This was our first time to Hawaii and also, was the biggest cruise ship we have thus far traveled on. The ship is beautifully outfitted and while the cruise was sold out, one never felt crowded by the other 2,700 passengers - everyone seemed to find their own favourite areas. The outside areas were rarely crowded although this could have been due to the rather cool weather we encountered on our sea days. We just loved the time at sea as it gave us time to relax and enjoy the ship's amenities. The activity and enrichment programs were well-attended and enjoyable. We took beginner bridge lessons every day and met some nice people through this; we recommend that Princess bring Mr. & Mrs. Boomgaarden back again on future cruises.
Our cabin description and tour comments are separately mentioned elsewhere but we like to heartily recommend Ricky's Tours for any tours on Hilo firstname.lastname@example.org).
Special note is also made of the Princess Theater production shows which were of a very high quality and not too long. The solo performers were only "so-so" and paled in comparison to the production shows. The final International Crew Show was a knock-out hit and should not be missed - ours was standing room only! There was other musical entertainment throughout the ship and these were of a high standard. There seemed to be quite a few trivia contests but given their popularity, were enjoyed by participants. One comment though, in awarding prizes, don't give a single bottle of champagne per team as it's a bit difficult to split it up with a just-assembled team of passengers!
Great kudos to Cruise Director Billy and assistant Colette led a group of young and energetic staff who, for the most part, really connected with passengers and made us feel that they were committed to making our cruise experience a positive and happy one. We still have visions of Billy's "tour de force" at the Crew Show!
Unexpectedly, there were a few mis-steps on this cruise. Firstly, the Casino was invariably filled with cigarette smoke, even on the two "no smoking" evenings. The newer seating area was dominated by serious smokers , many of whom rarely got up to gamble. In other words, they regarded this area as their own private smoking area. The Casino is also placed across the entire width of the ship and as such, people have to transit through it to access areas forward and aft (e.g. Princess Theater")of the Casino - these includes those sensitive/intolerant to second-hand smoke and of course, young children. Princess needs to address this glaring deficiency soon.
The other aspect of our cruise which we found disappointing, was the Anytime Dining. On our last Princess cruise on "Coral" last February, 2013, we really enjoyed this form of dining as we met so many interesting people from all walks of life and cultures, four of whom we have remained in contact with. On "Sapphire," this experience was not repeated and while we usually indicated we would share, we were invariably led to a table for two alongside other similar tables. I asked Princess to comment on this but have yet to receive a reply. It could be that with four different options for Anytime Dining, there are simply not enough passengers to place at a shared table at any given time.
Those who complain about cruise line food are either unduly critical or dine at a level far above that fare! It is after all, a rather subjective thing. That said however, we found the level of food both in the Horizon and in the other dining rooms, surprisingly bland, although with standout exceptions such as the osso buccho in Vivaldi. While there are four different dining rooms, the menus in each are exactly the same with the exception of each one's "signature dish."
Room Service was quietly efficient although the addition of a tea pot and hot items other that the warmed-over and squished egg and ham muffin, would be appreciated.
Overall though, a nice cruise experience made happier by the wonderful staff at all levels.