The ship has undergone major renovations in 2018. We actually had the same ship last Christmas on a similar cruise path (South East Asia, from Singapore to Singapore) and the cabin had improved, in addition to Horizons, and the ... Read More
The ship has undergone major renovations in 2018. We actually had the same ship last Christmas on a similar cruise path (South East Asia, from Singapore to Singapore) and the cabin had improved, in addition to Horizons, and the indoor pool area. There was more of a white tone to these areas, with new white tiles and lighting, which gave the appearance of it being more clean, contemporary and inviting, in comparison to the tired look it had in 2017 (which many passengers complained about back then).
During the cruise, the ship was decorated beautifully with festive Christmas decorations. I loved the little touch of decorations put outside of the cabin put by the stewards, and it was nice seeing other passengers had decked out their doors as well with Christmas wreaths and tinsel. On Christmas day, each passenger got a small Christmas stocking with some candy canes in their cabin.
The room has improved from the pre renovated Sapphire Princess. The TV's are now wall mounted in front of the bed and the TV has been upgraded to a big nice flat screen. This helped a lot on sea days and when bad weather struck. The TV also had a few live stations like CNN and sports channels, and a big library of movies and tv series for both adults and children. During Christmas, they also feature many Christmas movies and this is a nice touch during the festive season. Our cruise went from a hot climate to a cold climate, so those sea days were well spent reading in the cabin and watching our favourite movies - it was often freezing on deck and raining at the same time so having great in room entertainment really solved what would have been major boredom by me (being 35 years old, the on board entertainment was really lacking for my age group on board).
The bed was comfortable with what looked like nice quality sheets and pillows. We had a balcony room, which we always book, and it was nice to feel the transition of weather in the morning, going from hot Singapore to eventually freezing Shanghai (last port).
Michael, our steward was fantastic, always fussing over us and making sure we knew what forms to fill out for immigration.
Make sure with any Asia cruise, your visas are up to date with that country. Even Princess was caught out with a new development from South Korea, so that was rectified before the ship was allowed to go into port. This cruise was noted to be complex with visas, and we witnessed a family of about 8 being denied boarding due to what seemed to be lack of correct visas (this was really heartbreaking to witness). We had our own visa issues as my husband and I travel with two different passports, so we went the distance to get the best visa possible for each location prior to the cruise.
Note: I also received conflicting information when I called Princess cruises regarding visas - one telephone operator told me that if you don't have a visa for a particular country, it was fine but you weren't allowed to get off at that location (just stay on board for the next stop). Another operator at a later date told me that my husband would be denied boarding if he didn't have every visa to enter all ports (even if we didn't want to get off at the port). So we ended up getting all the visas (albeit last minute).
This has improved greatly since 2017. Our food was excellent each night, whereas our previous Sapphire Cruise in Dec 2017 had shocking meal options for traditional dining. Apparently they have gone through two new head chefs since that time, which is really reflected in the contemporary flavours in cooking. Service is excellent with a huge shout out to Eugene who looked after us - he made our dining experience superb and genuinely cared about whether we liked each dish or not.
With the new renovations taking place, Horizons is a much more attractive place to eat self serve food. It feels brighter and cleaner, albeit with what seems like a tighter menu (less options) but better cooked food. We were surprised by how much the food had improved on this cruise - the meat dishes were tender, nothing was too greasy, there were lots of vegetable options, and the roasts were delicious. A huge standout was Italian night! We could have stayed the whole night eating, it was so good!
i just wish though that they were more strict with hygiene on board with this cruise - often the sanitiser dispenser was left unattended so many guests did not sanitise their hands, and we watched staff witness sick people coughing on food but look the other way. This was really gross, and we walked out several times when we saw this happen, hoping to not catch the virus which was going around on board (something like the flu, it felt like every passenger had it, we escaped it)
The pizza bar as usual was fantastic, but we just wish that when the weather got colder (1 degree around South Korea) the pizza was kept warmer as it was often cold when we received it from the tray outside.
Makeshift Crown Grill
Sapphire does not have an official Crown Grill restaurant but a make shift one on board, it looks like one of the dining areas gets partitioned off from the rest of Horizons.
We ate here the first night, and the quality of the food was great - believe it or not, the fries were some of the best we had, in addition to the cooking of the steak. Well worth the cover charge of $29.
My one big wish is that the food on board is more festive for the occasion on Christmas Day. It would be great to have Christmas cookies, mince pies and all the little things people love to munch on Christmas Day, but horizons lack this on the day. It is the same menu as any other day. Traditional dining though does have a more special Christmas Day menu, with the usual offerings (turkey, roasts, pudding etc) which were cooked really well, and a plate of Christmas cookies which were delicious for dessert. Also it would be great if the bar areas had Christmas inspired cocktails or egg nog or something fun to keep the theme up for the day.
Fabulous staff on board, all very polite. Adnan was a stand out - great personality and always looks after you on board at Crooners.
Our South East Asia Christmas cruises have both run into terrible monsoon weather, particularly near Vietnam. This causes the ship to rock and encounter rainy weather. The weather was so bad one day that the ship had to slow down so it didn't cause immense rocking, and this caused a different entering time to the disembarking port (Shanghai). Shanghai is one of the busiest ports in the world, and our ship was denied entering the harbour and had to wait until we got permission to go in. We were meant to disembark at 7.30am, but this was shifted to 1pm onwards, and people who had to catch a flight before 6pm were advised they would not make that flight and had to make alternate arrangements. I would highly advise anyone to stay overnight in the disembarking country to overcome random events such as this. I felt so sorry for those people as well.
Overall, for a young married couple with no kids, we had a pretty good time - I got a little stir crazy on board with so many sea days, lack of entertainment relative to my generation, and bad weather outside, save for our new TV and my Ipad which were necessities to keep us entertained. Read Less