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Mark Cattell

Age: 44

Occupation:sales

Number of Cruises: 1

Cruise Line: Princess

Ship: Sun Princess

Sailing Date: December 26th, 2002

Itinerary: Mexican Riviera

Cruise Line: Princess
Sailing Date: December 26th, 2002

Our party of nine just returned from a 10 day Mexico Riviera cruise aboard Princess' Sun Princess and wanted to post our comments. None of us had been on a cruise ship before, we usually charter a bareboat sailboat. In a nutshell, WE LOVE THIS CRUISE, not instead of bareboating but in addition to--it's nice to sit back and let someone else do all the work, but by doing so we lose control of the boat's itinerary (which didn't bother us here as much as it would in our favorite Caribbean haunts).

Boarded the ship in Long Beach at about 2:30 p.m., there was no wait at all and we were aboard literally within minutes. Boarding began at noon, heard there were fairly extensive waits earlier in the day. We had completed our preboarding check-in forms on line, but as there were no lines anyway, didn't save us any time. When you board, each passenger files a credit card number and is assigned an electronic key card/i.d. card that is used for everything: charging drinks to the room, entry to the room, making rez at the spa, buying cruise wear at the gift shop, etc etc. Was most convenient not to need cash for anything aboard (but bring quarters--there is a Laundromat on every deck with free washers and dryers, but the detergent cost $1, quarters only!).

The ship was in very nice shape overall given that she was launched in 1995 and eight years of cruising in the Mex sun is a lot of wear and tear. Carpets, curtains, and deck cushions have certainly been updated over the years as most everything looked of recent vintage. Crew were constantly maintaining paint and varnish, which we found impressive, and there were only very minor things that we noted amiss.

We all had outside balcony rooms and were in 100% agreement that this is the way to go--as I recall, they cost about $1,000 more per couple, but it was money well spent. The balconies were quite functional (with two chairs and a table) and we spent a surprising amount of time there watching the ship come into port, sunsets etc. In addition, the room was comfortable enough to spend a few hours in when we got tired of having so many people around. Plus, it turned out that I could see the ocean from the bathroom mirror, which was a very pleasant way to start the day as I shaved each morning.

Our party opted for the Personal Choice dining option, which was the right call as some days we felt like sitting for dinner at 5 pm, other days not until after 9. We never had a problem getting a table, even for our entire party of nine. We thought food aboard was fine, especially dinners in the Marguis dining room and the pizzas at Verdi's. Meals at Horizons were OK, nothing to get excited about and the steaks at Sterling Steak House (cost extra) no better than those in the Marquis (no cost). We thought drinks were a bit on the pricey side, with a can of beer costing $3.50 and a mixed drink more; with exception of Cabo, beers ashore were usually just a bit over $1.

With the exception of the pool areas, dress aboard was usually "smart casual" (khakis and a polo shirt), but there were three formal nights (tux or dark suit). We thought the formal nights were fun, but if choose not to participate, no worries--evening attire only required in the two formal dining rooms.

Weather was absolutely perfect, sunny and 80s every single day, couldn't have been better! But probably too hot any time other than winter months, especially in Acapulco, where was 94 and humid on New Years eve. Most people spent days ashore or by the pool while at sea (plenty of lounge chairs and attendants all to willing to bring you another drink, get there by 10 am to claim your favorite spot).

Our itinerary included Puerto Vallarta, Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, Z-town and Acapulco. We had two only complaints: 1. with exception of Acapulco, the ship sailed too early in the day (in looking at other cruise lines and other destinations all over the world, the ships almost always depart whatever port they're in by 6 pm, why is a mystery to me) and 2. we didn't care for Acapulco, EVERYONE we spoke w/ would have preferred more time in the other ports of call and to skip Acapulco altogether.

One of our party had a very minor problem and visited the Medical Office aboard. While the docs were very competent and professional, a very short visit cost $120, so might want to check in advance whether your insurance will cover this kind of claim.

Three of our party attended the spa, two were thumbs up, one thumbs down, all said rather expensive but not outrageous (or no more so than any spa is). Note spa is by appt only and can book up well in advance so book early, PARTICULARLY for formal days--other days seemed they offered specials, more availability in ports than at sea.

Only one couple in our party elected to sign up for an organized excursion organized by Princess. They did the snorkeling in PV and LOVED it, said it was terrific and worth the $$--saw loads of reef fish, dolphins and whales, were fed lunch AND had big booze party (free drinks) on way back to ship. We heard that a lot of the shore excursions sold out well in advance (some before the cruise even began), so again, advice seems to be to book early.

None of us attended any of the on board show productions, so no comments there.

Several of us made regular use of the 24 hr gym (which is free), never more than a short wait for the bikes, treadmills, Stairmasters, weight machines, etc.

Only issue we had of note wasn't Princess' fault, was our travel agent (whom we won't be using again): a couple in our party have a 2 1/2 year old, they were told no prob as Princess has child care aboard. Yes, they do but the minimum age is 3 and there are absolutely no exceptions to this, age is verified against passport/birth certificate. So mom and dad were on board a 10 day cruise with no babysitting or child care options whatsoever. They ended up making do and had a good time, but it was a disappointing way to start the trip. From what we saw and heard the children's facilities and programs were excellent, just make sure Jr. is at least 3!

Our group consisted of four couples (late 20s to mid 40s) and the one toddler. Passenger mix was skewed toward families, a lot of kids of all ages, grand parents etc, but quite a few young couples as well, not so many singles tho some. We've heard that Princess is known for eclectic mix of pax vs. Holland (older crowd, somewhat more formal) or Carnival (younger, more casual, less sophisticated) and this seemed to be the case. Also heard that the holiday cruises are more family/kid oriented than other times, which are more party-oriented with younger pax.

While we're talking about other lines, it is clear to us that Carnival should be avoided. Wherever we went, we heard horror stories of bad food, problems with things not working on board etc. In Cabo, there was an unbelievably long line of people wafting in the hot sun for a tender back to their ship, well over an hour wait, no line at all for Princess.

Only place Princess dropped ball in our opinion was disembarkation. We were in port at 6 am, everybody had to clear Customs aboard ship and we were supposed to be able to go ashore at 9 am. However, a number of families/individuals couldn't get their acts together and thru Customs in a timely manner. By the time Princess staff tracked them down God-knows-where on a 1,000 ft ship, we'd missed our flights home. Turns out Princess advises not to book flights before early afternoon, now I see why. Also note that Long Beach Airport a lot closer than LAX, so if you can, might make sense to fly in/out of Long Beach.

All in all, we had a great time and have already booked another Princess cruise for the holiday season 2003 (though not to Mex, apparently was a fire on board the under-construction Diamond Princess which was slated to take over this route in 2003, looks like no Princess cruises to Mex fall/winter 2003). Maybe we'll take the Regal Princess to Hawaii?

Anyway, hope this helps.

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