12 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
This was our third cruise on Sun Princess. After touring the South Pacific in Dec. 2013, and New Zealand in Dec. 2014, Xmas and the new year 2016 seemed like a good choice. Boarding was not a problem, having been warned of later ... Read More
This was our third cruise on Sun Princess. After touring the South Pacific in Dec. 2013, and New Zealand in Dec. 2014, Xmas and the new year 2016 seemed like a good choice. Boarding was not a problem, having been warned of later boarding times due to necessary cleaning regarding norovirus presence. The same happened for the previous two trips, so no surprises there. Once aboard, we went straight to our cabin to ready for dinner. The Marquis dining room was as expected, and after some negotiation, we had a table for the two of us; very accommodating Maitre De, many thanks. All our main meals were had there; excellent cuisine, and excellent waiter and his assistant. For breakfast and lunch, Horizons was our choice; select your own food combinations for your pleasure. Most serving staff were of good nature, but several seemed rather tired and a little snappy at times. Understandable, and easier to ignore. During the first few days at sea, there was an ever present odor in the passageway of deck 11, Aloha between the forward elevators and our cabin. The cabin staff appologised for the problem, which took nearly three days to rectify. I'm afraid urea is not a pleasant experience for any person. A short time after that, My wife and I came down with what was 'diagnosed' as norovirus by the duty nurse. Neither of us was seen by this 'nurse'. We were confined to our cabin for 24 hours, a necessary precaution. A package of capsules was sent to each of us to help plug each end, so to speak. Gastro Stop is still Gastro Stop even by any other name.Since my wife was still feeling 'off' afterward, we were confined for another 24 hours. Fair enough, we did not wish to be responsible for other passengers discomfort. At this stage, we had to utilize room service for our meals. The selection is a little restricted compared to the main dining, but quite adequate particularly under the circumstance. After another day and a bit passed, we had not been contacted by the duty 'nurse', so I rang the medical rooms to confirm we were feeling good again. We were allowed out once more. Good cheer. With that episode behind us, it was time to enjoy the rest of the journey. Most of our evenings were spent at Crooners after dinner. Maurizzio is the main attraction for entertainment there. One can join in with the songs, dancing and chit-chat with other passengers. The majority of bar staff we found to be accommodating. The International Cafe we found to be crowded at the best of times, unless very late into the night. Not an overly important issue since there are other places to have a coffee. Could not say much for the shore excursions; Komodo Island was fully booked before we boarded the ship - limited visitors allowed on the island at any given time. Fair enough. Bali (Benoa) was the fun stop. It allowed my wife to buy some presents for the rellies after our return. She also enjoyed a full body massage, bless her little cotton socks. The only other stop we went shore-bound was Macassa. Since it was raining mostly, we spent about one hour walking near the port. Missed the markets due to poor information, but no loss, didn't spend anything there. Overall, we found the cost of excursions via Princess to be overpriced. On our NZ trip, we arranged tours on shore, most costing better than 50% less. Since the main reason for this cruise was to unwind after a heavy working year, (yes, not all of us oldies are retirees) we didn't need to rush around with activities so much. We met with several couples to share our and their stories and experiences. Back in Fremantle, disembarking was the easiest part; straight through from ship to shore. Uber took a little bit longer. Overall, we will travel again, but will try other lines as well to get a better feel for them in all fairness. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2014
The ship was beautifully decorated with an xmas theme. We enjoyed the first half of the cruise as we chilled out and relaxed, however due to a lack of activity range on board, the second half was deadly boring. On board activities were ... Read More
The ship was beautifully decorated with an xmas theme. We enjoyed the first half of the cruise as we chilled out and relaxed, however due to a lack of activity range on board, the second half was deadly boring. On board activities were aimed at rest home level, and were regular. i.e. knitters group, craft group, bridge players group, and on it goes! There was little of interest for anyone under 50 years old and there were no new activities during the cruise. The cruise director was dreadful. He appeared lazy and stale. His jokes were weak and he repeated them often. He was rarely seen during the day and came on after each show in the evening, and many people just walked out when he came on. The singers and dancers were great, but unless you enjoy ballroom dancing and associated music, there was nothing else to do in the evening except gamble at the casino which became expensive, or drink too much. They had one deck party during the entire cruise which was great, but needed more. We love good music but there was only the princess band which had a large brass section so could be hard to listen to, a duo who where almost karaoke with their electronic backing, a quartet which played classical and the band which occasionally played on deck who were painfully out of tune and untalented (only ok to listen to after large quantities of alcohol). The nightclub mainly played disco music. Occasionally they screened concerts by good bands like tina turner or U2 on the big screen which were great, but often at 10am?? The food was amazing. Fabulous, fresh, tasty, great selection, cannot complain. We had an inside cabin which was quite adequate for us, but the beds were very hard and a bit lumpy. The itinerary sounded good, but all of the Fiji ports were just that - ports or small towns. No little islands with sandy beaches and good snorkelling and swimming unless you paid for an excursion. New Caledonia ports were good though. In general the best staff were the lower ranking ones. They couldn't do enough for you, although it soon transpired that if they put one foot out of place they were disciplined. They wouldn't even let us fill our own wine glass from the bottle on the table, or they would end up in the office of their superior. The supervisors, however in general were not great and could appear arrogant and unhelpful. Typical of such a hierarchal organisation. I would have happily fired a few and promoted their subordinates. Overall I definitely would not travel with Princess again. They have dated and slipped behind in a hugely competitive market where there are superior ships and experiences available. My advice to Sun Princess is get rid of your Cruise Director and find someone with some fresh ideas and some get up and go.   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2012
Well, some 2 yrs ago, we flew to Hawaii, learnt how to stand up paddle board (we now have our own) and during our stay, we did the Pride of America cruise around the Hawaiian Islands - loved it so much we are flying back there this ... Read More
Well, some 2 yrs ago, we flew to Hawaii, learnt how to stand up paddle board (we now have our own) and during our stay, we did the Pride of America cruise around the Hawaiian Islands - loved it so much we are flying back there this November, then Celebrity Cruise via Tahitian Islands, Fiji, Noumea, back to Sydney. Our 2nd cruise was with Sun Princess, departing from Brisbane (this city is now one of the fastest growing cities in Australia, so watch for more cruises departing from it), sailed under the Gateway Bridge, with Mai Tai & beer. We visited Fiji, Isle of Pines and Noumea. Food was excellent, the cabin & dining room staff were fantastic, could not fault them, so polite & helpful. I made sure they got a tip. Some of my recommendations whilst in the Ports are as follows: 1. In Fiji, take the Tivuau Island excursions, lovely day out, lots of "bula", fijian beer, good snorkeling and seafood bbq. (What else do you need in life) 2. Suva - not much, but do take the time to see the Museum - to learn about Lapita pottery, and migration of Polynesians throughout the Pacific. They have the rudder from Captain Bligh's ship. on display, and the shoe of the last white man eaten by the natives (years ago of course). Nice shops in Suva, forget the markets - a bit smelly. Try a beer in Suva Bowling Club, quiet & good atmosphere. The Grand Pacific Hotel might be finished soon, should make a nice visit. 3. Isle of Pines - this place is like "Heaven on Earth" to me, my wife couldn't get me out of the water. forget the little cafe, too busy, walk the island pathways away from the beach, most interesting. The Kanaks are such lovely people. 4. Noumea - do you own thing here, buy Explorer Bus Ticket (hop on, hop off - all day long), go down Anse Vate Beach or Baie de Citrons (means Lemon Bay), swim with the locals, then stroll back toward ship terminal, for a nice coffee in one the numerous cafes. Catch the bus when you get tired. I hope this helps someone, who is contemplating a similar cruise. Oh Yes, we had a professor from Canberra, giving wonderful talks in the Auditorium on ancient sailors, navigators, space travel, etc. (I never missed one of his talks - I think he first name was Don) Read Less
Sail Date: December 2011
A brilliant 14 night Christmas cruise around New Zealand from Brisbane. The overall experience was very enjoyable, we met plenty of nice people throughout the cruise, had fun to all hours and made quite a few friends. The destinations were ... Read More
A brilliant 14 night Christmas cruise around New Zealand from Brisbane. The overall experience was very enjoyable, we met plenty of nice people throughout the cruise, had fun to all hours and made quite a few friends. The destinations were really interesting, NZ is a very beautiful place and the Sun Princess is a very nice ship. We had great weather on all but one day, Sun Princess handled the Tasman really well and we never ran out of things to do. In fact, there were plenty of things we never got around to doing. CHECK IN Our party is a family of 4, two parents, an adult son and a mid-teen daughter. The drive to the Hamilton wharf from the Gold Coast is always right on one hour, we park at Portside Parking who are always really good and make things easy. Check in was easy too, we arrived an hour or two earlier than scheduled so we didn't need to queue at all and we only seemed to wait about 15 minutes prior to the usual Customs rigmarole. I think we were on board by about 11:00 am for a 4:00 pm sail-away. This seemed a little quicker than the same time last year with P&O but it really depends on how many people arrive at the terminal at particular times and when the scheduled departure time is. We had a very similar quick wait boarding a P&O cruise last April so I don't think it's dependent on the carrier. SUN PRINCESS I've been comparing the Sun Princess to P&O's Pacific Dawn which we have sailed on twice to New Caledonia and Vanuatu in the last year. Sun Princess is about 10% bigger (GT) but similar to Pacific Dawn in many ways, probably because they were both built by Fincantieri in Italy. However, Sun Princess is a more interesting layout, the atrium is much grander and stretches from Deck 5 up to 8. It also has sweeping staircases and two panoramic glass lifts. It also feels a bit wider but both have an identical beam of around 32m. Sun Princess was a bit cleaner than Pacific Dawn, especially in the buffet (Horizon Court). This buffet area felt twice as big and it's at the front of the ship. I had read many reviews where comments were made about the rusty hull and anchor stains on Sun Princess. Yes, this was true at the time of boarding. But I noticed when we were berthed in Auckland that two guys were painting part of the hull from a gantry. I didn't think much of it until later in the cruise when reboarding at another port that the whole hull seemed to have been freshly painted. Sun Princess also felt very stable in the 7m swell we encountered midway from Brisbane to Auckland. The waves were square on to the starboard side, the captain reported that they were long waves (14 sec period) so the movement was slower and less noticeable than the smaller, shorter wind waves. It felt quite comfortable, perhaps the stabilisers were working overtime ... who knows? One gripe which many people mentioned was the temperature in most areas. Although it didn't personally bother me, the air conditioning was very warm but nothing could seem to be done to adjust it. Interestingly, it felt quite cool on the occasions that I walked through the casino!! Do they want people to feel comfortable in here? Overall, it appeared to be well maintained and clean. No wear on any carpets as I've so often read, maybe some have been replaced. I was looking out the window while on a treadmill in the gym and noticed that one of the horizontal lower rails around the rear deck outside the gym had rusted through completely. That said, the gym was very well equipped and in a fantastic position looking over the stern. The outdoor cinema on the top deck (Movies Under The Stars) was a great feature but not well attended, probably due to the cool weather at night. The only issue was the volume was a bit high making conversation difficult. DINING / FOOD Our dining was in The Regency on deck 6, late sitting of 7:45. Although we had selected a table of 4 with our travel agent, we were put on a table of 10 the first night. Not that this is an issue but is was an odd shape and not easy for conversations. I was waiting to speak to the Maitre D who was getting a hard time from some miserable old coot who wouldn't give up. After he left I politely sided with the Maitre D, saying that some people are never happy. I then very politely requested us being moved to a table of 4 from then on, after much head scratching he found us a table. The meals in the dining room were superb, I love fish and I was never disappointed. The soups were nothing special but still nice. The desserts looked and tasted amazing and we always got our requested hot chocolate following dessert. Our waiters often tried to tempt us with seconds, or suggested we try two different main courses if we couldn't choose! There wasn't much waiting between courses, I'm sure we had four courses one night in less than an hour. We occasionally ate in the buffet, while the standard was really good there wasn't a lot of variety from day to day. But who would complain, nobody would have nearly the same choice at home! Naturally, there was self serve tea, coffee, water and lemonade. It was described as American homemade style lemonade, 1 part lemons, 20 parts sugar and a screwed up face! The coffee took a little getting used to, I found that adding a bit extra hot water made it more my style. On the promenade deck they served free soft serve ice cream most days plus free milk & cookies and popcorn during movies. On the rare occasion that I bought drinks they were often cheaper than on land. OUR STATEROOM Although we had a similar sized 4 berth cabin to one on Pacific Dawn, the bathroom and layout were very pokey on Sun Princess. Our room was an ocean-view on Deck 5 port side (Plaza 330) which was just forward of mid ships and very handy to the atrium and lifts/stairs. There didn't seem to be much wardrobe space for 4 people and you almost needed to stand on the toilet to dry yourself, the bathroom was that pokey. A similar room on Pacific Dawn was laid out with a walk-in type wardrobe with more hanging space and the toilet was tucked away to one side, not in the middle of the bathroom! Even with the air conditioning set to maximum cool it still felt a bit warm. Our steward made a request and not long after, someone from engineering came to adjust the vents and change the filter. This seemed to help quite well. PRINCESS CRUISES I would estimate that about 80% of the passengers were classified as geriatric. If you did an inventory of the cabins housing the 2,000 passengers, I reckon there would have been 300 wheelchairs, 500 walkers, 600 sticks and 10 portable ventilators! While this isn't an issue, the passengers we befriended (the 18 -- 60 year olds) of which there was only about 20 of us, didn't seem to be catered for very well. The teens and kids had their club activities so we didn't often see them but it seems that Princess catered predominantly for the elderly passengers. For example, every night in the atrium the same poor guy playing piano and singing (I bet he wished he was dead) had to sing the same music-hall and WWII era songs while the oldies sat around singing and tapping along, taking up all the atrium seating including coffee shops and bars. When this wasn't taking place, the public areas and atrium were like libraries, they weren't buying drinks, just sitting reading and 'shooshing' anyone making any noise. Many seemed very grumpy and impatient and seemed pissed off if an able bodied person happened to be in a lift! P&O seem to have more 'all ages' entertainment like laser shows and circus performers. Another issue was that the teens were allocated the Shooting Stars disco until about 10 pm most nights and then there was often karaoke. So it wouldn't be until 11 pm or so before our lot could have a good time in the disco. So by the time they wrapped it up at 2 am, everyone's keen to keep enjoying themselves but needs to be awake for another port day in 4 -- 5 hours time. PRINCESS STAFF I only really dealt with our waiters and our steward. I very rarely spoke to concierge desk staff. Generally, they were helpful and polite although some of the eastern European staff had difficulty understanding Australian English. Everyone else had no problem. What I didn't like was that during the first few hours after we boarded in Brisbane, we were approached and pestered at least 5 or 6 times by waiting staff to hassle us into buying drink cards (e.g. unlimited soft drinks for $6.95 per day). Perhaps they get good commissions from these sales to make up for the pittance they are actually paid. Our room steward was very helpful and polite. He seemed to clean it quite well although the bathroom could have been done a little better. We always had a fresh bucket of ice left in the fridge to put into our water bottles and it was always pleasant to return to the cabin in the evening after the sheets had been turned down and a couple of chocolates on the pillow. Both our waiters were very welcoming, helpful and polite. Our main waiter was very entertaining, funny and cheeky, remembered our names etc. Our junior waiter was quite shy but eventually felt more confident to talk openly with us as the cruise went on. DESTINATIONS AUCKLAND (18th December 2011) This was the only rainy day we experienced on the whole cruise and our day in Auckland was a great experience. The ship berths adjacent to the CBD and it's only two or three blocks walk into the main shopping strip in Queen Street. After a few hours looking around the shops we walked up to Sky Tower to get a good look at the city. We decided to do the high tea for NZ$30 each which included admission up the tower. The tower entry is about NZ$25 so the high tea package in the revolving restaurant was good value. We had to wait for about an hour for a table as we hadn't booked but they had decent free Wi-Fi and we amused ourselves in the shop on the lower level which had plenty of motion picture artifacts from Lord of the Rings and Avatar etc. The lifts up the tower to the restaurant (187m from memory) only take about 18 seconds. The view was amazing and although it was still raining we could see to the horizon. We were served our drinks but for some reason, our food wasn't served but all the tables that were seated after us were munching away. After about 40 minutes I politely complained and about 10 minutes later the cakes and sandwiched appeared, beautifully presented and delicious. The manager very kindly discounted the fee to only NZ$15 (AU$11.50 approx) each for the trouble. We then went down one floor to the observation deck with the glass floors to take some more pictures then headed back to the ship, a casual 10 minute walk. We had a quick look in The Ice Bar on the wharf but decided not to go in as it wasn't cheap for 4 of us and we weren't too sure about the ship's departure time. P&O are really clear about 'last person aboard' times, but nobody on Sun Princess even mentioned it when we disembarked earlier in the day. Auckland has a magnificent harbor, not too different to Sydney but more spread out. I went for an hour long jog around deck 7 during departure so I got a really good look at the harbor. TAURANGA (19th December 2011) Although the port is called Tauranga, the ship berths in the suburb of Mt. Maunganui, well away from the container port and about 4 kms from the heart of Tauranga. The options for transport into Tauranga were bus, tour or taxi but many opted to wander around Mt Maunganui, a pretty place with nice beaches, hills to climb, harbor and esplanades. A few reviews suggested renting a car to go to Rotorua to look at the thermal areas. The iSite tourist information place was right on the wharf. A representative from a car hire company was in the iSite. The smallest car they had left (as we disembarked late) was a Ford Mondeo wagon for NZ$145 (approx AU$111.50) for the day. The cheapest tiny car they offered was NZ$125, so I thought the price was fair. Their shuttle bus took us around the corner to their office to sign the paperwork and they gave us maps and brochures etc. The drive to Rotorua was well signed and took just over one hour. We were told to go to Kuirau Park on the north-western side of the town where there were plenty of thermal pools to look at free of charge. Unbeknown to us, we started at the southern end of the park where the crappier, more dormant thermals were. It's best to start at the northern end where there's more activity. Nice park, lots to look at. We drove back to Tauranga for a quick drive around the waterfront area and then topped up the car. I was very surprised that it took almost 39 bucks worth of fuel when we'd only driven about 140 kms in a small 4 cylinder. Then again, the price per litre was about NZ$2.06 so to fill the car equated to around AU$30. After returning the car, we took a quick climb up the mount at Maunganui, it took about half an hour, great views and photo opportunities, lots of steps ... not for the unfit. From the base of the mount it's only a 10 -- 15 minute walk back to the ship along the harbor beach. Like we do on the Gold Coast, there were plenty of locals taking SUPs (Stand-Up Paddle boards) out for a paddle here. NAPIER (20th December 2011) The place was flattened by a major quake in 1931 and rebuilt predominantly in art deco style. However, the main street we walked down was not unlike Jetty Road in the Adelaide beachside suburb of Glenelg, plenty of art deco there too. So it wasn't much of an eye-opener. The ship arrived at around 12:30 pm which meant that it was only in port for 5 or 6 hours. This was a welcome relief as we had a chance for a good sleep-in! Probably due to port security and for safety, free buses transport passengers from the ship to the esplanade (about 5 minutes) in the centre of Napier, just outside another iSite. The bus driver provided a running commentary about the history along the way. We didn't want to waste much money on tours etc so like most people we just wandered down the main street, looked at plenty of shops and strolled around a few more streets. We also called into the Woolworths supermarket (called Countdown in NZ) for a few items and made our way back to where the buses pick-up at the iSite a couple of hours later. It's a pretty town and some of the locals are dressed in 1930's clothing, there's a few vintage cars driving about the place and the odd Dixieland jazz band playing in the street to entertain the tourists. I guess these are operated by local volunteers, the chamber of commerce or tourism groups. I was very impressed with the NZ attitude towards tourism, they do it really well, plenty of information is available and everyone's (iSite staff, bus/cab drivers, retail staff etc) very friendly and helpful. Back on the wharf, several vintage cars were lined up complete with more people in period clothes, another band and a local ice cream company's caravan. It was like a scene from Boardwalk Empire! WELLINGTON (21st December 2011) Wow, a beautiful city. I can see why it's often compared to San Francisco or Vancouver. The large harbor is surrounded by hills and mountains covered by leafy suburbs. It appears that every house would have incredible views! It's easy to imagine being there in winter with a dusting of snow on the distant peaks. The ship docked adjacent to Westpac Stadium, only a km or two from the CBD. I believe that some people walked into town, it didn't look far but it may have been an indirect route getting in and out of port security. The bus fare into town was NZ$5 each way per person, so it would have cost us NZ$40 (AU$31 approx). We opted for a cab which ended up being about NZ$16 in and NZ$18 back (about AU$26) without the waiting. Two representatives from the local cab company were at the wharf, the called it for us and were very friendly and helpful with ideas on what to do. I'd read a few cruise reviews about catching the cable-car up to the lookout and then walking back down through he botanical gardens, which we did. The cab dropped us right outside the cable-car terminal (sort of in the foyer of an office block/arcade) in Lambton Quay. The fair was only NZ$3.50 each for the 5 minute ride up the hill. At the top we took a few photos of the view of this glorious city, had a quick look around the cable-car museum (free) and then decided to walk back into the CBD though the gardens. A guide from the botanical gardens was handing out maps and giving directions. The pathway down was quite steep but very picturesque. The gardens are superb, very European in the design and species. There were plenty of vantage points again for more pictures as we made our way down to the Lady Norwood Rose Garden. We had plenty of fun here as the fountain is full of crazy ducks, ducklings and pigeons! More photo/video opps! It was interesting to see an historic cemetery overlooking the CBD in the gardens. We crossed over the freeway and back into the CBD to the beehive (Parliament House) where we caught a cab back to the wharf (a few sore knees in our group)! The weather was beautiful again, sunny and cool with a slight breeze. I spent an hour or so on the top deck for a nap in the sunshine and cool breeze. It's also a very pleasant and picturesque sail-away from Wellington and out into Cook Strait. I couldn't recall how wide the Strait was so it was interesting to see the South Island in the distance as we left the harbor mouth. AKAROA (22nd December 2011) This was the only tender port during this cruise. I read that the Cruise Council decided to not use Lyttleton for the remainder of 2011 following the Christchurch earthquake in February and Akaroa was the close-by alternative. The decision was apparently due to the priority of cargo ships and incomplete reconstruction of the cruise ship terminal. The tender process was via a ticketing system but it was followed by a long wait (approx 45 minutes) in one of the dining rooms. P&O do this much more efficiently on Pacific Dawn. The tender ride was only about 10 minutes to the wharf. A few people were offering sailing tours of Akaroa harbor and swimming with dolphin trips etc. Akaroa is a very pretty place, the huge caldera providing a safe and picturesque haven for boats. I hope it's extinct! We wandered around this compact village, checking out the coffee shops, restaurants and souvenir shops. We had lunch at a place resembling an Alaskan Whorehouse from the gold rush, very nice fish and chips. Although, I asked for some water and the waitress replied "Sparkling or Still". I said 'Still' but perhaps I should have said 'Tap water' as she eventually poured our water from a nice looking bottle that ended up having a $12 price tag ... ripped off! We walked along the shore to the little lighthouse, taking some more shots along the way. To go inside and climb up the two flights was just NZ$2 and the chap gave us a 5 minute history of it. The balcony around the top was a good vantage point to take some more footage and pictures of this beautiful harbor on an equally beautiful day. There was a 20 minute wait on the wharf in the warm sun to board the next available tender. Sailing out of Akaroa harbor (like most harbors in NZ) featured beautiful scenery and from the front deck we could see a few dolphins playing in the wake. DUNEDIN (23rd December 2011) The ship berths about 10 kms north of the city at Port Chalmers. Apart from it being a significant container port, the town and surrounding hills are ..... once again, very pretty (notice a trend!). You could easily just walk around Port Chalmers and up some hills to vantage points but like most people, we used the buses into Dunedin which were only NZ$10 each return. The trip into the CBD takes about 15 minutes along the pretty estuary, lots of green rolling hills, fir and poplar trees etc. After a quick lap of a few block the bus drops passengers in the heart of the CBD in the Octagon (square). They clearly advised that the last bus leaves from the same point at 5:00 pm. We saw a sign showing directions to the iSite but when I couldn't find it I asked a police officer who politely told me where to go! We grabbed a free map at the iSite shop (they love giving away free maps) and walked around the corner to Cadbury World. We spoke to some people we knew from the cruise who were leaving CW after doing one of the tours. They said it wasn't anything spectacular, especially if you've seen a chocolate factory before. So we went inside the shop, bought some stuff (it was actually very cheap) and then wandered around the displays detailing the history of the factory, the chocolate making process and watched all the animated puppets etc. Perhaps this is what you get with the short tour and we simply walked right in! Anyhow, another fine moment was actually eating a Moro bar (not easy to find in Australia, but my favorite) in the actual factory. We then wandered around the corner down to the train station, very impressive with the historic Celtic architecture. Had a quick look around the inside of the train station, very ornate with plenty of stained glass etc but not quite the size grand central! Then we wandered back to the octagon and had a quick look at the markets. There was an amazing soap stall, all the soaps looked and smelled like real cakes! We walked up George Street to find a decent NZ quality rain jacket. In one of the stores we heard on the radio that Christchurch had just had another quake measuring 5.8, a bit scary as we were about 30 kms away from it yesterday. Hurried back to the Octagon (we weren't spooked!) to get the bus back to Port Chalmers. Even the security guy who gets on the bus at the port to check IDs and passports etc was having a laugh with the passengers, they all seem very chilled out and chatty in NZ. A highland band was on the wharf to pipe the Sun Princess away. Departure up the estuary out to see was very serene and magical, cars sounding their horns and people waving from the coast roads as the ship went past, people on beaches waving and shouting 'Merry Christmas'! DUSKY SOUND (24th December 2011) I was really looking forward to the scenic cruising in Fjordland National Park. It was overcast with very light rain as the ship slowly entered Dusky Sound at about 9:30 am, quite cold ... especially for summer. I thought it was quite impressive (not having seen Milford Sound yet), clouds clinging to the higher peaks, very mystical and still. Several pods of dolphins showed themselves again. The ship turned seaward out through Breaksea Sound and headed north along the west coast. We would arrive in Milford Sound at about 3:30 pm. On the way up there, I saw three seals leaping out of the water just of our port side, then the first site of snow on the trip, in the distance at the end of the fjord as we passed Doubtful Sound. MILFORD SOUND (24th December 2011) The ship slowed to about 2 knots as it quietly entered Milford Sound's still waters. The mountains either side were massive and quite close. By now the sun was shining and the water looked a deep blue colour. At the end of the fjord in front of us, plenty of snow was visible on the peak (Mt McPherson I think). Plenty of smaller tour boats from the town were sailing past, dwarfed by the mountains rising from the sound. As we slowly headed inland towards Mitre Peak lodge in the town, a few waterfalls came into view. These were huge and quite spectacular. By this stage, on the northern side of the fjord we could see up a valley to the snow capped Mt Pembroke which apparently has a permanent snow-cap/glacier. About an hour after entering, not far ashore from the town and adjacent to the inland wall of Mitre Peak, the ship slowly turned around to head back out to the Tasman. Then the wind picked up to a gale but the weather was still fine. Some areas along the handrail of the front deck became vacant so we got a good vantage point at the snowy peaks and waterfalls on the way out, needless to say ... I filled up the camera's memory very quickly. Even after we left Milford Sound, a few nautical miles out to see the mountains looked amazing, plenty more snow caps visible and long white clouds clinging on. SUMMARY Great cruise, great destination and a great ship. I would definitely cruise with Princess again. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2011
As our first time cruising we weren't sure exactly what to expect but went open to all experiences. We had a balcony room on Baha deck 10 room B302, with 2 single beds joined together to make the Queen. The bed is quite short, my ... Read More
As our first time cruising we weren't sure exactly what to expect but went open to all experiences. We had a balcony room on Baha deck 10 room B302, with 2 single beds joined together to make the Queen. The bed is quite short, my husband who is 6feet had his feet overhanging, but the mattress was comfortable. The balcony was small but served the purpose for us, I have to have fresh air and it was lovely to open the windows and see the islands pass by, it also was handy for drying the odd pair of undies or towel. We enjoyed a bottle of wine and some snacks from the buffet one evening on the balcony and it was lovely. The room steward was wonderful, he tidied and cleaned the room several times a day and was very accommodating,he really did a wonderful job. The placement of this room was great, not too far from the lifts and near the front, we had no problems with swell, even though the first 3 days were extremely bouncy and many people were ill. At the end of this floor there is a door that opens on to a somewhat private deck. Not many people realised we were able to go out there and I would imagine only the people on this deck would even know it was there. The bar staff were fantastic remembering names and drinks from the 2nd or 3rd day. The wait staff also were absolutely fantastic all smiles and so obliging. The activities left a little to be desired we had a few days where we just didn't find anything of real interest or when the 2 things we wanted to do were at clashing times. The food was wonderful in both the dining room and the buffet and we loved the Terrace Grill for a snack of hot chips, hot dog, with bratwurst sausage delicious or small burger with a drink in the afternoon. The cocktaills were very reasonably priced $9 - 10 and the bottles of wine around $25 to $35, not the best range but passable. The Verdhi Pizza bar is great for a relaxing dinner or lunch with a nice bottle of red. We actually won the $10,000 bingo jackpot on the last day so what a great way to end the cruise. New Year's Eve was fantastic too. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2011
This cruise was enjoyable but not up to the standard of previous Princess or Carnival cruises.I felt it had been done on a real shoestring budget. Entertainment was also done on the cheap with lots of single entertainers and lots of ... Read More
This cruise was enjoyable but not up to the standard of previous Princess or Carnival cruises.I felt it had been done on a real shoestring budget. Entertainment was also done on the cheap with lots of single entertainers and lots of repeats.Some were good but some ordinary. Regency Dinning room had a nice flower on all the tables till they died and were not replaced, not even with a decoration of any sort,just bare tables,even on formal nights. The meals were nice but not the same class as previous cruises. No hot chocolate in any dining room without paying extra.Also a first for any cruise I have been on. Horizon Court not the same quality of food or fruit this cruise. Ship activities were sadly lacking for the amount of seas days this cruise had. Trivia was the usual American or European based questions. When asked to have more Australian questions,was told everyone would know them. That doesn't seem a problem when the cruise passengers are mainly American,maybe they don't know much about their country either.Bowls(boules) had too many wanting to participate for the time they allowed.Very few afternoon entertainment shows apart from Bingo and wooden horse racing where they make money.The movies were ancient, some B&W.This was very disappointing as we look forward to seeing some modern movies. Forget that one. Must have bought a cheap package deal of old movies. The passengers were fairly old so I'm sure 90% would have already seen these movies.Same old movies and lots of repeats on cabin TV. The pre port talks were informative but not always the best or correct information. eg Gaum, told a few taxis available at port.Not so. Went into town on shuttle bus where lots of taxi waiting as they said passengers from cruises are all dropped off at the hotel in town. Worst maps that have ever been handed out on each port with Princess patter. Cruise embarkation port was Brisbane which is not on the main list of ports. Best part of this cruise was that it left from Brisbane and no flying or luggage restrictions. Embarkment and disembarkment was efficient but I know it took hours to disembark 100 people in Hong Kong. The cabins were small which is probably expected on this age ship. The balcony was so small only two chairs can fit there so no entertaining on balconies. I asked for egg crate mattress top and top sheet which was happily provided by the cabin steward who was always very obliging in anything we asked of him. No mandatory tipping but did tip a few extra anyway. Did wonder if that is why so many things done on the cheap, like old movies, no flowers,hot chocolate etc. Or was it because 95% would have been Australian and they think we will except a lesser standard. The cabins were small which is probably expected on this age ship. The balcony was so small only two chairs can fit there so no entertaining on balconies. I asked for egg crate mattress top and top sheet which was happily provided by the cabin steward who was always very obliging in anything we asked of him. I don't think I will rush to do another Sun Princess cruise and will look at other lines as well. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2010
Where do I start! Departed Sydney on Sun Princess for 13 days Christmas cruise 17th December to New Zealand. Returned from a relaxed and wonderful/perfect holiday. I applaud all Sun Princess staff for accommodating, ... Read More
Where do I start! Departed Sydney on Sun Princess for 13 days Christmas cruise 17th December to New Zealand. Returned from a relaxed and wonderful/perfect holiday. I applaud all Sun Princess staff for accommodating, showing compassion and empathy to passenger's with medical issues. Having suffered a stroke I have mobility restrictions. This cruise looked after and catered for person's of all ages who had walking frames, wheelchairs, electric scooters, walking sticks, people with Dementia, Intellectually Disabled, stroke sufferer's and many other people with medical issue's. I felt more independent and safer on this cruise than I do at my local shopping centre. There were approx. 280 children onboard, we were lucky if we heard or seen more than a dozen. Sun Princess had terrific programs ongoing that catered for children and teenagers. This ship was spotlessly clean, we could not fault anything wrong throughout our time spent on this ship, and the staff are so polite. Handy tips to know: • Take Ginger tablets, many passengers who took nothing suffered with seasickness, we took tablets daily and had no problems. • If you like specialty coffee buy a card $33Au for 15 cups of (choice of cappuccinos, mocha, hot chocolate) we ended up using 3 cards between 2. You can get free coffee but not specialty. • Pack a lightweight jacket, gloves, scarf especially if you plan to watch movies under the stars as it can get cool. • We chose 8.00pm dinning as this allowed us to relax and shower before dinner once we returned from shore excursions. This also allowed plenty of time to get to the 10.00pm show times in the Princess Theatre. The shows were excellent. • Buy a Reflections 5 DVD package for $89.95 at the end of your cruise. Even though we took video and photos this package has more detailed pictures of all the Ports of Call of our cruise experience. Especially Fjordland National Park, the pictures of Milford Sound are spectacular, we could never have captured these spectacular pictures and commentary. • Save buying items from the shops onboard until end of cruise as they have sales. • Wait until last few days of cruise before you pick out and purchase your photos, there are so many to choose from and it can become very costly if you buy everyone. • Take Lanyards as it is easier to have your cruise card around your neck at all times. You can buy them onboard for $7.95. • If you do need to buy items eg. Toothpaste, tissues, stockings, women's toiletry items, ginger, pain tablets, bandaids and sunscreen onboard it is very expensive. Pack a first aid kit. We did pack these items, many other passengers did not and it cost them a lot. Embarkation and Disembarkation was so organized from the time we arrived and were met at Sydney Airport to leaving Sydney Airport for home. If other business's ran as organized as Princess Cruise's have maybe the world would be a better place (especially the Government). Extremely impressed with all staff and the way they conducted themselves throughout the cruise. Would highly recommend cruising on Sun Princess. We are planning our next cruise already. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2010
I agree ... we were also on the cruise from Sydney December 17 and agree with everything the previous reviewer said. I actually didn't use my lanyard (being a female I felt a bit dorky wearing the cruisecard around my neck and ... Read More
I agree ... we were also on the cruise from Sydney December 17 and agree with everything the previous reviewer said. I actually didn't use my lanyard (being a female I felt a bit dorky wearing the cruisecard around my neck and easily kept it in a pocket instead. The staff were outstanding and really got into the Christmas spirit, wearing Santa hats, etc. and the whole ship was decorated, especially the Atrium which looked magical, especially when "snow" was organised. Everyone had a little Christmas stocking with sweets on our pillow instead of the usual chocolates on Christmas Eve. We didn't know whether we would enjoy the cruising life (especially my active husband who doesn't usually like being constrained in one place), but there are so many areas and things to do neither of us felt this way at all. We have spoken to a lot of people since returning, and many friends say, "cruise ships are just like floating RSL clubs". These comments always come from people who have never cruised, and I just tell them it couldn't be further from the truth. We are planning our next cruise (or dreaming at least!) for 2012. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2010
I have appreciated all of the information from other members who take the time to write so I feel obligated to make comments on this which is my 4th cruise (each cruise has been with a different cruise line. I wrote a scathing review of ... Read More
I have appreciated all of the information from other members who take the time to write so I feel obligated to make comments on this which is my 4th cruise (each cruise has been with a different cruise line. I wrote a scathing review of the Holland Americas Prinsendam ship in October 2008 after a 28 day Mediterranean and Black Sea Medley cruise but I am happy to say that this experience with Sun Princess was so much better. This cruise was for 13 days to New Zealand departing from Sydney on Dec 17 2010 thereby spending Xmas on board the Sun Princess. EMBARKATION Smooth with no problems. CABIN We had a balcony cabin on Aloha deck (deck 11). Beware of cabin A410 (port side) and also any cabins near this one on the port side for 2 reasons. Firstly, it is on deck 11 which is obviously more expensive, yet this cabin was directly under the Riviera Bar and quite often you could hear very loud scraping noises from the moving of the furniture, chairs and tables whenever people were getting on and off chairs and also I assume when staff were repositioning furniture on the deck early morning and late evening. It wasn't bad enough to stop us resting or sleeping but I just thought I'd better mention it. Secondly, the port side directly underneath the cabins around A410 is a smoking area as it is adjacent to the Riviera Bar. All smokers gather in this area to smoke (I don't know if there are other areas on the ship where they can smoke) but in this area there can be 10 or more people at any one time smoking and the smoke wafts down into the cabins directly below of which A410 was one. It can be very overpowering if you are not a smoker and if you have your balcony door open which you would want to do for a lot of the time as that is why you have paid the extra money. We had to shut the door on a number of occasions, so if you have a choice of cabins then consider a cabin away from this area for the above two reasons. Also the cabin was a bit small for a balcony room. In the other cruise ships we have been on we did have a 2 seater lounge in each of the balcony rooms we have had so you don't have to watch TV on the bed all the time. The room was a bit worn as many of these older ships are, but it was still OK. The bathroom was very small but still OK. Some rust on the balcony and what looked like large salt deposits stuck to the frames of the balcony doors on the inside of the room. The sheets did not seem a crisp new white colour but more of a light beige colour but they looked clean so it was OK for us. There was also a motor starting up somewhere near our corridor or in a shaft somewhere near us resulting in a whirring engine noise in our room which we noticed seemed to come and go. It went for good eventually but if it had continued, it may have become a bit more of a problem when trying to get to sleep. We did call the pursers office and they sent a man quickly but it had gone by the time he got there and he said that he hadn't done anything to fix it and I got the impression that it was not something that could have been fixed very easily anyway if it had continued. SHIP The Sun Princess is as we know an older ship and of course it shows but I believe that they do the best that they can with what they have. The areas were always clean and tidy and I didn't mind the ship at all. Many of the public areas are really nice and it was good enough for us. In the next 2 years we will try to cruise on some really great ships in the US but those types of ships just don't come out here so we have to take what is on offer. I had not expected it to be any better than what it was and I had actually expected it to be an awful lot worse so we were suitably pleased and happy. The ship was decked out with what I thought were really nice, classy (not at all tacky) Xmas decorations. The atrium and other areas were beautiful. All the kids had their photos taken with Santa and were given a teddy bear each to unwrap as they completed their photo with Santa and considering each of the 300 children on board got a gift, I thought it was wonderful. We don't have children but we were quite emotional to see them with Santa as we didn't think that the ship would go to that sort of effort. The cruise directors really did everything to make it a great Xmas. We were impressed. Snow in the atrium on two occasions and a wonderful huge gingerbread house display in the atrium. Xmas carols in the atrium surrounded by staff and guests on Xmas eve and on Xmas day and we thought that it was just very well done that's all, Very nice and very well done. A little stocking on your bed with some sweets on it and the usual turn down service with chocolates was done well and the cabin was sufficiently cleaned each day with beds made as usual etc. All the kids were only becoming a bit restless and running around and playing in the lifts on the last 2 days of the cruise. We had hardly noticed them prior to this as they must have been kept busy by the staff but I assume that by the last 2 days of the cruise the staff were not organizing as many activities for them or whatever and therefore the kids may have got bored. I appreciated the Captains warning message during the life boat drill about bad behaviour not being tolerated and about kids needing to be supervised and I think that most people took it seriously. Without the special staff to look after the kids on board I think that these cruises during school holidays could otherwise become a nightmare for those of us who are not used to lots of children. For our small family of 3 (mother husband and wife) it was a great option for getting away at Xmas time and still having a nice Xmas with a lot of festivities so overall the ship was good. FOOD We didn't feel the need to pay extra to attend the steak house restaurant on board as we were very happy with the food. After my last cruise on Holland America whereby the food was mostly inedible, we were grateful that we were getting what we thought to be restaurant quality meals in the dining room and quite edible food in the buffet although the buffet was usually crowded and a bit claustrophobic so we just ate our breakfast and lunch there quickly and didn't hang around at all. The hot chips in the poolside Terrace snack bar were undercooked so I only had those once and I did not try the burgers so I can't comment. The afternoon teas which we attended a lot in the dining room were nice with little savory sandwiches and biscuits and cakes all of which were quite acceptable we thought. The scones were probably the best I've ever tasted. This was the only place where the water tasted really nice so we enjoyed our tea here especially in a proper tea cup as the plastic mugs in the buffet don't appeal to us so we didn't drink tea out of those. It sounds stupid but next time I will bring my own mug as I hate the plastic mugs that much. COFFEE The coffee warrants a special mention. I wouldn't bother with the 30 dollar coffee card again as the coffee is shocking and I believe it is bad on many other cruise ships. Other people were drinking it though so it was obviously OK for some people. We talked to others who didn't like it either. I saw one woman order a double shot espresso. Well that would have killed me, I honestly don't know how she consumed it. We only used the coffee card a few times so it was wasted money. They really, really need to do something about the coffee as most people really love to sit down and relax somewhere with a nice coffee no matter how much it costs as long as its nice. In the end we asked for it very weak and with chocolate in it too as a weak mocha was all we could take and we gave that up in the end. We will take coffee sachets on board for ourselves next time and just use the hot water as even Nescafe instant coffee would taste better. But there was a high quality selection of teas available in the buffet room that no one could possibly be unhappy with. ALCOHOL We didn't drink a lot but the cocktails were OK at 9 or 10 AUS dollars and the wine and beer prices were OK but some of the bottles of wine at dinner were a bit expensive but we realize that this is always the case on cruises and we just curb our consumption a bit and don't spend too much even though we can afford it. We just do our little "protest" routine against any type of rip off so we don't overspend on the alcohol. BUFFET The buffet quality and selection was good. Of course it all gets a bit monotonous after 2 weeks but as long as I wasn't cooking and I could find something to eat, I didn't really care. We thought it was fine and most people ate lots and we didn't really hear any complaints except some people don't like American style crispy bacon. They did have English style bacon on some days so they made that effort too. There were waffles at breakfast and rolls and muffins and croissants as well as a hot selection. The bread rolls were really crisp on the outside and soft on the inside and were really nice. The staff who were cooking and serving did look a lot better presented than the people on the Holland America cruise we took who looked quite unkempt which made us wonder how the food was being prepared back in the kitchen. We didn't bother with the dining room for breakfast so I can't comment. RESTAURANT We were very, very impressed with our evening meals and our waiters. Well presented, well cooked and served meals. We had fast, efficient service from 2 very nice waiters who moved with grace and competence and who got it right for us each night. (Sunny and his assistant). Attention to detail was good and on Xmas night they had turkey or lamb as well as the other options and they had Xmas crackers on the table and everyone wore their paper hats and it was all very Christmassy and all very well done. I believe that every effort that could possibly be made by the cruise line had been made given that they were serving a couple of thousand people each night and they really did everything to make it a nice, classy dining experience each night. For us, we felt as though we were eating out at a top class restaurant each evening which was a surprise as I had no such expectations after our Holland America cruise where we sent meals back that were just plain horrible and inedible. Lots of choice for the menu and the produce was of a quality that we would eat at home. We wouldn't eat any better at home and that is the comparison I always make. I suppose it's all about what you expect and as we had no expectations we were really, really happy. Very, very happy with the restaurant. PIZZERIA The pizzas were edible but could have done with a bit more topping but the crust was crisp and thin, somewhat like a thin woodfired pizza so they were OK too. Did not try the pasta as that was only available in the evenings at the pizzeria and we always went to the restaurant for dinner as it was so good. ENTERTAINMENT We were very, very happy with the entertainment. Everything was very good. One comedian was not so great but everyone likes different things and I just couldn't relate to his subject matter. I still appreciate anyone who can get up on a stage and do anything. The dancers were absolutely fantastic and all the singers were good too especially all the lead singers and special acts on board. Lots of people danced when in the atrium or in the bars where there was a dance floor. Everyone seemed to be having a really good time on this Xmas cruise. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves so much and therefore the atmosphere was really good and that is partly due to the cruise directors efforts. FILMS ON TV and ONBOARD ACTIVITIES There is no DVD player in the room as we have had on other cruises but we took a lap top with a DVD player so that we could play our own films and we took a selection of DVDs with us. We didn't use it much as there was always something to do on board. We went to the ballroom dancing lessons and the trivia and we took advantage of the good library selection. The films showing on the TV were OK but you ended up always missing the start or the finish of the film as you were going off doing other things on the ship but I guess you can watch TV anytime at home. We were happy with the amount of activities on board even though we didn't do many of them. STAFF We found the staff to be very friendly and more "normal" than on other cruises we have been on where they either seemed "fake" or to just "get on your nerves" all the time. My husband, my mother and I are all extremely irritable and negative people but I can say that no one really got on our nerves at all on this cruise. The staff were just fine in every respect and I found them to all be very competent and seemed to know exactly the right thing to say and do at the right time from the Captain and the cruise directors through to the room attendants, pursers and waiters. They didn't over play things or go on and on about things and they didn't appear to be overbearing. You didn't get the impression that they were constantly promoting themselves in order to get extra gratuities and they didn't keep pushing you to buy things all the time but they were always there if they were needed. They seemed to be available and they seemed to work 24/7 without pushing themselves onto you all the time. The bar staff could at times be a bit pushy in their efforts to sell you drinks but then some might say that they demonstrated good service as they were always at hand if you wanted drinks and those drinks arrived very quickly. It's just that we don't drink much so we don't want to be asked if we want a drink every 5 minutes because we had to keep on saying no. The Captain and cruise directors also kept us sufficiently informed of when the main sites of interest were coming up giving everyone plenty of time to "get in position" e.g. Milford sound highlights and also with various other bits of information. I must also say that the quality and appearance of staff on board was good . There were no staff hanging around looking slovenly and unkempt or loitering about the ship doing nothing or not making a contribution as we had experienced on the Holland America cruise we were last on. All staff in the public eye were active, clean cut and well presented. XMAS FESTIVITIES As previously mentioned the staff really tried hard and in our opinion did succeed in making it a Xmas to remember. They did everything they could have in terms of the usual festivities that a family would have at that time of year. SHORE EXCURSIONS We did not do any as my mother can't go all that far. We just walked or took a cab or the shuttle bus to the main city adjacent to each of the Ports. Shuttle prices weren't that bad compared with Holland America. You can walk into Auckland from the ship. You can walk into Wellington from the ship but its only 1.5 kms by cab or shuttle, the same with Napier. It was only Dunedin and Christchurch where it was a 25 minute trip into the town. So it's a great cruise for getting as much out of the day in port as possible as there is not a lot of traveling time from the Port to the town so it doesn't cut into your day as much unlike some ports in Europe where you are between 1 and 3 hours drive away from the city where all the sights are. This makes for a long and expensive day trying to actually get to see anything and after a while you wonder why you bothered to cruise around Europe as it's so much more of a hassle. You have to rely on the ships tours in order to see anything but in New Zealand you can do a lot yourself with ease due to the Ports being so close to the city or town. If there are 3 or more people in your party then it's just as cheap to take a taxi as the shuttle bus. ADDITONAL WARNING One thing that did upset us which was nothing to do with the ship or the staff was that my mother left her favorite jacket on a chair in the buffet and someone took it and did not hand it back to the pursers office. It was only a cheap jacket but it was new and it was her favorite one. I thought that it was a horrible thing to do to as you only take a limited amount of clothing away and if someone takes your jacket you might not have brought another one with you. We did go into a store at Napier and buy another jacket for her but could not get the same one. The Pursers office staff were nice when we kept enquiring as to whether it had been handed in but there was nothing they could do and I just think that even though you are part of a little community on board a ship and you think that you are all honorable people, you need to remember that there can still be thieves on board and you really do have to be vigilant with your belongings. We also have heard friends tell stories about people stealing clothes that have been left unattended whilst in the dryer or in a basket in the laundry. It seems that some people see a top or a blouse that they like and if it's unattended then they just take it!!!!! And as most people take their really nice, new garments away with them, it seems as though it can be too much of a temptation for some people. You need to stay with your clothes even when they are in the washing machine or dryer in the laundry. It was unfortunate as I believe that about 99% of the people on that ship who could have found the jacket would have handed it back but we were unlucky enough to leave it at a time where that 1% of not so nice people came upon it. In fairness we have also heard stories of how other people have lost very valuable items and yet they were handed in so it was just unlucky for us. GETTING OFF THE SHIP Some lifts were closed for maintenance from time to time throughout the cruise but it did not affect us. Disembarking at each port seemed to be in a nice orderly fashion. OVERALL A very good cruise experience, excellent staff, excellent food, excellent entertainment, excellent Xmas festivities and reasonable room on a reasonably well maintained ship. A well choreographed Xmas event cruise which left us feeling happy and uplifted as one should feel after a holiday. We would definitely sail with Princess Cruises again. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2010
Upon arrival at Sydney airport we promptly organised a transfer to the ship at the cost of $15 each via coach with Princess and this allowed us to put our bags on and not see them again until we were onboard the ship. Good value and great ... Read More
Upon arrival at Sydney airport we promptly organised a transfer to the ship at the cost of $15 each via coach with Princess and this allowed us to put our bags on and not see them again until we were onboard the ship. Good value and great service. Check-in was very well organised and we were onboard within 1/2 hour of arriving at the Wharf. A very busy process but they have got it so well organised. While waiting to go on board we sat there analysing the different age groups and parties that we were going to be spending the next 13 days and Christmas with. There were alot of elderly people going aboard which I guess you can expect, especially that time of year and maybe with NZ destination. I would say that 70% of people were over the age of 60. A bit surprising to us having sailed with P&O 3 times prior and having a younger group on board. I was a bit concerned for the first 24 hours that the older group might make things a bit boring for us "not so older" groups but after the first day you started to see how many families and younger people were on board also. There were apparently up to 400 "younger cruisers" onboard, however I failed to see that many. All kids that I seen were exremely well behaved and appeared to enjoy every moment. Once on board we were promptly met by our cabin steward Ramon, he was friendly without being too obtrusive and did a tremendous job of keeping our cabin spotless each day. My husband and I had a cabin each which I shared with our 14 year old daughter and he with our 10 year old son. We had originally tried to book a quad cabin but they were booked out and we were then surprisingly able to book two double cabins for a much cheaper price so went with this option. Rooms were a little dated but very clean and well maintained. The ship itself was extremely well maintained. I would never have thought it was 15 years old. Far superior to P&O, however, I think P&O attract younger groups which may explain why their ships do not appear to be as well maintained. The cruise director and his staff were a mix of UK and American/Canadian. It took me a while to warm to him but by the end of the cruise we thought they did a great job and provided a good mix of entertainment. The singers/dancers were high quality and very professional. I would have liked to see them mix more with the passengers more on Tropical night but that wasnt to be. The food - buffet was great quality. Breakfast was a good selection each day and there was always an ample amount available. The only criticism I would have is that with supposedly 300 kids onboard they should have had a small section catering to their needs a little more. A few chicken nuggets and maybe the odd spaghetti bog wouldnt have gone astray for those smaller children onboard who didnt like eating curries or casserole dishes. However there was a grill which provided hotdogs/cheeseburgers and chips which my daughter loved. You could also visit the Pizzeria which made nice fresh pizzas with a minimal selection of toppings and the best Tiramisu for dessert. All of which was included at no additional charge. The formal dining was great quality also. We only dined twice in there as we found it easier with the kids to use the buffet. Christmas formal dinner was my favourite with all the traditional meals on the menu and Christmas crackers etc included. The first night we went formal our meals were served very promptly but on Christmas it seemed to take forever, maybe because there were more people. This made us miss out on Santa Claus arriving which could probably have been better organised so that all children could have seen him. Because our dinner sitting was at an allocated time our kids missed out - our choice I guess, but with it being Christmas we wanted to dine formally. Overall, food was great and nothing much to complain about. Shore tours - we learnt after our first cruise never to book them on the ship. We have always done our own thing ever since - much cheaper, especially when travelling with kids. Entertainment - My son (10) loved the kids club and was keen to go there as often as he could. The staff did their best to provide entertainment. My 14 year old daughter went to the teenage group once but not knowing anyone she decided not to go back and did her own thing after that. She eventually made friends with another younger girl and they did a lot on the last few days of cruising. As mentioned earlier, the entertainment was great quality and probably one of the best I have seen on a ship. The singers were good without overdoing it and stretching themselves more than they could. The shows were tailored to suit all age groups and I think everyone enjoyed what they saw. There were also bands and quartets playing around the ship so plenty to choose from depending on your taste. They had a magician/comedian on board also which was good. They did repeat the shows to accommodate the numbers so that everyone had a chance to see. Drinks - Plenty of cocktails to choose from with a standard price of $10. All drinks included gratuity of 10% which we thought was fair. Beer/wine prices were average pub prices. Gratuity - We were charged $10 per day per person over 13 as gratuity. We were also given a cabin credit of $100 per person with our booking so this really covered the gratuities and we were happy with that. The staff work incredibly hard and long hours so we dont begrudge them getting this on top of their apparently very low wages. The only staff that could sometimes be a bit lacking were in buffet - it was always a wait to try and get a drink until I worked out it was easier to go and get one myself. Overall though the staff were only too happy to do anything for you and were very polite and courteous, especially to the children. Overall, I would highly recommend Princess as a more superior cruise line to P&O. We seen some fabulous scenery and were very impressed with our itinerary and New Zealand as a destination. However if you are looking to party party party I didnt really see much of this. Quite conservative which suited us but probably wouldnt suit the younger types unless you are travelling in a big group. Port 1 - Bay of Islands - New Zealand Lovely little town. We tendered into port and did our own thing catching the ferry across to Pt Russell. The weather was extremely foggy this day which added to the scenery and made for an interesting day. Sleeping fishing village sort of atmosphere. Great start. Port 2 - Auckland - New Zealand Excellent stop. We pre organised (online) our hop on/hop off bus tour which was a 10 minute walk from the ship. Took you around to all the top sightseeing spots and we covered a lot of ground that day including the Sky Tower, Kelly Tarltons Antarctic Discovery Centre, Mt Eden, Westfield Shopping Centre (lunch), Museum etc... quite cheap and a great way to see Auckland in a day. Port 3 - Napier - New Zealand Art Deco capital. We just walked around the town and did some souvenir shopping. Busy in the main shopping mall but not much else to do. Lovely town to just sit back and relax. Free shuttle bus into the town from the ship. Port 4 - "Windy" Wellington - New Zealand It certainly lived up to its reputation this day with 50 knot winds greeting us off the ship. Once again we pre organised a hop on hop off bus tour which we prompty found about 10 minutes walk from where the bus dropped us off. Shuttle bus cost $15 per adult return (kids were free). The hop on bus took about an hour to do the whole tour so we stayed on for the first round and decided to get off at the cable car second time round and take a ride down to the bottom. Well worthwhile and different experience. Would have done more had it not been so windy however it was still a lovely day. Port 5 - Christchurch - New Zealand We were here on Christmas day. It cost $15 each to travel into Christchurch on the shuttle bus return. We once again did our thing walking around to the main square and seeing the cathedral. We then visited the Botanical Gardens and had a quiet drink in a pub around lunch time before proceeding back to the ship in the afternoon. They have a lovely tram which takes you on a tour and gondola ride which we would have done if we had known about it. Cost $37 each. Port 6 - Dunedin - New Zealand We booked (online) the Taieri Railway Gorge trip. Far cheaper than booking through the ship however the ship does pick you up from the port and provide wining and dining. I think the cost of this tour through the ship was $239 each. We paid $90 per adult and the kids were free. Admittedly we had to catch a cab to the train station at $40 and we were on a different train but we got to see the same sights and were able to buy our own food onboard. Far cheaper option when travelling with kids and I would highly recommend it for the scenery. Port 7 - Fjordland National Park - New Zealand The weather wasnt the best with rain closing in and lots of low cloud and fog however our captain carried on and made the most of it for all of us. It was well worth while with the rain providing spectacular views of gushing waterfalls and magnificent scenerey that has to be seen to be believed. Certainly a highlight for us and we were glad not to be on the MS Volendam who apparently pulled the pin on this part of the cruise due to the weather. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2010
Background: This was our second cruise with Princess and first time on the Sun Princess. We are a married couple in our late 20's and this was our first time taking a cruise abroad. We booked through AAA. Pre-Cruise: We flew ... Read More
Background: This was our second cruise with Princess and first time on the Sun Princess. We are a married couple in our late 20's and this was our first time taking a cruise abroad. We booked through AAA. Pre-Cruise: We flew out of Pittsburgh, PA on the evening of 11/19 and had a connection in LAX en route to Sydney. It was quite a long flight, but luckily our bags arrived on time. We generally like to arrive in port a day early and book our own flights to save money, however due to work scheduled we were forced to arrive on the morning of the cruise and therefore booked the more expensive flights through Princess to get the next port protection in case we were delayed. I highly recommend signing up for frequent flier miles if you plan to fly from the U.S, as we new have nearly enough combined for a round trip ticket in the U.S. with our combined miles. Embarkation: We arrived in Sydney around 7:00 am and were through customs and immigration fairly quickly. Thanks to other Aussie cruise members on the boards, we knew prior to arrival that we were going to be delayed a few hours due to the ship hitting rough weather in the Tasman on the way back from NZ. Luckily for us, while clearing customs, we ran into another couple coming from the U.S. and informed them the ship was delayed. I say lucky for us because, after clearing customs, we set out to find the Princess rep to transfer to the pier. We expected a large sign or piles of luggage would give the location away, but after walking around the airport for 15 minutes we still could not find anyone and the information booths didn't seem to know what we were talking about. Fortunately, we spotted the couple from the immigration line who found the cruise representative caring a small folder that had a Princess cruises sign, and we joined up with them. She informed us that we would be taken to the Park Royal hotel where they would have snacks for us until we could transfer to the pier after the previous passengers disembarked. Upon arrival at the hotel, it looked like most of the other passengers there were willing to just hang out and wait for the pier transfer. We really wanted to explore the city, especially since we only had about 6 hours before we had to board. We asked the staff if they had a map of the city and told them we would find our own way the rest of the way to the pier after we finished exploring. Our bags had already been taken to the pier, which left us free to explore. We set off on foot to walk the approx 1 mile to the Opera house and Darling Harbor. We spend some time exploring Circular Quay, the Opera house, and walked onto the Harbor Bridge. We then headed to the pier to get in line to board at approx 3:00 pm. It seemed a bit disorganized and was very crowded, but we eventually made it through all of the lines and headed on to the ship. The people from the hotel who waited for the transfer arrived to the port after we did. Once on the ship, we had a late lunch in the Horizon court, did the obligatory muster drill (it always amazes me how difficult it seems to be fore people to follow directions, which always makes the drill take longer than it would otherwise need to) then went up on deck for the sailaway and got very good pictures/video of our ship cruising under the harbor bridge and past the Opera house while listening to Derringer, the onboard Canadian band. After the sailaway, we went to dinner in the dining room, which was open seating, and sat with a British couple. Dinner consisted of Rockfish, Prime rib, and a few other choices that were very good. We went back to our room to find all of our luggage delivered, and went to bed around 10:00 pm. At sea (Day 2): On the first sea day, we decided to sleep in a bit then went for breakfast at the Horizon court at approx 9:00 am. The Horizon court was VERY crowded on the sea days. Choices included sausage, bratwurst, grilled tomatoes, eggs, bacon, fruit, cereal, doughnuts, among other things. After breakfast, we decided to wander the ship for a bit. The Sun Princess is one of the older ships in the fleet, but recently underwent a refurbishment and Movies under the stars was added. We noticed very little wear and tear in most of the areas, which I had seen many people comment on prior to the refurbishment. After walking around and taking a nap, we headed to lunch where some of the choices included snapper lamb, stir fried chicken curry, chicken lo mein, and soups and salads. Lunch was also very crowded. This was also the day of the cruise critic meet and greet, and we had fun meeting many of the people we had spent months talking to on the forums. It was also interesting to hear many of the Aussies on board comment on our "American accent", as it sounded to us like everyone else had the accent ? The ship was comprised of approx 85% Aussies, 10% Americans, and 3% British, and 2% from other countries. We found the Aussies to be a great group of people to cruise with as they are all very laid back and don't take themselves too seriously. It was also fun for us to cruise on an Australian-based ship, because we were looking forward to learning about other places and cultures but knew were weren't going to get to spend much time in Australia due to time constraints. We certainly felt by the end of the cruise that we learned a lot about many different areas of Australia and enjoyed having ample time throughout the cruise to talk to many different Aussies about their country. After the meet and greet, we were able to catch some live American Sunday night (Monday afternoon on the ship) football for a little taste of home. Still being exhausted from the previous day, we slept through our dinner seating and ended up going to the Horizon court for a late dinner prior to going to bed for the evening. At sea (Day 3): We awoke at around 8:30 am to find that the weather was much cooler (16 C) and windier, and the Tasman much rougher than the previous day. We decided to spend most of the day in our cabin, B543, as ½ of GreeniePrincess wasn't feeling very well due to the rough weather. We made it to the Mexican style lunch and an onboard lecture on the ports and horses, but spent most of the day sleeping and watching TV. We chose an interior cabin, which was much different than the larger balcony we had on our previous cruise. We had a small closet which was just big enough to hang most of our clothes and hide our 2 suitcases to get them out of the way. The shower was slightly larger than the one we had in our balcony room on the Coral Princess, and the bathroom was about the same size. There were also 2 small dressers and small refrigerator. We found, as we expected, that outside of napping and sleeping we spent very little time in the room. Given how windy and cool it was on the Tasman crossing and how far out to sea we went after each port, we were happy we didn't pay the extra money for a balcony or window. We were also very happy with our cabin steward who was more than willing to get us anything we asked for and made sure to say "hi" to us every time he saw us. We enjoyed getting to know a little about him and his family, and also enjoyed getting to know our waiters who were also willing to accommodate any request. The service on the ship was as good or better than what we experienced on the newer Coral Princess. This evening was also the first of two formal nights on the ship. We sipped on complimentary champagne and mimosas while getting to know some of the onboard crew and watching the champagne waterfall. Princess tends to keep the number of announcements to a minimum, usually one in the morning and afternoon from the captain and otherwise only to announce arrival in ports when ready for disembarkation. We always enjoyed our captain's announcements, so it was nice to have the opportunity to see him and the rest of his crew. Dinner choices consisted of beef fillet, salmon, lobster bisque, crab meat quiche, and Wellington, as well as various dessert options. We turned in early to bed after dinner to be up early for our first port day. Bay of Islands (Day 4): As this was a tender port, we decided to take one of the Princess shore excursions in order to be one of the first off the ship and not have to wait in the long line for a tender boat. We had looked into independent shore excursions, however felt that it was worth the money to take a Princess excursion in this port to get an early tender to shore. We met in the Princess Theater for the Hole in the Rock cruise, which was full, and I would highly recommend it. We saw many dolphins on they way out to the hole and our boat was able to make it through the hole in the rock. After the tour, we were dropped off in Pahia where we browsed the shops and had some local ice cream. We walked back to the tender boats past the treaty grounds to head back to the ship. We ate a late lunch on board of fish and chips, cream of broccoli soup, pasta with mushroom sauce, seafood curry, and mashed potatoes and gravy. It was much less crowded for breakfast and lunch on port days, as we were usually at breakfast before most people were awake (usually before 7:00 am) and at lunch after most people had eaten (usually after 3:00 pm). We spent some time in the room relaxing before going to dinner with our Canadian tablemates. Choices for dinner included scallops and peppers, pea soup, various salads, watermelon and citrus in mercapone sauce, fillet pot roast, and fettuccini alfredo. We found that we were not interested in much of the evening entertainment because we preferred to go to bed early and get up early in the ports. Entertainment mostly consisted of the princess dancers, singers, and comedians among other things, and from what I understand, the shows were often quite full. Auckland (Day 5): We were up early, around 6:30 am, to eat breakfast and were off the ship by 8:00 am in order t avoid the disembarkation line. We decided to see Auckland on our own using a hop on/hop off bus. We made a stop at Kelly Tarltons, which was interesting to see especially if you want to see penguins, but probably not worth the time waiting in line (if you take an organized tour, you can usually skip the line). We then went to Mt. Eden for some very nice views of the city and spent some time looking around. As we are avid geocachers, we spend a fair amount of time getting off the bus at various other places to grab a few geocaches around the city. We then headed back to the ship for a late lunch and made it back to our room in time to see President Obama on an international news channel pardoning a turkey, since today was Thanksgiving in the U.S. We were up on deck for the sailaway, and they announced that they planned to have a Thanksgiving "dinner" on deck for the Americans (and anyone else who was interested in going). They served pizza, meatballs, sausage in a blanket, and chicken wings, and the cruise director was there with a small cardboard turkey he named "Dorthy." It was a cute celebration and we had fun meeting some of the other Americans on board. Finally, we went to dinner where there was lamb, prime rib, salmon, cod, orange roughy, seafood skewers, chicken soup with onions, and of course, turkey as an alternate choice. The food, as always, was excellent. Again, we went to bed instead of taking in a show. Tauranga (Day 6): We were up early again for breakfast and off the ship by 7:30 am. We had book an excursion with Dolphin Seafaris hoping to swim with some of the local wild dolphins. Unfortunately, there were no dolphins to be found that day, probably because the water was a few degrees cooler than usual for that time of year, but the staff was very professional and courteous and was able to show us some other local wildlife including a blue shark, fairy penguins, kingfish, and gannets fishing. We headed back to the ship for lunch (and dessert), then left the ship again to walk up Mt. Maunganui. It was quite a climb, but well worth the amazing view and we could see many of the small islands that we had been close to earlier in the day while on our dolphin search. We then headed back to the ship for dinner, and choices included prawns, duck, whitefish, hot and sour soup, and salads. We decided to skip the tropical party and desserts to go to bed, as that climb up the mountain made us pretty sore and tired. Napier (Day 7): We decided to sleep in a bit today, as we were not expected to get into port until noon. We had some fairly large swells overnight, making this one of the roughest nights we had at sea, and the weather was windy and much cooler than in the previous 3 ports. Lunch in the Horizon court seemed very crowded, as everyone was trying to eat at the same time before getting in line to get off the ship. This was the only day we had to wait in line to disembark, and it took us probably 20-30 minutes to get off the ship. Once off the ship, we had to wait approx another half hour to get the free shuttle off of the pier, as this is a working port. The ship dropped us off in town, and we spent some time walking around and geocaching. Unfortunately, we had hoped to walk to the aquarium, but ran out of time as this was a short day in port. We figured we would have time, which is why we didn't take one of the tours, and didn't do well with our time management today. Instead, we spent some time shopping and were back on the ship by 4:30 pm and went up on deck for the 5:30 sailaway. We continued to have large swells, and luckily we had brought enough sea sickness tablets that it wasn't too much of a problem. We took a nap, then headed to dinner where choices included spicy prawns, veal in marsala sauce, pasta, spinach salad with bacon, eggplant parm, and smoked ham and melon proscuitto. We went to bed early again. Wellington (Day 8): We got up early for breakfast and hopped off the boat as soon as we could to grab a geocache. We only had about an hour before we had to be back on the ship for our tour. We had again decided to take a Princess tour, Seal Coast Safari, which was one of our favorites of the trip. We hopped into 4WD vehicles and were taken up over some beautiful mountains with an amazing view of Wellington. We saw everything from brumbies to deer to ostriches on this trip. We headed down the other side of the mountains and our guide noticed over fifty dolphins in the waters below just off the coast. He informed us that they are a pretty rare sight, and we spent some time taking pictures before heading down toward the coastline. We drove from there to a rocky outcropping where we saw a few seals up close and got a better look at the dolphins, in addition to taking a fun drive along the bumpy coast. We then headed back to the ship and grabbed the free shuttle into Wellington city, where we walked around the harbor and CBD and up to the beehive. We tried the local gelato and shopped for souvenirs before heading back to the ship for a late lunch. Dinner that evening consisted of scallops, black bean and lobster soup, and rib eye steak with peppercorn sauce. We decided to take in a western show with line dancing, but didn't stay long because ½ of GreeniePrincess was again feeling sea sick, and went to bed Lyttleton/Christchurch (Day 9): Ate and early breakfast and got off the ship before the line formed. Decided t take the $10 pp shuttle into Christchurch, as we decided not to book a tour in advance for this port. The drive was narrated and showed us some of the earthquake-damaged buildings that were in the process of being repaired. We were dropped off in town near the cathedral, where we spent some time walking around and looking for souvenirs. As we had not seen a kiwi up to this point (which was a must do for us, since we really enjoy wildlife and it is the national bird), we headed to Southern encounter to take a quick tour. Unfortunately, their exhibit was under repair, so we went to plan B. We took the local bus system to Willowbank Wildlife preserve, where we unfortunately found that their kiwi house was also under constructions. But now worries, since they had a kiwi guarantee, they told us we could make a stop at the end of our stay to see the breeding area where they raise kiwis until they can release them into the preserve (usually costs extra, however because their exhibit was down they were letting people in for free). We spent time walking around the preserve taking in the wallabies that came so close you could nearly touch them, and many more animals. We finally stopped in the breeding program area. Unfortunately, all of the kiwis were behind glass, but we did get to see the handlers weighing the baby kiwis and the kiwi eggs (they are huge!) in the incubators. It was well worth the trip. We then headed back to the city and stopped for fish, chips, and beer at one of the local pubs. We finally took the shuttle back to the ship and then hopped on the free shuttle into Lyttleton for the last hour before our ship departed. We only spent about a half hour looking around before we realized how exhausted we were and headed back to the ship for some rest before dinner. Dinner consisted of a potato and cheddar quiche, cauliflower soup, greens with cucumber dressing, cod fillet, rosemary spring chicken with garlic, apple crumble dessert, or the signature loveboat dream. Then it was early to bed. Port Chalmers/Dunedin (Day 10): We decided to do the Pub Crawl through Princess after giving it a lot of thought, because we felt it was somewhat overpriced, but as this was the only rainy day we had the entire trip, it worked out fairly well as we were inside most of the day. We got up early and hiked up a hill overlooking Dunedin and the ship prior to our tour, then headed back to the ship to get ready to go. The tour consisted of a tour of Speights with an open bar of a few of their beers at the end that everyone could try. We also went to 4 more local pubs, and had been given 4 tickets for free beers that we could use at any of the pubs. The very quiet bus at the end of the day got quite a but louder and more fun as the day progressed. We also had our choice of a few different lunches at one of the pubs and got to see some of the city while in transit to the different pubs. Unfortunately, as the tour lasted most of the time we were in port, there was no time left to explore the city on our own. Looking back, the tour probably was a fair price for the amount we were able to see, as we likely would have had to get a taxi to make it to the various pubs and buy our own lunch and beer. We were dropped off back at the ship and caught the free shuttle into Port Chalmers for a few minutes prior to reembarking for sailaway. Port Chalmers gave us the best send off with two bagpipers standing on the pier playing for more than a half hour until the ship was out of sight. We also saw many locals waving goodbye from the hill we had been standing on that morning. We saw the albatross colony from afar on our way out of the port, and were amazed at how shallow the channel to get into the port really is when the tide is out! There were also people driving along the coast who stopped their cars and got out to wave at us as we were steaming out of port. It was the most fun sailaway we had and a fitting end to our last day in port. We headed to dinner which consisted of scallops in citrus sauce, smoked salmon, rack of lamb, chicken kiev, chicken and leek soup, and greens with tomatoes and dressing. Again, it was early to bed to prepare for Fiordland. Fiordland (Day 11): We were up early for breakfast so we could be on deck as we headed into the fiords. We spent approx 1 hour in Dusky wound and 1 and ½ hours in Doubtful sound. We were fortunate enough to see a small whale and a few dolphins. It was much cooler than we expected it to be, and very windy forward on the ship, but that certainly didn't keep most of the passengers away! We headed in for lunch at the Horizon court and found there were few places to sit, as many passengers who didn't want to brave the cold had parked themselves at the tables near the windows where they could see the views without the wind. After a quick lunch, we spent some time in our room before going back up on deck to see Milford sound. We had a narrator on board for our trip through all of the sounds, pointing out various islands and telling us about the local history of the area. We spent approx 4 hours in Milford sound, and our captain commented that it was one of the most beautiful days he had ever seen in Milford. The weather was cool and windy, but There wasn't a cloud in the sky and there was no rain or mist in sight. We could easily see to the tops of the mountains, which were beautiful. As we were getting ready to exit the sound, we were told that a passenger had been hurt and we were going to have to wait for a medical evacuation, which took over an hour. The passenger was put on a pilot boat and taken to shore, and we exited the sound where we waited nearly another hour for the return of our medical personnel before we could embark for Sydney. Fiordland was by far the most beautiful part of our trip and we felt very fortunate to have such a beautiful day. We finally headed for dinner on red snapper, veal and pasta, and cod, before getting some ice cream. We ran into some pretty large swells, however we made it to some of the evening show featuring our cruise director singing and making jokes. Then it was off to bed. At Sea (Day 12): We decided to sleep in and ate an early lunch before treating ourselves to ice cream (by then, the staff knew us by name and started preparing our cones as we were walking up). We spent a large amount of time napping and walking around the ship watching the people sunbathe and swim in the pools. Unfortunately, I can't comment on the fitness areas, casino, or lotus spa as we did not spend any time in them. As we are gold members of the Captain's Circle, we were invited to the Captain's circle party. They had complimentary drinks and we were again introduced to some of the cruise staff. We headed to our second formal night dinner which included choices of lobster, beef Wellington, and garlic soup. After dinner, we went to see the comedian who did a good job at making us laugh, then went to the "New Years Eve" party where they counted down and dropped a large number of balloons into the atrium, which became a dance floor. We spent some time watching everyone have a good time, before heading to bed. At Sea (Day 13): Our last full day on the ship. We again slept through breakfast and decided to save room for the huge dessert bar at lunch. As the seas were a bit calmer, we headed to the Navigation at Sea lecture, which was interesting and informative. We had seen the dicey wooden horse racing listed in the Patter nearly every day, but we finally decided to make time to check it out on the "Melbourne Cup" day. We will definitely make time for this on future cruises, as we had a lot of fun laughing at the participants and other passengers, and almost felt like we were at a real horse race. We decided to finally take in a "Movie Under the Stars" before dinner and watched Prince of Persia. It was sometimes difficult to see the screen depending on the angle of the sunlight as the ship moved, but it was a fun experience and reminded me of being at a drive in movie. The crew brought around popcorn and blankets, as it was a bit windy on deck. After the movie, we headed to dinner consisting of NY strip steak, Barramundi, mussels, and guinea fowl. After dinner, we went to the International Crew Talent Show, which is always entertaining and certainly didn't disappoint this time either. We headed to bed in order to be up early for disembarkation. Sydney/disembarkation day (Day 14): We woke up early, around 5:00 am, as the captain had informed us on the prior day that we would be entering Sydney harbor at approx 5:30 am. We were on deck to watch our ship head back into the harbor, past the opera house, and under the Harbor bridge. It was just starting to rain as we went under the bridge, and we watched another cruise ship follow us into the harbor. We had placed our large bags outside of our room the previous night so they could be taken to the pier for us. We ate breakfast, then went to our room to finish packing and say goodbye to our cabin steward, who we knew we would miss. We headed to the casino, which was our disembarkation lounge, and impatiently waited for our number to be called. Once our number was called, disembarkation was quick and easy and very well organized. We picked up the luggage we left outside of our room last night and quickly cleared immigration and customs. We decided to take the princess transfer to the airport, which went smoothly. We boarded our flight to Cairns, where we spend 2 and ½ days holding koalas, feeding kangaroos, exploring the city, taking the skyrail to Kuranda, and trying some of the local food and beer. As we had also booked our return flight through Princess (because we didn't realize that we could book the flight through them one way and thought we had to do round trip), we flew back through Sydney to LAX, and finally to Pittsburgh, ending our trip. We had a great time and wouldn't change a thing we did! Other thoughts: - Based on everything I had read, we expected the cruise to be mostly older adults over age 60. There were a large number of older adults, however we were surprised to find many more middle aged adults (late 30's - 60) and a fair number of people our age (late 20's and early 30's) - As expected, there were few children on board (maybe a few more than we had expected), but all were very well behaved or not seen at all - Unfortunately for us, we never thought to try the food in the main dining rooms instead of the Horizon court for lunch, but this would have probably been a good idea especially on crowded days when we ate lunch at peak times. - All of the staff on board were excellent! We did not find any of the staff to be pushy or feel like they were trying to get tips, yet they were always willing to respond to any request quickly and with a smile. We rarely had to ask for anything on board. Recommendations: 1. I highly recommend some time of vacation protection/insurance, whether you do it through Princess or an independent company, particularly if you are going on a long or overseas trip 2. The Tasman sea is nothing to mess with. If you have a significant other who gets easily motion sick, take lots and lots of seasickness meds, sea bands, ginger tablets, or your sea sickness remedy of choice. 3. Unless you drink a significant amount of soda or specialty coffees, the soda cards and coffee cards are not worth the money 4. Don't feel like you have to buy all of the pictures that are taken at the ports, formal nights, etc.; Wait until the end of the cruise and buy only your favorites, if any. Also don't feel like you have to buy the Reflection DVD; we took a lot of our own video and didn't feel like we missed out by not buying it. 5. We didn't feel the need to eat in the Sterling steakhouse for an additional fee, as the food in the main dining rooms was excellent and we enjoyed the variety of choices every night. 6. If you are prone to sea sickness, middle and lower on the ship are definitely better. If you book too late to get both, being in the center on a higher deck is better than being forward or aft on a lower deck. 7. Tables for 2 are nice if you are traveling as a couple, but we always enjoy sitting at a table for 6 or 8, especially on more exotic cruises, as you meet many more people that way and it enhances the experience of being in another country. 8. As Sun Princess does not currently have restaurant style anytime dining, consider the late seating (8:00 pm) for dinner if you plan on spending a lot of time in the ports, as we did. We met a few friends who often needed to leave port early to get dressed for the early seating at dinner (5:30 pm) 9. Make sure to pack a windbreaker jacket; we often found that it wasn't so much cold, but very windy in both the ports and on deck on the sea days and cruising the fiords. Make sure to dress in layers. We will absolutely cruise with Princess again! Read Less
Sail Date: December 2009
I recently went on a Christmas 12day cruise on Sun Princess departing Sydney Australia and stopping in New Caledonia and Vanuatu. I am 26. Travelled with a family of 10. All over the age of 21. Here are a few of my thoughts SEA Day 1 we ... Read More
I recently went on a Christmas 12day cruise on Sun Princess departing Sydney Australia and stopping in New Caledonia and Vanuatu. I am 26. Travelled with a family of 10. All over the age of 21. Here are a few of my thoughts SEA Day 1 we had 4.5m swell and 50 knot winds. No one slept that night and it was my first night ever on a ship. Everyone stumbled around like they were drunk. Apparently though that is a pretty bad night to have on a cruise and after that first night the sea for the rest of the trip was fine. Even in 2m swell I barely felt it in my cabin. We stayed balcony mid ship. VIRUS About 5 days into the cruise there was a Nora virus outbreak with people getting major diareha and vomiting. Those people were quarantined but they didnt obey and the virus spread. There were alot of kids on the ship. More then normal and most of them dont wash their hands. We took extra care in washing hands and not touching balustrades or eating at the buffet. PORT OF CALLS 6 out of 10. Isle of Pines and Champagne Bay were beautiful. Port Villa was fun at the waterfalls and snorkling. Lifou and Noumea were ok. DINING 9 out of 10. The food was amazing. And the service was really good. Three course meals for Breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus afternoon tea and deserts. Good thing i used the gym. We ate in the dining room most of the time and not the buffet because of the Virus outbreak. ENTERTAINMENT Shows - 5 out of 10 The last two shows of the trip were very well done. The Sun Princess dancers are very good and the two lead singers were great as well. There is an onboard developed drama of cinderella they have done which sucks. And the international show of random cruise workers showing talents is a disaster. Music - 8 out of 10 Very talented musicians. Great to sit back with a bourbon and listen too. Theatre Movies - 5 out of 10 Old movies. Average screens and sound. Pools - 5 out of 10 There are two and they arent very big. A couple of spas around that are nice and hot though. Gym - 7 out of 10 Not alot of benches or free weights. But heaps of cardio machines and cable weights. Lotus Spa - 8 out of 10 Good staff. Very relaxing. Activities - 3 out of 10 They have lots of little activities on the ship. But they are quite boring. Casino - 8 out of 10 Excellent. Couple of poker, blackjack and roulette tables. All happy to take your money whether $1 or $1000. Sports Bar - 1 out of 10 Umm goood except NO SPORT!! Seriously how can you advertise you have a sports bar but dont play sport on it??? Nightclub - 6 out of 10 Good music until the DJ was kicked. They eventually flew someone in. But yer he wasnt that good. Jazz Bar - 10 out of 10 Excellent Jazz. Great bar to chill out in. GOSSIP Some 18 year old kids smuggled fireworks onboard from Vanuatu. The went to deck 15 and set them off which was cool to watch but they all got kicked off the boat at the next port of call. lol. The DJ for the cruise was kicked off after two days. He was supposed to be working and was drunk dancing with girls at the night club. ISSUES Internet - Internet prices are ridiculous. I got charged $50 just for Wifi use while they setup the printer on their own computer. Seriously Wifi costs them nothing. They should charge per KB download. Not per minute used. Movies - The movies shown are from 12mths ago. No new movies. Television - Most of the channels were green. This is due to it been an american ship and they are converting continuously from PAL to NTSC and they dont have the right gear to do it. Also no Australian News. Just BBC and CNN. Sport - This was a huge thing. I really wanted to watch the sport over christmas. The cricket and EPL. They didnt show any sport on any channels. They had ESPN but would change the channel when the actual sporting event would come on. Even in the "sports bar' they wouldnt show it upon request. They do not have the rights to broadcast sport on the ship and as such dont. Even when i complained they wouldnt do anything about it. They were able to receive FoxSports and Australian Channels but would broadcast. Told No - I got a little bored at nights and wanted to go play the Nitendo Wii or playstation or arcades that all the teenagers get to play but i wasnt allowed. I got kicked out. I actually got told quite a few times on the cruise even though they advertise the whole time on the ship ask us and we will make it happen. Always trying to get you to spend more money - Once your on the ship they are trying to upsell you. The first thing is they want you to pay $55 for unlimited soft drinks. Why not just include that in the cruise cost? You always get the feeling of them wanting to sell you more stuff with photos and stuff. Sometimes id just rather them leave me alone and let me enjoy the cruise. If i want something Ill come ask. ADVICE Take your own snokel and mask and maybe fins. You don't want to use the snorkels on some of the islands. They arent washed properly. Book a onland excursion with the cruise for Noumea. The rest you can do by yourself. Go see the waterfalls in Vanuatu. Everywhere else you can just walk and snorkel. Take a laptop to watch movies and maybe a Wii for extra fun. Don't make phone calls. Use skype on there expensive internet. Its still cheaper then $5 a min phone calls. FINAL THOUGHTS I would definately cruise again. Two weeks of being waited on hand and foot, not cooking or cleaning, having your bed made, turned down and towels changed and visiting new destinations without having to pack and move all the time is very very appealing. I won't go on sun princess again. Its for old people that like to sit around and do nothing. Its an old boat. I will try a newer boat. The Royal Caribeen boats look awesome. Might give that ago through the mediterranean. Maybe i was just expecting to much having seen all these wonderful looking photos. If you have any other questions i would be happy to answer any to help you make a cruising decision in the future. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2009
Paid $4100 AUD including $200 on board credit for a twin room R318 on Riviera (highest level) inside cabin - bigger than the other cabins with the cutoff corners so recommend them, and recommend Riviera deck to stay on!!! couple of squeaks ... Read More
Paid $4100 AUD including $200 on board credit for a twin room R318 on Riviera (highest level) inside cabin - bigger than the other cabins with the cutoff corners so recommend them, and recommend Riviera deck to stay on!!! couple of squeaks in the wall, and the picture on the wall fell off, but who cares - absolutely did not need a window - glad I didnt pay extra - was tempted - dont bother is my opinion. You cant meet people in your room. We were only there to change clothes or pass out. Booked this before the Jewel was announced. Then semi-regretted not having the opportunity to go on a "new" ship - loved the look of the pictures they were sneaking out - contemporary and clean looking. Was concerned that the sun princess might be a bit outdated in comparison, and a bit boring for my 11 yo. Happy with the price - happy with cabin - happy with location. Food? OMG more than you knew what to do with - and never a queue issue. People that shared our table said it wasnt as good as it should be - well all I can say is they must go to a pretty fancy RSL - if you know what I mean Obviously older passengers are less active and occupied than younger people and therefore have more time to ponder and put more emphasis on events such as dining. Probably mealwise I would say that a couple more non-seafood options would be nice to pick from, for the sake of variety, and the salads could be a bit more "sexy". Other than that, very happy indeed. LOVE their BREAD ROLLS!!!! Not like Australian bread at all!!! Did a few of the buffet meals and had no probs there, but we ended up prefering to go to the restaurant for brekkie or lunch (if we had it!) because it is naturally such a nicer experience. Can't believe that more people don't do it. Excellent. Plus the high tea each afternoon is really worthwhile if you can fit it in to your schedule. The postmix softdrink is crappy - couldnt stand it - luckily I bought my daughter the unlimited kids package - which includes fresh juices and mocktails - highly recommend getting this - you can have strawberry daquiris ( and other flavours of cocktails) without the alcohol - really nice for both kids and adults. ( and you dont have to use the stoopid cup which you will toss after the sailaway) just order drink from bartender in normal glass. Chrismas eve had snowing in atrium while carols were sung with glowsticks instead of candles. Then Christmas day had a fun fair in atrium for kids and then santa with presents. Christmas lunch was a bit of a nonevent for us - many bottles of champagne by the pool with whoever sat down in the smoking area!!!! and then we nearly slept thru dinner!!!! Made it just in time and thank goodness because it was beautiful. It was our first cruise, and initial impressions were that it wasnt as nice as I was expecting - rooms a little on the tired side (but comfortable) and not that "young contemporary hip" feel like the jewel appears to have. But as each day goes by you appreciate the ship more and more. The staff were absolutely faultless. Our room was serviced 4 to 5 times a day and trust me we were messy. If you encounter "Lerrine" our fave bartender at the Riviera poolside bar you have found yourself a winner - he is what made our cruise extra awesome. Also, we were lucky to "connect" with all the entertainment crew - thanks Jen, Nat, Val, and Warren - you guys were awesome and my daughter loved you all - you made her feel special all the time. Mind you, if you want to have a great time cruising you have to put yourself out there - participate - talk to people - mingle - offer people a seat - we met soooo many people we have about 6 weekends committed visiting different people in the next 3 mths to relive it all! Friends for life thats for sure. Daughter wasnt that fussed on kids club, but i think its that difficult age - 11-12. The 13+ group seemed to have the teens into it - more mingling events, then they went off and did their own thing - and discos etc at night til the wee hours. Yes we had issues - OMG a mega altercation in the laundry over whose turn it was, then there were 3 instances of families being put off the ship due to poor behaviour of their children - everyone was of the opinion that the captain was in charge and did a good job of ensuring that idiots would not be tolerated. Yes there were novovirus cases - up to 400 i heard (but that could be absolute rubbish too). Apparently contracted by 2 passengers on first port day when they ate cooked food on one of the islands - the health warning for travellers by government is to not eat food in primitive areas without having vaccinations - yep they ate it! then passed it on to others. The ship knows how to handle it - very impressed there - and you do not know who has it as they are quarantined in cabin until cleared. Once cleared we met a few people who had it - of course they were disappointed they missed a big chunk of their cruise - but it can happen to anyone anywhere. Fortunately not to us. The important thing was that the ship was wonderful in spite of it. A father of someone we met had other medical issues, and spent 8 days in the hospital - once again - unfortunate - but he was looked after. A child had an accident on christmas eve and an emergency announcement calling for donors of a rare blood type had an overwhelming response. They could never do enough for you on this ship thats for sure. Now you are probably thinking - what has this got to do with the Pacific Jewel? Well - firstly they are both run by CARNIVAL - so once teething issues are out of the way, Jewel should be ok. Secondly, I wish to point out that you can still have a PERFECT cruise without having everything perfect. Thirdly, if you are hesitant about which cruise to go on, do your research. You need the negative reviews so that your expectations arent too high. I would definitely go on a Princess again without hesitation, however I would make sure it was in a school holiday period, because otherwise there may not be enough of a mix of kids and younger people (by younger I mean under 50) on the ship. I would like to try a P&O so am looking around now. Regarding itinerary - hate Noumea - would never get off the ship if I went there again - VILA, WALA, and CHAMPAGNEBAY were terrific. If you could get a cruise to just those 3 that would be the perfect cruise in my opinion. We had 5 days in a row of port days - that is pretty full-on and really 3 ports are enough as long as they are GOOD ports. Isle of Pines and Lifou were ok. but didnt rate compared to the other three islands. MUST DO's on ISLANDS: Outrigger canoes $5half hour, Hairbraiding $10 and massages $10 are cheapest on Champagne Bay VILA - Dutyfree cigarettes $27 (for 10x25's), and alcohol, cheapest is at the far end of the main street on the left, next to a regular bottle shop. easy to find, just with those directions lololol. Take a cheap set of reef shoes, a cheap snorkel set (flippers are a waste of time) and one of those rashie swimshirts and snorkel everywhere. Locals will tell you where to go. Give them some cigarettes for their trouble or lollies for their kids. We took bags of lollies like mini-MENTOS and school snack size chocbars and gave them out randomly to kids they loved it. And take the shampoo soap etc from the ship and give to them if you arent using it. Go back to the ship for lunch on the primitive islands. VILA and NOUMEA are ok to eat on only. So to sum it up we had a great christmas and not a single regret apart from losing too much money at the casino hahaha. Read Less
Sun Princess Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 3.0 3.8
Dining 4.0 4.0
Entertainment 4.0 3.7
Public Rooms 4.0 4.1
Fitness Recreation 3.0 3.6
Family 4.0 3.6
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.4
Enrichment 3.0 3.4
Service 5.0 4.3
Value For Money 4.0 3.6
Rates 4.0 4.0

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