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Cruise Views

Princess Has Got a Really, Really Big Show for You

December 17, 1995|SHIRLEY SLATER and HARRY BASCH

Standing aboard the world's largest cruise ship, Princess Cruises' 77,000-ton, 1,950-passenger Sun Princess, can fool a person. It doesn't feel like 14 decks high and the length of three football fields.

The full load of passengers on the first sailing from Fort Lauderdale Dec. 2 embarked and disembarked smoothly from two gangways instead of the usual one. And passengers seemed to spend more time in their cabins because of the unusually large number of private verandas aboard--nearly 70% of all outside cabins--freeing up public room space.

The captain's welcome-aboard cocktail party, on most large ships the impetus for endless queues, was held in the soaring four-deck central atrium, allowing passengers to enter immediately at any level from any direction.

Still, it's a long hike back to the cabin if you forgot your excursion tickets, book or sunblock.

Sun Princess with its extremely smooth ride and resort hotel similarities also offers a water-sports program called New Waves that provides both scuba certification and snorkeling instruction. A dozen scheduled exercise classes a day and a fully equipped gym and spa should also appeal to the more active cruise passenger.

The ship seems to present a younger image for the Los Angeles-based cruise line. Menus have been extensively revised from the former cream-laden pastas and rich desserts to leaner, cleaner tastes, with plenty of vegetarian options and salads supplementing the traditional French- and Italian-night menus.

A 24-hour food court called Horizon Court means a hungry passenger can find something to eat any time without needing to dress up and can still get waiter service, music and dancing. An outdoor grill serving made-to-order hot dogs and hamburgers supplements an elegant indoor pizzeria called Verdi's that resembles a winter garden in a palazzo with its medieval murals and wrought-iron and marble furniture. The pizzas, especially the vegetarian, are the best we've had at sea in years.

Some of the entertainment aboard is brilliant, particularly the innovative Cirque de Soleil-type show called "Mystique" with a large company of dancers and acrobats. A $2.5 million art collection was commissioned for the ship from selected contemporary artists, each of whom prepared a series of works for a specific area of the vessel.

A fulltime gardener tends the $1 million worth of fresh green plants aboard.

Accommodations range from modest-size inside cabins (135 to 148 square feet, from $1,298 to $1,648 per person, double occupancy, including round-trip air fare on Caribbean sailings for a week) to lavish suites with large balconies (536 to 754 square feet, from $3,298 to $3,648 per person, double occupancy with air fare).

Outside cabins with private verandas range from $2,298 to $2,828 per person, double occupancy, while mini-suites with two rooms, large marble bath with Jacuzzi tub and private veranda cost $2,898 to $3,248 per person, double occupancy, for a week.

Nineteen cabins designated wheelchair accessible are particularly spacious, measuring from 213 to 305 square feet with brochure prices about $2,000 per person, double. Additional upper berths are available for families.

Favorite spots aboard include the Wheelhouse Bar, a clubby, wood-paneled room with dark green leather chairs and butler's tables; the lobby Patisserie, serving espresso and cappuccino all day and evening; a reading room filled with brown leather "listening" chairs for books on tape, and a delightful children's center with indoor and outdoor play areas.

Until the departure of April 13, Sun Princess will sail every Saturday from Fort Lauderdale into the western Caribbean, calling in Montego Bay, Grand Cayman, Playa del Carmen/Cozumel and at Princess Cays, the company's private beach area in the Bahamas, where a full panoply of water-sports equipment is available for rent.

The ship will spend the summer cruising Alaska's Inside Passage after a Los Angeles call May 8.

To get a free color brochure, contact a travel agent or Princess Cruises at (800) LOVE-BOAT.


Slater and Basch travel as guests of the cruise lines. Cruise Views appears the first and third week of every month.

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