In order to keep this organized and simple, I have broken this review out into several categories:
Having been on 2 cruises prior (still a newbie to cruising really) my husband and I decided to do a cruise to our favorite place on earth - New Zealand. This was our second cruise together but the first on Princess.
We arrived in Auckland the day before sailing and did independent activities prior to embarkation on the Sapphire Princess.
Embarkation was extremely easy and fast. We arrived at 215pm as I had read that if you try to get there early it is a madhouse and generally results in long lines. We chose to do a tour in the morning and arrive after 2 to see if that would help. It did, we walked onto the ship in under 10 minutes.
Our luggage wasn't delivered by 5pm and my husband had to go hunting for it as they had recorded that it had been. We had seen it in the hallway farther away from our cabin at one point, but when we returned from dinner - it was gone and someone else's luggage was at our door. The situation was corrected though and after some tracking down - we had our luggage unpacked.
Our stateroom was really nice. It was technically classed as an oceanview but did in fact have a balcony that was available to use at all times. Our cabin was directly at the front of the ship on deck 10. Princess said that they locked the door when we were at sea, but that wasn't the case. The stateroom was large and roomy and had lots of storage. The shower was larger than expected and other than not having a sofa or chairs to sit in (other than the deck chair and one other tiny chair) it was great.
We found that the number of activities on sea days (there were 6 days you didn't leave the ship on this cruise) were seriously lacking. The crowd was MUCH older and the activities were obviously geared towards that demographic. Now I understand that there are going to be some 50+ people and generally speaking that is the vacation of choice for the more senior people, however, we weren't expecting more than 70% of the ship to be over 60. My husband and I are late 30's and on previous cruises have had a much more varied amount of age groups and activities to support them.
The service was always pleasant and we generally received prompt and courteous treatment. It didn't feel like anyone was going above and beyond though - only that they were doing the minimum. I completely missed the little "towelgami" animals that other lines do for you and was very disappointed. Our cabin steward was very good though and accommodated all our special requests with a smile.
The shore excursions were VERY well organized - more so than on other lines. We assembled each day in a specified meeting place and were escorted off the ship to our transportation. It was great and the shore excursions were mostly worth the money. A couple of points to note, one was late departing due to uncontrollable circumstances, but then COMPLETELY rushed and the driver wasn't a good tour guide at all. Others told us about the local industry, housing prices, etc. He was very limited and our tour was kind of rushed. The only other negative observation about the tours was that due to the number of people on them, sometimes they felt rushed and crowded, to be expected, but worth mentioning because I hadn't thought about that.
Ok, so this is the one area that I have very few positive comments to make. On other cruises the food has been completely 5 star. In this case, it was very cafeteria like. We ate in both specialty restaurants as well as all meals (B, L and D) in the Horizon Court buffet and all of the other dining rooms. There was usually one good thing about a meal in the dining room (i.e. the appetizer, the main or the dessert) but generally speaking it was all just ok. Nothing was "terrible" but nothing was 5 star either. The sterling steak house was just a sectioned off portion of the Horizon Court and was just average. Sabatini's was good but again not great. All the steaks seemed to have oil on them, not sure why they'd cook steak in oil, but whatever. Room service was quite disgusting...cold and very limited. We were both very disappointed with all the food and were pretty happy when we could pay for lunch in port. On the positive side, the fresh pineapple was awesome on the breakfast buffet and we discovered (on the last day) the free ice cream at 3pm in the Horizon court.
Geared towards the older crowd for sure, we were excited that there was a comedy act on the ship - the performer must have been nearly 90 and wasn't funny at all. The magician was great but that was about all. The game shows in the lounges again weren't highly participated in so weren't that much fun. Overall it was ok - but generally we just caught up on our sleep in the evenings.
This was again - very well organized and very quick. The only thing was that in Sydney when you disembark, it is very much - leave the ship and fend for yourself. No one from Princess in the disembarkation lounge to help - no phones to call hotel shuttles, etc. But overall pretty quick and organized.
Overall - it was an ok experience. It was definitely fun visiting all the ports of call, but had this been our first cruise it would have been our last. I guess it's a combination of "know your cruises and lines" and poorly executed service, dining and entertainment. That being said, I would still recommend it but only to those that want a VERY low key holiday. We will be avoiding Princess in the future only because we're not in that category yet.