Not our first cruise, but has been a while. We decided to celebrate NYE cruising with our two teenage boys, and for the most part, the cruise was really enjoyable.
Fully booked cruise, 2600 passengers, yet the ship never felt congested (in fact, at times it felt half empty). The shear number of public areas is fantastic, which effectively spreads out the guests and creates a really open feel. Sure the Horizon Court Buffet can get busy at peak times, but we never had trouble finding a table, and the vibe was actually really good with no issues sharing a table (which we enjoyed, as it was a chance to chat to other travelers).
Contrary to some reviews I have read recently, I felt the food was at a very high level. The Horizon Buffet had a good variety, and I never was bored of the choices (I did the 10 day cruise, I suspect after 21 days it could get boring... but hey, better than cooking and washing up at home). The three anytime dining restaurants were excellent, with each having the same menu (Pacific Moon, Vivaldi and Savoy). I could not fault the food or the service, and it was a highlight of each day. The Creme Brulee was a particular favorite of my family.
The Cruise Director (Matt "Gooooood Time" Baker) were funny and upbeat, and did their best to keep the party going (particularly on NYE). This is a really tough gig, as the demographic on cruises is so varied. All in all, hats off to them, they did a great job IMO.
The decor and layout of the boat is OK, and comments that it is dated are a bit harsh. I have seen pictures of some really new ships, and yer they look pretty amazing, with GoKart tracks, and wave pools and sky diving, but read the reviews, who likes lining up for 1 to 2 hours on a ship to have a go at a showground attraction?? No lines for activities Sapphire.
We had a Quad Bunk room with an Obstructed view.... no romance on this cruise, but hey, it was a family experience and the room was spacious and well appointed. No complaints here.
The daily shore excursion enrichment seminars were fantastic, and the lady that ran these was excellent, with honest advice and a real knowledge of each shore visit.
Hygiene was taken very seriously, with staff constantly reminding passengers to wash their hands. No illness outbreak that I was aware of.
Christmas Cruise meant lots of kids, and for us this was great. My kids are 13 and 14 and in their Teen "Surf Club" program, there were 180 kids, and 500+ kids all up. For us, this was fantastic, as a big part of the cruise was our kids meeting friends and having a great time.
The young lady running the Teen program (Valeria) was amazing and patient. Unfortunately I just don't think there was enough in the program to keep this age group engaged (another tough gig to be honest). My kids really wanted to participate in group activities, but many were a bit young, and they often opted to swim or catch up with kids outside the program. I felt this was a missed opportunity from Princess Cruises to really excel and have activities that were age appropriate and engaging. It wasn't bad, just not great.
Entertainment. Sapphire has a pretty big auditorium, that largely sits empty. I felt there could have been more entertainment in this area. As someone has mentioned, rather than cinema outside in the hot, a daily Matinee Cinema would have been great, especially if the movies were current. The comedian was OK, and missed the mark a lot, and some shows felt flat. The Dance/Singing troop were pretty good, but under utilized.
The Band "Xtasea". They were competent, but looked really tired. I think 2 bands were needed, as the play list was pretty repetitive. Two 45 minute sets a night, and then that was it, pretty much the only night time entertainment after 10:30pm was in the nightclub with a DJ, and it was pretty flat most of the time.
Internet. Pretty much non existent. Paid $99US for 240 minutes, barely had a chance to browse of download an email. Was told in the internet cafe that they had problems, and I was refunded the $99.
The ship got struck by lightning on the 2nd sea day out of Bali, and that crippled the ships Radar. We had to anchor while repairs were conducted, and we finally got underway at around 2am the next day. This meant no KL port call, and the ship sailed to Penang, then cancelled Phuket and instead made a port of call at Langkawi. Personally, they should have just skipped KL and continued on with the set itinerary (Penang, then Phuket). Many passengers were upset about this.
KL port is terrible, and the nearly 2hr coach ride to anywhere eats into any shore time. I feel it should be scrapped as a port of call.
All in all, we had a great time, and I would not hesitate to book a trip on the Sapphire again.
Cabin was roomy with barely any view obstruction (E521 is between lifeboats). The room was quiet, and the beds were comfy.
We booked a driver for the day months ahead (600000 Rup ~ $50USD). Being the 31st December, many road closures, so we were limited to areas close to the port. We visited Legian and Seminyak. The beach at Seminyak was a highlight, the market stalls just drove me crazy ("Hey Boss"). North of Ubud would have being great, being stuck in the shopping districts was a bummer.
Singapore is a great City. Lots to do and see close to the port.
Phuket got replaced with Langkawi. We took the free shuttle to town and then hired a driver for the day ($200Ring ~ $55USD / $70 AUD). We drover around the island and decided to do the Bat Caves and Fish Farm ($250Rin / $90 AUD for group of 4). Best tour we did. Took a high speed river boat to Bat Caves, then down the river to a floating Fish Farm, onto look at Eagles flying over the river. All in all took about 1.5 hours and was a great experience). We then went to the beach for an hour, then driver took us back to the port. The scenary from the ship at the Pier is amazing. Easy day out.
The dock is right next to George Town. No need for paid excursions, you can walk right into the city. Amazing day exploring. The Chew Jetties were great, and the food and shopping was really good value. The pier is so close, we actually returned to the ship for lunch and a swim, then venture out for another few hours. There is a free city bus that stops literally 300m to 500m from the exit of the pier.