This was my husband's, and my, first ever cruise and a re-book after learning that our cruise on Carnival was being cancelled (the vacation time was already set in stone). We had pretty high expectations of what cruising would be like..... great food, good service, lounge chairs, pools, interesting destinations, and a nightlife. I can honestly say that we were mostly disappointed in all of those categories (except the pools).
First the positives though! Our cabin, A739, although tiny was very clean and our room steward, Georgie, was fantastic! He greeted us every morning, and went the extra mile to track down a missing bottle of Kahlua for us at the end of our trip. The pools were numerous and never crowded (although the hot tubs were), they were downright deserted anytime after 7pm which was great when we fancied an evening in a hot tub. The mixed drinks were reasonably priced from $5 - $7 each, the soda cards were pretty cheap at $39, although the beer was outrageously priced at about $5 a bottle! Cabo San Lucas was an amazing destination, and I would recommend the snorkeling trip to the Chileno Bay to anyone looking to have a great time, or get out for the day (and away from the walker set).
Now the down sides.....
The Sapphire feels really old. Plain and simple. The ship is very compartmentalized, there are no large spaces indoors, and everything feels dark and enclosed. Some of the halls and public rooms had unusual odors that were rather unpleasant. The ship is dated and needs a serious over haul, the one exception to this is the two main pools, they are cute and rather charming in their own way. Our cabin was tiny..... the beds reminded me of the ones we had at a summer camp that I worked at a few years ago (all springs), and there was nowhere to sit except on the bed or the balcony. The balcony was nice, and the bathroom/storage were adequate. I have to say though that I think the shower curtain and I were in a bit of a relationship.... it was very touchy feely which I didn't exactly appreciate....
We were truly non-plussed in this department. We are both very adventurous eaters, we enjoy trying new things, and definitely appreciate international cuisine, but we don't classify ourselves as "snobs" or "foodies" (trust me nothing completes my world more than a great slice of pizza, same holds true for hubby with a burger). We just found the food to be lackluster. The Horizons court seemed to offer limited selections at dinner, and nothing special any other time of the day, there were always long lines, and a lack of seats. The pizza, ice cream, and grill, while good got boring as there was little to no variation offered throughout the week. The dining room's menus were incredibly lack-luster and seemed to cater to the older clientele of the boat offering some sort of pate and steak every night. The menu just felt dated, boring, and sometimes downright unappetizing.
Our service experience was incredibly variable. Our cabin steward, and waiter in the main dining room, were friendly and efficient. The lady in charge of the shore excursions was a great resource and helped us pick out our favorite part of the trip (the Chileno Bay Snorkeling). We really didn't get much of an impression of the rest of the staff as they seemed to be non-existent where we were concerned! Getting drinks (anywhere), silverware, the attention of who we needed to speak with..... impossible. We felt invisible because we weren't old and crotchety! One evening we watched a server in the Horizon food court get water for every other table around us, and completely ignore us. We had to go get our own drinks, and were then told that they would be served to us! Yeah right! Now don't get me wrong no one was rude..... But sometimes we really did feel invisible.
Unfortunately grooving to 80's hits, watching 70 year olds play Wii Dance, listening to comedians tell baby boomer jokes, shuffleboard, and musical revues in a theatre where the person beside you is snoring just isn't my idea of entertainment. The MOST entertaining part of this cruise was the abundance of new movies being screened, and shown on the TV in our stateroom. Activities, entertainment, and the nightlife, were simply geared towards a different clientele and there wasn't much of interest for our age group (or what could have been of interest was flooded with people the age of our grandparents). The one plus was that the casino had several smoke free nights and some gaming lessons.
We loved Cabo San Lucas! That being said...... the rest of our ports left something to be desired. The number of shore excursions available seemed sub par. Very few of the excursions available could be classified as active, and none were green tours or eco tours, which we were disappointed with. Most excursions were centered around shopping or passive sight seeing by bus or boat.
Most importantly we come to the topic of fellow passengers.......
I can count on on hand the number of couples that I saw in their twenties.... I think there may have been a few families on board, but I don't think I saw more than 20 kids on the entire boat. I would have to say that the average passenger age was well over 65 on our trip. Things were definitely catered to the age group, so unless you plan to travel with elderly members of your family I would stay away from this boat/itinerary like the plague if you are under 35! Not only were we disappointed at the age group, but we were shocked at just how rudely we were treated by the older passengers (some guy in a hover round actually ran over my foot trying to stuff himself in an elevator that was already full). With so few young people on board we didn't really meet very many people which was a shame.
All in all this cruise taught us that not all cruises were created equal, and that we are looking forward to trying to cruise again on a different line. One thing is for certain.... we will never get on a Princess ship again until we are valid AARP members!
We went on the Chileno Bay Sail and Snorkel excursion that was offered through Princess, and it was truly the highlight of our trip. The excursion operators were friendly and professional; I felt very comfortable on their trip and I knew that safety was not a concern. We sailed out of a dock a little way from the tender dock on a well equipped catamaran. There was a full non-alcoholic bar on the way to the snorkeling area, and we stopped at Los Arcos to take photos. The snorkeling equipment and demonstrations were adequate, one of the crew was in the water leading us through the grounds and telling us about the fish, while another crew member was nearby in a zodiac craft in case there was an emergency. We were given almost an hour to snorkel at our leisure. On our way back to port we were able to spot dolphins and humpback whales! Truly a highlight. In addition there was a full bar, snacks, and some humorous dancing with the crew. I would recommend this trip to anyone who loves the water and wants to have a fun half day.
In addition to our excursion we were able to walk around the port area of Cabo. It was very clean, felt safe, and the vendors weren't pushy at all. We enjoyed the little time that we had to walk around, shop, and check out the little market area.
We did disembark for an hour or two and walk down to the shopping area that the ship newsletter had highlighted. I thought it was pretty sketchy and didn't feel particularly safe there so we went back to the ship and spent the rest of the day at the pool. Judging from how many people chose to remain on board I can only assume that most of the other people on the ship felt the same way about Ensenada. It is not somewhere that I have a desire to return to.
In all I would be cautious about taking this tour, and in straying too far from the Malcenon area of Puerto Vallarta. There are some seriously depressed areas that this tour went right through, and the overall theme from our tour guide was "we're poor, give us your money". Not altogether unexpected, but more brazen than was comfortable. While we never felt unsafe I'm sure that some of these areas weren't the best to be in as a tourist.