Sun Princess underwent a refurbishment in 2016, its second in three years, adding new dining and entertainment options. That's on top of the Lotus Spa, 24-hour cafe and two specialty restaurants that were added in 2013. For one of Princess Cruises' smallest ships, it offers an impressive list of facilities including The Sanctuary -- a private adult retreat. The 2,010-passenger ship homeports most of the year in Australia. Read on for our five best tips for a Sun Princess cruise.
Tip 1: Try Share, Kai Seafood and the new beds
Princess Cruises did a good job with the 2016 refurb. Share by Curtis Stone is definitely worth paying the surcharge, even if you just try one (individually priced) dish. Kai Sushi has been turned into a wider seafood restaurant, and the buffet has a new cafe with lots of (free) tempting desserts. If food is not a deal breaker, you'll at least appreciate the comfy new beds and linens in all cabins. The cruise director told us it's a tough job convincing people to get out of them!
Tip 2: There's no need to tip
You don't have to tip on Sun Princess cruises departing from an Australian port. The no tipping policy applies to beverages and bar bills where only the advertised price is charged. You are not stung with an automatic 15 per cent surcharge on top of a drink order. When a receipt is printed out requiring a signature, there is no expectation to fill in the tipping area. There is also no delivery fee applied to room service orders except for the $3 pizza delivery. You are welcome to tip particular crew for exceptional service at any time during the cruise. Should you wish to, envelopes are provided at the front desk for distributing tips on the last night.
Tip 3: Early dining room seating is best
Sun Princess offers two set times for dining in the main dining rooms -- 5:30 p.m. and 7:45 p.m. The majority of passengers onboard, being older or with families, prefer the first seating. The early seating allows you to catch the early show at 8 p.m. and retire to your cabin at a reasonable hour. It also gives passengers an option to watch the later show, which may not always be the same as the first show. If dining at 7:45 p.m. you would be eating during the start of the first show, leaving the late show as the only option. Sometimes there are two shows running and -- if you are dining during the second seating -- you would miss out on catching both shows. To avoid disappointment, pre-book your dining room preference as early as possible.
Tip 4: Make the most of the kids club
The Princess Pelicans for ages 3 to 7 or Shockwaves for kids aged 8 to 12 offers a program of onboard themed activities that changes daily. It's not all Nintendo, Wii, Xbox and DVDs; there are a host of scheduled activities, too. Partnering with the Discovery network, kids get to make Animal Planet arts and crafts, participate in science experiments (such as create your own slime or make French fries fly), design your own SpongeBob Square Pants, or build a solar system. There are also ice cream parties, dancing competitions and parent-free dinners. Each three-hour session is offered three times a day and the time goes surprisingly quickly.
Tip 5: Don't miss happy hour
From 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., the Wheelhouse Bar on Deck 7 turns on Happy Hour. The handsomely decorated boathouse pub offers 'Buy one get one for $1' specials with live music and great atmosphere. The only condition is that both drinks have to be the same. Go for the Drink of the Day, which is usually an already discounted cocktail. No additional surcharge is applied on Happy Hour specials.
Tip 6: Get away from the crowd at The Sanctuary
With more than 2000 passengers onboard, it's hard to find a quiet spot to yourself. On the forward side of Sun Deck 15 lies the adult retreat -- The Sanctuary. For $20 you have exclusive access to the most luxurious and peaceful area of the ship. Unwind on a thick padded cushioned sun lounge under a shaded awning. If you feel parched, a crewmember can serve you fruit-infused water and mist you with Evian spray. Hungry? Complimentary light healthy snacks are available. To cool off, you can relax in the wading pool overlooking the bow of the ship.