Year Started: 1965
Ships in Fleet: 18
Summary: Princess is one of the most consistently excellent cruise lines in the upper mainstream to premium group. All the diversity of larger ships but personalized service.
Regions:Alaska, California Coastal, Panama Canal
Good for: Teens. First-time Cruisers. Families.
Regions:Alaska, Asia & Africa, Australia
Good for: Families. Teens. Children`s Programs.
Regions:Canada, Caribbean, Europe
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Group.
Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Group.
Regions:Caribbean, Europe, Transatlantic
Good for: Seniors. Value for Money. Group.
Regions:Caribbean, Europe, Transatlantic
Good for: Seniors. Disabled Travelers. Overall Service.
Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii, Mexico
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii, South America
Good for: Families. Overall Service. Seniors.
Regions:Canada, Caribbean, Europe
Good for: Families. Seniors. First-time Cruisers.
Regions:Caribbean, Europe, South America
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Europe
Good for: Group. First-time Cruisers. Families.
Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii, Mexico
Good for: Overall Service. Seniors. Families.
Regions:Alaska, California, Panama Canal
Good for: Seniors. Group. Singles.
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Europe
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Europe, Hawaii
Good for: Seniors.
Good for: Overall Service. Foodies. Seniors.
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Panama Canal
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, South Pacific, Tahiti
Good for: Overall Service. Disabled Travelers. Seniors.
First, let me give a brief description of who was going on this trip. Me and my wife both in our early 30's with our 2 yr old boy (he turned 2 on the ship :) ) and my mom and aunt both in their mid 50's. We had been looking to go on a Alaskan cruise for so long and after lots of research and planning we chose to go on the Sapphire Princess. We chose this because we wanted a little bit of luxury but still have a really great play area for our son. We also liked the fact it went out on sunday in Seattle as we flew in Friday night and spent all day Saturday, this is highly recommended. We were about 1/2 - 2/3 right on our decision.
Ship: The ship was about what we expected. It was really pretty with room to move and never felt really crowded. The ship took about a half a day to figure out which I know isn't too bad considering some of the new ships with a maze for a layout. The atrium was beautiful, butdid not feel as nice as it could of. They could of made the atrium look a little taller and it would of felt even better.
Rooms: First this first... GET A BALCONY IT"S WORTH THE MONEY!!!!! We took 1 inside cabin for my wife, my son, and myself and my mom and aunt had a balcony right across the way. This turned out to be the best thing as we all got privacy and were able to use the balcony. To our surprise the inside cabin was quite large and spacious. We had more than enough room to have all 5 of our bags and a crib for my son. Never felt cramped at all. The rooms were very basic but nice. I have heard this ship is due for a refit soon and could use a little fixing up as there was couple of nics and scraps. Overall, nice. The biggest issue I had with the rooms (and the ship) was the toilets. They were the most uncomfortable seats I have ever used, and tis seemed to be a general consensus. Princess, please fix this.
Kid Area Ok this is where I need to unload for a second. We chose this ship because, out of the nicer lines, had the best play area for children. We knew we could not leave our son as he was under 3 but we were never prepared for the atrocity that we experienced. The 1st day at sea my wife and I took our son to play, and he started to love it. At that point we were approached by a CL worker who said "we understand you don't know but only one parent can be with the child at the time... but since you were uninfomed we will make an exception". Odd if I am on a family cruise cant my family be together? We said thank you and kept on playing. We took to the outside area where we noticed an unaccompanied 4 yr old walk over to the splash pool (by the way it was about 55 degrees out) strip to his skeevys and jump in. Being afraid for the child's safety my wife informed on of the 4 workers of the unmonitored minor in the pool. The staff member asked "where's his mom?" of course we don't know so she runs out yells at me with a "are you his parent". After I said no she yanks the kid out and yells at him. Another 5 mins later they asked one of us to leave as "there is only one parent aloud per child. Needless to say we did not return.
Food One word AMAZING. Everything was perfect. Especially in the Sterling steakhouse and of course Sabatini's. These are worth the extra as we would of paid to eat at those every night.
Service Princess has a great reputation for service, which they did not disappoint. Our big issue was that every employee and I mean every employee, sells. Right as you get on the ship, walking around and even at the dinner table. I got really annoying. I understand the 1st day trying to sell the soda cards and coffee as they are worth it, but ease up the rest of the trip. Honestly I also do not want my fantastic dessert disrupted by my waiter hocking a $25 cookbook every night. Take away the selling and you have impeccable service.
Ports We went to Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway and Victoria B.C. with a cruise in Tracy arm. All ports with the exception of Juneau were awesome. Juneau's issue was, though other ports had it as well, too much commercialism. It really spoiled the beauty. Make sure in Ketchikan you see rainbow falls and do the white pass train ride in Skagway, expensive but OH MY GOSH, Highlight of the trip. I was also impressed by Tracy Arm. I never heard much about it and when I woke up that morning I didn't need my coffee the beauty was my caffeine.
Overall this was an excellent cruise. Yes there are many opportunities that needed to be taken care of, especially with the kids area. But with the food, the pretty ship and the itinerary it all became perfect.
The film "Flying Down to Rio" aired March 11, 2010 on TCM (Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers' first film together) and that same evening we flew American Airlines to Rio de Janeiro. We took it as a good omen, and our trip was a sensational one. For months we had been telling everyone we were flying down to Rio -- something we had been wanting to say for most of our lives. The glamour, the natural beauty, and the excitement of Rio are unparalleled in South America. Vincent bartered and dickered for weeks for a non-stop flight; finally, he changed the date of our departure and this gave us four days in Rio and meant we only had to load our wheelchair and scooter once. He didn't want to take any chances with our equipment. The flight from Miami was overnight from 11:00pm to 9:30am Rio Time. Not bad, we went business class with good food and drinks and a comfortable seat which reclined for sleeping --- all this TLC made the time fly.
In Rio, Vincent had arranged for a mini van to aid our transfer to the Hotel WindsorAsturias. The van was actually a tiny station wagon, so Vincent took another taxi too, and we got to the hotel in separate cars, but with everything in one piece and accounted for. Now, we were truly ready for our Brazilian Adventure. After dinner we went to the 22nd floor Terrace to see Rio. Fantastic! From our hotel we could see most of Rio: Sugar Loaf Mountain with its cable car and Mt. Corcovado with the 125 foot tall statue of Christ the Redeemer whose arms are out stretched embracing the city. It was very exciting seeing the Copa Cabana beach and the famous Maracana` Soccer Stadium. We took a tour to Corcovado to see the Cristos and it was awe inspiring. The face and hands were sculpted in France, but the huge body was constructed in Rio of local sandstone, a soft porous stone which requires frequent upkeep. Unfortunately, at present, there is a chain link scaffold over the statue during this resurfacing. Although the purity of line was marred, the majesty and enormity of the work was still evident.
However, this was one of the few times in all of our world travels that we visited a country in which we could not understand the language at all and very few people we encountered could speak English. Portugese is actually worse than Greek to us, since Vincent understands a bit of Greek. Just ordering dinner was an adventure, we thought that whatever came would be a surprise; so we went with the flow and life was very enjoyable. Our hotel was centrally located and the guests were international. Very interesting.
EMBARKATION Once again Vincent had arranged for a special van to transfer us to the ship. One showed up on time with seats for twelve passengers, but no space for luggage or the wheelchair and scooter. A second call was made and a Mercedes van showed up and we were off to the Port, a distance of about one mile at a cost of $100. A bit expensive but the transfer was a relief to us. Check in was simple, since the ship was staying overnight and there was no specific rush hour or crowds during this time. We were delighted to be back on the Star Princess for the third time.
THE SHIP The Star Princess is Hull #6051 built by the Fincantieri Monfalcone Shipyards of Italy and launched in 2002 at a cost of $450 million. Like her sister ships in the Grand Class, Grand, Golden and Sapphire Princesses, she has the distinctive "spoiler" in the upper stern, which holds the Skywalker Nightclub. She is 951 feet long with a beam of 159 feet (including the Bridge Wing) and a gross tonnage of 109,000 with a draft of a mere 26 feet. Her maximum speed is 24 knots and her registry is Hamilton, Bermuda. Average passenger capacity is 2,600 and her crew numbers 1,150 -- an excellent passenger to crew ratio.
She has 28 wheelchair-accessible cabins, which are not reserved for wheelchair only guests. It is a pity to see physically challenged people struggling with equipment, while able bodied passengers are using facilities they do not need. The ADA needs to be made aware of this. Our Travel Agent Skyscraper Tours keep medical certificates on hand in order to avoid this very dilemma -- all agents should be required to do so.
In our review of our first sailing on the Star Princess 2005, we did a detailed deck-by-deck description of the Star, so we refer the reader to this same site for that. Here, we will note some tricks to getting around the Star. Vincent's Scooter got hung up on several too steep entrances and exits-- for example the nearest route to the Lido Deck 14 could not be used. However, if we took the elevator down to Promenade Deck 7, then went aft to the central lifts (elevators) and then up to Deck 14 and voila` there was no obstruction. The Promenade is also too difficult to enter because of sharply angled ramps. Mary's wheelchair could handle them, but it was a bumpy ride (don't try this while carrying a drink or food!)
The Star's unique Centrum (Decks 5, 6, and 7) is a hub of activity, due to neatly clustered venues. Deck 5 is the lovely Piazza with its mosaic floor, on which the Argentinian Tango dancers Fernando and Cecilia executed their precise and fluid movements. This was not just a series of poses like on "Dancing With the Stars;" rather this was delightfully staccato and rhythmic steps. Bravissimi! So beautiful that Mary went to see them daily at 1, 2 and 3pm.
Deck 5 also has the Internet Cafe` and the Library, Vines Shop and Bar (with wine tastings and cheese pairings. Most important of all, here is located the International Cafe` serving wonderful coffees, espresso, pastries, delicate sandwiches, bigne and doughnuts. Starting at 11:00am they also have hot cookies for which passengers line up. The Centrum on Deck 5 is a busy place.
On Deck 6 are the Boutiques, the Passenger Services Desk and the Grand Casino. On Deck 7 are the Wheelhouse Bar, the Explorers Lounge, the Vista Lounge, the Tour Office and the Wedding Chapel. The Centrum is the Hub of many activities and a great meeting place.
Our old friend Hotel General Manager Gianfranco Sampiero told us of the logistical inconveniences which occurred at Valparaiso because of the Chilean Earthquake. There were passengers with travel problems and difficulties loading supplies. But, all were accommodated with patience. Of course, there are always those people unwilling to allow an act of nature to cause them inconvenience. We say go with the flow and everyone will be happier. Under Sampiero the ship is run beautifully and she remains lovely. Captain Edward Perrin keeps to his schedule. At one time he was First Officer of the Love Boat, what a recommendation!
FOOD & SERVICE Captain Perrin's cocktail parties are well attended and during this cruise there were three formal nights to remember. Service on board always filters down from above and Captain Perrin has set a high standard for all to follow. Service is top notch.
Food is where Princess excels; whenever we are asked which cruise line we prefer, we always respond that for food we suggest Princess, because most of her Executive Chefs are Italian and now we will add that the Corporate Culinary Ambassador and Master Chef is Commendatore Alfredo Marzi; His resume mentions that he has directed and supervised official banquets in honor of many famous guests including the following: Queen Elizabeth II, Diana, Princess of Wales, Former King Umberto of Italy, U.S. President George Bush, Italian President Ciampi, etc. --- (How's that for name dropping?)
As a graduate of L'Ecole Culinare Francaise August Escoffier, Marzi is esteemed world wide and sets all the menus and recipes for the Princess ships. He is the original "Love Boat" Chef and now visits all the Princess ships in rotation. We were lucky that he was on board this cruise. His potato gnocchi are incredibly light and served in a delicate cheese sauce.
The Star Princess' Executive Chef is Paolo Merio, a jovial master chef who apprenticed under Senior Exec. Chef Antonio Cereda and it shows. Born in Como, Italy, he is the product of a family steeped in fine food for generations. He attended the Hotel School of Bellaggio and began his Princess career at the age of 17, as the youngest employee in the Princess Fleet. From galley helper in 1986 to Executive Chef in 2000 – a 14-year meteoric rise.
Enough about personalities, now the food.
The Chef's Dinner: Quail & venison terrine with mesclun salad; Twice baked goat's cheese Souffle` with garlic Sabayon; Wild mushroom cream soup with Madeira sun-blushed tomatoes; Boston bib lettuce salad with shallot dressing; Palate cleanser of strawberry and thyme infused lemon Sorbet.
Choice of Entree: Griddled sea bass with Champagne risotto; Seared scallops in citrus butter, red bliss potatoes and vegetables Julienne; Pork tenderloin with cocoa spice rub, natural au jus and ratatouille; Pink roasted superior rack of lamb with rosemary and Boulangere potatoes; or Vegan English Stilton with crisp leek hay and Port wine glaze.
Or you may try the roasted Portobello, or fettucine Alfredo which are always available daily, as are shrimp cocktail, classic Caesar's salad, seared salmon, broiled chicken breast au jus, beef medallions with Bearnaise sauce, and southern fried chicken with French fries and coleslaw.
Now for dessert, try the Menage a Trois (Mini raspberry panna cotta, an Opera Gatteau and a Honey hazelnut semifreddo with Nutella Twist), or maybe a sugar free mint chocolate cake, or the "Always Available" Princess Love Boat Dream (Mousse on Brownie), traditional NY cheesecake, fruit or cheese plates, or a variety of homemade ice creams: Amaretto, Butter Toffee, Rum Raisin, Blueberry Sorbet or many others. Coffee or tea with made on board Mignardises. The best dessert was the Chef's concoction of an Amaretto Mousse, with a starfish cookie with strawberries tumbling out and all arranged in front of a spun sugar Red Coral Reef Sea Fan (beautiful to look at and taste).
Dinner on board the Star Princess is always an occasion with Maitre D' Giuseppe "Beppe" Castino orchestrating it. Our Head Waiters Andras and Wolfgang Pauer made meals interesting. They prepared specialities in the Portofino Dining Room tableside such as the following: Pastas, and desserts like Bananas Foster, Cherries Jubilee and on St. Patrick's Day, Irish Coffee.
Our waiters were Edgar and his Assistant Rodel, who were very attentive and helpful: One evening when Mary was ill, Vincent went down to say we would not dine in the dining room and in five minutes Maitre D`Beppe called our stateroom to say dinner would be brought to our cabin. And what a dinner it was: Soup, baked gnocchi, Chocolate Mousse, sorbets and a bottle of Verdicchio to wash it down!
Every morning we used the Bell Box (Room Service) for Continental Breakfast in our cabin --- it was always on time and coffee and chocolate were hot. Lunch time was always interesting and a special treat, since Chef Merio did many special features poolside on Deck 14 such as the following: Sushi displays, Mexican buffets, Italian trattoria spreads, tapas, etc.... Needless, to say our South America cruise was a gastronomic tour. We try to avoid the buffet because of the wheelchair, but buffet server, Gerry, helped us every time we ventured forth and gave us courage to return.
Two days before Ft. Lauderdale Commendatore Marzi made a spectacular Easter display of huge chocolate eggs (12 t0 24 inches tall) all uniquely decorated. We'll just call him the Michelangelo of Edible Sculpture; he is truly an artist. The huge displays had all the usual suspects: bunnies, chickens, hens, ducks, geese, flowers and even a "Tweetie" bird. We are positive that the cruisers on the next week were flabbergasted by this wonderland of art.
CABIN Stateroom Baja 303 on Deck 11 is wheelchair accessible. When entering on the left is a parking space for the wheelchair; a triple armoire with two sections for hanging and one with a set of shelves and the personal safe. Next, there is a TV, a refrigerator and a long desk/vanity with a lighted mirror and four drawers, a desk chair and an upholstered chair. When entering on the right, there is the large bathroom with 4'X4' shower with a fold-up seat, sink a mirror and nice shelves for amenities. The beds were two cot size bunks. When we asked that they be made into one, the response was that "As singles you will have more room in the cabin." Next time (May 9, 2010 on the Emerald Princess) we will insist on our request, since we were not happy with the configuration!
The far wall had all windows and the sliding door to the balcony, which held a chaise lounge, two other chairs and a large table. Alas, there was no automatic door opener which makes it difficult to enter and exit the cabin. Each time, it was a logistical event.
ENTERTAINMENT Cruise Director J.J. Ullrich has personality, pep and leads the fun aboard the Star with enthusiasm. The best show was the folkloric "Brasileirissimo Samba Show" Costumes were fantastic; featured were Capoeira Maculele and Samba --- WOW! --- This ship had new release movies in several venues: The Princess Theatre, the Vista Lounge and the Pool Deck Gigantic Screen which featured Cirque Du Soleil "Delirium." The production shows in the Theatre were "Ports of Call" and "Cinematastic." The Star Princess had something always going on from the top Deck 17 "Skywalkers" to Deck 5 Piazza. No one should go away bored. There is also the Scholarship at Sea Program: with computer courses, photography, ceramics, ballroom dancing, culinary arts and wine tasting. There are also gym, swimming, golf, trivia, bingo, the Casino tournaments, etc.PORTS OF CALL
Day 1. Rio De Janeiro, Brazil Embarkation suggested after 2pm. Overnight in Rio to facilitate tours of this beautiful city. Tours organized by Princess: Best of Rio, visit to Sugarloaf and Christ the Redeemer (8hrs. $199); Christ the Redeemer, visit the 125-ft-tall statue on top of Corcovado Mountain (4hrs. $89).
Day 2. Rio De Janeiro Depart 5:00pm
Day 3. Santos, Brazil Arrive 7:00am Depart 7:00pm Tours by Princess: Highlights Sao Paulo, Brazil's largest city with barbecue lunch at a traditional Churrascaria (8hrs. $149); Tour of Santos & Guaruja`, a coastal resort (4hrs. $69).
Days 4. and 5. Sea Days
Day 6. Salvador, Brazil Arrive 8:00am Depart 5:00pm Tours by Princess: Salvador Highlights, bus ride through modern Salvador, visit craft shops, artisan studios and cafes (4hrs. $55); A Walk Through Historic Salvador, a guided tour including two beautiful Baroque churches (4hrs. $45).
Day 7. Sea Day
Day 8. Recife, Brazil Arrive 8am Depart 5:00pm We visited our local friends Alessandra & Eduardo and toured the city by car. We enjoyed Olinda, Brazil's old colonial capital, with the many varicolored houses and historical churches. That morning on the Pier we saw from the ship a group of dancers, in colorful costumes, with small umbrellas, doing the "Frevo", a local characteristic dance. With a very energetic "Crescendo"!
Day 9. Sea Day
Day 10. Fortaleza, Brazil Arrive 7:00am Depart 4:00pm Tours available: Introduction to Fortaleza, a narrated drive through the city with visits to the Neo-Gothic Cathedral, the Central Market, etc. (4 hrs. $49); Cumbuco Beach Tour, a 45-minute drive to this famous beach (4hrs. $79).
Days 11, 12 and 13. At Sea On day 11, on March 26, at 10:30am we crossed the Equator. On that occasion a traditional ceremony was performed by "King Neptune" and his court on Deck 14 (Neptune's Reef & Pool)
Day 14. Barbados Arrive 7:00am Depart 5:00pm A variety of tours are offered by Princess, from snorkeling to sailing and golfing, to scenic rides and safari adventures, etc....
Day 15. Antigua Arrive 9:00am Depart 5:30pm As for Barbados the same can be said for Antigua, more than twenty Tours are offered by Princess. Check the list on Princess' website.
Day 16. St. Thomas, USVI Arrive 7:00am Depart 5:30pm US Passport Check. This island is a great place for tax-free shopping.
Day 17. At Sea
Day 18. At Sea and Captain Perrin's Farewell Cocktail Party
Day 19. Ft. Lauderdale, FL. USA Arrive 7:00am
DEBARKATION This was a simple and speedy affair, since we had already done our passport check in St. Thomas. All those in wheelchairs met in the Casino and were escorted from there to baggage pick up and Customs. We were in our van and headed home on I-95 at 9:45am. Excellent.
SUGGESTIONS We strongly feel that wheelchair cabins should be available to those who need them and not to opportunists. A simple directive to travel agents should be made to inform them that the cruise line's policy will be to move those who ignore the rules to another cabin and it may not be one of their selection. Moreover, the cruise line should not assign the wheelchair accessible cabins to anyone without proper medical documentation until the last days of booking, when all the disabled passengers have been accommodated.
We are ready for another cruise! We have booked our next cruise on the Emerald Princess for May 9, 2010 and look forward to see again our old friends, Hotel Manager Peter Hollinson and Maitre d' Nicola Furlan. Happy Cruising!
My husband and I have been on a Princess Cruise before and enjoyed it. The Crown Princess I must say is absolutely beautiful! We loved the food immensely. I loved the large Movie Screen out by the pool (which I utilized quite a bit) they showed All of the movies that were out in theatres...fabulous! At night while watching movies they give you a plaid light wool blanket if it's cold. One of my favorite places to visit onboard was the International Cafe'....free quiches,sandwiches, desserts of all kinds, nuts, apricots, dried fruits, etc. Wonderful!! The Entertainment was good not overly great! Overall I would give this Cruise a 4.5 stars out of 5
We celebrated our 33rd anniversary on the Emerald. Joining us were our two daughters, ages 23 and 18. This was our 5th cruise, 3rd on Princess, and the 2nd for the girls.
Embarkation: We took a shuttle from the Best Western Oceanside, Ft. Lauderdale Beach, and arrived at the port at about 11:30 a.m. and were in our room by 12:15, a very quick and efficient process on the part of Princess.
Stateroom: We booked cabin C752, aft. The good: the ever-so-slight rocking of the ship and the sound of the wake was very calming, the view is awesome, and the privacy from cabins above was a definite plus. The not-so-great: (1) the hike - while we appreciated the benefit of exercise, the long walk to the cabin was a pain after a long day in port; (2) lack of a real breeze on the balcony; we missed the ocean breeze felt on the port & starboard side cabins. Also, due to the lack of moving air, the tobacco smoke coming from our neighbors was a little annoying at times. Our cabin steward, Saul, from Mexico, attended to our every need witha friendly smile and willingness to please.
Crew: We did not encounter any rude or unfriendly crew members in our 7 days on board. Everyone was always ready with a smile and a friendly "hello", really amazing considering how hard they work.
Beds: We found the beds to be perfectly fine and comfortable for us. We did not ask for or need an egg crate, and we were provided with four comfy pillows.
A/C: I was anticipating inefficient A/C, so I packed a fan, but never had to use it because the A/C was fine, and we even had to lower it a few times. The A/C around the ship was comfortable for the most part, and I only found myself needing a sweater once at dinner in the dining room.
The Emerald: She is a gorgeous ship, very clean and elegant. We found the staff regularly walking around tidying up, polishing, sweeping and otherwise keeping her ship-shape. Navigation around the ship decks is fairly easy, once you figure out the "can't get there from here" hot spots. The mid-ship Piazza is particularly spectacular, with featured entertainment, the International Café, Vines wine bar, and retail shops, making for a great gathering place. By the way, good deals can be found in the ship's stores. I got a great price on a Citizens watch as a birthday gift for hubby.
Dining: We had Anytime Dining, and never had to wait for a table. One evening, we just showed up around 7 pm, offered to sit with others, and were seated immediately. For the other nights, we made a reservation in the morning, arrived at the dining room at the appointed time and, again, were seated immediately. Food and service were both great, and even our picky daughters were able to find something they liked on the menu.
Crown Grill: This is where we celebrated our 33rd anniversary. The steak and filet were both great, and the service as well. DH showered me with gifts, and the waiters brought a cake and sang "Happy Anniversary". Interestingly, the restaurant was not crowded at all, perhaps because it was a port day and the passengers were exhausted from the long day in port (the ship was only scheduled to leave Cozumel at 7 p.m.).
Horizon Court: Standard buffet fare. The staff members were helpful in finding seating and serving drinks. The buffet gets crazy at prime times, so we avoided it on a couple of occasions by having breakfast in the dining room, light lunch at the International Café, or even room service.
Caribe Café: We dined here one evening because we didn't like the Caribbean menu in the dining room. This was a nice alternative to the dining room – informal, but with more class than Horizon Court. The atmosphere was nice, with real napkins and tablecloths. The food was good, but the desserts were great!
International Café: I have to say, of all the food on the ship, this was our favorite. They serve light lunch fare, perfect for a light snack after a morning excursion, or even a continental breakfast, as well as sandwiches, quiche, salads, pastries, and even cookies & milk in the afternoon. I never got around to the gelato – I'll save that for next time around. The addition of entertainment – whether pianist or string quartet – makes for a relaxing mid-day break.
Wheelhouse Bar: You'll find a pub lunch served on Tuesday and Thursday, with some of the best fish & chips you'll find anywhere. Also tried the cottage pie, which was good, but seemed to have more potato than meat & veggie.
Note: If you are celebrating a special occasion, call for your dining reservation, tell them you are celebrating, and a card will appear in your mailbox. Give this card to the maitre d, and a cake and singing waiters will appear at the end of the meal.
I was surprised to see the Baked Alaska parade done in the anytime dining rooms. This was a special treat on the last night, which also happened to be hubby's birthday. So not only was there Baked Alaska, there was also cake and singing waiters for the birthday boy.
Pizza: Delicious and always a favorite for us, though it's still a mystery to me why they charge $3.00 to deliver it to your room.
Trident Grill: Hotdogs were memorable, burgers were just okay.
Entertainment: Time got away from us, and we missed some events. Here's what we did see:
"Grand Adventure Showtime": We could have skipped this. It was just really just a run-down of the week's happenings by cruise director, Tim Donovan, with a little music, dancing, and comedy.
"Princess Pop Star": A favorite of ours, as our younger daughter was a contestant and proud to say, a finalist!
Noteworthy musicians we heard included the band "Evolution" (daughter did the "live" karaoke with them), the Polonia String Quartet, the pianist in the Piazza, and for you loyal Bert Stratton fans, he was in residence, as well.
We did not catch the big production shows, but found comedian, Troy Thirdgill, to be hysterically funny!
Casino: Sucked up our money like a vacuum. Need I say more. Gladly, there were a couple of smoke-free nights in the casino.
MUTS (Movies Under the Stars): Get out there early for a good seat. I like MUTS, but always fall asleep during the movie – it's that relaxing.
Pools: As with MUTS, get out there early before the chairs are one, especially on sea days. We plan our pool & sun time for early morning, before 9:00, stay until lunch and leave when it gets really hot and crowded. I particularly like the quiet location of the aft pool, but the re-design of the aft pool area on the Emerald has eliminated a good deal of seating as well as the precious shade from that on the Caribbean Princess. I really miss this.
Princess Cays: Again, we're morning people, so we tendered over early, got a chair in the shade, snorkled and swam for a while, and went back to the ship. We skipped the barbecue this time around, so no comments there. The water was warm and beautiful, and we saw a ton of fish. For snorkeling enthusiasts, go to the left of the pier, down to the second outcropping of rocks, for the best fish sightings.
Jamaica: Jamaica has gotten some bad press lately, and I didn't know what to expect. I decided to book a tour with a reputable guide, so went with Mark Morris, who took us on his Dunn's River Falls/Highlights tour. Mark was friendly and his love of Jamaica was very obvious. He took the time to call everyone by name, and especially remembered that I wanted to go to his dad's pottery studio and try some authentic jerk chicken at Scotchies. Mark took us around in his clean, modern van, giving a little history along the way, providing an attractive picture of Jamaica that those who don't leave the port could never experience. The chicken at Scotchies was delicious, and his dad sold us some beautiful pottery. Dunn's River Falls was a thrill, but not an easy climb. I am happy to say that we made it out with only a few scrapes. The girls finished the trek to the top. However, when I saw the final steep slope of rocky ledge ahead of me, I decided I had enough and got off at the second "escape" route. Not a bad feat, since I only decided to make the attempt at the last minute.
Grand Cayman: We did the ship's Catamaran Stingray City tour. This was a really great experience. There were maybe 60 people or so on the boat, with a friendly, experienced crew of 2. However, due to the number of ships in port (4), the sandbar was packed. While we had a good number of rays to play with when we arrived, the appearance of more fully-packed boats, made the rays scatter off to find new food sources. The catamaran's sails were then raised, and we had a pleasant, relaxing ride back to port.
Cozumel: We went to Tulum with the ship's excursion. I have been there previously – once, back in 2002. The girls' main reason for coming on this cruise was to see ruins, so this was one we couldn't miss. However, a lot has changed in 8 years. The little roadside pit stop has turned into a large brick & mortar building with restrooms, snacks, drinks, and every sort of tourist trinket you can imagine. The stop has gone from 15 minutes to about 35. No more box lunch on the bus, either, because Tulum has now become a bit of a tourist trap, with restaurants, a Subway (are you kidding?!!!), and a whole bunch of vendors. The ruins at Tulum are still spectacular, but this time around I have to say it was really overrun with cruise passengers. That fact, combined with the oppressive heat and humidity, meant that once the narrated tour was done, we took a few photos and headed back to one of the restaurants for lunch, drinks, and then the bus. Fair warning: the margaritas in Mexico are lethal! Maybe it was the combination of the heat, dehydration, and an empty stomach, but after a few sips, that potent potion went right to my head and knocked me out for the rest of the day. My girls found me to be very amusing.
I find the history of the Mayans fascinating, and the next time we do ruins, it probably won't be on a cruise.
Disembarkation: Princess has an amazing procedure for this – very efficient. We were given colored tags for the luggage, which we left out the night before and given a time and place to wait to disembark. We left the cabin, as instructed at 8 am, went for a leisurely breakfast in the dining room, arrived at 9:30 to wait for our tags to be called, which was about 10 minutes. We proceeded off, collected our luggage (which was easy to find due to our own easy-to-find IDs on each piece), and headed out for a taxi to our post-cruise hotel. Note: Be sure to follow the signs for taxis, and don't do what we did, which was to follow the guy who said he had transportation for us. Once we realized he wanted $11/pp (!!), we said no thanks and headed back to the taxi sign. It was a quick ride to the hotel – from ship to hotel, less than 20 minutes. Perfect ending to a great cruise.
We chose the Emerald Princess for our first cruise ever because it was described as “a cut above” by our travel agent. Having just returned from the cruise, I can describe it in one word ---DISAPOINTING!
Following is a list of our many disappointments:
Dining: On the first night in the Michelangelo room, we were pushed a hard sell on alcoholic beverages 3 times within the first 5 minutes. Once the waiter finally realized we were not buying, he became surly for the rest of the meal. Ice tea and water glasses were never refilled. The rest of our meals were in the Da Vinci dining room. The waiters were poorly trained. Why would a waiter reach over two passengers to clear plates when there were no obstructions around the table? Why is dress code not enforced on Formal nights? There were guests in tee shirts. Why were some passengers allowed to make advance reservations for future nights but not us? I was given 3 different false reasons by three different people before finally having the problem rectified by a personal conversation with your Customer Relations Manager.
Most meals the food taste wasaverage at best. The steaks were over cooked and tough. The minestrone soup tasted like a can of baked beans. The pasta fazzole tasted like dish water. The breakfast hash brown potatoes were the consistency of a hockey puck. The vegetarian dish one night had the consistency of ground gruel served at a nursing home. We found the menu selection to be very limited with too many repeats during the week and too heavily weighted toward seafood. Since we were in “anytime” dining, we ate with different people most nights. It was not just us. Many meals were returned by others. My wife's Hungarian goulash tasted like the top fell off the salt shaker but the meal was served anyway. Basically, most of the people we spoke to were dissatisfied with the meals. I will say that the presentation of meals was excellent. Only the content/taste was poor. Of about 7 or 8 waiters over the week, only 2 were truly friendly.
Why were both sides of the Horizon Buffet closed when I stopped in at 10:20 pm on Tuesday when the hours are supposed to be until 11:00 pm?
On Friday, at the Horizon Buffet breakfast, at about 9:15 am, there was no seating because dozens of tables were not cleared after use. When I asked a waiter to clear one by the window, he did so grudgingly after I refused to sit at an undesirable table he was just finishing in another area. Once seated, why did it take over 10 minutes to get beverage service?
Why do you have passengers sign a waiver when ordering hamburgers medium, but the waiver is a plain piece of paper with no explanations on it? I am not happy signing blank chits.
Entertainment: The entertainment in the Princess Theater consisted of the same comedian on 4 different nights, one floor show for 2 nights, and one floor show for 1 night. While the comedian's routine was very good on 3 of the nights, how about some variety in the entertainment.
The floor show dancers were just plain bad (amateurish). Using video taping of their rehearsals might actually produce some synchronization.
General Planning and Execution:
There is a considerable lack of planning of events/demonstrations/etc.?
Why is the Captain's champagne fountain ceremony held so close to the Princess Theater’s first show that you cannot attend both (since you must arrive about 30 minutes early for first shows due to the limited seating?
If you are going to have demonstrations in the Piazza, like the towel folding/flower arranging/food art, how about setting up some chairs so people can see? The mob scene in the area is not appropriate or conducive to a meaningful demonstration and viewing.
Why do you have symbols for meals on the excursion sheet legends, but not next to any excursion listed even though several include meals?
Many sections (about 6) of the main light fixture ant top of the Piazza atrium were burned out or inoperable. Many of the lights around the pools were burned out. Why such poor maintenance on a relatively new ship?
To be honest, most of your crew appeared to be going through the motions with little sincerity. Two waiters and our cabin attendant, were the only ones to appear genuinely friendly.
In conclusion, future cruises will be on other lines.
On Mother's Day, we set off on the Emerald Princess, the sister ship of Ruby and Crown Princess. These jewels of the Princess Fleet are all built in Fincantieri Cantieri Navali Italiani Stabilimento di Monfalcone, Italy. The Emerald is hull number 6131, launched in 2007, as the bronze plaque on Promenade Deck 7 portside states. Her name is beautifully emphasized by the emerald green and gold Tiffany inspired ceiling of the Atrium Piazza. After sailing on the Ruby Princess last year and the Star Princess last month, we looked forward to this cruise and returning to Princess and its terrific food and service.
Maitre d' Nicola Furlan was on board and we anticipated a great cruise, which we always do, since a positive attitude seems to produce happy results --- great expectations usually result in great cruises.
EMBARKATION Traffic on I-95 on Sunday is light and we arrived at Port Everglades, Ft. Lauderdale at 11:45am, and were quickly through security. On the pier, we checked our luggage and immediately inside the door was wheelchair assistance. After filling in a short medical form, we went directly to check-in. This procedure only took five minutes, sinceVincent does pre check-in by computer. Thus, we were in our stateroom C303 in less than 15 minutes (curb to cabin).
THE SHIP The Emerald Princess is a cookie cutter duplicate of the Ruby Princess, which we described on this site in 2009. However, certain facts deserve repetition: the Emerald is 113,000 tons; 952 ft. long; 159 ft in the beam which includes the bridge wings. By the way these overhangs give the ship a hammerhead shark silouhette when seen from her prow in port. Her height is 195 ft. and she has 19 decks. The rear spoiler holds the Skywalkers Nightclub. There are 1,539 cabins with 80% having balconies. There are 25 wheelchair accessible cabins (16 balconied, 4 ocean view, and 5 inside). Alas none with automatic door openers. Passenger capacity is 3,080 and this cruise there were 3,200; Crew numbers 1,200 --- a very nice passenger to crew ratio.
Decks 1,2,3 and Gala deck 4 are reserved for ship's crew, except the Medical Center which is located on deck 4, fortunately we did not use it!
Plaza deck 5 forward has cabins and a laundromat. Midship is the Atrium Plaza with a circular mosaic floor and music stand, where Monika (Poland) played an excellent repertoire on the white Grand Piano; and, John Kingsley a young gitarist pleased all with his unique riffs. The International Cafe` is located here serving terrific espresso, pastries, tea sandwiches and freshly baked cookies --- try the oatmeal ones. Vines, the wine and cheese bar, is also here and close by there are the Escapes Travel desk, Future Cruise Sales and the Internet Cafe`. Here are also the Michelangelo Dining Room and the Art Gallery.
Fiesta deck 6 has the boutique shops, the Gatsby Casino & Speakeasy Cigar Lounge. Midship is the Da Vinci Dining Room and all the way aft is the Botticelli Dining Room. The Dining Room murals are lovely including one of Bacchus with his grapes in the Da Vinci. On deck 6 forward are the Conference Center and the Princess Theatre, which is the height of simplicity, with unobstructed view from any seat.
Promenade deck 7 forward there is the Balcony of the Princess Theatre with the last three rows reserved for the handicapped. Midship are the Wheelhouse Bar, the Library, the Crooner's Bar and the Promenade Galleria. Toward aft are the Crown Grill (a specialty restaurant), the Explorers' Lounge and Club Fusion.
Emerald deck 8, Dolphin deck 9, Caribe deck 10, Baja deck 11, Aloha deck 12, and Riviera deck 14 are all cabins with a laundromat on each deck. Laundry services are so reasonable that we do not use the laundromats; however, perhaps those with children and a lot of laundry would find the laundromat faster and less expensive.
Lido deck 15 has many passenger venues --- forward there are cabins then midship are the Mermaids Tail Bar (nice mosaics here), theTrident Grill, Neptune's Reef pool and hot tubs; toward aft are the Ice Cream Bar and the Pizza area, and the Calypso Reef pool and hot tubs. Aft are the Horizon Court Buffet and the Terrace, and Outrigger & Cafe`Caribe.
Sun deck 16 has the Movie Under the Stars, a giant outdoor screen showing sports events (the first evening Red Sox vs NY Yankees), concert videos, and movies (one evening Avatar was shown, with complimentary popcorn and fresh cookies served). Many watched from lounge chairs with lap robes. Aft is Sabatini (the other specialty restaurant) and Adagio (an Italian Aperitif Bar). Forward are the Lotus Spa & pool, the Fitness Center and the Wedding Chapel.
Sports deck 17 forward is the Sanctuary (cover charge for quiet private sunning). Aft is the Youth Complex with Chill Out, Fun Zone, Off Limits, and the Video Arcade.
Sky deck 18 and Star deck 19 have Skywalkers Nightclub, the Princess Cybergolf, the Jogging Track and Center Court.
On the Emerald Princess there are three sets of lifts (elevators) one set forward, one midship and one aft. She is well kept and elegant in every way. This ship has a nice lay out and easy access to all areas. There is even an Oxford Dipper to assist the handicapped in and out of pools. Excellent!
CABIN Cabin C303 is wheelchair accessible with beige walls, walnut wood trim and blue and white carpeting. When entering on the right is the large bathroom with a 4'x4' shower and a double wide folding shower seat. There are safety rails all around, one small sink and small shelves for amenities. The only improvement we could see would be that for the commode to be higher for handicapped. Then, there is a kingsize bed flanked by two long bureaus, each with a shelf, four drawers and a reading lamp.
When entering on the left there is a parking space for the wheelchair, a triple armoire with one section of shelves and a personal safe, and two sections for hanging clothes. Next, there is the TV, refrigerator and a long desk/vanity with lighted mirror, a desk chair, an upholstered barrel chair and a small glass top table.
The far wall is all glassed with matching sheers and draperies, facing the double deep balcony on which are 4 chairs, a table and a chaise for Vincent's stargazing: During the early evening hours on this cruise Venus could be seen in the western sky as the most brilliant object in a moonless night. Beautiful! Our steward was Jonathan and he was both polite and very efficient.
FOOD & SERVICE Our expectations from Princess Cruises are high and we are happy to report that they were met. Service comes down from the top and Captain Marco Fortezze runs a tight ship especially keeping to the schedule. He also throws a very nice cocktail party where he graciously and patiently greets every passenger and poses for photos. A product of Genoa, Italy; he has the sea in his blood. Hotel General Manager Graham Kelly is quite friendly and accommodating. The dining facilities are overseen by Maitre d' Nicola Furlan, who welcomed us back with open arms. This elegant man gave us beautiful Table # 433 located in a quiet corner by the window in the Da Vinci dining room: marvelous! Nicola also recommended us to Head Waiter Francesco Memeo who greeted us every evening and made sure that everything was just perfect. Thank you, Francesco! Our excellent waiter was Stefan Radojikovic and his assistant Aldritz (Speedy) Adriano who has a memory like an elephant: on Monday at lunch he remembered our table number, and Vincent's preferred wine after only seeing us once.
Our meals were nicely served and courses were evenly paced. The menus are standardized across the Princess line --- the Corporate Head Chef Commendatore Marzi has done a fabulous job of providing variety. This was the first time for us that the executive chef on board was not Italian ----Christophe Belin from France put a delightful twist on the soups, while simultaneously producing exquisite Italian favorites such as the following: Fettuccini Alfredo, Ossobuco, vitello tonnato, etc. etc. etc. However, we were disappointed in the pizza served on the Lido Deck 15, it was too hard and dry: Princess Executive Chef Antonio Cereda (now on the Caribbean Princess) closely watched both how the dough was prepared and the toppings, thus producing some of the best pizza afloat. This time the pizza left something to be desired. The salads were great, and so were the desserts and the fresh hot crunchy rolls and breads!
We used the Bell Box (Room Service) for Continental Breakfast and it was always prompt. One morning we had the special Champagne Breakfast in our stateroom: Quiche Lorraine, bacon, smoked salmon with cream cheese, onions and tomatoes on brioche, juice, coffee, hot chocolate and a carved cantaloupe filled with wild berries and whipped cream, a basket of delicate breads and Danish pastries and the grand finale was a small bottle of Champagne from Epernay, France. What a way to start the day.
At lunch Head Waiter Francesco Di Tullio was so kind and always helpful. We especially enjoyed fried calamari with marinara sauce. Needless to say the food was something to write home about.
ENTERTAINMENT Cruise Director Tim Donovan has a lively group and he is quite funny himself. The Emerald Singers and Dancers are peppy and they have a nice production show Motor City a tribute to Motown Music. The Comedy Club featured the hilarious Kevin Hughes and his "relationship humor." There were classical concerts with the Polonia String Quartet and even London Pub Night. There are Bingo, Culinary Demonstrations with Maitre d' Nicola and Chef Christophe, Trivia, Dances, Gatsby's Casino Texas Hold'em Tournaments, and movies just about everywhere on board. In other words there is just about something for everyone.
PORTS OF CALL Day 1. Ft. Lauderdale Sail Away 4:30pm Day 2. Princess Cays Arrive 9:00am Depart 3:45pm Day 3. At sea Day 4. Ochos Rios, Jamaica Arrive 7:00am Depart 3:30pm Day 5. Grand Cayman (tendering) Arrive 7:00am Depart 3:15pm Day 6. Cozumel, Mexico Arrive 9:00am Depart 6:30pm (tardi) Best shopping forr T-shirts, Embroidered dresses and perfumes. Day 7. At sea Day 8. Ft. Lauderdale, Florida 7:00am Debarkation Begins.
DEBARKATION This was one of our simplest landings. We had a complete delicious breakfast in the Da Vinci Restaurant at 7:00am. We then went back to our stateroom, collected our hand luggage and went down to the Gatsbys Casino on Deck 6, where there was wheelchair assistance. Our color brown had already been called, so we went to baggage pick up and were through passport check and off by 9:00am Simple and easy.
COMMENT This was our thirteenth cruise on Princess ships and nice one; two more cruises will make us Elite members of the Captain's Circle (the "frequent floaters" of Princess). Now we are Platinum members with some benefits such as Vacation Protection (travel insurance) upgrade, complimentary Internet package, Preferred Check-In and Debarkation, special robe in the cabin, etc. With the Elite membership we will have additional benefits such as complimentary laundry and professional cleaning services, shoe polishing, complimentary Mini Bar set up in the cabin, deluxe canapes selections and upgraded bathroom amenities. We look forward to our next cruise on Princess which will be in November on the Crown Princess.
We have also booked our next three cruises: Celebrity Solstice on Aug. 1st, Liberty of the Seas on Sept. 5th and Norwegian Epic on Oct. 2nd. Happy Cruising!
My husband and I just returned from a wonderful cruise on the Emerald Princess. The Emerald Princess is an amazing ship. The lobby is elegant yet still had a welcoming feel. I loved the evening performances they had in the lobby. My husband and I would have a little wine and sushi and enjoy lobby performances. All of the pools and pool areas were great. We spent most of our time either at the pool with the big screen television or the back of the ship pool which was a little more quiet. Each night when movies were shown and the lounge chair had large cushions on them with blankets. We would curl up with our blanket and some fresh popcorn. We ate at the any time dining and both the Michelangelo and DaVinci restaurants were equally wonderful. Our cabin was nice but typical of any other cruise we have been on. We saw several of the comedians and all were very good.
Only went to one of the musical productions but it was good as well. Emerald Princess goes to four ports of call. First was the Princess Cays theirprivate island. It was a beautiful island with lots of available lounge chairs. There were some nice little shops and musical entertainment as well. We spent the day lounging in the sun and doing some snorkeling.
Next port was St. Maarten. We took a cab to the French side island and spent the day at Orient Beach. Beautiful beach and crystal blue water. Our next port was St. Thomas where again we took a cab to Coki beach which was famous for great snorkeling. Our last port was Grand Turk where we had reserved a scooter so we could see the entire island. Grand Turk is a very flat and small island so a scooter was a great option. We were able to ride to the lighthouse and different beahces.
Since this was our 9th cruise and 7th in the Caribbean we chose to see the islands ourselves. I can't recommend Princess Cruiseline enough, this was our 3rd time on Princess. I find Princess a little more upscale than some of the other cruiselines and perfect when it's just my husband and I cruising. I look forward to booking another cruise on Princess in the very near future.
This was our first cruise and we consulted the cruisemates site for comments and reviews prior to the cruise.
Let me start with a quick summary: This was a very, very good, and delightful cruise, and exceeded our expectations in most ways.
The Emerald is an impressive/comfortable ship with excellent service, excellent food, and plenty of activities. Now for some details.
My wife and I are just turned 50 and are celebrating our 25 yr wedding anniversary. The cruise was pretty heavily booked, near capacity is my guess. This was over Easter break, so there were approx 500 teenagers on board out of the 3300 passengers. We have teenagers so we are ok with that, and frankly, they have a separate deck for the teenagers, and they just were no problem at all,I would say they just blended in and were fine. We booked an inside room on the Caribe Deck and the room was perfect for 2 adults. Frankly, we were only in the room to sleep, change, and get ready for the day. We considered the outside balcony rooms, but glad we chose the inside, we just were there as apit stop. The bed was very comfortable, the room is very functional, and the bathroom, while smallish, get's the job done. Really, no complaints with the room whatsoever. It was quiet, never heard any noise at all. The room was tended to by a room steward while we were out, and she did a nice job and was extremely sweet and polite. I wish we had more people like this here in the US.
Lets talk food. My personal opinion is that the food was outstanding. The quality, variety, preparation, freshness, you name it, they had it and they did it right. We ate in the buffet dining room frequently, and also ate at the DaVinci for Dinners. Great selection, well prepared, I could go on for hours about the food. The only thing I would maybe avoid, the Grill located out by the pool area serves up hamburgers/chicken sandwiches, that was pretty so so, did it only once, the first day.
Main pool areas are popular, thus pretty crowded and a tad noisy for us, we avoided those areas and hung out at the pool at the back of the boat. The boat overall, outstanding. Public areas are very pleasing, the service staff was very good in all depts. These people are highly attuned to every detail of running a modern large cruise ship. They totally have there act together in every dept. Very well run ship.
We made a stop at Princess Cays, a beach day basically, with a lunch prepared and all good. St Martin has some great beaches, didn't care for the rest of it, the downtown shopping was overrated to us. St Thomas was our overall favorite, nice shopping/dining downtown, nice beaches. Could have spent a week on St Thomas and St John. last stop Grand Turk was another nice beach day, we mainly avoided the Margaritaville, it was packed, loud and for the youngsters. Lastly, Ft Lauderdale, we had an extra day and nite, great beach and we did the water taxi's around town. Highly recommend a couple days in Ft lauderdale.
Last paragraph, a few areas I think that could use a little improvement, this is feedback for the Princess CruiseLine. Mind you, this is 1% or less of the total experience, so I don't want to make over much about any of these points. The main pool areas have a live band at one pool and a large screen TV playing concerts at the same time on the other. The noise tends to blend a bit, a tad too much noise in those areas for us. Like most people, our nerves are shot from the day to day grind, when on vacation, we don't want things that grate on the nerves. We attended the Shopping show for St Martin. That was too long(2 hours) and just too intense/hard sell for me. Keep it to 15-20 minutes, and keep it light, and skip all the free stuff. Just hand it out if you want to give it away. My only regret on the entire cruise was going to this show, and my wife wasting time collecting the worthless free trinkets. Finally, we opted out of the CruiseLine sponsored excursions based on feedback on this site. For the most part, the feedback we received from other passengers was that the excursions are a tad overpriced, and not all that great. Some did like them. Take the taxi's on St Martin and St Thomas, they will take you wherever you want to go, and are plentiful. Do not attempt to drive these mountainous islands with narrow roads. Same for bikes, mopeds or other.
This was a 14 day cruise that included stops at 8 islands. The ship was in good condition for its 12 years of use. I found the food to be ordinary although the chef tried hard with prime rib, chateaubriand and tournedos. The entertainment was pretty standard with two big production numbers and the usual comedians and assorted entertainers. This was my 35th cruise and I would rate it as nothing special. I enjoyed the Sea Princess more two years ago (again a 14 day cruise).
Overall, Sapphire is an excellent ship. I researched quite a bit on this site and others and went prepared as well as I could. From my perspective as a second cruiser staying in an ocean view room, this is what I'm glad I did or didn't do. Some of it's specific to Sapphire, some not.
1. I'm glad I brought my cell phone. Clocks are hard to find on board.
2. Making a budget and putting a decided amount of money into envelopes for excursions, cabs, tips, souvenirs, and whatever else you like. Kept a rein on my spending and actually had money left over!
3. I brought a carry-on suitcase and was able to wheel it on at embarkation instead of waiting hours for my luggage to arrive.
4. Did express checkout (carry own bags). I had to meet earlier than others who had their luggage picked up the night before but we zipped out of the parking lot while others were still waiting on the ship.
5. Take showers in the spa. It was three times the size of my stateroom shower. You don't have to have a spa service todo this.
6. I'm glad I didn't bring duct tape or a power surge strip. If you need duct tape, buy better luggage or tell your room steward to fix whatever it is that won't keep open/closed in your room. The strip isn't needed unless you have a lot of things to plug in at once. Lastly, I wish I would have brought walkie-talkies. More efficient than leaving post-its in the room.
Regarding excursions, I swam with the dolphins in PV and rode horses in Mazatlan. Let me know if you have any specific questions!