Sapphire Princess Cruise Review by Tancyn
- Sail Date: May 2013
- Destination: British Columbia
Boarding day couldn't have gone more smoothly; really, it was the most easy and stress-free experience we've had yet; we literally just walked in from the pier, got our cruise cards, and boarded the ship in about ten minutes.
The ship is nice but there were things we didn't love; having big-screen concerts and movies blaring over the outdoor pool at all hours of the day was a bit of a drag; on Mother's Day, we were told early in the morning that we couldn't tender in to the first port of call, Santa Barbara, because of fog, but it turned out to be a gloriously sunny day and we decided to lounge in the sun, only to discover they were playing a movie from the 1980s followed by a Barry Manilow concert. Really? I don't think so. There aren't enough Drinks of the Day to get me through that.
The Captain announced that the upside to missing the port was that we'd get to San Francisco that much earlier, but in the end we docked in S.F. exactly ONE HOUR earlier than scheduled.
San Francisco was glorious, and we made the most of our day there.
Our next port was Astoria, Oregon, which is apparently famous for being the setting of another 1980s movie, The Goonies. We never saw it.
There is NOTHING TO DO IN ASTORIA, although the people are very nice. I cannot imagine why it's a cruise port, aside from the fact that the cruise has to go somewhere, and Astoria has a port.
Seattle was fantastic, and once again we did everything we could cram in during our day there; we also loved our day in Victoria.
In all these ports, we made our own plans. We had discovered in the past that the cruise excursions cost up to three times more than we pay by registering directly online, and this was confirmed when we saw that, for example, a walking tour of Underground Seattle that we bought online in advance for $16 each was a whopping $59 Princess excursion choice. I suppose they bused the people there from the pier, but really, it was easily walking-distance, and we were able to enjoy fabulous oyster poor boys and beer at Pike's Place Market with the money we saved on the difference in price. (And, by the way, the walking tour isn't worth $59, though it is well worth $16.)
We like traditional late-sitting dining, as we enjoy getting to know our waiters and sitting at the same table each evening. This trip, the food was a bit disappointing.
About ten years ago we experienced the "Parade of Baked Alaska" dessert on a Pacific cruise, and it was elegant and fun; they lowered the lights, and the waiters actually carried huge flaming Baked Alaskas through the dining room. This has now degenerated into a ho-hum masquerade in which bored lead waiters are already passing out slices of Baked Alaska for dessert long before the "Parade" begins, and the "Parade" consists of the assistant waiters, after a long delay, shuffling around holding fake plasti-form models of Baked Alaska with electric bulbs on top, only half of them lit. ZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzz.
(That being said, the woman at the next table who was whooping and screaming and cheering either thought it was the most exciting thing she'd ever seen or was plastered. She was more entertaining than any of the "entertainment" on the ship.) Time for the "Parade" to go away.
The laundry room on the ship is very nice, and as always we did laundry a couple of times. It makes perfect sense to save on the baggage weight and use this convenience -- one on every stateroom floor -- and it enables us to fly home with a suitcase full of clean clothes instead of a jumble of dirty laundry.
The housekeeping staff are pleasant and honest and very friendly, and work like dogs. Ditto the wait staff in the dining room.
The buffet staff seemed a bit more indifferent; many times as we searched for a table for breakfast or lunch we'd encounter someone sullenly guarding an empty area who would bark "Closed. Other side." Not great.
At time for Disembarkation everything went quite smoothly again, and although there were people complaining about the long taxi line at Port of Vancouver, the process was pretty painless.
There was an older crowd on board this cruise, along with a few families with children; we'd have been happy to have seen a little more life on board. Is it the awful entertainment that keeps people away, or is awful entertainment the only thing this sort of crowd likes? Either way, I am not sure I'll do another Princess Cruise. It was a little like being at a huge family reunion with distant relatives that you had forgotten you don't like very much.
We took an extra two days in Vancouver before flying home, staying at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, which is a lovely hotel, and seeing the city.
However, our rooms on this ship, which were as far forward as one can get on the E deck, were apparently directly next to the main employee door; all night long we could hear crew members going past on their way out or in, speaking in full voices even after midnight and at 5:00 a.m. Next time I'd make sure to avoid that situation.
The room itself was fine, with plenty of storage/hangers, etc., a good safe, a decent and very clean bathroom, and super-great service from our steward.
Port & Shore Excursion Reviews
San FranciscoMade our own plans and paid much less than the Princess excursions.View All 248 San Francisco Cruise Port Reviews
Did a "San Francisco Insider's Tour through San Francisco Comprehensive Shuttle Tours (www.SFShuttleTours.com) This was a great overview of places we would have missed, including the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park, which was a highlight. Made our reservations online the week before our trip; very well-organized, friendly, and a good price.
We had lunch, walked all over, drank in a beautiful day and generally had a wonderful time in this great city.
View Cruise Critic's San Francisco Cruise Port Review
SeattleWhat a great city! Can't wait to get back there!View All 591 Seattle Cruise Port Reviews
Fell in love with Pike's Place Market; took a million photos. Why do they even have florists in this town when the most beautiful flowers in the world can be found at the market?
Did an Underground Seattle walk that we'd arranged by ourselves, at a MUCH lower price than the ship charged for the same thing, only they had to go at 9 a.m. and we did it at 1 p.m. without a huge crowd of ship people. As I said in my review, it's worth $16 but wouldn't be worth the price Princess charges.
Explored all over, ended up taking the Monorail to the Space Needle, and thoroughly enjoyed our day.
We'll be back!
View Cruise Critic's Seattle Cruise Port Review
VancouverDisembarked and checked in at Hotel Vancouver. Walked to Canada Place and got tickets for the Big Bus city tour so we could get an overview. (We bought two-day ride tickets because the second day was only $5 more and we were able to use it again the next day to get to Stanley Park.) It was a pleasant hour's tour all over the place. Gave us a good idea what to do on our own.View All 488 Vancouver Cruise Port Reviews
Went to Capilano and did everything there -- the Treetops experience, the "Skywalk" (not NEARLY as precarious and exciting as the photos make it look!) and of course the big Suspension Bridge. What a great experience!
Got dropped off in Stanley Park by the Hop-On-Hop-Off double-decker, and walked to the lighthouse then all the way back to our hotel along the sea wall. Stopped for beers and pretzels at the marina when we were almost back to Canada Place.
Spent some time at the biggest music store we've ever seen, and ate an absolutely fantastic Dim Sum lunch in Chinatown.
I didn't love Vancouver that much, because the large population of aggressive drug addicted panhandlers was a bit off-putting. In the Hotel Vancouver one needs to use the room key in order to get into the lobby washrooms as well as to go up in the elevator; we'd never seen that before, but we understood it when we saw the hotel staff graciously and politely dealing with a filthy, drugged-out young woman in the lobby looking for change to use the payphone. There was a major police action the next morning right in front of the hotel. I didn't enjoy feeling as if I had to have my safety radar on in so many places in the city.
View Cruise Critic's Vancouver Cruise Port Review
Double Decker Bus TourThis was the only cruise excursion we took, and it was very overpriced. We did it because we'd never been to Victoria and wanted a quick overview of the city, which we got from a friendly driver/tourguide, before exploring on our own. It had been raining earlier, so the people who had to sit outside in the back of the upstairs part of the bus were stuck with soaking-wet seats. Maybe in future the drivers could at least towel off seats? The inside part of the upstairs was immediately filled which left us sitting sideways downstairs -- not a great way to sightsee, and very conducive to locked necks. The lady next to us had doused herself in Giorgio perfume that morning; we got off as soon as possible, by which time I had a splitting headache, but thankfully a little fresh air cured that. Loved Victoria, even though it rained on and off all day. Had a great pub lunch at the Irish Times. Walked to the Emily Carr House. Took a million photos. This would be a wonderful place to retire!View All 29 Double Decker Bus Tour Reviews