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Copyright © 1995-2004
Linda Coffman

Sun Princess
March 30-April 9, 2004

by Jim and Sue Adam

20+ prior cruises to include, Princess, HAL, RCI, Celebrity, HAL, Carnival and Premier

We arrived in Fort Lauderdale the evening before our cruise as usual. We had a hard time finding an inexpensive hotel for the pre night stay so ended up booking the AmeriSuites on as it was very reasonable compared to the other hotels in that area for our timeframe. Priceline was pretty sparse for the dates that we were interested in also. I have to admit I was a bit concerned as I had read how it had gone down hill in leaps and bounds since our last stay there, just over a year ago. I was surprised to find that the hotel actually looked better now then it did then. Not a 5 Star property by any means but adequate for a pre night stay. We called the shuttle from the airport and it arrived within 10 minutes of the call, very speedy. As usual we tipped the driver and he seemed thrilled (it sounded like most people don't bother anymore to extend their appreciation to the shuttle drivers). He asked if we were cruising, and when we informed him we were boarding our Sun Princess Cruise the following morning, he told us to meet him by the lobby at 11:00 and he would make sure that we were taken to the cruise terminal without waiting. We usually don't use the hotel shuttles but take a taxi as it is much faster but decided to see what happened. At exactly 11:00 the driver pulled up in the shuttle and made sure we were the first to board. We again tipped him and extended our thanks.

Security was not as tight as it was previously at the entry to the port, this time we did not have to show any type of identification whatsoever and drove right in after the driver had a few laughing words with the entrance guard.

We arrived at the cruise port at around 10 minutes after 11:00 and found a rather long line formed outside to enter the boarding area, which had not yet opened. But soon the doors opened and we were inside. There were only two passengers in front of us in the platinum line so we were checked in, our credit card scanned and onboard within 5 minutes of getting inside the terminal. The fastest check in we have ever had to date.

We were able to immediately go to our mini suite and drop off our carryons. We choose mini suite B404 for this sailing right outside the elevators and had no problem during the entire 10 days with any noise from the hall our elevator area.

I will review the mini suite first for anyone interested only in this category cabin and then afterwards go on to the ports if anyone has interest in some of the excursions that we booked. This was a category AC mini suite, mid ship. The AB's and full suites are located aft so this is the only suite type cabin available on the Sun Class ships that is in this area.

Two room suite, sitting area and bedroom area

Sun Princess category AC, mini-suite B404—entry and sitting area as viewed from the bedroom

Sitting area consisted of a desk with chair and a small sofa and comfortable chair, end table and coffee table. The coffee table has a pivoting top so it can be placed short or oblong to the sofa without moving the heavy base. There are two lamps in the sitting area and it took me a while to find out how to turn them on and off. No switch on the base or wall but we finally found it located half way down the cord that is plugged in. Most overhead lighting has dimmer switches on the walls that are indicated by a small gray square on the switch. A small bar (not a wet bar) is located under the 19" television in the sitting area. There is a balcony door that gives you entrance from the sitting area to the small round table and two chairs on that section of balcony.

The bedroom area is great as long as you keep the beds together. If they are separated, the second entrance to the balcony from the bedroom would probably be blocked. This balcony door gives you easy access to the two padded, pull out lounge chairs on that side of the balcony.

Sun Princess category AC, mini-suite B404 bedroom—Lightweight non-insulated curtain gives privacy but does not block out noise from one room to the other

There is a very small walk in closet in the bedroom, it looks impressive but after attempting to unpack and hang up clothes, we found that it has minimal storage space with a very tiny door to enter. Hubby had to walk in sideways to get his clothes as his shoulders were too wide to go through. There is one hanging bar approximately 24" long that gives you room to hang things like dresses, and one very small bar about 18" (or possibly less) for hanging shirts and shorter items. Under the shirt bar there are three drawers for storage. No shelf is available for use unless you remove the life jackets and place them under the beds as they take up the entire shelf and there is only one shelf.

There is also another set of small drawers in the bedroom and the safe is in the top cupboard. Be very careful when programming this safe as it does not display the code afterward so you had better hit the correct buttons or it might mean a call to the pursers desk to have it opened.

The bathroom in this suite is a bit different. Access is gained by a door in the entrance way and a second door in the bedroom area, with a wood slatted door in-between the two rooms for privacy. It consisted of two very different styles, one very roomy and one very, very cramped. The sink and stool are located in the first room and although there is a non-moveable three way mirror, there is almost no storage space whatsoever there. Two very tiny triangle-shaped shelves, and that is it. No hook on the back of the door to hang anything but we managed to hang our organizer over the magnetic lock on the wall behind the door. The stool is so close to the door when it is opened, less than a foot of space between it and the wall, we finally just kept the first door closed to give us a few extra inches of space and used the bedroom entrance. The second room is wonderful with a very deep Jacuzzi tub and a separate completely glassed in shower. Nice sized shower, not tiny like some I have had on other lines in suites.

I need to repeat the lack of storage space in the bathroom area as, if you don't take something to put your bathroom items in, it could become very inconvenient for you.

There are two televisions in this category, the 19" I mentioned and a 9" in the bedroom area set in a little cubbyhole above the cupboards. But... we found just a little problem. The televisions are so close together that if you attempt to change the channel on one, you will change the channel on both. And if you attempt to turn off the TV in the bedroom, make sure to check as you have probably turned on the one in the living room. It took a bit of getting used to when we had to get up at night to shut off the TV in the sitting area after we attempted to turn off the bedroom TV. No sleep timers on the remote so there was no other choice. We even tried closing the curtain between the two rooms, but it is just a curtain and not insulated so that didn't work either.

The balcony is about 3 1/2 feet wide and approximately 30 feet long. Although narrow, there was plenty of room for breakfast or just relaxing. The depth of the balcony is about the same as the balcony cabins, just twice as long, if not more so.

Our room steward’s name was Susanna and she was one of the best we have had in over 20 cruises. I had typed out a list of requests to give her as some were for a surprise party that was planned for my husband’s birthday and I did not want him to hear me telling her about it. With the list of added requests I also slipped in a $20 and from that moment on we wanted for nothing. She saw that every detail of the surprise party was carried out and also honored our request that a large container of ice be delivered three times each day to our mini suite. The party requests were perfect and she had everything delivered exactly on time including ice, glasses and appetizers.

The Wheelhouse Bar
We made plans to meet up with a group from the Internet at 3:00 the first day at the Wheelhouse Bar. That is where we first met Jason, our favorite Bar Waiter. Jason remembered our names for the entire 10 days and we saw him in different areas of the ship throughout the cruise, he always greeted us individually with a smile. If you happen to sail on the Star soon, please say hello to Jason for me, just tell him Toto says “HI”, he will know who you mean. He will be reassigned to the Grand Princess in June and you never know, we might just decide that a trip to Galveston for a weeks sailing is in order, now wouldn’t Jason be surprised to see our smiling faces?

Jason moved furniture for us in the Wheelhouse so that everyone in our large group could chat and get acquainted with each other. Then he took our drink order and came back with a marvelous Margarita Real for me that I used for the first toast of the cruise, if you like Margaritas, this one is GREAT.

The Sun Princess Casino
The Sun Princess has a very old casino and for the first 9 days we only gave donations to the cause. Most slot machines are older and over half only took tokens and not even bills. The busiest places in the casino were the nickel slots and the poker machines, and there weren't very many of them. Finally on the very last afternoon and evening of the cruise I hit a bit of luck and won several jackpots, while listening to other passengers complaining that the machines were so tight they squeaked. I came out way ahead of my initial investment which put a big smile on my face.

Sterling Steakhouse
We had looked forward to dining under the stars as we had on the Dawn Princess last year, but found that they have moved the Sterling Steakhouse inside to the closed section of the Horizon Court in the evening. But inside or out, they have the best steaks and best service onboard. The price has increased to $15.00 pp but the food is absolutely flawless and the service is 5 Star. If you only visit once, it is well worth the price. We dined twice at Sterling ’s and enjoyed every minute of dining and watching the sunsets from the large windows.

We choose PC dining on this sailing and must admit we didn’t enter the dining room once, so I have no information on what was served or the service. We choose the alternates for all of our meals. Pizza, Horizon Count, Sterling Steakhouse and room service. And I have to say, we didn’t miss the dining experience in the least for 10 days.

First stop was Princess Cays, and although the water was still quite cold it was a great beach day. We did not have lunch at the BBQ but instead decided to return to the ship for lunch in the Horizon Court. If the Princess Cays stop is towards the end of the cruise, we usually attend the BBQ but we were just not ready for the hamburger and hot dog lunch on the first day out.

Next port was St. Thomas and we had booked the Champagne Catamaran shore excursion to St. Johns for my husband’s birthday. Princess normally offers a full day with lunch catamaran tour on the Heavenly Daze, but on this sailing only the half day tour was offered on another catamaran. It was not quite as good as we expected, but still a nice sailing with a great crew over to St. Johns and we both enjoyed it and the great passengers and crew that were aboard.

Next up, St. Martin. We booked the Golden Eagle Catamaran (for the third time) but found out the evening before when the purser’s desk called that there was not enough participation so the Golden Eagle had to be cancelled. No problem, as we spent the first half of the day shopping for tons of bargains and the second half on the beach at Everythin's Cool.

In St. Vincent we jumped on a tour with some friends we had met on the internet and were very glad we did. The tour was through Hazo Eco Tours originally, but was subcontracted out to Wayne Halbich of . Our tour was $50 per person and did not include lunch (the restaurant they took us to on the ocean ended up being quite expensive and not that great, lunch ran on the average of $60 per couple. OUCH!). However, Wayne informed us that if we would have booked directly with him he offered the same water tour for $40 and that included lunch at the same restaurant. The tour was by large speed boat and took us to the waterfalls (that have been closed to ships tours because of a landslide but are still accessible with a bit of climbing over a few downed rocks). Beautiful place and most in the group swam in the falls for about 30 minutes but the water was quite chilly for me. Then it was off to a black sand beach for some rum punch and swimming/snorkeling, including a tour around half of the coastline of the island. A great day and a tour I would highly recommend.

Next stop was Barbados where we booked the Monkey and Animal wildlife preserve tour through Princess. We started referring to it as the monkeyless monkey encounter as the main attraction is supposed to be the monkeys, but the only two we saw were one in a cage on the way up, and one little baby monkey they had in captivity. The Wildlife Park has changed the hours that the wild monkeys are fed to 4:00 from the previous 2:00 so there were no monkeys to be found. But we did have a great tour of the island and stopped for a Rum Punch on the Eastern Coast at a fantastic beach. It was nice to see the beauty of Barbados and the fantastic coastline.

Antigua was the final stop before two days at sea. We booked the Jolly Roger and what a ship that is. Rum punch and open bar flowed freely throughout the trip. We sailed out of the harbor and to a beautiful beach where they floated the rum punch ashore for all to enjoy. The water was calm and beautiful. The Jolly Roger’s crew were ready for fun and chose my husband and myself for their Pirate marriage ceremony. So we slipped on our pirate head covers and the captain preformed the ceremony at sea. We were presented with a pirate marriage license signed by the captain and it was a hoot from start to finish. This tour is only about $39 pp and it is worth every penny, tons of fun for a few hours on a real looking pirate ship, and the rum punch, open bar and music weren't too shabby either.

We enjoy the Sun Class ships and, after sailing on both the Grand Class and the smaller Sun Class, we find that each has its benefits. But we seem to prefer the smaller intimate atmosphere of the ships that run about 70,000 tons or a bit over. You become more familiar to the staff and it is much easier to find friends and for them to locate you on the smaller ships.

One last note on this cruise: We have never had such gorgeous weather for a 10 day sailing. Not one drop of rain throughout the entire cruise. And only one day where the clouds took over the skies, but still not a drop of rain. Each day brought beautiful sunshine and warm temperatures that soared into the 90’s the further south we sailed. If we could have ordered the weather for this cruise, this is exactly what we would have asked of Mother Nature to deliver. Absolutely perfect from start to finish.

Copyright © Sue Adam

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