Sun Princess Entertainment
There are three indoor bars. The Rendezvous Bar serves only wine and sells appetizers such as caviar and pate. From the Atrium Bar you can hear the string quartet play light classical music and Broadway show tunes. The Wheelhouse Bar, a signature room and easily the ship's handsomest public space, was usually empty in the evening -- in a misguided attempt to appeal to younger passengers, Princess had given it over to rock musicians.
Activity-wise, Princess provides something for everyone. During the day on our Alaska itinerary there were lectures by the ship's naturalist. A small library offers English-language fiction and nonfiction with Alaskan guidebooks, games and free playing cards. There are trivia contests, Name That Tune, Newlywed Game, bingo, horse racing and art auctions.
The Grand Casino features slot machines that take Australian currency (5 cent, 25 cent, $1 and $5) and roulette, black jack, craps and Caribbean stud tables.
At night, Sun Princess has two show lounges. In the Princess Theatre, the Sun Princess Singers and Dancers may put on a production show while in the Vista Lounge there is a cabaret act (juggler, comedian, singer).
Movies Under the Stars (M.U.T.S.), the big-screen outdoor theater that's proven so popular with the line's newest ships, will be installed aboard Sun Princess in April 2010. Passengers can enjoy movies, concerts, sporting events and other special programming throughout the day and evening.
The Atrium Lounge now features live piano and violin music that brings a more pleasant atmosphere to an area that is otherwise the main junction point of traffic on the ship. On some evenings, diners at the Horizon Court will find a jazz quintet playing, which makes the experience of a casual dinner much more enjoyable.
Sun Princess Public Rooms
Sun Princess is organized around a four-deck atrium, which is inoffensively decorated with light woods, chrome and glass, and connected by two glass elevators. At the entrance level on Plaza Deck are the Marquis Dining Room, reception area, shore excursions desk, and Patisserie for a la carte coffee and confections.
Note: Verdi's Pizzeria, like other spaces off the Atrium, functions as much as a corridor as a public room.
Ascending to Emerald Deck one finds the shops -- logo goods, liquor, perfume, jewelry and sundries -- and the Regency Dining Room. Both single-level dining rooms face aft with views over three sides of the ship. While large, they are divided into smaller areas by serving stations and banquettes.
Promenade Deck features a wide, wraparound walkway, protected from the weather by overhanging decks. The rest of the Promenade Deck is devoted to public spaces. The Princess Theatre, forward, is a steeply sloped show lounge/movie theatre with excellent sight lines, theater seating and small stands for drinks. Aft is the Wheelhouse Bar, a clubby, dark-paneled space, decorated with paintings of P&O and Princess ships. (The future cruise sales office is tucked into a corner of the bar.)
The Atrium Lounge is the deck's other full service bar, but it is a noisy thoroughfare. Rendezvous is the ship's intimate wine bar, but it lacks distinctive decor, while Shooting Stars, the disco, is fitted with an excellent sound and light system and is an effective space for late-night dancing.
The ship's library offers paperbacks for trade, which include many novels (in English only) and a good selection of Alaska travel guides. The ship's photo gallery is long and well lighted. The aft Vista Lounge is the ship's secondary show lounge, featuring the ship's largest dance floor and a second stage for cabaret acts. The floor is not as sloped as the Princess Theatre, and the sight lines are not as good.
The ship does not have a dedicated card room. On a recent trans-Pacific cruise, bridge classes, which are very popular, were housed in the Shooting Stars nightclub and at least in one of the dining rooms. Some of the Scholarship@Sea arts and crafts classes needed to occupy part of the Horizon Court or even a hallway in front of the library. The new Internet Cafe offers 22 stations with a flat charge of $100 AUD for 250 minutes or 75 cents per minute pay-as-you-go. There's no food or drink.
Sun Princess is essentially a warm weather ship. It has a rather good supply of outdoor deck space, but if you cruise to chilly climates, a serious problem arises from the fact that none of its three swimming pools has a sliding glass roof over them. In bad weather everyone congregates indoors and the ship definitely feels crowded -- so much so that you may find it hard to find a seat in a room where you would like to sit. The situation improves in the evenings, when entertainment comes to full swing in the Princess Theatre and the Vista Lounge, and many people make their way to these venues.
Sun Princess Spa & Fitness
On the main pool deck there are two central pools (these get crowded in good weather). A third, a splash pool, is located behind the fitness center, surrounded by sunning decks and serviced by an outdoor Splash Bar (open in good weather); there are ample sun loungers. The topmost passenger deck, Sun Deck, is divided into two portions. The aft portion of Sun Deck is available for sports activities like shuffleboard, basketball and paddle tennis. Other recreational features include a golf simulator and quoits.
The Lotus Spa, with its attractive Asian themed decor, offers numerous treatments for men, women and even teens. The adjacent workout room features the latest machines and weights with piped music and (silent) TV screens. There is a carpeted space for yoga, aerobics and Pilates (extra charge).
The gym on the port side aft on Deck 12 has modern and well maintained machines for resistance training plus dumb bells and benches for weight training. It also features several exercise bikes and treadmills, also in good condition.
The gym gets very busy in the morning and remains so well into the afternoon, so if you want to enjoy your training session in peace and quiet, it is worthwhile to get there early (say before 9 a.m.) or late (after 4 p.m.). Sometimes tissues used to swipe machines after use for hygiene reasons ends up on the floor rather than in the bins provided. Due to its location high up in the stern of the ship, you will feel the ship's motion quite well in the gym if the weather is bad or the ship is riding a heavy swell. If this is the case, take extra care if you want to use the dumb bells.
The promenade deck (Deck 7) runs around the ship and is surprisingly used for exercise by many people. It is wide enough to leave space for sun beds for most of its length, but at the stern it narrows significantly -- so if you are a brisk walker, this is not the place to overtake those on a leisurely stroll.