We arrived in Sydney after a short flight from Melbourne and after a Princess Transfer we were on the ship by 1.00pm. It was a very easy embarkation with no hassles at all. We had a restricted view on Emerald deck which we booked 6 months previously and as we have always had balcony cabins before we were very apprehensive about this cruise. Well the view was fine! We had an emergency boat outside the window but we could still see right out and had a great view. The cabin was fine except for the smell from the toilet which was ok some days and terrible others. I do like the layout of the cabins so that the bathroom door is not at the front as you walk in. The nationalities were multi national, the majority seemed to be Australian, Canadian and American. We had set seating - late sitting. This was fine and suited us, but if we had the opportunity again, we would do the anytime dining. We did go to anytime dining a couple of times without it being a problem as long as you go later in the evening. The same food is in all the anytime restaurants as we had in the dining room, except every anytime have their own specialty dish. The food was very good however we felt that the buffet food didn't offer as much variety as the Carnival Freedom which we were on in October. We missed the deli where you could have a sandwich made to order, and we also the missed the Asian food buffets and the International buffets. We were under the impression the food would have been of a higher standard on Princess but I would like to say we noticed little difference in the quality. The entertainment was very good however, once again we felt that the cabaret shows, sea day entertainment and the cruise director were not up to the Carnival Freedom standard. The showroom is way to small and you must get there early for a seat. We did enjoy the 2 wine tasting sessions that were on sea days and we felt that we did learn a bit more about wine. The first one is $9.50 US. The second is $25 US but they do have some very expensive wines and mix it with food to match. It was most enjoyable. There are many bars and we did enjoy the Wheelhouse bar after dinner where the music was fantastic and easy to listen to, and we also enjoyed the Skywalkers bar for watching sail away. You could not find a better view on the ship for leaving port. We didn't do any ship excursions as we had been to some ports before but we did rent a car in Tauranga (which is really MT MANGANUI) and drove to Rotarua.We hired a car from Pegasus in Mt Manganui. This was great and we went to the Way-o-Tapo Thermal park and really enjoyed our time there. We stopped along the way and we drove around Mt Manganui when we got back. This is a very pretty spot and for anyone not wanting to do a ship tour there is lots to see and do there. Some people took the ferry to Tauranga or a local bus which was cheaper the ship transfer. The ship also has transfers to every port and the cost is not too expensive. On our second sea day to NZ the captain announced that we had to divert our course and try to find a catamaran which had 2 very sick crew.We had to increase speed and finally found them at 4.00pm. Everyone was on deck to watch the drama unfold and the seas didn't look too bad till we saw the catamaran being thrown around with the swells. The crew did an excellent job of bringing them onboard one by one, and needless to say the sales of the cruise DVD went through the roof. They were hospitalized and got off the ship in Dunedin.
I would have to say the crew on Sapphire Princess were the best we have ever had. From the captain to the room stewards, I have never seen so many smiling faces and we all know how hard they have to work for 10 months at a time.
We disembarked in Auckland and it was all done very smoothly. I do like they way they do not announce each disembarkation over the speakers, but take people to separate sections of the ship. This was a most enjoyable cruise and have many great memories. (as well as the 100's of photos)