The 116,000-ton, 2,670-passenger Sapphire Princess debuted in 2004 as the fifth of nine ships in Princess Cruises' wide-ranging Grand class. While it is the largest of the Grand-class ships by volume, it carries more than 400 fewer passengers than its youngest siblings.
In 2018, ahead of a two-year stint in Europe for the first time since it was built (in Japan, incidentally), the ship went through a significant refurb. Though less far reaching than a 2012 makeover, the two-week dry dock did see the addition of a new kids' club -- Camp Discovery -- and Club Class Mini Suites, as well as new carpeting and furnishing.
The ship may be relatively old (14 years in 2018), and in parts it does show its age (some of the cabins and bathrooms could do with a spruce up, for example), but the refurbs have gone a long way to making it look and feel fresh. It also packs a lot in for what is classified as a midsized ship. It may not have the big wows that some modern ships have (no climbing walls or FlowRiders for example), but it does squeeze a lot in to entertain any age group.
The kids' club is one of the best we've seen on a ship this size; there is a full-size basketball court on the top deck, multiple swimming pools, a putting/bocce green, Movies Under the Stars, numerous restaurant options and a wealth of bars -- as well as the best-situated nightclub at sea.
Everything on Sapphire Princess centers around the Piazza, which acts as a meeting spot and a place to hang out, have a drink or a bite to eat, inquire about your onboard bill or do some shopping. The circular, three-deck space also doubles as an entertainment hub, with nightly music and occasional acrobats. As a result, Sapphire is surprisingly easy to navigate as all roads lead to and from here.
Even with the ship sailing full, passenger traffic is light pretty much everywhere -- with the exception of the Promenade area between Club Fusion and the Explorers Lounge, especially on formal night.
Another thing you might notice is that there isn't a main dining room, or rather what would be the MDR is split into five dining rooms (instead of Princess' typical two) -- which has the effect of cutting down on the cruise ship banquet ambience of big restaurants, but creating a more intimate dining experience.
Sapphire Princess is a ship that knows exactly what its passengers want -- quality food, lots of entertainment and a relaxed, easygoing vibe. It's packed full of things to do, day and night and despite being (relatively) small, punches well above its weight.