We flew from Sydney to Auckland on 10th March & stayed at the Duxton Hotel which was excellent, & which we booked with lastminute.com On the Monday we got a taxi direct to Princes Wharf about noon & had no trouble with embarkation as Allan is in a wheelchair & wheelchair assistance was offered from the taxi & bypassed the queues. An obstacle appeared when we found we'd been upgraded to an outside cabin which was NOT wheelchair accessible. Princess blamed our TA but we had no knowledge of an upgrade request. The ship was sailing full & after waiting anxiously for an hour or so, we finally got our original cabin back when a hotel services supervisor found its occupants were happy to swap for the upgrade (they were able bodied) We loved our inside cabin & found the whole ship to be immaculately clean. Allan is also a celiac so although we had anytime dining we opted to book the same restaurant each night (Pacific Moon) where the Head Waiter & Table supervisor gave Allan the next night's menu so that he could pre-order & they could ensure everything would be gluten free. This worked wonderfully & we received excellent service. The meals in the restaurant were fabulous & for breakfast & lunch eat day we ate at the buffet which we found had lots of variety & always something we enjoyed. We bought the coffee card ($24USD+15%) for 15 coffees as we really enjoy our espressos. We thought it was excellent value & preferred to get our coffees "to go" from the Calypso Bar on Lido Deck. We used room service for breakfast twice, & frequently for early & late cups of tea. They were always prompt.
We never found the ship too crowded except in the Princess theatre at night & during formal nights when there was a LOT of congestion around the lifts (vital when you're in a wheelchair) & atrium due to Captain's cocktail party & people queuing for formal portraits. We are trivia buffs & found there was plenty of opportunity to indulge in trivia comps. Other entertainment was top class including a lecture on Houdini by the resident magician, & some extremely talented musicians. We opted to explore the shore destinations on our own & found there were plenty of options & lots of helpful directions from local tour operators & information centers. Cruising through fjordland was awesome & there was plenty of space on deck to get photos. Crossing the Tasman was rough but the ship's stabilizers ensured our comfort. The exchange rate for currency on the ship was a rip-off when converting NZ dollars to Aus dollars & it was inconvenient & expensive to change money into USD just to get enough quarters to operate the laundry machines. This was the only time we needed US cash & it would be better if you could swipe your card in the laundry like you can in the internet cafe. We enjoyed the Neptunes Reef pool which was the only one vaguely accessible for Allan, & we also loved soaking in the hot tubs. These were never crowded out. Disembarking in Sydney was fast but the queue for taxis made it a nightmare waiting for friends to pick us up. Maybe people with private arrangements could be picked up elsewhere than at the taxi rank.
We felt that the smoking areas in the Explorer's Lounge & the Wheelhouse bar were not screened well enough & were too close to the non-smoking areas so that if the areas were crowded it was not uncommon to be seated very near smokers which was quite unpleasant. Overall we thoroughly enjoyed the cruise & thought the Sapphire Princess to be a magnificent ship. We met some lovely people & the service was impeccable apart from those members of crew on the Purser's Desk who on the whole seemed grumpy & irritated, an attitude which severely contrasted with that of all other crew members which was to just wait on us hand & foot.