As we have always found with Princess, embarkation and disembarkation is done wonderfully. They have the process down to a science and lots of staff assisting to make sure you get where you need to go. the longest wait was for customs upon disembarkation. If you do back to back cruises from LA, be aware you must get off the ship with your passport and customs declaration; go through customs and security and then re-enter the ship. The process takes about an hour. You do not need to pack up your belonging though. We enjoyed the back to back cruises- not only for the time on the ship and seeing the ports twice, but because we had about 2 hours where the only passengers that were on the ship were those doing back to back cruises. Great time to take pictures!
We had a precruise stay at the LAX Marriott, booked with Princess, that ordinarily I'd highly recommend- but not this time. See the review of the hotel for further info.
We had a balcony cabin on the Caribe deck these two voyages- ordinarily we get one on the Aloha deck. For the few extra dollars the balcony on the Caribe deck is much bigger and well worth it in my opinion, if you enjoy being on the balcony. We had the same cabin for both voyages. Our wonderful cabin steward Renato was a very friendly and helpful fellow. He always made our cabin comfortable and it was immaculate. We appreciated his special attention to details such as regularly cleaning off our balcony furniture. On every Princess cruise we've been on their beds are awfully hard even with the egg crate on top.
We had first seating for traditional dining. Our waiters were Olcen and Montree. They were so efficient and friendly. Again, their special attention to detail and remarkable memory for the things we enjoyed was so appreciated. It was always a pleasure to see their smiling faces each evening. Food was generally very good at dinner and the portions larger than on our cruise last January. We found the food and service excellent at supper in the traditional diningroom but did encounter a few problems with breakfast and lunch there. In particular, food not cooked properly. Twice I ordered hamburgers that are usually delicious and both times they came with blood running from the meat! We ate a few times in the buffet and the food was very good. Service cleaning tables and getting beverages was excellent. Room service was prompt but twice got our order wrong. Pizza was just OK. Burgers at the pool were excellent. Tea in the afternoon was nice to do a couple of times but you are rushed as they have to end it within the hour to set up for dinner.
My husband did the Ultimate ship tour this trip which he enjoyed a lot. He felt it was worth the $150.00 for the 3 hour tour of behind the scenes on the ship, the bridge, pictures, chef's coat and beautiful robe. We enjoyed most of the entertainment. We were so pleased to see Steve Morris on board again. He is very talented and funny. Do go on the galley tour. It's interesting and entertaining.
The ship was very well maintained and clean. Fresh flowers were in all the public bathrooms and at various bars. You can buy fresh flowers on board. Crew were frequently seen checking the water in the pools/whirlpools, mopping the decks, and painting. Almost all staff we enountered were very friendly and helpful.
I used the spa for a pedicure. It was $45.00 for 45 minutes. Mine lasted 20 minutes maximum and my polish came off the next day. I called the spa and explained and they redid the pedicure with extra massage and exfoliation for about an hour, at no additional cost. If you do get the basic pediure realize it is indeed very basic. No cuticle work and not much nail work either. Staff were very pleasant. You can use the change room, steam room, showers in the spa area at no extra cost. It was very handy as we used the spa pool to swim in (adult only).
Photos are much too expensive and not particularly well done. $20.00 for 5X7 size and $25.00 for 8x10 size. This is not unique to the Sapphire- we've found that on all the princess ships we've been on. We didn't drink alcohol but it is expensive with the average price being about $7.00 for a basic cocktail. We bought a coffe card for about $25.00 that is a good deal if you want fresh brewed coffee as opposed to the dishwater they call coffee served in the restaurants. As well, you can have 15 speciality coffee's such as latte's and unlimited hot chocolate and specialty teas. Bingo is a minimum $10.00 for one card- again too expensive for a $500.00 pot. Internet is a minimum $55 for 100 minutes PLUS a $3.95 "connection fee". I suppose this cost is in line with other cruise lines but a tad pricey for me. The connection was very poor. It took about 5 minutes just to log in and get into my email program. Wi-fi is the same price.
They had several "sales" on board this trip rather than just a few hours at the end of the voyage. Mostly T-shirts from Alaska, costume jewellry, watches, evening bags and scarves. We never found anyone hassled us about buying various things. They will ask you or have a table of information set up but you are under no pressure to purchase anything unless you want to.
We took two tours booked with Princess. The San Sebastian tour from Puerto Vallarta and the Sierra Madre tour (Copala and Concordia) from Mazatlan. We enjoyed both a great deal. The one from Mazatlan was the best of the two with tour guide Maria.
We also used the facilities at the NH Krystal in Puerto Vallarta and had the most fabulous massage we've ever had at the spa there. I highly recommend it. the spa is very clean, private and well run. The therapist very professional. We paid $85.00 for 2- 75 minute massages. In Mazatlan we purchased the taxi vouchers from the ship to take us from the ship to the Golden Zone area. There, we used the Playa Mazatlan facilities. Very nice pools and service. We had a very good fresh fruit smoothie and lunch by the pool. Unfortunately, the water in both places was too rough to swim and in Mazatlan also had jellyfish.
The only negatives for our trip are: 1) We missed Cabo San Lucas on our second voyage due to rough seas going back to LA. The captain felt that in order for us to return to LA on time we had to bypass the port. The seas were indeed rough for two days going back to LA. This is in no way a negative reflection on the Sapphire though 2) We had requested that our bill be paid in US dollars, not converted to Canadian and then billed to our credit card. Princess charges an extra fee to do that. When we got our final bill they had indeed converted the bill to Canadian and told us they had "lost" our boarding pass that had indicated our preference. They claimed they couldn't fix it on board and we would have to do it on our return home with Princess head office. As has been my experience in the past- Princess head office is quite useless. Any time I've called they don't know the answers to information I'm looking for or tell me information that turns out to be wrong. They even misinformed our travel agent! However, I did call them and got a major run around, being told I had to get a letter from my credit card company with all the charges and conversion rate outlined. Then mail it to them and they'd "consider" reimbursing me! Very poor customer service Princess. They really must do something with their customer service problems...
To end on a positive note, I would highly recommend sailing on the Sapphire. They do an excellent job of looking after you and ensuring your trip is comfortable, safe and enjoyable.