Sapphire Princess Cruise Review by dennbr9: A Return to the South Pacific
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A Return to the South Pacific
This was our 30th Cruise and 7th on Princess, which has become one of our two preferred Cruise lines along with Celebrity. This was by far our longest Cruise to date at 28 days including 18 Sea Days, which we enjoy, including 8 in a row from Tahiti back to LA. We have done a number of 14 day cruises and also have done 7 Sea Days in a row in the past. We had sailed around French Polynesia on the Tahitian Princess back in 2008 and really wanted to go back again without having to take the long flights.
We had cooler weather the first two days out of LA with temps in the upper 60’s but soon turned sunny and HOT with temps in the 80s for most of the Trip. We had a few sprinkles in a couple Ports but nothing that changed our plans or lasted very long. Seas were very calm the first 27 days but did get a bit "rocky” the last day before arriving back in LA. We had some good wind and rain that day which kept folks inside but did make it easy to get the packing and things More done without feeling you were missing time out on deck.
We flew to LA two days early as we usually do now and stayed at the Doubletree Hotel in San Pedro, right on the Harbor and a great location. We walked in about 15 minutes to a very nice dinner at the 22nd St. Landing that first evening. We had also rented a car from Hertz at the airport as they have a drop off center a short drive from the Harbor. Keep in mind that the drop off center is only open until 12:30 on Saturdays. The car came in handy to tour the area the day before the Cruise and we also had a nice dinner with friends who live in the Long Beach area that evening.
Our Cruise Critic Roll Call was very active for well over a year prior to the Cruise and we had many Private Tours arranged as well as onboard activities planned. These included a Sail Away Gathering, a Meet and Greet arranged through Princess, a Poker/Pub Crawl, final sea day Luncheon, and some various games played on other Sea Days. They also had a dinner arranged the night before the Cruise at the Green Onion Mexican Restaurant which we were unable to attend due to other plans mentioned above. It was well attended though and everyone said it was a great evening.
We dropped the luggage off at the Pier and then took the car over to Hertz. Made it back to the Pier about 12:30 and walked right through the system, onto the ship, and dropped our carry-ons off in the cabin. The crew was very welcoming and the Ship was in beautiful shape as was our Caribe Floor Balcony cabin mid-ship. The crew on board was excellent throughout the Cruise and our Cabin steward Toedy did a consistently good job for the four weeks.
The Cruise started with four Sea Days to Hawaii and the first stop was Hilo where I had arranged a tour of a few locations on the Island with Aina Tours prior to leaving. We had three CC couples and we had a nice comfortable van with a wonderful guide who worked with us on options for the day. The second stop was Honolulu where we docked until 11:00 pm which allowed us to take a Ships Tour that night. First we went to Duke’s on Waikiki and rented Chairs and had lunch. That evening we did the Ali Kai Dinner Cruise. This included a nice dance show, a good buffet dinner and music. We also got to see the fireworks show from the Harbor that they do on the weekend.
Kauai was our next port of call where we had no big plans other than a little shopping and a stop at Kalapaki Beach by the Marriott. They had free shuttles right outside the ship which took you back and forth on a regular schedule. We then tendered into Maui the next day and we had booked the Atlantis Sub Tour through Princess. Had seen this advertised for years and we said why not. It actually was a nice time although I think we could have booked it cheaper online or in person.
Four Sea Days took us across the International Dateline where they had a crazy poolside ceremony. Many passengers took part in various goo smearing events, kissing the fish (which is an old sailor’s custom for good luck) and jumping in the pool afterwards. Also a number of crew also took part in the fish kissing and jumping in the pool. Everyone on board received a Certificate for the crossing in their mail slot too.
Our next Port was Apia in Samoa which is a docking port. We did a Ship’s tour here on large buses which is not my favorite thing but proved to be a nice day, but a bit too long perhaps. We stopped at a Nice Waterfall where there was some locals with snacks and demonstrations then went to a nice Beach for more snacks and about 45 minutes of water and beach time. After the trip back to town, which was very pretty, they extended it a bit with a drive through town. After five hours, many of us would just as soon as had them drop us off. The guide onboard the bus did do a very nice job of giving us lots of information about the sites and customs of the Island.
Pago Pago in American Samoa was the next Port of call after crossing back over the Dateline. Was a bit funny to spend two Nov. 2nds on two different Ports of Call, a real Déjà vu experience I guess. We had a Cruse Critic arranged tour with Tisa’s Barefoot Bar booked well ahead of time. This was a great Tour which included a two hour tour of the Island with a few stops at sites along the way, a nice lunch, and some beach time at her bar about 10 minutes from the Harbor. This was well worth the $75pp charge and I would recommend to anyone.
Two more Sea Days took us to Bora Bora which was our main reason for taking this Cruise to get back to the Lagoon in Bora Bora. This is a tender port which causes some scheduling issues but it worked out. Our Cruse Critic Group had arranged four boats with Patrick’s Tours and this was the highlight of the Cruise without a doubt. We toured the Lagoon while Patrick played the Ukulele and sang at various times. We stopped first at a sandbar near the reef and went in the water with Stingrays and Reef Sharks. We next went over to a nice Coral Reef in about 30 feet of crystal clear water and spent a nice amount of time snorkeling in schools of fish. Once you snorkel in the lagoon of Bora Bora, it will spoil you for just about anything in the Caribbean. We then went across the lagoon to his Motu Island for a real feast, including lots of drinks and a wonderful spread of fresh fish, fruit, a cooked pig and many other items more than you could eat. If you are going to Bora Bora, contact him early as he books up very quickly.
The second stop in FP is Moorea where we had rented a car and toured the Island the last time we were there. This time we took a free shuttle to a shopping area, browsed around a bit and then back to the ship. They also offer many Island Tours and Motu trips online and Alfred’s was selling various Island Tours right off the dock area. That afternoon we sailed over to Tahiti where we docked overnight. Many folks went ashore and enjoyed the Crepe Trucks that are parked right behind the Ship in a craft bizarre area. There are many taxis off the ship where you can arrange tours for however long you wish. We did do this our last visit and it went very well. We had spent a few days here on our prior visit so just did some shopping and wandered around town. We did purchase a very nice flower arrangement at Le Marche for $17. This allowed us to have a bit of FP in our cabin all the way back to LA.
The food on board was good and portion sizes in the MDR were very sufficient. This was our first time doing Anytime Dining and it worked great. Never had to wait more than a couple minutes but that is likely due to us going in about 8:00 or shortly before. My DW is gluten free and they continue to improve how they handle this on board the ships. The Pizza Restaurant in the Piazza on Deck 5 will make GF Pizza for you if you stop in the day before and request it. DW said the Pizza was very good as was the normal personal Pizza I had there, we went there for lunch twice during the cruise. We ate at Sabatini’s twice also and it was very good. They also adapt things there for GF and other food allergy issues.
Entertainment onboard was good at times and not so hot others, at least in our opinion. The bands in the lounges were not that hot to me although the String Ensemble that played in the Piazza each night was excellent and played to standing room only crowds most nights. The visiting Comedians and singers, which changed frequently throughout the Cruise, were decent to good. Everyone’s tasted vary of course and I heard good comments about some shows that I did not care for that much. The lectures on board also seemed to please many of those I spoke to and I enjoyed the few I attended myself.
Disembarkation was held up a bit by customs they said and started 30-40 minutes late. This led to many long lines off the ship and folks scrambling to make flights or other arranged transportation. I would strongly suggest you not book any early flights, like prior to 1:00 to avoid the stress. Our flight was at 11:40, after the airline changed it from after 1:00 a month or so before the Cruise. We made it by not with a lot of time to spare.
This was a great Cruise on a lovely Ship with a good Cruise Critic bunch of people. May just have to do it again someday??? We are booked for two Cruises on Celebrity in February, a 25 day including a Transatlantic on the Emerald next fall, and I booked a Full Transit of the Panama Canal for Jan. of 2015 (Island Princess) while on board the Sapphire. Looks like another South Pacific Cruise will have to wait a bit, but god willing we will consider it again down the road. Less
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