Panama Canal - January 18 - 28, 2001 I can't believe it's over! What an amazing vacation! There were four of us that cruised the Panama Canal on the Sun Princess from January 18 through January 28 leaving from Costa Rica and ... Read More
Panama Canal - January 18 - 28, 2001 I can't believe it's over! What an amazing vacation! There were four of us that cruised the Panama Canal on the Sun Princess from January 18 through January 28 leaving from Costa Rica and disembarking in San Juan, Puerto Rico. This was my husband's and my third cruise, all on Princess. My husband's boss offers a cruise (with him and his wife) as a bonus. We are forever grateful! FIRST DAY Our vacation started at 1:15am on January 18th from good ol' Mishawaka, Indiana (just minutes from South Bend/Notre Dame). We had a three hour drive to Indianapolis to catch our flight. We connected in Houston and were then on our way to Costa Rica. The two hour drive to the ship was beautiful and informative. The guide offered a lot of interesting information regarding everything from coffee to the weather. I caught most of it but by this time I had been awake for over 30 hours and nodded off a couple of times. Seeing your cruise ship in port upon approach must be one of the most exciting sights known to mankind. It is always larger than you think or remember. From the time we got out of the bus to the time we set foot in our cabin was approximately 10 minutes. We checked in, got our picture taken, walked up the gangway, got another photo, this time for our cruise card, greeted crew members, found our cabin and went to EAT! We ate in the Horizon Court then went back to the cabin to unpack. We really didn't need to explore the ship as we had been on the Dawn the two years previous and knew the layout well. We decided to check the dinner menu and have a nap before the required Muster Drill. We went to late seating for dinner then went to the Welcome Show. At this you are introduced to the members of the Cruise Director and his Staff. John Clelford was the Cruise Director along with "Good Ol' Stu", Shawn (who left on 1/28/01), Michelle, Jules, Rick, Lisa (who came on board in Aruba) and our favorite, Brett. (If anyone can tell me his last name so that we can write him, we would appreciate it.) They were all wonderful and very friendly. After the show, Jeff and I took a wonderful stroll around the ship then played a game of ping pong before heading to bed for the night. DAY 2 We were in Puntareanas, Costa Rica which was a big 13 miles from the embarkation port. It was a beautiful day. We were scheduled for the Eco-Jungle River Tour leaving at 10am. We got up and had breakfast in our room and were outside by 9:30am. We walked a bit and took lots of pictures of the port and ship then readied ourselves for our excursion. It was an hour and a half drive to the "little house" where we were fed fresh fruit and drinks (which included everything from rum punch to coffee). After about 30 minutes we walked to our river boat. We had a two hour tour that included many crocodile and bird sightings. It was very interesting and beautiful. After the trip back to the ship, (most of which I slept through), Jeff and I set out to do some shopping. We bought coffee and a few other things then made our way back to the ship. We rested until dinner, went to eat and then did some hot tub time! Amazingly enough, the ship was practically empty up top. We were two of only six people out on deck! The ship's passengers leaned very heavily to the older side. There were a few other people our age (37) but they seemed to be traveling with children or just wanted to keep to themselves. I was glad that we were traveling with another couple. DAY 3 This was an "At Sea" day and not a very good one weather wise. The weather was rainy and cloudy. Jeff and I got up at about 8am so that we could stake out some chairs by the pool. After about 30 minutes we realized that our day at sea would be spent inside. We ended up going to the game room and played Scattergories, we played the Trivia game, learned how to play Black Jack, played the slots and napped. I "met" someone on these boards who was on the same cruise and ahead of time we had arranged to meet for lunch during the first "at Sea" day. We did and had a nice time. We also ended up having a hot tub with them at midnight. After dinner we attended "America's Music" which was the first of four shows the singers and dancers would perform. It was good, however we really don't like it when the dancers lip sync...we like live music (we are semi-professional singers). FOOD We are not people who frequent five-star restaurants so the food that we had was always wonderful with very few exceptions. We wish that the food in the Dining Room for the evening meal would be just a little bit less "frou-frou" (is that spelled right)? We ended up selecting the "safe" entrees such as filet mignon, steak, chicken or prime rib. A must try is the Sword Fish, my most favorite meal of the cruise. You always have a choice of appetizer, soup, salad, entree, pasta and dessert. The dessert are not very sweet and are sometimes bland. We found the butterscotch pudding to be the best we have ever had! A few times I passed on the appetizer and soup so that I could have some fish and a filet, all of our tablemates did this as well. The food is really incredible considering the fact that the galley has to turn out so much food per day. The presentation was nice and nothing we had tasted bad. We ate in the Dining Room three times for lunch and once for breakfast. The above applies to that seating as well. The Horizon Court was a continuous buffet until the evening when it changed over to The Bistro. We never had food when it was The Bistro, only the buffet. We mainly went up to the Horizon court for snacks which included fruits and desserts, however, we did sample a few of the hot dishes, including the hot sandwiches. Our only complaint was the lack of a really good salad bar. We love salads and didn't feel theirs were up to snuff. Room service was efficient but didn't offer as many selections as we would have liked. We got coffee one afternoon and breakfast for two mornings. Contrary to many posts, the coffee was very good. We had only one bad cup of coffee and that was in the Dining Room on the second to the last night of the cruise. The pizza was marvelous! I had read that everything from how horrible it was to it being incredible. We loved the pizza but the calzones were better yet. We ended up eating there around 3:00pm on a couple of days because of having late seating for dinner. We really enjoyed it! STAFF and SERVICE Our room stewardess was all right, nothing out of the ordinary, one night she didn't even make up our room and we had to call for towels but it wasn't that big of a deal. Our waiter and assistant were fine. We had such fantastic waiters on our last two cruises that it was about time we had someone mediocre. They were very efficient and nice but not overly friendly. We found out on the last night of the cruise that he was leaving to go back home and was not renewing a contract so that might have had something to do with his demeanor. As mentioned previously, the cruise director and staff were great. We attended many Trivia contests which were alternately moderated by all of the above mentioned staff. We also went to London Pub Night and Liar's Club which are must see evenings of laughter and fun! We got to know Brett the best of all, mainly because he sought us out on a couple of occasions. CABINS We had a lower category, inside cabin. At times it seemed small but for the most part it was fine. Sure, if we had more moola, we would love to have a mini-suite but since you are only in your cabin a few minutes during the day and during the night for sleeping, a lot of space doesn't seem to be a requirement. Everyone is treated the same regardless of your cabin location. We had plenty of room for all of our clothes, shoes and accessories, our luggage stored under the bed and our safe was wonderful for money, passports and airline tickets. THE SHIP The Sun Princess rarely shows her age and usage. One time I saw a little bit of peeling wallpaper in a public bathroom and some stain around the main pool. No Big Deal! The Atrium is beautiful, don't forget to look up! The dining room is lovely with the various sizes of lights placed in the ceiling. The theaters are wonderful, especially the Princess Theater and there is not a bad seat in the house. The casino is fun but tight (if you know what I mean). EXCURSIONS Day 4 - Panama Canal Crossing! Jeff and I set our alarm (just his watch) to arise at 4:30 so that we could grab a couple of chairs and stake out our places at the front of the ship on deck 12...or was it 14? You have to go up to Deck 14 and then walk up the stairs then come back down to the deck where we placed ourselves. All I know is that it was as front of the ship as we could find up to that time. After getting our chairs we settled in and before long many others had the same idea. By 5:30, the entire front of the ship was filled with people and chairs on both Deck 12 and 14, plus people were already lining the sides of the ship. By 6:20 or so, the people were at least 3 or 4 deep and we could see daylight breaking. For some reason, maybe one we will never know, the captain did a complete 360 degree turn. We knew this because you could still see the moon. We were approaching the Panama Canal and the excitement was in the air. We approached The Bridge of the Americas with audible "oohs and ahhs". It was amazing to see this. The highway that crosses the bridge is the same highway that goes from the Southern tip of South America all the way to Alaska. It is amazing to think that they had to build that bridge to be able to keep the highway going! I have a great panoramic photo of the bridge. We saw two other cruise ships as we made our way to the locks. We first saw a barge type ship from Hong Kong enter the Miraflores Lock. It was wonderful to have that ship in the lead throughout the journey through the canal because it was insight as to what the Sun Princess would be experiencing. There was a "tour guide" who talked us through a lot of the experience and it was informative and, in my opinion, necessary to grasp the magnitude of the Panama Canal. After the Miguel lock dispensed us into the lake, I thought it seemed like a good time leave my beloved spot. It was about 9:30am and I wanted to now grab a spot by the pool and get some food. It was awesome to look up every once in a while to view the beauty on each side of us as we passed through the canal. On a couple of occasions, the guide informed us of crocodiles that had placed themselves in our view on the shore. It was funny. One time, he indicated that the croc was on the starboard side of the ship and everyone ran over to the left. We got a big kick out of that. As we were closer to the port side, we didn't rush to see it. We didn't get any pictures of us leaving the last locks as Jeff had gone to the aft side to video tape the event. However, the video was taped over by People's Court on the day we returned home so we will just have to imagine what it was like. I think our cat jumped on the remote or something because not one of the people living in this house claims responsibility. C'est La Vie (is that the right spelling? I was a Spanish girl myself!) The later afternoon and evening held a lot of fun! Linda and I went to do the usual Trivia game, this time with Jules from the cruise staff. We didn't win... At about 4:30, we headed to get some pizza (yum) as we had late seating and would not be chowing down until about 8:30pm. After our dinner, we decided to go to London Pub Night put on by the cruise staff. Okay, folks...this is a MUST SEE! If you want to laugh your rearends off and have a great time, do not miss this Comedy show! I will say no more as I don't want to ruin the surprise and fun of the evening. Just know this, when the call for six men and six women and they come to recruit you, don't go! I give you fair warning. I am a very outgoing, in need of attention type person and this would embarrass me to death! After the comedy, I went to the casino to blow a little more change and then headed to bed. This was a GREAT day! Day 5 Cartegena, Columbia was the order of the day. They give you a lot of warnings and safety tips that you need to abide by and we weren't stupid people. We chose the La Popa Monastary/Shopping tour so that we could see the city safely. The tour was great. We left on a bus of about 17 people with Hilda as our tour guide. She left Germany about 50 years ago to come to Colombia to teach the women there a trade and ended up staying. She was marvelous and very informative. Upon leaving the dock we headed to our first stop, a photo opportunity at the fortress. This place is incredible! I have a fantastic panoramic photo of this structure and it is one of our favorite pictures. After the photo op, we headed up to La Popa Monastary. We had a slight walk up a very steep hill as the bus couldn't get through all of the other tour buses. When we left, the bus was in the parking lot. We had a short tour with a bit of information but this stop is really to view Cartegena from the highest point in the city. We could see for miles and got some great shots of the Sun Princess, the fortress and Old and New Cartegena from up there. Be aware that there are children, some very young that have attached cut-off two litre bottles to sticks and beg for money by putting their contraption up the side of the wall. They are standing on the ground below and their sticks must reach at least 10 feet or so. Some people were put off by this. I didn't donate my money but I was also aware of why they do this and that this is part of their culture. Anything I learn about another culture is just a benefit to me and increases my knowledge. After La Popa, we headed to our first shopping stop, the Dungeons. The were interesting and even if you don't shop, get out and take some pictures. In the second shop to your right as you are looking at the shops, they have Colombian coffee for as little as a buck in nice little 1/2 pound bags. The second stop was downtown and the best deals here if you are not looking for emeralds are the vendors. We weren't looking for emeralds, I just never really liked the green on my hand. We got some beautiful shirts for our girls and a couple more trinkets for other family and friends. We had time to have a tour of Old Cartegena! What a treat. It was a beautifully quaint town. The streets were narrow but lined with colorful, two-story buildings with window boxes and wonderful flowers and plants. We really enjoyed this tour. We were docked next to the Crown Princess which was very cool. We were told later that we could have used our cruise cards to board and explore but I have doubts about this. If you are docked next to a Princess ship in one of your ports of call, I would ask someone knowledgeable. We ate in the dining room upon our return. It was all right but we knew the Horizon court would be seeing us before too long. We took in some sun before Trivia time. Trivia was with Brett in the Wheelhouse and we didn't win again. After dinner we went to see Greg Bonham, an entertainer. We LOVED this program! When we sat down and Greg came out, Jeff said that he recognized him as one of the performers for the opening ceremonies during the Olympics. Sure enough, he was. He sang and played the trumpet. Jim, of our group, plays the trumpet and was blown away by not only Greg but by the ships trumpet player as well. If he is on your cruise...do NOT miss him! Casino time and then bed time! Day 6 Aruba!!! This is one of our favorite islands and along with Dominica was the deciding factor to take this cruise over any other Panama Canal crossing! While Jeff and Jim were SCUBA diving, Linda and I took a taxi to one of the beaches (it was the one where we went two years ago when we were there). We stayed for about 2 hours and then headed into Oranjestad for some great shopping. I got another Tanzanite...my favorite stone, even above diamonds! We got trinkets for our girls (mine are, Peyton, 10 and McKenna 7 and Linda's are Angie, 14 and Brandie, 11) and searched for SCUBA Aruba shirts for the guys. We actually found a SCUBA Aruba shop and bought the shirts! We were in Aruba just a short time and got on board to take some photos of the town before sunset. Oranjestad is a very colorful town, very Caribbean! We got some great photos. The dock is very close to shopping and if you forget anything, there is even the last minute souvenirs in the port building. As soon as dinner was over, we went up on deck to prepare ourselves for Island Night. We got in the groove by listening to Island Groove and by doing some Electric Slide, Macarena (the regular and the Sun Princess version) and YMCA! It was fun and the fruit on the buffet was wonderful. It was a fun evening but my flash wasn't working so I didn't get any photos...we bought batteries the next morning and all was well! Day 7 At sea day. We big-time slept in and then went to grab some pool space! A great day to get some sun and relax! Linda and I weren't late for the Trivia quiz and the guys joined in this time, too. We didn't win...we were consistently 1 point away from the winners. We then headed back to the pool! We loaded up our plates from the Horizon court and took them to our place by the pool. At 4:00, we headed in for more Trivia, this time it was with Brett and he threw some real zingers in at the end for Bonus questions. They are tricky...just be aware. We attended the Liar's Club in the evening after dinner. This is very similar to the game Balderdash if any of you have played that before. There are very unusual, funny words that need defining. Three of the cruise staff makes up a definition and one speaks the true definition. The audience is divided up into teams and then they vote on the correct definition. One of the teams wins and it wasn't us! Day 8 Barbados! Last year, we were in Barbados, too. It was an awful, rainy day and we ended up not liking Barbados too well. This year, it was beautiful! While the guys were off SCUBA diving, Linda and I went shopping in the port. I bought an Amethyst ring in Diamonds International just before the four of us headed out to fulfill one of Linda's dreams, parasailing! We asked the people in the tourist authority where we could parasail and they hooked us up with a great company. Jim, Jeff and Linda parasailed while I took pictures and enjoyed the boat ride! They picked us up and the dock and then took us back there after we were done. It was $60 a person for 800 feet of cable, great pictures and a wonderful time. When we got back, we headed to the Trivia quiz with Brett. He added some bonus questions that were very tricky...be prepared! We didn't win...again! We also headed for FOOD! We ended up eating pizza/calzones again. I'm tellin' you, that stuff is YUM! We went to see David Reid, a comedian, after dinner. He was all right, maybe a little big more for the older set. We went to bed to get ready for our favorite island in the world...Dominica! Day 9 Dominica!!!!!!! This island is one of the most beautiful places on the face of the earth! While the dudes were SCUBA diving, again, Linda and I went on the Trafalgar Fall/Roseau Highlights Tour. It was just enough so that our entire day wasn't taken up with a tour but also it allowed us to see the interior beauty of this island! The falls were beautiful but be warned, it is quite a hike to them and if you are not in very good shape, it will wind you big time...ask me, I know! It was very exhausting for this overweight, mother of two, however, the end result was worth every tiring step. I loved this tour. One of the stops included a place to take photos of the ship from high a top one of the "mountains." BEAUTIFUL! When we got back to Roseau, near the port, we slowly shopped for souvenirs because it was a difficult island to leave. Jim and Linda have already made plans to go there next January for their weeks vacation. We wish we could go with them but we will be going on the Golden in December with our girls...that is our vacation. The people in Dominica are the most wonderful, personable people of any of the ports of call. The are beautiful people who genuinely love other people. Do not miss this port of call. Take the time to venture off the ship and enjoy my favorite island! When we got back on board, you guessed it, we ate! At 3:30, Jeff and I went to sign up for the Passenger Talent Show. We rehearsed our song, "All I ask of You" from Phantom of the Opera and by 4:00, we were napping! This was a formal evening (please obey these rules...it makes it better for everyone) and the Captain's Circle cocktail party so we were up and dressed in time to attend this event. Jim and Linda decided not to go. Jeff and I were sitting for about 15 minutes when Brett, from the cruise staff, joined us until the bitter end of the event. We learned a lot about him and even shared our photos of our girls with him. It was too bad that this friendship didn't start earlier in the cruise as we really could've had a great time during the late night hours with him and other staff members in the Disco and other party type happenings. Better late than never. After dinner, we headed to "Words and Music" with the singers and dancers. This was our favorite show by far. We love the Broadway version of Les Miserables and they did a whole section of the music from it. Afterward we just walked around the deck and then headed to bed. Day 10 Oh my, our last day. This was our St. Thomas day and again, while the gents were SCUBA diving we went shopping downtown Charlotte Amalie. We finished up our souvenirs needs and got a couple of trinkets for ourselves. We shopped in a store called "Del Sol". The shirts and accessories here change color with the light of the sun. These are a must get! Our daughters love their stuff from this store. They even had fingernail polish, barrettes and rings. We met the guys back at the ship and got ready to take our Views of St. Thomas tour. This was short, sweet and to the point. We went to several photo opportunity places, even the highest point on the island. We got some beautiful pictures of Megan's Bay and great shots of all of the ships in port. We ended the tour by taking the trams up the side of a large hill so that we could have some last views of Charlotte Amalie and the ships. We ended up walking back to the ship via the shops! Tonight at dinner was the Baked Alaska parade done by the Assistant waiters. Good picture taking time. I didn't eat the Baked Alaska, I had the Butterscotch pudding which was the best dessert of the entire cruise! The passenger talent show was at 10:30 and attended by about 350 people. Jeff and I are used to singing for sometimes a lot more than that so we weren't nervous at all, just excited. I thought that this was going to be judged and I wish it would have been. I think we would have walked away with it if I do say so myself. I am a high, coloratura soprano and Jeff is a high tenor. We are classically trained...need I say more. I hope you understand that I am not trying to be a diva about this, it is just the area I am most confident in next to raising my girls. I hope you understand. Before the show, Brett came over to where I was seated, neglected his greeting duties and chatted until the start of the show. Get to know him, he is a great guy! I took one more stab at the slots and lost about $10 more...oh well, I was on vacation! Jeff wasn't feeling well, he had come down with a double ear and sinus infection so I walked around the ship myself. I had gotten the patches before I left on this trip and this was the night they came in handy. The ship was really movin' and I am sure some weren't feeling so well...I was! Bed time... Debarkation After making sure we got everything out of our room, we met Jim and Linda and headed up to Deck 12 to wait for our color to be called. We were off the ship by 9:30 and on our way to the hotel by 10:00am. Our flight didn't leave until 5:35pm so we decided to spend the day at the Intercontinental via the ship's excursion. It was sunny, relaxing and the buffet was great. It was a good, organized way to spend the afternoon until our flight. The bus had us to the airport by 4:30pm and we took off by 5:30pm. We were all very sad, especially Jeff whose ear and sinus infections were horrible by this time. He took drugs and the first leg of the flight was okay...we only went up to 27,000 feet, the second leg we climbed to 38,000 feet and he was in pain. We finally made it to the Indianapolis airport by 12:30am and guess what...no luggage! Oh well, they ended up delivering it by 2:00am the next morning and all was fine and dandy. The girls had to wait for their souvenirs but patience is a virtue. Well, that's it...I am still in tremendous cruise withdrawal and don't think I will get over this one any time soon. I am sorry this is so long, but we had such an enjoyable time that I just had to share it all! I hope you enjoy this and I hope it helps those of you who will be going!fretzrice@aol.comFebruary 2001 Read Less
Our 10-day cruise to the Mexican Riviera on the Sun Princess was a dream come true for us. Our very first cruise, at the age of 52, was filled with excitement and memories that will keep us smiling till our next cruise which we are already ... Read More
Our 10-day cruise to the Mexican Riviera on the Sun Princess was a dream come true for us. Our very first cruise, at the age of 52, was filled with excitement and memories that will keep us smiling till our next cruise which we are already planning for. Our room with balcony was on the 12th deck. It was nice having a room so clean, lots of towels and the bed turned down at night with chocolates set on our pillows. I'm a big person so I dreaded the bathroom, but to my surprise there was lots of room in the shower for me. Room service was excellent, by the third night my pitcher of ice tea and club sandwich ordered after midnight was waiting for my asking and cheerfully delivered within 10-15 minutes. The food on board was superb in the dining rooms. We had the first seating which worked out great because we then could chose either first or second seatings at the evening shows. To our pleasant surprise, lobster was served on two nights, and a steak could be requested every night if you so desired. I fell in love with the "Loveboat" dessert which was a chocolate mousse that just melted in your mouth. I had it every night besides choosing another dessert from the menu. The waiter never blinked an eye when I first ordered 2 glasses of milk to wash down the desserts, by the third night they were automatically delivered with the desserts.. Got to taste my first caviar, artfully arranged in beautiful colors. The escargot was mouthwatering. Fresh fruits galore. Prime rib tender. Every day was an adventure in the dining room. It was hard to choose from the menu. If you were undecided, the waiter had no problem bringing you one of everything to try if you so desired. The last evening the waiters danced around the dining room with flaming Baked Alaska's that were served in big delicious chunks. We ate our breakfasts and lunches in the Horizon Court. The food selection was great. The food delicious. Plenty desserts to choose from everyday. The lines moved quickly, no problems with seating. Their French toast is excellent. Lunches were themed, on Asian day there was sushi, Western Day barbecue ribs, Italian pasta's and so on. Hard not to gain any weight on the cruise. Food............excellent. Had my hair done in the salon. I swear if I was the beautician I would have jumped off the ship faced with the task of creating a miracle. Well, when done I was smiling with happy tears. Paul from England, had done a superb job with my hair. He is the best. There was no pushing of products, I was treated and felt like a Princess. The Photoshop can be pricey if you purchased every picture snapped of you, but they were displayed tastefully and no one pushed you to purchase them. There was a deal on board that for $50 you could daily download the pictures you snapped from your digital camera unto a CD disc to free your disc for more picture taking. Or, you could have the digital pics developed for 35 cents a piece. The shows on board were okay, but could have been definitely better. The show with the Mexican dances helped to offset our disappointment. The comedians were funny. If improved the cruise experience would have been excellent. We took the tours offered by Princess. The guides were good. I didn't enjoy Acapulco where the vendors were very pushy. Read and heed to the physical abilities required to participate in each tour, some of them are definitely not for the physically challenged. We chose all our tours suggested for moderate level of activity, thus we enjoyed them because we could comfortably participate. Will I cruise on the Sun Princess again? Yes. I read about the different ships and compared things and got exactly what I planned for. If you are looking for rock climbing walls, skating rinks, more youthful experiences, young crowds, then this specific cruise is not for you. This cruise is more laid back, just enough activity to keep you busy, an older but fun-loving group. At the end of the cruise, I was very tempted to tie myself to the railing and refuse to gracefully disembark. Any questions, just contact me. I'll gladly sing praises of my cruise experience on the Sun Princess. Aloha ohanamoniz@aol.com July 2003 Read Less
After 47 years of raising children and eating a lot of peanut butter sandwiches, six of us seniors decided to have a reunion aboard the Sun Princess. With two more couples, we formed a party of ten from Idaho, Oregon and Arizona. The ... Read More
After 47 years of raising children and eating a lot of peanut butter sandwiches, six of us seniors decided to have a reunion aboard the Sun Princess. With two more couples, we formed a party of ten from Idaho, Oregon and Arizona. The review of our great trip follows: Utilizing the fly/cruise package put out by Princess, we had a very pleasant flight to Fort Lauderdale and chose to come in one day early. Princess met us at the airport and swiftly delivered us to the Airport Hilton. The next morning, several buses pulled up before 12:30 and we all boarded. Due to the heightened security, there was some confusion when the luggage was all out on the sidewalk in front of the hotel. There was an effort to match up each piece of luggage with the passenger. It was extremely hot and humid and the mostly older crowd was testy and fearful that their luggage would not get on the same bus. People were told to go into an outbuilding and wait for their number to be called, but before that happened, the crowd got restless and hot and started dragging their suitcases off the sidewalk into the heat and exhaust fumes created by the buses. The process they were trying to achieve was not well explained and confusion ensued. Adolescents aren't the only ones that can get unruly if they are hot and confused. EMBARKATION Finally on the bus with our luggage secured, we were delivered to the Princess terminal. I had preregistered all ten of our fellow passengers and we breezed through the registration. The agent lightened up our dispositions with a merry "Now go have a great time!". The longest wait we had before getting on the ship was the perennial photo opportunity. Once aboard the ship, we were greeted by gloved and uniformed British personnel who guided us in to the welcome air conditioned ship. Some of my fellow passengers had never been on a cruise and my day was complete when I saw the look on their faces when they viewed the massive ship for the first time. There was a full ship, but once everyone got settled in to their cabins and dispersed throughout the many areas, it did not feel crowded at all. We were so excited to see the ship, we rarely found time to unpack. This was our first balcony. Previous cruises we had stayed in inside cabins, cabins with windows and cabins with portholes. What a sight to look out and see and hear the sounds of the ship preparing for departure. I had read every review that I could find in Cruise Critic and I was prepared for some negative things to happen regarding Personal Choice dining. After having breakfast and lunch in the Horizon Court, we opted to eat in the Marquis dining room for our first formal night. What a treat that was. We reserved a table for ten, which I had been told was very hard to do. We enjoyed being waited on so much, that we made a permanent reservation for the entire cruise. This enabled us to have the same waiter and assistant waiter for the whole time. 'Jose (pronounced Jose with a hard J) and Gabriella were pure joy to us. Their efficiency and sense of humor was one of the highlights of our cruise. EXERCISE ROOM I found the gym on board to be very adequate and never so crowded that you couldn't get a machine. However, most people were taking advantage of the promenade deck to walk in the early morning before the day got too warm. The humidity was oppressive for those of us who came from dry climates. POOL AREA We were pleasantly surprised that the passengers abided by the signs that said they should not reserve lounge chairs. There was some of that, but not nearly so much as in past cruises. The pool is fresh water with chlorine, but not enough to irritate eyes. There were only four children aboard and they were extremely good well mannered kids. The rest of the passengers were mostly seniors, which is common on such a long cruise. My husband and his friends found a table in the shade and played cribbage constantly until the wives would break them away for some "quality time". The Princess Patter was a welcome guideline for those of us who participated in Bingo and various other scheduled activities. Speaking of wagering, we found the casino to be pretty liberal. There was consistent success among our group. Bingo also produced a $500.00 winner in our little circle of ten. LAUNDROMATS We had made a decision to take enough clothes so we would not have to wash. Boy, am I glad we did ! Our fellow passengers sometimes spent a whole day trying to wash and get their clothes dry. It got so bad that they had to sign up on a waiting list. There were laundromats on each deck, but with a full ship, they were busy (and very hot). HELPFUL HINT Be sure and open your brown portfolio in the room. You will find several little pocket guides to the layout of the ship. This will save you a lot of wandering around or looking at the water to determine whether you are aft or forward. SHOWS The on board talent was good. Those kids danced their hearts out on the three productions that we saw. The rest of the shows were comedians and one singer. One guy that really stood out in my mind was named "Dick Reid". He was about the same age as the passengers and he related so well, telling jokes that aligned with most of our life experiences. He went over really well. Although the talent was ok, the real problem lies in the scheduling of the shows. Princess has made changes to their dining so that people have a choice where and when they want to eat. This was just great for us and our choice was the Marquis dining room. Herein lies the problem: Personal Choice diners have to hurry through their 6:pm dinner to get to the showroom at 7:15 in order to get a seat. By the time, we finished our dessert and hustled down to the Princess theater, the seats were filled or there were many seats saved. There were people arriving from the First Sitting Dining a lot sooner than we could get there. The problem is compounded by the fact that most older passengers do not want to stay up until the 10:30 show. I think when there were only two seatings instead of Personal Choice, the schedule was more rigid in where the passengers were at any given time. The congestion around the Princess or the Vista theaters causes problems in the restrooms as well, since most restrooms are limited to three toilets. INTERNET ACCESS I used the internet room to send e-mail three times. It was never too crowded, but the cost is somewhat prohibitive. At $7.50 for 15 minutes, you had better be organized when you get in there. I will say that I did run over 55 seconds and was not charged an additional 15 minutes. However, two of my e-mails were "undeliverable". PORTS Our first stop was Grand Cayman, where we had booked the Stingray City and Island Highlights tour. My husband and I had been there before. It was interesting that most of the tours were already sold out before the passengers came aboard. It was great for people who had access to the express check in on line, but could be disconcerting to those who didn't know about it. We departed Grand Cayman about 5:00pm and we were about 2 1/2 hours out of that port when the captain made an announcement that we had a "medical emergency" on board and needed to return to Grand Cayman. That side trip back cost about 8 hours, which resulted in less time at our next stop, Aruba. The ship did make up some of the time during our next day at sea. The passenger had surgery on Grand Cayman and was reportedly doing well. In Aruba, we opted to get a van for the ten of us to tour the island. Our guide was great. He spoke english well, having been a student in the US. We did not fare so well in Cabo. Our guide just drove us around and didnt say much since his english was very limited. Both tours that we just picked up when we got off the ship were reasonably priced. We paid about $100.00 for the ten of us. In Aruba, we had another passenger who fell and had to be taken by ambulance off the ship. We found the passage through the Panama Canal to be much more pleasant than our cruise in 1993. For example, our waiter told us where would be the best place to watch the process.. it turned out to be Deck 11, which was where our stateroom was. The design of the Princess afforded many vantage points that were not too crowded with maybe two deep at the railings. And if you were unlucky in finding a frontal view, the rear of the ship was quite good also. The first Mexican port was HUATALCO. This port is a destinations resort in the making. Lots of work left to do, but they have the beauty of several beautiful beaches to work with. By 2022, they plan to have a full blown resort that may rival Acapulco in its beauty. They are currently building a pier for the cruise ships, but in Mexico, these large projects may take years. I do know this.. tendering in and out of this port was pretty scary. The swells and waves made it almost unbearable to jump from the tender to the ship. Many people, including me, got pretty seasick sitting in the tender while it was battering up against the ship. We first saw the lights of Acapulco in the early darkness and many were surprised at the size of the city. After a sumptuous breakfast in the Regency Room, we were off to tour the city. We had made tour reservations for the Cliff Divers and the city tour. It turns out the cliff divers are not "union" and they will dive for the cruise ship even though it is not on their scheduled appearances. After a long trek down several flights of stairs, we were able to watch three or four dives. That is the limit of the show. The tour guide told us that the divers experience torn and detached retinas if they dive too much, hence the abbreviated show. After we climbed back up to the street level, the divers greeted us with calls for tips. I was surprised at how small and how young they were. Cabo San Lucas was our last stop before we headed into Baja California. What a beautiful little town. We hired a driver who had a nice van, but knew very little English. Our tour was just "looking" and no description of what we were seeing. While our husbands hooked up with a fishing boat and caught three Dorados, the women had lunch at a beautiful hotel overlooking the harbor. We saw several signs around town that said, "Save our harbor. Vote against the Cruise ship pier". In Cabo, you need to tender in. There were three cruise ships anchored offshore. The tendering in was easier than at Hutalco since we were in a protected area. NICE TOUCHES My husbands birthday was celebrated in the Marquis room with balloons on our table, a visit from the Head Waiter, a nice cake and a birthday song. There were balloons on our stateroom when we returned that night. Our room steward was efficient and we only saw him when we would dart back into our room for a quick change of clothes. Otherwise, he was totally invisible except for the excellent condition our room was in all the time. OTHER COMMENTS How can you not have a great time with such an elegant ship, good company, entertainment and food? Anyone that would come away with negative feelings must be generally a negative person. However, there were a few things that I might point out to Princess. 1. One of our group left his camera in the Princess Theater in his seat. It had several pictures he had taken. The camera was never turned in. It bothers me that some person would find it necessary to take an inexpensive camera and not turn it in to lost and found. 2. The sales that went on continually in the Boutique area were (in my opinion) tacky. Particularly the last two days when it seemed as though the crew was bringing up stuff from the bowels of the ship to sell. The tee shirts were a big draw and women were pawing over them like they were not on a beautiful ship with so much else to do. The last two days, out came other clothing, watches, jewelry, statues etc. In my opinion, it takes away from the elegance of the surroundings and cheapens it. I realize this was a repositioning cruise and they wanted to offload the Caribbean merchandise, but much more than that was brought out. PHOTO OPPS We did not ever feel compelled to stop for a photo opportunity. The pictures were displayed in a manner that allowed through traffic in most cases. The pics were good. We had two coupons for free pictures, but it turned out they were only for the smaller ones. Our travel agent gave us the coupons. DISEMBARKATION I have to say that no disembarkation is a barrel of laughs. Here you have 2000 people that have been cuddled, coddled and catered to for 15 days and suddenly; we are going to be thrust out into the real world. In this disembarkation, pure chaos reigned. How is it that a ship can run so efficiently during the cruise and then become a nightmare at the end? For example: We attended the disembarkation talk and we listened to it on the TV in our rooms. The staff told us that we were to dock at x hours and we would be waiting for the immigration officials to board the ship. In the meantime, even those passengers with flights before 4:pm would go and have their breakfast and then go back to their rooms, pick up their personal belongings and head to a public area where they could hear the announcement when they were to leave the ship. We did just that and while we were sitting having our breakfast, their was an announcement that our category was to report to immigration in the Vista Lounge. We shoveled down our last free meal and headed for our rooms to pick up our carry ons. When we got to the immigration line, it wound almost the length of the ship. Fortunately, it went fast and we filed past the officials and had our passports stamped. We got our green landing pass and headed for a public area. There was not a spot to sit or even to stand in the public areas. We went to the Atrium lounge on Deck 5 and stood there for over an hour. In the meantime, the whole process was being held up by several passengers who had not yet reported to immigration. The ship was not cleared for disembarkation until every passenger had been accounted for and had filed past the immigrations officials. Finally, they announced that the ship was cleared and then they changed the gangplank from its present place to midships. Everyone started heading for the midships gangplank and they filed eight abreast into only one double door. It was total gridlock as other passengers came to Deck 5 from other floors and merged with our group. Then, handicapped individuals in wheelchairs attempted to get through the mass of people. Older individuals were getting stressed and tempers were flaring everywhere. Those of us that had flights earlier than 4pm were not distinguishable from all the rest. The red tags meant nothing. Now, I realize that tighter security has caused some gridlock, but I think a good quality control investigation might turn up a better method than this. A beautiful cruise can be spoiled with just a few hours of this kind of bad experience. SUMMARY A fifteen-day cruise may be a little long for my taste. The last two days were spent in Pacific waters which were rough and the weather was cold. This created more traffic in the inside of the ship and I think everyone was getting a little anxious to get off. This made the final day that much more frustrating. Maybe I do not totally understand the disembarkation process and that is why I feel it was poorly managed. I would go with Princess again. The ship is beautiful and well kept. The bar servers and the wait staff are wonderful people and friendly to us. They don't push the drinks at all. They ask once and then you can tell them when you are ready. It was the trip we had all dreamed of and will continue to reminisce about for years to come. The tips I have picked up on the Cruise Critic message boards were extremely helpful and I thank you for this service. mslou83642@aol.com Read Less
Just got back from our first cruise. Bio: husband, 55, me, 47, middle class professionals. Celebrated our 25th anniversary. We had a great time, with a few difficulties along the way; that's to be expected. I learned a lot ... Read More
Just got back from our first cruise. Bio: husband, 55, me, 47, middle class professionals. Celebrated our 25th anniversary. We had a great time, with a few difficulties along the way; that's to be expected. I learned a lot from Cruise Critic's message boards before leaving; feel it's only fair to report on our experience. The ship: beautiful, clean, great staff, easy to learn our way around. Service was excellent from all staff. They are from all over the world; many of the head folks are Brits, Canadians, or Aussies. No complaints whatsoever about the ship. The stateroom: C432, Caribe deck, outside balcony. At 183 sq.ft. it is about the size of a standard parking space (husband is civil engineer and thinks in such terms). Though it looks small, it accommodated us very well, once you agree who stands on which side of the room to dress. Great storage space: all our clothes were hung up or stored in drawers, luggage stowed under the bed. Bathroom was tiny but fine: very clean, everything worked well, loved the hang to dry clothesline that could be stretched across the shower for swimsuits. Our cabin steward, Enrique from Mexico, was excellent: brought us robes and fruit as requested, was very friendly whenever we saw him, serviced the cabin twice a day and called us by name, always inquiring about our day, evening, etc. Can't imagine better service than his. The balcony was the smartest thing we did-it was great to watch as we docked, or sailed away from ports, or to view the stars late at night. Saw other ships far out at sea, saw lighthouses and bridges as we neared land. Really enjoyed the privacy and quiet of our own tiny balcony-it held two plastic sitting chairs and a 24" round plastic table. The Food I admit to being disappointed at the beginning because everyone had raved about the food on Princess. It started out good and got progressively better until it reached great! We had late seating, 8:15 p.m., at a table for 8. Only two other couples joined us; we all got along well and enjoyed each other's company very much. Our waiters were both from Mexico and were superb: Juan Rincon and Gustavo Diaz. Exceptionally polite and very good waiters. One of our party requested shrimp cocktail for an appetizer-the headwaiter had to go through the table captain to have that approved. Most nights from then on we all got shrimp cocktail, along with any other appetizers and salads/soups we ordered. The gentleman at our table who requested cranberry juice the first night, got it every night without asking. They moved the meal along without rushing us, kept water glasses fill; there was no push for wine-they asked at the beginning if anyone wanted to order wine, if not, that was the end of the discussion. The coffee was fine-okay, I'm not a coffee connoisseur and had decaf to boot. Entrees I had included: grilled salmon, lobster thermador, turkey and stuffing with sweet potato (Thanksgiving), sea scallops, Alaskan crab legs, lobster tails (yes, I ate four of those, they were small), and the best filet mignon I've ever had along with grilled shrimp. Breakfast and lunch in the Horizon Court buffet-good food, breakfast usually crowded but we just used that as an opportunity to join others and get to know folks a little. Wide selection of food there, hot stuff hot, cold stuff cold. Fish was available at every meal-and after crab night there was crab salad. Those who ate their dinners there really liked the wide selections and casual atmosphere. We had the pizza once, it was okay, but not great, in our opinion. We had good hot dogs and sausage from the grill one day-the cheeseburgers and fries looked great too. We did not try the Sterling Steakhouse-it was actually the deck area overlooking the pool and we did not want to encourage Princess to keep adding options that cost extra. Those who had steak in the dining room where perfectly satisfied and did not want to pay $8/person extra for a steak dinner. Our dinner companions had been on 6 previous cruises with Royal Caribbean and really didn't like that ice cream cost extra. I had it for dessert occasionally in the dining room. It does seem chintzy not to have soft serve available at the buffet. The Entertainment We loved the production numbers. The singers and dancers were excellent, the musicians top notch. Shows were 8 pm/10:30 pm. We didn't see the juggler/comedian-heard from tablemate we didn't miss much. Greg Bonham, a Las Vegas act, did a terrific show, with music and songs; all the shows were high-energy and very entertaining. There were several movies a day, casino action at night, bingo five times on the cruise (husband won $150 last day), a naturalist who did 4 lectures/slide shows on the Caribbean/Panama Canal that were very interesting and informative-we felt that hour spent for each of those lectures was time well spent. The rest of the time as sea we read, walked the Promenade deck, or lazed around the pool. Very relaxing. The Excursions We booked all our excursions through Princess and think this is smart for first-time cruisers and those not inclined to just go shopping or to the beach areas. Thanksgiving Day, first port: Cartegena, Columbia. Beautiful old city, much Spanish influence. We rode a bus with an excellent tour guide to the La Popa Monastery on top of a high hill. Great driver on the switchback road. There, as everywhere we went, we were bombarded by street vendors; just say "no" and go on. The monastery was very interesting, the view up there was great. The ship looks wonderful from a distance. Most fun was buying Columbian coffee from Juan Valdez, or facsimile; tour guide recommended his product and cost was 6- 250 gram bags of whole bean coffee for $9. Our son says it is excellent coffee. Then we went to the new shopping district-only had 45 minutes there which is not enough. Then went to handcrafts shopping area-only had 30 minutes there; was more than enough. For shoppers, do directly to the Pierno Gallo shopping district. Friday: Panama Canal. Great experience, especially after hearing the lecture day before on the building operation. Early in the morning the deck is jam packed with folks trying to see; the return trip in the afternoon afforded much better views as most people were at the pools by then. We enjoyed the trip from our balcony in the morning. We were one of the first ships to dock at the new pier, Colon 2000, which opened in October. It was the first time Sun had docked there and it took almost two hours of slow sailing and maneuvering to get docked. It's a short walk on an overpass of the street to the new shopping area. Dancing children in native dress added to the festive atmosphere. Someone said there was a supermarket there and she got needed supplies-I didn't see it but the crowds of cruisers eager to shop were a bit much for me so after buying #2 son a guaybera shirt we returned to the ship. It was a short say, less than 1 ½ hours there. Saturday: Limon, Costa Rica. We took a great tour to the Rainforest Aerial Tram (they have a website). The tour guide on our bus was excellent: he has a degree in tropical biology and was very informative about his country, the people, the government, and the environment. It was a 1 ½ hour bus ride to the tram. The tram is essentially a ski lift modified to carry six passenger gondolas. The ride was slightly more than an hour a mile into then out of the rainforest. Five of us were accompanied by a guide who explained much of what we saw. It was exciting and inspiring to be way up in the rainforest canopy, so far from human activity. Then we had a 30 minute guided hike with yet another guide, who was also very knowledgeable. Lunch was served in a picnic like setting, near more rainforest we could explore. On the drive back to Limon we stopped at a banana plantation and learned much about that whole process. Finally returned to the ship after a long, very beautiful day. Those who went on the Jungle Eco tour saw many animals: 3 varieties of monkeys, alligators, sloths, vipers, etc. We saw only sloths, poisonous frogs and lots of trees and plants. Still had a great trip. Monday: Grand Cayman. Rode a bus a short ride to the Nautilus semi-submersible for tour and reef snorkeling. The semi-sub was very nice, so great to see all those beautiful fish up close. I was new to snorkeling and took some time to adjust. Soon after entering the water I was stung by a jellyfish-still have bad rash today, a week later. About the time I relaxed in the water the 30 minutes were up and we got back on board. We passed over two shipwrecks, then returned to the dock. Bus ride back to the ship area then off to shop. The people were very nice and we spent a few hours shopping. Found a pharmacy and bought Bonine-more about that later. Would have like to spend more time shopping but the arm was sore and we returned to the ship to do laundry before everyone else got back. Tuesday: Cozumel, Mexico: rode a ferry 45 minutes to mainland at Playa del Carmen. The ferry ride was rough and several people (300 on board) got sick. Glad to get off and board a bus for the hour ride to Tulum and the Mayan ruins there. Another good guide, lots to learn; the view of the Caribbean from the top of the site was spectacular. Rocky ground made walking difficult and some older folks found it tough going. The shopping there was with vendors in small "boutiques" all selling the same goods as hugely inflated prices. The $25 bead necklace I first asked about I bought for $2 along with 3 bead bracelets. Haggling is expected so go very low when offering a price. One hour ride back to ferry; return ferry trip was shorter and less rocky-people who had dreaded it all day did better on the return. Then off to shop. Again, prices start real high and go down as your interest wanes and the day progresses. They get lowest close to dark. We bought a few more things, jewelry, t-shirts, maracas, etc., then returned to the ship at the end of a long day. Those who spent the day on white sandy beaches were more relaxed. Embarkation: a breeze. I was irritated our Princess planned travel had us arriving FLL at 4:15. We went to our airport early and the agent asked if we'd like to arrive at 3 p.m. We flew from Alabama to Ohio, then to FLL, arriving at 2:45. We were in our stateroom at 3:30. Express check-in was just that. Our carry-ons were checked just like at the airport but there was no delay at all. Someone who drove from Georgia got stuck in 2 ½ hour traffic jam and almost missed the ship. We had waited about 30 minutes past sail-away time of 7 pm, then had the gangplank up and were ready to sail when they arrived. They were the luckiest people aboard that day! Disembarkation: a nightmare. Most everyone had gone through immigration on the ship by 8:15 a.m. and we expected to leave soon. It took many calls over the PA to get everyone to report. Did they not READ the instructions we received the day before? It was past 9:30 when we finally began disembarkation. It was orderly but slow. We were off about 10:15 am, then had to find our luggage and get a porter to help us get to the bus. We waited more than 30 minutes to board a bus-the lines were long and there was lots of luggage to stow. Finally arrived at FLL about 11:15 and had to wait while all luggage is removed. Got inside to LONG lines at US Air. About 12:20 we, and several others, were removed from line (we had a 12:45 flight); at the ticket agent we discovered we were some of the lucky ones who had to have our checked bags inspected. Into another line then had all five bags opened and thoroughly inspected. Finally got our boarding passes, dashed to the gate, were the last ones on after our two carry-ons were inspected. Arrived at Charlotte about 2:30, got a little lunch since breakfast was long gone, spent two hours waiting for our connection which got canceled due to weather. Spent the night there at our expense only to return to the airport at 6 a.m. to find they canceled our 8 a.m. flight due to mechanical problems. Got switched to Delta, flew to Atlanta, changed planes and arrived home at 10 a.m. central time. Amazingly, our luggage was there when we arrived. Taking a taxi to the airport would have saved at least an hour, but we would have spent it in line at the airport anyway. Overview I was one of the youngest on board; there were a few children, the youngest was eighteen months. Average age on board was probably about 60. Still had a great time, enjoyed all the people we met and have no complaints about the cruise. I was surprised and dismayed to have some motion sickness. Bought Dramamine which put me to sleep, then tried Bonine which worked as well and didn't knock me out. They don't sell it on board and if they have it in the clinic I don't know because the $50 clinic fee kept me out of there. A fellow passenger, a doctor, gave me two Bonine, then I bought more at a pharmacy in Grand Cayman. Take some with you just in case. We took too many clothes because we did laundry 3 times (husband's idea). Enjoyed dressing for dinner but saw jeans and t-shirts in dining room occasionally. Most men wore collared shirts and slacks, ladies were in slacks or dresses/skirts, not very dressy, on smart/casual nights (8 of those). For the two formal nights many men wore tuxedos and looked great, their ladies were in formal gowns. Other men wore dark suits and the women work dressy things. We were comfortable without being formally dressed. Daytime it's shorts and swimsuits all the way. For those who don't want to dress up the buffet dinners or pizzeria would be fine. Sorry this is so long. Guess you can tell we had a great time-we're both still tired and not ready to get back to the real world yet. bblack@knology.netDecember 2001 Read Less
Sun Princess Mexican Riviera Sept 27 - Oct 7, 2002 We just returned from a 10-day cruise on the Sun Princess to the Mexican Riviera and wanted to post our review of the trip and itinerary. For general information, this was only ... Read More
Sun Princess Mexican Riviera Sept 27 - Oct 7, 2002 We just returned from a 10-day cruise on the Sun Princess to the Mexican Riviera and wanted to post our review of the trip and itinerary. For general information, this was only our seventh cruise so we are by no means experts, but we have cruised enough to be able to make general comparisons based on our personal experiences. Prior cruises have been on the Carnival Inspiration - Southern Caribbean, HAL Veendam - West Caribbean, HAL Veendam - Alaska Inside Passage, Sea Princess - West Caribbean, RCI Radiance of the Seas - Pacific Coast, and Celebrity Millennium - East Caribbean. We enjoy warm climate cruising, and chose this particular itinerary because we wanted to try a 10-day cruise and the price was right. Having been on the Sea Princess, we knew what to expect from the ship, but we had never seen the Pacific side of Mexico and thought it would be a nice change. As usual, we flew in a day early and spent the night at the San Pedro Hilton. We booked the cruise through our travel agent. We booked our own air. We caught a Super Shuttle at the airport. I think it was $12 per person for the ride to the hotel. Only a few stops on the way, so we were there in 45 minutes. We got a rate of $45 per night at the Hilton through Priceline. Great rate at a very nice hotel located right on the marina. They gave us a room overlooking the water and we enjoyed an evening walk around the marina area. This is a very nice hotel. We met with friends that live in the LA area and enjoyed an excellent dinner at a nice Italian restaurant in San Pedro. I think the name was "Eddie's . . " something. We always try and fly in the day before, as it is such a relaxing way to start the cruise. Honestly, its one of my favorite parts of the cruise experience. Friday morning, we took a hotel shuttle over to the port terminal. We got there quite early, about 10:30 a.m. The ship had been in dry dock for servicing before this cruise, and it actually got to San Pedro a day or two before, so there was no off-loading of passengers. Porters are available right there at the drop-off to take your bags for loading onto the ship. Inside, they were set up to check-in passengers at about 11:00 a.m., and this was a very efficient procedure. We had completed our information on the Princess Web-site, so we qualified for Express Check-in, but our line was longer than the regular lines. We were checked-in after about 15 minutes, but then had to wait for almost an hour before they began allowing passengers to board. They start with Platinum members first and then board by group numbers, depending on when you checked in. All in all, this was a fairly painless process and we were on board shortly after noon. We dropped our carry-on in the room and headed to the Horizon Court for lunch. Getting on the ship early is fun not only for the extra time to explore the ship, but it is also a great time to take pictures because there are so few people in the public areas. Word of warning to any Carnival cruisers: Princess was very efficient about getting passengers on board, but we could see passengers lined up forever, trying to get on the Carnival Ecstasy next to us. The line moved very slowly and people were out in the sun with no shade. Princess facilities are inside a large air-conditioned warehouse. The Ship: The Sun Princess has been around for several years now and I agree with other posters that she is beginning to show a bit of age. The interior of the ship seemed immaculate and it appeared that they had installed new carpet throughout. But the exterior of the ship is showing some age, particularly in the fading of colors. There is no rust visible and they continually worked to paint and keep up the facilities, but it certainly didn't compare with the newness and freshness we'd experienced on Radiance or the Millennium. That being said, I wouldn't hesitate to cruise this ship again. She's in great shape, with great facilities. I love the Promenade Decks on these ships. Comfortable lounge chairs with a great view and shade if you want it. My place to read and nap out of the sun. I miss it already. The public areas, including lounges, atrium, Princess Theatre, and Vista Lounge are in great shape. We heard that Lord Sterling, CEO of P&O Princess was on-board for most of the cruise and that extra effort had been take to spruce the ship up. Rumors also said that P&O plans to transfer the Sun to P&O and retire it from Princess and re-name one of the upcoming newer ships, the Sun. I don't know if any of that is true or just rumor. We booked an Inside Cabin Guarantee and were given C-208 on the Caribe deck. The Caribe deck is right in the middle of the ship, which is a great location. Our cabin was located towards the bow, which made for a bit of a walk to the stairs, but we were pleased. We've had a mini-suite (1), balcony cabin (1), and outside cabins (2), but prefer an Inside cabin for cost and convenience. We seem to sleep better in an Inside Cabin and since we spend so little time in there, we probably will keep booking Inside Cabins. Our cabin space was fine, with plenty of storage, even for a 10-day cruise, a nice bathroom and room-safe. These rooms also have a min-fridge with a bucket of ice that is refreshed each day. There is only one electrical outlet in the room and also one in the bathroom. The hairdryer is not in the bathroom, but at the small desk in the cabin. Soap, shampoo and conditioner are provided. Our cabin steward, Ricky, was very friendly and did a great job. Entertainment: The on-board entertainment was fine for us, but I did hear many people complaining about the quality of the shows. Sun Princess has two theaters, the Princess Theater and the Vista Lounge. Two shows are going on in each venue almost every night. Unfortunately, two of the shows: "Words & Music" and "Rhythm of the City" were the same shows we saw on our Sea Princess over a year and a half ago. These were different entertainers so it was still enjoyable. A third show, "America's Music" was new and very enjoyable. I will say that the lead male, Joe Sackenheim, is easily the most talented entertainer we've ever seen on-board a cruise ship. Great voice. Great singer. The rest of the cast were okay, but I wouldn't rate them particularly high. The comedian, juggler and ventriloquist were only average. In addition to these shows, they showed current movies in the Princess Theater. Not the best quality, but good movies. "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" has to be the best surprise movie of the year. Food: For the first time, we selected Personal Choice Dining, which meant that we didn't have an assigned dinner seating. We were free to eat in any of the six restaurants on board at any time. The Princess Horizon Court is still the most ill conceived, traffic congested dining option, but it is open 24 hours. We ate breakfast there every day. Basic breakfast, eggs, bacon, sausage, cereals, fruit, breads, pastries, etc. Pancakes and French toast were also offered. The scrambled eggs are horrible. They must use powdered or processed liquid eggs. But at the end of the line there is a grill cook that will cook real eggs to order. Their story is they like to avoid real eggs to minimize salmonella risk. We ate most lunches in the Horizon Court, Verdi's Pizzeria or the Terrace Grill. Verdi's is also a nice place for dinner. They offer other pasta dishes besides a fair pizza. Most dinners we ate in the Marquis Dining Room. This dining room is for all personal choice diners and we never had to wait more than a few moments for a table. In fact, we met several nice couples there on the second evening of the cruise and met up again with them for dinner on several other nights. Upstairs, the Regency Dining Room is for those with assigned dining. Don't bother with the Sterling Steakhouse, which is their alternative dining experience with an $8 surcharge. The restaurant is really out on the deck overlooking the pool. It is the Terrace Grill during the day. Friends that ate there said the food was good, but people were walking through constantly and it was noisy from the pool deck below. We enjoyed the flexibility of personal choice. The only down side is that you have new waiters every night and we missed the enjoyment of getting to know one waiter. The service in Personal Choice is more like your normal restaurant. It is nothing near the personal service you get in the typical cruise dining room with the same waiter. Whether flexibility is worth the loss of this service, is something we haven't decided yet. Spa Facilities: My wife was disappointed with her cut and color in the beauty salon, mainly because throughout the cut and color the stylist kept pushing products for sale. It was not a relaxing experience, but closer to the on-shore experience with local vendors. I enjoyed my massage treatment. A bit expensive, but she did a great job and once she knew I wasn't interested in buying anything, she quit with the sales pitch. After using the spa facilities on the RCI Radiance of the Seas and the Celebrity Millennium, these facilities looked a little second rate. Treatment rooms are small and closet-like. On the Radiance and Millennium they are much larger and most face floor to ceiling windows over the ocean. The steam room is nice and the area was never crowded. I loved early mornings in the whirlpool on top near the back of the ship. Nothing like sitting in a warm hot tub with cool morning air outside and great views. Medical Facilities: For the first time cruising, I had need of a visit to the doctor. It was actually two visits, and I found the doctors and nursing staff very professional and well equipped. I wouldn't mind going to these people at home. A great group. The Ports: We're probably not the best to offer opinions on ports because we tend to avoid the ship excursions and do mostly things on our own. I also like to avoid the tourist areas and get back into the real town to see how the locals live. Cabo San Lucas: This was our fist stop and we actually booked a kayaking and snorkeling excursion here. Passengers are tendered into the port and there we caught a water taxi over to a small beach for brief instruction and getting our gear. This is a fun excursion and we all paddled out to Lands End and the arch that is so beautiful. Seas were a bit choppy, but the kayaks ride high in the water and there were no problems. Several people got a little fatigued and several said they would not do it again. We like it. It gives you great views of the arch and a nearby rock covered with sea lions. From there we paddled back to a small beach for snorkeling. The water was too rough to stop at the regular beach and here the snorkeling was worthless. The water temperature was great, so I enjoyed it more for the swim than anything else. The whole excursion took about two hours and from the kayaking facility we walked back into town for shopping and general exploring. Much of the marina area is very new and it is generally clean and enjoyable. It is easy to walk around town and then back to the tender dock. We only had half a day in Cabo, so there wasn't much time. Mazatlan: Here we explored on our own. Walking out through the regular taxi stand, we found a guy with one of those souped up golf carts. He agreed to give us a tour for $15 per hour. We felt that was fair since most inside were going for $20 per hour. He drove us up to the hill for some great shots of the ship and surrounding beaches. We also drove by all the typical tourist stops, the fisherman market on the beach and then he took us into the real town to the park, plaza and cathedral. He waited while we walked through the central market and even drove us by his house to meet his family. It was a great day. This is how we like to see a city. Acapulco: Best described as a beautiful setting around a gorgeous beach and bay, but surrounded by four million people and lots of traffic. Here we explored on foot and walked forever and ever. Going left out the port gate we walked several blocks to the plaza and cathedral. This was interesting because there was a group of school children demonstrating for government support to build them a school building. They currently meet on a hillside, without any facilities. We spoke to several and they had been demonstrating for 7 days with no response from local officials. The cathedral here is not that spectacular. From the plaza we walked up into the side streets to the central market, back down the beach and on to Papaguayo Park. This is a beautiful park with lots to see and many locals to visit with. From there we took a brief cab ride through the hotel zone and up to Las Brisas. Beautiful views and lots of nice homes. Just too many people and too much overbuilding. We passed on the cliff divers. Vendors and taxi drivers are very aggressive here. Two or three no's is generally not enough. This seemed more like Jamaica than Mexico, and that is not a good thing. It was nice to leave port at 10:30 p.m. and see the town at night. Zihuatenjo/Ixtapa: Beautiful bay and wonderful smaller town. Passengers are tendered into town, but from there it is easy to walk through most of the town. Get back off the main streets for some of the smaller shops. For $5 a cab will take you over to Ixtapa which is a mostly a new hotel area along a beautiful beach. We made the trip just to say we had been there. This is a nice area and we would come back again. I really like Zihuatenejo. We met one couple that had taken a water taxi across to Las Gatas Beach and there they were able to use the beach at a small hotel. Great service, beach chairs and tent were free to use. If you just wanted to veg here, this sounded like the right choice. Again, only half a day in this port. I would have enjoyed more time here. Puerto Vallarta: Easily my favorite port on the trip. We had met on-line an American that lives in PV that works close to the port. We walked over to her office to visit and she gave us a map and general directions. From there it was a 4 peso bus ride into town. Don't bother with the taxis. If you have pesos, just wait for the bus marked "Centro" and ride into town. Get off at Hidalgo Plaza and from there you can walk along the boardwalk through town. The cathedral in PV is beautiful and we ate lunch at Las Palomas right along the main street facing the beach. Reasonable prices for good Mexican food and a great view of the ocean. We continued to walk over the bridge into Old Town. This is a great walk and again here you see more of the local flavor and shops with much better prices. If you're shopping for medications, try Farmacia Guadalajara in Old Town. We found the best prices here over any of the other ports and it seemed to be a very professional operation. We walked back to Hidalgo and caught the "Marina" bus back to the ship for 4 pesos. Disembarkation: As usual, there were several people that delayed in getting through customs so the rest of the passengers had to wait on them. It was a fairly long wait, but eventually they began calling colors and numbers. You're give a color and number based on when your flight is leaving. Find a waiting place on the side closest to the pier as you will be exiting that side. The lines became very crowded trying to get to the doors exiting the ship. It was easily 9:30 a.m. before they began actual disembarkation. We were off the ship by 10:00 a.m. and had arranged for transfers through Princess. The bus ride to the airport was fine. Very little traffic. As noted below, our experience at LAX was much better than we have seen at Fort Lauderdale, Miami or Seattle. American had plenty of help and we were on our way to the gate within 15 minutes of being dropped off by the bus. That is unbelievable, and certainly beats the 4-hour wait to check our baggage that we experienced in FLL in February. All in all, this was an enjoyable trip. I don't know that we would do the Mexican Riviera again, but I'm glad we did it. It isn't like the Caribbean, where you want to go back again and again; at least, not for us. And I certainly would prefer Cozumel over anything we saw on the Pacific side. One pleasant surprise was the smooth ride. I had expected rougher seas on the Pacific side, but it was great. Very smooth cruising. In summary: Pros: 1. A 10-day cruise is wonderful. It was much more relaxing because there did not seem to be as much pressure to hurry and try to experience everything because you only have a week. If relaxation is what you are after, a 10-day cruise can't be beat. 2. Princess continues to provide a great cruising experience. We will never hesitate to cruise Princess. Food was excellent, entertainment adequate and service was great. 3. The Princess beverage sticker allows you to pay a one-time fee of $20 for soft drinks throughout the cruise. It includes fountain drinks, coke, diet coke, sprite, and soda water from the fountain. Canned drinks are not included. It can be used anywhere on the ship and the service staff seemed more than happy to oblige even though no additional tip is charged. It is so convenient because all you have to do is show your card with the sticker. You don't have to sign anything. 4. Zihautenejo and Puerto Vallarta. Easily the best port stops on this trip. These were the only two places that we visited that I would return to for a week stay. 5. LAX experience for flight home was much better than anything we experienced at Fort Lauderdale, Miami, San Diego, or Seattle. This is a great airport for handling cruise crowds. Cons: 1. The weather was hot, hot, hot. If it were snowy back home, this might not have felt so bad, Fall is beautiful in Oklahoma. This is not an itinerary for people that don't like the heat and humidity. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad during the winter months. 2. Every port is Mexico. With the typical Caribbean cruise, every port is so different. One island might be French and another English. On this itinerary, all the ports are the same, with the exception of size, location and other small differences. 3. Acapulco. Four Million people crammed around a beautiful beach and bay. Way overbuilt and outside of the hotel resort area, this is really an unattractive spot. The vendors and taxi drivers are very aggressive. Think Jamaica. 4. Princess now has the practice of leaving two pool towels in your room and they are no longer provided on the deck. That means you have to remember to bring your towel up on deck and you're limited to one, unless you ask your room steward for more. Since I like at least two towels, and then maybe an extra for the spa facilities, I missed being able to grab fresh towels up on deck. They do have towels in the spa changing rooms, but those are not supposed to be taken out on deck. I know. I tried. 5. Spa prices are still way too high. And finally, for what its worth, some comparisons (based on our own impressions): Princess provides an eating experience on a par with Celebrity. The entertainment is a bit weaker than HAL and RCI, but good nonetheless. Newer ships are definitely more flashy and the newer spa areas beat those of the older ships. I probably won't cruise Celebrity again because they charged to use the steam room and I like to take a steam every day of cruising. I also have felt that the passengers on HAL, Princess and RCI tend to be a bit more engaging and friendlier. Please don't take that as critical of Celebrity loyalists. It is a general observation. Based on our experiences, I would still rate these lines: 1) HAL 2) Princess 3) RCI 4) Celebrity and 5) Carnival. I would be happy to answer any questions you might have. klovell@Oneok.com December 2002 Read Less
Sun Princess, Voyage of the Glaciers (Vancouver - Seward/Anchorage), May 15, 2000. EMBARKATION As first time cruisers we arrived at Canada Place (embarkation terminal in Vancouver) not knowing what to expect or do. Arriving on our own, ... Read More
Sun Princess, Voyage of the Glaciers (Vancouver - Seward/Anchorage), May 15, 2000. EMBARKATION As first time cruisers we arrived at Canada Place (embarkation terminal in Vancouver) not knowing what to expect or do. Arriving on our own, we had been dropped off outside the terminal, and carried our luggage down from the street and into the terminal where we could find Princess embarkation booths for some of the ship's lower decks, but none which corresponded to ours. Princess staff were very harried, and while not rude, weren't much help when approached. We finally figured out that we should give our luggage to the longshoremen out in the parking area, and found a counter with a sign that indicated Caribe-Aloha decks, pointing to a door marked NO ENTRY. Many (aprox. 100) people were milling around and none knew what to do. Finally, a Princess staff member came to 'man' the counter and said we should check there before going through. We stood in line for 20 min. watching one group of morons hold everything up because they had not filled out their embarkation forms. I couldn't see how they could possibly get everyone onboard before sailing-time when another staff member came by and said we should 'Just go ahead.' Once through, we were in another large area with many booths for specific decks and staterooms; and embarkation was a breeze! The whole process would have only taken 10 min. if we knew, or had been told what to do in the first place. Customs clearance consisted of being asked 'Are you American or Canadian?' If one answered 'Yes' one was waived through - that's it! STATEROOM Once onboard we proceeded to our stateroom (C711) inside, dead center, aft. I had done a lot of research on different cruise lines and ships in the preceding months, and knew that these staterooms were on the small side, but was pleasantly surprised to find it was larger than I had envisioned. For a seven-day cruise we found it to be perfectly adequate, however, on a longer cruise I can understand how some people may find it to be too small, especially if they have packed many clothes. The stateroom very nicely appointed and had twin beds. We had asked for a 'queen size' configuration when we booked the cruise, and again when our documents arrived and I noticed the beds listed were listed as 'twin.' However, after seeing the stateroom we decided it would be better to leave the beds separate. There was a night table, desk/vanity and chair, hair drier, refrigerator with ice bucket and glasses, TV, 3 closets with lots of space (for us), programmable safe, and a small but beautifully functional bathroom with shower. There was plenty of drawer space in the desk and the night table. It was immaculate and tastefully decorated. Large mirrors and smaller than normal furniture give the illusion of more space than there actually is, but for two of us for a week it was great. Our steward (Arnold) introduced himself and wanted to know what dinner sitting we had (so he would know when to turn down the beds). The service was excellent, he was cheerful and promptly attended to any requests -- terrycloth robes and pool towels, etc., -- he kept the stateroom immaculate the whole week. The ice bucket was always full, there were always clean glasses, and we always had a plenitude of fresh towels, etc., in the bathroom. The soundproofing was excellent and there was no vibration, which I have read can be a problem with aft staterooms on other ships. We left to explore the ship. It truly is beautiful, spotlessly maintained and looks brand new - not five years old. When we returned to our stateroom about an hour later, the luggage had arrived along with two surprises: a bottle of champagne from our travel agent, and a bouquet of roses from the steward! He explained that they were from a stateroom on the previous cruise and would just be thrown out. They lasted five days - nice touch. After unpacking we had a bite in the Horizon Court buffet and went on deck to watch our departure. I couldn't believe it, but they played the '70s Love Boat TV theme over the loudspeakers as we pulled away. Really kitschy - I wanted to shoot the speakers. FOOD Food in the Horizon Court varied from excellent to awful. Just remember it's a 24 hr buffet and some dishes do not lend themselves well to sitting on a steam table for any length of time. The selection is huge so this is not a problem, if fact we ate most of our breakfasts and lunches there. One thing I must get across is -- the Horizon Court coffee is awful!!! If anyone from Princess reads this, please take note and do something about it. Verdi's pizzeria was not very good. We tried it only once. Not many toppings on a thin cardboard crust. I can't understand all the rave reviews. Dining room cuisine was generally fabulous and well presented; our waiter and assistant waiter were wonderful. They quickly learned our preferences/quirks. For example, I like coffee and Mavis likes chamomile tea after desert. We only asked for these on the first night and from then on he would automatically bring them. The dining room coffee is great - no problem there. We had the late sitting (8:15) and really liked it. The ship left ports at 8:00, so we had more time ashore. There are two shows every night in each of the Princess Theatre and the Vista Lounge, so you will not miss anything. GENERAL The muster station drill was fairly low key and short. If you're on a budget take your own alcohol. Princess currently has no written policy on this matter. I took a bottle of vodka and got OJ for mix from room service or the Horizon Court - saved a fortune. We still bought drinks: a Heineken in the Wheelhouse Bar, wine with dinner, coffee and Irish Cream on deck in Glacier Bay etc., but taking the vodka sure cut down on the onboard expenses. I think the reason they charge $1.50 US for a can of pop is to 'ding' you on the mix if you do bring your own booze onboard. Next time I'm going to take Scotch. The aft elevators do not go to the two lowest (restaurant) decks. Consequently they are nowhere as busy as the forward elevators, where the waits can be interminable. This was one reason we really liked having a stateroom at the aft of the ship. Another reason is the pool and spas (hot tubs) at the aft are also nowhere near as well used as those mid-ship. Our favorite spa was on the top (Lido) deck, 14, aft. It has a great view, and many times there was absolutely no one else around. We also found it was better to be at the stern when viewing the glaciers in Glacier Bay and College Fjord. Everyone goes forward, and there are huge crowds 2-3 deep elbowing each other along all the rails. You will see just as much from the stern and there are very few people -- lots of space and deck chairs and no crowd at the rails. Paradise is having a drink while lounging in a spa with a view on a sunny day right next to a glacier - it just doesn't get any better! DAY-BY-DAY Be prepared for any weather. You may need anything from shorts to rain gear, a down parka and warm hat/gloves. On the whole we were very lucky weather-wise. Day 1, we left Vancouver on a hot sunny day. Day 2, at sea - Inside Passage - overcast. Day 3 - Ketchikan - rained all day. I learned quickly that an umbrella is a pain when your taking pictures. Day 4 - Juneau - started out 'socked in' with low clouds and rain with wind. It looked like our helicopter Glacier Discovery Tour was going to be canceled. Began to clear a little around noon and we were on one of only two helicopter tours that flew that day. There were many very disappointed people whose flights were canceled. We were extremely lucky, there were only four of us onboard, and we got to spend almost an hour on the glacier, not 30 min. like planed. I would recommend this excursion to anyone. It's expensive but worth it, even on a rainy/cloudy day -- a once in a lifetime experience. It must be just unbelievable on a sunny day when you can see the whole of the 1500 sq. mi. Juneau Ice Field! Day 5 - Skagway - started out with light drizzle for our Yukon Territory Adventure tour and cleared up once we were over the White Pass summit and into B.C.. Beautiful and sunny for lunch at Frontier Heritage Village in the Yukon, Carcross, Tormented Valley, and back down the White Pass - spectacular. Day 6, at sea - Glacier Bay - started with high overcast that burnt off and turned into a beautiful sunny day - fantastic! Day 7, at sea - College Fjord - gorgeous sunny day. The kind of day they take brochure pictures on. Day 8 - Seward - mixed sun and showers. Disembarked 9:30 am. Three hour buss ride through the spectacular Kenai Peninsula and along Turnagain Arm of Cook inlet to Anchorage. We were dropped off at the airport around 12:30, and as our flight didn't leave until 5:00, thought we would leave our luggage in a locker while we went downtown for the afternoon. There are no lockers, but the airport does have an expensive baggage storage room where you have to pay for a minimum of 24 hrs., which we decided not to use. Princess has free shuttle busses between downtown and the airport every half hour. Six of us were waiting for the next one, when a Princess employee asked if we wanted to 'go right now?' then radioed over to a luxury bus that was waiting to take passengers to Seward, but whose flight was delayed. What great service! We were dropped off at the downtown convention centre, which Princess had taken over as 'headquarters'. Here we found we could 'check in' our luggage with Princess for free while we spent the afternoon exploring Anchorage. We were very happy with the Sun Princess and the cruise - just change the coffee in the Horizon Court and it would be almost perfect! Princess really does a great job, and we would not hesitate to sail with them again Read Less
Sun Princess - Vancouver to Seward - May 2003 Saturday - May 10, 2003 - Phoenix to Vancouver My wife and I choose this itinerary to celebrate our 39th wedding anniversary. This was our second cruise, the first on Hawaiian ... Read More
Sun Princess - Vancouver to Seward - May 2003 Saturday - May 10, 2003 - Phoenix to Vancouver My wife and I choose this itinerary to celebrate our 39th wedding anniversary. This was our second cruise, the first on Hawaiian American Lines 9 years earlier. We traveled from Phoenix to Seattle via SWA. The pilot managed to overshoot the landing twice so we got to see more of Seattle from the air than we planned. It was partly cloudy when we landed. We had reserved a Mercury Sable at Hertz. We picked it up and started our drive to Vancouver. The drive isn't particularly scenic, but was interesting to us as it was our first time in the area. The border crossing took about 15 minutes. There were 4 lanes open on this Saturday. Once we had crossed into Canada I had to find the kilometer markings on the speedometer, as that's how the speed limits are posted. We stopped at an Information station outside Richmond for directions into Vancouver. We had booked the Hyatt Regency through Priceline. The directions given to us by the lady at the Information station were easier to follow than the directions we had printed from Mapquest. >BR?>BR? Crossing the Granville Bridge we were startled by our first view of downtown Vancouver. This vast array of multi story futuristic buildings framed by water and mountains was a totally new look to us. I missed the entrance to the Hyatt and had to circle the block. We had a very nice room on the tenth floor with a view of the Hotel Vancouver, an old church, and a small park with a water feature and lots of tulips in bloom. We dined at the hotel restaurant, the Mosaic, and were pleased with the food. There is a bank next to the hotel and used their ATM to get Canadian dollars, the transaction fee was 1.50c. We went to bed early, as usual. Sunday - May 11, 2003 - Vancouver We had a room service continental breakfast and then set out to explore Vancouver before returning the rental car. We accidentally ended up in Stanley Park at 08:00. There wasn't much traffic and we were free to explore without much hassle. I took lots of pictures as we enjoyed the views of totems, Canada Place, Prospect Point, the HAL vessel Standendam entering under Lions Gate Bridge, and the beaches around the park. Walking and bicycle paths that are next to the water border the one-way road around the park. These paths were busy with joggers, skaters, bikers, and walkers. After exiting the park we found a gas station and filled the rental's tank. Using the metric system was new experience for us. We re-crossed the Granville bridge and to experience and photograph the Vancouver skyline again. We returned the rental car to the Hertz location on Seymour Street and walked the 9 blocks back to the Hyatt. We stopped at the Wedgwood Hotel and the Hotel Vancouver to check their lobbies and shops. After a disappointing Mother's Day brunch at the Mosaic we took the Trolley back to Stanley Park to visit the Vancouver Aquarium. It must have been the first warm and partly sunny day in a while because now the roads into Stanley Park were now packed as were all the previously empty parking spots in the park. I noticed a cricket match underway near the Totems. We enjoyed our visit to the Aquarium. We re-boarded the Trolley and toured the rest of downtown Vancouver as passengers. We had room service burgers for dinner and went to bed early again. Monday - May 12, 2003 - Sun Princess We had breakfast at the hotel restaurant, it wasn't well prepared and the service was poor. We had 3 meals here and our first dinner was the only one that we enjoyed. We explored the malls beneath the hotel, which spread out, from the sky train station located beside it. There were lots of kiosk style eateries that hadn't been open until business resumed downtown on Monday. We checked out of Hyatt at 1000. We took a cab to Canada Place. The fare was $4.40c. We were much too early to board and took the opportunity to get some pictures of the Sun Princess, quite an impressive ship, and huge when compared to the Constitution, our last cruise vessel. We were allowed through the security checks at 1100 and Princess tried to open the gate to their area at 1130. It had been locked and they had to find someone with a key to open it. Princess had 2 booths set up for each deck of the ship, one for express check in and one for non-express. We showed our ticket, passport, and credit card. They had us sign a document that said we had not traveled to specific areas heavily affected by the SARS outbreak. They gave us our cruise card. We then waited for Customs until 1200. The customs check was quick and consisted of a look at our passports. We boarded the Sun Princess just after 1200. We were directed, not escorted, to our stateroom. We had stateroom B720 that is located on the Baja deck (tenth deck) port side aft. This is a balcony stateroom with 2 twin beds pushed together in our case. It had one chair, a built in cabinet containing a refrigerator supporting a small TV. There is a dressing table with drawers. The closet had one long and 2 short hanging areas, with baskets on the shelves below the safe. The balcony had 2 plastic chairs and a small table. The bathroom held a sink, vacuum toilet and a shower. The dEcor reminded me of a mid range motel room. We were very happy with our stateroom. Our cabin steward was Noel. He provided bathrobes at our request and also provided beach towels. We had lunch at Regency dining room at table for 6. This was the first of many meals shared with different people. After lunch we explored the ship and I took pictures of the atrium and the pool area. The public places on the ship are beautiful. The ship appeared to be in excellent condition, kept in Bristol fashion if you know the term. We purchased a drink card for Kathy that cost $22.50; this included the souvenir Coke cup. 2 of 3 pieces of our luggage arrived in the early afternoon; the 3rd piece arrived shortly thereafter. We unpacked and stowed the luggage beneath the beds. Our departure was delayed by 15 minutes while some late arriving passengers were boarded. We were on the fantail of the Lido deck as the ship left her berth. I was amazed by the maneuverability of this huge ship. She backed into the channel, swung to port and got underway with no tugs to assist. The Captain announced that since this was the ship's first voyage to Alaska this year that they would have a compass adjustor aboard and that he would have to swing the ship to adjust the compass. We had chosen Personal Choice dining and our evening dining room was the Marquis on Deck 5. We were in the Marquis dinning room as the ship passed under Lion's Gate Bridge. We were back on deck as the compass adjustor was leaving. I walked the Lido deck as we entered the Straight of Georgia and took pictures of the Bowen Island Light. I got a really nice sunset shot. We retired early as usual and slept well, missed waking for the passage through Seymour Narrows. Tuesday - May 13, 2003 - Cruising the Inside Passage I was up at 0630; our room service breakfast wasn't due until 0730 so I walked up to the Horizon Court for a cup of coffee while Kathy slept in. It was cool, cloudy, and raining, just what I'd expected for the Inside Passage. Our Continental breakfast arrived at 0730 and we sat on the balcony to eat. The balcony is in enough of a wind shadow to be comfortable even in the light rain. After breakfast we walked the Promenade deck and enjoyed the scenery. We stopped by the Horizon Court for a little more breakfast. We only used the Horizon court for the occasional snack, and one other breakfast. I stopped by many times for a cup of coffee to take on deck with me. Okay, about the coffee. It wasn't very good, but I drink a lot of coffee and am not a connoisseur, so this was always hot and good enough for me. We watched the sights from the forward Lido Deck until Kathy got chilled and then returned to the stateroom for a break. The TV always had a near first run movie on, sometimes 2. It also had the Discovery Channel with programs listed in a daily guide. Channel 35 showed the ships position with periodic updates of speed, temperature, etc. There were a couple of news channels, a sports channel, a Princess channel, and Channel 31 was used to communicate from the Bridge when were in certain areas. We attended a lecture by the naturalist Rachel in the Princess Theater. It was full. Rachel gave us a good overview of what we could expect to see and where to look for wildlife. Lunch at the Regency again, we were seated with some folks who were from Sun City as we are. Food was always good, but not memorable. We stopped by the Casino after lunch. You can buy $15 dollars in table play chips for $10 once per passenger on the cruise. We got $30 and Kathy let me play it on the craps table. I had a decent roll and made $27 bucks. With the unfavorable setup on their table (single odds, $5 minimum) I considered myself lucky and cashed in. We stopped by the Windjammer Bar and Kathy took pictures of some costumes that were on display there. Most of the daily Art Auctions were held in the Windjammer Bar as well. We looked at the pictures they had to auction and didn't see any that really interested us and didn't participate in any of the auctions. They do push these, along with Spa treatments, sales in Atrium, and other opportunities to spend a few extra bucks with your cruise card. We did pick up some tee shirts for the grand kids at the boutique when they had a sale. Once the ship left the sheltered waters of the Inside Passage and entered Queen Charlotte Sound and we were exposed to some swells and force 5 winds across the deck. This is the first time I really noticed the motion. I heard that some people were staying in their staterooms to ride it out. I'm susceptible to motion sickness, but had taken Bonine as a preventative. It worked well and I was never seasick. This was formal night. I dressed in a blue blazer, and gray slacks, which is as formal as I get. Kathy wore black slacks and a Lace Jacket over a silk top. We had our portraits taken on the way to dinner. There were several different locations where the photographers were setup to use different backdrops for the pictures. We choose to eat dinner at the Sterling Steak House, actually the port side of the Horizon Court set up for dinner. The service was excellent, the steaks were very good, and we felt it was well worth the $8.00 cover charge. They held the Captain's Champagne cocktail party in the atrium. Our captain for this voyage was Alan Wilson. He gave a short speech, in a pleasant Scottish accent, and we enjoyed free cocktails, non-alcoholic in our case. I did a quick count of how men were dressed for formal night. I counted 12 in sports coats, 5 in suits, and 6 in tuxes. As I said, a quick count, but I think an accurate reflection of the attire that night. We returned to our stateroom and watched "About Schmidt" with Jack Nicholson. We preferred to stay in our stateroom and watch movies rather than attend the shows. I didn't hear or solicit any reviews of the shows, other than comments about the comedian, my take was that he offended some folks and delighted others. Wednesday - May 14, 2003 - Ketchikan We crossed into the Alaska Time zone and gained an hour. I was up at 0430 to watch our approach to Ketchikan. I walked out on Rivera Deck and discovered it was raining and cool. I went back and got some warm waterproof clothes and then got a cup of coffee at Horizon Court. The rain stopped and I was able to watch the ship make the dock from the Lido Deck. I continued to be impressed by how maneuverable this huge ship is, as they used the thrusters to lay alongside the berth without a bump. We had breakfast in the Regency with a very nice couple from Dayton Ohio. We had no excursions planned for Ketchikan. The weather cleared while we were in port and the flight seeing excursions to Misty Fjords were rewarded with great viewing. We stopped at the Tongass General Store and I purchased a decent set of rain gear. Kathy found a Quilt shop and was happily involved there. I found a freshly brewed cup of decent coffee and enjoyed that. We took pictures, explored Creek Street, and bought ULU knives for our daughters and more souvenirs for the grandkids. Kathy's feet and legs had started to bother her when we were in Vancouver. Her calves were swollen and had some red areas that were getting worse. She was very uncomfortable walking the town so we went back to the ship at 1100. We had lunch at Verdi's. They served nice little personal size pizza. Had a discussion with our waiter about my camera, an Olympus C-730, he was shopping for one and liked the 10x optical zoom on this model. Kathy rested some and we were on deck for the ship's departure from Ketchikan. It was French night at Marquis. The only memorable item was the soufflE I had for desert it was excellent. After dinner they announced Orcas had been sighted on the approach to Snow Passage. I rushed on deck with my camera and discovered it was raining and windy. I went back to the stateroom and donned my new raingear. Kathy had seen the Orcas from the balcony while I had been running around. By the time I was properly attired and got back on deck there were no more whale sightings. I did see some seals and enjoyed the rugged scenery as we passed through Snow Passage. The currents and rips were very evident on the surface of the water. Thursday - May 15, 2003 - Juneau I was up at 0530 for the approach to Juneau. It was drizzly and cool. The snow line was just above town. Rachel had shown a picture of the Rivera Deck of the Dawn Princess covered with about 6 inches of snow from a previous May 8th cruise. I guess this a hazard for early season cruisers. I grabbed a coffee and some pastry at the Horizon Court and watched us dock. We ate breakfast at the Regency. I ordered an omelet and was disappointed in it. It was not as good as the omelet I'd had in Horizon court on our first day at see. This is the only poorly prepared item we encountered in a dinning room while we were on board. Kathy's legs were really bothering her so we went to medical office on deck 4. She was diagnosed as having a bacterial leg rash. The doctor prescribed and dispensed the medications to treat her problem and the office visit and medications were added to our shipboard account. Cost was $107 and we were given an itemized receipt to submit to our health care provider. We walked the 3 blocks from the ship to Orca Enterprises. I spotted a bald eagle in a tree above the dock and took few pictures of him as he preened. Even with our visit to the Medical Office we still got there in time to have a cup of coffee and check out their office. There were 23 passengers for the tour. We boarded 2 buses for the ride to Auke Bay. The ride gave us an idea of how spread out Juneau is and a quick glimpse of them Mendenhall Glacier. At the marina Captain Larry introduced himself and his crewman. They gave us a quick overview of the planned excursion and boarded the Awesome Orca. As we left the marina and headed into the more open waters of Auke Bay we had a great view of the Mendenhall Glacier and a good perspective on its path down the mountain. Our first wildlife sighting was a stellar seal lion, followed shortly by an eagle. We hadn't been underway very long when we had our first humpback sighting. I took lots of photographs. I bought the Olympus with a 10x optical zoom specifically to take wild life pictures, when my timing was right I got the kind of photograph I expected, unfortunately, I had trouble dealing with the inherent lag in a digital camera and missed some shots that I'd really like to have had. I did manage to get lots of humpbacks blowing, humping to dive, and a couple of clear well framed tail shots. I also got shots of a mother and calf with the mother's flipper out of the water. The tour with Captain Larry was everything I had hoped for. Kathy stayed seated in the cabin for the entire trip and was just as pleased as I was with the experience. A bonus occurred midway in the trip. Captain Larry spotted a brown bear near the beach on Admiralty Island and was able to slowly approach the shore and not spook the bear. Everyone got a clear look and I managed some pictures. Unfortunately the pictures I took still require considerable enlarging to make out the bear. The bear finally decided he was finished with whatever he was doing and ambled into the woods. We reluctantly got off the Awesome Orca and boarded the buses back to Juneau. Our bus took a side trip to Temsco Helicopter so a couple of guys could do the helicopter tour of the Mendenhall glacier. We re-boarded the Sun Princess and had lunch in the dining room. I was ready for simple fare for a change, so, I had a burger, it was very good. Kathy didn't feel up to any more walking so we crashed in the stateroom for the afternoon. There was one notable event, Juneau lost power and the ship had to switch from shore power to ship power. I should have checked to see what effect that power failure had on the tram up the mountain, but didn't as it wasn't visible from our cabin. That evening we encountered our only unpleasant dinner companions. It had the effect of making us request a table for 2 on our next visit to the dinning room. Just an aside, there were 2 lines into the Marquis Dinning Room each night, one for guests with reservations, and one for those without reservations. I didn't really see an advantage to a reservation for the 2 of us. The waiters and assistants were very good at all the stations we were seated in. After dinner Kathy went back to the stateroom to watch a movie and I went up to the Lido Deck to watch our departure from Juneau. I managed to get another good Sunset picture. As usual we didn't attend any of the evening entertainment, opting for TV in the cabin with a view. I took a last turn on the balcony to see if there was any scenery I'd missed and was treated to humpback surfacing and blowing right below me. He was going in the opposite direction and by the time I scrambled back and found my camera he was out of good range for a picture. He blew twice more and then executed a shallow dive. It was a great ending to a wonderful day in Juneau. Friday - May 16, 2003 - Skagway Didn't get up in time to watch the Sun Princess come into Skagway, we were getting used to sleeping in. When I opened the curtains I did spot a tug heading back to its berth. It was crystal clear day with only a few high clouds. We had scheduled a round trip White Pass and Yukon Rail tour through Princess. We weren't sure we had time to go to the dining room for breakfast; so, we had breakfast at the Horizon Court. It was a typical buffet style breakfast with lots of choices including a station where the cook eggs to order. Kathy and I didn't really enjoy this breakfast compared to the breakfasts served in the dining room. We boarded the White Pass and Yukon Railroad at the dock. Using hints from the Internet discussion groups we took the seat across from the restroom which is also nearest the stove. Our car was probably 2/3 full. There were empty seats on both sides of the car when we left the station. Many of the cars have the profiles of the older style narrow gauge passenger cars, but I think they're modern reproductions. This is a narrow gauge railroad. This was a very scenic trip. You climb 20 miles through switchbacks and over some impressive bridges. Kathy choose to stayed seated, but I ventured onto the between car platform to take pictures. At the summit the passengers were requested to switch seats with the passengers across from them. The seats flip to change orientation and the engines move to the other end of the train. The same side of train is always on the canyon side and the other side in next to the mountain. The left side has the best views going up to the summit and the right side has the best views going down to Skagway. The advantage of our choice of seats occurs when the train heads back down from the summit, there is no one to exchange seats with and you get to have the scenic view both ways. I asked the conductor if they ever run steam engines, we had three diesel motors pulling us, and he said that they were working on their steam engine, but that it would begin limited duty again this summer. We were back in Skagway in time to re-board the Sun Princess for lunch at the Regency. After lunch we went back to town. There is a shuttle bus that picks passengers up at the dock and runs to several different stops in town. The cost was $1.50 each way. The walk isn't that long, but since Kathy's leg was still sore we went on the shuttle. Skagway has an old west feel to me. The main street is lined with turn of the century buildings and the setting at the base of the mountains reminded me of some the towns I've seen in Colorado. We did a little shopping and took more pictures. It is interesting to me that Skagway can be reached by road, while Juneau and Ketchikan can only be reached by air or sea. Once we were back aboard the Sun Princess I went to the Purser's Desk to use a laptop. The officer told me that they were having trouble with their satellite connections, but allowed me to try. I was able to connect to the site I needed to visit and conduct my business. It doesn't appear that I was charged for this, although I expected I would be. One small gripe about the ship, I could never find the Business Center open when I wanted to use it. I know that if I'd actually paid attention to their schedule I would have been able to find it open. We had a very pleasant dinner in the Marquis with some very pleasant companions. We met one of couples later in the atrium and chatted until they headed off to a show and we headed back to the stateroom for a movie. I watched our departure from Skagway on the balcony and there were two tugs standing by as we left or berth and circled to get underway. This was the only port where I saw vessels standing by or assisting us. Saturday - May 17, 2003 - Glacier Bay I was up 0530 and on deck shortly thereafter for our entry into Glacier Bay. I had on long johns, jeans, long sleeve tee shirt, fleece jacket, windbreaker, wool hat, and wool gloves. When you live in Phoenix as long as I have, I think maybe you over react to the possibility of cooler weather. I stayed warm and was never uncomfortable in this outfit. It was cool and clear. I went to the forward portion of the Lido Deck and there were only a few other people up at this time. The ship took on some Glacier Bay Park Rangers at 0630. As I watched the Park Rangers boat head back to their Ranger Station a humpback surfaced and blew right in front of them. Being their coxswain would be a job I'd enjoy. Just a few minutes later I saw a solitary orca, the only orca I saw on this trip. As the ship made its way through the channel I took pictures and followed the progress of some humpbacks that were paralleling our course, but closer to shore and at the limit of my camera's range. I ducked into the Horizon Court for coffee a couple of times. For me, even bad coffee hits the spot on a cool morning. More and more passengers were coming on deck, some were dressed as I was, and others only had on lighter garments. Those who weren't warmly dressed didn't stay on deck very long. Some folks began dragging lounge chairs to positions on the fore deck to get comfortable for the Glacier views. I was back in the cabin at 0730 for our room service breakfast. It's about a 60mile trip from the entry of Glacier Bay until you reach Grand Pacific and Margerie Glaciers. You're surrounded by beautiful wilderness scenery, so beautiful that I can't begin to describe it. The captain brought the ship into the cove containing Grand Pacific and Margerie with the ship close to the right shore. This gave us a good view from our port side balcony as we entered that area. He executed a slow turn and then lay off Margerie for quite a while. We could hear the creaking and groaning of the glacier as we sat there. The Lido deck was crowded with viewers and it was difficult for my 4'11" wife to see much. We went down to the Promenade deck and found that it was not nearly as crowded and gave us an excellent view of Margerie. We took lots of pictures and Kathy managed to capture one calving. While we watched there were several other calvings, including one fairly large chunk that separated in a cul-de-sac away from our direct view, but whose fall into the water echoed loudly. We had a room service lunch and Kathy retired for her afternoon nap. I headed back to Lido deck for more picture taking. As we sailed out of the bay I spotted 6 different humpback whales. They were out of camera range, but I was able to watch 3 individuals dive and tail several times using binoculars. We passed the Carnival Spirit as we headed out of the bay. This was the second formal night. We were again seated with Don and Donna from Arkansas and a young couple from Australia, Andrew and Louisa, who we found were recent graduates from Veterinary School. I confess that I had a second helping of lobster. On our way back to the stateroom I noticed that Casino was just about empty. We watched a movie and were asleep early. Sunday - May 18, 2003 - College Fjord Actually slept in, probably didn't leave the stateroom until 0830 or so. We had breakfast in the Regency dinning room, as usual, and then relaxed until it was time for the Culinary Demonstration. The cooking demonstration was held in the Vista Lounge and featured the Executive Chef Thomas Ulrich, Maitre D Jose Florencio, and the headwaiters. As we waited for the demo to start the ship apparently had to make a sudden maneuver that spilled some of the ingredients from the table where they were staged. This necessitated a quick trip to the galley to get new food for the demo. After the cooking demonstration we went on the galley tour. Kathy got her picture taken with Chef Ulrich. We had lunch in the regency. After lunch I headed for the casino for the Blackjack Tournament. There was a 30-dollar by in. It was a new experience for me, I've played a lot of Twenty-One over the years, but this was my first tournament experience. My strategy of betting big to get an early lead backfired. I'm pretty sure I was the first person eliminated. Live and learn. The least experienced player at our table advanced to the final table. As we neared College Fjord we met the Coral Princess and exchanged pilots. I wish I'd kept better notes of all the different pilots we used. There were several such exchanges during the cruise. College Fjord was another exceptional place. We saw otters, seals, bergy bits, and of course glaciers. I can't describe it, but these pictures give the atmosphere (Harvard and Yale glaciers and Bryn Mawr glacier). We saw lots of sea otters in the ice field. We choose to have our last dinner aboard the Sun Princess at a table for two. We got our packing done, and placed our luggage outside the stateroom for the 20:00 pickup. Monday - May 19, 2003 - Seward to Anchorage We were up before 0500 so we could get breakfast before disembarkation. They opened the Regency Dinning Room at 0530 to accommodate the early disembarkation. We were transferring to Anchorage aboard the Alaska Railroad. The train was waiting on a spur by the dock. We disembarked on the Promenade deck and then lined up in the cruise terminal to get our boarding passes for the train. You leave the cruise terminal and get a last view of the Sun Princess as you walk to the train. The train was all dome cars with table seating that accommodated four passengers on each side of the aisle. We were seated on the right side of the car. Our table companion turned out to be another Sun City resident, small world. We saw moose, dall sheep, and lots of pretty scenery. The downside was it seemed like a very long trip. We traveled from 0800 until 1200 to get from Seward to Anchorage. The tour guide in our car said he could drive it in less than 2 hours. As we entered Anchorage we were told that there would be 2 stops, the first at the airport and the final stop at the train depot. Our schedule called for us to stay aboard until the final stop and then transfer to buses for transport to Eagan Hall in downtown Anchorage where our luggage had been taken. I decided on spur of the moment to get off at the airport stop and rent a car there. This is the one rental that I hadn't made before the trip online. We decided that Kathy would stay aboard the train with our carry on luggage and that I would rent a car and met her at the downtown luggage pickup. I got off the train at the airport. I saw Princess representatives asked them how to get to the downtown luggage pickup. They were able to provide me with a map and good driving instructions. I rented a mini-van at Hertz, the only vehicles they had available were mini-vans and full sized SUVs. I wasn't happy with the rental price or the fact that I only had a hundred miles a day of included mileage, but that's the price I paid for poor planning. I managed to follow the driving instructions and reached Eagan Hall before the buses transferring passengers from the depot. I had the luggage safely in the van before Kathy's bus arrived. Relived that we had made this connection successfully we found that our lodgings in Hawthorne Suites were not far from downtown. We were happy with our accommodations at Hawthorne Suites. We had a second floor room overlooking a park. The room had sleeping area and sitting/dinning area. The Suite seemed huge after the stateroom. We explored Anchorage and stopped at a Village Inn for lunch. After lunch we found a Fred Meyer and bought some items for dinner in the hotel and lunch items for our unplanned explorations on Tuesday. I thought about buying another card for the digital camera, I had filled 3 128 meg smart cards and was down to the 16 meg XD card that came with the camera. The price at Fred Meyer was just too high and so I decided I just have to limit my picture taking. Continue reading Part 2 of jim.hensley's Sun Princess Review. Read Less
Tuesday - May 20, 2003 - Anchorage - Talkeetna We had breakfast at the buffet provided by Hawthorne Suites. They had cereal, pastries, donuts, and make your own waffles. We tried the waffles, but weren't very successful, as they ... Read More
Tuesday - May 20, 2003 - Anchorage - Talkeetna We had breakfast at the buffet provided by Hawthorne Suites. They had cereal, pastries, donuts, and make your own waffles. We tried the waffles, but weren't very successful, as they stuck to the waffle iron. We started out heading for the Kenai Peninsula and planned on seeing Whittier and maybe over to Homer. We encountered road work and a long stoppage about 20 miles into the trip and I lost patience. We turned around and headed for Talkeetna. The trip to Talkeetna was pleasant. Alaskans seemed to me to be very law abiding and courteous drivers. Could be that I've been in Arizona to long and expect everyone to run 10 miles an hour over limit while cutting everyone else off. We exited the forested roadway just above Talkeetna and were rewarded with a great view of Mount McKinley. We stopped at an overlook to enjoy the view and get oriented. While we there a young man came by and left some brochures advertising flight seeing to Mount McKinley. I offered Kathy the opportunity to take a flight, but see decided that she didn't need a small plane ride to experience the beauty of the area. Interestingly another person stopped at the overlook told us he had a flight scheduled with the company on the brochure scheduled to take off in an hour. I tried to get some decent photos of McKinley. We were blessed with clear weather, just some high clouds and were able to make out the summit of the McKinley. Unfortunately the exposure I used didn't capture what we actually saw. Talkeetna ends up being a very small village surrounded by airfields, rivers, forests, and mountains. We stopped by one art gallery and I purchased a nice, but small, panoramic photograph of Mount McKinley by Harry Woods. We talked with he and his wife and found that they stay in Talkeetna during the tourist season and then explore the world in their off season. On the way back to Anchorage we took a side excursion to Big Lake and had our closest encounter with Moose, unfortunately a kid on an ATV came roaring up the road and spooked them before I could get a photo. We found a decent restaurant on the way back to the hotel and had a nice dinner. We watched Gangs Of New York on pay for view and retired early as always. Wednesday - May 21, 2003 - Anchorage to Seattle We had a late flight out of Anchorage to Seattle and so we had some time for last minute shopping and a trip to the Anchorage Zoo. I got my good picture of a Brown Bear. We didn't fly out of Anchorage until 21:30, but there was still enough daylight to snap a final picture. Thursday - May 22, 2003 - Seattle We arrived at the Seattle Radisson Airport about 0200. Our room, booked through Priceline was certainly worth what we paid for it. We never left the hotel. We ate a couple of meals at their restaurant and stayed in our room watching movies. It was a heck of way to spend our 39th anniversary, but to be honest we were beat Friday - May 23, 2003 - Seattle to Phoenix The Terrorism Alert had increased to Orange Level during our trip and we encountered long lines at the security point in SeaTac. Our flight to Phoenix was uneventful and we ended our trip. Epilogue It has taken over 2 months to write this review and some of the memories have unfortunately dimmed. I'm left with a desire to do it again, to see different things next time and to spend a lot more time in Alaska before embarking on a cruise home. We put our deposit down on a future cruise while we aboard the Sun Princess. When we decide to go back to Alaska we'll book on the Sun Princess again if she's sailing that route. We were absolutely satisfied in every way with the ship, its staff, and our itinerary. I've took 573 pictures on this trip. I would have taken more if I'd more digital storage. The Photo Department on the Sun Princess gave me an estimate of $50 to download 2 of my cards to CD. I just wasn't willing to spend that much and didn't want to risk my images on someone else's CD. I hope anyone who reads this review finds some useful information in it. jim.hensley@cox.netJuly 2003 Read Less
My introduction to Princess was in the form of a confiscation of my bottle of vodka placed in a carryon and found via x-ray. Most cruise lines have a no alcohol on board policy, but it has always been a wink and a nod. They were ... Read More
My introduction to Princess was in the form of a confiscation of my bottle of vodka placed in a carryon and found via x-ray. Most cruise lines have a no alcohol on board policy, but it has always been a wink and a nod. They were serious. I wouldn't have even brought it if I had known how cheap a bottle was on board. I was able to get a quart of Smirnoff for twenty bucks and drink it there. Not a bad rate for a cruise line. So you see they don't mind the bottle, they just want part of the profit. I got the other bottle back on my last night. After that things went rather smoothly. We had been upgraded from a balcony to a suite for almost the same price. There are many bargains out there right now. Food Very good cuisine. The steak house is excellent. Enough steak to choke Clint Eastwood for an extra eight dollars per person. The service in the main dining room, we used the personal choice Marquis, was attentive and the food well prepared. You are not guaranteed a seat in personal choice unless you make a reservation. Room Service was outstanding. I been on four cruise lines and this was exceptional. I joked to my wife that the waiter was knocking on the door as I hung up the phone. The Italian restaurant is also worth a look for good pizza (no carryout allowed) and calzone. Drinks were also very reasonably priced. Entertainment Good solid chorus numbers and a few good headliners. Again very good. Excursions They were all worth the money and then some. I say then some because we always got more than we signed up for. This would normally be a good thing, but not everyone was prepared for some of the more arduous activities not described. This area needs a little work. Staff Very friendly and courteous. I didn't have any negative experiences. Our steward made sure that everything was perfect. The waiters were friendly, etc. It was almost like being in a toothpaste commercial. There were smiling white teeth everywhere. The ship itself is attractive and spacious. Princess has all the facilities that you could want, though I did miss my Celebrity Aqua Spa, there facilities were good and the staff still Steiner. This was my first cruise on Princess, but it won't be my last. They do not excel in any one area, but they are very good in all areas. Very well rounded. Just one weather note, The cruise had some rough spots. We had to trade Costa Rica for Jamaica when we hit gale winds and 13 foot seas. Watch those Christmas winds that form in the Caribbean from mid December to mid January. They really are there. Ctelrap@aol.comFebruary 2002 Read Less
Princess Cruise-tour 3A 11 day Heart of Alaska This itinerary includes 7 days on the Sun Princess and 3 days on land. First some personal information; we are a married couple, age 45-50 and we were traveling with 2 other couples ... Read More
Princess Cruise-tour 3A 11 day Heart of Alaska This itinerary includes 7 days on the Sun Princess and 3 days on land. First some personal information; we are a married couple, age 45-50 and we were traveling with 2 other couples approximate age 55. We all traveled from different cities in different states (New York, Florida, Texas) and met in Vancouver for boarding the Sun Princess. Our tickets arrived about 10 days before the cruise, although my sister did not receive her airline tickets until 2 days ahead of our departure. (The travel agent blamed Princess for the mix-up.) Included in the package were 6 color-coded Princess luggage tags, an itinerary, a coupon book with tickets for transfers etc., and the airline tickets. Also included in the coupon book was a list of optional tours that were booked through Princess. We received the information on the optional tours about 3 weeks ahead of the cruise and booked our tours online. The other option was to fax or mail the form, but online you could verify the availability immediately. The package was labeled Express Check-In. Upon arrival in Vancouver, we went through customs pretty quickly. The procedure was to present your ID, tell them which ship you were boarding and move through. The Princess representatives were right on the other side and ushered us outside to wait for the busses, which we were told were a little late. So we got in line with the other couple hundred people and we were herded aboard. All of our luggage, except our carry-ons were handled by Princess. The drive was approximately 20-30 minutes and we saw enough of Vancouver to wish we had gotten there a day earlier and seen more. Once at the Pier, we looked for the express check-in line, received our cruise cards, and the check-in was over in about 5 minutes. We were stopped to take boarding pictures and once onboard, the Princess staff members were stationed everywhere directing people to their cabins. At the time of our booking, Princess was offering a special on cabins with a balcony for the same price as an outside room. So we all had balconies. Two of the rooms were next to each other so we asked the purser to remove the divider so we could sit together. We were all on the Aloha deck, near the middle of the ship. The cabins were quite roomy, with a queen size bed (could be configured as singles), a TV, small refrigerator, plenty of closet space, a dressing table, a bathroom with a shower, and sliding glass doors to the balcony. The luggage fits neatly under the bed. Don't forget to ask the cabin steward for the Princess robes. They are provided only if you request them. We deposited our things and proceeded to the Horizon court for the luncheon buffet. Our luggage arrived shortly after the ship left port, although my sister's didn't get there until after dinner. We explored the ship a bit and found the location of the hot tubs, the casino, and the lounges. The public areas on the ship are marvelous and well kept. You can get deck blankets near the pool, extremely useful when you're sitting on the deck lounges trying not to miss the scenery. We chose to sit at the first seating for dinner and this worked out most nights, although Princess does offer the personal choice dining option where you are not tied to a specific time. We heard from other passengers that the disadvantage to this was that your desired time was not always available, especially if you didn't call early enough or if you wanted a table for two. We did meet another couple in the Personal Choice dining room one evening. We wanted to meet at 7:00, but instead took 6:30. The menu appeared to be the same as the main dining room. We ate breakfast in the Horizon court (buffet) every day and were pleased with the selection. The view is also quite lovely. It's a nice relaxing way to start your day. The food in the Horizon court was generally of good quality. We found some items were excellent, some just ok, but the desserts were rather bland. There was always a good variety of fresh fruit and cheeses. It would be even better though, if the staff wasn't constantly trying to sell hot chocolate or ice cream. We heard plenty of negative feedback from many passengers about this. The general feeling was that Princess could charge a few more dollars and include those items. Most people we talked to felt that they were being "nickeled and dimed". I can't imagine that the money they make on those items is worth the bad feeling it generates. Other dining options included Verdi's Pizzeria and the Terrace Grille. We ate lunch at Verdi's and found the pizza to be unremarkable, but the calzone was excellent. The Terrace Grille serves hot dogs and hamburgers, nice for a change. We only ate dinner in the Main dining room. Although the food in the Regency dining room was good, there were several days when the choices had little appeal and some of us ordered from the "always available" part of the menu. (steaks etc..) The portions seemed rather small especially on the side dishes like potatoes and although we knew we could order an extra plate if we wanted to, it was not encouraged. Our waiters were adequate, but not overly friendly, although they did seem to warm up toward the end of the cruise. Perhaps this is the result of the fact that tips for the dining room staff is now included on your cruise card. ($6.50 per person, per day) There is little incentive for them to go beyond their normal duties. Only a few of the desserts were so good that we wanted to share a taste. There were 2 formal nights and 5 smart casual nights on the cruise. Even on the formal nights we saw people in jeans or khakis, so apparently there is no dress code for the dining room. I was amazed by how many children were onboard, even babies. We tried to enjoy the hot tubs our first night onboard but the teenagers and the loud music did not make for a relaxing evening. The Itinerary After a full day at sea, our first stop was Ketchikan. We booked a horse-drawn buggy tour through Princess and upon leaving the ship encountered several "locals" who advised us that the same tours available through the "corporate giant" could have been booked for about half the price with more of the money staying with the native Alaskans. I did check out some of the prices throughout the cruise and most were a good deal cheaper than we had paid. If we go again, I'll book through the local tour operators instead. Another advantage to this is that you know what the weather is like. My sister also booked a jetboat excursion. They were a little disappointed that they didn't see more wildlife. It was an overcast day, but not rainy. We were really blessed with good weather throughout the cruise, especially considering the fact that they measure rain in Ketchikan in feet, not inches. The town itself was filled with shops that cater to the tourists. Souvenirs were quite reasonable and some native Alaskan shops had some interesting things. We stopped to sample some native Alaskan beer, but didn't like it too much, resolved to try another brand later. If you forget any supplies or toiletries, don't plan on buying them in Ketchikan. I priced a bottle of nail polish remover. It was $5.00. I decided I didn't need it that badly. Our second stop was Juneau. We all bought tickets for the Mt. Roberts Tramway and the traditional Alaskan salmon bake, and my sister also booked a helicopter tour. We planned the salmon bake around lunchtime and it was a really nice afternoon. The salmon is grilled outdoors and side dishes are served buffet style. To add to the experience, a folk singer with a very sweet voice entertained us. The helicopter tour was scheduled early in the morning and they were a little worried because the weather was rainy but it cleared slightly and they were thrilled with the experience. The Mt. Roberts Tramway tickets are good all day and the same price whether booked through Princess or at the entrance. The views are spectacular and you would miss some fantastic photo opportunities if you don't do this. Because of the rain, we didn't spend too much time exploring the trails at the top, but on a nicer day that would have been enjoyable. Of course, there were many tourist shops all over the town and another one at the top of the Tramway. I got my nail polish remover for a mere $1.50 and also got a 12 pack of Coke to go with the rum we had brought onboard. Our next stop was Skagway. A small town filled with false front buildings reminiscent of the gold rush era. Again, plenty of shops for souvenirs and the White Pass Railway. We all went on the rail ride and enjoyed it. Don't worry if you get a seat on the wrong side of the train for picture taking, you swap seats with the neighbor across from you on the way back. Another couple went on a nature hike/raft ride and had a great time. The guide was very interesting, but be sure to wear hiking boots or good walking shoes. They were a little frightened in the raft but still had great fun. The next two days were spent cruising in Glacier Bay and College Fjord. These were by far the best days for sightseeing. The weather was spectacular. We spent some time in the hot tubs and actually got a little sun-burned. It was sunny and cool, but a light jacket with a hood and a pair of gloves were all we needed. In the bay there were several whale sitings. We also saw harbor seals and sea otters floating on their backs with their babies on their bellies. Make sure you take binoculars. Our final stop was Seward, where we disembarked. The disembarkation process was very organized, with each group, being assigned a color-number group based on your next destination. The luggage was placed in the hallway the night before with the same color-number tags. When our group was called we boarded a motor coach for Anchorage, the first stop on our land tour. The bus ride was quite scenic with a very knowledgeable driver-guide. We stopped along the way at an animal refuge called Big Game Alaska. Our stop here was about 1 hour, but could have been cut to about 20 minutes. We hadn't come to Alaska to see animals in cages. Our next stop was the Alaskan Native Heritage Center, again, interesting, but an hour was too much time. By the time our bus driver returned, most of the passengers were sitting on the curb waiting. So, after getting up for breakfast at 6:30 AM, we finally arrived at the Anchorage Marriott at about 4:00 PM. We found a restaurant on the waterfront, ate dinner and headed back to the hotel because we had to meet in the lobby at 7:00 AM for our transfer to the rail station. We received a packet of information stating we should sleep in and order breakfast on the train, so we all decided to do just that. To our dismay, breakfast and lunch are served in the lower level dining compartment which has about 8 tables, so we did not eat breakfast until about 10:00 and then our table was called for lunch about 12:30. Obviously we weren't very hungry. The seating on the train is booth style, 2 benches with a table between, so that one couple is facing the back of the train. Since they have a table, it seems like a better idea for breakfast would be to offer a boxed breakfast similar to the type the airlines have or remove the tables and put in more comfortable seating. The seats on the motorcoaches were better. This turned out to be the worst part of our trip. Even though the scenery was nice, the ride seemed interminable and the itinerary was deceiving in that it mentioned a stop in Talkeetna, but did not mention that no one gets off the train there. We finally arrived at the Denali Wilderness Lodge at about 4:00 PM. We were assigned a room and given tickets for our Natural History Tour for the next morning, 6:30 AM. The Lodge is a group of rustic buildings, the rooms are adequate and the views are beautiful from certain rooms. Thank goodness we had a "good" room. We did not utilize the hot tubs since we were instructed to bring just an overnight bag, the remainder of our luggage was sent on to the next stop. Dinner was slightly expensive but very good. The tour the next morning was most enjoyable, mainly because of the knowledgeable park ranger. It was supposed to be about 3 hours, but was actually 4 hours. When we got back to our rooms the bed was already stripped. Since our motorcoach did not leave for Fairbanks until 1:30, we had lunch in the dining room. Lunch was much more reasonable than dinner and everyone enjoyed their choices. The Midnight Express Railroad and the Denali Wilderness Lodge looked so intriguing in the brochures that I can't express my disappointment in this part of the trip. Our next motorcoach was to Fairbanks. Even though several passengers begged the driver to bypass the stop at the University of Alaska museum, he stopped anyway, we rushed through and finally arrived at our last stop, the Bear Lodge. We had dinner here and even though the service was sloppy, we resolved to enjoy our last night. The rooms were very nice, but again, our wakeup call was for 5:00 AM. Our flight home was leaving at 6:30 AM. My advice to anyone reading this review is that if you choose to do a cruise-land package, make arrangements to do the land portion first and then spend the next 7 days relaxing on the ship. If we go again, we would probably do the cruise alone, or rent a car and do our own touring. The last part of this trip was grueling and not very enjoyable at all. LouWoz@aol.comJuly 2001 Read Less
Sun Princess Classic Panama Canal October 20, 2000 - October 30, 2000 Though this is our 3rd cruise it is my first attempt to write a review. I have accessed many reviews in the past and hope that this review may assist others in ... Read More
Sun Princess Classic Panama Canal October 20, 2000 - October 30, 2000 Though this is our 3rd cruise it is my first attempt to write a review. I have accessed many reviews in the past and hope that this review may assist others in determining what kind of itinerary they may want to choose. Our first cruise was the Southern Caribbean with RCCL on the Monarch of the Seas. Wonderful. The second cruise was with Carnival on the Holiday doing the Mexican Rivieria. Delightful. Now on to the Panama Canal with Princess. We boarded on Friday 10/20/00 at 1 p.m. without a single problem. No lines, no waiting, and everything was ready for us. We were anxious to get on board and first see our stateroom as we had been upgraded from a balcony cabin to a mini-suite. It was a 4 category upgrade and had done nothing out of the ordinary to be granted this great upgrade. We booked in May and at the suggestion of our travel agent we only booked a "guaranteed" cabin instead of reserving a specific cabin or location. He has seen Princess upgrade a "guaranteed" cabin a category or so but this was only the second time he had seen an upgrade like we were given. The stateroom was spectacular with 2 sliding glass doors onto the balcony. One from the living area and one from the bedroom area. Two televisions, one in the bedroom and one in the living room. A couch, chair, coffee table, end table, and desk with a chair in the living area. A corner wet bar area and small refrigerator. Bedroom area had a queen size bed, night stand, and dressing table and chair. The walk in closest also had drawers and plenty of closest space. A full length mirror was the door of the closet. The bathroom had a regular size shower stall with tile and a glass door. Also there was a large Jacuzzi tub with lighted, stained glass behind the tub. The tub was big enough for two :). The toilet and sink were in another separate room so that one could use the shower or tub while another was using the toilet or sink. The whole stateroom was beautifully decorated and we felt like royalty. I can only imagine the luxuriousness of a stateroom suite which would be twice as big as a mini-suite. We were thrilled! We had requested a large dinner group as we like to talk and make new friends. Our 6 table mates couldn't have been better. Our ages ranged from late 30's to late 60's from 4 different parts of the US. From the very first dinner to the last one we didn't stop talking, laughing and sharing our lives and experiences, on and off the ship. Kudos to whomever Princess has picking out table mates. We have made 6 new friends! First stop was St. Thomas. We had been there on our Southern Caribbean cruise and decided to go over to St. John's and snorkel at Trunk Bay. Cab ride to Red Hook ($10 for 2), ferry ride to Cruz Bay ($12 round trip for 2), cab ride to Trunk Bay ($5 for 2), fee to get into Trunk Bay ($8 for 2 for all day). All together it cost $50 for a day of superb snorkeling on St. John's for 2 of us. Trunk Bay was incredible! St. John's was an awesome island and we plan on going back to see more of it one day. Also, stop at Mongoose Mall at Cruz Bay if you have time. There are some great stores there! Next stop was Dominica, the Garden Isle. Pronounced "Dom-in-eek-a" by the locals. A beautiful island that is unspoiled. As we were there on Sunday, the stores is Roseau were closed but the market place at the pier was open for business. The merchants are a little pushy but stand down when told no. We hired a taxi for a 3 hour tour to see Emerald Pool at a cost of $30 for 2. It does cost an extra $2 per person to walk to the pool. I would not recommend this for those who are not able to walk trails and go up and down some pretty steep terrain. And it is very slippery when wet! The tour only took 2 hours but we still had to pay the $30. We should have thought of something else to do for the extra hour but the driver took us right back to the ship. I thought we should only pay $20 for the 2 hours but that's not the way it works. If they drive fast and get you back early you still pay the agreed upon price. I am still learning the tricks! Some of our table mates took the Whale and Dolphin tour and saw both. They also snorkeled at Champagne Reef and loved it. Others went to Taffalger Falls and enjoyed it too. Barbados was our third island. We had also been there so we opted to take a Catamaran Snorkeling Tour. With about 40 others we headed north on the Caribbean side of the island at 9:30 am. First stop was snorkeling with the tortoises. There were a few other boats in the lagoon but there was enough room for all. We got into the water while the crew threw in fish and the tortoises swam around with us. We were instructed not to try to touch them but of course there were those who could not resist. I had one swim by and clip me with it's fin, so it touched me, I didn't touch it!! They were large, beautiful animals and our half hour went by way too fast. On to the reef to snorkel and have a wonderful buffet lunch aboard the catamaran. Five of us even got to ride the Banana Boat which was a real hoot. One girl popped off like a cork but came up smiling. They loaded her back on and off we sent again. It was like riding one of mechanical bulls only on the water. We made our way back to the ship at 3 p.m. sunburned but happy! A great time at Barbados. Next a day at sea for a much needed rest. Only problem, I found the art auction and found out I like art. I bought my own Christmas presents for this year and next! If you like art and like good prices and still have some money left after paying for your cruise, go to the art auction. You simply cannot beat the prices on the ship. Art is duty free and Princess really does have them for 75 to 85% less than at the galleries on land. Aruba was our next port of call. We had decided to rent a 4x4 and see the North side of the island where the Natural Bridge and Natural Pool (Conchi) is. I would not recommend this to anyone who does not have 4x4 driving experience. The roads are dirt with rock and pot holes. The road to the Natural Bridge from the California Lighthouse is pretty good with the exception of a couple of really bumpy places. The North shore road takes you by piles and piles of stacked rocks that locals and tourists have placed along the shore. They are something to see! Then you go by the Gold Mine Ruins which are very interesting. Without a tour guide you will have to look up the history on your own. The Natural Bridge is a feat of nature. Hopefully I got some great pictures before the bus loads of tourists from our ship showed up. Even though there was a sign saying not to walk on the Bridge, they were all over it. I suppose one of these days there won't be a Natural Bridge. On to the Natural Pool or Conchi as the locals call it. Again I only recommend this if you have 4x4 experience as it is a rugged drive up and down trails meant for horses or ATV's. The streets are not marked to get there so be patient while trying to find the entrance. There is a small house with a small sign and I suggest you wait for a guide to follow down to the pool. There was no one home when we got there so we tried it on our own. We made it but only by the grace of God. When we finally got down where the pool is the guide was astounded that we had made it on our own. He told us a better way to get back and we were glad for the direction. The pool was beautiful and we could only imagine how much more spectacular it would have been on a sunny day. You may also want to check the tides before going down as it is better to see when the tide is out. Since we only had 6 hours on Aruba this was a fast trek. We were rushed and did not get to spend quality time as each place. Aruba is another island we would like to go back and investigate one day. In Cartagena the next stop we took the tour and saw the La Popa Monastery, the fortress or castle as they call it, the St. Peter Claven Cathedral, old town Cartagena and did some shopping at a small mall. Be sure to buy your Colombia coffee from the stores at the malls not from the street merchants. They quality is much better in the stores. The price is only a little bit higher but the quality of bean is much, much better. The price of jewelry is better in St. Thomas than Cartagena, but there is always that deal that can be made. I did get some fine leather sandals from the street merchants but had to barter hard for my price. One man was very honest and said, "Lady, you are cutting into my margin." Most of Cartagena is very poor but I still felt safe. Our tour guide tired to disregard questions about the military and police all over the city but we knew why they were there. All in all it is a very fascinating city, very rich in history. The Colombians are very proud of their heritage and history. Panama Canal was next on the itinerary and was a wonderful day from start to finish. Watching them stuff that big ship into that tiny lock was unbelievable. And each time they pulled us through a lock it was awesome. Gatun Lake was spectacular as was the Bridge of the America's and the skyline of Panama City. You will just have to experience the day for yourself and determine which part you like best. We were very thankful to have our balcony cabin and enjoyed sharing our mini-suite with our table mates and another young couple we had met who had an inside cabin. As the sun sank into the Pacific Ocean we made our way north to Costa Rica. After a day at sea we neared the Gulf of Nicoya where Puntarenes is located. Due to a couple of medical emergencies we docked the evening before we were supposed to. The next day we spent in Puntarenes, Costa Rica. Being Sunday again all of the business were closed but they had a very large market place set up. The merchants were not pushy and pretty well let us alone to chose our purchases. We decided to spend the day at the Caribbean Village Fiesta Resort on a day pass. We enjoyed food, drinks and swimming for the entire day, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for $38 per person. It is a family resort for middle upper class locals. Also English was at a minimal except for the resort workers. We enjoyed our day with the local families, many from San Jose spending the weekend at the beach. Our table mates and others enjoyed a day of rafting one of the nearby rivers, sightseeing and shopping in San Jose (2 hours drive from the ship), a river tour in which they saw monkeys, crocodiles and many species of birds (no Toucans though). The tours lasted any where from 6 to 10 hours but everyone we spoke to enjoyed them. Disaster struck that night aboard the ship. We were late pulling out of port and I suspect but cannot confirm that the ship got stuck on a sandbar or hung up on something. The tugs had to be called in to assist. While helping us, one of the tow lines snapped and critically injured one of the crew on board our ship. The Captain decided to head straight to Puerto Caldera our final port located just a few miles from Puntarenes. The crewman died before we could reach the dock. It was a somber last night aboard the Sun Princess. We disembarked at 6:30 the next morning, got onto our bus, drove the 96 kilometers to San Jose airport where our group remained for 12 hours while they tried to fix our charter plane from Los Angeles. San Jose airport was not equipped to handle an MD-11 so it took a long time to fix what was wrong. All 380 of us missed our connecting flights but the Charter Company got us hotel rooms so we could get a couple of hours of sleep in a bed while they rearranged flights for us. Many did not handle this part of the adventure well but a few of us kept our sense of humor and sense of adventure. All but the final days of the cruise was superb. And nothing could have been changed to avoid what had happened those last hours. Things just happen sometimes whether you are on a cruise, a camping trip, a weekend outing or whatever. There just comes a time you have to make the best out of a bad situation. So in remembering what a lovely time we did have and praying for families of those that died (the crewman and a woman who had a heart attack), and wishing the best for those who had gotten injured in a few mishaps, and those who had missed the ship at 2 different ports, and all of the other things we didn't hear about, we will always be thankful for the service, the food, the fun, the laughter, the new friends and the experience of crossing the Panama Canal with Princess Cruise Lines for the rest of our lives. jrr@harborside.com 11/10/00 Read Less
OCTOBER 30 - NOVEMBER 9, 2000 COSTA RICA - PANAMA CANAL - CARTAGENA, COLUMBIA - ARUBA - BARBADOS - DOMINICA - ST. THOMAS - SAN JUAN This is our second cruise, the first being last December on the Grand Princess. We are a married ... Read More
OCTOBER 30 - NOVEMBER 9, 2000 COSTA RICA - PANAMA CANAL - CARTAGENA, COLUMBIA - ARUBA - BARBADOS - DOMINICA - ST. THOMAS - SAN JUAN This is our second cruise, the first being last December on the Grand Princess. We are a married couple 50 and 55 years old. We found that most passengers on this cruise were older than us, but there were also some younger in their 30's and 40's. I think we only saw 1 or 2 children on the ship. I should mention that the ship was only 2/3 full on this voyage, which we enjoyed because there was never a problem getting a chair by the pool or anywhere for that matter. Our waiters, Hector and Eva, in the second sitting had only our table to serve, so we got very fast service and lots of attention. They were wonderful beyond words and we truly enjoyed their company every evening. The dining rooms are very tastefully done in intimate groupings so you never feel you are in a large room filled with people. The food was wonderful in the dining rooms. We had absolutely no complaints. The Horizon buffet was adequate and they did do theme lunches which were interesting. Breakfast was always very good, though sometimes cold. We loved the Sun Princess and felt it was exactly the right size for us - not too small or too large. The atrium was beautiful and very useful as a central meeting place and one of our favorite places on the ship. You could always count on meeting someone you know there before or after dinner and during the day there always seemed to be some type of game in which to participate. We both felt that the Sun was even more beautiful than the Grand. She has been kept in excellent condition and certainly doesn't look five years old. We had a room with a balcony. It was adequate for our 10 day cruise but seemed small when we first arrived. We had a mini-suite on the Grand, so this did seem a lot smaller to us. The closets were a little cramped and the bathroom was very tiny. In fact, we said it reminded us of the bathroom in our RV. We found a lot of passengers making jokes about the small bathroom size. However, after a few days, we did adjust and get a routine going so we weren't always bumping into each other. It helped that I could use the desk for a vanity and there was also an outlet for my hairdryer. Speaking of outlets, there was only one in the entire cabin! There were absolutely none in the bathroom. We did bring a power strip so we could have more outlets, but it didn't really help since everything would have to be plugged in on the desk. We had a steamer to get rid of the packing wrinkles and it was never convenient to use it near the desk as there was no place to hang the item you were steaming. The balcony was wonderful and very private. It has a table and two chairs, which is about all it could handle. We did have breakfast there when going through the Panama Canal, which we really enjoyed. Room service was extremely fast. The pools are wonderful. There are two midship. One is deep and the other is only 4 foot all the way across. The second one is where they did water aerobics every afternoon. The aft pool is very quiet and has a cover and there are four hot tubs in the rear to enjoy. We sat in lounge chairs facing the rear of the ship and watched as we navigated through the canal. It was very peaceful and beautiful. One complaint we did have was embarkation, which was worse than terrible. We left at 10:00 a.m. on Oct. 30th. Our flights were booked through Princess as were our transfers. I would highly recommend transfers if you are arriving in or departing from Costa Rica. The flight delays we had all day weren't Princess's fault so I won't even go into that. We did, however, finally arrive in Costa Rica at about 9:30 p.m. We thought this was very poor planning on Princess's part because we missed the entire first day on the ship. We had tried to change flights but they wouldn't let us because they said the papers were all printed (?). So we arrived in Costa Rica tired from a full day of travel. Everyone was very glad to get off the plane and anxious to get to the ship. We were led to a room where we were amazed to see about 8 lines a block long each where we had to wait to go through immigration. This took between 45 minutes to an hour. When we finally got through that mess, we had to get our 5 bags of luggage and drag it over to where they were stacking the luggage to go on the buses that were taking us to the ship. Then we were told to go stand in ANOTHER line about 2 blocks long to go through customs. At this point, there were quite a few disgruntled people. Finally, someone came and told the Princess passengers they could go through this other line and we walked right through customs. They loaded us onto two buses. We were in the last one. The first one took off shortly after we all marched out of the airport. The one I was on was only half full. We waited and waited and waited. Finally we asked what was going on and nobody spoke English. At last an English speaking gentleman told us that we were waiting for everyone's luggage because we were the last bus going to the ship. We sat in the bus for an hour and waited. By now, people were very irritated. When the driver and guide finally boarded, we were told it was at least 1-1/2 to 2 hours drive to the ship! It was near 1:00 a.m. when we finally arrived to see people still in line from the first bus that had left much earlier. There were only 2 people checking in boarding passengers. After checking in, we presented our passports to the immigration people after filling out yet ANOTHER immigration form and we finally got on the ship. No fanfare, no pictures, pretty much an empty ship because everyone was sleeping. We were hungry so we headed upstairs to the Horizon to eat while we waited for our luggage. The only people up there were crew members and passengers who were late arrivals like us. By the time we got our luggage and unpacked, it was way after 3:00 a.m. Not a good way to start off a cruise. I sure hope that Princess does something about smoothing out this embarkation process if they intend to keep Puerto Caldera as a starting point. PORTS OF CALL COSTA RICA (Puntarenas) We didn't plan an excursion for this port since we knew we would be getting in late and most tours left at 7 a.m. Also, we knew that there would be a 2 hour ride each way to the point of interest and after a day of traveling, we just couldn't face it. We were especially glad we had decided this after the fiasco described above. There is a little area of vendors in the port, however, which is just a short walk from the ship. We had a lot of fun here. There were musicians playing (for tips) and a lot of interesting homemade items to purchase. We did manage to drop a few bucks here and we had a wonderful time going through all the vendor's stands. PANAMA CANAL This really isn't a port since you just navigate the canal. We especially loved having the balcony. We were on the port side and were very lucky because we were on the right side of the locks and could watch the ship next to us as well as the workings of the locks and the little trains that pull the ship through the locks. The canal is beautiful. The captain (or I think it was the captain) also told us about the canal on the speaker system and points of interest. One point I thought was interesting is when they showed us the old canal that the French had started many years ago which was supposed to be all one level without locks. All in all, I think the canal was more interesting and beautiful than we had expected. COLUMBIA (Cartegena) We were very apprehensive about this port since we had heard so many terrible things. It turned out to be a very enjoyable experience. We went on the "Best of Cartagena and Fortress" tour and had a very good time and learned a lot. One thing, be prepared to do a lot of walking up some steep inclines on this tour at the fortress. It is worth it, though. You can also wait in the air conditioned bus if you prefer. Everywhere we went, there were police officers, military personnel and/or something they call tourist police that wear badges indicating that is what they are. We thought this might be done to make tourists feel more safe. We did take some pictures with them and they were more than happy to oblige. When we returned to the ship, there were two military men with drug dogs standing at the ramp. We asked if we could take pictures with them, and they were also very happy to pose with their dogs. One officer even had his dog stand on his hind legs for the picture. The Columbian people were very friendly and we enjoyed seeing everything on this tour. One thing we noted was that our guide kept repeating many times how safe the city is. We kind of laughed because every single residence and business had bars on the windows and fences around their property. Some of the fences even had barbed wire at the top. We would highly recommend this tour to anyone. One tip...don't buy anything from the street vendors. They are VERY aggressive and if you buy from one of them, you will practically be assaulted by every other vendor on the street trying to get you to purchase their wares. We had a vendor actually push open the bus doors, get on the bus, and try to sell us items while we were waiting for other passengers. ARUBA This was probably our favorite port because we had so much fun on our excursion. We took the Four-Wheel Drive Safari where you drive your own small four wheel vehicle in a caravan around the roughest parts of the island where you wouldn't be able to go with any other kind of vehicle. It was quite an adventure and we had a great group of people in our group of nine vehicles. You really get very dirty on this trip. We were fortunate that it was the rainy season so there wasn't any dust to content with, but we did have many mud holes which were fun to speed through. Everyone was covered with muddy water. The last stop on this excursion was at a beach which had very large waves and only the very bravest (or craziest) of us went in. This is a very rough excursion where you get very dirty, but it is great fun. The trails are very rough and scary and sometimes we didn't know how we all either made it down a hill in a gully wash or up a very steep grade on rocks and coral. The North side of the island is where we spent most of our time and it is very unspoiled and beautiful. BARBADOS On Barbados we took the Island Safari by Land Rover tour. You don't drive your own vehicle, but sit in the back of a Land Rover driven by your guide. It can still be very rough at times. In fact, one of the Rovers in our group got stuck in the mud and we had to pull them out. Don't wear good clothes because you do get an occasional splash of mud. This was a very enjoyable tour and we got to see a lot of Barbados that the average tourist doesn't see. On the way back to the ship, we went through the resort and mansion area of the island and the guide pointed out homes owned by celebrities. We loved this island, too, and would love to go back and visit it again. DOMINICA (pronounced Dom in EEK a) This is an island that we were really looking forward to because it was supposed to still be in a comparatively natural state. Unfortunately, we were disappointed. There were several cruise ships in port and the island had a difficult time accommodating them all. We went on the Dominica's Favorites Tour to see the two main island attractions of the Trafalgar Falls and the Emerald Pool. It seems every person on every cruise ship wanted to see the same things. The roads were terribly crowded with tourist buses and they were in terrible condition. We were one of the first buses to leave the port and the guide kept rushing us through the whole tour so that all the buses behind us wouldn't catch up. Unfortunately, they did catch up at the falls where we couldn't find a place to park the bus and there was the worst traffic jam I've ever seen (and I lived most of my life in Chicago). The roads were winding and narrow and there wasn't any place for the vehicles to turn around to go back down the hill and more tour buses just kept coming up the hill to the falls. Our bus kept dying out going up the hills and we would have to turn off the air conditioning so we had enough power to get to the top. This was one tour that we were all glad to see come to an end. The island is beautiful, however. Strangely, it doesn't really have any beaches. There was one small black sand beach, but it was also very rocky. If we went here again, we'd stay on the ship. We also had to tender at this island because there was another ship at the dock. ST. THOMAS We had been here before when we were on the Grand Princess. It is a beautiful island and we had many good memories of it. We especially loved getting off the ship and being right at the Havensight Mall. We knew we would either have a view of the mall and the beautiful hills around it or the picturesque bay and the boats anchored there. So, we were excited when we woke to open the blinds and see this beautiful island. What a disappointment when we discovered we had been stuck out in Crown Bay Port. This is an ugly commercial port. When we opened our curtains all we could see was commercial ships and dump trucks and a navy ship right across from us. There was also an oil company. It was truly an ugly view. Not only that, but we were so far away from everything that we had to take a taxi to the shopping which was $5 per couple one way. There was absolutely nothing you could walk to. So we did take a cab to Charlotte Amalie which was much closer than Havensight Mall. We liked Havensight Mall, so this was another disappointment. There were six ships in port the day we were there and the traffic was terrible and the stores were packed. Two of the ships were the largest passenger ships in the world, the Explorer of the Seas which holds 3,000 and the other was the Grand Princess which holds 2,600. A Disney ship was also in port and another medium sized ship. We had planned on going to St. John and snorkeling, but the traffic was so bad and we were so far away from Red Hook that we decided not to take the chance. Another factor in our decision was that we were sure Trunk Bay would be packed with all those ships in port. This was probably the biggest disappointment for us because we were really looking forward to this port. PUERTO RICO We didn't actually see Puerto Rico because our plane was schedule to leave at 1:10 and we had to leave when we could get a transfer to the airport. Disembarkation was very smooth and practically painless. This was more like our experience on the Grand last December and completely different from our experience in Costa Rica. All in all, we really did enjoy this cruise and absolutely loved the Sun Princess. The Cruise Director John was good, but his assistants Jackie (male) and Sean were marvelous. This was Jackie's last cruise until next January when he will be on cruises in Africa. Our only concern for the future of cruising was the number of ships and new ships. We saw such a difference between last year and this year in the ports and the crowds of tourists. If this continues, I'm afraid it will take a lot of fun out of cruising, though we still feel cruising is one of the vest values and most fun ways to travel or vacation. If anyone has any questions or comments, please contact us at the email address below. Sherry and John johnsher@gulftel.com www.gulftel.com/johnsher 11/14/00 Read Less
Northbound Alaska Inside Passage Embarkation We booked our airfare on our own (not through the cruise line) but did opt for the Princess transfers. We arrived at DFW airport in Dallas Monday morning and as we arrived I realized ... Read More
Northbound Alaska Inside Passage Embarkation We booked our airfare on our own (not through the cruise line) but did opt for the Princess transfers. We arrived at DFW airport in Dallas Monday morning and as we arrived I realized that my garment bag containing my suit and my wife's formal dress was still hanging in my closet at home. In our haste and excitement we had forgotten it. It was too late to go back for it so we knew we would have to adapt. If you place your Princess tags on the luggage they will supposedly get the bags from the airlines and transfer them to the ship. This made me a little nervous so I did not put the tags on when we flew. Arriving in Vancouver, we waited on a long but steadily moving line to pass customs and then proceeded to pick-up our luggage at the baggage claim turnstile. Princess had representatives in easy view by this area and we were told what counter to go to. I put on the Princess tags at this time and gave them to the worker at the Princess counter. There was a long line of people outside waiting for the bus transfer to the dock at Canada Place. When it was our turn we took the bus over (only toting our carry on luggage). At Canada Place we passed through several booths pretty quickly including Princess check-in and issue of the onboard cruise card and U.S. customs. We had completed all the forms on line in the Princess Cruise Personalizer but we saw people sitting on the side and taking the time to fill out the forms. Be sure to either complete the cruise personalizer on-line or mail in the pre-cruise documents you receive. We then boarded the Sun Princess, dropped our carry on bags in the cabin, and a quick glance at the Princess Patter left on our door told us there was a tour in an hour. The Princess Patter is left on your door each night and tells all the activities and shows for the coming day. It is an essential tool for your cruise. We went to one of the alternative dining locations of Verdi's (only time we ate there during the cruise) which is a pizzeria and at night offers more Italian options I am told. We had the Calzones for a quick lunch. They were made fresh and hot for us and were fairly tasty. Then we dashed to the upper decks for a ships tour which was very helpful in getting an overview of where everything is. The Ship and the Cabin The Sun Princess was built in 1995 but is in excellent condition for the most part and is a wonderful ship. I did not see any glaring cases of neglect and on several occasions saw workers cleaning throughout the ship. The accessible part of the ship is on decks 5-14 (there is no deck 13). Many of these decks contain cabins as well as other items. We booked a guaranteed inside cabin of cat k. Several weeks prior to booking the guarantee got upgraded one level to j. The ship was pretty full so I think this is the reason for only a one category upgrade. Our cabin was D333 - an inside cabin on deck 8 located toward the center of the ship and fairly close to the stairs and elevators (we used the stairs most of the time rather then wait on the elevators, need to work off some food too). We have been on one cruise before and thought this cabin was better in general. As expected it was fairly small with a typical small bathroom. All rooms have a small safe and refrigerator in the room which is a nice extra as well as a hair dryer. The bed was already arranged as one large bed when we arrived. Within minutes of our arrival our room steward came by and introduced himself. There was plenty of closet space for all our clothes without any problem. I needed some more hangers though and called our steward's number (which pages him). Within two minutes he called back and I asked him for 8-10 more hangers which he gladly brought to us 5 minutes later. They also leave a different chocolate on your pillow each night which was a nice touch. The room only had one power outlet. I have heard others recommend bringing a power strip but did not bother to, thinking ours would have two outlets for some reason. I wish I had brought a strip though because we had to unplug our alarm clock to use anything else. Now to throw in my opinion on room choice so take it with a grain of salt. Unless the difference in price to change from an inside to an outside or balcony is not much I don't think it is worth the extra money. I am saying this based on having an outside cabin on our first cruise and an inside one on this one. You do not spend much time in the cabin outside of sleeping, dressing, and bathing and the increase in price is usually noticeable. I would rather get an inside and put the money toward shore excursions. People we spoke to who had balconies even said they would still go to the deck when we got to Glacier Bay to get a good view because they could not get a wide/peripheral view from the balcony. Purchase a guarantee (sometimes called run of the ship) rate and this gives you a shot at being upgraded for no extra cost. Be sure to purchase a guarantee level that you will be happy with if you do not get upgraded. On the last day they gave a brief tour of the galley (kitchen for you land lubbers) and it was interesting to see the large pots and they handed out a paper with stats on the large amounts of food used each day. Food One of my favorite cruise activities - eating without care about calories or fat, hey, its vacation. Here is what I thought about the various food options aboard the ship: * Dining Room - The best place to eat so I ate as many meals as possible here. The waiters and staff provided great service and always were happy to bring more food or change something out. They must get paid by the number of pounds you gain because they often offered to bring people appetizers and deserts if one was not asked for (not a problem with me, I always ordered it). At three dinners I even ordered two deserts and at one breakfast asked them to bring four blueberry pancakes instead of two and they cheerfully did so. Most passengers ordered two appetizers a majority of the time. The food in the dining room ranged from good to excellent with most of it being closer to the excellent side. Plenty of options at each meal to choose from and there was a lot of seafood on the menu. Overall I was very pleased with the meals in the dining room, quite delicious. We chose Personal Choice dining which means no assigned dinner time and no assigned tables. We really liked this and recommend it. We never had a wait when we showed up for dinner and enjoyed meeting and conversing with different people each night. By a surprising coincidence we ended up at the same table two nights in a row, in the same seats, and another couple was at the table both nights also (was a 8 person table). * Horizon Court (buffet) - I would rate the buffet as average. We ate breakfast there three times, mainly on excursion days to save time, and ate lunch there only once. The breakfast food was plentiful and many choices and not bad for a quick breakfast. The lunch was average and nothing too impressive, many choices once again though. Here is a tip related to the Horizon Court. On port days, go to the Horizon Court at breakfast time and you can get deli meats, cheese, bread, mustard, and mayonnaise to make sandwiches. Bring the sandwiches when you go ashore and you have a free and fast lunch. We had brought some of the individual size bags of chips from home so took that to have with our sandwich. * Verdi's pizzeria/tratteria - As I mentioned, we only ate there one time but the Calzones were tasty. *Sterling Steakhouse - The Sterling is one of the alternative dining options on the ship and the only one that costs extra, $8 per person. You get to eat in a little quieter atmosphere. The menu has a Southern flair to it and the food was pretty good and had many types of steak to choose from. It is worth eating dinner once during your cruise. While eating in Sterlings we looked out the nearby window and saw two whales which was a nice bonus to the meal. On the first formal night we ate at Sterling's since I had forgotten my suit. On the second formal night they did not say anything when I went to the main dining room with a tie but no suit coat so I got to enjoy some delicious lobster tails. We purchased the soda sticker which is stuck on your cruise card. You just show it at any bar, to any roaming waiter, or a dining room and you can get unlimited glasses of soda (not canned). The card was $22.50 each but buying the individual sodas is $1.50 plus 15% gratuity each so is a good deal. The staff never seemed to mind serving people with the soda cards even though they get no more tip from it. Entertainment The entertainment shows on the ship ranged from good to excellent. Here are the main ones: * The Sun Princess Production Group of singers and dancers - This song and dance group starring Casey Daniel and Jamie Anderson was excellent. They performed three shows during the week, each about an hour long. They were: Words and Music (a Broadway revue), C'este Magnifque (a French themed show), and Rhythms of the City (upbeat songs about city life). The costumes and creativity was great, the dancing superb, and the singing great. The group is very talented. * Other performers - By a very funny coincidence, the first magician/comedian they had, Doug Anderson, had performed on our previous cruise three years ago. His act had changed a bit of course but had some of the same tricks. He is pretty funny and the tricks are good. He is from Oklahoma and wears a cowboy hat with his suit so has a Southern theme to many of his jokes. Tom Fletcher is a pretty funny comedian too and performs in Las Vegas a lot. His jokes about how things are on cruises were hilarious, partially because we all knew they had some truth to them. Tony Cherry also has performed in Las Vegas a lot. He is a good singer/impressionist and mixes comedy in between his songs. He sings older songs but does so in a manner impersonating the famous singer (voice and actions). Unfortunately we were not familiar with most of the singers (most were before out time but I recognized many of the songs) or it would have been better for us. What is interesting is his actual voice sounds funny but then he sings very well. Tom and Tony each had their own show and then each of them performed new material for the final show on the last night. * Other nighttime activities - We went to the Wheel House lounge some on two nights between shows and listened to the live music there. We met some nice people there and talked with them and my wife even got me to get up and dance a few times. On the last formal night they have a 'champagne waterfall' in the atrium. The waiters and other dining staff stack 790 champagne glasses in a pyramid. Then they shake up champagne bottles and spray them into the glasses. People threw streamers and it was a nice time (free champagne for you drinkers out there also). This was immediately followed by a little dance party right there in the atrium. They played some oldies and a lot of people danced. My wife even got me on video doing the old YMCA dance from the 70s. Ketchikan The first stop was at Ketchikan, a town that calls itself the salmon Capital of the World. Here we got our first taste of the "liquid sunshine" of Alaska. Ketchikan averages 160 inches of rain a year so it rains most of the time. Naturally we were no exception, it rained lightly and was somewhat cloudy the whole day. Be sure to bring a poncho with you. We also brought some zip-loc bags to keep things like cameras dry in our back-pack. There are lots of tours for sale at the dock in Ketchikan. We bought a 2-hour tour for $25 each from Northern Tours (as we planned). The bus ride stops at one point to see a bald eagle nest in a tree and an area of trees, Saxman Village which has totem poles and a live totem carver on site, stops by a creek to see Salmon, and drives past some of the sites in the town. Despite being called a village, Saxman Village is only a small gathering of some tall totem poles. There is also a shed there where a man makes the regular size totem poles by hand. Somehow I was expecting a larger place since it was called village. Our tour guide was a native Alaskan Indian and did a good job of narrating on the tour and telling us about the Indian history there. Creek Street is interesting to see because the buildings are all literally built over the edge of a creek and the board walk like street is built on posts over part of the creek. We saw Dolly's House but did not take the tour of it (a famous former brothel). We walked around the town and the salmon were fascinating. In every creek you would see them wriggling about as they tried to make their way upstream. Sometimes they jump out of the water a little. Even in the shallow creeks they would be swimming and you could see them very well. I found it very interesting. We walked to the Deer Mountain Hatchery and Eagle Preserve (there is a $1 coupon in the Ketchikan visitors guide). They have two bald eagles you can see pretty close living in a little area. The tour is guided and tells you about the salmon life cycle and about how the hatchery assists nature with it. There is also a little movie afterward. You can see the salmon pretty well in various stages in the tanks. Ketchikan is the best town for souvenir shopping as far as prices go. I expected them to be expensive but you can find some pretty well priced items. When you are embarking in Vancouver they hand you an Alaska best Buys 2002 coupon book. It has coupons for stores in the various ports so look through it in advance and tear out the ones you want to use. Juneau When we arrive in Juneau, the capital of Alaska, it rained lightly all day once more. One interesting fact I did not know, Juneau can only be accessed by boat or air, no roads go in or out of it. Juneau is where the really mountainous part of the journey really began. On our own in advance we had scheduled a helicopter glacier landing scheduled for 10:00 am with Coastal Helicopters. It was cancelled due to the weather. I learned later that day that many times the morning rides are cancelled since it rains so much there and the clouds are so low but by afternoon it clears for better visibility and safety usually. So be sure to plan your helicopter ride for the afternoon. We walked around town for a while. We saw the famous Red Dog Saloon and went inside for a minute to look around quickly. Being disappointed about the helicopter ride being cancelled I wanted to try and see if I can find one in Skagway, our next stop. We stopped at an internet cafe to do some research and for $4 got up to an hour of internet access (and it was inside where it is dry too). We had planned on riding the Mt. Robert's Tram which goes to the top of the mountain and normally provides a good view but since it was fairly cloudy and lots of low clouds we did not think the view would be worth the price so did not do it. At noon we had scheduled on our own in advance a whale-watching ride with Orca Enterprises after reading many recommendations for them on the internet. While waiting for the tour to leave I heard the worker on the phone mentioning helicopter rides for the afternoon so when she got off I spoke to her and then learned about afternoon flights being a go. Carol was helpful and called up Coastal Helicopters (who they coordinate with often) and booked us up for the 4:00 pm flight much to my joy. Our whale watch was on the Orca Express with Captain Jeff and a girl whose name I forget. They told us some about the whales and the history of the bay as we went out. We saw some sea lions fairly close. We then went on and saw groups of whales at a few different areas. When watching whales first you see the spout of water shooting into the air. Then you can see the whales back and fins. As it dives under the water a little later its back tail flips in the air and is an interesting site to see. The trip was about 3 1/2 hours and very interesting. The boat was fairly small and everyone was standing up and moving around as they pleased without bumping into each other. It was a good trip. This is a good time to mention the importance of binoculars. A pair of binoculars (we got one for each of us so we can both look at the same time, check on amazon.com for inexpensive pairs) is a must have for Alaska to bring the whales, glaciers, mountains, etc closer to you in better detail. Ours were 8 x 42 and seemed to work pretty well for inexpensive pairs. Orca Enterprises dropped us off at Coastal's office at the airport. Five passengers, including us, and also the pilot rode in the helicopter. The ride was smooth and since it flies relatively low the view was great. As we flew over the glaciers you could see the beautiful shades of blue and the crevices. We then landed on the glacier and got out for a little while and walked around a little. I had the misconception prior to this trip that glaciers are pretty flat. This is so far from the truth. They are full of crevices, outcroppings, and various shapes. The ice was a wondrous blue in many places and looking down into a deep crevice lying right there at our feet was great. Then we flew back. Although an expensive trip, it is worth it for this rare experience. Even though it was still raining lightly on us the entire time it was great. Interestingly too, glaciers have area that are dirty, the meridians. In these areas there are some dirt and rocks ground up by two glaciers meeting and coming together or on the sides. These are the areas that are easier to walk on and where you are taken. The mountains are wonderfully beautiful to behold. Snow and ice and glaciers at the top and yet so green on the lower part of it too. The clouds hang very low in Alaska and can be seen around the mountains and in some places fairly close to the ground. Skagway Skagway is the smallest of the towns. The population of abut 850 dwindles to about 250 in the winter. The town quite literally has one main street with no stop lights, very quaint and small. Miraculously, the weather finally cooperated and it did not rain for most of the day although it was a bit overcast. The White Pass and Yukon Railroad is not to be missed in Skagway. This was the only excursion we booked directly through the cruise line. The price is only a little more then buying it from the railroad but the train comes right to the ship if you buy it through them so is easy. The train ride takes you along the old White Pass railroad that was used by the gold miners in 1898. Running along side it in constant view is the skinny Chinook Trail used by the gold miners as they headed toward the mines in Canada. The train goes up past the Canadian border and then returns to Skagway, about 3 1/2 hours total. The ride is incredibly beautiful so bring your camera. You see great mountains, rivers, and nature. Through our binoculars we got a glimpse of a mountain goat. The tour is narrated and they tell you a lot about the gold rush and the history of the trail, very interesting. You can get up and go stand on the outside platform when you reach scenic areas so you can get a better picture. After that, we went to the National Park visitor center in Skagway. We saw a free film about the gold rush. They also give free walking tours of the town and a national park ranger leads it and tells you the history of the town and its famous outlaw 'Soapy' Smith. The tour was interesting. Skagway is pretty small though so our time there was plenty to take it all in. Glacier Bay and College Fjord Glacier Bay is a place the ship visits but you do not get off. We went up on deck with our binoculars and bundled up. It was not raining but the weather was breezy so it felt pretty chilly. The boat comes fairly close to a very large glacier and stops there for awhile. You could see it great through binoculars, every cutting edge and hole. We only saw small pieces of the glacier break off and go into the water, called calving. When the pieces fall off you hear a sound like a fire cracker going off as it breaks away. The water in Glacier Bay has lots of small pieces of floating ice in it from the glacier but they are too small to pose a danger to the ship. Glacier Bay was nice. The next day we went to College Fjord. The water here also had ice floats in it. At a distance we could barely see sea otters moving in the water. The day was rainy and very foggy again. I had good intentions of looking for a long time but the weather was so drizzly and the view so foggy that I did not stay on deck too long. Most of the lookers gathered on deck 7 which is a covered outdoor jogging trail to watch the glacier. Disembarkation Unfortunately all good things must end. The night before they give you luggage tags color coded to your disembarking time. You need to put your packed luggage (not carry ons) in the hall by 8:00 pm. The next morning our leaving time was 6:00 am (ughh, so early) so we got up early and ate a fast breakfast at the horizon court before leaving. Naturally it was raining some when we left but stopped raining part way to Anchorage. When we got off the ship in Seward it was very organized. Your luggage was there and you took it to the booth where the airlines had setup a check in counter. They take your luggage and give you your boarding passes and everything so you can skip all that at the airport. We had purchased the Grand View train ride for our transfer from Seward into Anchorage. The train is fairly roomy and seats four to a table, 2 on each side of the table. You can get up during the trip to better position yourself for pictures or to stretch or whatever. The windows of the train are wide and curve up onto the ceiling also. The train ride is 4 1/2 hours. The first half of it was very scenic and had some nice nature. The second half flattened out more and was nice but not as pretty as the first half. Anchorage must be the only flat spot they found so they built a city there because it is much flatter then the rest of the areas we saw. From the train depot a Princess bus takes you to the hospitality center run by Princess. You can check in your carry one baggage free for safe keeping and go explore Anchorage. Anchorage is not too exciting a place to visit really but we also had not planned much for it. The town park is right there and has some nice flowers at the entrance. We walked to the Anchorage History and Art Museum (use a $1.50 coupon we got handed at the hospitality center). The museum was ok but not real great I thought. A volunteer took us on an hour tour around the history section and told us about the Alaska history which was not too bad a tour. We skimmed the art section on our own but did not stay that long. We went to the mall for a little while to kill some time and grabbed a quick lunch at a small fast food type place (I had a cheese burger, good change after so much gourmet feasting). From the hospitality center we took a free shuttle to the airport, arriving almost 3 hours early for our 9:25 pm flight. The flight was about 30 minutes late. After a long night, we arrived back in Dallas about 6:40 am. Feel free to e-mail with any questions to cruiser@dentondavid.comSeptember 2002 Read Less
Our party of nine just returned from a 10-day Mexico Riviera cruise aboard Princess' Sun Princess and wanted to post our comments. None of us had been on a cruise ship before, we usually charter a bareboat sailboat. In a nutshell, WE ... Read More
Our party of nine just returned from a 10-day Mexico Riviera cruise aboard Princess' Sun Princess and wanted to post our comments. None of us had been on a cruise ship before, we usually charter a bareboat sailboat. In a nutshell, WE LOVE THIS CRUISE, not instead of bare boating but in addition to--it's nice to sit back and let someone else do all the work, but by doing so we lose control of the boat's itinerary (which didn't bother us here as much as it would in our favorite Caribbean haunts). Boarded the ship in Long Beach at about 2:30 p.m., there was no wait at all and we were aboard literally within minutes. Boarding began at noon, heard there were fairly extensive waits earlier in the day. We had completed our preboarding check-in forms on line, but as there were no lines anyway, didn't save us any time. When you board, each passenger files a credit card number and is assigned an electronic key card/i.d. card that is used for everything: charging drinks to the room, entry to the room, making rez at the spa, buying cruise wear at the gift shop, etc, etc. Was most convenient not to need cash for anything aboard (but bring quarters--there is a laundromat on every deck with free washers and dryers, but the detergent cost $1, quarters only!). The ship was in very nice shape overall given that she was launched in 1995 and eight years of cruising in the Mex sun is a lot of wear and tear. Carpets, curtains, and deck cushions have certainly been updated over the years as most everything looked of recent vintage. Crew were constantly maintaining paint and varnish, which we found impressive, and there were only very minor things that we noted amiss. We all had outside balcony rooms and were in 100% agreement that this is the way to go--as I recall, they cost about $1,000 more per couple, but it was money well spent. The balconies were quite functional (with two chairs and a table) and we spent a surprising amount of time there watching the ship come into port, sunsets etc. In addition, the room was comfortable enough to spend a few hours in when we got tired of having so many people around. Plus, it turned out that I could see the ocean from the bathroom mirror, which was a very pleasant way to start the day as I shaved each morning. Our party opted for the Personal Choice dining option, which was the right call as some days we felt like sitting for dinner at 5 pm, other days not until after 9. We never had a problem getting a table, even for our entire party of nine. We thought food aboard was fine, especially dinners in the Marguis dining room and the pizzas at Verdi's. Meals at Horizons were OK, nothing to get excited about and the steaks at Sterling Steak House (cost extra) no better than those in the Marquis (no cost). We thought drinks were a bit on the pricey side, with a can of beer costing $3.50 and a mixed drink more; with exception of Cabo, beers ashore were usually just a bit over $1. With the exception of the pool areas, dress aboard was usually "smart casual" (khakis and a polo shirt), but there were three formal nights (tux or dark suit). We thought the formal nights were fun, but if you choose not to participate, no worries--evening attire only required in the two formal dining rooms. Weather was absolutely perfect, sunny and 80s every single day, couldn't have been better! But probably too hot any time other than winter months, especially in Acapulco, where was 94 and humid on New Years Eve. Most people spent days ashore or by the pool while at sea (plenty of lounge chairs and attendants all to willing to bring you another drink, get there by 10 am to claim your favorite spot). Our itinerary included Puerto Vallarta, Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, Z-town and Acapulco. We had two only complaints: 1. with exception of Acapulco, the ship sailed too early in the day (in looking at other cruise lines and other destinations all over the world, the ships almost always depart whatever port they're in by 6 pm, why is a mystery to me) and 2. we didn't care for Acapulco, EVERYONE we spoke w/ would have preferred more time in the other ports of call and to skip Acapulco altogether. One of our party had a very minor problem and visited the Medical Office aboard. While the docs were very competent and professional, a very short visit cost $120, so might want to check in advance whether your insurance will cover this kind of claim. Three of our party attended the spa, two were thumbs up, one thumbs down, all said rather expensive but not outrageous (or no more so than any spa is). Note spa is by appt only and can book up well in advance so book early, PARTICULARLY for formal days--other days seemed they offered specials, more availability in ports than at sea. Only one couple in our party elected to sign up for an organized excursion organized by Princess. They did the snorkeling in PV and LOVED it, said it was terrific and worth the $$--saw loads of reef fish, dolphins and whales, were fed lunch AND had big booze party (free drinks) on way back to ship. We heard that a lot of the shore excursions sold out well in advance (some before the cruise even began), so again, advice seems to be to book early. None of us attended any of the on board show productions, so no comments there. Several of us made regular use of the 24 hr gym (which is free), never more than a short wait for the bikes, treadmills, Stairmasters, weight machines, etc. Only issue we had of note wasn't Princess' fault, was our travel agent (whom we won't be using again): a couple in our party have a 2 1/2 year old, they were told no prob as Princess has child care aboard. Yes, they do but the minimum age is 3 and there are absolutely no exceptions to this, age is verified against passport/birth certificate. So mom and dad were on board a 10-day cruise with no babysitting or childcare options whatsoever. They ended up making do and had a good time, but it was a disappointing way to start the trip. From what we saw and heard the children's facilities and programs were excellent, just make sure Jr. is at least 3! Our group consisted of four couples (late 20s to mid 40s) and the one toddler. Passenger mix was skewed toward families, a lot of kids of all ages, grandparents etc, but quite a few young couples as well, not so many singles tho some. We've heard that Princess is known for eclectic mix of pax vs. Holland (older crowd, somewhat more formal) or Carnival (younger, more casual, less sophisticated) and this seemed to be the case. Also heard that the holiday cruises are more family/kid oriented than other times, which are more party-oriented with younger pax. While we're talking about other lines, it is clear to us that Carnival should be avoided. Wherever we went, we heard horror stories of bad food, problems with things not working on board etc. In Cabo, there was an unbelievably long line of people waiting in the hot sun for a tender back to their ship, well over an hour wait, no line at all for Princess. Only place Princess dropped ball in our opinion was disembarkation. We were in port at 6 am, everybody had to clear Customs aboard ship and we were supposed to be able to go ashore at 9 am. However, a number of families/individuals couldn't get their acts together and thru Customs in a timely manner. By the time Princess staff tracked them down God-knows-where on a 1,000 ft ship, we'd missed our flights home. Turns out Princess advises not to book flights before early afternoon, now I see why. Also note that Long Beach Airport a lot closer than LAX, so if you can, might make sense to fly in/out of Long Beach. All in all, we had a great time and have already booked another Princess cruise for the holiday season 2003 (tho not to Mex, apparently was a fire on board the under-construction Diamond Princess which was slated to take over this route in 2003, looks like no Princess cruises to Mex fall/winter 2003). Maybe we'll take the Regal Princess to Hawaii? Anyway, hope this helps, any questions feel free to email me. mcattell@marottayachts.com March 2003 Read Less
DepartureFlew out of Kansas City the day before the cruise. Arrived at the airport two hours prior to flight time. It was a little congested going through scanner area but airline personnel assisted in moving people through as quickly as ... Read More
DepartureFlew out of Kansas City the day before the cruise. Arrived at the airport two hours prior to flight time. It was a little congested going through scanner area but airline personnel assisted in moving people through as quickly as possible. Security At the gate, my husband was randomly selected to be "wanded" and have carry-on searched. Being a supportive wife that I am, I proceeded down the jet way and boarded the flight. I was not missing my cruise. The screening agent was a female and she asked him if he would mind being "wanded" . His response: "Well no, in fact I prefer it." He also had to remove his shoes and when the agent found his bag of Starbucks coffee in his carryon she thought she might like to have a cup. HA. Anyway the point of mentioning the security issue is that my spouse is a 34-year employee of the airline we were flying on, we had purchased tickets and he had his company ID out. But no exceptions are made. Not a problem. Embassy Suites Very nice, comfortable property. Walking distance to good restaurants and shops to buy pre-cruise items. Good value and a comfortable way to rest up after a day of flying. Embarkation Easiest and smoothest ever. I had pre-registered everything on the Princess Personalizer so we had express check in. We took the 12:15 shuttle from the Embassy and by 12:40 we were in our stateroom. One thing that Princess lacks is having an escort take you to your cabin, however, an escort did accompany everyone up the elevator and directed them on where to find there stateroom offering their assistance when needed. We were on the Aloha deck cabin A333 with cabins above us so there was no noise from public areas. And a short walk from the Aloha bow deck. So this is where we went for the Sail away out of Port Everglades. There were only six of us on this deck when we left the port and we had a rousing send off from the Condo residents. The weather was perfect and it was just so much fun. One resident had a bullhorn and asked if all of us were having a good time. We all cheered. He advised us not to eat the lobster, as it is very fattening. LOL. We didn't listen. Anyway several condo balconies had Princess banners hanging over the railings. These folks made us feel like we were the most special cruise to sail from Port Everglades. Don't miss this one. The Cabin The cabin was considerably smaller than the mini-suites we had on Holland, however, the colors, the blues and greens of the ocean (which I love), are so eye appealing that I prefer it to HAL. The balcony was 1/3 the size of HAL but adequate for two people. I heard a young couple across the hall entering their inside cabin for the first time say "oh wow". So color scheme and decorating make a big difference in how a room appeals to people. Even the way Princess has the inside cabin doors recessed at an angle makes the hallways look more elegant. Back to the balcony. I had read on one of the boards that Princess had small, armless plastic chairs on these balconies so as recommended, I took my own canvas folding chair that folds up very compact and fits in a canvas bag. It is light weight, easy to carry and no problem checking it. I will do this again if I find I am going to be in a cabin that does not have comfortable chairs on the balcony. The Ship After checking out the cabin, we went to the Horizon buffet for lunch, which tasted pretty good. After lunch we checked out the ship. The atrium area is beautiful with glass elevator, club chairs and settees, flowers, palm trees. All of the dEcor is quite pleasing, elegant not glitzy. Even cabin hallways are attractive with the beautiful blue and green carpeting and light colored panel walls. Each stateroom has a mail "box" right outside the cabin door with each person's name one it. (I liked this) Anyway this is where all announcements like the Patter are placed each night. Pool area, even though we didn't use it, it looked quite nice and much larger than on HAL. And of course during the day the pool deck was full. Bars and lounges very nice especially the Wheelhouse. However, I prefer HAL's Crow's Nest with it's panoramic views. Dining We had traditional dining, second seating. We like to be in our room during the sunsets so late seating works better for us. We were seated at a table for four even though we had requested a table for two. Now we are not anti-social but we wanted a table for two in case we wanted to eat somewhere else or not eat at all. We didn't want to have tablemates think we were rude by not joining them. So our tablemates were a couple in the same age range. And on the first night we all agreed that if either couple wanted to dine somewhere else on some evenings that we would each understand and try to send word to the other couple or the Maitre D'. So on 2 evenings we chose to eat elsewhere, and both times I tried calling our tablemates and the Maitre D' and neither time did I make a connection. But apparently no one was offended. The service by our wait staff was excellent to almost overbearing. Because of personal choice dining the staff has fewer tables to serve so they stand and wait for you to put down your fork. Actually they took some courses away too soon. A few nights our waiter and assistant only had our table to serve. One night I didn't see any appetizer on the menu that appealed to me so I asked for shrimp cocktail. Well the headwaiter came over and said that outside of jumping in the sea to get me the shrimp he would do everything he could to get me shrimp cocktail. He then asked the other lady at our table if she would like one. She declined. And then he said just to make sure that you are not jealous, I will bring you a shrimp cocktail. So we both had one. The next night we ate some place else and the headwaiter sent out shrimp cocktail to my dinner companion. The service exceeded our expectations. Watch out for the Petit fours. Dessert did not appeal to me one evening so I just asked for Petit fours as they are always on the menu. The waiter looked at me kind of funny and I realized why, instead of getting a small plate of three or four of those pretty little pastries, they brought out an entire tray. Must have been at least two dozen on that tray and every one else had ordered a regular dessert. We got a good laugh out of it. The food in the main dining room was very good as was the presentation. The food in the Horizon court was adequate but the buffet line was rather congested and the variety and quality was not as good as HAL's buffet. Room Service We ordered breakfast in our room every morning. During our workweek we get up at 4 am and dash off for the day. On a cruise we sleep in till late, 7 or so and maybe get dressed by 10 or 11 am. So room service is a must. We had heard so much about the coffee on the Sun being bad that we brought our own small coffee pot. We thought Princess coffee was weak but not rank. Anyway, we had our little 4-cup maker and had brought our Starbucks with us and I cannot tell you what a wonderful aroma it was to have each day as we got up. The smell of the sea and fresh coffee brewing. So we will probably always take this little pot with us from now on. We also ordered a late lunch several times and always a order of the chocolate fudge cake. My favorite dessert on this ship. Entertainment We only attended one performance, a singer who sang mostly Tom Jones type songs. It was just okay. We did however enjoy the piano music in the atrium every evening. This music could be heard equally well on each of the four atrium decks. When we cruise, we are not on board to be entertained. Our entertainment consists of the view from the balcony cabin. We don't have that in Missouri. So taking in the scenery, reading a book, a couple of shore excursions and some shopping completes a perfect cruise for us. Ports and Shore Excursions Cartegana, Columbia was canceled on this cruise so our first Port was Colon, Panama. This is a dumpy looking city just outside of the Gatun locks. We had not booked a shore excursion here but wish we had as we later heard of others that took the train ride along the Canal. The pier, Colon 2000 is colorful with several shops and good prices. But lots of locals trying to lure you into their shops, hire a taxi or take an excursion. Just kind of overwhelming. So we shopped for a while and then got back on the ship. Enjoyed the next day going through Gatun locks. Very interesting. Also stood at the bow on the Aloha deck early in the morning entering the locks until it got to hot and then went back to our balcony. Limon, Costa Rica We took the eco-jungle river tour. Really enjoyed this and it was worth the money. You are taken through banana plantations on air conditioned buses and once you arrive at the river you are greeted at a park like shelter by Caribbean music and sodas and fresh pineapple, coconut, watermelon and bananas. Refreshments just before you get on the the river boats. Each boat is covered and holds 42 people. There were no bugs or insects of any kind. Saw the monkies, birds and two small alligators. It was also neat to take the river to the point that it runs into the sea. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and entertaining. Saw beautiful little brown children playing along the banks of the river. After this tour, we shopped at the market area at the pier. Bought handmade wooden products here at good prices. Also t-shirts were of better quality than those we bought in Colon and the same price. If you like haggling you can do it here. Georgetown, Grand Cayman: Much has been said about Grand Cayman so I won't emphasize much. We did the Atlantis submarine dive, 100 feet. It was interesting and enjoyable. The water in Grand Cayman is beautiful. Tried some local cuisine and bought a few souvenirs. Only problem here was tendering. There were 3 ships in port and Princess only use of their tenders and then one local tender. I assume Georgetown places restrictions on many tenders could be in port. We had a very long 30-minute wait in the hot sun. This was hard on the elderly. Princess had a table set up at the pier with cold water but the folks at the back of the line sure didn't know about it. One of the ships officers was at the pier and he expressed his anger at the tender operators for the delays. Once we arrived at the ship, it was easy to see why the delays, much time and attention was paid in assisting the elderly and handicap getting back on board safely. Cozumel: This is our favorite port. A fun place to go. Luckily the Sun docked at the new pier at the center of town. Very nice shopping area at the end of the pier and across the street. Don't even have to cross the street just take the escalator up and you walk into the shopping area which is built ride over the road. This is also were the new Carlos and Charlies is, and since there were 7 ships in port that day the town and the bars were all very crowed. Get out and about early because it just gets more crowded as the day gets long. This is our shopping port so we spent about 7 hours going into the shops and to the town square. Be sure to buy Mexican vanilla. Very cheap for a large bottle. Overall we really enjoyed the entire cruise. I fell in love with the Sun Princess. It was spring break and there were several children on board. However, we only noticed them on the last night of the cruise when some seemed to be allowed to run wild. I will anxiously look forward to my next Princess Cruise. Disembarkation Went perfectly. We waited in our cabin until the color tag before ours was called. When we arrived in the atrium area it was very crowded but we waited no longer than 10 minutes for our turn. Going through immigrations was done after leaving the ship and went quickly. Finding luggage was easy and we were assisted by Princess staff. We were scheduled on a 12:45 pm flight and we were in the airport with baggage checked and boarding passes in hand by 9:15 am. Security at FLL was much better this time than it had been in Nov. It was more organized and the wait in line was about one half hour as opposed to 1 1/2 hours. Great cruise. I highly recommend Princess. April 2002 Read Less
I am writing this review now after having given myself time to readjust to life onshore. Needless to say, my wife and I are already ready to board another cruise as soon as possible!! A little background information: we are 34 (me) and ... Read More
I am writing this review now after having given myself time to readjust to life onshore. Needless to say, my wife and I are already ready to board another cruise as soon as possible!! A little background information: we are 34 (me) and 32 (my wife) years old, and have taken a total of 5 cruises between us. One on NCL, one on Disney with our children, one previous Princess cruise, and my wife cruised twice on the old Sitmar line before Princess acquired it. We've learned that no vacation is perfect, but a cruise is darn close. You will always encounter one or two souls onboard who will complain about something, or rather, anything. There's one in every crowd (for example the woman in the laundry room who verbally assaulted us for leaving our clothes in the dryer 5 minutes past the end of its cycle - we were admonished for putting our clothes in the dryer and then leaving to grab a quick lunch - the horror, I tell you). Our quick take was that this was a wonderful 10 days, and we'd do another Princess cruise in a heartbeat. Embarkation Basically this was a non-event. We arrived at the terminal in Port Everglades at around 12:40 PM, and within ten minutes, we and the couple with whom we were traveling were processed and onboard the ship. The actual processing of our paperwork took less than a minute. We pre-registered online at the Princess website, and that greatly streamlined the process, apparently. Also, there are counters for each and every deck, and grouping of cabins on each deck. By design, there could not be any long lines. When we got into the line corresponding to our deck and cabin, there were two couples ahead of us. There was no line for the deck/cabin group next to us. The attendant motioned us over, and she processed our papers. That impressed me. The only wait, about 2 minutes, ended up being to have our picture taken for the obligatory photo op, and then the security picture taken when you actually board the ship. All in all, the embarkation was almost anticlimactic. Before we knew it, we were onboard!! Incidentally, we brought aboard 2 bottles of wine and champagne, and no one even batted an eye. First Impressions: Our last cruise aboard Princess was aboard the Sun as well, in 1995. It was her 4th sailing, and at that time she was in perfect shape. Six years later, she still is, for the most part, in perfect shape. Minor, and I really mean MINOR things. A little touch-up paint here or there (corners and on our balcony) and new grout for maybe 3 tiles by the aft pool were the only needed maintenance matters I could spot. The ship is just as gorgeous as 6 years ago, and really stands out as how ships ought to be laid out. We were a full sailing (over 2000 people) and you never felt crowded. Upon boarding you are ushered to the forward elevators, and the attendant on the elevator asks your cabin number, and takes you to the correct floor. You are then given directions to your cabin. Cabin We were in B-715, Baja deck, category BC, outside with a balcony. We were nearly all the way aft on the starboard (that's the right) side, and were concerned about this location. We needn't have been. We were very close to the aft stairs and elevators. My wife and I made a deal to not use the elevators for the 10 days, so we could justify more eating in the dining room, I suppose. We had easy access to the Riviera deck (pools) only 2 decks up, and the promenade deck was only 3 levels down. We ended up loving our location. We'd never had a balcony before, and now we'll probably always have one when we cruise. I'd wake up before my wife in the mornings, and go out there and read. I'd watch the flying fish and the dolphins, and just watch the world pass by. Unbelievably relaxing. The cabin itself is a bit larger than most cruise ships, but still smaller than some newer vessels' cabins. Completely functional, though. Had just enough closet and drawer space for a 10 day cruise. All luggage, including our oversized suitcase, fit easily under the bed. The bathroom is a cruise ship cabin bathroom-small. But totally functional, and ample space for two to store their toiletries. And as for the shower, strange shape, but plenty of space. Didn't hit my elbows or knees on the walls at all. Moreover, our friend, with whom we were traveling is 6'7'', and HE didn't complain about the shower in his cabin. Our cabin's dEcor was done in coral tones with dark wood trim, and was really a lovely, cozy haven for the two of us for the 10 days. I've read of people bringing power strips for their cabins, as there is only one plug located at the desk. My response to that is, why bother? The only things we plugged in were my wife's hairdryer (the one provided onboard is not that great), and the camcorder battery charger. Neither was used at the same time, so the one plug in the cabin is just fine. One thing we do recommend bringing is a travel clock, as the room has no clock in it. Dining We were in traditional, late seating (8:15 PM) and loved it. We have no real experience with Personal Choice, except to say that we never saw anyone waiting in the atrium for a table. It seems that Princess has refined that system. We prefer meeting the same tablemates and service staff. In this case, we had a table for 10, and if we did it over again, we'd likely request nothing larger than a table for 8. Our tablemates were very friendly, but tables for 10 are oblong, or oval in shape, so you can't really carry on conversations with folks at the other end of the table. Too large. But we all rotated where we sat for the 10 days, so we could meet each other. The food was wonderful. The lobster was perfect (overcook it and it becomes an eraser -- but Princess got it right), the beef was great, and the soups were truly innovative. Of course the desserts were out of this world, for the most part. Occasionally there would be something that I did not like, but that's to be expected. My waiter, Alex, merely told me to ask, and he'd bring out something else for me to eat. Moreover, my wife can be picky with what she eats, but Alex and the chefs accommodated her each and every time she made a request. We always left the dining room full ( or over-full), and always looked forward to each night's meal. Side note: the coffee is just fine. A bit weak, so I drank a few cups of it to make up the difference in my caffeine intake :). If you're going to have your rating of a ship rise or fall on the basis of its coffee, you have WAY too much time on your hands. Incidentally, the cappuccinos available in the dining room were strong, and quite good. We at lunch in the dining room twice, and both times it was delicious. We ordered room service for breakfast almost every day. On the last sea day, I finally wrote in something for breakfast that does not appear on the room service card. I requested eggs benedict, and they appeared, as requested. Don't feel constrained by the room service card left in your room. Ask and you shall receive. Most lunches were from the grill (incredible hamburgers and chicken sandwiches) or the Horizon Court, which had more upscale buffet food. Good, but not great, but totally adequate for lunch on pool days. On the last day, they had a sushi bar at lunch in the Horizon Court. Thumbs up!! We ate at Sterlings Steakhouse for one dinner, and it was good. The food was terrific, but the service was slow. We believe that new staff was in training that evening, and we were the guinea pigs. Oh well, such is life!! Also, pizza from the pizzeria at 12:30 AM is the perfect nightcap. Great pizza. Entertainment All cruises have one area that's not as great as the rest, and this was it for this cruise. The dancers were strong and downright impressive in all shows (how do they perform on a stage that's moving at 20 knots?), and the woman who was the headliner that appeared in the variety acts had a voice that could blow the walls of the theater (Casey something). However, some of the material in the shows was weak (someone explain to me the virtues of the show C'est Magnifique, please - Princess please put that show out of its misery), and the male lead needs to shed about 30 pounds if he plans on continuing to wear the costumes he wore. He also needs to be a tad less impressed with himself, and a bit more earnest in his performances. I couldn't look at him for too long. Fortunately, he could sing well. Tony Cherry had a golden voice, but his style is for the majority of the passengers on our trip (ages 65 and up), and not for the 30-something crowd. Overall, the entertainment was fine, not great, just fine. The one show we loved, though, was the one that was a medley of great Broadway musicals. We thoroughly enjoyed that one. Also, the comedian, Rodney Johnson, who flew to the ship in Costa Rica, was hysterical. Service: It ranged from stellar to out of this world!! Our room stewardess, Marilena was wonderful - personable and unobtrusive. Our wait staff, Alex and Gustavo were friendly and spoiled us. Alex, toward the middle of the cruise, just started bringing every dessert for the table to share. I think it was his goal to have us all gain weight while onboard. The cruise staff, namely Colin, Laura and Greg, were gregarious and sardonically funny. We appreciated that. The cruise director seemed to do his job well, but we barely ever saw him. The shore excursion staff impressed us. There was confusion over our tour in Colon, and the staff worked through the problem. The end result was a 30% discount that appeared on our final bill. Itinerary Both unique and familiar. Colon, Panama is a dirty, fundamentally unsafe city. It's pier is nice, however, and the shore excursion we took here (train ride across the isthmus) was fascinating. We were able to tour the Miraflores locks, saw the Pacific Ocean, and rode on a restored, turn-of-the-century railroad. The Panama Canal was fascinating. A little tip for viewing: go to either the Baja or Aloha deck, all the way forward. There are outdoor observation decks there that do not get overly crowded during transit of the canal. Great view without the elbows and rudeness, we think. Also, at some point, make your way down to the promenade deck to see the canal at eye level. Truly an amazing day. Costa Rica provided us with a river trip through the rainforest - the Jungle Eco River Adventure, I believe they call it. Great excursion. Saw sloths, monkeys, crocodiles, birds and the rainforest itself. All this and a beautiful bus ride to the docks through banana plantations. Costa Rica is a gorgeous country. Mountains soaring 12000 feet right near the coastal areas. Grand Cayman is beautiful, wealthy, and expensive. We rented a jeep and drove to Rum Point. Lovely spot with hammocks, wave-runners and a barbeque restaurant. Great fun. Cozumel was shopping. We got our kids' their presents, and my wife was able to purchase jewelry. I got the receipts. Such is life. :-) The selling point for us was the 4 days at sea. That is what cruising is all about. Relaxed by the pool. Never had a problem finding a lounge chair, and that, admittedly, could be due to the age demographic of the passengers. The shady spots all over the ship were always crammed, but there were always lounge chairs available in the sunny areas of the ship. We were among the youngest onboard, but we were on an extended itinerary during a month most working folks do not take vacations. On the other hand, everyone was polite, friendly, and after about 11:30 PM, we had the ship to ourselves with our friends. There were likely around 20 couples under the age of 40 onboard. We, however, liked it. The Wheelhouse Bar was a great place (loved the atmosphere there), as they played a lot of 'big band' music. It was fun to dance there, and to watch the older couples show just how great they were at dancing. Conclusion All in all, we had a wonderful time. Great food, impeccable service, gorgeous ship, fascinating itinerary (even without Colombia - which we can't fault Princess for taking our safety into consideration by removing it from the itinerary), and just a wonderful, wonderful experience. JERRS@cfl.rr.com May 2002 Read Less
Sail Date: July 2003
Just got back from an 8 day cruise from Seward to Vancouver on the Sun Princess. our family including a 16 and 19 year old had a great time. Can't say enough about the ship and crew. The food was fantastic, not a bad meal to be had! ... Read More
Just got back from an 8 day cruise from Seward to Vancouver on the Sun Princess. our family including a 16 and 19 year old had a great time. Can't say enough about the ship and crew. The food was fantastic, not a bad meal to be had! Our wait staff was lots of fun and took such good care of all our needs. We did a helicopter/bobsled excursion in Juneau through Princess with Era helicopters. This was expensive, but indescribably beautiful. well worth it! Ketchikan was fun watching the salmon swim upstream. We visited the hatchery and enjoyed learning about the salmon and seeing the injured eagles up close. Just sitting on the deck and watching the scenery was amazing. Don't forget to take a warm hat, gloves and a windbreaker and sweatshirt as it gets chilly on deck. If you have friends or family and plan to do different things on the ship, you might want to invest in walkie talkies to keep in touch. don't forget the binoculars. I would definitely do another cruise with Princess, can't say enough about all the amenities. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2003
I'll have to say up front that this was the second time we made this exact cruise the same week, so we're obviously prejudiced in favor of this beautiful ship!! This time was unusual, because I had broken my leg on Victoria ... Read More
I'll have to say up front that this was the second time we made this exact cruise the same week, so we're obviously prejudiced in favor of this beautiful ship!! This time was unusual, because I had broken my leg on Victoria Island two days before the cruise - they patched me up with some pretty major surgery and hubby and I headed for the beautiful Vancouver cruise ship terminal two days later. Hubby went and found a dear young man with a wheelchair, who turned out to be one of the dining room waiters. He sat with me while hubby went and got us lined out, and then pushed me through all the embarkation points and right to our stateroom - the usual beautiful sea-foam and pastel Sun Princess stateroom - cool, clean and comfy. Service for a person in a wheelchair was marvelous. I hope I never have to do it again, but they made it easy on us!! We love this ship with its teak promenade deck, it's teak and cushioned deck chairs, the buffalo plaid blankets for covering up against the Alaska early fall chill and the hot chocolate carts that come around to tempt us!! This time I didn't do any fitness activities, but I remember the stern pool and hot tub from the last trip, and when hubby took time off from pushing my wheelchair, that's where he'd go!! Laps walking on the promenade deck were a wistful memory for me!! Beautiful place to watch the shores of the inside passage!! Down side this trip: on our last trip the stern pool bar was open and quite a hot spot. This time it was closed, and our requests to open it met with no action. Get with it, Princess!! Maybe by now you have re-opened that excellent source of revenue for you and convenience for your passengers!! Also on the down side -- the trademark Princess ship lights on the water at night were not in operation. We missed them greatly. I hope they've resumed them by now!! Food in all venues was wonderful. Dining room services was superb. We like the Princess crowd, and it did not disappoint. Trivia was well-presented and fun. Lectures were entertaining and informative. Entertainers were talented and well prepared. A near-perfect cruise!! Read Less
Sail Date: November 2003
The Sun Princess was kept up very nicely for being made in 1995. She looked brand new. All of Princess ships are so nicely kept up. The Sun is a perfect size ship not too big not too small. This was my 19th cruise, 5th for Princess. This ... Read More
The Sun Princess was kept up very nicely for being made in 1995. She looked brand new. All of Princess ships are so nicely kept up. The Sun is a perfect size ship not too big not too small. This was my 19th cruise, 5th for Princess. This cruise was very enjoyable. All of the Princess staff were so happy and nice. They weren't faking being nice like on other cruise lines. We had great service for everything. Food: The Horizon Court buffet was awesome. Breakfast was ok, but lunch was great. You have so many choices and the taste was great. Lots of pastas that I love. Dinner was pretty good. I'm always too full for dinner anyway. We had a great waiter from Mexico. Princess has such nice dining rooms. Very cozy! Not big or loud like on other cruise lines. Princess now has in the Horizon Court at 4:00 to 5:00 a snack. You can have gilled sandwiches of your choice and pizza. Also, they have ice cream. This was a nice little snack. Did I mention those sandwiches were awesome? If you were still hungry after dinner, the Horizon court had dinner up to 10:00 pm. Some times they had the same food as in the dining room. After 10:00 pm they brought out sandwiches. I would eat every two hrs on this ship. You will never go hungry on princess like you do on other cruise lines. Food is everywhere! Also, if you can go one night to the Sterling Steak House. It was only $8 for as many steaks as you want. They were huge and were the best steaks I ever had and I hate Steak. You also get salad which is huge too and very good cheese cake. These steaks are similar to Ruth Steak House or the Claim Jumper. Totally worth the $8. The Chicken was so so. Also, the Coffee in the Dining room is very good. Try it once! Entertainment: The Entertainment was very good on Princess. They use to suck, but have gotten a lot better. They been having more Comedy. Since Carnival has bought out princess they really improved since last year in everything. Including their entertainment. Some people we saw were: Phil Tag Comedy, Tony Cherry Vocal impressions, Carnival Entertainment comedy James the kid Michael, funny person and Billy Garan Comedy. They also had some evening movies in the Vista Lounge like you're at the movies. Cabin: Our cabin was B519 inside middle of the ship. I like the front so I can feel motion. With this cabin we had we never really felt motion. You have lots of space for your clothes. This cabin is so big. I was use to the Sprit of Alaska on Cruise West. Their cabin was the size of princess bathroom. Don't complain about the bathroom being small because on the Cruise West their bathroom was the size of princess shower. So Princess has some big bathrooms and cabins. Ports: St. Thomas: a nice port. Nice beaches. No beggars that I hate. Good Island Dominica: Very pretty Island looks like Hawaii. We did the tour that takes you to some falls. Nice place! The city was kind of scary, so I won't go into the city. Barbados: We did the 4 wheel drive safari and monkey encounter that was fun. Fun ride bounced around a lot. It was like Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland. The monkey encounter was just a zoo. And we did not see any monkeys. But the drive was fun. Not too many beggars in Barbados. Isla Margarita: Down by the dock they had some nice shops very cheap prices and good stuff too. They weren't in your face trying to sell you stuff. They had a small beach by the ship, but looked sick. My sister and my Mom went on the beach tour and they had people in their face selling them stuff. Their were 50 venders on the beach. The only way to avoid them were to pretend your sleeping or go in the water which was cold and very rough. You had to stay there for the three hours too. My sister got her money back. She said it was similar to Colombia. By the ship dock was fun and safe with no beggars. Curacao: Was disappointing I thought it would be like Aruba. Not to much to do there except shop. We had such a nice time that I'm going again to the Eastern Caribbean on the Golden Princess on Jan 10 sailing. I'm sure I will like it as much as I did the Sun Princess. And I get free Internet now! The Sun Princess was a lot of fun and I thought it was the best ship out of the all the Sun Class ships that I have been on. I really think that Princess has improved in food, entertainment and their employees. If you go on the Sun Princess your going to have a great time. Brian Lashchuk Bdadylash@aol.com Read Less
Sail Date: November 2003
My overall rating of this cruise is an 8 ½ out of 10. Before I go in depth, a few general comments: My wife and I stayed in cabin B428 and my parents were in cabin B429. We like to be on opposite sides of the ship to ensure we see ... Read More
My overall rating of this cruise is an 8 ½ out of 10. Before I go in depth, a few general comments: My wife and I stayed in cabin B428 and my parents were in cabin B429. We like to be on opposite sides of the ship to ensure we see 'both views' (seriously). These are category AC mini-suites. We chose Personal Choice dining. This was our 3rd Princess cruise; the first two were on Grand and Golden Princess respectively. Captain Alan Wilson (a.k.a. Captain Lead foot) was at the helm. Simon Weston (who?) was our cruise director. The Ship: My opinion here is somewhat skewed. Sailing Grand and Golden Princess prior to Sun Princess; I was able to notice her age. The ship is in wonderful condition; however, Princess experimented with new ideas in the Sun class ships and then perfected them in the Grand class. For example, the flow in Horizon Court is much harder to navigate with the drink stations within. Also, having only one entrance and one exit seemed to cause 'traffic jams', especially during the afternoon ice cream bar. I did miss Explorers Lounge and Shooting Stars seemed to be out-of-place. There seemed to be a lot of congestion after shows let out. More so than what I remembered on the Grand class. Here again I feel as though Princess perfected this in the Grand class. I was most surprised that deck chairs were hard to come by. Possibly we were always lucky on the Grand class to find them. Sun Princess has Verde's. This is an absolutely wonderful restaurant. I am a huge fan of Princess Pizza, and here I could have it for dinner or a late night snack. Verde's staff was extremely nice and helpful. Across from Verde's is the casino. I frequented the craps table on a nightly basis, which had a wonderful view of the rotunda capped by a roulette wheel, very nice touch. A staircase led down the rotunda to the promenade deck, where all the lounges are located. I like this design a lot. Grand class ships, force you to walk through the casino to get to Princess Theatre. Sun class ships, the casino is uniquely tucked away but easily accessible from the atrium, or the rotunda. Both Sun and Grand class ships have their pros and cons. Given a choice, I would sail the Grand class before the Sun class. Bottom line is, a cruise is a cruise, the thing could be sinking and I would still find a way to enjoy myself. Entertainment: The quality of the entertainment was top notch, as I have come to expect from Princess. The performers are spectacular. I had seen two of the shows on the Grand class ships. Albeit, the performance was great, the technical aspect of the shows were lacking. That may be due to the theatre was not as equipped as the Grand class theatres. Shows are repeated the next night. I guess it would be too much of a strain to have a new show each night on a 10 day voyage. This aspect seemed to slow down the pace of the cruise. This did allow me more time to donate to Princess Casino. Aforementioned Simon Weston is the cruise director. I found him to be a great disappointment. I noted earlier (who?) after his name. He was hardly seen from my perspective. After a show to wish us a good night or occasionally on the good-morning show is all I saw of him. In my opinion, the cruise director is the ambassador of the cruise line, to its passengers. I felt as though he did not serve this roll at all. It was even noted one night by one of the hired comedians, how Sun Princess had the most assistant cruise directors out of any other ship he preformed on. He went on to say that it was probably to make up for the cruise director. It was meant as a joke, but since it was his last voyage on Sun Princess, there may have been some truth behind it. On both Grand and Golden Princess, we were fortunate enough to have Allister Green for our cruise director. I don't think the man sleeps! He was everywhere. No matter what was going on, he always found a way to be there and mingle with the passengers. Crew: Captain Wilson (Lead foot) was the exact opposite of our cruise director. I think I saw him more than Simon, not that it would be a great accomplishment to do so. I call him Lead foot only because he got us to every port at least a half hour early! He has a wonderful presence on board with the passengers. At night, one could find him at all the shows, the casino, even Karaoke night! Our cabin steward was Oscar Leyson. By far the most attentive steward we have ever had. We nominated him as the crew member who made the difference for us. I hope more of his passengers did the same, he deserved it. All we had to do was ask, and it was done. No questions, no hesitation, no excuses, it was done. We found the rest of the ships company to be very friendly and helpful. While in Horizon court, if you want a sandwich, ask for Ariel. Living in the Philadelphia area, I am particular about my food, especially a hoagie. He could get a job in any hoagie shop. He made a wonderful hoagie and with the freshly made roll, it even tasted like Amaroso's. Ports: Curacao: The town of Willemstad is very picturesque. We spent the day walking the town and watching people running to make it across the floating bridge before it yielded to boat traffic. This was our first of five ports in as many days. After two days at sea, walking the town was enjoyable. The locals are very nice and like to talk to visitors and tell about their island. This seemed to be the case at every island, and is why I really enjoy the Caribbean. The salespeople in the store like to haggle, (as do I) which made shopping with my mother and wife a little more fun for my father and me. Isla Margarita: Sun Princess arrived after Volendam (1 hour early) but had to tender due to a 1 ship pier. We opted to take the Discover Isla Margarita tour. It is $29. per person for a half day. I highly recommend a tour here, only because the pier is about a half hour from the closest town. Our tour guide was Mario. When we left he said he has a bad habit of returning late. To his word, our tour was on the last tender back to Sun Princess (15 minutes late, another reason to take a Princess tour!). He showed us the Island from his perspective. The island is scenic. My favorite stop was the old fort. It sits high in the hills and overlooks the sea with a panoramic of La Asuncion. Isla Margarita is known for pearls (margarita). The tour includes a stop at a restored villa that serves as the islands pearl 'headquarters'. While there, make sure you hold one of the parrots, just don't try to pet them! The island is arid but lends itself to lots of pictures. There is a lot to be discovered and I am glad we did not pass this port by. Barbados: Hindsight 20/20, we should have rented a car and explored the island. With 6 ships in port we decided to walk Bridgetown. It was a nice walk into town, a little hot. Town was very crowded. For anyone looking for Lladro, Barbados is a wonderful port for it. I regret not going over to see Sam Lord's Castle. I did hear (from where I don't recall) it has fallen into disrepair. I find this hard to believe, but I intend to see for myself the next time we go. Dominica (Doh-min-ee'-ca): If you read through all the tour descriptions, each of them says you might get wet. The island averages over 350 inches of rain per year. Do the math; it's almost an inch per day! If you get off the ship, or even stay on it, YOU WILL GET WET! With that said, Dominica is the most beautiful island I have ever been to in the Caribbean. The natives are very happy to talk about their home, and rightfully so! We went on the Trafalgar Falls and Roseau Highlights tour, $29. per person. Our guide was great. Albeit, the infrastructure is not for the faint of heart. Once you get used to the panoramic view supplied by the 50 foot cliff you are driving on the edge of, you will thoroughly enjoy the 30 or more shades of green, the endless rainbows and the abundant flora. The interior of the island is reminiscent of Hawaii. Tropical fruit are an arms reach away, and chances are they are not owned, and may be picked for a snack. Another favorite is Kubuli beer. It is a native brew on the island and is comparable to any microbrew here in the states. The government of Dominica is strongly against any industrialization. Hopefully they will be steadfast in their belief and keep Dominica pristine. St. Thomas: Here my father and I parted ways with my wife and mother. They got the credit cards, we got the golf clubs. Despite the 12,000+ passengers combined in port, they seemed to do very well in town with all the bags they returned with. This was my first time playing Mahogany Run. I had a blast! This is also my first year playing golf, so understand my sense of accomplishment when I boast my 117 score. Bring your camera and beware of the iguanas! Devils Triangle was awesome. I wish they had more holes overlooking the sea, however, it made the 14th all the more breathtaking. An extra sleeve, or two, of balls is a must. There is no secret here the fairways are narrow and unforgiving. Accuracy is the key. Princess Cays: I will sum it up with a weather report: Overcast, chance of periodic rain, high of 72F. It was a wash-out. We did manage to get some nice pictures and we explored the other side of the island. As our tradition, we booked our next cruise. Thanksgiving on Coral Princess 2004 is less than a year away! I hope everyone finds this to be informative and I will happily answer questions should they arise. To all of you who are sailing soon, enjoy!!! Read Less
Sail Date: January 2004
EASTERN CARIBBEAN Sun Princess - January 10, 2004 St. Thomas - St. Maarten - St. Vincent - Barbados - Antigua Introduction My wife and I are 54 years old. This was our eleventh cruise. Our previous cruises have been: Princess - Eastern ... Read More
EASTERN CARIBBEAN Sun Princess - January 10, 2004 St. Thomas - St. Maarten - St. Vincent - Barbados - Antigua Introduction My wife and I are 54 years old. This was our eleventh cruise. Our previous cruises have been: Princess - Eastern Caribbean, Alaska, Panama Canal, Bermuda, Mediterranean Royal Caribbean - Western Caribbean Holland America - Mexican Riviera Getting there We made our own airline arrangements with Southwest Airlines and arrived the day before the cruise. Arriving early has plenty of advantages: you do not have to worry about airline delays; if your luggage is misdirected, there is an additional day for it to catch up; and, you can decompress from traveling before starting the cruise. We stayed at the Comfort Suites Airport & Cruise Port. We have stayed there numerous times and have not been disappointed. The hotel provides shuttle service from the airport and to the cruise terminal. There are many restaurants, grocery stores, liquor stores and at least one pharmacy within walking distance. Embarkation Our shuttle was scheduled for 10:30 a.m. and we arrived at the terminal sometime before 11:00. We handed our luggage to the longshoreman and watched as it was placed in the transport bin. There was quite a line at 11:00 even though the boarding process would not begin until 11:30. We had preregistered on the internet which made registration simply checking forms and signing documents. Unlike last year, there was no Bahamian immigration form to complete. From the time we entered the terminal until the time we were headed to our cabin not longer than 20 minutes elapsed. The ship and our cabin The ship is beautiful and not showing her age (1995) a bit. Captain Bob Oliver was in command of the ship. I am again amazed that a ship can transport 2,000 passengers every week of the year for more than 8 years and still look as good as the Sun Princess. There is an ambience of comfort, class and reflection throughout the ship. The ship is incredibly well designed as are all the Sun class ships. There are very few moments during the cruise when you have any sense that there are approximately 2,000 other passengers sharing the experience with you. The dining rooms are designed with dividers and level changes mixing tables of different sizes to create a feeling of intimacy even though there are about 500 other diners present. Our cabin was located on the Baja deck, B316 which is an interior location. The cabin was small but, considering the amount of time we spend in our room, it was more than adequate. The cabin can be made up into a queen bed or twin beds. Due to the configuration of the cabin, the shower was the largest we have ever had with an inside cabin. It took longer than normal for the luggage to arrive. I heard security screening was causing the delay although I have no first hand knowledge of that fact. There were no storage problems. The suitcases fit under the bed and there is ample closet and drawer space for clothing. Each cabin has a television with limited programming including recurring programs on the ports, shopping and excursions. The televisions have a video port which we used to review our digital photographs. Unlike the verandah cabins where the desk, dresser, night stand, and television/refrigerator area are all the same height, there was a floor to ceiling cabinet which holds the television at the highest level, the refrigerator at the lowest level, and a shelved section with a door in the middle which contains the safe and a fair amount of storage space. The hair dryer is located outside of the bathroom on the wall next to the desk area. There is one outlet over the desk and that is it in terms of regular outlets. There is a plug designed for multiple shaped plugs in the bathroom which is marked for shaver use only. The ship is 857 feet long. After looking at the hallway outside of your room and realizing how many times you are going to walk that hallway you might want to spend some time considering your room location before booking your cruise. There is a laundry room on each floor. Each laundry room has two washers, two dryers, an ironing board and an iron. Food The food was consistently very good. There were a few occasions when the food was outstanding but, more importantly, there were no occasions when the food was not good. Each night the menu contained an excellent variety of items. I am spoiled, living in the Midwest, by the quality of beef that I have grown accustomed to eating. The beef onboard was not bad, it just does not rise to the level of the beef I am used to eating at home. On the other hand, the quality and variety of the seafood served at dinner was excellent! There are only so many things you can do for breakfast but each day the kitchen staff was able to come up with something new and interesting on the breakfast menu in the dining room. The menu for lunch in the dining room included fuller meals that would be considered dinner as well as contemporary lunch items. Again, the variety was excellent and the food was well prepared. To be honest the service at breakfast and lunch in the dining room was not the same quality as the dinner service. We enjoyed having breakfast and lunch in the dining room whenever time permitted. Being served while meeting fellow cruisers is a lovely way to enjoy breakfast and lunch. The conversations with the other passengers seem to add to the entire cruise experience. The Horizon Court is a buffet which is open around the clock. It was okay but we didn't think it was anything special. If you were to compare the Horizon Court to the Lido Buffet served on Holland America ships, you would find that the Horizon Court pales in comparison. We only ate in the Horizon Court when scheduling required it or we were looking for a quick snack. The Riviera Grill is located outside above the main pool. It serves grilled items - hamburgers, hot dogs, grilled chicken, bratwurst etc. We only ate there once and it was fine. The Riviera Grill closes at 5:00 p.m. so that it can be transformed into the Sterling Steakhouse. Sterling Steakhouse has increased its charge to $15.00 per person (it had previously been $8.00). We have dined at the Sterling Steakhouse on each of our three previous cruises on Sun class ships and thought that the extra $8.00 charge was not bad. We were shocked by the $7.00 increase and did not feel that what we had experienced in the past warranted the $30.00 surcharge per couple. The pizzeria serves a very nice pizza and they have expanded the menu to include some pasta items. I have to wonder why they do not have a standard Italian sausage pizza. The pizzeria was quite busy during the cruise and has obviously become a favorite alternative dining venue. Service Friendly and efficient describes the overall service. This description certainly is appropriate for room steward. Our waiter, Dorin, and assistant waiter, Alex, were very good. Our waiter had a wonderful personality and dinner was eagerly anticipated each evening thanks to our dinner companions and our wait staff. I must mention our dinner companions: Dave & Cindy, Ned & Vickie, Marvin & Edy and Ken & Cheryl. They were absolutely wonderful! The satisfaction of the entire cruise was raised to another level due to the camaraderie of the dinner table. A "small world isn't it" story is in order here. Ten to twelve couples on this cruise had been corresponding on a cruise chat board for some time prior to the cruise. The first night at dinner while conducting introductions we learned that a couple of us from the cruise chat group had been seated at the same table for dinner! Often overlooked are the personnel working the Purser's Desk. These people were always friendly and helpful. Excursions About six weeks before the cruise, Princess sends a list of all available excursions. You can book your excursions at that time (by mail, facsimile or over the internet). We booked one excursion on the Princess home page and our excursion tickets were in our cabin on arrival. We also booked two other excursions independently and we arranged two more excursions after arriving at the port. If you are considering a tour of a town or a tourist site that carries no risk and can be easily reached by taxi, you may want to consider touring independently. Alternatively, if the tour is unusual or runs the risk of delay or physical injury, you should consider booking with Princess. If something goes wrong, and you are on a Princess excursion, Princess will work it out. If you are on an independent tour and something goes wrong you are on your own. However, when the risk is minimal or non-existent, the Princess excursion will cost you more; it will be less personal; and, the delays will be exasperating. We have learned that when the situation is right we can see more of what we want to see in less time with a lot less aggravation at a much better price by touring independently. If you cannot decide whether to book a Princess excursion or to tour independently, you can book the Princess excursion and cancel onboard if you choose to tour independently. Be aware that canceling an excursion must be done by the deadline (usually 24 hours prior to the excursion) to avoid a penalty. Entertainment Dan Gibbons was the Cruise Director. He has a lot to learn about being a cruise director. He was not the worst we have experienced but he was far from the best. His morning show appeared to be directed to children on Saturday mornings rather than adults many of whom where on the far side of middle age. The entertainment was the usual mix of production shows, singers, and comedians. The production shows were excellent. The singer who we most enjoyed was Tony Cherry. Can he sing a ballad! The comedians ranged from very good to truly terrible. After leaving Ft. Lauderdale we encountered very windy conditions. Our first stop was Princess Cays but the chop on the water was severe enough that the Captain determined that tendering would be too dangerous and uncomfortable. Princess Cays has been a scheduled stop on three of our cruises. Only one of our ships have dropped anchor for Princess Cays. Each day at sea there were two sessions of bingo. The basic pack of three cards for each of five games ran $20 per session. The sessions get more and more crowded as the cruise goes on because of a roll-over on the last bingo game. The prize reached $3000 before someone won it at the last session. Art auctions have become as much a part of cruising as bingo. I was pleased to note that the hype concerning the art auctions was greatly reduced from our previous cruises. One of my frustrations was that the art for the auction was stuck everywhere on the ship detracting from the beauty of the ship and its own display of art. Princess seems to have heard these complaints and has greatly reduced the auction art which it has on display. Our first port was . . . . St. Thomas - we were docked from 7:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. St. Thomas is a mandatory stop for every cruise ship anywhere near it. The West India Company dock, which is the dock near the Havensight Mall, can only accommodate three cruise ships. Others have to anchor and tender passengers. The old submarine base at the other end of the harbor is now being used to dock cruise ships. It is called Crown Bay and there is a major remodeling effort in progress. I suspect when it is completed it will be similar to the facilities that have been built at St. Maarten. Crown Bay is where we docked. St. Thomas is not one of my favorite ports. It is too commercialized. The vendors have become too aggressive. There are too many visitors. I have wanted to ferry over to St. John in the past but events have prevented me from doing so. I was able to do it on this trip. There are no signs indicating where the ferry to St. John's boards in Charlotte Amalie. If you walk to the ferry terminal building you have taken a fairly good walk for nothing. There are several counters for ferries located in the ferry terminal but none of them go to St. John. The ferry pulls up in front of the stores (Little Europe to be precise) facing the bay and they sell tickets as you board the ferry. When they leave, no trace remains. The ferry ride over to St. Johns is 40 to 45 minutes from Charlotte Amalie. It is a nice ride with the beautiful shoreline of St. Thomas to observe on the way over. Once on St. John there are plenty of taxis. All of them appeared to be open jitneys. There is no negotiating for a fare. The fare is $16.00 per person for the standard tour which is a loop running along the shoreline and then back on the interior road or vice versa. Lots of wonderful beaches! A really beautiful place. If you want to get away from the shopping and hustle of St. Thomas go to St. John. St. Maarten - we were docked from 7:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. St. Maarten has constructed a wonderful new cruise terminal since we last visited. It appears to be able to dock four cruise ships at one time. A water taxi continually runs from the cruise terminal or you can walk or take a land taxi into town. There are a few shops in the new cruise terminal. We wanted to take the Rhino boat excursion in St. Maarten. We probably could have booked it on our own but chose to book it through the ship. Our reasoning was that it was across the island meaning that we would have to get a taxi if we were to do it on our own which would probably eat up any savings. It is the type of activity which could result in problems - injuries or delays. Booking with Princess meant that any problems became the problems of Princess. Finally, when an excursion has limited numbers (I presumed Rhino boats would have limited numbers), the cruise ships usually get first availability. I did not want to risk being squeezed out by the cruise ship excursions. What a good time we had. Rhino boats are small, inflatable, semi-rigid boats for two people. Each has a 25 hp engine and they go like the wind. Skidoos are impeller driven water cycles. Rhino boats are actual boats with outboard motors although you sit in them like you would sit on a Skidoo. Each group of Rhinos has a leader and you motor up the coast beyond Marigot. You stop for 45 to 60 minutes of swimming, snorkeling or wandering on a beach. Then you head back as a group. Everything in the boat gets wet but storage is provided at the office for anything you want to keep dry. St. Vincent - we were docked from 10:00 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. St. Vincent was a new stop for us and we think it is a winner! Making independent arrangements for an excursion was a little difficult because there is not much information available regarding private excursions. We were really fortunate to link up with Dani and Norris, gotalife@caribsurf.com, home (784) 457-5237 cell (784) 455-5556. They run a taxi service and have a guest house. They also provision yachts. Dani conducts the business end of things and Norris gives the tours. We certainly recommend them. St. Vincent has yet to succumb to the influence of tourism and the corrosive nature of tourist revenue. Our tour started with a drive to Montreal Gardens. The drive provided us with a good idea of the island and its population. We drove through small communities, around mountains, though valleys and saw persons in their daily routines farming, shopping and carrying produce to market. We drove up the Mesopotamia Valley to Montreal Gardens. Montreal Gardens are privately owned by a Welshman who takes great pride in maintaining, expanding and improving them. Originally, the gardens were a plantation but have been transformed by their owner into a delightful garden spot in the mountains. There is a collection of flora and fauna reflective not only of the island but the entire Caribbean. The walkways throughout the gardens are well maintained. From the gardens we drove to the windward side of the island and observed the black sand beaches. The black sand is the result of lava that has been ground into pumice by the action of the waves. The color of the sand causes it to absorb and retain heat making it uncomfortable for beach use. The wave action and tides make swimming on this side of the island dangerous. Our tour looped south along the shore until we returned to the villages on the outskirts of Kingstown. We stopped for lunch at a lovely restaurant directly across from Young Island before returning to the ship. Barbados - we were docked from 7:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. We visited Barbados during our cruise in January, 2003. At that time we booked an all day excursion with Glory Tours (www.glorytours.org). We were so pleased with our tour we booked them for this trip. We were picked up outside the entrance to port. We arrived at the Signal Station before the tour buses arrived which gave us extra time to explore and take pictures. We then went to Earthworks Pottery and watched as the pieces were being made. We crossed over to Bathsheba and Cattlewash. This is one of my favorite places! What a breathtakingly beautiful spot! We stopped for lunch at a local eatery near the beach where we had a very good lunch. We then moved on to Orchid World. Orchid World is a large complex devoted to the growing of orchids. There are more orchids located in this one place than you can possibly imagine! Our last stop on the tour was the wildlife preserve. The monkeys, deer, tortoises, and agouti all run free. The place appeared to have run down a bit from our visit the previous year. A word of caution - the roads returning to the ship get very busy around 3:00 with a mix of business traffic, school buses and tourists running to their ships. Do not cut your return time to the ship too close. We left Barbados and sailed to . . . . Antigua - we were docked from 8:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. I had loosely arranged to meet a cab driver/tour operator to drive us around the island. We were late disembarking and I learned that he had left on a tour. He had, however, left us in the hands of a great tour guide, Lawrence of Antigua, http://lawrenceofantigua.com/. I was excited about returning to Nelson's Dockyard which I had experienced on an earlier visit to the island. It was a living history museum recreating the time when Admiral Nelson maintained a major shipyard here to keep the very young American government in check. There were two other similar bases one in Bermuda and the other in Nova Scotia (I think). To my shock and dismay, the living history aspect has been replaced by businesses catering to the luxury yachts which now anchor in the harbor. Of course, the historical aspect is still present but it is now more like an afterthought rather than being the soul of the place. Shirley Heights, which was part of the base, remains another of those places that are breathtakingly beautiful. In the vicinity of Shirley Heights, do not miss the Dow's Hill Interpretation Centre. There is a nice animated presentation encapsulating the history of the island. Lawrence took us out to Devil's Bridge which is an interesting geologic formation created by the pounding surf. It reminded me of the natural bridge in Aruba but I found it much more interesting because of the way the water has honeycombed the rock of the entire area. Returning to the ship we stopped at Betty's Hope. This was Antigua's first sugar plantation dating back to 1650. There are twin windmills which you can explore. One of the buildings contains exhibits regarding the plantation and sugar production. Two days at sea before we returned to . . . . Ft. Lauderdale Debarkation was very smooth. We walked through the various check points collected our baggage and we were on our way. Conclusion The Sun Princess is a wonderful ship! Of course, we are a bit biased as we love the Sun class ships of Princess. This is our fourth cruise on one of the Sun class sisters. She has been tastefully appointed with an understated elegance. The staff is friendly, efficient, and first class. If the opportunity presents itself, we would certainly cruise on the Sun Princess again. Princess is a wonderful cruise line which does so many things right. When you spend as much money as you do on a cruise and take hard earned vacation time you expect the experience to be something very special. Princess understands this and does not disappoint. We would be happy to answer any questions. Just drop us an E-mail. Bill & Lu Schwartz schwartzbill@yahoo.com Read Less
Sail Date: January 2004
This was our fourth cruise on the Sun Princess and our 14th cruise in all, 13 of them being on Princess ships. This review will not be a comparison of Princess to other carriers but a subjective review of Princess and the Sun. Pre Cruise ... Read More
This was our fourth cruise on the Sun Princess and our 14th cruise in all, 13 of them being on Princess ships. This review will not be a comparison of Princess to other carriers but a subjective review of Princess and the Sun. Pre Cruise - Being from the snowy North (Michigan) we opted to fly into FLL a day early. We booked a pre cruise as offered by Princess at the Marriott North in Fort Lauderdale for $69 pp including all transfers. The rooms, if booked separately were over $200 per night. The Princess package was an exceptional value. We were picked up at the Hotel at about 12:45 on sailing day. The ride to the ship was about 20 minutes. Embarkation - Embarkation was a breeze, as always. From the time we got off the bus until we were on the ship was about 10-15 minutes. The only bad experience we have ever had with Princess embarkation was in New York City. We had lunch in the pizzeria - our luggage arrived about 3:30. We had an inside room as we normally do. Since we only sleep and shower in the room we don't feel we have to go the extra expense for an outside or balcony. There was adequate room to store all of our stuff in closets and drawers and our luggage under the bed. We had 2 29" pullmans, 2 airline carryons and a medium size rolling duffel. Yes, we always pack too much. Our cabin steward Jose fixed us up with robes and hangars and a few other requests in a prompt manner. I noticed some loose hinges on the closet doors and asked Jose if he could get them fixed. An hour later a maintenance man was in the cabin repairing the hinges. After unpacking and muster we went up to Topsiders at sailaway to meet some fellow cruise critics and have a sailaway drink. Ship condition - The ship was in excellent condition, as it was on our first Sun cruise in 1997. Crew was constantly painting and refurbishing deck chairs and boxes. Food - The food, as always, was excellent - not true gourmet quality, but as good as or better than most 3 and 4 star restaurants that we have dined in. It looked as if they had some new items on the menu. We usually eat all of our meals in the dining rooms as opposed to the Horizon Court buffet. We think the food is better, hotter and we enjoy being waited on. Ice Cream - I know there are a lot of complaints about having to pay for the Hagan Daaz ice cream. The Princess ice cream is made on the ship and is better than Hagan Daaz and can be had with breakfast, lunch, dinner and at 3:30 in the Horizon Court - How much more ice cream does a body need? Entertainment - The production shows were the same as we have seen on previous cruises but with different singers and dancers. We still enjoy watching them perform. We had seen the comedian and singer on previous cruises but they had some new material and were good. The lounge entertainer in the Atrium Lounge at night was very good. He sang and played mostly show tunes from Gershwin and Cole Porter. He had an extensive biographical knowledge of the Gershwin brothers, Cole Porter and their music. He also had a different type of humor which some people did not care for but he had standing room only every night. He picked on everybody in the audience or walking by with no regard for anything - kind of a Don Rickles type of humor - We thoroughly enjoyed him and were in the audience every night. PORTS Antigua - We arranged an independent tour with a local for $20 pp. He took us on a 4 - 5 hour tour and offered a beach stay for two hours. He was very good. Barbados - We had been to Barbados before so we just wandered into town. St. Vincent - There is nothing in St. Vincent - it appeared to be a cheap fuel stop for the ship. St. Martin - There were a total of 5 ships in port here - the town was severely crowded - St. Martin is a good place to get booze. St. Thomas - We booked an independent tour with a local here also. He offered a 2 hour tour - 2 hours shopping and 2 hours at a beach for $20 pp. Very good. Disembarkation - Disembarkation went fairly smooth - it seems there is always a madhouse in the terminal looking for luggage. Princess needs to organize this a little better. The Disney people (we have taken one Disney cruise) really do it good, but I don't know how. They disembark by early or late seating. After you eat breakfast you leave the ship - there are porters who will ask you your cabin number and number of bags and he finds them quickly with no tangle of people wandering around looking for their bags. Overall - Overall we really enjoyed the cruise - the food quality was some of the best we have experienced on Princess. Why do we keep going back to Princess? "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Read Less
Sail Date: March 2004
I have been on many cruises, but this embarkation was the most organized that I have ever encountered. We checked in and were onboard within a matter of a few minutes. The ship was old but well maintained. It is scheduled to be ... Read More
I have been on many cruises, but this embarkation was the most organized that I have ever encountered. We checked in and were onboard within a matter of a few minutes. The ship was old but well maintained. It is scheduled to be refurbished in the fall and several issues must be addressed. The elevator system is an adventure. Each elevator bank consisted of 8 elevators, for which you must press 4 buttons. Many times, elevators came and went without anyone noticing that they had stopped. The cabins were the smallest that we have ever encountered on an outside cabin. The food was excellent; the best we have had on a cruise ship. The dining room offers "anytime dining" as an alternative to early or late seatings. The waiters, assistant waiters and head waiter were marvelous. They did everything in their power to satisfy our every wish. The entertainment, although very good, did not compare to the entertainment that we experienced on NCL or Royal caribbean. Because we chose the late seating in the dining room, we were eliminated from many passenger involved programs which were always held during our dinner time. All in all, it was a wonderful and enjoyable cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2004
We sailed on April 9, 2004 after driving to Ft. Lauderdale the day before. We have sailed eight times, but never with Princess. I traveled with my son, who turned 14 on the ship. I had heard that embarkation was a breeze and that was ... Read More
We sailed on April 9, 2004 after driving to Ft. Lauderdale the day before. We have sailed eight times, but never with Princess. I traveled with my son, who turned 14 on the ship. I had heard that embarkation was a breeze and that was true. Completing forms on line prior to the trip made for a wait at the desk of no more than 10 minutes - then we were off. We walked directly on the ship and were greeted by a beautiful atrium. We had an inside cabin, our first ever, and I was concerned that we would feel claustrophobic. No problems at all, the cabins were small but well laid out. This ship is a dream. At 9 years old, it is in better condition than the ships I have sailed that are 1 -2 years old. It is beautiful, with elegant surroundings, lovely nooks and crannies and plenty of public space. At the same time, it is very manageable and would be a good ship for someone who has difficulty getting around. The entertainment was good, the wait staff was outstanding and the food was delicious, with plenty of it. Every staff member I encountered went above and beyond to please. The cabin steward, teen counselors and dining room staff really went the extra mile to celebrate my son's birthday and Easter. The captain, Alan Wilson, has a real presence on the ship and it shows in the professionalism of the staff. He did a great job of making us feel safe, special and secure. We had a little bad weather a couple of nights - rough seas - but we never became ill and the ship handled the seas very well. If you have the chance to sail this beautiful lady, I heartily recommend it! Read Less
Sail Date: April 2004
My husband and I have just returned from an april 9, 2004 cruise on the Sun Princess. This was our 23 cruise--we take two a year (in the winter months). We were planning to be in Puerto Rico for the beginning of April but my husband ... Read More
My husband and I have just returned from an april 9, 2004 cruise on the Sun Princess. This was our 23 cruise--we take two a year (in the winter months). We were planning to be in Puerto Rico for the beginning of April but my husband changed his mind and wanted to go on a cruise. This was fine with me--I love cruising. Because we booked so late (only three weeks before the cruise) we could not get the normal balcony stateroom that we are used to. We were only able to get a cabin with an obstructed view. On the day of embarkation I offered to pay extra for a balcony cabin if there was one available but because of it being Easter week and school vacation the ship was fully booked. Our cabin was worse than we could ever had imagined. Our room steward, Marlon, was wonderful --he was our saving grace. We looked out at the life boats--when they were lowered to tender people in to Princess Cay and St. Thomas the noise in our stateroom was horrendous--even scary. Also, our cabin was not sound proof from the corridors --we could hear the stewards and other passengers from 6:30 on in the morning. There were children everywhere--and it seemed that they were all running from cabin to cabin visiting one another. The staff at the purser's desk couldn't care less---it was like talking to a statute. We ate in the Marquis every night--our waiter Fernando was excellent--the food was good--but not up to RCI standards--we were on the Brilliance of the Seas in February--a truly beautiful ship. The deck space on the Sun was very good--they did not crowd deck chairs together---we mostly stayed on the ship when we got into port because we have seen these ports so many times. We enjoyed the warm weather and made the best of everything but would not go on the Princess again---too drab and it cannot compare to the newer ships. Too, bad the newer ships are not used for 10 night cruises--they seem to use the newer ones only for 7 night cruises. Read Less
Sun Princess Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 3.0 3.8
Dining 4.0 4.0
Entertainment 4.0 3.7
Public Rooms 4.0 4.1
Fitness Recreation 3.0 3.6
Family 4.0 3.6
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.4
Enrichment 3.0 3.4
Service 5.0 4.3
Value For Money 4.0 3.6
Rates 4.0 4.0

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