The two-story Princess Theater seats 705. In 2018, a new 270-panel LED wall was installed, which is used in select production shows and by guest entertainers. It can be used to display still images, video and live feeds.
The other 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.
The Deck 7 Explorers Lounge often serves as a secondary theater for comedians or a live band.
Princess' daytime 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.
In addition to these offerings, there are regular wine-tasting sessions (Princess places a strong emphasis on wine), which vary in price. You can go for the $9.50 session, which features popular wines; or the $25 session, which features premium wines and canapes for food and wine pairing.
You'll also find film screenings on the pool deck with Princess' signature feature Movies Under the Stars. At night, complimentary popcorn is served.
There is also trivia, sports tournaments such as golf and table tennis and even a Wii challenge with the entertainment crew.
The ship is full of live music. The hub is the Piazza, where you'll hear various classical musical recitals throughout the day and then up-tempo dance tunes in the evening.
You'll also find live music in the Wheelhouse Bar, Crooners Lounge and Explorers Lounge.
Karaoke is a staple onboard, whether that's karaoke roulette or Princess Pop Star or Welcome Aboard Karaoke, all of which take place in Club Fusion.
On embarkation day, there is always a sail-away party on the Pool Deck (weather permitting) with a live band and dancing. The Captains Welcome Aboard Party -- complete with a Champagne waterfall -- takes place in the Piazza.
Princess Signature Movies Under the Stars takes place (weather permitting) most nights.
There are also various game show-type events such as Musical Charades or Majority Rules Gameshow in the Explorers Lounge most evenings.
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 3 percent surcharge for this.
Vines (Deck 5): This elegant, wood-paneled venue is part of The Piazza and serves more than 30 wines by the glass alongside a selection of sushi and other small plate options (wine for fee, tapas free). Sapphire also has a "wine blending" experience (not to be confused with wine tasting, which is also available), which takes place in here. This involves blending four (or three if you choose the non-premium varietals) wines to find the perfect mix. The wines are from the Silverado Vineyards in Monterey, California, offering a nod to Princess' West Coast heritage. The 45-minute session is led by an experienced sommelier. The wines are a cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, a merlot and a Malbec for the full experience, which is $37. Take away the cab sauv and it drops to $15 per person. You learn a lot about the heritage of the wines and, of course, what your palate prefers, and it's a lot of fun to sniff, swirl and experiment to find your perfect blend.
Bar Piazza (Deck 5): One of a number of bars in the Piazza, this has plenty of window-side seating and is a great place for a coffee and a read (or even a nap) during the day, while at night it's the perfect spot to grab a pre-dinner drink and enjoy the live music in the Piazza on your way to dinner.
Wake View Bar (Deck 6): The Wake View Bar is hidden deep within the ship on the Fiesta Deck and is only accessible via the spiral staircase at the back of Club Fusion one deck up. This is a 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. At night, though you can't escape the music from Club Fusion, it's far less hectic than upstairs.
Churchill Lounge (Deck 6): Sports fans and cigar enthusiasts should scoot down to Churchill 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 (Deck 7): Club Fusion serves as a dance club and features a nice-sized dance floor and 42 high-definition video screens, which gives it the high-tech feel of a big-city hangout.
Explorers Lounge (Deck 7): Explorers Lounge, with decor inspired by 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.
Crooners Bar (Deck 7): This spot is situated at the top of the Atrium, looking down on the Piazza and serves a wide selection of cocktails. It's a space, rather than a room, and quite a small one at that but there's a pleasant after-dinner atmosphere, helped along by live piano and vocals.
Wheelhouse Bar (Deck 7): 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.)
Outrigger Bar (Deck 14): This is a fine spot overlooking the aft pool, which makes it a perfect place to watch the sunset and the wake of the ship. What we particularly liked were the number of tables, which are ranged around and look down on the aft pool.
Calypso Bar (Deck 14): This bar is part of the ship's covered Conservatory, which also includes the Calypso Reef and Pool. The entire space is covered by a magrodome roof.
Mermaid's Tail Bar (Deck 14): This is the main pool deck bar, serving Neptune's Reef & Pool.
Tradewinds Bar (Deck 15): This bar overlooks the main pool deck and serves wine, beer and cocktails.
Oasis Bar (Deck 16): A small bar serving sunbathers and the hot tub users at the aft of the ship.
Skywalkers Nightclub (Decks 17 & 18): The ship's most stunning public area is Skywalkers lounge located high up on the Sky Deck; a spot we think should get the vote for the best positioned nightclub/lounge on a cruise ship. A Princess staple, the Skywalkers' 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 -- we loved the brass table lamps with miniature moon-shaped cutouts.
After hours, Skywalkers' becomes a hopping club scene, but also works as a quiet place for a cocktail-with-a-view before supper.
Princess has a plethora of pools -- four in total (excluding a kids-only splash pool). Neptune's Reef & Pool, a spacious open-air area with colorful mosaics and lots of space for tanning, fills the ship's full-size outdoor pool requirement; the indoor Calypso Reef & Pool, covered by a retractable crystal magrodome, is decorated in a coral reef motif and the whole area is known as The Conservatory. Neptune's and Calypso Reef are located on the Lido Deck (14).
Elsewhere, you'll find the out-of-the-way Terrace Pool at the aft end of the ship on the Aloha Deck just below, and our favorite, an adults-only pool just below The Sanctuary on Deck 15. It looks as if it's part of The Sanctuary or Lotus Spa, but it's not; it's open to all.
The Sports Court is about as high as it can be on the ship -- on top of Skywalkers Lounge, which is effectively Deck 19. Here you'll find a basketball court, which is also used for soccer.
There is also a lovely secluded Lawn Court midship, above the Neptune Pool. Just climb a flight of stairs and find yourself in a bowl, with a grass lawn in between with a little shop for borrowing equipment. It's a nine-hole golf course primarily, but can also be used for croquet and bocce.
The best sun deck on Sapphire Princess is on Deck 16 aft. Not only will you find lots of space to relax, you've also got two hot tubs -- and a bar, almost like your own private sanctuary. If you really want to get away from everyone, and snag a great view, climb the steep stairs to the Sports Court on top of Skywalkers, and you'll find another sun deck. At the other end of the ship you'll find more sunbathing around and just above the adults-only pool, on Deck 16.
Sapphire also has Princess' signature, adults-only Sanctuary (Deck 16). The front-of-the-ship space features lots of thickly cushioned loungers, massage cabanas, signature beverages, complimentary light meals and on-call stewards. Enjoying the area comes at a price: It's $20 for half a day and $40 for a full day, plus there's a $3 service fee for dining orders. There's also a per-cruise price that varies.
The heart of Sapphire Princess is its Piazza on Deck 5, the aforementioned Italian-style atrium. The bustling, three-deck-high space is a combination bakery, wine/sushi/tapas bar, pizzeria and performance venue. You'll find the guest services, shore excursion and Captain's Circle Loyalty and Future Cruise Sales areas on Deck 6, and an array of shops here and on Deck 7, including duty free, branded goods, essentials and some brand names such as Church handbags.
The Art Gallery is on Deck 5; one deck up is the library, a cozy reading room with a mediocre collection of fiction and nonfiction books and a number of comfy chairs.
The Internet Cafe is on Deck 7, sandwiched between Explorers Lounge and Sabatini's, and its huge size is likely a reflection of the ship's age. Even though most people have a handheld device nowadays, we found it surprisingly busy. Internet access costs 79 cents per minute if you pay as you go or you can buy a package: 100 minutes for $69; 200 minutes for $99; 400 minutes for $159 and 600 minutes for $199. Though pricy, the good news is it's fast and it's billed by usage not time, so you don't have to worry about logging out.
The Photo Gallery is just beyond here, and the Platinum Suite -- for professional photo shoots -- is up on Deck 16, forward.
There are self-service launderettes on every passenger deck.
The Lotus Spa is infused with Asian flavor, and perhaps one of the reasons the design is so well executed is that the ship was actually built in Japan. Camel and sage walls and chairs induce immediate relaxation; tall exotic plants and heavy black doors framing opaque glass transport you to the Far East. Another nice touch? Spa staffers wear black kimono-style frocks accented by big, bright flowers, designed exclusively for Princess by L.A. fashion maven Sue Wong. The Lotus Spa had a refresh in 2018 ahead of the ship's European sojourn.
There are 16 treatment rooms in total, and treatments include a wide range of massages and facials, priced from relatively affordable to quite expensive (a 24-karat Gold Facial is $325 for 90 minutes). There are also lots of special offers, especially on port days, and discounts when you book three treatments at the same time.
As well as the treatment rooms, you'll also find a Thermal Suite with two steam rooms, a sauna and heated tile loungers. Entrance to the Thermal Suite costs $99 per person, per week or $179 per couple, or $20 for a day. But worth noting, if you don't want to pay is that both changing rooms feature a small steam room for free.
Sapphire has a high-tech fitness center with 35 cardio machines, 17 weight-training stations and 12 spinning cycles. There are plenty of for-fee classes, including Boot Camp (course of four for $120), personal training ($85 per hour) and Pilates ($12 per hour). There are also free classes early in the morning, as well as feet and posture seminars.
There is a jogging track on Deck 7; 2.5 times around is a mile.
Princess is not necessarily the first cruise line that springs to mind when you think of a family line, however, the family offerings on Sapphire Princess are outstanding. As well as family meals, interconnecting cabins, a port-day drop off at the kids' club and family activities such as family discos, the kids' club spaces saw a complete overhaul during the 2018 refurbishment.
Boasting a new name -- Camp Discovery -- the club is a result of the line's partnership with Discovery Communications (which includes the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet and Discovery for Kids), and provides enhanced entertainment with a bit of education thrown in for good measure.
Sapphire Princess' kids' programs are divided by age group starting with the under-3s and going up to 12-year-olds (teens have a separate program, see below). There are two rooms -- one for the 3- to 7-year-olds and one for the 8- to 12-year-old crowd. Under-3s are welcome, but only if accompanied by an adult.
A few additional things to note -- the facility is high up on Deck 15 and so is flooded with natural light. Also a huge plus -- it has an outdoor play area and even a splash pool, an increasing rarity on new-build ships. There is a welcome event on the first day of the cruise where you can register your child and they will be issued with a muster station wristband. Kids need to be potty-trained to use water play areas and pools and attend drop-off kids programming.
The Tree House is for the 3- to 7-year-olds (and under-3s, if a parent is present). This huge, multifunctional space is brightly decorated and has a host of features including a climbing frame, a soft play area and even a mini-theater. There are plenty of tables and chairs and one whole wall fitted with monitors for gaming. There are also plenty of books and arts and crafts. Two doors lead to outdoor areas: one to a small splash pool and on the other side to a play area with a slide and hoops. Typical activities offered might be learning magic tricks, dressing up, a disco, drawing, coloring and themed afternoons connected with Animal Planet.
All 3- to 7-year-olds must be signed in and out of the program by a parent or guardian.
The Lodge is for kids aged 8- to 12-years-old, who can sign themselves in and out with prior permission from a parent or guardian. It has plenty of floor-to-ceiling glass windows and features a circular dance-floor-type space and a circle of interconnecting chairs, as well as more seats against the wall and windows, foosball and air hockey. There are also plenty of monitors for video games, a small library and arts and crafts on offer. Activities are more sports oriented, and although they don't have direct access to the outdoor spaces, they can use them. Games might include giant Connect Four, bingo, trivia and design challenges.
Kids' facilities are open on sea days from 9 a.m. to noon, 1 to 5 p.m. and then again from 6 to 10 p.m. In port, hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 6 to 10 p.m. When the ship is in port, kids are served lunch.
Kid-friendly activities take place elsewhere on the ship, too, including a "Wizard of Oz" sing-along one afternoon in Club Fusion.
Group kid-sitting (for kids ages 3 to 12) is available for $5 per hour from 10 p.m. through 1 a.m. Pre-booking is required, and private babysitting is not available. The minimum sail age is 6 months.
The Beach House is for 13- to 17-year-olds and is a cool area adjacent to the younger kids' facility. The room is designed like a nightclub, with a circular dance floor and a bar, where teens can mix up free mocktails. There are plenty of seats and sofas for lounging around, as well as barstools, foosball and even a synthesizer for those who fancy playing some tunes. There is a huge TV and numerous monitors for gaming. Teens have light touch programming, which might include Scary Movie night, Rock the Boat Party, video game challenges, dance competitions and arts and crafts. They can also come and go as they please.
* May require additional fees