Sailed the Sapphire Princess in February 2013 to the Mexican Riviera and enjoyed my cruise very much. I have sailed with Princess once before (on the Sea Princess to Alaska in 2011) and have cruised on many other lines over the years. This was my first time on this itinerary. I broke the review down into categories:
Embarkation was smooth and we were on board within 30-45 minutes. Cabins were ready once we boarded the ship.
I had cabin P217 on the Plaza deck. This room was toward the front but I wasn't bothered by any excessive motion (though are sailing was rather calm). The room layout is different from my past recent cruises. The closet is open and faces the door to the bathroom making the closet and bathroom one unit. At first I thought it was a bit strange but it grew on me and I actually preferred the layout. The TV was positioned in such a way that it made viewing from the bed a bit difficult. All in all the room was functional and comfortable. I enjoyed having the view from the picture window. The only other negative was that the bed could have been a bit more comfortable.
Food was mediocre to good. I had anytime dining and had some dinners in the main restaurants such as Savoy, Santa Fe, and Pacific Moon. The food was good in the dining rooms but not memorable. I learned to make reservations at these restaurants during the day so I did not have to wait. Otherwise wait times, during peak hours, were about 30-45 minutes. Tables for two seemed to open up after 7:45pm on this particular sailing. I also dining at the buffet for two dinners and breakfast and some lunches and thought the selection was adequate. The food at the Horizon Court buffet was mediocre to good. One night we ate a Sabatini's and enjoyed that meal very much but there is a fee of $25 per person. I did not get a chance to try Alfredo's pizza (included in the cruise fare), nor the Sterling steakhouse ($20 per person).
The service on board was very good. Wait staff in the dining rooms where friendly but slow....I think they are overworked. My cabin attendant, Imelda, was excellent as was any crew member I came into contact with. They really work very hard.
I did not see many shows so I can't comment on production shows. But I did go see a comedian and many of the passenger participation shows which were good. It seemed there was a lot going on both during the day and at night. They were showing some movies in the Princess Theater such as Argo and Lincoln but they got crowded very quickly and I missed those films. I like that Princess shows movies during sea days both inside the theater and by the pool.
I was reluctant to book this itinerary but it was a very good price especially for the President's week in February. I paid $800 per person for cruise, tax, tip and roundtrip airport transfers. I wasn't always wanting to visit this part of Mexico but thought I would give it a try. I live the NYC area so I flew from NY to LA to catch the ship. The itinerary exceeded my expectations. I liked the itinerary it was interesting and a nice change from the Caribbean and the Bahamas. In Puerto Vallarta I visited the Malecon, a tile factory and a hacienda where they had tequilla tasting and freshly made tacos. In Cabo I did a whale watching boat tour which was great and I walked around town after. In Ensenanda I visited La Bofadura and walked the open air market. Ensenanda was my least favorite of the stops. I really liked Cabo and Puerto Vallarta. I took all my excursions through Princess and thought they were run very well. One thing that surprised me was the weather. We had great weather (no rain) but it can get chilly. I bought a light jacket with me but if I did it again I would have bought with me some sweatshirts or a sweater. Still, day temperatures ranged from 85 to 58 degrees.
Princess could do a bit better here. We had to wait a while to be called off and, while organized, it seemed like a cumbersome process. Having recently sailed on Royal Caribbean I found their process to be a bit more passenger friendly. Nevertheless the departure went well (but slow) and we took Princess' transfers back to LAX which worked out well.
I had a great, relaxing time on board and enjoy Princess' on board atmosphere. I thought the Sapphire was a handsome ship, though her layout could be a bit awkward at times. Such as Skywalkers, it was clumsy to find plus when you are in there you hear banging from the sports court on top of Skywalkers. I am not entirely a fan of Princess' interior design colors and patterns but enjoyed the Piazza atrium area which they recently remodeled. In any case, any short comings I have mentioned, are all minor! I really had a great time and look forward to sailing with Princess again!