Sapphire Princess Cruise Review by Richard English
- Sail Date: August 2019
- Destination: Mediterranean
- Cabin Type: Balcony
On board the Sapphire Princess there are many examples of US influence, of which more later - but the first clue was when, as we stepped off the gangplank and entered the ship, we were approached by smiling Princess staff (as happens of other ships, of course) by the difference was that these staff were not there to guide us to our stateroom or even to point out the location of the lifts - that we had to sort out for ourselves. No, these staff were there to sell us extras - in this case drinks packages. By purchasing such a package we would be able to reduce the price of a bottle of wine to as "little" as $31 a bottle. And this selling of overpriced extras continued throughout the cruise. Of course, one can refuse them and that was the option I normally took. My partner also elected not to take any of the personal care extras such as the spa which, she assured me, was about three times UK prices (and doubtless would have required the payment of a gratuity).
I have become used to the fact that drinks on ships are not cheap these days (when I started cruising they were UK prices or less) but the drinks prices on Princess were obscene. The glass of wine that would have cost Princess less than a dollar at wholesale duty-free prices was on offer to customers for $10 or more. And that's not all - every drink served attracted a non-optional "gratuity" of $14.50. So the bottle of beer that would have cost no more than $4 in a UK pub cost over $21 - of which probably $20 was clear profit to Princess. This rampant profiteering was actually counter-productive since those at my dinner table (and the other tables I could see) simply refrained from buying drinks and drank the free water supplied. Normally I would have at least one drink with dinner, as would have my companion. Had the drinks been half the price and the gratuity absent, Princess would still have made plenty of money on our dinner drinks; as it is they made next to nothing.
The gratuity scam continued to the end of the voyage when a gratuity payment of $14.50 per person, per day, was added to my stateroom account. So that's over $400 just for tips - even though tips had already been added to many of the services. So I was paying tips on tips!
So how was the cruise otherwise? Well, not bad - as it should have been for the money. My stateroom, with its balcony, was comfortable enough, although once again there were some issues related to the American ownership. I have never been on a cruise where the staterooms have sufficient electrical socket outlets and on a modern ship there is no reason why they should be supplied. After all, travellers will have such things as mobile 'phones, laptops, camcorders, curlers, hair-dryers and other things that need power. The Sapphire Princess provided 4 outlets and these were of US specifications, which had more disadvantages than that of simply being of the niggardly US voltage of 110V. US sockets are much smaller than UK sockets and thus, when an adaptor is used to convert the US outlet to the UK plug type, there is room for only one plug in each double US socket. So only two sockets can be used at any time. Of course, the obligatory bottle of mineral water was supplied at a high price ($2.36) should one not want to drink the warm tap-water.
The on-board entertainment was good enough, although I have been on cruises where there is a greater variety. My major criticism of the entertainment was its timing. Passengers who had booked the second sitting for dinner, as had I, we simply unable to take advantage of many of the events as they started too early - 2030 or 2100 - when dinner rarely finished prior to 2200. I have never had this problem on other lines. But those intending to book with Princess would be well-advised to book an early dinner sitting. Of course, it would have been possible for us to have gone to the self-service restaurant - but when one has established a good relationship with one's fellow diners one wishes to maintain it.
Overall the facilities were good and there were generally enough of them for all, although lounger-space around the pools was in short supply and some guests had taken to "reserving" a lounger with personal items - although this was supposedly forbidden.
The "Movie under the stars" facility was impressive with its huge screen although it was a shame that nothing but the titles and ratings of the movies was given in the "Princess Patter" information sheets. So what is one to make of a movie entitled "Bohemian Rhapsody" if one has never seen its details anywhere. There was an in-cabin TV which gave some details of what was going on - but details of the movies were absent, although there was ample space to have shown such details in "Princess Patter" or on the TV.
So would I cruise with Princess again? In a word, no, unless they do something about their prices. I can afford to pay them but I resent being ripped off - and, frankly, this is what Princess are doing. In conversation with our fellow travellers we found several who had been on multiple Princess cruises and were intending to pay a deposit for another one (on yes - the continuous on-board selling included forward bookings) but for me once was enough.
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