This is my second cruise with Sun Princess in the past 6 months. Happy with the first cruise but this one was a different story. It was for 17 nights around the top end of Australia departing from Perth and was almost a complete waste of time and money.
Smooth with no problems.
We had a balcony cabin on Aloha deck (deck 11). Cabin A336 (port side). Were careful this time not to choose a cabin that is directly under the Riviera Bar so whilst there were no loud scraping noises from the moving of the furniture, chairs and tables whenever people were getting on and off chairs and no issues with smoking fumes, the cabin was really getting a bit too shabby for my liking. The cabin is not cheap being on A deck but I found that the upholstered bed head was badly stained in the regions where your head is supposed to rest (no doubt from greasy hair) which is off putting. The carpet in this cabin is stained just a bit too much in my opinion to be passable anymore. These cabins really need to be refitted again (not that I know when the last refit was) but we were on this ship 6 months ago and you can really see the deterioration even in that short amount of time which I suppose comes from constant 24/7 use year in year out. Even the picture on the wall had a brown watermark stain on it that I woke up to each morning. It's really not a luxury cabin so keep your expectations low so that you won't be disappointed.
Also note that these cabins are a bit small for balcony rooms. In the other cruise ships we have been on we did have a 2 seater lounge in each of the balcony rooms so you don't have to watch TV on the bed all the time. I put up with the sheets last time and didn't worry about them but this time they were even more of a horrible beige worn colour. The sheets are not a crisp new white colour and whilst they seemed to be clean, Princess really need to bite the bullet and get some new linen. You can only use this stuff for so long before people start to complain. Perhaps the men don't notice that type of thing but women do and I spoke to another woman on the ship who was not happy with her sheets either. Our bed was so hard that after the first 3 nights I had some real concerns about how my back was going to hold out after a couple of weeks of this type of torture. I thought that my back was going to snap in half. My husband asked the room attendant if we could sleep on the doona and then obtain another doona to go over the top of us so that it would make the bed a bit softer to lie on. He said that he could help with the problem and that night he had remade the bed with a foam overlay over it. I was so grateful and we did thank him and leave a gratuity as not only was the bed more comfortable but that dreaded gap in the middle between the two beds was eliminated and all in all it was really good after that. But they wouldn't have those sorts of foam covers for every bed so if a lot of people asked for one, I doubt that they'd be able to help everyone. Personally, I think that the beds all need renewing but perhaps I'm being unreasonable about that aspect.
The Sun Princess is, in my opinion getting a bit shabby in certain areas. Some of the upholstery is worn in the public lounge areas and when you walk past the toilets, they smell terrible. When you are in the Princess Theatre on the starboard side (near the toilets) you can smell the stench from the toilets even up to 5 rows down in the theatre. Musty, damp odours prevail throughout the ship which make for an unhealthy environment. There are dents in ceiling panels wherever you look and drill holes that have not been filled here and there. It's only about 16 years old and has even been refurbished at some point I am told but it actually looks a lot older that that in my opinion and in the opinion of many people who we spoke to on the ship. One guy said that he thought it must have been the original "Love Boat". My first impression is that they do the best that they can with what they have but really, we've decided that it's time for us to try other options for cruise lines to see if we can do better now that there are other lines coming down to Australia more frequently. Once people try the other lines (Carnival, Celebrity and Royal Caribbean), I think that Princess may lose many of their clients. They've lost my mother and my husband and I after this cruise.
I've got to admit our last cruise with them at Xmas time was a lot better and we were happier with that cruise to New Zealand. I think it was due to all the Xmas decorations making the atrium and other areas much nicer and I thought that the staff go to a bit more effort for a Christmas cruise.
This was where we and most of the other passengers expressed annoyance. The tender processes were always a shambles with either the wrong information being given or inaccurate information being given or huge delays being experienced. No one was happy with this part of the cruise itinerary. It's just a bad itinerary all round that I could not recommend.
GERALDTON - Tender service was slow and when we arrived although the town is close to the arrival jetty there was nothing there. We saw a Church and a few streets and a small shopping mall and that was it. We had a drink at the Dome cafe by the water and walked along the waterfront and then went back to the ship all by about 1.00pm. There is also a war memorial on the hill but don't expect anything at this Port of call.
BALI - We knew what to expect but many people didn't although the woman giving the shore information sessions made it abundantly clear as to exactly what it was going to be like. She was so honest about Bali that my mother and many other people didn't even bother to get off the boat. Even people who had been there before came back saying how bad it was. There was rubbish everywhere on the beach and in the streets of Kuta. We spoke to dozens and dozens of people on board and not one single person said that they enjoyed it and not one person said that they ever wanted to go back...and I mean that....not one single person we spoke to had a single good thing to say....even I was shocked at their level of disapproval. My husband had been before and although I hadn't been before, I had been to a number of other Asian countries so I knew what to expect and it was just as I thought it would be. We only went into Kuta but even those who went to Ubud had a bad time due to a massive traffic jam and being stuck in the bus for an extended delay with no toilet and then contending with a landslide. What really gets me is that the woman who gives the shore talks goes on and on about all the places you can go to and all the things that you can do and see but by the time you get off the ship and actually make it anywhere, its near on time to start heading back so that you don't miss the ship. The ships shuttle into Kuta was expensive. It was much cheaper to get a bemo for the 15 or 20 minute ride into Kuta and then grab a taxi back but I suppose a lot of the older crowd don't want the hassle of negotiating the fare. Again you have to leave Kuta really early so that you don't get caught up in traffic on the way back so it only really leaves you a few hours in Kuta which is all a bit of a rush considering the fact that you've wasted 3 days to get there and back.
The ship drops anchor a long way from the shore and the tender takes too long to get over to the shore. There was a big catamaran helping but the whole itinerary is too reliant on tenders to shore and its too inconvenient and time consuming leaving little time to really do anything, go anywhere or enjoy yourself when you finally do get on shore. If the ship cant get you on shore quicker due to the town not investing in proper terminal facilities, then the ship should skip the town altogether or scrap the itinerary. This particular itinerary does not work well at all.
It takes 2 days sailing to get there and then a day to get back to Broome and it just wasn't worth it for a few hours in a pretty ordinary place. People who didn't even get off the boat had to pay the 25 dollars for a visa. What a rip off. Everyone was complaining. Bali make 50,000 dollars in visa payments just for the day and thats not including the ship having to pay for visas for all the staff as you have to pay just because you are in their waters whether you get off the ship or not. So on top of that they probably make another 35,000 dollars in visas.
BROOME - Was a complete and utter shambles. The disembarkation was very, very bad. Slow and frustrating. It's a working port and they have to put people straight off the ship into a bus, so they say, even though there was no work going on at the Port. Because of the tides we couldn't arrive until 12.30pm and we did not realize that it would take so long to get off the ship as it was, after all, a proper port terminal (no tender boats) so we didn't think it was necessary to get up at the crack of dawn to obtain an early number tender ticket. As a result we had tender group ticket number 14 and we got off the ship at 4.00pm!!!! Others got off at 4.30 pm. My elderly mother was so worn out after sitting around waiting for 4 and a half hours that she decided not to get off the ship at all. The ship didn't sail until midnight but that was of no use to us as we needed more daylight hours and we wanted to go back to the ship for dinner as my mother was there on her own. We got onto the free shuttle bus into the town which was about a 15 minute ride (free only because no one was allowed to walk unassisted on the port so the ship pays for the shuttle on this occasion otherwise it always costs money) and we only had enough time to walk around 4 streets in the town. Then we had to hop onto a public bus out to Cable beach (15 minutes ride, very cheap 1.50 for seniors and 3.50 for adults) only had enough time to just watch the sunset, take a few pictures and then race back to the bus stop followed by thousands of other tourists and then go back to the town, get back to the pick up point for the shuttle back to the ship by 6.30 for dinner.
As it's a country town there were insufficient shuttle busses to get to town and insufficient public busses or cabs to get to cable beach resulting in long queues. A nightmare and not worth it given the stress and rush. The town was quite cute and I would have liked more time there but overall it was not a pleasant experience at all and again if the ship cant get it right then they shouldn't take people there. Once back on board there was not a single person we spoke to who wasn't really, really annoyed and angry with the long delay. An utter shambles.
SCENIC CRUISING OF KIMBERLY COAST - Don't get your hopes up. What an anticlimax. We all got up at 5.30 in the morning to be ready on the decks for what was supposed to be a spectacular sight. The sun rose and the rocks didn't change colour at all. It was not very scenic at all. There was a helicopter buzzing over the ship the whole time spoiling any ambience that there might have otherwise been. I assume that you really need to take a cruise on a small ship deep into the Kimberly area to see the rock formations and color changes. This was nothing to write home about and again they could have skipped it and it wouldn't have mattered. A big, big let down.
DARWIN - At least they have made an effort at the terminal. We enjoyed our day here. There was a proper terminal and a nice apartment area with restaurants and market stalls set up on the day we arrived. There is a little beach area where we had a swim and a great wave pool near the ship for any kids or even adults that might be interested in some fun. It was nice and warm and we wandered around the town and the park area and had some lunch out at a cafe and a drink at a pub near the large park and at another bar closer to the ship. It is an accessible and pleasant place to spend a day. A really nice boardwalk and glass lift takes you from the lower level of terrain to the higher terrain and up towards the town. Only a short walk and not worth getting the shuttle and paying unless you are unable to walk for 10 or 15 minutes to get up to the town. Getting off the ship was easy and it should be like that at every stop otherwise it's not worth doing. If you don't want to walk into town you can sit on the grassed beach area and have a swim and a drink or snack in a cafe just a very short distance from the ship.
PORT DOUGLAS - This Port was cancelled due to engine trouble. The ship had to travel at slow speed for the rest of the entire journey and could not make the stop otherwise it would have been late returning to Sydney. We had been there before and were not too upset as we didnt think there was that much there but it was over 5 years ago that we went but others were devastated as they intended to get to Cairns from there or go to the Reef. Don't know how they were going to get the time but people had actually joined the cruise just for this stop. They gave everyone on board 100 dollars ship board credit which no one really wanted. People just wanted to get off the ship at the ports that were on the itinerary and at the ports that they had paid to see. When a cancelled Port is due to weather conditions no one minds because it is no ones fault but people don't take kindly to missing out on something when it's the fault of the cruise line. It's their problem that the ship breaks down so they don't feel that 100 dollars compensation is sufficient. They just want to go to the Ports that they've been told they are going to go to and they want to get what they have paid for.
TOWNSVILLE - Another ridiculously inaccessible Port. We anchored 8 miles off shore and were tendered in by large catamarans at no extra cost. It takes about 30 minutes to get to shore and this time we did get up at the crack of dawn to get an early tender ticket number so we could get off the ship early. I wasnt going to be hanging around for hours on end waiting this time. Due to the large catamarans they got people off relatively quickly but because the ship had told everyone that there would be massive delays hundreds of us all got up earlier than we had to. Other than that, once you actually got over there, Townsville was the other better Port along with Darwin. An easy 10 minute walk into the town (we had been before) and a nice walk along the Strand waterfront area which although is very long it is also right there around the corner from where the tenders drop you off. You don't have to walk along the whole area if you cant walk far. Plenty of shops and eating places in both the city area and along the Strand. I was not overly impressed with the Aquarium. Its expensive and not all that impressive in my opinion and there's not all that much at Magnetic Island to shout about but I suppose you have to see these things for yourself to really form an opinion. Again, in reality I don't know whether there would really have been enough time to get over to Magnetic Island for very long as once you are there you do need to get the bus around the island and there are limited buses. The ship drops anchor just near Magnetic Island but you have to go all the way to the shore on the tender and then pay to get another boat back out to virtually where you've just come from 30 minutes ago and the boat trip to Magnetic Island is a bit of a rip off too. I cant remember how much it is for the ride but I do remember thinking that it was expensive at the time that we went which was only 4 months earlier.
BRISBANE - Disembarked the ship in Brisbane so didn't take the shuttle or go into town that day but have been before obviously and it is quite a nice city to visit. Disembarkation was again a shambles even in a big and so called organised Port Terminal like Brisbane. We were by no means the last people trying to get off the ship and it was already after 11.00am so how much time other people actually got in Brisbane I don't know but again its probably not enough time to actually feel comfortable about going anywhere and seeing anything as they had to be back by about 6 or 7pm at the latest I think. I just couldn't work out what the delays were all for. It was all too much of a hassle and I just cant recommend this itinerary or this cruise ship.
We were not very happy with the food this time even though they were the same basic menu items that we had eaten 6 months ago. I know that sounds weird given that they were quite nice last time but the dining room meals this time were generally not as nice. Perhaps our expectations were too high. I don't know really how to describe it specifically but I suppose the vegetables were either not cooked through as they need to be with say potatoes for example or overcooked as they shouldn't be with asparagus for example. The desserts were too sweet and sickly and not presented well. They just seemed to be dumped on a plate or in a cheap looking bowl. The fish (which I mainly ate) was hard and rubbery except for one ocassion. The pasta dishes were just too plain with nothing in them expect for pasta and sauce. There was one pasta dish that said that it was pasta with lobster. There was no lobster at all to be seen. The meat was always rare when my husband asked for it well done. He mentioned a few things to our waiter but we didn't send anything back or ask for a change of meals as we are small eaters and a few mouthfuls of each course is enough anyway for us. I think that we would prefer smaller meals of higher quality but not everyone would like it that way and they can't serve quality meals for 2000 people every day so again it's a just a case of not getting your hopes up.
The buffet was just too crowded and claustrophobic with no room to breathe so we just ate our breakfast and lunch there quickly and didn't hang around at all. The hot chips in the poolside Terrace snack bar were undercooked again and the BBQ lunch they put on at the Terrace Grill was disgusting. I wouldn't normally use a description that strong but that's exactly what I heard a number of other people say so I think I should be honest. Cold fatty sausages, chops that were red and bloody in the middle and only grilled on one side so they were brown on one side and grey on the other and a whole heap of other rubbish that we couldn't eat.
The afternoon teas which we attended a lot in the dining room were nice with little savory sandwiches and biscuits and cakes which were quite acceptable generally although some sandwiches had very poor cold cuts full of gristle on them which we had to pick off and you had to constantly fight for attention so that the waiters would actually come to your table to offer you something from the trays. I saw 2 people on different occasions have pretty loud words with the waiters after trying desperately to get a sandwich or cake. Of course no one really needs to eat afternoon tea anyway because there is plenty of other food during the day but on the other hand there's no point in wasting your time sitting there if you don't get given anything on your plate.
Previously, the scones were probably the best I've ever tasted, but on this cruise they were not all that nice and why they insist on raspberry jam beats me as all the pips get stuck in your teeth. Strawberry jam is better for scones. Previously, this was the only place where the water tasted really nice so we enjoyed our tea here especially in a proper tea cup as the plastic mugs in the buffet don't appeal to us, but on this cruise even the water at afternoon tea tasted of chemicals and its strange because the free iced water they give you with your dinner in exactly the same restaurant does not have the chemical taste. It's a bit of a mystery to me.
I told the waiters point blank when they tried to sell us the coffee card that there was no way that I was buying it again as their coffee is shocking. I told him that this time we had brought our own coffee sachets with us and he told us that he understood as he brings his own coffee on board too!!!
Such a shame as we really love to sit down and relax somewhere with a nice coffee no matter how much it costs as long as it's nice. We always had our coffee on shore at cafes.
The selection of teas available in the buffet room is good and no one could possibly be unhappy with that but it's the taste of the water that ruins it.
ALCOHOL / DRINKS
We found some of the drinks waiters to be a bit rude and disrespectful, not friendly but more on the bad tempered, irritable side. Not all of them but quite a few of them. I'm sure no one else thought so but that was how we felt. We don't drink a lot but the cocktails were OK at 9 or 10 AUS dollars and the wine and beer prices were OK but as usual some of the bottles of wine at dinner were expensive so my husband only bought 3 bottles the whole time and just had beer the other nights. Some one also told me that the soft drinks package wasn't working out for him as the post mix was too sweet and he didn't like it. I had decided to just buy cans whenever I wanted them which are priced OK at 2.50 each and that way you know what you are getting.
The buffet quality and selection wasn't bad I suppose but it wasn't good either if you know what I mean. I didn't pig out so to speak because it wasn't that great. The cakes all seemed to be mass produced and I suspect that they are all pre frozen and pre purchased and they just keep everything in huge freezers and then thaw them out each day. I don't know how much baking and cooking actually goes on in the kitchens. It's all only good value for people who love anything and can eat anything and for those who don't care too much about what they eat. People were walking out with 3 and 4 slices of cake each when I didn't fancy any of them so they can't have been that bad I suppose. The fruit was disappointing. It was always hard and flavorless and any time there was a plum or anything nice on the fruit stand, it turned out to be either moldy on the outside or rotten on the inside. We managed to grab a couple of bananas so that was good but once they went there were no more put out on the stand.
When we were on our last Princess cruise we felt as though we were eating out at a nice restaurant each evening but on this occasion it just didn't feel that way due to the quality of the meals.
Didn't get to the pizzeria this time so can't comment.
We were very, very happy with the entertainment as we had been on the last cruise. I think that they have to make the entertainment good because if you are unhappy with everything else as we were, the entertainment makes up for it.
The dancers were absolutely fantastic and all the singers were good too and the special acts on board were good. Most people seemed to enjoy the entertainment but obviously people all have different tastes. I thought that the efforts of the cruise director were good as he was always there at the end of a big show with a funny joke and he tried to keep the party feel going whenever he was running something such as the deck parties etc which we don't really get involved in but we do watch from a distance due to the music being a bit too loud for us if we get too close.
FILMS ON TV and ONBOARD ACTIVITIES
We took advantage of the good library selection and whilst the films showing on the TV were OK it was still annoying that you ended up always missing the start or the finish of the film as you were going off doing other things on the ship. I think they should have a better system where you can start a movie whenever you want to but I suppose that would just be too hard to organize.
I know it's not a nice thing to say, I know it's rude of me and I know it's unreasonable and that they are just trying to be friendly but I really got tired of having to say hello to every single room attendant that I passed in the long corridor 10 times a day, every single day for over 2 weeks. Sometimes I wished that I didn't have to tell my room attendant and many other room attendants how my day was going 5 times each day because they asked me all the time. I didn't want to have to confirm with them every time I saw them that yes, I was in fact going to dinner, and yes, I was in fact going to the pool, and yes, I was in fact going to trivia and yes, I was, in fact going to lunch and yes I was, in fact, going to see a show and yes, I was in fact happy and fine today. No one else minds, I'm sure it's just me.
WARNING ABOUT SHIP BOARD CREDIT AND EARLY DISEMBARKATION FROM THE CRUISE
We had a major issue with ship board credit. When we booked the cruise we were under the impression that we had 150 dollars in ship board credit as an early bird booking but when our travel agent called Princess to ask whether we could disembark early at Brisbane and not continue to Sydney, a Princess representative told our travel agent that we could leave the ship early but we would lose our shipboard credit if we did. We were present during this conversation so we know that this was the information given to our travel agent by the Princess representative. We thought that it was a silly policy as were weren't getting a refund for not being on the ship for the last few days of the cruise but we accepted the decision and booked the cruise anyway.
We get on board the ship and discover via written confirmation on the ships daily newsletter that you can simply advise them when you are on board that you are going to get off at Brisbane as long as you do it within 5 days prior to the ship arriving at Brisbane and yep you guessed it, you don't lose your ships credit.
We thought that this was a stupid policy that penalizes people for giving prior notification of their intentions and yet rewards people who don't give prior notification that they are leaving the ship early. Then they had the audacity to ask us to lug our overnight bags around with us for half the day whilst we waited to get off the ship. They wanted us to get all of our belongings out of the cabin early in the morning so that they could prepare the room for someone else who was embarking and was going to use the cabin to travel to Sydney or beyond. We had paid for that room all the way to Sydney and we didnt get a refund for the unused portion of the cruise and yet they rebooked our room and told us to get out of it when we hadnt even had breakfast yet and had paid for the use of the cabin that day and for the next 3 days.
So if you want to disembark the ship before the cruise finishes, just tell them at some stage after you get on board and that way you don't lose your ships credit. Princess did give us a refund after us having to argue to a point where I would never book with Princess again but we are still unhappy as they contacted our Travel Agent and convinced them to pay for the credit which was not an acceptable solution to us. They just didn't get it. They couldn't understand that it wasn't about the money, it was about the principle and they hadn't explained to us why they apply this particular policy differently depending on the circumstances of the individual guest concerned.
In relation to our ship board credit issue we found the staff at the Pursers office and the Public Relations Department in North Sydney to be completely useless to us. There was only one Purser who was a young fair haired German man whose name unfortunately escapes me who was really good to us and really helpful. They should try to keep him because he was the only one who showed genuine concern and sympathy, didn't try to palm us off, spoke to us in a proper manner and actually helped us to try to get the matter resolved. All the others clearly couldn't have cared less whether you dropped dead on the counter in front of them and aside from the young fair haired German man it just took them all so long to understand what the issue was. He understood exactly what we were saying straight away and English wasn't even his first language but he knew what to do and who to contact. It was as though nothing that you said sunk in. They all seemed not to care and were not able to focus on the issue. It was strange, and we did talk to a number of them over the course of the trip so it wasn't a problem with just one of them.
Due to our issue, we spent a fair bit of time at the pursers office and as a result we overheard a number of complaints being made by other people about a range of issues. We noticed that whenever someone was at the pursers office complaining about something, the first thing that each of the pursers did was to immediately blame their Travel Agent for whatever it was that seemed to be the problem. I found this really annoying. It was coming across to us loud and clear that they had possibly been trained to palm off every issue as misinformation on the part of the travel agent or a misunderstanding that the Travel agent was responsible for no matter what the complaint was about.
Not a very good cruise experience. We would not recommend this particular ship again and could not recommend this particular itinerary. We have booked 4 more cruises, 2 with Royal Caribbean, 1 with Carnival and 1 with Celebrity. Given what we paid for our Princess cruise we don't think its good value and will not be sailing with Princess Cruises again if we can avoid it. We know from past experience that Royal Caribbean and Carnival cabins are nicer and more spacious and their ships are better overall.
We hoped that the ship would not be at full capacity but I suspect that there's no point in booking early and paying full price as we spoke to many people on board who advised that they wait until the last minute when they sell off all the rest of the cabins on the cheap so that the ship gets filled to capacity with people who have paid a lot less for their cruise than those who take the time and trouble to plan ahead and book early. I dont know if this is the case but thats what we were told. Also be careful about so called cabin upgrades. One couple told us that they were "upgraded" to a cabin that was smaller than the one they had booked and was at the front of the ship when they had booked a midship cabin. It was foisted upon them as an "upgrade" just because it was on a higher floor. They didnt seem happy with the way their issue was handled either.
This cruise left a bad taste in our mouths.