The Sapphire Princess is prestige vessel which came into service in May 2004, almost 116000 tons and can carry some 2600 passengers. I recently cruised on her from San Francisco to the Mexican Rivera and return. In such a short time, the crew seems to have become well acquainted with this ship.
The ship is spotless and well-maintained, with delightful lounges and comfortable seating. Show lounges have good sight lines of the stage. Unfortunately the decoration of the lounges is not a strong point - dark colours, too much use of plastic and artificial features. The casino is a case in point. The panoramic glass elevators in the atrium have views obstructed again with plastic designs, which in my view ruins the feature of these elevators.
Entertain on board was excellent, with well performed production shows from a very enthusiastic team, though on a ten night cruise, I would have thought that three production shows would have been in order rather than just two. I do not consider an `Art Auction` to be "Highlighted Evening Entertainment." The Cruise Director and is assistants were visible throughout the ship both day and night and 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 deserts were made to "die for." Presentation of the food was not as good as on other lines, but the China that Princess use, with the designs on the plates seemed so bold that these designs took away from any presentation displays coming from the galley. Meals in the dining room were a delight - especially breakfast and dinner.
The are many other venues on this ship for alternative dining and reports from these restaurants were also good.
The Horizon Court is the informal dining court on this ship. It was always busy and offers a very varied menu. There is an abundance of fresh fruits, remarkable breads and again mouth-watering deserts. Unfortunately the hot dishes looked rather un-inviting and were often tasteless, and reminded one of poor cafeteria style food. Salads on the other hand were always fresh, and of the highest quality. Cooked Breakfasts appeared and tasted very greasy.
Juice was only available at breakfast time and only orange and grapefruit, others you had to ask for.
On entry to the Horizon Court one is presented, with a plate - no tray which causes difficulties especially to Europeans who like each course on a separate plate, rather than all the foods piled on one.
Unfortunately staff on duty in this area were slow at clearing tables and on occasions it was difficult in getting a clean table at which to eat.
Even though the ship can carry up to 2600 passengers, it never feels crowded, except around the main swimming pool. However there are ample other places on deck to relax either to the front of the ship or aft which was my favourite area.
A number of bars are conveniently situated all over the ship. Drinks are well presented, of good quality and are reasonable price. On occasions, some of the waiters were aggressive in their approach. They apparently don't like the pre-pay soda system in operation.
One of the most noticeable things on the ship was the lack of happy smiling faces from the staff - especially the bar staff (throughout the ship) and the waiting staff in the Horizon Court- my they were a glum bunch - so solemn, so dour. Perhaps it's just their make up, as most appeared to come from Eastern European and similar countries.
On this cruise, I chose an inside cabin on Caribe deck. The cabin was comfortable and well appointed with a most attentive cabin attendant who kept the cabin spotless. Insulation between the cabins is poor so if you want to have a private conversation, ensure that you switch on your television. The cabin was eerie in many respects, the use of mirrors had a strange effect. If you looked in the mirror of the vanity unit, by reflection with the mirror over the bed, you saw the television and other items up to 14 times in a curve like environment giving the impression of a underground tunnel. Talking about televisions, more or a better selection of movies would have been appreciated. The en-suite was functional but had one of the smallest shower units that I have ever seen on any cruise ship. Shower pressure was good with lots of hot water.
The toilet system is vacuum operated and what a noise it makes, you not only hear the action of your own system flushing but of those in adjacent and nearby cabins - funny at first but most annoying as the cruise progressed, especially late at night and early in the morning.
Tender operations at the ports of calls requiring this operation were efficient and well executed.
In all, not a bad cruise experience, except when we were dumped on the pier at the end of the cruise, instead of the provision of hotel facilities as booked, but that is another story.
Princess as with many other cruise operators have introduced cutbacks, some most noticeable, others discreetly - thankfully they have retained the traditional welcome aboard Captains Cocktail Party, albeit cut down in duration as with the Captains Club party.
In summary the cruise experience with Princess on the Sapphire Princess was good but not all that good compared to other experiences with this particular company.