This was my second time on the Sapphire Princess, the ship that got me hooked on cruising back in 2004.
I arrived at the San Pedro dock at 10:45, having just disembarked from the Norwegian Star docked next door. Check in was quick and easy with few passengers at that hour. I waited till 11:45 for the first boarding announcement, and to my pleasant surprise cabins were ready. I have learned to carry on all my luggage so I don't have to wait for it to be delivered and can begin unpacking and "nesting" immediately. My cabin mate, and long time friend Rick, would be checking in later. This would be his first cruise.
Princess puts name tags at each cabin door which also color codes what level the occupants have sailed with this line. I would guess that more than half the ship were first time cruisers. It was priced VERY attractively, and thus attracted a lot of new guests.
I pretty much got settled in when I received a call from Rick that his shuttle was about 10 minutes away so I got off the ship to help expedite his embarkation. It was a breeze and we were both on board in less than 20 minutes. We got him settled into the cabin, an oceanview on deck 10 forward, and headed out to explore the ship and have lunch at the Horizon Court Buffet. It's always exciting to see a cruise thru the eyes of a first timer. We went back to our cabin before muster and took a half hour "cat nap". We enjoyed sailaway from the top decks, mid ship, at 4:00. It's always exciting hearing the horn blow! Then we set out to explore more of the ship before taking another nap and a buffet dinner. In the Writing Room, on deck 5, we noticed a table set out with a couple of jigsaw puzzles. That got us hooked for the rest of the cruise. During the week we would spend an hour or so relaxing and adding pieces, to come back later finding others had done the same. Wandering around a bit more we decided to retire early so we would be refreshed for the rest of our trip. The beds were VERY comfortable and we both slept very well, being (barely) rocked to sleep by mother nature's ocean.
Sunday was a sea day so I got up early, went for a power walk and headed to Club Fusion for the 9:30 dance class. It was taught by one of the activity staff and today she was teaching Meringue. Turns out my partner was her mother, from Australia, who was enjoying a week with her daughter she hadn't seen in a few months. It was a fun class that was taught well. After a quick breakfast up at Windjammer I met Rick in the Wheelhouse for Trivia. We did quite well, so much in fact that a woman approached us to be part of her team with her husband for the afternoon game. We found the puzzles beckoning us before an afternoon nap and room service luncheon (such a rough life at sea). By this time is was 4:00 and we met up with Tom and Kay and their traveling friends, Dave and Joanie, for Trivia. We tied for first place with another group and won the match game! We quickly became friends for the rest of the cruise. They are a lovely couple who live part time on their sailboat in Marina Del Rey. Our cabin neighbors were three Southern, married ladies, in their early 60's, who left their husbands at home. They occupied a large, forward suite with a balcony that wrapped around one third of the front of the ship. They were a lot of fun!
I would say that the average age on this sailing was 45-50. A bit older than my previous week on Norwegian Star, which I would say was 35-40. There were not too many kids on this sailing and they all seemed to be well occupied and fairly invisible. I retired to my cabin for another nap while Rick stayed for cocktails. Later I met up with Rick for a stroll around the Promenade and a late buffet dinner.
One of the things I like about Princess is that their buffet is open 24 hrs. I also like that the Sapphire has a complete wrap around Promenade, especially the area at the bow. It's a great place for looking out over the ocean, sky and stars. The rest of the evening was spend wandering around enjoying the visual delights of ship life. Princess offers a lot of evening options for entertainment. We did not go to the show in the main theater or to any of the lounges other than peeking in, but there was a lot going on. The Sapphire has one main Dining Room on deck 6 aft, for traditional dining, and four smaller dining rooms on decks 5 and 6 mid ship for their "Anytime Dining" option. Each of the four smaller dining rooms has its own theme of decor, "Tex-Mex", "Asian", "Italian", and "Steakhouse", that you can make reservations at or just show up and be seated, if there is not a waiting list. We found the food to be very good although we both felt the desserts to be lacking. One night there were three excellent choices, which were hard to choose from, but most nights it was hard to find just one.
The next morning (a sea day) Rick was up early and doing his own thing while I went to the gym and spa for a nice steam and shower. Afterward I went to the Cha Cha class. The dance classes were well attended on this voyage with at least 50 in each class. Afterward I dashed off to meet up with my team for Trivia (we tied again) and an hour of socializing before a buffet lunch with Rick and a walk on the top decks. By this time we were passing Cabo San Lucas off the starboard side, a few miles away, where a Carnival ship was anchored for the day. I always enjoy seeing other ships at sea and trying to figure out which ones they are. It is in this area that one can usually see whales and dolphins and we were not disappointed. We made it up to the bow to see schools of them and few whales, in addition to a very large sea turtle, my first sighting on a cruise! We decided it might be interesting and fun to go to Afternoon Tea, held in one of the smaller dining rooms, seeing that the Red Hat Ladies were scheduled there at the same time. There was not a table for two available so we opted to share a table with others and were seated at a table for 8, that currently had one young lady seated at it. Upon sitting she said "We have to sit together, I guess, since there are no single tables", a fine 'How are you' was never uttered more graciously! Poor unhappy soul. We were polite and were soon joined by another single young lady who got the same welcome from our table mate. Our second companion was much more friendly and we had a lovely time chatting. The Tea Service was not exactly what I would consider the best service. Although they wore white gloves, the 'high' service ended there. Upon entering the room there was a nice display of many different types of tea we were expecting to be offered, but they were only serving Lipton. We had to ask twice for something different. The sandwiches and such were nothing special and we really had to try to catch the eye of the servers or we would have had nothing to eat. There were no 'Red Hats' to be found and despite all this we were still glad we checked it out. Afterward "Mama Mia" was playing in the main theater so ducked our heads in to see part of it on the big screen. From there we went to the 'Rainbow Get-Together' where we met Jim, John, and Steve, who became our other buddies for the cruise. After dinner we checked out the puzzle and went for a hot tub in the Lotus Spa area before retiring.
Tuesday morning we arrived in Puerto Vallarta where it was nice and warm. After a walk on deck, the gym, and a spa shower we had breakfast in the cabin, watching some of the Presidential Inauguration, before taking a local bus to town. Rick had not been here before so we toured around a bit, saw the main church, hit a couple of shops and headed to the beach to relax for the rest of the day. We decided to separate as Rick wanted to take photos and I was Jones'n to get back on the ship before checking emails at the local Internet Cafe. We met up later onboard and had drinks with our new friends at the Rainbow Get-Together, which were always hosted by one of the ship's staff. I then headed off to the Latin Ballroom Review to practice what I had learned before dinner. The rest of the evening was spent wandering about the ship checking out the nightlife with Rick, including a stop at the puzzle table.
The next morning, when we awakened, we were already docked in Mazatlan. While on the beach in PV I stepped on a small sliver of glass or a bee stinger or something. It bothered me for about an hour but then it went away. I think dancing must have acerbated it, because when I woke up it was hard to walk. I figured I'd best have it checked out by the ship's doctor. He examined it and noticed a red spot but decided to do nothing (much to my disappointment). I asked him to help take the bite out of the $60 fee by showing me the Morgue (I figured I could at least get a tour out of this). He reluctantly obliged. I'd always wanted to see one since I knew each ship has them. Don't know what I'll have to do to see the jail! Since I had been to Mazatlan numerous times, including the previous week, I decided to stay on board and enjoy the relative solitude of the ship while Rick ventured ashore. I took advantage of the onboard laundromat, wrote in my journal and went to the gym. I stepped off the ship to check emails at the convenient Internet Cafe, in the terminal, and ran into Steve at the dockside bar. We shared stories and did some interesting people watching, including watching a young man in his 20's intent on getting drunk. After numerous beers and shots, he puked. I'm sure his parents were pleased when they came across him, coming back from their excursion. I met up with Rick for a late lunch before sailaway, on the top mid-ship deck, where we enjoyed 360 degree views. Mazatlan is a great port for sailaway as it is geographically interesting. Again we met up with our friends at the Rainbow Get-Together, before changing for dinner. I stuck my head into the main theater for the show but was not impressed with the performances. It did not seem to me that their hearts were into it, and having experienced some of the best performers I've seen at sea the prior week, it was a tough act to follow. After dinner we wandered around the ship, again checking out the nightlife and the puzzle table.
Thursday we arrived in Cabo and slept in knowing we would be staying on board. Cabo is one of those ports you don't need to get off to enjoy as the beauty is there to behold from the anchored ship. We met up with our team for Trivia and caught up on all the things we did the past couple days. At 1:45 it was "Anchors Away" and we set sail for the journey back. Afterward I went to Salsa class and a walk around the Promenade deck where I ran into Kay and Tom for a nice long chat with views of the coastline and dolphins. This was followed by afternoon Trivia, the gym & spa. Rick and I attended the Repeat Guests Cocktail Party hosted by the Captain, then off to the puzzle table. Being Formal Night we enjoyed the parade of visual delights all evening. This was climaxed by the famous Princess Champagne Waterfall in the Atrium at 11:30 pm. It's all so corny but fun to witness. They do it up big with live music, a countdown, and lots of streamers from all the balconies of the Atrium.
Our last sea day was Friday and I slept in till very late while Rick quietly left the cabin and did his thing. After a nice hot shower and steam at the spa it was time for morning Trivia. Again, we tied for first! This was followed by a long brisk walk and lunch at the Windjammer. The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing, going to the gym and enjoying the ship before afternoon Trivia where we were the final winners and each got a Princess Cap (the one prize I was really wanting!). Rick and I then went to say farewell to our other friends where we were all treated to free champagne by our hostess. We enjoyed our last dinner on board and spent the evening in the Atrium relaxing, people watching, and chatting with our friends before retiring to our cabin to start packing. That chore worked up an appetite so we went out for a late night snack and fresh air.
The next morning we finished packing before a buffet breakfast and made our way off the ship. We rented a car and compared the Sapphire Princess to the Queen Mary, permanently docked in Long Beach, which we took a 4 hour tour of. Although once beautiful, today we prefer the Sapphire.