Los Angeles Embarcation: We flew to Los Angeles 2 days prior and stayed at a Marriott facility close to the airport. We took a tour of L.A. the day prior with Gray Line Tours that was excellent. They picked us up at the hotel and returned us as well.
We had Princess transfers from the airport so we took a taxi to the airport at 10am and was promptly got on the bus to the ship. With our bag tags on the luggage we next saw our luggage in our stateroom.
With "elite" status on Princess, we were able to promptly board the ship at 11:30 am and on to our cabin. We always get an inside cabin on Lido Deck since we spend little time in the cabin and just a short walk to the open lido deck.
Our cruise was 28 days with ports of call to Lahaina, Honolulu, Kona, Nawiliwili, Apia, Pago Pago, Bora Bora, Moorea and Tahiti.
There have been several recent changes on Princess. This may well be industry wide. The overall quality of the menus have changed somewhat. We noticed there are now cheeseburgers on the formal menu every night and the quality of the cuts of meats have "deteriorated as well". There are a lot more sirloin than prime rib, New York Strip, etc.
We have seen the formal production shows many times on prior Princess cruises. They are rarely if ever changed. However, they are now having 3 production shows each evening rather than the usual 2. The 50 minute shows have been reduced to
30-35 minutes in length. The overall quality of the performances have decreased as well. However, finding good entertainment may well be difficult when there are 8 sea days returning from Tahiti.
The "Halau Hula Olana Show" performed by children in the Princess Theater during the Honolulu port of call was excellent.
Also, there was a "Fire Dance" performed beside the ship in Bora Bora that was superb.
In Tahiti, the "O Tahitie" Folkloric Show was performed twice in the Princess Theater. Again, an excellent local production.
However, the overall quality of the comedians, singers and hypnotist was lacking. These productions should have been in a lounge and not for formal Princess Theater shows.
The staff of the Sapphire Princess were amazing. From the waiter staff, front desk, international cafe, and room service were extremely friendly and always trying to help. We have never seen so many smiling/helpful faces on a Princess ship.
The excursions for the most part were overpriced and there was a "herding effect". We really enjoyed the off road jeep 4x4 adventures in Lahaina, Nawiliwili, Bora Bora, Moorea and Tahiti. Since we will probably never be back to the South Pacific, we also booked afternoon tours as well on these islands.
None of the bus tours we took with Princess (six total) were very enjoyable. There was usually 4 or 5 full buses leaving for each tour. Rather than having the buses leave at 10 minute intervals they all left together. So at each stop, there was 5 buses of people trying to either see the site or use the restroom creating long lines.
I have absolutely no issues with handicapped people (I will be there someday)but there needs to be separate buses for only handicapped people. They occupy the first 3 or 4 rows of each bus and take an extensive amount of time to depart the bus. By the time it is your time to get off the bus it is time for the bus to take off again. Also, there are always "stragglers" who come back to the bus late making everyone wait on them. It would be nice to leave the stragglers but apparently there is a policy that they have to wait...we may test this on our next cruise!
Disembarkation was a breeze. Princess has this down to a "fine art". We chose the walk off with our own bags and was off the ship by 8am.
Overall an excellent cruise and excellent friendly people on the Sapphire Princess. However we will never take another bus tour with Princess until policies are changed. We are somewhat concerned regarding booking our own tours in far away ports of call since if you don't make it back on time you will be waving good bye to your ship!