Year Started: 1965
Ships in Fleet: 17
Summary: Princess is one of the most consistently excellent cruise lines in the upper mainstream to premium group. All the diversity of larger ships but personalized service.
Regions:Canada, Caribbean, Europe
Good for: Families. Value for Money. Teens.
Regions:Alaska, California Coastal, Panama Canal
Good for: Teens. First-time Cruisers. Families.
Regions:Caribbean, Europe, South America
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Europe
Good for: Group. First-time Cruisers. Families.
Regions:Alaska, Asia & Africa, Australia
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Seniors.
Regions:Canada, Caribbean, Europe
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Group.
Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Group.
Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii, Mexico
Good for: Families. Overall Service. Teens.
Regions:Alaska, California, Panama Canal
Good for: Seniors. Group. Singles.
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Europe
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Europe, Hawaii
Regions:Caribbean, Europe, Transatlantic
Good for: Seniors. Overall Service. Group.
Regions:Caribbean, Europe, Transatlantic
Good for: Overall Service. Teens. Children`s Programs.
Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii, Mexico
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Panama Canal
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii, South America
Good for: Families. Overall Service. Teens.
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, South Pacific, Tahiti
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Summary Our extended family group of 5 adults and 4 teens cruised on Crown Princess August 8, 2008. Overall, I felt the Baltic cruise was excellent in terms of the ports of call, but only average for the shipboard experience, resulting in an overall rating of 4 out of 5 stars.
Weather was generally in the mid 60s with a chance of showers. Bring layers, a packable rain jacket with hood, and a folding umbrella. Pants and jeans, rather than shorts, were practical most days, although we did have a couple days that were sunny and in the 70s. The seas were relatively calm except for the night we sailed into Gydinia, when the boat was visibly rocking, making walking (not to mention dancing) a challenge. We heard that the prior sailing never made it to Gydnia because of the rough weather. Our itinerary was supposed to include a stop in Helsingor, but this stop was eliminated and instead we went right to Copenhagen arriving at 12 noon.
Shipboard Experience Overall I found the Crown Princess to be very similar to the Diamond Princess (which we had previously cruised on to Alaska), onlylarger. In terms of overall satisfaction, we liked the Diamond better than the Crown, mainly because it was less crowded and the service was better than the Crown.
Liked Salon, Spa & Fitness Center: We had good experience with both the salon and pampering services. The fitness center is large, although the free exercise classes did not live up to expectations.
International Café: Nice place to relax with a cup of real brewed coffee or tea. Note that coffee on the ship is otherwise terrible! The additional charge for coffee/tea in the International Café is worth it.
Entertainment: We enjoyed music by the band Amante, the comedy of Kevin Hughes, and a 70's night dance party. Most of the shows in the Princess Theater were not very good, although we liked the magician. The Troika show was AWFUL.
Port Lectures: The port lectures given by John Lawrence were excellent and informative. You can catch them live or watch a replay on your stateroom TV.
Teen Center: The four teens (ages 14 to 17) in our group made good use of the teen center Remix. On port days, games and activities were scheduled from 7pm to 1am. The teen dance party in Club Fusion was a highlight.
Currency Machine: Because the ship stops at so many different countries, only two of which (Finland and Germany) use the Euro, the shipboard currency-exchanging machine was a real convenience.
Did Not Like Swimming Pools: Temperature in the pools was 95 degrees, hardly refreshing. At the Calypso pool, "Movies Under the Stars" plays continuously on a huge screen; the loud volume makes relaxation impossible. The Neptune's reef pool was slightly better except during the loud (and bad) music sets by the band Endur. I did not get a chance to try the Lotus spa pool, but suspect it would be the best place to have peace and quiet.
Sanctuary: This is a special "quiet area" near the spa pool where you can sit on a deck chair and relax. However, the additional charge of $15 per half day is a rip-off and it did not appear that many people took advantage of this.
Anytime Dining: With Anytime Dining you can generally only make a reservation for 6:00, 6:30 or after 8:15 -- so if you think that you will be able to make a reservation "anytime" you will be disappointed. Instead, the in-between hours are "walk in." Since we were a group of 9, this meant that if we wanted to plan to eat together we had to choose to dine either at the early or the late time. Several nights we decided to split up (the five adults ate separately from the 4 teens) and we had no trouble walking into the dining room without reservations, although one night we had to share a table with another group, which was fine. Before you agree to share, know that you will not be served until the table is full. Therefore, it is better to share with a group that is already there, than to be the first group at a large table. A problem I see with Anytime Dining is you don't get to know your waiter and they have really nothing invested in serving you. On our prior cruise to Alaska, we chose the set dinner seating, had the same waiter each night, and the service at dinner was much better.
Food: Overall the food in the dining rooms was just average. Most of the appetizers and soups were very good, but the quality of the entrees was hit or miss.
Billing & Front Desk: On the last night of the cruise, people lined up for hours to get their bills to review. There were not enough people at the front desk to handle the inquiries. The situation was deplorable. Why Princess would not deliver a copy of the bill the day before the cruise ends is beyond me. Perhaps they want to discourage people from questioning their bills? You need to check your bill to make sure someone else's charges are not on it. One of the people in our group had an extra $2500 of shipboard charges on their account, which apparently had been charged to the wrong stateroom.
Princess Transfers: In Copenhagen, Princess transfers from the ship to the airport were about $60 per person. This would have been $540 for our group of nine. Instead, we pre-booked a 16-passenger van for about 980 DKK, which is a little under US $200. Our hotel concierge took care of this, however, you could do it directly through midibus.dk or another car service. If we had thought about it, we probably could have reduced our cost even more by taking on some additional passengers who were waiting in the very long taxi line at the port (I am guessing it was about an hour wait for a taxi). Therefore, my advice is NOT to waste your money on Princess transfers, but try to arrange a private taxi so you don't have to wait in the taxi line.
Ports of Call Overall: On the Baltic cruise you have to plan your port visits carefully. Consider whether you really want to cram a lot of sightseeing into a small period of time (which leaves you tired), or go at a more relaxed pace (but then you see less). Consider your energy level-- there is a lot of walking involved wherever you go. For us, the highlights of the trip were Copenhagen, Stockholm and St. Petersburg. We did not take the trip to Berlin.
Copenhagen: We arrived in CPH on Wednesday, giving us two days to look around the city before embarkation on Friday. Five of us took a taxi from the airport ($258 krone for a 10-15 minute ride) to our hotel (SAS Royal), the other four took the train. The taxi arrived first but train was pretty fast too! Of course it was too early to check in but the hotel took care of our bags and we walked to Town Hall Square, Stroget & Nyhavn where we had a nice lunch. Returned to the hotel for a nap and then spent the evening at Tivoli where the teens went on the rides, I enjoyed a pantomime show, and we had a great dinner at Groften restaurant. Entry was 85 krone pp and unlimited rides for the kids at 200 krone each. Thursday we did the hop-on hop-off bus tour from the Town Hall Square which we enjoyed tremendously. Hopped off at the statue of the Little Mermaid, and at the Danish Resistance Museum (WWII museum) then hopped back on to return to the vicinity of the hotel where we had a nice lunch at Axelborg Bodega on the Axeltorv. Dinner was fabulous Thai food at a place called Spicylicious, a lovely restaurant though we had to walk through the red light district to get there. Friday we enjoyed a great breakfast buffet at the hotel, took another walk down Stroget and had some of those great Danish hot dogs from a stand for 25 krone each. The hotel arranged a van to take our party to the cruise terminal. Embarkation was a bit hectic as it was pouring rain. Did I mention that it rains a lot in CPH? Make sure to always have a raincoat and umbrella handy! First order of business on board was to register the kids for the teen center. The next day was a relaxing day at sea.
Stockholm: The ship docked at 10am and we had to be back on board by 4:30pm, thus we had just over 6 hours to see something of Stockholm. There were several ways to get into town from the cruise berth, including a Princess shuttle bus ($13 round trip to Stromgaten Street near the Opera House) and a Hop on, Hop off (HOHO) open top tour bus. We opted for the HOHO sightseeing ferry, which was very enjoyable (100 Swedish Kroner or $15 US dollars per person). The ferry dock is just to the left of the cruise berth and departs at 15 minutes before and 15 minutes after the hour. The HOHO ferry route takes you to Old Town first, followed by the Royal Palace, Nybroplan and then Vasa. We decided to sightsee in Old Town then go to the Vasa. Unfortunately, by the time we got to Vasa in the afternoon, there was a line to get in. That is the problem with 3,000 cruise passengers all trying to see the same attraction on the same day! We could have used more time in Stockholm, and really would like to go back again.
Helsinki: Princess offered a shuttle bus to the Esplanade ($10 round trip), which is near the famous Stockmann's department store. From there it is a short walk to the Market Square, where you can enjoy local food specialties and shop for crafts. From the Market Square, you can take the ferry to Suomelinna Fortress (5.50 euro round trip), where there is a very interesting museum focusing on the history of the fort, which was originally built by the Swedes and later used by Russia. The film was a good introduction to the museum and was offered in an array of languages. It would have been interesting to walk around the island and explore the fort, but as it was raining, we returned by ferry and took a LONG walk to the Rock Church. Worth the trip but of course it was filled with the same 3,000 cruise passengers all wanting to see it. Took the 3T trolley back to the Market Square (2.20 euro).
St. Petersburg: We spent a great 2 days in St. Petersburg touring with our guide Albina from Alla Tours. If you are touring with an independent company like Alla, you do not need a visa (Princess tries to mislead you into thinking a visa is required, but this is not true when you are touring with a licensed guide). Also, contrary to Princess warnings, there was no trouble disembarking. Ignore any instructions that Princess gives you to assemble in a particular room on the ship to be assigned a gangway pass. No gangway passes are needed. Just walk right off the ship using the forward gangway on deck 4. There are then 3 lines to go through passport control. One of these lines is designated for independent tour passengers and the other two are designated for Princess tours. Princess will try to make you stand in the line for the independent tours; however, if there is no one in the other lines you can go through passport control there. The people in the passport booth don't care which line you go through. We disembarked at around 7:10 am to meet our guide at 7:30 am. We were through in 10 minutes. Note that the line for passport control does form outside so if it is raining you'll need an umbrella or raincoat.
A highlight of our 2 days in St. Petersburg was the canal cruise. The city is beautiful as seen from the canals. We happened to do the cruise on a sunny day and it was wonderful. Alla had arranged a private boat for our group of 8, so we did not have to share the boat with other passengers and our guide used the microphone on the boat to explain the buildings and bridges we were seeing.
Unless you really feel you need to see the Amber room, I would skip Catherine palace altogether, it was so crowded with tour groups going through it. The excursion to Peterhof gardens was wonderful. We toured through the Catherine Block of Monplaisir palace on the grounds of Peterhof, which was not crowded at all and was very enjoyable. The Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood is not to be missed! But once again you will find crowds here. Beware of pickpockets; one of our party had her wallet stolen.
Tallinn: Our port stop in Tallinn was from 7 am to 1pm. After two exhausting days in St. Petersburg it was hard to be motivated to get off the boat at 7am. We slept in and did not see too much of Tallinn. Took the Princess shuttle bus ($5 each way), which takes you to the edge of "old town," a pedestrian only area with cobblestone streets. It is picturesque, but very touristy, and we were accosted several times by people selling souvenirs. We made it as far as the Town Hall Square. There is an interesting museum in the Town Hall (75 kroon family ticket, local currency only).
Gdansk: In Gdansk we signed up for a Princess tour as that seemed the easiest way to travel from the port in Gydinia to Gdansk (about a 45 minute trip). We happened to be there on Aug 15th and locals were celebrating the Catholic holiday Assumption of the Virgin Mary as well as the anniversary of Solidarity. The city was very festive and packed with people. Because of the holiday, St. Mary's church was only open to tourists limited hours, and as a result, it was super crowded. St. Mary's church is the largest brick church in Europe and worth a visit. We had a nice lunch of pierogies in a café in Gdansk. We tried several kinds and I recommend the mushroom pierogies!
Warnemunde: We arrived on a Saturday and it was sunny and in the mid-60's. We took advantage of the long port stop to sleep late while about 2,000 of our fellow passengers got up early to board trains and buses bound for Berlin.
We walked into Warnemunde (it was about a 10 minute walk from the ship) and were in luck because the fish market was open (it is just to your right before you cross the canal). Try the sandwich of herring, lettuce and onion on a roll, you won't be disappointed!
After crossing the bridge over the canal, we turned right and walked along the Am Strom, a pedestrian street that runs along the canal and is lined with cafes, ice cream parlors and souvenir shops. The atmosphere was very festive and the crowd was mostly German. We turned left near the lighthouse and walked out to the beach. The beach is very wide and clean. People were flying kites, playing beach volleyball, and sunbathing. It would be a good idea to wear your bathing suit under your clothes because there were not any places for changing, and bring towels from the ship. Or, if you fancy bathing in the buff, walk down to lifeguard station 5, which is the nudist beach. After sunbathing, we had an excellent lunch at the restaurant in the Kurhaus, an open-air cafe on the second level that overlooks the beach.
Overall, Warnemunde was one of our favorite port stops even though we did no sightseeing whatsoever.
Copenhagen: As noted above, there was no port stop in Helsingor. We arrived back in Copenhagen on a Sunday, which was unfortunate because most of the stores are closed Sunday. We took a taxi from the ship to the Town Hall Square and then walked to the Danish National Museum (Nationalmuseet). I highly recommend this museum, though we only did the ground floor, which takes you from Danish pre-history through the Vikings. There are some fascinating things on display. It was a warm day and the museum was not air conditioned so we had lunch at a nearby café. After lunch we took a look through the Dansk Design Center, which the teens especially enjoyed. We returned to the ship for our last night on board. What a great trip it was!
I sailed on the Crown Princess last summer doing their Baltic itinerary which included St Petersburg.
This ship is enormous and is designed to extract money from passengers at every turn. I'm used to ice cream being a free treat, but on this ship it was $3.
After spending $399 for the two-day tour of St. Petersburg, they want $3 for a bottle of water as you depart. The land tours were well organized and visited all the places advertised. If you are used to exploring on your own, you will have the feeling of being herded like cattle.
The most disappointing thing about this cruise was the food. It was not good even by banquet standards! I ordered what sounded like wonderful fish entrees three times and the fish was old and unacceptable each time. If one pays the additional fee to visit the "upscale" restaurant, the food is much better.
Stopping a couple of times at the buffet for lunch, I found the fare there to be dull and tasteless.
Princess Cruises Caribbean Princess by Coffeelady Eastern Caribbean July 9, 2008
This was our 5th Princess trip and we had a great time. Due to Hurricane Bertha, our stop in Bermuda was cancelled. While I was disappointed I understand that safety comes first and, it's difficult to dock a huge ship with high waves. Many passengers, including myself and my husband specifically took this cruise because of Bermuda. Once that was settled, the rest of the cruise was fine. We had an inside cabin and I will not take an inside again. Yes, it was a bargain, but I like seeing the water. I prefer a balcony which I will book on the next cruise.
Meals were fine. I just don't understand why people crank and complain about the meals. There's certainly enough food for every taste. What we did notice are the little things -- smaller plates and glasses, and smaller portions at dinner. Not that one couldn't have more but the initial serving(s) were often microscopic in size, and, no grand buffet. One could literally eat 24 hours a day on the Caribbean Princess, so finding something to eat isn'ta problem. Sometimes finding a cold beverage can be daunting at times and not a bar drink. Soda is a bar beverage so just ice water requires a trip to the buffet(s) or back to the cabin. Sterling steakhouse has it's own location rather than as part of the buffets as on other Princess ships; and Sabatini's is well worth the $20 per person charge. It's one of the best meals you can imagine.
Our cabin was on the Baja deck mid-ship which was great once we became acclimated to the ship. Yes, it can be confusing -- e.g., the Palm Dining room is down a flight of stairs -- we found it by accident. It's great if you want a table for 2. Plenty are available. We had the anytime dining rather than the fixed, which was much more convenient especially on extended port days such as San Juan, PR, when the ship was in port until at least 10PM.
San Juan was wonderful. We went to Baracina's -- the home of the pina colada. Well worth the stop if you have seen it on any travel show. Shopping is great and everything is close to the port.
The stop in St.Thomas was cut short due to mechanical problems (as we were told). We went to Coral World and took the semi-submersable sub. It was interesting but not if you have mobility issues. The only rain we had was while we were on the 1 hour bus ride to Coral World. Because our stay was cut short in St. Thomas, no time for shopping; however there was a very small (5 or 6 store) shopping area at the dock. Otherwise, shopping in Charlotte Amalie is worth the trip. Mr. Tablecloth is the best bargain in the Caribbean. If you like the beach, there are plenty of stunning beaches to visit while in St. Thomas.
Grand Turk is just adorable. The ship pulls into the dock, and the beach is right there! Shopping is good with plenty of stores for bargains. Try the Caribbean Coffee. A huge Margaritaville is at the dock area offering plenty of entertainment, etc.
We had a great speaker on Board, Bruce Caplan who lectured on the Titanic. Mr. Caplan lectures around the US and had insightful and informative talks throughout the cruise.
Entertainment is average; Movies Under The Stars was okay, but they need better padding on the lounge chairs.
My only real gripe is that there is NO enforcement of children under 15 in hot tubs. I get upset when I see parents of small children, even infants, in hot tubs (diapers and all). I just avoided the pool areas as much as possible since no one reads the signs. Smoking seems to be a non-issue as many passengers seem to have given up smoking. Shopping on the ship is average -- nothing special. The shops are spread out on 2 levels. Even the laundry facility was fantastic. It helps because one doesn't need additional clothing.
We saw family reunions and weddings and people having a great time. This cruise was very relaxing with no rushing from port to port, and having an extra sea day just made the trip feel that much more relaxing. A cruise is a great vacation bargain with no cooking and no cleaning. That's a vacation. I'm ready to go again.
Princess Cruises Caribbean Princess by Jackiesbooks Bermuda June 13, 2008
This cruise took place on the Caribbean Princess -- June 13 to 22, 2008, sailing out of New York to Bermuda, San Juan, St Thomas, and Grand Turk.
We met Princess's Northeast motor coach bus in Baltimore. Since we planned some time in NY after the cruise, we only needed one way tickets. Princess only sells round trip tickets, but this was still cheaper than taking the train and getting a taxi to the Brooklyn Port. It was cheaper than driving. It was very easy. This is a great way to go. I talked to several people on the cruise that had trouble with cab drivers getting lost and/or very expensive car hires. One route goes across PA and the other goes up the coast from DC to NY. If you live in VA, MD, DE, PA or NJ, check this option out.
My husband is disabled so we had a wheelchair escort thru the check-in process. The regular line was moving pretty fast. When we got up to the counter, fellow cruisers that were on the bus with us were very closeto the front of the line.
Cruising past the Statue of Liberty and under the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge is a wonderful sight. On the return trip, we used a car hire that another CruiseMate recommended. We called him when we were going thru customs and he was there within 15 minutes to pick us up and take us to our hotel. The process for pick up in Brooklyn needs to improve. Most of the people leaving are being picked up. The area for pickups is very crowded.
The Ship There were small things that need to be updated/repaired, such as cracked tiles around the pool, missing decorative tiles in the theatre. None of these took away from our fun. I just mention them because there has been talk about her condition. These are the only issues I saw. I love the Movies Under the Stars!
Food We had Anytime Dining. The two times we went to the Coral Dining Room we waited approximately 20 minutes. We then tried the Pal Dining Room and we walked in every night except one. That night we waited 5 minutes. We also ate in the Sterling Steakhouse one night. It was well worth the money. In addition, we ate at the buffet two nights. I have never before done this, but these 2 nights they were having Lobster claws, shrimp and crab legs -- we could not pass. My son and husband loved the Pizza. I found some of the waiters not as friendly as I like, but all were very efficient.
Activities This ship had so many more options for activities than I have had on other lines. It usually had 2 different types of shows in two different locations. I like to play Bingo, but have lately found on some lines that it costs too much for little prize money. Princess had Bingo card packages from $10. The prizes started at $150 and on the last day it was $3300.
My 6 year old attended the children's program at least once a day. He loved it.
Cabins We had an inside cabinet -- P236. The closet area does not have doors, but was the largest closet I have ever had. On the other hand, the shower was probably one of the smallest. The room had 2 bunks that pulled down.
Overall We had a great time and I would not hesitate to book on this ship again. We had a wonderful time on this cruise.
While we have sailed many times, this was our first sailing on the Sapphire Princess and sailing out of Whittier. May we suggest that if you are sailing our of Whittier you fly to Anchorage a few days earlier and enjoy some of Alaska. In the past we have flown into Anchorage and taken a cruise ship out of Seward. Traveling from Anchorage to Whittier will be a great experience. You have several choices on how to get from point A to point B. You can prepay the cruise line for ground transportation and that is not bad as your luggage will be taken care of. There is a train that can be used to get to Whittier or you can pay for taxi, bus or limousine service. Instead of all of these we opted for a rental car. A word of caution -- plan way ahead as there is only one rental car company at this time (Avis) that permits a one way drop from Anchorage to Whittier.
The cost of bus or limousine service is approximately $50 per person. For approximately $250 (plus gas) you can rent avan in Anchorage and drop it off in Whittier. The drive from Anchorage to Whittier is one of the most scenic and most interesting you will find in Alaska. You travel along the coast right next to the ocean. Along the way stop occasionally to see fish being caught by dozens of fishermen and observe the eagles flying in and out of their nest. Don't forget to leave the camera out of your travel bag.
A few miles south of Anchorage there is a roadside park. Take a break and take a look at the old snow blower engine sitting in the park. It's difficult to find one of these in operation in Florida or California!!!
The trip is approximately 60 miles and you will turn off the main highway after about 50 miles and head toward Whittier. Just before the tunnel there is a National Park and information building. It is very nice so take about an hour for a rest break and take in all the info center has to offer. There will be glacier bits floating in the water behind the information center.
Back into your rented vehicle (can't do all this if you are on the bus) and head for Whittier. This was be one of the most interesting few miles you have ever taken. We have traveled extensively throughout Switzerland by car and this segment tops even those road trips.
You will be stopped at the entrance of the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel, a 2-1/2 mile long tunnel that will exit at Whittier. There was a $12 toll fee. Turn your lights on and maintain the required distance between you and the vehicle in front of you. You will literally ride the railroad tracks for 2-1/2 miles. The flow of traffic is reversed every thirty minutes and occasionally car traffic stopped so that a train can travel on the tracks. Don't worry all this is carefully controlled so you don't meet a train in the middle of the tunnel.
When traveling through the tunnel forget using your cell phone and if you are the driver just concentrate on staying on the tracks. The speed of our "caravan" was quite brisk. We exited on the Whittier side and presto there was Whittier. Our first business was to turn our rental car in. The cruise line had a tent set up close to the ship where you could drop your baggage. (TIP: have all your baggage tags completed and drop your baggage and go as there are others waiting).
After dropping the baggage off we headed for the Avis drop off, a small hardware store. All the person wants is your keys, the level of the gas and your contract. They will complete the information and mail you a receipt in about two weeks. This is a no nonsense drop off so don't plan on staying around and talking the morning away.
The town is only 60 miles from Anchorage and you will immediately notice the beauty of Prince William Sound. The Sound is made up of numerous deep fjords with tidewater glaciers that calve right before your eyes. Whittier is also surrounded by the Chugach National Forest. In Whittier there is day cruising, fishing charters, kayak tours and in the winter time many winter activities including cross country skiing and snowmobiling. Thus if you have an early arrival for a late sailing ship you have plenty of time to engage in one of the above activities. You will immediately notice two very large buildings in Whittier. One is now vacant. This area was a secret military base during World War II. One of the buildings is now occupied by local residents and reportedly almost all the town's population now lives in that one building. The port remained an active military installation until 1960. At that time the town had just over 1000 residents. The town was eventually incorporated in 1969.
The brochures tell about a lot of good dining in Whittier. It was time for lunch when it started pouring rain so we decided to head for the ship instead of lunch. Below is a picture of one of the restaurants that was closed when we were there. Looks like a great business venture if you want to relocate to Whittier.
The Sapphire Princess is one of the mega ships in the Princess fleet. Put in service in May 2004, it is capable of carrying 3100 passengers. Our cruise was not totally full however the number onboard was plenty by any standards. A ship 14 years old just has to show some wear and tear, however the crew continues to do a very good job and the public areas as well as the cabins were in good shape and clean.
We have sailed on the Diamond and Grand which are almost identical to the Sapphire. There is also the Golden and the Star which are comparable. This is a large ship that takes a little time to get used to. Public areas are too small for the number of passengers. For example there is a theater that seats less than a thousand yet there could be as many as 3300 on board. Seating for two shows is always a problem. It is not possible to have a single Captain's Reception thus there will be more than one. The common space just isn't there. The ship's designers have foregone the high ceiling two story spiral stair type dining rooms for a more traditional on shore type look for the International Dining seating. Even the other restaurants where you have anytime dining look more like a nice on shore restaurant. Having said this let's look at the rest of the ship.
Dining Got to get this one first since this seems to be the main topic of discussion about one's cruises. We opted for the traditional second seating dining and that was a mistake. We were seated at a table for 6 in a dark corner. Service was poor and we were close to everything you did not want to be close to. Serving stand, dirty dishes, waiters walking back and forth with other table's meals, etc. Dining with the traditional dining service just wasn't what we had in the past.
We tried to get Anytime Dining and found out that the staff does not like to see changes made after you are onboard. However we used Anytime Dining the second night. By getting there early the next four nights we had Anytime Dining in the Santa Fe. It was nice and we all enjoyed some very good dinners.
Breakfast was always in the Horizon Court on the Lido Deck, which leads us to that dining area. There are 11 serving areas in the Horizon Court on the Port side and 11 serving areas on the Starboard Side. This no doubt presents a real problem for many passengers as they just stand and stare at the food. I don't know how many times we witnessed a passenger using the tongs to pick at a particular strawberry only to lay that one down and pick up another. With so many choices it appears some of them just can't make a decision.
The dining in the Horizon Court, which we usually ate breakfast and lunch at, was actually very good. Nothing much has been changed from previous cruises. This is not 5 star restaurant food, however it is good food. You can usually get your food very quickly however finding a place to sit may be difficult. Seems like some passengers tend to hibernate at a table from morning to dark. Some were talking while others were playing cards. Did not matter, as there were many other places on the ship where this could have taken place. You can take your food out to the aft deck, however in Alaska this is sometimes a little cold and windy. There is also the swimming pool areas on the same deck and there were usually several tables available.
Ice Cream There is an ice cream bar on the ship where you can purchase -- yes I said purchase -- sundaes and cones. The prices are in line with those you will pay back home at a similar ice cream store. TIP: There is free ice cream between 3 and 4PM on the Lido Deck and you can add toppings for a sundae. We found a lot of people apparently did not know about this, thus we never found any real long lines. The time period also had a lot to do with this, as days we were at a port a lot of the passengers were still on tours.
Movies There is no dedicated theater on this ship however you can still watch movies. The listing will be in your daily guide. Movies are shown in the large entertainment theater, in the Explorer's Lounge and on your cabin TV. Some showings included current films. We missed the outdoor movies under the stars and the popcorn we have had on other Princess mega ships.
Atrium The ship has a beautiful atrium in the center of the ship that extends up through several of the decks. Surrounding the open center are shops, with perfume, clothes items, etc., souvenir store, purser's desk, tour desk, a store with small drug and candy items. Usually the staff sets up tables on the perimeter where they sell items usually related to the port that is next or the port the ship has just left.
Photos The area around the photo sales area was always crowded. The staff will literally make thousands of photos as they seem to be everywhere. Formal night is especially a challenge as the photo crews will actually block several passage areas to set up their cameras. The candid photos are made using a digital camera from which they print a mass production snapshot. They sell these from formal night shootings as "portraits." Trust me, these are far from being professional portraits. If you must have a snapshot, then spend the $25, however a better option is to have your own digital camera, make several photos and print them on your computer when you return home.
Drink Cards The first day aboard you will be asked (sometimes many times) to purchase an all you can drink soft drink card. They are about $60. If you drink several cokes each day this is a real deal. That's about $9 worth of cokes each day, however at bar prices that may not be all that many. They also sell a coffee card for gourmet coffee such as cappuccinos. I purchased one for $30 and only used it eight times thus my coffee was rather expensive. On a longer than seven day cruise I would have easily used the entire card. I did get a souvenir cup out of the deal though.
Specialty Dining There are a couple of restaurants where you can get specialty dining with special entrees. They are the Sterling Steakhouse and the Sabatini's Trattoria dining room. On this trip we did not eat at either. We really don't like to pay the extra charge associated with this type dining although we must admit we have done it in the past. The restaurants were never full on any evening.
Hot Dogs and Hamburgers Oh yes, there is a place on the ship where you can dine on hamburgers and hot dogs, plus there is pizza available. This is at the end of the pool area. They cook your burger to order while you wait.
Internet One of the nicest internet rooms of any ship we have sailed. There is also a coffee bar in the room. Space was always available on this cruise and the internet connections were excellent. Probably because we were always close to land, either Canada or the United Sates. The staff was very pleasant and helpful. Cost is about the same as on other ships. In our case $100 for 250 minutes. TIP: Sign up the first day aboard and they may give you some additional free minutes. TIP: If you encounter problems with the internet, such as getting several disconnects, etc., ask the attendant to make an adjustment or add the lost minutes. We found them to be accommodating.
Computer at Sea School Don't know how to work with Adobe Photoshop? Then take a couple of classes aboard ship. The classes were almost like having your own personal instructor. Even though I know some about Photoshop and my granddaughter knows a lot, we still took the classes and found them to be well worth the $25 per class. Take three classes and the fourth is free. They give you easy to read handouts and you can also download them from the Princess site when you return home.
Casino This ship is reported to have one of the largest casinos on the seas. There are more than 250 slot machines, including penny machines, two roulette tables, craps tables and blackjack. We found the casino being very well used throughout the cruise.
Art Auction I am still amazed that people go on cruises to attend art auctions and unless I am being conned, there are people actually buying some of the "art." After attending for three days I found the same people attending day after day. If this is your thing go for it, I would not know what I was buying or what it was worth. The auction is held in the Explorer's Lounge.
Golf There is a neat golf putting area on the top deck. The wind and cold will just add to the challenge. We never found more than two or three people on the course partly because it was difficult to find. Take a break from the auctions and bars and go outdoors to the putting area.
Wedding Chapel There is a very nice small wedding chapel on this ship. The door remained locked every time we were in that area however I would imagine it may be used on longer cruises.
Hospital/Sick Bay As is on many new ships, there is a nice looking medical facility. Since we did not have to use the facility (we have on other sister ships) we really can't review the service. On other Princess ships where we have used the service we found professional, courteous personnel and very clean facilities. Expect to pay in full before you leave as they don't accept insurance. You can file a claim against your health care provider when you return home, so be sure and get a detailed receipt of the procedure you used.
Hair Salon My spouse is always a customer whether the cruise is 30 day or 7 days and this cruise was no exception. The service is always good and the prices are always high. Also expect to provide the person with a hefty tip as tips are not added to the bill.
Fitness Center The fitness center is really excellent with lots of the very latest equipment which was in very good condition. We have been on ships where the equipment has been neglected. At times the area was crowded and you have to put your name on a time schedule.
Library There is a very nice library on the ship and it also contains several internet stations. In the same area there is a writing room which is equally nice. Both places are good areas to read a book and just take life easy.
Swimming Pools and Spas They are all over the ship. Some are crowded while others remain mostly empty. Look for the ones where kids are not allowed, otherwise some of the younger kids will run wild around the area with parents nowhere to be found. On this cruise there were plenty of lounge chairs around all the pools.
Children's Area There is a special part of the ship set aside for children of all ages. We had a teenager that went a few times but for the most part opted to stay with the adults. There are games including high tech games in the children's area. When we passed by we always saw the area being adequately supervised by ship's staff.
Outside Basketball & Tennis Court A very nice area that we saw being used quite often. Located on the front of the ship on a top deck.
Shore Tours In the past we booked some of our shore tours on the internet before the cruise. On this trip we did not book one tour until we arrived on board. The tours were plentiful. We had also traveled to Alaska many times thus many sights we had seen on our own. In every port there were several large ships and the crowds on the streets were just more than we cared to handle. We will probably take earlier or later cruises to Alaska in the future in order to avoid the really large crowds on shore. This time though we did take a train out of Skagway. It was very good though a little expensive. In previous shore trips we try to go on our own. Usually we rent a car along with another couple and head for non-tourist sites. We find the cost to be much lower, the freedom to do what you want and seeing sights where tourists don't generally go.
Theater & Entertainment The theater does not adequately seat the number of passengers that want to attend each show. Thus you must arrive very early to get a seat. We found that 45 minutes before the show the theater started filling so we usually arrived about 45 minutes before the show. The shows presented by the entertainers on board were rather good IF you overlook all the errors and mistakes. Just take those with a "grain of salt" and look at the lighting, special effects and costumes. They are really very good -- not Broadway -- but think about it, you are not paying an extra dime for the entertainment. Individual performers in the theater were on a scale of excellent to extremely poor. On the one night where the entertainer was very poor the theater was no more that 60% full. A lot of folks knew something that we did not know.
Arcade Really nice electronic arcade located close to the casino. Lots of nice new machines in the room however we never found anyone using them. If this keeps up that room will someday disappear.
Cabins Our cabin was an outside room on the Emerald Deck. Clean and the cabin steward maintained it that way throughout the cruise. The bed was excellent, bathroom always stocked with supplies and in general we were well pleased with the room. We did not have room service during this short cruise -- we were just too busy. Fresh fruit was brought to our room each day we requested. Just leave the request on the door the evening before. We did not use the laundry service on this cruise however we did use the washer and dryer on our deck. The place was clean and all machines worked. Even the coin machines were in working order. Each evening the ship's paper was delivered to our room and a mint placed on each pillow. We were able to control our temperature in the room exactly as we desired. The TV set was in first class working order. Ice was left in our refrigerator each day and we got clean towels each day.
Dress We normally would not list this as a review section on a cruise however we feel this is becoming a major issue. We are savvy enough to realize that people are going to dress as they please. There were two formal nights on this seven day cruise, however I would challenge anyone to show me which of the nights were those formal nights. At dinner there were many people that came with t-shirts, sport shirts and a form of shorts. Some people appeared to be wearing what they had worn on shore tour rafting. Tennis shoes were all over the place. A very small percentage of passengers were actually in formal clothes. We went to the last entertainment and noticed even some of those returned to their cabin after dinner and changed into sport clothes. Formal night dress meant very little for a great percentage of the travelers on this cruise.
Embarkation We boarded at Whittier and the embarkation was easy, efficient and fast. We arrived at a time when few passengers were arriving (1:00PM). The ship had a departure time of 9:00PM. The staff was most helpful and friendly. We could not have asked for a better experience.
Disembarkation We purchased bus tickets from the ship to Vancouver Airport and that was a great move. We left our luggage outside the door the evening before, and saw it next at the baggage area at the airport. We were among the first to leave the ship and among the first to arrive at the airport. The cost was only $25 per person. We highly recommend this.
We have traveled enough on cruise ships to know that a lot of factors will influence one's perception of the cruise. The observations we post are those of our own and we respect the differences others may have experienced aboard the same cruise. We had a great time and will cruise with Princess again. We trust this review will provide a little insight, especially for those who had not cruised on the Sapphire. Have a great trip.
Princess Cruises Caribbean Princess by Dianne T Eastern Caribbean June 4, 2008
This was my 14th cruise on Princess and a HUGE dissappointment.
The food on this ship was awful compared to other Princess cruises I have been on.
The crew had an attitude of indifference. I WAS a real champion of Princess.
I have 2 cruises planned for the next year BUT they will not be on Princess.
A complaint from a member re. the rising costs of cruising:
All the extra charges for dining and other nicities as ice cream, etc. are getting out of hand. You pay a high enough cruise fare and then are expected to pay even more for all of this which is uncalled fro especially with all the new ships coming out. It is nice to goout for a good meal with excellent service etc., but people can get roped into this and then just CHARGE IT UP.
We love cruising think it is the only way to travel meeting alot of nice people, good food and service and much more but cruiseline need to draw the line on this matter. It costs a family $10.00-$15.00 a shot just for icecream and $50.00 a meal it should be BOYCOTTED. Well that's my opinion as well as others I've talked to on the last few cruises we've been on.
This is one of Princess' older ships and it is tired. It needs an overhaul and updating.
The crew was excellent and tried to do the right things, but some of the crew members do not understand English.
There also seems to be a little discontent among the crew and many were unhappy and were planning to leave Princess as their duties have increased with the economic changes in the cruise industry.
Overall this is a good ship and the cruise was OK, but nothing fabulous.
Having cruised on both Royal Caribbean and Carnival, and having heard that Princess was the best cruise line on which to experience Alaska, we went on our 7-day cruise from Vancouver to Whittier with very high expectations. This is probably what led us to be pleased but not amazed by our Princess experience.
The ship itself - The Sapphire was much bigger than the RCCL ship I went on in 2000, but a good deal smaller than the Carnival ship I went on in 2005. The main issue was the fact that it took us a few days to figure out how to navigate the ship. There are a couple decks that are partly closed off, so there's a lot of up and down random sets of stairs if you need to get from one end of the ship to the other. Still, the decor wasn't completely out of date like some cruise ships, and it was always clean. I give it a 4 out of 5.
The room - I would rate our room a 3 out of 5. We had a giant balcony (bigger than that of ourfriends who were two decks above us), but the bed was hard as a rock and the room itself was very small--much smaller than our plain old oceanview room on the Carnival Valor in 2005.
The food - I would probably give the food on this cruise a 3.5 out of 5 rating. It was good--and definitely better than the food on our Carnival cruise--but not as good as the food on my Royal Caribbean cruise. Some meals were absolutely amazing, while others were just okay. We ordered room service for breakfast a couple of times and the only time it actually came when we requested and was good was the morning we cruised Glacier Bay and paid for the champagne breakfast on our balcony.
The spa - I had an amazing facial on the first day of the cruise; later in the week we had an average couples massage. We expected the high prices of the services; that's just the way it is when you're on a cruise. What I can't stand is how pushy they are with the products they try to sell you. There's no "no thank you" and moving on. They push and push and push until you're so frustrated that you no longer feel relaxed at all. Just a warning.
The ports/excursions - We went ziplining in Ketchikan and it was awesome. I've had friends that have gone ziplining in the Caribbean and talked about how they didn't feel very safe. I'm not sure if it was the tour company that we went through, or US regulations, but I felt completely safe the entire time and it was an amazing experience. I definitely suggest the Ketchikan ziplining tour to anyone.
We did one of the Princess-only tours in Juneau--the brewery, Mendenhall Glacier, cooking school one. I really enjoyed this tour, although honestly I think there is probably something else they could have done that would have been a bit more interesting than the cooking school. What was nice was that doing this tour still gave us time to shop in Juneau beforehand and make a stop at the Red Dog Saloon afterward, before we had to get back on the ship.
In Skagway we did the Yukon suspension bridge/Liarsville salmon bake tour. The drive/trip up into the Yukon and the suspension bridge itself left something to be desired, although I have to admit that it's neat to be able to say that I went to Yukon territory. The salmon bake was AMAZING, but in doing this particular tour we had to miss the night they served crab legs at dinner on the ship, which was disappointing. We also did the streetcar tour here in Skagway and that was definitely worth it and a lot of fun.
Glacier Bay was amazing, and again, I definitely suggest doing the champagne brunch on your balcony while the ship is cruising Glacier Bay. Unfortunately, it was very dim the day we went to College Fjord, and so late in the day by the time we got to the areas where there were glaciers, that there wasn't much to see.
Embarkation and Debarkation - It was quick and easy to get on the ship, as we had checked in online and were traveling with a handicapped passenger. Unfortunately, to get off the ship, we were all separated into different groups and they wouldn't change it for us. We were forced to get up ridiculously early, as we were boarding the train for a Princess tour, and then we just sat around for over an hour waiting to get off the ship. It was difficult to meet back up with the others in our party because they had separated us, and our handicapped passenger and his wife, who were elderly, were upset that we weren't allowed to be with or help them.
All in all, we certainly had a great time on our cruise, but some of the experiences (namely the size of the room, the food, and the spa and debarkation issues) left something to be desired. All in all, I would rate the Sapphire Princess and our cruise a 3.5 out of 5.
On May 11, 2008, we embarked on our 1st cruise with Princess cruise lines. We sailed The Star Princess 7 day cruise to Alaska round trip from Seattle. We are Mother and Daughter age 41 and 17, and we have traveled on cruises many times in the past. We took a town car service to and from the airport to the port for $40.00 each way and that's per car, not passenger. The car holds approx 3-4 people.
Embarkation Embarkation was out of Seattle. It was the most disorganized embarkation we've ever experienced. We arrived at the port at 10:45 am; we boarded the ship at 1200 pm. We had booked the penthouse suite for my daughter's graduation and were to have priority check-in; however they started checking in everyone but priority which I felt was rude, and they were very focused on a wedding party that took precedence over everyone else.
Stateroom We opted for a penthouse suite and we were located on Deck 10 (Caribe Deck). The stateroom was great. We had a walk-in closet, a large bathroom with full-size jetted tub, as well as large shower, a small sittingroom with a loveseat, and a nice double balcony with a partial roof covering. I did like some of the suite amenities complimentary such as thermal spa since Alaska is COLD. The downside to the thermal spa is that everyone is sneaking in. Access needs to be better controlled to preserve the experience. Laundry and dry cleaning was free, and daily menus that you can order food from the dinning room to your room were provided. Downside of this is that since Alaska is COLD we ordered hot chocolate off the breakfast menu and they charged us for it daily which, when we were in the dining room, they did not.
Dining We had requested the early traditional dining table for two, however we had a table for four and they were unable to accommodate our request made one year in advance. Therefore we were placed in the Capri dining room with anytime dinning with a set table (#22) for 5:45 every night. This was a table for two. We were very pleased with the food and our wait staff (Bruno and Ricardo, and Alex when Bruno was out sick). We liked several of the meals at dinner such as Alaskan King Crab Legs, Fresh Ketchikan Silver Salmon and dill butter sauce, Pappardelle al Sugo di Lepre (braised rabbit), Gamberi alla Fra Diavolo (flambéed shrimp). The best dessert was the cheese cake.
All three dining rooms are small and none of them are grand. The positives are that the dining rooms don't get noisy, and it works well with accommodating traditional and open seating passengers. The negatives are that there is no large, grand dining room that you find on non-Princess ships.
Lunch was open seating in the Portofino Dining Room. Our waiters, for the most part, were fast and efficient. Again, the food was good, not great.
Specialty restaurant Sabatini's was terrible -- 8 courses and nothing was good or great. I felt like I spent $40.00 on cheese cake since that was the only food I really enjoyed there.
Afternoon Tea was excellent, and I did like the fact that Princess has this daily.
Drinks were the worst ever; I would rank RC as the best, Carnival 2nd, and Princess as the worst.
Ports Ketchichen: We did the zip line tour and it was great.
Juneau: We did a whale watching tour with ORCA enterprises (1-888-733-6722 -- adult $109.00 each). It is an excellent tour and you can book this online and it is well worth it. The boat is new, with inside bathroom and seating. There are large windows that can be opened to take pictures and then closed again to keep warm. They also provide snacks, and hot and cold drinks which are included with the tour. We saw up close and personal a pod of 7 Orcas, Sea lions, bald eagles, and hump back whales.
Tracy Arm: The was spectacular -- a great morning to spend enjoying the open decks or hanging out on one's balcony.
Skagway: This port involved a boring long walk into town. Take the blue buses into town for $1.50 each way.
Victoria, BC: This is a beautiful city, however, the ship arrives at 5pm at night and leaves at 12 midnight. I would love for this to be a full day port and do away with Skagway if necessary to make up the time.
Entertainment The Star Princess Production Cast are not the most talented group. We had two comedians and they were very good. They had a very talented man named Greg Bonham who was the best I have ever seen on a cruise ship. He sang, danced, and played the trumpet like no other, so all the cruise lines should be booking him.
The casino on this ship was pretty dead.
Disembarkation We decided to haul off our own luggage. With that said we felt that the Captain's Circle and Priority members should have been allowed to leave the ship first with their luggage, which was not the case. There were crowds of people disembarking, not waiting in their areas and it was very difficult to move your luggage off the ship. I feel that Princess needs to address this issue.
Other Comments This cruise did not have a lot of activities compared to other cruise lines. It seemed geared toward the older generations 65 and older. I would have loved to see the indoor pool opened, and it was not. If you are going to Alaska, go around the 3rd week in June to see the salmon run and bears. For the best shopping, go at the end of the season in September since all the shops want to sell off the clothes and gifts since the towns are mostly closed during the winter months.