Sun Princess: A new shining star in the Princess Cruises fleet

John Padgett of Princess Cruises shares with Rebecca Gibson how the design innovations and extensive culinary and entertainment offerings onboard Sun Princess will transform the guest experience and position the brand as an industry leader 

Sun Princess: A new shining star in the Princess Cruises fleet

Princess Cruises

Sun Princess is the most impressive Princess Cruises ship ever built, says John Padgett

By Rebecca Gibson |

“Love, exciting and new 

Come aboard, we’re expecting you…  

The Love Boat promises something for everyone 

Set a course for adventure…” 

First aired in 1977, ‘The Love Boat’ focused on the lives of fictional crew members working onboard a cruise ship and quickly became one of the highest-rated prime-time TV shows in the USA. It was also widely credited with introducing millions of viewers to the concept of contemporary cruise vacations and made Princess Cruises – whose ships had a starring role – a household name. 

Today, almost 50 years after the pilot show was filmed onboard its original Sun Princess ship, Princess is inviting travellers to come aboard and set course for a real-life adventure on its new “next-level love boat”. Named in honour of its predecessor, the 4,300-guest Sun Princess is the first of the brand’s 177,882gt Sphere-class ships and began sailing for the first time 28 February 2024 after it was delivered by Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri.  

“Sun Princess is the most impressive, luxurious and stunning love boat ever created, offering an array of exciting new entertainment venues, next-level dining, extraordinary food and beverage experiences, multigenerational activities, and sensational staterooms and suites,” says John Padgett, president of Princess. “The vessel has been specifically designed with the future in mind and will have a transformational impact, as will its sister ship, Star Princess, when it debuts in summer 2025.” 

Designed to “simultaneously embrace Princess heritage while boldly pressing into the future with iconic, elegant and pure lines unique to the brand”, the new Sphere-class ships will “elevate and maximise” the guest experience.  

“We have retained a uniquely Princess style that is progressive yet classic,” says Padgett. “People will know Sun Princess is a Princess ship the moment they see it, but they’ll also immediately see it is next level on every dimension. For example, commonly used ship designs contain guests inwardly, but we have introduced more balconies and shifted interior public area spaces outwards on Sun Princess. Now, the ship delivers more memorable vantage points to take in the stunning destinations and ocean vistas.” 

Princess collaborated with a broad team of expert designers and engineers to develop the ship. They included long-standing partners that have decades of cruise design experience, such as Jeffrey Beers and Tillberg Design of Sweden, as well as others that had never worked in the sector.  

“Our new partners are some of the most respected designers in their fields and we leaned into their expertise to create great spaces our guests would love,” says Padgett. “We shared what has worked well on our other ships but also gave them the freedom to offer fresh perspectives on what we could do that had not been done before.” 

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John Padgett (front row, left) with the captain (front row, right) of Sun Princess and the first guests to board the new ship

iCrave, which designed the Sphere entertinamnet venue in Las Vegas, created The Dome. Located in the forward section of the ship above the bridge, it is a multilevel, multipurpose entertainment space covered by the first glass-enclosed geodesic dome on a cruise ship.  

“The Dome is inspired by the terraces of Santorini in Italy and is home to an indoor/outdoor pool and unique three-deck high water feature during the day,” says Padgett, noting that the space is climate controlled. “At night, the pool becomes a stage, and we use lighting to completely transform the space into an entertainment venue with a South Beach, Miami, vibe. This is where we host amazing aerial performances created in partnership with Cirque Eloize.” 

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Multipurpose entertainment space The Dome is covered by the first glass-enclosed geosodic dome on a cruise ship

Another impressive space is The Piazza, a three-deck-high zone at the heart of the ship that serves as the gateway to many of the dining, entertainment and activity venues. It is built within a glass sphere created by Eckersley O’Callahan, marking its first cruise ship design project. 

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The Piazza will be one of the most popular spaces onboard Sun Princess


“Our signature Princess Piazza has progressed from being a multifaceted gathering space to a fully capable theatrical entertainment space onboard Sun Princess,” says Padgett. “At the centre is a movable LED screen that can deliver live entertainment programming. The glass sphere spans all three decks of The Piazza and six guest accommodation decks, forming an iconic architectural feature that offers a suspended space to sit and enjoy ocean views in every direction.”   

Padgett predicts The Arena will become another guest favourite. “It is arguably the most technologically advanced entertainment venue at sea,” he says. “The stage can be reconfigured to host performances in the round, keyhole stage or traditional proscenium theatre productions. There are no pillars in the venue, so all seats offer great views in all configurations.”  

Other notable public spaces include the largest casino in the Princess fleet, the two-storey Lotus Spa, dedicated areas for young passengers, and the three-deck family activity zone called Park19. “Sun Princess offers guests more entertainment options and opportunities for rejuvenation, creating an unforgettable cruise experience that is second to none,” says Padgett.  

Sleeping in style and comfort 

Princess has reimagined guest accommodation for Sun Princess, which offers 2,157 staterooms (including 50 suites and 100 connecting rooms) and more balconies than any other ship in the fleet. Highlights include the new Reserve Collection Mini Suites, resort-style Reserve Cabana staterooms with a balcony and private outdoor cabana, and the Signature Collection suites. Guests choosing the latter have exclusive access to a restaurant, lounge and a sun deck in a private area of the Sanctuary. 

“The reimagined accommodations cater to the individual preferences and needs of every guest, ensuring a comfortable and luxurious stay onboard,” says Padgett. 

Embarking on a culinary odyssey  

Princess has “raised the bar on culinary excellence” onboard Sun Princess, says Padgett. “The ship has an unrivalled collection of premium culinary options from renowned chefs and celebrity collaborators, all made with ingredients sourced from high-end purveyors, allowing guests to embark on a gastronomic journey like no other.”  

In total, the ship will offer 30 dining venues, bars and lounges. Some are Princess favourites that have been revamped for Sun Princess, such as the Crown Grill steakhouse, Sabatini’s Italian trattoria, and the World Fresh Marketplace. Others have been designed exclusively for the ship. For example, Princess has collaborated with Italian butcher Dario Cecchini to open The Butcher’s Block by Dario, where guests dine at a large, shared family-style table.  

“This restaurant serves the finest cuts of meat in an unforgettable atmosphere,” says Padgett. “Meanwhile, sushi master Makoto Okuwa has crafted playful and exquisitely presented dishes that pay homage to Japanese traditions in the exclusive Makoto Ocean. Guests can also visit Princess’s first teppanyaki restaurant, Umai Teppenyaki, where world-class cuisine intertwines with captivating performance as talented culinary artists prepare dishes right before their eyes.”  

Princess’s head of culinary arts and master chef Rudi Sodamin has developed several new dining concepts for Sun Princess too. He created menus for the new three-storey main dining room Horizons and curated The Catch by Rudi, a seafood restaurant designed to “showcase the ocean’s treasures”. Sodamin also crafted a seven-course luxury menu for boutique restaurant Love by Britto, which features artwork and interiors designed and inspired by Brazilian artist Romero Britto. 

“Love by Britto is an artistic-inspired experience designed to celebrate love and the fusion of senses,” says Padgett. “Britto’s world-renowned bold, vibrant and playful style and its bespoke fusion with Princess’s creativity makes the venue completely unique.” 

Another notable highlight is ‘Spellbound by Magic Castle’, the latest of Princess’s ‘Extraordinary Experiences’ offerings. Small groups of guests will dine in an exclusive area of the Horizons dining room before being escorted to the hidden Spellbound Bar, where Magic Castle-sponsored magicians perform illusions in themed rooms as waiters serve “theatrical” cocktails.  

“Our collaboration with the famed Hollywood icon Magic Castle offers a multisensory journey into the world of illusion, complemented by delectable dishes and mesmerising cocktails,” says Padgett. “With 30 inviting restaurant and bar venues, as well as exceptional new dining experiences curated by renowned experts, guests are treated to a diverse and exquisite culinary experience.” 

Personalised luxury 

Like all Princess ships, Sun Princess will offer the MedallionClass experience, which was developed by Padgett when he first joined the brand’s parent company, Carnival Corporation, as chief experience and innovation officer. The experience is powered by medallions worn by guests that connect to thousands of sensors as they move throughout the ship. This data is shared with Princess’s patented technology platform to power every onboard experience.  

“Our technology is unique in the travel industry and enables real-time service personalisation for every guest at any time at any scale,” says Padgett. “On-demand individualised services like these are unparalleled in the big ship space.”  

Environmentally conscious cruising  

Sun Princess is the first LNG-powered vessel in the Princess fleet and is also equipped with several other technologies to minimise its environmental impact. It has an advanced wastewater treatment system; desalination and reverse osmosis systems so it can produce up to 90 per cent of the fresh water used onboard; and extensive recycling, food dehydration and other systems to significantly reduce waste. 

“Preserving and protecting our planet for future generations is a top priority for Princess and Carnival Corporation,” says Padgett. “Sun Princess will progress our emissions reductions by decreasing relative energy and fuel consumption through the use of LNG fuel, LED lighting, HVAC system automation, a hull air lubrication system and advanced hull coatings.”  

Elevating the Princess cruise experience 

Sun Princess debuted with a 10-day ‘Grand Mediterranean’ roundtrip from Rome, Italy, to Barcelona, Spain. The ship will continue providing “exciting new choices” in the Mediterranean with departures from Rome, Barcelona, and Athens in Greece, until October 2024, when it will reposition to North America sail Caribbean itineraries from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It will return to the Mediterranean in spring 2025. 

“Sun Princess will further galvanise Princess’s global brand positioning,” says Padgett. “It will transport guests to marquee ports worldwide, while offering sweeping vistas from various onboard vantage points, creating a sense of adventure and connection to both the ocean and the destinations that is unmatched by our competitors.” 

Now it is sailing, Padgett expects the ship to set new standards for both Princess and the wider industry.  

“Sun Princess has been meticulously crafted to raise the guest experience to unprecedented heights,” he says. “Our focus on innovative design and sustainable technologies showcases our commitment to raising the experiential bar with unparalleled luxury, variety, personalisation and value. The combination of iconic spaces, global adventures, culinary excellence, luxurious accommodations and exceptional amenities elevates the guest experience to an entirely new level and sets Princess apart as an industry leader that offers a cruise vacation like no other.” 

This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2024 issue of Cruise & Ferry ReviewAll information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. Subscribe to Cruise & Ferry Review for FREE to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox. 

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