good although many people including me could not understand why St Vincent is visited-it is not very nice. One final point concerns tipping. Last year on RCI we pre payed and got vouchers to give to those who had served us (waiters etc) We assumed that the automatically deducted tips would be handled the same way but discovered that the tips were widely shared out. I am not prepared to tip someone that I have never met so asked that the automatic amounts be re-instated to my account. The pursers desk arranged this (rather un-gratiously I felt)and we tipped an equivelent amount to those who we felt deserved it (bearing in mind that an additional 15% was added to all purchases in addition to pay bar staff etc) I inten in future to not allow the automatic deduction of gratuities. In conclusion overall this was a very good holiday on a nice ship with excellent staff and I am sure that most people felt the same.
The Sun Princess was kept up very nicely for being made in 1995. She looked brand new. All of Princess ships are so nicely kept up. The Sun is a perfect size ship not to big not to small. This was my 19th cruise 5th for Princess. This cruise was very enjoyable. All of the Princess staff were so happy and nice. They weren't faking being nice like on other cruise lines. We had great service for everything.
Food: The Horizon Court buffet was awesome. Breakfast was ok, but lunch was great. You have so many choices and the taste was great. Lot's of pastas that I love. Dinner was pretty good. Im always to full for dinner anyways. We had a great waiter from Mexico. Princess has such nice dining rooms. Very cozy! Not big or loud like on other cruise lines. Princess now has in the Horizon Court at 4:00 to 5:00 a snack. You can have gilled sandwiches of your choice and pizza. Also, they have ice cream. This was a nice little snack. Did I mention those sandwiches were awesome? If you were still hungry after dinner,the Horizon court had dinner up to 10:00 pm. Some times they had the same food as in the dining room. After 10:00 pm they brought out sandwiches. I would eat every two hrs on this ship. You will never go hungry on princess like you do on other cruise lines. Food is everywhere!
Also, if you can go one night to the Sterling Steak House. It was only $8 for as many steaks as you want. They were Hugh and were the best steaks I every had and I hate Steak. You get also salad which is Hugh too and very good cheese cake. These steaks are similar to Ruth Steak House or the Claim Jumper. Totally wroth the $8. The Chicken was so so. Also, the Coffee in the Dinning room is very good. Try it once!
Entertainment: The Entertainment was very good on Princess. They use to suck, but have gotten a lot better. They been having more Comedy. Since Carnival has bought out princess they really improved since last year in everything. Including their entertainment. Some people we saw were: Phil Tag Comedy, Tony Cherry Vocal impressions, Carnival Entertainment comedy James the kid Michael funny person and Billy Garan Comedy. They also had some evening movies in the Vista Lounge like your at the movies.
Cabin: Our cabin was B519 inside middle of the ship. I like the front so I can feel motion. With this cabin we had we never really felt motion. You have lot's of space for your clothes. This cabin is so big. I was use to the Sprit of Alaska on Cruise West. Their cabin was the size of princess bath room. Don't complain about the bathroom being small because on the Cruise West thier bathroom was the size of princess shower. So Princess has some big bathrooms and cabins.
Ports: St. Thomas: a nice port. Nice beaches. No beggers that I hate. Good Island
Dominica: Very pretty Island looks like Hawaii. We did the tour that takes you to some falls. Nice place! The city was kind of scary, so I won't go into the city.
Barbados: We did the 4 wheel drive safari and monkey encounter that was fun. Fun ride bounced around a lot. It was like Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland. The monkey encounter was just a zoo. And we did not see any monkeys. But the drive was fun. Not to many beggers in Barbados.
Isla Margarita: Down by the dock they had some nice shops very cheap princes and good stuff too. They weren't in your face trying to sell you stuff. They had a small beach by the ship, but looked sick. My sister and my Mom went on the beach tour and they had people in their face selling them stuff. Their were 50 venders on the beach. The only way to avoid them were to pretend your sleeping or go in the water which was cold and very rough. You had to stay there for the three hours too. My sister got her money back. She said it was similar to Colombia. By the ship dock was fun and safe with no beggers.
Curacao: Was disappointing I thought it would be like Aruba. Not to much to do there except shop.
We had such a nice time that im going again to the Eastern Caribbean on the Golden Princess on Jan 10 sailing. Im sure I will like it as much as I did the Sun Princess. And I get free Internet now!
The Sun Princess was a lot of fun and I thought it was the best ship out of the all the Sun Class ships that I have been on. I really think that Princess has improved in food, entertainment and their employees. If you go on the Sun Princess your going to have a great time.
There were several items that kept this from being a stellar experience.
1. Food was somewhere between a hospital cafeteria and a wedding buffet. Every single salad dressing was creamy, even when ordering the vinagarette. The waiter explained that these were emulsions. Call them what you will, but vinagarettes are not creamy. If you try ordering Crumbly Bleu Cheese with Italian dressing, they look at you funny, then said the head waiter over to tell you it is not available.
2. From the time we arrrived at the airport to meet the overpriced, slow shuttle to the ship, we felt like this was the first time they had ever done this. The cattle herders were rude and non-imformative. The warehouse they use to herd you on and off the boat was like an old WWII hangar, sans the whimsy.
3. One reason we picked this line was because they are rated low for kiddie activities. (Personally, I think children should be placed in a shark cage and dragged behind the ship. Not every recreation in the world should be geared to families.) The swimming pools meant for children were closed for maintenance thewhole ten days and I never saw anyone working on them.
4. I had been told that even traditional cruises have a gay presence on them. Not so on this breeder boat. (I don't mind straight people, as long as they act gay in public.) We found one other gay couple on the ship. Aside from them, an Assistant Cruise Director, and the male dancers from the production shows, the rest of the folks on board were terminally hetero.
5. The Princess philosophy is to hock you at every turn for more money or 'nominal fees.' I have been to Disney several times. Their mission is also to separate you from your income. But they are so much nicer and less blatant about it.
6. The $104 deep massage was worth about $50 tops. I wasn't looking for kinky, but I was expecting something more relaxing than what I got. The other spa treaments were snake-oil-ish. They had something called ionotherapy or something like that for $120 a treatment. The add in the Princess Patter said you could lose 1 to 8 inches in a single treatment. What, short of surgery, could do that? The only weight you could lose would be in your wallet.
7. The Princess Patter was the best publication I have read written by an 'English-as-a-second-language' student. Typos galore. Endless plugs for the Art Auctions and some gem called Tanzamite. An ad for the Sterling Steak House read "Your last chance to taste our thick succulent meat." Is that a little bizarre or what?
8. Most of the entertainment was free and worth half the price.
I could go on, but I wouldn't want you to think that I am whiny.
This just was not worth the price of admission.
Cruising Is Not For Everyone
My partner, and I cruised on the Sun Princess from October 12, 2003 until the 22nd. This was our first cruise and I doubt we would do it again. Our expectations were set way too high and we did not see the supposed 'value' of a cruise vacation. Some of our complaints were minor, but the aggregate effect was depressing. I will attempt to break this down by category.
I had always heard one line about cruising: "Oh, you won't believe the food!" I could believe it. It was not special. The majority of what we ate, whether in the Dining Room or the Buffet, was banquet food. Production line food, prepared en mass, in advance, and held in warmers for who knows how long. The buffet food had the added distinction of usually being cold. (They don't use steam tables, but instead an ill-conceived, ineffective system of warming lights and hot surfaces.) The simple things like pancakes were tough and tasteless. I was tempted to trim them and use them for insoles. I could put Dr. Scholl out of business. The high end items, like thelobster tails, were overcooked and tough. The rest of the food was impersonal and seasoned for the lowest common denominator of the sensitive geriatric set.
Desserts were particularly disappointing; it felt like they were just going through the motions.
The dining rooms were loud, and every table is next to a waiter station so patrons can enjoy the traffic and noise of the food and dishes going back and forth.
The Horizon Court buffet suffers from spotty air conditioning. I was also surprised at the plastic plates, mugs, and drinking glasses, although they were some of the hottest items at the buffet: They were always fresh from the dishwasher. So if were getting a cold salad or a cold dessert or a cold beverage, you could count on putting it on a hot plate or in a hot glass.
The beverage selection in Horizon Court was dismal: the water had that fresh, garden hose flavor. The juices in the morning and the iced tea at other times were all from cheap concentrate from a dispenser. This reminded me of a college dining hall. The coffee tasted like a cross between instant and vending machine.
Aside from the foam rubber pancakes, the breakfast buffets had some weird choices for breakfast. Nestled between the bacon and scrambled eggs, one could find French Fries, or baked beans, or some Chinese noodle dish. ("Hey Harry, we have a hole on the buffet, what do ya got to fill it in that's quick and cheap?")
Bright spot: The pizzeria, Verdi's, served hot 'gourmet-style' pizzas that were actually made-to order. At night, they also did a decent lasagna. The service was personal and not production-line-like.
For the most part, the crew was friendly and attentive. Although with the international make-up of the staff being primarily from poor Eastern European and Pacific Rim countries, most of them sounded like they were going to audition for the role of Latka in a reunion of the TV show 'Taxi'. The language barrier only seemed to be a problem when you asked for something outside of the norm.
There were exceptions to the 'friendly and attentive' attitude. The people chosen to make toast on the buffet line looked and acted about as happy as the McDonald's crew members assigned to the 'Fries Station.' The dining room waiters and assistants many times were rushed. This made us feel like there was a competition between the waiters to see how soon they could turn a table. I cannot say that meals were relaxing or soothing.
From the time you enter the dining room, the hosts slam you into a table with all the finesse of the ride operator at Space Mountain placing you in a roller coaster car.
I had heard that the benefit of a cruise vacation was that it was 'all-inclusive,' except for the alcohol. And I heard that with increased competition that cruising was cheaper than ever.
As they compete to drop the upfront price of the cruise, they skimp on amenities and find every conceivable way to vacuum your wallet like a liposuction surgeon working on Rosie O'Donnell.
Soft drinks are not included. Ice cream is not included. Wine tastings are an upcharge. Yoga and Pilates require a fee. Internet use is $2.50 for five minutes. The two mile trip from the airport to the dock is ten bucks. To eat in the Steak House was an extra $8. The list goes on. And if you do find a free activity on board, you can count on a flock of waiters walking around with order pads with their battle cry of "Drinks? You want drinks?" Freaking locusts.
The drinks are priced at full bar prices and "for your convenience," a 15% gratuity is added on to every bar and wine purchase.
Also, "for your convenience" you are billed ten dollars per day, per passenger, for gratuities for your cabin steward (3.50) and your dining room staff (6.50). For crying out loud, the crew should be paid normal wages and this money should be in the upfront charge for the cruise. I don't tip the guy painting the ship, I don't tip the piano player, and I don't tip the guy taking care of the flowers and plants on board, so why the hell should I tip the other folks that are just doing their jobs UNLESS they go out of their way for me? If I am just a normal consumer of expected goods and services, I see no reason to pay above and beyond the already agreed upon rate for the cruise. This is just a ploy to make the trip seem cheap upfront.
The shore excursions were the biggest disappointment. We signed up for three for our first three ports of call. The first one in Curacao was supposedly highly recommended by, past participants, Tour E, the 'Sea and See.' At $54 dollars a head, it was overpriced by at least $34. It was so dismal, that we wanted to cancel the other two we signed up for. Unfortunately, the cut off time to change your mind occurred while we were off being disappointed on the first tour. The purser gave us a hard time about canceling the tickets. The best he could do was to try to resell them. (He did eventually find a buyer.) He kept going on about the cut off time having to be strictly enforced. I could see that if I wanted to casually change my mind in some ditzy fashion, but when I am obviously unhappy with the quality of the product, exceptions should be made. After all, the next tour was a bus trip, it was not like they were going to incur any additional expenses if we did not go. Here was a chance to show that they were concerned with the passenger's happiness, and instead it was an ugly incident.
You can book tours of the islands for less than half the price of the Princess shore excursions. One would think that the advantage of going through the tour office would be some sort of satisfaction guarantee, but that is obviously not the case.
The Ship itself:
The Sun Princess is well maintained. The staterooms were small, but I expected that. The rooms were very efficient and functional.
DO NOT book an inside stateroom to save money. If you can't afford a room with at least a window, stay home. We had a large window and were grateful we did. If you are thinking, "what difference does it make, I'll never be in the room anyway?" - you will not be a happy camper. You might not spend a ton of time in there, but it should be pleasant.
There are signs to encourage you to use towels more than once to save our planet. That's fine. I reuse towels at home. But at home, I have racks to hang the towels on to properly dry between uses. The ship doesn't.
The common areas were clean, and there was constant activity to keep it that way. The atrium was all the marble, brass and glass that one would expect in a high-end hotel.
I am guessing that there is some sort of sewage treatment facility on board and perhaps the water used to flush the toilets is cleaned and recycled. Every so often, you could catch a whiff of something unpleasant. That was only once in a great while though.
The ride was smooth and we suffered no sea sickness.
The pools were a little smaller that we imagined and we wished that there were at least one lane reserved for swimming laps. But otherwise they were OK.
The elevators had no air conditioning on our cruise. The main bank of elevators was grouping of six just forward of the atrium. The weird part was that there were not linked all together. Normally when entering an office building or hotel or hospital, there is one call button for the whole bank of elevators. You press the up button, and the first available car responds and the up light goes out. In this case, they were grouped as two, two, one and one. Inevitably, folks would press the up or down button for each separate grouping and wait to see which car arrived first. This means that the other cars were not cancelled and they would stop for passengers that already boarded another car. So every elevator ride was hot and would tediously stop at almost every floor, whether it had to or not.
There is no cold water on a Caribbean cruise. The faucets and showers only had variations of hot and warm. Thankfully, each stateroom had a small fridge that was stocked with ice twice a day.
Ports of Call:
This is where it really broke down for us. We have stayed on St. Martin, Key West, Curacao and St. Thomas for a week or more each in the past. Coming in on a cruise ship and visiting an island is not the same thing. It is like the difference between going to an Imax theater and catching the highlights on TV.
Isla Margarita was the biggest dud. This is a fairly new port for the ships. While they are building a new $21 million port facility in town, the ships currently come in on the other side of the island where there is NOTHING. Nada, zilch. The main town is 45 minutes away by cab.
The Princess Cays had a nice beach, but it was our shortest stop. You had to be back on the ship by 2:00 pm. The food was sub par. I guess I had visions of pig roasts or other fancy fare, but the buffet consisted of hot dogs, hamburgs, macaroni salad, and the like.
Various flavors of lame. The production shows featured singers with limited ranges and unlimited hammy-ness, along with lip-syncing dancers with a moderate amount of talent. There was a hack comic telling jokes that circulated on the Internet months, if not years ago. The jugglers were fine, but juggling has a limited appeal. The movies were obscure releases for the most part (Alex and Emma, Plots With A View, Whale Rider) with Terminator 3 thrown in for good measure.
The disco was a morgue that had a lingering tobacco smell.
On Board Shopping:
$3.50 for a tin of Altoids? Gimme a break!
The rest of the jewelry and alcohol seemed pricey too.
There was an Art Auction just about every day. The expensive items (several thousand dollars) seemed to garner no bids, and the less expensive stuff was hideous.
There were photographers all over the place, but I could not see buying the souvenir photos at $20 a whack.
On the whole, I felt hustled, rushed and at times just plain bored. This doesn't mean that there weren't folks having the time of their lives. I imagine that these folks enjoy Home Style Family Buffet, the Home Shoppjng Network, and look forward to the next Police Academy movie.
Last note: I wish in this time of heightened security that there inspectors going through everyone's luggage and confiscating every Speedo bathing suit belonging to some overweight, old, hairy European.