Sun Princess Was Not What I Expected: Hits & Misses

sun princess cruise review

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I recently came back from my first cruise onboard the brand new Sun Princess. As we boarded the vessel in Athens, Greece, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. Would the new Sun Princess feel like a larger version of past ships or have her own unique style?

While I’ve cruised with Princess for almost 20 years, the Sun Princess is a new ship design, and yes – she is game changing! The first of Princess’ Sphere Class, Sun Princess is the largest ship in the fleet, and the most innovative. 

As a long time Princess cruiser, there were some familiar elements. However, we also discovered new venues, dining options, and experiences.

We were onboard for a 5 day media sailing during Sun Princess’ inaugural season. This gave us the opportunity to try out several restaurants and bars, enjoy the entertainment and even spend some time by the pool! 

I loved a quite a lot about this new class of ship, but there are some things that might take me some time to get used to. In this Sun Princess cruise review, I go over the hits and misses. I also answer some frequently asked questions about this brand new cruise ship.

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Hits – What I Loved on Sun Princess

Sun Princess Cruise Ship

Sun Princess Ship Design 

I really enjoyed Sun Princess’ new ship design. With the exception of my own occasional navigational issues (it took me 4 days to get used to my cabin location), most of the ship is well laid out to accommodate the 5 pools, 9 hot tubs, multiple dining and entertainment options.

Although Sun Princess has 21 decks and a capacity of 4300 passengers and 1600 crew, the ship didn’t feel crowded.

The Piazza and Interior Spaces

sun princess

The Sun Princess is a beautiful ship. In the center you’ll find the 3 deck Piazza, which serves as a central hub for guests to enjoy entertainment and socializing with old and new friends. 

The Sun Princess Piazza is surrounded by the glass windows on both sides of the ship, as part of the sphere design. This allows for views of the ocean, landscape and sky from the various vantage points across decks 7, 8 and 9.

We loved sitting at Crooner’s, a popular bar, and watching the world go by. 

sun princess good spirits

Beyond the Piazza, there are several venues that are nicely decorated and feel thematic. We loved Good Spirits Bar, O’Malley’s Irish Pub and Princess Live, which always seemed to attract a fun crowd. 

Modern Staterooms 

Sun Princess Cruise Ship

When I opened the door to my deluxe balcony cabin, I was pleasantly surprised. The colors were bright and modern, with beautiful and tasteful furnishings. This definitely felt like like an upgrade from past comfortable, but more simple Princess cabin designs. 

I especially loved having a full size sofa, which made our balcony stateroom feel both inviting and luxurious. 

sun princess cabin bathroom

The bathroom was spacious, with glass shower doors! If you’ve ever had a plastic shower curtain stuck to your leg, you’ll appreciate this more modern design.

There’s also a lot of storage, from a large hallway closet to a desk/vanity with drawers.

sun princess cabin amenities

You’ll also find several electric outlets in the cabin, as well as USB and USB-C outlets next to the  bed.

A nice touch is the quality hairdryer provided for cruise passengers. A Drybar blowdryer is definitely not your standard hotel brand.

I used it when onboard – and it worked great! In fact I’ll leave some hair tools at home the next time I’m onboard. 

Related: How to Pack Light for a Cruise

Excellent Dining Options

There were so many dining choices on Sun Princess, from included casual and fine dining, to specialty restaurants and experiences.

Horizons

sun princess horizons mdr

A new concept for Princess, the Horizons dining room offers 3 choices for guests. This 3 deck main dining room offers traditional dining on deck 6, flexible or anytime dining on deck 7 and a more casual dining option on deck 8.

We enjoyed dinner in Horizons on Deck 6 – the wake view can’t be beat! The food was tasty, as expected, but the presentation of each dish was what impressed me the most.

sun princess love boat dream dessert

I ended my meal with a classic Princess dessert, the Love Boat Dream and it was as good as it looked.

Unfortunately we didn’t have a chance to try the American Diner restaurant on deck 8 during our 5 days onboard. However, speaking with other passengers, it seems that the all day breakfast, lunch and dinner concept is a hit!

The Eatery 

One of my favourite parts of this brand new cruise ship is The Eatery, which is like a big buffet, but better. The Eatery is set up in stations, and foods are mostly served by the crew.

On our embarkation day, we went to the eatery for lunch and enjoyed the Asian stations, Italian stations and Ramen style soup stations. I was surprised to see that throughout our cruise there was rarely a line of more than two or three people at any given station.

Personally, I’m a fan of full serve cruise buffets, so this was a hit for me. Most importantly, the food was delicious! 

Lido Deck Casual Dining 

sun princess pizza

The Lido casual dining is sure to be a big hit with passengers as the weather gets warmer and the ship later sails in the Caribbean.

At the Lido deck, you’ll find a grill with burgers and hotdogs, tacos, and Shawarma, salads and Princess Cruises famous pizza.

I am a huge fan of cruise ship pizza, and this pizza did not disappoint!

Room service

We ordered room service with the Princess app a few times during our cruise. My son and husband enjoy the classic egg sandwich, and I love the fresh fruit plate. While I never find room service a necessity, I do really appreciate it when we have an early excursion. 

There is a delivery fee for room service. However, this is included if you opted for Princess Plus or Princess Premier packages.

I was impressed with how quickly our food and coffee orders were delivered.

Specialty Dining Restaurants (additional charge – some are included in the Princess Plus or Premier Package)

During our sailing, we ate at several of Sun Princess’ specialty dining restaurants, including the new Umai Teppanyaki.

Umai Tepenyaki and Umai Hotpot

sun princess teppenyaki

We had an absolutely delicious meal at Umai Teppenyaki that started with miso soup and a breaded shrimp appetizer. Following this, we dined on tender beef, and flavourful chicken, shrimp and scallops along with vegetable fried rice. 

This restaurant also encompasses Umai Hot Pot, which is a delicious and different dining option that you won’t find on many other cruise ships.

We also ate at Sabatini’s Italian Trattoria, Crown Grill, The Catch by Rudy, and another new restaurant, Butcher’s Block by Dario.

Crown Grill

Crown Grill steakhouse remains a favourite for us. Not only are the mains, appetizers and desserts delicious, but the atmosphere feels like you’re eating at a fine dining establishment on land.

Sabatini’s Trattoria

sun princess lamb chop

We also enjoyed the Italian fare at Sabatini’s. While my lamb could have been a little more tender, as it has been on past visits, the other meat dishes, pasta and desserts were wonderful.

The Catch by Rudi

sun princess catch by rudi

Ever since we had dinner at The Catch by Rudy on the Enchanted Princess a few months ago, this restaurant remains one of my all-time favorites. Frank and Ethan had filet mignon with lobster tail, a delicious surf and turf meal, while I had the catch of the day which was king prawns.

The entire meal was delicious, including the Austrian berry soufflé. The attention to detail in the food presentation, including unique serving platters deserve a special note.

Butcher’s Block by Dario

This family style restaurant is a lot of fun! After being given a glass of Chianti (loved this wine), we were treated to several different cuts of meat, all cooked to perfection. While the beef was served piece by piece by servers, a white bean dish and crudités were set in the middle of the table to share. This was served with a baked potato. 

I did really enjoy the taste of food. However, I did find myself craving a little salad or other vegetable dish to accompany the meal. 

Alfredo’s Pizzeria and O’Malley’s Irish Pub

Two casual restaurants that are great for lunch or fast dinner are Alfredo’s Pizzeria and O’Malley’s Irish Pub. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough time (or room in my stomach) to try these popular restaurants. I have eaten at both on past cruises and imagine it was as good as ever.

Spellbound by Magic Castle

Sun Princess Cruise Ship Spellbound

Spellbound by Magic Castle, a new Princess extraordinary experience, blew me away. I don’t want to give it all away, but here’s a little bit of an idea of what you can expect.

We entered the venue for Spellbound, which was in a non-descript location (adding to the fun and magic). It was like entering another world. Modeled after the famous Magic Castle in Hollywood, guests enter what feels like an exclusive private clubhouse set in an old Victorian mansion.

Here we ordered some of the most fantastical drinks. This alone was an experience! In addition, bartenders and servers performed magic and card tricks for the guests.

Following this, we entered into an intimate space for about 30 people, where we were entertained by a talented magician.

There is an additional charge of $149 per person for Spellbound and spaces are likely to fill up early.  A themed dinner is included.

Tip: Spellbound, like the original Magic Castle has a dress code, so plan accordingly.

Pools and Upper Decks

Sun Princess Cruise Ship

There are 5 pools on Sun Princess, each offering a different look and experience.

We loved the 2 main pools, where you’ll often find a band playing or activities to join. This is also where you can enjoy Movies Under the Stars, a big screen on the lido deck.

This is where you’ll find outdoor lido deck casual dining. 

There’s also a lot of lounge chair seating on the deck space around the two main pools as well as the deck above.

sun princess aperol spritz stand

There was even an Aperol Sprirz stand, which fit in perfectly with the Mediterranean cruise itinerary!

The Dome Pool

sun princess the dome

The Dome is one of the coolest pools and entertainment spaces that I’ve ever seen on a cruise ship. You have an indoor outdoor pool, which serves as a great place to relax by night as it transforms into an entertainment venue.

The show features acrobatic performances which were created in partnership with Cirque Eloize. We were one of the first sailings of Sun, and the cast was practicing, but the show was not yet ready for guests.

We saw a great performance by two talented musicians in the early evening in the enjoyed it.

The Wake View Pool

sun princess wake pool

It’s hard to find a better view on the ship than Sun Princess’s new Wake View pool. Located at the very back of the shift on deck 8, you’ll find an infinity pool and 2 hot tubs, lounge chair seating, and a cocktail bar. 

The Sanctuary Pool

The Sanctuary pool is reserved for suite guests and passengers who purchase a sanctuary pass. Sanctuary passes are very popular on other Princess cruise ships, however, there are differences on Sun Princess.

I loved the Sanctuary pool and could imagine enjoying a leisurely day by this pool on a future Caribbean cruise. There is an additional cost (99$ for sea days and 79$ for port days) and space is limited.

Park 19

Park 19 seems like one of the biggest transformations for this new princess cruise ship.

Located on deck 19, 20, and 21, Park19 is an outdoor activity area perfect for kids, teens and adults of all ages. Park19 features Sea Breeze, Coastal Climb, The Net, The Lookout, Splash Zone, Infinite Horizon, Recreational Court, Hammock Area, and a Jogging Track.

This makes Sun Princess  a perfect cruise ship for family and multigenerational travel.

Elevators

sun princess elevators

Elevators are typically crowded on cruise ships, but Sun Princess got this right. These smart elevators work by guests choosing their deck outside the elevator area (as opposed to on). Then, passengers are assigned a corresponding elevator that will take them to their desired deck.

This works so well! The elevator waiting areas aren’t hectic and there are minimal people waiting. 

The Cruise Ship Did Not Feel Crowded 

One thing that really surprised me about Princess is the fact that despite this being a full sailing with 4300 gas and 1600 crew, the cruise ship never really felt crowded.

There were common areas where people gathered for a show. However, there were so many different venues with a variety activities and entertainment options, so guests were dispersed around the cruise ship.

Shows and Entertainment 

Sun Princess Cruise Ship Arena(

Beyond the Dome and the reimagined Piazza, one venue that is new for Princess Cruises is The Arena. This theater in the round is the most technologically advanced yet. As one guest told me, there are no bad seats in the house!

While onboard, the cast of Vallora, a Pirates Quest were rehearsing for upcoming shows. Judging from what we saw, I can’t wait to catch the show live in the future.

The Crew 

The crew on board and Princess were among the best. It was a lot of hard work to set up the cruise ship and serve all the guests on a brand new ship. After all, this ship design is new for them too.

However, they did an amazing job. The crew were overwhelmingly friendly, helpful and enjoyable! 

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Princess Medallion

The Princess Medallion isn’t new, but the technology seemed to work really well on this new cruise ship.

The Princess Medallion is a quarter-size wearable device. The Medallion can be worn on a lanyard, a clip, as a bracelet, or as a necklace.

With the Medallion, you can take advantage of keyless stateroom entry, contactless boarding, and touchless payments.

Misses – Where Improvements Could Be Made

There was a lot that I loved onboard the brand new Sun Princess that I would definitely consider hits or home runs. However, there were some other things that I thought could either be improved or that I may just have to get used to.

International Cafe

Sun Princess Cruise Ship International Cafe

You’ll find the International Café on deck nine of the Piazza. This quick casual restaurant has always been a favorite of mine on past Princess cruises. 

However, I did notice that some of the sandwiches and salads that I’ve loved in the past weren’t offered at this International Café. I’d love to see a few more food options and more variety, both for the daytime and late evening snacks.

2 Specialty Restaurants (decor & atmosphere)

While most of the specialty restaurants on Sun Princess were beautifully decorated and had a special atmosphere, this wasn’t the as apparent at The Catch by Rudi and The Butcher’s Block by Dario.

This was for a very functional reason. During breakfast and lunch the specialty restaurant areas were used as an extension of The Eatery (or buffet). The extra seating definitely comes in handy during those peak times.

However, unfortunately, when these spaces were used as specialty dining venues, they lacked the atmosphere that is usually reserved for specialty dining.

No Adult Pool

I was surprised to see that there was no included adult-only pool on Sun Princess. While I appreciate a cruise ship that’s family friendly, it is nice to have some kid free spaces. 

To be fair, this was not an issue on our sailing, as there were a few kids on board. However, I can imagine that during holiday and summer cruises, this might present an issue with some guests.

Ship Layout (walking through passenger decks)

Overall, Princess Cruises did a great job with this cruise ship. After all, they put a lot on board Sun Princess, without having the cruise ship feel crowded or tight on space. However, it was strange to have to walk through a hallway of cabins to reach The Piazza on Deck 9, rather than the typical public areas.

Likely, this is just something that I, and perhaps other cruisers, just have to get used to.

Location of Guest Services

If you’re on board Sun Princess, at some point you might find yourself wondering, “Where is guest services?”. I lost an item onboard, so I needed some assistance.

It turns out that guest services is located on deck 6 in a small room off the side of the elevator bank. The line spilled out into the elevator area, which wasn’t ideal.

In my mind, passenger services should be easy to find (like a hotel lobby), so this was something I didn’t like as much.

That said, I have to hand it to the crew, who were as friendly and helpful as ever. To manage the queue, there was a crew member going through the line, guiding and helping people. I was also really happy that my lost tripod/selfie stick was indeed found!

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Final Thoughts

We had a great time onboard Sun Princess! While there are the usual kinks to work out during the first few weeks of sailing, I expect that this new ship will become a fan favorite.

There truly is something for everyone to enjoy!

At just over 177,000 tons, there is a lot to see and do. In fact, I already have plans to sail on Sun Princess again, in order to experience even more!

If you’re booking your own cruise on Sun Princess, you’ll definitely appreciate longer sailings (7-10 days) or may even want to consider a back to back

Will you be sailing on the new Sun Princess? Please let me know in the comments below.

Happy Cruising!

Ilana

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*I was onboard Sun Princess for a 5 day media sailing. As always, all opinions are my own.

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2 Comments

  1. Kathlyn
    March 30, 2024 / 9:46 pm

    Hi and I appreciate your detailed review. We are long-time cruisers with Princess and most recently took three cruises on the Discovery Princess. There are a number of folks giving information about the new Sun Princess, but no one discussed so many of the ship’s areas, dining features, entertainment options, stateroom features with the level of detail that you have done here. Kudos to you. We are sailing on the new Star Princess, the Sun’s sister ship, in 2025. It will be a b2b cruise in the Caribbean. Can’t wait. Once again thank you.

    • April 4, 2024 / 1:40 pm

      I’m so glad this was helpful! Your b2b cruise sounds fantastic!

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