Wheelchair Accessible Sun Princess Eastern Caribbean Cruise 2003
October 22, 2003, 10 days

by Vladimir and Elfrieda Drobashevsky © 2003

It was our 14th cruise. This one - more as a trial run, since my wife became “legally blind” due to the Macular Degeneration in both eyes, earlier this year. Already as an amputee for the last four years, and now with eye concerns, both of us were a little bit apprehensive that perhaps this cruise might end up as our last one. Well, the cruise was great. We loved it; and my wife made out as a trooper, and here is the review.

Getting to Ft. Lauderdale and Embarkation.

This time I’ve cashed in our frequent flyer miles (80 k) for the two first-class round trip tickets. It was a pre-cruise day at Ft. Lauderdale Marriott North. Since I’ve made the flight arrangements on my own, I thought it would be prudent to get there a day earlier, (so much for my trust in US Airways…) To our surprise, we found the next morning a total of two bus loads of passengers, all staying at the Marriott and all going to Sun Princess. The bus was wheelchair accessible, and we were surprised to meet an unusually high number of handicapped people, young and old.

Once in the terminal, it took no more then five minutes to get through the formalities and presto - we were in our stateroom. The cabin D315, Dolphin Deck was a HP cabin, quite large and well appointed. The Sun is an older vessel and there were no HP cabins available with a veranda (unless
I would be willing to pay an additional $1800.- for one and only HP cabin on the top deck – a mini suite. The bathroom was equally accommodating--plenty of room for the WC, plenty of knee room under the sink, and a lots of grab bars all around. 

There was one item that did not work well: To get inside the bathroom, my wife had to open the heavy door and at the same time pool herself up over a fairly steep ramp. She could do this during the day, but at night, I had to help her, which meant to synchronize our timing for the bathroom!

We were well acquainted with the ship from our previous cruise on Dawn Princess, exactly the same layout for two sister ships. From top to bottom, all areas were very well accessible, elevators worked perfectly and not to neglect to mention a nifty interior design, abundance of off-white marble, unbelievable workmanship in exotic wood panelings, healthy plants and a number of well chosen accent paintings throughout the ship.

In reference to passengers on previous cruises on the Sun, I remember reading their reports of a foul sewer smell at midships. I have to agree, but it was only a little bit noticeable in ports. In fact my first comment upon entering our stateroom in FtL: “gee, it is true what they said about Sun” Again at 
St Thomas and later at Antigua we did notice the same bad odor. The air was nice and clear at sea.

Food ( and more food!)

In contrast with Celebrity and RCI there is no available assistance on Princess ships for the HP passengers up on the top at Horizon Court. It meant that I would have to first find a table for two, seat my wife, get her a cool drink, and then go over with a tray to the food counters and pick and choose what I thought she might like. Then, back to the food counters and do the same for me.

Needless to say, we did this on the first day for lunch, and for the rest of the cruise we ate regularly at the main dining room, breakfast, lunch and dinner. With an exception of our assistant waitress Eva, at our assigned table for dinner, I have to say that the service was excellent on unassigned tables, mornings and noon, the waiters were extremely friendly and eager to please. Contrary, at our table for six for dinner, we always had the feeling of being rushed. Only Eva tried very hard to make us comfortable and happy. It was our ninth cruise on Princess and according to my expert gourmet cook at home, my wife, it is our humble opinion that the food, at least on this ship, slipped considerably. On a plus side, examples were prime rib, veal, lobster, shrimp and pastry. We ordered fish once, it tested fishy and that was that. Indeed, one could order something else, but we know from other cruises, if one shows even a slightest dissatisfaction it causes a major commotion from top down and the waiter that has nothing to do with food quality remains guilty.

Our waiter, Dave from Mexico, did not seem to be “with it,” and at the last day on board we‘ve found why. It was his last day in the nine month long service, he would get off with us at Ft L and fly home to open a baby furniture store. As I’ve said earlier, Eva did as much as she could to make our dining pleasant. All in all, we did expect the food to be better, BUT both of us agree that we would sign up for another Princess cruise in a heartbeat!

Entertainment

We are not bar people by any means, and so there were not too many choices for entertainment every evening. The Sun has a large theater and a smaller, more intimate one, also. We attended each every other night. There were at least three rows of seats in the back of the theater designated for the HP only. The Celebrity Summit, in contrast, had none. In addition, there was plenty of room for the wheelchairs at the rear of the theater, and so my wife could enjoy the shows. The cruise director did not floor anyone with his talent this time and following him the ship’s song-and-dance troupe did their thing, excelling with energy, but not in subject. The Vista Lounge, the smaller theater had so-so performers. One stands out as a talented young man that combined parody magic and humor with a great degree of energy. The Casino happened to be on our Dolphin Deck, and so on the way to our cabin after the show, we generously contributed to the Princess coffers by playing slots. Glad to say that thanks to my wife, we ended up with a slight gain. If one of us would win on a particular evening, she would pocket the change and head for the cabin It did not always work out, some evenings, we ended up “home” before 10 o’clock, but there was always the TV. The Sun Princess did not do well with movies onboard. One, “The Italian Way” was OK, but the “Plot with the View”
and “The Pirates of the Caribbean” shown at 10 p.m. were , in my opinion, the most stupid movies, I think, I’ve ever seen.

Shore Excursions

Our itinerary included the three saint’s islands: St Thomas, St. Vincent and St. Maarten. Also Antigua and Barbados. For the most of Caribbean Islands we’ve “been there-done that” on our other cruises,

So this time we did a little bit of shopping only at St. Thomas and Barbados. The islands are not at all handicapped-friendly and frankly, both of us are quite happy to stay onboard and have the whole vessel to ourselves! I did get off in Antigua, but not for long. It happened to be their Independence Day, with a long parade and a number of visiting Navy ships from the neighboring countries.
The Sun itinerary, originally included the Princess Keys. For some reason, the Princess cancelled the stop there and gave us a $100 pp onboard credit.

Disembarkation

Our flight back home was form Ft Lauderdale at 12.36. Well, let me tell you, it was a miracle that we made our flight on time. Getting off the ship was not a problem, although there is always a number of passengers that “forget to check out” at the Purser’s desk,- we were out in no time, identified our baggage, and we were off to the airport. There was the problem. At Ft. L Port there were at least four ships, all with disembarking passengers, a total of some 10 thousand, majority aiming for the Ft. Lauderdale air terminal! A crisp $10.- did the trick and a nice porter took us up to security.

More problems. My wife’s prosthesis and the wheelchair created an immense confusion at any airport security – every time. It took at least 10 minutes to check her out. Finally we were at our seats on the way home. Earlier, I did say – our seats in first class/US Airways. What a total waste of money for those air passengers that paid up to $1200.- for their seats! Foolish me, expecting linen, china and silverware for our lunch. We did not have to pay anything for our snack, as they do at the coach class, but for starters, coffee came in a Styrofoam cup, a packaged egg sandwich, and a cookie on a plastic tray. Good thing we’ve only paid $5.-pp for our seats (and, oh yes, 80.000 frequent flyer miles).

In summary, in spite of my negative comments on and off, both of us would not hesitate for a moment to book again soon. It is just so fantastic to enjoy blue skies, warm weather, blue sea and a great cruise ship.

Click on the title to check out the Drobashevsky's other cruise adventures to:

Alaska Cruise
Bermuda

Southern Caribbean
Western Caribbean

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