This was our second sailing on the Sapphire Princess to the Mexican Riviera- we did the same itinerary last January. I have to say that much on this sailing was an improvement over last year, particularly in the quality of the food.
We were originally booked on the Carnival Splendor, but our cruise was cancelled when repairs to the ship took longer than expected. Fortunately we had buffered the cruise with extra days pre-cruise and we were able to quickly book the Sapphire.
We made a mistake in cancelling our hotel in Long Beach (Marriott) and booking in San Pedro. There is not a good selection of hotels in San Pedro and we booked the Vagabond Inn which is an older motel that was quite dismal. It did, however allow us to spend a day wandering the old part of the town and the farmer's market. We had a great dinner at the San Pedro Fish Market where you buy your very fresh fish and seafood and they cook it right there on the wharf. Nothing fancy, but the best salmon I have ever tasted. I understand on weekends they are lined up out the door.
Embarkation was a breeze, having Platinum status probably was the reason for this - there were a few first time passengers who were upset that Platinum and Elite passengers got to jump the line. We were allowed directly into our cabin which was an inside (we booked too late for the outside and balcony cabins). Plenty of space, though, and the dark allowed me to sleep a bit later than I normally would. Our cabin steward provided adequately throughout the voyage but I didn't really feel that he was happy with his job.
We were located on the Lido deck which I will definitely consider in the future, you are close to the food and the pools. We have never been this high before, but the seas were really calm so sway was not an issue.
Entertainment was good, not excellent - we had seen the production shows last year, but we still enjoyed them the second time. The female lead (short white hair) is just amazing.
I enjoyed the comedians, especially the former L.A. cop (can't remember his name) who was hilarious - much of his material seemed to be off the cuff and he did a tremendous job. There was a magician who I did not care for - but then I dislike magic shows in general. The Wheelhouse Bar had an excellent band and we really enjoyed some ballroom dancing here.
FOOD!! This is where the ship excelled. As I have said we were on this sailing last year and the food has really improved (I think that perhaps there is a new chef?). There were only two meals that were just average (Beef Wellington and the Perch) but all the rest were excellent (Orange Roughy, Goat Cheese Souffle, Steaks, etc.) And the desserts! - what can I say - I am a dessert fan and almost everything was delicious. Fresh Belgian waffles on the Lido in the morning - yum! The buffet was good and always offered a good variety. Didn't have pizza so I can't evaluate and we did not feel the need to go to the alternate restaurant (as opposed to the NCL line where the food is so bad you have to go to the pay restaurants).
PORTS: We have done this itinerary many times, so the ports are a bit routine for us, but we did choose a couple of ship excursions that were very good. In Puerto Vallarta we went to a small tequila factory that also offered a very good buffet and entertainment - we were very happy with that choice. In Cabo we went on a glass blowing excursion that also took us to Cabo San Jose which may be my favourite place to visit now. Mazatlan was cancelled due to concerns about violence and Ensenada was substituted. We took the shuttle into town and then an independent tour to the blowhole. Can't say I was too impressed - if we do this trip again we probably would just stay on the ship in Ensenada.
Shopping on board was not really of interest to me - prices seemed high and even their "outlet" sale was nothing special.
Yes, as some have said the crowd was older, and if you were originally to be on the Splendor it would have been a bit of a shock I imagine. Since we fit in the baby boomer category it was OK with us and not having hoards of kids on board made it even better.
Disembarkation was also easy, but we were non-US passengers so our line up for customs was 10 minutes while the line for US passengers could easily have been an hour.
A quick private shuttle pick up took us to the Long Beach Airport Marriott where we spent a lovely day relaxing before our flight. Kudos to the hotel for allowing us to check in very early (10AM) and check out at 1PM the next day.
A great cruise - no complaints in any way.