Sapphire Princess Cruise Review by Bethany Beach: GREAT ITINERARY
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Pacific Coastal Cruise
Our demographic: early 60s; cruise only for the itinerary -- not loyal to one cruise line. Do not participate in many cruise activities. We don't use the pools, go to the bars, or eat in the dining room, so I will only comment on what we experienced.
CABIN: Only booking available to us was a guarantee and I was pleased with our cabin location -- pretty much between the mid and aft elevators and just a few cabins down from the laundromat. Absolutely quiet location. I happen to like the small verandah cabins and this cabin was pretty much the same as I have had on other ships. Nice amount of storage and great closet space. Didn't use the verandah much due to the colder itinerary but it was so nice to have the extra daylight and fresh air. We do, however, spend some time looking over the veranda railing and it was really annoying to be looking down into someone else's verandah instead of directly to the More dock or water. I also didn't like the fact that the people above us would be looking down directly on us (on the half not covered). Nice large verandah but I would have preferred the standard size rather than have these strange overhanging verandahs. I would never sail on this ship in a warm water itinerary just because of the balcony layout. We are very low maintenance cruisers, so we never asked anything of our steward (Edwin), but he did an excellent job of keeping our cabin in tip top shape.
CASINO: We only play the dollar slot machines just for fun before or after dinner. These machines were not only the tightest machines we have seen in quite a while but the selection of machines was just plain boring. We gave up going to the casino after the 4th day -- no fun at all.
HORIZONS COURT BUFFET: Since for us this cruise was in the last half of a three-week vacation, we decided to limit the clothes that we brought and to only eat in the buffet. We are very plain eaters -- just want the food to be half decent and a varied selection. This was one of the worst buffets. The layout of the serving area was fine and the seating plentiful and well laid out. The people serving the drinks and cleaning the tables were very nice and efficient. The food, however, was disappointing. I don't eat much meat, but my husband said that the cuts of meat were poor, tough, stringy. . . I could tell just by looking that most of it looked dried out and not too appealing. The fruit selection was bad -- cantaloupe and pineapple that you had to cut off the rind yourself, watermelon, etc. What was missing: no berries. Even the kiwi had to be cut open yourself. The salad bar was ok but not much variety there either. Salad dressings were not individually labeled so at times it was guesswork. The breads, rolls, and breakfast pastries were so stale tasting that it was easy to not indulge. Good mashed potatoes every night but the same old pasta with tomato sauce just about every night. Vegetables were pretty good although for the first few days it was the same mixed root veggies over and over again. Desserts were mostly above average for buffets but there was just this typed list of what was offered with no labels on the trays of each item. This meant that people had to continually ask "what is this?" Cheesecake made a rare appearance. I tried the scooped ice cream and thought it was terrible but saw people eating lots of soft serve. Pizza was decent as were the items at the grill. Scrambled "eggs" tasted okay but had such a weird consistency that we couldn't eat them. They did have plates of over easy eggs so that was good because at least I knew they were real eggs although they were slimy.
MUTS: (movies under the stars). I was actually looking forward to this even though I knew it would be too cold in the evenings to be out there watching movies. What I didn't expect was to have the same things shown multiple times. Concerts, for example, Billy Joel and Barry Manilow several times. Certainly there are other more current concerts out there that could be shown. But in either case, I still think the concept of MUTS is cool and in a warmer climate cruise I would have been out there in the evenings.
ENTERTAINMENT: Went to one movie in the afternoon on one sea day. Loved that they showed movies in the Princess Theater. If this was an itinerary with sea days, I would have gone to the movie every day, probably. Went to one show -- something with the word "dance" in it. Not bad as ship troupe shows go. However, the one male lead singer (the shorter one) had such a loud voice that wasn't too good that he ruined the songs for me. Because of that I didn't bother to go any of their other shows by the troupe. One guest singer was one of the former Lettermen. He had a good voice and it was a decent show. I liked the short times for the shows. Not enough time to get bored with them.
Went to one enrichment PowerPoint presentation lecture about sea life we might see; a little boring but somewhat informational.
FITNESS CENTER: I only used the gym once, unfortunately, but they had a nice enough free weight area -- wasn't that impressed with the weight machine selection. The schedule had classes offered each day.
PORTS: Took this cruise because we have never been to any of these places. Extreme fog kept us from tendering into Santa Barbara so that was disappointing and meant an extra sea day and we do not like sea days. We try to avoid ship sponsored bus excursions whenever possible so this time I tried something different. I had read somewhere on the Web about a private tour guide company called Tours By Locals. I took a real chance and booked 6 private tours with them. I am so glad that I did. I had one in LA, San Francisco, Seattle, Victoria and two in Vancouver. In all cases, the guides showed up where and when expected, were excellent drivers, and worked hard to make sure we saw exactly what we wanted to see. I would definitely use this company. The only thing I would recommend is carefully reading about each guide on the web site -- how many tours they have given, their background, etc. It is easy to communicate via email with each guide to be sure you are getting the tour you want. Look carefully at the reviews as well -- only people who have actually taken tours can leave reviews so it isn't filled with bogus reviews.
SUMMARY: I wouldn't take a Princess cruise again just because of the food in the buffet and the tiered balcony arrangement. This was the only ship that I could find that did this particular itinerary and luckily we only missed that one port. However, they did change the time by over five hours that we left Victoria from what was printed on my initial cruise documents on the web site. I never saw this printed anywhere and only found out when attending the sea life lecture. This really annoyed me as I had to cancel my whale watching trip for that port as I wouldn't have been back on time. It was particularly annoying because I saw or heard no explanation and the fact that our next port was Vancouver which was so close that without an explanation I didn't see why it took the extra time to get there. I asked around and only got blank looks from the staff. If I had not found this out until my Princess Platter arrived that night I would have not been able to get a refund of what I had paid for the tour. Less
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