We finally made it to Sydney, Australia after a thirty-day cruise from Los Angeles, California aboard the Sapphire Princess on her maiden voyage across the Pacific. She lost her thrusters in Moorea, French Polynesia, encountered rain in Hilo, Hawaii, Samoa canceling most of the tours. She met rough seas in New Zealand and bypass Wellington because of strong winds. It was a good cruise otherwise.
Getting on in Los Angeles was a breeze and getting off in Sydney was laudable. People flying home picked up their luggage at the airport. Those staying locally were provided with baggage carts and help from the resident agents of Princess. About 2,652 passengers boarded the ship in Los Angeles, California. The crew numbered around 1,098
The service is fast and apt. Food is a cut above the usual cruise fare. The cuisine is varied, well prepared and finely presented. It is not odd to find your oatmeal served piping hot and eggs Benedict at breakfast perfect.
The wait staff had least ten years with Princess and knew how to delight the travelers on board. Headwaiter Lufti proudly calls the waiters adept and highly capable. Personnel with several language 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 here are things of the past. The waiters now serve drinks and supply flatware as needed. The ubiquitous packets of herb tea and cocoa powder beside hot water dispensers at the Lido buffet are history. Hot chocolate, ice cream and the daily newspaper come with a price.
The ship is well designed with a minimum of wasted space. The promenade deck has a nonskid surface providing greater traction for joggers and walkers. Our 182 sq. ft ocean-view cabin had ample closet space. Bathrobes and fruit bowls are available on request. Bar lounges doubled up for other ship activities when not in use.
The Grand Plaza at deck 5 is an atrium elegant in its simplicity. Live poinsettias decorate it beautifully for the holidays. A string quartet performs here daily. A self-service library, an art gallery, a writing room, a tour office and two eateries that open only for dinner are located on this level. A grand staircase with gleaming banisters and polished white marble steps spirals to the upper decks.
Four theme eateries with fixed menus, Southwest, Asian, Italian, and Steak promote " anytime dining" catch the overflow of guests from the traditional dining room. Seats are limited for conventional dining and operated only for dinner and afternoon tea leaving many guests feeling deprived. An alternative venue Italian trattoria carries a twenty-dollar per person cover charge.
"Anytime dining" supposedly provides flexible unhurried dining hours at meal times. But only two of the eateries are open for breakfast and lunch. Seats fill out fast and latecomers waiting to be seated form long lines. A Lido type buffet, a hot dog/burger grill and a pizzeria also provide meals for voyagers.
Guests give up their dinner deserts to get good seats at the 910-seat Princess theatre. There is standing room following for high caliber production shows and first run films. There is a daily Catholic mass, Sunday Interfaith Service and Friday Jewish Sabbath Service on sea days.
There are classes in fitness, line and ballroom dancing, bridge, ceramics, photography and computers. Experts talk on art, economics, well being and motivation. Guest lecturers accurately research their subjects and present them well.
Among the guest lecturers was Barbra Kates, a notable artist specializing in architectural ceramics. She set up the ship's ceramics program with a dedicated kiln included aboard. Her art lectures covered Gaugin, Australian aboriginal art, and South Sea tattooing. She is also an avid underwater photographer and held meetings with divers aboard.
A 24 hour Internet café (35 cents/minute, dollar a page for printing) is quite popular with the travelers. Its 29 stations were seldom empty. A photo machine for digital cameras was also available.