My partner and I are owners of a home based travel agency that specializes in Cruises. I have been in the travel industry for 20 years. This was our 2nd annual group cruise with Princess from San Francisco to ... Read More
My partner and I are owners of a home based travel agency that specializes in Cruises. I have been in the travel industry for 20 years. This was our 2nd annual group cruise with Princess from San Francisco to Vancouver BC, with 72 friends/guests in attendance.
INCOMING TRAVEL AND HOTEL INFO:
Since I live in San Francisco and most of my group are from the Bay Area there wasn't a need for a hotel.
This was the easiest embarkation I have ever experienced at Pier 35. Usually one can expect long lines and a lot of confusion. I arrived with little traffic at 230pm, gave my bags to the porter, within 15 minutes I was on the ship. Word to the wise, fill out your cruise personalizer online (or have your travel agent do it for you) with your immigration information; it saves time when checking in.
The Sun Princess was my second time on Princess, the first being on the Coral Princess. Even though the Coral Princess is newer than the Sun Princess, I preferred the Sun Princess more. It seemed to have brighter colors in the dEcor and more natural light, especially in the Atrium. Also, the Sun Princess was not showing her age (built in 93) she has been kept up very nicely.
My Cabin was on Aloha #702, a balcony cabin. The room seemed just a bit larger than other balconies I have been on; the dEcor was nice but simple, included a small fridge for drinks, a desk and chair and a small table which came in handy for the room service trays. The bathroom was stocked with shampoos, soaps and lotions. The shower stall was at an angle vs right angle and seemed to allow more room to move around. The shower head was a plus; great water pressure plus was able to control the temperature. My room attendant Geordie was great!! Give that man a raise.
The Horizon Court served a nice buffet; there was enough room to navigate without walking into someone. My only complaint is there weren't enough tables to seat everyone when it became busy. Our dinner was in the Marquis dining room, a good sized area, again seemed to give enough room, never felt crowded. I did go to the Wheelhouse bar one evening, a nice relaxing area with dark wood paneling, old nautical pictures, leather couches, and lots of seating for an intimate gathering or large groups and had a dance floor and room for a live band. The disco was nice with two entrances and a large bar. Not enough seating however.
DINING AND FOOD:
The food served in the Horizon court was consistently hot and tasted good. I really liked the omelet bar and the fact that the omelets and fried eggs were cooked on a grill vs. a skillet; had that diner quality to it. I did use room service several times, the cheese burgers were always hot and juicy and the fries were always fresh. I had lunch one time in the dining room, my fried chicken was surprisingly tasty and served hot. Our waiter, Jorge from Mexico City was the best! Since we were a group, most of us chose Personal Choice dining because we liked the idea of eating when we wanted however, about two weeks before our sailing 16 of us decided to have dinner together. I decided to have two tables of 8 reserved at 730pm in the Marquis Dining room which is used for Personal Choice. I like the idea of traditional dining but the times 530pm and 830pm are either too early or too late for me. Once onboard, we were told that no table reservation could be held for 730pm and had to move it to 8pm. At 755pm, our group of 16 showed up at the Marquis, there was a long line of about 50 people waiting to get in. These were folks with dinner table reservations. There was a sign for folks without reservations and no one was waiting. In fact, we noticed that when someone did walk up they were seated immediately meanwhile we continued to wait. When we made it to the front of the line, the assistant maitre d' said he did not now where he was going to seat us because our two reserved tables already had someone sitting at them. He asked us if we wouldn't mind separating from the other group of 8 and eating in the upstairs dining room used for traditional seating; we didn't mind doing this and left the restaurant. It was now 830pm, the other dining room was just letting their guests inside, we were told to wait to see if a table was available. I assumed it was which is why we were asked to move. While we waited, our other table of 8 appeared; it seemed that the Marquis didn't have room for them either. We were seated at two tables of 8. Our waiters were as cold as the food they served. My prime rib and potatoes were very cold. I would have to say this was the worst meal I have had on a cruise. The next day we spoke with the Maitre'd about our previous nights experience; he listened patiently and assigned us two tables of 8 in the Marquis dining room. Our servers name was Meow from Thailand. She was quick, thorough, able to handle changes quite well and even brought us a tray of cookies after dinner which we appreciated. The food was also hot and tasty. The bread was the best bread I have ever had on a cruise before. I think we had problems the first night out for several reasons; one, the Sun Princess was built pre-Personal Choice unlike the newer Princess ships that have several dining rooms for traditional and PC. Second, according to the maitre 'd the dining rooms were empty from 530pm until 730pm the first night out it seemed that most folks decided to show up at 8pm. This sounded like a valid reason to me, however why weren't the folks without reservations made to wait instead of those of us with table reservations? I would suggest Personal choice for groups of 2, 4 or 6 persons but anything larger than that I would recommend the early or late seating.
I did not make it to any shows.
FITNESS and ACTIVITIES:
Never made it to the Gym, I did go for a walk around deck a few times. The pools and Jacuzzis were heated and used often throughout the cruise.
One member of my group brought her two children with her. They seemed to really enjoy the kids area and activities. I think all mass market cruise lines do a good job with the Kids Activities.
SHORE EXCURSIONS: I never book a shore excursion through the cruise line because they are too expensive and I enjoy exploring on my own. I did set up a walking tour in Victoria through an internet site for 24 of my guests, they seemed to enjoy it a lot. If you are ever in Victoria and want a walking city tour or a tour of the Empress hotel, it's easy to do so. Our guide treated our group so well! After the walking tour we had drinks at the Bengal Bar located in the Empress hotel; it's a nice big room with comfortable couches and an old world feeling. After drinks we had afternoon tea at the Empress. This was my second tea, the first was at Butchart gardens. The tea, finger sandwiches, scones, cream and cakes were delicious. The strawberries and cream were ripe and tasty and their blend of tea made this coffee drinker want a second cup. The only thing I would suggest is to offer Lemon Curd with the scones but we were told the chef does not do this. After the tea, we treated ourselves to a horse and carriage ride back to the ship.
This was a bit confusing but worked out. We had scheduled a flight for 140pm but I had an appointment in Vancouver at 930am. I was given a brown colored bag tag based on my flight departure time. I went to the pursers desk to ask for an earlier tag since I had an appointment. I was told this could not be done because departure times were assigned based on flight times. For those of us that did not have flight/bus/trains to catch we were moved to a later disembarkation. This hardly seemed fair but I decided to not make an issue of it. The morning of disembarkation, the ship was cleared at 730am and an announcement was made at 8am for those of us without luggage to leave if we wanted. Why the pursers desk didn't tell me this is beyond me. Would have saved a bit of grief and potential drama.
VALUE FOR PRICE:
The reason why this cruise was so successful for us is because of the price, the length and the fact that we departed from San Francisco. You couldn't stay in a hotel and have dinner and entertainment for the price of the cruise.
I think Princess is a good cruise line, but I feel that it is too difficult to have the "Princess" experience on a 2 or 3 night repositioning cruise, but for the most part they do a good job. A special mention for assistant purser Davide (pronounced Dahviday) who helped me with a last minute location change for an informal get together I had set up for my group. I'm looking forward to my next Princess cruise and the majority of my group commented that they would return too and are looking forward to our 3rd annual cruise!!! Read Less