We occupied three staterooms, and Celebrity has been our line of choice for three of our first five cruises. First time on Princess for all of us.
The Sapphire is a beautiful boat and our whole family really enjoyed the whole experience. I guess I'll start in the usual way; Embarkation.
It was nice to utilize the Elite line for check-in as we had booked a suite. I can see why having this status makes life easier. Princess was very accommodating regarding check-in and the actual ship-boarding toward our children who were booked in balcony and inside cabins. When it was time to actually board the ship, they again made it very clear that we should all board together.
First stop; the Sanctuary where we booked two spaces for the week. Even on the colder, windier days, we utilized our space from about 10AM to 2PM. It was nice to work on my iTunes inventory, while DH worked on creating a software program. If it was cold, they piled us with blankets, so the weather was not a problem. We would have been OK socializing if we had been approached, but it really was extremely quiet and peaceful. We did avail ourselves of the cabana couples massage and it was therapeutically enjoyable.
I read it here on cruise critic, and I thought I understood the idea of an aft cabin, but MAN, what a walk! With the aft walking and really enjoying the fully covered promenade (with steps), it was great to find upon returning home that I had actually gone down two pounds! It was also sure nice to get familiar with the carpet colors so that we could distinguish starboard from port. Thanks again cruise critic. Hubby and I had a beautiful PH aft suite C757; category S3. The reason I mention the number is that we got to know our neighbors next door who had the same PH, but category S6. While the layout was the same, our cabin was a bit wider. We had a two person loveseat with a full size desk/lamp set-up in the living area, while the other cabin, C755 had a full size sofa, with no desk. The bedroom portion along with bath area was identical. Our balcony was wider as well. I'm not sure what to say about the mattress.... It was comfortable and the mattress itself was fairly normal, but the nice dense "pad" that aided in combining the two twins was extremely helpful. We did bring our own memory foam mattress pad, and then the bed was exuberantly comfortable. Large Jacuzzi tub was pleasant, and the shower head provided plenty of hot water and a good constant pressure. I really would have liked a handheld version, though. It measured about 32" square, so only enough room for one, and it was necessary to position the showerhead every day off to one side to avoid being sprayed when turning on the water. Oh yes, the mini-bar set up. We traded almost all of our liquor for water, because we forgot to bring some, and the trade in ratio was one for one, no matter what the beverage was. We had to call room service for this.
Our room steward was named Jefferson (Jeff) and he was a great steward who cleaned up after us and efficiently kept our room ship-shape. We had started to utilize his services somewhat like a butler, but Jeff was very adept at channeling our needs to the specific person or department necessary. i.e. dining, shore-ex, ship's tour res, etc.... Being that we signed up before the deadline, we did receive free internet and although I never got kicked off, service was rather slow. Having free laundry was a relief because I forgot to pack a few things, and needed the laundry to keep up with our general usage. Also, DH spilled something greasy on his wool trousers, and sending them out for dry-cleaning was no problem at all. I also sent out a silk/satin top that needed pressing and it came back very smooth.
Dining with Anytime Dining was a tad uncomfortable at first, but things did work out eventually. More on that later. First night was in Sabatinis because it was complimentary, and also we wanted to try it. It did not disappoint. Since there were six of us (yes, we did have to pay the cover charge for the kids), we were able to try and taste a good portion of the menu. Tender calamari; perfectly prepared filet, lamb, pasta samples, ....Fabulous. Anyway, more about Anytime Dining. Hubby and I prefer dining a bit later, so it never would have been a problem for us, but family really wanted it earlier. On this particular ship and /or sailing we were not able to book a standing time/table through the dining line, but the matre de at Savoy was able to get us a standing table for the last four nights of the voyage. Anyway, the system really is not effective and one cannot just saunter in and score a great table in prime time dinner hours. I witnessed many a scurrying crowd elbowing forward vying for attention.
On the evening that we dined in Vivaldi, which was the first formal night, service was inconsistent. The waiter could not understand nor convey my daughter's wishes for a plate of vegetables. Yes, vegetables. After repeating the word back and forth so much that a stutterers voice comes to mind, she just said that whatever he brought would be just fine. Yes, we were laughing quite a bit, albeit under our breaths for quite some time. We all ordered the infamous Fetuccine Alfredo at one point or another and shared bites were usually requested. French Onion Soup, lobster tail, peppercorn steak, veal raviolis, baked chicked, fried chicken, all were good. Was it 5 star? Not really. But we were really having so much fun, that it did not matter so much. We also brought most of our wine with us, and we very happy to pay for corkage fees.
Next comes Alfredo's Pizza. Well, the pizza is amazing, and after some awkward moments, the waiter finally managed to open our wine. Again, with the six of us, we ordered a real olio of combinations and it was very tasty to try everyone's concoction. Huge bummer not to be able to take it out of the restaurant and the menu could certainly benefit from a few sides and desserts. I heard other folks commenting about the same thing. It would have been fabulous to have it while we were enjoying wine pairings, wine tastes, bottles of wine, and even just a glass (or two) in Vines. I will get to Vines a bit later.
OK, on to Savoy, where we spent three super wonderful evenings under the care of Allen. He was funny, clever and a great waiter. He listened when I mentioned a particular arugula salad, and then handed me a pad of paper and said to write exactly what I wanted. Even the orange vinaigrette was to my exact specifications, and from then on it was "my" salad, that was brought to me in the usual dinner course. He engaged my teenage son (17) with some clever magic tricks, and indulged my older son in his quest to consume the entire menu. Allen was nice enough serving our wine, but we did get the sense that he was quite unfamiliar with general wine service and could have used a bit more training in that area. A bit nicer stemware would have been appreciated, but was not a deal breaker.
Two of my children enjoyed the afternoon tea service regularly, and were very happy with it. Also, they enjoyed the pub lunch immensely, and commented favorably about it. Ironically, Dear Husband and I seemed to find our way back around 2PM to our aft balcony to enjoy a luxurious room service lunch. Suite guests can order whatever is on the dining room menu and at one point, the lady on the phone asked for more time because she would need to visit more than one dining room for our request.
We usually started the evening in Vines, and we participated in four wine pairings. New world, Old world, white wine and sushi, and lastly Champagne and chocolate. 10 people would gather at the big table and the sommelier would guide us along (loosely) and disseminate information and whatever witty wine gossip he knew. The server was named Florian, and he was the nicest most congenial man we had ever met. Funny, accommodating, never patronizing, tons of wine knowledge, I could go on and on. OK, he was quite good looking as well. There, I've said it. Anyway, we met quite a few nice folks there and by the end of the trip, it was quite nice to wander in and hear, "Hey! The Smiths were looking for you, they said to come back after dinner, they'll be here."
All three of our children had a marvelous "night life." At the Ultimate Deck Party, it was hilarious to spot them one by one, moving to the music. We tried to discreetly boogie away to give them some space, but then bumped into another. It was great fun to talk about their previous evenings at dinner and to hear the ship's gossip. It is nice to see the current Facebook posts with all their new friends' names.
DH and DS took the Ultimate ship Tour and really loved it. They were so excited with all of their new-found knowledge. They talked about the fueling delay and what it cost the ship in utilizing extra fuel to get to our next port on time. They both adored the bread machine that made all of those delicious dinner rolls. (I had at least two every evening). They also spoke about the different kinds of fuel that the ship can use depending on the Coastal regulations in effect.
One last thing. It gave me immense pleasure to see the restaurant Vivaldi actually turn away a guest on the first formal night who was wearing a plaid farmer's shirt,jeans,and flip-flops. His significant other was ashamed of him and continued to grab his arm to get him out of there. She was dressed up a bit, although by no means formally, and really tried to get him to leave. He was not drunk as far as I could tell, just stubborn and well, whatever, you get the point. After a third manager had been summoned, they finally left.