Princess' day-time entertainment offerings emanate from its Scholarship@Sea program, which features a range of activities, from lecturers on various topics such as marine life, magic and history to more hands-on tutelage on computer skills, photography techniques and scrapbooking.
The ship's ceramics studio offers a fantastic creative outlet on sea days; starting at $15, you can paint bowls, plates, picture frames and the like, and staff members will fire them up in the onboard kiln. (Don't get too carried away, you still have to transport the pieces home.)
The Piazza, added in early 2012, is another wonderful daytime (and nighttime) space. The venue features circus-style performers like acrobats and jugglers.
One of the ship's most stunning public areas is Skywalker's Disco & Observation Lounge high up on the Sky Deck. Though already a Princess staple, Skywalker's on Sapphire Princess actually hangs over the aft end of the ship, so that its 125-foot balcony and dramatic floor-to-ceiling windows offer fantastic, unobstructed panoramas both day and night. (When you can, observe the ship's wake by moonlight.) The decor is a nod to outer space with stars and swirls, but done with great style -- I loved the brass table lamps with miniature moon-shaped cutouts.
After hours, Skywalker's becomes a hopping club scene, but we preferred it as a quiet place for a cocktail-with-a-view before supper. Even more intimate (but less scenic) is the Wake View Bar, hidden deep within the ship on the Fiesta Deck. Hint: Access this space via the spiral staircase in Club Fusion on the Promenade Deck. This is a very quiet place during the day to have a cocktail and collect your thoughts, or even to do some reading, with no music and little chatter -- it was unusually empty during my sailing. At night, however, this neglect is understandable due to Wake View's nearness to the often-rambunctious Club Fusion crowd.
Princess' signature Wheelhouse Bar is another great place to meet, with friendly bar service, a cozy members-only-club atmosphere, and nautical art and history displayed throughout. It also has live jazzy music. (The scene -- and the dancing -- picks up a little later in the evening.) Sports fans and cigar enthusiasts should scoot down to Churchill's Lounge, a combination cigar lounge and sports bar. Though an odd pairing, this is the ideal place to view satellite broadcasts of various sporting events when available.
Club Fusion serves as a dance club, theater and game room. This lounge features 42 high-definition video screens, which gives it the high-tech feel of a big-city hangout. This space is truly multipurpose: A nice sized dance floor attracts nightlife lovers, and tabletop slot machines keep gamers entertained. Explorer's Lounge, with the feel of an African safari, is a cabaret-style lounge featuring singing and dancing acts, as well as occasional magicians and comedians. Snag a spot near the Tangier-inspired windows.
Princess' trademark shows, however, take place in the two-story Princess Theater, which seats 705. The most striking element here is a huge, black backdrop curtain laced with twinkling fiber optic lights -- very, very neat (and no doubt very expensive). Seats do indeed fill up, so be sure to arrive early; drink service is available and prompt. A warning: There aren't enough seats for everyone during popular events.
The Asian-themed Grand Casino is a marriage of Vegas glitz and Far East glamour, with images of gondolas on the earth-toned walls surrounding clanging slot machines and gaming tables. Chips may be charged to your cabin account, but be aware there is a three percent surcharge for this. Note: Grab a change bucket before you sit down, or else you'll have to carry your winnings to the counter in cupped hands; the buckets aren't scattered about the room conveniently, at least not by the last sea day.