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This was our first Princess cruise … but we are certain it will not be our last. We have cruised before with NCL, Celebrity, MSC, Holland America, P&O and Oceania, on various ships within their fleets, and although each one has had its good and bad aspects, for the overall cruise experience, this Princess cruise surpassed them all. We booked this 11 nights cruise as part of a 3 week holiday. We had been to parts of Asia before, and wanted to see some places again, but as this was probably going to be our last adventure to this part of the World, we decided to splash out on business class flights with Emirates (which were excellent), good hotels in Dubai, Singapore and Hong Kong …. and a suite on the Sapphire Princess. Prior to booking, we had read that the ship would be in dry dock for refurbishment in November 2017, so we were excited to be going on the ship after that time. However, the date of the refurbishment was put back several times during 2017 and is now scheduled for March 2018. We were a little apprehensive about the state of the ship after reading some of the reviews from other passengers, but we went with an open mind, and we have to say that we were pleasantly surprised. Yes, it does look a bit tired in places, and yes it could do with its overdue refurb, but in general there was nothing to complain about. I know we were in a suite and perhaps we didn’t see the parts that other reviews may have seen, but I can only tell it from my perspective. I should say that even in the suites, the mattresses do need replacing … ours was very lumpy and after a couple of ‘not so good’ nights sleep, our excellent cabin attendant Paul Jay, added a mattress topper to help in some way. Having arrived in Singapore 2 days before the cruise for sightseeing, we were keen to get aboard the ship to explore on embarkation day. Embarkation itself was pretty smooth and we were able to go straight to our cabin just after 12 noon. We had suite C408 on Caribe deck. It is mid-ship and near the elevators. It looks just like the photos on the Princess website … very spacious at twice the width of a balcony cabin, and has a double width and approx. 1/3 bigger depth balcony, which has 2 wooden sun loungers with good cushions and a table and 3 chairs. Some of the amenities of a suite include speciality dining on embarkation day (to help with the first night rush in the main dining rooms); Club Class dining (anytime dining, same waiters (Albert and Rachel were excellent) and table, and no waiting for a table – also available for those in mini-suites); champagne in your cabin on departure; fresh fruit (replenished upon asking); 2 bottles of water per day; priorty embarkation, tendering and disembarkation; extended room service menu; breakfast in Sabatini’s. We could have had a laundry service too but it was so easy just to use the self-service launderette … $3 for the 40 minute wash, $3 for the 40 minute dry and $1.50 for the washing powder. There is also an iron and ironing board for use in the laundrette. On a sea day, the laundry was done in no time. We had breakfast either in our cabin (delivered on time every time) or at Sabatini’s. Apart from the first night when we ate in the speciality Sterling Steakhouse, we ate in the main dining room all the other nights. And when we were onboard for lunch, we ate in the Horizon Court. All the food was very good, with a good choice of options and good size portions. However, the coffee is disgusting … it is so watered down that it neither looks nor tastes like coffee. We tried the coffee at the pay-for International Café, but that wasn’t any better. We never opt for a drinks package as we just don’t drink enough to warrant the cost. However, we didn’t think the drinks were overly expensive and there are 2 venues offering happy hours (one early (not sure which bar it was) and the other late in the Skywalkers Lounge from 10pm-11pm where you buy one drink and get another the same for $1). The entertainment in the main theatre was far better than most of the other cruise lines we have been on, with several speciality guests including a London West-End Theatre singer, a Stevie Wonder tribute act and a Polish violinist who was excellent. There were a number of singers in some of the other bars but they were a little repetitive … however they seemed to get good audiences. The gym was well equipped but not too many classes to choose from. Zumba was in the entertainment area, not the fitness area, so it didn’t suit my fitness regime. There are limited signs on the wall asking people to wipe the equipment with the cleaning wipes available after use … not good for hygiene or to stop the potential spread of germs. As a common courtesy, everyone should wipe the equipment after use. I raised this issue onboard via the ‘tell us’ post box but never got a reply. In general, the crew were friendly, but not overly so. The bar staff were a bit lacking at times and didn’t always get the drinks orders right. A word of warning, don’t order a drink from the waiters too close to the end of the happy hour in the Skywalkers Lounge, because if the barman doesn’t put it on the system straightaway, you will see the full charge for both drinks on your room charges. This happened to us, so to avoid this, went then went to the bar ourselves to order our drinks. Before each port, there was a lecture from Debbie Shields. We watched these from the comfort of our cabin after the event. They were very informative and interesting and helped in knowing what to expect in the ports of call, good and bad. We chose not to go on any of the ships tours, instead either using the transport into town or joining up with other cruise critic members on tours organised by either themselves or us. Our first stop in Kota Kinabalu, Borneo, was a real disappointment and a complete waste of time. We paid $16 each for the shuttle bus that was a 5 minute ride into town to a shopping mall. The town isn’t very big, but it’s dirty, rundown and there is nothing to see. There is a wildlife park nearby but the people we spoke to who went there said it was very run down and the animals were not in a good condition. As much as we would have loved to see orangutans whilst in Borneo, we are glad we didn’t go there. After a sea day chilling out in the sun on our balcony, our next stop was Nha Trang in Vietnam. We had booked a half day pedicab tour through Viator online before leaving home. Our guide was waiting for us just outside the port and drove us to the starting point. Our pedicab drivers didn’t speak much English (and our Vietnamese is non existent) but our guide was by our sides the whole time on his moped. The traffic was manic but that just added to the fun of it all. We saw a temples, buddhas, the town and the beach. We had a great time, and at roughly half the cost of the identical ships tour, we would thorough recommend this tour. On to Phu My, the stop for Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon as the locals still like to call it. We had joined a tour arranged by another cruisecritic.com member, through Smile Tours of Vietnam. It was an early start and a 2 hour journey each way, but the trip was worth it. We visited all the same places as the ships tour but again it was roughly half price. Mr Anh from Smile Tours was very informative and made the tour very interesting. Another pedicab (or cyclo) tour, this time with much more traffic, but everyone survived. Another sea day, and then Sihanoukville in Cambodia. This is a very poor part of the world and we were told to expect to see a lot of poverty. I had arranged a tour for 13 of us through cruisecritic.com with a company called sihanoukvilleguideservices.com. We were met by Aya the rep and then our guide Raa. really made this tour ... he is a local, knew a lot of people and showed us the contrasts of the area. We went to a local fishing village to meet some of his friends (a really poor area), then to a local beach, a temple, a waterfall, a market, lunch at the Starfish Project Café, a ‘not for profit’ cafe in a quiet part of town and then to the area being completely taken over for construction by the Chinese. I am so glad we saw this part of Cambodia before it is overrun by the high rise buildings and casinos currently being built by and for the Chinese, as I fear it will be unrecognisable in about 10 years. Another sea day, then Thailand for 2 days. First to the port of call for Bangkok (2+ hours away). We had already been to Bangkok so opted for another tour arranged by a cruisecritic.com member to Pattaya. There were 6 of us and we saw all the main sights ... a beautiful sanctuary being constructed of wood, the beach area, lovely gardens, a cultural show, lunch, winery, buddhas and the Chinese museum. Our tour guide, Ana I think, was very good. Our final port of call was Koh Samui. Having been to Koh Samui many years ago for a beach holiday, we decided just to get off at the tender dock in Nathon and walk around. If you haven’t been there before, it’s probably a good idea to either do an organised tour around the island or negotiate a taxi ride with one of the many taxis waiting as you get off the ship. There were 2 naval ships anchored by the side of our ship all day. Not sure why, but I didn’t see any pirates! A lengthy review, but in summary, we thoroughly enjoyed our cruise on the Sapphire Princess, for both the onboard experience and the ports of call. We look forward to doing another cruise on this ship or one of the others in the fleet at some time in the not too distant future. As for suite versus balcony … I am sure we would have had just as nice a time in a balcony cabin, but I can thoroughly recommend a suite and I am sure I have spoilt us now for future cruises.

A 'suite' cruise

Sapphire Princess Cruise Review by Peanut216

10 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: January 2018
  • Destination: Asia
  • Cabin Type: Penthouse Suite with Balcony
This was our first Princess cruise … but we are certain it will not be our last. We have cruised before with NCL, Celebrity, MSC, Holland America, P&O and Oceania, on various ships within their fleets, and although each one has had its good and bad aspects, for the overall cruise experience, this Princess cruise surpassed them all.

We booked this 11 nights cruise as part of a 3 week holiday. We had been to parts of Asia before, and wanted to see some places again, but as this was probably going to be our last adventure to this part of the World, we decided to splash out on business class flights with Emirates (which were excellent), good hotels in Dubai, Singapore and Hong Kong …. and a suite on the Sapphire Princess.

Prior to booking, we had read that the ship would be in dry dock for refurbishment in November 2017, so we were excited to be going on the ship after that time. However, the date of the refurbishment was put back several times during 2017 and is now scheduled for March 2018. We were a little apprehensive about the state of the ship after reading some of the reviews from other passengers, but we went with an open mind, and we have to say that we were pleasantly surprised. Yes, it does look a bit tired in places, and yes it could do with its overdue refurb, but in general there was nothing to complain about. I know we were in a suite and perhaps we didn’t see the parts that other reviews may have seen, but I can only tell it from my perspective. I should say that even in the suites, the mattresses do need replacing … ours was very lumpy and after a couple of ‘not so good’ nights sleep, our excellent cabin attendant Paul Jay, added a mattress topper to help in some way.

Having arrived in Singapore 2 days before the cruise for sightseeing, we were keen to get aboard the ship to explore on embarkation day. Embarkation itself was pretty smooth and we were able to go straight to our cabin just after 12 noon. We had suite C408 on Caribe deck. It is mid-ship and near the elevators. It looks just like the photos on the Princess website … very spacious at twice the width of a balcony cabin, and has a double width and approx. 1/3 bigger depth balcony, which has 2 wooden sun loungers with good cushions and a table and 3 chairs.

Some of the amenities of a suite include speciality dining on embarkation day (to help with the first night rush in the main dining rooms); Club Class dining (anytime dining, same waiters (Albert and Rachel were excellent) and table, and no waiting for a table – also available for those in mini-suites); champagne in your cabin on departure; fresh fruit (replenished upon asking); 2 bottles of water per day; priorty embarkation, tendering and disembarkation; extended room service menu; breakfast in Sabatini’s. We could have had a laundry service too but it was so easy just to use the self-service launderette … $3 for the 40 minute wash, $3 for the 40 minute dry and $1.50 for the washing powder. There is also an iron and ironing board for use in the laundrette. On a sea day, the laundry was done in no time.

We had breakfast either in our cabin (delivered on time every time) or at Sabatini’s. Apart from the first night when we ate in the speciality Sterling Steakhouse, we ate in the main dining room all the other nights. And when we were onboard for lunch, we ate in the Horizon Court. All the food was very good, with a good choice of options and good size portions. However, the coffee is disgusting … it is so watered down that it neither looks nor tastes like coffee. We tried the coffee at the pay-for International Café, but that wasn’t any better.

We never opt for a drinks package as we just don’t drink enough to warrant the cost. However, we didn’t think the drinks were overly expensive and there are 2 venues offering happy hours (one early (not sure which bar it was) and the other late in the Skywalkers Lounge from 10pm-11pm where you buy one drink and get another the same for $1).

The entertainment in the main theatre was far better than most of the other cruise lines we have been on, with several speciality guests including a London West-End Theatre singer, a Stevie Wonder tribute act and a Polish violinist who was excellent. There were a number of singers in some of the other bars but they were a little repetitive … however they seemed to get good audiences.

The gym was well equipped but not too many classes to choose from. Zumba was in the entertainment area, not the fitness area, so it didn’t suit my fitness regime. There are limited signs on the wall asking people to wipe the equipment with the cleaning wipes available after use … not good for hygiene or to stop the potential spread of germs. As a common courtesy, everyone should wipe the equipment after use. I raised this issue onboard via the ‘tell us’ post box but never got a reply.

In general, the crew were friendly, but not overly so. The bar staff were a bit lacking at times and didn’t always get the drinks orders right. A word of warning, don’t order a drink from the waiters too close to the end of the happy hour in the Skywalkers Lounge, because if the barman doesn’t put it on the system straightaway, you will see the full charge for both drinks on your room charges. This happened to us, so to avoid this, went then went to the bar ourselves to order our drinks.

Before each port, there was a lecture from Debbie Shields. We watched these from the comfort of our cabin after the event. They were very informative and interesting and helped in knowing what to expect in the ports of call, good and bad.

We chose not to go on any of the ships tours, instead either using the transport into town or joining up with other cruise critic members on tours organised by either themselves or us.

Our first stop in Kota Kinabalu, Borneo, was a real disappointment and a complete waste of time. We paid $16 each for the shuttle bus that was a 5 minute ride into town to a shopping mall. The town isn’t very big, but it’s dirty, rundown and there is nothing to see. There is a wildlife park nearby but the people we spoke to who went there said it was very run down and the animals were not in a good condition. As much as we would have loved to see orangutans whilst in Borneo, we are glad we didn’t go there.

After a sea day chilling out in the sun on our balcony, our next stop was Nha Trang in Vietnam. We had booked a half day pedicab tour through Viator online before leaving home. Our guide was waiting for us just outside the port and drove us to the starting point. Our pedicab drivers didn’t speak much English (and our Vietnamese is non existent) but our guide was by our sides the whole time on his moped. The traffic was manic but that just added to the fun of it all. We saw a temples, buddhas, the town and the beach. We had a great time, and at roughly half the cost of the identical ships tour, we would thorough recommend this tour.

On to Phu My, the stop for Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon as the locals still like to call it. We had joined a tour arranged by another cruisecritic.com member, through Smile Tours of Vietnam. It was an early start and a 2 hour journey each way, but the trip was worth it. We visited all the same places as the ships tour but again it was roughly half price. Mr Anh from Smile Tours was very informative and made the tour very interesting. Another pedicab (or cyclo) tour, this time with much more traffic, but everyone survived.

Another sea day, and then Sihanoukville in Cambodia. This is a very poor part of the world and we were told to expect to see a lot of poverty. I had arranged a tour for 13 of us through cruisecritic.com with a company called sihanoukvilleguideservices.com. We were met by Aya the rep and then our guide Raa. really made this tour ... he is a local, knew a lot of people and showed us the contrasts of the area. We went to a local fishing village to meet some of his friends (a really poor area), then to a local beach, a temple, a waterfall, a market, lunch at the Starfish Project Café, a ‘not for profit’ cafe in a quiet part of town and then to the area being completely taken over for construction by the Chinese. I am so glad we saw this part of Cambodia before it is overrun by the high rise buildings and casinos currently being built by and for the Chinese, as I fear it will be unrecognisable in about 10 years.

Another sea day, then Thailand for 2 days. First to the port of call for Bangkok (2+ hours away). We had already been to Bangkok so opted for another tour arranged by a cruisecritic.com member to Pattaya. There were 6 of us and we saw all the main sights ... a beautiful sanctuary being constructed of wood, the beach area, lovely gardens, a cultural show, lunch, winery, buddhas and the Chinese museum. Our tour guide, Ana I think, was very good.

Our final port of call was Koh Samui. Having been to Koh Samui many years ago for a beach holiday, we decided just to get off at the tender dock in Nathon and walk around. If you haven’t been there before, it’s probably a good idea to either do an organised tour around the island or negotiate a taxi ride with one of the many taxis waiting as you get off the ship. There were 2 naval ships anchored by the side of our ship all day. Not sure why, but I didn’t see any pirates!

A lengthy review, but in summary, we thoroughly enjoyed our cruise on the Sapphire Princess, for both the onboard experience and the ports of call. We look forward to doing another cruise on this ship or one of the others in the fleet at some time in the not too distant future.

As for suite versus balcony … I am sure we would have had just as nice a time in a balcony cabin, but I can thoroughly recommend a suite and I am sure I have spoilt us now for future cruises.
Peanut216’s Full Rating Summary
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Cabin Review

Penthouse Suite with Balcony
Cabin S4 C408
Excellent in terms of amenities and location
Caribe Deck Inside Cabins, Outside Cabins, Balcony Cabins, Suite Cabins