FUN ON THE SUN
JUDGING by the harbour city’s recent fascination with Queen Mary 2, when superliner Sun Princess glides over the horizon on October 24 it is assured of a warm welcome to Sydney.
Princess Cruises is deploying this premium ship, which carries 1950 passengers, in Australian waters on a permanent basis; it replaces the much smaller 670-passenger Pacific Princess.
Princess Cruises says the Australian cruise market, which has been expanding at 18 per cent annually for the past two years, has reached a point where a much bigger ship is required to meet local demand.
Sun Princess, weighing 77,000 tons and measuring 261m, was the largest cruise ship in the world when it was launched in 1995. It will be the biggest liner to pass under the Sydney Harbour Bridge (with a mere 4m clearance, onlookers and passengers alike may be holding their collective breath).
But measurements are only part of the picture. Stepping aboard, first impressions do count and the midship atrium is a light, soaring space, effectively conveying glamour. A glass-enclosed lift and sweeping marble staircases deliver guests to reception, restaurants, boutiques, lounges and bars scattered on mezzanine levels. It is a vast area, yet the feel is intimate. This design objective is echoed elsewhere on board in many small groupings of chairs. Quiet places to read or drink are easily found.
Boredom is seldom an issue in this minicity. There are four pools, five spas, a modern gym, sports deck and casino. Cruising is all about self-indulgence, so a massage in the Lotus Spa is all but obligatory. Meals are never dull, with a bewildering choice of food available in two elegant restaurants, a buffet, pizzeria, steakhouse and poolside hamburger grill. (Good luck, dieters.)
An internet cafe caters to e-addicts and the library has deep chairs facing panoramic windows. Fabulous live shows and revues are offered in the tiered theatre. Inside staterooms are as well appointed as those with a view (more than 400 staterooms feature private balconies); all offer ensuite bathroom, television, refrigerator, hairdryer and safe. The concept of ‘‘ premium cruising’’ comes into play with extras such as bathrobes and quality toiletries.
Couples travelling alone will find Sun Princess romantic and relaxing, but activities and special mealtimes are also provided for youngsters from three to 17.
News of the superliner’s arrival is already reflected in bookings. Sun Princess is making nine cruises departing Sydney between November 7 and March 9, 2008, and there is much interest in two 28-day cruises circumnavigating Australia with fares from $6995 a person. How tempting to add on 14 days to New Zealand, drifting amid the fjords. Other cruises take in the South Pacific and Tasmania.
In April next year, Sun Princess will leave Sydney for a few months to start a season sailing out of Fremantle, mainly to Asia. It seems this elegant but fun-loving Princess is set to be a hit on both sides of the country. Leonie Coombes
New horizon: Sydney-bound Sun Princess