The Sea Princess is a beautiful and well maintained ship. Walking around, day or night, there are crew members washing, cleaning or polishing something. The day of sailing, the ship was inspected (by the CDC) and received a score of 97, and the Captain, Andrew Proctor, commended his staff and crew for doing such a good job.
All the public areas, from the lounges and bars, the 4 pools, the theater, to the various restaurants were soft and attractive. This used to be considered a mega-ship, but now, at 77,000 grt., she's about the average size for most of the newer ships. Outwardly, the Sea Princess looks like a huge ship, but once on board, she feels like a smaller one.
CABINSOur cabin, A412 (cat. BA), was a balcony cabin. The size was a little small, but functional. There was adequate storage for a 7 day cruise, but one might find space lacking on longer voyages. The bathroom reminded this cruiser of the soap-on-a-rope days; again, tight quarters, but it suited its purpose. The balcony was also small, in comparison with the Grand Class ships, with 2 small, straight-backed poly chairs and a table. There wasn't much room to move around, but all the balconies were pretty much the same size (except for minisuites and suites).
DININGWe had assigned seating for early dining in the Sicilian Dining Room (Neapolitan being its twin, one deck below Sicilian). Again, the dining room was very attractive and sectioned off to give it a bit of an intimate feeling. Seating upwards of 1100 per dining room, one would expect some noise, and there was a little - mostly tables being bussed by the waiters and assistant waiters, normal restaurant noise - but not to the point of displeasure.
The main dining rooms are open for breakfast, lunch (open seating) and dinner (assigned seating). But for breakfast, we chose the Horizon Court buffet. The selections were plentiful, from fresh fruits and fruit salad, to a variety of cold (and 1 hot) cereal, yogurts, pastries, breads, bagels, rolls, toast, meats, fish, potatoes, pancakes, French toast, and eggs done 4-5 different ways, including fried and omelets with all the fixings, done to order.
For lunch, we frequented the bountiful buffet in the Horizon Court and every other day had a pizza in Lago's Pizzeria. Princess probably makes the best pizza afloat. Unfortunately for those doing the Grand Princess, if you want a whole pizza rather than a slice, it costs an arm and a leg (Lago's on Sea Princess suggested gratuity is $1.00 per person; Grand Princess cover charge is/was $15.00 per person). Then if you are still able to eat, there's always the Riviera Grill for hot dogs, hamburgers, French fries, and the like.
Princess ships also have an ice cream bar, called Sundaes, but this is also at an added cost.
Food aboard the Sea Princess is excellent. We've found this to be true with all the Princess ships that we've sailed. While Royal Caribbean may be a step up as far as cabin accommodations are concerned, Princess wins the food quality race.
ITINERARYPrincess Cays, Ocho Rios, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel.
Princess Cays is, by far, the nicest beach day a cruiser could have. Princess Cruises is constantly improving and expanding this island paradise. It is clean, has plenty of sun and shade, ample lounges, water sports and toys to rent, water coolers spaced thoughout, open showers, clean restrooms, some shops and local vendors, and a nice BBQ in the early afternoon. Once it gets started, tender service to and from the ship runs every 10-15 minutes.
We didn't get off the ship in Ocho Rios because of its reputation, so we used this as a day at sea. And since we've been to Grand Cayman and Cozumel several times, we didn't do much there either - just shopped for lightweight cotton clothing, i.e., Bye-Bye, Peer, Miro.
For first-time cruisers, or those who haven't done them, we'd recommend these tours:
In Ocho Rios: Dunn's River Falls and/or rafting down the Martha Brae.
In Grand Cayman: See and Sea tour, Stingray City, and the semi-submarine.
In Cozumel: San Gervasio Ruins and Playa sol Beach, and the Cozumel Beach Break at the Reef Club Isla Cozumel. Other cruisers have raved about the Tulum Mayan Ruins.
There are always a few bumps with any vacation or cruise. This one was no exception. Days 1, 2 and 3, we, as well as many other guests and crew, experienced foul air coming from the air conditioning system. It smelled like a sewer backup. After numerous complaints from us and others, including crew members, the problem was rectified on Tuesday. It took awhile, but they finally got some good air circulating again.
The only other minor blips were our waiter and assistant waiter. We can't say they were bad, but probably just average, or so-so. It was a bit of a letdown coming off two pleasurable experiences with the dining room staff on the Grand Princess.
Members of the Princess crew that did shine, were our cabin steward, the Cruise Director (the youngest we've seen so far) and his assistants, and the casino staff. And everyone had a genuine smile and friendly hello.
Another change that has been made with Princess policy is they no longer sell liquor in the on-board shops for in-room consumption. If you want to be able to consume liquor in your stateroom, the least expensive way is to purchase liquor at a kiosk in the port terminal and on the islands.
EMBARKATION/DISEMBARKATIONPrincess has this down to a science. They start boarding guests close to noon, and as long as people have all their paperwork ready, it's as smooth as silk. The same is true with the end of the cruise - everyone leaves the ship according to the color of their luggage tags and move on down the gangway in an orderly fashion.
The Sea Princess was a pleasure and we wouldn't hesitate cruising on her again. We've done one of her other sisters, the Dawn, but have yet to try the Sun or Ocean. Some day. There's still plenty of time.
Photos courtesy of John Mills and Princess Cruises.
Wes & Barb Carter have been on 14 cruises as of mid-January 2001. They would love to hear your comments and answer any questions you may have. Wes & Barb may be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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