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Sail Date: June 2004
The Sapphire is a beautiful ship. Very clean. Our cabin which was a balcony cabin on the Aloha deck was lovely. Plenty of storage space and room to walk around. Bathrooms small but adequate. Having a balcony is a must for us. We always ... Read More
The Sapphire is a beautiful ship. Very clean. Our cabin which was a balcony cabin on the Aloha deck was lovely. Plenty of storage space and room to walk around. Bathrooms small but adequate. Having a balcony is a must for us. We always have one and it really helps to make the trip for us.  Our cabin was lovely, spacious and very clean. It deserves the highest rating.  The food in the dining room was just fair. It all sounded good and looked good but was for the most part rather tasteless. The wait staff was excellent. We also found it difficult to get to the dining room as you had to walk up or take an elevator up a deck, walk across the ship and then down a flight. Not passenger friendly. The food in the Buffet dining room was barely fair. The dessert station constantly had empty platters that were not refilled. What was there was always the same each day. Very poor variety. The fresh fruit was always bad. Either overripe or underripe. The dining times are too short and on one night we arrived in the dining room at 7:00 p.m. (we were the only ones dining at our table that night--the others were dining off the ship) The early seating was from 6:00 - 8:00 but they refused to serve us. They said we were too late and they had to get ready for the next seating at 8"30. VERY VERY BAD. We complained to a purser at the passenger desk who took our report. (we just received a letter of apology but no offer to make it up to us in any way) Entertainment was fair, although the one broadway type of show was excellent--Piano Man. The rest of the shows were less than adequate. We'd skip them. Embarkation was handled very smoothly but debarkation was very confusing. Difficult to find our bags. One excellent feature of Sapphire was the passenger laundry rooms on our deck. We were able to do a load of laundry when needed. A wonderful idea. Wish the other cruise lines had them. This cruise to Alaska was memorable for the awesome scenery. I'm ready to go back (and I really didn't have much interest in Alaska before we took the cruise) I LOVED it. However, I don't think we'd cruise on Princess again. Too bad--the ship is lovely but the food and lack of interest from the customer relations agents have left a bad taste . We're planning a cruise in January to the southern caribbean, but not on a Princess ship. We'll stay with either celebrity, Holland American, or Royal caribbean. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2004
For those not keeping track....SAPPHIRE was/is brand new....I was on the 5th Voyage weekly roundtrip voyage from Seattle to SE Alaska and back. Ship: all in all misc amenities are GREAT. I'm not a highly experienced cruiser, with ... Read More
For those not keeping track....SAPPHIRE was/is brand new....I was on the 5th Voyage weekly roundtrip voyage from Seattle to SE Alaska and back. Ship: all in all misc amenities are GREAT. I'm not a highly experienced cruiser, with only one previous Caribbean 10 day voyage on the Radiance of the Seas. Sapphire food was very good and the misc dining room options give you many choices of menu and reservation or walk up times. As with Royal Caribbean I don't understand why carbonated soft drinks are NOT included with meals......Princess sells a REFILLABLE FOR FREE ALL CRUISE Coke Glass for $20.00 which many people bought.... My BIGGEST Complaint is about NOT seeing any GLACIERS. My #1 off ship incentive for this particular cruise itinerary was cruising TRACEY ARM (a body of water) and SEEING the Face of SAWYER GLACIER with spectacular views of ice calving off, etc. Other cruise people with me, had been to TRACEY ARM in 2003 aboard a different Princess ship and gone the entire length of Tracey Arm to SEE the Glacier. This time apparently there was too much "ice flow" in the water and the ship didn't want to hit any of this broken off glacial "ice flow".....so they turned around and left Tracey Arm and sailed onto Juneau. At this point I was so upset, that I booked a floatplane excursion with Wings Over Alaska at there dock side office close to cruise dock, at a cost of $145 which was $20 less than princess charged for same excursion........This flight took me OVER the Juneau Ice fields and Mendenhall Glacier. An interesting airborne perspective that was GOOD, but still not the excitement or spectacular view of face to face with GLACIER VIEWING at close up sea level..... My point is watch your itinerary and ASK questions...as Tracey Arm "cruising" is NOT Sawyer GLACIER viewing !!!!!!!!!! Sapphire Princess entertainment was GOOD, but not exceptionally GOOD......The ships company did TWO production numbers....one called "Piano Man" featuring the music of Elton John, Billy Joel, Neil Sadaka and LIBERACE was VERY GOOD. Other nights They had Two Good Comedians, a Mediocre ventriloquist, and a so-so Hypnotist..... I personally didn't care for the humor poked at the U.S based crowd by the U.K. born cruise director and staff.....but maybe that's just my thin skin. Once again I must say that overall the NEW ship is great, along with ALL the misc amenities, food, staff etc etc I also overheard other cruisers talk about the HIGH prices they paid for their misc trips.....RELATIVE to my price.....I BELIEVE that the SEATTLE based Alaskan Cruise sellers like LAKE CITY TRAVEL SERVICE who sell the SEATTLE (home port) based Alaskan Cruises can offer YOU a better $$$ deal than YOUR local travel agent in Kansas, regardless of your past relationships.....The Seattle Travel agents are doing TEN times the business to ALASKA and CAN get you a better price.....Also call Parker Cruise in Kirkland, WA. Regards, Chuck Sharin Seattle, WA USA Read Less
Sail Date: July 2004
Princess Sapphire Alaska July 4, 2004 A little background: my H. and I are in our early 30's, we do not have children. This was our first cruise. GETTING THERE: We flew into Seattle the same day as our cruise from Toronto and ... Read More
Princess Sapphire Alaska July 4, 2004 A little background: my H. and I are in our early 30's, we do not have children. This was our first cruise. GETTING THERE: We flew into Seattle the same day as our cruise from Toronto and aside from a one hour delay for our connecting flight in Detroit we got there smoothly. We purchased transfers from the airport from Princess and found it worked really easily. Princess people were right in the baggage claim area, took your luggage from there and it was a short walk to the bus. Our names were not on the list for the transfer but we thought nothing of it at the time. They didn't know our stateroom number although they should have at that point. Fortunately I had checked online just the night before we had been assigned a room (we booked an inside stateroom and were upgraded to an oceanview). So I provided the number to the Princess rep to place on our luggage tags. The ride to the terminal was quite short. Once there we found ourselves in a huge line up outside the building. (It was about 1:45 at this point) It took about 30 minutes but then we were through. I was glad I grabbed a couple of mini-ship-deck-plan maps at the check-in desk as I never saw them again for the rest of the cruise and they are quite handy. THE ROOM: We were on the Emerald deck near the main central elevators. A few times late at night we heard people near those elevators but overall it was very quiet. I never heard anything from the rooms beside us. We found the room to be very nice—it was small of course, but we were expecting that. However they really thought out the storage areas well and in fact I think the bathroom was among the best ever in terns of shelf space to place small toiletries. Of course the shower was extremely tight. We are average height and size so found them workable, but for anyone very tall or large I imagine they would be quite impossible. I just wish they didn't have to put in the grab bar, I found I kept banging my elbow on it. I thought the mirrored shelving unit beside the closet was great, providing a great amount of storage in a small space. Our steward was George and we found he did a great job, extremely friendly and responsive. DINING: We went with Personal Choice as we prefer to eat just the 2 of us. Overall we found the food was very good, however I don't think it can quite match up with a 5 star land restaurant. I found certain dishes, for example the 5 spice duck, which one would expect to be spicy, lacked any spice whatsoever. I'm not sure whether this is to be attributed to an attempt to suit all palettes, or the company's British background. Otherwise presentation was well done. The coffee has a slight nutty undertone, along with a strange aftertaste we discovered is a result of the line choosing to use a coffee concentrate to make the coffee instead of traditional ground beans with a drip filter. We definitely wished we could have bought Starbucks on board! Our favourite restaurant was the Santa Fe—the interior had some imagination and colour, and the service was the best. On a couple of occasions at some of the restaurants we felt like the waiter was rushing us, which I didn't care for. Also we purchased bottled water and they offered to store any extra water for the next evening's dinner, but then the next day they always seemed to have a hard time trying to find our water. Maybe this is because the ship is new and they are still figuring things out. I liked the portion sizes, they weren't too large so we could manage to have an appetizer, entrEe and desert for each dinner. My H. liked the Tiramisu so much he ordered a second one (I believe it's on the Vivaldi menu). My favourite meal was probably the chili rubbed fish filet from the Sante Fe menu, probably was the only item the whole cruise with some spice to it! Still we found they did a great job with roasts, briskets, things that you would not normally put a lot of spice into. We don't care for buffets so we tried to avoid the H.C. as much as possible but sometimes you just end up having to go there. It wasn't too bad, I liked the fresh fruit for breakfast and the hash browns were really fantastic. I didn't like how you couldn't buy bottled water there. Afternoon Tea: we thought this was a joke. It was more like an afternoon race to stuff scones and tea down your throat as quickly as possible and get you out of there! To me an afternoon tea is about leisurely sipping on tea while slowing nibbling on the sandwiches, scones with jam, etc. We weren't even fully seated and they were already rushing to serve you sandwiches. Everything else was just brought out, there wasn't any time to request an herbal tea which I prefer. Then the scones and jam and then they wanted to move you out of there. The scones, etc. were good but we didn't enjoy the rushed feeling so we only went the one time. International Dining room: I feel that 9:00 is too early to stop serving breakfast there. I think they should at least go to 9:30, and really 10:00 would be better. Otherwise we found there was always lots of space there, we'd ask for a table for 2 and it was never a problem. EXCURSIONS: Well Princess screwed this up. I noticed on the first sea day that our tickets had not been delivered to our room. When we checked on them, we found that although I had pre-selected everything on-line, and it said "confirmed" beside every excursion we booked, none of these reservations made it over to the cruise staff on board. At first we were told some of the excursions were all booked and there was nothing they could do. But after I insisted and showed them (thank goodness I brought this) a printout of my booked excursions with the words "confirmed" beside each and every one. So a manager was called over. She handled it much better. She offered to place some calls and ask for special favours to ensure we could get into all of the excursions we'd booked. She apologized and said this had never happened before. I find this very strange as it should be an automated thing. I would highly recommend you bring a printout of your booked excursions as well in case you have a similar problem. They did manage to get us into all the excursions and they called to follow-up as well. Overall I thought the problem was well handled and that is what I think separates the good corporations from the bad. Everyone has problems once in a while, it's all in how it's handled and I thought Princess was great. My favourite excursion was the Clover Pass Kayaking in Ketchikan. (it was also our first) Our guides were so friendly and a lot of fun. And we actually saw whales while kayaking. It was incredible. The air was just so fresh that fresh Christmas tree smell was everywhere. We saw eagles flying overhead. Even though it rained a little while we were out there, it was still great. They gave us all kinds of rain gear so I was perfectly comfortable the whole time. It was really peaceful out there on the water. Next we did the Misty Fjords float plane. It was great as well. The views were spectacular. Again it was raining and cloudy but the view was still really incredible. Stepping onto the floats was an interesting experience. I'm surprised they allow it, it looks like a law-suit waiting to happen if someone falls in the water to me! But we all made it just fine and it really added to the experience so I'm glad they do offer it. In Juneau we did the Mendenhall Glacier and Whale Watching. This was a good combination although it was a little long. I was torn whether to book this or Cpt. Larry with Orca Enterprises as I'd heard so much about him, but I'm glad I went with the Princess tour. The glacier was impressive and I'm glad I saw it, although adding up all the driving it was about 30 minutes to the glacier, 30 minutes from there to the whale watching, and then another 30 minutes back to the ship. I found the naturalist really made the excursion. You could really feel her passion for wildlife and the environment as she spoke. She was very knowledgeable as well. We saw lots of humpback whales and they turned off the engines so we could just hear the sounds of the whales going by. One came up just a few feet from the boat all of a sudden and scared me! It was very cool. Then they took us around to an eagle's nest and we saw the parent eagles; one sitting on the nest, the other not far away. It was pretty awesome. They had binoculars so you could get a good look. The sun was beginning to set as we left and the mountains were stunning. We also saw some harbour seals. It was a great excursion. In Skagway we did the 3-hour train ride. I found there was too much waiting on this. It took a half-hour to depart, and went v-e-r-y slow to start. Once it got going the scenery was spectacular. Hard to believe actually traveling this way by foot and carrying a ton of supplies over multiple trips! Then when we got to the top, we sat there again for about a half-hour to 45 minutes, waiting for other trains to pass. This was quite boring. Finally it went back down, everyone switches sides to ensure everyone has a good view. But the doors between cars were open letting in the air from outside which was full of billowing diesel fuel fumes. By the time we got to the bottom my throat was burning a little. The scenery was great, but I think if I could do it again I'd rent a car a drive the road—it follows the same basic path on the other side of the mountains, so you share the same view for the most part. Or I'd take the bus, so you can stop and get out for photos and I'm sure there would be less waiting around. Victoria—we just walked around and looked at the shops and didn't book anything. Worked out well. The Empress Tea didn't look like the real thing to me; after all they only serve it in the afternoon and the ship arrives at 5:30. I imagine they would just hustle everyone into a separate room for the cruise tours and I didn't think it would be the same as the real thing so I didn't bother. POOL, ETC. I found all of the pools seemed way smaller in person then they look in the photos. Also I couldn't figure out what the schedule was for the hot tubs. It seemed like every time we wanted to go out there, the netting was on and they were closed. We really love late night hottubbing in the cold with the view, so I was pretty disappointed when we weren't able to. Other nights they were open so we did get to go a few times. The hot tubs were nice and hot. Adult only Pool: They really need to rethink this one. The ping-pong tables are right above you, and somehow it's not very relaxing when kids keep bouncing balls over the edge into the pool and then asking you to retrieve the ball for them. Not much better when they just come on down climbing over pool ornaments to reach their ping-pong balls. Also it was pretty noisy detracting from the relaxing atmosphere. Otherwise this area would have been great. It seemed like a lot people didn't know about it and the hot tubs seemed less busy generally. Although you don't get much of a view from them as it's sheltered in the middle of the spa. I used the treadmills at the gym a couple of times and thought the area was very nice. I guess a lot of people like tvs while working out; personally I wished I could have pushed it aside as the view outside was so lovely when I was there. Everything was brand new and very nice. However I found the colours all kind of blended together and somehow to us it lacked a certain "wow-factor". I would say the back of the ship is pretty cool, with all the levels and the design of the hot-tubs and pool. They did an impressive job with this; we looked at the other ships at the ports and none of them had a back that looked even nearly as good. SHOWS We saw Piano Man and the first showing of the new spy-themed show which I can't remember the name of at this moment. They were both really well done, I preferred the second spy show, they do spoofs of all the classics, including James Bond, Jackie Chan (I thought they did this one the best, to "Everybody was Kung-Fu Fighting", it was quite funny) and Austin Powers to name a few. Also we enjoyed the comedian, he was great we went to see him a couple of times. We saw Starsky and Hutch in the theatre during the afternoon, they had technical difficulties with the film and a lot of people left; however after about 20 minutes the picture returned to normal. We thought Princess should have offered popcorn, even if we had to buy it I would've liked to have had it. Seeing a movie just wasn't the same without it! We also saw Mooseport later in the week, no tech. difficulties this time. POST-CRUISE - SEATTLE We stayed for a night after the cruise at the Warwick Hotel on Lenora. Location was good, very convenient. However I'm not sure I'd say it qualified for the 4 ½ star rating it supposedly had. It was clean and the dEcor was alright, but I was expecting better. It was really close to Pike's Place market, which was great, esp. for breakfast. We bought some amazing cherries and berries there for a good price too, made for great snacks. We checked out the new architectural marvel, the library. It was very cool. We had dinner at Wild Gingers.  The food was amazing. They set up so you share everything. The mango and coconut sorbets for dessert were awesome. We loved it. We found in Seattle there were a lot of drugged out looking people around and in the evening they seemed to all know each other and form little "gangs". Made me a little nervous. And it's not like they were in any particular area. They were right outside the restaurant where we had dinner in what I would think would be a good area. Maybe it's just that Seattle isn't that large so the areas blend together. The next day we wanted to rent a Vespa as we saw them everywhere, but we didn't have enough time as it's a little ways out of the downtown. If you're interested, you can have one delivered to your hotel. The next day we checked out at 11:00 am and had the hotel keep our luggage, as we weren't flying out until midnight that night. We went to Pioneer Square and took the Underground Tour. I would highly recommend it. They take you under the current sidewalks to what used to be ground level and there are still old store fronts and things down there. It was a good way to get the city's history. We took the free bus as far as it would take us to get to the Space Needle, we just had to walk a couple of blocks. We walked around it but didn't go up. We went to the AMC and saw a movie, and then did some shopping. Dinner was at Assagio, right around the corner from our hotel. It was also amazing, better than I was expecting. Overall we liked Seattle, the market and restaurants are superb. SUMMARY: Overall we had a great time and I couldn't imagine a better way to see the Alaskan scenery. We love going to Disney World and are used to the impeccable quality of their hotels, great restaurants, great service and first class amenities, so this is the standard we use to compare the cruise. We felt Princess did a great job, but in some ways a cruise where 3,000 people need to be fed at once in an environment where you can't necessarily get fresh ingredients daily can't quite compare to a traditional 5-star restaurant. Also we found ourselves being rushed through meals when the restaurant was busy which would not happen at a proper restaurant and somewhat spoiled our enjoyment of our dinners. Also we find when cruising because there are 3,000 of you all generally wanting to do the same things at the same time, so there is a feeling of being "herded" at times, which you don't have when you travel on your own. That being said, only on a cruise can you go to bed comfortably in one place and wake up in another. That is a great aspect to cruising. Well we have a Disney cruise booked for September, so it will be interesting for us to compare that when the time comes! Read Less
Sail Date: July 2004
Cruising on the Sapphire Princess was a step up from our last two cruises on Carnival, but still not an ideal vacation. The ship is beautiful, and offers many little spaces to meet your travelling party, watch the view with beverages, or ... Read More
Cruising on the Sapphire Princess was a step up from our last two cruises on Carnival, but still not an ideal vacation. The ship is beautiful, and offers many little spaces to meet your travelling party, watch the view with beverages, or read a book. Getting around the ship is tricky, remember the only deck you can get from front to back inside is deck 7. International dining room, only table service available for breakfast and lunch can only be reached by elevator or stairs. My number one recommendation, forget reserving Personal Choice Dining and go with traditional seating. Once you have a guaranteed table, you can still book any restaurant just like the Personal Choice Diners! As far as I could see, there was no advantage to not having the reserved table each night. And some nights the only Personal Choice restaurant slots available were about 6pm or after 9:30pm, not an option for us. Remember, you must book a table for Personal Choice each day or you must wait in line for remaining tables, and no-shows. Princess did so much right, but we came away from the cruise remembering the mistakes. For example, as you board, you can buy a drink sticker for unlimited soft drinks while on board. The crew tell you it is $22.50 with a free insulated coke mug. We purchased 7 for our large party. Later in the day I read the sign more carefully and saw that the drink card is $20. If you get the mug it is $22.50. Sure I was on an expensive cruise, but that still is a rip off. I went to the Customer Service desk and even talked to an Assistant Purser who defended the practice. His logic was the mug was worth $10 so paying $2.50 was not paying the full value. I asked him if he felt it was deceptive to say this was for free and he said no. P.S. I returned the mugs for a promised credit. The night before the cruise I asked for a print of my account and the credit was missing. I called the Customer Service desk again and was told it would show up. It never did. I felt I spent way to much time bothering with this. I really expected a quick apology and refund which didn't materialize. While table service is offered for breakfast and lunch, the hours are very limited. The International Room is only open for an hour and one half for each meal. I heard many people complaining. The buffet was weak. It seemed to feature the low cost type of items you would expect in an all-you-can-eat land based restaurant. In the late evening, I noticed they served left overs from the dining room. The food looked like it had been on a steam table for several hours. There were a lot more ship based activities than on my Carnival cruises. But since I only cruised Carnival for the defunct non-smoking ship, I still do not have a cruise line that I think of as my favorite. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2004
This was a wonderful week for us and for the family with which we were traveling. Overall, we thought this ship was stronger in some areas than others we have cruised on but suffered from many of the same limitations as other cruise lines. ... Read More
This was a wonderful week for us and for the family with which we were traveling. Overall, we thought this ship was stronger in some areas than others we have cruised on but suffered from many of the same limitations as other cruise lines. The ship itself is beautiful, which is to be expected since it had only been cruising for 7 weeks when we sailed. The staff (with one minor exception) was excellent and each person was nicer than the next. Special kudos to the dining room staff, our steward Ronald and, of course, the casino staff. We found the food to be excellent with a wide variety, though the notion of different 'restaurants' onboard is really just an opportunity to highlight specials from each cuisine. The same basic menu is available in every restaurant for every meal ship-wide. We had no trouble making reservations in every one of the restaurants. Staff was very courteous and accommodating. The buffet features some dishes from the main menu for each meal but it is exactly what you would expect from a buffet - average. Entertainment was OK, not the reason we cruise, but our son - age 15 had a blast onboard. He went his own way and had a great time with the other kids - and there were about 30 in his age group on the ship. We liked Alaska. The scenery is great and I recommend it to everyone. We were rained out of a side trip in a float plane to the glacier, but otherwise had incredible weather. Tracy's Arm Ice Field is incredible. They were very organized at embarkation - we arrived at about 1:30 and the procedure took about 45 minutes. They made the disembarkation as painless as I have ever experienced it. Usually, you have to be out of your room very early and then sit around until they call your number/color. In this case, you were asked to be out of the room by 8, but did not have to congregate in a specific place. We were provided with an approximate disembarkation time and actually left the ship within 15 minutes. Locating our luggage and leaving with it were pretty easy. Unfortunately, the predicted number of Seattle taxis did not materialize and I had to flag down a private limo who was dropping someone else off. A few bucks more but worth saving the aggravation. Also, plan on spending an extra day before or after in Seattle, it's an interesting place with some interesting sights. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2004
Hello! I'm a ten year old kid named Kayla! My dad said I could write a review for the Princess to get a different perspective. You'll probably find my ideas are kind of childish, but I am one, so bear with me. First of all, the ... Read More
Hello! I'm a ten year old kid named Kayla! My dad said I could write a review for the Princess to get a different perspective. You'll probably find my ideas are kind of childish, but I am one, so bear with me. First of all, the cabins were great. They had double security. You could only get in with your card, and if you didn't want someone coming in at night, you could deadlock it. The beds were soft, and every night our steward made them up. He was outgoing and friendly. (They also had awesome chocolate mints). The bathrooms weren't very roomy, and there was this little space under the door where people could look in. I had to put a towel in it... The showers were complicated to operate, but somehow, it worked. In short, the rooms were great, the bathrooms, not so much. The elevators- Well, some people like elevators because they get you places, but not me. I worship them. I love getting in one. The only problem was that most elevators were gray steel, and had no windows. The only beautiful ones were in the atrium, and they made you want to dance like in movies. The pool-The pool in this Alaskan cruise did not freeze you. They were fully heated, so even my father would go in. They were very deep, so don't drop your kids who can't swim in it. The kid's club... Oh, what can I say about it? I t was fantabulous, wonderful! They entertained you every second. They had six playstations for free time, they had awesome crafts, and competitions (I won a lot of them). If you have a kid 7-9. send them to their kid's club, because as my brother says, they love them. They also have adult-like activities for the kids, like karaoke (which kids kept running away from, so make sure your kid is outgoing), and Skywalkers Nightclub. (No, they didn't always let kids in, just that one time), but that was in broad sunlight. Dining-Dining was very good. They had wonderful kids meals. From the looks on my parent's faces, they really really enjoyed their dinner too! Now, as my dad says, let's get to the good part! Dessert! They were exquisite! Cheesecake was fabulous! Oh, for you kids out there, don't order the chicken fingers! They'll knock the spit out of you. (I took a point out of dining for them!) Excursions-My family went to one excursion. It was one when you took a helicopter ride up and you land on a glacier. We loved the blue ice, and they were professional and helpful. The only downside was nature. There were huge cracks, some going down to bedrock, so before you come, stuff your kids with cheesecake. (Me and my bro kept scaring our parents!). Entertainment-They had cool games that people would get together and play. The bad thing was, nobody showed up. At Taboo, 30 people came, and the man almost fainted. If your team wins, you get awesome prizes, which you redeem at the boutiques. They have good stuff! They also have gameshows, like Princess Idol, and the Weakest One. (My mom was on the weakest one, but there was three people of the same family, so she lost). I only went to one show on the Princess, but the others were for grownups, so I stayed at the kid's club. (Did you know it closes at ten, exactly the time when parents are getting back from the show). The Atrium- Fab place! There was a library (with games you could check out) A writing room, good place for writing postcards, playing gameboy, working on that day's puzzle (pick it up at the library). They had two bars, a glamorous staircase, 2 dining rooms, and sometimes musicians. You can pick up blankets at the Passenger Services desk. There are rows of lawn chairs. They sell hot chocolate. (A good time to be there is when you are sailing in Tracy's Arm. Okay, hope you enjoyed this review. (Beware the chicken fingers!) Read Less
Sail Date: August 2004
We were on the August 29, 2004 sailing of this magnificent ship. I would say that this is the most spectacular cruise that my family has been aboard. My only problem would be the spectacular scenery kept me on deck much of the time, and I ... Read More
We were on the August 29, 2004 sailing of this magnificent ship. I would say that this is the most spectacular cruise that my family has been aboard. My only problem would be the spectacular scenery kept me on deck much of the time, and I cannot offer much in the way of review on the onboard activities. CABIN: We were on the Aloha Deck aft which I really like for three reasons. We were just a few steps from the Terrace pool area which affords a fascinating view to the rear. Also, we are one deck down from the Horizon Buffet (a great place to eat is on the outside deck, here you are sheltered from the wind, but still able to enjoy the fresh air.). Also our cabin was two decks down from the kids FUN ZONE. Our kids participate in this with great enthusiasm. We opt for inside cabins for economic reasons (we can go on more cruises this way). Besides, we spend so little time there, it makes no sense to me to spend all that extra money. DINING: I can't understand why many of the previous reviews of this ship have bashed the food. I found no fault with anything that I put in my mouth. The Horizon Buffet was good food that was very well presented. A worth note: they have installed hand sanitizer stations an the entrances to the buffet line. One more big step in the prevention of the spread of disease. The staff here were most helpful, and the drink service was wonderful. We chose traditional dining because that is such a longstanding tradition on cruise ships. Not only do you get to know your wait staff, but you can become fairly well acquainted with the other guests at your table. Our waiter team was lead by a dynamite lady from Romania named Oana. She is friendly and interacted with my children and really gave them special care. As a waiter she is tops. Makes sure your glasses are kept full. She won't let you pour your own wine, however. The guests at our table were scolded a couple of times for pouring. If you even acted interested in seconds, or interested in trying another entree, it was at you table before you got a chance to say no. If you sail on this ship prior to the end of December 2004 (end of her contract) I would tip the head waiter,and ask to be seated at here table. A special treat I assure you. By the way, the food was great. Kids Program: My kids (ages 6 and 9) are big fans of this operation. A wonderful lady named Issa heads this up, and the kids are kept active, and get to do some pretty special activities. One of these activities was a tour of the bridge. These have been pretty hard to come by since 9-11. But my kids got to go, sit in the captains seat and drive the boat. I am envious, because they still don't allow the teens and adults in there. Also, the kids are awarded prizes for participation in the games. OVERALL: This was my favorite cruise to date. the scenery is second to none, and for me and my family the service was exemplary. I liked the ship so much that I have already booked a future Mexican Riviera cruise aboard her and have even chosen the same stateroom. If you have any other questions, please E-mail me, and I would be glad to try to answer them. Thanks, Jim Alexander (drive9140@aol.com) Read Less
Sail Date: August 2004
I was on this cruise last week and have just returned. Without reading other peoples' reviews, here's mine. The ship is huge: 5 restaurants, buffets on 2 sides, 4 swimming pools, many powerful jacuzzis, 12 bars (very cheap ... Read More
I was on this cruise last week and have just returned. Without reading other peoples' reviews, here's mine. The ship is huge: 5 restaurants, buffets on 2 sides, 4 swimming pools, many powerful jacuzzis, 12 bars (very cheap cocktails $3.50, cocktails for me $2.00), a big theater, a casino, a really nice gym, 4 shops, a library and more. ROOM: My husband and I paid for an inside State room which I thought is plenty big and very comfortable. My only other comparison is the Norwegian which I thought was smaller. Our steward changed our linen and towels daily. And leave chocolates on your bed at night. They also make your bed in the morning and turn the comforter at night. My in-laws had a balcony room on the Dolphin deck which I highly recommend for the Alaskan trip because we saw humpback whales, and porpoises from their private balcony. The dolphin deck is closest to the waters so you can look directly at the water instead of over other peoples' balconies. Oh, you can also order room service daily at no extra costs although you are limited to beverage, rolls, some fruits, yogurts for example. No eggs or meats. You get a full-sized bathroom plus tub while in our inside stateroom we got only a shower stall. The good thing about being in an inside state room is that you completely lose all sense of time..so we were able to nap in the afternoon and sleep late in the morning--something my husband and I really needed. When we needed to sit, I'd go to my in-law's cabin. DINING: You can dine either in the dinning rooms or buffet in all meals. I prefer waiter service and so try to dine in the restaurants and avoid the buffet as much as possible. However, being from NY and withe the time difference, the first 2 days, I kept waking up too early at 4:30am and there was nothing opened. The buffet opened at 5:30am. The international dining room opens at 7:30-9am. I managed to eat breakfast only once in the international dining room because the last 3 days, I kept waking up at 9am. Buffet: As a person who doesn't like buffet, I thought it had what I needed. For breakfast I had papayas daily, a grapefruit, an egg, a bagel, fried rice and a chinese soup. A bit eclectic I know. Lunch: We go to the international dining room daily. You choose from the set menu. Generally, I don't eat meat so I practically had seafood all through the cruise. I thought it was quite good. I think they do their vegetables extremely well, especially their sugar snap peas and asparagus. Their desserts are also quite good as long as you don't get their souffles as they are too eggy, in my opinion. I loved the black forest gateau, cheese cake, all tarts, not the apple tart tartin. Soups are hit or miss. Some are rather plain, other quite divine, e.g., the chilled cucumber soup, the chicken brother, and the asparagus soup. Afternoon tea: if you can even cope with more eating after lunch, the afternoon tea is quite a treat. Chamber music, English tea, scones with cream and jam, little pastries, cakes and sandwiches. DO NOT miss the cucumber sandwiches. Comes with avocado or tomato. Very good. Dinner: We didn't go the traditional eat, but the anytime eating route. I made reservations for the next 7 nights the moment I got into my room. I am quite glad I didn't go to 1 dinner buffet at all. We did Sabbatinis, Sterling, Santa Fe (Formal), PAcific Moon, Vivaldi, Sante Fe (formal night), Pacific Moon in those order. Sabbatinis was fun. You get all the appetizers, soups etc., but you pick the entree. I picked the Chilean sea bass but I found the sauce objectionable so I swapped my fish with my in-law for his lobster. I eat a lot of lobster and I have to say the lobster there is very sweet. I liked it. It's worthwhile trying once but not twice since it's the same. I am not impressed with the Pacific Moon. I tried the sushi and the dim sum. Not good. I live close to Flushing so you can trust me on that. I liked the cellophane noodles. I like Sante Fe because you get the chips and guacamole. Both times, we ordered from the main menu of the night rather than the restaurant menu. I had the cajun catfish. It was good but not memorable. My in-laws are from Kansas City area and they are big fans of steaks. None of them liked what they ordered. The best steaks they had were from the main menus, Tenderloin on the first formal night and tenderloin wrapped in a pastry crust on Friday. They thought it was divine. On Friday they served twin lobsters. it was really juicy. I lived in Long Island before and I am quite serious about my lobsters. It was so yummy I ordered seconds. Yes! I had 4 lobsters that night. On Thursday they offered Alaskan crab legs. Generally, I though crabs legs to be so-so. And so it was. Vivaldi, not memorable. My husband had the estuarine with lobster and they thought it was good. If offered handmade pasta, you must try it. It was extremely good. In the end, it really doesn't matter which restaurant you go to because you will get to order from the main menu. Oh, on the last night, we came back really late around 10pm from Victoria. I thought it was too late to eat dinner but the people at Pacific Moon (closest one to the entrance that day) let us in. We wre the last ones. Phew! I asked the waiter to bring me the apple pie served at the Sterling and he obliged. On every meal, you can always order shrimp cocktail, french fries, and burgers. And cheesecake. With so much food, it's really quite hard to eat so much. There are 2 ways one can accomplish this. 1)ORder everything but eat just a spoonful. Do not eat everything. You just have to come to terms that you will have to let the food go to waste. 2)Order just a course, eg a soup and an entree, or a salad and a dessert. Few people do that, it seems. For Breakfast and lunch they'd sit you with other cruisers unless you choose otherwise. This way you get to meet other people. I don't particularly like small talk so I didn't think the traditional dining is for me. Beverages: You can get tea, coffees, iced tea for no extra charges. MArtinis are $3.50. Since I don't do alcohol, I'd have a mocktail. The virgin strawberry daiquiri (too sweet), pina colada (too sweet), Princess smoothie (just right) are all just $2.00. Good size too. My husband takes the iced tea but it has an edge to it which I found objectionable. We don't drinks sodas so I usually have water with lemon. If you want soda, you should buy the soda deal for around $22 when you board the ship. This way, you can have unlimited soda. They don't carry Dr. Pepper or Mountain Dew though. KIDS: Lastly, they have a program for kids aged 3 and over. All day programs from 9am to quite late. They get to meet the captain and steer the ship, do crafts, songs, many more. The kids have a very good time so that the adults can enjoy themselves. SHOWS: We saw Piano Man and we enjoyed that very much. We missed all the other shows. The movies shown were Shrek 2, Starsky & Hutch, Mooseport, Miracle...none of which we were interested in. I highly recommend the talk on whales by Pat the naturalist. Otherwise the casino is always open. CASINOS: As a somewhat frequenter of casinos, I thought the slots were very tight. You can often times go through a whole $20 w/o winning a quarter. Better luck with the video poker. I do have to mention that I won the slots tournament. I made it to the qualifying round (machine #8) and won in the final's round (Machine #9). I can't believe it happened to me and I laugh everytime I thought of it. I also got an XXL winner's T-shirt, a pen, a cap, a mug all crappy gifts compared to the cash. LIBRARY: I like the library very much. I actually borrowed a book and finished it while on the cruise. The title is "Shamless Exploitation" by Paul Newman. Very inspirational and heartwarming. Read, slept, did the shows as much as I can after I got bored. Our ports were: Ketchikan, Inside passage Tracy Arm (didn't stop), Juneau, Skagway, Victoria Canada. Ketchikan: gorgeous weather. 70s degree. Did the Misty Fjords and Sea Kayaking. We got those coupons that allow you to buy one get one free. Didn't see any bears. I enjoyed the kayaking. Juneau: Did whale watching. Saw only humpbacks, no orcas. But some others said they saw orcas that day. We didn't. I saw orcas 2 days later from the ship. Had a drink in the Red Dog Saloon. I enjoyed the singer. In retrospect, I should have done the glacier trip since you can see whales anywhere, anytime. Tracy Arm: You get in and out. Beautiful. Skagway: The only day it rained. We rented a car from Avis. Got a Camry and drove to White Pass. Bring your passports and ask for stamps. It was too foggy and misty in the American side but better in the Canadian side. Nice scenery but I wouldn't say breathtaking. To get breathtaking, do the 9 National PArks out west instead. The biggest highlight is that we saw a young cub, a black bear in the middle of the road on our way back. This was after we've given up all hopes of every seeing a bear. Victoria: We did the Butchert Gardens. Quite nice. Really pretty. They are very lax about customs. I'm not a citizen and I went through briskly. No stamps available. Certainly different from all the botanic gardens I've been to. I enjoyed the double decker tour. This is a strange day. The ship reaches the port at 5pm. This means you have to eat during afternoon tea or buffet or in Victoria because the restaurant doesn't open till 6pm. And then the tour ends 9:30pm and probably too late for the restaurants. LOTUS SPA: I like the gym a lot. Too bad I love eating more. I used the tradmill once. Strange thing is that I didn't swim at all. But I used the hot tubs in the lotus spa often. SEATTLE: We went to Seattle one day before the cruise. Stayed at the Renaissance--a nice 3* hotel using Priceline for $65 the night before the cruise and 1 night after the cruise in a 3* hilton across the airport for $40. Again, I used priceline. Went to Pike Place market, and the space needle, and a baseball game. We didn't use the Princess transfer. You can hop on the Grey Line for $8.50 from the airport. They will take you directly to the port. Or if you have 4 persons, just hail a cab for $26-30. To go downtown, if you don't have much baggage, you can catch the #194 or #174 public bus on Bay #2. Weekends unlimited ticket is $2.50. Takes you to Pkie Place MArket and transfer to the Space Needle. Maps are on every bus-stop. Seattle is extremely tourist friendly. EMBARKATION: I hold a non- US no Canadian passport although my 3 companions are Americans. So we( yes, my American companions too) cleared through customs and check-in faster than all the gold or platinum people. CONCLUSION: If I didn't come across as having a wonderful time, let me say it now that I had a wonderful time. We are in our early 30s. In general, people who cruise tend to be retirees. Or families who use it as family re-unions. That didn't deter us from having a good time. After all is said and done, I came to the realization that that this being a cruise, you need to realize that the cruise is the main attraction, the destinations are not the attraction. This is because you are limited by time on the ports so you can't really venture far. And all the ports are the same. They cater to the tourists. This means ketchsy, souvenir shops, jewellery shops. Very lame indeed. I thought Victoria was the prettiest port. Tracy Arm doesn't count because we didn't disembark. So knowing this, you'll have a great time, esp for people who love eating, shopping, being pampered and entertained for 1 price. Best part is, you unpack only once. If there is something I didn't cover, please feel free to email me at charisng@yahoo.com. Have a wonderful time! Charis Read Less
Sail Date: August 2004
This trip, this ship were magnificent. We had a mini-suite which was perfect for what cruises offer. The mattresses are firm and comfortable.The balconies are uncovered which is good for a suntan, but not for privacy. But that was no real ... Read More
This trip, this ship were magnificent. We had a mini-suite which was perfect for what cruises offer. The mattresses are firm and comfortable.The balconies are uncovered which is good for a suntan, but not for privacy. But that was no real problem. To be able to go outside when you want without leaving your cabin is worth the extra money. I like having my towels changed twice a day and the bed remade if you took an afternoon nap. Storage space was very adequate. The food was quite good. I don't eat many eggs, but would have like real scrambled eggs as opposed to powdered eggs which I will not eat. They did have over-light real eggs. We don't eat pork, but I did notice a wide variety of sausages, bacon, links and patties. Fresh fruit was always available and good at all buffets. Unless they handle the crab cake offering in the restaurants, don't bother to order. The order comprised of 2 quarter- shaped pieces of bread. I don't know where the crab went. Forget that item. All other food in restaurants was excellent and well-prepared. The buffet was much better than one I recently had on Royal Caribbean. We took the city tour of Victoria which was relaxing and informative. Victoria is beautiful. Good excursion. We also took the bus ride to the Summit in Skagway. Beautiful scenery and a great guide. The blast was the Glacier Helicopter ride at Mendenhall. We did the cheap ride ($199) and it was adequate. The Lotus Spa is great. You cannot use the hot stones chair or the aroma therapy sap unless you have booked a treatment. If you book be sure to get there early so you can spend time enjoying the spa. I agree with another critic which mentioned that the adult pool was in the wrong place - just below the ping-pong level. Not a good plan. I had the hot stone and massage it was great. Book your spa treatment the same day you board. Get a treatment for the same day you board and there is a discount/ After a long day getting to the ship, a treatment is a welcome friend. You cannot get a robe except on the day you have your booking. Take your cabin robe with you. We saw one entertainment feature and were disappointed - some spoof on detectives - can't remember the name. Didn't go back for another. There may or may not be enough liquor in the drink of the day. We had a frozen margarita which did nothing - no kick. Embarkation and disembarkation went smoothly. I advise you to get to the ship as close to their opening as possible. You get settled faster. Eating is quiet. If you are a new cruiser, don't take the dress codes seriously. As long as there are no shorts or tank tops, you wear what you want. Don't overpack a bunch of dressy clothing. You wear what you want in the buffets. Even on formal night, men wore golf shirts and black jeans. Some wore tuxes. Depends on how much you want to trip. I would sail Princess again and am looking forward to another Alaskan voyage going further north. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2004
It's been a few weeks since our cruise. And, we loved it. I hope I have finally come down enough from the "high" to share my small perspective in a relatively objective way! I booked our 1st cruise, online, on a whim in ... Read More
It's been a few weeks since our cruise. And, we loved it. I hope I have finally come down enough from the "high" to share my small perspective in a relatively objective way! I booked our 1st cruise, online, on a whim in Feb. Chose Sapphire Princess simply because it was highlighted as "new" on Travelocity. (I was really in there to get air tickets to Ohio!) And, I found I had gotten "hooked" and "booked" before I knew it. I had not a clue what I was doing. Or, what I'd done. I found this site shortly after and must admit that between this site and the MANY calls I made to the Princess-people, this "newbie" arrived at embarkation fully prepared, with shore excursions booked, and personal choice dining selected. Thanks, Cruisecritics. So, I owe you a review, I'm thinking. Seattle: Princess reps steered us to Marriott Waterfront...a day early as we are from New England. Thank You Princess! We NEEDED to be there a day early.....got that gist from these boards. Princess, agreed. What a neat spot to be on a warm, summer Sat night! The outdoor concert on the waterfront was in full swing and we had a great meal/drinks outside right at the Marriott. We saw the Sapphire arrive in port from our room early Sun am. We walked the docks Sunday AM, watched Norwegian Star get her provisions at the dock across the street from our hotel and went via transfer to the ship. Nearly lost the Dear Husband at that point with the security, long lines, etc. Sapphire is huge.......startledingly (is that a word?) huge...and her profile didn't look quite like what I expected for an oceanliner. Boxy, a Mega-Motel Six! Quite ugly in the "aft" regions. But, she is quite, quite lovely on the inside! (Don't all of us "big" girls want to be judged by how we look on the inside?) I hope that those of you headed on the Sapphire will take the time to really look at the decor. I spent 1-1 1/2 hr just walking the stair ways to look at the art on each landing. Quite a bit is original. Lounges, Restaurants, etc. really tasteful....and, of course, entry to Skywalkers, etc. were appropriately, outrageously "hip." Our balcony room was a good size, plenty of storage space both for clothes and in bathroom. We were on Alhoa #332......Rui, our steward, was a 20 yr veteran from Portugal & terrific! He kept the ice bucket full & made sure my "shore bought" wine was chilled for 6pm! Get a balcony if you can afford it! Sailaway was relaxed with wine & cheese. (Hey, we were newbies....there were FREE drinks on deck? But the waiters/room service made sure we got them too...) Thrilling, the 1st am, at 5am, to see Ketchikan come in to view. Exciting in Skagway when a couple was late and got left behind. And, just plain, awesome for Tracy Arm. Excursions: 1. Tracy Arm is free.......and I loved the naturalist's narrative broadcast on our room's TV. Also, on deck. We stayed mostly on balcony as ship turns around...went up on deck for a time too. 2. Misty fjords Seaplane: I can't imagine how I'd explain the beauty. Both Dear Husband & I welled-up with tears at the sheer, immense beauty. 3. Ditto...and then some...for White Pass Railway! The pictures I took do NO justice, alas! 4. Juneau Whale Watching....lots of fun, quite a few whales. Sea lions lots of fun. Best port: Victoria! A jewel! At night, the lights, the flowers..a really lovely city! We did the little Crystal Garden (I THINK that's the name) ( a former city pool?)That was fun. The Street singers were fun. The Pubs were fun. And, it was the ONLY place I bought much. Food: There's lots of it....but it's average. Ignore the menu...order the shrimp cocktail nightly, and often. Prime Rib at Sterling was the best we ever had. Pasta was ALWAYS underdone. We ordered whatever we wanted from Room Service...it was there in around 5 mins! We tipped well for that.........and loved a platter full of lobster tails in our room! I loved my tea each afternoon at 5pm! Shows: We missed them. Don't ask us. But did bingo, horse races, movies, trivia etc. Pools & Spa: I loved Lotus Spa. We used that and the pool, sauna, whirlpools. So MANY pools........so little time. The Worst: Tanzanite...what is it? Who cares? Give it up! Yard of Gold....it's NOT gold and it's tacky to see it hanging around the Atrium. Art: Only Good, fair...if you need some, go to the auctions! My rather inexperienced, hasty foray into the internet travel world turned out to be the trip of a lifetime. We'll cruise again. And, we'll be back to cruisecritic.com for advice. Marty Read Less
Sail Date: August 2004
We recently returned from a sailing aboard the Sapphire (8/8-8/15/2004). Two couples who did different things. We are in our 40s. We have been on many cruises before (this is our third Alaska cruise). The other couple's first Alaska ... Read More
We recently returned from a sailing aboard the Sapphire (8/8-8/15/2004). Two couples who did different things. We are in our 40s. We have been on many cruises before (this is our third Alaska cruise). The other couple's first Alaska cruise and first aboard Princess. We were on the inaugural cruise of the sister-ship Diamond in March, so we knew the ship like the back of our hands. Here's our brief report: Embarkation--We do not like the Princess transfers. You have to wait around for their buses, and be herded around like cattle. From SEA to the pier is about a $22 cab and it's well worth it. We got to the pier about 12:15 p.m. and were aboard by 12:30. The Seattle operation is one of the worst I've seen. One line for Platinum/Suites, and about 13 lines for everyone else. It went reasonably quickly for everyone else, I guess, but didn't seem very efficient. We got through the Platinum/Suites line quickly. Ship--Stunning. Like the Diamond, perhaps the nicest ship we've been on. Laid out very well, and even though there were 2600 passengers aboard, it rarely felt crowded. We were very happy with our category AD mini-suites on the Emerald deck. They are fully covered, private, and perhaps the best category of mini on the ship. (We were in a category AA mini-suite on the Diamond earlier this year, on Dolphin deck, amidships, but preferred the Emerald deck location). Entertainment--although we generally are not big fans of the shows, we thought Piano Man was very good (we had seen it previously on the Diamond) and Undercover also was good. The comedian was pretty funny. We didn't care for the ventriloquist, but the other couple did. Food--We have always thought the food aboard Princess was good to very good. On this particular sailing, we would have to say it was simply o.k. Mostly edible, but in some cases not. A few examples--the food all seemed very bland, with no spice and little flavor. The lobster had no taste (this was true on formal night and also, surprisingly, in Sabitinis). Souffles on three separate nights were not edible. They were undercooked and instead of being light and fluffy they were dense and doughy. Most of the other deserts were good. Particularly the cheesecake, according to our desert aficionado friends. The Horizon Court buffet was o.k. As always, the fresh salad was very good, and generally the vegetables were tasty. The fruit was very good most of the time, but a bit inconsistent. The pizza out by the pool tasted like authentic pizza from Italy, and we liked it. The food in the International Dining Room at breakfast and lunch was generally better tasting than the buffet in the Horizon Court. We chose Personal Choice dining for dinner, and based on our experience aboard the Diamond, we made reservations when we arrived, and had no problems getting our tables at the assigned times. We would prefer to simply walk up whenever we want, but that is not possible. Perhaps traditional dining is the way to go. You can still order from the theme restaurant menus, but you get to know your servers and they likely treat you a bit better. On the Diamond, the specialty pasta in the Vivaldi restaurant was outstanding, with flavor and spice. On the Sapphire, it was not worth eating. Sabitini's--This has been our third visit to this restaurant, which charges a $20 per person cover. Make sure you are hungry, because you will be served way too much food. The food was generally very good, except for the lobster. The chicken and the sea bass, according to the others, were very good. This is worth a visit one night. Spa--Princess is experimenting with using their own employees in the spa, versus licensing the operation to a British outfit. The massages were very good. Make sure that your therapist knows how to adjust the table. It is a bit different than the ones I am familiar with, and can be uncomfortable if not adjusted properly. The relaxation area, with heated stone lounges, and various types of steams and saunas, is not to be missed, and can be used the day of your services. The fitness area is quite adequate, with lots of treadmills, a few elliptical trainers, machines, and some free weights. There also is an aerobics studio where free aerobics classes are offered, as well as spinning and pilates (both for a $10 fee). Track--Surprisingly, the track is closed between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., requiring runners to use the promenade deck during that time period. Since the promenade deck is blocked in part by a machine room, it does not make a complete circle, forcing runners to go "up and back". This is a nuisance. Casino--What can I say, it's a casino. They've added some new table games, and you can bet that the odds on new games give the house an even greater edge. Blackjack is dealt from a whopping 8 deck shoe. Craps offers double odds. Ports-- Ketchikan--We did the Clover Pass Bike tour. The other couple did a seaplane expedition. The bike ride was ok. We did it because we are active and wanted to do something. The ride was over a road, and was a bit disappointing, but fun. Nice 27 speed TREK bikes. Followed with a brief hike in a rain forest. Seaplane was reported to be fun. Juneau--We love Mt. Roberts so we took the tram up there and hiked around. There is a "rescue" bald eagle there and it's nice to see one up close. Previously, we've done the whale watching expedition here, and it was outstanding. They guarantee you will see whales, or your money is refunded. We saw lots of them. We also went to Mendenhall Glacier, and we liked it a lot. The other couple did the Pilot's Choice helicopter excursion and raved about it. They landed on two glaciers and tromped around for a while. Do this in July or August when the snow isn't covering the glaciers and you can see all the crevasses. Skagway--The 6 hour wildlife exploration was a bit disappointing. You take a ferry to Haines, then bus around looking for wildlife. Before heading back, you walk around it a rainforest and that was pretty nice. The ferry operator managed to find some whales on the way back to Skagway, and everyone appreciated that. I'd recommend the pilot's choice or even the White Pass R.R. in lieu of this excursion. Art Auctions--We have purchased lots of art over the years on cruises, but we don't even attend the daily art auctions anymore. Princess is one of the few lines that actually owns its art (although I don't know if the other Carnival sister lines now do as well--I'd be surprised if they don't). RCCL/Celebrity and NCL have a professional art auction house (Park West Galleries) handle it for them. The quality of the art, in my opinion, has declined and it just doesn't seem worth our while to go. Disembarkation--If you can take your luggage off with you, it's a breeze. Just register for express disembarkation, and you can leave whenever you want, beginning around 7 a.m. Overall Impressions--Great ship. Great Alaska. Great weather. Very relaxing time. I don't know whether it's the integration into the Carnival family, cost cutting, or simply an off week, but the food was disappointing. I truly hope that Carnival is not ruining what has been our preferred line of late (I believe this is number 11 on Princess). Read Less
Sail Date: September 2004
My wife and I are in our early 50s and felt like we lived a dream for 10 days. The best description of this cruise is SPECTACULAR! The ship is brand new, beautifully appointed, and although gigantic, it had a personal feel. We NEVER waited ... Read More
My wife and I are in our early 50s and felt like we lived a dream for 10 days. The best description of this cruise is SPECTACULAR! The ship is brand new, beautifully appointed, and although gigantic, it had a personal feel. We NEVER waited in line for anything (other than embarking), and found numerous "quiet places" when desired. The entertainment was first rate, whether it was listening to the pianist in the Atrium, enjoying one of the great shows (Piano Man, Undercover) in the Princess Theater, the comedy of Kevin Hughes in the Explorer Lounge, a string quartet in the Wheelhouse, or dancing to the band in Club Fusion. The multinational crew treated us like royalty. Our cabin stewart "Juan" kept our stateroom immaculate and was there at moments notice when needed. The waiters and waitresses were engaging and helpful with food and wine recommendations when asked. The food was terrific...presented beautifully and delicious, no matter which of the 6 different restaurants we dined in. We were on the Personal Choice dining program which allowed us to have dinner when and where we wanted. We only made reservations for dinner two nights and still had no trouble getting a table immediately. Our favorite restaurants were the Pacific Moon (because our favorite waitress was there), and The Sterling. All the restaurants allow you to order off the standard dining room menu, so the only difference between them were the "special items" specific to each restaurant, the ambiance, and the crew members serving you. We celebrated our anniversary at "Sabatini's Trattoria" on the first night of the cruise. Being from the SF bay area and growing up in the City...I have had the pleasure of visiting many fine restaurants. I would rate Sabatini's among the finest restaurants I have ever experienced. Our dinner involved at least 8 courses (I lost count), service by no less than 4 waiters, great wine, and 3 hours and 15 minutes! It was a fantastic way to start the cruise! We were very active at each port of call, which made our days on shore fun and very exciting. Kayaking at Catalina and Mazatlan, Horseback riding in Puerto Vallarta, Snorkeling in Cabo San Lucas, and the Animal Park in San Diego. All the shore excursions were great, well organized, and reasonably priced from our perspective. We met many passengers of all ages although the average age on board was probably in the 60s, just based on my observations. The weather was perfect and the seas calm for all 10 days. For me one of the really thrilling moments was to sail under the Golden Gate Bridge. I had never done that even though I am a native San Franciscan. I would highly recommend the Sapphire Princess and the Princess Cruise line to anyone looking for a great cruise experience! Read Less
Sail Date: September 2004
Sapphire Princess is a real paradox. Service we experienced was fantastic. Shipboard communications were terrible. Let me use Juneau as an example: We were tendered to shore for our tour. Had a really good tour, BUT WHEN WE RETURNED AND ... Read More
Sapphire Princess is a real paradox. Service we experienced was fantastic. Shipboard communications were terrible. Let me use Juneau as an example: We were tendered to shore for our tour. Had a really good tour, BUT WHEN WE RETURNED AND WALKED DOWN THE PIER TO THE TENDERING AREA---Whoops! No Ship! It had docked while we were ashore. No announcement was made that any of our party could recall. After finding ship and reboarding, we headed down to the "chamber orchestra" area and every light in the area went out (talk about "dark")! An attempt was being made to changeover to Shore Power from Ship Power; emergency lights didn't come on for a couple of minutes, which could have caused panic in the total darkness. All the elevators stopped with people in them and it took approximately 30 minutes to restore all the power. Announcement after 10 minutes or so said we had experienced an "electrical emergency." Boy, that sure created a confident feeling. Next fun thing was during our last two days sailing down from Skagway to Victoria. On Saturday morning after feeling some strange vibrations, we thought the ship was moving slowly. To make a long story short, an announcement was eventually made that we had an engine malfunction but they were confident that repairs could be made. BUT the remainder of the cruise on ONE ENGINE precluded our shore time in Victoria, British Columbia, but we did get back to Seattle on time Sunday, 9/19/04, for disembarkation. Please don't take this critique as totally negative although when I re-read it, it sounds that way. As I put on my critique form on the ship: 1. Keep the passengers informed as to where and when they disembark/embark and when something unusual happens, immediate clear communication is mandatory. 2. I know profits are the byword in all industries, but surely a complimentary soft drink won't break the company up. Plus the casinos and bingo have become so profit-oriented, that they're no fun to use anymore. 3. On board entertainment was really enjoyable. 4. Food and service was the best I've experienced on either Princess, Royal Caribbean, or Norwegian. 5. Not that Princess could plan this---but for the last Alaskan cruise of the season, the weather was fantastic. Really an enjoyable cruise even with the problems. And YES, I WOULD GO AGAIN!! Read Less
Sail Date: October 2004
Just got back from October 2-12 sailing on Sapphire Princess. 10 day cruise to Mexico. It was somewhat disappointing. Ship is new and nice. Cabins are good, and so are balconies. Entertainment very very good. Food is terrible in the ... Read More
Just got back from October 2-12 sailing on Sapphire Princess. 10 day cruise to Mexico. It was somewhat disappointing. Ship is new and nice. Cabins are good, and so are balconies. Entertainment very very good. Food is terrible in the Horizon Court (24 hours buffet), and fairly decent in the dining room. Service is mediocre at best. Cruise director and his staff were excellent. New thing!!! Juices are no longer free after 11:30am. They are still free for breakfast, but you have to pay for them during lunch and dinner. They also started charging $1.75 plus tips for cappuccino at dinner. The only thing you get free is tea, ice tea, coffee and milk. And the biggest disappointment was Princess' staff hustling (and I do mean hard sell tactics) for passengers to get a drink from the bar. Every 30 seconds to 1 minute someone comes up to you and insists that you do want a drink from the bar. This was very very annoying!!! Read Less
Sail Date: October 2004
SAPPHIRE PRINCESS 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 ... Read More
SAPPHIRE PRINCESS 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. Entertainment 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 his assistants were visible throughout the ship both day and night and were always 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 desserts were made to "die for." Presentation of the food was not as good as on other lines, but the China that Princess uses, 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 desserts. 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 occasion 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 occasion, 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. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2004
This cruise was 10 nights long and it was absolutely WONDERFUL! We live in the San Francisco Bay Area and this ship sailed from Pier 35 in San Francisco. This is the very first cruise that we didn't have to fly to our destination. ... Read More
This cruise was 10 nights long and it was absolutely WONDERFUL! We live in the San Francisco Bay Area and this ship sailed from Pier 35 in San Francisco. This is the very first cruise that we didn't have to fly to our destination. Yeah! We were on board the Sapphire Princess around 11:20 a.m. The first thing we did was check out our Mini-Suite D730 on the Dolphin Deck aft. The suite was nice and roomy. We had originally booked a regular balcony, then our Fantastic TA told us about a "Flash Sale" regarding the mini-suite so we upgraded. We couldn't pass up the price! Later when prices began to rise, and while monitoring the web for availability I was dumbfounded to see internet pricing for INSIDE ROOMS more expensive than our mini-suite. In reality though, next time I would save the money and stick with a balcony. The balconies were on the higher decks. Our mini-suite's deck was completely open. The first morning after the evening of sail I walked out on our deck around 7:00 am to check out the views and the weather. I heard a very LOUD "Good Morning" from one of our neighbors on a higher deck. There is no way you could walk around au nautral. Ha,ha! The ship itself is absolutely gorgeous, and HUGE. This was our 17th cruise, so I have been on a lot of nice ships, but this one just blew all the others away. Food: 5 stars The eats were outstanding, especially the BREADS, pastas and hot soups. Be sure to try the Warm Rice Pudding, with a Creme Brulee Topping in the Santa Fe Restaurant. It is heavenly. Although we wanted Traditional Seating (like almost everyone else on this ship) we ended up with Personal Choice Dining. There are 4 restaurants to chose from. We like to eat early so the first 2 days we just walked right up and got in right away. The 3rd day I called to make a reservation at one of the restaurants and the concierge service told me all 4 restaurants were RESERVED until 10:00 p.m. that night! After that fiasco, I called & booked the reservations for the rest of the cruise all at one time. They do hold 10-20% of the tables vacant for WALK-IN'S for the 5:30 time frame, but after that you will need to sit and wait. Service: 5 stars for the Cabin Steward ---- 4 stars for the Waiters & Assistant Waiters Ports: 5 stars for all. Catalina Island, Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, Cabo San Lucas, San Diego Catalina Island: It was our third time there so we walked to the Casino, and down the seaside front where there are lots of cutesy shops. Catalina is a very charming town, and not to be missed. Puerto Vallarta: It was a very HOT, OVERCAST, and Muggy. We took the ship's off the Beaten Track Tour. I had taken this last October with my Mom and our driver at that time took us up into the hills to see where the RICH & FABULOUSLY WEALTHY LIVE, then we went shopping where the locals go. That trip was much better. This time our driver did nothing special. Just took us down the waterfront, Casa Kimberly where Richard Burton and Liz Taylor lived, and shopping where the tourists hang out. I was disappointed. Having said that P.V. is a beautiful place. Mazatlan: This was the highlight of our trip. I had booked an independent tour via internet with Frank of Mazatlan Tours/Ole Tours. I had advertised on the cruise msg boards for others to join us, and were fortunate enough to have 5 other people hook up with us on this journey. Frank met us at the cruise terminal. He took us all around the island, and showed us "The Real Mexico" with all its points of interest. He has a dynamite personality, and made the tour not only fascinating, but LOTS OF FUN AS WELL. He charged us $40 p/p and it included a great lunch at a Mexican Cafe. Everyone had a terrific time, and we were all sorry to say goodbye to our new amigo Frank. For those interested I highly recommend him. Check out www.mazatlan-tours.com His personal e-mail is fkole2000@hotmail.com. Cabo San Lucas: It was boiling hot, humid, and totally sunny. My husband was getting overheated so we just walked around down the main drag. Cabo is a lovely city, we have been to this port twice before so we just bummed it. San Diego/La Jolla: We did the ship's excursion called Diego & La Jolla Highlights Tour. This tour is fantastic, we drove around for about 4 hours with a few stops in between. The scenery is breathtaking. San Diego and La Jolla have excellent weather year round, and our day there was a perfect one. If you want a good time, kick up your heels in old town. Disembarkation: The best we have ever experienced. Princess has instituted a winner in creating "Express Checkout." We left our bags in our room and walked off the ship with them at 7:30 a.m. Hailed a cab, got on Cal-Train and walked through our front door at 10:15 a.m. Summary - LOVED THE SHIP, THE FOOD, and PORTS. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2004
Our 10 day cruise on the Sapphire was great! We didn't know what to expect and were very surprised by every part of the cruise. We usually sail on Celebrity but decided to try Princess. Getting on the ship was easy, no long lines ... Read More
Our 10 day cruise on the Sapphire was great! We didn't know what to expect and were very surprised by every part of the cruise. We usually sail on Celebrity but decided to try Princess. Getting on the ship was easy, no long lines just a very steep ramp to climb aboard. Our room was nice and balcony very large. We had anytime dinning so we ate in each of the 4 DR. They all were wonderful and our party of 8 every night never complained once. The service and the staff were always ready to please. The Horizon Court, which is buffet style 24 hrs. was good, but not a lot of room to move around I was always almost bumping into people. The spa and classes they offered were one of the best I've used. The shows were the BEST. Every night top notch performers made us laugh, sing, and enjoy just watching them. The pizza and Hamburger bars outside by the pools were great. I did gain some lbs but the memories and fun times made each one worth it. I was very sad to leave this beautiful ship and will look forward to sailing her again. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2004
After some thirty cruises or so (our third with Princess) a trip with the Sapphire Princess stands out as one of the better ones. Being a relatively new ship with a high CDC (98) score, a good itinerary and a safe destination, where most ... Read More
After some thirty cruises or so (our third with Princess) a trip with the Sapphire Princess stands out as one of the better ones. Being a relatively new ship with a high CDC (98) score, a good itinerary and a safe destination, where most people spoke English, sounded like a plus for us. She was on her maiden voyage across the Pacific from Los Angeles through Mexico, Hawaii, French Polynesia, Fiji, American and Western Samoa, New Zealand ending up in Sydney, Australia. Unable to fit her 18 decks under the Harbor Bridge she took up 957 feet of wharf space at the " Circular Quay" in Sydney, Australia. Sydney dubbed her as " Big Berther." She earned the title "Biggest Ship" by her other ports. 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. (Unlike a chaotic encounter we had with the QM2 in Florida.) About 2,652 passengers among whom were mostly Americans (1,330) boarded the ship in Los Angeles, 565 British, 333 Canadians, 238 Australians, other countries and at least 25 children. The crew numbered around 1,098, the majority from the Philippines (421), 112 Indians, 54 British, 49 Thai, 45 Canadians, 40 Italians, 31 South Africans, 26 Australians, 20 Americans, Eastern Europeans and other nationals including one from Mainland China, and another from Tunisia. The Sapphire Princess is a great progress over our last cruise on the Grand Princess. The present 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 skills effectively 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 are things of the past. The waiters now serve drinks (peddle bottled water, cookbooks, coffee tickets and novelty items to harried diners) and supply cutlery 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 fee. Perhaps the bean counters had gone too far. 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 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 desserts 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 cafe (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 ship burned out her thrusters in Moorea. The ship uses thrusters to maneuver only when docking, so the incident did not affect our sailing. It rained in Moorea and Samoa, deleting some land tours. We met rough weather in New Zealand and bypassed Wellington because of the high winds. Overall we enjoyed our Pacific cruise aboard the Sapphire Princess from Los Angeles, California, to Sydney, Australia. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2004
This cruise was booked through an Australian travel agency well ahead of departure time, approximately 12 months prior to sailing. The anticipation of this cruise was unbearable. Our Roll Call for this cruise was one of the most ... Read More
This cruise was booked through an Australian travel agency well ahead of departure time, approximately 12 months prior to sailing. The anticipation of this cruise was unbearable. Our Roll Call for this cruise was one of the most informative and best that I have seen on the Internet. The embarkation arrangements at Sydney were pathetic, with boarding time from arrival to actual embarkation of approximately 3.5 hours, all standing in a long line that never seemed to end. Princess either needs to complain to the immigration service and customs people, or hire extra staff to deal with such a large ship. Not only that, there were no Princess staff to be seen anywhere to tell passengers where to put luggage and where to line up. However saying all this negative, the rest of the cruise was fantastic. We had freedom dining, and enjoyed eating at all the different locations. BEWARE of SABATINI'S!! unless you can stomach so much food that it is ok to be force fed 10 courses!!!!!! The food was excellent along with the service and well worth the extra $20 per head, however the amount of food is OVERWHELMING!! Our accommodation was fine. If you are going to have a balcony cabin, make sure that you get a cabin on C deck as the balconies are much bigger than those on Lido, Aloha and Baja. We looked at a minisuite and found them to be good -- ample sitting area and a decent sized balcony (beware -- they are exposed to all other decks, and people can look down on you). Room steward was excellent, always doing the job well and with flare. The waiters were also good at what they did, and we have noticed since our last Princess Cruise (a very long time ago!!) that the service levels have improved. Drink prices were good, if you have kids or like soda, purchase the soda card, this was an excellent value and well worth it. The cocktails were also reasonably priced and the C.O.D was always good. Entertainment was also of a good standard, although only went to one Broadway show. It was standard cruise entertainment. However we enjoyed the pianist and the quiz type shows (not our normal thing, but our friends made us participate, for which we are grateful). Ports of call were good, but the Princess tours are a rip off. Much better to do it yourself unless it is impossible to do otherwise. Tours were really up to 3 times more expensive than getting a taxi to take you around. We made excellent friends and have booked for the Diamond Princess on the Christmas cruise departing from Singapore this year. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2005
The Sapphire Princess is a beautiful ship, one of the best-appearing we have seen in our past ten cruises. It is a newer vessel, having first sailed in mid-2004. The following is our critique of a twelve day cruise in New Zealand and ... Read More
The Sapphire Princess is a beautiful ship, one of the best-appearing we have seen in our past ten cruises. It is a newer vessel, having first sailed in mid-2004. The following is our critique of a twelve day cruise in New Zealand and Australia that began on January 30, 2005. Embarkation was smooth, well-organized, and was relatively fast, considering that more than 2,300 passengers were boarding with us. We were on the ship within about ½ hour of our arrival at the cruise terminal. Cabin service was excellent, and our cabin attendant was one of the best we have had. Service elsewhere on the ship, including dining room and buffet service was very good. Cruise cuisine was good, and included a large variety of foods. There were exceptions, as the prime-rib in the alternative restaurant Sterling Steak House was one of the toughest pieces of meat I have ever encountered. The Horizon Court buffet food was good and plentiful, but not outstanding. The ship's desserts were generally very good, but very few of them were outstanding. I would classify none of the food on board as being in the gourmet category. We did not eat in the alternative Sabbatinis restaurant for which there was an extra $20.00 per person surcharge. We were part of a group of 90 people. The cruise line required everyone in our group to be assigned to "anytime dining." That classification was a misnomer because we were assigned to eat at 5:30 p.m. each evening, changing dining rooms every evening. We were not allowed to eat in the main dining room, which does not serve breakfast or lunch. We did not even see it. We are not fans of anytime dining, and prefer fixed seating in the main dining room. On this ship you do not have an excellent chance of getting a fixed seating assignment in the main dining room. In the four other personal choice dining rooms you can also order from the main dining room menu, but you have no choice of waiters or where you sit. Passenger space was adequate, but certain areas are not large enough for the ship and its programs. The Princess Theater, where major entertainment takes place is much too small for the passenger load, and we frequently were not able to find seats if we did not get to the theater at least 45 minutes prior to a show. The Horizon Court buffet line is much too small and too crowded for the ship. We were constantly bumping into other passengers at meal times because there is no organization of buffet lines at the several food stations in the buffet areas. We have not experienced this kind of crowding in these areas on other ships. Ship entertainment was excellent, and included one of the best singing and dancing groups we have ever experienced on a cruise. The only problem was getting in to see the entertainment when you wanted to. The Cruise Director Chris, was outstanding and a very energetic, bright and enthusiastic person. Other ship activities were well-planned and scheduled. There are surcharges for some activities such as computer training and ceramics painting. Persons taking the tours seemed to be well-pleased with the itineraries and organization of the tours. Ports of call were excellent and gave us excellent experiences in New Zealand and Australia. We would recommend Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin and Fjordland National Park in New Zealand. We also were very impressed with Hobart, Tasmania, and Melbourne and Sydney in Australia. They were all excellent places to visit. Debarkation went smooth and was relatively speedy. We were impressed with the fact that we did not have to congregate into one specific area to debark. We could wait in any area of the ship until our number/color was announced. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2005
SAPPHIRE PRINCESS CRUISE NEW ZEALAND AND AUSTRALIA JANUARY 2005 Jean and Ralph Walker Email rwalker@internode.on.net Itinerary -- Caribe cabin 520 Deck 10 midships balcony cabin 06 January 2005 -- Departure from Auckland, NZ; 07 ... Read More
SAPPHIRE PRINCESS CRUISE NEW ZEALAND AND AUSTRALIA JANUARY 2005 Jean and Ralph Walker Email rwalker@internode.on.net 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, Tasmania; 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 were 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 8.30 a.m. we walked to Sky Tower which is about 5 minutes walk from Rydges and took the elevator to the top and were 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% if you have one of the discount vouchers. THE CRUISE EXPERIENCE -- Embarkation -- We left our Hotel at about 10 a.m. and walked down to the ship. Embarkation on our tickets was scheduled to start at 12 noon 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 10.30 a.m. 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 were. 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 11:45 a.m. We heard rumours of immigration computer problems but what ever it was we didn't start the boarding process till 12:15 p.m. 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 11:30 p.m. At 12:15 p.m. 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 check in? 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 1 1/2 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 the 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. Disembarkation  -- 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 3 p.m. 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 Captain's Circle party and for what it's 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 database 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 adds 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 - 6 p.m. 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 what's 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 10:30 p.m. 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 Skywalkers 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 cafe 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 needs 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. Dining -- 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 8:15 p.m. but bookings can be made prior to 6:15 p.m. or after 8 p.m. 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. On 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 have 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 6:15 p.m. and 8 p.m. 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 24 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 - 9:30 .a.m for breakfast and 12 - 2 p.m. for lunch. Sometimes it is hard to get there because so much is happening on the ship. We think the ice cream stall where they charge extra could be eliminated as people can get free ice creams between 3:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. in Horizon Court and different flavours of ice cream 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 5:30 p.m. 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. Our cabin -- 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 North 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 toward 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 seems 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 time 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 of course Sydney. Be careful sometimes the ship arrives early. It might show an arrival time in port of 8 a.m. and you might be docked at 6:30 a.m. 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 impressed 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. WELLINGTON -- 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. CHRISTCHURCH -- 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 countryside. 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 toward 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 toward 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 2½ 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. FJIORDLAND -- 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 weather wise. 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. MELBOURNE -- 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 cafe scene is worth a look as is Lygon Street to the north a mecca for restaurants and the cafe 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. CONCLUSION -- 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 and we will do what we can to help. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2005
This was our 6th cruise on Princess and its sister line P&O cruises. Having flown from Sydney sunshine, Auckland was very wet and cold, as was to be the rest of New Zealand during our cruise, they have had no summer this year. ... Read More
This was our 6th cruise on Princess and its sister line P&O cruises. Having flown from Sydney sunshine, Auckland was very wet and cold, as was to be the rest of New Zealand during our cruise, they have had no summer this year. Embarkation -- This was probably for most passengers the worst part of the trip. Boarding was from twelve to four p.m. We arrived at 12 a.m. to find over 1500 passengers of the 2780 due to sail already there, plus a large amount of passengers from the previous cruise who were still trying to get taxis. The Princess representatives were like headless chooks so we dropped our luggage off and went and had a leisurely lunch in one of the restaurants on the wharf. Came back at 3 p.m. to find long lines of cold, wet disgruntled passengers so repaired to the adjacent Auckland Hilton for a drink, back at 4.30 p.m. and we were on board in less than five minutes, they had even removed all the security screening equipment. So in our case embarkation was the best I have ever had from all cruise lines!!!. I cannot speak for other passengers. THE SHIP -- What can you say, big, brand new in pristine condition,or so I thought until the seventh day of the voyage as the ship was traversing the Tasman Sea when a glass door 8 feet by 3.5 feet,weight about 200 pounds located midships on the Lido deck between the two main pools decided it was not happy swinging in the 14 to 20 foot swell on the Tasman decided to fall on me as I tried to pass through it. It hit me on the head and left shoulder knocking me to my knees, with it on top of me. With the help of another passenger and a deck boy we removed the recalcitrant door to a safe place. It would appear to me that there was a failure in the bracket holding the top pin of the door (metal fatigue). Strange in a ship so new, also very dangerous as there were young children and more elderly persons than I right behind me who could have been injured badly. I saw the ship's Doctor of course (Take 2 Tylenol and lie down), they didn't even charge me for the visit. The rest of the voyage, another 5 days I don't remember, believe it if you like. For the money paid, and that was not a lot, the ship was excellent, the food was better than other cruises, the staff good, though the dining room staff at our table needed some more training. Plenty of space to relax and read and not be disturbed, we even won the trivia twice (anyone want a Princess Luggage Tag or Princess ball pen?). Read Less
Sail Date: January 2005
Sapphire Princess Cruise 6th - 18th January 2005 Review 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 ... Read More
Sapphire Princess Cruise 6th - 18th January 2005 Review 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 cabin steward, Victor, was great. We tipped him $20.00 as soon as we met 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 Fe, 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 3.30 p.m. and 4.30 p.m. 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 granddaughter just finished a university course 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 walk to Information Centre. We got the cable car back to the city. Shuttle to ship. Christchurch: The Antarctic Centre is a must. I rebooked the snowmobile 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. Hobart: We walked to the city center. 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. 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. The SPANGLES: What a great group of people. These friendships were formed on the Cruise Critic ...Roll Call Board up to a year before the cruise. It was like going on a cruise with the family. 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! Read Less
Sail Date: January 2005
Arrival -- My wife and I flew from Perth, Western Australia, to Auckland, New Zealand, to join the Sapphire Princess on her return trip to Sydney, Australia. I am in a wheelchair so my comments, although probably a little different from ... Read More
Arrival -- My wife and I flew from Perth, Western Australia, to Auckland, New Zealand, to join the Sapphire Princess on her return trip to Sydney, Australia. I am in a wheelchair so my comments, although probably a little different from those of able travelers, might give some useful clues to those readers and potential travelers who are disabled. My first recommendation to any voyager is to not do what we did -- don't try to make a same day connection between arriving flight and cruise departure. Diane and I have only done three cruises so we're new at cruising and that is one lesson we'll learn for the future. The flight from Perth was only six hours but for me the transition from arrival in he morning to departure in the afternoon was too stressful because I thought in my ignorance that it would make sense to arrive in the morning, have a leisurely breakfast at the airport and transfer to the port for embarkation. I won't do that again! My advice is to arrive several days early, get over jet lag, be rested, join the cruise and don't lose a day sleeping in your cabin because you're too tired to explore the ship. The Ship, the Glorious Ship -- The ship is big -- very big when compared to anything around it. The only time it seemed small on the entire cruise was when it was next to the sheer mountain sides of Milford Sound in New Zealand's south. Having said that, the ship was easy to live in; she was commodious without feeling too expansive. She felt intimate in those areas that could be sought out for a quiet read or a quiet drink. Public Areas -- Diane and I had an inside handicapped stateroom on Lido deck which is about the highest deck and the one with the pools and the Horizon Court, which is the buffet and breakfast restaurant. Although the New Zealand weather was not conducive to sunbaking or much swimming it was obvious that there was ample space if that is what you wanted. We used the many bars on the ship and they were all decorated well and had good musicians playing at different times throughout the ship. The bars had darkened areas if that was what you wanted, strong well made drinks with good booze and the waitstaff were attentive, friendly and knowledgeable. These bars were well placed around the ship for a libation either before or after or both should that be your pleasure. We availed ourselves of the reading room and the library on the reception deck and always found it to be relaxing and a convenient place to watch the sea from its low angle -- it was particularly interesting the first day in the crossing of the Tasman Sea to Tasmania because the white-capped seas were nearly to the top of the windows. Ah -- the restaurants -- how much can be said of them? I like food and am interested in all it's many forms. The Sapphire didn't disappoint me in any of its restaurants, sampling any of its varied menus. Diane and I chose "anytime dining" and we were completely satisfied with that choice. Of the four specialty restaurants, we could select from the small select menu [Southwest, Italian, Asian or Steakhouse] or you were also given a larger menu from the International Dining Room -- you could order from which ever menu suited your taste. We would just phone the concierge every couple of days and make reservations -- one small item to note, they only allowed reservations to be made before seven o'clock, I think, because after that the time was saved for "walkins." This, however, was a minor consideration and the system worked perfectly for us. From the first day, the concierge knew I was in a chair and I was always given a seat near the entrance and their continuing consideration was a credit to them personally as well as Princess cruises in general. After trying the specialties from the restaurants early in the cruise, we settled down to ordering from the International menu and what a cornucopia of delights it was. True to its name, the menu was international in creation, delicious in preparation and memorable in presentation. We could not fault any of the aspects of the food service on board. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2005
CHAOS and BEDLAM: that is what we were greeted with upon our arrival at the Auckland, NZ, terminal after 20 hours of flying from the East Coast of the USA to reach the new Sapphire Princess. The embarkation process was in total disarray ... Read More
CHAOS and BEDLAM: that is what we were greeted with upon our arrival at the Auckland, NZ, terminal after 20 hours of flying from the East Coast of the USA to reach the new Sapphire Princess. The embarkation process was in total disarray and it took us nearly 3 hours of standing in lines and walking up stairs to reach the gangway and ultimately our stateroom. The problem seemed to stem from too many passengers (2800 going on and 2800 coming off) and not adequate facilities, planning or supervision from both the Princess staff and the Port Security group. This was especially trying for handicapped persons and families traveling with small children or older relatives. Add to that chaos the fact that it was raining, it was cold and it was confusing and you end up with a nightmare start to what was expected by all to be a dream vacation. The ship is ultra modern, well appointed and during our cruise, handled some rough 60 knot winds and 25 foot seas quite well as it is equipped with stabilizers. Our stateroom was well appointed and included a balcony, which sadly was only used once due to the inclement weather along the way. The shower is small, too small for anyone over 6 ft. tall and 200 lbs. Food, beverage and entertainment services were handled very well and an A+ rating can be given to all. The shore excursions suffered once again due to the large number of passengers being herded through the ship to the gangways and then the security measures both on and off the ship and on and off the buses. It certainly diminished the enjoyment of the various ports of call. The feature called Anytime Dining is a nice addition and opens up a wide variety of choices for lunch and evening dining without the traditional early or late seatings. The Concierge Service was excellent and a good way to confirm a booking for the specific restaurant of your choice. With better weather, fewer passengers and a more efficient passenger embarkation/disembarkation process, this would be a most enjoyable cruise experience. Read Less
Sapphire Princess Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.4
Dining 4.0 3.9
Entertainment 4.0 3.6
Public Rooms 4.0 4.4
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.9
Family 5.0 3.9
Shore Excursion 5.0 3.7
Enrichment 4.0 3.6
Service 5.0 4.3
Value For Money 4.0 3.9
Rates 4.0 4.2

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