We were aware of previous problems with Sun Princess coming out of Singapore after refit but this trip was well discounted and filled a convenient time slot for us. We had a great time despite the problems documented by others and would absolutely do a similar cruise again for the same price.
We really appreciated the ship layout - there was something "3 dimensional" about the design - not a stack of separate decks linked by stairs and elevators. The gym was full of brand new gear and never crowded despite the ship being full. The childrens facilities made us regret that we had no children with us. The theatre and show lounge were well laid out and projected a welcoming feeling with every seat affording clear view of the stage. The central atrium was delightful for such an old ship and we found ourselves drawn to sit and listen to the excellent musicians playing violins or piano.
Significantly for Australians, there was none of the usual shipboard nonsense with tipping and 15% service charge added to everything. Aaah the joy of a comfortable chair, a $3.50 cappucino, a good waiter and two lovely young ladies playing classical and popular music on violins while you psych yourself up for yet another delicious dinner.
We have cruised extensively with most of the cruise lines below 6 stars and the food on Sun Princess was undoubtedly better than anything we have experienced recently - sorry Cunard, Celebrity and Azamara! That goes for the main dining as well as the buffet. There were better quality ingredients, superior cuts of meat, a lot more attention to chef detail, delicious recipes, a very generous selection, good portion sizes and excellent food service. The Curtis Stone recipes and the debauched chocolate were fantastic. The worst I could say was that one night my risotto was slightly less than al dente and the afternoon scones were occasionally dry. Otherwise 11/10 all round.
The twice daily trivia were very well attended, the questions were varied and challenging, the answers could not be faulted (and that is very rare), the big crowds enjoyed themselves and the presenters did a fine job. The cruise director staff provided a wide range of services including daily boxercise and choir practice on the sea days (thanks Renee) and the guest entertainers (Aus and NZ) put on great shows.
The ANZAC day service was comprehensive, memorable, well-attended and much appreciated. The big screen movies on the pool deck were a great add-on and offered a lot of live sport, including AFL footie, and pop concerts.
Our inside cabin was functional for an old design, with an Australian power plug plus the usual. Not all guests were as lucky with their plumbing and Princess really need to fix this soon. Likewise the lifts and laundries. We experienced "survivor guilt" that we were not greatly disadvantaged by equipment failure. The ship rode the big swells heavily on the last 3 days down the west coast (at the stern, half the time you seemed to be in a hole of water and the next moment you could see New Zealand!). The sheltered waters north west of Indonesia were very calm but I would want reassurance about the ship stabilisers before I signed up for the South or West coast of Australia. I am assuming that there were stabilisers but they were not functioning due to the power problem?
We fly to Bali several times a year. If you brush aside the throng of taxi drivers at the port of Benoa, you will find calmer drivers 50m inland who will provide an air-conditioned 8 seater mini van for about Au$40 per day. Choose where you want them to take you but be sure to leave time to get back. Alternatively, a taxi drop off at the tourist center of Kuta would cost about Au$6 (60,000 rupiahs) if they go by their meters. The touts demanding US$30 are delusional.
Massages in salons along the main roads in Kuta cost from about 100,000 per hour but one street back you can get them for half that. Older women usually have strong hands but the tarty girls may not give good massages and are not offering anything else.
You can get delicious food in Bali at a very reasonable price. A tasty plate of nasi goreng or mie goreng (rice or noodles) with beef,chicken, shrimp or veg costs from 25,000. Poppies 1 lane in Kuta has a lot of old favourites (try Italian at the Tree House or simple fare at Bamboo Corner). Poppies restaurant is an old classic with an exquisite lush garden setting although the foodies do not rate it highly. Seminyak is the place for cuisine - we have been to Petitenget restaurant a few times and it offers really good chef-prepared food for about $10 a dish. Ku De Ta is the latest foodie haven.
Beware money changers who have any number of ways to rip you off. It is safest to draw cash from an ATM unless you are very street smart.
Shopping is generally very cheap but you have to know what prices can be struck and be prepared to walk away a few times to get a real bargain. And you don't need to screw them down - they are generally happy, warm and reasonable folk who have very little.