Length: 952 ft
One of the Japanese built Princess mega-ships with five dining rooms and fun daily activitiesBest For People Who Want
A wonderful array of dining, activities, and entertainment choices; exemplary children and teen programs; onboard weddings broadcast ashore; balcony cabins, a mega-ship with the feeling of a smaller, cozy ship.Should Be Avoided By People Who Prefer
Should be Avoided by People Who Prefer: A mega-ship feel with towering atriums, small ships, no kidsOnboard Experience
One of the early classes of post 100,000-ton ships, these wonderful "Grand-class" Princess ships exemplify Princess's philosophy of offering both megaship choice and a small ship feel.
These ships pride themselves on the range of choices they offer - including, insofar as dining is concerned, an option not to make a choice. In other words, you can still opt to dine in the traditional cruise ship manner of pre-assigned tables and the same waiters night after night, or you can opt for the Princess' "Personal Choice Dining" program where you arrive whenever you want and have a different table and dining companions (or none at all) every night. Alternatively, one can dine in any of the four intimate themed restaurants, which serve between 5:30 and 10 p.m.
There's a wonderful choice of activities too. Princess' ScholarShip at Sea program offers, for instance, photography, computer technology, and culinary classes (for a fee). Or you may choose to make your own serving dish in the ceramic studio located above the Neptune Pool, or to compete in an American Idol-style singing competition.
Kids and teens have their own well-equipped 9,686 sq. ft. facilities. There's Concierge Service for those who like someone else to make their dinner reservations, and to assist with more unusual requests. With 29 computer terminals, Sapphire's is one of the largest and most stylish Internet centers at sea -- and, at 35 cents a minute, one of the least expensive. Cappuccino is dispensed here at a nominal cost, but delicious pastries to wash it down with are free. More free-spirited types with their own laptop computers can purchase 30-minute wireless access packages.Decor
Sapphire Princess is a very attractive ship in the tried and true style elegance for which Princess is known. The ships are not nearly as modernly in vogue as Celebrity's ships, for instance, but neither are they as predictably traditional as Holland America's. The furnishings, tiles, carpets, wall coverings and trim are uniformly attractive in their simplicity, with a laudable absence of clutter.Public Rooms
The three-deck atrium is Sapphire's heart. Note the delightful Art Nouveau glass-and-brass designs on its elevators. From late afternoon into early evening a string quartet fills it with beautiful music. At other times other entertainers may emerge to amuse such as jugglers, acrobats or mime artists.
The atrium spans decks five, six and seven and serves as the focal point for most of the restaurants, shops and restaurants onboard. There are five restaurants all together just for the cruise fare included (no extra charge) dining. The trick here is to give the ship a more intimate feel by segmenting the passenger load into smaller dining rooms. Even before "Personal Choice Dining" started there were already three dining rooms, and now two of them have been further segmented to separate assigned time and table diners from the anytime diners.
Close by is the Wine Bar offering select vintages by the glass. You may come here to test your knowledge of wine and discuss your preferences with the knowledgable sommellier. You can also purchase a bottle to be stored in the wine cellar waiting for you to ask for it in any dining room you may choose on any given night.
Forward of the atrium on Deck 7 you'll find the hypernautical Wheelhouse Bar. Aft is the safari-themed Explorer's Lounge. At the stern is the cabaret lounge, Club Fusion, offering live music, disc jockeys, gambling machines, 42 high-definition TVs, and Princess Idol, a multi-round talent contest based on American Idol. In the corner, take the circular staircase to the intimate Wake View Bar.
Off the atrium on Deck 6, the Sapphire's African-themed casino was once one of the largest at sea. Play blackjack, Caribbean stud, craps, roulette, or any of myriad slot and video poker machines. Unlike most megaship casinos, wide expanses of miles of open space separate the various gaming tables and slot machines; for once, the room isn't patently designed to keep you inside and gambling.
Churchill's Lounge, the one-time sports bar, is now behind the casino and is used for the cognac and cigars set. Of course it is completely enclosed and may seem off limits when it is actually open. The sports paraphernalia is still there, but seems oddly out of place. (The bars in the atrium on Decks 5 and 6 are smoke-free, as too are Club Fusion and all indoor dining areas.)
In a departure from the Grand Princess design where the Skywalkers disco was set high up in the air on deck 19 at the aft end of the ship, the SkyWalker disco on Sapphire has been set back down on deck 17. It still offers magnificent views, and it lends the ship a more sleek exterior appearance and allows more sunlight to fill the stern swimming pool area. This new design also gives the discos their own 125-foot balconies.
The Captain can marry passengers, whose friends and families ashore can witness the whole event on the Internet, via the ship's Webcam.
Sports activities include cyber golf, a mini-golf course, shuffleboard, a large deck chess set, a tennis court, a jogging track, a "swim against the current" lap pool, regular aerobics classes (some additonal charges may apply) a gymnasium and non-coed steam and sauna rooms.Cuisine
Each of the four themed alternative restaurants aboard offers delectable choices. But because their ranges are constricted, it's a very good thing that their menus are supplemented by the International Dining Room's full menu, which changes each evening.
The cruise fare-included dining options and restaurant serving times are a bit confusing. Suffice it to say you select whether or not you want traditional or personal choice dining when you book your cruise. They will advise you where to go and at what times when you arrive at the ship. Yes, you can change your mind if you want - just consult with the Maitre' D.
Princess's special Champagne Breakfast includes a half-bottle of chilled champagne, a warm basket of homemade pastries, smoked salmon, a medley of fruits and berries, and Alaska King Crab quiche. It's served in-cabin, and costs $25 for two.Restaurants
How not to love this: any passenger in any restaurant can request a special item from any of the others. And diners in the traditional restaurant can order from the menus of the specialty restaurants! So, if you and your dear spouse disagree about where to eat on any given night, you can still get that grilled steak from the Savoy.
The huge, handsomely decorated Horizon Court, on Lido Deck, serves as a 24-hour casual-dress alternative dining area. Instead of standing in a single buffet line, you move freely among the various stations. Breakfast here is better than in the dining room.
On the stern on Deck 6, the traditional, assigned-seating 518-seat International Dining Room is the ship's largest dining room -- and the hardest to find, look for the aft elevators or stairs and walk down as far as you can - there you will find the entrance.
Amidships, just aft of the atrium on the port side, the Asian-themed Pacific Moon features fresh sushi and a don-'t-miss sampler comprising pot sticker, dim sum, and spring roll. Next door, at the Southwestern-themed Santa Fe, fresh guacamole is prepared right before your eyes. One deck down, Vivaldi's serving staff wear Italian tricolore vests. Next door, the Savoy serves prime rib.
At Sabatini's, whose atmosphere is that of an Italian trattoria, you order only your main course. Everything else -- antipasti, shrimp, crab cakes, mussels, homemade pastas - is served as a sampler. The courses just keep coming to the point where you actually start to laugh each time the waiter arrives with yet another delectable tidbit. El momento del verdad (as the bullfighters say, "moment of truth") occurs when he asks what you would like for your main course. You're already full! By meal's end, you will wonder if you'll ever be able to move again.
A gourmand's dream come true, for a $20 surcharge. Forward of the Horizon Court, the newly rechristened Savoy has the same carnivore pleasing menu as the Sterling Steakhouses on the rest of the fleet, requires reservations, and charges a $15 cover.
The restaurants offer a good wine selection, from $20 to $50 per bottle. If you bring your own wine aboard you will be levied a $10 fee to remove the cork.Service
When it comes to restaurants, the best service comes from choosing the traditional dining option where you get the same table and servers every night. The downside, of course, is that you give up flexibility. You are allowed to change your mind after you board the ship, so why not choose traditional when booking and see how you like your table and tablemates? If it isn't a love connection, switch to the personal choice dining. Other onboard service aspects; bar and cabin service, are universally exemplary.Tipping
A per-person per-day charge of $10 is added automatically to your stateroom account for dining and stateroom personnel. This applies to all passengers, including children, regardless of their dining choices. The amount may be increased or lowered at the Purser's Reception desk during the cruise.
A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to all beverage tabs. Gratuities for spa, casino and other staff are at your discretion.Entertainment
The production shows and guests entertainers on Princess have become somewhat predictable for cruise ship fare. Except to be mildly surprised at the quality but not feeling as if it was a show you will remember for the rest of your life.
On Oct 1, 2011 we sailed from San Pedro on a 7 day California Coastal Cruise to Santa Barbara, San Francisco, San Diego and Ensenada Mexico. Prior to the cruise we did a two day pre-cruise at the Hyatt Long Beach for the purpose of visiting the Queen Mary. They serve large helpings of nostalgia at no cost when you visit her. We found out First Class Staterooms cost $1000 or more back in the 30's. Our first port was Santa Barbara. We took the Trolly tour and found this to be a beautiful, but expensive place to live. A brief stop was made at Mission Santa Barbara. We visited Stearns Wharf and it being Sunday there was an Artists and Crafts show all along the beach. The day was sunny and warm. We had never seen the Golden Gate Bridge and sailing under it at dawn was something that will live long in our memories. I could write a full review on San Francisco alone. We took the 5 hour Princess tour which included Alcatraz and the the many local sights. A word of caution ! If you planto visit Alcatraz buy your own tickets online. We had less than an hour and a half on the "Rock" where you need two to two and half hours to do it right. By all means do the Audio Tour. The stories you hear from the prisoners and guards are chilling. We did did get a chance to visit Pier 69 and Fisherman's Wharf after the tour. The one thing we really wanted to do was ride the Trolley's but we ran out of time. We had a great time and about 10:30pm again sailed under the Golden Gate in a light rain. Magnificent ! May I mention at this point that our two days at sea were on a very smooth Pacific Ocean. Next port was San Diego. We had been there before so we opted for the two hour Harbor Tour. It was well worth the money. Again a warm sunny day. By the time we visited Seaport Village we did not have time to tour the carrier Midway. Next time for sure. Last port was Ensenada. We have seen many bad reviews of this port but were pleasantly surprised by the beauty of the town. We are not fans of Mexico ports anymore so we stayed on the pier and visited the nice small shopping plaza. We were entertained by a whole bunch of barking, smelly, Sea lions. Passengers who took the shuttle to town experienced no problems. Too soon we disembarked Sapphire and due to an early flight from LAX we took a cab. The cost was $57 + tip. Sapphire Princess has been reviewed many times on these boards so we will only say that everything was fine. No complaints in any area. We have booked this same cruise for Oct 6, 2012. Thank you for your time reading this review !
Overall the cruise was great. I went with my husband , 15 year old son and extended family . We stayed on Emerald Deck 8. Our room had a window (partially obstructed view). We were on the lifeboat deck but were located between lifeboats, so the view was still good. We couldn't afford the balcony room, but this allowed natural light in and I didn't feel as claustrophobic. My parents had a balcony room, (Caribe Deck 10), so we took advantage of their room too. Balcony was larger than we expected. It fit a round table and 4 chairs. If you get a balcony, go deck 10 or higher. Deck 9 balconies did not have overhead covering and were exposed to sun/rain. My sister and husband had an inside cabin. All three cabins/bathrooms were the same size. We had a room that could sleep 3-4 persons. Each bed had another that pulled down from ceiling above it to form a bunk bed. Steward will put bunk beds back for you during the day. Room service is included. You can get breakfast delivered to your room - just ask. You canorder fruit to be delivered to your room in the afternoon also.
Ask for egg crate foam mattress toppers for the beds and robes (can be ordered online or calling Princess Cruises in advance). We were missing both when we got there but we told the Steward and got them within a day. We didn't have top sheets on our beds and my comforter did not smell like it was freshly washed so we requested the sheets and got them the rest of the week. Do not over pack! They have laundry mats on each deck. $1.00 for washer, $1.00 for 30 minute dryer time (I used two cycles per load, and $1.00 detergent. Change machine was finicky. Had to get quarters at purser's desk. Ironing board and irons also available in laundry room (they were free to use). There were large sinks for hand washables too. When packing - remember - layer, layer, layer. I didn't take enough short sleeve tops. There will be times when you're spending time mostly inside the ship. You can always keep a sweater or jacket with you if you go out on deck.
We had great weather. Every port was sunny and warm (even in September). This is not typical from what we were told, but if you layer, you'll be prepared for any weather. Raincoat with hood is best.
Traditional dining at 5:30 pm worked well for us. Waiters got to know us by name, and anticipated our drink orders and preferences. Get a table by the window if possible. We saw some wonderful views while dining. Buffet was open very early till late at night but we didn't like eating there as much. Waiters were sometimes slow bringing our drink orders. Twice I tried to get a waiter's attention and they acted like they didn't hear me (when it was obvious that they at least saw me trying to flag them down). Drinks that are available anytime are water, unsweetened ice tea, coffee, hot tea, and hot chocolate. My husband and son got the soda sticker for their cards. It totaled $34.00 for the week. It is only available for purchase on the 1st day. A sticker for $9 a day (more like $11.00 when you add the gratuity and taxes), is available for soda, milkshakes and mock cocktails. I didn't end up getting it and was glad I didn't. I don't think I drank enough to justify it.
When choosing room location, I'd recommend the Starboard side (when facing front of ship). The views were best on that side. Also try to be mid to aft of the ship. Most nightclubs/shops/restaurants are located on that end of the ship. The only exception is the theatre which is in the front of the ship. The carpet color is different on the starboard and port sides of ship. This is helpful when returning to your room. Odd and even rooms are on either side of the ship.
Activities are fun. Just make sure you get there about 10 minutes in advance for ballroom and line dancing classes. The instructor always started them early. Shows in Princes theatre are good too, but get there at least 20 minutes in advance to get a seat. Some were standing room only. Naturalist is great. I loved her lectures. She speaks over intercom in common areas while cruising through Tracy Arm Fjord. Trivia was our favorite. We won once and got medals and champagne for a prize. Bingo is expensive - starts at $10 a card. Still popular though. Comedians were very good. Especially like Ron Lucas.
Ports of Call:
All ports have tour information available when you disembark. Ship's excursions are more expensive. There is a large tour building at Ketchikan with every tour available. You can bicker with the operators for a better rate! Tour of Ketchikan cost $50 a piece. My sister managed to get them for $40. My husband, son and I took the Duck tour. It was disappointing. We did get to see some bald eagles up close but wished we had spent more time in the town. Make sure you get to Creek Street. Salmon were spawning on our trip. Very thick in stream and saw them jumping up the falls. Two large seals were feasting on the salmon when we were there. Fun to watch. Lumberjack show a little overrated. Similar to other lumberjack shows that we've seen at local outdoor show. Incline plane to Fox Lodge was a little disappointing too. Not as scenic as I expected.
Juneau - We paid extra for city tour but there wasn't a whole lot to see. Breezed past Capitol building and state buildings. They took us to an island across from it but there wasn't much there. Recommend the bus to Mendenhall Glacier for $7 each way and walking through town on your own. Must see - the Red Dog Saloon. Sky ride was extremely expensive. We opted out.
Skagway was our favorite port but we didn't have enough time there. Shuttle bus to town is $2.00 each way or $5.00 unlimited. White Pass Scenic railway was awesome. If you buy the ticket as an excursion from the cruise line, you have to catch the train at the dock. Would recommend doing the train first and walk through town afterward. We took the afternoon train and had to shuttle to town, and shuttle back to dock to catch the train. Shuttle lines got long at times. More inconvenient. The train followed the trail of the miners during the Yukon Gold rush. Not good if you're afraid of heights. Try to get on the left side of the train (while facing the front of the train). Will change seats with those across the aisle from you at top of mountain, but best narration is on the uphill climb.
Architecture of town was just like the late 1800s. We didn't have time for the museum -very disappointing. Park service offers free tours. We had to leave it midway through to catch the shuttle to the train in time. Must see - Red Onion saloon. You'll feel like you stepped back in time.
Beautiful views on port side of trip after you leave Skagway. Lots of snow peaked mountains/glaciers/waterfalls. Liked it as much as Tracy Arm.
Victoria B.C. is the only place I would recommend getting a cruise excursion. Shuttle to town was inexpensive, but line was very long. We took a taxi for 4 which cost $10 each way. We didn't get to town until 8:00 pm and the stores closed at 9:00 pm! It beautiful to see but there wasn't much we could do at that time of night.
Teen program is great. We went after Labor Day so there were only 5 teens participating (the week before there were 80). They played video and board games/cards together and had karaoke/dance parties. My son loved it.
We began our trip with a few days in Seattle. Stayed at Maxwell hotel. It was close to everything. Don't need to rent a car. Walk to Seattle Center (Space needle/monorail). Monorail is $2.00 each way and will take you to downtown. Free bus service in town until 7pm. Don't miss Pike's Place Market and Underground Tour . Ferry ride is fun too.
Try to take the 10 day cruise if you can. I'm disappointed that we couldn't see Glacier Bay. Even so, it was a great experience overall. All the staff were friendly (not sure if it was sincere sometimes), but they did go out of their way to accommodate us. I've never been so pampered. I would highly recommend it.
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.