First let me start by saying that I have taken a total of 5 cruises, all with Princess. I have had the best of customer service from embarkation to disembarkation to working with the cruise line on future sailings. Transfer from the airport to pier is seamless and check-in at the terminal has been handled well. Every time I have called the 800 number, I have been given the best of customer service. The on board experience has been good as well. Princess has treated me well and their employees are generally polite, helpful, and eager to make one's vacation a great experience. There have been many exceptional employees who have gone above and beyond to give outstanding customer service.
I have now sailed on the Sapphire 4 times. It is a good ship made better with the no smoking policy on the balconies. One can enjoy some serious balcony time and what better place to enjoy it than on a cruise to the Mexican Riviera? The only draw back is noisy neighbors--the kind who talk and laugh loudly so as to be heard by all.
The weather this particular trip was outstanding. The sea was calm both heading south and returning north. In fact, I am not sure I have seen it this calm before. The temperatures weren't too hot yet, but I don't think I would have scheduled a trip much later than the first week in March as it was starting to climb into the mid 80's to low 90's during the day in both ports. (This is a personal preference.)
The ship was recently refurbished in January 2012 and I must say it is a job well done. The excursion office has been relocated to an area that has been set up to actually service PAX. It looks like a serious office now and not just an afterthought. The future cruise sales office is located on the same deck across from the excursion office and next to the library (which was also relocated). The new layout seems to flow nicely and makes business sense.
The piazza received a make-over and it looks very nice. The new international cafe is a great addition. I also like the Vines wine tasting area. The make-over has made this public area a nice place to hang out. It has the added benefit of "street" entertainment, which was very enjoyable.
I mix up my dining experiences, sometimes going with Any Time and sometimes with Traditional. This time it was Traditional Dining and while I had requested 6:00 pm, I was placed in 5:30 pm dining. For me, that proved to be a bit too early. It meant that my afternoon "down time" before dinner was seriously reduced. While I don't care for the 2ND seating, this time was a close second in unpleasantness.
I always book a room with a balcony. I like to have a place to enjoy outside when I don't want to be in public areas, such as the pools. I think that the staterooms are adequately sized and I have not been disappointed in the appointments. The rooms and the balcony are clean and the temperature seems to be well regulated. Because I choose an area that doesn't have a dining area or bar or a children's area above or below it, I am not bothered by excessive noise. I tend to be placed mid to slightly forward on the ship. I usually choose the port side, although there is no particular reason for the choice.
While I had visited Mexico previously, this time we only visited Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas, leaving Mazatlan off the ports of call. We spent only one day in Puerto Vallarta, and I agree with some of the other passengers, 2 days would have been nice. We spent the better part of 2 days in Cabo San Lucas before heading back to Los Angeles.
In Puerto Vallarta, I had friends meet me at the ship for a personal tour experience. We headed out on a public bus to the downtown area visiting the famous sand sculptures along the ocean. These are a must see when visiting here. With a back drop of the beautiful Pacific Ocean, some serious talent is show cased.
We ate lunch at a small family run place located right on the beach. We sat under umbrellas and it was very pleasant. What a view! The lunch was delicious as well. Almost any where along the beach, one can find a small place to dine and I am guessing all the food will be good.
Our next port of call was Cabo. Cabo has a beautiful marina and the downtown is located around that marina. After tendering in, I walked to the downtown area to check out the shops. Mostly eating and drinking establishments surround the marina itself. It is a busy place. There are all types of vendors around the marina selling mostly boating excursions. Behind fences are Mexican families selling inexpensive souvenirs. If one doesn't want to be bothered by all these people, it is best not make eye contact and keep walking--don't stop.
The hillsides around Cabo have been built up with new construction. The hillsides themselves were brown. During the day, other than its marina, Cabo is not anything special to look at. However, during the night, when the town is lit up, it looked pretty spectacular. (We were anchored in the bay.)
Again, I have had another delightful vacation with Princess. When one is on vacation, sometimes things don't go exactly as expected. It is best to "roll with the punches" and let it be. The purpose of the vacation, in part, is to have an experience that isn't the same as a daily routine. So, it is unpleasant to be around other PAX who are demanding and rude. But, I guess it is part of the experience.