This was our 6th cruise with the Carnival line (4th on Princess), and our 14th cruise over all. We were very impressed in comparison to previous Princess cruises on the Sea Princess in 2011 and 2012. The reviews on this sight do not do the ship and its crew justice, and the recent renovation/face lift the Sun underwent in November was for the better. We enjoy getting away for the holidays so we spent Christmas onboard.
- The crew everywhere on board we're superb. All members were efficient, professional, friendly and diligent, some more than others- but by far, the crew on this voyage were superior to prior Princess cruises. Particular standouts on our trip was the entire Crooners bar (Valeriya, Tushek, Richard, David, Chris and Lito) as well as Artur, Jonathan, Marchial and Nelson in the dining room. They are credits to the Princess line.
- The rooms were clean, roomy and had plenty of closest space (3 women in our mini-suite with ample room left over). There was no mold or stains, like we had previously experienced on the Sea Princess last year. Our room steward was fantastic and catered to every need (but just be sure to request or make a note if something extra is wanted, as we did and received the following day)
- The massage therapists were by far the best we've experienced on board, and I highly recommend booking yourself in for a Swedish massage!
- The food was excellent, particularly savory delights. Particular standouts was the French night, the Italian night and the Captain's choice. Very impressed with the menu onboard. Desert was average and lacked zing. The steakhouse was also excellent, so if you don't mind paying extra or sitting in a secluded, intimate section of the Horizon Court, do give it a shot. The buffet (only dined at lunch there) was average, yet the meat station was always good. Grill and Pizzeria average.
- The International Café was a perfect little spot on the ship. If you managed to grab a table (i.e. head down before 10am or after 9pm) the cakes, coffee and service were great.
- Itinerary was great. We enjoyed the ports of call (actually this was our 3rd time doing this itinerary). New Zealand is beautiful and you won't be disappointed. I recommend doing the cultural tour in the Bay of Islands and the city drive for Wellington (they were two new excursions we did and they were brilliant).
-Embarkation was easy breezy, and the new Rozelle center from Sydney was well equipped, spacious and state of the art.
- Christmas festive programmes were very well organized and entertaining, including Interdenominational Mass at Midnight, Christmas Eve carols, gingerbread house making and decorating, reef making, etc.
- We didn't attend any shows, but the musical entertainment onboard was wonderful. Mauricizo in the Crooners bar as well as Jowista and The Souvenir Trio were all entertaining and enjoyable.
- One of our greatest disappointments was how pushy staff are to purchase extras onboard. In the past we had experience only a little of this harassment but this time, it was constant. Staff have been trained to "push" after dinner drinks, "special" coffees, barista coffee, liqueurs, pre-ordering alcoholic beverages, coffee cards, wine tasting, etc. It is a big shame because it is incredibly frustrating to have someone car-salesman try and sell you in a sneaky manner every night something after dinner. Surely by night 10,11,12,13 they would get the message we're not interested. Princess - not good!
- American style brewed coffee and tea have been eliminated from dinner service in the Dining Rooms and Specialty Restaurants. This is very poor on Princess's behalf. Why cut fundamental service and push barista style coffee we don't want extra to pay for? (Horizon Court still serve coffee and tea 24hours of the day which is free, and International Café as well but coffee is charged additionally).
- We experienced "code red"/ lock down for the entire duration of the trip. In fact, instead of things getting better by day 6, things became worse, and there was an increase of the lockdown level to "code yellow". I can understand that disease spreads quickly whilst cruising and though sanitation processes were put in place, I can see how the virus would spread: there was no sanitation processes upon gangway (besides our first port of call), people still managed to self serve in the buffet despite the "strict" steward service, public toilets remained opened and I witnessed after using them once people not washing their hands, people not following protocol about washing hands after sneezing or coughing but instead touching banisters and tables and chairs... Princess was always slow to wipe down tables, railings, chairs, public areas, despite having the procedures in place.
It was however frustrating to experience delayed service during our cruise e.g. no butter on the table, and waiting up to 5 minutes for butter following toast/bread service, pepper and salt rations, convincing stewards to put portions of food for you, no canapés at the Captains Circle Cocktails... This endemic could happen to any cruise line, on any ship, because people don't fill out their embarkation forms properly or lack in personal hygiene, but we were very unlucky with our cruise. We remained understanding that staff were still trying to do their best to serve despite the circumstances.
- Fitness classes were cut. We were looking forward to yoga, pilates, ab classes and stretching classes which were non-existent. History lectures and talks were also cut.
- There was a constant issue with air conditioning on board which severely bothered us. From day one there was an issue with the air con. General areas were always hot whereas our rooms were always cold. Our only guess was that the ship was saving energy by switching the air conditioning on and off.
- Some staff cuts were evident with staff on the buffet and bar on deck limited. Except queues from drinks especially upon sailaways.
- Do not go on the Auckland North Shore and Devonport tour if visiting Auckland. It was a waste of money and time. The guide took us for a city drive, looking at suburban streets for 1.5 hours, and let us off for 10 mins at the naval museum and look out (which included a coffee stop and toilet break), and then drop off at the ferry for return to the ship. There was no time spent at the chocolate factory, Devonport and Peter Ross Crystal Factory as listed in the excursion itinerary.
- Though boutiques were recently renovated, it was a huge shame to see cosmetic jewellery be eliminated from the store, and more expensive duty free brands e.g. coach, fossil and tag replacing them.
Overall, we would happily cruise again with Princess. The standard they uphold for traditional cruising which we prefer and service is superior to other Lines we have traveled with in the past. I would recommend the Sun Princess, and were impressed with their high levels of service.