Ship Sun Princess
Cruise date April 16th to May 3rd 2011
Cabin Category BB
Cabin Number A336
Deck Aloha, Port Side
Booking Method Travel Agency in Auckland
Our cruise was the 17 night "Northern Australia Explorer" from Sydney to Perth (Freemantle). The ports of call were Sydney-Brisbane-Townsville-Port Douglas-Darwin-Broome-Tanah Ampo (Bali)-Geraldton-Freemantle.
THE SHIP: SUN PRINCESS. When we first saw this 15 years old ship it really looked like it: quite rusty outside. But inside it was clean, good maintained and with a timeless design. It was well laid out, the cabins were very small and standard but entirely adequate and claen. The bathroom was efficient and with a drying line in the shower. The fridge was big enough to cool wine, water and coke which we brought on board at the ports of call (wine was 1 bottle per person without any problem). Behind the flat screen TV there was one European power point (it is an Ameican ship!)
EMBARKATION in Sydney was quick and sufficient. We were in our cabin within 40 minutes after arriving at the Barangaroo Wharf 5. The heavy luggage was taken by the crew members and the hand baggage was checked with x-ray machines and we could proceed direct to our cabin where we left the baggage to go right away to the Horizon Restaurant on Deck 14. There everything was well prepared to have lovely lunch. After returning to our cabin we found 2 of our 3 suitcases. We complained several times and were told to be patient because they are still delivering the luggage to the cabins. The ship cleared the berth at 5 pm and we still didn't have our suitcase. After complaining again we were directed to a security officer who had locked our luggage. The reason for not delivering the suitcase to our cabin was a pocket knife which they discovered with their x-eay machine. We could keep the knife, this was not a problem. But how they handled the whole story was not very friendly and polite and the staff at the reception desk not helpful at all in this matter.
We cruised under the Harbour Bridge and passed the Opera House and the Fort Denison. Even though it was raining this sailaway was very impressive.
PORTS OF CALL:
BRISBANE: It was the only rainy Port of call. The ship docked at Portside Wharf Cruise Terminal. As we didn't book a tour we walked 500 meter along the Brisbane River to catch the City Cat into Brisbane. It is cheap, fast and gives an awesome view on the skyline of Brisbane. Its only a short stroll to the Tourist Information where we bought the ticket for the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary and got the information which public bus is going there and from where. We saw at least 50 Koalas, but for photos with a Koala on your arms they charge extra (15.-AUD), you could touch the Kangaroos, Wallabies and Emus. Returned to the city we strolled along the busy shopping streets before returning to the ship via the City Cat.
Sun Princess anchored 8 Miles off the harbour and shore tenders brought us into Townsville. We didn't book any tour from Princess cruise line because they are overprized and in Townsville everything is in walking distance. Once ashore we entered the Sunbus Redbus and took a day ticket (seniors 3,50 AUD), it's like a "hop-on-hop-off". We used the free internet at the library. A really "must-see" is the Reef HQ Aquarium with the world's largest living coral reef aquarium. And don't miss The Strand with shops, cafes, water park and pools. Because of the stingers you can only swim in pools or in areas in the sea which have nets around.
Again the ship anchors near Port Douglas and we were transferred to the Marina Mirage dock via tenders. We didn't book any tour via Princess and found a lot of stalls and shops at the pier offering a big variety of trips. First option is a day trip to the Great Barrier Reef if you never have been there, but make sure to get this trip booked on shore. Informations should be available on the internet, otherwise use the Princess tour. Second option is the rainforest with the Skyrail starting from Cairns. We couldn't book this because the bus had already left when we got to the travel agency, we spent too much time to find a decision. So we booked the Daintree Rainforest Tour (third option) and this was very impressive and entertaining. It included the Daintree river with crocodiles, the Mossman Gorge and the stunning countryside, all well explained by a lovely tour guide. Back from the trip we strolled through this little town looking for a Cafe with free WI-FI.
This time the ship docks at the pier and its only 1 mile walking distance to the town center and the tourist information. For shopping you have some shops in the wharf nad much mor at the main shopping street: Smith Street Mall. We toured on our own only in the city, admiring the timeless architecture of the parliament house and the historic buildings like Government House (1883) and Old Anmiralty House (1920) and the Victoria Hotel.
Is not a port of call, it's a fantastic slow sightseeing cruise along the coastline. We had a stunning sunset and all the rock formations have been red, a real beauty.
The ship docks at the Outer Berth in Broome, but you are not allowed to walk to the city. On board you will get free tickets to take the bus from the pier to the tourist information. There is no need for a tour booking because there are free buses to the Cable Beach (a must) and the little city you can explore by walking. Don't miss the pearl shops with well informed employees to explain all the different kind of pearls and their origin. A must is the Pearl Lugger Museum.
TANAH AMPO ( BALI ):
The Sun Princess was the first cruise ship to use this port of call and it was a disaster. The ship anchored close to the pier and we were tendered to Tanah Ampo. But we had to wait almost 2 hours to get ashore because the gangway from the pier to the wharf building was too weak for 1900 people. The ship crew had to strengthen the gangway. Returning to the ship at late afternoon the gangway was broken and quite a big number of passengers had to wait for more than 1 hour in full rain till it was repaired. Obviously there was not a good inspection prior to the arrival of the ship, Princess' agents ashore didn't do their home work!
Tanah Ampo was the only place where we booked a tour with the cruise line. We had a half day trip to the summer gardens of the king and this was interesting and we had a lot to see, well explained by a local guide. The passengers who booked the palace of the king (almost a full day trip) paid a lot of money to see dirty ruins, they returned very disappointed to the ship. Be aware of all the locals selling souvenir stuff, even when you pay half of the asked price it is still too expensive.
Again we were tendered to the pier. We didn't book anything. You should start with the ultra modern Western Australia Museum Geraldton. We then went to the library to check our e-mails for free. It is a very relaxed seaside town and we strolled through the streets towards the impressive St.Francis Xavier Cathedral. Then you can walk to the Mount Scott with the memorial dedicated to the sinking of HMAS SYDNEY during world war II. From here you get the best view over Champion Bay.
Disembarkation was very easy and well organised. Don't let the Princes people putting pressure on you for booking their bus to Perth. There are enough taxis around and they are quite cheap. We had booked a 4 day stay in Perth and we drove direct to Perth. Another day we cruised per ship to Freemantle and discovered this seaside town, a very busy and pretty place.
There is a free bus to drive around (City Cat) and you can use it like a "hop-on-hop-off" bus. The same system you find in Perth with three lines there.
Extremely disappointing was the behaviour of the kids (roughly 1 % of the passengers!!!). They occupied the pool area the whole day. They jumped into the main pool even when you were swimming. They chased each other around the deck chairs stepping on your belongings. When you complained to the parents they shouted on you and when you spoke to the Princess staff they didn't take any notice of your complaints. We spoke to the front desk about this situation and they promised to take care of it. But nothing happened, really nothing. Everywhere have been signs telling that diving and jumping and playing ball is forbidden but the Princess personnel is really unable (or unwilling?) to change this situation. You had no chance to swim more than one leg in the main pool and the other pools have been overcroweded because of this situation with the jumping kids.
The food was gorgeous, a big selection at the buffet restaurant and a huge variety for the dinner. Even the theme-buffets have been very selective and well displayed. All the 16 days we didn't have any single meal to be disappointed, the Italian chef was great.
Over all it was a stunning adventure around this huge continent. We can recommend this cruise but try to avoid school holydays because the Princess crew is unable to control the disturbing temperament of these uneducated kids (including their parents) using the ship deck as a playground.
Brigitte and Dr. Alf Kielhorn, Germany