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Emily Schaffer

Age: 46

Occupation:Clerical Support Hospital

Number of Cruises: 5

Cruise Line: Princess

Ship: Sun Princess

Sailing Date: April 15th, 2002

Itinerary: Panama Canal Partial Transit

We arrived at the pier about 11:45 am and were through security and had our picture taken by 12:15pm. Very quick and painless and well organized.

Our cabin was C306 on Caribe Deck and was a handicapped cabin. We had booked this cruise 15 months ahead of time and I had booked a category ii inside guarantee. The ship was very full and 4 days before sailing, Princess called my travel agent to see if we would accept a downgrade. They offered us a handicapped inside cabin and a $100.00 on board credit. We took the handicapped cabin and were very glad we did. It is easily twice the size of a regular cabin including the balcony cabin our friends were in. There was much more storage space and a large bathroom as large as our bathroom at home. It really never seemed like an inside cabin because of the size and the large mirrors. Wish we could get that cabin all the time.

Our room steward was Raul from Portugal and was very good. I asked for the Princess robes and he brought them right away. I also asked for an extra Princess Patter one day and he said he would leave us an extra copy every night. The first day we had received a bottle of wine from the travel agent and wanted a couple of wine glasses so he took the wine and brought it back in a glass ice bucket, with two wine glasses on a tray with two different types of snacks. I was very pleased with his service and left him an extra tip.

On one evening I decided late that I would like our bottle of champagne to be brought to the dining room table and he made sure it was there waiting for us at dinner

SHIP:

The ship was in excellent shape. It really was a beautiful ship. I must say with 3 previous sailings with Royal Caribbean that the atriums on RCI ships are more spectacular. One room I did not like was the Regency Dining Room on Princess. The room is too crowded and had very low ceilings so noise level was very bad. Also they had dark paneling on the walls with a minimal amount of light coming in so it made the dining room kind of drab. In comparison RCI ships have at least a two-tier dining room or 3 tier on the Eagle Class Ships. There is so much light and large windows on RCI. Walking into their dining rooms with the large staircase in very beautiful and makes you feel very 'regal' I found the Vista lounge had some bad site lines and was very crowded at some of the shows. The Wheelhouse lounge was a beautiful room with great leather furniture. I think the casino was nothing spectacular unlike the last one we experienced on Enchantment of the Seas.

The pool area was very good with lots of seating and two larger pools and two hot tubs. At the back of the ship was a smaller round pool with covering and 3 more hot tubs. Also at the front of the ship was a small splash pool for children. The fact that Princess uses fresh water is a plus.

The wrap around Promenade Deck was great for those early morning walks. Three times around is 1 mile.

DEMOGRAPHICS:

There were about 2,000 passengers on this cruise with about half being over 60 years of age. I realized that this would attract an older crowd but saw many many passengers with canes, wheelchairs and rolling walkers. It was surprising that a handicapped cabin was available for us. Because of the age of passengers I believe the entertainment was geared to them. The shows were not always shown twice each night and because of late dining which we had we were not able to make it to all the shows. This was a disappointment for us as this is a part of a cruising which we enjoy. There were lots of seats available in the sun by the pool but hard to find one in the shade later in the day when you had had enough sun. Many of the passengers were from Florida.

Late vs Early Dining:

This was the first cruise that we had chosen late dining and we really did not like it. We would not choose it again. We felt getting out of the dining room at 10:15 pm which we did many nights was too late and it also meant that we were late for the late show and by then all the seats were taken. We were also so full from dinner and with not much happening on this particular ship after 10pm except the show there was not much to do to after dinner. We would chose early dining next time. It just suits us better.

FOOD & SERVICE:

We had many good to excellent meals on Sun Princess. The Filet Mignon was excellent as was the Beef Wellington, Lobster, Lamb escargots, crab quiche, and the pastas. I especially enjoyed the pastas and instead of a second course of soup or salad I had the waiter bring a smaller portion of the pasta dish which I had as my second course. Desserts were excellent and I especially liked the crème brulee, and their soufflés and baked alaska was also very good. A couple of meals were not good and they were the Louisiana Crayfish and Roast Turkey the last evening. The turkey tasted like the boiled kind and not roasted at all. They also repeated a couple of appetizers with smoked salmon on two consecutive nights as well as lamb were served on two evenings. I did order a cappuccino in the dining room after dinner and it was good and they do not charge extra for it

Service was a bit lacking however. Our waiter and his assistant were both from Poland. Only on one occasion can I remember them holding the chair for the ladies and I don't ever remember them placing the napkin on our laps. Only a couple of times did they ask us if we would like fresh ground pepper and the pepper mill sat on the table. Our water glasses more than on 1 occasion went empty and in fact at least 3 times the headwaiter Jose came and filled them. Also twice my husband had to ask for more coffee. When he came over with the coffee he asked me if I wanted more I said 'No" but I would like more water. They were also very slow and we were frequently the last to leave the dining room. They only had our table of 6, a table of 8 and a table of 4 and those people only dined in the dining room about 3 times.

One thing that we noticed on this cruise was the headwaiter and how he was more available. He actually did a good job.

We brought on three different evenings our own wine to dinner and we were not charged any extra corkage fees.

On three occasions we went to Verdi's pizzeria for lunch and had pizza and beer. We both enjoyed this dining venue as the pizza was freshly baked and delicious. Our friends Gerry and Don actually went there for dinner one evening and Don said the ravioli was excellent. They do not serve coffee there but only soda, beer or wine.

TIPPING:

They automatically charge the daily tipping to each of our accounts. It appears on your statement every day and including the waiter, assistant waiter and room steward it comes to $10.00 per day per person. You can have this adjusted up or down by going to the Pursers Desk depending on the kind of service you get. We did tip our room steward extra and I left him cash in a thank you card in the room.

PORTS & EXCURSIONS:

Colon, Panama

We were supposed to have Cartagena as a scheduled port but with political problems Princess eliminated this port about 2 weeks before the cruise. Instead they had us overnight at the canal by docking at Colon, Panama the day before our transit through the canal. We arrived about 12 noon. We then took a tour 'Atlantic to Pacific Railway Journey'. We boarded a nostalgic train and transversed the entire length of the canal from the Atlantic to the Pacific and back. It took about 1 hour & 15 minutes until you arrived at the train station on the Pacific coast where we boarded a bus to view the Miraflores Lock. Each car on the train had an informative guide who also came with you on the bus. After viewing the Miraflores Lock we again boarded the bus to the end of the Amador Causeway where we enjoyed a beautiful view of Panama City Skyline and the bridge of the Americas. I actually saw sunrise that morning on the ship on the Atlantic and watched the staff member raise the flag at the front of the ship and saw sunset over the bridge of Americas on the pacific side. As a side note because of local demonstrations about work conditions in Colon many people from the ship did not make this tour. Many streets were blocked off and not all the buses made it to the train station. We were lucky and highly recommend this tour.

Limon, Costa Rica

We selected and were very pleased with the Jungle River Eco Adventure. We were taken by bus to a covered boat to sail for about 1½ hours along the Tortuguero Canal in the jungle region. The guide was excellent as was the captain of the boat in spotting many wildlife forms like birds, sloth's, crocodile, and monkeys which we actually saw swinging from tree to tree including a mother with her babies. Before boarding the bus back we enjoyed fresh fruit and a live band playing music. On the way back we passed miles and miles of banana plantations. When we arrived back to the ship we did some shopping for Costa Rican Coffee and there is a nice market place right where the ship docks. We actually walked into town and found a grocery/market to buy our coffee where it was a bit cheaper.

Grand Cayman:

Since we had never been to Grand Cayman we did the Stingray Sandbar Snorkeling. This was truly amazing and I am saying this as a non-swimmer. They took us out about a ½ hour boat ride to a sand bar where you get out and it is only up to your waist and in some parts mid thigh deep and I am only 5' 2" tall. I had to be coaxed off the boat as a non swimmer as it was over my head but only for about 6 feet until I was firmly on the sand and standing on my own. You can feed the Stingray if you want. Got some great photos here and if you have never done this make sure you do. This was the best excursion we did. We were only in Grand Cayman until 3pm so had little time to check out 7-mile beach but will do that next time but did manage some time to buy some rum cakes to take home and Tortuga Rum.

Cozumel:

This was also our first time at this island. Sun Princess docked at a new pier right near a new shopping complex and across from Carlos and Charlies. The color of the water here is so blue it is amazing. We did our own thing here and grabbed a taxi with our friends Gerry & Don and headed to Chankanaab Park for snorkeling. We also watched the Dolphin encounter and my husband and Don saw the biggest iguana according to them it was about 5 feet long so they said. Kind of like those fishing stories men like to tell J The taxi ride was $10.00 each way for the 4 of us and admission to the park was $10.00 per person. After spending the morning and part of the afternoon there we headed back and did some shopping in Cozumel.

DISEMBARKATION:

We had a 1 pm flight and were off the ship by 9:15 am and at the airport by 10 am. We took the Princess transfers and flew Delta. No problems with security and flights were good.

SOME RANDOM THOUGHTS:

Princess has nice touches when it comes to having a refrigerator in the room (not a stocked fridge) for passengers to use, also the bathrobes to use are yours for the asking and we did. Also if you request the room steward will bring you a fresh fruit bowl.
Fresh water in the pools
Drink of the day prices were good starting at $3.25 for a 12 oz drink and included such specials as Mai tai, Strawberry Daiquiri, Pina Colada and Chocolate Banana and Rum Punch
Usually went for our first coffee of the day at the Patisserie on Deck 5 to enjoy a good cup of coffee. They usually also had pastries like danish and croissants here as well. Found the coffee first thing in the morning the best here.
We chose late dining and because of this we did not make a lot of the entertainment. For us, the eternal question of late vs early have been answered and will choose early so not as to miss so many of the shows.
Princess does not do a lot of things around the pool area. There was only 1 pool game in 10 days at sea including 4 days at sea. They had a belly flop contest and my husband and I spend a lot of time around the pool so missed this aspect. Our previous cruises were on Royal Caribbean and we also found the band by the pool very low key. Also missed having the Horse Races by the pool. They held them twice in the show lounge and felt if they had it outside by the pool would have gotten greater response. We did not want to leave the pool area to attend a race indoors.
In our opinion the nod for physical beauty of the ships and public areas goes to Royal Caribbean. The public areas on Princess are very similar in choice of color but the dining room in particular is much more stunning on Royal Caribbean as is the casino, atrium and show lounges with excellent sight lines. Prefer the Schooner Bar on Royal to Wheelhouse on Princess. I felt the Windjammer and Horizon Court are very much alike except that on Princess in the Horizon they do not provide a tray to carry your food on but a large oval platter. With many elderly passengers on board it got a bit tricky to negotiate in the buffet line in the Horizon.
We noticed that the smoking policy on the ship was not clearly defined. We saw no mention of it in the Princess Patter. On Royal Caribbean you cannot smoke on the starboard side of the ship outside on open decks like around the pool. On more that one occasion my husband got up and moved on the pool deck when someone who smoked sat next to him. In one of the lounges they had little cards sitting on the table to indicate smoking and no smoking. We actually saw people just moved these cards to a different table and thus they felt they could smoke even though they were now in close proximity to us.
One of my favorite shows on a cruise is the Newlywed Game. I looked forward to this and they held it on the last evening of the cruise at 9pm. With late dining starting at 8:15pm there was no way we could make that show. Also I considered not going to dinner in the dining room but since it was our last evening we wanted to say goodbye to our waitstaff and it was the baked Alaska parade.

CONCLUSION:

We had a wonderful, relaxing cruise and totally enjoyed our time with our friends Gerry and Don. Princess does many many things right and I experienced many friendly staff in the halls and public areas. We feel that we prefer Royal Caribbean by a slight margin mostly because of the entertainment factor and the more visually appealing public rooms. I realize that it is all a matter of opinion but these were our thoughts only. Would love to answer any questions and feel free to e-mail me

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