Sapphire Princess November 26-December 10th
Embarkation went smoothly especially since we were able to get priority embarkation due to staying in a suite.
Muster drill - Sitting in one of the lounges is much better than having to stand outside at our lifeboat station in the elements. Also, in the lounge, we could actually see how to put on our life vests.
We got to the suite, and William, our cabin steward, explained the suite perks. He also told us he had put three egg crates on our bed.. While it made our bed better a little than our last cruise on the Diamond, we still had some issues with the bed. We both had progressively sorer backs as the cruise progressed. I noticed the mattress was on a frame, no box spring And both of us had to visit the doctor upon our return home. This will affect the number of future cruises we take with Princess. If the bed gives us problems in a suite, then this is simply a weakness of the cruiseline.
Royal Caribbean has a joiner they use when making a queen out of two twins, but Princess does not. So, there was a valley in the middle of our bed. Somehow, the husband and I kept sliding toward that valley each night.
We learned that the Canopes would need to be ordered before 9 am each morning, and we also had to make a point of ordering the afternoon tea from room service. However they did allow us to put a standing order. We got the tea but nothing else. I probably could have asked for scones, but never got around to it, because we would have wanted only two scones, and we feared we'd have a huge basket of them. Our minibar set up did allow for some swapping out of items. We exchanged most of our liquor for Dos XX. Unfortunately, they would not let us exchange the liquor for wine.
We noticed some rust on the balcony, and I filled out one of the "Let Us Know" forms. Within a few hours, they contacted us. And they had cleaned up most of the rust within 24 hours. I say most of the rust, because they missed one support column.
Separate massaging bathtub and shower! We liked the separate bathtub, but would have felt safer if they had installed more grab bars. While the one near the back worked fine for getting in and out of the deep tub. I would have liked something to grab onto in the middle as well.
We loved the upgraded toiletries, and we also loved the flowers. Mid-cruise, we got a replacement flower arrangement!
We couldn't tell any difference between the enhanced turndown on formal nights, and the turndown on the rest of our nights.
The private photo sitting, didn't happen, because we were told the Sapphire didn't have a private studio. But we could use the photo booths spread through the three decks.
Another suite perk was laundry service. We ended up washing in the sink a few times, because each laundry bag took two days to return to us. On the last day of the cruise, we still hadn't gotten our laundry back until we returned from dinner. Keep in mind, we were supposed to leave our luggage out BEFORE dinner.
Antibacterial Gel stations were only on deck 14. And no staff was there to remind the passengers to use it.
Sabotini's, a suite perk, was wonderful for breakfast! We got personal service. They also remembered our standing order. The french toast was beyond excellent! We also got Cappuccino or brewed coffee. My husband really liked the Bercher Muisli, and I ordered a Bacon, Tomato and Egg sandwich (no lettace) which was also wonderful. It was great not to have to compete with all the other cruisers.
The International Dining Room
Very slow. So slow, we missed our 1 PM lectures. They waited until our table filled before taking our order. So, after two tries, we stopped using them. That was very unusual for us, because we always use the international dining room for lunch when it's available.
The Vivaldi Dining Room
Slow service! We were served last each night. Nearby, there was a table for two, and each night they got their main course around the time we got our menus.
The food gave us upset stomachs the first few days, but after we stopped ordering the chilled soups, we started feeling better. Used almost a whole roll of Tums, unusual for us. All the meat was undercooked. Order it Medium, get it Rare or Medium Rare. I don't remember that problem on the Diamond Princess last August. One of the fish appetizers was actually raw, despite the warnings on Deck 14 about raw fish being unhealthy.
On our anniversary, they sang "Happy Anniverary" to us, and presented us with a "Happy Retirement Card." We did get a "Happy Anniversary" card and a spa coupon in our suite too.
The Horizon Court
Very crowded. Especially embarkation day and disembarkation day. It seemed to me, the Horizon was still packed when they announced muster drill. My husband was so freaked out by the long lines, that he refused to use the Horizon Court for several days. Those clusters of food islands didn't work well. Add to that we consistently had trouble finding a table. Most times, we headed for the pizza and hamburger stations.
Trident Grill and Pizza Station - Excellent!
Coffee Card - I had won a coffee card in the twitter contest, and presented it to the dining room the first night. They said only the international coffee bar on Deck 5 was accepting it. When I presented it for my brewed coffee, they refused to honor it for the unlimited brewed coffee. I'd never used the coffee card before. I could order one of their specialty coffees in their menu, for a punch. I learned later, that if I had actually purchased the card from them, they would have honored the unlimited coffee/tea/cocoa for that cruise only. Refusing to honor the brewed coffee, makes card a lot less valuable to me. At the cost of the cruise in general good coffee should be included, not an extra expense. The coffee in the morning was much better than the swill they served at dinner time.
Photo Shop: I liked the fact they had a Nikon d3100 body and lens on sale. If something happened to either my body or lens, I could pick up a replacement with no hassle. I also noticed an xD card on display for my Olympus point and shoot.
I hope they recycle their photos, because over the course of 14 days, they printed thousands, probably tens of thousands of photos. They had so many pictures, that toward the end they put some of them in these plastic boxes for us to look through. Fingering through a stack eight inches high of photos horrified me about the waste. We purchase a few shots, and the rest were placed on a growing pile of rejects.
The Spa: We rode the recumbent bikes on sea days. There are only two recumbent bikes, half the number on Voyager of the Seas. Both were out of adjustment, and very hard to pedal. I complained to the staff on the way out to Hawaii, and found them much better on the trip back to L.A.
The Internet: We got unlimited free internet with our suite, and I'm glad we had it. Because the unreliability of the internet combined with worrying over the minutes ticking down would have really bothered me. We found the internet connection poor, in fact many times it seemed to me to be slower than dial-up. Also, on the last night when we really needed the internet to be up, to print our boarding passes, and the printer was down due to "server issue." We found the woman that worked the desk in the internet cafÃ©, defensive and opinionated almost to the point of rudeness. That last night, she was at her desk making excuses instead of fixing the problem. Our Kindle Wifi only worked once in our suite, e733.
This is where the cruise really was the best! Dave, our cruise director had lots of lectures heading out to Hawaii explaining the different islands. He also set up lei, ukelele classes and more! He's the best cruise director in 11 cruises! With most cruises, I'm lucky if I know who the cruise director is! They even had a couple of knitters/crocheters get togethers.
Didn't care for having to leave the luggage out before dinner. On other cruise lines, we had until 11 pm to finish packing. We had received a letter stating that we could use the Platinum/Elite/Suite lounge, but it was crowded. Several people commented that no one was checking cruise cards. I suspect there may have been a some party crashers. Coffee, juice and danish seemed to last at least until our luggage tag was called! Waiters removed dirty dishes regularly while we waited to disembark. We prefer the way RCI does disembarkation, because they have us remain in our staterooms until 15 minutes prior to our luggage tag getting called. This didn't seem much of a hardship to the cabin stewards, because they started with the cabins that were vacated first.
The Shore Excursions:
Hawaii - The Culinary Tour - This was a progressive brunch in three different homes. We were told to remove our shoes before stepping into the houses. No big deal for me, since I often go barefoot at home. They provided benches to aid with removing shoes. The food was a delight! Wish they had given out recipes. Interesting stories about Chef Ann's history. Octupuses in the washer, and cooking for the Kennedys.
O'ahu - Arizona and WWII military bases. Lots of history! We had some excellent lectures in the van from site to site. Didn't understand why we could take photos of the military base from the public road, but not one we got on the base. Think at least one of the guides was retired military. Guides were wonderful about taking pictures of us! Buffet dinner on one of the bases.
Kaui'i - Hollywood and Waterfalls, only about 15 minutes at each photo stop. But we knew that when we signed up. Lots of scenic vistas. The guide seemed pretty gushy, and that put off my husband. We went to a falling down resort called Coco Palms. Had to sign a waiver before entering. Larry Riviera, the musician on the 1970s Fantasy Island was there to perform & sale DVDs. Loved the timing of the film clips and the actual sites. The clip of the giant crocodile attacking a bus filmed in the not so ruined Coco Palms resort, worked out well since it came on the screen just as we turned into the same spot! Great Hamburgers for lunch!
Maui - Haleakala, Goat Ranch, Lavender Farm & Winery. Haleakala and the Goat Ranch were wonderful. Loved the cheese! We saw Mesquite Trees on Maui that actually looked like trees rather than bushes like they do in West Texas. The guides must have known there were Texans on this tour. The Lavender Farm was off season. We were informed a couple of days ahead of time about a change in itinerary regarding the Pineapple Winery. Winery didn't happen due to double booking, and worries about getting back to the ship in time. Instead they went to a tourist trap, with expensive stores. However, the glass blower was interesting! To me, the tourist trap and the winery weren't an even exchange. I filled out a "Let us Know," and was contacted by the excursion representative on board. They didn't compensate us, but did tell us they would pass our comments up to corporate. We learned that the winery doesn't charge for the tour and tasting, they hope to make it up on sales. It would have been nice for the guides to pick up a bottle of wine to serve at lunch with a brochure and order forms. Still, these guides were wonderful, and they offered to take our picture a couple of times.