Lots of people tend to wonder what time they should arrive at the port to board the ship. I arrived with my group at 11:15 am and was able to board the ship within 30 minutes. Please keep in mind that this time could vary depending on various factors but I would say that seemed to be an ideal time to arrive at the port. Pier 93 is an old outdated facility but still seems to be very functional which is why it appears little to no renovations have taken place. Overall Princess seems to have the embarkation process down to very smooth process; I had no issues with this process.
The Sapphire Princess lacks a "Wow Factor" for a cruise ship. It is a plain and ordinary ship with few innovative features. If you a person that goes on a cruise because you want to be impressed by the ship then don't cruise on the Sapphire. Since the ship was built in 2004 and has not had any of the recent upgrades on some of the Princess ships it feels rather dated. Cruise ships are heavily used and abused and Sapphire was defiantly starting to show some of that abuse. It is my understanding that the ship will have the signature Princess upgrades in 2011 but I think they should be done sooner. Typical things I noticed were torn carpets, broken public toilets, sewage smells on some of the passenger corridors, and broken gym equipment.
This was my first experience in cruising from Los Angeles and I would make people aware that the weather heading down to Mexico can be more unpredictable compared to cruising down to the Caribbean from Florida. The first two days of the cruise it was too cold to sit outside and it even rained one entire day. I realize that the weather can always vary due to many reasons but have never had anything like this when cruising from Florida to the Caribbean.
As far as the ports of call go, Mexico is a great place to visit if you have never been there before. I think the beaches in the Caribbean are nicer than in Mexico but that is just my opinion. Cabo is by far the best port on the trip and it is shame that the ship has to leave by 2 PM. I don't know if the ship has to leave early in order to get back to Los Angeles or if Princess is trying to save money on port charges, but not having a full day there was a real downside to the cruise.
Overall I always believe that you get what you pay for. If you are looking for five star dining and five star accommodations then the Sapphire Princess is not the cruise for you. Considering all the factors Princess is an excellent cruise line and can meet your expectations if you don't set them at an unrealistic level. I found the food and service very good and was very impressed with how hard the crew worked to make sure that I was always well taken care of. Happy cruising to everyone!