Arrival: We drove to LA from Phoenix, arriving at the hotel around 6pm after a lousy drive during the one big rain storm of the season.
Hotel: We booked ourselves into the Best Western Plus San Pedro, and highly recommend it. See our October 2014 Golden Princess review for details on the hotel.
Embarkation: The World Cruise Center isn’t much to look at from the outside, but the check-in and waiting areas are the nicest we’ve seen. We waited in the Platinum area. This cruise was heavy on the Elites, so they had their own lounge. We were called and on board before 1pm.
Ship: We’d been on the Sapphire Princess previously, for a coastal cruise in 2011, just prior to the refit. The updated piazza is very nice. Fortunately, they left the 4-restaurant concept intact. The major public areas were in very good condition and very clean.
Cabin: We had a mini-suite on deck 9. The cabin was clean and in good condition. The bed was very comfortable. The bathroom tile and grout are still serviceable but should be redone in the next couple of years. Our steward brought us champagne and introduced himself. He kept the room spotless during our voyage.
Food: We love Anytime Dining and found the waits to be very short if you make a reservation. The food was very good this time, with only a few misses the entire trip. We dined in the Santa Fe the first night, and the Savoy the remaining nights after we found a great service team, Adriana and Fernando. We had most lunches in the buffet. The food was good and we enjoyed dining on the stern, above the pool. The International Café and Alfredo’s were good, as were the pizza and grill by the main pool. We did not try either specialty restaurant.
Ports: San Diego: The ship docks downtown, between the Enterprise and the Star of India (Maritime museum). We’re both originally from SoCal, so we were joined by family at the museum. Then we had lunch a wonderful lunch at Kaiserhof, a German restaurant near Ocean Beach. The weather finally cleared and sail-away was spectacular.
Cabo San Lucas: This is a tender port. We took an overview tour that included a cruise to El Arco and then a bus to a resort across the bay, and enjoyed our day. I look forward to returning to Cabo.
La Paz: The ship docks at an industrial port that is about a 40 minute drive from downtown. We happened to be there on Ash Wednesday, so the town was still recovering from the festivities the night before. The tour included a partially-completed museum, a walk downtown, and a beach stop. This port was just OK, we have no desire to return.
Noreto: This is a tender port. Loved this town! We did a simple walking tour down the main shopping street to the central church and museum. We’d like to go back for a longer visit. Highly recommended.
Puero Vallarta: We took a highlights tour that included a walk downtown and visits to a tile factory and a tequila factory. We enjoyed the tour. This is a very touristy but nice stop.
Disembarkation: The worst part of any cruise! Left our cabin at 8:30am and headed to the MDR for breakfast, but it closes earlier on the last day, so we hit the buffet. Afterwards we waited in the Elite lounge until our group was called.
Photographers were not too bad on this voyage. The selling of merchandise was at the normal level, though the tables were out every day, rather than at the end of the cruise. Servers tried very hard the first day to sell the ‘premium’ wine tasting package.
The Sapphire is being repositioned to Japan this month. To prepare for the Asian market, several of the shops were being remodeled, along with the casino. We’re not big gamblers, but nearly half the casino was empty during this trip and we played less than we normally would have. One of the shops reopened, and now what was the sundry shop is filled with high-end purses and perfume. The sundry shop is now tiny and occupies what was the wedding chapel.
Princess just installed large Samsung TVs in the staterooms, and is actively installing a modern video-on-demand system. That’s nice in theory, but they did not get the system working during our voyage. TV service was spotty at best.
We also experienced issues with the men’s steam room continually breaking. The staff was never able to resolve that issue during the trip.
Overall, this was a wonderful cruise! Ten days flew by too quickly. We’re looking forward to our next voyage on the Crown in October. We already got our upgrade notice to almost the same cabin as this cruise.