We had a wonderful time aboard the Sapphire Princess. This was our fourth trip to the Mexican Riviera having previously sailed on the Diamond twice and the Star Princess once.
I'll try to be as succinct as possible.
We drove to the port from Northern CA. We stayed at the Hyatt Regency Long Beach which I highly recommend. It's 10 minutes from the Port of San Pedro.
EMBARKATION: We arrived at 11:00 and there were several people there already, although not an over-abundance of passengers. Used the Platinum check-in and we were escorted to the Platinum waiting area. At approx. 12:15 someone fetched us and escorted us to the line, and we were on board by 12:20.
DINING: Immediately called the concierge line to make dining reservations as we had anytime dining. Of course the only times available (even though we were one of the first people on the ship) were 6:20 or 8:00 p.m., so we just made a standing reservation for 8:00 p.m. for the first 3 nights, then winged it the rest of the trip. Ironically, we decided to just show up one night at quarter to 7:00 and were escorted to one of the best tables in the place. So I think from now on we'll never make reservations again except for formal night. Now on night number one, even though we had an 8:00 p.m. reservation, we were about 30th in line. They had one station open instead of two and it was very, very slow. On previous sailings aboard the Diamond, at least they had several people available to seat the diners.
I still prefer the anytime dining experience on the Grand class ships as opposed to the Sapphire and Diamond. There are some real problems. Ultimately, we just decided to eat in the dining rooms only 3 nights out of the seven because the Horizon Court was so much more convenient.
We didn't wish to be on a schedule for this cruise with the ultimate goal being extreme relaxation. We even skipped the second formal night!
CABIN: We had the coveted mini-suite, E-731, the last cabin with the double wide balcony that wraps around with a view of the aft and starboard side. Once again, it was nice to have a mini-suite with all the extra room that a mini-suite affords, especially the double-sized bathroom with the rectangular shower.
However, that being said, I did not think that this cabin was the be-all end-all of cabins. Firstly, we weren't able to really enjoy our balcony all that much because on the first day or so it was rather cool temperature wise, and secondly, when in port, in P.V. there was this loud construction going on which truncated my balcony time. If we'd had the opposite cabin E728 we wouldn't have had the misfortune of the construction noise, but that's the way it goes. So, I ended up taking my book up to the pool and lying in a lounge chair up there.
In Mazatlan we didn't get off the ship. I wanted to fulfill my fantasy of lying on MY balcony and read my book. Well, that was not realized in Mazatlan either because our balcony was on the side where the noise was, so I just took my book up to the pool again and read it there! LOL
Basically what I'm trying to say is I don't think for us that a mini-suite OR a balcony is worth the extra cost. My husband thinks differently. I would be happy with an inside or an obstructed view for the savings. But if you're the type of person who will spend a lot of time in your room, then I think you should get a mini-suite. We did enjoy the fact that it was a covered balcony, however. And we did sleep with the door ajar every night. It's nice having the lower-down balcony because you can hear the ocean better.
CABIN STEWARD: He was very, very nice. However, I felt that he was pretty new to the ship. I also got that feeling all-around that there was a major crew change. When we finally met our steward we inquired about our complimentary champagne. He had never heard of that and said he'd have to ask his supervisor. Well, I called the front desk and they were adamant that the champagne is for people in FULL SUITES ONLY. And I told them that it was for those of us in mini-suites too and she was very rude and put me on hold. Well, there was a knock at our door and it was our steward with our rightful champagne. Also, he told us we'd have to wait until the morning to get a bathrobe. Hmm, that was interesting since on all the other cruises it was instantaneous that we'd get a robe. And he had never heard of the pillow menu either. Not a big deal, but once again, there seemed to be a lack of communication.
Okay, the bottom line is we did have a great time, and enjoyed the food a lot. We thought the pastries aboard this ship were much better than before, and have no complaints about the food. We really have no complaints about anything except for the slight confusion over the champagne.
Oh, and there is one other little annoyance. On day one we went up to Horizon Court about 12:45 and we were asked no LESS THAN 6 to 8 times if we wanted the soda card, the cappuccino card or the wine tasting. We couldn't even take a bite of food without them coming by the tables and hawking their wares. It felt just like being on the beach in Mexico.
It's definitely gotten a lot worse with the up-sell aboard Princess. This was my 5th Princess cruise in 3 years and I've never experienced such "hawking". It was a real turn-off to say the least, but did not persist past the first day.
SHOWS: We never went to the showroom as we've seen all those production shows on the other ships. But we did see a couple of good shows in the Explorer with one being Robert Mesmer the Hypnotist and another being a comedian whose name escapes me!
SPA: Loved the spa treatments. DH had a massage/hot stone combo for $89 on our Mazatlan day and I had the seaweed wrap with scalp massage, foot massage, body massage thermal wrap float device! Wonderful.
Also, I highly recommend getting the weekly Thermal Pass $70 per person or $100 per couple. You can go to these Turkish-like steam rooms and saunas and rest on the warming beds. I went there every day and loved every minute of it.
Princess does give a good value for the money which is why we keep going back. The employees are always very courteous and helpful.
They excel at embarkation and disembarkation, which as usual ran very smoothly with the first group being called at approximately 8:10 a.m. and the last group being called around 10:45.
Oh, as for the tours, we did the P.V. Beach Break and went to the paradise village resort north of the airport. We had a lovely day there with a decent buffet lunch.
In Cabo they are offering a couple new excursions with one being the Melia Resort with buffet lunch and the tour runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and was very, very nice! We had an enjoyable day on the beach in Cabo, something we'd always looked forward to and had never done
We can't wait for our next Princess cruise.
If anyone has any questions please feel free to post them and I will get back to you.