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3 takeaways from the new Sun Princess cruise ship

by Staff

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I was rushing to make my dinner reservation on Princess Cruises’ new ship. But when I arrived at the restaurant, the view made me stop.

From the windows at the sushi eatery Makoto Ocean – part of a sphere-shaped structure near the middle of the vessel – I saw the sun sinking below the horizon, a reddish-orange dot on the Mediterranean Sea. The Sun Princess facilitates scenes like that by design.

“We wanted to make sure that within how we designed the (venues) and placed the furniture, we gave maximum opportunity for our guests to be able to celebrate those outward views,” Denise Saviss, Princess’ vice president of entertainment experience, told USA TODAY. “It is really, really unique to have so much glass on the ship.”

That was one of several striking features during a recent sailing (the ship is now cruising the Mediterranean before it moves to the Caribbean in October). Here are three takeaways from the first in the line’s aptly named Sphere Class.

1. The design showcases views at sea and in port

Makoto isn’t the only venue that offers that kind of view.

Other spaces inside the Sphere – which also houses lobby-slash-entertainment venue The Piazza – feature similarly sweeping vistas across decks 7, 8 and 9. I watched the light sparkle on the water while I sipped coffee one morning at International Café, and patrons dining at Alfredo’s Pizzeria can take in the scenery during their meal from many seats.

That’s also true elsewhere on the ship. At Horizons Dining Room, floor-to-ceiling windows face the ship’s wake. At the other end of the vessel, the Dome, a geodesic structure that Princess has said was inspired by the hills of Santorini, is like a massive solarium.

The space – which will also host shows including acrobatics – has multiple tiers of loungers, an indoor-outdoor pool and the Cascade Bar (which comes in handy for cooling off, as it felt a bit muggy in the Dome at one point on a sunny sea day).

The overall effect helped to bring the outside in.

2. The ship is bigger but still intimate

Sun Princess is the largest ship in the Princess fleet, and the 21-deck vessel can accommodate 4,300 guests. But that doesn’t mean everything is huge.

Given the scale of the offerings, a number of spaces on board feel notably intimate. One night, I walked to Good Spirits at Sea, a cocktail bar crafted in partnership with mixologist Rob Floyd that also hosts classes, and thought I was lost before stumbling upon it tucked around a corner on Deck 7. Inside, the 40-person venue offered a laid-back alternative to other more boisterous nightlife options.

On Deck 9, the ship’s buffet-like venue, The Eatery, gives way to narrower hallways toward the aft with backlit wood paneling and benches. At the end, they open back up to reveal specialty restaurants The Catch by Rudi and The Butcher’s Block by Dario (from Princess’ head of culinary arts, Rudi Sodamin, and in partnership with famed butcher Dario Cecchini, respectively).

Even the multi-configuration Princess Arena felt cozier than its near-1,000-guest capacity would suggest. I sat in the second-to-last row of my section for a performance by the vocal group ODY·C and was still close enough to see clearly.

3. The line leans into family-friendly activities

Part of Sun Princess’ expanded footprint has been used to broaden the line’s family offerings.

Park19, a new space on the ship’s top decks, features a variety of activities in an open-air setting. Saviss said the line worked to balance the interests of core customers and a growing family market “and make sure we’re prioritizing spaces that everybody can enjoy.”

“There are some attractions that I think naturally, at first blush, people would say, ‘Oh, it’s just for kids,’ but actually, the space is really comprehensive,” she said. “Our attractions are available for many different levels of ability and mobility.”

Those include Coastal Climb, an obstacle course that culminates in 360-degree views from The Lookout observation deck (the highest point accessible to guests on the ship, also reachable via elevator) and The Net ropes course.

On Sea Breeze, billed as the first Rollglider on a cruise ship, passengers will glide along the outer edges of the ship on an electric track (the ride will also be ADA-accessible, though Saviss said some mobility is required for maneuvering into the seat).

It’s as close as the ship gets to an amusement park (Princess’ version). “We’re not running the rat race, if you will, of like, who can do it bigger, better,” Saviss said. “If you want to just have a really incredible bird’s-eye view of Sun Princess, and in and around where the ship is sailing, you can do that. But there is an option to push a little lever while you’re riding it and dial up the speed a bit faster, and then it does become a bit more thrilling.”

The ride was not yet available when I was on board, as the line moved through a testing, certification and training process, but is expected to open on April 27. Sun Princess’ original launch was delayed with the cruise line citing “additional technical work” needed at the shipyard, which pushed back the opening of some onboard amenities.

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There is also a hammock area to chill when guests need a break, a recreational court that can host activities from pingpong to morning meditation, a jogging track and more. Elsewhere on board, guests will find the Firefly Park kids club and hangout spaces Neon Grove and The Underground for tweens and teens, respectively.

The reporter on this story received access to this sailing from Princess Cruises. USA TODAY maintains editorial control of content. 

Nathan Diller is a consumer travel reporter for USA TODAY based in Nashville. You can reach him at [email protected].

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