Number of Cruises: 15*
Cruise Line: Princess
Ship: Sun Princess
Sailing Date: 2008-07-14
Itinerary: Pacific Rim
This was actually a 75-day Pacific Rim cruise, but with the now-familiar American spin to hype was billed as a "World Cruise." It was conducted in 3 segments, Sydney to San Francisco, San Francisco to Xingang (Beijing in the advertising, but this was actually 3 and a half hours away by bus) and Xingang to Sydney. Your reviewer was aboard for the whole nine yards.
An outside cabin on deck 9 (Caribe) with window, but no balcony. Although small, the cabin was comfortable enough in a pedestrian sort of way, with a choice of double or twin bedding.Plumbing problems were experienced throughout the ship, but they were usually attended to within a reasonable timeframe, but tended to recur. Certainly this vessel has no claim to the 5 stars billed, but is probably not the worst afloat. The service provided by the cabin staff was beyond reproach but we would have liked to have our window cleaned more than once in the two and a half months.
There are two main a-la-carte restaurants. Breakfast and lunch are served in open sitting, no booking required, in the Marquis only. Dinner is served in two sittings, both there and in the Regency dining room, with set seating. At the time of booking, open seating was offered for dinner as well, but shortly before sailing this was withdrawn. All I can say is, 5:45 dining cuts into the afternoon activities whilst leaving you seated before you are hungry (perhaps not really a problem, because service was pretty slow) and 8:00 diners complained that their tummies were rumbling for an hour before. The fare offered would probably be quite satisfactory on a 14-night cruise, but over 75 nights, tended to be somewhat repetitive.
The buffet restaurant is available 24/7, but the food is a little below par and the competition for tables can be fierce. However one has to admit that it is always there.
There are several "specialty" restaurants. The Sterling Steakhouse is open for dinner only, and occupies a corner of the buffet restaurant. Not surprisingly it seems not to be terribly well patronised, with its $20 per head cover charge. Although your correspondent has not actually eaten there, anecdotal evidence suggests that the fare is much the same as offered in the a la carte restaurants.
The Verdi Italian restaurant offers pizza and pasta, the former served very runny and cheesy, and the latter in small helpings, but you can of course request a second helping. At least there is no cover charge.
There is a grill which serves hamburgers, steak sandwiches, pies and pastries (if you're quick), souvlakis and various grilled sausages. This operates at lunchtimes only. There is also an ice cream bar which serves sundaes and milk shakes (at a price).
By my reckoning, this makes 5 dining options, not 8 as mooted in the advertising. However I suppose it's possible that there are three more that I did not manage to find in my 75 days aboard.
One should also mention the price of drinks. When we first started cruising, years ago, the duty saved by the company on alcohol passed on to the consumer so that drinks were considerably cheaper than at home. Now, not only does the company pocket the savings, it slugs the consumer an extra 15% for compulsory "tips," while still having the nerve to request an extra voluntary gratuity on the docket.
The production shows were excellent, but infrequent. Some of the visiting artists were good, but I suspect for most you would have been very disappointed had you paid for tickets and parking to have gone to see them in a theatre ashore. There were a wide range of movies offered, both in the theatres and in-cabin television, but they certainly weren't the "first-run" movies promised in the pre-cruise advertising. The best-attended activities seemed to be twice-daily team trivia contests, contract bridge play, dancing lessons and the casino. And, of course, later sessions of snowball bingo. Some guest lecturers drew an audience, but, as their appearances were recorded for next-day broadcast on TV, most preferred this option. The disco appeared to be a no-man's-land, apart for those poor souls who needed somewhere that smoking was permitted indoors.
Speaking of TV, you could have been forgiven for thinking that you were cruising out of Galveston or Seattle. For the first 9 weeks, only US stations were aired live. The rationalization that they were the only ones available was somewhat unconvincing when one was sailing two days out of Sydney but unable to watch Australian TV. Thankfully two weeks out we were treated to one Australian channel so that we were able to view AFL/NRL finals.
Cabin crew were excellent, as were the waiting staff, mainly. It was not their fault that service was slow - the system seemd too cumbersome. The cruise staff themselves were also in the main excellent, although the cruise director seemed out of her depth in the role, but her support was great.
These were of a fairly high standard - the interior was kept spotless throughout and maintenance seemed adequate, except for the plumbing, with burst pipes being commonplace throughout the cruise. Laundry facilities also left much to be desired - ship's laundry obviously being unable to dry washing other than in a hot dryer, resulting in shrinkage of clothes, whilst passenger laundries seemed not to be maintained at all. With two washing machines/dryers per passenger floor already being less than adequate, when any one failed the result was further inconvenience and when both failed, as happened in at least one laundry, catastrophe. At least one machine was inoperative when we first left Sydney and had not been repaired during the entire cruise.
There were 29 listed for this cruise; one was bypassed completely. One gets the impression from reading other reviews that this is not a rarity on Princess cruises and one wonders if this is not perhaps a device to save on berthing fees to help the company's bottom line. Certainly when Kodiak was bypassed no compensation was offered to the passengers who had paid to visit that port.
When the itinerary was first published, Nukua`Lufa was offered as a port but by sailing time had been deleted, without explanation, in favour of Dravuni Island. Beijing and Ho Chi Minh City were also on the itinerary, although the ship actually berthed some distance away and an 7-hour return (minimum) bus trip was required to visit them. Then again, the actual time spent in any port was only 6 to 10 hours, grossly inadequate in such ports as Honolulu, San Francisco, Vancouver and Hong Kong. And the number of ports visited on a Sunday when nothing was open, was ridiculous.
She is certainly a tired ship, badly in need of a refit and replumbing. One boards with high expectations but over the trip this tends to evaporate into something resembling resignation. One is always feeling the company's hand in one's hip pocket and delivering value-for-money appears to be an outmoded concept.
A word to the wise. Unless prompt action is taken, you will find that about $10/day/person will be charged to your shipboard account for "tips". In our case, this would have inflated our fare by a further $1500. Should you wish to travel with this company, be sure to visit the purser's desk and decline to pay this "tax". If you wish to tip for good service, do so of your own free will for those who deserve it.