This was our 13th total cruise and sixth in a row on Princess. We sailed with DW's sister and her husband. We choose this cruise mainly for the number of sea days and the fact we live less than 100 miles from the port of San Pedro so no flying was involved. We did the same cruise on the Golden in 2011. Liked it so much, we booked this one as soon as bookings opened. Since we lived so close, we didn't do a pre-cruise stay, just a short ride to my sister's house who was nice enough to give us a ride to the port. As far as the actual embarkation, it was very smooth for us as we got to the ship quite late. We basically walked right on the ship. We were late due to a last minute medical issue on embarkation day. The issue subsequently cleared up so we decided to sail.
I arranged a cruise critic meet and greet in Skywalkers on the first day at sea. The meet and greet was well attended. It was nice to put faces to people you had been electronically corresponding with. We had a Vista suite (D738). The suite is on the aft portion of the ship on Dolphin deck. This was our first aft view cruise and now that it's over, I am hooked. The balcony was huge and the beam didn't bother us at all. The suite was well appointed and it was nice having a separate Jacuzzi tub and shower. In my opinion, the closet space was somewhat tiny but there was definitely enough storage space with all the drawers. The best thing by far concerning our Vista suite, was the cabin steward. Fernando from the Philippines was arguably the best cabin steward we've had on any of our cruises. He always had a smile on his face and kept our room spotless. The one thing that really impressed me was the level of enthusiasm he displayed despite the fact he had been doing this for twenty years.
The Sapphire Princess is a beautiful ship. We had sailed the Diamond on a previous cruise so we were somewhat familiar with the layout. All areas were spotless. All crewmembers that I came in contact with always had a smile on their face and went to great lengths to make sure all passengers enjoyed their cruise. As far as some of the areas of the ship we enjoyed, I'd have to say Alfredo's was my favorite. The pizzas were great and the venue to enjoy them was nice. I also enjoyed Muts, and the Neptune pool area as well as the Terrace pool area. I did note however the jets on both Jacuzzi's above the Terrace pool weren't working for the entire cruise. I made good use of the gym, going early in the morning on most days. I did this to avoid the crowds. When in the gym, I noticed that all of the cardio equipment was in good working order. I tried the thermal suite in the Lotus Spa. I found the stone beds nice. I did note that the temps in both the thermal suite sauna as well as the sauna in the men's room were a little cool. The steam room in the men's room was not working when I visited. DW made use of the salon services in the Lotus Spa. She enjoyed the services and did not encounter any hard sell issues.
We like to eat later so we choose late seating traditional dining in the international dining room. The time was 7:45 which was different than the 8:15 time I had experienced in the past. We had a table for four which we shared with DW's sister and husband. Our waiter was Virgil from the Philippines. He was assisted by Edmond who was also from the Philippines. Our headwaiter (sorry, I can't remember his name) was also very active in ensuring service was up to par. I'd have to say the service was outstanding. The food was very good to excellent. We enjoyed Sabatini's on embarkation night and found the food and service to be very good. We also enjoyed breakfast each morning in Sabatini's which was outstanding. Alice, Elena, and Gabriel were the best. In additional to the traditional venues, I enjoyed some tasty burgers at the Trident Grill. I also enjoyed the tasty offerings from the international cafe. I never really ate a meal in the horizon court, so I can't really rate it. All in all, I'd say the food quality I encountered was very good to outstanding.
There was a variety of entertainment offerings to suite everyone's tastes. I only saw one production show that I thought was good. Each production show/princess theater show was performed three times (7:00pm, 8:15pm, and 10:15pm). One comment about the 7:00pm show, it was always packed. My guess is people finishing their early meal and late seating folks wanting to go before they ate. In addition to the production shows, the Princess theater also0 had a couple of comedians as well as vocal performers. One thing I did miss from previous voyages was seeing a comedian perform in the Explorer's lounge. There was always a pianist on Crooners and a quartet in the Wheelhouse bar every night. The quartet was very popular and the dance floor was always full.
As far as excursion go, in Hilo we did a helicopter excursion (ship based) that was amazing and worth every penny. In Honolulu we did the Paradise Luau (privately arranged) that was very good. In Kauai we visited the Waimea Canyon (ship based) which provided some great VIEWS. Rained a little bit while we were there but it didn't detract from the views. In Maui we did a whale watching excursion (privately arranged) on a small boat. We saw tons of whales but got quite wet.
The weather for the entire cruise was overall good. We had some rough seas the first night out and the second to last sea day coming back. Rough seas don't bother me so it was not a big deal. All in all this was a great cruise. I could us doing this cruise from time to time for the simple reason of not having to fly. I would also definitely recommend this itinerary to anyone who loves sea days. It's a great way to relax or get motivated for your next cruise which for me will be in October on the new Royal.