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My wife (a travel agent) and I travel a lot and cruise often; at last count, 52 cruises on 14 lines, giving us a fair basis for comparison. We booked back-to-back cruises on Sun Princess for 13 nights in New Zealand and 14 nights in Fiji, departing Sydney in both cases, based on a prior favorable experience in Alaska on this line and because New Zealand and to a lesser extent Fiji were on our bucket list. I won't dwell in this review on the ports themselves, which vary from idyllic (e.g. Bay of Islands and Napier, NZ) to grimy and dangerous ( e.g. Suva and Lautoka, Fiji). Certainly the port selection and itinerary could have been much better on both cruises but some things are beyond anyone's control. What is in control of the ship, however, is the cruise experience. In this regard, Sun Princess is a fail. It is the quintessential "old-school" cruise experience dumbed down to accommodate the masses and falls into that growing pool of cruises based entirely on budgets that nickel and dime customers to the point of annoyance, and in that regard I have no love for "The Love Boat" and wish it a speedy and short journey to decommissioning. For starters, the condition of the ship is appalling. Tiny rooms typical of 50s ships can be forgiven, but nonfunctioning spa tubs, showers and sinks in public rooms cannot. There is literally rust, missing and broken tile, clouded windows and a worn and tired look everywhere. To it's credit, my bed was excellent and the TV and other room amenities were fine, including the balcony, but I could not escape a cramped feeling. To some extent, the worn and torn look of the place is offset by the things Princess does right--efficient embarkation and disembarkation, snappy room service, attentive steward and dining staff but even these are overwhelmed by my chief complaints: poor food and a pervasive nickel-diming atmosphere that destroys the cruise experience. Princess charges $35 per person in it's Curtis Stone, Kai Seafood and Sterling Steakhouse restaurants. The two former ones are merely bumpouts in the hallway and I don't see why I should pay to dine with traffic walking past, an opinion shared by others because these restaurants were empty for lunch and dinner. It also has hefty drink charges, charges for anything beyond a basic coffee, charges $3 for room delivery pizza, charges nosebleed prices for soda, water, internet, laundry, and even had the gall to charge people $15 for a bus to the town of Lautoka after docking at an industrial dock! It's shore excursions are double the price of similar excursions offered on shore at each port of call and, of course, one must run the gamut and annoyance of ship's photographers, cheap art auctioneers and cruise ship jewelry hucksters every single day, over and over. One has a choice of dining at a preset time with a table of others or "anytime" dining in the Grand Dining Room, where you can choose to dine alone or with others. We like the shared concept, pioneered by Norwegian some years ago and found meeting others (in these parts 90% Aussies) to be the best part of the cruise. Unfortunately, I can't say the same for the food. In two cases, my fish was absolutely inedible; most meals were tasteless and underseasoned; small portions, especially of beef. Amateurish presentation, half-cooked vegetables, the list goes on. While I am no "foodie' I can state categorically that for a cruise ship this food was below average. The Buffet, however, was even worse. I simply could not find anything comparable to an all-you-can-eat-kids-eat-free in any suburban shopping mall. In this regard, Princess has formal nights, a custom from the old days except on Cunard and a few others. Since they do not have the class or foresight to offer the full Main Dining Menu in the buffet or stateroom on those nights, my wife and I went to the Buffet; available food was so poor we spent "formal night" in our room eating a hamburger, a fact which I will always associate with Princess. Since this review is already lengthy I will pass in stating that entertainment was the usual fare, not bad. Kids are permitted and generally monopolized all but the adults only pool and were running everywhere; the casino is small, does NOT offer video poker but has a few blackjack tables and reel-type arcade slots. My wife and I are planning a full Australian cruise and to drive New Zealand, the best way to see it, as well as a number of other adventures. However, after this experience we're back to smaller ships on higher rated lines. Sorry, Princess.

New Zealand is beautiful. Sun Princess?--not so much

Sun Princess Cruise Review by porterstarbird

2 people found this helpful
Trip Details
My wife (a travel agent) and I travel a lot and cruise often; at last count, 52 cruises on 14 lines, giving us a fair basis for comparison. We booked back-to-back cruises on Sun Princess for 13 nights in New Zealand and 14 nights in Fiji, departing Sydney in both cases, based on a prior favorable experience in Alaska on this line and because New Zealand and to a lesser extent Fiji were on our bucket list. I won't dwell in this review on the ports themselves, which vary from idyllic (e.g. Bay of Islands and Napier, NZ) to grimy and dangerous ( e.g. Suva and Lautoka, Fiji). Certainly the port selection and itinerary could have been much better on both cruises but some things are beyond anyone's control. What is in control of the ship, however, is the cruise experience.

In this regard, Sun Princess is a fail. It is the quintessential "old-school" cruise experience dumbed down to accommodate the masses and falls into that growing pool of cruises based entirely on budgets that nickel and dime customers to the point of annoyance, and in that regard I have no love for "The Love Boat" and wish it a speedy and short journey to decommissioning.

For starters, the condition of the ship is appalling. Tiny rooms typical of 50s ships can be forgiven, but nonfunctioning spa tubs, showers and sinks in public rooms cannot. There is literally rust, missing and broken tile, clouded windows and a worn and tired look everywhere. To it's credit, my bed was excellent and the TV and other room amenities were fine, including the balcony, but I could not escape a cramped feeling.

To some extent, the worn and torn look of the place is offset by the things Princess does right--efficient embarkation and disembarkation, snappy room service, attentive steward and dining staff but even these are overwhelmed by my chief complaints: poor food and a pervasive nickel-diming atmosphere that destroys the cruise experience.

Princess charges $35 per person in it's Curtis Stone, Kai Seafood and Sterling Steakhouse restaurants. The two former ones are merely bumpouts in the hallway and I don't see why I should pay to dine with traffic walking past, an opinion shared by others because these restaurants were empty for lunch and dinner. It also has hefty drink charges, charges for anything beyond a basic coffee, charges $3 for room delivery pizza, charges nosebleed prices for soda, water, internet, laundry, and even had the gall to charge people $15 for a bus to the town of Lautoka after docking at an industrial dock! It's shore excursions are double the price of similar excursions offered on shore at each port of call and, of course, one must run the gamut and annoyance of ship's photographers, cheap art auctioneers and cruise ship jewelry hucksters every single day, over and over.

One has a choice of dining at a preset time with a table of others or "anytime" dining in the Grand Dining Room, where you can choose to dine alone or with others. We like the shared concept, pioneered by Norwegian some years ago and found meeting others (in these parts 90% Aussies) to be the best part of the cruise. Unfortunately, I can't say the same for the food. In two cases, my fish was absolutely inedible; most meals were tasteless and underseasoned; small portions, especially of beef. Amateurish presentation, half-cooked vegetables, the list goes on. While I am no "foodie' I can state categorically that for a cruise ship this food was below average. The Buffet, however, was even worse. I simply could not find anything comparable to an all-you-can-eat-kids-eat-free in any suburban shopping mall.

In this regard, Princess has formal nights, a custom from the old days except on Cunard and a few others. Since they do not have the class or foresight to offer the full Main Dining Menu in the buffet or stateroom on those nights, my wife and I went to the Buffet; available food was so poor we spent "formal night" in our room eating a hamburger, a fact which I will always associate with Princess.

Since this review is already lengthy I will pass in stating that entertainment was the usual fare, not bad. Kids are permitted and generally monopolized all but the adults only pool and were running everywhere; the casino is small, does NOT offer video poker but has a few blackjack tables and reel-type arcade slots.

My wife and I are planning a full Australian cruise and to drive New Zealand, the best way to see it, as well as a number of other adventures. However, after this experience we're back to smaller ships on higher rated lines. Sorry, Princess.
porterstarbird’s Full Rating Summary
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Cabin Review

Balcony
Cabin BF B745
Our room steward was the best I've ever had, prompt and attentive. The room itself is extemely small and poorly decorated, but this is an old ship. No robes but I believe they are available on request. Room has a hair dryer, 34" TV, 24-hour room service albeit menu is quite small; minibar, ironing board and iron. Mattresses and bedding were quite good. Room was overall quiet with some hallway noise.
Riviera Deck Inside Cabins, Balcony Cabins