This was my first cruise on Princess and first to Alaska. I have sailed twice previously on Royal Caribbean, most recently on the massive Voyager of the Seas. I sailed along with my wife and 2 kids.
I didn't take the Princess transfers from the airport to the sea port as they seemed overpriced to me. Turns out I was right. From the airport I spent $22 plus tip for the four of us to take a Shuttle Express van (no reservations necessary). We did have to haul our bags to an elevator to go up and over the street but it was worth it. The shuttle was quick as we didn't have to wait around for a bus to fill up. By the way, after the cruise we took a cab back to the airport for $23 plus tip which was even faster and more convenient. The cabs are lined up and we just hopped in. Sunday morning traffic is light so don't worry that it might end up costing more. The guy at the pier told us it would be $23 and it was.
As we pulled up Ithought the ship was beautiful. All the balconies have nice wooden rails and "sapphire" tinted glass which contrasts nicely with the generally white ship. We had booked both a balcony stateroom (for me and my wife) and an inside stateroom across the hall (for the kids), and I looked forward to enjoying the scenery from my very own balcony (a first for me).
Checking in required about 45 minutes of weaving back and forth in the queue, but once we reached counter it was quick and the attendant was friendly and helpful (more helpful than I would have been dealing with that massive crowd!) After that it took another 20 minutes of stop-and-go traffic on the gangway before we were finally on board.
We skipped the usual getting-on-board photograph, as they were doing it in the terminal building in front of a couple of cheesy fake palm trees (on an Alaskan cruise??) with people walking by in the background. Seems like they could have chosen a spot with the ship in the background (the weather was perfect).
Our stateroom was about as expected, perhaps a little smaller than our room on the Explorer (without balcony). We chose a room on the Baja deck because I heard that the lower balconies are open to view from above. As a trade-off, the lower decks have balconies that are about twice the size. Our balcony was only comfortable for 2 people, but the lower balconies could easier accommodate 4.
I was satisfied with the room. Others have commented that they should have doors on the closet, but I don't agree. The closet is very wide and I don't know where the doors would go. Without the doors you have easy access to the wide closet floor (to store my wife's 8 pairs of shoes) as well as the upper shelf. Lots of nice wooden hangers were provided. I liked the additional closet with safe and storage shelves. The bathroom was small but usable. I much prefer the sliding curved shower doors on the Explorer versus the shower curtain on the Sapphire, but it wasn't a big deal. Hot water came quickly and the controls made it easy not to scorch your privates off (one knob controls the temperature only, so you can just leave that alone all week).
I agree that this ship doesn't have the Shock and Awe of some other new ships. It doesn't have the amazing atrium or large number of shops that the Explorer had. However, it is elegant and beautiful and in some ways cozy, and to me that is more important. My daughter doesn't agree with this point, as she very much enjoyed riding the glass elevators in the atrium of the Explorer.
We liked the indoor pool with the glass ceiling. This room was nicely appointed with neat tile work on the walls and supports. Most importantly, the water was warm enough to get right in (no small feature in Alaska).
Interestingly, to get those heavy deck blankets you have to go to the upper level of the indoor pool area (the "Conservatory"). Strangely, you have to check them out and return them the next day. I'm not sure what they would do if you didn't return them until the end of the trip, but I didn't find out. It would seem logical to keep the blankets for the whole week. Make sure to get some blankets on Tuesday so you will have them for the cruise through Tracy Arm Wednesday morning.
The outdoor pool was also nice and again the water was warm enough to get right in. Neither pool was ever very crowded, although we only had 2 days that the weather was conducive to outdoor swimming (though some other people apparently have a different definition of swimming weather).
Throughout the ship the crew was friendly and helpful. They seemed to be everywhere, picking up dirty dishes, cleaning windows, etc, and they all stopped to say hello, smile at the kids or whatever. Sometimes I felt like I was one of the first class passengers on the Titanic, with people waiting on me and calling me "sir", while musicians played in the background. The dealers in the casino were even nice, and that was a big surprise. I always figured casino personnel were required to be surly. To top it off, we actually won a little money at the blackjack tables.
I few things weren't finished yet. The video arcade is currently a large storage room, so it looks to be a while before that is ready. The mini-golf, which my son loved on the Explorer, was pitiful on the Sapphire. All the holes were near each other with nothing between them except for a few fake plants so you could easily end up on the wrong hole, or even off the course entirely. Hopefully they intend to add rocks, windmills or whatnot to make it at least playable. We tried out the mini tennis court, which was kind of fun, but unfortunately the wooden rackets were already badly damaged, which is surprising and disappointing given that we were only the 4th cruise on this new ship. There was some painting and varnishing going on throughout the ship during the week, but it wasn't a problem.
Make sure to check out the aft end of the ship above the promenade (deck 7) and below the Horizon Court (deck 14), which we didn't really even see until mid-week. There you will find a pool with a couple of hot tubs, plus shuffleboard and a giant chess board. It tends to be less crowded back there and can be a wonderful spot to sit and watch the ocean (not that the rest of the ship was crowded).
The entertainment was very good, including the singers/dancers, comedians, and the ventriloquist. The main theater was perhaps a bit small (compared to the Explorer), and they often put the comedians in smaller lounges which were entirely too small for the crowds that wanted to attend. I'm not sure what they were thinking. Usually when there is one main act going on in the evening, whether it is a comedian or a dance troupe, there will be a lot of people that want to see it. On other ships they always used the main theater. Hopefully they re-think this, but if not, I recommend you go early to get a seat. Of course, people sometimes send one person to save a large number of seats which I think is unfair. I didn't play bingo but there were people saving seats TWO HOURS before bingo was to start (in one of the lounges, of course).
An earlier review said "don't miss the morning show with Hollywood and Alistair." While the two guys are nice, their banter gets annoying very quickly and I personally couldn't stand it for the 30 minutes required to find out all the activities planned for the day. Besides, you get all the same info in the Princess Patter delivered to your room each night. You can submit messages to be read during the show, and my kids did that one day (which is why I had to suffer through the whole show).
My kids really enjoyed the Kid Zone and spent much of their days playing with new friends there. They hated the kid's center on the Explorer, so we were pleasantly surprised by this. They worked on many projects and won lots of prizes (Princess tote bags, stuffed animals, toy boats, etc). As a family we also won stuff by participating in the various games (Taboo, Pictionary, Trivia, Weakest Link, etc). So there were lots of little things to do, although attendance was generally small at these "events".
For some reason, my daughter (age 10) really enjoyed going to afternoon tea and talking with the old ladies. To each her own, I guess.
There were a lot older people on this boat. In fact, I chose not to run on the "track" because it was narrow, had sharp turns and you never know when you might come around the corner and run into an old guy with a walker. That was disappointing to me, since I could stand to burn some of the calories I was shoveling in.
Ketchikan was okay. We did some shopping, but you quickly learn that port towns in Alaska are just like port towns elsewhere. The shops all have the same stuff and it gets pretty monotonous. I did go for a "run" in Ketchikan, although it was more of a shuffle up the steep grades for 15 minutes and then 2 minutes of terror back down the wet streets. The locals looked at me like I was nuts, and they were probably right. I had hoped to find a good spot to take some pictures up in the hills but didn't have much luck. I probably would have enjoyed Ketchikan more if I had signed up for a tour, but those tours are expensive and I'm not made of money (contrary to what my kids think).
Tracy Arm was the highlight of the cruise, so get your butt topside early Wednesday so you don't miss it (don't forget your blanket and camera). This is the only time you sail through narrow a narrow fjord and get to see floating ice chunks with (if you're lucky) some seals on them. There are also waterfalls and sheer cliffs that are just beautiful. I wish we could have left Ketchikan earlier and spent more time here. We never got very close to the actual glacier, so that was a little disappointing but the scenery was great nonetheless. Add a deck blanket and a hot chocolate with Bailey's in it, and it was a memory I won't soon forget (there wasn't THAT much Bailey's in the hot chocolate). The naturalist added some interesting commentary, although she could use some caffeine (or something stronger) to liven up her presentation. It was pretty monotone.
If you got up early for Tracy Arm, take a nap when you get to Juneau if (like us) you have to tender ashore. They haven't worked out the kinks yet, so you are best off waiting a couple of hours, or signing up for an afternoon tour which might (I repeat, might) get you off the boat quicker. It is too bad because we could have used more time exploring Juneau. It seemed to have more than just the same old trinkets in every store.
We signed up for the Mendenhall glacier helicopter tour. This was expensive ($200 per person) but you don't want to miss it. Soaring up, up, up over the crest of the mountain and then seeing the ground drop off thousands of feet to the valley below was very cool. You don't get much time on the ice, and if you have kids stay with them. There are some cracks and holes that could be dangerous for small kids (one of the guides immediately began shadowing my son, who is a toothpick). Although it was overcast most of the week, we did get sunshine during this tour and the early evening lighting made this an incredible experience. FYI, we heard the first two flights of the day were cancelled because of "ice fog" or something like that. Apparently, that is not uncommon early in the morning (even in July) so beware of early flights as the weather may ground the helicopters.
Skagway was similar to Ketchikan. We didn't have a tour scheduled so we just wandered around town. Make sure you get back to the boat on time. We left a passenger in Skagway and we heard he had a heck of time catching up with the boat. One of the crew told me they leave someone behind in almost every port. They do normally wait a little while, but not long.
The Food? Well I'm not the kind of person that goes on a cruise just to eat. I cruise because it is a lazy man's way of seeing lots of stuff with little effort and for a reasonable cost. The fact that they serve you food whenever you want just adds to my enjoyment.
In general the food was fair to good. The Horizon Court buffet was decent but not extraordinary, and it can be a zoo. A couple of times there wasn't a single table available in the entire café and we had to go quite a ways forward in the ship to find a place to eat. We ate lunch in the regular dining room twice. The second time the service was very slow, so we never did that again (I don't like wasting my precious vacation sitting at a table waiting for food). I'm guessing other people had the same experience, thus the crowd in the Horizon Café.
I really enjoyed breakfast at the horizon café. The bacon was always crisp and delicious, the French toast was good and they had a good selection of other stuff. Except no 2% milk, just skim milk (blah!) or whole milk (yikes!). If you get hungry after dinner, the café has pretty much all the entrees available in the dining room and I enjoyed tasting ALL of them.
The hand sanitizers by the café were a great idea and most people used them.
We did personal choice dining, and it is true you are better off making reservations. But even if you don't you can usually get in with a little wait (lots of people make reservations for the whole week but don't always show up.)
By the outdoor pool you could get pizza which we enjoyed quite a bit. It was thin crust and a little floppy, but at the same time crunchy. There is also a grill serving hamburgers and hotdogs and those were pretty good too. And if you want a double cheeseburger they serve it up with a smile.
The dining room service was excellent and the food was good.
Generally speaking, there were fewer pushy people trying to sell you drinks than we experienced on the Explorer which was greatly appreciated. They did try to sell us cookbooks and wine tastings, but they were not pushy about it, and it was always with a smile.
Overall, it was an enjoyable cruise for all of us. The service and food was good, the ship was nice, there were enough activities to keep us busy, and the price was reasonable. I was a little disappointed that spotting wildlife from the ship was rare. I guess you have to go on tours if you want to see much wildlife. I was also disappointed that we never got anywhere close to a glacier to watch chunks "calving" off, which to me is one of the main reasons for going to Alaska. I know others have seen calving glaciers from their ships, so maybe this ship was just too big to get close? I suppose there was probably a tour that went up close to a glacier (but again, those cost a fortune for a family of 4).
This was our 15th Princess Cruise, our 6th Alaska Cruise and I have at least 6 cruises each on HAL and Celebrity. I arrived a day early on a non stop flight from Cleveland on Continental. After being screwed by the cruise lines for over 10 years, I do all my own arrangements. Stayed at Holiday Inn Express (Priory Club member)at airport and was upgraded to a suite at no extra cost. Enjoyed the stay and free breakfast. Free transfers to airport.
Went to airport with bags. Princess wanted $18 for one way transfer, told them no thanks and proceeded to Gray line booth near end of baggage area. Purchased a round trip ticket for me and my wife for $20 each on cruise express. Waited 15 minutes for bus, transferred Downtown to different bus and proceed to port with 8 on board.
Embarkation: Only 2 got off at Princess. They took bag immediately. Had to stand in line till I got to door and showed them my Platinum embark. Was taken to desk right away and was on ship in 10 minutes. The Platinum Captain's Circle check-in is a great timesaver.
Cabins: The cabin C612 (cat. BA) was attractively decorated and good sized for the price. The balcony, while large, offers little privacy if your cabin is on Caribe deck. Another design flaw is the shower, much smaller than Celebrity and you get a bath/shower on HAL in this category. It also has a fixed shower head, instead of a hose and wand arrangement like Celebrity offers. Toilet would not flush two time and was fixed within hours. Cabin service was efficient and unobtrusive.
Public Areas: The public areas are nice and never feel crowded. The ship doesn't feel 113,000 grt. Enjoyed the small intimate bars. Met numerous passenger that I had talked with previously on the internet. We had a small party for 6 couples on the second day in the Promenade bar where we spent two hours talking. They had good shows on board and the comedians were great. Had a Platinum Cocktail party with the Captain and officers in wheel house bar. It was great I met some more good people and got a free picture with Captain. The bars had a buy 5, pay for four Becks light special on the Lido bars. I got this all cruise long and put them in the cabin fridge. Bring a can opener if you want this as these are not twist off caps. The bar did not want to give me can opener, I went to front desk and they were no help as the found that the room steward wound not give me one either. The shop wanted $7.00 and I know I could not get that one on plane. I took beer back to bar and asked for money back and he then gave me a can opener that I used all cruise long and left in room. The can opener had a cork screw that worked on the free bottle of wine I got.
Dining: I requested 2nd seating traditional dining when I booked and was told it was guaranted, wrong. I went to find what table they had me assigned and found they had put me in Personal Choice. I raised a stink and got table 44 2nd seating traditional. I had the best tablemates of any of my 31 cruises and a good waiter too. We ate all our meals here except when we took the Bucthart garden tour we go back to the ship and had to eat in the Lido. It was a jungle with total disorganization. There were A LOT of dining options including personal choice dining in one of the three main dining rooms. I heard numerous complaints about the personal choice dining where you could not get times requested and were rushed so they could get more in. Open seatings for breakfast and lunch in the International Dining room was easy no lines and no wait. Interestingly, the attendance in the main dining rooms was far less that capacity. Probably due to the number of choices. Had pizza and burgers several times. The afternoon tea in Pacific Moon dining room was the worst I ever attended. They served me tea and no body brought me anything to eat so I left after a half hour, they had no scones any way so how can they call it a tea. All the restaurants were nicely decorated and the food in the International Dining room was good, but not up to Celebrity standards. The food in other areas was like a cheap cafeteria. They did have free ice cream in the Lido at 3:45 and I enjoyed it for three day and others discovered it and the lines became too long.
Tours: We schedule nothing in Ketchikan as we had been there before so we shopped and found some bargains. In Juneau we scheduled whale watching. We were supposed to dock at 2:30, but the Coral didn't leave till 4:00 and we docked at 5:00. The tour was at 3:30 and I got a tender ticket before 2:30. The tendering was a disaster. They did not take the tours first and they got to my number at 3:45 and sent everyone down at once. My wife was pushed into wall and injured her knee. When in got on shore at 4:00 and the tour had left, I got my money back with me being bitter and having an injured wife. In Skagway we did the train ride and it is a must do. Victoria was another disaster- we were doing the Butchart Gardens. We had done them on Celebrity two years earlier and had 3 hours at the gardens and an air conditioned bus. Leaving the ship was a disaster as they let everyone off at once, we stood in the longest line I have ever seen for an hour. The buses were WWII double decker that used to be in London during the war. The seats were small, I had to stand. They were hot and barely made it up the hills. It took an hour to get to and from the gardened in these saunas on wheels. You only had an hour and a half in the gardens and I consider this tour a waste of money for the time you get and how you go. The gardens are wonderful, but Princess let me down.
Disembarkation: This was smooth. They had a the Wheel house bars set up for suite, platinum and elite members and it was great. The had coffee, juice and pastries and papers to read. The put me on a Gray line bus quickly and I got to the airport faster going than coming. Overall, I was satisfied. The gave us a nice little gift on last day and I got my elite pin. I put a $200 deposit down on a future cruise. Some on the problems were first cruise jitters. Princess will get a complaint letter on some of the problems mentioned above, but I will sail them again. They do have the most balcony's, give good value and their people are friendly.
This was our second cruise and our first with Princess; our first cruise was with RCI. My spouse, two kids and I traveled with my sister and her husband.
Embarktation in Seattle went well and we were aboard within an hour. Once onboard, you'd never know you were on a ship of her size, since the words "understated elegance" kept popping into my head. I will confess we all missed the outside light and drama we experienced in the Centrum of RCI's Radiance of the Seas. The Sapphire Princess Atrium was just three decks high and while it was quite tastefully done, it just didn't compare. It should be noted that the public area musicians on Sapphire were better - the string quartet in the Atrium was quite good, as was the piano player.
The balcony cabins were well-designed in soothing colors, though I agree with reviewers of her sister ship Diamond Princess that they should have sprung for closet doors. Beyond that, though, the rooms were well-appointed and thoughtfully designed even to the point that the headboards were padded so you could sit up in bed to read -- nicetouch. Cabin stewards were great and worthy of extra tips.
Kudos to the purser's staff for their reaction to our travel agent's mistake in booking us into a triple cabin instead of a quad: While the mistake was apparently not their fault (I'll spare you the details), Princess moved us up two decks to two vacant double cabins. We ended up with two rooms instead of one, with the balcony door between the cabins open. It was the perfect solution, and we were delighted with the service of Leah and Richard in helping take care of it. We did feel bad for the poor family that had originally booked those cabins -- the ship was at capacity but apparently they had been denied boarding due to a virus. It was good to know Princess takes such things seriously to protect their passengers and crew, though.
Sail-away was fun, with good music blasting on the upper decks such as "North to Alaska" and "Rock the Boat."
We chose Personal Choice dining, which was unspectacular. In the future we would choose traditional dining. The best of the Personal Choice restaurants was Sterling, but make your reservations for the entire cruise early if you want to get in there! The decor and food in Sterling was the best onboard. Horizon Court wasn't up to the quality and organization we experienced with RCI's buffet, although the hand sanitation dispensers were a good touch. The pizza out by the pool is great. In general, we found the wait staff to be inconsistent in service...some were super (especially Santa Fe) and others appeared indifferent.
Entertainment was fabulous, and our Cruise Director Alistair, with assistant "Hollywood," were fun. Don't miss their morning "Gem TV" show, which covers events for the day in a fun and lighthearted format. Alistair would refer to passengers by the names of famous people they (remotely) resembled, so it was great fun for me to discover I was actually married to David Hasselhof! Don't miss Kevin Hughes, the comedian - he will have you snorting with laughter. My spouse especially enjoyed "Liquid Blue," though I suspect their cute outfits and dance moves had as much to do with it as their music!
Of course, the scenery was breathtaking. We were fortunate to have 100% sunny weather, but make sure to get up early the day you cruise Tracy Arm so as to not miss any of it. It was the highlight of the cruise. We also appreciated the naturalist onboard, Mary; her lectures and announcements helped make the cruise a learning experience as well as an enjoyable one.
There was one rather crabby woman in security who was checking cruise cards at the gangway in port...several times we noticed that she was sorely in need of a happy pill or something.
Disembarkation was well-organized and quick.
We would sail with Princess again, but I do have to agree with a reviewer of her sister ship, the Diamond, that the ship was missing something. Still, we had a wonderful time and feel that for an inaugural it went well.
This cruise was 10 nights long and it was absolutely WONDERFUL! We live in the San Francisco Bay Area and this ship sailed from Pier 35 in San Francisco. This is the very first cruise that we didn't have to fly to our destination. Yeah!
We were on board the Sapphire Princess around 11:20 a.m. The first thing we did was check out our Mini-Suite D730 on the Dolphin Deck aft. The suite was nice and roomy. We had originally booked a regular balcony, then our FANASTIC TA told us about a "Flash Sale" regarding the mini-suite so we upgraded. We couldn't pass up the price! Later when prices began to rise, and while monitoring the web for availabiltity I was dumbfounded to see internet pricing for INSIDE ROOMS more expensive than our mini-suite. In reality though, next time I would save the money and stick with a balcony. The balconies were on the higher decks. Our mini-suite's deck was completely open. The first morning after the evening of sail I walked out on our deck around 7:00 am to check out the views and the weather. I heard a veryLOUD "Good Morning" from one of our neighbors on a higher deck. There is no way you could walk around au nautral. Ha,ha!
The ship itself is absolutely gorgeous, and HUGE. This was our 17th cruise, so I have been on a lot of nice ships, but this one just blew all the others away.
Food: 5 stars
The eats were outstanding, especially the BREADS, pasta's and hot soups. Be sure to try the Warm Rice Pudding, with a Creme Bulee Topping in he Santa Fe Resturant. It is heavenly. Although we wanted Traditional Seating (like almost everyone else on this ship) we ended up with Personal Choice Dining. There are 4 resturants to chose from. We like to eat early so the first 2 days we just walked right up and got in right away. The 3rd day I called to make a reservation at one of the resturants and the conceige service told me all 4 resturants were RESERVED until 10:00 p.m. that night! After that fiasco, I called & booked the reservations for the rest of the cruise all at one time. They do hold 10-20% of the tables vacant for WALK-IN'S for the 5:30 time frame, but after that you will need to sit and wait.
Service: 5 stars for the Cabin Steward ---- 4 stars for the Waiters & Assistant Waiters
Ports: 5 stars for all. Catalina Island, Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, Cabo San Lucas, San Diego
Catalina Island: It was our third time there so we walked to the Casino, and down the seaside front where there are lots of cutesy shops. Catalina is a very charming town, and not to be missed.
Puerto Vallarta: It was a very HOT, OVERCAST, and Muggy. We took the ship's off the Beaten Track Tour. I had taken this last October with my Mom and our driver at that time took us up into the hills to see where the RICH & FABULOUSLY WEALTHY LIVE, then we went shopping where the locals go. That trip was much better. This time our driver did nothing special. Just took us down the waterfront, Casa Kimberly where Richard Burton and Liz Taylor lived, and shopping where the tourists hang out. I was disappointed. Having said that P.V. is a beautiful place.
Mazatlan: This was the highlight of our trip. I had booked an independant tour via internet with Frank of Mazatlan Tours/Ole Tours. I had advertised on the cruise msg boards for others to join us, and were fortunate enough to have 5 other people hook up with us on this journey. Frank met us at the cruise terminal. He took us all around the island, and showed us "The Real Mexico" with all its points of interest. He has a dynamite personality, and made the tour not only fascinating, but LOTS OF FUN AS WELL. He charged us $40 p/p and it included a great lunch at a Mexican Cafe. Everyone had a terrific time, and we were all sorry to say goodbye to our new amigo Frank. For those interested I highly recommend him. Check out www.mazatlan-tours.com His personal e-mail is email@example.com
Cabo San Lucas: It was boiling hot, humid, and totally sunny. My husband was getting overheated so we just walked around down the main drag. Cabo is a lovely city, we have been to this port twice before so we just bummed it.
San Diego/La Jolla: We did the ship's excursion called Diego & La Jolla Highlights Tour. This tour is fantastic, we drove around for about 4 hours with a few stops in between. The scenery is breathtaking. San Diego and La Jolla have excellent weather year round, and our day there was a perfect one. If you want a good time, kick up your heels in old town.
Disembarkation: The best we have ever experienced. Princess has instituted a winner in creating "Express Checkout." We left our bags in our room and walked off the ship with them at 7:30 a.m. Hailed a cab, got on Cal-Train and walked through our front door at 10:15 a.m.
Summary - LOVED THE SHIP, THE FOOD, and PORTS.
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 wereescorted 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.