The cruise line announced, however, that the second Sun Princess cruise has been canceled due “to additional technical work” that needs to be carried out.
Sun Princess’ February 18 cruise was due to depart from Rome on a 10-day voyage. The ship will now make its maiden voyage on February 28 from Rome.
The ship was originally due to launch on February 8, with a 10-day cruise departing Barcelona.
Passengers who were booked on the February 18 voyage will receive a full refund of the cruise fare along with any additional onboard services that were pre-purchased, as well as a 50% future cruise credit (FCC) that can be used on a future Princess voyage.
Princess is also offering financial reimbursement for select travel costs for guests who have already arrived ahead of their sailing and for guests who have not yet started their travel certain changes fees related to flights.
The line released the following statement: “The ship does need to remain alongside in the shipyard to allow for additional technical work to ensure an outstanding vacation is delivered. Accordingly, the cruise line regrettably is cancelling the February 18 voyage.”
(January 24, 2024) -- The first cruise of Sun Princess has been canceled, due to a mutual agreement between the cruise line and the Fincantieri shipyard.
The ship was originally due to launch on February 8, with a 10-day cruise departing Barcelona. Only that cruise has been canceled so far, meaning that the new inaugural voyage will be a 10-day cruise starting February 18, departing from Rome.
Passengers who were booked on the February 8 cruise will receive a full refund of the cruise fare, along with any additional onboard services that were pre-purchased, as well as a 50% future cruise credit (FCC). They will also receive $200 per person for change fees related to air travel.
Cruise Critic members have been discussing the Sun Princess changes on the Princess boards.
--Chris Gray Faust, Executive Editor
(December 6, 2023) -- Here comes the Sun ... Princess. The newest ship from Princess Cruises and the first of the line’s Sphere-class vessels will set sail in February 2024 with a bunch of superlatives, including the most passengers (4,300), the largest (175,500 tons) and the first to have LNG power.
Still, those involved in its creation, including Princess President John Padgett, are quick to call Sun Princess an evolution, and not a revolution, even as he describes it as an “apex expression of Princess.”
“We’re not taking anything away,” he said on Zoom to an international group of journalists visiting the Fincantieri shipyard in Monfalcone, Italy, where Sun Princess is being built. “People everywhere will see this is a Princess ship.”
Indeed, even through the dangling wires and noise of construction, it was easy to see where Sun Princess breaks new ground for the line, while still keeping the vibe that its passengers love. (Much more so than when Cruise Critic visited the ship back in March 2023). Although some elements of the ship have been seen on sister brands – the Cabana ship-within-a-ship complex is heavily influenced by the Havana cabanas on Carnival, while the glass Dome is drawn from P&O Cruises’ ships Iona and Ariva – Sun Princess has been built “from the ground up,” as its chief mastermind Richard Parker told us.
“We started with a blank piece of paper,” said Parker, who has the title Director of Newbuild Guest Experience & Product Development. He stressed that the ship is different from Carnival’s Excel-class – those vessels include Mardi Gras, Carnival Celebration and Carnival Jubilee, which will debut this month – even though they are a similar size; Sun Princess has 1,000 fewer passengers.
Feedback from guests informed many of the design decisions, Parker said. Among the wish list items: More outdoor space. More variety in the World Marketplace buffet. More places to have sea views. More things that multi-generational families could do together. And organized lobbies and elevators so guests could get around the ship easily, making the spaces feel small and intimate.
After a day touring the ship and mock-ups of its cabins, we think Sun Princess hit its mark, and we’re more excited than ever for it to debut. (It starts first in Europe, then moves to Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades). Expect more natural light throughout the ship; a lighter color palette in the cabins; more entertainment venues, with better technology; and a wider variety of dining venues. Here are some of the things that we’re looking forward to most.
Our first highlight is not a venue but a design feature – the Sphere that gives the class its name nonetheless needs to be called out first, as the light that it brings into the Sun Princess Piazza sets the ship’s tone. The line wanted Sun Princess to be “immediately recognizable” in port, Parker said, and the rounded glass that curves out from the middle of the ship on both sides does just that.
The curves of the Sphere influence the Piazza too. While the Piazza is a Princess standby, the Sun Princess version is larger and more rounded on the inside as well; essentially, the Sphere wraps around and encompasses the Piazza. The space also holds an enclosed Seawalk, where you can look down to the ocean below.
“There will be lots of Instagram moments on this ship, for sure,” Parker said.
While the Piazza has always been the “beating heart” of a Princess ship, the space on Sun Princess will also have increased focus as an entertainment space, Parker said. To that end, circular seating has been placed around the different levels of the Piazza, so people can easily look down. The entire area has LED capacity and there’s a large screen for projections. The staircases have been moved to the Piazza edge, so pedestrians moving between decks won’t block the view.
Even through the scaffolding, you could see that the Sun Princess Piazza will be an inviting place to gather, thanks to the lighter feel and smart placement of venues.
The new Dome area, located at the top front of the ship, will also be a recognizable Sun Princess design feature. The glass space is completely new for the line, and promises to be a place that draws you in, at various times of day for various purposes.
During the day, the Dome houses a pool with indoor and outdoor areas. It’s also air-conditioned, so perfect in humid climates. A 30-foot waterfall capable of special effects and lighting will serve as a focal point, with the aptly named Cascade Bar next door.
At night, a stage goes over the pool and it becomes the chief entertainment area for shows involving Cirque Eloize, known for “contemporary circus performances.” The troupe will put on three different shows that will involve flying and other special effects, Parker said. The space has a large LED screen that will also be integrated into the shows.
Outside the Dome, the Seaview Terrace will provide lounge space for the outdoor portion of the pool, and sunbathing. This area is open to all guests; the extra fee Sanctuary has been moved to the back of the ship. Engineers have worked to reduce wind on the panels at the front of the ship to make the area a more pleasant place to stay, Parker said.
Our ship tour included visiting mock-ups of six different cabin categories for the ship, housed in a warehouse at the shipyard. “We’ve spent the last 12 months curating the stateroom experience,” Lorna Warren, vice president of hotel operations, told us.
What’s different in the Sun Princess staterooms: Sofas in almost every room category. The décor is also lighter, almost Scandinavian in coloring. Plenty of USB and mini-USB outlets and plugs, including several on each side of the bed. New towels, plusher bathrobes and slippers and higher thread count on linens. All showers now have glass doors, instead of clingy curtains, as well as a shower bar for shaving. Guests will find noticeably increased storage space. Even the duvets were redesigned so they would be cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, Warren said.
What hasn’t changed – the iconic Princess Luxury Bed, with its 5-inch adjustable mattress topper. And crew will still provide fun towel animals whenever possible, especially for celebrations, to delight guests young and old, Warren said.
The coolest cabin category is one that’s debuting on Sun Princess. The Cabana mini suites are placed in a special enclave within the ship that comes with its own sundeck. While the sundeck is in a prime location, what really impressed us was the cabana itself – essentially a covered outdoor area with a sofa, towels and a flat-screen TV, placed between the bedroom and the balcony. It’s a perfect place to read and enjoy outdoor views, while having sun protection. I can see spending hours out there.
Some Cabana mini-suites are completely private, while others face directly to the Cabana Deck. Which one appeals to you depends on how social you want to be.
The callout for more views is further satisfied in Horizons, the ship’s main dining room. Although it’s one venue that spans three floors, each one seems like an individual restaurant, as opposed to a large banquet hall.
While all floors will serve the same menu, there will be slight differences; Deck 8, for example, will be more casual for families who want to get in and out.
The back wall of Horizons is all windows, allowing for fantastic wake views. We also loved that the server stations are individually enclosed, cutting down on the chaos that you often hear during meals. All dinners in the Horizons on Sun Princess are anytime dining; there are no more set seatings.
Elsewhere, dining has been modified to suit today’s tastes. The World Marketplace buffet, in particular, will have more stations, in a space called Eat Street, as well as grab-and-go options. In a first for the line, one “storefront,” as Parker called it, will be vegan and vegetarian food.
Specialty dining on Sun Princess is a mixture of new and familiar. Favorites like Sabatini’s, the Crown Grill and Alfredo’s pizza are back, the latter with a Neapolitan oven. O’Malley’s Irish Pub, which debuted on Enchanted Princess, is an expanded venue, with space for entertainment and a menu with favorites like fish and chips.
Umai is a new teppanyaki/hot pot restaurant that is sure to appeal to that multigeneration demographic.
Finally, we were excited to see that one of our favorite Princess bars, Good Spirits at Sea, has been moved from the Piazza to its own tricked-out space. There’s a special show bar for mixologists to do demonstrations and a lovely ceiling map of the world. We’re definitely ready to belly up.
Finally, we were able to go “behind the black door” on our Sun Princess tour, although the door itself wasn’t up yet. Spellbound by Magic Castle is a partnership with the Hollywood club that started as a private retreat for magicians. To go to the real thing requires an invite from a member, so having a version of it on a cruise ship that’s accessible to all is a real get.
The experience, which will carry an extra fee, takes place in various rooms, all decorated in Victorian style to mimic the California club. We’re not going to give away everything, but time spent in Spellbound will include puzzles, magic tricks done in an intimate setting by roving magicians and a stage show. It looks cool and definitely something that we can see appealing to different generations.
(The real estate given to Spellbound by Magic Castle replaces 360: An Extraordinary Experience, the multicourse, multisensory dining meal that, for now, only exists on Discovery Princess and Enchanted Princess).
If magic isn’t your bag, don’t worry, there are still innovations to be found. The Casino on Sun Princess has 50% more space, with 30% more machines. The ceiling is higher here, to accommodate the more modern games that are being developed, Parker said.
While we didn’t see everything on the ship – most notably, we couldn’t view the spa, the Park19 adventure area for families or the Wakeview Terrace at the back – we were impressed with the Princess Arena. This theater can be configured in different ways for different types of shows, and has 9 LED screens that will amplify the productions. There are no columns in the space, so there’s not a bad seat in the house. We can’t wait for showtime.
-- Chris Gray Faust, Executive Editor