BACKGROUND: I'm in my late 50s and traveled with a friend. I have cruised 30+ times,
EMBARKATION: We took the PrimeTime shuttle from LAX ($16 each). Our embarkation process went smoothly, and we were on board in time to drop our carry on bags in our cabin before having lunch and exploring the ship.
SHIP OVERALL: It is attractive with some nice public rooms. It has a three-story atrium, but doesn't "wow" you. The seventh deck has plenty of lounge chairs, and there seemed to be lots of seating around pools and open spaces.
DINING: There are five main dining rooms, with one (International) dedicated to set seatings (early and late) and the others (Sante Fe, Savoy, Vivaldi, and Pacific Moon) dedicated to anytime dining. All offer a more subdued, clubby feel than the large triple-tiered dining rooms of some newer ships. We enjoyed it. Each of the four has one specialty dish; the rest of the menu is shared. We found the food excellent. There are two specialty restaurants, one steakhouse and one Italian themed, but we didn't try them. We had no problems getting a table around 7 pm, so that we could see the 8:30 show. It is helpful to let the server know that you want to be done by showtime. Service was excellent.
We had a couple of breakfasts and one lunch in the International Dining Room. It offers a nice alternative to the buffet line.
The buffet offerings seemed a bit skimpy to me compared to other cruises, but the food was good. The staff does a great job in keeping tables cleaned and ready. We never had to search for an open table. The back terrace was our preferred spot for buffet dining.
The pizza is available in Alfredo's Pizzeria on Deck 5 as well as at Prego's on Deck 14. In either venue, it is the best pizza I've ever had at sea!
Best Bet: if you are a coffee lover, get the Coffee Perks card. For about $30 you get 15 drinks, including iced lattes, blended coffee drinks. It is a great deal! The breakfast offerings by the coffee counter are a great alternative to the buffet or dining room, too.
ENTERTAINMENT: The week included three revues with the cast of the ship; the four singers and eleven dancers were very talented. The sets are modest and shows are only 30 minutes, but they were terrific. Other shows included a hypnotist and a comedian. They were very good. The ship also put on some special Christmas offerings. Santa had gifts for all 600 children! (The rest of the week I hardly noticed the children, so the staff did a great job in keeping them occupied!)
FITNESS/SPA: The fitness facility is decent, although not as large as newer ships. It is equipped with treadmills and elipticals, as well as several bikes and several weight machines. The ship has a separate group exercise room. Most classes cost from $12-$25. I did participate in the evening abs and stretch classes (free) and enjoyed Susan, the fitness instructor from Australia. The men's locker room was decent, but the lockers were almost always malfunctioning. They need to get a different locking mechanism, as most lockers were unusable.
I didn't make use of the spa.
ITINERARY/PORTS: We booked the cruise beacuse it was out of LA over Christmas, not to visit yet again Puerto Vallarta, Cabo or Ensenada. This isn't a cruise you take for the ports. I booked a scuba diving trip in Cabo on-line as it wasn't offered through the ship. Our day in PV was short (7:00 am to 2:30 pm) so it made for a rushed visit.
Gavin Chandler, Cruse Director, and Callie Smit, Deputy Cruise Director and team were personable, warm and engaging. I'd recommend the Sapphire Princess.