Sea Princess is a Goldilocks ship.
No, there aren’t three bears with a penchant for porridge taking in the sun beside the swimming pool, or a little girl with blond ringlets and a history of home invasions dashing between decks.
The Princess Cruises’ vessel is a Goldilocks ship because it’s just right.
I’m spending 10 days aboard Sea Princess, completing a roundtrip journey from Brisbane to Papua New Guinea, and it doesn’t take long to see that everything from the passenger load to the itinerary is perfect for those that like their cruising to be beautifully balanced.
With 2,000 passengers sleeping in 1,008 cabins – from multi-room suites to internal berths – Sea Princess is not too big and not too small but (you guessed it) just right.
The only time it’s obvious I’m sailing with a full load is during the breakfast rush in Horizon Court when the morning buffet attracts a casual crowd and there are more people than seats.
Embarking and disembarking is a snap, there are no lines departing for excursions, we find a seat around the pool when it’s time for a post-tour siesta, and the guest-to-staff ratio guarantees attentive service.
She’s not a new ship, carrying her first passengers back in 1998 after leaving Italy’s Fincantieri shipyard, but it’s clear Sea Princess is a vessel that’s valued by Princess Cruises with her most recent dry-dock in December 2018.
I’m occupying a rear-facing Penthouse Suite at the back of Dolphin deck with the spacious accommodations boasting dedicated sitting, sleeping, working, bathing and breathing areas.
Inside there are two armchairs and a three-seat sofa, the balcony has a table for alfresco eating as well as sun lounges for sprawling, and there’s a powder room that’s conveniently separate from the bathroom.
I peek into staterooms while wandering the ship and the aesthetic is the same as my suite with the only difference a lack of lounge and a little less space in the standard studio layout of the Balcony and Oceanview categories.
There’s no arguing the food is fab, but Sea Princess doesn’t have the specialty restaurants or creative menus of vessels drawing the foodie crowd.
I eat breakfast at a window-side table in Horizon Court after the morning rush clears, my next meal is lunch or afternoon tea delivered by room service, and I regularly settle in the main dining room for dinner.
I make reservations in Sterling Steakhouse – the speciality restaurant occupying one side of Horizon Court in the evenings – regularly during the voyage and appreciate the expert service of waiters that know the cut of a cow as well as varieties on the wine list.
There are five port visits in five days – Alotau in Milne Bay, Kiriwina Island, Rabaul on New Britain, Kitava Island, and the Conflict Islands – but the distance between Brisbane and PNG means activity is balanced with four days at sea.
I’m here to see sites that played a part in Australia’s wartime history so make bookings before boarding to join excursions to former battlefields near Alotau and Rabaul.
In Milne Bay we stand on the spot Aussie soldiers stopped Japan’s 1942 advance through the Pacific to turn the tide of WW2, and a few days later the Rabaul excursion ventures to the Bita Paka War Cemetery in New Britain’s volcanic east.
But it’s not all history and in the Conflict Islands, we sit on the sand in shade thrown by tilting palm trees and swim in water so clear it falls somewhere near cerulean on the colour wheel.
Sea Princess returns to Brisbane during the coming Aussie cruise season to complete itineraries stretching from two to 35 days and calling at destinations across Australia, New Zealand, PNG, South Pacific and Hawaii.
In 2020/21 Princess Cruises will complete 20 cruises to and from Adelaide – a move insiders say represents “the biggest ever cruise industry commitment to South Australia” – with Sea Princess offering return and one-way options.