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I recently completed a 10 day cruise on Sapphire Princess, sailing out from Singapore on February 28, 2019. I encountered some serious issues that I have not experienced on Princess before. While in the men's changeroom, I witnessed the spa staff give a master locker key to a passenger who claims he found his locker locked but he had not locked it. The passenger was allowed to use the master key in the men's changeroom unsupervised as spa staff said no male staff was available to accompany him. The passenger then opened the locker that he thought was his, found out it was not his and then promptly used the master key to open every locker near the one he thought was his, violating the privacy and security of property of the other passengers who had locked their belongings in the lockers. In addition, on two occasions when I was in the men's changeroom, once when I was in the sauna with another passenger also in the sauna and a second time when I was standing at the lockers while changing, I heard a woman's voice in the men's changeroom and found the female spa manager had entered the men's changeroom during operating hours unannounced and without any prior warning. I reported both the locker master key incident and the female spa manager intrusion into the men's changeroom to both the spa manager and front desk but did not see any serious response to the incidents from the ship (as shown by the spa manager intruding into the men's changeroom a second time when I was in there just a day or two after I reported the first intrusion). It was only after I e-mailed my cruise agent to complain and he passed on my complaint to Princess sales office that head office contacted the ship and arranged for the Customer Services Director to meet with me to explain they have reported the locker master key incident to the captain as a breach of security and that they have instructed the female spa manager not to enter the men's changeroom during operating hours. It was quite clear to me from my experience on this cruise that the spa manager and the ship was not taking these matters very seriously until head office contacted the ship and likely because I pointed out in my complaint that had a male spa staff member intruded into the women's changeroom unannounced while female guests were in the changeroom, there would likely have been a much more serious reaction. The cruise would otherwise have been much better rated by me but this serious breach of security of property of other passengers by the careless release of the master locker key to a passenger unsupervised and the repeated intrusion of the female spa manager into the men's changeroom unannounced, and the initial tepid response from the ship and front desk does raise serious doubts in my mind about the attitude of Princess to very basic expectations of passengers to security of property and privacy. I do want to credit the Customer Services Director Miguel Netto Rocha though with making every effort to reassure me the issues were being seriously dealt with and to ensure other aspects of my cruise met my expectations, once he became involved in the matter (he indicated he was off the ship when the incidents occurred and returned to the ship only the day before he met with me). He sent the supervisor of my cabin steward to drop in on me to make sure I was happy with my cabin cleaning and condition, and he did offer perhaps complimentary spa service but I declined the offer as I only use the gym, sauna and steam room and not the massage or salon services. He also gave me his card and his phone local number and asked me to call him with any other issues or concerns during the balance of my cruise. Part of the issue, according to my understanding, may be that the spa is subcontracted to a spa operator so the spa manager and spa staff are not Princess employees but employees of the contractor. Therefore the spa staff may be less focused on Princess cruise passenger concerns as long as the spa contractor retains its contract to operate the spas for Princess. The above serious issues aside, my cruise experience was generally good, noticing some improvement in food offerings, interesting ports even on an itinerary with only 4 port calls, some noticeable wear and tear on an old ship that could perhaps be better maintained and some sloppiness in materials provided to passengers. I boarded in Singapore and boarding was very efficient. I arrived before noon well before the official time of boarding for my cabin but had no trouble checking in and boarding quickly in time for lunch at the buffet. My cabin was ready when I boarded and luggage delivery was fairly quick. One thing I noticed is that my cabin steward did not put out the plastic mats on top of the bed for unpacking luggage on boarding day (or for packing the day before disembarkation) so this appears to be a change in procedure for Princess compared to prior cruises. I thought food offerings was improved on this cruise due to a new pastry/baked goods/dessert station being added to the Horizon Court buffet outside of the original buffet area. This allowed more appetizers and main courses to be offered in the original buffet area since it no longer needed to allow space for baked goods and desserts, and also as the new baked goods/dessert station is quite large, there were many more desserts and baked goods on offer during breakfast, lunch and dinner - pretty much as broad as the dessert and baked goods offerings on a Royal class ship with its separate bakery section in the buffet. Dishes on offer in the main dining room for dinner looked familiar compared to prior cruises, except that there was a local dish offering or two each evening such as Bak Kut The (or meat bone tea, a pork rib cooked in herbal broth dish from Singapore/Malaysia) which I had one evening. The local offerings are definitely toned down for Western tastes and so not quite authentically local in spiciness or herbal flavour, but still an interesting alternative to the dishes you can have on any other Princess cruise in the world. The ports on this cruise were Bali (tender), Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Phuket (tender). I particularly loved Penang as I enjoyed the visits to the Chinese merchant mansions and clan houses, and also the convenience of the ship being docked just off the main part of Georgetown where all the sites, shopping and food outlets are located (Chinatown and Little India both within easy walking distance, 5 minutes to an outdoor hawker stall market for many choices of cheap local food). Phuket was a bit inconvenient as we had to tender to a small town that had nothing and then take ship tours or local taxis to get to anywhere interesting and traffic was quite congested in Phuket. I opted for the Phi Phi Island excursion. We had two snorkelling stops but snorkelling was not great - some fish and corral but not as abundant as many other sites in Asia. We were not allowed to land on Maya Beach, made famous by the filming of the movie "The Beach" due to the government closing the beach indefinitely to repair the ecosystem but we were able to take photos from offshore and then snorkel in the waters a bit offshore of Maya Beach. Bali (Denpasar) was also a tender port and tender service was not very good - my excursion was about half an hour late departing as tenders were late getting to shore and returned about an hour late to the tender point where I found a very long line-up for tenders and no tenders in sight (thought Princess should have done better to coordinate with its tour operators to know when their excursion buses would be returning and making sure tenders were on hand to quickly transfer passenger back to the ship, the late return was particularly inconvenient as the late return of the excursion and the long wait for tenders meant I missed the lunch service hours so only sandwich/snacks at Horizon court or International Café was available). Kuala Lumpur was not a tender port but there was a long bus ride from the port to the city itself. I took a Princess excursion that visited the Batu Caves (very interesting), the Royal Selangor Pewter factory (very quick factory tour and explanation and equally short time for quick shopping of pewter products) and the National Museum (not much to see and no inside guided tour, just view on your own). I chose anytime dining and made a reservation each night at the Pacific Moon dining room on deck 6. Even if I call as soon as the reservation line is open, the only time slots offered are 5:30 to about 6:30 pm or 7:30 pm and later. I found arriving early before about 6:45 pm, there was no problem getting a table with or without a reservation, The busy time appears to be 7 to 7:30 pm. The first night, the service was very slow - over 90 min for one person dining by myself compared to the 30 to 45 minute range that is my usual experience on other Princess ships. However I spoke to the Head Waiter about this and every evening after that, he made sure I was served as quickly as I could eat (kudos to head waiter Luigi and Alex, my waiter for most evening, who were wonderful in addressing my concerns and ensuring my dining experience was to my satisfaction). I used the gym onboard frequently. It had the usual equipment. The gym was quite busy much of the time but I was able to figure out the slow times to go so that I would not have to wait too much to use the equipment that I wanted to use. As I mentioned above, I also used the sauna and steamroom in the men's changeroom, often after using the gym. The sauna was fine but the steamroom was not operating for the first 6 days of the 10 day cruise and there seemed to be confusion about the steamroom being out of operation as front desk said they were not aware the steamroom was broken notwithstanding passengers reporting the problem to spa staff continuously (I saw the engineers working on the steamroom on several days but they did not seem to do a good job of making sure the repairs actually worked after they were done and in addition to the steam generator issues, there were also issues with the steamroom door failing to close properly thereby letting all the steam out). According to other passengers who were on a back to back 20 day cruise prior to the start of my 10 days cruise, the steamroom was working fine during the prior 10 days to the start of my cruise so it may be a matter of bad luck on an old ship with the steamroom issues. The out of operation steamroom also meant the much smaller sauna was often over-crowded and sometimes, passengers would have to wait to take turns in the sauna. There were also problems with the showers in the changeroom - for several days, one of the three showers were out of operation causing line-ups for showers and for the first several days of the cruise, the shower stalls were missing the full set of toiletries (shampoo, conditioner, shower gel). The spa manager said the changerooms were considered to be part of the spa. That might explain the issues with the steamroom and shower stalls in the changeroom, the delay in getting things fixed, and the lack of knowledge at front desk of issues with the changeroom facilities - generally bad management by the spa manager and staff and very poor coordination with front desk and ship management. I also ran into issues with sloppiness in materials provided to passengers. There were obvious errors on the Princess Patter, such as listing a sushi buffet for lunch at Horizon Court one day when there was no such offering (I think they got the date wrong as there was a sushi buffet at lunch at Horizon Court on the final at sea day). There were also obvious errors in the maps provided as part of the port handouts for Bali and for Kuala Lumpur. When I pointed the errors out to the shore excursion staff, they indicated the handouts are provided by head office and not onboard so they do not control the information in the handouts - a bit surprising that obvious errors in the maps would be provided to passengers going to these ports on all Princess ships and not having anyone notice or point these out. I have been on many Princess cruises and earned up to the Elite level on Captain Circle. This cruise on the Sapphire Princess was one of the most problematic cruises I have been on with Princess. I normally have no reservation in recommending Princess as a good mid-priced cruise line with generally good ships, food and service, and good itineraries with strong infrastructure set-up in ports for excursions and issues. However this cruise has certainly shaken my confidence in Princess so I hope my next cruise on Princess in Japan in June will be back to traditional Princess standards and restore my faith in Princess.

Some serious issues with privacy and security of property

Sapphire Princess Cruise Review by Vanctraveller

9 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: February 2019
  • Destination: Asia
  • Cabin Type: Balcony
I recently completed a 10 day cruise on Sapphire Princess, sailing out from Singapore on February 28, 2019. I encountered some serious issues that I have not experienced on Princess before. While in the men's changeroom, I witnessed the spa staff give a master locker key to a passenger who claims he found his locker locked but he had not locked it. The passenger was allowed to use the master key in the men's changeroom unsupervised as spa staff said no male staff was available to accompany him. The passenger then opened the locker that he thought was his, found out it was not his and then promptly used the master key to open every locker near the one he thought was his, violating the privacy and security of property of the other passengers who had locked their belongings in the lockers. In addition, on two occasions when I was in the men's changeroom, once when I was in the sauna with another passenger also in the sauna and a second time when I was standing at the lockers while changing, I heard a woman's voice in the men's changeroom and found the female spa manager had entered the men's changeroom during operating hours unannounced and without any prior warning. I reported both the locker master key incident and the female spa manager intrusion into the men's changeroom to both the spa manager and front desk but did not see any serious response to the incidents from the ship (as shown by the spa manager intruding into the men's changeroom a second time when I was in there just a day or two after I reported the first intrusion). It was only after I e-mailed my cruise agent to complain and he passed on my complaint to Princess sales office that head office contacted the ship and arranged for the Customer Services Director to meet with me to explain they have reported the locker master key incident to the captain as a breach of security and that they have instructed the female spa manager not to enter the men's changeroom during operating hours. It was quite clear to me from my experience on this cruise that the spa manager and the ship was not taking these matters very seriously until head office contacted the ship and likely because I pointed out in my complaint that had a male spa staff member intruded into the women's changeroom unannounced while female guests were in the changeroom, there would likely have been a much more serious reaction.

The cruise would otherwise have been much better rated by me but this serious breach of security of property of other passengers by the careless release of the master locker key to a passenger unsupervised and the repeated intrusion of the female spa manager into the men's changeroom unannounced, and the initial tepid response from the ship and front desk does raise serious doubts in my mind about the attitude of Princess to very basic expectations of passengers to security of property and privacy.

I do want to credit the Customer Services Director Miguel Netto Rocha though with making every effort to reassure me the issues were being seriously dealt with and to ensure other aspects of my cruise met my expectations, once he became involved in the matter (he indicated he was off the ship when the incidents occurred and returned to the ship only the day before he met with me). He sent the supervisor of my cabin steward to drop in on me to make sure I was happy with my cabin cleaning and condition, and he did offer perhaps complimentary spa service but I declined the offer as I only use the gym, sauna and steam room and not the massage or salon services. He also gave me his card and his phone local number and asked me to call him with any other issues or concerns during the balance of my cruise.

Part of the issue, according to my understanding, may be that the spa is subcontracted to a spa operator so the spa manager and spa staff are not Princess employees but employees of the contractor. Therefore the spa staff may be less focused on Princess cruise passenger concerns as long as the spa contractor retains its contract to operate the spas for Princess.

The above serious issues aside, my cruise experience was generally good, noticing some improvement in food offerings, interesting ports even on an itinerary with only 4 port calls, some noticeable wear and tear on an old ship that could perhaps be better maintained and some sloppiness in materials provided to passengers.

I boarded in Singapore and boarding was very efficient. I arrived before noon well before the official time of boarding for my cabin but had no trouble checking in and boarding quickly in time for lunch at the buffet. My cabin was ready when I boarded and luggage delivery was fairly quick. One thing I noticed is that my cabin steward did not put out the plastic mats on top of the bed for unpacking luggage on boarding day (or for packing the day before disembarkation) so this appears to be a change in procedure for Princess compared to prior cruises.

I thought food offerings was improved on this cruise due to a new pastry/baked goods/dessert station being added to the Horizon Court buffet outside of the original buffet area. This allowed more appetizers and main courses to be offered in the original buffet area since it no longer needed to allow space for baked goods and desserts, and also as the new baked goods/dessert station is quite large, there were many more desserts and baked goods on offer during breakfast, lunch and dinner - pretty much as broad as the dessert and baked goods offerings on a Royal class ship with its separate bakery section in the buffet. Dishes on offer in the main dining room for dinner looked familiar compared to prior cruises, except that there was a local dish offering or two each evening such as Bak Kut The (or meat bone tea, a pork rib cooked in herbal broth dish from Singapore/Malaysia) which I had one evening. The local offerings are definitely toned down for Western tastes and so not quite authentically local in spiciness or herbal flavour, but still an interesting alternative to the dishes you can have on any other Princess cruise in the world.

The ports on this cruise were Bali (tender), Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Phuket (tender). I particularly loved Penang as I enjoyed the visits to the Chinese merchant mansions and clan houses, and also the convenience of the ship being docked just off the main part of Georgetown where all the sites, shopping and food outlets are located (Chinatown and Little India both within easy walking distance, 5 minutes to an outdoor hawker stall market for many choices of cheap local food).

Phuket was a bit inconvenient as we had to tender to a small town that had nothing and then take ship tours or local taxis to get to anywhere interesting and traffic was quite congested in Phuket. I opted for the Phi Phi Island excursion. We had two snorkelling stops but snorkelling was not great - some fish and corral but not as abundant as many other sites in Asia. We were not allowed to land on Maya Beach, made famous by the filming of the movie "The Beach" due to the government closing the beach indefinitely to repair the ecosystem but we were able to take photos from offshore and then snorkel in the waters a bit offshore of Maya Beach.

Bali (Denpasar) was also a tender port and tender service was not very good - my excursion was about half an hour late departing as tenders were late getting to shore and returned about an hour late to the tender point where I found a very long line-up for tenders and no tenders in sight (thought Princess should have done better to coordinate with its tour operators to know when their excursion buses would be returning and making sure tenders were on hand to quickly transfer passenger back to the ship, the late return was particularly inconvenient as the late return of the excursion and the long wait for tenders meant I missed the lunch service hours so only sandwich/snacks at Horizon court or International Café was available).

Kuala Lumpur was not a tender port but there was a long bus ride from the port to the city itself. I took a Princess excursion that visited the Batu Caves (very interesting), the Royal Selangor Pewter factory (very quick factory tour and explanation and equally short time for quick shopping of pewter products) and the National Museum (not much to see and no inside guided tour, just view on your own).

I chose anytime dining and made a reservation each night at the Pacific Moon dining room on deck 6. Even if I call as soon as the reservation line is open, the only time slots offered are 5:30 to about 6:30 pm or 7:30 pm and later. I found arriving early before about 6:45 pm, there was no problem getting a table with or without a reservation, The busy time appears to be 7 to 7:30 pm. The first night, the service was very slow - over 90 min for one person dining by myself compared to the 30 to 45 minute range that is my usual experience on other Princess ships. However I spoke to the Head Waiter about this and every evening after that, he made sure I was served as quickly as I could eat (kudos to head waiter Luigi and Alex, my waiter for most evening, who were wonderful in addressing my concerns and ensuring my dining experience was to my satisfaction).

I used the gym onboard frequently. It had the usual equipment. The gym was quite busy much of the time but I was able to figure out the slow times to go so that I would not have to wait too much to use the equipment that I wanted to use. As I mentioned above, I also used the sauna and steamroom in the men's changeroom, often after using the gym. The sauna was fine but the steamroom was not operating for the first 6 days of the 10 day cruise and there seemed to be confusion about the steamroom being out of operation as front desk said they were not aware the steamroom was broken notwithstanding passengers reporting the problem to spa staff continuously (I saw the engineers working on the steamroom on several days but they did not seem to do a good job of making sure the repairs actually worked after they were done and in addition to the steam generator issues, there were also issues with the steamroom door failing to close properly thereby letting all the steam out). According to other passengers who were on a back to back 20 day cruise prior to the start of my 10 days cruise, the steamroom was working fine during the prior 10 days to the start of my cruise so it may be a matter of bad luck on an old ship with the steamroom issues. The out of operation steamroom also meant the much smaller sauna was often over-crowded and sometimes, passengers would have to wait to take turns in the sauna. There were also problems with the showers in the changeroom - for several days, one of the three showers were out of operation causing line-ups for showers and for the first several days of the cruise, the shower stalls were missing the full set of toiletries (shampoo, conditioner, shower gel). The spa manager said the changerooms were considered to be part of the spa. That might explain the issues with the steamroom and shower stalls in the changeroom, the delay in getting things fixed, and the lack of knowledge at front desk of issues with the changeroom facilities - generally bad management by the spa manager and staff and very poor coordination with front desk and ship management.

I also ran into issues with sloppiness in materials provided to passengers. There were obvious errors on the Princess Patter, such as listing a sushi buffet for lunch at Horizon Court one day when there was no such offering (I think they got the date wrong as there was a sushi buffet at lunch at Horizon Court on the final at sea day). There were also obvious errors in the maps provided as part of the port handouts for Bali and for Kuala Lumpur. When I pointed the errors out to the shore excursion staff, they indicated the handouts are provided by head office and not onboard so they do not control the information in the handouts - a bit surprising that obvious errors in the maps would be provided to passengers going to these ports on all Princess ships and not having anyone notice or point these out.

I have been on many Princess cruises and earned up to the Elite level on Captain Circle. This cruise on the Sapphire Princess was one of the most problematic cruises I have been on with Princess. I normally have no reservation in recommending Princess as a good mid-priced cruise line with generally good ships, food and service, and good itineraries with strong infrastructure set-up in ports for excursions and issues. However this cruise has certainly shaken my confidence in Princess so I hope my next cruise on Princess in Japan in June will be back to traditional Princess standards and restore my faith in Princess.
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Cabin Review

Balcony
Cabin BB B603
I was upgraded to a Balcony BB mid-ship balcony on Baja deck (deck 11). The cabin is a standard balcony cabin but with a good mid-ship location a bit back of the middle set of elevators/stairs. Deck 11 is just two decks below the Horizon court buffet so it was easy to walk up the stairs for breakfast rather than wait for elevators. It was a longer walk down to the dining rooms and main facilities deck on Deck 5, 6 and 7 so I usually walk down but take the elevator back up from decks 5, 6 and 7.

The condition of the cabin definitely shows the age of the ship - the upholstery on the chair had many black marks on it, the table lights next to the bed had lots of tarnish marks and there was a crack in the front part of the toilet seat cover. However, there was a large flat screen TV mounted on the wall which was a much appreciate improvement on the small monitor screen that used to be positioned on top of the corner cabinet.

There was a mini fridge, lots of open closet space and standard luggage storage under the bed.

The shower has a shower curtain and was quite a tight fit for turning around in the shower, but of course there was the option to shower in the men's changeroom in the spa/gym area which were much larger than the in cabin shower. There were three tiers of shelfs in the corner above the sink so good storage space for one's toothbrush, shaver and toiletries.

The cabin is not fancy but quite roomy and comfortable.
Aloha Deck Inside Cabins, Balcony Cabins, Suite Cabins

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Bali
    The tour visited a silver jewellery manufacturer/store, a wood carving center where we had refreshments and a Bali dance music performance (no explanation in English so it was difficult to figure out what the dance was about but colorful and photogenic costumes and good refreshments), and then finally the market at Ubud. There was not much shopping time at the silver store or the wood carving center so you had to be quick and decisive to buy anything. There was over an hour for shopping the market, which was huge and had numerous stalls indoor and outdoor, but I found the products there appeared mostly to be cheap touristy products. Tour was not well managed on time and traffic was bad so the return time was more than an hour later than scheduled.
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  • Kelang (Kuala Lumpur)
    Batu caves was very interesting but does involve climbing over 270 steep steps. Lunch was a buffet at a hotel, OK quality and somewhat rushed as traffic around the city was quite bad and the tour members asked the tour guide to have the bus drive by the Petronas towers for photos from the bus. Royal Selangor factory visit was very short, there was a quick guided tour which was quite interesting but had to be shortened as we were running behind schedule and there was probaly only about 15 minutes to shop for Royal Selangor pewter at the end of the tour. Final stop was National Museum which was an unguided inside visit by yourself to see the various exhibits, not a lot to see at the museum so a short visit was enough.
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  • Penang
    Great tour of the Baba Nyonya Museum (Pinang Peranakan Mansion) and Khoo Kongsi clan house. Both incredibly ornate and the mansion being filled with mother of pearl encrusted furniture, everyday clothing made with gold and silver thread, floor tiles from England, iron railings from Scotland, antiques and sculptures from Europe and generally displays of immense wealth. Also visited the temple with the reclining Buddha and one of the clan jetty. Good short overview city tour.
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  • Phuket
    I took the Phi Phi Island beach and swimming tour. We visited two snorkelling sites, both OK but not great snorkelling. We started with a beach visit but the sun was blisteringly strong so I had to find shade when not in the water - definitely strong sunblock or covering recommended. Lunch was a buffet at a resort on the largest island and it had a good variety of Western and Thai dishes. We were not able to land on Maya Beach, made famous by the filming of the movie "The Beach" since the government has closed the beach indefinitely to restore the ecosystem but we were able to take photos of the beach from offshore on board our speedboat. Transportation was a speedboat for about 30 passengers and when travelling at speed between islands, the ride can be quite bumpy.
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  • Singapore
    I spent a few days in Singapore prior to my cruise on the Sapphire Princess. Great city, great food, lots of shopping. I was impressed by the super trees and the two giant conservatories at Gardens on the Bay and spent a lot more time wandering around the attraction than I thought I would. Food is very good all over Singapore - chili crab, Hainan chicken, laksa noodle. Many malls have food courts that have hawker stall type stands serving inexpensive but good local food.
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