Figuring that SFO-LAX was a short flight with many departures on United, we gambled on flying down the morning of, and it worked out just fine. Thanks to an on-time flight and decent service from Prime Time Shuttle, we got to the pier before noon and went through an orderly, quick embarkation process.
The Sapphire is a beautiful ship, my favorite of the four Princess vessels I've been on. Maybe I'm just getting used to the middlebrow tastefulness of the Princess Look, but I found most of the public spaces to be lovely, and the ship is in great shape, no signs of wear anywhere. There are just a few missteps: the relative isolation of the Main Dining Room, bad arrangement of the buffet counters, weird Wild Western theming in the Fusion Lounge, some second-rate mural work. The gym was on the small side, with limited machines. But a promenade that goes right to the bow of the ship and a horseshoe-shaped multi-deck arrangement of the uncrowded aft pools more than made up for that. Our inside cabin seemed better laid out than others we'd had, and its location on the Lido deck was great. I wish that Princess had commissioned more similarly designed ships. I'd sail on the Sapphire again anytime.
Dining was as expected. Most of the food in the MDR was good-to-excellent, ranging from blandish Luau Pork to great rack of lamb, delicious goat cheese souffle, fine mussels, and tasty escargot. Buffet food, on the other hand, was mediocre; I don't know why there's such a quality gap between food in the dining rooms and at the Horizon Court. Pizza, though, was great, much better than I'd had on the Sea Princess, and several times I opted for a pizza-and-salad lunch rather than eat buffet main dishes.
We had late traditional dining. The International Dining Room staff was very good, and though I've had better waitstaff, most everything went well.
Afternoon tea was held in one of the smaller dining rooms, and was good as usual. Love those scones!
Entertainment in the Princess theater was the usual. The production shows were standard Princess fare; "I Got the Music" was the best. Comedy-magician James Michael, whom I'd seen before, was again funny, but by weird coincidence, I'd seen the featured comic, Carlos Oscar, on my two previous cruises as well, and he was doing the same routine. Yawn. We never had a problem finding good seats at the last minute for late-sitting shows in the Princess Theater.
The Cruise Director, Lee Childers, was only so-so - his major visible effort was putting on Bible Study classes, but he was otherwise pretty invisible except for the theater shows. His staff, though, made up for it, consistently friendly and delightful. We're trivia buffs, and won still more baseball caps and shopping bags.
We'd been to the ports before. In Puerto Vallarta, we took public buses to the PV Botanical Garden, which was a great, economical excursion, with lovely flowers and a good variety of birds.
In Mazatlan, we just walked from the ship to the old town, which we'd never visited before. It's a really great place for a long stroll, and we visited a historic theater and a restored mansion, both worthwhile.
In Cabo San Lucas, we had booked a Zodiac whale watch with Eco Cat. It was a fun, well-done trip, and though the whale sightings weren't quite as good as on our last whale watch, that's the luck of the draw.
Unfortunately, crime in Mexico makes it look quite possible, at this point, that Mexican Riviera cruises will be a thing of the past. (Except, perhaps, for stops in Cabo, my least favorite place in Mexico.) It's a pity.
No travel experience is perfect, of course, but I feel that Princess succeeds in putting together a consistently enjoyable, relaxed, and unstuffily elegant product, just what we're looking for in a cruise. The only thing that made it tolerable to disembark after only a week was knowing we were booked on a two-week Canal cruise in a few months. We ate too much, made new friends, had romantic moments, and learned to line dance. And how bad can a cruise be when you've learned to do the Macarena?