At 6-30am on Friday 30th March 2012 we were collected by limousine at our home for the Adelaide Airport to travel to Sydney to embark on the Sun Princess for a 14 night cruise to New Zealand. This was our second cruise to NZ with Princess having done the Xmas Cruise in 2010. We arrived at Sydney Airport at about 11am and rounded up the other "fliers" and went to our buses for the short trip to Barangaroo Cruise Terminal. The buses were parked quite some distance from the terminal and it was quite a walk lugging our luggage to the bus. Once on board it was a short 1/2 hour trip to the ship where we saw what appeared to be chaos at the tent. The ship was completely booked out for the cruise and to see 2000+ people milling about was a bit off putting but to our surprise we were on board by 12 midday with a very orderly and organised embarkation procedure. We dropped our hand luggage off at our stateroom, an "inside" on Aloha deck 11 and then went to Horizon Court for a light lunch. We met our cabin steward, Somnieck from Thailand and what a delightful young man he turned out to be. He was meticulous in how our room was cleaned and prepared and being an untidy bloke myself it took me some time over the next couple of days to find my papers and pamphlets etc which he always tidied up after me. He also arranged for a jug of iced water to be in our fridge each day, a much appreciated gesture. We hardly saw him in the room as he knew our meal times and when we were not around to tidy the room each morning and turn it down for the night with the choccy on the pillow with the Princess Patter.
We had a corner room which seemed larger than the rooms off the corridors. We had it made up into twin beds and this gave us a large area to move around between the beds. The bathroom was of more than adequate size and me being a big bloke could fit easily in the shower. The shower curtain did not suck into the shower and stuck to the walls so as no water splashed on the floor, something we found not to be the case on our two previous Princess cruises.
There was more than ample hanging and storage space in the room with the wardrobe easily holding our clothes and with more than enough good coathangers.
There were six drawers between the beds and another six drawers in the dressing table. We only used about half of the drawers. A safe was provided, a small fridge which served our needs and an Australian power point above the fridge. If multiple battery charging was needed a double adaptor or power board would be handy to take. A flat screen TV worked very well with a good selection of programs. There was plenty of room under each bed for suitcase storage. The towels were changed each day or more often if required.
MEET & GREET
Jane had arranged for a M & G on the first day out of Sydney but I had offered to take whoever was interested from the rollcall out to the forward decks on decks 10 & 11 at 3-30pm before sailing as they are not obvious to find if you dont know how to get there. Quite a few of us went to deck 11 for the sailaway out of Sydney Harbour and from this viewpoint it was spectacular. For most of the cruise it was too windy or too rough to get out onto the front decks.
The next morning about 60 or so of us gathered in the Shooting Stars disco area to meet some of the officers and staff. It was quite friendly and informative and thanks must go to Jane for this effort.
Sun Princess is the oldest of the three sister ships, Dawn Sea and Sun and is showing her age in places.
Some carpeted areas are a bit worn, some lounge furniture is worn, the outside areas are showing rust but the maintenance crews were continuously working at rust scraping and patching. The ship is kept in immaculate condition and is spotlessly clean but some of the areas mentioned just have to be replaced and I presume this will happen early in 2013 when she goes into Brisbane dry dock for an extensive (and expensive) refit. (so we were told) The Captain, Graeme Goodway, kept us informed of the ship's position, course and speed everyday at 0900 and 1200 and at any other time that he had a special announcement to make. Incidently he came from England.
For the first 5 or 6 days it was rough. As soon as we cleared Sydney Heads the rock and roll started and got progressively worse. After we cleared Bay of Islands and at about 9-30pm a very large wave hit the ship side on. The people up on the top deck said that water broke over that deck. There was a hell of a bang and a great shudder throughout the ship but I did not hear of any damage being done. The rough weather did not let up until we were nearly at Wellington. We were getting the edge of a cyclone which had hit Fiji.
Jocelyn suffered and was sick most days and on the plane going back to Adelaide. It wasnt much fun for her.
Too numerous to mention them all but some of them included horse racing, carpet boules, line dancing, trivia (our team won 4) cooking demonstrations, galley tour, back stage tour, bingo and so the list goes on. We didnt have time to get involved in everything and sometimes there were two things on at once and we could only go to one. If you got bored on the cruise dont blame the ship.
The Cruise Director was Tim Donovan and Dep. Cruise Director Simon, He was a bit "sus" but I havent worked it out yet if it was an act or if he was for real. I think he was for real but he didnt mind at all having the mickey taken out of him and the Director's staff certainly gave him heaps about it. He turned me off to begin with but I really liked him as time went on and he "grew" on you.
I think I will get off this subject.
Alea, one of the Director's staff organised the Sun Princess Pop Choir and about 40 of us joined in. We had our first "Practice" about two days out and boy, did we need it. We finished up performing in the Atrium on the last sea day and sang eight songs which seemed to be appreciated by the 6 or 7 hundred passengers who turned out on the stairways and balconies to listen to us. It was a lot of fun.
The Princess dancers and orchestra performed at their usual high standard with their various live shows. They were supported by a magician, a comedian juggler, Donna Campbell, female vocalist, comedy vocalist, Mark Kristian, The Crews' talent time which was excellent, and Three New Zealand tenors who were excellent. One of the most popular entertainers was Adam James who played the piano and sang in the Atrium lounge each night. A string quartet from Ukraine played daily in the Atrium and gave a concert in the Princess Theatre a couple of nights. They were beautiful to listen to.
Overall, the entertainment throughout the ship was excellent.
Our dining room service each night was excellent and entertaining. Our waiter, Richard and junior waiter, Donald could not do enough for us, especially on Crayfish night when we "over indulged a bit". We only ordered our bar drinks the first night and from then on our drinks were waiting for us when we arrived for dinner. Only a small point but things like this impress. The standard of the food and menu selection was the best we have experienced so far with Princess. It doesnt seem possible that the food could be any better but it was. The only area where we experienced a couple of hiccups were with some of the lounges bar staff but they were resolved without fuss. On our previous cruises we also had some hiccups with bar staff so perhaps it is something Princess could look at.
Having an afternoon flight to return to Adelaide we were one of the last groups off the ship at 1020. We gathered in the Marquis dining room and were soon off the ship, picked up our cases and on the bus within 15 minutes of leaving the ship. Very painless.
Each cruise we do with Princess seems to be better than the one before and so was the case with this cruise. It seemed just like coming home again when we walked up the gangway and into the Atrium on our first day.
The only downer for us was Jocelyn being so sick but we suspect her seasickness medication so will speak to our Doctor about this.
Princess, we will be back.
John & Jocelyn
The ship docked virtually in the centre of the City, right next to the Hilton Hotel and within easy walking distance of the CBD. We took the Hop on Hop off bus and did a lap and also did a harbour cruise. We took advantage of the nearby shops and bought a few items. Out of all the Ports in NZ Auckland is the most con venient to access the City.
Tied up at the "timber wharf" next to the new "biscuit tin" Stadium. Took a shuttle bus to the CBD and walked to the Tourist Information Centre where we booked a city tour. Went to the Botanic Gardens, Lady Norwood Rose Garden where we saw the excellent begonia house. The roses had just about finished their season
Then up to Mount Victoria lookout with spectacular views aver the city and harbour. The bus driver then dropped us back at the ship for a late lunch.
Because of earthquake damage to the port for Christchurch we tendered ashore at Akaroa. We had a walk around the delightful village for an hour or two then returned to the ship. Some people took bus tours to Christchurch.
This was the highlight of our shore excursions with a trip on the Taieri Gorge train trip which we organised independently, online at half the price of the organised ship train trip. The Gorge was stunning and very rugged. It surpassed my expectations. The Railways Shuttle bus driver took us on an hour and a half city tour after the train returned at 3-30pm and had us back at the ship at 5 pm for a 6 pm sailaway.