Ray of light: Sun Princess takes to the ocean

Ray of light: Sun Princess takes to the ocean

It's the dawn of a new era for Princess Cruises

Rebecca Barnes boards Sun Princess in the Med to discover how the new ship is appealing to loyal guests and new to cruise passengers alike

It’s been fascinating seeing the progression of Sun Princess, having been to the shipyard just a year ago to see this innovative ship being built, and finally getting the opportunity to sail with other passengers in March, from Athens to Rome.

The outward-embracing Sun Princess is the line’s first Sphere-class ship and is also LNG-powered, offering more outside space than other ships in the fleet. It’s also the brand’s largest vessel to date, and while there are lots of new and innovative features and spaces, ideal for attracting the new to cruise market, there’s also lots of familiarity such as the Atrium, Good Spirits at Sea and Sabatini’s Italian restaurant.

New experiences include The Dome, a geodesic, glass-enclosed structure at the top of the ship inspired by the terraces of Santorini; the outward and suspended Sphere Atrium, which takes the central Piazza hub of the ship into a new dimension – guests can enjoy expansive ocean views and an open concept, inspired to deliver relaxed indoor and outdoor living; and Spellbound by The Magic Castle, which blends magic with food and mixology in an immersive dining experience.

According to the brand, ‘the new 4,300 guest Sun Princess is the most impressive, luxurious and stunning Love Boat ever created.’ But does it live up to the hype, and most importantly, are Princesses’ loyal guests going to love it as much as the other ships? While I didn’t get to experience every venue on board, here’s what caught my eye…

The design is exciting and new

As we know, Sun Princess is the largest Princess ship ever constructed, and embraces its Italian heritage by featuring a newly designed, brand-iconic Piazza and The Dome, a cutting-edge entertainment space inspired by the terraces of Santorini.

Additional spaces with new designs, signage and decor include Crooner’s Wheelhouse Bar, International Cafe, Good Spirits and Gelateria.

Sun Princess also features the Medallion experience, offering guests the personalised service only previously found on smaller ships. Sun Princess feels noticeably bigger than other ships in the fleet, has a markedly different vibe, and I think that most guests will love the new design direction, but maybe not the traditionalists.

Here’s what John Padgett, Princess Cruises president, has to say: “With the construction of any new ship, we have the incredible opportunity to design standout spaces with our guests’ preferences in mind. With the new platform and size of Sun Princess, we’re uniquely able to refresh venues we know our guests love and expand upon, redesign and elevate them to the next level. We know our sun-inspired designs will exceed expectations and elevate the entire Princess experience.”

Personal highlights included The Dome which was cosy, inviting and atmospheric, the inside/outside pool from The Dome leading out to the Sea View Terrace (a wonderful addition), and the newly designed Sabatini’s. Sun Princess is also the first ship in the fleet to feature a pool in The Sanctuary.

Things that didn’t work so well? Navigating the ship takes some getting used to as on most decks you can’t walk from one end to the other; Kai Sushi by Makoto which is located near the smoky casino, and the Gelateria which is quite hard to find.

Dining is stepping up to the plate

Sun Princess serves up 30 restaurant and bar venues with an unprecedented collection of celebrity collaborators and culinary experiences:

  • Spellbound by The Magic Castle: Blending the world of magic with the art of culinary and mixology to create an innovative and immersive dining experience, steeped in magic and adventure. It was fun to sample the mixology and magic side of this new offering, which will cost $149pp when up and running.
  • Kai Sushi by Makoto: Reshaping traditional sushi with a creative approach, the Master of Edomae-style sushi, Chef Makoto Okuwa brings his 25 years of experience with a new concept crafting playful, exquisitely presented dishes paying tribute to Japanese traditions. I really liked the food here, but the restaurant’s position near the line’s largest, smoking-friendly casino isn’t ideal. 
  • Love by Britto: A high-end boutique restaurant with the most romantic view from the ship, celebrating love and art from world-renowned artist Romero Britto. 
  • The Butcher’s Block by Dario: A new specialty pop-up restaurant from the world’s most famous butcher Dario Cecchini, guests enjoy perfectly prepared beef and steak, including Cecchini’s signature cuts. This is no doubt one for the meat lovers, however, the vegetarian options looked varied and delicious.  
  • The Catch by Rudi: An exceptional dinner concept from renowned Chef Rudi Sodamin showcasing delectable treasures from the sea. This was one of the dining highlights for me – both the food and presentation were top notch.
  • Good Spirits at Sea with Rob Floyd: Destination-inspired, one-of-a-kind cocktail creations from celebrity mixologist Rob Floyd, this time in a new enclosed bar-like space. 

There’s also a new three-storey, main Horizons Dining Room with endless aft views and inaugural menus created in collaboration with the Culinary Institute of America. Also retaining what guests love about Princess, the ship features favourites like Crown Grill (but no Crown Grill bar which is a shame), Sabatini’s (which has definitely been elevated from both a style and food perspective) and Crooners with new design elements. The Eatery (buffet), was slightly underwhelming but I can’t put my finger on why.

Outside spaces are working harder

Unlike other Princess ships, there’s lots going on outside, especially for families and multi-gen groups – although the new experiences weren’t yet open when I sailed, so I couldn’t try anything.

The first-ever family activity zone, Park19, offers multi-generational fun from the top deck and nine activities including a jogging track. Within decks 19, 20 and 21, guests can experience everything from the Sea Breeze, a roller glider ride that offers panoramic views of the ocean 19 decks above the waves, to the Coastal Climb, a climbing structure where guests can take in the gorgeous views, and the Infinite Horizon tilt walls.

One of the most successful outside areas for me is the forward-facing Sea View Bar and Terrace. Here is where I liked to relax with a book, as there are lots of seating and lounger options. It was a little cold to try the inside/outside pool, but it looked very tempting. The Sea View Terrace also seemed popular with the other guests.

There are five pools and plenty of hot tubs and vantage spaces from which to watch the big screen, used during the day for showing music and concerts, as well as for Movies Under The Stars.

Staterooms are light and spacious

With 2,157 total staterooms, the 21 deck ship features more outdoor balcony space – there are more than 1,500 cabins with balcony views. Re-imagined staterooms include exceptional suites and new for Princess, Cabana Mini-Suites with extra space for secluded outdoor relaxation.

I was staying in a deluxe balcony stateroom (entry level) which was light and bright with lots of storage and hanging space, and featured a decent sized shower cubicle with no shower curtain.

Also launching exclusively on the ship is a new level of suite accommodation, the Signature Collection. In addition to premium stateroom amenities, Signature Collection suites include access to the Signature Restaurant, Lounge and Sun Deck, a private area of the Sanctuary.

Club Class accommodation onboard this ship (and all Princess ships) will now be called Reserve Collection, which are the best located mini suite staterooms. Within this will be Reserve Collection cabana rooms, resort-style staterooms that offer a balcony and private cabana, an extra-large outdoor lounge space. These accommodations also include access to the Reserve Collection Restaurant.

Another first for Princess – single interior staterooms. There’s also Cove Balconies, Premium Oceanviews, only Deluxe Balconies, plus every stateroom features an in-room sofa.

The deal

A seven-night Mediterranean cruise on Sun Princess, calling at Barcelona, Gibraltar, Marseille (Provence), Genoa, Florence/Pisa (La Spezia) and Rome (Civitavecchia), departing on August 24, 2024, costs from £799pp, excluding flights. princess.com

Our editor’s view 9/10

Who doesn’t love a little reinvention? Sun Princess has done a great job of elevating its offering, without alienating its loyal customers. The design is spacious and contemporary, and the food offering has definitely stepped up a notch. I especially love the way the ship brings the outside in, and of course the Medallion technology which opens your stateroom door on approach and allows you to order what you want, wherever you are on the ship.”
Rebecca Barnes

Agent view

My favourite thing about Sun Princess is how spacious the ship is and that the layout of all the bars, restaurants, and entertainment venues were located perfectly. The main dining venues were located towards the aft of the ship, with The Eatery close by to the promenade deck.  The entertainment venues O’Malley’s, Piazza and the Live Lounge were all in a close proximity and the majority of the bars could be found mid and mid-forward of the ship. Princess has really gone another level with Sun Princess.”
Jamie Doherty, Iglu


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