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Sapphire Princess Cruise Review
4.5 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating
1,054 Reviews

An average ship for the gourmand (NOT gourmet) marred by poor management

Sapphire Princess Cruise Review by gomontavista

3 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: Dec 2019
  • Destination: Asia
  • Cabin Type: Oceanview

The Sapphire Princess has a well seasoned crew with some staff having over 15 years of experience. They provide generally good and attentive service but with a few exceptions, fail to really engage passengers (Our International Dining Room wait staff was very good and drew our respect for her honest opinions and suggestions about what to do in port and life in general). Wait staff in the buffet was generally good, with okay service if providing water and coffee though we noticed some staff at the beginning of our cruise seemed to avoid assisting non-whites. We heard that some passengers complained of this, and things got better during the cruise.

Breakfast in the buffet was extremely repetitive, with very little variation day to day. For a short cruise, it would be okay, but for our back to back 20+ day cruise, it got tedious. The other disappointment was the quality of the food. Nothing is fresh! ALL food at the buffet appeared to be cooked hours early and kept in warming ovens until served. Soup was never hot. Freshness ranked at the bottom of the list in our 10+ cruise history.

The dining room was not much better. Food, including soups, was rarely hot and the creme brulee appeared to be stored in refrigerators for days (generally served cold with sale biscuits on top). Seafood was not fresh with two in our party getting sick from scallops and shrimp in appetizers. There was a certain sameness t the appetizers as well, which was disappointing since prior Princess Cruises provided much better quality and originality (Escargot was on the menu once, but most selections were meh). Entrees were inconsistent - some good, some bad, and there was significant variation even with the same dish ordered by different members of our party. Menus were also repetitive, so one leg okay, but two ... no. We are used to having steak as an alternative on the menu, but were surprised to see that on this cruise, the beef choice was a hamburger.

Besides the soup of the day, the International cafe adjacent to the coffee counter was exactingly consistent and consisted of cold sandwiches (always the same) heated when ordered on a panini press,

There are two sources of pizza on this ship - a counter on the pool deck and a sit down location off the atrium. In the atrium you could select form a short list of varieties, but there was nothing else on the menu - no appetizers (other ships had antipasto), no bread with vinegar and oil, no deserts, ... . At dinnertime, you could get a salad though, just as long as it was Caesar.

Entertainment was typical with some acts okay and others poor. On board music included a piano player and a violin duo who played many hours in the atrium, a DJ, and a band for the bars, and at least one bar appeared to have pre-recorded video much of the time. There was little, if any, enrichment and the library was small.

Preferring to travel independently - for several people, it is cheaper to rent a van or taxi for the day), we did not participate in any shore excursions, but comments from other passengers were positive, and the prices seemed reasonable.

Each department appeared to be run separately and independently, and were often out of sync. Some advertised first line activities conflicted with set dinner times and time in port.

We were cruising during holiday season, and it was very irritating to have equipment jackhammering outside our cabin early Christmas morning with no prior warning - they could have waited until later in the day.

Other cruiselines offer better back to back experiences. Sapphire Princess became too repetitive, even with entertainment. It would be okay for a week, but for significantly longer cruises, choose elsewhere. Princess provides a decent library of on demand video and a couple of live news and sports stations on the high definition good sized wall mounted TV, but after a week,, pretty much everything has been watched. They should expand their selections, and other cruises provide more channels. We were unable to connect HDMI to the TV. Music on demand was very limited.

A major irritation was that despite entering our credit card information online several times (it kept being lost) and confirming onboard that they had our credit card information, Princess apparently lost it again. When we were exiting the ship, the alarm sounded and we were directed to the main desk which was quite long.

One major item which I believe is unexcusable and probably could be the basis of a class action, was that one of our first leg ports (Cambodia) had an issue with Visas. We obtained visas in advance and Princess personnel even affixed it into our passports on embarcation. Princess placed a $100+ charge to our account about a week after the port visit for visa services, claiming that our visa was not acceptable. After a long argument with the front desk, we did get it credited back as a goodwill gesture. Princess should admonish their foreign staff not to argue U.S. law with an attorney. Unfortunately, we are guessing the charge was attempted for everyone on the ship, including passengers who did not need a visa to visit Cambodia. Princess attempted to charge passengers from Southeast Asia after the conclusion of the cruise (our friends' banks rejected the multiple attempts to charge their accounts for the untoward visa processing).

We are platinum level with Princess and are nearing black, but other cruiselines provide more compelling itineraries and passenger experience. With our preference for longer cruises, we'll likely choose a different line in the future.


gomontavista's Full Rating Summary
Cabin
Onboard Experience
Enrichment Activities
Value For Money
Embarkation
Dining
Public Rooms
Entertainment
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Cabin Review

Oceanview

This cabin far forward starboard suffered from loud wave crashing when the ship sailed quickly, and noise when anchoring or docking, or often in port, were very noisy starting before sunrise through much later.

USB jacks on the nightstands were convenient.


Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

Found a group who had chartered a bus and provided a city tour. Note that traffic is pretty bad, so the return seemed tedious

Sihanoukville

On our visit in late 2019, the whole city was being rebuilt by the Chinese (including roads) with Chinese style buildings, signage and other development like casinos. If you visit, wait a few years for development to be completed. Also, be alert to visa issues.

Koh Samui

City is very convenient (walking). We got a massage and shopped for snacks at the local air-conditioned newer grocery store.

Kelang (Kuala Lumpur)

Take the city tour, but expect lots of traffic. A friend picked us up and we visited Klang for Bak Koh Teh (nothing in this city but food), then drove to KL.

Bali

Take a tour and go to the high country. The local city is very poor with high pressure sales. Also, this is the first time we negotiated a price with a taxi for a city tour after which they took us to the beach (we are not beach people) and left us. We had to find our own transportation back to the ship. Lesson: Always take a cellphone photo of the port so you know where to return!

Penang

Very interesting town with easy access and very helpful maps. All tourist spots are pointed out, and they speak English. Note that foreigner prices are generally much higher than prices for Maylasians (you need a Maylasian ID - we didn't).


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