The focus, entertainment-wise, on Sapphire is truly on destination-related enrichment. The core piece of the puzzle is Tauck's complimentary tour program, which is operated every day the ship is in port. Options are interesting and varied -- with a lot of special touches. In Arbanassi, Bulgaria, a walk-through of a small church was "interrupted" by an Orthodox choir, four voices that filled the space with haunting chant-like music that transported me back to the 1500's when the oldest part of the structure was built. Upon arriving in Solt, Hungary, we were transported to a local equestrian center not by motor coach (though we'd see plenty during the week), but by a horse-drawn carriages.
A "Discovery Briefing" occurs each night in the main lounge during cocktails and before dinner, during which one of three Tauck tour directors onboard discusses the next day's tour. In essence they offer a taste of what to expect and information on what time to congregate in the lounge. "Briefing" could be synonymous with "boring," but the directors all have strong ties to the places we visited (one born in Romania, another married to a Bulgarian), so the information is solid -- and the enthusiasm was real. After Dominic went off on a tangent about the beautiful women in Bulgaria, many wives gave the evil eye to their grinning spouses! Some mornings, a local guide would board the ship prior to our going ashore to give a lecture on the region and offer insight on some of the places we'd be visiting. Fascinating was comparing the strong political and philosophical views of lecturers in Croatia and then in Serbia, countries that were so recently at war and that we visited back to back.
The tours themselves are operated with precision -- organized and on time, every time. Each morning in the lounge, passengers are divided into three groups of about 30 each for tours. Guides utilize the Quietvox wireless audio system on walking tours; they speak into a transmitter, and the sound is picked up by each person's individual receiver and earphone. Which group you end up with depends on what color Quietvox you pick up. This system makes it easy for groups of friends who want to be in the same group -- just grab several of the same color Quietvox receiver boxes, and you're set. It was also fun to switch colors (yellow one day, blue the next) and travel with different people throughout the voyage.
The experience can vary day to day based on which local guide you end up with, and there's no way of really knowing ahead of time. For example, I got lucky and ended up in the red Quietvox group in Vukovar, Croatia, headed up by the same riveting young woman who'd also given that morning's lecture onboard. However, some of the other groups ended up hearing some repeat information as their guides hadn't been present for, and certainly hadn't delivered, the lecture.
In the evenings, as mentioned, there is piano entertainment provided in the main lounge (and the occasional liquor-induced passenger crooning). The ship also hosts folkloric performances in port by local musicians and dance troupes. By the time we reached our final destination in Romania, the songs were starting to sound the same, but I could certainly appreciate the talents of the mostly young people foot-stomping and pan-fluting their hearts out.