My husband and I have cruised with Princess 6 times - twice on the Sapphire.
HOTEL: We drove to Long Beach and stayed at the DoubleTree on Cabrillo. There is no extra charge for cruise parking. One is simply asked not to park in any of the parking spots marked "hotel parking". An exceptional value and a very nice facility.
SHIP: We liked the ship - love the layout. So nice that the newer ships there are restroom facilities on the same deck as the international dining room.
SERVICE: We really thought that the service was much better on this cruise than the coastal cruise we took in April on the same ship. We dined late. Not sure if that is why the staff was so attentive or not, but we felt like the most special people in the dining room.
Same goes for the bar stewards. Very friendly, efficient.
I think there are fewer stewards and they are expected to provided service for more passengers. Not always ideal, but manageable.
CABIN: We were booked into an inside cabin on the Caribe deck aft-midship. Grave error on our part. The cabin number was 534. Unless you are totally deaf, do not book cabin number 534. The noise was tremendous and the vibration was beyond annoying.
We toughed it out until the next day and then talked with the purser's office. Within 4 hours we had been moved to another cabin. Staff kept apologizing because the cabin had been set up for a handicapped couple! We weren't complaining. Large door and the shower was large enough to accommodate a wheelchair (or two real size people).
We ended up on Emerald deck, forward. Very nice cabin - great location for getting 'home' in the evening because it was directly over the Princess Theatre.
DINING: Outstanding! Our preference is to eat in the dining room. We were impressed with improvement in the quality of the meals in comparison with our April cruise on the same ship. After two weeks on board the menu was repeated. (It gave us an opportunity to try more new things.)
We ate in Sabatini's and the Sterling Steakhouse. One would think after all the great food in the dining rooms and the buffet it couldn't get any better. Well worth the price of the cover charge for the great food, personal service and intimate setting.
ENTERTAINMENT: For the most part, the entertainment was very good. Not outstanding, just very good. I don't remember every entertainer's name - but Dan Riley was hilarious. There was a gorgeous woman from Australia who sang. The consensus of opinion was the men liked her because she was hot looking but her singing was more like screeching.
I believe the cruise director erred in booking two male singer/comedians in the same week. By doing so it did them a disservice.
The Scholarship@Ship seminars were informative. There were three - Elizabeth Stewart (her main topics were South Pacific Wayfarers); George Weston (his main topics were the history of opera, Rome, Egypt, Alexander the Great, etc.) and Sharon Fallon (she was the cruise naturalist).
Stewart and Weston were the best lecturers. Ms. Stewart was knowledgeable and entertaining. Ms. Weston was knowledgeable, but he read his lectures. (He is a very interesting man who does himself a disservice by being too concerned with getting every fact right. In conversations with him his true passion for history is evident.)
Ms. Fallon. was the most boring lecturer on the ship. She said she was passionate about volcanoes. She was responsible for sharing information about the various islands and the tours one could try on each of the islands. BORING! People loved her - I found her information superficial and presentation lacking energy.
The movies were first rate - some I had never heard of, but were happy to have the opportunity to see.
There was a ukelele and hula lessons, as well as a pop choir. Well attended.
The arts and crafts instructor was AWFUL. I attended two of her sessions. She had absolutely no control over the class. She didn’t offer instruction, she just put out supplies and watched while this hoard of people swarmed the table and took everything. THEN she would say, "You only needed….” Too late then. I gave up. I know of others who were appalled at the behavior of the people going to the class and the instructors inability to be in charge.
TOURS - a nice selection of tours. Having been to Hawaii many times we chose to do things on the Samoan and Tahitian islands. We heard of people who were unhappy, but the tours we booked where good. (I think some people expected the tours to be like the U.S., not the rather primitive transportation available on American Samoa.)
DISEMBARKATION: We opted for a rather early disembarkation. U.S. Customs held everyone on the ship for an additional 1 1/2 hours. When we did get to get off it went like clock work.
SUMMARY: An adventure in cruising we will happily repeat in the future. (I may ask to cruise with the 'nice' people, but that isn't the fault of the cruise line. We will cruise with Princess again.
I do think the company needs to figure out a way to tell their Elite passengers that they are very important to the COMPANY, but that they are still members of the human race and their fellow humans think of them as equals!
Some of the boorish behavior of some of the passengers could be curtailed with strategically placed cruise director staff.