1 Kaohsiung Family Cruise Reviews

Sapphire Princess remains a solid ship with attractive decor, great food and plenty of indoor space with a view, a big plus for Norwegian fjord cruises. The basics of this ship are solid, but the management during this Kaohsiung-based ... Read More
Sapphire Princess remains a solid ship with attractive decor, great food and plenty of indoor space with a view, a big plus for Norwegian fjord cruises. The basics of this ship are solid, but the management during this Kaohsiung-based voyage was a major letdown. It left us with a mixed bag experience. ▲Public rooms decor still great, rooms are showing age Most public spaces on Sapphire Princess feature timeless, elegant design. My favourite are Sante Fe and Pacific Moon MDRs, and the classy Wheelhouse lounge. Layout was easy to follow and the aft terrace offers spectacular view. Plenty of indoor space with a view, particularly useful for Norwegian itineraries. Staterooms are showing age with worn carpets and textile patterns from the 90s. The new Samsung TV offered plenty of TV/movie choices on an AVOD system (and an USB power outlet), but the system wasn’t stable as it went down three times during our 5-night cruise. Drainage in shower stall was slow in our room, causing a small flood one night. We liked the larger balcony that offered a wider ocean view. ▲▲We loved MDR food! Execution of most of our dishes were outstanding for both lunch and dinner. Clever use of inexperience ingredients to bring great flavours. An exception was the prime rib served on first day - it had an unnatural, ham-like texture. The few Chinese dishes we sampled were forgettable. US$3 Sangria wa as good deal. Service at MDRs and the 5/F Pizzeria could be inconsistent. Most waiting staff were friendly, attentive and warm. A couple of them were borderline rude. Spread of breakfast buffet at Horizon Court was repetitive - one of our group lamented the lack of variety on the fourth day and decided to start the day with an MDR lunch instead. Pizza at 5/F Pizzeria was brilliant. Mocha soft cone on pool deck was flavourful. - Organised embarkation/disembarkation, even if a bit slow Ambition to turn Kaohsiung into a major mother port is in full swing with a new terminal under construction. In the interim facility, we encountered inexperienced student workers during embarkation in an otherwise swift experience. Money changer was an ad-hoc setup - cash notes supply limited. Disembarkation was hit by a malfunctioned X-ray machine. Took half an hour to clear immigration, though in an organised fashion. All passengers must leave ship in groups though. No easy walk-off/self-assist option. - Princess needs to rethink entertainment for Asia The cruise director's staff did a terrific job in putting together game shows, dance events and competitions. All activities we’ve taken part in or observed had good participation and were nicely organised. Fellow cruisers knew how to enjoy themselves too! Our cruise director had not been very visible throughout the cruise. There were far fewer announcements on daily activities if compared to my two previous European cruises. Production shows and guest performers were flat and it was not the performers’ problems. Interactions were lacking in most shows even performers tried hard. While I can’t really point out the specific problems, Princess needs to rethink the way they plan and organise production shows to meet local tastes. Speaking of the Princess Theatre, hopefully they’ll fix the aspect ratio on the large screen for movies. Subtitles was chopped away in the Baby Driver screening. Replace the projector! ▼Many people were in the dark regarding the itinerary change Thanks to Super Typhoon Lan, sea was crazy rough and our 5-night Okinawa island-hopping cruise was turned into a Hue/Danang overnight getaway. Most fellow cruisers were informed by their travel agents one day in advance, but some HK cruisers only learned of the change at the port (imagine their facial expressions). And we were told by the car rental company in Okinawa. Maybe Princess could have used an app and push notifications to keep people in the loop before and during the cruise. It turned out everyone received a free excursion to Hoi An, a must-see touristy enclave near Danang, on the first port day. A free shuttle was provided on the second port day to a nearby resort, where some taxi drivers were waiting. Everyone also received USD50 refundable OBC (some said it was unused port fees) - so we got some petty cash to spend in Vietnam. Princess even paid for our USD25 visa fee. Who aren’t happy with such goodwill gestures? ▼▼”Local Connections” doesn’t apply at Chan May Chan May, where our ship was anchored, was far from everything and Hoi An was one of the farthest place to go - after a 45-minute wait on the bus at the port and an 1.5 hour ride, we only had less than 2 hours to wander around and must look for a place to lunch before we were again bussed to the port. Our initial plan was to break from the Hoi An tour to spend extra time in Danang, but the guide said that was not possible. From 10am to 4pm, we spent over 4 hours sitting on the bus and saw Hoi An for less than 2 hours. That’s all we could have on the first day of an overnight stay. The ship was set to sail at 4pm on the next day and we planned to hit Danang. But the location again posed a challenge. We overslept and reached the resort after 10am. Last tender was set to leave port at 3:30pm, but last shuttle would leave at 2:15pm - but the resort was only 20-min away from port. We did manage to climb up one of the caves at Marble Mountain during our 40-min stop and picked up local snacks during our 30 minutes at the Big C. Took the last bus to port and we were the only passengers. We were supposed to spend 10+ hours in Okinawa alone, and few more hours at Miyako-jima. We only had less than 4 hours ground time in Vietnam. The fact is options for individual tourists were very limited at a remote port in a developing country where tourist scams are notorious. I applauded the effort to put together shore excursions for many hundreds of Chinese-speaking cruisers in such short notice, but if you can’t handle it well, just don’t do it. People would be happier - I guess - if they could use shuttles to reach downtown Danang on just one port day. Problems from the port change did not stop there. Arrival time at Kaohsiung had been moved back from 7am to 10am under the new Vietnam schedule. Strong NE monsoon headwinds slowed the ship on its return trip and we were told that “due to weather”, ship would arrive at 12nn. For those who had booked afternoon flights to return home, it was doomed. There was always someone talking to the free satellite phone at front desk. Credits to China Airlines, I was able to move to a flight on the next day at no cost. But what an uneasy night before I could make that call during office hours! In hindsight, it might have always been a risky bet to spend overnight at Vietnam when NE monsoon was expected to pick up strength. While for Princess there was ample buffer before their next cruise for Okinawa (scheduled to depart at 7pm - it actually left 8pm), many cruisers had only few hours to spare. Many already had to call car hirers or friends for even an hour delay. ▼▼▼”If I give you an apple, I must give everyone else one too” There was one last fallout that upset cruisers. Disembarkation wouldn’t begin until 12nn and could last till 2pm. According to the disembarkation info sheet, Horizon Court would open for lunch 11:30am to 1:30pm. Many cruisers who had later disembarkation slots filled up early before they vacated their rooms, expecting the promised lunch. THEN THAT LUNCH DID NOT HAPPEN. A waiting staff explained to me that they must stop serving food once disembarkation began. Complete BS: first, ship wasn’t cleared for disembarkation until 11:50am but food was gone 11:30am; second, I was among the last to disembark in my previous cruise and I did have my breakfast until the last minute. She also stopped a fellow staff from getting me an apple because if I got one, she would need to give everyone else an apple too. This all-you-can-eat heaven is well guarded by unfriendly angels. We did follow her advice to report the issue to the front desk and on Princess’s corp web immediately. I was promised an “investigation” on the line’s Hong Kong Facebook page. According to a senior officer at the front desk, people were left waiting hungry due to a communication breakdown and it was too late for any remedies. Full disclosure - we were able to afford a lunch in town after 3pm. We did not need the Princess charity to offer us free food. Most Taiwan-based cruisers paid over US$1,300 to spend 5 nights in the balcony staterooms. That's A LOT OF money in Taiwan. They certainly can also afford to buy their own lunches, but don’t they also deserve more? For Britain-based cruisers setting sail on Sapphire Princess in 2018, you can be assured that the ship is already in great shape pre-dry dock and serves excellent food. Good luck on the customer service. Read Less
Sail Date October 2017

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