My husband does not relax like "normal people" and, unless they would agree to let him work in the engine room for the duration, cruising doesn't appeal to him. I absolutely love it, so off I went on my own.
Embarkation in LA was extremely efficient, no more than twenty minutes from curbside to stateroom. My stateroom was clean and comfortable. Odd duck that I am, I seem to be one of the few that has never had a complaint about Princess' mattresses. My only complaint about the ship was an occasional "funky" odor in the hallway and on the Promenade Deck. That and the fact that I did not do my homework well enough to realize that the Video Arcade was directly above my stateroom. Small inconveniences, not enough to obsess about.
I opted for traditional dining at a table for ten, knowing that while I was not obligated to eat there every night my chair would be waiting for me without reservations should I choose to. My table-mates were varied and interesting. Overall the food was good, some of it excellent. While the service provided by my particular waiter was not as good as I had experienced in the past, it was by no means poor. The deck stewards and buffet stewards were wonderfully friendly and attentive. I liked the fact that the Sapphire has deck chairs on the Promenade Deck, great for reading or just watching the ocean go by.
I took the Ultimate Ship's Tour, offered on our last sea day. Although it was a tad pricey I felt it was worth every penny and would recommend it to anyone who's curiosity radar goes off when they see a "Crew Only" doorway. From what I understand a lottery is done on those who have signed up and only a small group is taken (there were eleven of us). Photos are not allowed, but we were accompanied by a member of the photography staff and the pictures she took, as well as a chef's coat and plush robe were delivered to our staterooms that evening. We toured the backstage areas of the Princess Theater with some of the performers, The Medical Center with the Doctor (who is an absolute hoot!), the Galley with the Executive Chef (who had a lovely snack waiting), The print shop, photo lab and laundry with the Purser, the Engine Control Room with the Chief Engineer, and we climbed up into the funnel with the Staff Captain. Last stop was the Bridge where the Captain posed for individual photos and presented each of us with a souvenir of our voyage.
My advice to all cruisers, be it first-timers or seasoned, is that your trip is what you make of it. Treat your servers and stewards with respect and you will get wonderful service. When you have to wait for an elevator, look around, realize where you are and how lucky you are to be there. My cruise was not perfect, but it was wonderful.