Two teachers traveling with 3 teenage kids. Veteran cruisers....have taken cruises over the Xmas/New years Holiday for 5 years now. Always cruised with Carnival in the past. Went with Princess this time due to rate offered in June. $699 pp for 7n/Mexican Riviera cruise 12/26-1/2/10. Booked 2 interior cabins. 3 in one - 2 in the other. Satisfied with staterooms. Better use of the space than Carnival ships; more storage &/or closet & drawer space.
Embarkation process was smooth and went without a glitch. Very simple process. Somewhat antiquated facility at Pier 93 in San Pedro. Kind of a "yucky" area of the city, but no big deal as we were just there to get on and off the ship.
Two days to reach Puerto Vallarta seemed like a lot; especially because the weather was so awful. Too cold and windy to sit outdoors one day & next day it poured rain the entire day & night. Felt like we wasted 2 days of our vacation; no one's fault -- just weather. Sea felt rougher than that in the Caribbean. I never seem to notice the "rocking" of the boat when I'm on Carnival. I was almost always aware of it on the Sapphire Princess. Don't know if it's due to the ship or the sea. Two different times I was kind of nauseous. Never has happened to me before.
On board activities were next to nil. We were very disappointed with this. Particularly when the weather was so miserable. Wouldn't you expect the cruise company to have a "back-up" plan in this case? There were over 700 youth on this ship. If you can't sit outside and soak up the sun there's got to be something else to do. I can count on one hand the number of "announcements" made on the ship pertaining to upcoming activities or things to do. This is quite different from Carnival where there is always something to do or to watch & be entertained.
1st stop Puerto Vallarta, next day was Mazatlan, next stop Cabo San Lucas, another day at sea, then to L.A. I wouldn't consider this a 7 day cruise. In fact, I feel like we got cheated. We were in LA on the last day at 5:15am. This counts as a day. We were off the ship by 8:30. I couldn't believe it. How can that possibly count as a day? Wow. Felt like they really chased us out of our stateroom so they could start preparing for the next passengers.
Food was truly poor quality in comparison to Carnival cruises we've been on. Not one meal did any of the 5 of us say, "Wow. This is so good." We say that daily on Carnival cruises. The food was fine. We ate it. That's it. We did the International Dining Room because we like the formal sit-down experience. We like having the same waiter each night and getting very personalized service from him/her. We didn't get that. The service, in general, on this ship was poor. Our waiter never really made eye contact with any of us. In comparison, on Carnival cruises, (even 4-day) they call us by name starting Day 2. Never happened here. Also, they stuck the 5 of us at a table made for 4 for dinner for the whole week. There were times that I wanted to set the rolls on the floor just for some more room for our plates. It was awful. Lots of wild game served. I specifically recall the following being served: quail & pheasant, venison, and duck. Yuck. If I wanted any of that I'd stay in Iowa and go hunting. Gross. The steak my husband had was tough. I can grill a better corn-fed beef steak at home in Iowa. Even the lobster was rubbery. Just a disappointment in the food area. Another comparison: on Carnival, the wait staff performs each night. Happened once on this cruise because it was New Year's Eve. Also, on Carnival, the maitre' d makes some type of announcement/greeting nightly. Didn't happen on this cruise. Didn't like that the same food as in the formal Internation Dining Room was available in the Horizon Buffet every single day. What's with that? What's the benefit of eating formally then if I can go in my swim suit to the buffet and eat the same stuff? Doesn't make sense to me.
Like Carnival Lido decks better -- daily lunch is a different nationality of food. Sapphire Princess has mushy pizza available every day as well as the same options in the grill line. (i.e. burgers, hot dogs, brats, etc.) LINE is the operative word, too. LO-O-O-ONG LINES at the grill. No Lido Deck activities except for one day a passenger vs. staff volleyball game. Nice to watch the spa trainers in their trunks but that was about it. It was a DUD!
Formal night is certainly more formal on Princess than Carnival. Most men and boys were in tuxedos. My husband and 2 sons were in coat & tie and were somewhat underdressed. That was fine....
Princess website advertises that there is a basketball court on board. This isn't true. Apparently, they had too many complaints from Lotus Spa clients of the bouncing balls overhead. I can appreciate that. Then move the BB court to the opposite end or something. Instead, they took it away and changed it into a funky tennis court only using large ping-pong paddles. I can see senior citizens thinking this was a swell little game but 3 teenagers who were banking on practicing BB skills sure weren't into it.
2 hot tubs on the lido deck were made to hold 8 people each. Too bad there were usually 18 in them. ridiculous. Next to impossible to use a treadmill or any other piece of equipment in the fitness room. Tried walking on the track outdoors and felt as though I might be blown off the ship into the ocean.
The night time entertainment in the Princess Theater reminded me of being back home at my daughter's high school show choir performances. It was really lame entertainment. Each night seemed like the same show with a couple of variations. Really not very good at all. One night saw comedian Steve Moris. Probably the highlight of the cruise. He was hilarious and we wished we could have seen more of him.
Cabin L203 was the last room at the end of the lido deck. should have been quiet. Heard "thumping" noises every night throughout the night. Possibly room stewards' carts in the storeroom? Annoying. Started to smell a little "sewery" by the end of the week. There was one time that our room didn't get serviced at all during the day. Didn't like that. On Carnival, the staterooms are serviced every time you leave the place! Not so on the Sapphire Princess.
Hair dryer in the stateroom was really bad. Took forever to dry my short hair.
Overall, our family had a fun vacation. We made it fun. Our shore excursions were AWESOME! However, it wasn't the Sapphire Princess that made the vacation for us. They simply don't compare to Carnival cruises.