Having cruised on the Ruby Princess (Mediterranean) last year, we weren't expecting quite as good an experience since the Sun Princess is an older and smaller ship, and in some ways this was true, but I would say that we had just as much fun, it was just different. Maybe a little more casual - which I don't mind anyway.
I thought that this cruise had a good balance of sea days and port days (5 ports over 11 days). They had to cancel the Isle of Pines port because of cyclone Jasmine, which was a huge disappointment, but if this had gone ahead, the balance of sea days to port days would have been just right for my liking.
Generally, service was impeccable and there were only very rare instances where the staff just seemed a little apathetic. However, given the long hours they work and sometimes the appalling behaviour of some of the passengers, I think they all do a wonderful job and are entitled to an off day or two.
Our room steward, Roberto, was excellent.
Observations on ship layout ~
I actually liked the smaller ship, especially as we had our daughter sailing with us for the first time, I felt more at ease knowing that there were fewer levels for her to potentially get lost on.
During peak hours (mealtimes) the elevators would take absolute ages and become very overcrowded, so we found that mostly it was quicker and easier to take the stairs. I guess this is quite normal on all ships though.
I thought it was a bit odd that you had to go through the casino or the pizza restaurant when going from the back of the ship to the front (for example), but I guess that's just how it goes when space is at a premium like it is on a ship.
Our room was a little smaller than the one we had (same category) on the Ruby Princess. It was in a relatively quiet location (Baha deck, 735 - balcony), with 4 single beds - one sofa bed, plus 1 lower and 2 upper bunks that pull down from the wall. Upper bunks probably best for young and/or fit people! I didn't mind having a lower bunk and could sit up comfortably in bed without any danger of hitting my head. Having said that, I'm only 5 ft tall so your mileage may vary. It was cosy and took a little juggling when everyone wanted to get ready for dinner at the same time (me, partner and offspring), but comfortable enough.
The only thing against our room is that it was miles away from the laundromat, and also there was only one laundromat per floor so it was in high demand most of the time. Take lots of Australian one dollar coins if you plan to use the laundromat!
On cruising ~
We felt the movement of the sea a lot on this cruise, which surprised me - because we hardly felt anything on the Ruby Princess. I put this down to the smaller size of the Sun Princess, but someone suggested that it was more to do with the area we were sailing and the time of year. There were a few instances of seasickness among the passengers, so it's a good idea to take some travel sickness medicine with you just in case. You can also get some from the front desk or the onboard shop if need be. We didn't think we'd need it because we almost felt nothing on the Ruby, but got caught out.
On rough days, the water would really be sloshing from side to side in the pools - which was not conducive to a relaxing float in the pool, but I liked the challenge it presented.
I'd say the buffet (Horizon Court) was not as good as on the Ruby Princess in terms of variety of food, but it was still very enjoyable. I think the quality was about on a par with Sizzler. We came here most days for breakfast and lunch.
For dinner, we had traditional dining in the Marquis restaurant. Our waiters were excellent, and the food was beautiful. I got too used to having dessert every day!
The pizza restaurant is also definitely worth a visit. The crusts are thin and light, and not too heavy or greasy. I was surprised at how much I loved them but it's to be expected because I haven't heard a bad thing about the pizzas on Princess ships yet!
I went to a few of the shows (the crew talent show, La Forza and the British themed show) and they were terrific. I think I enjoyed them even more than the one I saw on the Ruby Princess. We also enjoyed movies under the stars by the pool.
Teen's club - Remix ~
My daughter really enjoyed the teen club activities and the teen club coordinator, Mae, was just lovely and did her best to make everyone feel included.
- Noumea - we only had a few hours there. I can't remember why we didn't go ashore, I think we were just enjoying being on the ship.
- Isle of Pines - cancelled due to cyclone
- We didn't get off in Suva, since we'd only ever heard negative reviews of the place.
- Port Denarau - The tender into Denarau took what felt like ages and it was quite choppy, and rainy, but it was interesting to see the shops and walk around the Marina. My partner and daughter went on a shore excursion (snorkelling, semi submersible submarine, bbq chicken lunch) and they had a great time.
- Vila - beautiful, gorgeous spot! I wasn't prepared to the heat of the sun, but it felt like I was being deep fried! The markets just where the ship docks looked promising but it turned out that most of the stalls had all the same kind of stuff for sale. I did consider getting my hair braided though - a few of the stalls offer this.
All in all, we had an absolutely wonderful time. Really my only complaint was, why close one or other of the pools on a sea day? I guess it just didn't make a lot of sense to me, particularly as there was only one pool out of 3 that was designated for children and adults, the rest of them were adults only (not counting the one in the Sanctuary).