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Home > Member Reviews > badgergran's Port Reviews of Los Angeles, Hilo, Honolulu, Kauai, Maui, Ensenada

badgergran's Port Reviews of Los Angeles, Hilo, Honolulu, Kauai, Maui, Ensenada
Sapphire Princess cruise in January 2011
Member Name: badgergran
Cruise Date: January 2011
Embarkation: Los Angeles
Destination: Hawaii
Member Review: badgergran's Sapphire Princess Review
Los Angeles
Port Rating: 3.0 out of 5+
We arrived in LA two days before sailing in case weather caused delays at our home airport, and arranged with the Karmel Shuttle Service, recommended by AAA, to transfer us from LAX to the Crowne Plaza San Pedro. We were very impressed by the shuttle service, which offers a discount to AAA members. You can book online at http://www.karmel.com or by phone, 888-995-7433, but I was told it is most economical to book online. We were instructed to call for pick-up after claiming our luggage, and the shuttle, an eight-passenger van, arrived within five to ten minutes. Our last name was posted on a sign on the front windshield, and the driver helped stow our luggage before departing for the hotel, which was less than 30 minutes away in early afternoon light traffic. We were quoted $45 total for two passengers, and we were each allowed two suitcases plus a carry-on.

We opted for a king non-smoking room at the Crowne Plaza, because the hotel offered shuttle service to the nearby LA Cruise Terminal. The bed was comfortable, and I enjoyed the lavender linen spray provided by the hotel. Our only complaint was lack of hot water in the shower on departure day. After check-in, we walked to the San Pedro Brewing Company, 331 W. 6th St., for a quick lunch. Service was a bit slow, but the food was good, as was their award-winning beer. While strolling afterwards, we picked up a bottle of wine at Off the Vine, 491 Sixth St., and the clerk took time to recommend local restaurants and area attractions. We decided to try the Whale and Ale, 327 W. 7th St., for dinner, and both enjoyed their fish and chips. We ate breakfast at the San Pedro Cafe, 605 S. Pacific Ave., both days. It was good diner food, nothing fancy, but relatively reasonably priced. Neither of us liked the dinner we ate in the hotel dining room, and would recommend going elsewhere to eat. If you're looking for a good cup of coffee or pastry, be sure to try Mishi's Strudel Bakery & Cafe, 309 W. 7th St.

Friday morning, we found a farmers' market several blocks from the hotel, and were told it is held weekly from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. In addition to produce, there were clothing and craft items for sale, as well as several food vendors. Afterwards, we decided to walk to Cabrillo Beach, which was much farther than we expected. We had looked at a tourism brochure and decided to take the green and the red waterfront cars operated by the Port of Los Angeles back to the hotel, but were surprised to learn that the green shuttle was no longer operating. It was a relief to reach a red car stop, and the $1.00 daily fare for unlimited daily rides is a bargain. Hours, fares, and stops can be found at http://www.portoflosangeles.org/recreation/waterfront_rcl.asp. Be sure to check out the Fanfare Fountains and Water Features link; we very much enjoyed the evening water shows. Note that service is limited to specific days, not daily.

We were surprised to see three lines for shuttles when checking out, one for a Norwegian ship, one for Cunard's Queen Elizabeth III, and one for the Sapphire. Hotel staff worked hard to accommodate everyone as quickly as possible, and we were at our berth in about an hour. Check-in lines at the pier were long, but moved quickly.



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Hilo
Port Rating: 4.0 out of 5+
We were sorry we did not sign up for an excursion to Volcanoes National Park before they filled up. They were available for several days after sailing, so it was due to our lack of planning. We rented a small pickup and drove to Akaka Falls, where we enjoyed a hike through the surrounding area. Afterwards, we decided to drive to Volcanoes National Park. We began with a hike through the Thurston Lava Tube, and then drove through a bit of the park. Crater Rim Drive was closed in the area we visited, and we were disappointed not to catch a glimpse of Kilauea. We had been warned that it could take quite a while to return the car and get back to the ship, so we headed back to port, stopping at a macadamia nut farm we saw along the way. While it was an enjoyable day, I think we would have seen more of the volcanoes if we would have taken a tour with a guide.


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Honolulu
Port Rating: 4.0 out of 5+
Here we opted for a motorcoach tour along the coast. The guide pointed out city landmarks, including Waikiki Beach, as we headed out of Honolulu, and provided a lot of background on both Honolulu and Oahu. We decided this was money well spent, because his commentary helped us to understand what we were seeing and learn a little bit about local customs.

After returning to the dock, we caught a free shuttle to Hilo Hattie's for a little souvenir shopping. While there, we noticed a counter that said they had boxes and postage for priority mail shipments. We'd brought several of these boxes from home, and intended to find a post office where we could send a box of dirty clothes home to make room for the souvenirs. After returning to the ship and packing the box, we were told we couldn't take it off of the ship without customs clearance, and their representatives wouldn't be onboard until early the next morning. The staff said there was a chance we might be able to take it off at the next port if we brought it to the desk when customs inspectors were there early the next morning, but we decided to rearrange our suitcases and carry everything home. I'm not sure why customs clearance was necessary when we hadn't yet visited a foreign port.

Several fellow passengers raved about luaus they'd enjoyed in the city, but I'm not sure where they ate. We dined onboard because hubby is a fussy eater.



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Kauai
Port Rating: 0.0 out of 5+
We took a short walk to shops near the dock before returning to the ship to catch the shuttle for a helicopter tour we'd booked. Although it was a bit cloudy, vision was good, and the views were spectacular. It was an expensive, but truly memorable experience, with each sight more breathtaking than the next. We flew near remote coastal areas, mountain peaks, and waterfalls, and the pilot pointed out several sites used to film movies, including "Jurassic Park" and "South Pacific". Each helicopter carried six passengers and a pilot, and seats were assigned according to weight. Passengers were asked to step on a scale when arriving in the office, but it was positioned so that only the person checking you in could read the weight. Cameras recorded the flight and copies were available for purchase, and passengers were cautioned that any comments they made would be included in the recording.



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Maui
Port Rating: 4.0 out of 5+
We docked in Lahaina, the only tender port on our itinerary. Here we had booked a whale-watching excursion, and departed towards the beginning of disembarkation. There was not much room for tenders to anchor and they had to await their turn, which wouldn't have been bad if the sea weren't rough. Although tenders were quickly loaded and launched to make room for the next one, we must have waited at least 30 to 45 minutes to reach the shore. This was a mistake on someone's part, because the roughness of the sea caused many of the tender passengers to demand that the tender head for shore immediately because they were going to be ill. After anchoring, we boarded the Maui Princess for two hours of whale watching, and were relieved when the sea became a bit calmer. Upper and lower decks were available for viewing, and we climbed to the upper deck, where three rows of tables and chairs ran the length of the ship. We were rewarded with many mother and baby whale sightings, and were fortunate to witness a fully-breaching adult whale. The experience was somewhat marred by all of the people rushing from side to side to take photographs and blocking the view of those in the middle and the other side.

Afterwards, my husband opted to return to the ship to watch the Super Bowl since our Packers were playing, but I spent some time strolling along the main street, which seemed to be a popular shopping destination. I was a little surprised the ship didn't offer both live coverage and a rebroadcast of the Super Bowl, because many passengers said they were torn between staying ashore and returning to the ship to watch the game.



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Ensenada
Port Rating: 3.0 out of 5+
I was pleasantly surprised by the cleanliness and friendliness of this city. Many passengers commented they were not planning to go ashore because of the violence experienced throughout Mexico. (When we first set sail from LA, we heard that cruise ships were taking Mazatlan off of their itineraries because of reported violence.) This was a short stop, and we took a shuttle several blocks from the port to the main shopping district. Shopkeepers were very friendly, many spoke good English, and I felt safe in this district, but husband refused to let me stroll alone because of other passengers' safety concerns. We picked up a few beautifully embroidered sundresses for our granddaughters while enjoying our last day of summer-like temperatures and returned to the ship.



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