It was our 14th cruise. This one - more as a trial run, since my wife became "legally blind" earlier this year, due to Macular Degeneration in both eyes. Already as an amputee for the last four years, and now with eyes, both of us were a little bit apprehensive, that perhaps this cruise might end as our last one. Well, the cruise was just great, both of us loved it, wife made out as a real trooper and here is the review.
Getting to Ft. Lauderdale and the Embarkation
For our rt flight to Ft Lauderdale, I've cashed my ff miles (80k) for the first class fare. It was a pre-cruise day at FtL Marriott North. Since I,ve made the flight arrangements on my own, I thought it would be prudent to get there a day earlier, (so much for my trust in USAirways.) To our surprise, we found a total of two bus loads of passengers the next morning, all staying at the Marriott and all going to Sun Princess. The bus was wheelchair accessible and we were surprised to meet an unusually high number of handicapped people, young and old.
Once in the Princess Terminal, it took no more then five minutes to get through the formalities and presto, we were in our stateroom. The cabin D 315, Dolphin Deck was a HP cabin, quite large and well appointed. The Sun is an older vessel and there were no HP cabins with a verandahs (unless I would be willing to dish out an additional $1800.- for one and only HP cabin way on top deck, a mini suite. Bathroom was equally accommodating, plenty of room for the wheelchair, plenty of knee room under the sink and a lots of grab bars all around. There was one minor problem during the night. To get inside the bathroom, my wife had to open the heavy door and at the same time pull herself up over a rather steep ramp. She did this well during the day, but at night, I had to help her, (which meant to synchronize our timing. for the bathroom!). We were well acquainted with the ship from our previous cruise on Dawn Princess, same layout for the two sister ships. From top to bottom all areas were very well accessible, elevators worked perfectly and not to neglect a nifty interior design, abundance of off-white marble, unbelievable workmanship in exotic wood paneling, pretty plants and a number of well chosen paintings throughout the ship. In reference to passengers' comments from previous cruises on the Sun. I remember reading their reports of a foul sewer smell amidships. I have to agree , but only a little bit noticeable at ports. In fact my first comment upon entering our stateroom in Ftl.: "gee, it is true what they've said about Sun". Again at St Thomas and later in Antigua we did notice the same odor. The air was nice and clear at sea.
Food and more food
In contrast with Celebrity and RCI, there is no available assistance on Princess ships for the HP passengers on top at the Horizon Buffet Court. It meant that I would have to first find a table for two, seat my wife, get her a cool drink, and then go over with a tray to the food counters, pick and choose what I thought she might like, take the tray to our table and then repeat the same procedure for myself. Needless to say, we did this on the first day for lunch and for the rest of our cruise we ate at the main dining room, breakfast, lunch and dinner. With the exception of our assistant waitress Eva, at our assigned table for dinner, I have to say that the service was excellent on unassigned tables, mornings and noon, the waiters extremely friendly and eager to please. Contrary, at our table for six at dinner, we always had the feeling of being rushed, only Eva tried very hard to make us comfortable and happy. It was our ninth cruise on Princess and according to my expert gourmet cook at home, my wife, it is our humble opinion that the food, at least on this ship, slipped considerably. On a plus side, examples were prime rib, veal, lobster and pastry. We ordered fish once, it tested fishy and that was that. Indeed, one could order something else, but we knew from our previous cruises, if one shows a slightest dissatisfaction it causes a major commotion from top and down to the waiter, the poor guy, that really has nothing to do with food quality. Our waiter Dave, from Mexico did not seem to be "with it" and at the last day onboard we've found out why. It was his last day of service, a nine month work contract aboard ship, he would get off with us at FtL and fly home to open a baby furniture store. As I've said earlier, Eva did as much as she could to make our dining pleasant. All in all, we did expect the food to be better, but both of us agree that we would sign up for another Princess cruise in a heart beat!
We are not bar people by any means and so there were not too many choices for after dinner entertainment. The Sun has a large theater and a smaller, more intimate one also.. We attended each every other night. There were at last three rows of seats in the back of the main theater designated for the HP only. The Celebrity Summit, for example, had none. The cruise director did not floor anyone with his talent this time and following him the ship's song-and-dance troupe did their thing, excelling with energy, but not in subject. The Vista Lounge, the smaller theater had so-so performers, one stands out as a talented young man that combined parody, magic and humor with a great degree of energy. The Casino happened to be on the same deck as our cabin and so we generously contributed to the Princess coffers by playing slots. Glad to say, that thanks to my wife we ended up with a tiny gain. If one of us would win on a particular evening, she would pocket the change and head for the cabin. It did not always work out, some evenings we ended up home before 10 o'clock and this meant either the TV or books. In my wife's case, listening to book' tapes. The Sun Princess did not do well with movies onboard. One, "The Italian Way" was ok, but "the Plot with a View" has to be the most stupid thing I've ever seen. Would you believe it, it's ending contains a couple dancing on the top deck of Sun Princess, on the way from UK to USA!
Our itinerary included the three saint' islands, St Thomas, St Vincent and St Maarten. Also Antigua and Barbados. For the most Caribbean Islands, we've "been there-done that" on our other cruises, so this time we did a little shopping only at St Thomas and Barbados. The Islands are not at all handicapped- friendly and frankly, both of us are quite happy to stay onboard and have the whole vessel to ourselves! I did get off in Antigua, but not for long, it happened to be their Independence Day, with a long parade and a number of visiting Navy ships from the neighboring Nations. The Sun itinerary, originally included the Princess Keys. For some unexplained reason the Princess cancelled the stop and gave us a $ 100.- pp onboard credit.
Our flight back home was from FtL at 12.36. Well, it was a miracle that we made our flight on time. Getting off the ship was no problem, although there are always passengers that "did not bother to check out at the pursers desk" and so hold up the whole process. We were off the ship, identified our luggage and in short time we were on the bus on the way to FtL terminal. And this was THE problem! There were four other ships at the Everglades Port, all disembarking and most of some ten thousand passengers aiming for the FtL Airport. A crisp $10.- did the trick and a nice porter got us up to security. More problems. My wife's prosthesis and her wheelchair create an immense confusion at any airport, every time. It took at least ten minutes to screen her and we were finally at our seats with not a minute to spear. Earlier, I did say - our seats in first class USAirways. What a total waste of money for those passengers that paid up to $1200.- for their seats! Foolish me, expecting linen, china and silverware for our lunch. We did not have to pay anything, as they do at the coach class, but for starters, coffee came in a Styrofoam cup, a packaged egg sandwich and a soggy cookie on a plastic tray. Good thing we'd only paid $5.-pp for our seats (and oh yes, 80.000 miles).
In summary, in spite of my little negative comments on and off, both of us would not hesitate for a moment to book again soon. Simply, I cannot find words to portray our enjoyment of clear blue skies, warm weather, turquoise sea and the great cruise ship.