On Site: Five Facets We Loved From Our First Look at Sun Princess

As the first, new Sphere-class ship now sailing for Princess Cruises, the 4,300-passenger Sun Princess is a beauty. In March 2024, Travel Agent was aboard for a five-night Mediterranean voyage. While not all the entertainment was "up and running" during our visit, we still had a lot to see and do aboard this 177,882-gross-ton ship. Our assessment? Most guests—a mix of families, couples, solo travelers and small, multigenerational groups—seemed to be having a great time. 

The good news? Last week, Princess did start offering its new "Come Fly Away" show in The Dome, a glass-enclosed, geodesic space atop the ship. Functioning as a pool space during daylight, it now transforms into a stage for shows by starlight. Up to 250 guests at a time can witness acrobatic performances created in partnership with the Cirque Eloize. In addition, the line says its "Vallora, a Pirate Quest" entertainment in the Arena has also now begun. Accommodating 990 guests at one time, the Arena sports the most technologically advanced theater design that Princess has ever had on any ship. Three different configurations can maximize sight lines.

Certainly, the 21-deck Sun Princess has plenty of other draws, too. For instance, we'd check out the Sea View Terrace at the front of the ship and Wake View Terrace at the opposite end. The draw for the latter is a lovely infinity pool and bar area. In addition, here are five other facets about the new Sun Princess that we particularly liked during our short time aboard.

1. The Piazza: A More Vibrant Entertainment Space

Princess’ most recent ships, such as Discovery Princess or Enchanted Princess, among others (including those in the Royal class), have a lovely Piazza in look and feel. But as an energetic hub of guest activity and live entertainment, Sun Princess' Piazza is a cut above. Simply put, guests flock here day and night. We couldn't wait to swing by to see what was happening during our cruise, and, clearly, others felt the same.

With capacity for 300 guests—spread over multiple levels—the Piazza is this new ship's “go-to” place. Guests might find a band playing rock hits, a singer doing pop or R&B standards, or ballroom-dance music eliciting couples to waltz, tango or "jive" across the floor. We enjoyed the "80s Line Dancing Class" in the Piazza at 9:45 p.m. one night, followed by the "Back to the 80s Party" in the Piazza from 10:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. And while we "called it a night," others stayed for the late-night DJ who entertained from 11:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. 

Best of all, a plethora of small seating enclaves surround the open Piazza as do Bellini's Cocktail Bar and the new Coffee Currents on Deck 7, as well as Crooners on Deck 8. Several other eateries, too, are in the vicinity of the Piazza, including the International Cafe and Alfredo's Pizzeria on Deck 9. One evening we dined at Makoto Ocean on Deck 8 and loved its proximity to the Piazza for dining while listening to the live music.  

2. Captivating "Spellbound by Magic Castle"

Building on the success of its "360: An Extraordinary Experience" which Travel Agent reported on last year, Princess now offers a totally different type of extraordinary experience, "Spellbound by Magic Castle," on Sun Princess. Created in partnership with the famed Hollywood venue, it combines magic and mixology. Reservations are required and the experience carries a $149 per person charge, inclusive of dinner and drinks. 

Guests start with a three-course dinner experience in an exclusive area of the Horizons Dining Room. The menu for this special dinner has Magic Castle-inspired dish names. Then, guests move to the Piazza area, pass through a nondescript door and enter the fun, fanciful, Spellbound world. A "greeter" with a top hat and historic attire greets guests, before they enter a spacious, adjacent area—home to seating areas, tables and a large bar.

But it's the decor around this space that wows. It reflects magic-related "tools of the trade," magic show placards and artwork, often reflecting the great magicians of the past such as Harry Houdini. Enhancing the guest's magical mood is a newly created cocktail menu. 

Spellbound by Magic Castle on Sun Princess
One of the magically themed areas of "Spellbound by Magic Castle" on Sun Princess. (Spellbound by Magic Castle on Sun Princess)

How about a Smoke and Mirrors cocktail (coconut rum, spiced rum, Aperol, orange liqueur, almond, lime and pear) or, alternatively, The Magician (tequila, mezcal, Pamplemousses liquor, lime, Agave, grapefruit and Serrano peppers)? Or, guests can order what we'd consider the best-themed choice—a new cocktail called Escape from Houdini’s Chest. This alcoholic drink consists of cinnamon and strawberry-infused vodka, elderflower liquor and vodka. Yes, it's presented in a chest placed in front of the guest. When the chest's lid is opened, a smoky vapor is emitted. It's a great way to set a magical mood for the evening.  

After guests relax, enjoy their drinks, peruse the spaces to check out the magician artifacts and wall decor,  and enjoy pre-show mixology entertainment (about 30 minutes), then it's time to move to an adjacent, intimate magician's auditorium. At first, an eerie “talking head” speaks to seated guests through a magician's orb, and then the "live" magician appears.

Our show featured a talented card trick magician who entertained for about 15 to 20 minutes. We wondered how he did what he did, but that's the beauty of magic. In addition, he asked for audience members to participate, but we liked that he seemed effective at sensing which guests would love being part of the show, and which others likely didn't want to participate and rather just watch (ourselves included).

Houdini's Chest drink presentation in Spellbound by the Magic Castle on Sun Princess.
"Escape from Houdini's Chest" is one unique magical drink offering at Spellbound by the Magic Castle. (Photo by Susan J. Young)

3. 30 Spots for Foodies and Beverage Lovers 

Cruise guests definitely won’t go hungry or thirsty on Sun Princess, given that the new ship offers 30 different restaurant or bar venues. Highlights? Love by Britto is a new dining experience in partnership with Romero Brito, available for a charge of $149 per person. The Butcher’s Block is presented in partnership with butcher Dario Cecchini and carries a $45 per person charge.

One night, we dined at Crown Grill, a steakhouse experience with savory steaks and seafood. We can recommend the lobster tail. Both this venue and Sabatini's, an Italian specialty dining experience, are available at $45 per person. 

As fans of Asian cuisine, we enjoyed the Makoto Ocean experience. While Princess has offered a sushi experience before, its new partnership on Sun Princess with Chef Makoto Okuwa is delivering masterful edomae-style traditional Japanese sushi. Dining here is $45 per person.

We enjoyed watching sushi chefs prepare the menu specialties at the sushi bar, adjacent to an area of tables at which we sat. Our "fixed" menu—best described as a "sushi and sashimi extravaganza"—included miso soup, edamame, amaebi (ponzu and kombu oil), toro sushi (ponzu; two pieces), salmon sushi (toasted sesame; two pieces), a toro hand roll, Japanese Yellowtail sushi (yuzu kosho; two pieces), a crab hand roll and premium Mochi ice cream with miso caramel and honeycomb.

A talented, entertaining chef at Umai Teppanyaki makes stir-fried rice.
Sun Princess' Umai Teppanyaki serves up a fun, tasty and entertaining experience with much chef interaction.  (Photo by Susan J. Young)

In addition, we also checked out the cuisine and aura of Umai Teppanyaki, which carries a $45 per person charge. While the food/entertainment concept is "tried and true," it delivers a savory Asian meal. Yes, the jokes from the "Japanese" chef who gleefully told us that he hailed from the Philippines were "groanable" in a light, funny way. He also ably twirled knives, chopped furiously, flicked food here and there, and, overall, created an entertaining dining experience.

Also on the specialty dining front, we enjoyed creative, tasty seafood and fish at The Catch by Rudi, available at a $45 per person charge. That's a restaurant with cuisine curated by Chef Rudi Sodamin, Princess’ culinary ambassador.

Our tasty chioppino arrived at "The Catch by Rudi" in this fanciful red crab pot
Those ordering cioppino, the Seafaring Stew appetizer at The Catch by Rudi, a specialty restaurant on board Sun Princess will have this crab container placed in front of them at the table.  (Photo by Susan J. Young)

Dining one evening at The Catch by Rudi, we and a fellow guest split an elaborate, tiered “Fruits de Mer” seafood appetizer at an additional charge of $30 per person. This magnificent dish consists of oysters, shrimp, langoustine, lobster, mussels, clams, crab claws and seaweed salad. 

But frankly, all the dishes that we ordered at The Catch by Rudi were tasty. What's nifty, though, is that Sodamin (who also fields specialty dining venues on other Princess ships, as well as those of Carnival Cruise Line and Holland America Line) always goes the extra mile when it comes to culinary creativity and inventive presentation. For instance, we ordered cioppino as an appetizer. What arrived was certainly an eye-pleasing presentation. We had to chuckle as the server placed the red crab pot container in front of us. Presto, when the crab pot's lid was removed, there was our yummy seafood stew, cooked to perfection.  

Overall, the cuisine, presentation of the dishes, the menu diversity and restaurant service were superb at The Catch by Rudi. We would have dined there again had we been aboard longer. 

At the Sun Princess' " The Catch by Rudi," this tasty cioppino emerges when the red crab pot's lid is removed.
Guests who remove the top of the crab container shown in the previous photo will see this luscious cioppino. (Photo by Susan J. Young)

During daytime hours, seating at The Catch by Rudi and The Butcher's Block by Dario becomes overflow seating space for Sun Princess' spacious, new Eatery on Deck 9 mid-ship. Essentially, that's a new casual, upgraded buffet area with tried-and-true favorites, plus international offerings. Stations are behind glass, so guests tell crew members what they'd like. The food is then plated and handed to the guest. It's a bit more upscale than the typical buffet, dishes are diverse, and guests don't handle serving utensils.

One "could be improved" element? At dinnertime, we'd like to see more "separation" of The Catch by Rudi and the Butcher's Table by Dario from the Eatery buffet area and particularly from the adjacent public corridors leading between those spaces. People just flow to both specialty eateries at night thinking they can sit there as they may have done so during the day. To provide more exclusivity for those who've paid the specialty dining fee, the line could easily place a few "movable" decorative screen panels at the entry to both restaurants, providing better separation from the public spaces. 

One important note is that guests who purchase Princess' Premier Package receive two specialty dining meals per guest at either The Catch by Rudi, Butcher's Block, Crown Grill, Sabitini's or Makoto Ocean. Oh, and if you're wondering about the main dining room? Recently, we detailed what the line is doing there in a new three-level approach

4. Comfortable Modern "Digs" With Soft Colors

As for Sun Princess’ accommodations, the new ship offers 2,157 staterooms, including 80 suites. In addition, 100 of those cabins are connecting staterooms and 51 are accessible. We felt that our Deluxe Balcony Stateroom, No. 14221, was both comfortable and pleasing to the eye. We also liked the soothing color scheme. The soft shades created a more cocooning aura than we recall on some past Princess ships.

In this accommodation, guests will discover a long living area couch, a robust desk area with drawers and a minifridge, a large, flat-screen TV, and a comfortable queen-sized bed (convertible to two twins). Plus, this stateroom has storage closets and a private balcony with two chairs and a small table. 

#14221 on Sun Princess, a deluxe balcony accommodation.
No. 14221, a Deluxe Balcony Stateroom on Princess Cruises' new Sun Princess. It has a soothing color scheme. (Photo by Susan J. Young.)

In this stateroom's bathroom, we appreciated the large, walk-in shower. What's nifty is that the shower configuration allows guests to set the water temperature while standing outside the shower. This way, the temperature can be adjusted, if need be, before entering.

On the service side, our cabin steward was friendly and quite service-focused. In particular, he helped us move things in and out of our room on several occasions—also racing to assist and hold the door open. We also loved that as we approached in the outside corridor, the Princess Medallion on our lapel automatically opened our stateroom door. Alternatively, guests can wear their Princess Medallion on a wristband, necklace or lanyard.

Bathroom of #14221, a Deluxe Balcony Stateroom on the new Sun Princess.
The bathroom in our Deluxe Balcony Stateroom. (Photo by Susan J. Young )

5. Fun for Kids and Shops to Delight Adults

While we didn't have any kids or grandchildren in tow, it's worth pointing out that Sun Princess has a new family activity zone, Park 19. Families can enjoy nine different activity areas here—Sea Breeze, Coastal Climb, Jogging Track, The Lookout, Infinite Horizon, The Net, Splash Zone and Recreational Court, as well as a hammock area. Plus, guests can watch "Movies Under the Stars" up top during the evening. 

Age-appropriate activities await in the ship's youth and teen centers. Those supervised facilities include the Firefly Park Kids Club for those ages three to seven; the Neon Grove Tweens Club for children ages eight to 12; and the Underground Teen Lounge, which serves up to 100 kids between the ages of 13 and 17. In addition, Princess allows kids from six months to two years of age in the Firefly Park Kids Club if one parent accompanies these youngest of cruisers at all times. 

As for adult play, yes, the ship has a casino; plus, shopaholics will discover 25 shopping brand options over two decks. In addition to good retail therapy, the shops are laid out nicely. In one spot, we noticed that natural light also flows from exterior windows into the walking corridor outside the boutiques, a nice touch.

In total, Sun Princess offers more than 5,800 square feet of retail space. Guests can select from fine jewelry to watches, fashion and clothing options, among many other goods .Deck 8’s Breitling Boutique provides the first-at-sea Breitling Lounge concept and the latest TAG Heuer boutique design. At the Fine Timepieces Boutique, guests can peruse signature timepieces from Longines, Rado, Tissot and Hamilton in addition to pre-owned Rolex watches.

In addition, a Beauty and Wellness Boutique on Deck 8 offers top cosmetic and skincare brands such as Estee Lauder, Clinique, Dior, Lancome and so on. Guests also can choose from organic brands including Comfort Zone and Neom Organics, plus unisex skincare by REN Skincare. Separately, we also liked seeing that the shops carried a few hand-crafted goods available for sale from our region of sailing. For example, we purchased earrings ($40 for two pairs) made in Greece. 

Parting Thoughts

As we were on board Sun Princess for a relatively short sailing, we didn't experience all the spaces aboard, such as the Lotus Spa and Lotus Salon, but from our brief introduction to the ship, it offers a robust family travel experience and should attract couples and singles who love a big ship, dining diversity and lots of fun activities and programming. 

For more information, visit www.princess.com.

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