Embarkation and Disembarkation We began embarkation on the Sun Princess in Sydney around 12:30pm and were fortunate enough to use my platinum membership status for priority check in. The other lines looked like they were moving quite quickly and we were going through security shortly after that. All of the staff at embarkation were very helpful and the whole process seemed to work very well with someone always ready to assist you. Disembarkation ran as smootly as boarding the ship did. We were given our number to leave the ship and were free to use one of the lounges or go out on deck before our number was called. Luggage was waiting for us and the whole process moved very quickly and efficiently.
Room Our cabin was an inside stateroom on deck 9 midship- our initial thought was it looked quite small but I think that just came down to the fact that we had never had an inside cabin before and not having the luxury of a window made the cabin feel a little small. We soon realised that it wasn't that bad after all and quickly adjusted to it. As my wife and I were travelling with our 2 year old, we had a three berth cabin with a fold down bed. This was great except for the fact that the safety barrier for the bunk bed was insufficient for my two year old, and I ended up in the bunk instead. The cabin itself had plenty of storage space and was equipped with tv, fridge and safe. For two adults and a child, is was suprisingly comfortable.
Ship The ship had a nice feel to it for the size of the ship and the number of passengers on board. We never felt overcrowded (unless in the buffet line) and there was plenty of lounges and areas to sit down, relax and enjoy either a good book or a cup of coffee. The decor was quite nice and not over the top and for an older ship, she looked in very good condition. The were a number of pools and spas to enjoy when the weather warmed up, an internet cafe and library, ice cream bar, several bars and shops to spend up in, a casino and sports court to utilize during your cruise. The only complaint was probably the lack of washing machines for the number of passengers on board. Two washing machines each floor ensured lengthy delays and quite a few upset people.
Dining and Food The dining experience was quite good generally, excellent particularly in the main dining rooms. The Regency and Marquis dining rooms delivered beautiful meals with fantastic service (thank you Kirby and Ricardo, we wish we could bring you both home!) and we loved every minute of dining in these rooms. We particularly loved the variety of the meals offered and the quality was great! Lobster and baked Alaska on formal night went down a treat! The Horizon Court on deck 14 was a little disappointing compared to previous cruises. Whilst the dining staff in the Horizon were quite good, it pains me to say that the standard of the food wasn't up to par with past experiences. The food was a little more boring and cheapish than what I have had, and it seemed rather repetitive. My excitement at scallops in the buffet was quickly dulled in noticing they were small, tasteless imported from Vietnam type scallops. We also saw the same rolled pork on offer for about 4 days in a row. Room service was great and free unless ordering a pizza ($3 surcharge) and even delivered the occasional item not on the room service menu. The terrace grill was nice, serving up hot burgers, fries and hotdogs out on deck. We only once tried the ice cream kiosk but it was free and enjoyable. Verdi's pizzeria made some tasty fresh pizzas and was always busy( a sign of good business)
A word of warning though- on the first day or two, the wait staff will try to sell you a soda package for around $60. My advice is don't bother. When in port, buy your own and bring it on board. We bought 1.25L bottles and put them into our mini fridge and there wasn't a problem.
Shore excursions We chose to do own own thing each port, mainly for the reason that the shore excursions on offer were so expensive. Princess seem to double the price to make their profit on these tours and it is so easy to do most of your sightseeing yourself or in small groups. One tour we looked at doing was going to cost my family $380 dollars with Princess. We did it ourselves with taxi fares included for only $160. To be honest, many people we talked to felt the same as us and boycotted the ships tours for this very reason. Princess need to reduce their prices because they are seriously overcharging on all tours.
Entertainment Due to having a small child with us, we chose not to see the nightly shows except for one night when we saw an English comedian who was quite funny. Others commented that the nightly entertainment was quite good and we did not hear any negative feedback about them. The general daily entertainment was of average standard. With five sea days, there could have been a little more variety put into the daily activities as quite a few were repetitive but generally they were cruise standard and acceptable. The musicians playing around the ship were fantastic and kept a good atmosphere in their designated areas. The casino ran a few different tournaments and had a reasonable range of tables and pokies to choose from. A daily movie was shown in either the Vista Lounge or Princess Theatre which were good, but having sailed numerous times before I thought we might see current cinema movies compared to the new to dvd movies we were shown.
Kids Centre As our child was only two, we used the kids club a little less frequently than others due to the need for us to supervise whilst in the kids centre as Princess requires children to be 3 or older to be left alone. The staff were very welcoming and seemed to have numerous activites planned for the kids. There was a good spread of toys and equipment for all ages, including playstations and video arcades for the older kids and teens.
Crew The crew in general were great! Nearly all of the crew adored our two year old and always ensured we were looked after, as they did for all passengers. It seemed that they all followed their CRUISE code very well, and did their best to provide an outstanding level of service to you. Our dining waiters were an absolute treat, and if you are lucky enough to get Kirby and Ricardo then you will enjoy your dining experience, especially if you have young kids. Our cabin steward was ok, his service wasn't up to the level we were receiving from other Princess staff and was occassionally sloppy in his work. Beds not folded down, pillow cases on the floor were a couple of instances of sloppyness. We were always disappointed not to receive animals made from towels left on the bed like we saw in other cabins walking back from dinner.
In general, it was a very relaxing and enjoyable family cruise. Although the majority of passengers are the older age group (you expect that crusing so don't complain) we found many of them to be very friendly and interesting. The crew were very good and we still find cruising to be value for money. Don't forget to leave your tips on- the crew work very hard and we found out that most of them only get paid $50 a month and rely on your tips. We had no reason to take the tips off because service was good and in some cases, gave a little more to key staff who made our trip that little bit better.