Sun Princess Trip Report: Unlocking the Hidden Secrets Onboard [PHOTOS]

The good news is that jet lag finally forced me to catch up on some much-needed sleep. The bad news is that crashing for 14 hours meant I had only two days left to experience everything Sun Princess offers.

crete sun princess

I woke up just in time for a special food-and-drink preview that was being held in the main dining room. I love events like this because they give you an overview of food from the various venues on board. 

sun princess food sample 1

This wasn’t an actual tasting but rather a chef from the culinary team explaining what each venue had to offer; it was a great way to introduce us to some of the newer food and beverage concepts.

sun princess food sample 2

Spoiler alert: Regarding drinks, maybe the coolest you’ll find on board is Escape From Houdini’s Chest. As the name would probably tell you, it’s only available at Spellbound by Magic Castle.

A chest labeled
(Photo courtesy of Doug Parker / Cruise Radio)

And yes, it’s as cool as it sounds, not to mention visually stunning. But those same descriptors could probably be used for just about everything behind the infamous black door, which is the secret entrance to Spellbound (I guess it’s no longer so secret!).

Only some venues on board are new. Instead, it’s more like that old wedding-day tradition: Something borrowed, something new… and if you check out enough drink menus, you’ll find something blue.

steak main dining room sun princess

I spoke briefly yesterday about the American Diner concept, where you can get road trip-like food on Deck 8 of the three-deck-high main dining room. The presentation about that particular space got me so excited that I opted to cancel my dinner reservation in another restaurant to check it out. More on that in a bit… 

It was a gorgeous day, making it the perfect time to wander around and explore the outside decks. 

Exploring Park19 on Sun Princess

Deck of the sun princess cruise ship featuring swimming pools, lounging areas, and waterslides under a partly cloudy sky.
(Photo courtesy of Doug Parker / Cruise Radio)

Park 19, a family activity space, is a new feature on this ship. Princess Cruises is often thought of as a line that doesn’t necessarily cater to a family audience, and this space is very clearly designed to combat that concept directly.

This is similar to Carnival’s SportSquare in that it offers a ropes course, a splash zone for kids, a jogging track, hammocks, and more. But what takes things to the next level is the Sky Glider. 

Park19 Princess Cruises
Park19 (Photo courtesy of Princess Cruises)

Where Carnival introduced the concept of biking high above the deck with SkyRide, Princess replaced the bicycle with something akin to a hang glider at sea. Unfortunately, this wasn’t available during our voyage, but I could watch crewmembers test it, and it looked like a thrill.

Watching them be strapped into a harness and then fly around the deck-topping track was pretty thrilling, which made me think that experiencing it would be exhilarating.

The jogging track and basketball court saw a lot of activity during our sailing. There is something very refreshing about jogging outside on a cruise, especially during the springtime in the Mediterranean. The fresh salt air is intoxicating even if you only take a stroll.  


Plus I can attest that the hammocks are super comfortable and a great place to read!

The Sanctuary by Princess

Signboard titled
(Photo courtesy of Doug Parker / Cruise Radio)

The Sanctuary on Princess Cruises is an exclusive, adults-only retreat offering a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of elsewhere. Access is a literal price, so it’s more akin to Norwegian Cruise Line’s Vibe Beach Club than Carnival’s Serenity Deck, which is free for anyone to use. 

the sanctuary sun princess

I accidentally explored this private area when I followed someone with a key. In my defense, I was trying to find the spa. Only after wandering around the beautiful Sanctuary for a few minutes did I realize where I was and that I wasn’t supposed to be there.

But since I was there, I took a few pics and enjoyed an opportunity to see what The Sanctuary was all about.

sancutary cabana sun princess

So what is The Sanctuary? Honestly, the name is pretty much a perfect description of what you’ll find there. It’s an oasis that, while a little hard to find (probably by design, to keep people like me from wandering in!), offers a pool, loungers, a bar, and – for an extra charge – cabanas.

When this ship gets to the Caribbean, the sanctuary will only be available for guests in Sanctuary Collection cabins. They are moving towards a hybrid approach of a ship-within-a-ship concept on the Sphere class.

Sun loungers lined up on a cruise ship deck with a glass barrier overlooking the sea and distant landscape.
(Photo courtesy of Doug Parker / Cruise Radio)

It’s a pretty large space, and it’s easy to see how this would be a definite oasis you might want to escape on a sold-out voyage. 

So, how much does this little slice of paradise cost? While prices vary, a full-day pass costs around $40 per guest. You can also buy a half-day pass for $20 per person, and cabanas can be rented for approximately $80 a half-day. 

A Classic American Diner Menu on Sun Princess

Because we had plans to check out Spellbound by Magic Castle, we enjoyed an early dinner before heading to our designated meeting spot.

A plate of buffalo wings with a side of fries and dipping sauce.
(Photo courtesy of Doug Parker / Cruise Radio)

It’s worth noting that typically, dinner is included in Spellbound’s price of admission but wasn’t included as part of the “soft opening” provided to our group, which is why we grabbed dinner in advance.

Around six, we headed to Deck 8, the third level of the main dining rooms. While the two lower levels offer the same fairly standard menu, everything is different on Deck 8. In the mood for wings? They’ve got them. Are you feeling like breakfast for dinner? No problem. This one truly is if a menu can be both limited and eclectic. 

Sun Princess Dining MENU

The restaurant was fairly empty, if only because there were so many dining options aboard. I didn’t go healthy with wings, fried chicken, and an ice cream sundae. My friend went with a steak and seemed happy with his choice. All in all, we were out of there in about 30 minutes. 

I’ve noticed that the water service at several venues where we dined could be much better. We were offered water once and then never saw another drop. That might sound trivial, but I’m a big fan of water—and plenty of it—with my dinner.

Ironically, if you wanted to order a cocktail, it was delivered promptly, the opposite of how it’s been on most other ships I’ve sailed! 
Three scoops of ice cream with whipped cream, almonds, and chocolate sauce served on top of a grilled slice of pineapple.
(Photo courtesy of Doug Parker / Cruise Radio)

Overall, the American Diner menu was decent, with a nice selection. Portions were smaller, but that has become the industry norm, with many guests ordering multiple appetizers and even main courses. I like it, as it allows sampling more dishes in a restaurant you might only visit once.

Not for nothing, but the ice cream sundae received high marks.  

What is Spellbound by Magic Castle?  

magic castle in hollywood

Okay, so I will be the first to say that I had no clue what Magic Castle was until a few months ago when I was fortunate enough to visit the famous Hollywood location that inspired Sun Princess Spellbound. Having that insight, I’ll do my best to unpack exactly what Magic Castle is and how it plays into Spellbound. 

A grand piano in a cozy room with vintage decor and upholstered seating.
(Photo courtesy of Doug Parker / Cruise Radio)

The Magic Castle in Hollywood is an exclusive, private clubhouse housed in a Victorian mansion for magicians and magic enthusiasts who can access the venue by invitation only, with guests only allowed to enter the Victorian-style mansion when accompanied by a member.

Once inside, the space hosts a variety of shows, from close-up magic (think card tricks) to grand illusions, performed by renowned magicians and up-and-coming talent.

This venue is steeped in history, with some greats performing there, including David Copperfield, Johnny Carson, David Blaine, and Neil Patrick Harris. 

Two individuals dressed in traditional formal attire with top hats standing in a blue-lit room.
(Photo courtesy of Doug Parker / Cruise Radio)

During my five hours at the Magic Castle in Hollywood, we explored the different showrooms, checked out the memorabilia, and saw a few different performances.

By the time I left the Magic Castle in Hollywood, I wanted to become a magician… and I was completely stoked to see how this magical (in every sense of the word) experience would be translated onto a cruise ship.

Spellbound by Magic Castle runs like the Hollywood version, with dinner, a magic show, and drinks. The evening will cost $149 per person, and I can promise you this: It is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced at sea and probably on land, too.

Paying the fee is the only way to find out what is behind the mysterious black door on Deck 8. I will be vague about what lies beyond that portal, and you’ll thank me for it later. If there is ever an occasion to go into something as spoiler-free as possible, this is it. 

Bartender pouring a drink at a bar counter.
(Photo courtesy of Doug Parker / Cruise Radio)

Over the years, I’ve done just about everything one can do on a cruise ship, from escape rooms and roller coasters to indoor skydiving and ziplines. Spellbound is truly unique and unforgettable. 

(Photo courtesy of Doug Parker / Cruise Radio)

When you walk through that black door, you know you’ve been transported to a special place. If you didn’t know you were on a cruise ship, you’d swear that the doorway was, in fact, a portal that had transported you to another place and time, like a speakeasy in New York City or Seattle.

Audience watches a performer on a small stage in an intimate venue.
(Photo courtesy of Doug Parker / Cruise Radio)
The experience starts with a dinner, followed by a cocktail reception featuring drinks as tasty as they are wow-inducing. A 30-minute magic show follows this, and then more time to lounge until they kick you out! The drinks are included in the price, and mocktails are offered for those who don’t necessarily want to imbibe. 

The attention to detail reminded me of Disney. It felt like the Haunted Mansion meets a Victorian house built in 1850 – if you’ve ever been to the Winchester House (pictured below) in San Jose, Calif., it felt like that. 

(Photo courtesy of Doug Parker / Cruise Radio)

I can’t say enough about how incredible this experience is, and certainly not without giving away details best discovered on your own. Some of the tricks blew my mind; the drinks were incredible, and every element combined created a night I’ll never forget. I’m betting you won’t either.

(Photo courtesy of Doug Parker / Cruise Radio)

With Spellbound’s limited capacity and industry buzz, booking this experience before setting sail is best to ensure you can check out this one-of-a-kind experience. 

Tomorrow is more food, Naples, and the last day of the cruise. These things always go by so fast!

Want to catch up on past trip reports from Sun Princess?

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