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Sapphire Princess Cruise Review by westcoaster: 28-day Round Trip from L.A. to Hawaii, Samoa, & Tahiti


westcoaster
3 Reviews
Member Since 2001
72 Posts

Member Rating

Cabin 5.0
Dining 5.0
Embarkation 5.0
Enrichment Activities 4.0
Entertainment 3.0
Family & Children Not Rated
Fitness & Recreation 1.0
Public Rooms 5.0
Rates 5.5
Service 5.0
Shore Excursions Not Rated
Value for Money 5.5

Compare Prices on Sapphire Princess South Pacific Cruises

28-day Round Trip from L.A. to Hawaii, Samoa, & Tahiti

Sail Date: October 2011
Destination: South Pacific
Embarkation: Los Angeles

EMBARKATION:
We took a taxi from LAX to the pier. It was $55-60 and took about 30 minutes in light traffic. We arrived at the pier just before 11 am. Check-in was very quick and smooth, and we got to the waiting area in a few minutes. We later heard that out of 2600 passengers on board there were roughly 750 Elites and nearly 1000 Platinum. They just started to board after we got to the waiting area, and being Platinum, we had to wait for the Elites and suite passengers to be boarded. Overall, we probably had to wait about 30 minutes.

CABIN:
We had an inside cabin on the Baja deck near the back of the ship. I found the cabin very comfortable for 28 days - the beds were comfortable and there was lots of storage space. Inside cabins are great if you want to sleep in - especially with all the sea days! This is the second time I've had a cabin in this location, and I find it's very convenient. It's just two flights of stairs up to the buffet and four flights More down to the Promenade deck. We could also go up one level to the Aloha deck, then exit out the back to the Terrace pool area.

Another nice thing about this location - the laundromat was only 5 doors down. I pack pretty lightly (just a carry-on size roller bag for this 28-day cruise) so we used the laundromat 4 or 5 times. The cost is $2 for the washer and $2 for the drier - you need quarters, but there are change machines. I was surprised that the laundromat seemed less busy than on previous cruises - there was nearly always a machine available. Perhaps this was due to so many Elites on board, who get free laundry!

THE SHIP:
The Sapphire Princess was built in 2004 and it was scheduled to go in for a major drydock in January 2012. Despite that, the ship looked to be in great shape. The crew were very friendly and hardworking.

I love the Promenade deck on the Sapphire Princess. It's a bit wider than on most other Princess ships, so there's room for comfortable teak loungers, which most of the other ships don't have. With all the sea days on this itinerary, I spent a lot of time sitting and reading on the Promenade deck or walking laps. I love the Promenade deck because you really have a connection to the ocean and being on a ship. On this cruise, it was pretty busy during the mornings - both walkers and loungers - but then they all seemed to disappear at noon!

I like to swim, so it's nice having the range of pools. The Lotus Pool was usually fairly quiet and shady, and I liked the swim against the current feature. Even the main Neptune Pool rarely got really busy. The covered Calypso Pool is a nice feature, especially for the cooler, windier days. The small Terrace Pool at the back of the ship was great for a quick swim, since it was so close to our cabin. I wish there was a bit more shade in the Terrace Pool area, though. Sometimes in the past I've found the pools to be overheated - it's like swimming laps in a hot tub - but they seemed to be a nice temperature on this cruise.

My favorite lounge is the Wheelhouse Bar, which was usually nice and quiet, although I heard it got busy before the early shows. The atrium always seemed very quiet, especially down on the Plaza deck. I suspect that will change after the refit when they add the International café and the pizzeria.

FELLOW PASSENGERS:
I'm in my early 40s, and the first thing I noticed about my fellow passengers is that this was the oldest cruise I've ever been on. Those of us under age 65 appeared to be in a very small minority - perhaps 10% of the passengers. Not only were there lots of seniors, but many appeared to be quite old and frail, with lots of scooters and walkers. I guess being a longer cruise with lots of sea days and roundtrip from L.A. (so not much flying required for many) made it very attractive to older seniors. There was less of an international mix of passengers on this cruise compared with previous longer cruises I've been on - mostly Americans (especially lots of Californians) and Canadians (lots of others from B.C.) as well as groups from France and Germany. As a result of the older crowd, the ship tended to be very quiet in the evening. I'm pretty independent, so this older demographic didn't have any impact on my cruise experience.

FOOD:
I thought the food was very good on this cruise - a notch better than other recent Princess cruises I've been on.

We had breakfast and lunch at the Horizon Court buffet. I found the food very good and there were always lots of choices. There was always a good variety of fresh fruit, which is important to me. At lunch, they always had some kind of Indian food - usually a vegetarian curry - which was very tasty. They also would have a couple of pasta choices which were also usually very good. I also liked that they had a hot dessert each day. On sea days, they often had special lunch buffets set up in the Calypso pool area. Unfortunately, these weren't listed in the Patter and often they seemed to finish at 1:00 or 1:30, so you had to be on the ball. The Italian buffet and the dessert buffet were the best! Perhaps it was the times we ate (usually around 9 am for breakfast and 1 pm for lunch), but the buffet never seemed overly busy. We could always find a table - if not in the main area then just walk to the back section.

We ate most dinners in the anytime dining rooms. I liked having the four smaller anytime dining rooms. The Vivaldi dining room was also used for traditional first seating dining, so it didn't open until 7:45. The other dining rooms were open 5:15 to 9:30. I liked the décor at the Pacific Moon (Asian motif) and the Savoy (dark wood) the best, and that's where we ate most of our dinners. We usually ate at around 7:00 to 7:30 and we never had any problems getting a table. I believe the Savoy dining room will disappear after the drydock - the new Crown Grill will take up part of the space, and the remainder will become part of the Vivaldi dining room. Too bad, since it has the nicest atmosphere of all the dining rooms - it feels the least like a generic Princess ship dining room.

The food in the dining rooms was also very good. Being on a longer cruise, it was nice to sample all the different dinner menus. Here's a link to the dinner menus for the 28 day. There were 4 formal nights - on days 3, 11, 17, and 27.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/peters_travels/sets/72157628088666503/

We ate a few dinners at the buffet, and the food was also good there, with some but not all of the same choices offered that night in the dining room. I think the desserts are better at the dining room. The chocolate ice cream is great, as are some of the other homemade ice creams. Some were a little disappointing and lacking in flavor. Sorry, I don't have the dessert menus, but look out for the flourless chocolate torte (first night) and the passionfruit and chocolate mousse cake - delicious!

Dining room service is not quite as good as I remember, especially compared with doing traditional fixed seating when your waiter really gets to know you. However, Paula in the Savoy dining room was fantastic - the best waiter we encountered on this cruise.

I love the fresh baked cookies that they wheel around the pool areas at 3:30 on sea days. They have the same cookies in the buffet, but the fresh baked ones are so much better! I also loved the little scones with strawberry jam and whipped cream available at the buffet after 3:30 pm. The pizza by the slice near the Neptune pool is also very good - nice thin crust and not too heavy on the cheese. They have margherita, pepperoni, and a daily special. Although I miss the homemade ice cream they used to serve in the buffet in the afternoon, the free soft serve ice cream is pretty good.

ENTERTAINMENT:
Entertainment is not a big factor for me on cruises, so I didn't see a lot of the shows. I did see the five production shows on this cruise (Stardust, Motor City, Piano Man, I Got the Music, and Do You Wanna Dance) and generally enjoyed them. I had seen most of them before, but I thought the singers were more consistently good on this cruise than on past cruises. I hadn't seen Do You Wanna Dance before, and I thought it was the best. Other than that, I didn't watch too many of the shows. They did have Hawaiian dancers (kids) the night of Honolulu and Tahitian dancers the night of Papeete, which I heard were both good. Likely due to the older crowd on board, I heard that the early shows were generally very busy and people would sometimes arrive an hour or more early to get seats. We usually ate later (around 7:30) and went to the later shows. We would usually arrive at the shows 10 minutes before they started and we never had any problems getting seats.

Since I prefer to read and relax, I didn't partake in a lot of the organized activities on the ship. There seemed to be lots going on, though, especially on the sea days. There were lectures on all the sea days. I attended a few, and some were more interesting than others. They usually had at least one movie each day, either in the Princess Theatre or the Explorers Lounge (no Movies Under the Stars on the Sapphire until after the drydock in January 2012). Some of the movies included "Midnight in Paris", "Bridesmaids", "Hangover Part 2", "The Help", and "Source Code". They also had "Rocky Horror Picture Show" on Halloween, which was fun. Speaking of Halloween, they had lots of decorations and most of the bar, restaurant, and entertainment crew were dressed up, along with quite a lot of the passengers - some great costumes! There was a big Halloween party at Club Fusion.

Here is a link to the Patters from this cruise for more details on the daily events, lectures, movies, shows etc. Sorry for the poor quality!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/peters_travels/sets/72157628163956099/

ITINERARY:
This itinerary attracted me since it allowed you to see Samoa and French Polynesia without a long flight. Before this cruise, I'd only been to Oahu so it was nice to see the other islands in Hawaii - I would definitely go back to Kauai and the Big Island. Samoa had beautiful little villages and very friendly people. French Polynesia had stunning scenery and great swimming and snorkeling in the lagoons. Overall, my favorite stops were Moorea, Bora Bora, Samoa, and American Samoa. This cruise was in October/November, which is just the beginning of the rainy season in both Hawaii and in Samoa/French Polynesia. We had very good weather - lots of sunshine, but generally some clouds around as well. There were a few rainshowers, but mostly in the mountains and not at the beaches. Temperatures were around 28 degrees (low 80s F), and there was usually a cooling breeze.

Here's a link to some photos from the cruise:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/peters_travels/sets/72157628177832457/

This cruise also had a lot of sea days - 18 days out of 28, including 8 in a row coming back from Tahiti to Los Angeles. I used to try and always book port-intensive cruises, but I'm finding I enjoy sea days more and more. They are so relaxing, and I love to read, walk around the deck, swim, and of course eat! I actually enjoyed the longer stretches of sea days (two stretches of 4 days and the long stretch of 8 days at the end) since it really allowed you to get into a very relaxed mode, with no worries about having to get off the ship early the next day to see a port. Don't get me wrong - I still love port days, and the ports on this cruise were great - but there was still a sense of relief as we sailed out of Tahiti knowing that there was nothing to do but relax for the next 8 days. Everyone on the ship seemed much more relaxed during that last week!

DISEMBARKATION:
Since we didn't have too much luggage, we did the self walk-off option. We got off the ship just before 8 am, and with very few people at customs, we were through and out by the taxi stand in about 10 minutes. Less


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Cabin review: Sapphire Princess Interior Double Caribe B733

Very convenient location, near buffet, Terrace Pool, and laundromat. Very quiet.

Port and Shore Excursions


Bora Bora, French Polynesia (9 am to 10 pm) - It was nice having a later arrival at Bora Bora, so we could go out on deck at 8 am and watch as we sailed into the stunningly beautiful lagoon - don't miss it! This was another tender port, but once again the tender process went very smoothly and there was little or no wait for boats. The tenders go into Vaitape on the west side of the island. On cruise ship days, they have a shuttle bus running between Vaitape and Matira Beach for $5 each way. Matira Beach is the best beach on the island, with white sand and warm, still, turquoise water. There is a big beachfront pavilion for shade, as well as the requisite palm trees. There are also showers and change rooms, as well as some beachfront snack bars. After some swimming and snorkeling, we walked around the waterfront to the famous Bloody Mary's restaurant. It's a very pleasant walk past beaches, tropical gardens, and houses. It's probably about 1-2 km and takes about 15-20 minutes to walk. There's a narrow dock across the road from Bloody Mary's with a fantastic view across the bay the peaks of Bora Bora, so it's worth stopping here even if you don't go to Bloody Mary's. The shuttle back to the ship also stops here, so it was easy to get back. We had a look around Vaitape before going back to the ship - it's not a bad little place with a few shops and restaurants, and a couple of cute little churches. As we were heading back to the ship on the tender, an almost full moon rose above the peaks - beautiful!

(4)
Big Island (7 am to 5 pm) - We rented a car here, and it was a very convenient and reasonable way for our group of 4 to sightsee. The rental car shuttles take you from the port to the rental car location by the airport. First we drove to Volcanoes National Park (45 min. drive). There are some great viewpoints along Crater Rim Drive of the Kilauea Volcano and the steam vents. Part of Crater Rim Drive was closed, so we went the other way to walk through the lava tubes - really cool. We went to the lookout for the Kilauea Iki Crater and decided to hike down to the bottom to walk on the lava. The hike wasn't as arduous as we thought it would be, and well worth it to see the surreal landscape down there. The whole hike took less than 90 minutes round trip. After that, we drove back towards Hilo, then out to Akaka Falls (less than 30 min. drive from Hilo). This side of the island is very lush and the loop trail at Akaka Falls goes by an amazing assortment of tropical plants. The falls themselves are also very pretty. On the way to or from Akaka Falls, you go through the old mill town of Honomu, which is worth a stop. We also had a quick look around Hilo. I wish we'd had a bit more time because it looked like a nice little town, and not too touristy.
Read 271 Hilo Reviews

Oahu (7 am to 11 pm) - we docked beside the Aloha Tower in downtown Honolulu. We've been to Honolulu several times before, so we decided to just have a beach day in Waikiki. We took the city bus. The route B CityExpress bus is the fastest route to Waikiki. It runs every 15 minutes along King St and costs $2.50. You can get it going back on Kuhio. If you have time, stay for the free outdoor hula show by Kuhio Beach at 6:30 pm - I thought it was much more atmospheric than seeing the hula show on the ship!
Read 264 Honolulu Reviews

Nawiliwili(7 am to 4 pm) - We rented a car, and again there was a free shuttle from the port to the rental car location. We drove to Waimea, then up Waimea Canyon Drive to Waimea Canyon and Kokee State Park. The scenery is amazing! There are some great viewpoints along the way: be sure to stop at the Waimea Canyon lookout, Pu'u Hinahina lookout (another different view of Waimea Canyon), the Kalalau lookout (great view towards the Napali Coast), and go all the way to the end of the road to the Pu'u o Kila lookout (an even better view towards the Napali Coast). We stopped at Jo Jo's in Waimea for shave ice, since it was recommended. Don't do it - it was very disappointing!
Read 237 Kauai Reviews

(3)
Lahaina(8 am to 6 pm) - This was a tender port. We thought that with all the Elites on board there things might be slow for us lowly Platinums, but it was relatively quick. We got our tender tickets at 9 am and within 30 minutes we were on the tender. Although pretty touristy, Lahaina is a pretty little town and worth some time to explore. If you do, try the shave ice at Ululani's on Front Street - it was the best we had on this trip - so smooth and delicious! We took the Maui transit bus to Ka'anapali Beach. You can catch the bus at the back side of the Wharf Cinema Center. The #25-Ka'anapali Islander bus leaves every hour on the 0:30 and goes to Whaler's Village at Ka'anapali Beach. It costs $1 and takes about 25 minutes. The beach at Ka'anapali is nice. There's not much shade, so we rented an umbrella for $15. Snorkelling is not bad at the far right side of the beach (Black Rock). We saw a sea turtle there.
Read 265 Maui Reviews

(5.5)
Moorea, French Polynesia (8 am to 5 pm) - We were greeted with more stunning scenery as we sailed into Oponohu Bay, with the sharp peaks of Mt. Rotui rising behind. We rented a small car here. It was more expensive to rent here than in Hawaii, but it was still a great way for our group of 4 to see around the island. We had reserved in advance, so they had the car waiting for us right where the tender came in. The first thing we did was to drive along Oponohu Bay and up to the Belvedere Lookout. It's located in the center of the island and there's a great 360 degree view over Oponohu and Cook's Bay and all the jagged green mountains. After that, we drove back down to the coast and continued around Oponohu and Cook's Bay. We stopped at Plage Temae - a nice white sand beach - for some swimming. It was a bit windier and cooler than the day before in Bora Bora, but still nice. Afterwards, we drove up to the Toatea Overlook, which has a great view over Temae Beach and the overwater bungalows of the Sofitel Hotel. It's definitely worth a stop - the turquoise of the water near the beach is stunning! The ship left at 5 pm, so it was a beautiful sailaway as we sailed by Oponohu Bay and Cook's Bay as the sun began to set. It's a short 2-hour sail to Tahiti, so we stayed out on deck for the whole trip - there was a beautiful sunset over Moorea as it receded in the distance and we approached Tahiti.
Read 55 Moorea Reviews

American Samoa (10 am to 7 pm) - Pago Pago has a beautiful deep harbor surrounded by green forested mountains. We hired a taxi at the port and asked to go to Alega Beach, which is where Tisa's Barefoot Bar is located. The taxi was $20 for 4 of us and it was a pleasant 30 minute drive around the harbor and along the rugged south coast of the island. When we got to the beach, we realized that the driver had actually dropped us off at the adjacent Avaio Beach, but we decided just to stay there. This beach is run by a very friendly family. For $2 each, we had use of shaded tables and chairs, showers, and changing facilities. The beach is nice here and the water is amazingly warm and clear. Unfortunately, it was a little shallow for swimming and snorkelling, though we still did go into the water. Due to the shallow water, it was difficult to swim over the reef, but you could swim along the edges and there were many beautiful fish and corals. Afterwards, we went back to Pago Pago and had a walk around. The town is quite pretty, with several wooden churches and old buildings. The people were also very friendly. If you turn left as you get off the ship and walk for about 10 minutes you will come to Utelei Beach Park, which has a nice calm beach, shade, and facilities. Lots of the ship's crew and passengers were swimming here. On the way back to the ship we noticed hundreds of flying foxes (large bats) up in the trees across from where the ship docks. Later in the evening when we were back on board the ship we could see them flying around - pretty cool. Apia, Samoa (7 am to 4 pm) - We had arranged a tour in advance with Polynesian Xplorer. Our driver and guide picked us up by the ship at 8:30. We drove along the northeast coast of the island past many beautiful little villages. Most of the houses (falas) are open-air, with just a thatched roof, so people really live out in the open. The houses had beautiful well-tended gardens, and there were many people out working in their yards. Our guide said they have a contest for the cleanest and most well-kept village. There are also many, many churches in Samoa, a legacy of the missionaries. I would have liked to have more time to stop and spend some time in one of these pretty little villages. We went up through the mountains at Le Mafa pass, but it started to rain at this point so we couldn't see much. After about 2 hours of driving we arrived at Lalomanu Beach - a very picturesque South Pacific beach with rows of beach falas. We had a nice swim in the warm, calm water, then continued on our way. We went back along the South Coast past more villages then the Cross Island Road back to Apia.

Papeete, French Polynesia(7 pm to 5 pm) - We arrived at Papeete at 7 pm, a little ahead of schedule. The ship docked right in the main harbor adjacent to downtown. There is a park right beside where the ship docks where they set up numerous roulottes (food trucks) each evening. It's very popular with locals and tourists, and it's a great scene for hanging out and people watching in the evening. The next morning was beautiful and sunny (the clearest day we had on the whole cruise). We first went to the Public Market, which is in a large building a block or two back from where the ship docks. There were lots of colorful tropical fruits and vegetables and interesting fish for sale, as well as handicrafts and souvenirs. We went first thing in the morning, before breakfast, since public markets are often at their liveliest early in the morning. However, we went back to the market later in the day and it was just as lively and interesting then, so no need for an early start if you don't want to! After all the touring on the other islands, we decided just to spend the day exploring Papeete by foot. The waterfront is very nice, lined with walkways and parks, including an area where hundreds of brightly colored canoes are stored on the beach. We walked down as far as the pink Paofai church - the main Protestant church in Papeete. Nearby is the Pearl Museum, which is free and has some interesting displays - the AC is also a nice break from the heat! Bouganville Park, near the central waterfront, is also a nice place to rest in the shade of the trees by the fish ponds. Inland from the park, there are several important buildings, including the Presidential Palace and the Papeete Cathedral. We also walked up a couple of the hills behind the downtown area to some nice leafy residential areas with views over downtown and the harbor.

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