Fodor’s Expert Review
One of the smallest 1990s era ships, lovely but quiet, good for quiet relaxation.Read More
Should Be Avoided By People Who Prefer
Mega-ship activities; world-class cuisine with lots of alternative dining choices; casual attire ships. To meet other singles and party.
According to the new Princess Personal Choice dining you can choose fixed seating dinners at 6:30 or 8:30 p.m. in the Regency Dining Room, or opt for making a reservation in the open seating Marquis Dining Room anytime between 5:30 and 10:00 p.m.. It matters little where ambiance and decor are concerned, both are identically furnished. The difference lies in whether you prefer the traditional cruise ship dining service of having the same team serve you for every meal, usually leading to friendlier, more interactive service as they learn to anticipate your dining preferences. The open seating option gives you the freedom to dine at the hour you choose even if it is different every night, with whom you choose. You will be seated at your own table, as at a restaurant ashore, but expect slightly less personal service than if you have the same service crew every night.
Princess has clearly improved the reputation of its food, especially in the areas of pasta and beef dishes. The Sterling Steakhouse features special cuts of Angus beef from its own celebrated brand. Passengers choose either rib-eye, New York strip, porterhouse, or filet mignon from a presentation tray, and watch – drooling, in most cases! – as the chef cooks it to order. Starters include chili, blooming onion, jalapeño poppers, and fresh Caesar salad, as well as the traditional baked potato or fries, sautéed mushrooms, creamed spinach, and corn on the cob. The ships’ pizzerias make your pie to order, and chances are that it will be scrumptious. Desserts are unfortunately not always the grand finale one would expect in such surroundings. Adding insult to injury, the ice cream bar levies its own charges.
Aside from the Personal Choice Dining in the two main dining rooms, for those feeling a bit more casual, there are a patisserie, a hamburger and hot dog grill, a sushi bar, and a 24-hour restaurant in the Horizon court next to the pool area. And of course there is always 24-hour room service, but with a limited menu. The pizzeria seems authentically Italian. The Grill restaurant adjacent to the pool offers casual breakfast and luncheon buffet, and is partially transformed in the evening into the Sterling Steakhouse, with decorative table linen, fine cutlery and table lanterns. (Since seating is limited to 70, reservations are encouraged. The Steakhouse charges $15.00).
A gratuity of $10.00 per person per day for dining and cabin staff is automatically applied to shipboard accounts regardless of which plan you choose. Passengers may increase or reduce this amount at their whim.
The staff, from all over the globe, is both wonderfully personable and attentive to detail. Boarding passengers are met at each stairwell and smilingly directed or even escorted to their cabins. Turndown service with chocolates on the pillow is provided in the evening. Charmingly, wooden deck chairs with steamer blankets are available for the asking on ships bound to or from Alaska.
For dining and stateroom personnel charge, $10 per person per day (including children) is automatically added to your stateroom account, whether or not they choose traditional or restaurant-style dining. You can talk to the ship’s purser about raising or lowering this amount.
All beverage tabs automatically have a 15-percent gratuity added. In the spa and casino and with other staff, let your conscience be your guide.
The single-story showrooms offer unobstructed views from every seat, several spaces in the back for wheelchair-users, good sound, and state-of-the-art lighting. The smaller Vista Lounge offers comfortable cabaret-style seating, while the elegant, nautical-themed Wheelhouse Bar is the perfect spot for pre- or post-dinner drinks and conversation.
Even though these ships are small by today’s standards, they get an “A” for effort when it comes to the themed production shows. You won’t be razzle-dazzled with pyrotechnics and laser lights, but you can walk away humming familiar show tunes or hits from your youth as you reflect upon how it used to feel to be as agile as the pas de deux dance team.
Expect a slate of individual performers such as comedians, jugglers, singers or magicians to fill in the other nights. Like most smaller ship entertainment, enjoyable for people who are not overly critical.
Tastefully finished in blond wood with pastel colored spreads, cabins are divided into some 28 categories, though in fact there are fewer than 10 real-life configurations; the category distinctions actually reflect differences in location (amidships versus aft, and so on), and thus price. More than 400 cabins on each vessel boast private, if very narrow, balconies. The ships’ most popular staterooms have 178-square-foot balconies but only 161 square feet of living space, and thus are not for the claustrophobic. Mini-suites with two rooms are among the largest at sea: 374 sq. feet, including balcony and large marble bathroom. Closet space is at a real premium in the standard outside and inside cabins.
All that noted, there’s no denying the generosity of the ships’ amenities package: color TV with movies and CNN; hair dryers; terry cloth robes; safes; mini-refrigerators; and beds that convert from twin to queen size. Three hundred cabins will accommodate third passengers in upper berths. Nineteen cabins on each vessel offer wheelchair accessibility.
A great many American towns’ chambers of commerce would love to get their hands on fitness facilities comparable to these three ships’. Indeed, from the Princess Links computerized golf simulator, which lets you virtually play the trickiest holes at the world’s most famous golf courses (for a separate charge) to a separate jogging track, there aren’t many athletic activities you can’t enjoy aboard.
The stunning multi-level Spa offers whirlpool, exercise equipment with personal trainer, and Steiner’s salon. A splash pool on Sun Deck supplements the ships’ main pool, on Riviera Deck.
Seven-night cruises offer two opportunities to put on the Ritz in formal attire. Many men opt for a dark suit instead of tux while their companions prefer dressy pants to dresses. The rest of the time, think smart casual. By day, don’t even think of wearing anything other than shorts, sneakers, a polo shirt. If you want to toss in a baseball cap that’s up to you, you can even turn it backwards.
Best For People Who Want
Elegantly understated decor reminiscent of the Grand ’90s, 1990s that is, before ships became floating Las Vegas theme parks. A choice between traditional or personal choice dining options, unusual shore excursions, water sports (Caribbean sailings); facilities for the disabled; outdoor movie viewing on the “biggest LED monitor you have ever seen”.
When Sun Princess floated out in 1995, it is hard to believe that at a mere 77,000 tons it was at the time the largest cruise ship in the world. It didn’t take too long for that distinction to be surpassed, but in any case her beauty, especially internally, was classic enough for Princess for build three more sisters; Sea, Dawn, and Ocean Princess. Sea and Ocean have been relocated to Europe.
At its best, Sun Princess pulls off the remarkable trick of being vibrant enough for the active cruiser, and refined enough for the most demure. At 77,000 gross tons, she belongs to what are called the “mid-class” size vessels today, but actually seem comparatively small amidst the abundance of leviathans in today’s cruise fleet. And so, even though the ship provides everything needed by any definition of cruiser, keep in mind that everything is of a smaller scale which tends to put a lid on the “wow factor.” Such ships tend to attract older passengers, unless it’s a 7-day Caribbean cruise during holidays or summer vacation.
Still, Sun Princess boasts a near-perfect interior design for convenience and traffic flow, and by the end of your first day, you’ll know where everything is, and the best way to get to it. Of course, convivial types may focus on the downside of such spaciousness – that in the natural course of things you will make fewer friends as on other ships. Indeed, if you don’t choose traditional dining (and thus share a table with strangers), you could, in theory, make no new friends at all during your cruise. The great popularity of the coin-operated washers and dryers on all cabin decks suggest that many passengers are desperate to meet in any way they can, even while folding laundry!
The cabins are comfortable and cheery, but the age of these vessels makes them lean towards the small end of the scale and limits the number of available balconies. But you can almost always find a bargains on lead-in priced lower inside cabins. Announcements are pleasingly infrequent for a mass-market ship, and only in English even in Europe, which may or may not be good news to anyone reading this!
You need go no farther than the marble-floored Grand Plaza atrium, with its brass staircase, to realize that a lot of luxury awaits you. Especially when the view is accompanied by a string quartet or grand pianist expertly fingering glissandi. All in all, Sun Princess is one of the most gorgeous vessels at sea. Combining varnished hardwoods, marble, etched glass, granite, and textured fabrics, the decor juxtaposes classic and modern influences in a way that does not take your breath away, but creates a quietly pleasurable ambiance. The ships each boast a remarkable art collection valued at nearly one million dollars.
Launched in 1995 as the first of Princess Cruises’ Sun-class ships, Sun Princess was a cruise industry pioneer. When she was christened, she set the bar for offering more staterooms with private balconies, which became a Princess signature. Sun Princess is now based in Australia year-round, sailing mainly from Sydney and Fremantle. The ship has been updated to include popular onboard venues, including The Sanctuary and Movies Under the Stars
Refined and graceful, Sun-class ships offer many of the choices attributed to larger Grand-class ships without sacrificing the smaller-ship atmosphere for which they’re noted. The four-story atrium with a circular marble floor, stained-glass dome, and magnificent floating staircase are ideal settings for relaxation, people watching, and making a grand entrance. Only Sea Princess sails Caribbean cruises; Sun and Dawn Princess are deployed in the South Pacific.
Onboard decor is a combination of neutrals and pastels, which are easy on the eyes after a sunny day ashore. The main public rooms are situated in a vertical arrangement on four lower decks, and, with the exception of the promenade deck, cabins are forward and aft. In a nice design twist, the casino is somewhat isolated, and passengers aren’t forced to use it as a passageway to reach dining rooms or the art deco main show lounge. Sea Princess also has an outdoor Movies Under the Stars LED screen.
Princess Cruises may be best known for introducing cruise travel to millions of viewers, when its flagship became the setting for The Love Boat television series in 1977. Since that heady time of small-screen stardom, the Princess fleet has grown both in the number and size of ships. Although most are large in scale, Princess vessels manage to create the illusion of intimacy through the use of color and decor in understated yet lovely public rooms graced by multimillion-dollar art collections.
Princess has also become more flexible; Personal Choice Cruising offers alternatives for open seating dining (when you wish and with whom you please) and entertainment options as diverse as those found in resorts ashore.
Lovely chapels or the wide-open decks are romantic settings for weddings at sea with the captain officiating.
- 10 passenger decks
- 2 dining rooms, buffet, ice cream parlor, pizzeria
- Wi-Fi, safe, refrigerator
- 3 pools (1 indoor), children’s pool
- fitness classes, gym, hot tubs, sauna, spa
- 7 bars, casino, 2 dance clubs, library, 2 showrooms, video game room
- children’s programs
- dry cleaning, laundry facilities, laundry service
- Internet terminal
- no kids under 6 months, no-smoking cabins
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW
What to expect on board
Staterooms & Cabins
Princess Cruises’ trademark is an abundance of staterooms with private balconies, and even the least expensive inside categories have ample storage and a small seating area with a chair and table. Suites have two TVs, a separate seating area, a dining-height table with chairs, a walk-in closet, double-sink vanities, and a separate shower and whirlpool tub. Minisuites have a separate seating area, two TVs, a walk-in closet, and a separate shower and whirlpool tub. Cabins that sleep third and fourth passengers aren’t as numerous as on other Princess ships, and no staterooms have interconnecting interior doors, although adjacent cabins with balconies can be connected by unlocking balcony divider doors.
Decorated in pastel tones, staterooms typically have mirrored accents, a safe, a refrigerator, a hair dryer, and bathrobes for use during the cruise. Bathrooms have shampoo, lotion, and bath gel.
Nineteen staterooms are designed for wheelchair accessibility and range in size from 213 to 305 square feet, depending on category.
Food & Drink
Sun-class ships have one dining room with two traditional assigned dinner seatings and one open seating dining room for Personal Choice cruisers; breakfast and lunch are open seating. Alternative dinner options are the reservations-only Sterling Steakhouse (a section of the buffet that’s dressed up for the evening and for which there’s a charge) and complimentary traditional Italian dishes in a trattoria-style setting in the pizzeria. With a few breaks in service, Lido buffets on all ships are almost always open. The pizzeria and a grill near the main pool offer casual daytime snack choices. The patisseries and ice cream bars charge for specialty coffee, some pastries, and premium ice cream. Ultimate Balcony Dining is available, as is afternoon tea and 24-hour room service.
Nighttime production shows tend to be Broadway-style revues presented in the main show lounge, and guest performers might include comedians, magicians, jugglers, and acrobats. Live bands play a wide range of musical styles for dancing and listening in the lounges and on each ship even the atrium has a dance floor. The entertainment staff leads lively evenings of fun with passenger participation. Movies Under the Stars with free popcorn is a popular option.
Spa & Fitness
Spas operated by Steiner Leisure offer a menu of massages, body wraps, and facials, including some designed specifically for men and teens as well as couples. Acupuncture is also available. Adults can escape to The Sanctuary, a relaxing outdoor spa-inspired setting for which there is also a fee. There are no thermal suites, but complimentary saunas are available adjacent to men’s and women’s changing rooms.