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Old May 3rd, 2006, 02:20 PM
cljw's Avatar
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 60
Default Sapphire Princess Review - April 22,2006: LONG

Following is our review of the Sapphire Princess Cruise on 4/22/06:

Sapphire Princess Review:
Dates: 4/22/06 – 4/29/06
4/22: Los Angeles (Sail Away 4:15PM)
4/23: Sea Day
4/24: Sea Day
4/25: Puerto Vallarta (Docked)
4/26: Mazatlan (Docked)
4/27: Cabo San Lucas (Tender)
4/28: Sea Day
4/28: Bonus Sea Day and Disembark in LA (3:30 PM)

Let us describe this ship in one word – WOW!!! The Sapphire Princess is beautiful.

Embarkation: We arrived at the World Cruise Center in San Pedro a little before 11 am. We drove from Northern CA so we parked in Lot Number 2, which is the first gate on the left after you pass the security gate. Parking is $12 per 24 hour period, and is a short walk to the terminal building no matter where you park in the lot. Gave our bags to the porters at the curb and walked into the terminal building. They will check your ID and cruise paperwork at this point so make sure you have it ready. You then go up stairs to the check in counter; there was not line when we arrived so all we had to do was wait for an agent to finish up with someone (less than 3 minutes). The check in process also was quick, as we had done on line check in, so it basically was a paperwork/ID check again and getting the cruise cards.

We then walked over to the waiting area, and were given group numbers (we got group # 1). Boarding started at about 12 noon, with a wedding group first, then platinum and above, then group numbers. Group one was called about 12:10 pm and were on the ship in less than 5 minutes after going thru the metal detectors and the photographers.

We did have an issue with both our cruise cards and security could not take our pictures, so we had to go to the Guest Services desk and get them replaced. Once than was taken care of we went back to the security podium and got our photos attached to our cards.

We had lunch in the Horizon Court, but the International Dining Room was also available for embarkation lunch. After lunch we explored the ship, and then went back to our cabin to see if our bags had arrived. To our surprise they had and it was only 2 pm, so we were unpacked before the Muster Drill at 3:30 pm. The one noticeable change during the Muster Drill was at the end they made an announcement about fire safety and not to keep clothes or towels on your balconies. Even with the added announcement we saw people flicking cigarettes over the rails. Sail away was at 4:15 pm as we had to wait for last minute bags to get on board.

Cabin: We had cabin A300 on the Aloha Deck. The cabin was ready when we boarded so we were able to drop our carry on bags off. We had originally booked a category FF (obstructed ocean view guarantee) and about a month before the cruise, we were upgraded to a category D Ocean view on the Plaza Deck. The night before sailing we found out that the upgrade fairy had hit again and our new cabin was a BB on Aloha Deck (Cabin A300) which was also a Handicap cabin. This cabin was huge, there was at least 4-5 feet between the bed and the cabinets, and that much space on each side of the bed, so there is plenty of space if you need a wheel chair. There were ramps on and off the balcony, which is no deeper than other balconies in this category but is wider as the cabin is wider. The bathroom is huge, with a roll in shower with a folding bench and grabs handles. There are a couple of issues with the bathroom, there are only a couple of small shelves and not cabinet for storage and the floor drains that are near the shower can not keep up with the water flow when the ship is moving so the floor in the entire bathroom can flood, and become very slippery. We had our cabin attendant (Mia) leave extra bath mats so that we could attempt to keep the floor dry.

Storage in the room was more than adequate, as there were 2 large closets, one large shelved closet were the safe was located, and two large cabinets on both side of the bed, and 3 drawers in the desk area. Our large suit cases fit easily under the bed.

Wheelhouse Bar: The first two evenings we had pre-dinner cocktails in the Wheelhouse bar. This is a large room on Deck 7 done in a nautical theme (as on all Princess ships) with a stage and dance floor near the back of the room. Service was ok in this bar, but we decided to go to Crooners after the second night. We wish had gone there on the first night.

Crooners: Crooners is the Martini Bar on Deck 7 in the Atrium with windows overlooking the Promenade Deck. It is a wonderful space that has a granite bar toward the bow and then tables & chairs along the starboard side of the atrium heading aft toward the Explorer’s Lounge. The chairs were very comfortable, in arrangements of 2 or 4 (with 4 being more prevalent). There are stained glass dividers between the seating area and the main walk way, done in warm tones, some with martini glasses in the artwork of the glass. Crooners has an extensive martini menu (with approx 8 chocolate martinis) but you can get just about any kind of drink here. One of the main reasons this bar was such fun is directly because of the staff. The Bar Tenders were Camellia (from Romania) and Philip (from England). These two wonderful people had such a great chemistry working together. They always had smiles on their faces and nothing was ever a bother to them. They made us feel as if we were part of a family and would welcome our entire group each night with big greetings and smiles. One other really nice person at Crooners was Gabriella (Romania), one of the servers. Yet another person who always had a big smile for the patrons. Thank you Camellia, Philip & Gabriella!!! The Crooners Gang already misses you!

One evening it was a very interactive bar as we got to design our own chocolate Martini glasses and shake/pour our own Martinis. We only have two words to say about Crooners: Milky Way…

There are many other bars on board ship – among them are Winston Churchill’s, a cigar bar on Deck 6 in front of the Princess Theater. Look for the pool tables on the ceiling and Outrigger, a pool bar on Deck 14 on the rear deck. Our group met here often during the day light hours.

In addition, there are bars in all of the lounges, the Grand Casino, and pool decks and Lobby.

There are 5 dining rooms (4 anytime and 1 traditional with 2 seatings). There are also two alternative restaurants -Sterling Steakhouse (part of the Horizon Court on Deck 14 – but totally separated from the main buffet) and Sabatini’s (Deck 7 right next to the Internet Café and Photo Gallery). Both have a surcharge. We did not attend either alternative restaurants on this cruise.

We had late seating (8pm) in the International Dining Room (this is the traditional dining room). We had a table for 8 (table 55), but we only had 6 people. The table is on the port side near the main entrance to the dining room. This was a very good location and our wait staff was wonderful. Alfredo and Noel took care of all of our needs. Our table mates were fantastic as well: Donna and Gail from Oregon and Nettie and Erika form Southern CA. We looked forward to dinner with these wonderful ladies every evening as they really were just a joy to see each evening.

We went to the welcome aboard show and it was typical, the only other show we went to was the Comedian (Kevin Jordan) the second night in Explorers Lounge. He was very funny (but don’t be late & look out for his flash light).

Lotus Spa and Gym area:
The Gym & Spa are on Deck 15, forward. The Gym was very large and had a number of each type of machine. There was no sign up list for the treadmills (as there are on the Sun Class ships), and there was always a least one available. It appeared that they had added about ten more treadmills which were in the Aerobics Room. They also had bikes, and ellipticals. All of the machines had a TV with a headphone jack.

The Lotus Spa offers all of the typical spa treatments. They offer tours to interested parties. We purchased the Thermal Sanctuary package will gives you full access to the heated loungers and aroma therapy showers & steam rooms. The area is nice and the loungers are very relaxing, but we did not use this area enough to warrant the cost of $109 per couple. The only problem was the location of this area. It was under the sports court so you could hear the volleyballs & tennis balls bouncing and the noise form the current generator in the Lotus Pool. So much for quite relaxing time. We would skip this the next time. The rest of the Spa area was very nice and there was a shower and sauna in each changing area.

Shipboard Life:
The first sea day we had two gatherings to attend. The first was a Cruise Critic gathering for our roll-call. Props to Joe & Amelia for organizing and maintaining the roll-call! This was among the best groups of people we have ever met on board. Joe and Amelia, Lauren and Grant, Tony, Barb, and Jamie, just to name a few. You are all awesome. We had so much fun (IWC…IWC…IWC…) We all ended up spending a large amount of time together through out the entire week.

The second gathering was Friends of Dorothy. It was hosted by Lloyd, one of the Cruise Director staff. There was a good turn out for this gathering and free champagne (always a bonus!).

The second sea day was very relaxing, as we did a spa treatment Rasul Therapy) that we purchased with the Thermal Sanctuary package.

The second evening is a formal night with the captain’s cocktail party, with more free drinks.

Cappuccino card – 15 beverages @ 20% off the cost of each beverage.

Soda Cards are available

Wine Tasting – there are two – the first is $9.50 pp, the second $25 pp. We did the first one only.

Lounge Chairs: Not much evidence of chair hogging. The deck attendants seemed really on top of it. We never had trouble finding a chair (though the chairs right by the pool were a bit more scarce).

Ports of Call:
Puerto Vallarta:
The first port was PV on Tuesday and we arrived on time at 7 am. This cruise we chose not to do any ship based excursions so we were in no hurry to get off the ship. The ship docked portside to the pier. We had pre-booked a couples massage at the Krystal Resort and Hotel. A 75 min massage was $75 for the both of us. Krystal is a short walk from where the ship docks, and if you get a spa treatment you also get the use of the hotel pool and beach area for the day. You can also purchase a day pass for about $10. The grounds of the Hotel are very lush with a lot of grassy areas, 3 pools and a semi-private beach area. The Massages were fantastic and we would go there again. Make sure you know what time zone the ships time is set to as on this trip we only change from Pacific Time to Mountain Time. PV is in Central time, so our 10:30 massage was 9:30 ships time. This is also important if you are doing things on your own since you do not want to miss the ship’s departure time. After the Massages we chose to take a cab downtown to walk around the Malecon and shops. The cab ride was $4 per person into town and $6 per person back to the ship. We met our new friends at Carlos O’Brien’s to celebrate a milestone birthday for Jamie. This place was fun during the day, but I am sure it is a wild party in the evening. Everyone will walk or stager out depending on your personality type out of there with a balloon hat of some sort. The shipped sailed on time at 5 pm with no one left behind.

Mazatlan: Wednesday was Mazatlan; again we docked a little before 7 am (starboard side to the pier). We awoke just in time to watch the Vision of the Seas sail past our balcony and dock behind us. Again we had no agenda in this port except to shop for some dress watches. We had been to Mazatlan last year and saw some watches we like and after researching pricing back in the US we decided that we might purchase them if the price was right. When we got off the ship we were able to walk along the pier to take some pictures of our ship and the Vision of the Seas. We then boarded the tram to take us to the terminal as passengers are not allowed to walk because this is an active commercial shipping terminal. Once there we met a nice couple from the Vision of the Seas and shared an open air cab to the Golden Zone ($10 per cab). These cabs are a cross between golf carts and the old VW Things. They are a blast to ride in. We did find a couple of watches to purchase as the price was really good and we were able to even get it a little lower. Hint: If anyone asks if you know “so and so? from the ship, say yes. They are referring to the shopping person and you get better pricing. We ate lunch an open air restaurant called Poncho’s which is right on the beach. We watched people parasailing from our table. They took off and landed right in front of the restaurant. For any one interested the cost for parasailing is about $30. After lunch we took an open air cab back to the ship ($12 back). Along the way the driver asked if we wanted the short way or the long way. We took the long way and he gave us a short city tour and would stop anywhere we wanted to. He took us up the hill that over looks the pier area so that we could get pictures of the ships and surrounding area. Always ask for the long way if you are not in a hurry to get back to the ship. We got back to the ship at about 2 pm and enjoy the lack of crowds at the pool for a few hours.

As all aboard time passed, they started calling names (7-8), who were not yet accounted for. Crowds at the rails began to build. We saw 6 people board within the last 10 minutes before departure time. We sailed a few minutes late and the Captain announced that all passengers were on board. Next stop Cabo.

Cabo San Lucas: We awoke the next morning in already anchored in Cabo and the first tenders were already going to shore. Both ship tenders and shore side tenders were used. They started handing out Tender tickets at 7:30 am in the Explorers Lounge. We got down there about 7:40 and waited less than 5 minutes to board a tender. If you have a Shore Excursion you do not need a tender ticket - you will meet in the Princess Theater. Do not get a tender ticket in advance; go to the Explorers Lounge when you are ready to go ashore. It was a short tender ride to shore. Make sure you ride on top of the tender to get the best pictures of the ship. We got over there early and nothing was open yet so we walked around town and the Maria area for a few hours. We decided to go back to the ship early and call it a sea day. We relaxed in the Thermal Sanctuary and by the pool for the morning and then had pizza for lunch by the main pool. The pizza area is open from 11 am to 6 pm and had 3 types of pizza by the slice, (cheese, pepperoni, daily special) all were very good. By about 12:30 people were coming back on board as we sailed at 2 pm.

This was the second formal night and the night of the Captain Circle cocktail party. This was the first one of these we have gone to since this trip was only our second Princess Cruise. Again free cocktail and Hors’ Douvres. There was one passenger with over 1000 sea days on Princess.

Friday the last sea day (or so we thought)

This day began as any other. Waking up and going back to the pool deck to pull up a chair for another day of doing nothing (life at sea is so stressful). Around 11 AM the Captain came over the speakers an announced that we would arrive in LA late because of a problem with the engines and we could not make full speed. The ETA was to be around 1 pm Saturday afternoon instead of 7 am. There was a load cheer from the people on the pool deck and then people realized that they would miss their flights. Since we drove we were not worried. The ship did put letters in everyone’s cabins explaining that if they had booked their air through Princess that new flight arrangements were being made and would be given to those people once the new flights have been booked. For people that made their own arrangements there was nothing Princess could do in helping get new flights. Princess would pay for a hotel in LA for one night if it was needed and you need to do was go down to the Guest Services Desk and have them put you name on the list. The ship also made internet access free and open up some phone lines so people could make new flight arrangements, but the lines for both were long and the service was very slow. What the ship did not announce was that they also opened up the cabin phones, as one of our new friends made a call from her cabin to her TA. She was on the phone for about 30 minutes and asked if those charges could be waved. They told her no, but was surprised in the morning when the phone charges did not show up on her bill. We also heard this from another couple of our friends who also made a call from their cabin. Good for Princess on this one. We can see why they would not want to make this announcement as everyone would go to their cabin and call everyone they know, just because.

It was also announced that bags did not have to be out for pick up until 9 am Saturday morning so this made it easy to do the final packing. We also did not have to be out of our cabins until we docked in LA. This made it difficult for the Cabin attendants, as their turn around day schedule was all messed up. What we saw was most people would get out of their cabins so their attendants could get in to turn the cabin for the on coming passengers, but just leave their carry on in a corner of the room so that they did not have to carry them around.

Because we would be late into LA, it made the last night fun. Instead of the usual good byes to all your new friends and calling it an early night, the ship was alive with active in to the early hours of Saturday morning. When we arrived back at our cabin, we had a Princess Patter for disembarkation day (which we think is now a collector’s item). They had activities planned for all day on Saturday.

The late arrival also allowed one last time to meet with all of our new friends. Crooners opened as a cash bar at 9 am and we all began to arrive there shortly after that. This is where we spent the rest of the cruise until we finally docked in San Pedro at 2:30 pm. Our group had a great time during these extra few hours onboard. We were also glad to be able to visit with Camellia, Philip & Gabriella one more time. We laughed, cried, and just had a grand time.

The late arrival also afforded us the opportunity for some great sea life spotting. We saw three whales and hundreds of dolphins (which we would not have seen if we had been back to LA on time). We also saw a submarine about a mile away that paced us for a while. Hope they were friendly!

Once the ship docked at 2:30 pm they started calling colors for disembarkation at 2:45 pm. We had asked for an early color on Tuesday as we wanted to get an early start on the drive home. We were given “Red 1? tags and this was the first color called. If we had been on time this color would have been called at 8:15 am with the last color (which was Plaza Deck at 11:15am per the documents). We were off the ship by 3 pm and in the car by 4 pm on the road home. Clearing customs was easy and only took a short amount of time as we had to wait in line. Collecting our bags was also easy and organized as they have different rooms for the different colored tags. There was a line to get into the room and we waited about 15 minutes in line. Once in the room it was very organized and not crowded as they were controlling the number of people in the room at one time. We found both our bags next to each other in only a few seconds. We then handed in our customs cards and were out the door.

Overall Impressions: Princess has it nailed as far as this ship is concerned. This ship is huge (it felt bigger to us than either QM2 or Voyager of the Seas, both of which are bigger). However, there are many intimate, quiet areas to get away from the crowd if you so choose. Maintenance was impeccable. This ship is two years old but looked brand new. No obvious signs of wear and tear. The crew was always varnishing and oiling the woodwork, and painting the ship. We booked two open bookings while on board (if you like Princess take advantage of this – only $100 PP deposit with $50-$300 PP onboard credit depending on cabin category and length of cruise. See Diane @ Future Cruise Desk). We will definitely look for another cruise on Sapphire Princess.
Thanks to all of our new friends and wonderful crew for making this a cruise to remember.

Crooners! Crooners! Crooners!

Pictures can be found at:
Interiors: [/url]http://community.webshots.com/album/549991279tepcpX
Craig & Jack
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  #2 (permalink)  
Old May 4th, 2006, 12:31 AM
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Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 17

All I can say is that it's reviews like this one that dupe us poor trip researchers. What? do you work for Princess or something? Geeesh
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  #3 (permalink)  
Old May 4th, 2006, 10:42 AM
cljw's Avatar
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 60

Everybody has a different experience on a cruise. We, and the large group we were with, happened to have had a fantastic time on this cruise.
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  #4 (permalink)  
Old May 4th, 2006, 11:09 AM
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Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 123

This review is in keeping with the experience we have always had on the Princess line. Not always is everything perfect, but the princess crew always seems to be a class act.... 8) 8) jillarich has some sort of negative agenda.
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long, princess, sapphire

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