We traveled with another couple who are good long time friends and also seasoned cruisers like us. We have cruised with them since 1997. This was only our 5th Princess cruise out of 19, having been on Celebrity, RCL, NCL and Carnival. Celebrity has been my personal choice-that is up until I sailed on the Sapphire! The service was wonderful and the food better than some of our other cruises. Even most of our fellow passengers were polite and friendly.
PRE-CRUISE: We left a day early and stayed at the Crowne Plaza San Pedro. We all would recommend it! It was comfortable and was in a great location. There are a lot of restaurants within walking distance. We had a delicious pub lunch of fish and chips at Whale and Ale. We enjoyed the food and ambience.
EMBARKATION: In the morning, we woke up to see the Sapphire in port! We took the first (free) shuttle to the pier arriving around 10:45-11:00. We were not able to get on until after 1pm. Everyone, even preferred and elite, had to wait. We found out later that a surprise inspection was the cause of the delay in embarkation. As soon as we boarded, we were able to get in our rooms and found that 2 of our excursions were cancelled. So, the 4 of us went to Alfredos for lunch and discussed other options. Prior to the cruise, we had booked 2 private tours and 3 Princess tours. We booked a replacement tour and then it was time for the muster drill. Our luggage was waiting for us after the drill. We put our clothes away and made the Sapphire our home or the next 2 weeks.
SHIP: The Sapphire is in great shape! Some slight wear and tear but overall, well taken care of by a fabulous crew. The entire crew, with very few exceptions, was professional, polite and friendly.
CABIN: We had booked a balcony guarantee and was upgraded to Caribe deck. We loved the larger half covered balcony. We had cabins next to each other and enjoyed the convenience of being neighbors! Also, Zdravko, our cabin attendant, was very attentive and took great care of our rooms.
DINING: We had late traditional seating (7:45), table 53, with Jerry and Svitlana taking care of us. The food was excellent. The menu had many good selections and we all thought the food was served at the right temps and always tasty.
Also, we loved the pizza by the pool. Although we enjoyed Alfredo's pizza, we all preferred the traditional pizza that was served on the pool deck. In my opinion, Princess has the best pizza.
We ate breakfast and many lunches at the Horizon Court. Surprisingly, all the food was good and there were many options which changed daily for lunch. There were no lines at the food stations and we always found a table, Also, we enjoyed having our drinks brought to us! We thought that was a nice touch. It beat having to get in a line waiting for others to decide what they wanted to drink.
On the first sea day we attended CC Meet and Greet. Not many attended but we enjoyed meeting those that did. However, we were disappointed that no one from Princess attended. CC is a great venue to exchange information about cruising and the fact that Princess didn't assign someone to make an appearance, even for just 15 min, was disappointing.
ENTERTAINMENT: We love to go to the shows and be entertained! The production shows were great and the high energy of the performers appreciated. Also, we loved the variety of the shows...from comedians to solo singers to the children hula dancers, each show was entertaining and very professional. We enjoyed going to the 7pm show followed by dinner. The shortened shows didn't take away, in my opinion, from the performances.
MEDICAL CENTER: This was the first time ever that I had to go to the medical center. I had 102 temp and felt lousy. After seeing the nurse and then the DR. I was given meds and told that I would be quarantined until I had no temp for 24 hrs. This happened on the 3rd sea day and I was so disappointed that I might not be able to get off in Honolulu and take our excursion. The nurse came morning and night (on the 4th sea day)to take temp and again very early in the morning when we arrived in Honolulu. She specifically came early hoping I could go on my planned excursion..and I did! Although I missed approx 1 1/2 days, I still enjoyed the cruise. Hopefully, our travel insurance will reimburse the expenses.
HONOLULU-We did the USS Arizona and City tour through Princess. What a humbling experience to be at the very spot where our Navy was attacked. We had also booked a dinner cruise that evening through Princess but that was cancelled because the boat was being repaired. Since I was just getting back on my feet after being sick, I was not too disappointed.
MAUI- We booked a private tour thru Island Excursions. We had a wonderful day with Marilyn and Rick, a friendly and warm married couple and just 4 others. They were very excited to show us their island and also had a nice lunch for us. As an added bonuse, we got to see a number of whales. I would highly recommend them.
KAUI: We did a Princess tour-we toured the island and ended the day on a river boat cruise with hula dancing and Hawaiian music playing as we traveled to the grotto. Another wonderful day.
HILO: We took another private tour through Island Excursions. This time there were about 20 of us. We went to Volcano National Park and Rainbow Falls. This too, was enjoyable.
ENSENDA: Here we just took the bus to town. Cost was $2 pp going and $1 pp returning. Bought a couple of pieces of silver jewelry and back on the ship.
DISEMBARKATION: This was the smoothest ever! We ate breakfast in the Horizon Court at 8 and around 9:15 headed to assigned area. When we got there, we were just in time to walk off! On the bus and to the airport by 10:30. Very efficient.
Because of what I read on these boards, I was concerned that the seas would be so rough sailing the Pacific. Thankfully, we lucked out and the seas weren't any different than sailing the caribbean! One day it was a little rocky but not much and I never needed to take anything for sea sickness.
I was lucky in the casino and won approx. $450 during the cruise...just enough to pay the medical bill! However, I really wish Princess would ban smoking in the casino. It smells nasty and the smoke bothers most of us non smokers. I really don't think it would hurt their business. Celebrity has banned smoking in their casinos and it is such a pleasure not having to fight the smoke.
Also, I would have preferred having each floor of the ship going front to back and not have to go up to go down or vice versa! But that is a minor complaint.
In addition, I really resented having to give the Maitre 'd a tip as we NEVER saw him and he never came by our table once in 14 days. I would have preferred giving his tip to our waiter and asst waiter who went above and beyond every night. I know we could have taken off the tip but that seemed more trouble than it was worth.
For all the Hawaiian enthusiasts, there are various Hawaiian activities and a naturalist on board with great info about the Islands.
OVERALL: I am hooked on two week cruises. A one week cruise would seem like a tease! I loved the ship, the crew, the food and entertainment. The Sapphire is a well managed and maintained ship. It is a true gem and I throughly enjoyed cruising on her and would enjoy sailing her again. Thanks to the Sapphire, Princess is another favorite cruise line of mine!