Here’s Where the New Sun Princess Shines and Falls Short

We are back from sailing on the new Sun Princess, and in our exclusive first look, we share where this mega-ship shines and where she falls short.

Sun Princess Shines

Five days is not enough time to eat, drink, and discover everything onboard a new ship, especially when this new ship is now the largest in the Princess Cruises fleet. But Heidi and I did our best to experience everything we could on the new Sun Princess. We are back and share our first impressions of where Sun Princess shines and where this new vessel falls short.

Our First Impressions of Sun Princess

Where Sun Princess Shined:

Standard Balcony Cabin

Princess Cruises finally listened to its loyal cruisers. On Sun Princess, the entry-level balcony cabins are deluxe balcony cabins, which means more room, storage, and a sofa.

We appreciated the new layout and decor, which puts the cabin on par with similar staterooms on other new mega ships like Celebrity Ascent or Norwegian Prima. This reconfiguration does mean that there is no longer a walk-in closet, which did benefit us over-packers on other Princess ships. Still, this new closet design provided more than enough storage with a combination of shelves, drawers, and a clothes bar.

Where Sun Princess Shines and Fell Short

These cabins also have a new and improved bathroom, with modern finishes and a brand-new shower design. This square shower setup features a glass door and no more shower curtain! These new bathrooms also feature marble finishes and premium bath products including hand soap. The only odd feature was that the bath towels were stored under the sink and behind the shower door.

Inside the stateroom, the muted color palette and light wood tones complement the upscale décor found around the rest of the ship. And the signature Princess luxury bed provided all the comforts of home. Not to mention, there’s also a new Dry Bar hair dryer in all cabins.

Overall, the 236-square-foot cabin had all the features and amenities you would expect to find in any modern cruise ship cabin. There were also several power connections throughout the cabin. In fact, there are a USB-A, USB-C, and a power outlet on each side of the bed, which is the most we’ve seen on any ship. A similar setup exists at the desk as well.

So, we were pleasantly surprised by our accommodation for this Mediterranean cruise.

Welcoming Piazza

Sun Princess continues the trend in mega-ship design, offering upscale finishes with clean and minimalistic modern decor.

The 9-story Sphere in the ship’s center allows for more natural light and a more inviting Piazza. This three-story staple of most Princess Cruises ships feels spacious and warm on Sun Princess. The floor-to-ceiling glass offers amazing ocean views on all three decks, and even includes the SeaWalk on Deck 9 on the starboard side.

Popular venues, like the Crooners Bar and Bellini’s, offer seating surrounding the Piazza. It’s almost like having al fresco seating on an interior deck. Plus, the International Café and Alfredo’s Pizzeria seamless blend into this central hub of activity.

Further, the new Piazza still features several events, parties, and live music throughout the cruise. With terraced seats, there are decent sight lines on all three decks. So, cruisers can now enjoy activities like 80s parties, rock parties, or other Piazza entertainment from all angles.

Yet, those just walking through from one end of the ship to the other can still bypass the crowds. That is if they are not sucked into the fun happening down on Deck 7.

The rest of the ship continues the trend with light beechwood tones and soft materials in the public spaces as well. For example, Princess Live is light with colorful chairs that make it feel homier than its counterparts on the Royal Class. And The Shops walkway is paved in marble, reflecting light for a luxurious feel.

This is in contrast to many other ships in the Princess fleet which feature dark woods and tacky accents reminiscent of your grandmother’s house. 

Specialty Dining

Princess Cruises’ Crown Grill is one of the best steakhouses at sea, so we are happy to report that the venue is back on Sun Princess with elevated design and decor but the same great menu. There’s also The Catch by Rudi, a seafood restaurant that launched in 2022 with great success. The fan favorite Sabatini’s Italian restaurant also makes an appearance on Sun Princess with a beautiful redesign.

However, Sun Princess welcomed several new dining venues to the fleet as well. We tested two of them and think they are great additions to the dining lineup.

While not new to cruise ships, Umai Teppanyaki is new to Princess Cruises. As fans of these Japanese-style steakhouses, we can confirm that this version at sea is just as delicious and entertaining.

Offering a four-course menu with plenty of utensil-spinning, sizzling, and singing, this Deck 8 restaurant is a perfect addition to this family-focused mega-ship. What’s unique is that Umai also features a hot pot experience.

With six tables lining the venue, this cooking approach allows guests to prepare their own Asian-inspired delicacies. With boiling broth, cruisers combine veggies, meat, and noodles for a filling and fun communal meal. Our friends vouch that it was top-notch as well.

On Deck 9 aft is the Butcher’s Block by Dario. In partnership with “the world’s most famous butcher”, this family-style feast is a carnivore’s dream. The 8-course meal features several signature cuts of beef, including a tender and delicious tomahawk and t-bone. There is also a vegetarian option, but everyone gets a slice of the light and airy olive oil cake for dessert.

While I did enjoy this meal, it was almost too meat-focused even for me. I would have appreciated one or two courses from the vegetarian menu that Heidi had to break it up a bit.

On Sun Princess, all specialty dining is $45 a person and $22.50 for kids under 12. Cruisers with the Princess Premier Package can redeem specialty restaurant credits at all restaurants.

Like any specialty restaurant, we highly suggest making reservations pre-cruise so you don’t miss out.

Spellbound

All cruise lines are introducing exclusive, intimate onboard activities. Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas has the Empire Supper Club, and Princess Cruises offers the unique 360: An Extraordinary Experience on Discovery Princess and Enchanted Princess.

New for Sun Princess is the magical Spellbound. In partnership with Magic Castle, this immersive and mystifying evening is open to only 90 guests each night. The experience includes a special dinner in a reserved section of the main dining room and entrance through the oddly out-of-place black door found midship on Deck 8.

We won’t spoil all the fun, but behind that innocent-looking door is perhaps one of the best-themed, interactive experiences at sea. Spellbound’s level of immersion, attention to detail, and storytelling rivals any Disney attraction.

With a backstory tied to the actual Magic Castle in LA, an evening at Spellbound includes unique cocktails, illusions, sleight of hand, and even a potential ghost sighting. The attention to detail is remarkable, with the room itself coming to life. Not to mention, some of the best cocktails on the ship can be found only at the Spellbound bar.

All of this magic and mystery costs $149 per person. But given that cruisers can come and go from the venue for the entire night, it is well worth the price tag in our opinion.

Three-Story Main Dining Room

All Princess cruise ships boast several complimentary main dining rooms. However, Princess Cruises reimagined this dining experience on Sun Princess with the new Horizons dining room. We are fans of the new layout spanning three decks with stunning aft views and a three-story sculpture.

Aside from the dining rooms being combined into one multi-story venue on Sun Princess, each deck does offer a different dining setup.

Where Sun Princess Shines and Fell Short

The two-story Horizons restaurant is located on Decks 6 and 7. Located all the way aft of the ship, this terraced main dining room is more grand and offers fantastic wake views. While slightly different on each deck, the furnishings and decor make this venue feel more elegant than the counterparts on other Princess Cruises ships.

The largest of the three dining rooms is on Deck 6. This restaurant is reserved for guests who prefer traditional dining. The dining times on our 10-night Mediterranean cruise were 5:00 PM and 7:30 PM.

Guests can also opt for flexible dining, where they can make reservations in the app between 5:00 PM and 9:00 PM. These guests will be seated on Deck 7 of the Horizons dining room. Regardless of whether you choose traditional or flexible dining, guests can enjoy the same new main dining room menus. 

On Deck 8, there is the Americana Diner, a new concept for Princess Cruises. This casual restaurant has an entirely new all-day menu. Open for brunch and dinner every day, the Americana Diner serves all-day breakfast. The menu also features classic comfort food, like ribs, chicken wings, and sandwiches. You won’t want to miss the chicken and waffles cocktail here, either.

While we only dined once in Horizons and once in the Americana Diner, we can see how the variety of dining options appeals to all types of cruisers. And Heidi is definitely a fan of the all-day breakfast.

Smart Elevators

Many hotels on land feature intelligent elevators. With this technology, guests select a floor and get assigned to an elevator. Once that elevator arrives, simply hop in and it will stop at your designated location.

While cruise ships have just started introducing this technology, our experiences have been hit or miss. We first experienced smart elevators on a cruise during our MSC Seascape sailing in December 2022, and let’s just say they were anything but smart. However, during a recent sailing on Icon of the Seas, the elevators worked perfectly.

Happily, we can report that we had a similar experience on Sun Princess. These elevators were fast and efficient. Regardless of where we were heading, we never had to wait long for a lift. We never had issues securing an elevator up to the pool decks or down to the Piazza from our Deck 14 cabin, even on disembarkation morning.

Likewise, at night, an elevator back to our room from the Piazza never took long to arrive. There was only one instance in which an elevator arrived already too full for us to get in.

Outdoor Spaces

While Sun Princess introduces more light into its indoor spaces, the outdoor spaces shine as well. They are open, elegant, and provide great views from every angle.

At the aft of Deck 18 is the Sanctuary. This private sundeck is open to those in Signature Collection suites. Cruisers can also purchase day passes or get a discount when purchasing for the length of the cruise. Prices start at $79 a day, which includes access to the deck and an exclusive lunch menu.

It is the first Sanctuary in the Princess fleet to offer a pool, in addition to plenty of loungers, oversized chairs, and fantastic views overlooking the ship’s wake. There is also a private bar along with first-class service.

However, a close second for us is the Sea View Terrace located on Deck 17 forward, outside of The Dome. With whirlpools, an indoor-outdoor pool, several comfy loungers, and a bar, this 2-story lounge space is certainly a tranquil retreat. It offers great forward-facing views with access to fresh air in a partially-protected space. Given it is entirely free, and not far from the new Lido dining options, it is a nice departure from the main pool deck.

Sun Princess also enhanced the outdoor spaces with the addition of the Deck 9 Promenade. Wrapping around the back of the ship, this outdoor space has a variety of seating options. There are also several eateries and bars just a short walk away. These include The Eatery buffet where guests are now served all their selections, the popular International Cafe, Alfredo’s Pizzeria with al fresco seating, and even new quick service food stations on the actual promenade.

Down one deck, the Wake View Infinity Pool and bar have a chill yacht club vibe and unspoiled views.

Where Sun Princess Fell Short:

Navigating the Ship

Similar to other Princess Cruises ships, there are very few decks where a cruiser can walk from one end to the other on both sides of the ship.

On Decks 7 and 8, cruisers can only move from midship to aft on the starboard side of the ship. To access the Deck 6 restaurant, cruisers need to use the aft elevators and stairwells.

Finding some locations also can be tricky. For instance, Good Spirits on Deck 7 is tucked behind the elevators. If it wasn’t for the sign on the wall, you could completely miss this popular venue. Likewise, Umai Teppanyaki is oddly situated on Deck 8, next to the midship elevators. Again, it is off the main starboard hallway, so you could miss the restaurant completely.

Where Sun Princess Shines and Fell Short

Finding the main entrance to the Sanctuary on Deck 18 also takes some maneuvering. You can’t get there from Deck 17. So, you must head aft on Deck 16 (or lower) and walk or use the elevators from here to reach that entrance. Likewise, the soon-to-be Love by Britto restaurant is located at the aft end of a hallway of staterooms on Deck 17.

Further, to get from midship to the Deck 8 Princess Arena, cruisers must walk through the casino, which leads us to another place where we feel the cruise line dropped the ball.

Not a Smoke-Free Casino

The casino on Sun Princess is the largest in the fleet. To enhance the “Vegas-feel”, the height of the ceilings in this Deck 8 venue are taller. This extra vertical space makes the casino feel larger and more glamorous than the typical casinos on other cruise ships.

But we were completely surprised that the casino allowed smoking. Although the ship has only been sailing for a few weeks, the smoke smell is already apparent. This is true even outside the casino itself, especially in the forward elevator bank. We aren’t sure if this has something to do with the increased ceiling height, but it was a huge turn-off for us non-smokers.

Where Sun Princess Shines and Fell Short

Design of the New Restaurants

At the back of the new buffet on Deck 9, The Eatery, there are two specialty restaurants. The Catch by Rudi and the new Butcher’s Block by Dario are located here. While the food was great, the ambiance was disappointing. In fact, both restaurants actually serve as overflow seating in The Eatery for breakfast and lunch.

While The Catch on the starboard side has a blue color palette which is distinct from the red color palette of The Butcher’s Block on the portside, these venues did not feel upscale or intimate. This is in contrast to other cruise ships in the fleet where The Catch is located off the Piazza and is a well-themed and elegant restaurant.

Likewise, The Butcher’s Block concept is about a shared dining experience. But, given that it is an extension of the buffet, it loses much of the closeness it aims to achieve for this communal dining experience. A better seating arrangement for this restaurant would resemble a homestyle kitchen.

Honestly, it almost feels like these restaurants were after thoughts on Sun Princess.

What We Still Don’t Know About Sun Princess

With only five days onboard, there was only so much we could fit in and still fit into our clothes. So, there were several eateries that we did not get to test out, including one of our favorites, Alfredo’s Pizzeria. We only ate breakfast in The Eatery one day as well.

Further, given that the ship’s delivery was delayed, some onboard experiences were not available yet.

Unfortunately, we were not able to see any of the new production shows in either the transformational Princess Arena or The Dome. The first show, Vallora, A Pirate Quest, is set to debut in the Princess Arena in the coming weeks. The remaining new shows and reimagined Princess favorites will be rolling out over the next four months. Similarly, the Cirque Éloize shows in The Dome are still in rehearsals.

Likewise, the Park19 attractions aimed at families are still awaiting certifications. These include The Nets Ropes Course, the Sea Breeze Rollglider, Splash Pad, and Coastal Climb. These onboard attractions will open in the coming weeks. We have to admit that we were a bit disappointed that we couldn’t experience these attractions to see how they compare to the competitors.

Finally, as the weather warms and more families hop on board, it remains to be seen how Sun Princess will handle the summer vacation crowds. During our sailing, the several sun decks were never all that busy. Even with a few sunny and warm-ish days, there were plenty of prime loungers near the several different pool areas.

There were never any issues with long wait times for dining or at the bars to get a drink. We were able to get seats or prime standing locations for the nightlife in the Piazza as well. Hopefully, with more cruisers onboard, the ship’s approximately 850-capacity Princess Arena and 250-capacity The Dome will handle the crowds for the signature performances.

While Sun Princess does differ from other Princess Cruises ships, it should feel pretty familiar to loyal Princess guests, just bigger with some new amenities. For us, this modern and elevated new ship is a welcomed addition to the fleet, and we appreciated most of the updates.

Sun Princess will make her debut in Fort Lauderdale this Fall sailing Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries. Of course, we look forward to getting back onboard to give the ship a complete run-through for our signature cruise ship review scorecard. So, stay tuned.

Comments

What do you think of our first look at Sun Princess? Do you have plans to sail on this new cruise ship? Drop us an anchor below with your impressions of Princess Cruises newest vessel.

Don Bucolo, or “DB”, loves everything about cruising- the ocean, the food, and the atmosphere. While he may be obsessed with doing extensive amounts of research on ships and all elements of a cruise, Don enjoys sharing his new found knowledge with fellow cruisers. When he is not sailing the high seas, he does whatever his wife tells him to do-it only took 10 years to realize this.
Don Bucolo
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Here’s Where the New Sun Princess Shines and Falls Short

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