Cruise number 22, number 8 on Princess and the 2nd time on the Sapphire Princess. My wife and I picked the California Coastal Cruise, because being from the East Coast originally, we never have spent any time in the cities on the itinerary other than passing through them on a bus going to the port.
After an UN-eventful trip to LAX we boarded the Sapphire Princess in quick order, bypassing the photo stop as usual. I know some people like to get a photo each time they cruise, but quite frankly I have enough photo's. After putting out bags in our stateroom and meeting Piotr (sic), our state room attendant, we headed off to the buffet for lunch. later the safety drill, and then we looked forward to leaving Los Angeles. As it turned out, we heard were two problems, missing staff, and a serious medical emergency that caused us to be about 3 hours late in leaving Los Angeles. No problem, we were there for 7 nights!
Again as usual we chose anytime dining, so our dining companions each night were different for the most part. Because we do not pack formal clothes so on those, what I call, "dinosaur nights" we ate in the buffet. I can say that the food in the buffet was for the most part very good with the EXCEPTION of the scrambled eggs, (powdered), they were bland and tasteless!
I did have some dis-appointments with the dining room menu and some of the service. We did luck out for a couple of night in getting into the Santa Fe Dining Room and got an excellent waiter named Marc Ryan. Other than that we found the service in the other anytime dining rooms to be not as we are used to. The Sapphire has 4 dining rooms for regular service with the International Dining Room, hidden on Deck 6 Aft, being the designated fixed dining room. Anytime dining is in the Santa Fe, Savoy, and Vivaldi, all smaller venues. The International is also used for Breakfast each day and lunch on sea days, (unfortunately there was only one sea day on this cruise). Princess has been playing with the menu's again it appeared, as the offerings have changed. The last night on board I could not find ANYTHING to my liking and settled for a BLT Burger as my entree', that is NOT my idea of cruise ship dining. Still on the menu was one of my favorites, Fettuccine Alfredo, however I felt that it was not up to par, yes, I did sample it more than once. Outside of some glitches in dining, the cruise in general was very good.
The first port of call was San Francisco, we actually chose NOT to get off the ship even though we were there for overnight. The offerings from Princess for Shore Excursions failed to interest us as we both are not a mobile as were once were and we had a bad experience with the terminal on an other cruise. We did get some great pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge, the harbor and Alcatraz. It was foggy when we arrived, but the day of departure it was sunny.
Next Port Of Call was Santa Barbara, I was looking forward to this port since I had never been there before. Again nothing offered by Princess interested us, so we got off the ship and grabbed a cab and went to the Reagan Ranch Museum. This facility house a lot of memorabilia from the Reagan Ranch with is not open to the public. We spent several hours there and then cabbed back to the ship. If you take this cruise I highly recommend going to the museum, even though I had long been a Reagan fan, I learned a lot of things about him and his time in the White House I didn't know.
The next port of call was just "26 miles across the sea" Santa Catalina, this is a tender port and we chose not to get off the ship but rather enjoy the quiet that is a port day.
The third port of call was San Diego. Again this is a port we had been to several times and yet have seen nothing other than from the window of the bus or the deck of a cruise ship. Again, nothing from Princess Excursions interested us, so we grabbed a cab for a short trip to the Aircraft Carrier Midway, which is a museum. The ship for the most part is accessible to mobility limited people, there was one elevator from the hanger deck to the crew deck that did not work so we didn't get to see as much as we would have liked to. The Midway has a great collection of aircraft from WWII to today. One highlight was a talk about carrier landings by a retired pilot who had landed on the Midway and he told us even one of the planes he flew was displayed there. We spent several hours at the Midway and finally took a cab back to the ship.
The last stop of the cruise was Ensenada, I WILL NOT get off the ship in Mexico, I know several people did to go to the shops along the pier.
Finally back to Los Angeles and a pretty seamless debarkation to the airport and home. A highlight of the trip home was that Matthew and Gunner Nelson twin sons of the late Ricky Nelson were on the plane. I am pretty sure that my wife might have been the only one who recognized them as she had seen them in concert a few weeks earlier. She did get a chance to say hi after we got off the plane and they I think were pleased that she expressed how much she had enjoyed their concert.
The Sapphire was in good shape and for the most part the crew was friendly and helpful. One downside was the night we were leaving San Francisco it was a formal night so we ate in the buffet. The seas were a bit rough and I was having trouble moving about (I use a cane) with my food. No one offered to carry my food so it was a struggle to reach my table without spilling anything. When I sat down I asked to see the supervisor and told him that I felt that the attendants needed to pay attention to people with mobility problems ESPECIALLY on rough nights like that night. To his credit he made sure that someone was there to help me and my wife and it seemed each time that I was in the buffet after that I had help from the same attendant. Our stateroom attendant Piotr, was very good, always greeting us by name when we saw him and took very good care of the state room.
One annoying problem we experienced was the air conditioning in the stateroom, if just did not work right even after we placed a call to maintenance and they supposedly fixed it. The room only got below 70 once or twice with 75 being the normal at night, a bit too worm for sleeping comfort.
Of the Princess ships I have been on I like the Coral the best, with the Golden close behind. I would rate the Sapphire and the Island as pretty good, in general, but not my favorites.
As far as the entertainment on the ship, we did not attend any of the formal productions shows or the comedian. We had seen the shows before and with the "new" shortened format it is hardly worth going to the theater! We did see two movies that we had wanted to see Lincoln and Argo, both were shown in the Princess Theater and were well attended.
All in all I would rate the California Coastal and good trip for people who want the chance to visit these cities without a hotel bill. I feel that Princess' Shore Excursion offerings could have been a LOT BETTER and that only serve to enhance the trip.