I took the Sapphire Princess to Alaska round trip from Seattle May 29 to June 5, 2005. Im 25 and just went on this cruise with my dad and brother.
Embarkation took awhile in Seattle. The lines were long but since we were platinum we went right in front of everyone and was on the ship within 10 minutes. Most passengers waited for at least an hour in line. The Sapphire is a large ship but when your on her, it feels very cozy. She is a very clean ship and the deck workers are always cleaning the windows and painting or staining. Their were so many spots to get away from people. The life boat deck 7 had tons of nice chairs to sit on and no one was every there. The Golden Princess had no deck chairs so it was nice to have chairs on the Sapphire. We had an inside cabin A245 and it was a nice size. The only bad thing about this ship it was to hot! Our cabin was as cold as it could go but was still hot and the entire shipwas also hot. If I had a balcony cabin I would have slept with the sliding door open.
Food The food was very good everywhere. This was the best food I had on a cruise in a long time. The Horizon court Breakfast buffet was great and always had something different. The lunch buffet was also very good and had a ton of choices to choose from and was different everyday. At 3:30 pm they had ice cream in the Horizon court buffet area where the one side was closed. The bad thing was since the side where the ice cream was closed no one new that they were serving free ice cream in the closed area. Of course I found it! We had anytime dining so we could eat at any of the four theme dinning rooms. All served the same thing but each room was different. The Sterling room was my favorite because it was dark and had red wood everywhere. All the dining rooms were very good and always had great service. These dining rooms were nice because they were small so you did not have a ton of people stuffed in one area. It felt like you were in a real restaurant not a cafeteria. You could also go the Horizon court for dinner if you did not feel like dressing up. I have been on so many cruises and sick of dressing up so all of us just went to the buffet instead of the main dinning room. The food everywhere was awesome. From 11am to 6pm the prego pizzeria and the trident hamburger grill was open. Both were great. If you were in a hurry you could go get a pizza that they made in front of you. Room service cheese burger was the best I every had on a ship. We got that everyday for 11pm snack. I can't find one bad thing about the food or service. One thing that I noticed was that a lot of the passengers dressed up and stayed dressed up. Most of the time in Alaska people change out of their dress clothes or don't dress up at all. Maybe since it was a round trip from Seattle and we had a ton of first time cruisers maybe they thought they had to dress up more?
There is a lot of things that I like better on the Sapphire than the Golden Princess. On the Sapphire you can stand in the very front of the ship on top. On Golden Princess, it was only for crew. The Sapphire had deck chairs on lifeboat deck. The Golden had only a few benches. The skywalkers nightclub is much smaller on the Sapphire than the Golden. It is not sticking way up in the air like the Golden Princess. I think that the Sapphire is better laid out than the Golden Princess. Even though the Sapphire Princess caught on fire when it was just about finished and was actually called the diamond Princess it is a great ship and has the best staff I ever had.
The entertainment was pretty good. We had a few comedy shows. I didn't see all the shows because I go to Alaska to see the awesome scenery not be stuck in a inclosed room.
The Internet room was very nice and had a few big windows that you could look out as you wrote an email to someone. Also had long couches instead of chairs. You can also go golfing if you wanted. It might seem easy but try putting when the ship is moving and the wind is blowing the ball around.
Staff- The staff was mostly Asian and European. We saw a waiter Valenteen from the Sun Princess from 2 years ago and he remembered us. He actually came up to us, we did not see him first.
Ports All the Ports are great. I have been to most of these ports 8 times but never get tired of them. I always like to go hiking so I just go hiking everywhere and saves me money. Tracy Arm, is always my favorite place in Alaska. I was first there two years ago on Cruise West where we got on small rafts and went onto a beech in Tracy Arm. With the Sapphire it was still nice, just we did not make it to the Glacier. They said there was to much ice. I have been in a lot more ice than that on big ships and you can always get though. It just takes a little more time to work around the ice. What they didn't tell us was the Diamond Princess was waiting for us to get out of Tracy Arm that is they real reason why they skip the Glacier. I just felt bad for people that never saw a Glacier before.
I noticed that since being on a round trip from Seattle their was a lot more kids and teens. You don't really see that on the one ways. The kids were very well mannered. Only a few were running up and down the halls.
We did not see to many whales this year. I think maybe the ship is to big and may have scared the animals away. I only saw two whales this time. I usually see around 12. Heck, I even saw more whales from the Ryndam three weeks early on the transition to Vancouver. Maybe the whales did not make it yet. The weather was awesome this time. Out of the 8 times I have been to Alaska this is the first time that every day was clear blue skies and no rain.
Disembarkation Getting off in Seattle was the worst I ever had. They had all of us getting off at the same time and joined the Amsterdam which we had to get into one line for customs. It was a mess. Out of all the 24 sailing's I have been on, I think this was the worst set up.
This was the 2nd best cruise I have been on out of 24. The food was great, service was awesome and the weather was the best I ever had. If I could go again this summer I would. I came off the Sun Princess in January and It was the worst cruise I every been on. I was on the Sun Princess before the bad one and it was the best. So, every cruise might be different. Im sure If I went on the Sun Princess next year it would be great again. I really enjoined my self and would defiantly go on the Sapphire again anywhere.
I just returned from a 10 day cruise on the Sapphire which is a beautiful ship. The food was very good and the entertainment excellent.
I have one complaint. They feature "anytime dining" which we choose thinking it would be flexible. You could not make reservation from 6:15 - 8:00 in any of the dining rooms. They were blocked for some reason. You could try to be a walk in-- sometimes it would work, other times not!!
I still prefer a smaller ship of about 2,000. You probably won't get the type of entertainment that this ship had by going smaller. It is a give and take situation.
This was a first time cruise for my husband and me. I can honestly say it was one of the best vacation experiences that either of us has ever had. My mother, who accompanied us, has sailed 2 other cruise lines, commented that this was her best experience thus far.
EMBARKATION: This proceeded through this process quite smoothly. It helped that we had traveled from Medford, OR the day prior, and stayed in a hotel on the outskirts of Seattle. This allowed us to arrive at the port early. We had prepaid for parking in the pier lot, and had no difficulty finding space. We were told that the Sapphire begins its boarding process around 11:30. This is obviously a conservative estimate, as we were on the ship and in our immaculately clean staterooms by 11:15. Our luggage wasn't far behind. My husband, who is not easily impressed, was amazed! The first day on the ship, he was like a kid in a candy store.
ACCOMODATIONS: As stated above, they were immaculate. When we originally booked in December, we were assigned 2 neighboring rooms on the Emerald Deck. These rooms had awindow, but with an obstructed view.a very large lifeboat. We weren't too concerned figuring we'd be out and about the ship or off on excursions on port days. Five days prior to our depart date, we were all upgraded to the Baja Deck, and given rooms with balconies. Suddenly, our desire to be out in the public areas of the ship the majority of the time significantly diminished. Our balcony rooms were especially appreciated the day we cruised Tracy Arm. We were pleasantly surprised with the size of our room. From what we had heard from others who are experienced cruisers, we were expecting more cramped conditions. The bed was very comfortable. The bathroom small, but according to my mom, the largest she had ever had on a cruise ship. There was ample hot water in the shower, and plenty of towels, that were replaced every day, even when we left them on the rack. Our steward was extremely polite and helpful, but not smothering, respecting our privacy to the utmost.
FOOD: The only meal that was less than good, I'd call it fair, was the one we had had the hamburger grill near the outdoor pool. My husband had a cheeseburger and my mom and I chicken. The chicken appeared to be processed, as was the cheese on my husband's sandwich. The French fries however, were delicious. Most of our meals were eaten in the Horizon Court buffet. After the first few days, we were able to determine the least crowded times to show up to eat. We found that port days when everyone is out on excursions, to be an ideal time. It might be helpful if there more dining options open during the breakfast and lunch hours on sea days, as the buffet area becomes an all out feeding frenzy. One disappointment was the Anytime dining venues. We ate in both the Santa Fe and Pacific Moon. Although we didn't have reservation, we never had to wait. The brochures indicated that these dining areas had themed menus, but we soon discovered that the same menu served in the International dining room, although different every evening, was served in the Anytime restaurants as well. The food was nonetheless delicious. We also called for room service twice and had to food delivered within 20 minutes of placing our order. Each afternoon, a special buffet was set up in the pool area, including a chocolate extravaganza. The line for this and others like to were very long, but plenty of leftovers could be found on the buffet later in the evening, so we didn't miss out.
ENTERTAINMENT AND PUBLIC AREAS: Other than the eating venues, most of our time outside our cabins was spent in the internet café. Although it is .35 per minute, it is still less expensive than roaming charges on the cell phone, which wasn't available at sea anyway. Being a family of worriers, we welcomed this opportunity to check in daily with the family at home. We did spend a little time, (and money) in the casino. It's a spacious area, and the staff was very pleasant. My mom attended one show in the Princess Theater and enjoyed it tremendously. We checked out the Princess Links on the first day, but found it to be only mediocre. Potentially it could be a great source of fun, but the layout was small and unimaginative. My husband and I were content to walk the decks in the evening and to just enjoy being there!
EXCURSIONS: Being that it was our first cruise and our first experience in Alaska, my husband and I thought we should sign up for a few of these trips. Next time, we definitely won't go on as many, as they are expensive, and being more familiar with the area, we will feel more comfortable venturing out on our own. The horse drawn trolley through Ketchikan was pleasant and our least expensive excursion. The Tracy Arm cruise, observed from our room balcony, was the highlight of our adventure. Sailing through the ice field was quite an experience as we approached the end of the arm where the glaciers are located. We were told that this was the closest the ship had come to the glaciers thus far this year. An added bit of fun during our time at Tracy Arm; we were told to watch for the Diamond Princess to be passing us on our port side. Just prior to the encounter, passengers flocked to the outside decks to wave and exchange greetings with the passengers of the other ship, while both vessels sounded their horns. The deluxe Juneau and Mendenhall glacier tour, was less than deluxe. The glacier was great, and the museum interesting, but the 4 ½ hour excursion could have been completed in about half the time. My husband took an 8 hour van ride to play golf in Whitehorse, Yukon on our Skagway day. He had a wonderful time, saw lots of great scenery, and came back with some souvenirs. My mom and I strolled the wooden sidewalks of Skagway, did a little shopping, and returned to the ship long before our sail time. Next time, we are definitely taking the train up the pass! It was obvious that everyone returning from this excursion had a marvelous time. The Butchart Gardens in Victoria were absolutely beautiful. We would have liked to have had more time to explore the Victoria area.
DISEMBARKING: According to the schedule, our luggage tag color was to be called off the ship at 8:45. We were off the boat, through customs, through the baggage claim, and in the car by 9:15. The only problem: the cruise was over and we just weren't ready to leave. Aside from a slight case of motion sickness on an unusually choppy first day at sea, it was an absolutely wonderful experience that both my husband and I are anxious to do again. Although we are curious about other ships and cruise lines, the Sapphire Princess will take us again to Alaska.hopefully sooner than later.
This was my 8th cruise, 2nd on Princess, 1st to Alaska. Overall, this trip was good, better than my first Princess cruise, but definitely not the best cruise I've ever had. The ship was nice and very clean, but nothing special.
Embarkation: Tip-If you have a lot of luggage, buy the transfers. They're $18 per person. The shuttle that takes you to the ship will take care of transferring your luggage onto the ship. A cab ride is $20, which is a better deal if there are two or more people riding together. Take note that most of the cabs are sedans and only fit three suitcases if you're lucky.
Embarkation was a little intimidating but fairly well organized so I couldn't complain. Follow the signs and get all your cruise documents and credit card ready. You might as well do something while you're waiting. I'm thinking we arrived at the busiest time, around noon. Took about 1.5 hours waiting to get onto the ship.
Amenities: Cabin - I had a balcony on the Baha (11th) deck. Can you say small?! I've never been in a balcony room so small before, especiallyat the premium price we paid. All in all, I got used to the size and having a balcony is a must on this cruise, especially when sailing through Tracy Arm. The beds were very comfortable and high enough off the floor to fit my monster sized suitcase underneath. There is also plenty of storage in the closets so feel free to overpack. My one complaint, aside from size, is that the upper bunks when lowered protrude about 6 inches out into the already very narrow walkway of the room, a definite safety hazard, so be careful when you come into the room late at night after having a few margaritas. Another tip -- if you like your privacy, get a balcony on the 11th or 12th deck. Although these balconies are smaller, no one else can see into them, unlike the lower deck but larger balcony cabins.
Dining -- Food ranged from fair to pretty good. Lots of options. As always, we chose the traditional main seating option. We chose this because we like having the same servers and eating early enough to also be able to eat at the midnight buffet. But, the dining option you choose doesn't make a great deal of difference in the food you get. The menus and service are the same where ever you go, even at the buffet and in room service. The only two times this is untrue is on crab leg and lobster nights.
If you do go the traditional dining route -- be on time or be prepared to be reprimanded. Not once in the eight cruises I've been on have I ever encountered such rudeness for not arriving at exactly 5:45. Even when we arrive late, we always finish well before the second seating. Anyway, on the second night we came to dinner 20 minutes late and were greeted by a sign stating that the dining room was closed. The head waiter gave us a stern look and said that we were late but he would "allow" us to still have dinner as long as we hurried. So, we sat down and ordered before the rest of our party arrived. When they did come, I advised them that the head waiter raised a fuss at our lateness and suggested they try eating at another restaurant to avoid his wrath and being rushed through dinner. On their way out, the head waiter stopped them and told them they needed to arrive to dinner on time. They told him that they were leaving since they arrived late. He told them to stay but to come to dinner on time in the future. Not only did the head waiter physically put himself in their path out the door but insisted they stay while also making them feel guilty for staying. All of this happened in the middle of the dining room resulting in a very embarrassing and infuriating situation. You better believe we filed a report. Of course, when approached about the incident, the head waiter denied any wrong doing. Whatever. We decided not to deal with it any further so we could enjoy the rest of the trip.
Although our waiters were very friendly and hospitable, the overall dining experience left much to be desired. It was a very hectic atmosphere, even when we did arrive on time. Only on the first night did the servers have enough time to make dinner recommendations. And a dessert menu and coffee weren't always offered.
A don't miss is the pizza. Absolutely fabulous. Never had a bad slice. Also make sure to stop by the covered pool area leading to the buffet. They set up a special table every day around lunch featuring all kinds of yummies. The chocolate bar was a hit. The line went the entire length of the pool area.
A please miss is the sushi. It was displayed beautifully but that's about the only good thing I can say about it.
Try Sabatini's at least once during the trip. This is the $20/person restaurant and absolutely worth it. I've never been inclined to go to these restaurants but I'm very happy I decided to try it. The food and service were wonderful and the environment very relaxed and quiet. Make sure to bring a wheelchair so you can get back to your room. You get so much food and it's so good that you can't stop yourself until it's too late and you can barely walk.
Don't forget tea time. It's a fun experience. White-gloved waiters bring tea, pastries and finger sandwiches to you while you chit-chat with other cruisers.
Lotus Spa -- I really enjoyed the spa and all it's amenities. Reservations fill up fast so book before the cruise if there is a treatment you must have. Otherwise, you can wait and try to book a last minute treatment. The spa runs a special everyday in the Patter. The spa sells Elemis products. Very expensive. I believe the eye cream was $70 and the moisturizer was over $100. Because the spa recently switched over to this line, they were selling the products they used to use at 50% off. A much better deal which is probably why they never advertised the sale.
Internet Cafe -- Every time I tried getting access, it was very slow. So, I stopped trying. But, if you do go to the cafe, you can get some really good non-alcoholic coffee drinks.
Entertainment -- Much better than on my previous Princess cruise but the entertainment on the last one was really bad. There was also a decent array of activities to appeal to everyone. Princess Idol was pretty good, especially at the finals. The miniature golf course is a joke. Don't bother trying to find it. The kids' programs are pretty good.
I could elaborate more on the amenities but basically, if you've ever been on a cruise, this one won't present any surprises. It's the typical, traditional big ship.
Ports: Ketchikan -- Cute little town. I found the best prices to be in this port so don't be afraid to buy your souvenirs here. They're pretty much the same in all the other ports. My parents did the sport fishing excursion here. A little pricey but they said it was a great experience. If you catch something and want to have it prepared and shipped to your home, the cost will be over $100.
Tracy Arm -- Very cool. The scenery is breathtaking. Definitely not something that can be captured in a picture. You really have to be there to fully understand the beauty.
Juneau -- Did the Mendenhall Glacier and Whale Watching Excursion. It was really cool to see wildlife in their natural habitat but it's nothing like the pictures you see in the books and brochures. You really had to look to see anything. Binoculars are provided. Good luck getting anything on camera. All my whale pictures are water scenes with little black blobs.
Skagway -- Restored Gold Rush era town. Lots of cool old stuff. Make a stop at the Red Onion and take a picture with the "ladies." My dad and brother went to town and bought tickets to the train ride. Don't know the specifics of what they did, only that they had a great time.
Victoria -- Very charming city. I wish we had been there longer to do more exploring. We just walked the town and took in the scenery. There are many talented street performers to keep you entertained. The shopping was a little expensive.
So, that concludes my review. Congrats if you made it all the way through. This was an overall good trip. Although we had some problems, the Purser's Desk was very knowledgeable and helpful in getting them resolved. Service was very good but no one really went out of their way, maybe because gratuities are automatically billed to passengers. Although we always tip more at the end, I'm sure many don't, preventing those working on the ship from giving you that extra effort. Sorry to those expecting towel animals.
We have arrived home from our wonderful cruise. Yes. the Sapphire Princess cruise ship is a magnificent venue for the holiday or a lifetime.
First of all price.We paid for an inside cabin. When we got on board we found out we had been upgraded to a window cabin..can you imagine how delighted we were! After checking our prices against the Princess smaller ship in the Pacific.our cruise was the "special" of all specials.
Embarkation: I don't want to remember this as it was not what I expected..long lines of people standing in the rain .just waiting for some movement. No cover! Auckland Port is not geared for a large ship like Sapphire. However.I think by the time the Sapphire has to do this again, things will have improved because of all the complaints that would have been received.
The Princess Sapphire: A beautiful and wonderful staffed cruise ship. Cleaning goes on around the clock so everything is spotless and polished.
Our Cabin: We paid for an inside cabin and enjoyed a window cabin. We didn't know about the upgrade until we went looking for our cabin. Wow!.I felt like a Queen. Our cabinsteward Victor was great. We tipped him $20.00 as soon as we meet him and during the cruise. My hubby and I were amused as to how he arranged my "nighty" each night. It was so pretty I didn't want to spoil his artistic efforts. As the weather wasn't the best in New Zealand a cabin with a balcony wasn't necessary. The chocolates on the pillow at night were appreciated.
Dining: We choose early sitting in the Traditional Dining Room. We had a table of eight fun loving cruisers. Our waiter Alex and assistant waiter Ceceileo were the best. They joined in the fun and were always eager to please. Our table did get a name for having the most fun. We ate our breakfast and lunch in the Santa Fee, Pacific Moon or Horizon's Buffet. All the food was excellent. The steaks were the best I have ever eaten. Don't forget to go to the Horizon's Buffet between 3.30pm and 4.30pm for free ice cream. This is not advertised and a lot of people only find out about this when it is too late. Early dinner sitting fitted in with our early show times. Everything was timed to perfection.
Entertainment: This is as good on the Sapphire as what you can find anywhere in the world. The four dance productions were amazing. My grand-daughter just finished a university course in dance so I have viewed some of the best along the way. The magicians and comedy entertainers were outstanding. One comedian DON WARE was the writer for the Cosby Show. Music by Julie Wallace in the Crooners Lounge was delightful.. Alastair Greener was our fabulous cruise director with Frankie his very funny fall guy. I could go on and on...
Ports of Call:
Wellington: I could recommend Rover Tours $35.00 for two hours or all day (Hop on hop off) Get shuttle to town ...then walk to Information Centre. We got the cable car back to the city. Shuttle to ship.
Christchurch: The Antarctic Centre is a must. I pre-booked the snow-mobile ride (has another name) You must go into the Snow Storm Room This is for real. Get the shuttle to town. then a local bus to the Antarctic Centre.
Dunedin: The Cadbury Chocolate Factory is in the town centre. You must have a booking if you want to do a tour. I did this by email.
Fiordland National Park: Up until now the weather hadn't been very nice....then we cruised into Fiordlands. A perfect day greeted us as we entered the Park. The cameras were clicking away and some beautiful scenery was captured in the many photographs taken. One could see a little snow still on the mountain tops.
Hobart: We walked to the city centre. A local bus will take you around the area for a small cost.
Melbourne: We had family pick us up and take us to Geelong for the day. There is a free tram for the city tour.
Disembarkation: Sydney Port was well organized. We waited in the lounge until our colour was called and then walked straight off the ship. Collecting luggage was a breeze...it is lined up in colour code and a Porter is there to help put it onto a trolley. Taxi service is arranged if needed. Our trip to the domestic airport cost $30.00 for the two of us.
Anyone going on this cruise ship is assured of a wonderful time. Things like seasickness .. I had this for one night when the sea was very rough.. can be fixed by going to the desk and buying some Dramamine. I felt better in two hours.
There is much to do onboard...the swimming pools and hot tubs were popular.
There were so many people onboard and yet it never did seem crowded.
I just viewed the video of our cruise we purchased onboard. It cost about $30.00. You must purchase this! It runs for about an hour and shows all areas of the ship, the entertainment and ports of call. We are having the family over this afternoon to tell them about our cruise. This will be perfect to show them.
In Finishing: We must thank all the staff onboard the Sapphire Princess for making this cruise a wonderful never-to-be-forgotten time for us. CLAP! CLAP! CLAP!
Itinerary - Caribe cabin 520 Deck 10 midships balcony cabin
06 January 2005 Departure from Auckland NZ 07 January At sea 08 January Wellington NZ 09 January Christchurch NZ 10 January Dunedin NZ 11 January Fjiordland NZ 12 January At sea crossing the Tasman sea 13 January At sea crossing the Tasman sea 14 January Hobart Australia 15 January At sea 16 January Melbourne Australia 17 January At sea 18 January Sydney Australia
We are Australian, married a "Baby boomer" couple still working. Our occupations are Coordinator of Travel courses at a Travel College, and Registered Nurse. This was our sixth cruise in total 4th on P/O Princess. We will talk in this report about the cruising experience and briefly on some of the ports of call.
Firstly may we say that it was great to see so many Americans and Canadians cruising in our part of the world. We hope you enjoyed the experience and would love to see you back again. We really enjoyed sharing experiences with you all.
The report is split into 4 sections 1/ Prior to the cruise 2/ The cruise experience 3/ Ports of call 4/Conclusion
PRIOR TO CRUISE
We arrived in Auckland 3 days prior to the cruise departure and stayed at Rydges Hotel which is about a 20 min walk to the shipping terminal. The streets are well paved so you can wheel your luggage easily. Rydges is a comfortable "no frills" hotel reasonably priced with an excellent restaurant adjacent. We really enjoyed our meal there. There is a lot to see in and around Auckland so several days prior to cruise start would be a good idea. A cruise on the harbour or a visit to one of the offshore islands, wine tastings, a ferry to Devonport across the harbour would be some of the things you may want to do. You can obtain discount voucher booklets for a range of attractions around Auckland and thus be able to save quite a bit of money. Viaduct Harbour is a great dining area near the Sapphire Princess berth where the America's cup yachts where berthed during the races. There are quite a few excellent restaurants here for you to choose from. We liked V Grill, good food, service and not too expensive.
As many people have stated in reports previously it is essential that you arrive at the cruise departure point at least the day prior. It is extremely dangerous to arrive on the day of departure as quite a few people found out on this cruise when their luggage failed to arrive before departure of the ship. You only need a flight delay and you have big problems.
On our departure day 6th January at about 8.30am we walked to Sky Tower which is about 5 minutes walk from Rydges and took the elevator to the top and where rewarded with a magnificent view of Auckland and the Sapphire Princess at her Princes wharf berth. Sky Tower is about 80 stories high so the view is spectacular and a must when in Auckland. If you are lucky you may see people undertaking a bungy jump from almost the top of the tower. They allow a discount of 10% is you have one of the discount vouchers.
THE CRUISE EXPERIENCE
We left our Hotel at about 10 am and walked down to the ship. Embarkation on our tickets was scheduled to start at 12noon but from previous experiences we have sometimes boarded early and we like to get onto the ship as early as possible. No information was provided with our tickets by Princess as to exactly where we had to go to check in. The Princess wharf area is quite large and there were a lot of people like us who were there early and as confused as us as to where to go. Luckily we walked alongside the ship and came to a gate where porters where collecting luggage from passengers. We were then told that you had to go and line up on the other side of the building just south of the main entrance to the Hilton hotel. That was fine and we joined the quite large queue ready for check in. By this time it was probably about 10.30am. Princess must in future provide a little map with the tickets showing the procedure for dropping baggage off and then embarkation. They must also put up some clear signs as people are approaching the wharf telling them what to do with their luggage and where to go to join the queue. At this time there were quite a few people complaining about their attempts to find out where to go for checking in. Some of them had been dropped off in taxis at the queue with their baggage and they then had to take their baggage round to the gate where the porters where. You can imagine how happy they were and this is not a good way to start a cruise.
The area where you had to queue had no seats and some of the older people were wanting to sit down and couldn't do so. Princess should look at some other method of embarking passengers rather than get everyone to queue up. Maybe passengers could be given an exact time to be there rather than have 1000 passengers trying to board at the same time.
Apparently there had been some problems with the disembarkation process and there were still people coming off the ship at 11.45am. We heard rumours of immigration computer problems but what ever it was we didn't start the boarding process till 12.15pm. What followed was a complete shambles and most of the passengers were extremely unhappy with Princess and New Zealand Immigration although we feel it was more Immigration's problem than Princess Cruises.
They started to form a second queue as there were people blocking the entrance to the Hilton Hotel at about 11.30pm At 12.15pm we entered the terminal but the people in the second queue who had not been waiting nearly as long as those in the first queue started to move in at the same time as us. They should have held these people back as there were a lot of people in the first queue unhappy about this. Then the first major problem emerged. . You all have to fill out immigration forms. Why couldn't these forms have been sent out with the tickets so people could have them ready? Why couldn't some laterally thinking person in New Zealand Immigration have given the people the forms outside so they could be filled in whilst the passengers where waiting for checkin? That would have saved a lot of time and allowed the line to move much quicker and there would have been no agitated annoyed people. Take note NZ Immigration!! A lot of people who had been lined up for 2 hours stopped to fill out the forms and lost their place in the queue. Don't stop just keep moving and fill the form out as you go along. You have plenty of time to complete them before you get to Immigration.
The procedure then to get onto the ship took about 11/2 hours. We know security has to be very tight these days but the procedure must be streamlined better. We think there are a lot of Princess passengers who will think long and hard about embarking in Auckland in future unless things are improved. There were plenty of Princess staff to help with the Princess check in and I thought this part of the proceedings worked very well.
Once we were on board the ship we dumped our hand luggage and did what we always do head to Horizon court on the 14th deck for the buffet lunch. If you like a nice cold drink then I suggest you purchase the coke card which costs USD 30.00 and allows you unlimited soda and coke drinks whilst on board the ship. You will save money this way over the whole cruise. The sticker is stuck to the front of your cruise security card. Previous reviewers have stated that the waiters were a little slow in providing the soda and coke drinks but we didn't find that on this cruise
Getting off the ship at Sydney was very simple. Immigration had been completed in Hobart when we first arrived at an Australian port and in Sydney Customs were very efficient. Groups of people doing different things were colour coded. We were off the ship in 20 minutes and on our way to the airport for the short flight home. We would recommend the Princess Airport transfers in Sydney which only cost USD 24.00 per person and was quick and efficient. The taxis or shuttles are not that much cheaper.
The ship in general
Firstly we think the Sapphire Princess is a great ship and we certainly would like to cruise on it again. Some people aboard found the size of the ship a little overwhelming and they thought a smaller ship would be more to their liking. We can understand that but we like the larger ships with more people on board. Although there were approximately 2700 passengers on board we never felt crowded. We didn't get a chance to use the gym, lotus spa or the casino so can't comment on those.
There was a shipboard orientation tour at 3pm on the first day and as this was the first time on the Sapphire Princess we tagged along. It lasted for about 30 minutes and we would recommend it. Ralph took some shots of the ship which my Travel students will get to see in due course. This was followed by the safety and security drill prior to departure from Auckland which all passengers have to attend unless they are doing back to back cruises on the same ship. This drill lasted for about 30 minutes.
One of the first things you should do on day two of the cruise if you are not American, Canadian or British is to check and see if you have the right colour Princess cruise card. If you have completed more than one cruise and have been given a blue card you should see the Captains Circle membership officer to make sure she has you on her list for the Captains circle party and for what its worth she will get your card colour changed. This cruise card acts as your room key and security card whilst on the ship. It is deactivated as soon as you leave the ship for the last time at the end of the cruise. For some reason only Americans, Canadians and British appear in the Princess data base for Captains circle. This problem should be immediately rectified by Princess as it is embarrassing for other nationalities. By the way there were approx 1300 Americans, 400 Australians, 300 New Zealanders and quite a few British together with a smattering of other nationalities on board.
Princess cruises add a USD 10.00 a day per person amount to your bill and that covers your tipping for the total cruise. This is done so that people employed on the ship who are not in direct contact with the ship can also receive something. If you don't like this idea you can negotiate with the Pursers office to have the amount reduced if you wish. We knew some people who did this as they had 2 small children who also were charged 10.00 and they thought this was not fair. We have no problems with this arrangement and in fact several people ie our room steward Jose and a Hungarian couple Judit and Balazcs waiters in the Sterling Restaurant who gave us exceptional service got a little bit extra. Jose was extremely efficient and everything in our cabin was perfect. We asked for several small jobs to be done in the afternoon and by dinnertime they were attended to.
The self-service laundries were spacious with plenty of washing machines, dryers and ironing facilities. Change machines and laundry powder dispensers were available in each laundry. Cost of laundry - USD $1.00 each per wash, per drier and for the washing powder dispenser. The machines accept US quarters 0.25c. Early morning or late at night or when the ship is in port and everyone is off the ship are the best times to do your washing. On sea days and between 4-6pm on port days the laundries can get very busy. There also seems to be only two irons per laundry.
If you are using several appliances in your cabin at the one time it might be an idea to bring an adaptor board, as there is only one general plug. This is a USA type plug so if you are coming from another country you will need to bring an adaptor.
On sea days there is always plenty to do. In fact sometimes there is too much and you find yourselves having to choose between several things. One of the improvements that could be made on the ship is to the Princess Patter, which is the newsletter that you receive each evening after you have had dinner. We think the layout of the newsletter could be improved. Sometimes you have to really search to find the information you need. We think similar topics should be grouped together and maybe a tear off part with whats on for the day so that people can detach it and take it with them during the day or night rather than take the whole newsletter. Quite a few people were making the same comments.
We were extremely impressed with Skywalkers, which is situated at the back of the ship. At nighttime it is a disco after 10.30pm and during the daytime is a restful area for reading and just watching the sea. We had a rough day crossing the Tasman and it was great to sit on the side wing and look right down the left side of the ship to the Bridge and notice the pitching motion of the ship. The chairs in sky walkers are extremely comfortable. During the daytime you can always get a seat there.
The library has a very good selection of books and you can take a book out of the library now without checking it out. You just have to remember to return it. If you try and walk off the ship with the book you will get a rude shock as there is a security device implanted in all the books!!
Ralph enjoys a jog and Jean enjoys walking. We both used the Promenade deck for our activities usually early in the morning as there were fewer people around. You will have to climb some stairs at the front side of the ship but they aren't a problem.
The internet café is very large with lots of computers. We never had to wait to get on a machine and the cost was extremely reasonable.
On our last cruise the quality of the shows was a little variable. Not so on this cruise. We both thought all the shows were excellent particularly the comedian Bobby Dennis from Sydney. Absolutely fantastic don't miss him if he is on again.
If you lose your way on the ship particularly early on in the cruise just look for the ship location map and that will help. After a few days most people were finding their way around without too much trouble. The carpets on the left/port corridors are in Blue and on the right/starboard side are red in case you are not sure what side of the ship you are on. It does happen occasionally!!
Our biggest complaint about Princess cruises was that particularly in the restaurants when we ordered a bottle of wine we had to always ask for our receipt with the amount of the purchase shown clearly. In all other parts of the ship ie the bars, photo shop etc you always receive a receipt. Princess need to immediately correct this so that for every purchase on the ship you have a receipt. The night before you disembark you will receive your final account and all of your purchases should be shown. We strongly recommend that you get a copy of your account every couple of days so you can keep a check on your spending as you go along because it is so easy to forget what you have spent. We keep a sequenced record of all receipts and cross them off on the account every couple of days. If you don't do this you might have a problem at the end trying to remember all your purchases and this is not a nice. Feeling at the end of the cruise.
There is no designated card room on board so all the bridge enthusiasts on this cruise spread themselves out in all sorts of locations around the ship.
We believe very strongly that their should be signs at various points around the ship and in the Princess Patter alerting passengers to the dangers of exposure to the sun. We have a particular problem with people getting skin cancers here in Australia. Passengers should be warned not to stay out in the sun for too long and to have plenty of protection whilst doing so.
The cooking demonstration and tour of the galleys is usually done on the 2nd last day and is worthwhile doing. The Executive chef was also promoting its cookbook, personally signed by him. We bought a copy and it has some great recipes.
They also had a tour backstage which again we found very interesting. We were introduced to some of the performers in the show. They were extremely helpful and everyone was congratulating them on their excellent performances.
We had one very rough day crossing the Tasman with 16-20 foot waves and a few people were feeling a little unwell. Don't let this put you off doing a cruise because there are lots of things that can be done to take away that feeling such as patches, seasick tablets etc.
The debate regarding 1st or second dining room sitting versus Anytime dining continues. We prefer anytime dining and what we try and do is make bookings for the next night the day before. As soon as we arrived in our cabin we rang the concierge desk and made bookings for the Sterling restaurant for the first night and for Vivaldi's the specialist Italian restaurant for the second night. We book for 8.15pm but bookings can be made prior to 6.15pm or after 8pm for any of the 4 dining rooms catering for anytime dining. If you are on 1st or 2nd sitting dining you must dine in the International dining room although you can book into the 4 Anytime dining rooms if you wish for a change. If you are on anytime dining you can only go into the 4 specialist dining rooms not the International dining room. You can order anything off the International dining room menus for all 4 restaurants. These menus are available for all meal sittings. As well each of the special restaurants have their own special menus ie Sterling is a steak restaurant and so steak features prominently on their menu. This was Ralph's favourite place and he loved the Rib eye fillet and the New York Sirloin steak. Vivaldi's has an Italian theme and we thought also was very good. Both these restaurants are side by side on deck 5. Santa Fe has a Mexican theme and together with Pacific moon are side by side on deck 6. We dined in both of them but had the international menu. As we have been to Sabatini's specialty restaurant on several occasions previously we didn't dine there this cruise. There is a USD 20.00 cover charge per person.
In all of the restaurants waiters always asked us if we were enjoying the meal. One one occasion there was a misunderstanding and two dishes Ralph had ordered were bought out at the same time. They offered to take the second dish straight back to the kitchen and replace it with another when I was ready.
If you really can't decide between the Lobster and the Pheasant order both or if you like the Lobster so much then order another serve. It doesn't matter. You can do this at any time on the ship. Yes that did happen to me on several occasions.
The buffet at Horizon Court on deck 14 was quite acceptable. Everything seemed fresh and we thought the food tasted fine. Many people go up to Horizon Court and pile their plates up with food and return to their cabin to eat. Particularly those with balcony cabins.
The great advantage of anytime dining is that even though you have made a booking if you want to adjust the time you can without too many problems. It is possible not to have to make any bookings and you can line up to get in. Sometimes you might have a little wait so it is better to book even if you have to change the time.
Many people want to dine in Sterling as their menu is very good so we strongly suggest booking there. We think in the past there has been problems with people lining up to get into this restaurant for a long time and this may be the reason why Sterling as well as the other 3 Anytime dining restaurants have introduced a policy of no bookings between 6.15pm and 8pm so as to cater for walk up diners. We had a Hungarian couple Balazcs and Judit looking after us for about 6 meals. We liked them so much we asked for them when we first entered the restaurant. Look out for them if you are dining in the Sterling restaurant.
The wine list in the restaurant is a great improvement on our last Princess cruise with much greater variety and reasonably well priced.
We had all our breakfasts in either the Santa Fe or Pacific moon restaurants as they are the only ones open. You only alternative is Horizon court, which is open 25 hours a day or you can have room service. We think the restaurants should be open a little longer for breakfast and lunch. They are open 7.30-9.30am for breakfast and 12-2pm for lunch. Sometimes it is hard to get there because so much is happening on the ship.
We think the icecream stall where they charge extra could be eliminated as people can get free icecreams between 3.30pm and 4.30pm in Horizon court and different flavours of icecream are always available at lunch or dinner in the restaurants. The open-air Trident grill and Pizza bar near horizon court were very popular and we enjoyed the hamburger and pizza that we had there.
Afternoon tea between 4.30 and 5.30pm where you have cakes and tea or coffee is worth the experience.
Overall the meals and service were excellent breakfast, lunch and dinner right through the cruise. We had no complaints at all.
We don't always have a balcony cabin it depends on the cruise. We went for a balcony on this one because it is summer time here and we thought we would be able to sit on the balcony a lot. As it turned out the weather was quite cold and wet and we didn't get onto the balcony as much as we wanted to. Also we were going into some great ports with spectacular views ie Sydney, Wellington, and Hobart. We are thinking of going on a Trans Atlantic cruise later this year and will probably book an inside cabin on this one as the weather on the Nth Atlantic could be marginal at best. It depends where you are. One very important point to bear in mind with cabin selection. Always keep away from stairs and try and get a cabin in the middle of the ship or towards the rear so as to avoid motion of the ship in a storm. We had some rough weather on the Tasman and at the front of the ship you noticed the forward motion of the ship quite a bit whereas in the middle of the ship there was really not a lot to worry about.
On Dolphin deck 9 most of the outside balcony cabins are mini suites and have a large totally open to view from above balcony. Our balcony was half open but only half the size of the mini suite balconies on deck 9.
We feel that you either get an inside cabin or a balcony cabin. A cabin with a porthole is more expensive than an inside cabin and we think a waste of money as you can't feel the fresh air or lean over the balcony. If you have an inside cabin you are only several minutes from the promenade deck or the open decks above.
Your security card gets you into your cabin. Make sure when leaving your cabin that your door is properly closed. On several occasions our door did not properly close. There wasn't any clock in our cabin, luckily we brought our own.
The design of the cabin made good use of mirrors to enhance the feeling of light and maximise space. The open space wardrobes without doors provided plenty of hanging and storage space for our requirements. Our main cases fitted side by side quite comfortably. Bedside lights have dimmer switches. Soaps and towels were changed twice a day. There is a safe in every room and our cabin had a fridge as well as 2 chairs, 2 lollabouts and a table on the balcony. Outside your door on the side is a letterbox with your cabin number on it so that the any newsletters or other information can be left for you.
If you wish to drink wines in your cabin Princess seem to have no problems with you purchasing wines or champagne and bringing them on board at embarkation or at the ports of call. I am not quite so sure about spirits though. We wanted to have some drinks on our balcony from timer to time and Concierge brought up wine and champagne glasses for us to use for the entire cruise. You can take these wines into the dining room but you might be charged a USD 10.00 corkage fee.
They charge for spring water in your cabin so we always take a water bottle with us and go up to Horizon Court and fill the bottle up with fresh water from there.
PORTS OF CALL
If you are like us and like to get up early to watch the arrival into the various ports we would suggest if the wind is not blowing too much you go to the observation point on top of the bridge at the front of the ship. If the wind is blowing then maybe deck 7 promenade at the bow will give you some protection and nearly as good a view. Other options are deck 15 at the front where you are slightly protected with glass windows or Skywalkers at the rear of the ship but the views straight ahead are somewhat blocked by the funnel. We thought the best ports to sail into and ones you must get up early for are Wellington, Hobart, Melbourne and offcourse Sydney. Be careful sometimes the ship arrives early. It might show an arrival time in port of 8am and you might be docked at 6.30am. That happened to us a couple of times so I always set the alarm earlier.
On departure of the ship I think the above also applies.
If you don't want to book any of the Princess cruises at all the ports you will have a choice of shuttles, limousines, and local coach tours all vying for your business. Don't forget to get the best price. If there is a group of you a shuttle will work out to be a very economical way of getting around. Some people think the Princess tour prices are a little steep. That may be so but I know from previous tours that you generally get value for money on the tours and doing your own thing doesn't appeal to everyone.
If you are travelling independently you need to make sure that you get back to the ship at least 30 minutes before sailing. The ship will not wait for you and I believe we left a few people behind in one of the ports. I can't remember which one now. If you are on an official Princess tour and the coach is late back the ship will wait for you. This happened on several occasions on this cruise.
As we knew most of the ports very well we opted to do our own thing but I will pass on some thoughts to you, which may be of assistance.
In every port the local tourist authorities had small tourism stands manned by local people with a wealth of knowledge of the area. They all had lots of brochures to hand out and I was most impress with the way they all tried to help everyone.
You will be asked to take photo ID and your Princess cruise card with you whenever you disembark the ship in any port. You will need to show both to get back on board the ship.
Arrival into Wellington is quite spectacular with the city appearing at the front of the ship as you sail in. As quite often happens in Wellington it was wet and we opted to have a look around the town. There is plenty to do there and I really don't think a tour there is necessary. You can get a free shuttle to the city centre or if you are feeling energetic you can undertake a 15-20 minute walk from the ship to the Railway station where you can board the yellow circle city busses and tour around the city. These busses come along every 15 mins or so and you can get a timetable when you get on board. We did a complete city loop, which took about 20 minutes just to get our bearings. It will cost you NZD 6.00 for an all day hop on hop off pass which takes you past many of the important sights in Wellington such as the Te Papa and Maritime museums which are about 1 stop away from each other. Both these museums are excellent and require a few hours to enjoy. You can also get off at the major shopping area, the New Zealand Parliament house and the famous church near the railway station, which is worth a look. You must stop at the Mt Victoria rail car stop where you can take a 15 minute journey to the top of the mountain for a fantastic view of Wellington and the Harbour. Pray that the weather is good. We were lucky as the morning was very wet and murky and we waited till the afternoon when everything cleared away and we had a great view from the top. Spend some time wandering the park reserve at the top of the hill. It is quite beautiful. All of the above will keep you very busy in Wellington.
To get back to the ship again a 15-20 minute walk and I seem to recall someone else in a past review giving a warning to people to make sure they cross over to the right hand side of the road before you reach the rail signals as there is a big bend in the road near the ship and if you stay on the left hand side you will have trouble crossing the road as it is extremely busy and you can't see what is coming. The cars come round the corner at high speed so it is rather dangerous. One gent was almost hit by a car, as he didn't move quickly enough across the road.
You will arrive at the port of Lyttleton which is about a 30 minute coach transfer to the Christchurch city centre costing NZD 6.00 each way. There is plenty to keep you busy in the city of Christchurch without going on a tour to the country side. If you look at the Princess tours you will see an all day train ride on the Trans Alpine Express which you can do from Christchurch. Indeed Christchurch is a beautiful city settled originally by the English and one of my favourites in this part of the world. This is a very difficult decision what to do. All I can say is maybe look at the city first time and do the train trip next time you are in Christchurch because I am sure you will be back again.
If you decide to stay in Christchurch there is much to do. Here are some thoughts, which will take up the day. Look at the Cathedral on Cathedral Square right in the town centre where the coach will drop you off, do some shopping at the stores around the Square. Possum and merino lamb cardigans are a very good local buy and a lot of the shops don't mind knocking something off the price for you. Once you have looked at Cathedral Square go down and walk along the Avon River, which is quite beautiful scenery. You will think that you are walking along some of the beautiful rivers in England. You can even go for a punt ride on the river if the weather is acceptable. By now it probably will be time for a drink and we stopped at an English style pub called the Bard on Avon about a 5 minute walk from Cathedral Square. This pub had many English beers on tap as well as Irish Guinness and Murphy's stout. The meals there look excellent, big serves and there were lots of locals drinking there, always a good sign. Extremely friendly service. Next walk or get the circle city tram for a 5 minute tram ride west of the city to the Arts Museum and the General Museum and Botanical Gardens. Absolutely excellent all of them.
You can get a pass on the circle city tram for the day if you don't want to walk around.
If you have time you can get a local bus to the Antarctic centre, which is well worth a look. This museum is about 15 minutes from the city centre out towards the Airport.
On the way back to the ship if you have time it is possible to walk to the local bus depot about 5 minutes/2 streets south of Cathedral Square and get a local bus number 28 to the cable car ride on the top of the Lyttleton hills. This bus leaves about every 30 minutes and the trip takes about 30 minutes. We didn't do this as we ran out of time but will certainly do so next time we are in Christchurch as we were talking to people on the ship who said the view was spectacular looking back to Christchurch and towards the ship. Apparently once you finished the cable car ride they were providing busses to the Lyttleton bus depot and a free transfer from there back to the ship. The cable car ride each way takes about 10 minutes.
DUNEDIN You will arrive at the port of Port Chalmers, which is about a 30 minute coach transfer to the Dunedin city centre costing NZD 6.00 each way. You will be dropped off at the Information centre right in the heart of the city at the Octagon. We purchased a city sights tour from the information office. It cost NZD 15.00 per person and lasted for one hour and we were taken around on a double decker bus with an excellent guide. We thought a very good introduction to Dunedin, which was first settled by the Scots. Once that tour was completed we booked another one out to Lanarch Castle and I think this is a very good tour to do because not only does it give you a good look at the castle and the gardens it affords some wonderful views as you travel along the coast on the way there. This tour takes about 2 ½ hours and drops you back at the Octagon. Shops are nearby with Lyle and Scot knitwear very good prices here. Back to the ship on the transfer.
The Sapphire Princess weather permitting cruises through the most southerly sound known as Dusky Sound and then enters Doubtful Sound finally arriving at Milford Sound the best known of the Sounds. It rains and you have low cloud approximately 260 days of the year here so you need a good day weatherwise. You can be lucky sometimes we had a perfect day. You do not get off the ship but get a good vantage point and keep the camera clicking. A magnificent part of the world.
HOBART Arrival in Hobart is at Constitution Dock about 10 minutes walk to the centre of town past the docks where the Sydney to Hobart yachts arrive. Again there are very good tours of the city for AUD 15.00 hop on hop off similar to Wellington. Tickets for these tours can be purchased from the information office one block past Constitution dock on the main street about 10 minutes walk from the ship. We decided to book at tour to the top of Mount Wellington, which left at 12 noon and cost AUD 22.00 per person. In the meantime we went for a walk past Salamanca Place, which is a mecca for shopping and very near the information centre. From there we walked through Battery Point through a couple of beautiful parks then back to do the tour. The weather was excellent and the view from the top of the mountain was superb. After the tour a quick walk around the city and then back to the ship. We like walking as much as possible because it helps to get rid of the bulge. You all know what I mean. Leaves a little bit of room for tea that night.
The ship docks at Station Pier the port for Melbourne, which is a little way out of town. Again you have a choice of doing your own thing or taking tours. If you want to travel around on your own there is plenty to do. We would suggest you get off the ship and walk to the end of the pier near where the tram stop is. Purchase a metro pass costing AUD 5.00 per person, which allows you unlimited travel on the busses, trams and trains around Melbourne for the whole day. It will take you about 20 minutes to travel into the centre of Melbourne on tram 109. On your return to ship look again for tram 109 to Port Melbourne. About 2 stops before reaching the Collins Street - Elizabeth Street stop which is in the centre of the city you must get off the tram and go to the top of the Realto tower for a great orientation view of Melbourne. You then must visit the famous Victoria markets about 3 stops from the centre of the city. Melbourne is a city of Parks and Gardens so a walk through Fitzroy Gardens is a must. St Kilda to the south a busy café scene is worth a look as is Lygon Street to the north a mecca for restaurants and the café society. We are very familiar with Melbourne so walking around is fine for us but for someone new to Melbourne We might suggest a tour to the Yarra Valley and the Dandenong ranges where you can ride on the steam train "Puffing Billy" This is a great trip.
We thoroughly enjoyed the Sapphire Princess and are now thinking about our next cruises, possibly Baltic and Northern Trans Atlantic later this year. We will be looking for reports from other people who have done these cruises.
Special praise for the Cruise Director Alistair Greener and his Assistant Frankie together with the rest of the staff who performed beyond expectations. Special praise also for all the people who keep the ship spotlessly clean. Cleaning goes on around the clock 24 hours a day.
If anyone wants any other information please email me at email@example.com and we will do what we can to help.
We finally made it to Sydney, Australia after a thirty-day cruise from Los Angeles, California aboard the Sapphire Princess on her maiden voyage across the Pacific. She lost her thrusters in Moorea, French Polynesia, encountered rain in Hilo, Hawaii, Samoa canceling most of the tours. She met rough seas in New Zealand and bypass Wellington because of strong winds. It was a good cruise otherwise.
Getting on in Los Angeles was a breeze and getting off in Sydney was laudable. People flying home picked up their luggage at the airport. Those staying locally were provided with baggage carts and help from the resident agents of Princess. About 2,652 passengers boarded the ship in Los Angeles, California. The crew numbered around 1,098
The service is fast and apt. Food is a cut above the usual cruise fare. The cuisine is varied, well prepared and finely presented. It is not odd to find your oatmeal served piping hot and eggs Benedict at breakfast perfect.
The wait staff had least ten years with Princess and knew how to delight the travelers on board. Headwaiter Lufti proudly calls the waiters adept and highly capable. Personnel with several language skillseffectively handle the purser's desk during the day, keeping lines of waiting guests short. Our stewardess kept our cabin squeaky-clean. Public areas sparkle.
Butlers, sommeliers and beautiful table settings here are things of the past. The waiters now serve drinks and supply flatware as needed. The ubiquitous packets of herb tea and cocoa powder beside hot water dispensers at the Lido buffet are history. Hot chocolate, ice cream and the daily newspaper come with a price.
The ship is well designed with a minimum of wasted space. The promenade deck has a nonskid surface providing greater traction for joggers and walkers. Our 182 sq. ft ocean-view cabin had ample closet space. Bathrobes and fruit bowls are available on request. Bar lounges doubled up for other ship activities when not in use.
The Grand Plaza at deck 5 is an atrium elegant in its simplicity. Live poinsettias decorate it beautifully for the holidays. A string quartet performs here daily. A self-service library, an art gallery, a writing room, a tour office and two eateries that open only for dinner are located on this level. A grand staircase with gleaming banisters and polished white marble steps spirals to the upper decks.
Four theme eateries with fixed menus, Southwest, Asian, Italian, and Steak promote " anytime dining" catch the overflow of guests from the traditional dining room. Seats are limited for conventional dining and operated only for dinner and afternoon tea leaving many guests feeling deprived. An alternative venue Italian trattoria carries a twenty-dollar per person cover charge.
"Anytime dining" supposedly provides flexible unhurried dining hours at meal times. But only two of the eateries are open for breakfast and lunch. Seats fill out fast and latecomers waiting to be seated form long lines. A Lido type buffet, a hot dog/burger grill and a pizzeria also provide meals for voyagers.
Guests give up their dinner deserts to get good seats at the 910-seat Princess theatre. There is standing room following for high caliber production shows and first run films. There is a daily Catholic mass, Sunday Interfaith Service and Friday Jewish Sabbath Service on sea days.
There are classes in fitness, line and ballroom dancing, bridge, ceramics, photography and computers. Experts talk on art, economics, well being and motivation. Guest lecturers accurately research their subjects and present them well.
Among the guest lecturers was Barbra Kates, a notable artist specializing in architectural ceramics. She set up the ship's ceramics program with a dedicated kiln included aboard. Her art lectures covered Gaugin, Australian aboriginal art, and South Sea tattooing. She is also an avid underwater photographer and held meetings with divers aboard.
A 24 hour Internet café (35 cents/minute, dollar a page for printing) is quite popular with the travelers. Its 29 stations were seldom empty. A photo machine for digital cameras was also available.
The Sapphire Princess is prestige vessel which came into service in May 2004, almost 116000 tons and can carry some 2600 passengers. I recently cruised on her from San Francisco to the Mexican Rivera and return. In such a short time, the crew seems to have become well acquainted with this ship.
The ship is spotless and well-maintained, with delightful lounges and comfortable seating. Show lounges have good sight lines of the stage. Unfortunately the decoration of the lounges is not a strong point - dark colours, too much use of plastic and artificial features. The casino is a case in point. The panoramic glass elevators in the atrium have views obstructed again with plastic designs, which in my view ruins the feature of these elevators.
Entertain on board was excellent, with well performed production shows from a very enthusiastic team, though on a ten night cruise, I would have thought that three production shows would have been in order rather than just two. I do not consider an `Art Auction` to be "Highlighted Evening Entertainment." The Cruise Director and is assistants were visible throughout the ship both day and night and werealways smartly dressed and most pleasant. Although, maybe it's my age, but I did not appreciate being called `sweetie` constantly by a member of this team. The entertainment programme by the individual artistes was varied, entertaining and of a most professional standard.
On this cruise, I chose traditional dining, second seating - this was a good choice for me. We had excellent service from a very attentive waiter and assistant waiter, who had the knack of anticipating every need. The food was of the highest quality, plentiful and varied. The deserts were made to "die for." Presentation of the food was not as good as on other lines, but the China that Princess use, with the designs on the plates seemed so bold that these designs took away from any presentation displays coming from the galley. Meals in the dining room were a delight - especially breakfast and dinner.
The are many other venues on this ship for alternative dining and reports from these restaurants were also good.
The Horizon Court is the informal dining court on this ship. It was always busy and offers a very varied menu. There is an abundance of fresh fruits, remarkable breads and again mouth-watering deserts. Unfortunately the hot dishes looked rather un-inviting and were often tasteless, and reminded one of poor cafeteria style food. Salads on the other hand were always fresh, and of the highest quality. Cooked Breakfasts appeared and tasted very greasy.
Juice was only available at breakfast time and only orange and grapefruit, others you had to ask for.
On entry to the Horizon Court one is presented, with a plate - no tray which causes difficulties especially to Europeans who like each course on a separate plate, rather than all the foods piled on one.
Unfortunately staff on duty in this area were slow at clearing tables and on occasions it was difficult in getting a clean table at which to eat.
Even though the ship can carry up to 2600 passengers, it never feels crowded, except around the main swimming pool. However there are ample other places on deck to relax either to the front of the ship or aft which was my favourite area.
A number of bars are conveniently situated all over the ship. Drinks are well presented, of good quality and are reasonable price. On occasions, some of the waiters were aggressive in their approach. They apparently don't like the pre-pay soda system in operation.
One of the most noticeable things on the ship was the lack of happy smiling faces from the staff - especially the bar staff (throughout the ship) and the waiting staff in the Horizon Court- my they were a glum bunch - so solemn, so dour. Perhaps it's just their make up, as most appeared to come from Eastern European and similar countries.
On this cruise, I chose an inside cabin on Caribe deck. The cabin was comfortable and well appointed with a most attentive cabin attendant who kept the cabin spotless. Insulation between the cabins is poor so if you want to have a private conversation, ensure that you switch on your television. The cabin was eerie in many respects, the use of mirrors had a strange effect. If you looked in the mirror of the vanity unit, by reflection with the mirror over the bed, you saw the television and other items up to 14 times in a curve like environment giving the impression of a underground tunnel. Talking about televisions, more or a better selection of movies would have been appreciated. The en-suite was functional but had one of the smallest shower units that I have ever seen on any cruise ship. Shower pressure was good with lots of hot water.
The toilet system is vacuum operated and what a noise it makes, you not only hear the action of your own system flushing but of those in adjacent and nearby cabins - funny at first but most annoying as the cruise progressed, especially late at night and early in the morning.
Tender operations at the ports of calls requiring this operation were efficient and well executed.
In all, not a bad cruise experience, except when we were dumped on the pier at the end of the cruise, instead of the provision of hotel facilities as booked, but that is another story.
Princess as with many other cruise operators have introduced cutbacks, some most noticeable, others discreetly - thankfully they have retained the traditional welcome aboard Captains Cocktail Party, albeit cut down in duration as with the Captains Club party.
In summary the cruise experience with Princess on the Sapphire Princess was good but not all that good compared to other experiences with this particular company.