• Write a Review
  • Boards
  • Log In
Sapphire Princess Cruise Review
4.5 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating
1,054 Reviews

Northern Norway with School Age Kid

Sapphire Princess Cruise Review by sjgertz

13 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: Jun 2018
  • Destination: Norwegian Fjords
  • Cabin Type: Oceanview (obstructed view)

My about to turn 8 yo daughter wanted to go to Norway; so we ended up on the Princess Sapphire on a two week trip. We are a couple in our 40s and our daughter turned 8 five days after the trip ended; this was her 8th cruise and our I’ve lost count, though her first on princess and our second with the first being prior to having a child. This review is about our trip but will also serve as a guide for those travelling with school age kids as there is a paucity of information and that which I found on these boards was very useful.

We flew to London on a day time flight the day prior to embarkation – if the flight timing works I highly recommend that daytime flight because then we arrived, went to bed and were on the right time zone without a lost night/airplane nights sleep. We took the city bus for free to our Heathrow area hotel the Ibis London Heathrow – it is at the last stop in the free zone – I had managed to have a different stop name and we simply got off there as it was the last free stop and were trying to figure out where we needed to be and realized the hotel was 75 meters farther down the street. The hotel was clean, cheap £67.45 and slept three. It was not spacious but we needed nothing else. It also had a 24 hour restaurant in the lobby where we grabbed some dinner before passing out.

We took the public bus in the free zone back to the terminal 2/3 bus station and got on a National Express bus to Southhampton -£49.75 for all three of us. After our arrival in the Southhampton bus station we walked to a nearby store and bought two bottles of wine (our “free” bring on ship allowance). We then walked back to the bus station to get a taxi to the port –note there is no Uber in Southhampton as of this writing and the taxi only took cash so we did need pounds sterling.

We got to the ship about 1pm – in the port they did not want to let us check our suitcases as they insisted they were carry on (we’re light packers) – we persisted but I thought that a bit odd – I really didn’t want to lug my bag onto the ship if they were going to do it for me. Check-in was a breeze and we were on the boat in about 20 min from getting to the port.

Our room was an obstructed ocean view E400. The view had virtually no obstruction (there was a great website for checking out all the views from the windows of these rooms and we had chosen well). The beds were under the window and the third (and fourth if needed) bed came down from the ceiling. This meant our beds had to remain separated. It also meant that our daughter’s bed was put away during the day – this is the first trip where she has been old enough not to nap but if she was still napping age that would have been painful. As it was, crawling into and out of bed every night under the bunk was bad enough. Also if she had been a lot younger I wouldn’t have been comfortable with her climbing the ladder to sleep on a bunk and an adult would have had to have done that. We have sailed both Disney and Holland America in the same (obstructed oceanview) room category – I know that Disney rooms are bigger and designed differently since they cater to families but the HAL room was also big enough for a couch that unfolded and became her sleeping area and our beds could be together making the room much more comfortable. There was plenty of storage and I like the closet/bathroom configuration but the furniture in our room was quite worn.

Kids Club: There were only 15 kids ages 3-12 on our sailing making the kids club merge into one age group which was great for us avoiding the about the turn 8 year old from whining about being in the 3-7 year old group. Frequently she was the only kid in the club with 3 staff members! The most kids I ever saw there were 6. There were a ton of art and crafts, and stuffed animals and colored cowboy hats etc that all had to find room to come home…most of the crafts were tossed. Despite the one on one attention and constant begging to go to the kids club my daughter said she prefers the much more crowded, much less personal Disney kids club – she couldn’t verbalize why. Two annoyances were we had to be present to sign her in so she never got to walk to the kids club on her own and we always had to carry this beeper with us while she was in the club –it was grimy and never went off and seemed silly to sign out everytime – they should have just assigned us one for the length of the cruise. Hours were 9-12, 1-5 and 7-10 (with late night babysitting available for a fee) sea days and in port till 5 then 7-10 port days with one needed to notify them in advance if you were using them on a port day. We never did in a morning but some afternoons were back on board at 3ish and she went to the club without our having reserved it with no problems.

General Ship stuff: Almost every staff member we met was very courteous and pleasant – room stewards, waiters (we had any time dining) etc. The one exception was the destination expert and destination team whose only expertise seemed to be on selling princess tours – I understand this to a degree but the destination expert was somewhat obnoxious about it. Food was meh certainly no one is going to starve but it just wasn’t that exciting. Frequently in the evenings there were so many scheduled games and shows and what not that I wanted to attend that I would happily skip dinner in the dining room –my husband however always wanted to go have the formal dinner which sometimes just seemed to take forever. Anytime dining worked well with us only having to get a pager and wait one night when we went right at 7 – we always sat just with ourselves. We played a lot of trivia, had a great really fun team. We got to know the cruise staff well, a couple were awesome, most were good and one was unpleasant. We especially enjoyed the ship wide scavenger hunt and the egg drop challenge as we worked on them as a family for the whole two weeks – although the scavenger hunt was a let down in the end as all teams seemed to win – we put in way too much work for everyone to win!

Stavanger: We took the Princess tour to Flor og Fjaere Gardens which were absolutely gorgeous. The timing only worked to do the ships tour, coffee and tea and ice cream for our daughter was included – with a lovely man working the café. The boat to and from had free wi-fi. We found a playground by the petroleum museum which was comprised of big bouncy balls in the ground that the kids could try and walk and leap on – difficult to describe but super cool and our daughter loved it. In the afternoon we met up with an old friend of my husband’s (from when they both worked on ships!) and had a lovely afternoon – we brought two more bottles of wine on board were happy to pay the corkage fee but they never stopped or asked us for it.

Skjolden: We walked off the ship and booked the llama walking that we knew about in advance http://www.skjoldenllamas.net/en/llama_tours.php. While waiting for our tour to start we got some postcards and stamps from the local store and stopped in the TI to write postcards. The TI was inside a hotel and they couldn’t lend us a pen (to write our postcards with) and we could only get on the wi-fi if we purchased something. The llama walking was a weird way to entertain the tourists. The scenery is beautiful and I liked hearing about a heritage breed of Norwegian sheep but the actual llama walking bit was odd – we have certainly done worse tours and there was nothing wrong with this I just wouldn’t do it again.

In Geiranger we tendered an hour earlier than expected – another ship was at the floating dock. We had booked a public bus tour to the view points $129.68 for the three of us. We went to get a tender number about 50 min before our scheduled bus and sat and waited, and waited and waited. When we got the tender tickets it was the next tender to be called but there was a pause in the tender operations for 45 min – I’m not sure if it was due to ship tours getting off or what. Needless to say we missed our bus but the TI woman was awesome – the bus had been late so first she ran us outside to see if it was still there and then she rebooked us on a later bus (that we couldn’t have signed up for online in advance) and it was a minibus and there was no fee to change – I’m not sure if she was being nice or they were the same price. When we realized we were going to miss our tour we had run the room for our bubblebum (inflatable booster) for our daughter and were glad we had it with us as she needed it on the minibus. The views in Geiranger and surroundings are stunning and we had a lovely day.

In Trondheim we had nothing booked. It was a rainy, cool, gray day – the weather we had expected in Norway. We walked off the ship to a coffee shop and used their wi-fi. We then wondered around in off and on rain showers to the cathedral. There was an outdoor mostly food market going on – I tried to buy some cheese but only certain debit cards were taken by the merchant and not the kind I had. We never got kroner and only used credit cards so I didn’t buy any cheese. We did stop at a wine shop and got two more bottles. We also discovered ginger flavored diet pepsi which was delicious.

In Honningsvag we had booked a tour to the north cape with blue puffin tours $263.12 for all three of us. For some reason I thought it would be in a mini-bus but it was a full size bus tour. Our guide was Sebastian the owner of the company Monika’s husband. He is German, lived in patagoina for a number of years and recently transplanted to norther Norway. While a great guide and knowledgable not exactly what I was expecting. We saw herds of reindeer roaming, king crabs and went to the north cape. At the north cape is was about 40 degrees with 40 mph winds – my daughter got blown around a bit and then was miserable and whining. It was not intolerable to adults but certainly unpleasant. The thrill of being at the northcape was great and overcame anything else for me! We also sent a postcard home to ourselves in order to get the northernmost postmark in the world – it took 17 days to reach us

Tromso: we did the Princess tour to the sled dog kennels and polar museum. The sled dogs were awesome if you’re a dog person. In a very different approach than the Alaskan dogs who aren’t socialized and aren’t friendly the family who run this kennel and sled dog teams believe their dogs should be socialized, so all summer long while it is too hot to train, the tourists get to play with the dogs. Puppies, sled dog champions, males, females they are all around to be pet and loved. Our family adored this. The polar museum was boring for us but we took advantage of the wi-fi. If I were to do it again now knowing that any tourist could go to the kennel we would have taken a taxi to and from and just spent our time there and skipped the museum. We did however get a driving tour of downtown while on the bus and that was enough to realize we didn’t need to go back to town. The ship was docked outside of town and the Princess shuttle was $16! So for our family to get back to town after our tour would have been $48 – not worth it in our opinion – I’m not sure why the shuttle was so expensive. There was a lovely botanical garden across the street from where we were docked and we did spend some time walking around the garden. There was a playground there and several families with young kids having picnic lunches.

Lofoten Islands: We took the Princess tour to see the trollfjord by boat followed by a bus back to the ship. We discussed renting a car but were too nervous about getting back on time. There was also bird watching – from the boat we saw sea eagles and a lot of seagulls we did not unfortunately see any puffins – I’m not sure we were supposed to but somehow it was in our heads we were going to. There were puffins an hour boatride from the northcape but it was very rough seas with a lot of boat motion and I am quite happy we didn’t go. The weather in Lofoten was absolutely gorgeous a rare occurrence.

Alesund: We had bought tickets in advance for the HOHO bus to go to both the outdoor museum and the aquarium. The city sightseeing buses electronic readers were broken and they wanted everyone with vouchers on their phone or from the internet to go get in an hour long line to get their tickets printed. I kept arguing that I didn’t need to as I had the printed voucher that clearly said 2 adults and 1 child. Eventually the guy let me on the bus (Maybe he was just tired of listening to me). We got off at the open air Sunnmoere Museum which has farmhouses from all over the country. We also saw some reconstructed Viking longboats which were cool. We walked the path to the mediaeval museum but it hadn’t opened yet. While the weather was beautiful so an outside walk was nice there wasn’t much that interested our daughter as the farmhouses were just that – houses. We got back on the HOHO bus (where they looked at our voucher and could have cared less that we didn’t have tickets) which went up to a beautiful viewpoint – it would have been nice to get off an wonder around there but we were worried about time. We got off at the aquarium which is wonderfully designed. There is a play area with the outdoor exhibits with stepping stones and running water from the Atlantic (it is on the sea and all the water comes into the aquarium from the ocean) with boards to dam up the water and watch what happened. Kids speaking all different languages were playing together damming the water seeing different effects. Between this playground and the bouncy ball one in Stravanger my daughter thinks that Norway has the best playgrounds – they certainly have some very innovative ones. I really enjoyed the rest of the aquarium as well. In retrospect I would have skipped the Sunnmoere Museum, gotten off at the viewpoint then spent the rest of the day at the aquarium. Also a taxi to and from the aquarium would have been a reasonable plan. Maybe an older kid would like the Sunnmoere Museum more but our daughter and definitely kids younger than her wouldn’t find it great.

Bergen: we had a very short stop in Bergan so walked over to the Bryggen and did the Rick Steve’s walking tour around the fort and the Bryggen. We decided to play the funicular by ear based on weather and sure enough the top of the funicular was in clouds the whole morning so we decided not to go up. There is a pretty gazebo with a lake in part of town and we sat there for a bit just taking in the beauty. We bought some last ginger diet pepsi and Norwegian gummy candy and got back on the boat. Of note we didn’t pass any playgrounds on our walk.

When we docked back at Southhampton we disembarked with only 10-15 minutes of utter chaos at the exit point from the ship. Southhampton had no customs/immigration to speak of and we just walked out. We had a car from Smiths for Airports waiting for us – I love coming out of a port and having a sign with my name on it! We had timed our pick up at 9 and we were out at 9:05. We went to Stonehenge where we had pre-bought 10am admission. We spent a couple of hours both out at the stones and in the museum. Then our driver took us to the airport – we arrived at the airport at 1:30 with more than enough time for our 6pm flight. Smiths cost was £145. We could have taken a 4pm flight but that would have made us feel a bit rushed at Stonehenge. We’re lucky to live where there are a lot of direct flight options. Princess had a similar disembarkation option (Stonehenge followed by airport) but it was a lot more expensive and not in a private car. We were stopped at security due to all the wine stoppers we had won playing trivia!

In general we had a great time. We enjoyed our family time together and had a nice relaxing vacation. I read 10 books (after catching up on my backlog of periodicals). This boat was right for our itinerary. Would I pick Princess again? - if the itinerary was right sure. For a quick, cheap Caribbean cruise , or a cruise that was about the boat and not the ports I wouldn’t pick them – the room set up was too uncomfortable and the 3rd person fares are too high. On HAL, which I consider to be essentially the same service level we can almost always get 3rd person fares for free or $99 or the like. On “exotic” itineraries it may be as high as $599 but on Princess for this cruise my daughter was only a couple of hundred dollars less than my husband and me. Our Bubblebum (inflatable booster) was very useful on this trip for taxis and buses as one must have a shoulder belt fastened on Norwegian busses and the booster raised my daughter to a proper height. Also useful were magnetic hooks bought off amazon – we had them everywhere in our room and hung wet swimsuits, our lanyards when we walked into the room, my purse etc. Also even though it was June one needed fleece, puffer jackets, hats and gloves and good raingear – there is no such thing as bad weather only bad clothing. We were never cold as we layered and had the right outer gear – not everyone was as well equiped.


sjgertz's Full Rating Summary
Cabin
Onboard Experience
Enrichment Activities
Value For Money
Embarkation
Dining
Public Rooms
Entertainment
Fitness & Recreation
Shore Excursions
Service
Sign Up for Price Drop Alerts
Get tomorrow's price drops
250,000+ people have entered their email
By proceeding, you agree to Cruise Critic’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

Cabin Review

Oceanview (obstructed view)
Cabin OV E400

Our room was an obstructed ocean view E400. The view had virtually no obstruction (there was a great website for checking out all the views from the windows of these rooms and we had chosen well). The beds were under the window and the third (and fourth if needed) bed came down from the ceiling. This meant our beds had to remain separated. It also meant that our daughter’s bed was put away during the day – this is the first trip where she has been old enough not to nap but if she was still napping age that would have been painful. As it was, crawling into and out of bed every night under the bunk was bad enough. Also if she had been a lot younger I wouldn’t have been comfortable with her climbing the ladder to sleep on a bunk and an adult would have had to have done that. We have sailed both Disney and Holland America in the same (obstructed oceanview) room category – I know that Disney rooms are bigger and designed differently since they cater to families but the HAL room was also big enough for a couch that unfolded and became her sleeping area and our beds could be together making the room much more comfortable. There was plenty of storage and I like the closet/bathroom configuration but the furniture in our room was quite worn.


Port & Shore Excursion Reviews


Previous ReviewNext Review
sjgertz
2 Reviews Written
13 Helpful Votes
Never Miss a Deal!
Subscribe and Save
By proceeding, you agree to Cruise Critic’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

More Sapphire Princess Reviews





Want to cruise smarter?
Get expert advice, insider tips and more.
By proceeding, you agree to Cruise Critic’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.