Back To Line

Princess Cruises: Sun Princess

Fodorite Reviews

Average Rating
  • Service

  • Food

  • Décor

  • Value

Feb 1, 2017

Review of Sun Princess

Emily le Age: 22 Occupation:Student Number of Cruises: 1 Cruise Line: Princess Ship: Sun Princess Sailing Date: 2013-11-21 Itinerary: New Zealand This was a lovely first cruise for the family. The crew are very friendly, helpful and welcoming. We were always greeted with a smile! I can confidently say the best customer service I have had; from the stateroom stewards to the waiters. A special thanks goes to Paolo (Deck 10) our stateroom steward who

always made sure we were comfortable in our rooms and Suttipong (Marquis dining room) who was a outstanding waiter every night. The scenery was beautiful and ship well organised. The food was average, what to be expected in a buffet. The best place to eat is probably the pizza parlour on deck 8; with delicious wafer thin crust pizzas. The main downfall as other reviewers have mentioned, is the main age demographic being the older generation. This left not much for kids and younger adults to do. However; I would highly recommended this cruise to couples over 50 or people looking for a holiday to relax and spend all day eating free food! There was a extensive variety in food. However just standard quality. The stateroom was neat and tidy. Always well kept by the stateroom stewards. Quite a good variety, although mostly aimed at seniors. Pick and choose the excursions you are most interested in since they can get quite expensive.

Read More
  • New

Dec 16, 2013

New Zealand

This was a lovely first cruise for the family. The crew are very friendly, helpful and welcoming. We were always greeted with a smile! I can confidently say the best customer service I have had; from the stateroom stewards to the waiters. A special thanks goes to Paolo (Deck 10) our stateroom steward who always made sure we were comfortable in our rooms and Suttipong (Marquis dining room) who was a outstanding waiter every night. The scenery was beautiful

and ship well organised. The food was average, what to be expected in a buffet. The best place to eat is probably the pizza parlour on deck 8; with delicious wafer thin crust pizzas. The main downfall as other reviewers have mentioned, is the main age demographic being the older generation. This left not much for kids and younger adults to do. However; I would highly recommended this cruise to couples over 50 or people looking for a holiday to relax and spend all day eating free food! There was a extensive variety in food. However just standard quality. The stateroom was neat and tidy. Always well kept by the stateroom stewards. Quite a good variety, although mostly aimed at seniors. Pick and choose the excursions you are most interested in since they can get quite expensive.

Read More
  • New

Apr 12, 2012

New Zealand

We recently sailed to NZ on our honeymoon. This cruise is for the older generations. Just not suited to the couple. All the activities are aimed at the over 50s and were quite boring at times. There were no activities foe the younger people unless you are a child. The shore excersions were quite expensive. You could organise them your self for much cheaper. The food was fantastic, however at times it was dissappointing. We

paid extra for a port hole. The room was quite small, but sufficient. Boring. Even the night club was for the pensioners. If you can organize it yourself from a private company before you go. This will save you money. It was breathtaking scenary in Nz. Apart from it being a pensioners cruise, it was a lovely experience. I don't think you should have to pay extra for yoga and plates classes. This is a rip off.

Read More
  • New

Feb 19, 2011

new Zealand

From the first time we stepped aboard it was WOW. It looked like a movie setand a bit unreal.the first day I requested an electric extension lead for a CPAP machine, which was at my cabin before I got back from the persers office. The staff where excelent could not fault them. the cabin (inside one) was very clean and comfortable, the bed very comfortable and did not have a problem sleeping. The food was amazing, I like the fact that you could get

a cuppa ant time and if you just wanted a snack it was available all the time at no extra charge.I thought that the entertainment was world class and some thing for every taste. We loved it so much we have booked another cruise of 35 days with them. The food was first class, lots to choose from and of a great quality. very well prepeared and served Our Cabin was very good, we had booked an inside cabin, it had enough room that we not cramped and it was kept spotless throughout the cruise. Good shower, the bed was very comfortable and we never had a problem sleeping, we had the beds in the queen size configuration they where excellent, always some thing to do or some where to go, day or night I think the excursion where very good. What we did was see what was available early and linked it to the places we wanted to go, we used the tour excursion because we had the knowledge that if some thing went wrong we were not going to miss the ship sailing, very good pease of mind We had the very best time met some wonderfull people whom we stay in contact with.The staff made the trip with there frendlyness and level of service. We saw all the places we had intended to see and had a great time doing it

Read More
  • New

Oct 18, 2008

Pacific Rim

This was actually a 75-day Pacific Rim cruise, but with the now-familiar American spin to hype was billed as a "World Cruise." It was conducted in 3 segments, Sydney to San Francisco, San Francisco to Xingang (Beijing in the advertising, but this was actually 3 and a half hours away by bus) and Xingang to Sydney. Your reviewer was aboard for the whole nine yards. Accomodation. An outside cabin on deck 9 (Caribe) with window, but no balcony.

Although small, the cabin was comfortable enough in a pedestrian sort of way, with a choice of double or twin bedding.Plumbing problems were experienced throughout the ship, but they were usually attended to within a reasonable timeframe, but tended to recur. Certainly this vessel has no claim to the 5 stars billed, but is probably not the worst afloat. The service provided by the cabin staff was beyond reproach but we would have liked to have our window cleaned more than once in the two and a half months. Meals. There are two main a-la-carte restaurants. Breakfast and lunch are served in open sitting, no booking required, in the Marquis only. Dinner is served in two sittings, both there and in the Regency dining room, with set seating. At the time of booking, open seating was offered for dinner as well, but shortly before sailing this was withdrawn. All I can say is, 5:45 dining cuts into the afternoon activities whilst leaving you seated before you are hungry (perhaps not really a problem, because service was pretty slow) and 8:00 diners complained that their tummies were rumbling for an hour before. The fare offered would probably be quite satisfactory on a 14-night cruise, but over 75 nights, tended to be somewhat repetitive. The buffet restaurant is available 24/7, but the food is a little below par and the competition for tables can be fierce. However one has to admit that it is always there. There are several "specialty" restaurants. The Sterling Steakhouse is open for dinner only, and occupies a corner of the buffet restaurant. Not surprisingly it seems not to be terribly well patronised, with its $20 per head cover charge. Although your correspondent has not actually eaten there, anecdotal evidence suggests that the fare is much the same as offered in the a la carte restaurants. The Verdi Italian restaurant offers pizza and pasta, the former served very runny and cheesy, and the latter in small helpings, but you can of course request a second helping. At least there is no cover charge. Poolside. There is a grill which serves hamburgers, steak sandwiches, pies and pastries (if you're quick), souvlakis and various grilled sausages. This operates at lunchtimes only. There is also an ice cream bar which serves sundaes and milk shakes (at a price). By my reckoning, this makes 5 dining options, not 8 as mooted in the advertising. However I suppose it's possible that there are three more that I did not manage to find in my 75 days aboard. One should also mention the price of drinks. When we first started cruising, years ago, the duty saved by the company on alcohol passed on to the consumer so that drinks were considerably cheaper than at home. Now, not only does the company pocket the savings, it slugs the consumer an extra 15% for compulsory "tips," while still having the nerve to request an extra voluntary gratuity on the docket. Entertainment. The production shows were excellent, but infrequent. Some of the visiting artists were good, but I suspect for most you would have been very disappointed had you paid for tickets and parking to have gone to see them in a theatre ashore. There were a wide range of movies offered, both in the theatres and in-cabin television, but they certainly weren't the "first-run" movies promised in the pre-cruise advertising. The best-attended activities seemed to be twice-daily team trivia contests, contract bridge play, dancing lessons and the casino. And, of course, later sessions of snowball bingo. Some guest lecturers drew an audience, but, as their appearances were recorded for next-day broadcast on TV, most preferred this option. The disco appeared to be a no-man's-land, apart for those poor souls who needed somewhere that smoking was permitted indoors. Speaking of TV, you could have been forgiven for thinking that you were cruising out of Galveston or Seattle. For the first 9 weeks, only US stations were aired live. The rationalization that they were the only ones available was somewhat unconvincing when one was sailing two days out of Sydney but unable to watch Australian TV. Thankfully two weeks out we were treated to one Australian channel so that we were able to view AFL/NRL finals. Staff. Cabin crew were excellent, as were the waiting staff, mainly. It was not their fault that service was slow - the system seemd too cumbersome. The cruise staff themselves were also in the main excellent, although the cruise director seemed out of her depth in the role, but her support was great. Facilities. These were of a fairly high standard - the interior was kept spotless throughout and maintenance seemed adequate, except for the plumbing, with burst pipes being commonplace throughout the cruise. Laundry facilities also left much to be desired - ship's laundry obviously being unable to dry washing other than in a hot dryer, resulting in shrinkage of clothes, whilst passenger laundries seemed not to be maintained at all. With two washing machines/dryers per passenger floor already being less than adequate, when any one failed the result was further inconvenience and when both failed, as happened in at least one laundry, catastrophe. At least one machine was inoperative when we first left Sydney and had not been repaired during the entire cruise. Ports. There were 29 listed for this cruise; one was bypassed completely. One gets the impression from reading other reviews that this is not a rarity on Princess cruises and one wonders if this is not perhaps a device to save on berthing fees to help the company's bottom line. Certainly when Kodiak was bypassed no compensation was offered to the passengers who had paid to visit that port. When the itinerary was first published, Nukua`Lufa was offered as a port but by sailing time had been deleted, without explanation, in favour of Dravuni Island. Beijing and Ho Chi Minh City were also on the itinerary, although the ship actually berthed some distance away and an 7-hour return (minimum) bus trip was required to visit them. Then again, the actual time spent in any port was only 6 to 10 hours, grossly inadequate in such ports as Honolulu, San Francisco, Vancouver and Hong Kong. And the number of ports visited on a Sunday when nothing was open, was ridiculous. General Comments. She is certainly a tired ship, badly in need of a refit and replumbing. One boards with high expectations but over the trip this tends to evaporate into something resembling resignation. One is always feeling the company's hand in one's hip pocket and delivering value-for-money appears to be an outmoded concept. Tipping. A word to the wise. Unless prompt action is taken, you will find that about $10/day/person will be charged to your shipboard account for "tips". In our case, this would have inflated our fare by a further $1500. Should you wish to travel with this company, be sure to visit the purser's desk and decline to pay this "tax". If you wish to tip for good service, do so of your own free will for those who deserve it.

Read More
  • New

Jan 20, 2008

Southern Caribbean

My husband, Greg and I love Princess and have not even considered another line until now. Every cruise has been great, little things that went wrong, ie, requesting pillows and it taking 2 days. Nothing really to spoil our trip. I have read other reviews about the ships we have been on and really wondered, "Where was I?" We find the food excellent,

plenty of choices, served hot, no complaints. This one we had the Norwalk scare and really noticed it upon entering the Horizon Court for breakfast one morning. This was our 3rd or 4th day out and like every other meal at the buffet we started to walk in and noticed a ball type contraption on a stand with a sign telling us it was sanitizer and how to use it. We did and started to pick up our tray, the silver ware was handed to us. That was strange. The couple behind us chose not to use the sanitizer and were told that they would not be allowed to eat unless they did. Another change was all the food was put on your plate instead of you using the tongs, etc. to pick up your food. There was no salt or pepper shakers on the table and when you asked for salt or pepper it was brought to you in single throw away packets. Everyone was now wearing gloves. We have also noticed a change with Princess since they were taken over. It use to be that there was a beverage cart that would go around the room re-filling your drinks. Not so anymore. You have to go back to the buffet, going the wrong way, for a re-fill. Of course we all wish our rooms were bigger. Greg and I have been ok with our rooms on all our trips. Our first cruise we had a ocean view. Will never do that again. It is worth the money for a balcony and really makes the trip much more enjoyable. There is nothing like having coffee, fruit and juice on your balcony, still in your pj's, and at night, your the only people in the world. We loved having our wake up call being room service with hot coffee, etc. The only complaint we have was with two of the shore excursions. We had done the "swim with the string-rays" in Grand Caymans and couldn't wait to do it again in Barbados. Do not do the Barbados one. If you have done Grand Caymans, out on a sand bar, hundreds of sting rays, well if you've done that one there is no other to compare it to. The one at Barbados was a netted enclosure, maybe 25 stingrays, the people in charge would not give you bait until you had your picture made. It was awful. Then afterwards they held you at their camp until everyone was given the sales pitch to purchase the picture. The other excursion that was a complete failure was at St. Vincent. If you have the chance to go there, don't pass it up. It is a beautiful island, black sand beaches, lovely, un-spoiled, wonderful. But don't take the Best of Barbados. We were to go up into the mountains for a swim in a water fall, that part was great. The van dropped us off and was to return 45 minutes later to take us to lunch. The driver was over 2 hours late picking us up. He fell asleep somewhere. Well it went downhill from there. You know we had to make up the time somewhere down the line and we did. We were suppose to have 45 minutes snorkeling along a beautiful coral reef watching the abundant sea life. What we ended up with was about 12 - 15 minutes on a beach that you couldn't even stand up. The waves were so big, and there was not much sea life or any other kind. We were sooo late returning to the ship, they had pulled the gang-plank and even the x-ray equipment. I have written Princess and as of today, I have not heard anything from them. The second time I sent my letter, two weeks ago, I sent it certified, return receipt. I have booked another cruise on Princess, the Coral Princess for the Panama Canal in January and will submit a review then. Hopefully Princess will respond before then. If not I will be looking for a new cruise line.

Read More
  • New

Jul 22, 2006

NOT FOUND

Princess Cruises Sun Princess Cruise Review Alaska Jatheen My Family and I sailed the Inside Passage on the Sun Princess and overall had a good experience. We had a total of ten people, Consisting of My Four Siblings (41, 39, 36, 33) My Mom and Dad, both in their 60's, My Niece and Nephew (12 and 13) and Myself, 25. There were really only two negatives about the experience, and neither one was related to a lack of service etc,

on Princess' part. The weather we experienced was awful. It rained everyday of our cruise, and was very very foggy. In fact visibility was so poor, that we were forced to skip the scenic cruising through the Tracy Arm Fjord because it would be too unsafe. Although I am thankful that my safety was thought of, I was pretty bummed to miss what I have heard described as one of the most beautiful places on earth. The poor weather continued through our entire trip, resulting in all air excursions being cancelled at every port of call. Many passengers were upset over this (and I don't blame them) but, there really wasn't anything Princess could do other that try to schedule alternate excursions for those guests. The second negative was the size of the staterooms. My family definitely went for the best bargain, and booked 3 inside staterooms, two with quadruple occupancy, and one with double occupancy. There simply is not enough room for four people in one standard room, from closet space to elbow room, It was just far too cramped. If you are planning on fitting four people into one standard room, I hope at least two of them are under 8 years of age! The food onboard was very good, the pizza parlor being the highlight! You can call me unrefined, but it was just great. We had the anytime dining, and would recommend that for people who really want to get involved with all of the organized activities onboard. My family always read over the Princess Patter that was delivered the night before to your room, discussed what we wanted to do the next day, and called in the morning when we woke up to make reservations for that night, since we had such a large party, and never waited for our table. We had great waiters and assistants, and the food was very good. We did experience some entrees that we didn't care for, but it was quickly replaced with something else if we asked. The Sun Princess is an older ship, and fairly small, so you did encounter the same people every day, which made it feel a little more personal that if there were a million and one people on board. The Shows were terrible, but luckily short. Other than that, the magician and all of the things that the social staff put on were a riot. Julie, Ash, And Liam from the social staff were wonderful, and always kept things fun. The piano player in the Atrium was also very talented. My brother and I did shore excursions in two ports, Ketchikan and Juneau. In Ketchikan we did the Zip Line Adventure, and it was nothing but awesome. I really felt like we got to see more of the landscape, and got some great thrills from it. When we were there, the salmon were spawning, and so we probably saw over 300 bald eagles thought the day. In Juneau, we did the sea Kayaking and loved that too, but the group running the excursion wasn't very good with time management, we waited for nearly an hour and a half before we could even put on our gear, and learn to paddle. we did get to see Mendenhall glacier from where we pushed off, but our guide led us off to an area where our view was then obstructed, while the other groups paddled straight towards the glacier. I wouldn't say that Alaska is the destination for young people, most passengers on board were in their Late 40's to mid 60's, and there wasn't really a "party" atmosphere anywhere on board. Shooting Stars lounge seemed to be the big hangout, but was always hosting Karaoke during peak hours, and the talent on board was surely lacking, which forced my brother and I to avoid it most nights. Formal nights were a good time, and it was always fun to see what everybody was wearing. It was also nice that the dress code was a little loose on the Alaskan Cruise. Many Women were wearing very basic slacks and nice sweaters, while some were wearing floor length gowns. Overall, I would recommend Princess as a cruise line to someone who is in the older crowd, or someone who has children, solely for the age demographics on board this particular cruise. I am sailing with Princess Again, But this time I will be going to the Caribbean with friends, onboard one of the nicest ships in their fleet, the Caribbean Princess. I am hoping to find a younger crowd, with a more energetic vibe.  

Read More
  • New

Jul 8, 2006

NOT FOUND

Princess Cruises Sun Princess Cruise Review Alaska Maria Suesse I sailed with Princess in 03 to the Eastern Caribbean on the "Golden" what a experience, so my sister and I decided that we were pretty pleased with Princess so we decided to book a princess cruise to Alaska, Alaska was fantastic, as far as scenery and wildlife. I will never sail on a ship older than 3 years old, due to the following, they were always

painting when the ship docked, so if you went back to your room or were in the hallways you smelled fumes. Also the toilets were ridiculous, they had a vacuum flush system which did not work very well. If you are somewhat heavy, the restrooms were very cramped. Now the worst part: FOOD absolutely horrible, no taste, either over-cooked or undercooked. Crab night was a disaster the crab legs were as wide as my pinky finger, not worth the hassle digging for no meat. Steak was over-cooked. I must say the wait staff was great, very attentive. The Attrium lounge was great hung out there allot. The shows were OK. Next time I going Royal Caribbean.  

Read More
  • New

Jul 1, 2006

NOT FOUND

Princess Cruises Sun Princess Cruise Review Alaska Teri Let me start out by saying this was my first cruise. We were very excited about this trip that we had planned for over 25 years. This was our 25 wedding anniversary trip and we were not disappointed by anything. First, I will rave about the food and the service. We never had a bad meal, lots to choose from and if all else failed we could eat at the buffet (not fans of buffets).

The crew were wonderful and made us feel as though we were the only passengers on board. Every crew member we spoke to, were very positive and catered to us non-stop!! Very pleased. The performers were good although the lead actor seemed as though he was bored on the piano man show, that was a bit distracting. All other shows were good. Enjoy the Vista lounge the best from the crew to the shows.. very funny. The weather was fabulous, but you need a heavy winter coat for Tracy Arm. I guess our biggest complaint was not being able to get to see the glaciers, but that was not the ships fault!!! I will finish by saying we will definitely cruise again, the experience was unbelievable. The crew, Alaska, the food, even the shopping, were great! Thanks for letting me tell you what fun we had... go, see, enjoy!!  

Read More
  • New

Jun 3, 2006

NOT FOUND

Princess Cruises Sun Princess Cruise Review Alaska Sally Higgins Eight of us met in Seattle for a cruise to Alaska. I like the convenience of Seattle but Princess' facility is pretty sparse. Try to get a porter and give him a few bucks and he will relieve you of your luggage so you can avoid that long line to check in your bags. The check in procedure didn't take too long - we got there about 11:40. My husband and I had a mini

suite on the Baja deck and it was arranged so nicely - two separate rooms divided by a curtain. We had a very long balcony area with two sets of chairs and a table. Our bathroom was marble with a separate shower with a shower door, a full Jacuzzi bath and a separate area with the toilet and sink. The storage was a bit sparse in there - could have used one more shelf. We were on the starboard side and except for Juneau and Skagway, we were along side the port everywhere. The views in Juneau and Skagway were better off the starboard side when we were docked. Overall, the storage in the room was great - we had a walk in closet and plenty of drawers in the bedside tables and under the TV in the bedroom area. The others in our group were in balcony cabins also on the Baja deck and while they had adequate storage space, overall the cabin size is smaller than that on the Diamond or Sapphire. We had ordered some appetizers to be brought to our cabin for all of us to get together - our travel agent arranged that and there was enough for at least 15 people - the guacamole was great and the cheese platter huge so if you want to do something for a group get together, I would highly recommend either of those trays. We elected the anytime dining which worked out great for us because we never knew when we would be getting back on the ship. We ate breakfast in the main dining room every morning except the morning we were on the glacier. The buffet has good food but I like a sit down breakfast better. I never had a problem with any of the food - I heard some people say it was sort of bland but those same people would complain if it was too spicy. The thin crust pizzas in Verdi are very tasty. We did not think it was worth the money for the steak place because it was the window side of the Horizon Buffet. Paying $15 extra to sit to one side of the buffet just doesn't seem like a special place to eat although we heard that the food was good. The water was totally calm our entire trip and we had gorgeous weather everywhere except Ketchikan where it rained when we first got there but cleared up by 8:30. Ketchikan was our first stop and some of us had booked some tours off the ship - my sister and I went to the visitor's center right by where the ship was docked and booked a tour on the Duck which was a fun trip through town then onto the water. We had been to Ketchikan two times before so we didn't do much in the way of shopping but we did get our delicious halibut and chips at Burger Queen and it still lives up to Tom Ogg's recommendation. The Tracy Arm of a glacier was our next destination and we are 0-2 for getting into this glacier. We made it about 90% of the way in before too much ice in the water turned us back but the scenery along the way was breathtaking and the waterfalls were in full force. It was very cold out on deck so do take gloves and layer up so that you can stand out there and get some good pictures. We made it to Juneau early and had booked a whale watch trip with Orca Enterprises. We called when we got there and we were picked up at the dock -the Sun docks at the farthest dock from town. This time we chartered a small boat for the eight of us and had Capt Sean who was a great captain -he seemed to have the knack for knowing where the whales would be and we were rewarded with several sightings along with one whale that came up about 10 yards from the back of the boat. Spectacular. Our next stop was Skagway and we walked to M&M Tours and booked a Yukoner Tour which went up to Canada - saw two black bear along with lots of eagles and tons of waterfalls. Our guide told us that June is the best time to see bear, snow on the mountaintops and waterfalls. We stopped at the Skagway Fish Company on the way back to the ship and had a good lunch. Our last stop was Victoria and we walked into town which took about 25 minutes. It is a very pleasant walk through some lovely neighborhoods. We saw some things along t! he wharf and did a bit of shopping. We did not see any of the theatrical productions but did catch some acts in the Vista Lounge- one comedian who was very funny and a lame comedian/magician. There were fairly new movies shown every day in the main theater. Some of like to play the games and we won at trivia quite a few times - got to have those luggage tags! My sister and I are former Princess cruisers and were invited to a nice cocktail party the second formal evening. It's a nice touch to recognize the people who have taken several Princess cruises. Overall, I liked the experience on the Sun. We had great waiters and our room steward always kept our cabin in perfect order and always had a smile and a greeting when we would see him in the hall.  

Read More
  • New

Jun 3, 2006

NOT FOUND

Princess Cruises Sun Princess Cruise Review Alaska Josh Jones My wife and I just came back from an Alaskan Inside Passage trip on the Sun Princess out of Seattle, June 4th through June 11th, 2006. For the short, short version for those deciding whether or not this would be a good cruise: Take this cruise!. Book it now! The Sun Princess is great, but more importantly, you need to get yourself to Alaska. It's beautiful. For a more specific,

rather lengthy, rundown on the Sun Princess experience, plus insight into excellent yet rarely-taken shore excursions, read on. I intend to focus my review on a lot of things that I never found properly described in previous reviews of this cruise. Some background: I've never cruised before, my wife has cruised three times exclusively with Royal Caribbean (Alaska, Western & Eastern Caribbean cruises). So everything I know about cruise ships is from her stories, and she's never been on a Princess ship before. We have, however, been to an all-inclusive resort (Sandals) before so some of the cruising concepts that normally blow first-timers away were not entirely foreign to me. To start off, I'll explain the weather... we were ridiculously lucky. We were geared up to expect it to be 55 and rainy every day. Nope. It was in the upper 60s and sunny every day, and it was 70 in Skagway. I even got a sunburn. For the first week of June, it was amazing, and for it not to rain in Ketchikan, well that's just plain weird. At every stop we made, even in Victoria, all the locals told us it rained all day the day prior to our arrival. Admittedly, it was overcast for the first hour of our time in Ketchikan and overcast during the first two hours of Tracy Arm, but honestly it really added to the mystique of the beautiful scenery. With a day of low clouds, you'd really miss some of the fine details such as all the snow-capped mountains, but I don't think it would detract from your trip. It was rather cold on Tracy Arm morning, as the entry started at 6am, so I would recommend you pack a winter coat for at least that day, and a light jacket for the remaining trip. And I like it chilly, for me 65 is ideal, so if I had unnaturally nice weather and say to pack a winter coat, then seriously, no kidding, pack a winter coat. Bring ponchos and umbrellas too. We had a bunch of disposable ponchos on hand, but never used them. Before I get deeper into the ship, the ports, the excursions, I must address what most people come to expect from a cruise ship and is my most dire warning about Princess. That would be food. It's really not all that good. To be more fair, it's more hit and miss, with more misses than hits. For an example, you can pretty much write off all the hot food at the Horizon Court Buffet as being awful. Some breakfast foods, like sausage, bacon, and pancakes (note I did not say eggs) defy this, as they were tasty, but all other hot food was just plain bad. And I am not anti-buffet either, I like buffets sometimes, but clearly Princess isn't going to give a Vegas buffet a run for its money. But what about the dinner? Well, like I said, hit and miss, but you have more luck there. I should note that we chose the fixed seating, and were lucky enough to get a 2-person table. I am told that Princess is rather unique in that you can get anytime dining (but that absolutely, unquestionably requires a reservation, I learned from other passengers) or you can get fixed seating at varying sizes of tables. They had 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12. I didn't see more than two 2-person tables in the entire room (there may have been more, but they are extremely infrequent and we just got super lucky), but there are definitely a reasonable amount of 4-person tables. But back to food quality - it was mostly good but you have an issue with selection. My wife doesn't care for seafood, and noted that the menu was seafood-heavy on most nights. The beef there wasn't good at all. I'm not going to say horrible, just that it wasn't good. The beef tenderloin and strip steaks were both bland, with the former tasting like roast beef and the latter desperately screaming for steak sauce. The seafood, I must admit, was quite pleasant. The salmon was very good, for example. What is key here is that the menu seemed to improve throughout the cruise. On the 5th night they had Alaskan King Crab legs. I asked for seconds, and got it! They were amazing. Quite possibly on par with the best crab I've ever had, and far superior to the Dungeness crab I had at an upscale restaurant in Seattle before departure. The following night they had twin lobster tails, absolutely delicious. The waiter watched me finish the two, and without asking me, brought me two more! Still delicious. Desserts were good all throughout the cruise, definitely excellent all around, even their ice cream is great. But the definitive best night was Day 6, same day as the lobster, they had baked Alaska. I always thought it sounded boring, and my wife said the baked Alaska on Royal Caribbean amounted to little more than Neapolitan ice cream, but oh man, it was mind blowing-ly delicious, and a huge portion. Yet I still finished it, and without asking the waiter brought me another. What a great guy! What I wouldn't do for more of that baked Alaska right now... So as you can read, our impression of the food started out negative, and ended up positive. That's because we knew to avoid the hot buffet food, and avoid the beef at dinner. My wife later got pesto linguine at dinner, and it was great. (It's hard to screw up pesto.) But what I must bring to attention is the alternative food besides buffets and the fixed dinner. They had a fish BBQ on Ketchikan day, which included grilled shrimp, BBQ fish (I thought salmon but my wife thought it wasn't), and crab cakes. You can have as much as you want and it was phenomenal, surprising since it was served poolside and you would expect less. On another day they served reindeer chili, which was decent. Also, one day the Horizon Court had an Asian themed buffet, again bad hot food, but they had a whole sushi buffet which probably won't please sushi fanatics as it is on par with most grocery store sushi, but it was fine for me. Poolside burgers, fries, hotdogs are all passable - better than I expected at least. We did not try the $15-per-person Sterling Steakhouse (which is simply a roped off section of the buffet). We spoke to somebody at AAA who told us the meat there was the same as the main dining room, but he said that implying the main dining room served good beef. I refuse to believe that the filet mignon is as bad as the beef in the dining room, so perhaps the steakhouse may have been good, but I wasn't about to pay money for it. Food-wise, this leaves one last thing. Verdi's pizza. Somewhere I read bad reviews of this, and I have no idea what those people were thinking. The pizza was good. The service is terrible, you'll wait anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour for your food, but the pizza and calzones are all great. I've had better, of course, but I admit that if Verdi's were a pizza place in my town, I would probably go there from time to time. Since the ship is docked in Juneau and Victoria during dinnertime, you're likely to miss the sit-down dinner at least twice. I heartily recommend Verdi's as an alternative. We ate there 4 times, and it was routinely the most reliably good food on the ship. Note I didn't mention a midnight buffet. Princess doesn't have one. They have a buffet 24 hours, but no special extravaganza. But they do have an abundance of desserts available at the Horizon Court late at night, every night, and on the last day of the trip they have a massive dessert feast there during lunch hours. Also on the second to last night, they have a champagne waterfall in the atrium, with free champagne for all. I would say that more than makes up for a high-class midnight buffet. Okay, everyone's favorite cruise obsession behind, how was the ship? I enjoyed it. My wife, being on 3 Royal Caribbean boats before, said that everything blurred together and is convinced that unless you are on the newer, giant ships with climbing walls and such, they all look the same. Personally I thought the Vista Lounge was the ideal place to spend an evening. The layout is just really nice, a great show lounge. The bars are all really cool, and the Shooting Stars disco is stylish. The dining room is nice, as one would expect. The Horizon Court Buffet, though lacking in food quality, is a really nice place to eat - visually - as it is on the top deck surrounded by glass, giving excellent views of the landscape you came to see. There are two small pools, a third circular pool by the spa that's really only good for soaking in, and five hot tubs. Approximately zero of these are covered. I will repeat: no. indoor. pool. That may upset some people. Like I mentioned earlier, we had great weather, so we did go to the pool twice. They are heated, they claim its 70 degrees but I am pretty sure it was warmer than that because 70 is pretty cold for a pool. So swimming is not out of the question, just be forewarned that it is not enclosed. For entertainment... well... it's a cruise ship. They had a great comic one night, a guy who really deserves his own Comedy Central special. Another night, a surprisingly funny juggler. Then a rather unexciting guitarist, and a cheesy but still amusing magician. All of these were in the Vista Lounge, which as I mentioned is a really cool venue. You'll want to avoid the Princess Theater like the plague. We stopped going after the first production show. Perhaps somebody actually likes this sort of thing, but we thought it was just plain awful. And finally, what the vacation should be all about, Alaska. It's beautiful. Not just in the ports, or on excursions, but just when the boat is sailing through all the islands, it's really a sight to behold. Whatever you do, pick excursions that actually get you out of town. The port towns are tiny and of no value, with the exception of walking down Creek Street in Ketchikan, which is fairly neat, you're not going to see very much if you just stay in these small towns other than crappy jewelry stores and junky gift shops. If that's what you want to go on vacation for, save the money and go to a local mall. If you really want to see Alaska, take an excursion. We took some atypical ones, and one very, very prominent excursion that everyone should (and usually does) do. Ketchikan - Rainforest Ropes and Zip Line Challenge: Not to be confused with the similar Rainforest Canopy and Zip Line tour. That one is a series of zip lines that takes you through the trees and over a 400 foot drop. Though it sounds like fun, we did the ropes course. It included various forms of rope bridges, swinging logs, and tightrope walks both with and without a second rope above you. Plus three zip line runs. I believe you hit a max height of 170 feet on those zip lines and the tightropes, whereas the rope bridges don't go much higher than 20-30 feet. Still, it was really fun. You got to enjoy an old growth forest, with 500 year old redwood trees, and yet have a blast on amazingly fun zip lines and admittedly freaky tightrope walks. We finished our tour on a climbing wall, that included a rather unique "giant's ladder". You'd have to see it to understand, and I defy anybody to try it. Juneau - Glacier View Sea Kayaking: this was hands-down the best part of our whole vacation. You take 2-person kayaks into Auke Bay, facing the Mendenhall Glacier. They say on a foggy day you can't see the glacier, but we had pure sun and had an amazing view. But that's not all, we also passed by several flocks of Bald Eagles (yes, they don't group together normally, but here they did) and were actually followed and approached by several harbor seals. Going eye to eye with a harbor seal within 15 feet of me is nothing like going to an aquarium. It was truly incredible, and a lot of fun. Skagway - White Pass Yukon Route Scenic Railroad: This is the biggie. Everyone should do this, and they usually go, because what else are you going to do in Skagway? If you have researched an Alaskan cruise at all, then you probably already know about this. A train along the Klondike trail with stunning views and a trip into the mountains. This is your northernmost stop on the trip, you owe it to yourself to go 30 miles into the interior to see what Southeast Alaska is really like. Skagway - Klondike Rock Climbing and Rappelling: Yes, we took two excursions in Skagway. We just had to go rock climbing on real rock (we're used to the indoor gyms) and where else to do it but on a glacier-carved granite cliff overlooking the Klondike trail? It overlooks the valley the train goes through, but for those views you're better off on the train. This is all about rock climbing, though to be fair each person only got to climb twice and rappel once. A die-hard rock climber who has actually climbed real rock elsewhere in life probably wouldn't be too impressed, though they do have routes for all difficulty levels. But for me, I loved it, and now I can say I've rock climbed the Klondike trail. Victoria - Enchanting Butchart Gardens - a big "duh" here, unless you do whale watching or nothing at all, this is the prime spot at this port. Butchart Gardens is on the Travel Channel's list of top 10 gardens in the world (1 of 3 in North America, the other two being the superior Longwood Gardens in PA and the lesser Dumbarton Oaks in DC) and it deserves the recognition for the Sunken Garden and Rose Garden alone. Totally worth the trip. Be sure to stay in Victoria at nightfall to see the parliament building lit up at night, it's really cool. In the midst of all the ports, there is the trip through Tracy Arm Fjord. Yes, get up at 6am to watch it. Yes, bring binoculars (read the a few paragraphs down for the reason why). Yes, most definitely bring a winter coat. And NO, Tracy Arm is NOT Glacier Bay, it is NOT a fjord through pure ice. It's a fjord through glacier carved rock that has progressively younger and younger vegetation until none at all, and you get to see the Sawyer Glaciers at the end. Trust me, it's really incredible. A place like Tracy Arm is precisely why you go to Alaska. Unfortunately, it is also precisely why people errantly think they need to get a balcony on Alaskan cruises. Everyone always says "splurge on a balcony, if you're going to do it anywhere, do it on an Alaskan cruise!" "You need a balcony to see everything in private!" Baloney. You don't need it. If a balcony was the same price as an interior room, sure I would have booked one and I would have stood on it on occasion - the views are great all the time - but I can guarantee you I wouldn't stand there for very long. The last thing I would have wanted on this cruise was a tiny square of space with limited visibility on one side of the boat. You are only hurting yourself by spending your cruise there. You truly need to go up on the deck, frequently, during Tracy Arm, whale watching, or any other time where you have a free moment. It is simply not the same without the near 360 degree views available on the deck. With how much more a balcony costs, you can save that money and go on some of the many fantastic excursions instead. Also know that the sun rises early and sets late. Curtains or not, I don't want light in my room at 3:45am. Having a pitch black interior room was great for sleeping. If you need a window, try channel 35, it's the best channel on TV - the front of the boat channel! And now to save the best for last - the wildlife. I had no expectations for that. We saw one to two humpback whales per day. At Skagway, one was feeding right in front of the ship. We saw harbor seals while kayaking, on the icebergs in Tracy Arm, on buoys in the water, etc. We saw sea lions playing. We saw dolphins pass our boat closely. We saw porpoises jumping in and out of our wake. And we saw more bald eagles daily than we see regular birds at home daily. The wildlife is abundant, and incredible. It's all the better that they have an ship's naturalist who announces when whales are passing by, and gives a lot of great information on them as you watch them. Make a point and take in his talks in the Princess Theater, he gives 4 talks and they are all great. With the end of the review, I should mention the end of the cruise. They allow express disembarkation for those willing to carry their own luggage. You disembark at 7:30, which is fine because everybody has to be out of their rooms by then and is off the boat within the next 2 hours anyways. We did this, and it would have been excellent except for two things; Number one, fools kept taking the elevator because they were too lazy to take stairs, even if people with 6 bags were waiting forever. We had to take our heavy bags down 4 flights of stairs. Okay, fine, deal with it. Get in line to disembark. Wait. Wait. "Why are we not moving?" Finally someone says "is this the line for express disembarkation?" and a bunch of confused people turn around all confused and say "no, we're waiting to be called. The express people already left." So, please, for all that is good and holy, if you aren't in the process of walking off the ship, don't stand in the vicinity of the exits and block the people who are trying to leave. Don't cause somebody else's cruise to end in frustration and anger at you because you can't handle sitting down in another area of the ship. Thank you. One should not be walking off from a fantastic cruise, cursing angrily with major irritation at the process of getting off the boat. And that's it. Granted, it may seem like I had a lot of complaints here, but that's because it's easier for anybody to post nitpicky complaints about minor things and it's a lot more vague to write a novel about how wonderful it was. Trust me, this ship is great, I would do the same vacation again in a minute, no changes. Avoid the hot food at the buffet, eat Verdi's pizza, get out of the ports, watch the wildlife, and carry a baseball bat during disembarkation. You will love the Sun Princess.  

Read More
  • New

May 20, 2006

NOT FOUND

Princess Cruises Sun Princess Cruise Review Alaska Quentin L. This was the first cruise that my wife and I have been on. We had high expectations and were looking forward to this trip. Since the cruise was a round trip from Seattle, we flew in a day earlier to check out the city. We booked a one night at the B&B Pensione Nichols. I definitely recommend this place for those that are budget conscious and want to do more than go

look at a Space Needle (What's that??). It's in the middle of everything including the Space Needle, Pike's Market, the Historic Pioneer Square, International District as well as the Football and Baseball Stadium. Things to do in Seattle are: -visit Doc Maynard's Public House and take the underground tour -browse Elliot Bay Book Company. If only all book companies can be like this -visit Pike's Market -walk Pioneer Square and browse all sorts of stores -eat Dim Sum in the International District -eat the best sushi at Shiro's Sushi Restaurant on 2nd Ave. The next day it was a short ride to the Cruise Terminal where we boarded and quickly to a tour of the ship. We had an inside cabin and liked it a lot. Okay...so let's start with the disappointments of the ship: -the library was a place of old and dusty books fit for moths. It was more a small reading room than it was a library. Don't believe for a minute what the online site tells you about their extensive collection of books. Not true. I was expecting to spend a lot of my time reading and was disappointed not to find anything up to date or interesting there. Bring your own books and magazines. -I was disappointed to fine that the there was no movies-on-demand in the rooms. After all, all the modern motels and hotels have these. There were good movies playing but who can organize their schedule around these times? Okay...so you'll say who goes on a cruise to watch movies but I say why not? It's not like there's a lot to do for people my age when you're on a boat. -Smoking in the casino. Have a designated area for smoking that's enclosed. The casino in this ship is open to the lower level, so every time you walk by to go to the theater you walk through a cloud of smoke. -Pet peeves. If the paintings that get auctioned off are really that expensive, why do they let the helpers treat them like flea market items. Watch them carefully when you're aboard and you'll see what I mean. -Pet peeves. You have to pay for pop. They make you pay for ice cream as well. For all you pay these items should be free. (Tips!!! Get all the free ice cream you want at lunch and dinner in the traditional dining.) Things I liked: -Food, food, food. We always had the traditional dining. When you pay this much for your cruise why do buffet. We ordered 3 shrimp cocktails every night, soup, salad, 2 entrees, and 2 desserts. Except for Alaskan Crab night and Lobster night (I ate 8 tails!!!). So the food was not gourmet but it was above average and I enjoyed it. And since there was no limit to what I can eat, if I didn't like it I simply had it taken away and ordered another one. Pure decadence I admit, but I've only done it this once in my life, I swear. (Tip!!! The ship automatically charges you tips on your credit card but you have the option of taking that out and paying cash. I did this and got better service but giving my steward and waiter a portion of the tips the 1st day and rest the final day. By the way, the ship only pays the $50 per month and they make their living off the tips. -Pizzeria was good. -Bratwurst were the best. Avoid hot dogs and something-else-worst at all cost. -Schedule your dinner for 8:00PM instead of early dining so that you have the option of staying late in ports and coming back to dine. We always dined on the boat. Why pay extra in town for expensive food when it's free on the ship. -Okay...enough about the food already!!! -We caught one show with a comedian. I cried like a girl 'cause it was so funny. That's all the shows I caught except for talent night on the last night. I slept like a baby then 'cause it was so boring. Sorry. I didn't catch anything else because I was too sleepy after dinner and we usually had a full day at the ports.   Ports: Ketchikan- I recommend the Zip line & Canopy tour. It was so fun and unique that I would do it again. A woman was with us that cried a lot and hugged the tree because she was afraid of heights. She made it through the whole way and I was impressed. The people that took us were professional and fun. After we walked the town touring the stores. Avoid all jewelry stores up front. They're imposters!!! I say that because they're not even locals and most pack up and leave town when the cruise lines finish their season. Go to the back the give your wealth to the locals that actually stay there year round. Go see the fish hatchery if you have the chance.   Juneau-Went on a Whale watching tour. We avoided the cruise line associated catamarans (too many people) and opted for an independent smaller and more intimate tour like Orca Enterprises. Lower your expectations because you won't see anything like the National Geographic. Expect to see only backs, fins and tails for humpbacks. We saw some playful sea lions, bald eagles, and other tourists. It was still fun.   Skagway-Ran out of money. Had to get a 2nd mortgage to pay for the rest of the trip. Just kidding but those excursions are darn expensive. We opted to do a 3 hr round trip hike through the wilderness to Icy Lake. If you're a backpacker like me and enjoy the wilderness, I recommend this one. It was fantastic views. Go to the local tourism office for a map and info.   Vancouver- Yawn. Don't get me wrong. It's a beautiful town but a tourist trap. I'm Canadian so I can say this. It's enjoyable and we went for a walk around but there wasn't enough time to do anything meaningful. Give me the Canadian Wilderness anytime minus the tourist stores that has everything marked down or on sale.   Verdict: I enjoyed the cruise, ate all the food I wanted (gained only 2 pounds), slept, read, did nothing, met some cool people. But I enjoyed the ports more. Will go to Alaska again but not on a cruise. This is only because I'm a young pup and bouncing up and down in a tuna can. We will return on another cruise when we're in our late fifties (Nothing against the old folks!!!).  

Read More
  • New

Feb 25, 2006

NOT FOUND

Princess Cruises Sun Princess Cruise Review Eastern Caribbean B. Calhoun There were several issues my husband and I encountered, as well as the rest of our traveling party, on our recent cruise. The first problem arose when we had to wait over 2 hours for a flight from the U.K. to bring several passengers that had already been delayed for 24 hours. Then we were blocked in at the port by another ship behind us. They were waiting on

passengers also, and therefore we were unable to leave due to that as well. This was not acceptable. Then we were told we had some mechanical failure with the thrusters and/or propulsion and we would be late in order to get those problems fixed. Those problems were never fixed. When I addressed these problems with Princess, they pretty much said that was just part of the "cruising experience". They also lied about the fact that there was any kind of mechanical problems,therefore they could blame all our delays on weather, etc. There were barges pushing the ship against the ports everywhere we went because they weren’t fixed. That is lack of proper maintenance. We missed our first port of call, St. Vincent, supposedly because of those “problems”. Nothing was done about this except an apology by the Captain. That just meant ANOTHER day at sea without stopping. The ship is listed as having a capacity of 1950 passengers. The captain announced that we had 2040 onboard for this cruise. For my part, that’s way over the capacity and it was very evident. We were unable to even see the entertainment in the Princess theatre due to the overcrowding. There was standing room only for all the major shows there. We were given some lame excuse that we could have gone at a different time which was also not true. The shows were booked everytime we tried, again, for overbooking. When you have straight days at sea and you can’t even get into see the entertainment, that leaves precious little to do, unless you gamble, which we don’t. We didn’t lay out in the sun or swim, either because it was too cold. We booked this cruise on this particular cruise line to see the ports of call. Not to stay on the ship for days at a time without leaving. The last port we were to stop for was Princess Cays. The staff on the ship told us what a paradise it was and how we would just love it. Within an hour of getting there, the Captain came over the intercom again and told us the seas were too rough and we wouldn’t be able to go to the island. Once again, we received a nice little apology from the Captain. I think after a huge amount of passengers complained, the Activities Director decided to offer some semblance of compensation by announcing the ship was going to give us all free rum punch for 1 hour and free ice cream for 1 hour. Well, if you don’t drink and you are diabetic as one in our party was, that’s pretty useless. Plus, where they were giving out the free drinks looked like they were handing out free $1,000 bills! There was no way to get close to the one bar where they were doing that if you had wanted to partake. It was a mad frenzy. So, with that, we had yet ANOTHER day at sea. We only had 4 ports of call out of an 11 day cruise! I didn’t spend thousands of dollars to sit on a ship for 7 days and miss out on everything I paid for. Also, the Horizon Grill needs some serious attention regarding the “flow” of the serving lines. That was total pandemonium. There is no reason for a large buffet area to be so chaotic. No one goes in the same direction and it makes for a jumbled mess in the serving lines. Also, there were 5 tables being reserved during peak dining times one morning for the bridge club to play cards! Passengers were standing around with plates of food, trying to find a place to sit and couldn’t because they had been given permission to play cards in the Horizon Court! It is my understanding from talking with travel agents and other cruise passengers that we should be offered some type of compensation. Princess offered us a credit of $100 on a future cruise as long as we book it by April of 2007. They offer that online with any cruise you can book! That was a slap in the face. That's not any kind of compensation. We have no desire to do that again. One experience like that was enough for all of us and I told them that when I wrote to them. We have sailed the Caribbean with Carnival three times in the past, in February, without encountering any of these types of issues. We were very excited to get to sail with Princess, but were sorely disappointed at the final outcome of the cruise. That would be our last cruise if Princess was the only one we had to pick from.

Read More
  • New

Jun 19, 2005

Alaska

Ten family members took this cruise to celebrate my brother's birthday. We ranged in age from 31 to 76. I had taken this same trip on the same ship several years ago. This time my daughter and I had a fabulous mini suite (it was huge!) Our steward Enrique was the best I've ever had. There was nothing he was unable to do. Sitting on our long balcony and viewing the gorgeous scenery allowed us to avoid the crowds on deck as we went through

Glacier Bay and College Fjord. We were able to easily entertain our whole group in our suite; there were seats for all ten of us. The five cabins we had ranged from the suite to an inside cabin, and all were excellent. The ship was in shipshape--everything was clean and polished and beautiful to behold. FOOD - This was the biggest disappointment. The food was definitely mediocre, both in the dinning room and the buffet. Although quite bland three years ago, it had deteriorated since then. Our night waiters were wonderful however, very attentive, pushing additional lobster tails and desserts on us. Which was amazing since Princess seemed to charge through the nose for soft drinks, ice cream not in the dining room and anything else they could think of. ENTERTAINMENT - THIS consisted of three song and dance shows and the usual (good) comedians, a ventriloquist, and an accomplished juggler. All were well above the average for most cruise ships. Some of us enjoyed the casino, others the fitness center, palates, yoga and computer classes. We had a family trivia team that was a daily threat. The naturalist, a woman who had lived for years in an Inuit village, was terrific and her four lectures pulled in huge crowds.   SHORE EXCURSIONS - Many were offered. All were excellent. Flight seeing was probably the most successful. We arranged most of our own excursions rather than go through Princess, saving lots of money. There were lots of guides in the ports competing for our dollars, so there was no need to make advance reservations. In Ketchikan some members of our group went snorkeling, others landed on a glacier and took a cruise on Misty Fjord, others visited the Discovery Museum--all very worthwhile. In Juneau most of us went up the Mt. Roberts Tramway for beautiful views and nice trails (and bears). In Skagway there was more flight seeing, a train ride to the summit of a mountain and biking. Rock climbing had been canceled because of an accident the previous day. All these activities were first rate. SCENERY - the beauty of the scenery left us breathless and the itinerary through the Inside Passage took full advantage of it. We got spectacular photos--it was difficult not too. One other thing: The service, excluding the Regency Dining Room and the cabins (although this varied greatly among the 5 cabins we had), was unsmiling and generally unfriendly. The people who ran the trivia contests--there was a different one every day--were authoritarian and unfriendly. The prizes for the trivia winners were things like luggage tags and passport holders, really chintzy. Princess seemed to be trying to save and make money in every way possible during the cruise. That have been said our family enjoyed our trip immensely. Alaska is so spectacular that Princess' minor drawbacks couldn't begin to dampen our spirits. Embarkation and disembarkation were very smoothly run. For those taking late flights Princess has a center in Anchorage where one can wait, rest, even sleep (on larger circular couches). There were restaurants and nice shops in the neighborhood and a lovely small park. Shuttles ran on the half hour to the airport. Those driving the bus to the center and the shuttle and the center personnel were exceeding pleasant and helpful. This was a very nice service.

Read More
  • New

Mar 19, 2005

Southern Caribbean

Never been cruising before we really didn’t know what to expect but what we had was a really nice and enjoyable holiday. We arrived in Miami after a long flight from England, we were met at the airport by Princess Cruise’s representatives and taken to our hotel in West Miami, and we were staying at the Hotel Intercontinental for 1 night before we boarded the ship. Once at the hotel we were basically left to fend for ourselves. The

hotel was on an extremely busy highway where you really did take your life in your hands crossing the road – it would have been nice for a representative from the cruise company to point out places to eat on that first night as we were all tired and hungry but being in the middle of a business area there were very little places to eat and the hotel was extremely expensive. We survived and were picked up the next morning and taken to Fort Lauderdale – if it wasn’t for us pointing out to the coach driver we would have been dropped off at the Caribbean Princess ship but a quick u-turn soon had us at the correct ship. Embarkation was extremely quick – and soon we were having our picture taken and were boarding. First impressions were that it was very grand – like being in the lobby of a posh hotel. We signed up for the soda cup and stamp - $27 for endless coke, diet coke, ginger ale and sprite seemed a bargain. We made our way to our cabin where we were quite surprised at the size of it - there seemed ample room for us and our daughter – our other daughter was sharing a cabin with her grandparents as when we booked there were no quad rooms left. In our cabin was the kid’s club brochure, so we decided to go and register them. Our 10 year old was quite happy about being in the 8-12 year group although our other daughter who is 12 and would be 13 a few weeks after finishing the holiday did not want to be in that group and no amount of trying to persuade the kid club organiser that she would rather be in the 13-17 group – they just wouldn’t let her join she had to stick with the 8-12 group needless to say she didn’t and wouldn’t join in. Our youngest daughter had a great time, T-shirt painting, games, casino night just to name a few activities she really had a good time and the staff were really nice and friendly. Soon we were leaving Fort Lauderdale and everyone was on deck and we had a good send off from everyone land side, trumpet blowing and flag waving, although no sail away party on ship. We had picked 1st sitting and soon we were being introduced to Valentine our waiter. 1st impression of the food was ok – we felt it got better as the cruise went on. After our meal we went and watched a film in the Vista Lounge – as we were still jet lagged we had an early night. Next morning we woke up to lovely blue sky and we had dropped anchor at Princess Cays. After breakfast in Horizon Court we got ready to be taken by tender to the island. The crossing was extremely quick and soon the loungers soon filled up. Plenty of waiters and waitresses to bring you ice cold drinks as and when needed. There seemed to be a party atmosphere on the beach aided by the calypso singer at the bar. The beach itself was clean and there always seemed to be plenty of seating and shade available. The BBQ lunch was poor in quality and variety. The queue to get back on the tender was not too long even though it was only an hour before we set sail. There was however a delay before we were able to set sail due to a passenger taken ill. We were kept regularly informed by the captain during this delay of our lightly departure time as this could affect our arrival at our next port. The next day we were at sea and spent the day relaxing by the pool. Overall we had three sea days and by the end of the cruise we did find that the pool side band was somewhat repetitive. Upon our arrival at St Thomas we had to clear U.S. Immigration by queuing for 45 minutes having our passports checked and being given a disembarkation clearance card, which was never collected and we cannot understand the point of that whole exercise. Once off the ship we were met by Godfrey tours which we pre-booked ourselves before we left England. For $20 a head we had a full day combining shopping, a full tour of the island and time spent on a beach before being taken back to the ship with minutes to spare much to the disgust of several hyped up American passengers who were shouting at Godfrey as he drove in a chilled out fashion to the ship! This tour was well worth the $20 and is highly recommended (http://www.godfreytoursvi.com/). Our next stop was Martinique we only docked at 1p.m and due to our leaving time of 5.30, unless you’re on an organised tour we recommend you stay on the boat. We walked into town and we found it dirty and smelly. Due to it being a French island it was difficult to talk to people in shops and they would only accept Euros. After 40 minutes we were back on board and spent the rest of the afternoon by the pool. Next was St Lucia we were docked and off the boat by 9 am. In the port terminal we opted for a speed boat tour that also included a taxi journey to the island’s active volcano. The speed boat journey was great fun and we saw several turtles and flying fish and the tour was concluded by a 2hour stop at Marigot Bay where the recent Dr Doolittle film was made. This tour cost $50 per head and $25 for children and although it seemed dear it was great fun! Also the shops and bar in the port terminal was excellent value and the rum punch was very memorable. The next day we were at Grenada were we went on the official Beach Party on the Rhum Runner 2. This was a 45 minute cruise along the coast, 2 hours on a beach and then the return trip with unlimited rum punch. However, the beach were they took us was accessible by water taxi for only $5 per head and seeing that we had spent over $100 for the 3 of us, we felt this was not good value for money. In the afternoon we negotiated with a local taxi driver for a 2 hour tour round the island, this was both enjoyable and informative as our driver passed on lots of local history particularly surrounding the U.S. invasion in the eighties. Our final stop was St Vincent; we walked round the town for 20 minutes before we headed back towards the port as we found the town to be busy, dirty and intimidating. We once again negotiated with a local taxi driver to take us on a tour of the island visiting Botanical Gardens and Port Charlotte were the recent film Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed. This was followed by 2 days at sea before arriving back at Fort Lauderdale. During these sea days we spent most of our time by the pool and although there were many activities during these days we felt that most of these were targeted towards the U.S. passengers, thus making us feel excluded. On a whole the ship never felt overcrowded although it was full to capacity. There was always space around the pool and plenty of waiters and waitresses. The ships staff on a whole were relatively friendly although the staff in the photography shop could do with cheering up a bit. On the entertainment side again it was more U.S. focused. The shows we saw involving the Princess dancers and guest vocalists; The Piano Man, C’est Magnifique and Tribute were aimed more to an older audience. We also saw Darren Lynton a vocalist from the UK who we found to be very good singing songs from Broadway and a number of well known artists. Seeing as the cruise director Gavin was from England we were disappointed that the entertainment was so 1-dimensional, particularly as over 1/3 of the passengers were not from the United States. Gavin’s ‘Morning Show and Guests’ on Channel 21 was full of humour and very entertaining and we wish we had seen more of him on stage. On a whole the food was good and very plentiful. The Horizon Court was where the buffet was, each day we had breakfast and lunch there. Lunchtimes the theme changed daily and the quality was good. We had our evening meal at 6 pm in the Regency Dining Room; staff could not do enough to accommodate our requests especially our fussy eating daughter and father in law. The Verdi’s Pizzeria was pretty average. There seemed to be no bar on board that was a natural meeting point were people could sit and chat and have a drink in a quiet environment. The checking in arrangements back at Miami airport was appalling. We were dropped at the wrong location, the checking queue was the biggest I’ve ever seen and once finally at check in we were allocated seats all over the plane which meant our 10 year old daughter was seated 10 rows away from her nearest family member for an overnight flight back to London. Overall we really enjoyed the holiday and are actively looking for our next cruise.

Read More
  • New

Mar 9, 2005

Southern Caribbean

Reg and Janice Buck This was our first cruise with Princess Cruise line and we had only heard very good things about them. We had taken a cruise to Alaska with Celebrity Cruise line 2 years ago and it was absolutely amazing. We assumed that this cruise would be similar, but we were very wrong. There was absolutely no comparison. The ship is 10 years old, and for the most part, well maintained. We were unable to book a balcony cabin

for this trip, but had a stateroom with a large window. There was no paint left on the frame, and it actually looked like the wood was rotting away. The carpets in the staterooms appeared very well worn and actually dirty. We had twin beds pushed together as a queen size, but every morning, there was at least an 8 inch gap between them. They would not stay together. The meals were good in the Horizon Buffet where we ended up eating most of the time after an unfortunate experience in the dining room, but not sensational. Our room steward was excellent as was one of the waiters in the theater, but that is where the excellence ended. Most of the other staff seemed very disgruntled all of the time. You would hear them complaining in the hallways etc and there just didn't seem to be enough staff around for the number of passengers. For example, when there would be approximately 400 people on the pool deck, there was 1 bartender. The pizza parlour was very good as well. Another problem was that there were almost 2000 passengers aboard, but there were 2 theaters each holding about 600 people. If you didn't stand in line for approximately 45 - 60 minutes prior to the show, you wouldn't get a seat. Grant it, they did run some of the shows three times, but even so, not everyone would be able to see it. Saying that, the shows we did see were wonderful - good variety and great talent. We did not enjoy the Personal Choice Dining and would definitely choose Traditional next time. When you arrived at the dining room, they would ask if you had a reservation, and if not, it seemed to be a great deal of effort for them to find you a table. One evening, we were shown to a table in the dining room, and after we had finished our appetizer and soup and were waiting on our main course, the person who was at the door, assigning tables, approached us and demanded (in a very loud voice) to know if we had seated ourselves or if someone had seated us. We replied that one of the waiters had seated us and she then proceeded to yell and ask who it had been. We stated we did not remember, after which she demanded we move to another table as we were at a table that another couple had reserved. We asked that we be allowed to finish our meal, but she continued yelling and waving over other waiters to clear our table and move us elsewhere. The head waiter then came over and advised us that another table would be just as nice! No one seemed to care that they were totally disturbing our meal. After being told that the other couple would not sit at another table and this was their table!!, we moved, but we should have left. It was then a steady stream of people coming to us apologizing for the whole thing, right up to the Maitre 'D who stated that this should never have happened and requesting that we please accept what they offered us. Next thing we knew, the chef was there with a bottle of champagne and offering to make us Cherries Jubilee for dessert. We don't even like champagne! This was just the finishing touch of the holiday we had waited almost 2 years for. We made sure we expressed our dissatisfaction on their survey where they state that "Good is not good enough, only excellence is acceptable". If in fact this is their motto, they need to train their staff in customer service, because we found it deplorable. We will never take another cruise with Princess lines and will tell everyone who asks, why.

Read More
  • New

Jan 28, 2005

Southern Caribbean

Prior to my trip on the 1/28/05 Sun Princess, I watched all over the net like a hawk for any information I could find on the Sun. It was going to be our first Princess after being on 10 prior cruises with other lines (Carnival, RCCL, HAL, Celebrity and Cunard). We are in our mid-30's. I promised myself that I would post a quick review for others that were

anticipating their Sun cruise, so here it is! The Sun was great! We had a fantastic cruise. Here is a quick rundown of the different areas onboard: The Ship- Very clean, and it was beautiful (especially for being 10 years old!). Her colors are light, with the atrium being very elegant in white marble, with palm trees all around. The color theme is light pastels, and I noted that the carpeting was in great condition. The ship is well cared for, and I felt it was kept in great maintenance. I have been on a 3 year old ship with another line that showed MUCH more wear and tear than the Sun. Overall, it was a great ship to be on, as it is just the right size to be big enough to offer options and small enough to learn your way around quickly and get from one place to another. Sewage smells? Yes, there are weird occasional whiff's in particular hallways, and only occasionally. My understanding from several others is that it has to do with the placement of the sewer venting pipes, and when the wind blows just right it "backdrafts" into certain areas. Not a big deal at all. Our cabin, A635, balcony, on the Aloha Deck, aft, was great. Yes, it was a little smaller than those on other ships I have been on, but it was totally adequate. The only real difference I saw was that there was not a little mini-sofa in the room. I personally never use them anyway, so I did not care. Those mini-sofas usually just hold on to my snorkel gear for me! :) The bathroom was fine, and the shower was just fine in size, too, similar to every other ship I have been on. I heard a ton of mentions of poor a/c on the ship on these boards prior to our cruise, especially about inside their cabins. Not so on our cruise. In fact, we had a hard time keeping it warm enough at times in our cabin due to the icy a/c. Public areas seemed fine, too. I did remember it being kind of stuffy in the vista lounge one night, but it was also beyond standing room only for that particular show. That could happen in any land based hotel, too. Many people commented on how unstable they thought the ship was. I did not think it was the ship, but rather the rougher seas throughout our entire trip. I did not think it was bad at all, but a few we overheard did. I have been on much, much worse. I have also read that on other ships that were out at the same time frame, their cruises were a bit rocky like ours, too. I think it was the weather, truly. I guess it has been that way in the Caribbean for a few weeks. Another thing... ships move! Yep, I know it is a shocker for some, but it happens! :) (it always amazes me to hear people complaining about the ship moving!) I personally like being "rocked" to sleep. Photography- I was happy that they did not seem to be hawking you constantly for pictures. At the ports they were usually there, but easy to avoid. I thought it was much less obtrusive than on other cruises. The Staff- Were all great, friendly, courteous, and overall great service for us. The captain had a real sense of humor, which I appreciated. On one sea day he announced that the nearest land was only 2 miles away... unfortunately it was 2 miles beneath us, and he felt it best not to offer any excursions to visit it! :) Food- The food and service in the dining room was awesome for us. We had late seating, traditional. The only real complaints that I ever heard about dinners had to do with the Personal Choice dining room (long waits at peak times, carrying those tacky light up coasters, sitting with others that they do not want to and never getting to know their tablemates, etc). I believe that PC is not for everyone, and that is where that comes from. We love traditional late seating, and will always stick with that. I thought that the soufflés at dessert were the best I have ever had. Our second night out we had a steak that was one of the best steaks I have ever eaten, hands down. The biggest praise is about the Lobster Tails... I almost did not order them as usually they tend to be tough, or over cooked or flavorless. NOT on this cruise, those were the BEST lobster tails I have EVER eaten! I heard everyone we talked with at our table and beyond agree with us on that. Horizon court for breakfast and lunch were ok. I never had more than 7 or 8 people in front of me in line, but somehow I just do not like the way it is laid out. The donuts with custard that appear periodically on some mornings were great :)... and they had the "usual" breakfast foods (oatmeal, great fruit- fresh and ripe, eggs, sausage, bacon, etc) and lunch was a different theme everyday. Adequate, decent food. Not the best layout, and I have seen much larger selections on other ships, but it works ok. Don't miss the ice cream every day from 3:30-4:30pm in the Horizon Court. I tried not to forget every day, as it was good. Two different kinds of ice cream every day, along with good topping choices. They also put out fresh cookies about this time. Pizzeria was good. It is not fast, but it is good. Plan 30-45 minutes for your meal there. I mention this, as each pizza is hand made to order, and it is not just a walk up and grab kind of place as I have experienced on other ships. We went to the alternative rest- the Sterling Steakhouse one evening with our cruise critic friends. It was good. $15 service charge per person. I think they did the best they could with what they had to work with (being the ship was never built to have this extra rest.). They set off a section of the Horizon court in the bow for it. It was nicer than I thought it would be, quiet. The table clothes were awful, a kind of weird cowboy pattern that did NOT go with anything (like for one thing the tropical carpeting!), but we just laughed it off. :) We had a great dinner with our friends. The filet's were good all around the table but one person got the porterhouse and it was full of gristle and fat. Overall, it was good, but I think I still prefer the main dining room for dinner on this ship. Other alternative rest. on other lines leaves this one in the dust. The drinks on the ship were at a very good price point. Martinis were $4.95, whatever kind you choose. (I am used to seeing $6.95-$7.95 on other lines) Absolut and soda, etc was $4. I thought those prices were very reasonable. Entertainment- Well, we really did not make it to any production shows, so I cannot comment on them. We did go to see the comedian one night who was FANTASTIC! We also went to see the ventriloquist, who was surprisingly entertaining and was not the "hoaky" experience I expected, but very funny instead. As far as music, the pool music was good, but there was one particular piano guy in the atrium that was soooo bad! I think overall they could use a little improvement on their musical talents that they have right now across the ship. Ports- Were great! We had some rearranging of ports due to a little mechanical issue (holding tank leak) that we experienced in our first port, Antigua, and did not leave there until around 12Midnight. I personally think that the captain handled it great. We were supposed to go to Barbados for our second port, but had to go to St. Maarten to meet a dive team that were to take care of the issue with the holding tank. They replaced our later St. Maarten call with Tortola, which was great. I think they handled the whole situation very well, and it was nice that they replaced the port with something cool instead of the old stand-by of San Juan or Nassau. They kept us well informed the entire time. Princess Cays was awesome! What a perfect end to a fantastic cruise! It is an ideal setting... picture perfect, great facilities. Water is a bit chillier than the Caribbean, but once you are in it is refreshing. Snorkeling is ok, not great, but fun to take a whirl around and look at the fish and coral. We rented a beach cabana, which was a great thing, especially for $8 for the day! We used it as a "home port" for our little group of cruise critic friends. I personally liked that the cabanas are on the one side of the docks and the music and festivities are on the other. It was away from the music, which was a good thing... the guy singing sounded like Bob Dillon trying to sing reggae... yikes! We had a wonderful lunch that they provide on the island, with BBQ chicken, burgers, etc... one note, though... they only served it until 1:30p, and some of our friends missed lunch! We waited until the very last tender to go to the ship. It really made our whole cruise critic group laugh to watch a HUGE line of people stand forever starting about an hour and half before the last tender to the ship. I do not understand why people were "herding" in line to rush back to the ship! Our cruise critic group all merely relaxed in the sun under a palm tree and waited for the lines to go away :) Overall- A wonderful cruise. Partly due to the wonderful new friends we made from cruise critic! I would do this ship and itinerary again. I do love some of the other ships we have been on a little more because of some of the extra things they offer due to the fact that they are newer... but I would not hesitate to return on the Sun. In fact we are on the Sun's younger sister, the Dawn on 3/10/05 and I am really looking forward to it. I like this size ship personally. Anything in the 70-90 gross ton range just seems to have the right amount of things to offer you and not too many people. Please feel free to ask me any questions you may have!

Read More
  • New

Jan 28, 2005

Eastern Caribbean

My husband and I just returned from the Sun and I am happy to say she is in terrific condition. She is a grand old ship, clean and well maintained. I would sail her again in a heartbeat. Captain William Kent was great. He kept us informed, even when he had to share some bad news, such as missing Barbados due to mechanical problems. The Cruise Director and

his staff were also top notch. The room steward was also good. I would book her again tomorrow without batting an eye. She also is running a a marvelous itinerary you are sure to enjoy.

Read More
  • New

Jan 28, 2005

South Caribbean

I have to admit I had a great time, contrary to previous reviews. I did not know the Norwalk virus hit the week before we sailed. The ship was clean, the crew went out of their way to be nice. The buffet was decent and the dining room food and presentation was excellent. I find it hard to believe I was on the same ship as the previous reviews. My room was

cleaned 3 times daily. Never tried room service. Pizza restaurant was quite good and Emilio was gracious and very interesting to talk with. Chris, Augusto and Homer took very good care of us in the main dining room. Due to some mechanical problems, we were diverted from Barbados to Tortola, where we took in scuba diving and snorkeling. My husband took his 1st certification with New Wave (Padi) and was treated extremely well. We did Island tours of St. Maarten/Marten and St. Johns in St. Thomas. St. Johns was breathtaking. We shopped in Antigua, and took the Kon Tiki boat ride in St. Thomas. It was a blast. I would definitely recommend the Sun Cruise again. We had a new Captain aboard which might account for the good treatment we had.

Read More
  • New

Jan 18, 2005

Southern Caribbean

I have several autoimmune diseases and cruising is my means of relaxation. Imagine my chagrin when I learned someone had brought Norvo virus aboard! Although I stayed away from crowds, I succumbed to virus along with my husband and we were quarintined until Saturday 1/15. We only saw one port. St. Thomas. We had tickets for train in St. Kitts, the whole reason

for this cruise, but could not go. This was a present for my husband for Christmas. We were limited to room service. Unbeknownst to us 85 cabins were quarantined and our food was constantly cold and without proper utensils. We learned how to eat jello with our fingers! To date, the cruise line has not offered us anything for our loss. I would not recommend this cruise line to anyone! Also, when we finally left our cabin and asked someone in horizon cafe to clean a table for us, they ignored our request. They also offer no assistance to handicapped individuals in buffet line.

Read More
  • New

Jan 17, 2005

Southern Caribbean

I have always been in excellent health and not susceptible to colds or viruses. I was among many victimized by the virus aboard during Jan.8-17th Sun cruise. I missed entirely Barbados and Antigua, which my wife and I most wanted to visit again. This was my 2nd cruise on the Sun; first since 1999 and one could not be unaware of the deterioration

in both accommodations and service. Princess has made no effort to compensate myself and others I know of for this terrible cruise. As an experienced sailor and Princess cruiser, this was without a doubt the worse experience yet.

Read More
  • New

Jan 8, 2005

10 Eastern Caribbean

I'm 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 our ice 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. I'm 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 purser 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. I'm very nervous to go back on Princess. I just like Princess because I get free Internet. I'm going to try Celebrity Cruise lines to see how they are. I heard very good things about them. I'm 25 years old and I'm 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

Read More
  • New

Dec 12, 2004

Southern Caribbean

This was our 19th cruise and our 6th on Princess, sailing to celebrate our wedding anniversary. We had first cruised Sun Princess in 1997. Flying into Ft Lauderdale we arrived at 11:20am, picked up our luggage and affixed the Princess luggage tags, and took a taxi to the Terminal 4 for $15 including tip. They were passing out Bahamas immigration forms and health

questionnaires to people in line. The line moved quickly and the Platinum Check-in desk would be more effective if people had filled out their forms online or ahead of time instead of at the counter. We were through security and onboard before 1pm. We were assigned cabin C623, a BD balcony cabin on Caribe deck, starboard side, near the aft elevator. The Sun class takes a standard oceanview cabin and carves a balcony out of it, reducing the remaining space in the cabin. I still think Princess has some of the smallest cabins of any major cruise line. The closet was about half of what we normally expect, and drawer space was at a premium. You could not open he cabin door and the closet, or the closet and the bathroom door at the same time. The twin beds made up as a queen are hard and the two mattresses separate. The balcony is adequate with two light plastic chairs and a round table. The refrigerator holds two bottles of champagne and an ice bucket. We brought 5 bottle of champagne aboard in our carry-on’s with no problems. There is also an occasional chair, a dressing table with side drawers and a stool. We checked the dining room arrangements at 2nd seating traditional dining and found that we had been seated at a table for 4 in the Regency Dining Room when we had requested table for 2 eight months ago. We were told to return at 3pm to see the Maitre’ De after lunch in the Horizon Court buffet. We waited 1 hr and 15 minutes to see him, and they assigned us a reserved table for 2 in the anytime dining Marquis Dining Room. In conversation with him days later we found that while he usually has seating problems worked out within the first two days, it took him 5 days to resolve all the issues this cruise. He was most gracious, and we ultimately loved the table we were assigned and the staff. Boat Drill was held in the Vista Lounge for our area, and there was no on deck drill. After enjoying the Wheelhouse Bar for cocktails and predinner dancing to a 4 member group called Legends, we went to dinner at 8:15pm. As it is anytime dining in the Marquis Dining Room, there was a line at the door, but after a few moments we just walked past them to our reserved table. We were assigned table 36, a real table for two in a great location. Some tables for 2 are just longer tables with glass dividers placed on the table between pairs of guests, but ours was a real table for two. Our waiter, Antonio, from Mexico City, was also the wine steward, and Samphan from Thailand was our assistant waiter, who always made sure we had seconds or a second entrée if desired. Antonio is in training to become a head waiter, and also participates in wine tasting events and wine displays. I appreciated his professionalism. Prime Rib and fish were our entrees for the first night. My wife loves fish and was very pleased that over the week she was able to enjoy tilapia, king clip, turbot, swordfish, zander, seafood turnover, lobster thermador, and lobster tails, just to name a few. And we remembered that Caesar salad and shrimp cocktail are available on request any night. After more dancing in the Wheelhouse Bar, we turned in after o ur first busy day. The alternative dining was is Sterling Steakhouse. It has a NY style steakhouse menu but the atmosphere is very lacking for $15 per person cover charge. The steakhouse simply ropes off a section of the Horizon Court, puts table cloths and candles on the table and dims the lights. The other half of Horizon Court buffet is still open for business. There is no comparison to a Sabatini's, or Pinnacle Grill, etc. We chose not to eat there for the lack of atmosphere and the fine dining and service available at our table for two. A word on evening entertainment. There are three production shows in 10 days, an introductory show, a Paris-style Review, and a Broadway Review which was superb. There was also a singer and a comedian, movies in the Princess Theatre and on TV, events like a hoe down and an Island night and buffet on the Riviera Deck, dancing in the Wheelhouse Bar and in the Disco…which did do slow dancing for an hour most nights at 9:30pm On Day 2 we arrived in Nassau for a short visit, since Princess ships have not been going to Princess Cay since the August hurricanes. Unfortunately we have only been able to visit Princess Cay once in all the past Princess Cays, usually due to weather and tendering problems. The Nassau stay was only scheduled from 7:30am to noon. After a 9:30 breakfast of eggs to order in the Horizon Court buffet, we headed ashore. Having been there often we just walked a bit, but did find a Senor Frog’s, about a block past the straw market overlooking the waterfront/harbor. Unfortunately, while the ship opened at 11, the bar and restaurant doesn’t open until 11:30, when we had to be back on the ship. After a pizza in Verdi’s Italian Trattoria onboard the ship, we had the rest of the day like an at sea day to relax and enjoy the sun. There was a wine tasting of 5 wines for $7.50 per person and if you purchased any bottle of wine on the wine list at the end of the tasting, you received a $5 credit. They were also advertising another event later in the cruise for $25 per person which would taste Opus One and other ultra premium wines. Day Three was a sea day and the first of two formal nights. There are no semi-formal nights any longer. On a 10 day cruise we had 8 resort casual nights and 2 formal nights. This was the day I began to appreciate the Captain’s Circle Platinum benefit of free internet service. They charges show each time you use the system in the internet café, but they are credited back before the last day for Platinum and Elite members. I ultimately use over $133 of internet time at no charge. We enjoyed eggs benedict in the dining room for breakfast and found that we could get them on request there every day. Lunch in the Horizon Court was a Mexican buffet. They had set up a table to take flower orders in the atrium, and I was able to order a white rose wrist corsage for my wife. Lines for formal portraits were short, with little or no waiting. There was a Captain’s reception in progress on three levels of the atrium, but no receiving line, and a few drink servers and food servers circulating. Dinner was lobster thermidor, one of my favorites, and prime rib. Again we enjoyed the Wheelhouse Bar for dancing. The Legends group splits the evening with another 3 person group whom we also enjoyed. Frankly, we had more opportunity to dance to 50’s to 90’s music than on any ship in years. We loved it. Day Four we arrived in St Thomas a bit later than planned due to headwinds, and didn’t arrive until 7:45am and were docked in Crown Bay, a new pier with no shops three miles from downtown, in the opposite direction from the West Indian Company Dock at Havensight. There were 6 ships in port and we and the Zyndaam were banished Crown Bay. We had scheduled a private excursion and wanted to get an early start, so we had continental breakfast in the cabin. There is no full breakfast available from room service. The passengers have to go through an immigration check and the lines were enormous by 8am. If you have an early excursion you must be in line early. They did let passengers off as soon as they individually had been cleared, however. We took a taxi to Red Hook for $8 each where we were met by Capt Sharon Allen of the Winifred at 9:40. Those interested can see her site at http://www.sailwinifred.com/ We had a 5 hour day sail on a sailboat with only 6 guests, including lunch, champagne for our anniversary…as the excursion was my wife’s anniversary present to me…, snorkeling with a guide off Caneel Bay where I say large turtles close enough o touch, coral, large barracuda, a moray spotted eel, and many sting rays, open bar, and a generally great day. The weather was beautiful. We took a taxi back to Crown Bay but had him stop about two blocks from the pier where I could purchase Virgin Islands Cruzan Rum in a grocery store. Back onboard after a nap, dinner was Continental, with pate’, escargot, onion soup, pepper steak, raspberry crème Brule and a great wine. There was a country hoe down on the Riviera Deck after dinner, then dancing available there. A great day. Day Five was St Maarten/Martin, where we had a nice long port visit from 6am – 6pm. After breakfast in the Horizon Court and a bloody Mary special ($3) we noticed it was showering. We waited a few minutes for it to let up and then walked down the pier to the car rental where we rented a new Toyota with a/c for $45 plus tax. We drove to Cupacoy Beach, beyond the airport and Simpson Bay, nearly to the French side to a beach we have enjoyed in the past. Clothing is optional but there were people there dressed normally also. Snorkeling was quite good, with many fish and squid visible. Chairs and umbrellas are available for $5 each, the there is a refreshment stand. The umbrella came in handy when a slight shower passed. For lunch we drove into Marigot, and stopped at a grocery store on the north side of town, where we purchased a bottle of Bordeaux for $3.30, a baguette for 92 cents, and cheeses for about $5.50 and drove to around the island past Grand Case, Orient Beach, and stopped at Dawn Beach for a picnic. We drove back to Phillipsburg, parked a few blocks off the shopping area, and walked in to do our shopping. Front Street has been turned into a pedestrian walk and all traffic now uses Back Street. In addition, they have developed a boardwalk that is very pleasant. We shopped at Diamonds International where we found a ruby and diamond bracelet for my wife for her anniversary, and stopped at Gulamars for our liquor purchases. We’ve shopped there before and can’t find anyone in the Caribbean who beats their prices. After returning the car and being shuttled to the pier, we enjoyed dinner , including jambalaya. Day Six, our anniversary, was a visit to St Kitts. We arrived in Basseterre at 7am, but we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast in the dining room. We walked the streets and Independence Park, but the weather was very hot and humid and there was little to see except the shops, the churches, the museum, etc. We did find a nice place, Jimmy’s, on the second floor balcony overlooking the waterfront, museum, and Circus…a mini replica of Trafalgar, were Caribe and rum punch refreshed us. Having been to the beaches here on a previous cruise we omitted that this time, and returned to the ship. We were pleased to find our door had been decorated with Happy Anniversary balloons. My wife dressed in a dress we had purchased in Martinique for our anniversary dinner, and champagne and dancing. They had an island buffet set up on the Riviera deck at 10:30pm but ran out of the meat entrée by 11pm. The rest was fruit and desserts. Tropical leis were distributed and Legends played dance music. Day Seven we arrived in Barbados at 7am. Also in port were our sister ship Dawn Princess, the Royal Clipper which we sailed on from here in 2001, and the Sunbird. After continental breakfast on our balcony we went to the terminal to shop. We have been to Barbados several times, and this time opted for a ship’s excursion on the notorious Jolly Roger cruise, and it was notorious. The ship used to berth in the shipping harbor but due to security it is now at a nearby yacht harbor and we taxied there. Once underway, there was unlimited rum punch and soft drinks, and you could purchase three bar drinks for $5. Souvenir cups and pirate bandanas were also for sale. We sailed along the west and south coast for a bit over an hour and then anchored off a beach just to the east of The Boatyard, and west of the new Hilton. They tendered those who wished in to the beach for an hour, while others stayed aboard to swing on a rope into the water, walk the plank, or just enjoy the free rum punch. By the time we returned from the beach, the party was in full swing, including a mooning and one topless rope swinger! On the way back there was a conga line, dancing and a generally great time. On return to the ship there were having a sangria special with strawberries at the pool bar, and then I needed a nap!! Dinner was lamb, surf & turf (shrimp) or giant prawns. After some internet, checking on photos, dancing, and a late night pizza at Verdi’s, we were forced to regretfully call it a day. Day Eight we arrived in St. John’s, Antigua, at 9am on Sunday. Many shops were closed. Alongside us was P&O Oceana, another sister-ship to Sun with a shipload of British passengers. I noticed the balcony furniture was more elaborate than on Sun. We shopped a bit, then returned for a lunch of Valencia Paella. We then hired a taxi for four hours for $50 to take us to Long Bay for snorkeling and sunning and a narrated tour of the island on the way. Long Bay was perfect for snorkeling on the reef in relatively shallow water where there were whole schools of fish. It has a nice bar and restaurant steps away, with restrooms. Lounge chairs were $5. A short shower produced a beautiful double rainbow and we had a great time. Rum punch was $3.75, beer $3, and French fries $2. We returned to the ship about 5:20pm and it sailed at 6pm in the sunset. After cocktails and dancing we enjoyed shrimp cocktails and rack of lamb, jumbo prawns, and bruschetta specially prepared for us by a headwaiter who had offered the night before. Very tired, we turned in by 11:30, viewing only a short portion of the Buddy Bane music/comedy show. Day Nine was a sea day and the second formal night, and Captain’s Circle reception, and champagne waterfall. I ordered another, this time, red rose corsage. We had breakfast in the dining room again, eggs benedict of course, and lox and bagels. On the internet I found that while we were sunning, at home it was 18 degrees F, the coldest Dec 20 since 1942 and two inches of snow. THAT is why we were in the Caribbean! After a day of sunning, reading and relaxing, we dressed for formal portraits, the reception and dinner at 8pm of lobster tails and beef Wellington. We enjoyed the excellent Curtain Up show at 10:15 and then went to the atrium to watch the Maitre De put glass number 654 on the stack and begin pouring champagne over it. My wife had her photo taken with him while pouring. There were streamers and dancing and a wonderful evening. Day Ten, our last day at sea, we enjoyed breakfast in the Horizon Court and watched the Queen Mary 2 pass 4000 yards off our port bow. It was a cool 71 and windy, with a little motion as we passed through the Bahamas behind a storm that was now 1,000 miles away. Italian lunch in Horizon included cioppino, fried calamari, and steamed shrimp. The inevitable surveys, baggage tags for debarkation, and debarkation instructions awaited us in the cabin. They requested one bag out before dinner and the other after dinner to spread the workload for the crew. Those with flights scheduled before 11:30am on arrival could obtain red tags to be the first off. We had a noon flight and with a Wednesday arrival, they estimated we would be off by 9:30. On Wednesday, Dec 22, we arrived back in Port Everglades before 7am. Breakfast in the dining room was available 6:30-8:30, and in the Horizon Court form 6-9am. No room service is available. Captain’s Circle Platinum and Elite members have the Vista lounge reserved for them after 7am to await debarkation, and coffee, tea, and pastry was available. At 8:15, on schedule, they started calling debarkation with the red tags. At 9am they called our color, Caribe Deck aft, which was about 2/3 of the way through the list. We were in the terminal by 9:15, and in a taxi by 9:45, and checking in at the airport curbside by 10am. Lines were short at security and we were at the gate by 10:15am. In summary, another great anniversary cruise, this time on Princess again. A final comment. We did notice that the average age on a 10 day cruise is definitely older, with a number of couples celebrating 50 or more year anniversaries. There were very few children. And formal night was more universally observed in dress than on a number of our past cruises, much to our delight.

Read More
  • New

Nov 2, 2004

Eastern Caribbean

The Princess Claim: A couple of weeks before going on the Sun Princess, Princess Cruise Line made an unexpected promise in an advertisement in the London Daily Telegraph - October 2004. The travel writer giving his experience of a Princess cruise claimed that regardless how many times someone had cruised with another line, they would find that a Princess

cruise the best they’d ever experienced. That was an interesting claim as we had been on seven previous cruises. One with Royal Caribbean, two with Celebrity, a two-week back to back with Costa and three cruise and stay with Thomson (UK). None of these had been a disappointment. Taking up the challenge of a comparison I split the cruise into the various aspects: London hotel to hotel in Miami: The hotel and flight was booked through Princess as was the hotel in Florida. This was the first time we’d booked an UK hotel through the cruise line, and as an add-on extra, Renaissance was a good value purchase. The airline was Virgin with a direct flight from Heathrow to Miami in economy. The Princess representative was great, the check-in procedure dreadful, taking 1 hour and forty minutes. The Immigration at Miami took 1 hour and ten minutes. The collection at the airport and transfer to The Inter-Continental Miami West was good and the Princess representative at the hotel helpful. Collection from the Miami hotel to the luggage arriving in the cabin. The benchmark on this is Thomson who got us onboard and our luggage into the cabin in twenty minutes. The transport to the Sun in half an hour and this was good. The cabin: The balcony cabin on Caribe was portside aft (on the left at the back) just behind the escalators. The cabin was adequate but not the very best we’d experienced. The balcony was typically small. The travel agent said it didn’t matter where the cabin was located because the front was for entertainment and the back for food, which is generally correct for cruise ships. However, the access to the food was from midships, so we had to walk along a long corridor to forward lifts to get to the food! This was similar to the sister line ship Costa Romantica and can be considered a disadvantage as it can involve crowds waiting for the lifts. The general facilities of the ship: Having watched a Princess video a few times we were generally aware of the type of ship and what it had to offer. We had expected ‘American style glitz’ rather than ‘European subdued’ and we were not disappointed. We have been on smaller, same size and larger ships and each has its advantages. Bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better, just more facilities – if you want them. We liked the larger Celebrity Infinity but we weren’t displeased with Sun Princess as it was very similar to Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Seas – which we also liked. The Sun didn’t seem that much different to the Costa Romantica – same owners as the Sun Princess, much the same size and age. Food and service: The comparison here has many challenges. The dining room on the Vision of the Sea was fabulous and the waiters were perfect people; the European menu on Infinity was excellent; the Italian food and dining room staff on Costa Romantica…Mama Mia! Fantastico! On the Sun Princess we choose set evening dining as we’d found that the sit anywhere with anybody on our most recent Thomson cruise meant that for the first time we’d not met a very pleasant couple or two at the table to share some ship and shore friendships. The Sun Princess set time restaurant proved to be a disaster and we eventually moved to the anytime restaurant. As a refuge we ate one evening at Verdi’s pasta and piazza restaurant and we were pleased. The Horizon buffet restaurant for breakfast and lunch was excellent. Entertainment: An essential aspect of cruising. The ability to chose a lounge, dance area or theatre after a meal makes for the sense of luxury…and beats hotels hands down. However, the co-ordination of the meals and shows were poor and we didn’t get to see many of the shows and this disappointed us. We were not impressed with the overall standard of the entertainment. It was the poorest we’ve experienced. Port of call and trips: For us the area for cruising is the Mediterranean with its historic and interesting calls– what can beat Florence, Rome, Venice, Dubrovnik and Barcelona? It also has good beaches, places to swim and water-sports. But that is in the summer and we were going in November! Hello Caribbean! Wherever you are, a tropical beach is golden sand, blue sea, clear water, great views and palm trees…(see also Hawaii). The Caribbean offers Islands with a little local cultural flavouring of whatever. We were fleeing the grey, damp, chilly UK of November for sun and warmth and the Sun Princess cruise provided it. We had researched the various ports on the internet and had some idea of what to expect – but it never is, is it? Having been to Jamaicia, Aruba and Williamstadt previously, we had a vision of what the islands might be. But being surprised, rather than disappointed is always the best. Top visit for us was St John’s USVI. For the first time on a cruise we didn’t take a cruise line organised tour. The local taxi services on the Islands are so well organised that we used them, saved money and had more time ashore. Bargaining helps! Dis-embarkation: We had chosen to stay on in Florida for a week and Princess had kindly agreed without additional charge to schedule our flight to the UK for a week after disembarking. We had booked a hire car and only needed to get off the ship and take a taxi to the airport. The disembarkation was well organised and we were off the ship earlier than we’d expected. Anything else: The staff was, as on all the other ships, excellent and very helpful. The staff at the Patisserie bar in the atrium was very friendly. The pool area at the stern of the ship was good - we enjoyed that. The Vista lounge was particularly nice. Final thoughts: We never expected the Sun Princess cruise to be the best ever, because each cruising area and ship offers different things. More or less, except for the restaurant, we got what we wanted and expected. The primary reason for the cruise was sun and warmth in November and that was outside the domain of Princess. What we wanted from Princess was a pleasant, safe, comfortable and enjoyable voyage– and we had that. Even if it had been the best to date, it wouldn’t be the best ever, because the best is yet to come! And who knows it could be the next cruise. (In Sept 2004 – before we went on the Sun Princess- we had already re-booked a Thomson cruise in the Mediterranean for June 2005.) Evaluation: The cruise on the Sun Princess was good value for money – research and hard bargaining with travel agents ensured that. We enjoyed the experience. Was the Sun Princess the best cruise ever? No! It did not fully meet our expectations and we are unlikely to choose Princess again - the restaurant experience and entertainment facilities were disappointing. This doesn’t mean that many others didn’t enjoy the Sun Princess – first time cruisers thought it was fantastic. We know that some passengers while on the ship rebooked for a future cruise. For us, at the price we paid, we have had better experiences on Royal Caribbean and Celebrity. Advice…read the brochure, read the reviews, negotiate the best price you can and enjoy the cruise!

Read More
  • New

Dec 1, 2003

Eastern Caribbean

Just read a glowing review of the Sun Princess by a long time cruiser. Well, t5hings have changed. His favorite Matrei'D "Silvio" is no longer there. Nor is any semblance of gracious service. Everything is a hassle. Food is still reasonable, although not as good as we have experienced on Grandeur of the Seas or Renaissance R3. However portions are weight

watchers and requesting more than one item from a category is treated as a personal affront by the weight staff. The first table we were at was part of a 3 table section. By the 3rd or 4th night, one table was empty, we were the only ones at our table (we left the next night) and the third table (6 people traveling together) was the only one left. This was only typical of on-board service. It took four days of sailing into warmer waters to get the hot tubs working. The cabin was too small to walk around both sides of he bed. Changing dining arrangements took 4-5 conversations with a variety of people and the only technique that was effective was loud and obnoxious, gracious and polite was ignored. There was agreement among many previous Princess cruisers that here was a definite change since Carnival came into the picture. The only disagreement was that one couple said they wouldn't travel Princess even for free, we said we would, but only for free.

Read More
  • New

Nov 21, 2003

Eastern Caribbean

This was our 4th cruise and our 3rd with Princess. Our first and second cruise with Princess were actually back-to-back 7-day cruises aboard the Grand Princess in celebration of our 25th wedding anniversary. We loved the elegant décor and services Princess had to offer and decided to try one of their smaller vessels for a 10 day cruise this time.

There were some minor problems on our back-to-back cruises, namely Princess’ failure to deliver some of the on-board gifts our family had ordered for us as well as Princess’ forgetting to acknowledge our 25th anniversary day. They usually send a small complimentary gift of some kind and decorate your cabin door with balloons and congratulatory messages. When we discovered these omissions after returning home, we contacted Princess and were told that the gifts were ordered too late to be processed in time for sailing (all of the gifts were ordered at the same time and paid for and we did receive half of them) and they made no comment about forgetting to acknowledge our anniversary. When booking the Sun Princess, we again contacted them to see if Princess would agree to some sort of token gesture, but did not hear back from them until after we returned home despite more than 3 conversations and 2 faxes being sent prior to sailing. However, on with this review. And be patient, I love to give details. Getting There: We arranged our own airfare because one’s arranged through Princess usually involve a stopover. This way, we could fly direct to Ft. Lauderdale, and we went a day early to be able to relax and have no worries about flight delays causing problems on the day of embarkation. Many Ft. Lauderdale area hotels will provide pick up from the airport to their hotel and to the port the following morning free of charge and that is what we did. If you take a taxi, it costs about $12 U.S. from the airport to the port, so don’t book transfers through Princess because they charge way more. The customs area in Ft. Lauderdale airport was crazy, small and inadequate. As well, the senior officer thought she was instructing people in the army or something and was quite rude and abrasive. The line-up was long and very slow until another flight arrived. She started yelling at passengers to move faster and these poor seniors are struggling with walkers and carry-on luggage. Not a nice welcome to the USA. Preference was given to US citizens and the rest of us were treated badly as far as I was concerned. The departure area is equally crowded and the lineup long and slow again. In fact, they had to go through the line and check on people’s flight times and putting those ahead whose flights were departing soon. Embarkation: There was a slight delay when we arrived at the cruise terminal. Hotel staff told us that Princess was having an earlier check-in time than normal, but they had a bit of a snag and didn’t open the terminal doors until the usual 12 noon. However, once the line started moving, we were checked in and on-board within 20 minutes. Be sure to get a Bahamas visitors card (they hand them out while you are in line) and fill it out prior to going to the check-in wicket. This speeds up the process and avoids delays for those waiting in line behind you. Cabin: We had previously had a balcony on the Grand Princess (splurged for the anniversary) and this time decided to try an inside because the deal was too good to pass up. We should have passed it up and there were no balconies available. We booked this cruise sort of last minute and felt the extra price for just an outside cabin wasn’t justified. We will never book an inside cabin again, but that is just a personal preference and probably because we know how nice a balcony is. The cabin was so small that with the beds pushed together, one side of the bed was against the wall, so we had to separate the beds to provide a common space in between to be able to get out of bed without performing acrobatics. As well, the cabin we had on the Baja deck, squeaked and groaned when the ship was not docked. It started as we left the port, and got significantly worse by the 4th night, so much so that it awakened me (admittedly I am a lighter sleeper than my husband but even he found it very noisy) and I couldn’t sleep at all. The sea was not particularly rough that night, so I am not sure why it was so noisy but it was as if the panels on the walls were shifting constantly and rubbing together. The ship was fully booked, but at 4 am I finally gave up, got dressed, and went to the pursers desk to voice my concerns. Luckily, there was another cabin available because someone had to depart at the previous port due to a family emergency, and the staff helped us move the following morning to the Aloha deck, inside cabin. Why couldn’t they have had a balcony?? This cabin was quiet and free from any noise, and although it had a slightly different layout, we again had to request the beds to be separated. I have never heard anyone have this problem with noise from the cabin walls and hope they have fixed the problem so that others don’t suffer the same fate. Otherwise, both cabins were quiet in the sense that you didn’t hear people in the hallway or next room. Bathrobes are provided upon request, as well shampoo and conditioner. Storage space is more than adequate but a tip is to pack some extra hangers because they don’t provide a lot in the room. There is a hairdryer at the vanity table but only one electrical outlet in the entire room. No clock is provided, so bring a small travel clock with you, although wake up calls are offered when needed. Food: We have read cruise reviews claiming that Princess’ food is only mediocre. However, we are not gourmets and found that the menu is varied enough that you can always find something you like for dinner in the dining room. We opted for Personal Choice Seating, and always agree to share a table with others, which avoids delays. On two occasions, the dining room for Personal Choice was quite busy and they quickly took us upstairs to the other dining room, which was for traditional seating because it had tables available. Same menu, and it avoided long waits. We never have breakfast in the dining room because we prefer a buffet style. There was a wide selection to chose from and we never had trouble getting a table in the Horizon Court. We often ordered room service for a cold breakfast on the balcony when we were on the Grand, and missed this opportunity on this cruise. It just isn’t the same eating in a windowless room. We usually used Horizon Court for lunch as well and found the selections adequate. Outdoor grills provide excellent beef and chicken burgers etc. and were tasty. The usual complaint about Princess remains in that they charge for “designer” ice-cream, available out on the pool deck. However, we never felt the need to eat ice-cream in addition to all of the other tons of food we consumed. The Steak House is reportedly excellent, but you must make reservations as we sadly discovered too late. They do charge an extra fee to eat there, but it was well worth it according to other passengers. The Italian Pizzeria provides good food too, at no extra charge. However, it is located in an open walk through area, adjacent to the casino, so people are constantly passing by as you eat. They also had an Italian sweets buffet in the Horizon Court one day, with delicious desserts. Entertainment: The entertainment was quite good for the most part. Only one show was not, so we just left early. They offer the same show two nights running in the show lounge and theatre, so if you can’t make it one night, there is always a second chance. The juggler was by far one of the best I’ve seen. And the magician act, which we had seen on the Grand as well, was equally as enjoyable the second time around. The lounge and the theatre fill up quickly, so go at least 20-30 minutes prior to show time, order a drink, and relax while you wait. The pianist who put on an almost nightly show in one of the open lounge/bar areas of the atrium was quite a hit with the older passengers. And the piano music performed in the atrium during the day provides a very elegant background on the ship. The casino took our money, more so after the first two days. The slots were really “tight”, but the nickel ones were fun and seemed to pay out a little better. There is a slots tournament you can enter as many times as you like for $20 each turn. The highest winners go on to the final round and the prizes are set for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place. Activities: Carnival has taken over Princess and it is starting to show in some subtle changes, which were noticed more so by passengers who had sailed Princess numerous times. They were grumbling a lot about the absence of a lot of the free activities such as the scavenger hunt. But what was available, such as trivia games were fun and a great way to meet other passengers. We went to one karaoke night, but we must not have been blessed with talented passengers because in all honesty they were pathetic for the most part. But at least they tried. And don’t miss the champagne waterfall in the atrium. It was loads of fun. Bingo is offered, but again is expensive at $10 per single card, or $20 for 3 cards, five games in total each session, but fun to do a couple of times. We finally shared a package of 3 cards to cut down on the cost. The horse race sessions are fun and not so expensive to participate in the betting. We don’t use the Spa services and from the price list, look over priced compared to back home. Island night on deck is fun with an outstanding buffet if you can stuff any more food into yourself. Keeping in Touch with those back home: We always e-mail our kids, who are in their early 20’s but still living at home, to make sure everything is okay. We could access the internet in their café by just swiping our cruise card and the charge is about 50 cents per minute. There are 5 computers for use, but sometimes some of them were so slow it was impossible to get on-line. But there was always at least one that was working well. I also phoned ship-to-shore a couple of times to contact my father who is elderly and lives on his own. The cost is around $7 per minute, so keep your calls short if you use this service. Shore Excursions: We have found on previous cruises that the cost of these excursions is not justified unless there is no other way of participating in a certain activity. We did take a snorkeling tour in St. Thomas, which was quite nice. Otherwise, we went to the crew staff and asked for advice on the best beaches, shopping etc. Grab a taxi at each pier and negotiate the price before getting in. It is always cheaper than the organized tours. They do conduct information sessions about each port, and you can also view them on the TV in your cabin as they replay them many times. Ladies, be sure to get your free pair of diamond stud earrings at some of the ports. Just ask the staff on board. Laundry Facilities: On the Grand, they charged for self service washers and dryers, and there were 4 of each on each stateroom deck. However, on the Sun Princess, there were only 2 on each deck, but they were free!! There is also use of a single ironing board and iron. Plan your time to do any necessary laundry and ironing because there often was lineups later in the afternoon with everyone returned from shore and getting ready for dinner. Cruise staff: The cruise director was noticeably absent throughout the entire cruise. We were into our 5th day before we laid eyes on him and then only saw him once or twice after that. The assistant director seemed to be doing his job for him. Out on deck: We found that deck chairs were not as hard to find this time, but we are not sun worshippers, so we weren’t trying for ones in direct sunlight. The pools are seldom filled to capacity, so swimming is enjoyable. One of the nicest places to lounge is on the promenade deck, especially later in the afternoon/evening to watch the sunset. However, it can be windy at times, so hold onto your hat!! Disemarkation: At St. Thomas, you have to go to one of the main dining rooms on the day you port there to have a US Customs clearance since 9-11. The lineup was long, but moved fairly quickly and took about 30 minutes. You must go whether you’re planning to get off the ship or not. Final disembarkation went smoothly, with passengers called according to the luggage tag colour you are given and they do give first preference to those who have flight departing prior to 11 am. In Summary: Did we have a good cruise? How could we not? Cruising is definitely the ultimate relaxation type of vacation and I can’t imagine why any cruise would be not being enjoyable. Would we sail Princess again? In the future, probably yes, unless Carnival makes drastic changes. However, we would prefer to try a different line the next time just for a change. Also, we are very disappointed with Princess’ response to the concerns we did raise on the Grand, with a letter waiting for us on our return that basically said in a nice way, “tough luck if you didn’t like our response, we felt it was adequate”. What would it have taken for them to give us a couple of free drinks or something and to apologize for ignoring our 25th? I think that Princess has a large number of repeat customers, so perhaps they don’t try as hard as they should to insure your future business.

Read More
  • New

Nov 1, 2003

Southern Caribbean

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 their 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 beggars 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. Brian Lashchuk

Read More
  • New

Oct 1, 2003

Southern Caribbean

We flew into Fort Lauderdale the day before and stayed at the Amerisuites, we got this hotel thru Priceline for $35.00 - a real bargain as the offer shuttles to the airport and port. Plus a continental breakfast! Check was dreadful - long lines and no seating available. Plus after reaching the counter had to fill in even more paperwork- despite filling

out everything online previously. About 90 mins total. Our cabin was an o/s on emerald (a very convenient deck) but was the smallest cabin we have ever had, the bathroom was even worse, with only 3 small shelves for storage. It did have a nice refrigerator though and complimentary bath robes. Our cabin steward was Roger and he was the best! We had signed up for traditional seating at a large table but the first night we were in a small room off the main dining room with only 2 other people at our table for 10. Our waiters never introduced themselves, nor was there any communication other than taking our orders. We asked to be seated in the main dining room and were accommodated, but if there had not been a sign on the table with there names on it, we again would not have known their names. Then we tried personal choice dining and finally found a wait team who were personable and friendly. The rest of the cruise we requested their table .At breakfast one morning we had a waiter who was surly and actually rude to a passenger who asked for skim milk instead of tea or coffee. It too 4 requests before her daughter stepped in and insisted they bring it. After that we had breakfast in the buffet. We can only assume that this state of affairs is brought about by Princess new policy on tipping. Everything is now pooled so there is no incentive to give good service, bad waiters get the same as good. The food in the dining room is quite good, the rack of lamb is to die for, the best I have ever had, but the lobster was lacking in taste and tough. The steaks were OK but the prime rib was great. The desserts were very good - I had read reviews that said Princess desserts were not good, but I have 5lbs extra to say otherwise! The buffet was OK - the food was good but limited in variety and the traffic pattern totally congested. Again the waiters were slow in clearing plates. It seems Princess must read some of these reviews - there is now ice cream available free of charge in the afternoon. They have cut out one of the cocktail parties though, the farewell party is no more, instead a champagne waterfall at 11.30pm. Also no formal receiving line or long introductions of the crew and staff, which was a good idea. The cruise director and his staff were only visible introducing the shows or at the various activities of which there were very few. The shows were mostly singing and dancing, not my thing but most people seemed to enjoy them. By far the best was Michael "the kid" James, don't miss him, he had us crying with laughter at his crazy sense of humor. The juggler and the comic were both awful. Paul Burton entertained us in the evening on the piano. Halfmoon Cay was very nice, the tenders were very efficient with no waiting. There were lots of loungers and shade huts, and plenty of cold water available. Be sure to bring plenty of bug spray! In St Thomas we took a taxi to Magens Bay a beautiful beach. $6.00 pp ew. $3.00 admission. Only picnic tables to sit on, but plenty of shade trees, watch out for the iguanos in the trees! Buy your liquor here but cigarettes are much cheaper on St Maarten. St Vincente is a good day to do laundry, no charge for the machines, $1.00 for detergent. On Barbados we toured with a taxi, no problems with the drivers at all. Antigua it poured all day so just went into the town and casino, which were right at the dock. Sea days there was not much to do and what activities were planned overlapped, so you could only catch a couple. Again lots of time with no activities planned. Lots of deck loungers available at poolside, but constant loud music. If you want a good spot to read, go topside on the front of the ship. All in all it was good value for the money, but RCCL does it better!

Read More
  • New

Aug 3, 2003

Alaska

We're a 40-something couple with three previous cruises under our belts, all on different lines. Our trip consisted of a one-week cruise from Vancouver to Seward, followed by a five-day trip to Anchorage and Denali National Park (which we booked on our own, not through the cruise line). If you don’t have much time to read all the details, here’s the quick

summary: We had a great time and found the Sun Princess to be an excellent, very well-run ship. Boarding: This was done in Vancouver and went pretty smoothly. We arrived around 30 minutes prior to the noon boarding time and waited in line until the U.S. immigration desks opened. Once the line started moving, it went quickly and we were onboard by 12:30. (My wife spotted an interesting looking booklet about Alaska on a rack in the terminal that we passed just before getting into the hallway leading to the ship. More about this later, but try to grab a copy of that booklet if you see it, since it has many good coupons you’ll want to take advantage of at various ports.) We entered the ship to the strains of a very good string quartet, who stayed with us for the remainder of the trip. This was a very nice touch! Food: After quickly visiting our room to drop off our carry-ons, we went up to the Regency dining room for lunch. Here, we had our first of many salmon entrees and some very good ravioli. If you want to do this when you board, you have to move fast, since lunch was only being served at the Regency until 1:30. After that, you’ll have to go to the buffet. Speaking of the buffet, we ate there every morning and had most of our lunches there too. We found the food to be good, with a nice choice at all times of day. While meat, fish, and pasta were OK to good, the real star on this ship is the pastry chef. Danish, cakes, and pastries of all types were always fresh and of the highest quality. Bread products were also very good and always fresh. There was lots of fruit available, but most of it was of the canned variety, which we liked just fine. Salads were a little inconsistent, and it was hard to predict just what vegetables and dressings would be available on any given day. The tomatoes were passable, but not the best. We had most of our dinners in the Regency dining room, where we chose the late seating. We were seated at a table for eight, with our traveling companions and two very interesting couples who had emigrated to the US from Vietnam. Service there was very good and we never got the sense that our meals were waiting around getting cold. On occasion we ordered two entrees or appetizers and were never discouraged from doing so. Regarding the food there, we got the impression the chefs were trying very hard, but not always succeeding. Nothing was bad, mind you, but not everything was delicious, as it is on some cruises. The weirdest thing was that we could never get a good salad there. They seemed to use some sort of bland creamy base for the dressings, which would be tinged with various flavorings, but the dressings never really tasted very different from one another and we never felt like we had a really good salad in the dining room (the salad dressings at the buffet were more normal, but still not great). The beef dishes were somewhat disappointing (except the goulash at the buffet) and the steaks, prime rib, etc. were good, but not great. Fish was something else, though, being plentiful, fresh and generally well-prepared. We especially liked the Alaska King Crab and lobster tail, and you could get salmon at just about every meal (including breakfast). Pasta dishes varied from good to excellent. Cold soups were great (especially the strawberry) and the desserts were outstanding, allowing the pastry chef to really strut his stuff (the Baked Alaska, a cruising tradition, was the best we’ve ever had). I also enjoyed all the crazy flavors of sorbet. My suggestion: get your cake and some sorbet too! We never ate at the specialty steak house ($8 extra, reservations suggested), so maybe that’s where all the good beef goes, but we did eat at the pizzeria, which had excellent, freshly made individual pies. They had thin crust and were a little on the small side, so you may want to order an extra one if you’re going there for a meal rather than a snack. If you’re an ice cream lover, you won’t be happy. While ice cream was pretty much always on the menu in the dining room, it was rarely served at the buffet. There’s a for-pay ice cream shop, if you’re really desperate, but this was the first cruise we’d been on where ice cream wasn’t plentiful and free. Overall, we’d rate the food on the Sun Princess a notch below the HAL Rotterdam (2001 Mediterranean) and the NCL Norwegian Crown (1996 Caribbean). It was a notch above the Carnival Ecstasy (2002 Baja Mexico). Accommodations & Ship Design: We were in an inside cabin, just front of the center of the boat, on the Main deck (5). The room was the smallest we’ve had, but was big enough to suit our needs. There was just about enough storage space for our stuff, but not as much as we’ve had in the past. All the furnishings and fixtures were in excellent condition and the bathroom was sufficiently large and well designed. If you want to plug something into the bathroom outlet, note that it’s a two-prong, non-polarized type, so you’ll need an adaptor if your plug has one prong wider than the other. The room had a built-in hair dryer. Our travel companions selected an outside cabin, which was a little bigger and had a full-sized window. They really enjoyed the view and felt their outside cabin was well worth the extra cost. We asked for a couple of bathrobes, an extra towel, and a mattress pad (the bed was very firm) and had no problems getting any of them. There were cards in the room asking if we wanted flowers or fruit delivered, but we didn’t take them up on either of these offers. The cabin steward was excellent and the room was always clean and tidy. We felt virtually no vibrations and heard no engine noise in the room. The ride also seemed remarkably smooth and we had no trouble sleeping. The ship was beautifully designed and maintained. It has a very smooth ride and is almost entirely free of annoying vibrations and rocking. The weather was good the whole week, so we spent a lot of time on the promenade deck 7 (good for whale watching) and found the central atrium stairs and elevators to be a convenient way to get from floor to floor. Note, if you want to spend a lot of time outside taking in the views and spotting wildlife, make sure you bring a coat and gloves (the ship’s store is well-stocked in these types of items, so you can pick them up on board if you have to). Entertainment: The Sun Prinecess’s staff does a very good job keeping you busy at all times. We went to several trivia contests, art auctions (didn’t buy anything, though), wildlife talks, etc. and we never felt like we had too much time on our hands. We also went to the “port and shopping” talk, which is really geared up to selling you a coupon book we didn’t buy. Some of those who did were disappointed with the discounts -- and we were really happy with the freebie we picked up at the terminal in Vancouver, which had a lot of good discount offers and coupons for free items at almost all the ports we docked at. Anyway, if you arrive early to the port talk and sit up close to the stage, you will almost surely go home with a bunch of goodies. Shirts, hats, jewelry, and who knows what else are tossed from the stage at a dizzying clip! We were pretty pooped in the evenings and only made it to one stage show -- Rhythms of the City -- which was awful. (I think the cruise lines have to rethink the pea-brain knockoff Vegas shows they like to depend on. They mostly seem to vary from blah to bad, no matter what ship you’re on.) If you’re planning to see the stage shows, note that, while the main ones are repeated for the first seating diners, if you’re at the late seating, you will have only one shot at seeing the main stage shows. We didn’t catch any movies in the theater, but were impressed with the ones that popped up on our TV. Shore Excursions: Much has been written on the Vancouver-Seward itinerary, so I won’t go into detail here, except to mention a few highlights. First off, the glaciers were spectacular, not just in Glacier Bay, buy also College Fjord. We also highly recommend a helicopter tour of the glaciers. Landing and walking around on one was an experience we’ll never forget. And, if you find yourself with some time in Seward either before or after your cruise, try to get out to Exit Glacier. You can practically walk right up to it and touch it (which some people did, danger signs notwithstanding). It’s just a short drive and well worth your time. We were lucky to be able to get a Hertz daytime rental in Seward without a reservation, but there was a lot of competition for available vehicles, so it would be better to reserve a car in advance if you can. Besides glaciers (and whales), we really enjoyed the White Pass and Yukon Railway trip in Skagway and the AJ Gold Mine/Gastineau Mill tour in Juneau. Post Cruise Land Tour: We didn’t book our trip to Denali through the cruise line. Instead, we saved some money and booked a package tour with the Alaska Railroad. It worked out very well and we feel we got a little closer to the Alaskan way of life that way. The trips were surprisingly comfortable and you really get the run of the train when you take the Alaska Railroad (rather than being trapped in a single cruise line car). As an extra bonus, high school student tour guides pointed out the sites and passed around scrap books of their lives in Alaska. Now that’s entertainment! In Denali, we stayed at the precariously perched Grande Denali lodge, which suited our needs very well. You may want to consider staying in Denali for at least two nights (that’s what we did). Otherwise, you’ll find you spent most of your time on the train instead of in the wild. Be advised that the cruise and land portions of this trip are jarringly different. You go from pampered luxury to rustic roughness in one fell swoop. If your schedule permits, you may want to consider doing the rugged Denali parts first -- then relax with a cruise afterwards. Summary: We really enjoyed our trip and hope to get back to Alaska some day to see many spots we didn’t have time to get to. Besides all the sites and natural beauty of the land, we met many interesting fellow travelers (hi Russ and Wei -- hope your bus trip through Denali was a good one!) and would highly recommend this itinerary to anyone interested in seeing the spectacular sites of Alaska.

Read More
  • New

Aug 4, 2002

Alaska 12 days land and sea

Our family took the 12 day Alaska Wilderness/Copper River tour in August 2002. I would like to share our comments for other people to help them book the appropriate tour. The Sun Princess overall was beautiful and we were traveling with two 14 year old teenagers! The transfer from Vancouver Airport to the Pier was very smooth and without problems. The embarkation onto the Sun Princess was just great. We didn't have to wait at all and we felt very

comfortable and the people seemed very organized! The girls loved the boat. There was a teen room but they much preferred to go off on their own and swim or do girls stuff. There was plenty to do. We had two outside cabins with balconies which were great! The rooms were adequate and the balconies were so nice. Our other cruise we did not have a balcony! The food was just OK! In comparison with the other line, we were disappointed with the Sun Princess. We did like the crab dinner and we missed the lobster dinner, as we were both sea sick that night!!! We enjoyed Ketchikan. Don't do the tours, but walk the town. We were able to experience the town and everything is in walking distance. We went to the Fish Hatchery there which was interesting. In Juneau we took the Mendenall Glacier Float trip! It was raining most of the day and we all went anyway! It was so fun and they do give you rain gear! Worth the trip. There isn't a lot of rapids but that was fine for us. The scenery was beautiful! In Skagway we took the 4 hour train ride which was nice, but they don't let you get off. You just go up the Yukon Pass and back. I think next time we would take a bus which would let us out to stop and take pictures. Glacier Bay was gorgeous and so beautiful. Make sure you do not use your digital cameras but use the old fashioned kind. Those pictures seemed to turn out the best. We did get the personal dining but I think if we were going to do it again, we would just take the first seating. We usually ate early anyway to hit both shows. The $10.00 per person per day was not worth it for personal choice dining! Now the land portion! We would not suggest you do that part! It was too long and too much riding on public transportation! Most of our days were spent riding in buses, trains or trains rather than being able to relax and enjoy each town! The ride from Copper River to Denali was absolutely the worst ride! It was 10 1/2 hours on a bus on an unpaved bumpy rode. The bus drivers were great but it wore us all out!!! The Princess Lodges were not that great either. We enjoyed Copper River Wilderness Lodge but Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge was noisy and up-kept. In Fairbanks at the Princess Fairbanks Riverside Lodge we barely saw...the train delivered us to our room at 8:30pm at night and we had to fly home the next day at 5:00am!!! All in all, the Sun Princess was nice but do not do the land portion with it. It is not relaxing with the land portion! Enjoy!

Read More
  • New

Dec 9, 2000

Panama Canal

This was our first cruise and it was great! The food was great! We would go on purpose just to get pineapple! We went to Punta arenas, Costa Rica, transit the Panama Canal (that was interesting), Cartagena, Columbia, Dominica, Aruba, Barbados, & St. Thomas. Our favorite islands were Aruba, Barbados, & St. Thomas. We can't decide which was our favorite. We made comments to ourselves concerning living conditions such as Cartagena, Columbia where

a little boy was sticking a stick through bars with a cup attached to the top of the stick. The entertainment on the boat were dynamic & very well performed. We had an outside stateroom with a balcony & it was wonderful. It was kind of crowded, but who cares, your only in there to sleep.  There were many things to do on the ship. The service on the ship was impeccable & without flaw. They were the most interesting people to talk to. The patrons were mostly from 50-70. We only seen 3 kids on board, so there are no wild & crazy kids running around. There were 2 pools, a couple spas, a game room for kids (which was always empty), a fitness center, stores, beauty salon, many places to eat (until your heart's content). We would highly recommend this cruise & that it ended way to soon.

Read More
  • New

Oct 30, 2000

Panama Canal

This is our second cruise, the first being last December on the Grand Princess. We are a married couple 50 and 55 years old. We found that most passengers on this cruise were older than us, but there were also some younger in their 30’s and 40’s. I think we only saw 1 or 2 children on the ship. I should mention that the ship was only 2/3 full on this voyage, which we enjoyed because there was never a problem getting a chair by the pool

or anywhere for that matter. Our waiters, Hector and Eva, in the second sitting had only our table to serve, so we got very fast service and lots of attention. They were wonderful beyond words and we truly enjoyed their company every evening. The dining rooms are very tastefully done in intimate groupings so you never feel you are in a large room filled with people. The food was wonderful in the dining rooms. We had absolutely no complaints. The Horizon buffet was adequate and they did do theme lunches which were interesting. Breakfast was always very good, though sometimes cold. We loved the Sun Princess and felt it was exactly the right size for us – not too small or too large. The atrium was beautiful and very useful as a central meeting place and one of our favorite places on the ship. You could always count on meeting someone you know there before or after dinner and during the day there always seemed to be some type of game in which to participate. We both felt that the Sun was even more beautiful than the Grand. She has been kept in excellent condition and certainly doesn’t look five years old. We had a room with a balcony. It was adequate for our 10 day cruise but seemed small when we first arrived. We had a mini-suite on the Grand, so this did seem a lot smaller to us. The closets were a little cramped and the bathroom was very tiny. In fact, we said it reminded us of the bathroom in our RV. We found a lot of passengers making jokes about the small bathroom size. However, after a few days, we did adjust and get a routine going so we weren’t always bumping into each other. It helped that I could use the desk for a vanity and there was also an outlet for my hairdryer. Speaking of outlets, there was only one in the entire cabin!!! There were absolutely none in the bathroom. We did bring a power strip so we could have more outlets, but it didn’t really help since everything would have to be plugged in on the desk. We had a steamer to get rid of the packing wrinkles and it was never convenient to use it near the desk as there was no place to hang the item you were steaming. The balcony was wonderful and very private. It has a table and two chairs, which is about all it could handle. We did have breakfast there when going through the Panama Canal, which we really enjoyed. Room service was extremely fast.  The pools are wonderful. There are two midship. One is deep and the other is only 4 foot all the way across. The second one is where they did water aerobics every afternoon. The aft pool is very quiet and has a cover and there are four hot tubs in the rear to enjoy. We sat in lounge chairs facing the rear of the ship and watched as we navigated through the canal. It was very peaceful and beautiful. One complaint we did have was embarkation, which was worse than terrible. We left at 10:00 a.m. on Oct. 30th. Our flights were booked through Princess as were our transfers. I would highly recommend transfers if you are arriving in or departing from Costa Rica. The flight delays we had all day weren’t Princess’s fault so I won’t even go into that. We did, however, finally arrive in Costa Rica at about 9:30 p.m. We thought this was very poor planning on Princess’s part because we missed the entire first day on the ship. We had tried to change flights but they wouldn’t let us because they said the papers were all printed (?). So we arrived in Costa Rica tired from a full day of travel. Everyone was very glad to get off the plane and anxious to get to the ship. We were led to a room where we were amazed to see about 8 lines a block long each where we had to wait to go through immigration. This took between 45 minutes to an hour. When we finally got through that mess, we had to get our 5 bags of luggage and drag it over to where they were stacking the luggage to go on the buses that were taking us to the ship. Then we were told to go stand in ANOTHER line about 2 blocks long to go through customs. At this point, there were quite a few disgruntled people. Finally, someone came and told the Princess passengers they could go through this other line and we walked right through customs. They loaded us onto two buses. We were in the last one. The first one took off shortly after we all marched out of the airport. The one I was on was only half full. We waited and waited and waited. Finally we asked what was going on and nobody spoke English. At last an English speaking gentleman told us that we were waiting for everyone’s luggage because we were the last bus going to the ship. We sat in the bus for an hour and waited. By now, people were very irritated. When the driver and guide finally boarded, we were told it was at least 1-1/2 to 2 hours drive to the ship!!! It was near 1:00 a.m. when we finally arrived to see people still in line from the first bus that had left much earlier. There were only 2 people checking in boarding passengers. After checking in, we presented our passports to the immigration people after filling out yet ANOTHER immigration form and we finally got on the ship. No fanfare, no pictures, pretty much an empty ship because everyone was sleeping. We were hungry so we headed upstairs to the Horizon to eat while we waited for our luggage. The only people up there were crew members and passengers who were late arrivals like us. By the time we got our luggage and unpacked, it was way after 3:00 a.m. Not a good way to start off a cruise. I sure hope that Princess does something about smoothing out this embarkation process if they intend to keep Puerto Caldera as a starting point. PORTS OF CALL COSTA RICA (Puntarenas) We didn’t plan an excursion for this port since we knew we would be getting in late and most tours left at 7 a.m. Also, we knew that there would be a 2 hour ride each way to the point of interest and after a day of traveling, we just couldn’t face it. We were especially glad we had decided this after the fiasco described above. There is a little area of vendors in the port, however, which is just a short walk from the ship. We had a lot of fun here. There were musicians playing (for tips) and a lot of interesting home-made items to purchase. We did manage to drop a few bucks here and we had a wonderful time going through all the vendor’s stands. PANAMA CANAL This really isn’t a port since you just navigate the canal. We especially loved having the balcony. We were on the port side and were very lucky because we were on the right side of the locks and could watch the ship next to us as well as the workings of the locks and the little trains that pull the ship through the locks. The canal is beautiful. The captain (or I think it was the captain) also told us about the canal on the speaker system and points of interest. One point I thought was interesting is when they showed us the old canal that the French had started many years ago which was supposed to be all one level without locks. All in all, I think the canal was more interesting and beautiful than we had expected. COLUMBIA (Cartegena) We were very apprehensive about this port since we had heard so many terrible things. It turned out to be a very enjoyable experience. We went on the “Best of Cartagena and Fortress” tour and had a very good time and learned a lot. One thing, be prepared to do a lot of walking up some steep inclines on this tour at the fortress. It is worth it, though. You can also wait in the air conditioned bus if you prefer. Everywhere we went, there were police officers, military personnel and/or something they call tourist police that wear badges indicating that is what they are. We thought this might be done to make tourists feel more safe. We did take some pictures with them and they were more than happy to oblige. When we returned to the ship, there were two military men with drug dogs standing at the ramp. We asked if we could take pictures with them, and they were also very happy to pose with their dogs. One officer even had his dog stand on his hind legs for the picture. The Columbian people were very friendly and we enjoyed seeing everything on this tour. One thing we noted was that our guide kept repeating many times how safe the city is. We kind of laughed because every single residence and business had bars on the windows and fences around their property. Some of the fences even had barbed wire at the top. We would highly recommend this tour to anyone. One tip…don’t buy anything from the street vendors. They are VERY aggressive and if you buy from one of them, you will practically be assaulted by every other vendor on the street trying to get you to purchase their wares. We had a vendor actually push open the bus doors, get on the bus, and try to sell us items while we were waiting for other passengers. ARUBA This was probably our favorite port because we had so much fun on our excursion. We took the Four-Wheel Drive Safari where you drive your own small four wheel vehicle in a caravan around the roughest parts of the island where you wouldn’t be able to go with any other kind of vehicle. It was quite an adventure and we had a great group of people in our group of nine vehicles. You really get very dirty on this trip. We were fortunate that it was the rainy season so there wasn’t any dust to content with, but we did have many mud holes which were fun to speed through. Everyone was covered with muddy water. The last stop on this excursion was at a beach which had very large waves and only the very bravest (or craziest) of us went in. This is a very rough excursion where you get very dirty, but it is great fun. The trails are very rough and scary and sometimes we didn’t know how we all either made it down a hill in a gully wash or up a very steep grade on rocks and coral. The north side of the island is where we spent most of our time and it is very unspoiled and beautiful. BARBADOS On Barbados we took the Island Safari by Land Rover tour. You don’t drive your own vehicle, but sit in the back of a Land Rover driven by your guide. It can still be very rough at times. In fact, one of the Rovers in our group got stuck in the mud and we had to pull them out. Don’t wear good clothes because you do get an occasional splash of mud. This was a very enjoyable tour and we got to see a lot of Barbados that the average tourist doesn’t see. On the way back to the ship, we went through the resort and mansion area of the island and the guide pointed out homes owned by celebrities. We loved this island, too, and would love to go back and visit it again. DOMINICA (pronounced Dom in EEK a) This is an island that we were really looking forward to because it was supposed to still be in a comparatively natural state. Unfortunately, we were disappointed. There were several cruise ships in port and the island had a difficult time accommodating them all. We went on the Dominica’s Favorites Tour to see the two main island attractions of the Trafalgar Falls and the Emerald Pool. It seems every person on every cruise ship wanted to see the same things. The roads were terribly crowded with tourist buses and they were in terrible condition. We were one of the first buses to leave the port and the guide kept rushing us through the whole tour so that all the buses behind us wouldn’t catch up. Unfortunately, they did catch up at the falls where we couldn’t find a place to park the bus and there was the worst traffic jam I’ve ever seen (and I lived most of my life in Chicago). The roads were winding and narrow and there wasn’t any place for the vehicles to turn around to go back down the hill and more tour buses just kept coming up the hill to the falls. Our bus kept dying out going up the hills and we would have to turn off the air conditioning so we had enough power to get to the top. This was one tour that we were all glad to see come to an end. The island is beautiful, however. Strangely, it doesn’t really have any beaches. There was one small black sand beach, but it was also very rocky. If we went here again, we’d stay on the ship. We also had to tender at this island because there was another ship at the dock. ST. THOMAS We had been here before when we were on the Grand Princess. It is a beautiful island and we had many good memories of it. We especially loved getting off the ship and being right at the Havensight Mall. We knew we would either have a view of the mall and the beautiful hills around it or the picturesque bay and the boats anchored there. So, we were excited when we woke to open the blinds and see this beautiful island. What a disappointment when we discovered we had been stuck out in Crown Bay Port. This is an ugly commercial port. When we opened our curtains all we could see was commercial ships and dump trucks and a navy ship right across from us. There was also an oil company. It was truly an ugly view. Not only that, but we were so far away from everything that we had to take a taxi to the shopping which was $5 per couple one way. There was absolutely nothing you could walk to. So we did take a cab to Charlotte Amalie which was much closer than Havensight Mall. We liked Havensight Mall, so this was another disappointment. There were six ships in port the day we were there and the traffic was terrible and the stores were packed. Two of the ships were the largest passenger ships in the world, the Explorer of the Seas which holds 3,000 and the other was the Grand Princess which holds 2,600. A Disney ship was also in port and another medium sized ship. We had planned on going to St. John and snorkeling, but the traffic was so bad and we were so far away from Red Hook that we decided not to take the chance. Another factor in our decision was that we were sure Trunk Bay would be packed with all those ships in port. This was probably the biggest disappointment for us because we were really looking forward to this port. PUERTO RICO We didn’t actually see Puerto Rico because our plane was schedule to leave at 1:10 and we had to leave when we could get a transfer to the airport. Disembarkation was very smooth and practically painless. This was more like our experience on the Grand last December and completely different from our experience in Costa Rica. All in all, we really did enjoy this cruise and absolutely loved the Sun Princess. The Cruise Director John was good, but his assistants Jackie (male) and Sean were marvelous. This was Jackie’s last cruise until next January when he will be on cruises in Africa. Our only concern for the future of cruising was the number of ships and new ships. We saw such a difference between last year and this year in the ports and the crowds of tourists. If this continues, I’m afraid it will take a lot of fun out of cruising, though we still feel cruising is one of the vest values and most fun ways to travel or vacation. If anyone has any questions or comments, please contact us at the email address below. Sherry and John Mudra

Read More

By Jen _CR

  • New

Aug 20, 2000

Voyage of the Glaciers

*First off, I'd like to thank the others who submitted their reviews. They were very helpful Embarkation: It was pretty simple, there were no long lines, and we practically boarded the ship immediately. First Impressions The ship was HUGE! The size was totally unexpected, I pictured something smaller. The main atrium was pretty grand, and nicely decorated. It was a beautiful ship. 5 Stars here. I felt like

I had a hotel and mall traveling with me. There was a library, a theatre, disco, gym, sports court, health club, spa & sauna,three pools, jacuzzis, business center, kids center, teen center, arcade, dining places and bars galore, card room, and even a caviar bar!  Food Horizon Court Buffet on Lido Deck: 4 stars Terrace Grill: 3 1/2 stars Verdi's pizza: 4 1/2 stars Dining room cuisine: 5 stars The coffee at the Horizon Court was cold and awful, but the Dining Room coffee was real good. In my opinion, Princess does not need any improvement here, except on the Lido deck coffee. I was happy with the food any place I ate. Stateroom One thing Princess needs to improve are their staterooms for families. We got an outside quad (category F)since we were a group of 4, two beds came down from the top (like bunks). The outside doubles for 2 people were a lot more spacious, so I recommend in getting s suite if you have a family. Fellow Passengers Most of the people on board were retired couples. There were some baby boomers, not too many singles, and lots of kids. Bringing your kids: I recommend bringing your kids on this ship. The kid and teen centers were very popular and most people don't seem to mind children. Service Our steward was very friendly and kept our room pretty tidy. Our waiter and assistant waiter were attentive, and very efficient. No matter where you were on the ship, crew members would greet you, and smile. Princess has great service. Alaska was probably the most beautiful place I've been to, and I'd go there again. The iternarary on Princess was well-planned, and we'd get to spend more time on land than other cruises. Their private lodges were rustic and charming. I will not mind one bit on going on another cruise with Princess.

Read More
  • New

May 14, 2000

Alaska, Vancouver - Anchorage

Sun Princess, Voyage of the Glaciers (Vancouver – Seward/Anchorage), May 15, 2000. EMBARKATION As first time cruisers we arrived at Canada Place (embarkation terminal in Vancouver) not knowing what to expect or do. Arriving on our own, we had been dropped off outside the terminal, and carried our luggage down from the street and into the terminal where we could find Princess embarkation booths for some of the ship’s lower decks, but none which

corresponded to ours. Princess staff were very harried, and while not rude, weren’t much help when approached. We finally figured out that we should give our luggage to the longshoremen out in the parkade area, and found a counter with a sign that indicated Caribe-Aloha decks, pointing to a door marked NO ENTRY. Many (aprox. 100) people were milling around and none knew what to do. Finally, a Princess staff member came to ‘man’ the counter and said we should check there before going through. We stood in line for 20 min. watching one group of morons hold everything up because they had not filled out their embarkation forms. I couldn’t see how they could possibly get everyone onboard before sailing-time when another staff member came by and said we should ‘Just go ahead’. Once through, we were in another large area with many booths for specific decks and staterooms; embarkation was a breeze! The whole process would have only taken 10 min. if we knew, or had been told what to do in the first place. Customs clearance consisted of being asked ‘Are you American or Canadian?’ If one answered ‘Yes’ one was waived through – that’s it! STATEROOM Once onboard we proceeded to our stateroom (C711) inside, dead center, aft. I had done a lot of research on different cruise lines and ships in the preceding months, and knew that these staterooms were on the small side, but was pleasantly surprised to find it was larger than I had envisioned. For a seven-day cruise we found it to be perfectly adequate, however, on a longer cruise I can understand how some people may find it to be too small, especially if they have packed many clothes. The stateroom very nicely appointed and had twin beds. We had asked for a ‘queen size’ configuration when we booked the cruise, and again when our documents arrived and I noticed the beds were listed as ‘twin’. However, after seeing the stateroom we decided it would be better to leave the beds separate. There was a night table, desk/vanity and chair, hair drier, refrigerator with ice bucket and glasses, TV, 3 closets with lots of space (for us), programmable safe, and a small but beautifully functional bathroom with shower. There was plenty of drawer space in the desk and the night table. It was immaculate and tastefully decorated. Large mirrors and smaller than normal furniture give the illusion of more space than there actually is, but for two of us for a week it was great. Our steward (Arnold) introduced himself and wanted to know what dinner sitting we had (so he would know when to turn down the beds). The service was excellent, he was cheerful and promptly attended to any requests - terrycloth robes and pool towels etc. - he kept the stateroom immaculate the whole week. The ice bucket was always full, there were always clean glasses, and we always had a plentitude of fresh towels etc. in the bathroom. The soundproofing was excellent and there was no vibration, which I have read can be a problem with aft staterooms on other ships. We left to explore the ship. It truly is beautiful, spotlessly maintained and looks brand new – not five years old. When we returned to our stateroom about an hour later, the luggage had arrived along with two surprises: a bottle of champagne from our travel agent, and a bouquet of roses from the steward! He explained that they were from a stateroom on the previous cruise and would just be thrown out. They lasted five days – nice touch. After unpacking we had a bite in the Horizon Court buffet and went on deck to watch our departure. I couldn’t believe it, but they played the ‘70s Love Boat TV theme over the loudspeakers as we pulled away. Really kitschy – I wanted to shoot the speakers. FOOD Food in the Horizon Court varied from excellent to awful. Just remember it’s a 24 hr buffet and some dishes do not lend themselves well to sitting on a steam table for any length of time. The selection is huge so this is not a problem, if fact we ate most of our breakfasts and lunches there. One thing I must get across is - the Horizon Court coffee is awful!!! If anyone from Princess reads this, please take note and do something about it. Verdi’s pizzeria was not very good. We tried it only once. Not many toppings on a thin cardboard crust. I can’t understand all the rave reviews. Dining room cuisine was generally fabulous and well presented; our waiter and assistant waiter were wonderful. They quickly learned our preferences/quirks. For example, I like coffee and Mavis likes chamomile tea after desert. We only asked for these on the first night and from then on he would automatically bring them. The dining room coffee is great – no problem there. We had the late sitting (8:15) and really liked it. The ship left ports at 8:00, so we had more time ashore. There are two shows every night in each of the Princess Theatre and the Vista Lounge, so you will not miss anything. GENERAL The muster station drill was fairly low key and short. If you’re on a budget take your own alcohol. Princess currently has no written policy on this matter. I took a bottle of vodka and got OJ for mix from room service or the Horizon Court – saved a fortune. We still bought drinks: a Heineken in the Wheelhouse Bar, wine with dinner, coffee and Irish Cream on deck in Glacier Bay etc., but taking the vodka sure cut down on the onboard expenses. I think the reason they charge $1.50 US for a can of pop is to ‘ding’ you on the mix if you do bring your own booze onboard. Next time I’m going to take Scotch. The aft elevators do not go to the two lowest (restaurant) decks. Consequently they are nowhere as busy as the forward elevators, where the waits can be interminable. This was one reason we really liked having a stateroom at the aft of the ship. Another reason is the pool and spas (hot tubs) at the aft are also nowhere near as well used as those mid-ship. Our favorite spa was on the top (Lido) deck, 14, aft. It has a great view, and many times there was absolutely no one else around. We also found it was better to be at the stern when viewing the glaciers in Glacier Bay and College Fjord. Everyone goes forward, and there are huge crowds 2-3 deep elbowing each other along all the rails. You will see just as much from the stern and there are very few people - lots of space and deck chairs and no crowd at the rails. Paradise is having a drink while lounging in a spa with a view on a sunny day right next to a glacier – it just doesn’t get any better! DAY-BY-DAY Be prepared for any weather. You may need anything from shorts to a down parka. On the whole we were very lucky weather-wise. Day 1, we left Vancouver on a hot sunny day. Day 2, at sea - Inside Passage - overcast. Day 3 – Ketchikan - rained all day. I learned quickly that an umbrella is a pain-in-the-butt when taking pictures. Day 4 – Juneau – started out ‘socked in’ with low clouds and rain with wind - looked like our helicopter Glacier Discovery tour was going to be cancelled. Began to clear a little around noon and we were on one of only two helicopter tours that flew that day. There were many very disappointed people whose flights were cancelled. We were extremely lucky, there were only four of us onboard, and we got to spend almost an hour on the glacier, not 30 min. like planed. I would recommend this excursion to anyone. It’s expensive but worth it, even on a rainy/cloudy day - a once in a lifetime experience. It must be just unbelievable on a sunny day when you can see the whole of the 1500 sq. mi. Juneau Ice Field! Day 5 – Skagway – started out with light drizzle for our Yukon Territory Adventure tour and cleared up once we were over the White Pass summit and into B.C.. Sunny for lunch at Frontier Heritage Village in the Yukon, Carcross, Tormented Valley, and back down the White Pass – spectacular. Day 6, at sea – Glacier Bay – started with high overcast that burnt off and turned into a beautiful day – fantastic! Day 7, at sea – College Fjord - gorgeous sunny day. The kind of day they take brochure pictures on. Day 8 – Seward – mixed sun and showers. Disembarked 9:30 am. Three-hour bus ride through the spectacular Kenai Peninsula and along Turnagain Arm of Cook inlet to Anchorage. We were dropped off at the airport around 12:30, and as our flight didn’t leave until 5:00, thought we would leave our luggage in a locker while we went downtown for the afternoon. There are no lockers, but the airport does have an expensive baggage storage room where you have to pay for a minimum of 24 hrs., which we decided not to use. Princess has free shuttle busses between downtown and the airport every half hour. Six of us were waiting for the next one, when a Princess employee asked if we wanted to ‘go right now?’ then radioed over to a luxury bus that was waiting to take passengers to Seward, but whose flight was delayed. What great service! We were dropped off at the downtown convention centre, which Princess had taken over as ‘headquarters’. Here we found we could ‘check in’ our luggage with Princess for free while we spent the afternoon exploring Anchorage. We were very happy with the Sun Princess and the cruise – just change the coffee in the Horizon Court and it would be almost perfect! Princess really does a great job, and we would not hesitate to sail with them again.

Read More
  • New

Nov 30, -0001

New Caledonia Vanuatu

We thoroughly enjoyed our Christmas cruise. We chose this cruise because it left from Melbourne, so we just caught the train in. No airfares, parking, accidental scissors in handbag or hassles in Sydney. We could have boarded earlier - others did and it was quick, and they had lunch too! We went at the time they said would be quicker, and it was very busy. 5 Stars! And an elephant stamp! We ate in the Marquis dining room every night at 8.

4 courses, wide choice, quick service and lovely food. We tried breakfast there too, but found it too formal for us, so went to the buffet. It was repetitious, but plenty of choices so it didn't matter. You could request eggs done any way you wanted . Scrambled was always ready but a bit dry. Plenty of cereal, fresh and tinned fruit, yoghurt and toast. Lunch was sometimes in the dining room with terrific choices again a couple of pizzas, a hamburger once (not so good - please toast the buns and put more filling in them) We did not go hungry! We had a bacony cabin on Aloha deck. It was small, but had plenty of storage space. Bathroom was tiny, but there was plenty of hot water. We faithfully hung up our towels each day to indicate we could re-use them (as requested), but they were always replaced. Why bother asking then? I tried to find out the actual bed size, as we are used to a KS one (6ft wide). The info says twin beds which make a queen (5ft) I asked if the twins were only 2ft 6 and got back the answer that they were King singles! (3ft6) In the end they were ordinary singles, together 6ft wide, but not long enough for tall people. If they had been the extra 6in long to make a proper QS or KS there would not have been room to walk between the beds and the wall! Having the balcony took space from the room, but the fresh air was wonderful. The airconditioner was a bit noisy. We got fresh ice daily, and I brought a bottle of cordial and soft drinks with me. (Super fun way down!!) There was plenty to do. The days at sea were terrific, and we tried to do lots. The movie choices were OK, apart from a ghastly 1950s Christmas themed one. There were quite a lot to watch on the room TV. The shows at night were great. The ship's singers and dancers did a good job. The guest performers were good to great. I am a trivia fan, so took part in those as much as I could. We went to a couple of info talks which were good - navigation, reefs. I went to the art talks and auctions and bought 2. They may be cheaper than on land, but the 15% premium and the huge cost to post them spoilt this. I was told categorically my 2 could not be sent together. They came in 2 un-necessarily huge cylinders. I have since bought another painting by one of the artists on - line, at a cheaper cost and one quarter of the postage. It was still a learning experience for me. We had booked a "Petit train" trip in Noumea, but decided it was too expensive ($59 ea) so cancelled it. We found it only cost $25 from the tourist info centre, and was good value and fun. The trip to Duck Island was only 10 minutes in the Zodiac, and we had to pay $11 extra pp per hour for the snorkelling gear. So, not good value, though we enjoyed it. In Vila we got a taxi ($3 pp) and just visited the market, and strolled around the town. The glass-bottomed boat and snorkelling trip was good, but spoilt by 4 days of rain which had made the water very murky. The water at Lifou was beautiful - if you have Crocs or similar wear them as the bottom is very sharp. Ouvea - The info we got was that it was a 15-20 minute walk to the beach, and we would not need a taxi. (written by someone young and fit!) It would have been a 25-30 minute walk. The locals were there to take us for $3 pp in their cars. I knew people who had not gone on shore because of the walk, so correct info is needed. The beach was gorgeous. Bring drinks and food if you want to stay for hours. Beach towels are provided. Isle of Pines - easy walk to beach, and beautiful. All 3 times we needed a tender it went smoothly - hardly any waiting and we didn't need a ticket. It takes a while to find your way around, and the little map they give you is useful. We each had an onboard credit which I used up many times over, but my frugal husband did not. We are still waiting for his refund. Also port charges were included, yet we were charged them for Vila. We are still waiting for an answer 5 weeks later. We found the staff generally vey friendly and helpful, but then we are not demanding guests. The little Christmas touches were lovely - decorations, carols and Santa.

Read More
  • New

Nov 30, -0001

Eastern Caribbean

Introduction My wife and I are 54 years old. This was our eleventh cruise. Our previous cruises have been: Princess - Eastern Caribbean, Alaska, Panama Canal, Bermuda, Mediterranean Royal Caribbean - Western Caribbean Holland America - Mexican Riviera Getting there We made our own airline arrangements with Southwest Airlines and arrived the day before the cruise. Arriving early has plenty of advantages: you do not have to worry about

airline delays; if your luggage is misdirected, there is an additional day for it to catch up; and, you can decompress from traveling before starting the cruise. We stayed at the Comfort Suites Airport & Cruise Port. We have stayed there numerous times and have not been disappointed. The hotel provides shuttle service from the airport and to the cruise terminal. There are many restaurants, grocery stores, liquor stores and at least one pharmacy within walking distance. Embarkation Our shuttle was scheduled for 10:30 a.m. and we arrived at the terminal sometime before 11:00. We handed our luggage to the longshoreman and watched as it was placed in the transport bin. There was quite a line at 11:00 even though the boarding process would not begin until 11:30. We had preregistered on the internet which made registration simply checking forms and signing documents. Unlike last year, there was no Bahamian immigration form to complete. From the time we entered the terminal until the time we were headed to our cabin not longer than 20 minutes elapsed. The ship and our cabin The ship is beautiful and not showing her age (1995) a bit. Captain Bob Oliver was in command of the ship. I am again amazed that a ship can transport 2,000 passengers every week of the year for more than 8 years and still look as good as the Sun Princess. There is an ambience of comfort, class and reflection throughout the ship. The ship is incredibly well designed as are all the Sun class ships. There are very few moments during the cruise when you have any sense that there are approximately 2,000 other passengers sharing the experience with you. The dining rooms are designed with dividers and level changes mixing tables of different sizes to create a feeling of intimacy even though there are about 500 other diners present. Our cabin was located on the Baja deck, B316 which is an interior location. The cabin was small but, considering the amount of time we spend in our room, it was more than adequate. The cabin can be made up into a queen bed or twin beds. Due to the configuration of the cabin, the shower was the largest we have ever had with an inside cabin. It took longer than normal for the luggage to arrive. I heard security screening was causing the delay although I have no first hand knowledge of that fact. There were no storage problems. The suitcases fit under the bed and there is ample closet and drawer space for clothing. Each cabin has a television with limited programming including recurring programs on the ports, shopping and excursions. The televisions have a video port which we used to review our digital photographs. Unlike the verandah cabins where the desk, dresser, night stand, and television/refrigerator area are all the same height, there was a floor to ceiling cabinet which holds the television at the highest level, the refrigerator at the lowest level, and a shelved section with a door in the middle which contains the safe and a fair amount of storage space. The hair dryer is located outside of the bathroom on the wall next to the desk area. There is one outlet over the desk and that is it in terms of regular outlets. There is a plug designed for multiple shaped plugs in the bathroom which is marked for shaver use only. The ship is 857 feet long. After looking at the hallway outside of your room and realizing how many times you are going to walk that hallway you might want to spend some time considering your room location before booking your cruise. There is a laundry room on each floor. Each laundry room has two washers, two dryers, an ironing board and an iron. Food The food was consistently very good. There were a few occasions when the food was outstanding but, more importantly, there were no occasions when the food was not good. Each night the menu contained an excellent variety of items. I am spoiled, living in the Midwest, by the quality of beef that I have grown accustomed to eating. The beef onboard was not bad, it just does not rise to the level of the beef I am used to eating at home. On the other hand, the quality and variety of the seafood served at dinner was excellent! There are only so many things you can do for breakfast but each day the kitchen staff was able to come up with something new and interesting on the breakfast menu in the dining room. The menu for lunch in the dining room included fuller meals that would be considered dinner as well as contemporary lunch items. Again, the variety was excellent and the food was well prepared. To be honest the service at breakfast and lunch in the dining room was not the same quality as the dinner service. We enjoyed having breakfast and lunch in the dining room whenever time permitted. Being served while meeting fellow cruisers is a lovely way to enjoy breakfast and lunch. The conversations with the other passengers seem to add to the entire cruise experience. The Horizon Court is a buffet which is open around the clock. It was okay but we didn’t think it was anything special. If you were to compare the Horizon Court to the Lido Buffet served on Holland America ships, you would find that the Horizon Court pales in comparison. We only ate in the Horizon Court when scheduling required it or we were looking for a quick snack. The Riviera Grill is located outside above the main pool. It serves grilled items - hamburgers, hot dogs, grilled chicken, bratwurst etc. We only ate there once and it was fine. The Riviera Grill closes at 5:00 p.m. so that it can be transformed into the Sterling Steakhouse. Sterling Steakhouse has increased its charge to $15.00 per person (it had previously been $8.00). We have dined at the Sterling Steakhouse on each of our three previous cruises on Sun class ships and thought that the extra $8.00 charge was not bad. We were shocked by the $7.00 increase and did not feel that what we had experienced in the past warranted the $30.00 surcharge per couple. The pizzeria serves a very nice pizza and they have expanded the menu to include some pasta items. I have to wonder why they do not have a standard Italian sausage pizza. The pizzeria was quite busy during the cruise and has obviously become a favorite alternative dining venue. Service Friendly and efficient describes the overall service. This description certainly is appropriate for room steward. Our waiter, Dorin, and assistant waiter, Alex, were very good. Our waiter had a wonderful personality and dinner was eagerly anticipated each evening thanks to our dinner companions and our wait staff. I must mention our dinner companions: Dave & Cindy, Ned & Vickie, Marvin & Edy and Ken & Cheryl. They were absolutely wonderful! The satisfaction of the entire cruise was raised to another level due to the camaraderie of the dinner table. A “small world isn’t it” story is in order here. Ten to twelve couples on this cruise had been corresponding on a cruise chat board for some time prior to the cruise. The first night at dinner while conducting introductions we learned that a couple of us from the cruise chat group had been seated at the same table for dinner! Often overlooked are the personnel working the Purser’s Desk. These people were always friendly and helpful. Excursions About six weeks before the cruise, Princess sends a list of all available excursions. You can book your excursions at that time (by mail, facsimile or over the internet). We booked one excursion on the Princess home page and our excursion tickets were in our cabin on arrival. We also booked two other excursions independently and we arranged two more excursions after arriving at the port. If you are considering a tour of a town or a tourist site that carries no risk and can be easily reached by taxi, you may want to consider touring independently. Alternatively, if the tour is unusual or runs the risk of delay or physical injury, you should consider booking with Princess. If something goes wrong, and you are on a Princess excursion, Princess will work it out. If you are on an independent tour and something goes wrong you are on your own. However, when the risk is minimal or non-existent, the Princess excursion will cost you more; it will be less personal; and, the delays will be exasperating. We have learned that when the situation is right we can see more of what we want to see in less time with a lot less aggravation at a much better price by touring independently. If you cannot decide whether to book a Princess excursion or to tour independently, you can book the Princess excursion and cancel onboard if you choose to tour independently. Be aware that canceling an excursion must be done by the deadline (usually 24 hours prior to the excursion) to avoid a penalty. Entertainment Dan Gibbons was the Cruise Director. He has a lot to learn about being a cruise director. He was not the worst we have experienced but he was far from the best. His morning show appeared to be directed to children on Saturday mornings rather than adults many of whom where on the far side of middle age. The entertainment was the usual mix of production shows, singers, and comedians. The production shows were excellent. The singer who we most enjoyed was Tony Cherry. Can he sing a ballad! The comedians ranged from very good to truly terrible. After leaving Ft. Lauderdale we encountered very windy conditions. Our first stop was Princess Cays but the chop on the water was severe enough that the Captain determined that tendering would be too dangerous and uncomfortable. Princess Cays has been a scheduled stop on three of our cruises. Only one of our ships have dropped anchor for Princess Cays. Each day at sea there were two sessions of bingo. The basic pack of three cards for each of five games ran $20 per session. The sessions get more and more crowded as the cruise goes on because of a roll-over on the last bingo game. The prize reached $3000 before someone won it at the last session. Art auctions have become as much a part of cruising as bingo. I was pleased to note that the hype concerning the art auctions was greatly reduced from our previous cruises. One of my frustrations was that the art for the auction was stuck everywhere on the ship detracting from the beauty of the ship and its own display of art. Princess seems to have heard these complaints and has greatly reduced the auction art which it has on display. Our first port was . . . . St. Thomas - we were docked from 7:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. St. Thomas is a mandatory stop for every cruise ship anywhere near it. The West India Company dock, which is the dock near the Havensight Mall, can only accommodate three cruise ships. Others have to anchor and tender passengers. The old submarine base at the other end of the harbor is now being used to dock cruise ships. It is called Crown Bay and there is a major remodeling effort in progress. I suspect when it is completed it will be similar to the facilities that have been built at St. Maarten. Crown Bay is where we docked. St. Thomas is not one of my favorite ports. It is too commercialized. The vendors have become too aggressive. There are too many visitors. I have wanted to ferry over to St. Johns in the past but events have prevented me from doing so. I was able to do it on this trip. There are no signs indicating where the ferry to St. John’s boards in Charlotte Amalie. If you walk to the ferry terminal building you have taken a fairly good walk for nothing. There are several counters for ferries located in the ferry terminal but none of them go to St. John’s. The ferry pulls up in front of the stores (Little Europe to be precise) facing the bay and they sell tickets as you board the ferry. When they leave, no trace remains. The ferry ride over to St. John’s is 40 to 45 minutes from Charlotte Amalie. It is a nice ride with the beautiful shoreline of St. Thomas to observe on the way over. Once on St. John there are plenty of taxis. All of them appeared to be open jitneys. There is no negotiating for a fare. The fare is $16.00 per person for the standard tour which is a loop running along the shoreline and then back on the interior road or vice versa. Lots of wonderful beaches! A really beautiful place. If you want to get away from the shopping and hustle of St. Thomas go to St. John’s. St. Maarten - we were docked from 7:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. St. Maarten has constructed a wonderful new cruise terminal since we last visited. It appears to be able to dock four cruise ships at one time. A water taxi continually runs from the cruise terminal or you can walk or take a land taxi into town. There are a few shops in the new cruise terminal. We wanted to take the Rhino boat excursion in St. Maarten. We probably could have booked it on our own but chose to book it through the ship. Our reasoning was that it was across the island meaning that we would have to get a taxi if we were to do it on our own which would probably eat up any savings. It is the type of activity which could result in problems - injuries or delays. Booking with Princess meant that any problems became the problems of Princess. Finally, when an excursion has limited numbers (I presumed Rhino boats would have limited numbers), the cruise ships usually get first availability. I did not want to risk being squeezed out by the cruise ship excursions. What a good time we had. Rhino boats are small, inflatable, semi-rigid boats for two people. Each has a 25 hp engine and they go like the wind. Skidoos are impeller driven water cycles. Rhino boats are actual boats with outboard motors although you sit in them like you would sit on a Skidoo. Each group of Rhinos has a leader and you motor up the coast beyond Marigot. You stop for 45 to 60 minutes of swimming, snorkeling or wandering on a beach. Then you head back as a group. Everything in the boat gets wet but storage is provided at the office for anything you want to keep dry. St. Vincent - we were docked from 10:00 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. St. Vincent was a new stop for us and we think it is a winner! Making independent arrangements for an excursion was a little difficult because there is not much information available regarding private excursions. We were really fortunate to link up with Dani and Norris, gotalife@caribsurf.com, home (784) 457-5237 cell (784) 455-5556. They run a taxi service and have a guest house. They also provision yachts. Dani conducts the business end of things and Norris gives the tours. We certainly recommend them. St. Vincent has yet to succumb to the influence of tourism and the corrosive nature of tourist revenue. Our tour started with a drive to Montreal Gardens. The drive provided us with a good idea of the island and its population. We drove through small communities, around mountains, though valleys and saw persons in their daily routines farming, shopping and carrying produce to market. We drove up the Mesopotamia Valley to Montreal Gardens. Montreal Gardens are privately owned by a Welshman who takes great pride in maintaining, expanding and improving them. Originally, the gardens were a plantation but have been transformed by their owner into a delightful garden spot in the mountains. There is a collection of flora and fauna reflective not only of the island but the entire Caribbean. The walkways throughout the gardens are well maintained. >From the gardens we drove to the windward side of the island and observed the black sand beaches. The black sand is the result of lava that has been ground into pumice by the action of the waves. The color of the sand causes it to absorb and retain heat making it uncomfortable for beach use. The wave action and tides make swimming on this side of the island dangerous. Our tour looped south along the shore until we returned to the villages on the outskirts of Kingstown. We stopped for lunch at a lovely restaurant directly across from Young Island before returning to the ship. Barbados - we were docked from 7:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. We visited Barbados during our cruise in January, 2003. At that time we booked an all day excursion with Glory Tours (www.glorytours.org). We were so pleased with our tour we booked them for this trip. We were picked up outside the entrance to port. We arrived at the Signal Station before the tour buses arrived which gave us extra time to explore and take pictures. We then went to Earthworks Pottery and watched as the pieces were being made. We crossed over to Bathsheba and Cattlewash. This is one of my favorite places! What a breathtakingly beautiful spot! We stopped for lunch at a local eatery near the beach where we had a very good lunch. We then moved on to Orchid World. Orchid World is a large complex devoted to the growing of orchids. There are more orchids located in this one place than you can possibly imagine! Our last stop on the tour was the wildlife preserve. The monkeys, deer, tortoises, and agouti all run free. The place appeared to have run down a bit from our visit the previous year. A word of caution - the roads returning to the ship get very busy around 3:00 with a mix of business traffic, school buses and tourists running to their ships. Do not cut your return time to the ship too close. We left Barbados and sailed to . . . . Antigua - we were docked from 8:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. I had loosely arranged to meet a cab driver/tour operator to drive us around the island. We were late disembarking and I learned that he had left on a tour. He had, however, left us in the hands of a great tour guide, Lawrence of Antigua, http://lawrenceofantigua.com/. I was excited about returning to Nelson’s Dockyard which I had experienced on an earlier visit to the island. It was a living history museum recreating the time when Admiral Nelson maintained a major shipyard here to keep the very young American government in check. There were two other similar bases one in Bermuda and the other in Nova Scotia (I think). To my shock and dismay, the living history aspect has been replaced by businesses catering to the luxury yachts which now anchor in the harbor. Of course, the historical aspect is still present but it is now more like an afterthought rather than being the soul of the place. Shirley Heights, which was part of the base, remains another of those places that are breathtakingly beautiful. In the vicinity of Shirley Heights, do not miss the Dow’s Hill Interpretation Centre. There is a nice animated presentation encapsulating the history of the island. Lawrence took us out to Devil’s Bridge which is an interesting geologic formation created by the pounding surf. It reminded me of the natural bridge in Aruba but I found it much more interesting because of the way the water has honeycombed the rock of the entire area. Returning to the ship we stopped at Betty’s Hope. This was Antigua’s first sugar plantation dating back to 1650. There are twin windmills which you can explore. One of the buildings contains exhibits regarding the plantation and sugar production. Two days at sea before we returned to . . . .Ft. Lauderdale Debarkation was very smooth. We walked through the various check points collected our baggage and we were on our way. Conclusion The Sun Princess is a wonderful ship! Of course, we are a bit biased as we love the Sun class ships of Princess. This is our fourth cruise on one of the Sun class sisters. She has been tastefully appointed with an understated elegance. The staff is friendly, efficient, and first class. If the opportunity presents itself, we would certainly cruise on the Sun Princess again. Princess is a wonderful cruise line which does so many things right. When you spend as much money as you do on a cruise and take hard earned vacation time you expect the experience to be something very special. Princess understands this and does not disappoint. We would be happy to answer any questions. Just drop us an E-mail. Bill & Lu Schwartz

Read More
  • New

Nov 30, -0001

16 day Panama Canal

A savior for the food, at least around lunchtime, was cheeseburgers, served in the hamburger/hot dog stand adjacent to Horizon Court. They were very good, surprisingly. Most cruises we have been on, they were anything but. Dining Facilities Operation. The main, or notable, ingredients for successful personal choice dining, are estimated to be two or more reasonably spacious, separate dining rooms, all reasonably elegant,

as ships’ main dining rooms normally are, and a corresponding, able to be handled, number of passengers, should a ship be so lucky. A balance between open seating and required reservations is equally important, and that balance is a variable which depends on the number of passengers and number of dining rooms. At least one room should honor reservations, generally reservations only, but could also honor open seating so long as it is worked in around reservations. At least one room should be devoted exclusively to open seating with no reservations honored. This does not preclude people wishing to dine together in open seating from doing so. They would simply make up their own group and wait in line together. Personal choice dining, a reasonably accurate description of the concept, exists by design on most luxury cruise ships, and is more noticeable on ships that choose to have more than one dining room. Among premium cruise lines, however, of which Princess is one, it is more of a trend, perhaps about three years old, although probably on the way to becoming more than a trend, especially as new ships are built with more dining rooms. It is a difficult concept, however, to retrofit into existing ships. Norwegian Cruise Line may represent the initial experiment. We are not familiar with Norwegian’s configuration or the results. A good example among premium, or near premium, cruise lines is the new, shadowily existent, Renaissance line. It came on the scene near the same time as when the concept was being considered. Renaissance ships were designed with that type of dining in mind. Theirs have one main dining room along with two specialty rooms, and they implement the concept beautifully. Princess’ system is to use one of two equal main dining rooms for open seating while the other remains dedicated to fixed (traditional) seating. Beyond that, a certain amount of slight of hand is employed as two other “rooms” are brought into the mix, promoted as other choices. One is called, taking great liberties, The Sterling Steak House. The other is the ever popular Horizon Court. Thus Princess advertises (at least) four “personal choice” alternative dining options while the latter two are, at best, marginal additions. The Sterling Steak House is actually a little corner of Horizon Court which is Horizon Court by day and Sterling Steak House by night, when a portable bar and a couple of other temporary decorative touches are mingled with a few Horizon tables. Horizon Court is undeniably pretty and very spacious, but it is a buffet and has its own motif, which is not the same motif as the two main dining rooms. To further infringe on the concept of personal choice, pure or impure as it may be, Princess cheats on open seating. In the dining room dedicated to open seating, it also honors reservations. Princess’ “personal choice” then appears to be a hodge-podge coming across as a misleading and confusing hybrid. It exemplifies the difficulty of adapting the concept to a ship which lacks the necessary dining resources. It might be the result of a corporate compromise, wanting to keep up with the Jones without having the resources, but coming close. But that is speculation. Prior to the cruise we tried to find out from Princess and anyone else what “personal choice” meant, but the answers we received were inconsistent and confusing. We read into them a reflection of what we expected to find, once on board, a hybrid system reconcilable only with difficulty, or perhaps not, to the concept of “personal choice”. On Princess’ behalf they should be given credit for wanting to provide passengers with an option currently popular in the cruise industry. They might even have allowed that its workings would be difficult to predict. Perhaps they thought in terms of evaluating its effectiveness over a period of time. In the meantime, perhaps PR could be relied on to provide credibility. More speculation. For passengers, as “personal choice” is now, it is probably dining in transition. Entertainment Princess is the best. Dance production shows; swing, soft, and Latin music for dancing; vocalists featuring the same; tasteful comedians, whether they be stand up, magicians, or jugglers. Princess seems to focus more on quality assurance in providing what, in their estimation, their clientele wants, rather than merely purchasing what is out there. Ambiance Again Princess is the best. The same caring attitude that has always been their trademark, the pleasant passenger oriented feeling displayed by all the service personnel. The Purser’s desk is excellent in providing all kinds of information and solving an equal range of problems. Such ambiance is universal to varying degrees among cruise lines, but Princess excels. Miscellaneous Tenders (boats to shore): For the first time Tenders introduced themselves as a factor in selecting a cruise. We have tendered to shore on various cruises because a port could not accommodate a particular large ship, but on Sun Princess because of its size, it was a common occurrence. Of five ports (Cartagena was cancelled and replaced by a Panama port which never materialized), three required tenders. On a previous cruise we had experienced tenders being discontinued after a few hours because of rough seas, but we hadn’t before encountered a tender operation as challenging as Princess‘. The Grand Cayman harbor provided the tenders there and that operation went smoothly. Huatulco, Mexico, however, apparently was not so equipped and Princess used its own tenders, which turned out to be a boat of another color. One could have thought of it as a circus as passengers watched from the rail, but that would neither be fair, nor take into account the inherent danger. One crew member fell overboard and had to be pulled out of the water. One tender had to be taken out of operation for a technical problem. While that was going on, once the boats arrived in the vicinity of the ship for passengers’ embarkation, each pilot seemingly took forever to position at the ship’s dock. Boarding became uncertain, at best. Eventually, although events probably discouraged some from trying, all who wanted to go ashore, went ashore, albeit very carefully. The return from shore was a different adventure. As each boat would approach the dock, there appeared to be a contest underway as to which could ram Sun Princess the hardest. All tenders produced several “hit and miss”es, and in addition to rattling several sets of bones, before tying up successfully, our boat, for example, all but succeeded in throwing a woman seated on the end of a bench to the deck. In spite of the striking tactics, however, there was a plus side. Sun Princess exhibited a tough hull. In fairness to the boat crews the water was choppy (not really rough) and, to their credit, the next tender operation saw a complete turnaround. At Cabo San Lucas when Princess did the tendering again, all went smoothly. No one was lost and there was no apparent damage. Noise: The final night, northward along the California coast to San Francisco, the sea was mildly rough and a loud, banging metallic noise kept us awake for 3 hours. Calling the purser’s office in the wee hours the response we received was that the noise was caused by rough weather and extended throughout the ship. What we heard, however, was coming from directly below our cabin, and we entertained the possibility that the tender, which was directly underneath and a deck below, had not been fastened securely. After comparing notes with other passengers the next morning, we thought our explanation made more sense than the Purser’s, but neither is verifiable. Admittedly we may have been influenced by the quality of the tender operation a couple of days before, but in any case, such noise is not expected of a large, late model ship. Disembarkation: Pluses and minuses. We arose about 6:30 which wasn’t bad. Usually it’s the bum’s rush; get out of your cabin and don’t come back; all the breakfast service people are tense; and things you want there are not available. In this case, however, breakfast was the same menu as every other morning, the service was relatively unhurried, and there was little pressure. Checking out, there was waiting, as always, and the process was almost leisurely. Until we were called to debark, that is. Then it became (and I apologize for the term) “stupid”. Groups were called in sequence but there were many line crashers, not unusual, but Princess used no mechanism to control them. We were in the first group at the perimeter of the atrium in a line that narrowed into a corridor, which led to the gangplank. There were roughly over a hundred passengers in front of us, four or five abreast, with no movement for fifteen minutes. There were a couple of wheelchairs jockeying for position and a handful of uniformed INS and Customs people trying to squeeze across the line to a restricted exit on the right. All of that time the departure was disorganized and once the line did start to move another ten minutes were required to reach the gangplank. It was a procedure that was left out of control and unbecoming to any cruise line. Conclusion: Travel writers, who can be taken with a grain of salt (except for this review), hit on something when it was reported a couple of years ago that Princess is going for the “mass market”. We believe that is the case. Princess still has most of the same old refinement but they seem to have foregone attention in some areas in favor of what appears to be concentrating on profitability. Huge ships, more passengers, disproportionately less cabin space, lower food quality (not lower service quality), and savings on some transportation arrangements, to mention some areas. This is not the same Princess we knew five years ago, even taking into account the larger ship size which adjusts a viewpoint significantly. Food is the critical determinant. It is not the same quality Princess food we knew. Whereas Princess had been at the top of our list among premium cruise lines, after this cruise, it is back in the pack, and as far as food is concerned, at the bottom of the pack. As we were told prior to this cruise by two other former Princess cruisers, and we found it difficult to believe, they would not recommend Princess. Our opinion may be somewhat marginal in that regard but we do feel it is worthwhile to point out some of the downside we thought we saw. Our position might better be stated by the outlook that our next cruises will be on a different cruise line, not Princess. James McKenry

Read More
  • New

Nov 30, -0001

Panama Canal Partial Transit

We arrived at the pier about 11:45 am and were through security and had our picture taken by 12:15pm. Very quick and painless and well organized. Our cabin was C306 on Caribe Deck and was a handicapped cabin. We had booked this cruise 15 months ahead of time and I had booked a category ii inside guarantee. The ship was very full and 4 days before sailing, Princess called my travel agent to see if we would accept a downgrade. They offered

us a handicapped inside cabin and a $100.00 on board credit. We took the handicapped cabin and were very glad we did. It is easily twice the size of a regular cabin including the balcony cabin our friends were in. There was much more storage space and a large bathroom as large as our bathroom at home. It really never seemed like an inside cabin because of the size and the large mirrors. Wish we could get that cabin all the time. Our room steward was Raul from Portugal and was very good. I asked for the Princess robes and he brought them right away. I also asked for an extra Princess Patter one day and he said he would leave us an extra copy every night. The first day we had received a bottle of wine from the travel agent and wanted a couple of wine glasses so he took the wine and brought it back in a glass ice bucket, with two wine glasses on a tray with two different types of snacks. I was very pleased with his service and left him an extra tip. On one evening I decided late that I would like our bottle of champagne to be brought to the dining room table and he made sure it was there waiting for us at dinner SHIP: The ship was in excellent shape. It really was a beautiful ship. I must say with 3 previous sailings with Royal Caribbean that the atriums on RCI ships are more spectacular. One room I did not like was the Regency Dining Room on Princess. The room is too crowded and had very low ceilings so noise level was very bad. Also they had dark paneling on the walls with a minimal amount of light coming in so it made the dining room kind of drab. In comparison RCI ships have at least a two-tier dining room or 3 tier on the Eagle Class Ships. There is so much light and large windows on RCI. Walking into their dining rooms with the large staircase in very beautiful and makes you feel very 'regal' I found the Vista lounge had some bad site lines and was very crowded at some of the shows. The Wheelhouse lounge was a beautiful room with great leather furniture. I think the casino was nothing spectacular unlike the last one we experienced on Enchantment of the Seas. The pool area was very good with lots of seating and two larger pools and two hot tubs. At the back of the ship was a smaller round pool with covering and 3 more hot tubs. Also at the front of the ship was a small splash pool for children. The fact that Princess uses fresh water is a plus. The wrap around Promenade Deck was great for those early morning walks. Three times around is 1 mile. DEMOGRAPHICS: There were about 2,000 passengers on this cruise with about half being over 60 years of age. I realized that this would attract an older crowd but saw many many passengers with canes, wheelchairs and rolling walkers. It was surprising that a handicapped cabin was available for us. Because of the age of passengers I believe the entertainment was geared to them. The shows were not always shown twice each night and because of late dining which we had we were not able to make it to all the shows. This was a disappointment for us as this is a part of a cruising which we enjoy. There were lots of seats available in the sun by the pool but hard to find one in the shade later in the day when you had had enough sun. Many of the passengers were from Florida. Late vs Early Dining: This was the first cruise that we had chosen late dining and we really did not like it. We would not choose it again. We felt getting out of the dining room at 10:15 pm which we did many nights was too late and it also meant that we were late for the late show and by then all the seats were taken. We were also so full from dinner and with not much happening on this particular ship after 10pm except the show there was not much to do to after dinner. We would chose early dining next time. It just suits us better. FOOD & SERVICE: We had many good to excellent meals on Sun Princess. The Filet Mignon was excellent as was the Beef Wellington, Lobster, Lamb escargots, crab quiche, and the pastas. I especially enjoyed the pastas and instead of a second course of soup or salad I had the waiter bring a smaller portion of the pasta dish which I had as my second course. Desserts were excellent and I especially liked the crème brulee, and their soufflés and baked alaska was also very good. A couple of meals were not good and they were the Louisiana Crayfish and Roast Turkey the last evening. The turkey tasted like the boiled kind and not roasted at all. They also repeated a couple of appetizers with smoked salmon on two consecutive nights as well as lamb were served on two evenings. I did order a cappuccino in the dining room after dinner and it was good and they do not charge extra for it Service was a bit lacking however. Our waiter and his assistant were both from Poland. Only on one occasion can I remember them holding the chair for the ladies and I don't ever remember them placing the napkin on our laps. Only a couple of times did they ask us if we would like fresh ground pepper and the pepper mill sat on the table. Our water glasses more than on 1 occasion went empty and in fact at least 3 times the headwaiter Jose came and filled them. Also twice my husband had to ask for more coffee. When he came over with the coffee he asked me if I wanted more I said 'No" but I would like more water. They were also very slow and we were frequently the last to leave the dining room. They only had our table of 6, a table of 8 and a table of 4 and those people only dined in the dining room about 3 times. One thing that we noticed on this cruise was the headwaiter and how he was more available. He actually did a good job. We brought on three different evenings our own wine to dinner and we were not charged any extra corkage fees. On three occasions we went to Verdi's pizzeria for lunch and had pizza and beer. We both enjoyed this dining venue as the pizza was freshly baked and delicious. Our friends Gerry and Don actually went there for dinner one evening and Don said the ravioli was excellent. They do not serve coffee there but only soda, beer or wine. TIPPING: They automatically charge the daily tipping to each of our accounts. It appears on your statement every day and including the waiter, assistant waiter and room steward it comes to $10.00 per day per person. You can have this adjusted up or down by going to the Pursers Desk depending on the kind of service you get. We did tip our room steward extra and I left him cash in a thank you card in the room. PORTS & EXCURSIONS: Colon, Panama We were supposed to have Cartagena as a scheduled port but with political problems Princess eliminated this port about 2 weeks before the cruise. Instead they had us overnight at the canal by docking at Colon, Panama the day before our transit through the canal. We arrived about 12 noon. We then took a tour 'Atlantic to Pacific Railway Journey'. We boarded a nostalgic train and transversed the entire length of the canal from the Atlantic to the Pacific and back. It took about 1 hour & 15 minutes until you arrived at the train station on the Pacific coast where we boarded a bus to view the Miraflores Lock. Each car on the train had an informative guide who also came with you on the bus. After viewing the Miraflores Lock we again boarded the bus to the end of the Amador Causeway where we enjoyed a beautiful view of Panama City Skyline and the bridge of the Americas. I actually saw sunrise that morning on the ship on the Atlantic and watched the staff member raise the flag at the front of the ship and saw sunset over the bridge of Americas on the pacific side. As a side note because of local demonstrations about work conditions in Colon many people from the ship did not make this tour. Many streets were blocked off and not all the buses made it to the train station. We were lucky and highly recommend this tour. Limon, Costa Rica We selected and were very pleased with the Jungle River Eco Adventure. We were taken by bus to a covered boat to sail for about 1½ hours along the Tortuguero Canal in the jungle region. The guide was excellent as was the captain of the boat in spotting many wildlife forms like birds, sloth's, crocodile, and monkeys which we actually saw swinging from tree to tree including a mother with her babies. Before boarding the bus back we enjoyed fresh fruit and a live band playing music. On the way back we passed miles and miles of banana plantations. When we arrived back to the ship we did some shopping for Costa Rican Coffee and there is a nice market place right where the ship docks. We actually walked into town and found a grocery/market to buy our coffee where it was a bit cheaper. Grand Cayman: Since we had never been to Grand Cayman we did the Stingray Sandbar Snorkeling. This was truly amazing and I am saying this as a non-swimmer. They took us out about a ½ hour boat ride to a sand bar where you get out and it is only up to your waist and in some parts mid thigh deep and I am only 5' 2" tall. I had to be coaxed off the boat as a non swimmer as it was over my head but only for about 6 feet until I was firmly on the sand and standing on my own. You can feed the Stingray if you want. Got some great photos here and if you have never done this make sure you do. This was the best excursion we did. We were only in Grand Cayman until 3pm so had little time to check out 7-mile beach but will do that next time but did manage some time to buy some rum cakes to take home and Tortuga Rum. Cozumel: This was also our first time at this island. Sun Princess docked at a new pier right near a new shopping complex and across from Carlos and Charlies. The color of the water here is so blue it is amazing. We did our own thing here and grabbed a taxi with our friends Gerry & Don and headed to Chankanaab Park for snorkeling. We also watched the Dolphin encounter and my husband and Don saw the biggest iguana according to them it was about 5 feet long so they said. Kind of like those fishing stories men like to tell J The taxi ride was $10.00 each way for the 4 of us and admission to the park was $10.00 per person. After spending the morning and part of the afternoon there we headed back and did some shopping in Cozumel. DISEMBARKATION: We had a 1 pm flight and were off the ship by 9:15 am and at the airport by 10 am. We took the Princess transfers and flew Delta. No problems with security and flights were good. SOME RANDOM THOUGHTS: Princess has nice touches when it comes to having a refrigerator in the room (not a stocked fridge) for passengers to use, also the bathrobes to use are yours for the asking and we did. Also if you request the room steward will bring you a fresh fruit bowl. Fresh water in the pools Drink of the day prices were good starting at $3.25 for a 12 oz drink and included such specials as Mai tai, Strawberry Daiquiri, Pina Colada and Chocolate Banana and Rum Punch Usually went for our first coffee of the day at the Patisserie on Deck 5 to enjoy a good cup of coffee. They usually also had pastries like danish and croissants here as well. Found the coffee first thing in the morning the best here. We chose late dining and because of this we did not make a lot of the entertainment. For us, the eternal question of late vs early have been answered and will choose early so not as to miss so many of the shows. Princess does not do a lot of things around the pool area. There was only 1 pool game in 10 days at sea including 4 days at sea. They had a belly flop contest and my husband and I spend a lot of time around the pool so missed this aspect. Our previous cruises were on Royal Caribbean and we also found the band by the pool very low key. Also missed having the Horse Races by the pool. They held them twice in the show lounge and felt if they had it outside by the pool would have gotten greater response. We did not want to leave the pool area to attend a race indoors. In our opinion the nod for physical beauty of the ships and public areas goes to Royal Caribbean. The public areas on Princess are very similar in choice of color but the dining room in particular is much more stunning on Royal Caribbean as is the casino, atrium and show lounges with excellent sight lines. Prefer the Schooner Bar on Royal to Wheelhouse on Princess. I felt the Windjammer and Horizon Court are very much alike except that on Princess in the Horizon they do not provide a tray to carry your food on but a large oval platter. With many elderly passengers on board it got a bit tricky to negotiate in the buffet line in the Horizon. We noticed that the smoking policy on the ship was not clearly defined. We saw no mention of it in the Princess Patter. On Royal Caribbean you cannot smoke on the starboard side of the ship outside on open decks like around the pool. On more that one occasion my husband got up and moved on the pool deck when someone who smoked sat next to him. In one of the lounges they had little cards sitting on the table to indicate smoking and no smoking. We actually saw people just moved these cards to a different table and thus they felt they could smoke even though they were now in close proximity to us. One of my favorite shows on a cruise is the Newlywed Game. I looked forward to this and they held it on the last evening of the cruise at 9pm. With late dining starting at 8:15pm there was no way we could make that show. Also I considered not going to dinner in the dining room but since it was our last evening we wanted to say goodbye to our waitstaff and it was the baked Alaska parade. CONCLUSION: We had a wonderful, relaxing cruise and totally enjoyed our time with our friends Gerry and Don. Princess does many many things right and I experienced many friendly staff in the halls and public areas. We feel that we prefer Royal Caribbean by a slight margin mostly because of the entertainment factor and the more visually appealing public rooms. I realize that it is all a matter of opinion but these were our thoughts only. Would love to answer any questions and feel free to e-mail me

Read More
  • New

Nov 30, -0001

San Francisco, Victoria, Vancouver, BC Canada

I had entered all of my personal information online and my cruise tickets came pre-printed, which qualified me for Express Check-In. The Express Check-In line was shorter than the regular one, but it still took a half hour. It was a much more pleasant experience than my first cruise though, where we stood in line for hours. [This is my second cruise, the first one was on Carnival in 1999.] An embarkation tip I learned from a friend

after my first cruise proved to be our true savior - forget about the posted embarkation time on the ticket and show up early if you can. The posted time on our ticket was noon, but we showed up at 11 and were in line by 11:15. We were on the ship in time for noon lunch in the dining room, while we heard complaints from many passengers at dinner saying they had been in line for 3+ hours that afternoon! Be prepared for a rough ride if you come or go through SF also. I had two friends who had cruised out of SF before and both said it was a bumpy ride. We were not left wanting, our boat was rocking and rolling pretty good out of SF and up the coast the whole night. I was glad I put my SeaBands on as soon as I got onboard. Food / Personal Choice Dining: I thought the food was most excellent. I enjoyed every meal in the dining room, both for the food and the service. I thought the Horizon Court 24-hour buffet left a little to be desired, but it was ok in a pinch. I ordered room service continental breakfast both days, which was very nice. (And the only way to get coffee in the room in the morning.) Rather than making a secret of the fact that room service was a dining option, we had a breakfast order door hanger delivered to our stateroom each evening. The room service was also very prompt. I learned a big lesson about Personal Choice Dining on the very first night. The way Personal Choice (PC) works is that they have one dining room for fixed time sitters and one for Personal Choice. Supposedly you can just show up at the PC dining room anytime between 5:30 and 10pm and be seated for dinner. If you want to have a particular meal time and want to guarantee yourself a table, you can make a reservation in advance. On my cruise, we shoved off from SF at 5:30pm or so on the first night. Apparently, everyone rushed straight down from the bon voyage festivities to the dining room when it opened and packed it. Then, those of us who took time to go back to our cabins and dress for dinner showed up after 6 and 7pm and were told that the dining room was full and we had to wait until after 8 to eat. On the following two nights, a day at sea and a long day in port at Victoria (the ship wasn't leaving port until midnight), there was no problem. We walked right up and were seated. The next time I cruise Princess (next month actually) I am going to hazard a guess that I should have a dinner reservation on the days the ship has ports of call that depart around 4 or 5pm. My guess is that after long days in port, the dining room will have the same early rush as we did on the sail-away day this time. Cabin: I traveled on this cruise with my fellow female cousin, as a girls outing. So, naturally we had the beds in the twin configuration. We had an inside cabin and were expecting to be cramped in only 140 sq ft, but were not. The built-in hair dryer was sufficient, so there is no need to take your own. Unfortunately there is only one electrical outlet, so if you want a clock to stay on all the time, be sure you have one with batteries. Interestingly, the way they do the quick change from one cruise to another is that they make the bed up for the next cruisers while you are at breakfast, but that’s it. They don't bother any of your stuff though, so its comfortable for you to leave everything, and then go back and take your time packing your final toiletries before going up to wait for disembarkation. Anyway, the interesting thing was they switched our room from a twin configuration to queen while we were at breakfast, so we could see both. Both of us agreed that we would not have enjoyed having the inside cabin with the queen configuration. Whereas we had the beds on the sides of the room and lots of space for walking and changing clothes in the center of our room, in the queen configuration the bed takes up the whole room! There was only a small walking space around the bed, and neither one of us thought that would have been comfortable for changing clothes, etc. We loved the décor in our room, and felt the bathroom was quite spacious. We also liked the fact that there was a vanity table with a mirror outside the actual bathroom so two of us girls could get ready for dinner comfortably without tripping over one another. We also thought they did a great job with giving us lots of closet, drawer and shelf space in all different sizes and shapes. We seemed to have a perfect spot for everything! The Sun Princess: My cousin and I are both young professional women, she is 29 and I am 33. Both of us had cruised once before on Carnival, and both of us felt that Princess was more our style. Whereas Carnival was loud and bold in décor and activities, Princess had a lot of glass and wood and more of a warm feeling. However, its not stuffy. There were a lot of activities onboard, quite of few kids and teens, and a lively nightlife. We thought the stage show was fun. Of course the multi-story atrium at the center of the ship takes your breath away when you enter, and I thought the ship layout was very easy to navigate. I highly recommend the Sun and its twins - Dawn, Sea and Ocean Princess. Victoria, port-of-call: I don't have much to write home about on the port.. we didn't do any excursions, but decided to just walk around and shop on our own. There is a shuttle that is very convenient from the ship's dock to downtown where you can explore the Empress Hotel. The shuttle cost $5 roundtrip. If you want to pay the price, you can have high tea at the Empress for $39CAN or so, but you need a reservation. If you like wildlife in general, or whales in particular, I would strongly suggest one of the whale watching tours. There are a lot of companies right there in the inner harbor where the shuttle drops you off, but, again, I suggest a reservation. Last year I took a whale watching tour from the Vancouver side of the Strait of Georgia and it was absolutely fabulous! We were in an open zodiac boat and the killer whales were all around us. There are resident whale pods that circle Vancouver Island, so the whales you see out of Victoria are the exact same ones I saw. Also, all of the whale watching companies communicate with one another and alert each other as to the whereabouts of the whales at that exact moment - so you will get a chance to see the whales no matter which company you choose. All of the different companies end up in a big group together! The Spa: My cousin and I spent a lot of time at the spa. She had four different treatments, and I had a scalp and shoulder massage two days in a row. (It was so wonderful, I had to go back for seconds!) The staff was friendly and courteous, and we gave high marks for all of them. I found out something that I'm passing on to everyone I see - they gave discounts on the spa treatments on port days! According to the brochure, in port is 1 hour before we dock to 1 hour after we leave port. Most of the bigger treatments were $20 off. My head & shoulder massage was $29 regular and $15 in port. (This is why I couldn't resist another one!) I didn't participate in any gym activities, but they have a decent selection of stationery bikes and other aerobic machines. Be prepared to pay if you want to take a class with in instructor in the aerobic studio though - I saw Yoga and a couple other classes listed for a fee. The web: My cousin and I had visions of sending our boyfriends back home "wish you were here" emails, but decided to pass once we saw the price. For 15 minutes on the web - $7.50. Yikes! Its no wonder we couldn't find the price anywhere in the brochures or pre-cruise information Princess sent us. Tipping: Forget about instructions as to how, when and where to tip - and people walking around with hands outstretched. With personal choice cruising its all automatic. You will see on your final bill $6.50 per day for the food staff and $3.50 per day for the room steward. If you want to give more or less, you just let the purser know. It was a very pleasant experience. Disembarkation: As I mentioned previously our room Steward (who was wonderful by the way) made no attempt to push us out of our room before we were ready. Nor were we asked to sit in a particular place on the ship awaiting disembarkation. We gathered our stuff after breakfast and found a comfortable spot to sit in one of the higher levels of the atrium area. Exiting in the Canada Place terminal in Vancouver was not things dreams are made of, however. We were a later group, so the line was very long heading through customs and they didn't control it well. The line snaked though the baggage that was all over the floor in groups, so it was a massive struggle to find your bag, then find the end of the line. Everyone was tripping over one another. Be prepared for the inconvenience if you get off in a later group. I presume its much better if you get off in an early group when the line is short and not yet near the baggage, but that’s just speculation of course. One good point… they have free carts you can use to wheel around and pick up one bag after another without having to haul them. There was also a long line for a taxi once we got through customs, and a big crowd near the elevators for those not needing a taxi. I think patience is the key here, because I don't know how they could possibly do it better. There were two ships disembarking at once and that’s four thousand folks! In Summary: I loved my cruise. I love Princess, it’s the right level of price and service for me. I loved the food. My room steward was great. The ship was gorgeous and clean and well laid out. Getting on and off the ship wasn't difficult. And I can't wait to go on my already planned trip on the Star Princess next month in Alaska!!!

Read More
  • New

Nov 30, -0001

Mexican Riviera

Cruise Line: Princess Sailing Date: December 26th, 2002 Our party of nine just returned from a 10 day Mexico Riviera cruise aboard Princess' Sun Princess and wanted to post our comments. None of us had been on a cruise ship before, we usually charter a bareboat sailboat. In a nutshell, WE LOVE THIS CRUISE, not instead of bareboating but in addition to--it's nice to sit back and let someone else do all the work, but by doing so we lose

control of the boat's itinerary (which didn't bother us here as much as it would in our favorite Caribbean haunts). Boarded the ship in Long Beach at about 2:30 p.m., there was no wait at all and we were aboard literally within minutes. Boarding began at noon, heard there were fairly extensive waits earlier in the day. We had completed our preboarding check-in forms on line, but as there were no lines anyway, didn't save us any time. When you board, each passenger files a credit card number and is assigned an electronic key card/i.d. card that is used for everything: charging drinks to the room, entry to the room, making rez at the spa, buying cruise wear at the gift shop, etc etc. Was most convenient not to need cash for anything aboard (but bring quarters--there is a Laundromat on every deck with free washers and dryers, but the detergent cost $1, quarters only!). The ship was in very nice shape overall given that she was launched in 1995 and eight years of cruising in the Mex sun is a lot of wear and tear. Carpets, curtains, and deck cushions have certainly been updated over the years as most everything looked of recent vintage. Crew were constantly maintaining paint and varnish, which we found impressive, and there were only very minor things that we noted amiss. We all had outside balcony rooms and were in 100% agreement that this is the way to go--as I recall, they cost about $1,000 more per couple, but it was money well spent. The balconies were quite functional (with two chairs and a table) and we spent a surprising amount of time there watching the ship come into port, sunsets etc. In addition, the room was comfortable enough to spend a few hours in when we got tired of having so many people around. Plus, it turned out that I could see the ocean from the bathroom mirror, which was a very pleasant way to start the day as I shaved each morning. Our party opted for the Personal Choice dining option, which was the right call as some days we felt like sitting for dinner at 5 pm, other days not until after 9. We never had a problem getting a table, even for our entire party of nine. We thought food aboard was fine, especially dinners in the Marguis dining room and the pizzas at Verdi's. Meals at Horizons were OK, nothing to get excited about and the steaks at Sterling Steak House (cost extra) no better than those in the Marquis (no cost). We thought drinks were a bit on the pricey side, with a can of beer costing $3.50 and a mixed drink more; with exception of Cabo, beers ashore were usually just a bit over $1. With the exception of the pool areas, dress aboard was usually "smart casual" (khakis and a polo shirt), but there were three formal nights (tux or dark suit). We thought the formal nights were fun, but if choose not to participate, no worries--evening attire only required in the two formal dining rooms. Weather was absolutely perfect, sunny and 80s every single day, couldn't have been better! But probably too hot any time other than winter months, especially in Acapulco, where was 94 and humid on New Years eve. Most people spent days ashore or by the pool while at sea (plenty of lounge chairs and attendants all to willing to bring you another drink, get there by 10 am to claim your favorite spot). Our itinerary included Puerto Vallarta, Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, Z-town and Acapulco. We had two only complaints: 1. with exception of Acapulco, the ship sailed too early in the day (in looking at other cruise lines and other destinations all over the world, the ships almost always depart whatever port they're in by 6 pm, why is a mystery to me) and 2. we didn't care for Acapulco, EVERYONE we spoke w/ would have preferred more time in the other ports of call and to skip Acapulco altogether. One of our party had a very minor problem and visited the Medical Office aboard. While the docs were very competent and professional, a very short visit cost $120, so might want to check in advance whether your insurance will cover this kind of claim. Three of our party attended the spa, two were thumbs up, one thumbs down, all said rather expensive but not outrageous (or no more so than any spa is). Note spa is by appt only and can book up well in advance so book early, PARTICULARLY for formal days--other days seemed they offered specials, more availability in ports than at sea. Only one couple in our party elected to sign up for an organized excursion organized by Princess. They did the snorkeling in PV and LOVED it, said it was terrific and worth the $$--saw loads of reef fish, dolphins and whales, were fed lunch AND had big booze party (free drinks) on way back to ship. We heard that a lot of the shore excursions sold out well in advance (some before the cruise even began), so again, advice seems to be to book early. None of us attended any of the on board show productions, so no comments there. Several of us made regular use of the 24 hr gym (which is free), never more than a short wait for the bikes, treadmills, Stairmasters, weight machines, etc. Only issue we had of note wasn't Princess' fault, was our travel agent (whom we won't be using again): a couple in our party have a 2 1/2 year old, they were told no prob as Princess has child care aboard. Yes, they do but the minimum age is 3 and there are absolutely no exceptions to this, age is verified against passport/birth certificate. So mom and dad were on board a 10 day cruise with no babysitting or child care options whatsoever. They ended up making do and had a good time, but it was a disappointing way to start the trip. From what we saw and heard the children's facilities and programs were excellent, just make sure Jr. is at least 3! Our group consisted of four couples (late 20s to mid 40s) and the one toddler. Passenger mix was skewed toward families, a lot of kids of all ages, grand parents etc, but quite a few young couples as well, not so many singles tho some. We've heard that Princess is known for eclectic mix of pax vs. Holland (older crowd, somewhat more formal) or Carnival (younger, more casual, less sophisticated) and this seemed to be the case. Also heard that the holiday cruises are more family/kid oriented than other times, which are more party-oriented with younger pax. While we're talking about other lines, it is clear to us that Carnival should be avoided. Wherever we went, we heard horror stories of bad food, problems with things not working on board etc. In Cabo, there was an unbelievably long line of people wafting in the hot sun for a tender back to their ship, well over an hour wait, no line at all for Princess. Only place Princess dropped ball in our opinion was disembarkation. We were in port at 6 am, everybody had to clear Customs aboard ship and we were supposed to be able to go ashore at 9 am. However, a number of families/individuals couldn't get their acts together and thru Customs in a timely manner. By the time Princess staff tracked them down God-knows-where on a 1,000 ft ship, we'd missed our flights home. Turns out Princess advises not to book flights before early afternoon, now I see why. Also note that Long Beach Airport a lot closer than LAX, so if you can, might make sense to fly in/out of Long Beach. All in all, we had a great time and have already booked another Princess cruise for the holiday season 2003 (though not to Mex, apparently was a fire on board the under-construction Diamond Princess which was slated to take over this route in 2003, looks like no Princess cruises to Mex fall/winter 2003). Maybe we'll take the Regal Princess to Hawaii? Anyway, hope this helps.

Read More
  • New

Nov 30, -0001

Alaska

The layout of Sun Princess is fairly typical, with one advantage and two disadvantages compared to Mercury and Galaxy. The advantage is that the Casino is comparatively off by itself on Deck 8, with no need to go through it to get anywhere else. Both Carnival and Celebrity put their casinos right in the middle of heavily traveled public use decks, and the lessening of noise and smoke in the Sun Princess set-up is nice. The greatest disadvantage

lies in the elevator arrangements. There are only two full service banks, one group of six slightly forward of amidships, and one bank of three aft. The problem is that the forward group is divided into two banks of two each and two separate elevators on the side, with the result that if you wish to be sure of summoning all six, you have to run around and push four separate buttons. Everyone was aggravated by the delay and hassles attendant to this system. There are two other open glass elevators which go from Deck 5 to Deck 8 in the atrium which offer some help, but not much if your cabin is on 9, and the viewing decks above that. Another disadvantage lay in the difficulty in getting to the open forward decks for photographs. As I mentioned, the Horizon Court Buffet is on Deck 14 forward. There is an open deck in front of the buffet, but the doors leading directly out to the deck were locked. You had to proceed back through the buffet, out to the pool area, up outside stairs and forward outside past a closed mechanical area to the forward part of the Sun Deck which had two viewing areas and another outside set of stairs back down to Deck 14. On the Celebrity vessels there is a public lounge area forward on Deck 14 and direct access from both this lounge and the Gym area on the deck below to forward outside viewing areas. When one is traveling through very cold waters, with winds whipping off the glaciers, the ability to get in and out quickly is most desirable. There are a number of public rooms, and like Mercury (and its sister ship, Galaxy), one does not get a crowded feeling even though we learned that there were more than 2000 passengers on board, with several cabins having three and even four persons. All four cruise lines we have traveled have shown us the meaning of “ship-shape” insofar as the appearance of the public areas was concerned. Even on the old Enchanted Isle, built in 1958, every effort was made to keep things clean and well maintained, and Princess is certainly no exception. This cruise has a naturalist on board to provide lectures on the expected flora and fauna, and we went to the first of these on humpbacked whales. It was quite informative as this man obviously knows whereof he speaks. I used the exercise room and hot tub, and we ate lunch in the dining room, with very good mussels, snapper and an excellent berry tart. We returned to our cabin where, much to Edith’s delight, we found that we had been reassigned to first seating for dinner. We went to the art auction where we found out that unlike the other cruise lines, in which a land based art gallery conducts the auction as a concession; Princess owns the art and runs the auction process. Edith paid attention to it while I dozed off in a very comfortable chair. She said that the works did not seem up to what we had seen before, but we were told that at some later auctions there were hefty prices paid. This was the first formal night and we met our dinner companions, Jim and Irene from Surrey, B.C. just south of Vancouver, Lynn from California and her cousin Phyllis from Ohio, and Ken and Lorna from Tustin. All were very pleasant throughout the trip. Our waiter Josef and his assistant, Veronika are both from Hungary. I had crab quiche which was good, a very good lobster bisque and salmon entree, and a chocolate soufflé which was pretty good. We went to the show in the main theatre, and it was standing room only. This room is a pure theatre with regular theater seating, no tables and no drinks being served. It holds 500. The show was called “Words and Music” and consisted of excerpts of show tunes written by Richard Rogers, Cole Porter, Jules Styne, Frank Loesser, and Leonard Bernstein. I loved it. Afterwards we sat in the atrium lounge where a pianist also played old show tunes to my delight. We went to bed at 10:00 and found that the fruit had been delivered to our cabin as promised. 3rd Day - Wednesday - Ketchikan We arrived at 6:30 and it was raining lightly. We had the breakfast buffet, which did not provide very good hot entrees, but did have fruit. We disembarked at 9:30 and walked around town, to a couple of galleries on Creek street, skipping the Dolly’s House bordello museum. We did go to the South East Alaska Discovery Museum where my Golden Passport got us in for half price. It is a very attractive, nicely arranged and informative place, covering native history and artifacts, as well as the natural rain forest and post 1867 history. We had lunch at the Heen Kahidi Restaurant located in the West Coast Cape Fox Lodge, a hotel on a hill directly above town. This has been recommended in the Alaska-Yukon Moon Handbook, and the author was correct. I had delicious fresh clams and Edith had a halibut enchilada, which she much enjoyed. The hotel lobby was very attractive, with well thought out display cases and wall hangings. We had reached the hotel by going up a small tramway, but were able to walk down and go back on board for a 3:00 P.M. departure. Altogether a relaxing and pleasant day. Dinner was “French Night” - Princess likes themes; and I had pate‘, onion soup, duck a’ la orange and an interesting brulee. This was the best meal so far. Princess repeats some of its shows, and we had liked “Words and Music” so much we went again. We looked at the formal dinner snapshots taken by the ship’s photographer on Tuesday night. Ouch! To bed by 10:00 with the ship really moving along to get to Juneau by the A.M. 4th Day - Thursday - Juneau The weather was overcast but not raining on arrival. Since our excursion was not until 10:00 we had a leisurely breakfast in the dining room. We sat with a couple who had been on board a Princess ship in Istanbul harbor on September 11. They had to remain there five days and were unable to complete their cruise, going directly back to the US after this enforced stay. Princess made up for this by providing the Alaska cruise. On disembarking we joined 20 other passengers for a sea kayak trip. We were bussed through Juneau, a crowded town, across the Gastineau Channel to Douglas Island and then about 10 miles to the kayak launching site. I wore my Aran Island wool sweater, and they provided rubber boots, a waterproof parka, life jackets and a kayak “skirt” which was chest high and attached around a rim in the kayak to deter water. We went out on a wide bay across from the Mendenhall Glacier. It was cool and clear with perfect visibility. I actually got pretty warm paddling, especially on the return trip when the wind was against us. We saw some sea birds, mostly ducks and terns, but did not get very close to the glacier, although it is quite impressive. The whole water portion lasted about two hours, including instructions. On the way back we had a close encounter with a golden eagle, which had been eating something at the side of the road and took off directly at us, just missing the front windshield. Since we were in the front seat we had a clear view and could truly appreciate how big these birds are. After returning we walked around town for a while, looking at local homes and the plethora of government offices, as well as an old Russian Orthodox church. We had a quick snack at the Silverbow Bakery; a strictly local place recommended, again with good reason, in the Moon Guide. Juneau is very hilly and the mountains go straight up almost from the center of town it seems. We saw a spring thaw mudslide coming down one hill. A Cruise West small (120 passenger) adventure cruise ship “Spirit of Endeavour” was in the harbor also. It was fun watching a tug assist our pulling away. Tonight’s theme was Italian, with prosciutto e melone, red bean soup, swordfish and tiramisu. The last was too dry for my taste, but the rest was fine. The show was “C’est Magnifique” - a French theme obviously. I did not enjoy the music as much as the prior shows, but the dancing was good and the costumes spectacular. Listened to the lounge music again and to bed at 10:30. 5th Day - Friday - Skagway Had a quick breakfast and got off the ship to get on the train at dockside at 8:10. The weather was a harbinger of the rest of the trip - clear and sunny. We saw a river otter by the side of the train. The trip itself starts the truly spectacular Alaska Mountain scenery, and one simply runs out of adjectives to describe the beauty of this land. The train does not run on the infamous Chilkoot Trail where miners in 1898 had to carry 2000 pounds of supplies up the hills into Canada to be allowed to proceed to the Yukon goldfields at Dawson; but is parallel to it, and was itself built in 1898. It is a narrow gauge railway, but still amazing in its construction. I took many photos and enjoyed it immensely. Everyone recommends this trip and I concur. We returned to lunch on board and walked through the very small town for a couple of hours. Went to tea where we talked to a honeymoon couple who had taken the helicopter/dog sled excursion to a glacier. They loved it, but considering the cost, $369.00 per person, they should have. Relaxed until dinner where I had crab cakes, and agreed with Lynn that there was too much cake and not enough crab. The cold apple/berry soup was excellent, and the crab legs a little dry. Edith went to the C’est Magnifique show again and I went up on deck as we went south in Lynn Sound. The captain evidently saw Spirit of Endeavor near the south coast (port side) and headed in that direction to see what it was exploring. These smaller ships can get quite close to shore. We got within 300 yards or so as we passed it and could see two pods of seal lions sunning themselves in the twilight on the shore. It was a beautiful sight as was the magnificent sunset on the starboard side later. 6th Day - Saturday - Glacier Bay Another glorious weather day. We stopped to let several Park Rangers on board to act as tour guides and set up an information table since the whole bay is a National Park. It was as spectacular as promised. We stopped for at least half an hour near one glacier to watch ice breaking off in a “calving” process several times. I took a lot of photos, some of which caught the calving in mid-fall. This was the last formal night with the usual overdone Baked Alaska parade. Prior to that the cold soup selection was again excellent, but the main fish course a tad dry again. We took photographs all around and the shots taken of Edith and myself on our camera turned out a lot better than the ship’s photographer pictures. The picture I took of Jim and Irene was really good and we will send it to them. The show was called “Rhythms of the City” and had really excellent dancing and good music.; although someone said one dancer accidentally “dropped” another. We did not see this, however. 7th Day - Sunday - College Fjord Since this was the final day there was the usual disembarkation lecture, which could be watched on television; a very good alternative to being crammed in the theater. Princess wants the shipped luggage outside your cabin door by 8:00 P.M.; but this did not prove too difficult when we packed one suitcase each before dinner and the second after dinner. We spent most of the day in Prince William Sound, a huge body of water. We visited College Fjord in the north central portion; so denominated because the glaciers are named after various colleges. They are more varied than in Glacier Bay, but we did not get as close. The town of Valdez, which is the southern terminus of the oil pipeline is in the northeast portion of the Sound, which also was the site of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. The spill dumped 11 million gallons of oil into the Sound from a point south of College Ford, so this portion of the Sound was not affected. Thirteen years later it is not of course possible for an observer to note any affect from the spill. We did get a fairly close view of sea otters happily swimming on their backs as we sailed away from this truly beautiful body of water. Dinner included roast beef, and I requested and received a nice end cut. The dessert was zabaglione, which was the best of the trip. We had our bags out in plenty of time, but chose not to attend the passenger talent (?) show, the comic or the movie. Unfortunately we did not sleep well this last night, in contrast to all other nights. 8th Day - Monday - Seward - Anchorage - Fairbanks This was not a fun day. We arrived in Seward early, and had time for a decent breakfast, which was served starting at 5:30. Our baggage color code was scheduled for 7:15 departure, and we were called to disembark at 7:30. We were directed to a large room with our luggage, which we were asked to identify and put to one side. We then had to get in a very long line, which led to a ticket counter, manned by Alaska Airlines agents. Since we knew we were going by bus from Seward to Anchorage to fly to Fairbanks for our land tour, this seemed okay. It took almost an hour to get up to an agent however, and we were handed airline tickets, which noted a 10:52 A.M. boarding time for an 11:22 A.M. departure. Since it was now about 8:15 and Anchorage was 125 miles away, I said to the agent “We will never make this flight”. She tried to reassure me and we went out and got on a bus. It did not fill for over twenty minutes. It now seemed pretty clear we would not arrive in time unless they held up the plane. The drive to Anchorage from Seward across the Kenai Peninsula would ordinarily be an attractive trip, but was marred by the expectation that we would not get there in time for the plane. Sure enough, as we drove up to the Anchorage Airport at 11:30 there was an Alaska Airlines flight going down the runway. The Princess agent waiting for us told us there would be a later flight at 3:50, and they would try to get us on that flight, although there were right now more of us than vacant seats on that flight. There were about 16 of us in this situation. We later found out that there were about the same number of people on the same tour who had been given a different color code with an earlier disembarkation time who made the flight connection properly. We were told we could stay in the airport or go to a “Hospitality Center” in Anchorage and spend some time in town. We opted for that, which was a mistake since we had to wait another half hour for the bus and did not get downtown until almost 1:00 P.M., which left us little time. The Hospitality Center did not have much to offer. It is basically a bus terminal with a very large waiting room and only a limited lunch counter offering a choice between two dry sandwiches. We chatted with another couple who had purchased a train ride from Seward to Anchorage in order to make their air connection back to the States, and who could not get on the train because it was sold out. They came to Anchorage by bus, but had to wait at the Center until 6:00 when it closed before returning to the airport to wait there until midnight for the next available flight to San Francisco. Princess simply messed up. We went back to the airport about 2:00 and were able to get on the 3:50 flight to Fairbanks, although I am not sure if all our group made it and Edith and I were not seated together. It was a small plane, and one of the flight attendants was a lady with a delightful Irish accent. I chatted with her briefly, and then opened the Alaska Airline monthly magazine to see her picture as one of their “Employees of the Month”! The plane actually was en route to Barrow on the Arctic Sea as its final destination. Alaska really has very few miles of road, even unpaved road, and most of it can be reached by air, sea and dogsled only. It probably indicated something when I read in a local paper, I think it was Juneau, in the classified section that there were offered for sale one automobile, three planes and nine boats. When we arrived in Fairbanks we were again put on a bus. There were about 20 of us, almost all bound for The Princess Riverside Lodge. About four people were headed for another hotel on the other side of town, and we proceeded to go to that hotel first, a thirty to forty minute drive through Fairbanks, which is a spread out city, instead of first bringing most of the passengers to the Riverside Lodge which is within sight of the airport. After the way our flight connections to Fairbanks were originally mishandled, this idiocy seemed to take the cake. The hotel is very nice. It is not a luxury or resort hotel by stateside standards, but our room overlooked the Chena River, had plenty of room and was clean and comfortable. We actually were in our room by about 6:00 and were pleased that our luggage was waiting for us. I should note that the baggage transfers were handled without the slightest glitch throughout the entire trip. The hotel has a full size restaurant , a bar and grill and a gift shop, which sells coffee and buns, but no true breakfast service outside the main dining room. We opted for the buffet dinner, which was fairly limited in its choices, and hardly gourmet compared to the ship; but adequate. There is not much to do at the Lodge, and it is not near anything in Fairbanks, so we walked along the riverbank for awhile and then went back to our room to watch television before retiring. 9th Day - Tuesday - Fairbanks Our cruise/tour provided two separate tours in Fairbanks as part of the package price. The weather was clear and warm, in fact it was almost hot, even for these Arizona citizens, approaching the mid 80s in the afternoon. Our itinerary called for the “City of Gold” tour in the morning. The hotel was crowded with Princess passengers participating in various phases of their cruise or tours, so there were a lot of buses carrying people to different places. The “City of Gold” group filled about four buses and the trip took about twenty minutes out of town to what is a small, old, but actually operating gold mine. The managers, an enthusiastic husband and wife team who have spent many years in Alaska explained the theory of using water to pan for gold. Then the husband explained and demonstrated the basic panning technique. We all then walked through a short mine shaft to see what they were like, and were handed a bag of dirt which we took to large troughs filled with water, and were handed pans to work on our bags. Fortunately we were allowed to sit while doing this and there were a number of college age people helping out. The bags are clearly “salted” since, with some effort, we all were able to come up with a few gold flakes at the bottom of our pans. This seems kind of hokey, but was actually a lot of fun. We put our flakes in small containers and took them in to the store on site to have them weighed and valued. Edith and I were told our gold was worth about $9.00 and $10.00 each. We decided to put the combined take into a necklace with a little glass locket so you can see the gold. The “street” price of the tour is $40.00, so they can afford $9.00 or $10.00 worth of gold and build that into the price. All in all it was enjoyable. Lunch was on our own as are all meals on the land portion of cruise tours. We went to the buffet again, and it was okay. The prices were reasonable. The afternoon event is a trip on the Riverboat Discovery, a paddle wheeler built specifically for this purpose. Actually it is Discovery III, and Discovery II is still usable. The family, which owns and operates it also owns the gold mine tour we went to in the morning. The river trip started with watching a bush pilot take off and land using about 200 feet of runway. We then stopped by the bank side to listen to a talk by Susan Butcher, who won the Iditarod dogsled race in 1986, 87, 88 and 90. She seemed most proud of the elder of her two daughters, a seven year old who has her own sled and dog team. She had a number of dogs with her since she runs a breeding kennel. Most people, myself included, expected the dogs to be larger, but they only run about 50 pounds. Like most dogs in groups, they seem to simply enjoy running and playing with each other. She noted that they actually lead a pretty healthy life and are long lived. Her lead dog for three of her victories, Granite, lived to be 17 years old. We then went further downstream to see a salmon filleting exhibit by an Athabascan Indian woman who then rode her outboard skiff down to a “village” where we disembarked. Here we were shown her beadwork and several parkas made of leather and trimmed in fur. The most spectacular had the “fur sunburst” hood and sells for about $20,000. We also visited another dogsled team owned by a young lady who was rookie of the year in this year’s Iditarod. The dogs are extremely friendly, letting anyone pet them. The landing site also had some domestic caribou, and we were able to touch their antlers which at this time of year are covered in “velvet”. Everyone agreed that this was a very good excursion, well worth the time. We decided to go to The Great Alaska Salmon Bake - that’s the name of a restaurant chain - for dinner. A fellow passenger on the plane who was stationed in Fairbanks recommended it and said that there was a “special” on this week. He was correct. The normal fixed price is $23.95 for grilled salmon and/or halibut and/or steak, with salad, dessert and coffee or soft drink. The special was $11.95 for salmon only. You eat at informal tables, usually sharing with someone, either inside or outside under trees. We chose the latter, and it was a good meal for the price, and the restaurant supplied the transportation to and from the hotel. Retired early again in preparation for an early departure the next day. 10th Day - Wednesday - Denali Park We had another beautifully clear day, and left the hotel about 7:30 by bus to board the train in Fairbanks. We had three cars, all owned by Princess. They are arranged in two levels. The upper level consists of tables, each seating four people, with large observation windows, and a cocktail service bar. The lower level is ½ a dining car and about ¼ gift shop, with the remaining space taken up with an outdoor observation deck. In addition to the people serving drinks, there was a lady guide who had lived in Alaska for 37 years and was most informative. At one point we did get a glimpse of Mount McKinley. The name itself is somewhat controversial, since there is a lot of pressure from the Native Alaskan community and others to restore its Athabascan name “Denali”; but the legal compromise was to name the Park “Denali” and keep Mt. McKinley as the official name for the peak. In any event, it is the highest peak in the North American Hemisphere, and even more impressive than some since its base is about 2500 feet above sea level so it rises almost a full 18,000 feet. Our destination was the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge, one of two hotels owned by Princess in the Denali Park area, near the small town of McKinley Park at the northeast edge of the Park near the Visitor’s Center. Denali Park is 6,000,000 acres in size, that’s 9375 square miles, or about Massachusetts and Rhode Island combined. We arrived about 12:30 and our scheduled “Nature Tour” was at 4:40. I wanted to see if I could participate in an additional or substituted tour run by the Park service, so we caught a shuttle provided by Princess to the Visitors Center. There we found out that the tours did not start until May 25, still three days away, and that the only trip provided was a short hop at 8:00 the next morning. We returned to have a very decent lunch at the Lodge restaurant and to wait. Our room was smaller and without a view, but otherwise fine. The Nature Tour turned out quite well, primarily due to the expertise of our guide, who really had an excellent scientific background on the animals of the area. We went several miles into the park, saw Dall sheep at a distance, and later, caribou and moose. No one saw a bear or wolf, although our guide said he had seen wolves the prior week. We should note that “break-up”, the event which marks the melting of the river ice and some lake ice, had only occurred a week or two prior to our arrival. We did see Mt. McKinley from one or two points on the trip, but the top had considerable cloud cover. The Mountain creates its own weather system, which results in cloud cover more than 2/3 of the time, we were told. There were other views of the Park however, which are impossible to describe in their beauty and depth. I have been to our Grand Canyon several times, and while these are very different places, each is beyond description in their own way. We got back to the Lodge after 8:00, but since the sun never sets (or so it seemed) we checked out alternatives for dinner. Neither the pizza parlor or the sandwich shop appealed to us so we returned to the restaurant for another good meal. The Denali Lodge, like the Fairbanks Princess, is on a river bank and quite scenic so we enjoyed a nice stroll after dinner. 11th Day - Thursday - Train to Anchorage past Denali The next morning we went by van to the Visitor Center at the Park. The Lodge people had arranged that transportation for us without charge. We caught the bus which, like all the park busses, was a “retired” school bus. We paid $2.00 each for a two hour trip with an informal but pleasant commentary by the driver. There were a few other passengers going to the Post Office and the railroad station, which is in the Park proper, and two young ladies with full back packs, permit tags attached, prepared to spend a week camping in the Park. We were able to get some better shots of the Dall sheep, and several good photographs of a male ptarmigan, Alaska’s state bird, posing nicely on a bridge rail. We were back to pick up the shuttle return to the Lodge in plenty of time to make the bus to the train. The train left the Park at about 12:30 and arrived in Anchorage at 10:30 P.M. Fortunately we were able to get the forward facing seats at our table since riding backwards the previous day had made Edith a bit queasy. A lot of our time was taken up in the unsuccessful search for wildlife; although Edith did spot a moose in the outskirts of Anchorage. What we did get was several great views of McKinley, especially from a town called Talkeetna southeast of the peak. From this angle you can see it, on a clear day, from base to top; and we were fortunate enough to have this view. I got some good photos of the full mountain. It was a long day, but gave us a good idea of the depth and scope of Denali Park even though the railroad ran along its outer edge only. Traveling on the Alaska Railroad is slow, and we had to pull over for a lengthy freight car at one point which cost us a half hour delay. On arrival we were bussed to the hotel as usual. I should note that what Princess does is have someone at the bus, as you embark, hand you an envelope with your name on it which contains the hotel key to your room and information as to your next departure. It saves going through the check-in process, a welcome relief when you are somewhat beat by the long day you have had. Our hotel in Anchorage was the Captain Cook, built by Walter Hinkel, former Governor and Secretary of the Interior under Ronald Reagan, and still operated by him. It is a true five star hotel, with beautiful dark wood and glass, an elegant lobby; a number of first class shops; good rooms and a restaurant on the 20th floor with prices to match. We had packed our large bags for shipment from Fairbanks, and only carried back packs on the train to Denali and for our overnight stay. We were happy to be reunited with our luggage waiting for us in our room at the Captain Cook. We had eaten both lunch and dinner on the train, actually splitting the lunch portion between us, and were glad that we did so. I had thought it would have been nice to eat at one of a decent selection of restaurants in Anchorage, but the delay in travel would have meant that we would have been starving and looking for an open restaurant at 11:00 at night. We were more than happy to go to bed after a short walk around town to find the cafe recommended for breakfast. We would have liked more time to get to see Anchorage. 12th Day - Friday - Anchorage to Phoenix Our plane did not leave until 12:30 so we had time to go to the Snow City Cafe around the corner from the hotel for breakfast. This once again is a purely local establishment, recommended in several guide books, which once more lived up to expectations as being pleasant, with great pancakes, friendly local help and a generally nice atmosphere. Our impression of Alaskans is very favorable. We realize that most of the people we saw were in the tourist business, which is a very important factor in the economy, but some of the people we ran into were not part of the tourist industry and all were outgoing and pleasant. Maybe one reason is that almost everyone here is here because they chose to come to Alaska, and they are living where they want to live by their own choice. One more bus to the airport, and on the way - which is a short distance through town, we saw another moose happily chomping grass by the side of the road. A sad note is that our train guide told us that about 250 moose are killed each year on the road between Anchorage and Palmer, a farming community about 50 miles north. It is a 3½ flight to Seattle where we had a 1½ hour wait before taking off for Phoenix. We left at about 7:30 Seattle time (Alaska’s time zone is one hour later than the west coast and Arizona in the summer - we don’t have daylight savings time). We had a spectacular view of Mount Rainier as were gained altitude. Home at 10:30 and to bed. Overall Impression - Would We Recommend This Cruise/Tour? Our answer is a strong “yes.” It may seem in reading this review that we have pointed out a number of items which we have criticized. I think this is necessary for the sake of objectivity, and to avoid appearing as though we are unobservant. Nothing in life is perfect, and you often have to take some bad with the good. The test is; if we had known everything about the trip prior to taking it, would we still have taken it; and the answer has to be - we certainly would. There is always a question of whether the evaluation is based on where you went and what you did, rather than on who took you and how did they treat you. There is no doubt that the star of the show was Alaska - not Princess. But that would be true no matter what cruise line you are on, or how well they treated you. This is simply nature’s trip; but then again, so was the Cape Horn trip. This was somewhat in contrast with the Mexican Riviera and the two Caribbean cruises. On these, the memorable part was the cruise experience, relaxing while floating from port to port. It is true that we enjoyed several port experiences, and I love snorkeling in Caribbean waters, but the emphasis was on the ship itself in these cases. Having said that, there may be some differences between cruise lines and the opportunities they afford to let Alaska shine. I have read that Princess and Holland-America are the most experienced and offer the most in the way of on-shore activities; but all the onshore activities you buy from them can be purchased on your own anyway. Remember, Alaska is just another state and can be reached by phone; area code 907; and e-mail with ease. The trips included as part on the on-shore excursion price may vary from line to line however, and some lines price the on-shore excursions before or after the cruise separately from the cruise, while Princess and Celebrity at least, wrap them into “packages”. To some extent the excursions are limited by what vendors have available, but I was disappointed that the Denali Nature Tour was as short as it was, and that we were not afforded the chance to go deeper into the park. I am sure that Princess can persuade vendors to offer more and that enough cruise passengers exist to pay for extended tours. That being noted, let me offer some specific evaluations of the cruise portion and the land portion separately since they are so distinct, and some readers may opt for the cruise portion only. The Princess Cruise Portion Overall Ratings (On a 1-100 scale) Compared with Elation and Galaxy/Mercury Main Dining Room:  Elation  Galaxy/Mercury      Sun Princess   Ambience   90 97 93 Cuisine 91 94 91 Service 93 96 93 I found that I have boxed myself in with my prior ratings, all of which are on this site and cannot be changed. If truth be told, since dining on the two Celebrity ships I would not rate either Elation or Sun Princess at 91 for comparison purposes. The food on all Celebrity ships is fresh, and tastes that way throughout all parts of each meal. The sauces on Celebrity are true additions, highlighting the main course. It is not that the food on either Elation or Sun Princess is bad. They serve good food and prepare it well. It just does not have the style and verve of most Celebrity offerings. No ship serving 2000 people can present true gourmet experiences, although I understand that Celebrity comes close on its new ships with their special, extra cost dining rooms, so I continue to rate Celebrity’s main dining rooms at 94. But on that scale I should rate Elation at 86 and Sun Princess at 87. Casual Dining/Buffet: Elation  Galaxy/Mercury     Sun Princess Ambience 90 91 92 Cuisine 90 90 88 Service n/a n/a n/a Other Ratings Elation  Galaxy Mercury      Sun Princess Housekeeping 96 98 96 Guest Relations 93 95 95 Shipboard Entertainment 75 85 85 Land tours - Cruise Portion 85 85 n/a 90 Port Shopping. We loved the couple at breakfast who said they were going shopping, and, “As usual we’ll be buying one of everything whether we need it or not”. If one is into native artifacts there is a lot of really nice stuff available at almost every stop. Much of the native work is very beautiful. While there are some of the same stores you see in the Caribbean, and the usual run of junky “mementos”, you do have good options. They are not cheap, but with a little looking, and asking questions, which will be answered in English, you can get some very worthwhile things. Casino. As noted it is out of the way and the designer of Sun Princess gets my applause for that. But if you want to gamble, you can certainly find it. On Board Activities. These seemed pretty much as usual. We always feel there should be more organized exercise classes. The lectures on the environment and by the National Parks folk were a distinct plus. There seemed to be a lot of first run movies which we didn’t attend. Who wants to sit in a dark theater when Glacier Bay is outside? Shipboard Information. The daily newssheet is much like those supplied by all cruise lines, and is delivered at about 9:30 as are the others. I has four pages and the layout is not bad once you get used to it. What we really missed was the outside world news which Celebrity supplies very well. I do not recall any outside news sheet on Elation. In addition to the newssheet, Sun Princess supplied a handout on each of the first three ports visited, which was handy. They also provide a “Ship’s Log” at the end with a lot of technical detail on the trip and about the ship, and a handout on the food service division. I had heard that Princess used its PA system a lot, but while it was a little more intrusive than the virtually silent Galaxy and Mercury, I did not find it annoying; certainly not like Elation. The cabin TV system was quite extensive, especially with the channel showing the ship’s location, direction, speed, temperature etc. The CNN was no doubt better than Galaxy and Mercury because we were inside the United States (or Canada) the entire trip. Security. We had the usual check-out check-in system with our cards at the gangway, which went smoothly, and of course there were no customs or immigration hassles. On board security was not evident, as on the Celebrity ships, and in contrast to the highly visible security on Elation. Photo Service. In keeping with the grand tradition, in an unbroken line from Elation on, it was terrible. The only good shot was the gangway picture as we boarded. As I recommended before, bring you own camera and have your table companions take your picture. The one we did that way turned out pretty well. Service. Princess is an experienced and very professional cruise line. Its personnel all seem well trained and personable, and we know of no one who had a bad or even mildly unpleasant experience. Josef always had a recommendation about the items offered, and I believe he was sincere. Veronika was extremely pleasant and cheerful. Our cabin attendant Elizabeth was also cheerful and prompt in making up our room. She was the first room steward who asked us to use the door hanger to tell her when we were leaving for long enough to make up the room, but this was not problem. One special note on tipping. Princess has joined those lines which automatically add a set tip to your on board account, at the rate of $10.00 per person per day, divided into $6.50 for food service and $3.50 for cabin service. It is slightly more than Celebrity’s “suggested” $3.50 for waiter, $2.00 for assistant waiter and $3.50 for cabin steward; but then Princess does not “suggest” tips for the maitre’ d, headwaiters or housekeepers, with envelopes, as does Celebrity. You can reduce or add to the Princess amount, but I suspect that most people do neither, just like us. Land Tours. Princess offered a huge number of options, but that is no doubt due to the fact that Alaska offers a huge number of options. They were extremely efficient in getting people to and from their tour connections. The system they have for pre-ordering off ship tours online is simple and works perfectly as far as we were concerned. It might be possible to equal the availability and range of on shore activities, but I don’t see how you could surpass Princess in this area. The tours are not cheap, but the people running them have to make a year’s worth of living in four months, and no cruise line can control this pricing pressure. Overall Impression. Sun Princess is a fine ship. The company knows how to make the most of Alaska, and how to show it to its passengers. Its operations have enough flexibility to allow people to choose what they wish. For example, at some cost to our diets, we found the daily tea offered in the main dining room to be very pleasant. The entertainment was not bad and we appreciated the theater seating with no one hustling drinks as we waited for the show. While the food was not as fine as Celebrity’s, it was very good “hotel quality” food, and the personalized efforts of our wait staff were appreciated. The land tour portion, despite the glitches commented upon, was by and large well done. We wanted to see what the country was like, and we were afforded an excellent opportunity to do so. It is a huge area and consequently it is impossible to cover more than a small portion of it in four days, but the tour was designed to give us a reasonable glimpse of this most beautiful state. Does and Don’ts. Do emphasize casual clothing and good walking shoes. You will never have to dress for dinner on land in Alaska. Men - don’t bring an extra jacket other than what you will wear for formal nights. I carried my favorite wool/cashmere blazer (in addition to my tux) the entire trip and never wore it. Do bring lots, and I mean lots of film if you are in to photography. I shot 16 rolls. Use ASA 400 or 800 and a polaroid filter for your outdoor shots on sunny days. Do bring long sleeve knit type shirts as they are great for layering under your waterproof windproof outer jacket which is an absolute must. Make sure you have good head covering and gloves. I found a great pair of mittens at REI which have finger holes so you can operate a camera with them still on your hand. We brought umbrellas, but only used them once in Ketchikan and I would not bother again. Final Comment. Our fellow passengers were a delightful group of people. They all were friendly and outgoing, and easy to engage in conversation. An overwhelming percentage were American or Canadian, with a few Brits and Aussies thrown in. The number of children was small, but Princess seemed to provide sufficient entertainment and they were in no way annoying. This was a cruise, which I could see repeating in a few years after we have accomplished some of the trips to some parts of the world we have not yet seen.

Read More
  • New

Nov 30, -0001

Alaska Cruisetour

This itinerary includes 7 days on the Sun Princess and 3 days on land. First some personal information; we are a married couple, age 45-50 and we were traveling with 2 other couples approximate age 55. We all traveled from different cities in different states (New York, Florida, Texas) and met in Vancouver for boarding the Sun Princess. Our tickets arrived about 10 days before the cruise, although my sister did not receive her airline

tickets until 2 days ahead of our departure. (The travel agent blamed Princess for the mix-up.) Included in the package were 6 color-coded Princess luggage tags, an itinerary, a coupon book with tickets for transfers etc., and the airline tickets. Also included in the coupon book was a list of optional tours that were booked through Princess. We received the information on the optional tours about 3 weeks ahead of the cruise and booked our tours online. The other option was to fax or mail the form, but online you could verify the availability immediately. The package was labeled Express Check-In. Upon arrival in Vancouver, we went through customs pretty quickly. The procedure was to present your ID, tell them which ship you were boarding and move through. The Princess representatives were right on the other side and ushered us outside to wait for the busses, which we were told were a little late. So we got in line with the other couple hundred people and we were herded aboard. All of our luggage, except our carry–ons were handled by Princess. The drive was approximately 20-30 minutes and we saw enough of Vancouver to wish we had gotten there a day earlier and seen more. Once at the Pier, we looked for the express check-in line, received our cruise cards, and the check–in was over in about 5 minutes. We were stopped to take boarding pictures and once onboard, the Princess staff members were stationed everywhere directing people to their cabins. At the time of our booking, Princess was offering a special on cabins with a balcony for the same price as an outside room. So we all had balconies. Two of the rooms were next to each other so we asked the purser to remove the divider so we could sit together. We were all on the Aloha deck, near the middle of the ship. The cabins were quite roomy, with a queen size bed (could be configured as singles), a TV, small refrigerator, plenty of closet space, a dressing table, a bathroom with a shower, and sliding glass doors to the balcony. The luggage fits neatly under the bed. Don’t forget to ask the cabin steward for the Princess robes. They are provided only if you request them. We deposited our things and proceeded to the Horizon court for the luncheon buffet. Our luggage arrived shortly after the ship left port, although my sister’s didn’t get there until after dinner. We explored the ship a bit and found the location of the hot tubs, the casino, and the lounges. The public areas on the ship are marvelous and well kept. You can get deck blankets near the pool, extremely useful when you’re sitting on the deck lounges trying not to miss the scenery. We chose to sit at the first seating for dinner and this worked out most nights, although Princess does offer the personal choice dining option where you are not tied to a specific time. We heard from other passengers that the disadvantage to this was that your desired time was not always available, especially if you didn’t call early enough or if you wanted a table for two. We did meet another couple in the Personal Choice dining room one evening. We wanted to meet at 7:00, but instead took 6:30. The menu appeared to be the same as the main dining room. We ate breakfast in the Horizon court (buffet) every day and were pleased with the selection. The view is also quite lovely. It’s a nice relaxing way to start your day. The food in the Horizon court was generally of good quality. We found some items were excellent, some just ok, but the desserts were rather bland. There was always a good variety of fresh fruit and cheeses. It would be even better though, if the staff wasn’t constantly trying to sell hot chocolate or ice cream. We heard plenty of negative feedback from many passengers about this. The general feeling was that Princess could charge a few more dollars and include those items. Most people we talked to felt that they were being “nickeled and dimed”. I can’t imagine that the money they make on those items is worth the bad feeling it generates. Other dining options included Verdi’s Pizzeria and the Terrace Grille. We ate lunch at Verdi’s and found the pizza to be unremarkable, but the calzone was excellent. The Terrace Grille serves hot dogs and hamburgers, nice for a change. We only ate dinner in the Main dining room. Although the food in the Regency dining room was good, there were several days when the choices had little appeal and some of us ordered from the “always available” part of the menu. (steaks etc..) The portions seemed rather small especially on the side dishes like potatoes and although we knew we could order an extra plate if we wanted to, it was not encouraged. Our waiters were adequate, but not overly friendly, although they did seem to warm up toward the end of the cruise. Perhaps this is the result of the fact that tips for the dining room staff is now included on your cruise card. ($6.50 per person, per day) There is little incentive for them to go beyond their normal duties. Only a few of the desserts were so good that we wanted to share a taste. There were 2 formal nights and 5 smart casual nights on the cruise. Even on the formal nights we saw people in jeans or khakis, so apparently there is no dress code for the dining room. Daytime entertainment included dance lessons, bingo, Family Feud and various other “fun stuff”. The shows in the Princess Theatre and the Vista Lounge were pretty good, but our favorite entertainer was Bert Stratton at the piano. He had a great act, both funny and musically entertaining. Each night, more chairs were set up to accommodate the crowd he attracted. We tried out the casino, but we’re not big gamblers so our quarters were eaten by the slot machines pretty quickly. I was amazed by how many children were onboard, even babies. We tried to enjoy the hot tubs our first night onboard but the teenagers and the loud music did not make for a relaxing evening. The purser who took care of our room was excellent, always accommodating and almost invisible The Itinerary After a full day at sea, our first stop was Ketchikan. We booked a horse-drawn buggy tour through Princess and upon leaving the ship encountered several “locals” who advised us that the same tours available through the “corporate giant” could have been booked for about half the price with more of the money staying with the native Alaskans. I did check out some of the prices throughout the cruise and most were a good deal cheaper than we had paid. If we go again, I’ll book through the local tour operators instead. Another advantage to this is that you know what the weather is like. My sister also booked a jetboat excursion. They were a little disappointed that they didn’t see more wildlife. It was an overcast day, but not rainy. We were really blessed with good weather throughout the cruise, especially considering the fact that they measure rain in Ketchikan in feet, not inches. The town itself was filled with shops that cater to the tourists. Souvenirs were quite reasonable and some native Alaskan shops had some interesting things. We stopped to sample some native Alaskan beer, but didn’t like it too much, resolved to try another brand later. If you forget any supplies or toiletries, don’t plan on buying them in Ketchikan. I priced a bottle of nail polish remover. It was $5.00. I decided I didn’t need it that badly. Our second stop was Juneau. We all bought tickets for the Mt. Roberts Tramway and the traditional Alaskan salmon bake, and my sister also booked a helicopter tour. We planned the salmon bake around lunchtime and it was a really nice afternoon. The salmon is grilled outdoors and side dishes are served buffet style. To add to the experience, a folk singer with a very sweet voice entertained us. The helicopter tour was scheduled early in the morning and they were a little worried because the weather was rainy but it cleared slightly and they were thrilled with the experience. The Mt. Roberts Tramway tickets are good all day and the same price whether booked through Princess or at the entrance. The views are spectacular and you would miss some fantastic photo opportunities if you don’t do this. Because of the rain, we didn’t spend too much time exploring the trails at the top, but on a nicer day that would have been enjoyable. Of course, there were many tourist shops all over the town and another one at the top of the Tramway. I got my nail polish remover for a mere $1.50 and also got a 12 pack of Coke to go with the rum we had brought onboard. Our next stop was Skagway. A small town filled with false front buildings reminiscent of the gold rush era. Again, plenty of shops for souvenirs and the White Pass Railway. We all went on the rail ride and enjoyed it. Don’t worry if you get a seat on the wrong side of the train for picture taking, you swap seats with the neighbor across from you on the way back. Another couple went on a nature hike/raft ride and had a great time. The guide was very interesting, but be sure to wear hiking boots or good walking shoes. They were a little frightened in the raft but still had great fun. The next two days were spent cruising in Glacier Bay and College Fjord. These were by far the best days for sightseeing. The weather was spectacular. We spent some time in the hot tubs and actually got a little sun-burned. It was sunny and cool, but a light jacket with a hood and a pair of gloves were all we needed. In the bay there were several whale sitings. We also saw harbor seals and sea otters floating on their backs with their babies on their bellies. Make sure you take binoculars. Our final stop was Seward, where we disembarked. The disembarkation process was very organized, with each group, being assigned a color-number group based on your next destination. The luggage was placed in the hallway the night before with the same color-number tags. When our group was called we boarded a motor coach for Anchorage, the first stop on our land tour. The bus ride was quite scenic with a very knowledgeable driver-guide. We stopped along the way at an animal refuge called Big Game Alaska. Our stop here was about 1 hour, but could have been cut to about 20 minutes. We hadn’t come to Alaska to see animals in cages. Our next stop was the Alaskan Native Heritage Center, again, interesting, but an hour was too much time. By the time our bus driver returned, most of the passengers were sitting on the curb waiting. So, after getting up for breakfast at 6:30 AM, we finally arrived at the Anchorage Marriott at about 4:00 PM. We found a restaurant on the waterfront, ate dinner and headed back to the hotel because we had to meet in the lobby at 7:00 AM for our transfer to the rail station. We received a packet of information stating we should sleep in and order breakfast on the train, so we all decided to do just that. To our dismay, breakfast and lunch are served in the lower level dining compartment which has about 8 tables, so we did not eat breakfast until about 10:00 and then our table was called for lunch about 12:30. Obviously we weren’t very hungry. The seating on the train is booth style, 2 benches with a table between, so that one couple is facing the back of the train. Since they have a table, it seems like a better idea for breakfast would be to offer a boxed breakfast similar to the type the airlines have or remove the tables and put in more comfortable seating. The seats on the motorcoaches were better. This turned out to be the worst part of our trip. Even though the scenery was nice, the ride seemed interminable and the itinerary was deceiving in that it mentioned a stop in Talkeetna, but did not mention that no one gets off the train there. We finally arrived at the Denali Wilderness Lodge at about 4:00 PM. We were assigned a room and given tickets for our Natural History Tour for the next morning, 6:30 AM. The Lodge is a group of rustic buildings, the rooms are adequate and the views are beautiful from certain rooms. Thank goodness we had a “good” room. We did not utilize the hot tubs since we were instructed to bring just an overnight bag, the remainder of our luggage was sent on to the next stop. Dinner was slightly expensive but very good. The tour the next morning was most enjoyable, mainly because of the knowledgeable park ranger. It was supposed to be about 3 hours, but was actually 4 hours When we got back to our rooms the bed was already stripped. Since our motorcoach did not leave for Fairbanks until 1:30, we had lunch in the dining room. Lunch was much more reasonable than dinner and everyone enjoyed their choices. The Midnight Express Railroad and the Denali Wilderness Lodge looked so intriguing in the brochures that I can’t express my disappointment in this part of the trip. Our next motorcoach was to Fairbanks. Even though several passengers begged the driver to bypass the stop at the University of Alaska museum, he stopped anyway, we rushed through and finally arrived at our last stop, the Bear Lodge. We had dinner here and even though the service was sloppy, we resolved to enjoy our last night. The rooms were very nice, but again, our wakeup call was for 5:00 AM. Our flight home was leaving at 6:30 AM. My advice to anyone reading this review is that if you choose to do a cruise-land package, make arrangements to do the land portion first and then spend the next 7 days relaxing on the ship. If we go again, we would probably do the cruise alone, or rent a car and do our own touring. The last part of this trip was grueling and not very enjoyable at all

Read More
  • New

Nov 30, -0001

Southbound Heart Of Alaska 11-Day Cruisetour

We flew Northwest Airlines from Philadelphia to Fairbanks with a short stop in Minneapolis. It was interesting to observe the changing landscape as we flew over Alaska. The scenery seemed to change from miles of green spruce trees to snow-capped mountains to barren land. Occasionally, you could see brown silty rivers snaking their way through the land. All this scenery unfolded beneath us for hours, but there were little or no signs of human

habitation until we approached Fairbanks. We landed in Fairbanks around 8:00 in the evening. It was a warm sunny day. I saw several people in shorts. The Princess staff was there to greet us. They told us not to worry about picking up our luggage at baggage claim. They told us they will make sure our bags are in our hotel rooms "before the sun goes down:)". That being said, we boarded the Princess bus and were shuttled to the Fairbanks Princess Hotel. On the way, we were given packages containing room keys, a copy of the Princess Patter (daily newsletter listing the day's activities, tour departure times, etc...), and luggage tags for designating delivery. The Fairbanks Princess Hotel is a nice, clean property. It is located on the Chena River. The rooms are spacious - a big difference from our ship cabin, but more about that later. We did not do much that evening. We looked around the hotel and then lounged on the deck overlooking the river. It was around 10:30 p.m. and the weather was still very sunny and warm! There were people jet skiing on the river and others just kicking back and enjoying life. We got a midnight snack from on of the small restaurants in the hotel (the food was very good) and then went back to the room to organize our luggage. Princess recommends that you pack an overnight bag for your stay in Denali National Park and let Princess take the rest of your luggage to Anchorage or the ship. This eliminates the need for you to keep track of a week and a half worth of bags. As mentioned earlier, we were given luggage tags to designate where we wanted our luggage to go. The tags are color-coded to indicate the destination. After tagging your bags, you simply leave them outside your door and the next time you see them will be at the destination you selected. Traci and I marked our luggage to be delivered to Anchorage while my parents chose the ship as their destination. After tagging our bags we went to bed. I woke up briefly around 3 a.m. to peek out the window. It still wasn't totally dark - just dusk-like. The next morning, Traci and I got a danish and juice from the souvenir shop, while my parents opted for the breakfast buffet in one of the restaurants. They said the food was okay. It was getting close to our departure time to Denali National Park, so we boarded the bus and were on our way. I do have one recommendation if you plan on doing the Southbound Heart Of Alaska Cruisetour and desire to do any sightseeing in Fairbanks; and that is, get there a day early! We would have like to have done the Chena Riverboat tour and to have seen the Alaskan pipeline. Unfortunately, our flight had arrived much too late to take advantage of the tours. Before hitting the road to Denali, our bus driver gave us a quick tour of downtown Fairbanks. There wasn't really much to see. We also stopped for an hour at the University Of Alaska museum. It was a small museum containing Alaskan artifacts and stuffed animals. It was somewhat interesting but we would not have been upset if the driver skipped this stop. The bus ride to Denali was about 2 hours. Our bus driver told us a lot of interesting facts about Fairbanks and her experiences living in Alaska. She passed around her photo album of nature shots and she also showed videos of Alaska. We stopped about halfway through the trip to take a picture of the summit of Mt. McKinnley which was clearly visible that day. Our bus driver said we should take pictures now because there was a high probability that the summit would be covered in clouds by the time we got to Denali National Park. She was right. Denali National Park: We arrived at the Denali Princess Lodge (our lodging for the evening) during the early afternoon. There were a lot of buses crowding the entrance to the property. After a short wait and the distribution of room keys and itineraries, we were allowed to get off the bus. The Denali Princess Lodge is located approximately one mile from the entrance of Denali National Park and is composed of several buildings including several motel-like lodges, a theater, several restaurants, and a main lodge that houses registration and a souvenir shop. Each of the buildings has somewhat of a rustic look with a wooden exterior and a red roof. Our rooms were a decent size. However, it was a warm, sunny day which meant our rooms were hot when we first arrived. The rooms do not have air condition so we opened the windows and then left to get a bite to eat. The hotel staff will bring you a fan if you request one. We didn't have a need for this. The rooms were comfortable when we returned later. We were scheduled to take a tour of Denali National Park at 4:30 p.m.. This tour lasts about 3 hours and consists of a 19 mile school bus ride into the park. Part of the road is gravel and the bus can kick up a lot of dust on a dry day such as the one we had. We were instructed to close the windows while riding on the unpaved portion of the road. I was initially excited about the tour because I thought this would be my opportunity to observe Alaskan wildlife up close. As we entered the park, our driver stopped the bus so that we could see a female moose strolling along the side of the road. She came pretty close to the bus and I was able to get some good video of her. Unfortunately, these were the last close up wildlife shots I got for the rest of the 3-hour tour. Our driver was good at pointing out animals but they were so far away. We saw Dalls sheep that appeared as white dots high in the mountains - and not much more detail with binoculars. We saw caribou but you needed binoculars to even have a chance at seeing them. We did not see any bears, eagles, or wolves. There was no sign of any ptarmigans, the state bird. Oh yeah, and for those of you who hate snakes, don't worry, there are no snakes in Alaska. Our driver made a stop part of the way through the tour to allow us to observe a park ranger cabin. We had to walk about a half of a city block on a dirt path through the woods to get to the cabin. We were instructed to stay together and to talk loudly to each other. The noise and the amount of people would be enough to scare off any bears that may be in the area. She told us that the group she escorted the previous week encountered a grizzly bear on the path. However, the bear just looked and walked off into the woods. The cabin was interesting. It kind of reminded me of the fairy tale of "The Three Bears". To my surprise, this tour was somewhat of a disappointment. However, this was no fault of Princess. The thing to keep in mind when embarking on a tour like this is that the size of Denali National Park is 6 million acres. The tour only takes you 19 miles into the park; therefore, the chance that you will observe wildlife up close is mostly based on luck. After the tour, Traci and I checked out some of the souvenir shops across the road from the Denali Princess Lodge. Traci was on a hunt for an Alaskan - themed photo album that she could add pages to. She wasn't having much luck though. Meanwhile, my parents attended the dinner theater. They said dinner was okay but they weren't impressed with the show. They didn't stay for the whole thing. We were up early the next morning. My parents were scheduled for the Husky Homestead excursion. They loved this tour. They visited Jeff King (1996 Iditarod Champion) and his dogs. They took pictures with Jeff and his Huskies. They had a ball. Traci and I did the float trip down the Nenana River. This trip was a guided rafting trip. There were rapids but the guide avoided most of them. We got splashed a little near the end, though. We also saw a moose grazing at the bank of the river. The tour company supplied us with dry suits to keep us from getting wet. Even though the supplied footwear kept my feet dry, the cold water that sometimes splashed into the raft made my toes numb by the end of the trip. The river is glacier fed and thus, very cold! All in all, this was a nice relaxing excursion. Traci and I met up with my parents at the Princess Denali Lodge so that we could board the bus to the train station. I enjoyed the 4 hour train ride on the Princess Midnight Sun Express to Talkeetna. All the Princess cars had a glass dome that allows you to maximize your view of the Alaskan landscape. We were once again blessed with a clear, sunny day. The scenery was like an endless postcard. There were snow-capped mountains, miles of spruce trees, lakes and rivers. There were some areas where the ground was still snow-covered. As the train approached Talkeetna, the landscape looked more like the woodlands of the East Coast of the US. We were fed a nice lunch on the train in the downstairs dining area about half way through the trip. In Talkeetna, we immediately boarded a Princess bus for a two and a half hour ride to Anchorage. Once again, we had a very informative bus driver that gave us commentary for pretty much the whole ride. I was very impressed with every tour guide and bus driver we had the whole time we were in Alaska except for the tour guide in Ketchikan (more about him later). Anchorage: The city of Anchorage looks just like many other US city. However, it is pretty much surrounded by mountains and it overlooks Cook Inlet. We stayed at the Marriott in downtown Anchorage. This is a very nice hotel with large rooms and a view of the city and Cook Inlet (on the higher floors). When Traci and I entered our room we found that our luggage that we tagged in Fairbanks was already in the room. I had read many trip reports on the internet before going on this cruisetour and there were many people who recommended eating at Simon and Seafort's. If any of you are reading this trip report - "Thanks for the recommendation!" The food was out of this world! The restaurant was only five or six blocks from the hotel so we were able to walk. We headed back to the hotel after dinner and chilled out for the rest of the evening. The next day, we boarded the Princess bus headed for Seward where we would embark on the Sun Princess for the cruise portion of our trip. On the way to Seward, we made a 2 hour stop at the Alaska Native Heritage Center. This museum consists of exhibits showcasing the culture of the native Alaskans. I was particularly impressed with the outdoor exhibits. There are replicas of a typical dwelling for each of the native cultures. We were allowed to walk through the various houses and ask questions of the guides. The Alaska Native Heritage Center was an enjoyable stop. After picking up our box lunches that Princess provided, we boarded the bus and began our 3 hour ride to Seward to board the Sun Princess. Along the way we saw glaciers, huge mud flats, and breath-taking scenery. Our bus driver was an excellent narrator. She gave us a sense of what it's like to live in Anchorage. The Well, at last, we arrived at our ship, the Sun Princess. This would be the first time cruising for Traci and me, so we were very excited as the bus pulled up to this big beautiful ship. My parents, veteran cruisers, were also looking forward to spending the next seven days aboard the Sun Princess. We had pre-registered for embarkation a few weeks before via the Princess website, so the Princess rep directed us to the Express Check-in booth. There was no line. We walked up showed our ids, required documentation for entering Vancouver, Canada at the end of the cruise (passport, birth certificate, etc..), and received our ship credit card. Within 10 minutes we were on the ship. We had inside cabins. We had heard that the inside cabins were small. They turned out to be even smaller than expected; therefore, Traci and my parents sent me to ask for upgrade. We got a letter from the ship registration desk the next day informing us that there were no more rooms available. We spent the first evening exploring the ship. The Sun Princess is a beautiful ship and it was always spotless during our stay. We attended the lifeboat drill and then went to dinner. Our luggage was in our cabins by the time we returned from dinner. There was always something going on on the Sun Princess. During our week on the ship, we attended the shows; played games such as Passenger Feud, Trivia Challenge, and Bingo; watched movies; listened to live music; and sometimes just stood out on the deck to watch the magnificent Alaskan scenery. There was a passenger talent show, a "Not So Newlywed Game" (very funny but the questions were too revealing for me to participate), a Passenger Survivor game, art auctions, ping pong tables, a casino, and many other activities to make sure you were never bored. Traci won a Bingo game which entitled her to $100 and a $50 gift certificate to a jewelry store in Skagway. (She ended up not using the gift certificate because everything in the store was a lot more than we wanted to spend - even with the certificate.) Each of us had our favorite activities on the ship. Traci enjoyed working out in the exercise room and having afternoon tea. My mother enjoyed the Bert Stratton piano act in the Atrium. I enjoyed the live music and nature talks while my father just enjoyed being on vacation and strolling the ship. There were also photographers all over the place asking to take your picture. You could see the picture the next day hanging in the area just before the Vista Lounge. You could purchase the photos if you liked them. We ended up buying some. Overall, the food on the ship was good. There are several places to eat on the ship; however, we only ate in the main dining room (1st seating) for dinner and the Horizon Court Buffet for breakfast and lunch. We rarely ate lunch on the ship, however. The four of us were assigned to a table for six with another couple at dinner. We dined with the couple the first evening, but that was the last we saw of them. There were two formal nights during the cruise. Our waiters, Octavian and Claire were cordial and made every effort to please us. One thing to note about drinks (alcohol or soft drinks) is that they are not included in the price of your cruise. You must pay for them separately. None of us drink alcohol so I can't comment on the price; however, soda was $1.50 per can. You do not need to pay for unsweetened ice tea. We were at sea for two days before our first port of call. During that time, the ship paused at two observation sites: College Fjord and Glacier Bay. College Fjord: We arrived at College Fjord early (around 6 a.m.) the first morning on the ship. It was an overcast morning. We were able to see the seven glaciers of the fjord. The naturalist on board the ship gave explanations of the ship's PA system of what we were seeing. She also pointed out some otters swimming on there backs along side the ship. Binoculars were helpful for seeing the otters. There was no calving (large chunks of ice breaking off into the water and forming icebergs) by the glaciers that morning. There were icebergs all around us though. The captain turned the ship a few times to give everyone an opportunity to see the glaciers. After approximately 3 hours in the fjord, the ship was on the go again. Glacier Bay: The next day, the ship cruised Glacier Bay. It was fascinating to enter the bay because little by little you begin to see icebergs in the water. I was on the lookout for whales and harbor seals because we were told there is a good chance of spotting them while in Glacier Bay. Unfortunately, I didn't see any whales or harbor seals that day. At one point, someone said they saw a whale in the distance, so we all went running to that side of the ship. However, I couldn't tell if I saw a spouting whale or if it was the spray from the sea crashing against the rocks. The captain sailed the ship to an area where we had fantastic views of Majorie Glacier and Pacific Glacier. The two glaciers look very different. Majorie Glacier is mostly white with blue hues while Pacific Glacier appears black from all the debris it has accumulated as it has been retreating over past thousands of years. We had heard that Majorie Glacier has a tendency to be relatively active as far as calving is concerned. Well, Majorie wasn't very active that day. However, I wasn't discouraged. I was fascinated by just the sounds that I heard while we were there. Every now and then you would hear a loud cracking or popping sound that would echo all through the bay. This was the sound of compressed air being released from the glacial ice. Finally, after almost an hour and a half of standing on the deck looking at the glaciers, I finally caught some video of Majorie calving. Yeah! Skagway: This town reminded me of the set of a Western. There were saloons, general stores, and people taking tours in horse and buggy. Skagway is a very small town. It was the starting point for prospectors headed up the White Pass Trail in search of Yukon gold. We had signed up for a tour of the town. However, I don't recommend taking this tour if you don't mind doing a little walking. Skagway is only a few blocks wide and can easily be navigated on foot in a short amount of time. Besides, just about any other excursion you sign up for in Skagway will give you a short tour before you get to your destination. The tour consisted of a short ride through the town and up a narrow, winding road to an observation area where we were able to get off the bus and look at Skagway from an overlook point. While we were there, I was able to get some nice video of a bald eagle gliding through the air above us. After taking some pictures (or video in my case), we rode back into town and went into a small Skagway Museum. The museum had some interesting exhibits that gave a sense of what it was like to visit Skagway during the Gold Rush days. The tour ended at a "Days Of '98" show that provided a somewhat corny but cute account of the life of Soapy Smith, a legendary con artist. However, I thought the actors were very talented. Later that day, my parents took the narrow gauge White Pass railroad excursion. They told us they enjoyed the excursion. Meanwhile, Traci and I did the White Pass trail bicycle excursion. We had a good time with this one. We were driven up the former White Pass trail into Canada and then given bikes to coast 15 miles downhill on a paved road back into Skagway. It was a nice sunny day and the scenery was beautiful. We stopped to take pictures at a waterfall on the way down. There was only one section of the trail that we had to pedal up hill a little but it wasn't too bad. Upon returning to Skagway, we walked around the town, bought some snacks at a grocery store, and browsed several souvenir shops. Traci was still looking for the perfect photo album but had no luck. She also browsed a jewelry store in hopes of using the $50 gift certificate that she won playing Bingo onboard the ship. Unfortunately, most of the interesting items were much more expensive than we were willing to pay, so she never used the gift certificate. Juneau: We did our most enjoyable shore excursions in Juneau, the capitol city of Alaska. We started off with the Pan for Gold excursion. I'll admit I didn't have high expectations for this one but I ended up having a ball. The tour guide gives you a short tour of Juneau and then takes you up a hill to Gold Creek. The goal of this excursion is to give you an idea of what it must have been like to be a prospector during the Gold Rush days. When we arrived at the river, our guide gave us a demonstration of how to pan for gold - a simple but tedious process. We were then given a pan of dirt. Each pan appeared to have been pre-filled with a few gold specs hidden in the dirt. We practiced the panning technique in the freezing cold river. The guide gave us small vials to put our gold in after we successfully uncovered it. After that, he took a shovel an scooped up dirt from the bottom of the river and filled our pans. This time I didn't get any gold. However, by my fourth pan I was able to uncover a few gold specs. We spent approximately an hour panning for gold and only found extremely small amounts of it. Our guide told us that people would sometimes pan the river for more than 12 hours per day in the prospecting days and often never find anything. If nothing else, this excursion gave me an appreciation for how determined people were to strike it rich during the Gold Rush. After the Panning For Gold trip, we headed for the Mt. Roberts Tram, which was a short walk from our ship. We were, once again, blessed with a warm, sunny day. We had a great view of Juneau from the top of the mountain. There was a nice visitor center at the top that showed a video describing the major native Alaskan cultures. The video was very nicely done. There were also some trails at the top on the mountain that you were free to explore. Although it was a warm, sunny day, some of the trails were still snow-covered. After we descended Mt Roberts in the tram, my parents walked around town and checked out the souvenir shops while Traci and I boarded the bus that took us to the pick up point for our helicopter ride. Traci and I had never been in a helicopter and were kind of nervous about it because of the horror stories we had seen on TV about tour helicopter maintenance. However, after reading several trip reports on the internet about how the Mendenhall Glacier helicopter tour was the highlight of the trip for many people, we decided to push our worries aside and go for it. We were very glad we decided to do this excursion. The TEMSCO helicopter tour company was excellent. They definitely put safety first. The helicopter ride to Mendenhall Glacier was only 15 minutes but the views were spectacular. We landed on the glacier with about a dozen other choppers. When we stepped out of the helicopter, it was almost like we were no longer on earth. The landscape was so different from anything I have ever seen before. There were crevasses (cracks in the ice) that contained streams and waterfalls of dark blue water. Actually, the water wasn't really blue. It only appears this way because it is running over ice that is under so much pressure that only the blue wavelength of light can escape. The guides gave us some information about the glacier and instructed us not to go wandering because there is the danger that you could fall into a crevasse - some of which were over a hundred feet deep. We stayed on the glacier for about 20 minutes and took pictures. The temperature on the glacier was in the upper 30's, but it didn't feel that cold because the sun was shining so brightly. However, I still recommend you bring a jacket, hat, and gloves. The tour company supplied everyone with glacier boots. This excursion turned out to be the highlight of our Alaskan experience. Later that evening, while we were on the ship cruising to Ketchikan, the day just kept getting better. As Traci and I were finishing a snack in the Horizon Court buffet room, the naturalist announced over the PA system that there was a whale swimming along the shore. Fortunately, I had my video camera with me and was able to get a shot of a spouting killer whale. Soon after that, I took some video of some harbor seals lounging on the rocks. This was the most memorable day of the trip for me. Ketchikan: This was our last port of call before disembarkation. This was also the first time we saw significant rain during our trip. It was raining pretty hard when we got off the ship but this was to be expected considering the annual rainfall in Ketchikan is measured in feet - not inches. The rain stopped after an hour but the sky remained overcast the rest of the day. As we were heading to the souvenir shops along the dock, Traci spotted a shuttle bus that had a Walmart sign taped to the window. Traci and I hopped on the bus and headed to Walmart. Traci was still trying to find a nice Alaskan - themed photo album. Every souvenir shop we had been in from Fairbanks to Ketchikan all seemed to have the same albums, which were either too small for 5x7s or you could not add pages to them. Unfortunately, Walmart was also selling the same photo albums. However, we noticed the souvenirs in Walmart were a little cheaper so we bought a few things. We caught the shuttle back to the dock and boarded another shuttle for the Totem Pole Tour. At this point in our trip, we were pretty much toured out. It also didn't help the situation to have a very monotone tour guide who seemed to have very little knowledge of Alaska, the Totem Poles, or the people who built them. During the ride to the Totem Pole Village, our tour guide managed to put most of the passengers to sleep with his unenthusiastic narration. The Totem Pole Village was interesting, though. There were several totem poles displayed along with a typical clan house of the period. The house was like the ones we had already seen at the Native Alaskan Heritage Center in Anchorage. Part of the totem pole tour required us to walk along a path through the woods. This was where I saw one of the coolest things I had seen on the trip - a bear den. Our guide told us no bears had occupied it in years. However, to me, seeing this den was an unexpected treat. After the tour, we had about and hour and half before we had to be back on the ship. Traci and I checked out some more souvenir shops around the dock area in hopes of finding the perfect photo album. At one point, we wandered into a 5 and dime store. This is where we struck gold - twice. There was a display advertising some construction paper cut outs of Alaskan themes such as eagles, spruce trees, bears, etc... They were very nicely done and only cost a few cents. Traci's eyes lit up. She decided to buy the cut outs and use them to decorate the cover of an ordinary photo album when we got back to Pennsylvania. The photo album turn out really nice. I mentioned we struck gold twice in that 5 and dime store. Up until now, I never mentioned what type of souvenirs I was looking for. I normally like to buy souvenirs that are unique (or relatively unique) to the places we visit. In most cases, this turns out to be some type of food or music. On this trip, the souvenirs I was seeking were the syrups, jellies, and jams that were made from Alaskan plants. I saw these items in just about every store we entered from Denali to Ketchikan; however, I had no opportunity to taste them - not even on the ship. Fortunately, there was a nice lady in the 5 and dime store that told us about a souvenir shop a few blocks away on Creek Street that lets you taste these syrups and jellies. So, we headed to Creek Street to have a look around and to do some tasting. Creek Street is a small boardwalk that has souvenir shops, eateries, and a small museum. It used to be a red-light district during the Gold Rush days. We found the souvenir shop we were looking for and began our taste tests. We tried rosehip jam, spruce tip jelly, salmonberry jelly, fireweed jelly, fireweed honey, and birch syrup. My favorites were the spruce tip jelly and salmonberry jelly. My least favorite was the fireweed honey. I bought small jars of the jellies I liked for myself and a few friends. I also bought the birch syrup, which tasted pretty good at the time. However, I tried it on my pancakes when I got back to Pennsylvania and I had to disagree with my earlier assessment in Alaska. It tasted like I had poured Robitussin cough syrup on my pancakes. Yuck!!! Ketchikan was our last port of call. We were beginning to realize the trip we had been planning for and looking forward to was quickly coming to an end. We had one full day at sea before we reached Vancouver. We used this time to take advantage of the ship activities and to pack. Princess provided disembarkation instructions and colored luggage tags that correspond to you disembarkation time slot. We packed and left our bags outside our cabins as we were instructed to do. Disembarkation - Vancouver, Canada: It was an overcast morning when we arrived in Vancouver. We had our final breakfast in the dining room and then waited for our tag color to be called. Princess asked passengers not to crowd the main atrium waiting to be called; however, there was still a mob there. Our tag color was called about two hours after the first group disembarked. A short time later we were on a Princess bus headed for the Vancouver airport. The bus driver gave us a short tour of the city. At one point, he slowed the bus down so that we could see a coyote strolling through a residential neighborhood. I didn't have my video camera out, so I wasn't able to get any shots. Vancouver looked like an interesting place to explore. Unfortunately, we had a plane to catch that afternoon. For anyone planning an Alaska cruise, I recommend arriving a day early and leaving a day later than the cruise itinerary begin and end dates if you have the time and finances to do so. In no time, we were on a plane headed for Philadelphia via Detroit. Traci and I ended up getting upgraded to first class from Vancouver to Detroit because the airline had somehow managed to assign us to the same seats as another couple. This turned out to be an unexpected treat. The rest of the flight was uneventful until our approach to Philadelphia International Airport. There was a severe thunderstorm in progress that tossed our plane around like an amusement park ride. The pilot had to abort his first landing attempt and circle the airport until the conditions improved. He was able to put the plane on the ground safely about twenty minutes later. Everyone on the plane began to applaud. Our Alaska trip had come to an end. It was time to go home and put together photo albums, edit video, and to tell all our friends and family about our wonderful Alaskan vacation. Overall Impression: I would definitely recommend this cruise to anyone who has an interest in nature and/or history. This trip is not really geared towards the party crowd. There were parties on the ship but they were pretty tame. However, there is always something fun to do on the ship no matter what age you are. Most of the passengers appeared to be 55 and older. I saw very few children and almost no one who appeared to be in the 20s and 30s age ranges. I recommend doing a southbound itinerary if you plan to spend any time in Alaska's interior. The land portion can become grueling with the bus rides and overnights. The southbound itinerary allows you to unpack and relax for seven days onboard the ship after you have done the fast-paced land portion of the trip. Also, if possible, plan to arrive a day early and to stay a day later than your cruise itinerary's begin and end dates. If you are going to Alaska in hopes of seeing wildlife, I suggest you bring a good pair of binoculars and a good luck charm. Alaska is so big that the chance you will see animals up close, like they appear on television nature programs, is slim. I would cruise with Princess again. They are very organized, outstanding with luggage handling, and offer many diverse shore excursions. Their online pre-registration is great; although, the site was slow at times. For Alaskan cruises, I believe Princess is the way to go.

Read More
  • New

Nov 30, -0001

Mexican Riviera

Cruise Line: Princess Sailing Date: November 6th, 2002 Excellent. Service and quality experienced showed the classic tradition of the P&O line. The only downside to our trip was Acapulco. The city shows its age and it seemed to us that everyone was on the hussle. Next time, we'll stay on the ship.

  • New

Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

Sun Princess (Princess) Western Caribbean (3/98) March 21 - 28, 1998 About Us: My wife (Julianne) is thirty-five, a director in the casualty division of a local insurance company. I turned thirty-nine on this cruise and teach/train students on becoming mainframe computer programmers. We have cruised five times and once prior with Princess.  We were usually up till 1:00 a.m. every night. I am an early riser (5:00 a.m.) and Julianne

sleeps until 8:00 a.m. most days. To my (and others) disappointment, due to the weather, I only saw the sunrise once the entire week (a great excuse to go again!). Overview of the ship: The condition of the Sun was immaculate everywhere we looked (similar to the Century and the Star Princess). True to the Princess creed, the cruise staff was very friendly and they never said ‘no’ to any of our requests. A comfortable area for lunch and snacks was the 24-hour Horizon Court. The Terrace Grill outside the Horizon court served up big cheeseburgers, ballpark hotdogs and fries. Overall the food was very good in the dining room for dinner. The coffee (our morning ritual) was superb at all serving locations throughout the ship. The huge deck area included ping-pong tables, shuffleboard and basketball. Swimming pools (freshwater) and hot tubs are open 24-hours a day.  Our favorite spot on the ship was the Wheelhouse Bar, great decor, had the feel (but much larger) of Michael’s Club on the Century. Overall the entertainment has improved since our last cruise on the Star Princess. The use of two full sized showrooms and several lounges provides everyone a variety of entertainment each night. I would estimate 90% of the passengers on the ship were from America, England and Canada. As with our prior Princess cruise, the average age of the passengers was very mixed. My passengers age barometer: older than Carnival, younger than Celebrity, about the same as RCI. The cruise was sold out and we never felt crowded or stood in long lines. The longest wait for a tender was only five minutes. Our day by day review : Saturday, March 21 - Weather: Partly Sunny / 70 degrees - Sea: Smooth We flew to Ft. Lauderdale the prior day, so we arrived at Port Everglades early for embarkation at noon. Embarkation took about ten minutes, which included processing of ship charge card and checking all paper work. We were the second couple to enter the ship on this overcast, dry day. The staff greeted us with smiles and courteously guided us to our room. On our prior three cruises we had stayed in suites/mini-suites, none were available on this cruise (booked six months in advance), so we chose an inside room on the Baja deck midship. Surprisingly the room was very appropriate for our needs. With five suitcases unpacked, we still had three empty drawers and closet space to spare. The room was very quite, only on occasion did we hear anything other than chatter in the hallways during busy periods. We met our room steward ‘Alec’ who did a superb job cleaning our room all week. The afternoon was consumed quickly inspecting the ship and then relaxing next to the pool. At 5:00 p.m. they announced they would delay the Bon Voyage deck party since a group of passengers were arriving late from New York due to bad weather. Most of these passengers were part of a large group of Buffalo Bills fans and players on board for an annual fan club cruise.  At dinner we met our friends we have cruised with before and met two other couples. The dining room looked amazingly small and quiet. Princess has done a wonderful job arranging this room into ‘small areas’ to achieve this feeling. Our food was excellent! We attended the Welcome Aboard Show hosted by the cruise director Paul O’Loughlin. He did an exceptional job and was very sociable with the guests all week.  Sunday, March 22 - Weather: Partly Sunny / 72 degrees - Sea: Smooth/Slight The ship arrived on time at Princess Cays, Bahamas. This is a private island that Princess has developed into an enjoyable beach area for passengers. We relaxed on the beach in the morning and then returned to the ship for lunch early in the afternoon.  The food in the 24-hour Horizon court was very good. It offered a little bit of everything, including excellent pasta and fruits. The afternoon was utilized roaming the ship and participating in a trivia quiz game. This evening was formal dress and the Captains welcome aboard party in the atrium.  Our dinner was as good as the previous night. One note on the dinner selections: every night Princess offers an ‘always available’ choice of dinner selections. This is a great addition for passengers who enjoy one part of a meal. After seeing this, I ordered Caesar's salad every night with my dinner! After reading the uncomplimentary comments on RTC about ‘Pirates’, we decided to skip it in favor of relaxing in the Wheelhouse Bar and trying our luck in the casino. Almost everyone we talked with acknowledged the Pirates show was dismal.  Monday, March 23 - Weather: Mostly Cloudy, Spot Rain / 75 degrees - Sea: Rough A day at sea and the sun only made a brief appearance in the morning. My wife reserved a one-hour full body massage for me (as a birthday gift) in the Spa at 8:00 a.m. Of course I was very relaxed for the rest of the day! It started raining late in the morning, so we participated in a few indoor activities. Dinner (casual) was again excellent, followed up by a very good show by entertainer/impressionist Wes Epae. This was the best birthday I have ever enjoyed. Tuesday, March 24 - Weather: Cloudy, Windy, Rain / 72 degrees - Sea: Smooth We awoke to a grey, windy, rainy morning in Ocho Rios. They either delayed or canceled most of the water excursions due to high winds and heavy rain. After hearing and reading so many bad stories about Ocho Rios, we were surprised how pleasant it was. We shopped for a few hours and enjoyed haggling with local store owners to get the best price on certain items. We observed a few people on the sidewalks passing out handbills, but it was not nearly as serious as in St. Thomas last September. When we said ‘no thanks’, we never heard any dissenting remarks. We purchased two pounds of Blue Mountain coffee for $32, which is one-third of what it costs here in the states. We went back to the ship and both took a much needed nap! Dinner (casual) was again excellent, followed-up by a very good comedian Billy Vader. Wednesday, March 25 - Weather: Clear and Windy / 77 degrees - Sea: Smooth We awoke to a picture perfect morning in Grand Caymans. After an excellent breakfast (including freshly squeezed OJ) we tendered to the shopping district of George Town. The taxi was $3 p/p to the Holiday Inn at seven-mile beach late in the morning. Note: the Ritz-Carlton has purchased this property and will start construction of a new resort this summer. The beach was beautiful, one of the nicest we have ever seen! The sun felt wonderful as we soaked up its rays for a couple of hours. In the afternoon my wife went to the Princess movie theater to watch The Rain Maker, I went to the casino and won some money playing ‘let it ride’. Dinner (semi-formal) was ok, but not nearly as good as the previous four nights.  Thursday, March 26 - Weather: Clear and Windy / 79 degrees - Sea: Calm Little did we know the best day of the cruise was awaiting us! We found a cab ($1 p/p) and went to the shopping area (San Miguel) in Cozumel, Mexico. It was a beautiful sunny day and we spent more money here than all the previous ports together! We discovered many wonderful bargains on everything for which we looked. The island was very clean and the people who worked here were kind and helpful. We arrived to an almost deserted ship and consumed some adult beverages while soaking up the sun by the pool. Life is good! We dressed up (tux and gown) for the last formal night and attended the Captains Circle Club party. Dinner was very good and the desert was wonderful. Our travel agent (Michael Ginsberg from Michaels Travel Center) treated us to a bottle of wine this evening.  After dinner we went to see Johnny Amobi who was a theater singer/dancer. I am not very fond of the theater, but this show was excellent. My wife said something about how he hit a ‘triple-octave’. She was impressed! I was fascinated watching Johnny and the dancers perform masterfully on the stage while the ship hit some rough seas. After the show we put on our swim trunks and headed for a whirlpool. We returned to our room and ordered a snack from room service for the first time this week. Princess has a nice selection to choose from, and quick fifteen minute delivery service. Friday, March 27 - Weather: Clear and Windy / 75 degrees - Sea: Moderate to Rough This was our last day at sea. It was spent relaxing by the pool and saying goodbye to new friends met throughout the week. In the afternoon we were contestants in the ‘Newlywed and Not So Newlywed Game Show’. It was a good time for all, except my shoulder, which was hit very hard by my wife for one of my answers she did not like. We finished second and received a bottle of champagne. We were the ‘old’ couple having been married for sixteen years, the couple who won had been married for three months. After packing, it was our last chance to empty the casino (ha!). For the week I came away with over a $300 profit (spent mostly on fine Cuban cigars). Dinner was very good, the desert was excellent, I think I gained 20 lbs. this week (my wife’s not talking about it)! Saturday, March 28 Disembarkation was quick and smooth. One piece of our luggage was in the wrong pile, but was found after a five minute search. We boarded a bus to the airport and said goodbye to a great cruise! This cruise was our second favorite, only behind a perfect cruise a couple of years ago on the Star Princess. We would highly recommend both Princess and the Sun Princess for anyone who enjoys great service, very good food and a relaxing atmosphere. The Sun is moving to Alaska in a couple of weeks for the summer and then returns to Ft. Lauderdale for ten and eleven day cruises to the Panama Canal. A new sister cruise ship, the Sea Princess, will take over the Western Caribbean winter/spring itinerary cruises later this year.  Jody and Julianne Brown 

Read More
  • New

Nov 30, -0001

Alaska

Sun Princess 2000 vs. RCL Rhapsody of the Seas 1999   July 2000 I continue to be thankful for the rec.travel.cruises newsgroup. Even though we took an Alaska trip last year, there were still a lot of questions I had for this one. Got lots of great advice which added to the trip. As we departed for this trip I had no plan to write this type of review, but as the week went along, we were able to discuss among ourselves

the differences between two cruise lines. Taking a similar itinerary one year apart on two different lines proved interesting and enjoyable.  A lot of these observation are just that - observations. They are neither good nor bad. Sometimes I was able to understand the reasons for some of the things we noticed. Other times we could find no explanations. I’m sure others on this newsgroup know why some of these things are the way they are and I’m sure the questions will be answered.  I will post this to help others who may be looking for help. This is a lot of observations and some opinions. We booked the Sun Princess leaving Vancouver July 24th on a Voyage of the Glaciers. Quad cabin E323 starboard side, toward the bow of the ship, window,  no balcony. On the northbound trip - you get to see more land and glaciers as you exit the inside passage for the trip to Glacier Bay and College Fjord. The views are spectacular out the window. We were on the Rhapsody last year doing Hubbard Glacier and the inside passage leaving Vancouver June 12, 1999. Our travel plans this year were based on the fact that the salmon were running and last time they had not arrive yet. We felt the whole food chain would be more abundant. That was true and we saw a lot more wildlife than last year. We also wanted to go to Glacier Bay and Anchorage.  Because there are a lot of reviews of tours and cities along this route, I thought it would be more helpful to others to frame this review with the specifics of the shipboard experience and how we viewed the differences in the two companies. Pre cruise: Used frequent flyer miles for air tickets. Can’t comment on Princess air arrangements. Some other passengers has good flight times, some terrible. Luck of the draw I guess. I know RCL buses some from Seattle. Didn’t talk to anyone who did that on the Sun. Our plans to stay two nights in Vancouver with a Princess pre cruise package took a hit immediately. Looking at the Princess program, they wanted $699 per person to stay in Vancouver, take a day trip to Victoria and a city tour of Vancouver including airport transfer. Seemed pretty reasonable until they would not add our two kids in the same room. They simply would not waive the maximum of two per room. I would have had to pay $2500(US) for four for this package. Instead we used Gray Line of Vancouver. The exact same package except with two kids added, was half price. At first I thought it was about 20% less until I realized it was quoted in Canadian dollars  - a huge savings.  Additionally, Gray Line gave us a voucher for a private limo ride from the airport instead of a bus full of fellow passengers. This was a terrific package. We stayed at the Waterfront Center which made it easy to watch the ships arrive Saturday, Sunday and Monday mornings. The day trip to Victoria included the Butchard Gardens and a lot of time in downtown Victoria. This was a long day, but we shortened it by taking the Helijet add-on back to Vancouver. I don't think Princess offered this option. It was a spectacular 30 minute flight. Cut about 2.5 hours off the day.  Embarkation: The Rhapsody embarkation last year took almost 60 minutes total including the time spent on the ship in line to activate the ship credit card. We stood in line for almost 35 minutes. The agent then had to find the cards on a large table behind them. Then the minor children’s cards had to be punched so they could not use them at a bar. Then we sat in a large holding room until our number was called. Once on board, we had to stand in line to tie our credit card to the ship charge card. I remember commenting that this could have been done earlier or automatically. Sun took 5 minutes total. Princess had stations for various last name letters, and all the pre cruise info we had sent them in a lap to right there. They asked of there were any changes and handed you the combination ship charge, room key/ boarding card. Each person who was eligible to sign did so and were on the way to the ship. Princess had all the info in one place and we dealt with only one person before boarding. Rhapsody made us wait three times to get all the same things done. Princess definitely had a better a way to handle embarkation. Both lines escorted us to our rooms quickly. Luggage: Rhapsody got ours there 10:30 at night. Princess had our luggage in the room by 4:00. This probably has something to do with how the tags are coded. When we received our Princess cruise documents, the tags had a loading door listed on them. Princess apparently loads from both ends of the ship. Seemed more efficient than last year. Reading all the various other reviews there is not a lot of comment about late arriving luggage, so maybe our experience was unusual.  Life boat drill: Rhapsody asked all passengers to muster at their stations at 5:00. Each of station was near a lifeboat and handled about 100 people. Took about 15 minutes. Rosters checked off, demonstration how to put the life vest on properly and were were dismissed. Very efficient. Late comers had to have a drill a day later. On the Sun there were three muster stations for the entire ship. We met in the Wheelhouse Bar. (Somehow it seemed very British to meet in the bar should the ship get into trouble.) Others met in the theater and Vista Lounge. They stated they had developed a plan to be sure all people were out of the cabins if there were trouble, and they also felt the passengers, should there be a problem,  would prefer to not have to wait outside in bad weather. They had the lifejacket drill. They emphasized the brightly colored hats the crew would have on if there were a problem. Took about 15 minutes. Started at 4:45.  Interesting philosophy. Embarkation day food service: Rhapsody had buffet set up with limited food. Princess had same, but much more selection. Rhapsody did close their buffet at 4:00. I remember barely getting there last year. The Sun’s stayed open until 7:00. Sports/Swimming pools: No covered indoor pool on the Sun. The rear pool was shielded from the sun and rain, but was still outdoors. There is a large covered pool on the Rhapsody. I  did not see a basketball court on the Rhapsody. The Sun had one hidden directly under the smokestacks. Things the Sun did not have the Rhapsody did: Miniature golf and pool table. Sun had four ping pong tables, the Rhapsody, two. Interesting that we say a full size air hockey table being loaded on the ship in Vancouver, but never saw it again - maybe for the crew.   Children's program: Both ships had programs for three age groups - 2-8 years, 8-12 years, and 13-17 years. The Rhapsody program was located in the front of the ship near the front, top deck. The Sun rooms were in the back deck 12 near the spa. Each ship had two rooms - one for the teens and the other for the younger kids. The Sun has four computers loaded with kids games. The Rhapsody had no computers in the kids room last year.     We were involved with the 2-8 year old group and the teen group. The teen group programs were similar enough. That age group always seems to have a good time.  Their room wad large screen TV’s and video games. Cards, board games, many planned activities. The 8-12 year old group was hardly ever there. They kept meeting at different places and had lots of things planned. It is the younger group that was so different. The 2-8 year olds never left their room. They did bring in ice cream, cookies and pizza,  but it was always in the room. Last year they moved those kids all around the ship. The were in the pool area sailing homemade boats, making ice-cream sundaes, playing hopscotch on the shuffleboards, all sorts of things. Perhaps many other passengers may object to having kids around, but during the days at sea, if they are well supervised, I’m sure the kids would enjoy getting out as a group.   The comment cards on the Sun had no questions about the program, but the Rhapsody's did. We did write in our comments. Ship layout: The Rhapsody had a promenade deck that did not wrap around. The Sun’s did. On the Sun, as you walk around the front of the ship you can view the machinery that works the tie-up ropes. It is interesting how they handle all that equipment. The Rhapsody had the top deck open to the sky and it did go all the way around. The Sun went all the way around but you had to negotiate four sets of wind doors (offset partitions) and two flights of stairs to do it.  I liked being able to see the length of the ship on the Rhapsody. When the ship turned you could watch the back end swing around. In and around the glaciers this was fun to watch and made some dramatic video. Couldn’t do it on the Sun. One of the advantages to the pool deck layout of the Sun was that there were several private areas to swim and lay in the sun. I saw several advantages to each ship’s pool deck layout but we preferred the Rhapsody's. The Sun Princess dining rooms were each self contained with their own kitchens, one each on deck four and five. The were named the Marquis and the Regency. Not quite the seeping view the Rhapsody’s two floor atrium design has, but nothing wrong with that. The noise level was lower on the Sun. The buffet restaurant on both ships were forward on the top deck. Great view out the 270 degree windows. The Rhapsody's was hanging directly over the sea and the Sun’s had a viewing deck between the windows and the view.  The view was better from the Rhapsody than the Sun because of this. Of course we were out on the deck to watch all the glaciers, but when they Sun converts this room into a seated restaurant in the evening, the view would have been better with out the deck in the way. “Private decks”: Don't tell anyone, but forward on deck 10 and 11 through the doors, there are smallish viewing decks. They have no glass or wind breaks so they are very cold while the ship is moving, but to cruise Glacier Bay or College Fjord they are the best views on the ship. The biggest advantage besides not being crowded, is that you hear none of the ship noises: engines, blowers, fans, etc. during the time you are there. (You do hear the horn very well if you happen to be there then.) As the week went along more people found out about them, but we were never more than one person deep.  Bundle up when there during the bay and fjord visits. In the mornings, find a steward and get a towel to wipe the rails. This keeps your elbows dry. Rooms: I thought the rooms were very comparable between the two ships. The storage space while not huge was very manageable for our family. More closet space on the Sun. The shower seemed a bit larger and laid out better on the Sun.  We had a family suite on the Rhapsody which gave us more floor space, and couch and chair. The room on the Sun was fine. The beds dropped out of the ceiling and was controlled by a key to turn on the motor. We left one up and one down each day. This really was not a problem and allowed a place to dump things each time we entered the room. Service: We had excellent service on both ships. We never had any problems that were not immediately solved on either ship. Both cabin stewards were superb. Our steward, Fredrico on the Sun had 17 cabins to clean. Duncan on the Rhapsody had 13. Condition of the ship: Both ships were immaculate to my eye. Had to look very hard to find a rough spot or rust stain on either ship. Maintainance was never intrusive on eaither ship. You would see the crew working but never were they in the way. Library/Card Room: Excellent selection of books, games. However, the Sun had audio books to choose from and players to listen to them. The reading room on the Rhapsody had a better view. It was on the outside of the Centrum area and included a balcony to visit. The Sun’s faced onto the Promenade deck. Commotion outside the window.  Harder to enjoy the view.  Princess had a game each day with questions to challenge you and the answers posted the next day. We had fun with that. The Rhapsody had a weather room with charts of the trip and gauges to view the weather. Couldn’t find that on the Sun. The TV had the information, but you had to wait around for it to cycle through. General Announcements: These were easy to avoid on both ships. The Rhapsody had a button to shut off the intercom speaker in the room. The Sun’s were on channel 22 if you wanted to hear them. The bridge cam on the sun was broadcast on channel 35. This is the same view they use on the web. Because it is part of the TV system, I guess that is why TNT shows up on their web site occasionally. Nice background music accompanied the view.  Activities: Comparable on both ships. Anything and everything you could want to do. We took a galley tour on the Sun. It was not offered on the Rhapsody. Sun offered a bridge tour - Rhapsody did not. All the rest of the activities - bingo, art auctions, napkin folding were all comparable. Shows/Entertainment/TV: Theaters on both ships are great - good site lines. The crew shows, professional shows,. passenger talent shows etc., were comparable on both ships. Most were very good. - some, not so hot. On the Sun you had to plan ahead because of conflicts with dinner seating.  They do tell you if a certain show will be repeated. This years Sun line up included two great comedians and one horrible one.  Three variety type shows were very will done. The TV on the Rhapsody replayed many of the afternoon passenger game shows several times. The Sun had excursion videos showing most of the time. The Sun had a movie on continuously on one of the stations. Dining Options. Buffet - The Sun buffet was open 6:00 AM until 7:00 PM daily. They kept it open later when we left port late. The Rhapsody’s opened at 6:30 and stayed open until 4:00 daily, then reopened about 5:30 or so for dinner. The type of the offerings seemed about equal. The variety was greater on the Sun by far. They had hamburgers and hot dogs here daily. The Rhapsody buffet was spotty - many times the entrees looked bad - they were not hot. I know of many cafeterias that do a fine job keeping everything hot and nice. The Sun buffet was much better and more consistent. The forward part of the Sun buffet became the Bistro, a sit down restaurant at 7:00 PM each evening. It was open until 4:00 AM. (There was no buffet at night. The rest of that room becomes a dance hall). The menu was pretty good and there were three specials daily. We ate there once and found one of the daily special an exact copy of one served the night before in the main dining room. The Manager told us they paid no attention to the main dining rooms. Their menu was set by him and was totally separate from the main rooms. All entrees were cooked to order. The meals were very good - service great. We never saw this room crowded, but the food were very good and quite enjoyable. Tipping was at our discretion The manger told me he divided any and all tips among his staff. I had no problem with this. I know some do. Pizza - On the Sun, Verde's pizza was excellent. It is located up on deck 8 around the atrium. They offered several kinds including Cheese, vegetarian, pepperoni, and Hawaiian. Also the Calzone was great. They did not offer Tea - only water and sodas which cost extra. (Sodas cost extra in the main dining room on Princess. They were included on Rhapsody.)  The Pizza/Hamburger stand on the Rhapsody was by the indoor pool. It was mediocre last year. They also had no tea available. You had to walk the length of the ship to get some near the forward buffet. You could buy soft drinks nearby.  Dining rooms: Both ships had excellent service. Partial bottles of wine could be kept night to night. Corkage fees were spelled out on the wine list. Servers were efficient and very eager to please. The variety and selection were comparable. I know we could ask for a steak nightly on the Rhapsody if we wanted one. However, the Sun menu had it listed as “always available”. Food Quality in Dining Rooms: This was not even close - the quality of the presented food was way above Rhapsody. Not that the Rhapsody was inadequate. It was very good. However, the little things on the Sun were amazing: The spring rolls were hot and crispy. They were as crispy as any I ever had anywhere. The Steak was cooked exactly as ordered three times. (Actually the night we had steak in the alternative Bistro restaurant, I sent it back. It came out perfect the second time.) The puff pastry was always flaky and hot. The salads had absolutely no off color lettuce at any time. Avocados were properly ripened. Each table had a pepper mill - we use a lot of pepper - and it was right there. On the Rhapsody there was only one mill for the area so we could not keep it on the table. They always got it but it was not as convenient. The lobster was perfect. It was overcooked on the Rhapsody. The replacement was also. The Sun’s crab legs were perfectly cooked and served very hot. (That one is a lot of trouble at many restaurants). On the Sun there were at least 10 desert selections available each night including several that were “always available”.  The Rhapsody had fewer selections and they were not as well presented. Bread and butter are two on my favorites. The breads on the Rhapsody were to die for. The Sun merely to hike the desert for. These are all a lot of little things that add up over the week. The dining room experience was noticeably a cut above on the Sun. However, we did dress up twice instead of once for Formal nights on the Sun. I think this confirms the opinion found on the newsgroups. Again, the food on the Rhapsody was fine and I had few complaints. However, the Sun’s advantage here was noticeable. During our galley tour they had the scores of the various waiters and bus boys posted on the wall. As I quickly perused them most were given excellent (5) ratings, but there were a lot of fours and threes. Each table was averaged, each section and each dining room captain were all listed and averaged. In talking to our head waiter, there appeared to be a lot of competition to bring these scores up. Hopefully the company rewards the most successful over time. We were asked by our Sun head waiter to be sure to fill in the cards, that blank cards do not help them. That was all he said.  I remember that on the Rhapsody our individual waiter was talking about them and how important an excellent rating was to him. I usually let this go in one ear and out the other and grade as I see it. Some are offended by the emphasis on it.  Doesn’t matter to me.  Princess lets you charge the tips to your account eliminating the need for cash. I did confirm with the head waiter that this was OK and they got all that you gave them. The ship doesn’t keep any. They disperse funds to the crew after the first night of the next sailing. I paid in cash on the Rhapsody. I wasn’t aware of this convenient service on that ship.  Disembarkation: Both trips went very smoothly. We were off by 7:30 both times.  In Seward we has wanted to take the train up to Anchorage, but the schedule didn’t allow it. I understand that soon the disembarking Seward passengers will be give the option of taking the train. This would have been a great thing to do. Last year we left immediately for the Vancouver airport. Our luggage was waiting there on the curb. We claimed it, proceeded to the America West ticket booth, checked in, went through the duty free shop to reach customs, and paid the departure fee of $7.50 (10 Canadian) to finance the airport construction. Then the luggage disappeared until we got home. Free carts are provided by the Vancouver airport, both coming and going. Other observations: Our cabin was under the promenade deck and they had to vacuum the water off the drain trays around the deck. They were over our room each morning at  5:30. I heard it because I get up early. No one else in the family heard it. We never heard joggers or anything like that. One fellow had a cabin on deck 11 inside just below the Horizon court restarunt and he had to move because at night the band there was directly over his bed. The appointments such as teak wood were very apparent on the Sun. Each morning these were a lot of signs stating “wet teak oil”. There was not as much of that on the Rhapsody. We liked the Centrum layout on the Rhapsody a lot better - it was prettier and more elegant looking. The public rooms around it were laid out very nicely. We tried out the Sun’s Internet connections located on the business center, deck 12, aft. It took three tries - the server in Los Angeles was down we were told. The gentleman didn’t know if it was the same server that runs the web cams on the Princess site, but it could be. The connection speed seemed to be comparable to a 14,000 baud modem. I could not log onto my own secure site. The cost was $7.50 for 15 minutes. Last year this was not available on the Rhapsody. I understand it is now. The shops on board both ships could have been on any ship anywhere. On the Sun the “Gold Chain by the Inch” vendor was extremely popular all day long. Kept the area crowded. The racks of sale clothes also cluttered up the area on both ships. We did not book any tours through the ship like we did last year. When folks say book your own, do it. They are the same tours, probably with fewer people, a lot cheaper, and more personal guides.  When you get off the ship there are all kinds of local vendor to offer the tours an sighseeing trips. You can bargain with them, particularly after the first wave goes out - they want to fill up their vans in the afternoon. We were lucky in Skagway at being the only ship in port. In Juneau we were one of four. In Ketchican we were one of three. We like to shop early when he town are not too crowded. Then we tour in the afternoon when the towns are crowded.  Makes sense. However the first year we went we booked a few of our must do tours on the ship. Rhapsody has a box they put out for you to out your choices in. We went there immediately and got just what we wanted. Princess lets you do that early, even before you get your cruise document they send a form to preselect shore excursions.  Seemed more civilized and less stressful to do them that way. You could cancel or change when you go to the ship. Watch for the cut off times for changes to avoid fees.  There is a certain comfort level in letting the ships do all the work for you. My daughter caught two salmon in Ketchican and presented them to room service upon arrival back at the ship. The next night they were perfectly cooked and delivered to our table on a huge tray complete with trimmings. We shared with all the other tables in the area. Great fun and very well done. I took along my GPS (Garmin 12 Map) and it was fun to see the names of the island and communities as we went by. The ship’s cruising speed varied from about 18 knots to 21 knots. Standing on the promenade deck it showed I was 49 feet above sea level! The Love Boat chocolate mousse is to die for and is on the “always available” desert menu.   For those interested: The bedtime chocolates were always dark. Mostly without mint. They keep bottled water in the room and will replace as needed if you tell them to - there is a charge for it. They will keep fresh fruit in the room upon request - no additional charge. We went whale watching with Captain Larry and his helper Jeff of the Awesome Orca. The office is right across from the tram. Watched a group of five humpbacks feed eleven times, one about 100 feet from the boat. Fabulous. Ketchican found me walking to the Totem heritage center and adjacent hatchery and eagle hospital. Go to the hatchery first for a cheaper combination ticket. It is an easy walk. Goes right by the IGA grocery store for supplies if needed. Also in Ketchican, one could fish off the Creek street bridge over the canal. Salmon were happy to jump on your hook. A guy sits right there to sell a license and rent poles. Watch for the ever changing Alaska game and wildlife laws. They were pulling them out as we watched. My daughter went deep sea for her two fish. Next time we will fish from the bridge. Also in Ketchican we watched the Mercury and Galaxy tie up. The town got real busy then. Shop early and find the Ketchicandy store. Great almond bark. We had rain each day until we reached Glacier Bay. Then the sun came out and it was beautiful the rest of the week. We passed the Ocean Princess in Prince William Sound no more than 150 yards apart. The Captains had a field day with the horns. The Glaciers were particularly active in both Glacier Bay and College Fjord. Last year the Hubbard was very active. These are truly spectacular scenes that remain with us daily. We stayed on the deck the whole time we were in Glacier Bay and College Fjord this year. Bundle up and stay out there. Try to get away from the ship’s noises. At Glacier Bay, we took the time to watch the rangers board the ship - the Sun slows to about 5 knots and the little park ranger boats matched the speed. The ranger scrambles aboard and the ships separate. Must be a thrill to do that each day.  I know the various pilots do this, but I had not seen it before. In Anchorage we went to the History museum . We found this to be one of the finest exhibitions we had ever seen. It is all about Alaska from way back to the present. I guess with all the oil money it is easy to have a quality museum, but this one is just terrific. Don't miss it if you have time. Even if you have only a few hours, go there. In closing we would do either ship again especially considering the recent price drops. There were people on this boat that had paid $499.00 for the Internet special. We want to go back for the beauty - not the ships. If we had to choose, we would take the Sun over the Rhapsody, but it would only be for the food. Maybe we will take another line next time so we don't have to decide. Or a small ship cruise. Fun to think about it. E-mail with questions

Read More
  • New

Nov 30, -0001

Classic Panama Canal

Though this is our 3rd cruise it is my first attempt to write a review.  I have accessed many reviews in the past and hope that this review may assist others in determining what kind of itinerary they may want to choose.  Our first cruise was the Southern Caribbean with RCCL on the Monarch of the Seas.  Wonderful.  The second cruise was with Carnival on the Holiday doing the Mexican Riviera.  Delightful. Now on to the Panama Canal

with Princess. We boarded on Friday 10/20/00 at 1 p.m. without a single problem.  No lines, no waiting, and everything was ready for us.  We were anxious to get on board and first see our stateroom as we had been upgraded from a balcony cabin to a mini-suite.  It was a 4 category upgrade and had done nothing out of the ordinary to be granted this great upgrade.  We booked in May and at the suggestion of our travel agent from Cruises-n-More only booked a “guaranteed” cabin instead of reserving a specific cabin or location.  He has seen Princess upgrade a “guaranteed” cabin a category or so but this was only the second time he had seen an upgrade like we were given.  The stateroom was spectacular with 2 sliding glass doors onto the balcony.  One from the living area and one from the bedroom area.  2 televisions, one in the bedroom and one in the living room.  A couch, chair, coffee table, end table, and desk with a chair in the living area.  A corner wet bar area and small refrigerator.  Bedroom area had a queen size bed, night stand, and dressing table and chair.  The walk in closest also had drawers and plenty of closest space.  A full length mirror was the door of the closet.  The bathroom had a regular size shower stall with tile and a glass door.  Also there was a large Jacuzzi tub with  lighted, stained glass behind the tub.  The tub was big enough for two :).  The toilet and sink were in another separate room so that one could use the shower or tub while another was using the toilet or sink.  The whole stateroom was beautifully decorated and we felt like royalty.  I can only imagine the luxuriousness of a stateroom suite which would be twice as big as a mini-suite.  We were thrilled!! We had requested a large dinner group as we like to talk and make new friends.  Our 6 table mates couldn’t have been better.  Our ages ranged from late 30’s to late 60’s from 4 different parts of the US.  From the very first dinner to the last one we didn’t stop talking, laughing and sharing our lives and experiences, on and off the ship.  Kudos to whomever Princess has picking out table mates.  We have made 6 new friends!! First stop was St. Thomas.  We had been there on our Southern Caribbean cruise and decided to go over to St. John’s and snorkel at Trunk Bay.  Cab ride to Red Hook ($10 for 2), ferry ride to Cruz Bay ($12 round trip for 2), cab ride to Trunk Bay ($5 for 2), fee to get into Trunk Bay ($8 for 2 for all day).  All together it cost $50 for a day of superb snorkeling on St. John’s for 2 of us.  Trunk Bay was incredible!  St. John’s was an awesome island and we plan on going back to see more of it one day.  Also, stop at Mongoose Mall  at Cruz Bay if you have time.  There are some great stores there!! Next stop was Dominica, the Garden Isle.  Pronounced “Dom-in-eek-a” by the locals. A beautiful island that is unspoiled.  As we were there on Sunday, the stores is Roseau were closed but the market place at the pier was open for business.  The merchants are a little pushy but stand down when told no.  We hired a taxi for a 3 hour tour to see Emerald Pool at a cost of $30 for 2.  It does cost an extra $2 per person to walk to the pool.  I would not recommend this for those who are not able to walk trails and go up and down some pretty steep terrain.  And it is very slippery when wet!  The tour only took 2 hours but we still had to pay the $30.  We should have thought of something else to do for the extra hour but the driver took us right back to the ship.  I thought we should only pay $20 for the 2 hours but that’s not the way it works.  If they drive fast and get you back early you still pay the agreed upon price.  I am still learning the tricks!!  Some of our table mates took the Whale and Dolphin tour and saw both.  They also snorkeled at Champagne Reef and loved it.  Others went to Taffalger Falls and enjoyed it too. Barbados was our third island.  We had also been there so we opted to take a Catamaran Snorkeling Tour.  With about 40 others we headed north on the Caribbean side of the island at 9:30 am.  First stop was snorkeling with the tortoises.  There were a few other boats in the lagoon but there was enough room for all.  We got into the water while the crew threw in fish and the tortoises swam around with us.  We were instructed not to try to touch them but of course there were those who could not resist.  I had one swim by and clip me with it’s fin, so it touched me, I didn’t touch it!!  They were large, beautiful animals and our half hour went by way too fast.  On to the reef to snorkel and have a wonderful buffet lunch aboard the catamaran.  Five of us even got to ride the Banana Boat which was a real hoot.  One girl popped off like a cork but came up smiling.  They loaded her back on and off we sent again.  It was like riding one of  mechanical bulls only on the water.  We made our way back to the ship at 3 p.m. sunburned but happy!!  A great time at Barbados. Next a day at sea for a much needed rest.  Only problem, I found the art auction and found out I like art.  I bought my own Christmas presents for this year and next!  If you like art and like good prices and still have some money left after paying for your cruise, go to the art auction.  You simply cannot beat the prices on the ship.  Art is duty free and Princess really does have them for 75 to 85% less than at the galleries on land. Aruba was our next port of call.  We had decided to rent a 4x4 and see the north side of the island where the Natural Bridge and Natural Pool (Conchi) is.  I would not recommend this to anyone who does not have 4x4 driving experience.  The roads are dirt with rock and pot holes.  The road to the Natural Bridge from the California Lighthouse is pretty good with the exception of a couple of really bumpy places.  The north shore road takes you by piles and piles of stacked rocks that locals and tourists have placed along the shore.  They are something to see!!  Then you go by the Gold Mine Ruins which are very interesting.  Without a tour guide you will have to look up the history on your own.  The Natural Bridge is a feat of nature.  Hopefully I got some great pictures before the bus loads of  tourists from our ship showed up.  Even though there was a sign saying not to walk on the Bridge, they were all over it.  I suppose one of these days there won’t be a Natural Bridge.  On to the Natural Pool or Conchi as the locals call it.  Again I only recommend this if you have 4x4 experience as it is a rugged drive up and down trails meant for horses or ATV’s.  The streets are not marked to get there so be patient while trying to find the entrance.  There is a small house with a small sign and I suggest you wait for a guide to follow down to the pool.  There was no one home when we got there so we tried it on our own.  We made it but only by the grace of God.  When we finally got down where the pool is the guide was astounded that we had made it on our own.  He told us a better way to get back and we were glad for the direction.  The pool was beautiful and we could only imagine how much more spectacular it would have been on a sunny day.  You may also want to check the tides before going down as it is better to see when the tide is out.  Since we only had 6 hours on Aruba this was a fast trek.  We were rushed and did not get to spend quality time as each place.  Aruba is another island we would like to go back and investigate one day. In Cartagena the next stop we took the tour and saw the La Popa Monastery, the fortress or castle as they call it, the St. Peter Claven Cathedral, old town Cartagena and did some shopping at a small mall.  Be sure to buy your Colombia coffee from the stores at the malls not from the street merchants.  They quality is much better in the stores.  The price is only a little bit higher but the quality of bean is much, much better.  The price of jewelry is better in St. Thomas than Cartagena, but there is always that deal that can be made.  I did get some fine leather sandals from the street merchants but had to barter hard for my price.  One man was very honest and said, “Lady, you are cutting into my margin”.  Most of Cartagena is very poor but I still felt safe.  Our tour guide tired to disregard questions about the military and police all over the city but we knew why they were there.  All in all it is a very fascinating city, very rich in history.  The Colombians are very proud of their heritage and history. Panama Canal was next on the itinerary and was a wonderful day from start to finish. Watching them stuff that big ship into that tiny lock was unbelievable.  And each time they pulled us through a lock it was awesome.  Gatun Lake was spectacular as was the Bridge of the America’s and the skyline of Panama City.  You will just have to experience the day for yourself and determine which part you like best.  We were very thankful to have our balcony cabin and enjoyed sharing our mini-suite with our table mates and another young couple we had met who had an inside cabin.  As the sun sank into the Pacific Ocean we made our way north to Costa Rica. After a day at sea we neared the Gulf of Nicoya where Puntarenes is located.  Due to a couple of medical emergencies we docked the evening before we were suppose to.  The next day we spent in Puntarenes, Costa Rica.  Being Sunday again all of the business were closed but they had a very large market place set up.  The merchants were not pushy and pretty well let us alone to chose our purchases.  We decided to spend the day at the Caribbean Village Fiesta Resort on a day pass.  We enjoyed food, drinks and swimming for the entire day, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for $38 per person.  It is a family resort for middle upper class locals.  Also English was at a minimal except for the resort workers.  We enjoyed our day with the local families, many from San Jose spending the weekend at the beach. Our table mates and others enjoyed a day of rafting one of the nearby rivers, sightseeing and shopping in San Jose (2 hours drive from the ship), a river tour in which they saw monkeys, crocodiles and many species of birds (no Toucans though).  The tours lasted any where from 6 to 10 hours but everyone we spoke to enjoyed them. Disaster struck that night aboard the ship.  We were late pulling out of port and I suspect but cannot confirm that the ship got stuck on a sandbar or hung up on something.  The tugs had to be called in to assist.  While helping us, one of the tow lines snapped and critically injured one of the crew on board our ship.  The Captain decided to head straight to Puerto Caldera our final port located just a few miles from Puntarenes. The crewman died before we could reach the dock.  It was a somber last night aboard the Sun Princess. We disembarked at 6:30 the next morning, got onto our bus, drove the 96 kilometers to San Jose airport where our group remained for 12 hours while they tried to fix our charter plane from Los Angeles.  San Jose airport was not equipped to handle an MD-11 so it took a long time to fix what was wrong.  All 380 of us missed our connecting flights but the Charter Company got us hotel rooms so we could get a couple of hours of sleep in a bed while they rearranged flights for us.  Many did not handle this part of the adventure well but a few of us kept our sense of humor and sense of adventure.  All but the final days of the cruise was superb. And nothing could have been changed to avoid what had happened those last hours.  Things just happen sometimes whether you are on a cruise, a camping trip, a week-end outing or whatever.  There just comes a time you have to make the best out of a bad situation.  So in remembering what a lovely time we did have and praying for families of those that died ( the crewman and a woman who had a heart attack), and wishing the best for those who had gotten injured in a few mishaps, and those who had missed the ship at 2 different ports, and all of the other things we didn’t hear about, we will always be thankful for the service, the food, the fun, the laughter, the new friends and the experience of crossing the Panama Canal with Princess Cruise Lines for the rest of our lives.

Read More
  • New

Nov 30, -0001

NOT FOUND

Princess Sun 7 Day Alaska Cruise Marie Excellent land tour/cruise package - Alaska! Princess handled all transportation and accommodations very well. Loved the land tour (Fairbanks, Denali, Mt McKinley) - had we not done the land and only did the cruise, we would have missed much of what Alaska really is all about. Next time, land tour only for me! So much to see, unbelievable beauty. Lay over on way to Fairbanks in Anchorage, stayed

at G Street House, bed & breakfast - very nice, comfortable, real Alaskan home. Excursions included Husky Homestead, Glacier mushing, float plane / jet boat wildlife, whale watching. Best whale watching was in Juneau (late July trip), also saw Moose, Bear, Caribou, Seals, Otters, lots of Eagles. Princess did a great job, would definitely use them again.

Read More

Add Your Own Review

When did you go?

Minimum 200 character count

How many stars would you give?

Service

Food

Décor

Value

Cruise Forums

Have a cruising question? Ask our Fodorite community.

Cruise News

Read our latest news about cruises.

Store

Shop our travel guides on European, Caribbean, and Alaskan cruises.

Back To Top

No Thanks