This was our tenth cruise and our second one on the Sapphire Princess. We sailed on this ship when it was new in 2004 and enjoyed it very much so we were interested in doing this longer cruise over the Christmas and New Year holidays. My husband and I are in our sixties and live on the Gold Coast in Queensland Australia. We usually have long flights to join cruises in Europe and the US but this time it was only a seven and a half hour flight to Singapore where we stayed overnight in order to see the Christmas Lights. The next morning we took a short one and a half hour flight to Bangkok for our operational overnight stay that we had booked with Princess. This turned out well because our transfers went smoothly and the Menam Riverside hotel in Bangkok was a pleasant place to stay. We had the advantage of being able to check in with Princess at the hotel so that embarkation was a breeze the following day. It took about 3 hours to get to the port but this took longer than usual because of road works. Once on board we found our cabin on Caribe deck and were happy to see that we had a large balcony with nice blue mesh chairs and flooring. The cabin was nicely laid out with good storage space and plenty of coat hangers. The shower was quite small but manageable. We met Marvin, our cabin steward, who looked after us very well for the duration of the cruise. We unpacked our suitcases before muster and then joined our Cruise Critic friends in the Oasis bar. We had already met some of them at the hotel but now we were able to match more names to faces. We were all excited to be at the sailaway together and were looking forward to our 20 day cruise! The ship is large and beautiful. It's one of the Grand Class ships and carries 2800 passengers. The dEcor is classy and elegant with lovely artwork and a pleasing color scheme throughout. I won't go into too many details as a full ship's review can be found elsewhere on this website. It takes a while to explore the ship fully and find your way around but we had been on this ship before so it was easier for us this time! We had opted for anytime dining rather than the traditional dining and I'm glad we did because it was fun eating in the various restaurants and also convenient to eat at different times. We usually booked ahead when we had figured out our plans for the day but sometimes we changed times and it was no problem. Sometimes we ate with friends or on our own and at other times we joined a big table where we met some interesting people from all over the world and from all walks of life. We rotated between the Pacific Moon, Savoy, Vivaldi and Santa Fe restaurants in the evening. In the morning we sometimes had breakfast in the International dining room and at other times we ate buffet-style in Horizon Court. On port days we ordered breakfast in our cabin and ate on the balcony. The restaurant and the room service was consistently good. On occasion we enjoyed afternoon tea in the International dining room. One time when we were at afternoon tea a passenger was being rude to one of the waiters. He told the waiter he was stupid and this irked me because the waiters are often trying so hard to give good service. I loved it when my husband defended the waiter and told the passenger that he would be more likely to get good service if he wasn't so rude! The food was very good everywhere on board and there were only a couple of meals we didn't like. We usually had a drink on our balcony at sailaway and then ordered wine at the dinner table. We occasionally ordered drinks at the bar or in the lounges. The entertainers were not as good as on our last Sapphire Princess cruise but the production shows with the talented singers and dancers were very good. Lenny Windsor, the comedian, was quite amusing and we also enjoyed the dynamic singer Caron Kate Blackwell and her husband, comedian Marty Allen. The best band of all was Deep Blue who managed to get everyone dancing and having fun. What a talented group! They usually played in Club Fusion or around the pool deck. The captain was Attilio Guerini. The cruise director was Sammi Baker who was quite a live spark around the ship. Her assistant Sam was a wonderful teacher for the dance classes together with Tom who also organized the virtual golf team competition on some of the sea days. We went once to the bingo and also to the wooden horse races on a sea day and it was good fun. After attending one of Brad Coates rather uninspiring lectures on Achieving Personal & Financial Freedom in mid-life we decided to free ourselves of him before the next lecture! Christmas Day Santa arrived in the Atrium on Christmas Day. We listened to the announcement that he would be arriving by helicopter to give the children their presents! There were Christmas carols in the Atrium on Christmas Eve and again on Christmas Day. It was fun joining in and watching the children receive their gifts from Santa. The snow machine was an excellent idea and really helped to get everyone into the spirit of things. New Year's Eve A fun time for everyone! We had dinner with friends and then got changed out of our formal dress to attend the pool deck party where Deep Blue was playing. We danced the night away and brought in the New Year with our friends and other passengers. Now to the ports and what we did there. Koh Samui We joined four of our Cruise Critic friends on a private tour, Mr.Ung's Magical Safari,in Koh Samui. We travelled in a jeep which was a bit bumpy but made for some good fun rides! We visited the elephant, crocodile and monkey shows before going on an elephant ride along a winding path through the forest. We managed to get some great photos of us on the ride. We went to a waterfall and gardens before having a delicious Thai lunch at a scenic viewpoint high up in the mountains. We all enjoyed the day and had a lot of laughs together! Singapore We had been to Singapore before so we decided to explore the Tanglin Rd area and the Botanic Gardens, which are lovely and have some beautiful orchids as well as other tropical plants. On the way there we were invited into the newly opened St. Regis hotel and had an interesting conversation with the assistant manager. She introduced us to the butler who took us around the hotel and showed us the bedrooms. They were absolutely lovely and the bathrooms had a plasma TV on the mirror next to the bath - quite an innovative idea! It was a hot day so on the way back from the gardens we called into one of the shopping centers and had a cool drink before catching the shuttle back to the ship. Vietnam We had booked the Ho Chi Minh City on your own tour with Princess. We drove through little villages with run-down shops and houses. It was interesting to watch the people in cone shaped hats riding bicycles and mopeds and going about their daily business. In about two hours we arrived in HCM. I've never seen so many motorcycles on the road all hurrying to get to their destination without stopping to let anyone across the road. We managed to survive by just crossing over and letting them go around us otherwise we would never have got to the other side! Shopping was fun at the markets! We bought shirts, pants, sunglasses and hats at absolutely ridiculous prices! Finally we went up to the rooftop lounge of the famous Rex Hotel for a well- deserved drink! The buffet up there was quite cheap and the food looked good but we weren't hungry enough so we decided to wait until we got back on board. Kota Kinabalu Another private tour booked on the internet with KK tours by one of our friends. Henry was our guide and he spoke good English. First he took us to the water village which was situated in a sea of mud with rubbish everywhere! The houses were on stilts and living conditions were poor and far from sanitary! I thought of my own very comfortable home and was thankful I didn't live there! It was an interesting experience! The next stop was a Chinese temple where we took photos. Then we arrived at the Monsopiad Cultural Village to see the headhunter's house of skulls and the traditional cultural show. It was all very interesting and I would recommend this tour to anyone else. Darwin It was a very hot and humid day so we just went into the city for a look around. We took a taxi to Mindil beach and walked along the sands( no one swimming here because of the deadly box jellyfish!) It was New Year's Day so there wasn't too much happening. We were glad to get out of the heat and back into the ship's air conditioning! Cairns We live in Queensland so we had been here before. We decided to go to the little tourist town of Port Douglas with the Princess tour bus. It was another very hot day so we walked along the main street to Four Mile beach for an hour or so and back to the Old Court House hotel where we sat upstairs on the verandah and had a light lunch and a cool beer. The pretty coastal drive was about 40 minutes each way and we were back on the ship by 3.00pm. Airlie Beach We were lucky with the weather again! After a quick shower at the start it turned out to be a beautiful day. We decided to visit the markets first and then we explored the town. It had changed for the better since the last time we were there. A lagoon area and a boardwalk had been added as well as more sand on the little beach. Luckily we missed the floods that came just after our visit! Brisbane We stayed on the ship as we live just a one hour drive from here. We had the ship to ourselves for the day apart from a few others who probably lived there too. We sat around the pool, read our books and had a nice lunch. It was a very relaxing day! Sydney We were lucky to get a late disembarkation time as our flight from Sydney to the Gold Coast didn't leave until 1.30pm. It was very well organized and on time but we had to wait almost an hour for a taxi as there were two other ships docked in Sydney that day. But that was fine as we had plenty of time before our flight home. Summary On this ship you can really " Escape Completely" as they say in the Princess ads! There were many sea days when you could either do your own thing or join in the many activities provided. We had a fabulous time but we didn't feel as though we had to join in everything. We used our balcony a lot and enjoyed watching the sailaways before dinner. Meeting up with new friends from Cruise Critic really enhanced our cruise and we hope to meet some of them again soon. We met some people who were rude to the staff and complained about everything but you will always get those unhappy people on cruises or anywhere you travel - just move away from them! We met some lovely people on board and all were enjoying the cruise as much as we were. We saw some parents who let their children run around unsupervised on the ship at night but we also met some very polite children who were well controlled by their parents. I wish Princess would stop young children from running around in the bars and lounges late at night. It annoys other passengers and it's also dangerous when drinks are being served. We are looking forward to our next cruise on the Sapphire Princess when she sails from Sydney to Los Angeles in April.