Sapphire Princess Dining

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Why Choose Sapphire Princess?

  • Pro: Exotic, port-intensive itineraries
  • Con: China touches make the ship feel foreign to U.S. passengers
  • Bottom Line: A good value with a variety of entertainment options

Sapphire Princess Dining

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On Sapphire Princess, passengers can opt for traditional evening dining or the cruise line's "Anytime" option. The former occurs in the International, which offers two seatings (same waiters, time and tablemates each evening) at 6 p.m. and at 8:15 p.m.

For those who want more flexible options, the "Anytime" restaurants include the Vivaldi (Italian décor), Pacific Moon (Asian), Savoy (steakhouse-like) and Santa Fe (more Tex-Mex in style than desert Southwest). All serve the same menu aside from one specialty offering that's geared to each eatery's theme (osso buoco, for instance, in Vivaldi and fajitas in Santa Fe). These, with the exception of Vivaldi, are open from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.

You can make reservations for these -- and if you're counting on a special table for a special night, we'd recommend them. Otherwise, waits aren't typically too bad even at prime time dining hours (restaurant style pagers are available to beep you when a table is ready); restaurant managers have a good sense of which dining rooms were busier than others and would frequently suggest alternatives if one eatery or another got backed up.

Breakfast and lunch are open seating and hosted at the International Dining Room. Breakfast, which features a standard menu with a daily specialty or two (typically the same choices available in the buffet, such as flavored pancakes or eggs Benedict), is served from 6:30 - 9 a.m. on port days and 7 - 9:30 a.m. on sea days. The lunch menu occasionally reflects Horizon Court options as well, is available from noon - 1:30 p.m. The International is not blessed with a plethora of two-tops, and headwaiters are apt to encourage passengers to join in at bigger tables, particularly during busy times but do try to make amends to passengers who want a quieter dining experience.

Afternoon tea -- complete with white gloved waiters serving scones, piping hot tea and petite sandwiches -- is offered at the International from 3:30 until 4:30 p.m.

The Horizon Court, on Deck 14 aft, is the ship's buffet venue (there are buffet stations on both sides), and it's open from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m., serving a mix of steam-table fare and cold sandwiches and salads.

Low-key dinner is available here, too; the menu frequently mirrors that of the dining rooms though no special effects are implemented, such as white linen tablecloths or waiter service. It's just a buffet.

The Piazza, added during the 2012 refurb, has a number of light bite options. The International Cafe serves fresh-baked breads and cookies, alongside time-appropriate small repasts, like Panini sandwiches, salads, bagels, muffins and pastries. There is no charge to eat here and it's open 24 hours. Also new is Alfredo's Pizzeria, which dishes out fresh-baked pizza from lunch to late evening. Vines, the wine and tapas bar, serves over 30 wines by the glass alongside a selection of sushi and other small plates options (wine for fee, tapas free).

Open only at dinner are two fee-extra alternative restaurants. Sabatini's Trattoria, for $25 per person, is located on Deck 7 midship and is the line's popular Italian option serving pasta, seafood and meats. Dinner begins with herbed focaccia grissini, rosemary flatbread with air-cured prosciutto, and marinated green and black olives. Then you choose an antipasti (soft shell crab over baby arugula), a pasta (vegetable papardelle), a secondi course (duck with fava beans and pancetta, or baked striped bass in a herbed salt crust) and a dessert (raspberry frangipane tart tiramisu). All in all, it's a delightful experience.

Sterling Steakhouse, a stand-alone concept on most Princess ships (typically called the Crown Grill), is set up each night in a corner of Sapphire's Horizon Court buffet. Its ambience is fairly unappealing (merely the addition of white linen tablecloths), and it comes with a $25 per person cover. The menu includes steaks and chops, along with steakhouse-type appetizers.

On Deck 14, adjacent to the Calypso Pool, is a grill that's open from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m.; you can get hot dogs, cheeseburgers, veggie burgers and chicken sandwiches (among other things), along with French fries. There's also the Prego pizza counter (Sapphire's second pizzerias) offering a selection that ranges from day to day. Sundaes ice cream bar offers ice cream and frozen yogurt sundaes from under $5. Create your own by selecting a flavor and toppings (like whole chocolate chip cookies and Caribbean rum cake), or order from the menu of concoctions.

Sapphire's Wheelhouse pub serves up a Brit pub lunch -- think bangers, fish and chips and the like -- on sea days. There is no additional cost to dine here. The obligatory pint of Murphy's, of course, is extra.

Room service is available, and there's no extra fee, but the menu is limited. For breakfast, look for Continental fare (pastries, cereal and coffee, for instance); otherwise, you can order a handful of sandwiches and salads (under "hot dishes" you are limited to soup and sandwiches). You can also order room service pizza -- that, involving in essence the delivery of a medium size pie, incurs a $3 charge that we're told was levied more to stop people from taking advantage of the option -- and then leaving the food untouched -- than anything else.

Select wines and champagnes are available for purchase via room service, as well as several liquor-and-mixer specials and six-for-five beer and/or wine packages. Canapes, and snacks are available for purchase to accompany your cocktails, from guacamole and chips to pate de foie gras.

And for a really special evening, try the Ultimate Balcony Dinner. You need a cabin with a verandah, of course. The $100 per-couple charge includes a four course meal, a half bottle of sparkling wine, a pre-dinner cocktail and a photo portrait. The Champange Brunch is another option. For $32 per person, a waiter comes, sets up the table, and presents several covered plates with quiche, fresh fruit and lots of (way too many of) pastries. As the name indicates, you also get a split of Champagne.

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