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Princess Cruises: Sapphire Princess

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Feb 28, 2017

Review of Sapphire Princess

Barbara Rock Age: 54 Occupation:Retired Realtor Number of Cruises: 5 Cruise Line: Princess Ship: Sapphire Princess Sailing Date: 2013-05-2 Itinerary: Los Angeles to Los Angeles My girlfriend and I were wanting a getaway and booked a great cruise on The Sapphire Princess. April was a great time because it wasn't too hot. Winds were high but a light jacket was only necessary. The band that played as the house band called " the new deal" was great. They

engaged the audience well and played a great variety. The drummer was excellent and didn't overpower like most do. I am a drummer as well so I could see how good he was. The singers in the band were very good as well. The live shows with the comedy was great. Two black comedians were rappers and just had such great one liners to keep you laughing the entire time. All the staff who MC'd the different events were very relaxed and fun. The number of seniors on this particular cruise was frustrating to me only because my girlfriend and I were only in our 50's, but it left the gym clear as well as the stairs! I'd have to say the live bands were the best part because you would relax and listen to real musicians. The piano lounge singer was a hit for the older crowd. Food was great but maybe the cruise lines should start offering half orders of different foods because a whole steak along with the other side dishes, desert is too much. Offer 1/2 size cheeze cake or whatever the desert. Also offer1/2 size entres because we don't all eat that much. Lots of waste and with people going hungry in this world it seems a shame. Unless there are pigs down in the lower levels eating all the leftovers and scraps and then when they are fat you can have bacon etc. Food was excellent and the best I have had on a cruise line. Very adequate and roomy even for two women who have lots of clothes. Setup was great for all of them and a huge variety as well. My room mate loved the trivia game and the marriage newlywed game in the lounges. Don't book the submersible submarine at Catalina Island stop. It is a waste of time and money. I could go to a pond and see that. Trip was relaxing. Hot tub available all the time. The huge widescreen on the top deck for movie under the stars with popcorn and a blanket was a cool idea. Loved to have lunch up on the bar watching Paul McCartney in concert huge on the screen.

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May 2, 2013

Los Angeles to Los Angeles

My girlfriend and I were wanting a getaway and booked a great cruise on The Sapphire Princess. April was a great time because it wasn't too hot. Winds were high but a light jacket was only necessary. The band that played as the house band called " the new deal" was great. They engaged the audience well and played a great variety. The drummer was excellent and didn't overpower like most do. I am a drummer as well so I could see how good he was.

The singers in the band were very good as well. The live shows with the comedy was great. Two black comedians were rappers and just had such great one liners to keep you laughing the entire time. All the staff who MC'd the different events were very relaxed and fun. The number of seniors on this particular cruise was frustrating to me only because my girlfriend and I were only in our 50's, but it left the gym clear as well as the stairs! I'd have to say the live bands were the best part because you would relax and listen to real musicians. The piano lounge singer was a hit for the older crowd. Food was great but maybe the cruise lines should start offering half orders of different foods because a whole steak along with the other side dishes, desert is too much. Offer 1/2 size cheeze cake or whatever the desert. Also offer1/2 size entres because we don't all eat that much. Lots of waste and with people going hungry in this world it seems a shame. Unless there are pigs down in the lower levels eating all the leftovers and scraps and then when they are fat you can have bacon etc. Food was excellent and the best I have had on a cruise line. Very adequate and roomy even for two women who have lots of clothes. Setup was great for all of them and a huge variety as well. My room mate loved the trivia game and the marriage newlywed game in the lounges. Don't book the submersible submarine at Catalina Island stop. It is a waste of time and money. I could go to a pond and see that. Trip was relaxing. Hot tub available all the time. The huge widescreen on the top deck for movie under the stars with popcorn and a blanket was a cool idea. Loved to have lunch up on the bar watching Paul McCartney in concert huge on the screen.

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Mar 14, 2012

Mexican Riviera

First, let me say this was our first cruise. We found the overall experience enjoyable. The Princess staff was among the kindest I have encountered in all of my travels. They strive above and beyond to make you happy. We found the food above average in most cases and plenty of it. Everything was fresh and well prepared and you can make healthy choices, if you want. We ate at the Sterling Steak House one night, which was wonderful.

The regular dinners were also quite good. They offered many choices and if you wanted to try something besides your entree, you could order it as an appetizer, or even in addition as a 2nd entree. The buffet was OK. Probably a step above your home town buffet. We bought a champagne breakfast served in our room, which was tres romantique! Fresh fruit, little pastries and mini quiches..... Well worth the splurge. We got a room with a balcony on one of the upper decks (Baja Deck). I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of storage and closet space. I was also happy there was a safe in the room. THANK GOD, they no longer allow smoking on balconies as our neighbors were complaining that she could not smoke her cigarettes or he, his cigar! The room itself was big enough and organized in such an amazingly efficient way that we were very satisfied. On board activities could use some improvement. The trivia games were not well organized and not well controlled. It got so competitive with people yelling out answers that the poor guy basically lost control and no one won. They could use more seating for their open atrium area, when there are music and/or programs. I actually saw a Princess employee professionally diffuse an argument where an elderly woman sat down but the other woman already sitting there was "saving" seats for people and asked her to leave. Saving seats is a no-no, but its done quite a bit. They got the woman another chair and the sitting woman was allowed to save her seats, which I did not think was wise or consistent. One comedian was pretty good. And there was an Irish singer with her Bulgarian band members that was quite good. We went to a few of her gigs and enjoyed them. But the "Jazz" band was not great nor was the other. The opening night was lacking. And the Princess employee talent program was pretty bad. OK. Here is where we had our biggest problem. Our first stop was Puerto Vallarta. Which we thought was going to be an in-city tour. One of the places we went was a Mexican ceramic factory. I thought there was going to be artisans there demonstrating what they made. But we were dropped off on the bus and basically allowed to buy souveneirs. Several of us went upstairs and found one guy making pottery, but he did not talk to us and we got the feeling we were not welcomed. And what he was making was not art, it was cheap, tourist stuff. What was a bit disconcerting, was that we drove about 35 minutes outside of the city to go to a tequila factory. Since there was a bus from a Carnival cruise that was hijacked and the people robbed just days before, we had decided to stick to the "city" tour so we thought it was a bit of false advertising. At least we did not read we were driving out of the city. But the tour ended up being fun and I drank enough samples that I don't think I would have cared if we were hijacked..... Cabo was awful. That is unless you enjoy ultra tourist traps, no feeling for the true Mexican culture and people of all weights and ages getting drunk and making asses of themselves. They really need to improve this one. If you want to be pampered and the ship is your destination, cruising the Mexican Riviera is for you. And, Princess is a good cruise line to try. Their prices were pretty competitive and their service is excellent. Though I did think their spa-pedi-mani prices were a bit ridiculous. However, they are comperable to what one would pay in an upscale hotel. We did have an issue when we needed to send an email. VERY expensive. And the man there, had a bit of an attitude. We were there for just a few minutes and were never able to connect. Cost $10. I understand from Princess staff that they subcontract this out. I think they need to do better as the service and the attitudes do not match what we experience with the rest of the staff on the cruise. If you want adventure and fun ports, pick a trip other than the Mexican Riviera. Especially, since Mazatlan is no longer a stop and you spend a night in Cabo...... Very disappointing.

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Dec 20, 2011

Hawaii

We thought this 14 day cruise from LA to Hawaii and back would be relaxing but it felt more like a struggle. Once we were back, my thought was more "Whew, I survived." than "What a wonderful vacation". The buffet food was about average Las Vegas-type buffet food. Breakfast was the best meal. The dining rooms had some great selections and the plating was beautiful but a lot of the food was just plain bland. Each of the dining rooms had a

specialty dish which we had to find out about through word of mouth. In the Pacific Moon dining room, we ordered their specialty, Asian Noodles with shrimp and scallops, and it came to the table sans the seafood. It tasted like something a college student would make out of a package of ramen noodles. Kudos, though to the Sterling Steakhouse and Sabatini's Italian. Both of these charge a $20 per person cover, but it was well worth it. We had really fine steaks at the Sterling and wonderful lobster at Sabatini's. Even the coffee was superior. Good hot dogs and burgers at the deck 14 grill by the pool and good pizza there, too. Typical mini suite with balcony, nothing to rave about. Adequate. Lost power in the bathroom one night, so no lights until it was repaired. Loud noises outside the cabin when they were working on the lifeboats which were one deck below us. We were on Deck 9, Dolphin deck. Plenty to choose from, impossible to do it all. Of note were the ukulele lessons which had folks playing decently by the end of the cruise. We enjoyed the Scholarship at Sea lectures each afternoon, especially the 2-part tour of route 66 and classic American icons. Trivia games were fun. On Kauai, take the "Famous movies and waterfalls" tour. The mini bus screens famous movie clips as you go by the spot it was filmed. We saw places that "Blue Hawaii", "Jurassic Park", "Uncommon Valor", "Donovan's Reef" and others were filmed. Definitely interesting for any movie buffs. The seas on the way over and back (4 days each way) were rough and negotiating such a large ship was difficult. The average passenger age had to be 75 and you could count the number of children on board on one hand. Scooters and walkers were everywhere. Groups of elderly took up most of the open deck tables all afternoon playing mahjongg and cards. We give this cruise poor marks for communication. Twice we stumbled upon special lunch buffets which were not announced anywhere. Disembarkation at Hilo was a mess. No one could direct us as to where to find the rent a car shuttle. I guess if you are not on one of the sponsored tours, you are on your own. People fought over cabs which seemed to only want to take passengers on tours, not for just a quick transport into town. We enjoyed our tours in Honolulu and on Kauai, but at Lahaina we wondered who was piloting the tender boats taking people to shore when the one my husband was on backed into another tender and damaged itself. Before returning to LA, we made the mandatory stop in Ensenada, MX, it was only 4 hours starting at 4 PM, hardly worth it. To disembark at the end of the cruise, the San Pedro world cruise center makes you walk about 1/2 a mile to get to customs and the luggage pick up, so be sure you don't have back pain or foot pain or its torture. We would not do this cruise again, it was a disappointing vacation. If you want to see Hawaii, pick an island, fly over and stay in a condo for a week or 10 days...that's how to relax.

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Sep 14, 2011

Alaska Inside Passage

Extremly disappointed in the food, entertainment, & service. It was difficult to get in & out of the area where breakfast & lunch was served. There were 5 of us on the curise we have all cruised prior (Holland American) once to Alaska & Eastern Carribean. If this had been my first cruise I WOULD NOT GO on another cruise. We all decided we would not cruise Princess again. The food choices where much the same every day, hot food was sometimes

warm to cold, no mid-night buffet, no food carvens, etc. The service in the main dining room was very good. We ate breakfast in the main dining room to stay out of the mass confussion on deck 14. Nothing was special what you would expect at a 2 to 3 star hotel or restaurant. My husband went down one afternoon to get hot water in a couple of cups he was told he couldn't do that he'd have to call room service and have them bring it up. That's fine, but we were able to do that on other curises and sometimes it's just more conveniant to get yourself. On a positive note our cabin was nice & clean. It had good storage & a large closet. The bed had a ridge down the middle where they put it together, not good. It did not have a magnified lighted makeup mirror and we were in a Min Suite. The other cruises have these in all staterooms. The blow dryer was not very good I was happy I brought my own. The tub/shower was VERY high off the ground even for me. We did have a little piece of candy on our bed at night but no animals made out of towels. I know that's not a big thing but it is a special touch. The entertainment was very poor. There was a magician one night & a comedian put on 3 shows, 2 of which were the very same shows & the other had alot of the same as the first 2 shows. The theater was not very large for the size of the ship but since they didn't have very good entertaiment nor a show every night it reallly didn't matter. There wasn't a very good variety again nothing really special . The White Pass train in Skagway was worth the money!!! We did the afternoon it was fantastic. The Rain Forest in Jueanua was ok, not a redo. The horse drawn trolley in Victory ok, not a redo. Wish we had gone with what we knew was a good cruise line. For the money spent on this cruise it was NOT a good value considering what you get for your money elsewhere. As far as this group of 5, we'll not cruise Princess again . We've told all don't cruise Princess.

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Jul 29, 2011

Inside Passage - Alaska

I totally enjoyed this cruise. I was very leary after reading some of the comments about how poorly maintained this ship was. But, we had no problems at all. Sure, the bed was a bit hard, but we asked for an egg crate, which was delivered in about 30 minutes...and we both slept very well...too well almost. Alaska is amazing...I am sold and would love to live there with all it's pristine "summer time" beauty. A great variety of food....lots

of selections for vegetarians...and there was stuff there for the "fry" babies...or people who like everything "fried and laid on its side"! We did have trouble getting refills...but just ask for 4 lemonades initially and you don't have to worry about refills. The desserts were wonderful...not all of them, but most of them...cookies, tarts, cakes....ice cream...all good to me. We had the All-Time dining...so you did have to reserve a table earlier in the day...but not a big deal...dinner got me off our balcony as I loved watching the wildlife, the mountains, glaciers, and just the water. Clean cabin...nice, modern head (bathroom)...very comfy...I hated to leave my room at times...with quick room service, the balcony...the mountains...why did I need to leave? There were flat screen TV's that broadcast movies, news, and the bridge cam, which I loved....we were able to see what was directly in front of the ship without leaving the cabin. Lots of storage space, closet space and hangers for all our luggage and clothes. Rez was the best cabin steward....EVER. He was prompt and so quick...very responsive...he made sure we had fruit, water and ice on a daily basis. He was always sweating from working so diligently. There was sooo much to do...all of it fun for the most part...Ping Pong tables....pools, hot tubs...Bingo...dance classes, the spa...just chilling....I chose to chill. Yea, the excursions from Princess were pricey...hey, we're tourists...it's how the locals make money. We enjoyed the whale watching and Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau....and the White Pass train ride in Skagway...pricey...but so glad we did them. Now, we wished we had seen the sled dogs.........maybe next time. Enjoyable...lovely time...I would go back in a heartbeat....just wish my kids could have been there......but for now, Princess is my #1 cruise line.

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Jul 29, 2011

Inside Passage - Alaska

I totally enjoyed this cruise. I was very leary after reading some of the comments about how poorly maintained this ship was. But, we had no problems at all. Sure, the bed was a bit hard, but we asked for an egg crate, which was delivered in about 30 minutes...and we both slept very well...too well almost. Alaska is amazing...I am sold and would love to live there with all it's pristine "summer time" beauty. A great variety of food....lots

of selections for vegetarians...and there was stuff there for the "fry" babies...or people who like everything "fried and laid on its side"! We did have trouble getting refills...but just ask for 4 lemonades initially and you don't have to worry about refills. The desserts were wonderful...not all of them, but most of them...cookies, tarts, cakes....ice cream...all good to me. We had the All-Time dining...so you did have to reserve a table earlier in the day...but not a big deal...dinner got me off our balcony as I loved watching the wildlife, the mountains, glaciers, and just the water. Clean cabin...nice, modern head (bathroom)...very comfy...I hated to leave my room at times...with quick room service, the balcony...the mountains...why did I need to leave? There were flat screen TV's that broadcast movies, news, and the bridge cam, which I loved....we were able to see what was directly in front of the ship without leaving the cabin. Lots of storage space, closet space and hangers for all our luggage and clothes. Rez was the best cabin steward....EVER. He was prompt and so quick...very responsive...he made sure we had fruit, water and ice on a daily basis. He was always sweating from working so diligently. There was sooo much to do...all of it fun for the most part...Ping Pong tables....pools, hot tubs...Bingo...dance classes, the spa...just chilling....I chose to chill. Yea, the excursions from Princess were pricey...hey, we're tourists...it's how the locals make money. We enjoyed the whale watching and Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau....and the White Pass train ride in Skagway...pricey...but so glad we did them. Now, we wished we had seen the sled dogs.........maybe next time. Enjoyable...lovely time...I would go back in a heartbeat....just wish my kids could have been there......but for now, Princess is my #1 cruise line.

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Jul 19, 2011

Alaska Inner Passage

Everything about Princess is inferior to the competition. Total disappointment. For your own sake choose another cruise line. Food was like fast food buffet style, service was minimal, entertainment was bad and there is NO customer service before or during the cruise. Good advice for excursions was available. We will never take another cruise with Princess Cruise Lines. Very bad overall experience.

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Jun 14, 2011

Alaska

I was not really looking forward to this cruise because I have never had a good cruise experience. You might be asking why was I going. This was a company incentive trip. Anyway this was by far the best cruise I have been on. The only thing that could have been better would have been if it would have been a warm climate cruise. The scenerary was beautiful. The staff was most helpful from customer service to the casino dealers. I had my luggage

lost from American Airlines and the staff did everything they could do to help with finding me clothes to wear. I am in the food business and the other cruises I had been on were marginal at best. This was the exception. We did anytime dining which I would suggest unless you like waiting in line for banquet style eating. We also ate at the Sterling Steakhouse and Sabatini's. Both were $20 upcharges but were like going to a restaurant at home. The pizza was great. The burgers were great. Room Service was fresh hot and delivered very fast. Coffee delivered in less than 10 minutes every morning. We upgraded to a mini suite and was worth the extra $500. Most of the rooms had balconies but the small living room was good especially on the day my wife couldn't get out of bed because of rough water. Much bigger than I remember. We couldn't keep up with everything because there is so much to do. Read the daily brochure of activities. Don't go on the Back Country Jeep and Canoe excursion unless you know a good back doctor. I heard the helicopter glacier was fantastic. Hire one off the ship they are less crowded. Go to Tracy's Crab Shack in Juneau. Go to the Irish Pub and the Oyster House in Victoria Overall is was good. There are a lot of elderly people so you need patience. Pay the extra to check your luggage on the ship and get your boarding passes. I really can't say anything bad about it if you like the great ourtdoors and it being a little cold and wet

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Jun 14, 2011

Alaska

I was not really looking forward to this cruise because I have never had a good cruise experience. You might be asking why was I going. This was a company incentive trip. Anyway this was by far the best cruise I have been on. The only thing that could have been better would have been if it would have been a warm climate cruise. The scenerary was beautiful. The staff was most helpful from customer service to the casino dealers. I had my luggage

lost from American Airlines and the staff did everything they could do to help with finding me clothes to wear. I am in the food business and the other cruises I had been on were marginal at best. This was the exception. We did anytime dining which I would suggest unless you like waiting in line for banquet style eating. We also ate at the Sterling Steakhouse and Sabatini's. Both were $20 upcharges but were like going to a restaurant at home. The pizza was great. The burgers were great. Room Service was fresh hot and delivered very fast. Coffee delivered in less than 10 minutes every morning. We upgraded to a mini suite and was worth the extra $500. Most of the rooms had balconies but the small living room was good especially on the day my wife couldn't get out of bed because of rough water. Much bigger than I remember. We couldn't keep up with everything because there is so much to do. Read the daily brochure of activities. Don't go on the Back Country Jeep and Canoe excursion unless you know a good back doctor. I heard the helicopter glacier was fantastic. Hire one off the ship they are less crowded. Go to Tracy's Crab Shack in Juneau. Go to the Irish Pub and the Oyster House in Victoria Overall is was good. There are a lot of elderly people so you need patience. Pay the extra to check your luggage on the ship and get your boarding passes. I really can't say anything bad about it if you like the great outdoors and it being a little cold and wet.

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By Carm_CR

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Apr 27, 2011

Hawaii

Not do again, Too many days at sea 4.5 each way. Ports, ships service, cabin, and food overall good. This cruise had many seniors 80-90 (geriatic cruise) who had much personal service available. Pre boarding with electronic complance of documents effective, use of EZ Air good, EZ check for departing luggage service great idea, however canceled due to security concerns by NTSB. Lot of HEAVY people who ate their way to Hawai and back. Not possible

for some to fit in shower (my view) so watch out for hot tubs occupancy. Dinner decent selection, warm, service fair. Anytime dinning not anytime. recomend advance reservations, for several days advance. Walkins limited. Must wear long pants, no shorts. They push drinks and bottled water, and urge coffee card purchase. Buffet dinning in Horizon Bfst, lunch decent. Fresh fruit limited to canned peaches, pears, apricots. Fresh pinapple available, must cut away quartered husk. Coffee in Horizon way too strong, however in dinning room same coffee was decent. Matter of brewing strength by staff in dinning, we usually diluted with water. Fresh made omlettes, Belgin waffles good. Service in Horizon very good as this cruise had many, many seniors of limited mobility, and staff literally put food selected on tray and accompanied to table, for many seniors, who took advantage. Several wheel chairs, scotters, walkers. Cabin, normal Ocean view. Shower as usual, cleanliness and service very good. Suggest booking cabin in center of ship as 2 days rough seas each way. Not enought to keep you busy, music hi brow, strings abound, need more selection as 50-80's date Cruise director near invisible, staff worked hard. Entertainment sub par. Decent shows were in Explores lounge limited capacity and full many nights, some seniors went to repeat performances, and no room for first timers, Shows should have been in Sappire theatre. Some craft activities were charged for materilas. Art auctions too many and boring. Did my own thing by renting car, as previous visit and easy to drive around. Booked Luau and whale watching on web, saved $$. If visiting Arizona memorial need to get there early or book thru cruise excursion as tickets are no charge, but limited time slots. best shopping in HNL, or Maui, look for ABC, or Hilo Hatties stores HNL. Maui. Be well aware of ship departing times, as few people were left at pier 45 minutes after posted departing time. Not ships fault, just plain stupid to think ship will miss port depart slot and next Island distance to be covered. Enjoyed most, however never again 14 days to Hawaii, rough seas 2 days each way. BTW tip: If seasick try buying inhaler on board ship store called "Quezze Ezze" $20 well worth if needed. Met many nice people and shared experiences. Princess needs to improve entertainment quality, and please get somone who speaks good ENGLISH for anouncements. Many Brits and French on cruise as Euro is up.

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Apr 6, 2011

Mexican Riviera

Overall the cruise was not bad, as I said in an interview on Fox 13 shortly after. The weather was ideal since Utah was getting a huge dump of snow. I found the ship to be a little worn but the Sapphire is going in for a major overhaul next year. I've sail on Princess 3 times already and I'm staying with Royal Caribbean since this ship caters to the more retired crowd. There are a lot of 50+ aged passengers and not really catered for the younger crowd.

Not a bad experience but if there was a stair what wasn't followed by a fart from an older person, I never found it. I was a chef for quite some time and owned a restaurant so the food I'll be describing is pretty spot on. THE INTERNATIONAL DINING ROOM was alright but, there wasn't anything that knocked my socks off. The service was alright but the crew are over worked and under paid with very little time off if any. It's pretty fair but I would expect more since it's the main dining room. If you ask they will prepare something special on the fly. I was craving Escargot and since it wasn't on the menu the Chef made it for me the next night. That was nice of him. THE BUFFET was ultra nasty! Deep fried, oily, greasy, fattening and lacked flavor. (Hello, it's called garlic, so how's about using some there cowboy). I was told by a friendly crew member that the food is cooked kind of bland because of the older crowd. Well, I still have my own teeth and like a little texture and flavor when I eat. Lots of people coughing, touching their face then using the utensils, people putting food back in the service line when they figure out they don't want it and people piling their plates to the sky, only to leave it hardly touched when they leave the table :-( Traversing through the crowds to get fruit or new food item placed in the service line was like the first 20 minutes of Saving Private Ryan. A cook put something new and I kid you not, the vultures descended down on it like a wounded gazelle. NEPTUNE BAR AREA actually has a pretty decent pizza. Since the buffet was hit and miss I ate a lot of pizza back in my room. :-) Mmmmmmm, pizza! ROOM SERVICE was pretty good but it takes about a 1/2-1hour from when you place your order for food. The menu is pretty generic with the food selections but good enough for a late delivered snack. Upon request they will deliver a pizza to the room for a charge. SABATINI's was awesome! I finally found some delicious food with flavor and awesome service. It's only an extra $20 dollars to dine there per person. STERLING STEAKHOUSE was another surprise with really good cuts of meat and friendly prompt service. My Fillet Mignon was cook perfect and was great. Not as great as Lawry's or Ruth's Chris Steakhouse but a pretty good run for the money. It's only a $15 dollars per person to dine there. The only drawback is that at night a part of the buffet dining room is sectioned off and labeled Sterling. Kind of tacky, but what cha' gonna do? ALL THE BARS were well bars so there you go. I hung our in Churchill's and talk to a really cool bartender. Nice selection of martinis at the Crooners Bar. As always I have to have a Suite since there's more room and more luxurious. Everything seemed clean but you can tell the bathroom needs an upgrade. I was kind of irritated the blue glass under the railing on the balcony was spotty from salt deposits for the previous sailing. It was a suite with an awesome view. I love the back of the boat right under the engines since there is a slight vibration that felt like a mini massage to rock you to sleep, They are pretty fair. Lots of fun activities like Wii at Sea, Trivia Games and themed activities, The arcade sucks big time. Three of their games weren't operational for at least 2 months. I went on this cruise two months prior to this sailing on the same ship and the games were dead. Really 1.50 for a game of air hockey? Never-the-less, I went though about $20 bucks in the arcade. As usual the casino was a freaking rip. I keep feeding the kitty and get no pay out. Go to the Bahamas Nassau and play games at Atlantis. The Spa is pretty nice but they got a little pushy trying to get you to buy into some of those bogus treatments. I had a "massage" which was literally a rub down. If I want a massage I want to feel it. Also had a relaxing facial as well that I enjoyed. The gym is tiny and a joke compared to other cruise lines with very little activities other than the main trainer lecturing the passengers on the evils of deodorant and Diet Coke. Nobody gets between me and my Diet Coke Mr. Trainer guy! PUERTO VALLARTA is a pretty decent port of call. I can't stand Walmart but right across from the ship there's one there if you need to pick up sundries or snacks other than that crap buffet. I went on a snorkeling excursion and booze cruise back. Well I went on the excursion and just kayaked since the water was freezing cold and I got a little tipsy from my beers. Pharmacias are everywhere for cheap prescription drugs. MAZATLAN is a freakin' hole. Out of all my trips to this port I never leave the secure port shopping. Beware of spiked drinks though. Some bars mix clear grain alcohol with other alcohols to stretch their peso. I just go there for a couple buckets of beer, tacos and chips. The shopping vendors are pretty pushy and persistent but hey, they've gotta family. I heard if you go out into the city it's dangerous because of the drug cartels. Cruise ships are opting out of this port and thank goodness. Oh, and the prostitutes I hear are every where but hey, a girls gotta eat right? God, HIV must be a huge problem out there. CABO SAN LUCAS is the best port of the three. It's pretty safe. I feel confident when walking the downtown streets. Go for the local fair when looking for something to eat. I found a little restaurant and had the best shrimp cooked in light but tasty chili sauce. What's the point of going to a foreign country and eating at US style chain. This is last stop shopping so get you shop on! It wasn't bad. Not fantastic but not bad. The embarkation process is long that lasted about an hour and a half until we could go on board. Once on board the staff seemed to be friendly enough and helpful. Like I commented above, the average age seems to be 50+ so if you're young and looking for excitement Princess may not be for you. I went to the Skywalkers Night Club every night around 11pm and there was awesome club music but literally a ghost town. You'll want Royal Caribbean or Carnival for the younger crowd. Luckily I saw very few kids since, I cannot stand little children running around and spilling my cocktail. So that's about it for me. I hope that it's helpful to those looking for a cruise line.

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Jan 8, 2011

Baja

Least enjoyable cruise yet. We felt the service in the specialty restaurant Sabatini"s was very poor. We have eaten in Sabitini"s on other ships before. The service in this restaurant was terrible. It appeared they were understaffed, staff was openly bickering among themselves, water and drinks were not attended to. Food was of no better quality then we had in the main dining room. I made my concern known to head waiter as we left, he seemed to have

little empathy for our concerns. We felt the ship overall was in need of updating as it was beginning to show wear and tear. I contacted princess and asked for a representative to contact me. I have not heard back from Princess? Main dining room food was good. Service was good. Waiters very organized and friendly. Room was very adequate for a short cruise. Did not enjoy lounge entertainers. Saw a couple of shows and enjoyed those. We continue to be amazed at how and why cruise ships select entertainers . We choose to avoid excursions on short trips. We have made this cruise perhaps 6 times and know what we want to see and how to see it without booking through ship. We have a Panama Canal trip with Princess booked in March, It will be the last Princess booking for us unless we see a different attitude and spirit. We were very disappointed with this line and still cannot believe they chose not to contact us following this cruise. We were two hours getting off the ship to make matters worse due to baggage issues, during this time we did not see any representative from Princess in the baggage area assisting or directing people, many of which had flights to catch and many of which were elderly. We all have many options to choose from when selecting a cruise line, It is crucial that you read reviews and do your homework when making that selection. Princess has lost its LUSTER with us.

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Jan 7, 2011

Australia

It was a 32-day cruise and my husband and I loved every minute of it. Embarkation was easy and fast and our luggages were waiting for us. The food was superb. We had chosen Anytime Dining and by arriving at the restaurant around 7h45 we never waited for a table. More often than not, we had a table for 4 just for the 2 of us. Service was impeccable. A special mention for the Indian Food at the Horizon Court buffet. Every day there was a different

dish, always good. The stateroom was perfectly adequate. We had a balcony room on Aloha Deck. It was kept immaculate by the steward. There is enough storage for 2 and the open closet facing the bathroom is an excellent idea. The fridge was perfect to keep my white wine chilled. Always pleasant to have a before dinner drink on the balcony. During day at sea, I played bridge. We did not go to many shows, prefering to enjoy a leisurely dinner. Often, we shared a table and found it agreable. I used the gym almost every day and found that treadmills were always available. After having done excursions with Princess, I think that it is preferable to do them on your own. Less expensive and you do not have to wait for everybody and having stops at every villages for shopping. We have enjoyed this trip immensely. The ports: San Francisco, Honolulu, Papeete, Bora Bora, Moorea, Fiji, Samoa, Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Wellington and finally Sydney were very pleasant. We do not stop for very long but as I said to my husband, we can always come back! Days at sea were relaxing with reading, movies and having a latte at the Coffee Shop. The Cookie Man would come around 4 and he was always welcomed!!

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Dec 20, 2010

Anchorage

This cruise was AMAZING! We went in a big family group of about 15, and everyone was happy. We all came from Minnesota, so we thought the weather was great. This is the best boat ever! The food was probably the best part. I'm allergic to fish, and even though it was offered every night, there was always other things to get. The buffets are open until midnight. My cousins allergic to peanuts, and every night, he had great service, and never any nuts

in his food. Everyone was happy with the food. We made the mistake of only booking one room for the 4 of us. It was OK for 2, but it got really cramped. My brother really liked the pull-out bunk bed though. We didn't send a lot of time in the room, since the sun didn't set until around 4 AM and my brother and I would lose track of time. My grandparents room, with a balcony, was nice, open, and bright. Your room doesn't really matter though. my cousins and I didn't want to do any onboard things, so we mostly wandered. the hot tubs are nice (no one was in it) the arcade was fine, but we never got bored. theres always something to do for everyone.

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Nov 20, 2010

Mexican Riviera

First time ever on a Princess--and last! The ship was dirty--hence the Norovirus that broke out a couple weeks later. The staff was rude and the service sucked in the cabins, food and everywhere! The staff seemed exhausted and low moral. It was just depressing! Worst food and service on any cruise I've been on. The servers were so nice but seemed to be new or always steps behind bringing you what you needed, before another course had been served.

The food was cold and terrible...even in non-formal dining. Had to beg for ice every day and room was hardly attended to on any regular basis. A couple at my table had a big suite and had done dozens of cruises and many on Princess. She said she asked her room steward if she might have ice on a regular basis and he told her, "I"ll see what I can do." She was livid and said no more Princess! Good No Worst cruise ever in terms of the ship staff, food and such. Itinerary was awesome!

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Jun 19, 2010

Alaska

Pro's: Food generally very good, cabin clean and spacious, embarkation at ports, slow but effective room service, guest laundry available. Con's: Service!, service, service, felt claustrophobic compared to other ships, small and poorly equipped fitness center, impossibly slow and overpriced internet, very badly designed buffet and limited seating, difficult to get room service on the phone, slow elevators I have sailed previously on Norwegian

Dawn, Celebrity Mercury and Infinity, and Crystal Serenity. The Sapphire Princess is easily the least impressive of the ships. The dining rooms are small; there is no main dining room that is showy in any way. The dining rooms are pleasant enough, and the food they serve is for the most part, quite good, but they are not showrooms. The main atrium is also small and not at all spectacular. Unlike other ships, there is no pool in the spa, but there is an adults-only pool just outside of the spa. The boarding process was very smooth and easy. CONCLUSION Great experience cruising to Alaska. Such a wonderful place to explore. If I went again, I’d probably choose Celebrity or Holland America. There was just too much hassle with the bad service and bad attitudes of the staff. The food was great, but the ship was crowded and claustrophobic. With all of the spectacular ships available, why travel on one as ordinary as the Sapphire Princess? DINING Main dining rooms: Guests have four dining rooms to choose from and they all serve the same food. Each dining room has a signature dish that the other rooms don't have, but you have to know about those dishes to ask for them. No waiter ever offered those dishes. The service, without exception (even in Sabatini's) was poor to very poor. Our first night, we sat for 45 minutes before someone brought us bread. We weren't in a rush, and the cocktail order was taken very quickly, so we enjoyed our drinks while we waited for someone to notice us. Finally, the waiter took our order, apologized for the delay and things went more smoothly after that. The food was really good. I was surprised. After reading reviews, I expected food on the level of Norwegian, the truly worst cruise food I have ever had, but the food on Princess was great. Everything was tasty, well-prepared, served hot. We tried other dining rooms, and the story was always the same; good food, bad service. When I asked about coffee, the waiter told us we should buy a coffee card because the coffee they serve for free is from syrup and very bad. I ordered the free coffee and it was fine. Sabatini's: They boast 17 courses, but really what it is; they give you tastes of each appetizer, a salad and soup, which our waiter discouraged us from ordering. The food and service was on par with the main dining rooms, if not a little worse. I felt it was a total waste of money ($20 per person), as the experience and food in the main dining rooms was a little better. We were able to order lobster, which I hadn't seen on the main dining room menus, but it was not well cooked. Buffet: The average wait to get into the congested buffet areas (only two for 2700 people) was 10 minutes. Once inside, there were short lines at each area to get your food. If you forgot something and had to go back to the buffet, you had to wait in line again. There was never a free seat in the main seating area, but just outside the buffet main area in either direction was overflow seating and we could always find a seat out there. The buffet was good. There was a decent salad bar, loads of options at lunch and dinner that varied and never repeated. They were always good. The food was fresh, and delicious. The bread choices were not great, with crusty rolls for the most part. They had carved meats at most meals. The desserts were not great. Very simple, nothing special at all, but great cookies. They only ran out once during my cruise. Breakfast was also very good, with many varieties, but juice had to be ordered, same with water. Finding someone to get you the juice or water was impossible and many meals we went without. Other options: The pizza bar was excellent. Some of the best pizza I have ever eaten. There was a hot dog and hamburger grill that looked good, but the line of twenty to thirty people turned me off, so I never ate there. They also had a soft ice cream bar with free soft ice cream but milk shakes were $2.50. I tried the ice cream once and it was very good. There were no special events (at least by this, the fifth day). They also had high tea every day but I never tried it. Room service was slow and impossible to reach on the phone. Out of about 10 tries at different times on different days I managed to get someone on the phone twice. My pitcher of water came within 45 minutes. They offered fruit, with a request form, but our fruit wasn’t delivered until we complained about it not being delivered. They said that, with four hundred fruit requests, it took time. CABINS We had a mini-suite with a nice sized balcony. Since we were in Alaska, the suite and balcony were essential. I spent many hours on the balcony, wrapped in a blanket, watching the huge and beautiful mountains slide by. It was blissful. The weather was very cold especially early in the morning. The sun was up by 4am so it was a bit confusing as to what time it was. There was only about 6 dark hours each night so the viewing was constant and spectacular. The bed was hard but comfortable, and there was a sofa bed that was nice to watch TV on. The bathroom had a nice tub and was bigger than the balcony cabins I've had in the past, but still a little cramped. There was a nice closet area with shelves for clothes. There were no drawers for clothing. The service in the cabins was pretty bad. We had requested extra pillows and a queen bed configuration. We had neither upon arrival. Our cabin steward promised it would be done, which it was about 10 minutes before we went to sleep that night. The egg crate topper for the bed was never delivered despite multiple requests. The cabin didn't smell like smoke, which was a worry I had. It smelled and looked very clean. Our room was made up daily except for one day, when the cabin steward told us he had the afternoon off and wouldn't be doing our room until evening. I thought that was a bit strange. He had also promised us ice and fresh water each day, but that never happened. All in all, the cabin steward’s service was poor, verging on unacceptable. FITNESS AND SPA I didn't do any spa services, as they were extremely expensive. I did use the fitness center daily. I was very surprised at how bad the fitness area was. It was crowded and had only two kinds of aerobic machines: ellipticals without moving arms, and treadmills. There were no bicycles, no ellipticals with moving arms, etc. They had a decent array of weight lifting machines, and a second room for stretching and classes. There was NEVER anyone in the gym overseeing, refilling towels, and checking on guests. They ran out of towels every time I was there. There was a water fountain, but no cups. They did not offer headsets, but the treadmills and ellipticals did have nice TV screens. The view was also nice. When classes were in session, there was nowhere to stretch out. I was really surprised that the fitness center trainers were never there once. What do they get paid for? And when I would request more towels at the spa desk, they got snippy. For the record, I did manage to get a machine every time I went to the gym, even though some times were very busy. There was a pool and two Jacuzzi spas just outside the gym, but the jacuzzis were packed every time I went to use them. PUBLIC AREAS Nice casino, shops seemed nice enough. Main atrium was small, bars were very spacious and well laid out. Extremely clean and well taken care of. The elevators were slow and seemed to be out of order a lot of the time. There was a laundry facilities that were cheap and easy to use. But they did require coins. The dollar changer was broken. ENTERTAINMENT Theatre was too small to accommodate all the guests but they ran the big shows three times over two nights to insure everyone could attend. The shows were well produced. The leading talent was decent, but the dancers were terrible, like bad community theatre. The tone of the shows was like other cruise ships, fast-paced, pop style reviews that were boring and in a way, depressing. These shows were par for the course on cruise ships, nothing special, with good stage bands, great lighting and costumes, and extremely boring content. They had bands and singers in the bars. Everyone was decent. OTHER Internet was overpriced and extremely slow, making the expensive per minute charges infuriating. PORTS Cruising to Alaska is all its supposed to be. It was 7 days of gorgeous views, crisp clean and cool air, fun ports. Each port had its own charm. Ketchikan was nice, full of shopping and beautiful scenery. Juneau and our trip to Mendenhall Glacier was great. We opted to take a bus out there for $7 per person, vs. the Cruise ship sponsored bus that was $39 per person. Our friends took a flight over the mountains. They paid $200 per person themselves vs. the Cruise sponsored flight that was $279. When you arrive in each port, there are many tour operators offering the same excursions as the cruise line at a slightly to greatly reduced price. The cruise through Tracy Arm was fantastic. Don't believe the reviews that say its boring. It was gorgeous, breathtaking and worth the whole cost of the cruise. But every day, all day was full of such beautiful scenery. If its mountains, water and fresh air your after, then cruise to Alaska. Skagway is cute, if a bit small. The train ride looked fun, but at $115 per person (cost to buy ticket at the RR station) seemed a bit high. Alaska is a wonderful destination

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Mar 13, 2010

Mexican Riveria

My wife and I just returned from a great Mexican Riviera cruise on the Sapphire Princess. We had a wonderful, relaxing time and since we received such great information prior to our cruise from various sources we thought we should return the favor. The Sapphire Princess is a beautiful ship and the 7 day Mexican Riviera cruise was great. We will definitely sail on Princess again. We highly recommend both the ship and the itinerary. We chose

Anytime Dining and it worked well for us. We did share a table with 2 other very nice couples on the first night in the Santa Fe dining room. We dined in Sabatini’s ($20 per person charge) on Valentine’s evening and it was very good. The other nights we had no problem getting a table for 2 and the times were anywhere from 6-7pm. The food was good but not overwhelming. I seem to remember from other cruises that on several occasions I left the dining room really feeling that we had experienced something special. Unfortunately, I cannot say that we had that experience during this cruise. Don’t get me wrong, the food was good; just not outstanding. The Santa Fe Dining Room was our favorite. We ate there 3 nights, in the Pacific Moon twice and in the Savoy Dining Room once. The wait staff in all of the dining rooms were excellent, very friendly and very attentive. We ate breakfast in the Horizon Court every morning and had lunch there a number of times. The food was good and there was a lot of variety. A few times the area seemed crowded but overall it was fine. Wait staff were ever-present to offer coffee and juice. You could also get hot tea upon request. We enjoyed the Pizza and Burger Bars at the Main Pool Area on Deck 14 on a couple of occasions and this was nice for a quick bite to eat. There is also an Ice Cream Bar near the midship Pool. By the way, formal nights on the cruise are Sunday and Thursday. Our stateroom was A704 on the Aloha Deck (Deck 12-Aft). We had a balcony and it was completely covered. We could look down on the open and partially closed balconies on the lower decks. We were a little concerned about being one deck below the Horizon Court because of potential noise from tables and chairs being moved around; but we hardly noticed any noise at all. Just a couple of times on 1-2 mornings did we hear anything. We were near the elevators (no noise) and the staircase which was very handy. We could walk up one flight of stairs and be at the entrance to the Horizon Court for breakfast, coffee, etc. Very Nice!! But the best thing was that we were only a few doors down from the Aft (Terrace) Pool Area. This was great as the Aft Pool area is less crowded and the pool itself is “adults only”. You really had a great view off the back of the ship. I cannot say enough about how nice this was. The stateroom itself was nice. The 2 twin beds had been pushed together to make one Queen bed and the egg crate mattress really made for a comfortable night sleep (definitely get this). We found we had plenty of hanger space with storage above and below, a full-length mirrored door opened up to several shelves for storage. There was a nightstand on one side of the bed with 2 drawers and the desk had 5 drawers for additional storage. There were 2 outlets near the desk but we had brought along a power strip so we had plenty of outlets. There is also an one outlet in the bathroom. There was a desk chair and one other chair in the room. Each room also has a TV with a few channels and a refrigerator. The bathroom was small but nice. The shower was very small but the water pressure was great all cruise long. The balcony on Aloha deck is small but nice—enough room for 2 chairs and a small table. We had seen a lot of negative comments about the production shows but we generally thought they were good. The Welcome Aboard Showtime on the first night was not that great—it was more of an orientation and a preview of Steve Moris’s comedy show scheduled for the next night. Of the production shows, we did enjoy “Piano Man” on Sunday night and “Do You Want to Dance” on Wednesday night. We were less enthusiastic about the “I Got the Music” show on Thursday night. The same production troupe did all three shows. We really enjoyed Steve Moris’s full comedy show in the Explorer’s Lounge on Sunday night. Tom McTigue (another comedy show) was also enjoyable. We did not care for Lorenzo Clark (comedy/magic) who performed in the Princess Theater on Tuesday night. A few funny moments but generally his act seemed kind of “forced”. The other musical groups (the Baby Dolls, in particular) which appeared in various locales around the ship were entertaining. We took part in the Movie Trivia program in the Explorer’s Lounge on Tuesday night and our little team of 2 managed to tie for 1st place with another team of 4 getting 18 out of 20 correct. Both teams won a free bottle of champagne (we took ours to dinner on Friday night and our head waiter swapped it for a chilled bottle that we had with dinner). Some examples of some of the special activities include: *Captain’s Champagne Waterfall Party in the Atrium on Sunday night (formal night) *Princess Pop Star (an American Idol style karaoke competition) on several nights *Fiesta Deck Party on Pool Deck 14 at 10pm on Monday night *Art Auctions *Farewell Mexico Dance Party and Balloon Drop in the Atrium on Thursday night (formal night) There is a 9 hole miniature golf course near midship and a Cyber Golf Simulator (which always seemed busy). The Promenade on Deck 7 is nice and wide. 3 trips around equals a mile; although you have to go up and down some stairs to Deck 8 to go all the way around. There is a walking track Forward on Deck 16 near the Lotus Pool. 10 trips around equals a mile. Of course, there is the usual array of activities (Bingo, trivia, etc.) everyday. On Tuesday, we docked at Puerto Vallarta at 9am with a departure time of 5pm. PV is on Central Pacific Time and is 1 hour ahead of ship’s time. Since this was our first time in PV, we booked the City and Coastal Drive Tour through Princess. This tour gave us a nice overview of PV and the surrounding area. We disembarked the ship and met our tour group at 9:20am. We took an air-conditioned motorcoach to the Malecon (downtown shopping district) and made a 30 minute stop to do a walking tour of the Malecon and the Cathedral. We then boarded the motorcoach again and proceeded to a small shopping district where we could get some refreshments and use restrooms. We then continued on the Coastal Tour which ended at the site where the movie “Night of the Iquana” was filmed. Beautiful coastal scenery!! We then returned to the Malecon for a 30 minute stop to enjoy a free cold beverage of our choice, use restrooms and shop. We were given the choice of returning to the ship by motorcoach or we could stay and return to the ship on our own. We needed to be back at the ship by 4:30pm for boarding. We elected to stay and look around on our own. We took a yellow cab back to the cruise ship terminal and the cost was $7 US for the two of us. At the terminal, there were currency exchange facilities and a small shopping market. We boarded at around 4pm. This was the only excursion we booked (with Princess or privately). Here is our review and I hope it does not get too long. If it does, I beg your pardon but I am trying to think of things that would have been helpful to me in planning for this cruise. Trip to Los Angeles We left a day early and flew into LA from Kansas City on Friday evening, February 12th. We used our Marriott points and stayed at the Courtyard Los Angeles/LAX Marriott at Century Boulevard. It is literally at the entrance of LAX and has a free shuttle to the hotel. It is a short shuttle ride, but be aware, since it is so close it is the last stop on the circuit that stops at 3 hotels. Nice hotel, nothing fancy but ideal for a one night stay close to the airport. They have a small restaurant in the lobby area that serves a nice buffet style breakfast (for a charge) in the morning. Transportation to the San Pedro Cruise Ship Terminal We had purchased round-trip shuttle transportation through Princess Cruise Lines ($24 per person each way) so we had to take the hotel shuttle back to LAX. Since we had come in the night before, we had received information to meet at the Delta Baggage Claim Area between 12noon and 1pm to meet the shuttle. As it turned out, at least 3 other parties on our cruise were also on the airport shuttle so we followed each other to the designated site. Princess staff were there to greet us and assist with getting luggage on the bus. We boarded the bus almost immediately and shortly after we headed for the cruise terminal. The Princess person said it would take about 45 minutes, but traffic was not bad and the trip only took about 30 minutes. When you get to the terminal, they park the bus for a while and another Princess staff person gets on and passes out some health forms that must be filled out prior to embarkation. It is also a method to space out the passengers arriving on their buses. After a short stop, we were taken to just outside the terminal where we got off the bus and went in. Embarkation We are Gold members (just our 2nd Princess cruise) so we joined the line and it moved pretty quickly. We were on the ship and at our stateroom by 1:30pm. Two pieces of our luggage were already at the stateroom and the other two showed up about 5 minutes after we did. We met our cabin steward, Nilo from the Phillipines, right away and he gave us a quick orientation. We requested an egg crate mattress (as we had read on Cruise Critic) and he said he would get one to the room as soon as possible. Very smooth, quick and effortless embarkation. We had received the $1000 Treasure Hunt card as we embarked so we headed out to get all our stamps. Besides the chance to win some prizes, this is an excellent way to get a quick orientation of the ship and its services. One of the designated spots was Sabatini’s (specialty restaurant) and this worked out great because we wanted to make a reservation for Valentine’s Day dinner. I wanted to make it a special evening because February 14th is also my wife’s birthday. After we collected all our stamps we headed to the Horizon Court for a quick lunch and then went back to our stateroom to unpack. We did the mandatory muster drill at 3:15pm (our muster location was Club Fusion) and then went up to the main Pool Deck for the Sailaway Party. Fortunately it was a beautiful evening for our sailaway and everyone had a great time as we began our journey. The first two full days of the cruise were at sea and we were blessed with great weather. Our first port was Puerto Vallarta and I outlined our day there in the Excursion section above. On Wednesday, we docked at Mazatlan at 7am with a scheduled departure time of 5pm. As we were standing out on our balcony in the morning, the Mariner of the Seas came into port and docked Aft to Aft with our ship. Thanks to some tips on various website boards we had decided to take the local Water Taxi to Stone Island on our own instead of doing the ship excursion. This would have been great except for the fact that we had lousy weather that day. It was very overcast with intermittent sprinkles. We decided to go anyway. At the port in Mazatlan, all passengers must take the complimentary shuttle to the terminal because it is a commercial dock. Once at the terminal you have the usual press of vendors and people trying to direct you to taxis. We had to wade through these folks (and say No Gracias several times) to get to the gate exiting the terminal. From there you turn left and walk a couple of blocks to where the street curves to the right. You proceed straight ahead on an unpaved street to a small yellow building. This is where you purchase your water taxi tickets. The cost is $2 per person for a roundtrip ticket. They will give you 2 tickets so be sure to retain one of the tickets for your return trip. The water taxi is pretty small with a covered roof and the ride is pretty quick across the channel to the small dock on Stone Island. From the dock it is a short walk over a small rise to a rocky entrance to the Stone Island Beach. As I mentioned, the weather was not cooperating. This had all the potential for a great day on the beach but the wind came up and it started to rain. We wondered down the beach to Victor’s (which we had heard so much about on these boards) and decided to take shelter to wait out the rain and hope for improvement in the weather. After a couple of beers, we finally made the decision (a wise one as it turned out) to give up and head back to the ship. We met a few other hardy souls on the way back who had also heard about Stone Island on the boards and were giving it a go. We made the return trip in short order and reboarded the ship. We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing by the pool (under the covered part). On Thursday, we anchored at Cabo San Lucas at about 7am. Since we were on the port side, we had a great view of Land’s End from our balcony. We had nothing special planned for the day, so we took our time with breakfast and then wandered down to the Vivaldi Dining Room as instructed to get our tender tickets. We were pleasantly surprised to find that there were no lines and we could immediately board the tender for the trip into the marina. It was a short trip and we were quickly on the boardwalk around the marina. We had stayed in Cabo in 2008 so we were very familiar with the Marina and Cabo in general. We spent our morning leisurely walking in the marina area and in the main Cabo shopping district. Around 11:45am, we stopped at the Nowhere Bar at the marina for a few cold beers and some chips/salsa. Very relaxing place to people watch. We then headed back around the marina walk to the tender pier. A long line had already formed for the tenders but it moved along pretty well. Soon we were back on the Sapphire for our 2pm departure. It really is a shame that the port time in Cabo is so short. It is by far our favorite port and is really a beautiful place. We ate a quick lunch onboard and then headed to the Aft pool for the afternoon. It was one of the best weather days we had and it was a beautiful sailaway from Cabo. Friday was another Sea Day on our way back to LA and the weather was pretty lousy once again; overcast, windy and cool. It was definitely not a “pool” day. Staff/Service We found the service from the staff to be excellent throughout the cruise. Nilo, our room steward, was excellent. He seemed to be out in the hall near our room every morning with a smile and a warm greeting. He took care of all our needs in a very professional manner. We cannot say enough about his excellent service. The wait staff in every dining room did a great job and were very accommodating; the same for staff in the Horizon Court and throughout the ship. Everyone was very friendly and were quick with a smile and greeting. Disembarkation We received our disembarkation packet and luggage tags on Thursday night so we had plenty of time to figure out what needed to be done. I went to the Internet Café on Friday afternoon and purchased a special 15 minute package (offered on Friday) for $8.25. Since I had a coupon for an additional 15 minutes with purchase of any plan, I had plenty of time to print our Southwest Boarding Passes for our return flight. By the way, there is a printing charge of $0.50 per page. Princess has what they call “Silent Disembarkation”. There are no announcements made on the morning of disembarkation. Everyone just needs to go to their designated areas at their specific times. We packed our two big pieces of luggage on Friday evening, filled out our luggage tags, attached them and placed the bags outside the stateroom just before we went to dinner. The next morning we arrived in LA at 7am and we ate breakfast for the last time in the Horizon Court. We finished packing our remaining stuff in our carry luggage and left the stateroom at the requested time (8am). Since we had purchased a Princess Transfer and we had an afternoon flight, we were in the “Orange” Group and were instructed to meet in Club Fusion by 8:40am (our disembarkation time was 8:50am). Since we had to be out of our stateroom by 8am, we decided to go down to the area near Club Fusion to find a “nook” to settle in. We were surprised to be ushered into Club Fusion right away. Groups 1-6 in Orange Group were all gathered there and they had coffee and water available. Right at 8:50am, our Group was called and we disembarked the ship. 40 minutes later, we had found our luggage, been through Customs and were on our motorcoach for the trip to LAX. The whole disembarkation process went very smoothly and was very efficient. We were placed on the transfer coaches by Airline designation so our bus deposited us at Terminal #1 at LAX for Southwest. Lines for baggage check-in and security were crazy but we were eventually on our way. Unfortunately when we arrived in Kansas City at 9:25pm that night, we found ourselves back to reality in the Midwest. The temperature was 31 degrees and it was sleeting/snowing. We had a harrowing 3 ½ hour drive (normally 2 ½ hours) back to Mid-Missouri on snow/ice covered highways. But we made it in one piece. The Sapphire Princess is a beautiful ship and the 7 day Mexican Riviera cruise was great. We will definitely sail on Princess again. We highly recommend both the ship and the itinerary.

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Feb 17, 2010

Mexican Riviera

Great time. We've cruised many times on Princess and I felt the service and food were all very good to excellent. Wow, Princess has definitely upgraded their food. I was very pleased with both the sit down and buffet dining. The first night, the service in the any time dining was off, but after the first evening, everything was great. They have changed up their menus and they are offering some great new choices. One night the head chef had

a special menu of his choice. Very interesting. The cheese souffle appetizer and the dessert of Stilton cheese with a port sauce were excellent. The beds in the balcony rooms were a bit uncomfortable, even with the mattress topper. The shower is small. I used the Spa showers after reading a review posted here. They showers were great and had all the products you needed along with a pile of fluffy towels. Our stateroom steward was hard working. The fact that he had 18 staterooms to clean meant that we didn't always return from breakfast to a clean room. We did not always have fresh ice either. I blame Princess more than the room steward as 18 staterooms are a lot to be in charge of. We don't participate with on board activities. We use the library and we read, nap and stare at the ocean. There certainly appeared to be a lot going on though. We just cab into town and walk around. We've done this cruise 4 times before. As usual, embarkation was excellent. We were on the ship within 15 minutes of walking into the terminal. Princess has started a new disembarkation program that I highly recommend. You can walk off on your own before 8:30 if you fill out the paperwork delivered to your room earlier in the week. We live in the San Francisco area and drove to LA. With the early disembarkation we were home by mid afternoon. Great! The weather was kind to us. No rain, yay! The internet was spotty out at sea, but at least it's offered. As a Platinum member of Princess we had 150 minutes comped to us. We put down our $100 deposit's on board to do it again next year!

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Jan 30, 2010

Mexico

We selected this cruise because the Saturday to Saturday sail dates fit our schedule best and overall it was a decent trip but my next cruise in October will definitely be on another ship due to the lack of time the ship is in Cabo and the number of elderly passengers on-board. Although there was plenty of food and most of it looked nice most of it was lacking any flavor.The eggs at the breakfast buffet were always runny and the juice always warm.

On the upside the Trident grill by the pool was nice and it was easy to grab a quick burger without having to leave the pool area. We paid the couple extra bucks to have an outside stateroom and it was nice having the natural daylight but on future cruise I'll save the money and go with an inside room because we spent so little time in our room we really didn't need a window. The room it self was nice and the steward kept it clean and stocked constantly the only real problem I had with the room is the shower is SMALL. The on-board activities were okay but they seemed to be geared toward a much older crowd. The comedian Carlos Oscar was great but most of the other entertainment and music was for the 60 and older group and there were a lot of them on this ship. The excursions were okay. We took the tequila factory tour in P.V which was reasonable in price and informative In Mazatlan we did the "Best of Tour" which was not very good at all we ended up jumping off the bus early and getting our own taxi.

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By Paul_CR

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Jan 21, 2010

Mexican Riveria

All in all, it was a good trip - not excellent, but good. We took the 7 day trip out from Los Angeles, had a very easy and fairly inexpensive Princess shuttle from the plane to the boat (and back, when it was over), and over all there were no problems with the boat or the ports - except that we wanted to make Mazatlan the 1/2 day and Cabo a full day. Cabo was much cleaner and had more interesting tours than Mazatlan. The staff, to a one, were friendly

and helpful and - for the most part - knowledgeable. A quick word of warning: bring your own antibiotic cream and anti-diarrheal medication - they don't have any over the counter. We'd opted for the "anytime" dining, and tried the Pacific Moon and Savoy areas - only eating at the International once. The smaller dining rooms were generally a better experience, as they had more 4 person tables available and it seemed to be less noisy. The food was, indeed, the same in all which was okay. Any dish with a decent sized portion of vegetables was better than the mostly meat dishes. If you're expecting excellent steak, forget it. However, the salmon was consistently good and the other fish (tuna, tilapia) was decent. Here's a tip worth repeating: never get the pie. If you plan on going to Sabatini's, you will not be disappointed! However, you get a lot of food, so either try only a taste or so of the antipasto or don't eat the day of your meal. You get a ton of food. The buffet.... well, it's a buffet. You can't expect much from it, other than the fruit will generally be good. Great way to cut down on your caloric intake! Plus, the desserts can sometimes be scary (avoid the "Zuppa Ingles" - I think it was called - like the pie warning above). Again, the pie is to be avoided. Those corn syrupy single serving fruit pies you find in the super market are better. Really. Salad bar is excellent, and again, you'll probably be healthier for it anyway. Excellent - we had a balcony which really helped... except that if you want a firm bed, you get something equivalent to a marble slab to sleep on. Bruises on my ribs the 3rd night, but was able to get a mattress pad. I'm strongly considering becoming knowledgeable of a region (history, sights, notable characters, etc) that Princess cruises through and seeing if I can get a gig doing some presentations. The one I attended had a guy reading off his PowerPoint *word for word*, even when he repeated himself in the PowerPoint *exactly*, and was very lackluster. The tequila tasting was a plus, but it brought out all the 18 year-olds. Cooking demonstration and galley tour was fun! Mazatlan was okay, in such a way that you're better off either hiring a pulmonia and going to the sites yourselves (saving a lot of money) or just going to the beach and hanging out. The lighthouse was worth the walk, 300 steps plus 1/4 to 1/2 mile of uphill switchback rocky path, for the view - although the sewage treatment plant below can get stinky if the wind shifts. The Jungle Canopy tour of P.V. was excellent - highly recommend that one. The sea floor helmet diving tour of Cabo San Lucas was great, although we didn't get to see many fish. Well worth the money, though, for the unique experience. If you want to see a large variety of fish, snorkeling may more be your thing on the nearby beaches. However, it was a lot of fun to walk along the sea floor and see the fish up-close without having to worry about getting water up your nose! Getting to the boat was easy - a short flight from Oakland to LAX, then a very handy bus from the airport to the boat. I cannot stress how great a value that is. Once on board, the first full day at sea went great. The next, however, not so well. My girlfriend developed some indigestion from eating pineapple - something she doesn't normally eat much of - and didn't have any Immodium AD with her. Checking around, we found out that she'd have to go to the Medical Center to get something like that. $60 for that visit, plus $39 for the medication, and a 24 hour quarantine out of a concern for a Norwalk outbreak put a gloom on the next day. No biggie, as we were still at sea and didn't have anything until the next morning in Puerto Vallarta. As it turns out, the med staff called and said she couldn't leave her room until 2:30pm the next day, meaning she'd have to skip her tour. 24 hours from the last *symptom*, they clarified. So two days ruined. To top that all off, they didn't bother calling her at the end of her quarantine to check back in. The rest of it's really her story, but suffice to say the cleaning and food prep staff weren't at all friendly or helpful during that time. Once that was over, the rest of the trip went much smoother. A slight scraping injury aside, the other tours went without a hitch and much (more) fun was had!

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Dec 30, 2009

Mexican Riviera

Against our better judgment, we agreed to go on this cruise to celebrate our good friend's milestone birthday ... with our two-year-old twins in tow. If we had older children who could have swam in the pools and taken advantage of the kids club, it probably would have been tolerable. Alas, seven days aboard this ship with absolutely nothing to occupy two toddlers was just painful. There was no place on board where we could just relax with the

kids. There were only restaurants and bars, and a few pools they were not allowed to swim in because they aren't completely potty trained. The burgers and pizza served by the pool were fantastic. They were a saving grace, and the only thing you could get cooked fresh. For dinner, we chose group dining in the international dining room. Joining our friends each night for dinner was the highlight of our trip. However, the waiters served mediocre to bad food with the appropriate amount of apathy. Nearly every dish I was served came cold. The only exceptions were the first and last night. Many times we found the same dishes being served in the 24-hour buffet. Overall, the food was so salty, I had two pounds of excess water weight which disappeared two days after getting home. The Sterling Steak house was good, the 15 dollar cover charge was annoying. Ditto for Sabatini's 20 dollar cover. Breakfast in the dining room was no better than dinner. Everything was cold ... and once an order of eggs over medium came with uncooked whites. You could see the raw egg white jiggling on the plate. I couldn't believe a waiter would serve that. The buffet was what you might find in a lower middle hotel chain. The stateroom was actually very roomy and worked well. We booked two rooms, one for us, and one for our friend and our twins. Our steward Ryan was terrific. However, the balcony situation was dangerous for the kids. We were on Deck 9, and the balconies hover straight over the water, unlike upper floors which are terraced. We had asked for our deck furniture to be removed because our girls are climbers. The staff said no. So I spent a week moving chairs and tables around keep them away from the railing. NOTHING for young toddlers on this ship. The play room for the 3-7 year olds was open for us, as long as we stayed with the kids. No problem, we wouldn't leave them anyway at that age. However, the staff was so unfriendly to us, we really didn't feel like staying there. They acted like we were invisible. When I asked for crayons, I felt like Oliver Twist asking for more gruel. There were some special christmas activities, including a balloon drop at ... 11 pm on Christmas Eve. Hello? Christmas is for kids ... why they couldn't do this earlier was baffling. Santa came x-mas morning to the atrium. it was a mob scene. Took us 40 mins. to get through the line. Of course the girls who were dying to see Santa all week cried once they got up there ... but that's just life with toddlers! We loved the Beach getaway in Puerto Vallarta at the Melia resort. Great pool, fantastic play area for the kids, and a warm, welcoming staff. The food was fantastic. Best chicken I've ever had ... and I am a foodie and former professional cook. What we saw of Mazatlan was a pit. We booked a shuttle to the so-called Golden Zone, because none of the other excursions were appropriate for young children. We were harassed by peddlers everywhere we went. We had lunch at Poncho's restaurant, and made the mistake of paying with a credit card. Five days after we got home, we get a call from our credit card company ... someone has pirated our account and is charging up a storm in Mazatlan. Thanks a bunch! Can't believe the cruise company funnels its people there week in, week out, like a bunch of sheep. Cabo was gorgeous, and yet we were only in port a half day. We had booked a Baja 1000 driving experience excursion ... the only activity we were going to do without the kids. It was canceled! We were so disappointed. All we ended up doing was walking around the port area where we were constantly hounded by peddlers and tour operators. Ugh. We should have stayed on board and swam in the pool. I am a novice cruiser, but a very experienced traveler. By reputation and watching a lot of The Love Boat as a kid, I expected Princess to be a little more high end than it was. I really thought it was going to be akin to a Hilton, and it was much more Holiday Inn.

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Sep 1, 2009

Alaska

I went on a Princess cruise this summer. Although these problems may seem minor, what upset me most about this cruise line is they did nothing to fix them or make me feel like I was a valuable customer. When I got home, I mailed this letter to the President of Princess and two other senior level people. I mailed this over a month ago and got no response. If you plan on sailing Princess and have any issues, don't expect them to be resolved or even

given any consideration for your feelings. Once they have your money, they don't care if you are happy or not. My husband and I vacationed on the Princess Sapphire with the rail tour after our cruise, booking number XXXXX. We are disappointed with our experience. Despite our efforts to correct some of these issues, none of the Princess Tour employees assisted us. Then when I called to talk about it to customer relations, I spoke to Raymond, and he just told me to write an email. So once again, I felt disregarded. Prior to this cruise, we sailed with Norwegian which had superior service and activities. We were looking forward to this cruise line but it will be highly unlikely we would ever sail it again and we definitely would warn our friends and family about the poor customer service. Hopefully, we will get a response from this letter to show that someone at Princess still cares about their customers. Problems we encountered on the cruise ship: 1.The nightly entertainment repeated. On Norwegian they had a different show every night and not just the cruise ship dancers. On Princess they had "Do You Wanna Dance" by the ship dancers on Sunday and Monday and "Piano Man" by the ship dancers on Thursday and Friday. Therefore, two nights on board we did not have new entertainment. 2. We could never sit by a window at dinner. Six of the seven nights we did anytime dining, and every night I asked to sit by a window, they said they don't have two person tables by the window. We don't understand why you don't have a few since you know couples will be on board. If you do, we don't understand why we always were seated as far from a window in the restaurant as possible. 3. One night, after I asked to be seated near a window, they put us against the wall, once again. Moments after we sat down, a couple were being seated near us, when they asked to be moved closer to a window, they got a better table near one. I complained to the matre d' who just apologized. He didn't offer to sit us by a window on another night or make any kind of compensation. 4. The waiter kept trying to sell us items. At dinner one night, the waiter asked us about the breakfast on our balcony about 5 times in a row. We understand being asked once, but a no should end the conversation. At this point it became harassment. I should have said something to someone else but was so aggravated and didn't want to talk about it anymore. 5. The only sit down restaurants' breakfast ended by 9:00 and didn't open for lunch until 12:00. If we did not get there by 8:30, the buffet was our only option for three and a half hours. 6. On the morning of departure, the main dining room didn't open until most passengers disembarked. 7. One day we went to get soft serve ice cream at 6:00 and the woman serving the ice cream said they closed at 6:00. We would understand if we came at 6:10 or if the machine was being cleaned, but neither were the case. 8. All the restaurants had the same menu for dinner so if we didn't want an item on that menu; our only other choice was the buffet. 9. There was no one to talk to about land excursions on the rail portion of our trip on the cruise ship. The cruise ship could only talk about their ports. We don't understand why they couldn't help us with the land excursions of the trip since it is all the same company. 10. There weren't any special events. Norwegian had midnight chocolate buffet, Royal Caribbean had midnight buffet as well. 11. Our reserved dinner in the main dining room was supposed to be by a window and it was next to the entrance. Problems we encountered on land portion 12. We were told it was a rail tour but the majority of our trip was by motor coach. We had rail from Whittier to Talkeetna and the rest was by motor coach (Talkeetna to McKinley, McKinley to Denali, and Denali to Fairbanks) 13. The shuttles from the hotel to town cost money and they were far away from everything. In the land excursion brochure on page 26 it says shuttle is complimentary. In addition, it is a Princess bus so we don't know why it costs extra. For McKinley it was $10 round trip per person and Fairbanks it was $5 roundtrip per person. 14. We asked if we could switch the tour we were given with a lesser priced one in Denali and they would not do it. We did not pick that tour; it was assigned to us so we don't know why we were not allowed to switch to something that we would enjoy. When we went to the park, they switched it for us so I'm confused why Princess refused to do it. 15. The hotel in McKinley had neither air conditioning nor fans in the rooms. It was in the upper 80s and was very hot in the room! 16. None of the rooms on the land portion had a safe to lock up our valuables. 17. From Fairbanks to the airport they would not change the shuttle time. It had us leaving at 6:45 when the airport is 5 minutes away for a 9:30 flight and they refused to make a second trip. 18. There was a luggage fee for the Alaskan Airlines flight that we were not told about before we booked our trip. 19. We had a long layover in Anchorage when there were flights that left sooner to go to Seattle What upsets us the most is the lack of any Princess employee's attempt to rectify even one of these items. Sincerely, Lauren and Wayne

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Jul 8, 2009

South Bound

Overall very good experience. The dinning Room food excellent, although there was not enough variety in the buffet. Balacony Room was good. We loved big open closet! The entertainment was not timed very well. Enjoyable trip, shows repeated on seperate days.

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Jun 15, 2009

Alaska

This cruise was close to the best one we have ever been on. Everything went perfectly from embarkation to disembarkation. The service was excellent in all bars and lounges. Service was up to our expectations and then some. Our room steward, Benjamin, was awesome. The food in the International dining room was wonderful - absolutely no complaints. The burgers, pizza and hot dogs by the pool were very good. The desserts were yummy. The Horizon Court

buffet was fair, but the coffee there was undrinkable. Our stateroom was comfortable, clean and had enough room for all our stuff. We had a balcony and loved it. Our steward outdid himself to clean up after us (we're messy). The entertainment was scheduled a bit differently than we were used to, but we got to see almost everything we wanted to. We went to wine tastings, ranger talks, and shows. They were all good. The glacier landing by helicopter in Juneau was stunning - no words suffice to express the beauty, the grandeur, the vastness of Mendenhall glacier. It is a don't miss; however, it isn't cheap. If you are on a budget you might take another method of transportation to the glacier. Before our cruise, we did a cruisetour to Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge (2 nights) and one night at Denali Princess Lodge. The lodges were nice and the weather was mostly sunny, very little rain. The bus ride to McKinley from Anchorage was 3.5 hours. From McKinley to Denali took 2.5 hours After Denali we took the train to Whittier (a ten-hour ride) which was way too long to be on a train going an average of 30 mph. We did see wildlife (bears, moose, eagles) but I wish they could have sped up a bit. I don't want to ride on a bus or train for a very long time. The cruise was nearly perfect. When we got to the airport in Vancouver Saturday to return home we were informed that our luggage would not be making the trip with us, that Princess would FedEx it to us. We got our luggage the following Wednesday. Other than that, it was a great cruise.

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Apr 1, 2009

Mexican Riveria

I've been on several cruises and this was my first on Princess. It was close to the best cruise I have ever been on. Embarking the first day was very organized and took no time at all. The ship was absolutely lovely. One of the loveliest I've ever been on. The food was delicious and displayed beautifully. The 24 buffet was wonderful all the time. We had a balcony room. It was smaller than usual, but totally adequate. We especially like the way

the closet was designed. Very easy to get to your hanging clothes and shelves. The help always spoke when passing us and they were very eager to please. The shore excursions were very well planned. We saw several whales, and even a couple breaching. It was terrific. The entertainment was good and the dance shows very well done. At the end, we chose the walk off option. It went extremely smooth and we were off the ship quickly. I would go on this cruise again anytime. My hat off to Princess. It was very enjoyable. You won't be disappointed. The food was some of the best I've had on a cruise and the way it was displayed made it even more enticing. The stateroom was smaller than I'm use to, but totally adequate. It was not a problem at all. The closet was very convenient. Better designed, user friendly. The bathroom was adequate, but shower very tight quarters. The balcony was about average.

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Mar 26, 2009

Mexican Riviera

We were a group of 6 seniors in our early 60's. It was our first Mexican cruise and our first time on the Sapphire Princess. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and would go again soon if finances allowed. One couple had never cruised before and they were very impressed with everything about the cruise. We did not have a negative experience on the 7 day cruise. Everyone treated us royally and we never lacked for enjoyable things to do. I would highly

recommend Eric at Vacations to Go as he booked our cruise for us and was excellent to work with. I would also highly recommend the Sapphire Princess and Princess Cruise Lines for a Mexican Riviera cruise. We felt our food was exceptional! The presentation, especially the desserts, was simply beautiful. How they can serve such elegant food in such hugh quantities defies logic. I was concerned because I'm allergic to smoke and you can't book non-smoking rooms with Princess. However, our stateroom was very clean and didn't have any smell. We had a balcony where we could open the door keeping a fresh air supply whenever we desired. We are definitely spoiled. We really enjoyed the golf pro on board and we went to all of his lectures. We also enjoyed lounging around the spa pool that was more private than others. We went to the production shows and the comedians and to a dance lesson. We found a wonderful trio, Phoenix Rising, on the 6th. night and were disappointed that we didn't discover them sooner as we would have enjoyed them much more than two of the comedians. We did enjoy the comedian named Steve. The production shows were fine, just not outstanding. The dance lesson couple was wonderful and we really enjoyed their lesson; we just didn't have time to continue with more lessons. We didn't do any on shore excursions because we wanted to explore on our own as it was our first time on this cruise. My husband would do the sport fishing in Cabo next time. We have nothing but positive comments about our cruise as it was a wonderful time. Embarkation and disembarkation went quickly and smoothly. We carried our own bags off and that went faster. We also chose anytime dining with some trepidation as on our first cruise we had traditional dining. But we really loved the freedom and ability to change dining rooms and dining times. In the future, we will definitely choose "anytime dining." We had wonderful wait staff and our cabin steward was very efficient and likeable. The ship was amazingly clean and well kept. All 6 of us give Princess Cruises an A+.

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Nov 9, 2008

Mexican Riveria

Our first cruise was 16 years ago and was an unqualified disaster, primarily due to the cruise being overrun by unaccompanied graduating High School Seniors. While we travel very frequently, our experience with the first cruise made us shy away from cruising again. That has been unfortunate since our recently completed cruise to the Mexican Riveria was an absolute delight. The overall experience far exceeded our expectations. We had a mini-suite

with a balcony and found the room to be wonderfully comfortable and very quiet. The staff on the ship, save for one venue (see remarks under the food area), was outgoing, very pleasant and very helpful when needed. There is no doubt that we will be cruising again and looking forward to it. Overall, we thought the food ranged from good to excellent in every venue. We were accompanied with two other couples and we all ate together for dinner. We chose the anytime dining option and ate in 6 different restaurants (two of them required a small upcharge). All of them had excellent service and good to excellent food. Some items were clearly mediocre, but several other items were outstanding. Universally, the bakery products were great, both breads and pastries. The only blemish in the food and beverage area was the Horizon Court buffet, which is their 24 hour buffet. While the food was good and well presented, the buffet area became claustraphobic due to the tight quarters. The staff people in the buffet were the only ones that were not pleasant. They weren't nasty, but clearly they gave out a feeling of indifference. The stateroom, a mini-suite, was spacious, more than expected. It was well appointed and very liveable for the week we were cruising. With a balcony, it was very enjoyable to spend time in the room, particulary with two TV's that pickup up CNN, TNT and ESPN, along with a couple of movie channels and several ship channels. The onboard activities were far better than we expected. We caught three production shows, one comedian, two demonstrations and two lectures and all were very worthwhile. What really surprised us was the diversity of activities and the participation. At no time did we feel we were jammed in or crowding in a confined space for the activity. We took a private yacht around the harbor in Cabo San Lucas with 20 other people and the experience was outstanding. It felt like we were the ultra wealthy with unlimited cocktails, food and a beautiful yacht. It sailed over to land's end and then to a cove where many of the passengers went snorkling and swimming. While cruising to the cove, we trolled and actually hooked a fish and one passenger reeled it in. ery exciting.

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Jul 7, 2007

Alaska

My family and I were passengers on a recent Alaska cruise.  We have cruised on three prior occasions with Disney Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean Lines.  We enjoy cruising and based upon my experience, I have the following comments re the cruise experience on Princess: Disembarkment:  This was by far the worst experience of the entire trip, and really the only place where the Sapphire and its crew totally fell flat.  The disembarkation

process was disorganized and passengers were frantic, angry and frustrated.  All that would have been required was some MINIMAL ORGANIZATION.  Instead, it was “every passenger” for him/herself.  There was no direction on WHERE to disembark (fore, mid or aft ship).  There was NO crew member to direct people where to go.  Express Walk Off option was a nightmare. I lined up with hundreds of other Express Walk Off passengers (with all of our luggage in tow) at 7am in front of the mid-ship exit.  By 7:30, all of us with our luggage BLOCKING the elevator lobby and  the hallways, waiting.  Then, the crew began to announce exits for the various colors BEFORE the Express Walk Offs were even off the ship.  It was chaos. No one could MOVE.  Our luggage was blocking the hallways.  And the Crew refused to allow us to disembark because Express Walk Off was to exit in the AFT of the ship. (Which no one told us, no announcements were made as to where the Express Walk Offs were to exit.)  So, hundreds of passengers with all of their luggage had to wind our way to the AFT of the ship.  So if you're going -- be sure to insist that you be told the time to disembark and where to disembark (fore, mid or aft ship). Service:  Both Cabin and Food service failed to meet our expectations and were inferior compared to Disney and RCL.  We attribute this primarily due to the “guaranteed” $10 per day gratuity the staff is paid.  There appears to be no incentive for the staff to do more than the bare minimum.     Anytime Dining:  This feature is very convenient and superior to the assigned seating. That said, the fact that you have “different” wait staff each night may be one reason why the service quality of the wait staff is not very good. Internet:  The internet charges for WiFi is excessive.  This is particularly a problem for the guest who combines business with vacation.  The charge for the WiFi per minute is outrageous. Excursions:  The only excursion that I went on was the Rainforest Sanctuary in Ketchikan.  It was a waste of time and money.  The advertising should state that this is primarily a flora and fauna walk.  We expected to see to come wildlife and instead saw caribou which were in “cages”. Overall:  Other than the nightmare disembarkation process, the cruise was a good experience.  Alaska is a wonderful cruise destination.  Some minor adjustments in the areas of service and food quality would make this cruise an excellent experience.

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Jul 8, 2006

UNKNOWN

This cruise was much anticipated because our son was being married on board on the first full day out to sea, after departing from Whittier. The only thing I regretted was not arriving in Vancouver a day in advance and then taking the bus to Whittier to board the ship. Even though we reside in Orange County, CA, we were all exhausted by the plane flights. We were lucky and did not have any delays to our flight schedule. I think what was

most exhausting was lugging all the wedding attire with us. It was suggested that we hand carry the tuxedos and bridesmaid dresses and wedding dress, in case there was a delay in getting our luggage to the ship. It turned out that everything arrived in a timely manner and right to our cabin. We arrived in Anchorage on time and Princess personnel were quickly were quickly instructing us on where to take our luggage and where to meet the bus. We got on the bus without much delay and enjoyed the ride to Whittier. An extra treat was a spontaneous stop at a wildlife refuge. It allowed us to stretch our legs and view grizzly bears, an injured eagle, some elk and bison while we waited for our timed entrance into the “one-way tunnel” into Whittier. We arrived and boarded the Sapphire at approximately 5:30 in the afternoon and went right to our cabins to relax. Our first day was at College Fjord. It was a beautiful day and even though we were on a very large ship of 2600 people, it was amazing how quiet and wild and beautiful the glaciers were. I was glad we booked a mini suite, because we had lots of room on the balcony to relax and enjoy the views of the glaciers. The weather was cool and required a jacket or sweatshirt. I never left our cabin, but was perfectly content to take in the view from our balcony. Sunday afternoon was the big event – our son’s wedding. Princess provided us with a wedding coordinator who lead us through the whole procedure and the wedding went off without a hitch. The Captain was extremely gracious and was truly happy to be a part of this occasion. Photographs were taken throughout the ship and the bride and groom were treated to a trip up to the bridge for photos (much to the delight of our son). A small reception was held in the Wheelhouse Lounge. The live music was very romantic, the hot and cold hors d'oeuvres were delicious and we danced, ate and drank and celebrated for an hour, before going up to the dining room for dinner. The staff was so gracious and made this a very romantic and memorable occasion for our whole family. Glacier Bay the next day was even more spectacular. I ordered the champagne breakfast and even though my husband went to the buffet to eat, I enjoyed this special breakfast and the views with my niece. We were not used to champagne for breakfast, but had some orange juice brought to our cabin and enjoyed Bellini’s instead. The views were gorgeous and the remoteness of the whole area was almost overwhelming. Tuesday we were in Skagway and left the ship, walked across the dock and boarded the train to take the Whites Pass Railroad tour. Being a history buff, I enjoyed this tour and the spectacular views. It was only 4 hours long and we were back early to enjoy the port of Skagway, some shopping and lunch. I had some delicious fried oysters at the restaurant right adjacent to the dock, freshly opened and fried just prior to being served. Skagway is a short easy walk from the ship. The weather was beautiful.  

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May 13, 2006

UNKNOWN

We arrived at the Los Angeles airport and to our surprise we were able to get on the shuttle bus to the ship immediately. We had neglected to book the pre cruise pickup, make sure you book it if you are arriving in Los Angeles as it is a long ride to the ship from the airport and a taxi would be quite expensive. We had visited some of the ports before so didn't do any of the tours offered. We really enjoyed Catalina Island. The town is

within walking distance with many lovely shops to browse through. My friend and I purchased a few lovely clothes for the cruise. I only wish we had a few more hours in that port. When we arrived in San Francisco I couldn't wait to see Fisherman's wharf. I was extremely disappointed. The prices were very much inflated and as it was our anniversary we wanted to have a memorable seafood lunch. We asked where the best place to have Fish & Chips was and went to the small restaurant indicated (sorry I forgot the name, it was on the left hand side, on the water right behind the fish & chip stand with the green awning outside). We were very disappointed in our meals. I had heard other cruisers uttering the same words about the seafood they ordered at pier 39. One of the ports was Astoria, Oregon, once again I was not impressed with the town. Leaving Astoria the seas were a little rock, as it is the Oregon Coast. Victoria was our next stop. It was nice to be back where we were familiar with the surroundings. Unfortunately the weather was not as warm as one might have liked at that time of year . Vancouver was the point of departure, we were supposed to get off the ship at 8:45 so we didn't have breakfast as we woke up late and thought we didn't have time. Had I known that we weren't going to get off until 11:15 I sure would have gone and got something to eat. I have to say that the wait to get off the ship was pretty well the only disappointment on our cruise. There were a couple of small annoyances like not knowing that ice cream was available free of charge between 3 and 4 each day on the 14th floor in the 24 hour buffet restaurant. Apparently we had missed it in our news letter. The staff was very friendly and what I most appreciated is that the cruisers seemed to be of a middle class. There were a few children on board but we never were bothered by their presence. All 4 of us bought into a 2nd cruise with Princess so you can tell we weren't disappointed.  

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May 6, 2006

Mexican Riviera

Where do I begin? What an amazing experience. Anyone who has not been on a cruise needs to go! There is so much to do you have to pick and chose because it is impossible to get everything in. The first day began with a set sail party, toasts and bon voyages from our San Pedro port. The only mistake we made was to eat late on that first night. If you don't eat around 6pm, you miss all of the evening's activities. And trust me, the Sapphire

Princess had a plethora to choose from. Day 2 we were at sea and just began experiencing the massive boat my parents and I set sail on. Food 24-7, and I am talking top notch food: crab legs, lobster tails, sushi, prime rib, filet minion, escargot, etc. And desserts to die for -different delicacies every day. After breakfast, we went to one of the six pools to swim and catch some rays. Met a few nice passengers, but my favorite people whom I befriended were the gracious and ever so helpful staff. Midday I went for a line dancing class and played bingo. In the evening we had four restaurants to choose from and then went to a comedy/magic show followed up with dancing. Day 3 we discovered the exclusive back of the boat with two pools and four Jacuzzis, a tennis court, and other amenities. You have to navigate your way to get there, so not many people new about it. This is also when I began my ballroom dancing, by far the best event I did on the ship. I am a huge fan now and plan to learn more. And my instructor Danny was extremely nice and made sure I always had a partner to dance with. Day 4 we landed port in Puerto Vallarta and my dad and I went swimming with the dolphins. This was my father's favorite excursion and among my top as well (I loved them all). After a morning swimming with the dolphins, we picked up my mom and went to see a bull fight.. very entertaining, but extremely hot. After we got back on the ship, we saw another great comedian/juggler and then partied until 2am at the Mexican Fiesta party in the back of the boat. That was a thrill. They definitely know how to throw a party. Day 5 was in Mazatlan and my dad and I went Kayaking and Hiking on Deer Island. A lot of fun there as well, since I am such an active outdoorsy kid of person. That day was extremely tiring, I had wanted to go to the Country Western party, but I ended up crashing for the evening after dinner. Day 6 was our final port of call, the shortest stay, and the most beautiful.. Cabo San Lucas. My dad and I went racing on quads and after that my mom and I went shopping and got some great deals on silver. We were only there until 2pm, but that at least granted me time to learn the merengue. That evening we danced the night away at the wheelhouse bar ballroom and later on at the Champagne Waterfall party.... and again at the after hours club, Skywalkers. Day 7 was sad as it was time to disembark the ship. Had I known you can get killer deals on transfer sails, I would have continued on to Vancouver, as they were begining the Alaskan sailings after our trip. I hope to stay in touch with the friend I made on the ship and definitely plan to go again soon. You definitely get used to being waited on hand and foot! Something for everyone, that's for sure!

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Apr 22, 2006

Mexican Riviera

My husband (56) and I (50) just got home from a fantastic 7 day cruise to the Mexican Riviera on the Sapphire Princess. We flew to LAX a day early and took Primetime Shuttle to San Pedro. The wait for a van was long and we had many stops. Next time we will try the Super Shuttle service that had many more vans operating. We stayed at the San Pedro Holiday Inn. It was ok for a single night stay and had a shuttle service to the pier for

$3 per person. Saturday morning we were at the pier by 11 a.m. and in our room by noon. For the first time we booked an inside room instead of a balcony. I would do this again to save money, as it didn’t effect our enjoyment of the cruise at all. Here are some of our experiences and thoughts by subject: Dining: All sea days we enjoyed breakfast at the International Dining Room. This allowed us to meet many nice people and have a good cup of coffee to start the day. For dinner we got a noisy, not very private table at the Santa Fe one night. The next night we reserved table 405 (for 2) in the Pacific Moon and enjoyed it so much we booked it two more times. The other nights we went to the Horizon Court. My favorite dishes were Beef Wellington, Blue Crab appetizer, Mahi Mahi and Rum Raisin ice cream. Activities: Daytime we liked line dancing lessons, ping pong, the gym and the various pools and hot tubs. The most enjoyable night time activities for the week were Piano Man, the 50’s party, Line Dance Mania, Dan Bennett, and Lovena B. Fox. Shore: At Puerto Vallarta we did “Hideway at Las Caletas”. We liked the swimming, kayaking, cooking lesson, lunch and open bar. At Cabo we did “Chileno Bay Snorkeling”. The crew made the outing lots of fun, but the truth is that snorkeling is much better in the Caribbean. We stayed on the ship at Mazatlan. Trouble: Friday at about 1 p.m. the captain announced that technical difficulties would delay our return to port significantly. It took us until 5:30 p.m. to get access to a phone and change our flight arrangements. It was not what we planned to do our last day at sea. However, the next day the staff had put together a list a daytime activities to keep us busy. We participated in line dancing and a game show “Majority Rules”. Then we went to the Trident Grill and ate the lunch that the next cruise was supposed to be eating. Next was a real treat; Cathy from two Survivor shows gave an impromptu talk on her experience in the Explorer’s lounge. We disembarked at 4 p.m. and had to take a red eye flight home. Oh well! We still think this was one of the best cruises we have ever been on and will not hesitate to book our next Princess cruise.

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Mar 18, 2006

Mexican Riviera

Sailed on the Sapphire Princess from 3/17/06 to 3/24/06 to the Mexican Riviera, Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas. History: This cruise was our 6th cruise, the first with Princess. We have done 4 cruises with Norwegian and one with Holland. My wife and I are the primary cruisers in the family. Our daughter was with us in the first three, but since she married, she no longer goes with us. Pre cruise: We flew into California

the Friday before the Saturday departure and stayed at the Best Western Sunrise Hotel in San Pedro. Given that we came from the east coast, we thought a day early would help with the time shift. The hotel was nice and there was plenty to do within walking distance. We rose early the next day, around 5:30, and watched as the Sapphire Princess returned to port. It was a spectacular sight, the sun hadn’t risen and the ship was sparkling with lights. The channel is literally across the street from the hotel. It was a sight to see making it’s way to the berth. Embarkation: We arrived at the Princess terminal about 11:00am and quickly made it through the check in process and then went into the terminal to wait to board the ship. We sat in the waiting area for close to 3 hours. Princess basically told us nothing as to why there was a delay this long. This caused a great deal of stress amongst a lot of the families waiting. Later we found out that there was a crew change and the immigration was performing a random check of the crew. With a wait this long, you would have thought that they could have given us some food, cookies would have been fine, and something to drink, water would have been OK. After this wait, we finally boarded about 3:00 and sailed a little after 5:30, approximately an hour and a half later than scheduled. Dining: After the long wait, the first stop Horizon Food Court. The food here is tasty, plentiful and much variety. We ate every breakfast there. The variety was good, the food cooked well and the staff friendly. It was crowded but no delays in getting food. Seating was not an issue as never hesitated to sit with other people and chat over breakfast. Restaurants: We chose not to eat in any of the specialty restaurants. The menus in the three main dining rooms were sufficient to what we wanted. We even had a few dinners at the buffet. We ate at the Savoy, Santa Fe, and the Pacific Moon dining rooms. The menus were the same in all each night but each restaurant had a specialty item. The service was better at the Santa Fe. The waiter stopped to talk one night and told us of his life in Bucharest and his ambitions after leaving the cruising career. The Savoy appeared to be slower service. We had ordered three appetizers one night, couldn’t make up our mind, but only 2 selections arrived There the servers were wonderful, prompt, friendly, funny, and very professional. If we wanted to eat at 6:00 we made reservations. But if we chose to eat around 7:00 we didn’t and usually got seated in a minimum amount of time. Public Rooms: The public areas showed some wear and tear from the previous nights activities. Since we sailed the end of March, we had spring break people on the ship. They are very messy and were not always courteous of others. We watched one young lady take the lime from her drink and throw it on the decking around one of the hot tubs. Going to breakfast in the morning relatively early, 7:00 am, we saw pizza left over from the night before, drink glasses etc. We also saw tiles lifted around the pools. The lounges all appeared clean and orderly. Service was good and prompt. On one occasion we entered an elevator and there was trash. To blame the cruise line for this may be out of line. We observed many young children, under 15 years old, being totally unruly and the parents were there. But they were too busy getting a tan than to watch their children. The attitude almost seemed like “I can do what I want, I paid for this, some one else will clean it”. Entertainment: This cruise we did not make it to any evening productions They were shifting show schedules around near the end of the cruise. Announcing cancellations and reschedules of shows etc. with no reason given. We did sit in some of the lounges at night and listened to the entertainment there. It was enjoyable. We never saw the cruise director except on the cabin television. Cabin: We occupied cabins D529, a minisuite. Our stateroom steward was Maria and was very good. The only issue is that she had 19 rooms to clean, way too many for one person. So, the room was not always done by the time we returned from breakfast and a walk. But, to her defense, never once did we not see her working on a room. She was busy all the time. She is not a slow worker, knows what she is doing and goes about her business in a very professional manner. If we needed something, she did not hesitate to get it. As compared to other cruises and steward we’ve had, she was one of the better. There was more than enough room in the suite for our luggage, etc. Shore Excursions: In PV we did the Eco Tour. This consisted of taking a catamaran for approximately 1½ hours to an island that was a protected refuge for birds. We could not go on the island. Here we kayaked for about 10 minutes. They had minimum kayaks for a lot of people. So we shared time on the kayak. We also snorkeled there. Prior to entering the water we saw lots of small jellyfish. I asked if they would sting and was told by one of the tour guides that they would. But if there were dangerous ones, they won’t let us in the water. Needless to say, I got stung. It hurt, about like a bee sting. It went away quickly, in about 20 minutes. Many others were also stung. On the return, we then went to a beach and just sat in the sun for about an hour. The high point of this excursion was when we encountered a mother whale and her calf. They maneuvered the catamaran close to the two and we watched them play. They were jumping and having a great time, oblivious to the fact we were there. The excursion cruise video taped the whole trip and were selling the DVD, with the promise to send it. The charge for the video was expensive, but they claimed to have the whales at play on it. As of this date, 4/8/06, we haven’t received ours. In Mazatlan we did a Mexican country side tour to see a small Mexican village and how they really live. We didn’t know that small Mexican villages with a population of 60 people had street vendors. But other than that, we enjoyed the trip. Stopping at a roadside area to watch the making of bricks from mud and a little later, at a road side store that made and sold furniture. We also stopped in a large village for refreshment and a tour of a church, then stopped at the village of 60 for lunch and a walk through the village. Then the obligatory shopping in the golden zone in Mazatlan. Our tour guide was an wonderful woman whose full time job was in the DA’s office. Her narrative was very informative and she was very knowledgeable about the local area. At Cabo San Lucas we did the Historic Pirate Adventure. This was on a real two mast sailing vessel, the Sunderland. Not a contrived pirate ship. The ship was built in 1885 and was a cargo ship. We motored out of harbor, shut the motor off and the crew put up the sails and we were under wind power for about an hour. This was great. The ship’s captain, Mark Belvedere, was a very interesting man, an avid sailor and designer of sailing vessels. His crew was equally as interesting and great to deal with. You could tell they all enjoyed what they did. We snorkeled here as well, Mark called it walking the plank. This was a very enjoyable excursion and well worth the time. Disembarkment: Leaving the ship was fast once we got going. We left about 30 minutes later than the schedule had called out. The lines at customs were long, but moved. It wasn’t bad.

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Dec 3, 2005

Mexican Riviera

Matt and Kathy Preis The Sapphire is a beautiful ship, the pools and public rooms are great. The food was excellent in both the main dinning room and Horizon court. Our service was the worst we ever had in our 15 cruises. On two occasions, we complained to the captain, and service improved for only a few minutes. We ate at Sabatinos ($20 per person cover) and this was very disappointing, the service was poor and the food was basically the

same as dinning room, not worth the extra $40. All in all, the dinning supervisors did not help the service much. The production shows were good, but the other entertainment was only fair. Lounges were beautiful, but here were times when no entertainment was available in the evening. Scheduling was very poor, as it was impossible to take in all shows if you had late seating. Housekeeping was excellent and was bar service. Beautiful ship but poorly run, especially the dinning room

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Nov 20, 2005

UNKNOWN

I guess this cruise line will be great for senior people, but not the best for family with young children. This was my main concern for this trip. Six people in my family went for this cruise, including my 5 year old daughter and 7 year old son. This was our third cruise, but the 1st cruise with Princess. The children activity area was spacious and well facilitated, but the children programs were not the best. My two kids were in two

different age groups. Both programs was more like baby sitting programs, not educative and fun like the other two cruise lines we experienced. My children were bored after few sections. My kids enjoyed the shows in the main theater for the first few nights, the last night we were all there again watching the farewell show for all ages. We were shocked when the director dressed like superwoman with two water balloons in his bra on stage, then someone poked the balloons. One manager kept grabbing the other female manager's breast, the female manger striped several layers of the male's underwear... This is not adult night, it was the farewell show, and there are quite few children in the audience. It is a shame they put such a show on stage. I hope Princess will have more consideration for the children on board, and have shows be more family oriented when it is for all ages.  

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Oct 29, 2005

Mexican Riviera

This review is for the Sapphire Princess which left San Pedro (LA) pier on Saturday, October 29, 2005. The cruise visited Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, and Cabo San Lucas returning to LA on Saturday, November 5, 2005. History: This cruise was our 5th cruise with Princess, having sailed before on the Grand and Golden. There was 6 in our party, hubby and I, our two daughters ages 17 and 20, and both his mom and dad. Pre cruise: having

flown into LAX late, we reserved two rooms at the San Pedro Best Western, right across the harbor from where the ship docked. The hotel was a little older but was perfect for us. It was clean, didn’t smell, and the beds were comfortable. New carpet was being laid in many rooms and the hallways. Our room overlooked the harbor. We awoke about 5:30 am in time to see the ship arriving back into port. It was a real pretty site. The hotel served a continental breakfast and offered a free shuttle service to the dock in the morning. Embarkation: We arrived at the Princess terminal about 11:45am with embarkation to begin at 12:30. Our luggage was left at the curb with a porter so there was no hauling luggage. There was very little waiting in line (maybe 4 minutes) and we checked in at express check-in. I didn’t see any advantage to this as the regular lines were just as short. A brief wait, maybe 30 minutes in the waiting room before we were able to board. We were called by numbers (we were the 4th group…maybe 100 people per group) to be called upon. It was a very smooth entrance into the ship. Dining: Of course the first stop for everyone is the Horizon Food Court. The food here is tasty, plentiful and much variety. This time however, one entrance was closed off so everyone entered from the same side and exited in the middle. This caused many to think it was cafeteria style and caused long lines during peak dining throughout the cruise. I stuck to my traditional method: I waited in line to enter, and then it was free rein to my choices. Since I only ate oatmeal for breakfast, there was no reason to stand in line for 20 minutes. I just politely excused myself in front of a waiting person (who wasn’t getting the oatmeal) and was on my way. Only once was someone very irate about this and accused my daughter of cutting in line in front of everyone. If this was you, then shame on you because you made a fool of yourself. Restaurants: We chose not to eat in any of the specialty restaurants since that goes against my theory of all-inclusive dining. I did talk to one couple and their night in the Sterling house was a disaster and they were credited their cover-charge. We did eat at the Savoy, Santa Fe, and the Pacific Moon dining rooms. The menus were the same in all each night but each restaurant had a specialty item. Fajitas in the Santa Fe were wonderful but a bit spicy. Pork Chops in the Savoy were a bit dry and I didn’t try the seafood platter in the Pacific Moon. The service in Pacific Moon was slow so we ate there only once. Most of our dining was in the Savoy. There the servers were wonderful, prompt, friendly, funny, and very professional. I was very disappointed this time with the “personal choice” option as it seemed the only way to get in was to either have a reservation (which they will not take any reservations after 6:30 or before 8pm) or wait until after 8pm. We tried for a table at 6:30 and wasn’t able to get a table until 8:15 which a large round table in the front sat empty the entire time. We ate often at the Trident Grill which was poolside. There my daughter dined daily on her fries and my hubby enjoyed his cheeseburgers. There was also the Pizza stand which I and my other daughter visited daily. Public Rooms: All the lounges were very clean and relaxing to visit in. The bands in all the lounges were enjoyable. I wasn’t crazy with the Club Fusion where many of the evening events were held. Each seat/couch was set too low so it was impossible to see the stage. Televisions were placed all around so we could look up and see what was happening on the stage. Karaoke, dance parties, and games were held here. Entertainment: We caught the first show at the Princess Theater and weren’t too impressed. It was in line with all the many other theater acts we have sat thru and chose to skip the shows the rest of the week. The comedian this night was Lorenzo Clark and he was okay. This was one of three times I actually saw our Cruise Director, Billy Hygate. We caught the juggler act with Dan Bennett. He was hilarious and we find ourselves still repeating his name. (Watch him and you’ll know why). We slipped into the late performance of Brandi Chapman and though her singing was nice, she talked way too much and lost a large portion of her crowd, including us. Troy Thirdgrill was onboard for two different shows. He was wonderful and well worth taking in. However, his video he sells was a repeat of the same shows we just watched, so a bit disappointed with that $25 spent. We enjoyed watching the “princess pop star” each night (like an American idol count down) other events were random but the girls had a fantastic time at the Halloween Bash in Club Fusion. For anyone there and bought the reflections video, my daughters were the devil and flapper girls) Cabin: We occupied cabins B425 (for the girls, an inside) and B427 and B429 (balconies). Our stateroom steward was Nilo and went out of his way for us each day. He always remembered everyone’s name and spoiled the girls with chocolates each evening. The rooms were spacious enough for us with plenty of storage area for clothes and luggage. Shore Excursions: In PV we did the jeep safari and beach adventure excursion. The jeeps were open top and suitable. There are 4 to a jeep and they do fill up every jeep. Licensed drivers (must show proof) are able to switch during the drive if they want. We chose to let daddy do all the driving. Grandparents sat back and let the other couple drive as well. This is not a rugged extreme adventure but the roads are very dusty and bumpy at times. We left very dirty but did have the option to shower or bathe at the resort we stopped at. The snack they gave us was sushi. Not my favorite choice but I was hungry and the rice was fine. We had to climb over a small wall to get to the beach. The sand was hot, the water was very rocky as we first entered, and the water was surprising, a bit chilly. I wouldn’t rate this excursion as a “10” but we all loved seeing the back country of Mexico and see how the locals really do live. This was certainly not the tourist side of PV. The beach adventure portion was a dud in my book, and too much time was spent back tracking on the same paved road where I’d rather have seen more of the back country. In Mazatlan we hired a private van (Fernando from a tour group soliciting passengers) who took us around the old town and new town. It was to be $30 a passenger for 3 hours of tour. We ended up being out there for 4 ½ hours for the same price First off, let me say this guy was awesome. He spoke good English and grew up in Mazatlan. He started us in the old town and told us who built it up, and how people live, their jobs, etc. Took us to some non-touristy stores where the prices were much cheaper, they offered us a cold drink and clean restrooms. None of the businesses were pushy sellers and it was nice quality stuff. He found the common points of interest, such as the cliff divers and good photo opportunities and even advised us what was a good value in shopping (He did say, at one point, the silver from these local vendors was not good so do not buy it.) However, we did find the shopping was best in this town. Much cheaper prices then the other two ports we were at. The street vendors were very pushy but did come down well on prices. (Wood carvings here were popular and good prices). Little children sold gum packets (Chiclets) 5 for a dollar. Mazatlan was our favorite port by far. The new town (where the resorts were) wasn’t too impressive but the old town was very interesting. One point of interest; my daughter had to do a presentation on Mexico’s celebration of Día de los Muertos or, Day of the Dead. This day we were here, was the day it was celebrated. Fernando explained all this to her and took her to places where she could get photos for her presentation. He took us to a local cemetery to see how the locals celebrated this day’s memorial. At Cabo San Lucas we did the sail and snorkel excursion offered by the ship. Sergio took us out on a sailboat to Chilino Bay where we spent an hour in the water snorkeling. The water was clear, warm, and fish were ample. Drinks were served on board throughout as well as a variety of cheese snacks. A well recommended trip to anyone, even if you don’t snorkel. Sergio was very helpful and friendly. We didn’t have much time to see the town as we needed to back on the ship by 1:30. There is a market right by the pier that was full of anything one would want. They do come down in prices so never pay asking price, but they are much pricier then the other ports. Family & Children: Though my children are older, I wanted to comment on this as it’s been a topic of interest for cruise goers for some time. I was surprised at how many children were on board. I didn’t see them very much, but I did watch them during their Halloween parade on board. I had no idea how many children were actually on board! I toured the activity rooms on the ship and was impressed at all the equipment and activities available for these kids. From the small ones to the older teens, they all had their own areas to hang out and be supervised. None of the outdoor activities for the kids interfered with the adults sunbathing. Only one boy, whom I seen a couple times (maybe 12) was annoying and didn’t surrender the volleyball to the cruise staff when asked. It was appalling to see his father do nothing of the situation even after the boy jumped from the hot tub into the pool. All throughout the ship we saw “youth security”, especially in the evenings. I’ve never seen this before and was impressed. The staff did a wonderful job keeping kids in line. I even saw many infants on board and for those of you who pooh pooh them taking a trip with their parents, well pooh pooh on you, I hope all the young parents enjoyed your vacation with your babies and encourage anyone to do the same.

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Oct 15, 2005

Mexican Riviera

Both my husband and I are 26 and traveled with my parents. We have cruised on carnival in the past and my parents have cruised princess prior to this trip. The first part of the review will read like a journal and I will finish with overall comments, favorites, and suggestions. Day 1- Embarkation was a bit disorganized as there was no loud speaker working and everyone was in a rush to get on the ship. We arrived at about 11 am and were

given a number one to board the ship. The staff struggled with the amount of people that were impatiently waiting to get on the ship. We were on the ship around noon and headed to our staterooms. We booked an inside room on the Aloha deck which was nicely arranged with plenty of storage room and all of the necessities. The bathroom is small, but adequate and also offers room for storage and hooks to hang towels and robes on the door. The closet space was more than sufficient for our four suitcases worth of stuff. We were impressed with the refrigerator in the room as carnival did not offer that. The beds were hard and the bedding is comparable to average hotel bedding. We met our steward, Jaime, who was awesome and got us extra pillows and a blanket immediately. Throughout the trip he not only cleaned up our room, but also organized our belongings! My parents balcony room was located on the Baja deck and was similar to ours except with a balcony. Next thing we did after checking our rooms was to make dinner reservations, which was a breeze. We were allowed to pick any time to eat, but could only make reservations through Tuesday. We were told that the buffet was the only option for lunch, so we headed there and enjoyed a nice lunch. Later, we looked at our patters and were disappointed to see that the dining room was open after all. The buffet worked out though and because we were on the ship early it was not too busy. I enjoyed the layout as it allowed for jumping between stations to get the items that you want. My mom and I also purchased our coke stickers at lunch time, which turned out to be a value for both of us. We enjoyed a few drinks and hung out on lounge chairs near the Aloha deck pool for sail away. There was no excitement at sail away, which was somewhat disappointing. That evening we dined at Pacific Moon and enjoyed it very much. Each dining room has one special and the Pacific Moon had the best special of the dining rooms. The first night I began my nightly desert tradition having sorbet, which was awesome particularly the honeydew sorbet. At night, we went to the welcome aboard show with Lorenzo Clark. The show was a good opportunity to get a glimpse of what was to come and to see the cruise staff. Later, we toured the ship and spent the evening at Skywalkers. Skywalkers was a fun place for us to hang out and dance, which we frequented every night of the cruise. Day 2- We woke early as we had made an appointment for a couple‘s massage at the spa. The massage was more like getting a serious beating than a massage. Laying on the floating water mattress was pretty good, but it sounded like there was a basketball game going on above. The sales pitch was pretty hard after the massage and we were told that we needed a lot of work. It was more assumed that we would purchase the items than asked. I refused as they were quite expensive, and I wasn’t really interested. We went to morning trivia and to our surprise came in second place. For lunch, we went to the dining room. The food was wonderful. We wandered around the ship for most of the morning. In the afternoon, we went to the ballroom dance class and had a great time. They break it down and it is quite easy to learn a dance in an hour. This was a formal night and we ate dinner in the Savoy, which was our least favorite dining room. It was beautiful, but our waiter was horrible! It was also the only dining room that did not offer us a special. Our evening events were seeing a comedian, princess pop star, and finishing the evening at Skywalkers. Princess pop star was so much fun that we attended each heat and the final. Day 3- Again, we slept in. We had room service in my parent’s room as they had tried to go to the buffet and found that it was crowded. Additionally, we ate lunch in the dining room and found that we were sad that we did not have traditional dining as the wait staff there were excellent. We hung out at the pool and watched wet, wacky pool games. It was fun to watch and well worth going to. My husband enjoyed a water volleyball game and the rest of us hung out on lounge chairs at the pool sipping drinks. Drink of the day was pina colada, which was super! For dinner, we went to Sante Fe and enjoyed their special fajitas. This evening we saw Lorenzo Clark. My husband got to be a part of the show by throwing him cigarettes. He was quite funny. We also saw Piano Man as we had missed it the night before. Despite the music being a bit old for us, it was quite impressive to see the dancing and the many, many costume changes. Definitely, check out this show! We enjoyed the second round of pop star later. We also checked out the light snack buffet, which we frequented many nights. Day 4- Puerto Vallarta day! Again, we had breakfast on the balcony and checked out the sights of Puerto Vallarta. We did not plan an excursion, but ended up taking a tour with a couple of other passengers through a local tour guide. We visited a tequila making factory, the jungle, and saw local landmarks. The jungle was amazing. Our stop was at one of the canopy tour companies where the movie Predator was filmed. It was a beautiful spot and the zip lines looked quite fun. We hope to go back someday to try that out. Our guide dropped us off in town and we went shopping and parasailing. Our final stop was the Hard Rock Cafe and then back to the ship. We took a dip in the pool upon return. We cancelled our reservation for the evening as we had not had lunch and walked up to the Pacific Moon without a problem. This evening we attended the tropical deck party, which was possibly one of my favorite events due to fun dancing and games. The music was great as they had an energetic, young band. We particularly enjoyed getting to know one of the dancers and hanging out with one of our favorite junior cruise directors. Day 5- Mazatlan day! We set up a tour (the city and beach tour) with Mazatlan Frank several months before the cruise . This was a tough day as the previous day was such fun that it would be difficult to meet or beat. The tour was informative and we got to see quite a bit of the city. We visited both new and old Mazatlan, a cathedral, a local artist’s studio, shopping points, and a restaurant on the beach. We also made a stop to see the cliff divers, which was amazing, but the vendors here were super aggressive. We ate at the Sante Fe again tonight because we had met a great waiter here. It was easy to walk in and request a certain waiter. I had one of the best deserts this night, a peach stuffed with souffle. Yummy! Tonight’s events were country trivia (which we know nothing about), a comedy show, liars club, and pop star. Liars club was a lot of fun! I think we had room service late at night and found that the club sandwich was our favorite room service treat. Day 6- Cabo day! The ship arrives early here as they are only in port for a short time. We took our time in the morning and tried the dining room for breakfast. I thought that it was disappointing, but the rest of my family seemed to feel that it was okay. We left the ship at about 9 am and walked through the city with the goal of stopping at Cabo Wabo. We did more shopping here than in the previous ports partly because we did tours at the other ports and partly because we just seemed to see more things we were interested in. We found a beautiful stained glass, a thick, furry blanket, and my husband found a nice fake Rolex. We also found lots of nice quality shirts, particularly from El Squid Roe, Senor Frogs, and the Hard Rock. We had lunch at Cabo Wabo. Lobster tacos are awesome! We traded an artist some cash and an old Nike hat for a neat hand painted Cabo tile. After arriving back to the ship, we did some swimming and got ready for our last formal night. We had dinner at our favorite restaurant, the Pacific Moon. Tonight was lobster night, and was quite good. After dinner, we went to Undercover (a must see). Our dancer friend paid special attention to us as we promised to sit in the front row! We stopped briefly at the Champagne waterfall because we had never seen it and headed to Princess pop star. We followed our tradition of heading to Skywalkers and ordering room service. Day 7- Last day... We slept in as we had not had much sleep and sadly missed the galley tour. We did make it to the backstage tour, but that was quite boring. Many people asked questions that were answered in the handout they provided. It was an experience to stand on the stage with all the lights on and feel what the dancers experience. We had lunch in the dining room and for the first time sat with a couple of other passengers. We had one of our favorite waiters and enjoyed our final lunch. I napped today while the boys went to the casino. My mom and I picked up some last minute items at the boutiques along with some alcohol to bring home. We finally tried the pizza near the pool and found that it was excellent. For dinner, we had made a reservation for Sabbatini’s. When we showed up, they said we did not have a reservation. They told us they could have a table ready for us in fifteen minutes. The restaurant was nearly empty and many tables appeared ready. We left annoyed and went to the Vivaldi because we had not eaten there. We really enjoyed this restaurant and were sorry we didn’t try it sooner. They are only open late for anytime dining though, and we tried to eat around 6:00 pm each night. The evening consisted of hanging out at Club Fusion for the 70’s party and the final princess pop star. We watched a hypnotist also, which was quite amusing. We hung out with our favorite cruise staff and exchanged emails so that we could keep in touch. We wandered around the ship after the show, but ended up going to bed because no one was around. Disembarkation- We changed our color group because we had a 1:00 pm flight out of LAX. Luckily, we made the change because disembarkation ran late. We enjoyed breakfast in the dining room before leaving the ship. French toast was great! Leaving the ship was a bit like a zoo, as many people were crowding the exit area even though they were not part of a group that was being called to disembark. There was plenty of seating at Explorers and also many people were waiting on their balconies or on the promenade balcony. I guess everyone is anxious to get off the ship? Overall- For us, it was quite a different experience from our carnival cruise. This cruise was one of our best trips. Many reviews say that it is more for older people, but we had a great time! It is true that the night life is limited, but we had fun late even if it meant we were the only ones dancing. The cruise staff was friendly and available to chat with. It was great to meet and hang out with dancers and singers as well. The food was always good. If you don’t like what you order, ask for something else. I almost always ordered two desserts and found that I always liked one if not both. Anytime dining is nice because you can eat at different times and it allows you the opportunity to see four different dining rooms. The ship is beautiful and was designed with close attention to detail. There is always something to do and activities are varied to meet diverse interests. It’s nice that shows are repeated so that you have the ability to see every show without having to pick and choose between events. Favorites: Breakfast: french toast and donuts Lunch: fried chicken, cheeseburgers, and pizza from the pool area Dinner: lobster, Pacific Moon dish, Sante Fe fajitas, ravioli, prime rib Dessert: sorbets, peach stuffed with souffle, and chocolate hazelnut souffle Pool: definitely neptune pool Spot on the ship: Skywalkers, Club Fusion Drink: sour apple daquiri, pina colada Port: Puerto Vallarta Room Service item: club sandwich Event: tropical deck party, princess pop star, Undercover, Piano Man, ballroom dance classes Suggestions: Fly to Long Beach, avoid LAX. Leave a day or two early and enjoy a tv show taping or an amusement park. We went to see Joey and to Knott’s Berry Farm. Plan on having a good time, and don’t let small things ruin your trip. If you are prone to motion sickness, plan accordingly. You can definitely feel the ship move. Bring a clock and a power strip with you! Make sure to check out the beautiful tiling and neat lighting effects throughout the ship. Do not have a massage. Have one before the trip or try a resort at one of the ports. Don’t pay for ice cream, there’s plenty to be had at meal times. Go on the jungle canopy excursion or parasailing if you haven’t. Get to know cruise staff, especially Stevie. Schedule tours and activities locally unless there is something that you absolutely must do. Go to at least one production show. Eat at the dining room when possible. Try new things: activities and food that you wouldn’t normally have. Try to get the traditional dining, but go look at the anytime dining rooms. Get lots of pictures taken. We purchased several pictures. Buy the coke sticker if you are a serious soda drinker. See as much of the ship as possible. Find activities that appeal to you and ENJOY! Make sure you have an early group to disembark if you have an early flight. Try a couple of cruise lines as each has something unique to offer.

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Oct 1, 2005

Mexican Riviera

This was our first experience with Princess Cruise Lines. We have sailed with Carnival and Royal Caribbean in the past. The Sapphire Princess was by far an enormous, beautiful and immaculate ship. It is not quite as glitzy as the Royal Caribbean ships, but has a lot of class! Arrival and Embarkation: Our journey was a 7-day cruise from Los Angeles to the Mexican Riviera. We drove from San Diego, Calif., to the Port of San Pedro in

Los Angeles, arriving at 3:00 PM. We parked our car and immediately a shuttle came along and took our luggage and drove us up to the terminal for check-in. We walked right up to the desk, received our passes and boarded the ship right away. We proceeded to our regular balcony stateroom on the Baja Deck (Deck 11) and our luggage arrived within 45 minutes. The room was somewhat small, but very clean and nice, had a large closet for clothes hanging, a nice doable bathroom with good water pressure in the shower, a 19” TV, frig., hair dryer, desk, phone, nice comfortable bed and sheets, extra pillows, and a safe. I was happy. I was glad we booked a balcony room on the Baja deck because it was totally private. There is no one from higher levels looking down into your balcony. Staff and Service: I was impressed at the abundance of staff on this ship. I felt I had gotten my moneys worth. Everyone was very informative, polite, and courteous. Our stateroom and dining room service was wonderful (but missed the towel bedtime animals we had gotten on Carnival and RC). This ship’s staff is so well organized. It was the first time I’d been on a ship that knew how to efficiently handle large crowds especially when people are getting off the ship for tours. There were no long lines, but instead the staff had designated meeting places right on the ship for each tour. This way one group at a time could leave the ship. Ship’s Stabilizer: If anyone tells you you’ll feel no movement on this ship because it is supported by high tech stabilizers, they’re wrong wrong wrong! If you’re sailing on calm waters, you feel slight movement. But if the water becomes choppy, you’ll be swaying like crazy. We were on the 11th deck and all through the night, because of the rough seas, we surely rocked and rolled. Neither my husband nor I get sea sick or mind the movement, but for some, this is just a forewarning to get prepared, just in case. Food: The food was very good. We ate at the buffet for breakfast and lunch, and in the main dining room in the evening. Some days the food was tastier than others (who knows, maybe I was just hungrier!) Overall, there is a good selection, and I don’t know how anyone could be disappointed at the food. Tours: In Puerto Vallarta, we did the ATV Adventure and Village Tour ($99 per vehicle, 2 persons can ride on one vehicle). You’re taken to the countryside, and provided an ATV. The ride is about one hour, caravan style, through rugged terrain with two tour guides. Highly recommended if you don’t mind getting a little dirty, but you’ll have great fun! In Matzalan, we did the Hacienda Las Moras & Horseback Riding Tour ($82 p/p). I especially liked this tour. It was about a one hour drive to the horse ranch out in the country. We ended up at a Hacienda resort and there was a large beautiful swimming pool and bar area. It was such a hot and humid day, the water was great. Then we went on a long horseback ride. (Note: These horses were allowed to do some trotting at your command, but are not allowed to run.) When we returned be had lunch at the resort, then back to the ship. This tour was well worth the money and highly recommended. In Cabo San Lucas, we went horseback riding along the beach ($71). This was a nice tour, but I thought a little short. If we would have known, we probably would have chosen to do ATV riding again. But it was still enjoyable. (Note: These horses DO NOT run, only a little trotting, but mostly walking.) If you really love riding horses and the beachfront, I’d recommend this tour, otherwise pick something else. Disembarkation: Was a breeze, a small line through customs, but well-organized. The shuttle bus picked us up along with our luggage, drove us to our car, then put all the luggage in our car! Hey, not bad at all! We then just drove away, back home as quickly as we could, to book another cruise!! Comments: This cruise line definitely caters mostly to an age group over 60. If you want a slow to moderate paced, low-keyed, quiet type of vacation and lots of relaxation, then this is the cruise line for you. However, if you like to Shake a Tail Feather, then book on Carnival or Royal Caribbean for a fun time! I’d rather listen to a cool Reggae band by the pool than country western music and violins. I enjoy a good late night adult comedy act once in awhile too. This ship did not have that to offer. I noticed repeat shows as well. So if you miss the show one night, it’s repeated the next. I’d rather have different entertainment every day. I still have the desire and energy to keep up! I found the shows, jokes and activities a bit too corny for me, but I’m sure very enjoyable for others. When it comes to booking a room, if you want total privacy, I suggest you book a room on the Baja (Deck 11) or Aloha (Deck 12). No one can see onto your balcony. If you book below, you will not have privacy. I’m sure this can be a disappointment to some cruisers. And there is a reason the new ships have SO MANY balcony rooms – it’s because people love ‘em! If you can afford a few bucks more, definitely go for the balcony room. Don’t be cheap, especially if you can REALLY afford it. You won’t regret it. Don’t listen to those people who say “I’m never in my room anyway!” Baloney! That’s because they have a sucky inside room, who’d want to!? I must say, however, that this is a fabulous cruise line and by no means did I have a lousy time! But our next cruise, we will most likely return to Royal Caribbean. Happy Sailing!!

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Sep 11, 2005

Alaska

First, we left out of Seattle. We all had the same fast check-in service that took well over 2 hours. So much for fast check-in. Our room was the first room on the port side with a window. The room was very nice and the bed was very comfortable. The room as arranged very strange because you could not see the TV if you were lying on your pillow. But we didnt go on a cruise to watch TV, although, we enjoyed keeping track of where we were

going. We received our luggage within an hour on leaving port, which was very nice. We were very surprised at the age of the people on the cruise. We are 50, so we are not young, but we felt like teenagers compared to the other people on the ship. The ship was gorgeous, but that is about all I can say good about the ship. The food was the worst we had ever had on a cruise. On Monday night, which was formal night, I ordered a steak for dinner. I ordered it medium well. Well, I received it and it was petrified. And the worst part was my waitress never asked me about the food, she was too busy driving a 7 year old boy around the dining room on a scooter!!!! She didn't act like it was a big deal and after she finished the ride, she came by & picked up our plates and just acted like she had been waiting on us all the time. The idea of anytime dining is a joke. We pretty much ate whenever we wanted to, but the service was non existent. We went to 3 different dining rooms, and it was the same in every one. Also, they make this big deal of having 4 different dining rooms. The only problem is they all served the same meal. We have been on 5 cruises before, so we are familiar with cruise food. The buffets are just buffets, but you can expect a really nice dinner in the dining rooms. This never happened on this cruise. One night I ordered fish and ate a couple of bites and got 3 fish bones in one bite. The fish was delicious, so I thought I will just be careful. The next bite, three more fish bones. I am sorry I am not dying just because it tastes good. My waitress came by and asked if I didn't like the fish. I told her it was good, but it had bones in it. She did not offer to bring me anything else. She just said "OH". My husband & I ordered iced tea every night at dinner. Not one night did we get by without asking for refills. One night my husband asked for more tea and the waitress brought him more, but didn't offer to bring me any, even though my glass was empty. The other cruises we have gone on, the first night, the waiter asks what you want to drink, and then the rest of the week it is there as soon as you sit down. The only thing that the staff was interested in bringing was something that you were paying extra for. The guy sitting next to us, and very close, {not more than 12 inches away} had ordered a beer and every 5 minutes they were coming by to see if he needed more to drink. Also, the idea that you are billed for $10.00 a day is a real joke. It does not motivate the waiters or waitresses to do anything, but deliver your meals and the disappear somewhere until time to remove your plate and bring you a menu for dessert. The service was lousy in the dining room. We ate there all but one nite. We kept thinking it would get better, but the food was as bad as the service. We will stick with Royal Caribbean for the good food. Be warned, the first day at sea was really rough. I have not had motion sickness in years, since I started using sea bands, but I was really sick all day Monday. My husband has never been sea sick in his whole life, he felt horrible all day. Be sure to pack the Dramamine, because that first day is rough. We visited Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, and Victoria. Ketchikan was nice. We did not do any shore excursions there because they were so expensive and we just walked around the city. We loved walking the back streets and checking out all the gift shops. In Juneau, we took the Mendenhall & Whale Watching Tour. It was awesome. The young adults on the boat were really informed and you could tell they loved their job. When we spotted whales, they were as excited as we were. The excursion cost us $130.00 a piece, which was very expensive, but we got to see whales and a bear with its 2 baby cubs, so we figured it was worth it. In Skagway, we took the Liarsville and Summit trip. What a tourist trap!!! We only took it because we wanted to pan for gold. Well, we take this bus ride early in the morning and it is probably 45 -50 and damp. We get to this supposedly town to pan gold. Well, it is these kids, and I mean teens, maybe early 20's, who are trying to tell us how things were during the gold rush. Then they sing some songs & recite a poem. That was a treat! Then we got to pan for gold. The joke was there is no gold in Skagway, the supposedly gold we panned for came from Canada. The panning for gold consisted of them giving us a pan that already had gold in it and then telling us to swirl it around in ice cold water until we say these little gold specks. That was our panning for gold!!!!!!!!!I was so disgusted I just went back to the bus and waited for the ride home. I guess the Liarsville should have been a dead give away. Friday was a day at sea. We was never so bored. Unless you like to play bingo, or go to an art auction, there was nothing to do. The bars were only opened at night, and don't get me wrong, I don't drink, but it's fun to dance and watch people dance, but we could have watched people play bingo. I don't think so. No one was ever in the pools, because it was so cold. One pool was on the inside, but the rest were open. Another real annoyance, when we were to leave the ship at the ports, there was never anything that told us what floor to get off on. Every day people were just wandering around trying to find the right floor. Normally on a cruise, you are given a little newspaper with all the happening for the next day. This is delivered to your room every nite. The only problem was, there was nothing in them. Almost every afternoon, there was some kind of snack, one day a Chocolate buffet, another day a seafood buffet, another day ice cream, but unless you just happened to be outside the buffet, you didn't know anything about them. There was no announcement or nothing in the paper to tell you about them. It seemed like nothing was organized. No one really knew what they were doing. That was another thing, every cruise we have been on ice cream was free and the had machines you could help yourself any time of the day. Not on Princess, the ice cream cost you $2.50 a cone. Then the day in Tracey Arm, when the temperature was freezing, they were selling hot chocolate. What an insult. I have never paid for hot chocolate on a cruise before. That was the big thing also, about this cruise, someone was hounding you non stop all day long trying to sell you something. I thought I was in Mexico. How many times to I have to tell you, I do not drink & if I want something to drink I will go to the bar & get it. The one bright spot on our cruise was our room steward. She was an angel. We only had one small problem, Friday night I took a shower, but when I stepped out of the shower, my whole bathroom floor was full of water. The drain had stopped up and I didn't realize it. I told Lydia and she kept calling, but it took until late Saturday night before the drain was fixed. Our trip to Alaska was wonderful, it was just our transportation that was horrible. To sum it all up, on our shuttle back to the airport on Sunday morning, our driver asked if everyone had a good cruise and it was an overwhelming "NOOOOOO!" She said "Well, I guess its too early in the morning to ask that question". That was kind of the attitude of the whole ship. If we ignore it, its not our problem. We did go to the front desk and tell them we wanted our tips taken off the bill and they did not ask why, just say okay. All in all, Alaska was the most wonderful trip we have ever taken, but the next cruise we take will not be on Princess or any of the other Carnival Cruise Lines.

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By Bob _CR

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Sep 11, 2005

Alaska

After reading the only review posted for the September 11, 2005 Alaskan cruise on the Sapphire Princess I was compelled to write a brief summary of my own. My wife Maureen, our friends Don and Nancy, and myself all agreed the trip was nothing short of spectacular from start to finish. Yes, the embarkation process is a bit slow. That seems perfectly normal for any endeavor involving two thousand five hundred passengers and their luggage.

We arrived prepared for this and considered it a small inconvenience. Everyone we encountered during the embarkation was polite and helpful. Our luggage was at our room within forty five minutes of our coming aboard. The anticipation of the experience ahead far outweighed any anxieties. Get to Seattle a day early, enjoy the sights, have a leisurely dinner and make your way to the dock the next morning. It will further reduce any stress you may be feeling and help to get your trip started on the right foot. Once aboard we were mesmerized by the beauty of the ship and its absolutely pristine condition. The ship simply sparkles and was kept immaculate throughout the journey. Our room was wonderful. Neat, clean, well appointed with sliding glass doors opening to a small balcony. The bathrooms are small but perfectly adequate. There is plenty of closet space and the bed, which was very comfortable, was raised high enough off the floor to allow for luggage storage beneath. The ship's pools and hot tubs were always clean and well tended. We made great use of the hot tubs on the fantail deck and thoroughly enjoyed the views as we cruised in luxurious style. I'm not certain how this could be but the previous review makes mention of rough seas and seasickness. The seas were incredibly smooth throughout, never even approaching two feet. We never encountered anyone onboard who felt seasick or was experiencing any difficulty in that regard. The activities onboard were great fun. There were dance lessons, the internet cafe,a wonderful library, a beautiful spa, a walking track, a fully equipped gym and many, many places where one could steal away for peace and quiet. Be sure to check out the Princess Idol contest every evening as it was very entertaining. There were some very talented passengers aboard and some not so talented but more than willing participants that added to the show. Our dining experience was excellent at most turns and never less than very good. We opted for "personal choice" dining and found availability of seating to be no problem and the service was always friendly and attentive. The presentations were always commendable and quantity was never a problem as you can ask for and receive as much of any dish you like. The buffet was very good but we would recommend the dining rooms whenever possible. The pizza by the pool was outstanding and the burgers in the same area were terrrific as well. I think Princess should consider adding the ice cream to their inclusive package as that complaint seems to arise here quite often. Purchase a "soda" sticker at the outset if you are a soda drinker. It seemed a very good deal. Drink servers were always at the ready and we never had a problem being served promptly. And be sure to attend the afternoon tea. It is a delight and not to be overlooked. The theater and the shows there were outstanding. You can easily imagine you are sitting in a small Broadway theater as the seating is wonderfully comfortable and the quality of the entertainment was well worth checking out. There was almost always music in the magnificent atrium and there are several different lounge acts playing at various venues all evening long. We found every public area to be sparkling clean, well organized and very comfortable. Our stops along the way were interesting. We took advantage of only one excursion - the White Pass Railway out of Skagway. We highly recommend this three hour train ride as it provided magnificent views in a very relaxing setting. Bring your camera! I could likely go on for several more paragraphs about our wonderful experience. The crew was polite, respectful and truly dedicated to providing great service. The Sapphire Princess is indeed a jewel and we were thoroughly won over by all it offered. We can only recommend you take this journey and enjoy every moment.

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Jul 10, 2005

Alaska

My husband and I have cruised a fair amount and chose this ship/cruise line on the recommendation of a travel agent to celebrate my husband’s 40th Birthday. We traveled as a group of five (5) adults and three (3) children, ages 7,10, and 15. To ensure easy check in, we pre-registered online, including reservations for my husband’s birthday, robes in the room,

fruit plate in the room, etc. My husband and I are both non-smokers and we had requested a non-smoking room through our travel agent. We stayed on the Aloha deck in a Balcony suite; our children and my in-laws stayed on the Caribe deck a floor below in two inside cabins. Check-in in Seattle was reasonable, although there was a lot of herding around of large groups of people and much waiting. The check-in facilities in Seattle are very sparse without much furniture, but the check-in staff was nice. Upon arriving on the ship, we found that our cabin had been home to heavy smokers. I am asthmatic, so I immediately went to the purser’s desk to request a different non-smoking room (as had also been requested by our travel agent and was noted on our cruise documents). I was told I could not be “upgraded” as the ship was full. I noted that since we had already booked a suite, we did not need nor want an upgrade, just a non-smoking room. It was only then that I was informed that ALL rooms are smoking rooms on the Princess Sapphire. I was then assured that the room would be deep cleaned. (We traveled with the balcony door open at all times which got quite cold when we got to Alaska.) The promised “deep cleaning”(=carpet shampoo) was finally executed three days later after two more reminders and did nothing about the smell. We also planned on utilizing the Children’s Center, as we hoped for some adult time on this vacation. Both my husband and I attended the initial orientation meeting and were informed that parents would have to choose whether their child could sign him/herself in/out or whether the parents would pick up the child (with ID). Given that we deeply care about our children’s safety (and their unfamiliarity with the ship), we chose to sign our children in and out ourselves. The very next day we found our 10 year old wandering the ship without the Children’s Center staff knowing that he was gone. After that incident, we utilized the Children’s Center very little, since our 10 year old also stated that staff had few interesting activities planned. Our 7 year old was more interested in attending the Children’s Center, but mostly to watch movies. Our 17 year old attended a few activities, but told us that “he could play bingo when he was 60 years old.” As to the food selection, I would say it was less exciting than on previous cruises (previous cruise included Royal Carribean and surprisingly Carnival). Desserts were the same crème flavored fluffs every day or fruit tarts topped with different fruit. The specialty restaurants can definitely be skipped. We ate both at the Steak House and Sabatini’s and found the preparation so-so. Meat was always overcooked, no matter how rare it was ordered. The other on-board restaurants were reasonable and service was generally quite good. There is also no midnight buffet, so if you are looking for this more traditional cruising experience, you will not find it on Princess. As a note to travelers traveling in groups: Definitely utilize traditional dining. We had been assigned to Anytime Dining and even when making a reservation would often be set up on two tables or could not dine together at all. Make sure you are assigned to traditional dining so that your group can dine together. As to my husband’s birthday and the other pre-reservations (fruit, robes, etc.), Princess missed all of it even with reminders to the purser’s office (the birthday cake was brought to him a day early). In fact, any time a passenger needs something from the purser’s office, the office requests that the passenger appear at their office. Northing can be taken care of over the phone. I found the customer service to be very poor. We took several excursions and all of those had been organized well, with the exception that there was a lot of “herding” again. My husband, father in law, brother in law, and three children went on the “Alaska Fishing and Wilderness Dining” excursion in Ketchikan, which they all loved. They caught several wonderful fish. In Juneau, we all went on the “Mendenhall Glacier and Whale Quest” and saw several whales and the glacier was quire impressive. In Skagway, we went on the “White Pass Scenic Railway” tour. This tour in conducted by train and was very impressive, although a little long for children. In Victoria, we just walked the city-it is beautiful. All in all, I would have to say that I would never travel with Princess again. The cruise line is not interested in individual customer service and is missing many of the traditional cruise line amenities (no towel animals on the bed, no midnight buffet, hefty charges for ice cream even for children, etc.) Further, the safety incident with our 10 year old should give pause to any parents who are considering cruising with their children on this cruise line. Although Princess is advertised as a luxury line, I much more preferred our last cruise on the Carnival Imagination and at a much lesser cost.

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Jul 3, 2005

Inside passage

Seattle We used shuttle express van (10 persons) cost us $74 one way to Grand Hyatt Hotel from airport , booking by internet. And $ 42 from the Hotel to Pier 30 another day. For food ,I recommended Pf chang (Chinese restaurant in West lake shopping mall down town) Embarkation Even we used platinum check in , but there were still long lines

on the way to the ship The Ship This is mass market ship with two thousand more passenger that buffet breakfast and lunch almost full at the time .For Dining We choose any time dining (Pacific moon, vivaldi, the Savoy and Santa fe) that must be booked early especially during the formal night. The “Main food “ was the same in all the restaurant but each restaurant may had one or more specialty food. We bought just one soda voucher (coke ,sprite ) that can be share with my family. Staff at each dining restaurant were great . The entertainment was good especially the Broadway and the comedy. Land Tours and ports Dog Sledding in Juneau was the best , Tracy arm was wonderful, Victoria is beautiful, Ketchikan back country by Jet Boat “only saw Eagles” . Skagway Yukon and White pass by Train was not great. Disembarkation We were instructed to disembark at 9.00 am and we wait one hour before our “colour” were called. We used Taxi from the pier to Best executive inn Hotel cost about $ 12 including tip . the taxi in Seattle is big enough to carry 2 adults and 2 children with bags. Seattle Hotel Grand Hyatt Hotel We booked 2 double bed room (not guaranteed) but got 1 King bed , but the good thing was , they gave us 1 extra bed for free . Best Western Executive Inn Hotel We choose the hotel because the location near Space needle . The 2 double bed room was large enough to accommodate 4 persons. Only We regret that the Hotel did not had concierge service that the reception officer could not help us with our air ticket confirmation even We asked him twice.

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May 29, 2005

Alaska

My wife, Kari, and I don’t always agree on what trips we’d like to take. She would like to visit far off places; I’d like to stay closer to home. She likes warm to hot weather; I prefer cool to cold. In spite of these differences, and the cold weather, we did agree that Alaska was one place we’d both like to see. We both wanted to see the mountains, the

wildlife, and the glaciers. We had visions of untamed wilderness, soaring bald eagles, and humpback whales flapping their tails in the water. Thankfully, we were not disappointed! As for the cruise itself, cruising looked appealing, but the whole ‘big boat’ thing had me wondering if it was a good fit. Kari assured me that once I’d been on a cruise, I’d get hooked. We settled on the Alaska cruise because it filled both the Alaska desire and the cruise desire. I can’t neglect to mention that even though we’re years out from 9/11, staying in the U.S. territories still feels “safer” than heading to the other continents. We wound up booking a stateroom with a balcony on the Sapphire Princess, out of Seattle to Skagway and back. I’m a first-time cruiser. As such, getting on and off the ship was more of a chore than I’d expected. It’s not quite to the level of airport security, but it’s really close. Try to imagine 2,500 people having to go through a metal detector and have their bags x-rayed one at a time. It was not fun waiting in line. I thought the ship itself offered plenty of things to do: lectures, shopping, bars, restaurants, swimming pools, hot tubs, movies, live shows, wine tasting, yoga, massages, line dancing class, scavenger hunts… there were only dull moments if you let them. Kari & I found, though, that there were often times when we needed to be in two places at the same time. Since some events were not repeated, we felt like we missed out on a lot. The other downside was the constant sales pitch. Kari commented that she sometimes felt like she was in a live infomercial. The views from our room on the ship were good. When cruising Tracy Arm, the view was breathtaking. We were SOOO glad that we chose to get a room with a balcony. We didn’t have to leave the room to take advantage of the vistas. We chose to book our excursions through Princess, but I understand you can book them yourself. It was probably more expensive to book through Princess, but it was nice knowing that they had a record of what excursions we would be on. Our excursion tickets were waiting for us when got on board. There were, in my opinion, too many excursions available! Here again, we felt like we missed out. Some of the excursions we wanted to take happened at the same time, so we were forced to choose. Regardless of which excursions we chose, we were not disappointed. George Inlet Lodge in Ketchikan, Dog sledding on the glaciers in Juneau, Tea at Jewell Gardens in Skagway… each was a memorable and enjoyable experience. Oh, and when in Skagway, grab a burger at Bonanza Bar & Grill, then stop in at Diamonds International. The store manager at DI is friendly and helpful. The letdown, in my opinion, was Victoria. Not that Victoria B.C. was a letdown, but that we didn’t have much time there. We were originally slated for 7 hours in Victoria, but thanks to some snafu, we couldn’t even get off the boat until 1 hour was used up. By the time we made our way through the line and actually stepped onto the dock, another 30 minutes was gone. Then a 20 minute bus ride up nibbled away at more time. We got to spend 2 hours actually on the excursion; not nearly enough time, in my estimation. Even with the downsides, Kari was right: I’m hooked. I can’t wait to go on another cruise. I’d also recommend taking the 7-day Alaska cruise to anyone who is contemplating taking a cruise. It was a lot of fun. Just be sure to keep a watchful eye on your credit cards!

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May 29, 2005

Alaska

I Loved this cruise! The Sapphire was Big and beautiful. She and her sister ship the Diamond are the second largest ships in the Princess Line. The only bummer was embarking and disembarking and I figure that there's going to be one heck of a line trying to get 2,600 passengers on board in four hours would lead to a long line. On board the ship

is beautiful very well maintained. The staff was ALWAYS very nice and professional almost to the point of the Stepford Wives. Out room was on the Aloha deck with a covered balcony. It measured 276 square feet including the balcony. There was ample closet space, but there were not any doors on the closet. There was shelf space behind a full length mirror. The Bath room is very small but very well organized with room to move around. As for food, we had any time seating that allowed us to eat anywhere on board ship except the international dining room. Each dining room had its own set menu for the entire voyage. If you eat on the Lido deck, aka the Horizon court, you get to try foods from all the resturants. Speaking of food, while I found the food just fine, my husband who doesn't care much for seafood and chicken had a hard time finding food to eat. they had plenty of steak, but there's only so much steak a person can eat. Once we discovered the buffet, he was happy, because they had roast beef, pork dishes, and even lamb. Sabatini's is a special dining room and charges 20.00 a person on top of what you've already paid for the cruise so we didn't eat there. Sundae's is an ice cream bar with REALLY good sundaes but they charge for each item. Prego is a pizza stand that actually has pretty good pizza. The problem is is that it's free no extra charge and it's on the Lido deck right next to the pool so it's iffy whether or not you can actually get a slice, young guys will go up and take 8 pieces of pizza at a time. Now about the charges. There is no cash used at any time on board ship. This includes the ship boutiques. Everything is done with your princess card. For heaven's sake DON'T LOSE it! The princess card is tied to your credit card and has your picture on it. It also acts as your room key and is the only thing that will get you back on board ship. They have security stations set up and you have to slide your card to log you on and off the ship. This way they can keep track of all passengers and won't sail away without you. Every time you go back on board you have to go through security just like an airport. They scan your bags and make you go through a metal detector. We booked our excursions directly through princess and had an awesome time. They provided transportation two and from your excursion and it was always on time. If you're heading to Ketchikan, I highly recommend eating lunch at Steamer's it was wonderful and the menu is varied and the food marvelous. What I don't recommend is using the ships recommended shopping guide. They recommended Diamond's international for every port. I went there in Juneau, and in Skagway and both times they staff was very rude and the prices were astronomical. I personally recommend Sock Eye Sam's in Ketchikan. I saved closed to 30% over the recommended stores. The jewelry there is incredible and the prices fantastic. One last tip, Formal night is optional you don't have to dress up if you don't want to. So you could save space in your suitcase for other stuff. Also don't forget you hairbrush because they don't sell them on board ship. I had to wait until we berthed in Ketchikan before I could get one and I have waist length hair. I had to use my husband's comb for three days.

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May 29, 2005

Alaska

I took the Sapphire Princess to Alaska round trip from Seattle May 29 to June 5, 2005. Im 25 and just went on this cruise with my dad and brother. Embarkation took awhile in Seattle. The lines were long but since we were platinum we went right in front of everyone and was on the ship within 10 minutes. Most passengers waited for at least an hour in line.

The Sapphire is a large ship but when your on her, it feels very cozy. She is a very clean ship and the deck workers are always cleaning the windows and painting or staining. Their were so many spots to get away from people. The life boat deck 7 had tons of nice chairs to sit on and no one was every there. The Golden Princess had no deck chairs so it was nice to have chairs on the Sapphire. We had an inside cabin A245 and it was a nice size. The only bad thing about this ship it was to hot! Our cabin was as cold as it could go but was still hot and the entire ship was also hot. If I had a balcony cabin I would have slept with the sliding door open. Food The food was very good everywhere. This was the best food I had on a cruise in a long time. The Horizon court Breakfast buffet was great and always had something different. The lunch buffet was also very good and had a ton of choices to choose from and was different everyday. At 3:30 pm they had ice cream in the Horizon court buffet area where the one side was closed. The bad thing was since the side where the ice cream was closed no one new that they were serving free ice cream in the closed area. Of course I found it! We had anytime dining so we could eat at any of the four theme dinning rooms. All served the same thing but each room was different. The Sterling room was my favorite because it was dark and had red wood everywhere. All the dining rooms were very good and always had great service. These dining rooms were nice because they were small so you did not have a ton of people stuffed in one area. It felt like you were in a real restaurant not a cafeteria. You could also go the Horizon court for dinner if you did not feel like dressing up. I have been on so many cruises and sick of dressing up so all of us just went to the buffet instead of the main dinning room. The food everywhere was awesome. From 11am to 6pm the prego pizzeria and the trident hamburger grill was open. Both were great. If you were in a hurry you could go get a pizza that they made in front of you. Room service cheese burger was the best I every had on a ship. We got that everyday for 11pm snack. I can't find one bad thing about the food or service. One thing that I noticed was that a lot of the passengers dressed up and stayed dressed up. Most of the time in Alaska people change out of their dress clothes or don't dress up at all. Maybe since it was a round trip from Seattle and we had a ton of first time cruisers maybe they thought they had to dress up more? There is a lot of things that I like better on the Sapphire than the Golden Princess. On the Sapphire you can stand in the very front of the ship on top. On Golden Princess, it was only for crew. The Sapphire had deck chairs on lifeboat deck. The Golden had only a few benches. The sky walkers nightclub is much smaller on the Sapphire than the Golden. It is not sticking way up in the air like the Golden Princess. I think that the Sapphire is better laid out than the Golden Princess. Even though the Sapphire Princess caught on fire when it was just about finished and was actually called the diamond Princess it is a great ship and has the best staff I ever had. The entertainment was pretty good. We had a few comedy shows. I didn't see all the shows because I go to Alaska to see the awesome scenery not be stuck in a enclosed room. The Internet room was very nice and had a few big windows that you could look out as you wrote an email to someone. Also had long couches instead of chairs. You can also go golfing if you wanted. It might seem easy but try putting when the ship is moving and the wind is blowing the ball around. Staff- The staff was mostly Asian and European. We saw a waiter Valenteen from the Sun Princess from 2 years ago and he remembered us. He actually came up to us, we did not see him first. Ports All the Ports are great. I have been to most of these ports 8 times but never get tired of them. I always like to go hiking so I just go hiking everywhere and saves me money. Tracy Arm, is always my favorite place in Alaska. I was first there two years ago on Cruise West where we got on small rafts and went onto a beech in Tracy Arm. With the Sapphire it was still nice, just we did not make it to the Glacier. They said there was to much ice. I have been in a lot more ice than that on big ships and you can always get though. It just takes a little more time to work around the ice. What they didn't tell us was the Diamond Princess was waiting for us to get out of Tracy Arm that is they real reason why they skip the Glacier. I just felt bad for people that never saw a Glacier before. I noticed that since being on a round trip from Seattle their was a lot more kids and teens. You don't really see that on the one ways. The kids were very well mannered. Only a few were running up and down the halls. We did not see to many whales this year. I think maybe the ship is to big and may have scared the animals away. I only saw two whales this time. I usually see around 12. Heck, I even saw more whales from the Ryndam three weeks early on the transition to Vancouver. Maybe the whales did not make it yet. The weather was awesome this time. Out of the 8 times I have been to Alaska this is the first time that every day was clear blue skies and no rain. Disembarkation Getting off in Seattle was the worst I ever had. They had all of us getting off at the same time and joined the Amsterdam which we had to get into one line for customs. It was a mess. Out of all the 24 sailing's I have been on, I think this was the worst set up. This was the 2nd best cruise I have been on out of 24. The food was great, service was awesome and the weather was the best I ever had. If I could go again this summer I would. I came off the Sun Princess in January and It was the worst cruise I every been on. I was on the Sun Princess before the bad one and it was the best. So, every cruise might be different. Im sure If I went on the Sun Princess next year it would be great again. I really enjoined my self and would defiantly go on the Sapphire again anywhere.

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May 15, 2005

Alaska Inside Passage from Seattle

My husband and I cruised on Sapphire Princess out of Seattle this past May. This was my second cruise and my husband’s first. I read many reviews before choosing this ship- most of the reviews were from Australia and New Zealand, but they proved very helpful. I will try and separate our cruise into sections to make it easier for you to find what you might

be looking for in a review. Embarkation- We sailed from Seattle, which is a very user-friendly port. The embarkation procedure took less than an hour and was very organized. I had been concerned since we did not have Princess transfers, but the cab took us from our hotel downtown for less than $10. This was a most cost-effective way to go. Our luggage arrived by 5pm and we were also visited by our cabin Stewardess, Carmelita, that evening as well. Cabins- We had an inside cabin on the Lido deck. For those of you who may be prone to sea-sickness, this is not the place for you. When seas got rough later in the cruise our hangers in the closet were swinging so badly they were banging together. I had to lay them on the floor, just to get some sleep. You can really feel the motion this high up on the ship. Our cabin was very spacious and we had enough room for all of our clothes in the closet. There is also a good amount of drawer space. The bathroom was nicely appointed and stocked everyday with toiletries. The TV in our cabin received ESPN (my husband was thrilled) as well as many other channels. We did not spend a lot of time in our cabin, but it was very nice considering it was an inside cabin. My husband also commented on how comfortable he thought the bed was. Ship- The ship is beautiful. You can tell she is new. It’s spotless. We stayed very busy. The indoor pool area on the Lido deck was a great spot to lay in a lounge chair and watch the scenery. That was the great thing about an Alaskan cruise- you get to watch the scenery go by most of the days. It’s not at all like being in the Bahamas, where you see nothing but ocean. The Grand Atrium is very nicely decorated and not at all “bright”. It was done in subdued colors and nice artwork. I went to the spa one evening and had a massage and facial and it was well worth the price. The spa is very lovely and I wish I could have had more spa treatments. Food- We had Anytime Dining and it worked very well. We made reservations a day before each night and had no problems getting the times we wanted. The food was very good with the exception of the Grill on the Lido deck. We had hotdogs and fries one day for lunch and remarked how they tasted stale. The 4 Restaurants on board were very good and we had great service. The Horizon Court Buffet was also very good. We ate breakfast and lunch there most days. We had room service once for breakfast and it was very prompt. The one disappointment with the food was surprisingly Sabatinis Trattoria. This is the fee-based restaurant and we felt that the food was just too much and some of it was not nearly as good as that had on other nights. We also went to the afternoon tea, which was a lot of fun. I have never been to England, but if that is what it is like- I think I would like it very much. The tiny scones and finger sandwiches were very good. We are not big drinkers, but thought that the prices were about the same as any bar in a big city. We chose not to purchase the Pop stickers and just had water, tea and juice most of the time. Entertainment- This is where my husband was absolutely shocked. Having never been on a cruise, he was amazed at all of the things you could do. We saw 2 shows in the Princess Theatre. They were both good; however, “Piano Man” was the better of the two. We saw several movies in this theatre as well. That was nice to do late in the evening, since we are not big on dancing. We went to the Crooners Piano Bar almost every night and really enjoyed the Hot Chocolate drinks that they have. The O’Riley was my favorite. They had several comedians that we saw as well as the Princess Idol in the Club Fusion. All of the entertainment was top notch. We went to the casino several times and really enjoyed playing roulette. I played slots as well, but had a lot more fun at the roulette wheel. Staff- The staff was mostly Asian and European. They were all friendly and not at all aggressive. Our room was always well taken care of and the ship itself was spotless- which I believe indicates that the staff was working around the clock. Ports/sights- Getting off the ship is not difficult. Only one time did we have a long line to get off the ship, which was at Victoria, B.C. Ketchikan was a cute city, but we wasted our time and money on the shore excursion. Do not go on the Rainforest Trail Hike. This was simply a hike through the woods for about 1 hour and then a stop at the gift shop. We wish we had gone to the Lumberjack Show- since many people seemed to enjoy this. We did do some shopping in Ketchikan and enjoyed Creek Street. Juneau was very nice. We went on the Mendenhall Glacier tour with a tour of the salmon hatchery and a salmon bake. We would not recommend this tour though, since you do not have much time at the glacier and we would have liked to do more hiking. Also, the salmon hatchery tour is a waste of time and the salmon bake was not that good. Skagway was by far the best shore excursion we had. We went on the Chilkoot trail hike and float. This was a 2 hour hike along the river and then a float back down it. We saw wildlife as well as breathtaking scenery. Victoria, B.C. was the worst weather of the whole trip and we had not booked an excursion. We ended up taking a double-decker bus from the pier to downtown and got dropped off right in front of the Empress Hotel. We were able to take pictures and shop in the downtown area for about 2 hours before getting too cold. We then went back to the ship and enjoyed a quiet dinner- since most of the ship was in port. Note of caution- we heard from many people that had booked the whale watching excursions here that they were cancelled due to rough seas and they did not get their money back. The best part of the whole cruise was by far cruising through Tracy Arm. We got up at 6am and had Hot Chocolate and watched all of the gorgeous glaciers and mountains. Our on-board naturalist, Susan, was very informative. The waterway here was filled with small blue icebergs. They were stunning. Unfortunately, our Captain did turn back prior to reaching the twin Sawyer glaciers at the end, due to those very icebergs. But it was still the best part of the cruise. Disembarkation- This was probably the worst part of the cruise. We were supposed to leave the ship around 8:30am. They asked that we be out of the cabin by 8am and wait in a public area. We left at 8 am and went and waited in the Princess Theatre. We did not get our colors called until after 9:30 am. After we were called we ended up in line for about 15 minutes before actually getting off of the ship. The rest of this process went very well. Overall we had a great cruise. My husband was amazed at it and we both felt very relaxed by the time we returned home. We definitely plan on cruising again on Princess and would like to take this same ship on a cruise to Australia. My husband wants to cruise to Europe as well, so I think this trip was a big hit. I would have to give this cruise 4 out of 5 stars if I were to rank it.

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Jan 6, 2005

New Zealand and Australia

06 January 2005 Departure from Auckland NZ 07 January At sea 08 January Wellington NZ 09 January Christchurch NZ 10 January Dunedin NZ 11 January Fjiordland NZ 12 January At sea crossing the Tasman sea 13 January At sea crossing the Tasman sea 14 January Hobart Australia 15 January At sea 16 January Melbourne Australia

17 January At sea 18 January Sydney Australia We are Australian, married a “Baby boomer” couple still working. Our occupations are Coordinator of Travel courses at a Travel College, and Registered Nurse. This was our sixth cruise in total 4th on P/O Princess. We will talk in this report about the cruising experience and briefly on some of the ports of call. Firstly may we say that it was great to see so many Americans and Canadians cruising in our part of the world. We hope you enjoyed the experience and would love to see you back again. We really enjoyed sharing experiences with you all. The report is split into 4 sections 1/ Prior to the cruise 2/ The cruise experience 3/ Ports of call 4/ Conclusion PRIOR TO CRUISE We arrived in Auckland 3 days prior to the cruise departure and stayed at Rydges Hotel which is about a 20 min walk to the shipping terminal. The streets are well paved so you can wheel your luggage easily. Rydges is a comfortable “no frills” hotel reasonably priced with an excellent restaurant adjacent. We really enjoyed our meal there. There is a lot to see in and around Auckland so several days prior to cruise start would be a good idea. A cruise on the harbour or a visit to one of the offshore islands, wine tastings, a ferry to Devonport across the harbour would be some of the things you may want to do. You can obtain discount voucher booklets for a range of attractions around Auckland and thus be able to save quite a bit of money. Viaduct Harbour is a great dining area near the Sapphire Princess berth where the America’s cup yachts where berthed during the races. There are quite a few excellent restaurants here for you to choose from. We liked V Grill, good food, service and not too expensive. As many people have stated in reports previously it is essential that you arrive at the cruise departure point at least the day prior. It is extremely dangerous to arrive on the day of departure as quite a few people found out on this cruise when their luggage failed to arrive before departure of the ship. You only need a flight delay and you have big problems. On our departure day 6th January at about 8.30am we walked to Sky Tower which is about 5 minutes walk from Rydges and took the elevator to the top and where rewarded with a magnificent view of Auckland and the Sapphire Princess at her Princes wharf berth. Sky Tower is about 80 stories high so the view is spectacular and a must when in Auckland. If you are lucky you may see people undertaking a bungy jump from almost the top of the tower. They allow a discount of 10% is you have one of the discount vouchers. THE CRUISE EXPERIENCE Embarkation We left our Hotel at about 10 am and walked down to the ship. Embarkation on our tickets was scheduled to start at 12noon but from previous experiences we have sometimes boarded early and we like to get onto the ship as early as possible. No information was provided with our tickets by Princess as to exactly where we had to go to check in. The Princess wharf area is quite large and there were a lot of people like us who were there early and as confused as us as to where to go. Luckily we walked alongside the ship and came to a gate where porters where collecting luggage from passengers. We were then told that you had to go and line up on the other side of the building just south of the main entrance to the Hilton hotel. That was fine and we joined the quite large queue ready for check in. By this time it was probably about 10.30am. Princess must in future provide a little map with the tickets showing the procedure for dropping baggage off and then embarkation. They must also put up some clear signs as people are approaching the wharf telling them what to do with their luggage and where to go to join the queue. At this time there were quite a few people complaining about their attempts to find out where to go for checking in. Some of them had been dropped off in taxis at the queue with their baggage and they then had to take their baggage round to the gate where the porters where. You can imagine how happy they were and this is not a good way to start a cruise. The area where you had to queue had no seats and some of the older people were wanting to sit down and couldn’t do so. Princess should look at some other method of embarking passengers rather than get everyone to queue up. Maybe passengers could be given an exact time to be there rather than have 1000 passengers trying to board at the same time. Apparently there had been some problems with the disembarkation process and there were still people coming off the ship at 11.45am. We heard rumours of immigration computer problems but what ever it was we didn’t start the boarding process till 12.15pm. What followed was a complete shambles and most of the passengers were extremely unhappy with Princess and New Zealand Immigration although we feel it was more Immigration’s problem than Princess Cruises. They started to form a second queue as there were people blocking the entrance to the Hilton Hotel at about 11.30pm At 12.15pm we entered the terminal but the people in the second queue who had not been waiting nearly as long as those in the first queue started to move in at the same time as us. They should have held these people back as there were a lot of people in the first queue unhappy about this. Then the first major problem emerged. . You all have to fill out immigration forms. Why couldn’t these forms have been sent out with the tickets so people could have them ready? Why couldn’t some laterally thinking person in New Zealand Immigration have given the people the forms outside so they could be filled in whilst the passengers where waiting for checkin? That would have saved a lot of time and allowed the line to move much quicker and there would have been no agitated annoyed people. Take note NZ Immigration!! A lot of people who had been lined up for 2 hours stopped to fill out the forms and lost their place in the queue. Don’t stop just keep moving and fill the form out as you go along. You have plenty of time to complete them before you get to Immigration. The procedure then to get onto the ship took about 11/2 hours. We know security has to be very tight these days but the procedure must be streamlined better. We think there are a lot of Princess passengers who will think long and hard about embarking in Auckland in future unless things are improved. There were plenty of Princess staff to help with the Princess check in and I thought this part of the proceedings worked very well. Once we were on board the ship we dumped our hand luggage and did what we always do head to Horizon court on the 14th deck for the buffet lunch. If you like a nice cold drink then I suggest you purchase the coke card which costs USD 30.00 and allows you unlimited soda and coke drinks whilst on board the ship. You will save money this way over the whole cruise. The sticker is stuck to the front of your cruise security card. Previous reviewers have stated that the waiters were a little slow in providing the soda and coke drinks but we didn’t find that on this cruise Disembarkation Getting off the ship at Sydney was very simple. Immigration had been completed in Hobart when we first arrived at an Australian port and in Sydney Customs were very efficient. Groups of people doing different things were colour coded. We were off the ship in 20 minutes and on our way to the airport for the short flight home. We would recommend the Princess Airport transfers in Sydney which only cost USD 24.00 per person and was quick and efficient. The taxis or shuttles are not that much cheaper. The ship in general Firstly we think the Sapphire Princess is a great ship and we certainly would like to cruise on it again. Some people aboard found the size of the ship a little overwhelming and they thought a smaller ship would be more to their liking. We can understand that but we like the larger ships with more people on board. Although there were approximately 2700 passengers on board we never felt crowded. We didn’t get a chance to use the gym, lotus spa or the casino so can’t comment on those. There was a shipboard orientation tour at 3pm on the first day and as this was the first time on the Sapphire Princess we tagged along. It lasted for about 30 minutes and we would recommend it. Ralph took some shots of the ship which my Travel students will get to see in due course. This was followed by the safety and security drill prior to departure from Auckland which all passengers have to attend unless they are doing back to back cruises on the same ship. This drill lasted for about 30 minutes. One of the first things you should do on day two of the cruise if you are not American, Canadian or British is to check and see if you have the right colour Princess cruise card. If you have completed more than one cruise and have been given a blue card you should see the Captains Circle membership officer to make sure she has you on her list for the Captains circle party and for what its worth she will get your card colour changed. This cruise card acts as your room key and security card whilst on the ship. It is deactivated as soon as you leave the ship for the last time at the end of the cruise. For some reason only Americans, Canadians and British appear in the Princess data base for Captains circle. This problem should be immediately rectified by Princess as it is embarrassing for other nationalities. By the way there were approx 1300 Americans, 400 Australians, 300 New Zealanders and quite a few British together with a smattering of other nationalities on board. Princess cruises add a USD 10.00 a day per person amount to your bill and that covers your tipping for the total cruise. This is done so that people employed on the ship who are not in direct contact with the ship can also receive something. If you don’t like this idea you can negotiate with the Pursers office to have the amount reduced if you wish. We knew some people who did this as they had 2 small children who also were charged 10.00 and they thought this was not fair. We have no problems with this arrangement and in fact several people ie our room steward Jose and a Hungarian couple Judit and Balazcs waiters in the Sterling Restaurant who gave us exceptional service got a little bit extra. Jose was extremely efficient and everything in our cabin was perfect. We asked for several small jobs to be done in the afternoon and by dinnertime they were attended to. The self-service laundries were spacious with plenty of washing machines, dryers and ironing facilities. Change machines and laundry powder dispensers were available in each laundry. Cost of laundry – USD $1.00 each per wash, per drier and for the washing powder dispenser. The machines accept US quarters 0.25c. Early morning or late at night or when the ship is in port and everyone is off the ship are the best times to do your washing. On sea days and between 4-6pm on port days the laundries can get very busy. There also seems to be only two irons per laundry. If you are using several appliances in your cabin at the one time it might be an idea to bring an adaptor board, as there is only one general plug. This is a USA type plug so if you are coming from another country you will need to bring an adaptor. On sea days there is always plenty to do. In fact sometimes there is too much and you find yourselves having to choose between several things. One of the improvements that could be made on the ship is to the Princess Patter, which is the newsletter that you receive each evening after you have had dinner. We think the layout of the newsletter could be improved. Sometimes you have to really search to find the information you need. We think similar topics should be grouped together and maybe a tear off part with whats on for the day so that people can detach it and take it with them during the day or night rather than take the whole newsletter. Quite a few people were making the same comments. We were extremely impressed with Skywalkers, which is situated at the back of the ship. At nighttime it is a disco after 10.30pm and during the daytime is a restful area for reading and just watching the sea. We had a rough day crossing the Tasman and it was great to sit on the side wing and look right down the left side of the ship to the Bridge and notice the pitching motion of the ship. The chairs in sky walkers are extremely comfortable. During the daytime you can always get a seat there. The library has a very good selection of books and you can take a book out of the library now without checking it out. You just have to remember to return it. If you try and walk off the ship with the book you will get a rude shock as there is a security device implanted in all the books!! Ralph enjoys a jog and Jean enjoys walking. We both used the Promenade deck for our activities usually early in the morning as there were fewer people around. You will have to climb some stairs at the front side of the ship but they aren’t a problem. The internet café is very large with lots of computers. We never had to wait to get on a machine and the cost was extremely reasonable. On our last cruise the quality of the shows was a little variable. Not so on this cruise. We both thought all the shows were excellent particularly the comedian Bobby Dennis from Sydney. Absolutely fantastic don’t miss him if he is on again. If you lose your way on the ship particularly early on in the cruise just look for the ship location map and that will help. After a few days most people were finding their way around without too much trouble. The carpets on the left/port corridors are in Blue and on the right/starboard side are red in case you are not sure what side of the ship you are on. It does happen occasionally!! Our biggest complaint about Princess cruises was that particularly in the restaurants when we ordered a bottle of wine we had to always ask for our receipt with the amount of the purchase shown clearly. In all other parts of the ship ie the bars, photo shop etc you always receive a receipt. Princess need to immediately correct this so that for every purchase on the ship you have a receipt. The night before you disembark you will receive your final account and all of your purchases should be shown. We strongly recommend that you get a copy of your account every couple of days so you can keep a check on your spending as you go along because it is so easy to forget what you have spent. We keep a sequenced record of all receipts and cross them off on the account every couple of days. If you don’t do this you might have a problem at the end trying to remember all your purchases and this is not a nice. Feeling at the end of the cruise. There is no designated card room on board so all the bridge enthusiasts on this cruise spread themselves out in all sorts of locations around the ship. We believe very strongly that their should be signs at various points around the ship and in the Princess Patter alerting passengers to the dangers of exposure to the sun. We have a particular problem with people getting skin cancers here in Australia. Passengers should be warned not to stay out in the sun for too long and to have plenty of protection whilst doing so. The cooking demonstration and tour of the galleys is usually done on the 2nd last day and is worthwhile doing. The Executive chef was also promoting its cookbook, personally signed by him. We bought a copy and it has some great recipes. They also had a tour backstage which again we found very interesting. We were introduced to some of the performers in the show. They were extremely helpful and everyone was congratulating them on their excellent performances. We had one very rough day crossing the Tasman with 16-20 foot waves and a few people were feeling a little unwell. Don’t let this put you off doing a cruise because there are lots of things that can be done to take away that feeling such as patches, seasick tablets etc. Dining The debate regarding 1st or second dining room sitting versus Anytime dining continues. We prefer anytime dining and what we try and do is make bookings for the next night the day before. As soon as we arrived in our cabin we rang the concierge desk and made bookings for the Sterling restaurant for the first night and for Vivaldi’s the specialist Italian restaurant for the second night. We book for 8.15pm but bookings can be made prior to 6.15pm or after 8pm for any of the 4 dining rooms catering for anytime dining. If you are on 1st or 2nd sitting dining you must dine in the International dining room although you can book into the 4 Anytime dining rooms if you wish for a change. If you are on anytime dining you can only go into the 4 specialist dining rooms not the International dining room. You can order anything off the International dining room menus for all 4 restaurants. These menus are available for all meal sittings. As well each of the special restaurants have their own special menus ie Sterling is a steak restaurant and so steak features prominently on their menu. This was Ralph’s favourite place and he loved the Rib eye fillet and the New York Sirloin steak. Vivaldi’s has an Italian theme and we thought also was very good. Both these restaurants are side by side on deck 5. Santa Fe has a Mexican theme and together with Pacific moon are side by side on deck 6. We dined in both of them but had the international menu. As we have been to Sabatini’s specialty restaurant on several occasions previously we didn’t dine there this cruise. There is a USD 20.00 cover charge per person. In all of the restaurants waiters always asked us if we were enjoying the meal. One one occasion there was a misunderstanding and two dishes Ralph had ordered were bought out at the same time. They offered to take the second dish straight back to the kitchen and replace it with another when I was ready. If you really can’t decide between the Lobster and the Pheasant order both or if you like the Lobster so much then order another serve. It doesn’t matter. You can do this at any time on the ship. Yes that did happen to me on several occasions. The buffet at Horizon Court on deck 14 was quite acceptable. Everything seemed fresh and we thought the food tasted fine. Many people go up to Horizon Court and pile their plates up with food and return to their cabin to eat. Particularly those with balcony cabins. The great advantage of anytime dining is that even though you have made a booking if you want to adjust the time you can without too many problems. It is possible not to have to make any bookings and you can line up to get in. Sometimes you might have a little wait so it is better to book even if you have to change the time. Many people want to dine in Sterling as their menu is very good so we strongly suggest booking there. We think in the past there has been problems with people lining up to get into this restaurant for a long time and this may be the reason why Sterling as well as the other 3 Anytime dining restaurants have introduced a policy of no bookings between 6.15pm and 8pm so as to cater for walk up diners. We had a Hungarian couple Balazcs and Judit looking after us for about 6 meals. We liked them so much we asked for them when we first entered the restaurant. Look out for them if you are dining in the Sterling restaurant. The wine list in the restaurant is a great improvement on our last Princess cruise with much greater variety and reasonably well priced. We had all our breakfasts in either the Santa Fe or Pacific moon restaurants as they are the only ones open. You only alternative is Horizon court, which is open 25 hours a day or you can have room service. We think the restaurants should be open a little longer for breakfast and lunch. They are open 7.30-9.30am for breakfast and 12-2pm for lunch. Sometimes it is hard to get there because so much is happening on the ship. We think the icecream stall where they charge extra could be eliminated as people can get free icecreams between 3.30pm and 4.30pm in Horizon court and different flavours of icecream are always available at lunch or dinner in the restaurants. The open-air Trident grill and Pizza bar near horizon court were very popular and we enjoyed the hamburger and pizza that we had there. Afternoon tea between 4.30 and 5.30pm where you have cakes and tea or coffee is worth the experience. Overall the meals and service were excellent breakfast, lunch and dinner right through the cruise. We had no complaints at all. Our cabin We don’t always have a balcony cabin it depends on the cruise. We went for a balcony on this one because it is summer time here and we thought we would be able to sit on the balcony a lot. As it turned out the weather was quite cold and wet and we didn’t get onto the balcony as much as we wanted to. Also we were going into some great ports with spectacular views ie Sydney, Wellington, and Hobart. We are thinking of going on a Trans Atlantic cruise later this year and will probably book an inside cabin on this one as the weather on the Nth Atlantic could be marginal at best. It depends where you are. One very important point to bear in mind with cabin selection. Always keep away from stairs and try and get a cabin in the middle of the ship or towards the rear so as to avoid motion of the ship in a storm. We had some rough weather on the Tasman and at the front of the ship you noticed the forward motion of the ship quite a bit whereas in the middle of the ship there was really not a lot to worry about. On Dolphin deck 9 most of the outside balcony cabins are mini suites and have a large totally open to view from above balcony. Our balcony was half open but only half the size of the mini suite balconies on deck 9. We feel that you either get an inside cabin or a balcony cabin. A cabin with a porthole is more expensive than an inside cabin and we think a waste of money as you can’t feel the fresh air or lean over the balcony. If you have an inside cabin you are only several minutes from the promenade deck or the open decks above. Your security card gets you into your cabin. Make sure when leaving your cabin that your door is properly closed. On several occasions our door did not properly close. There wasn’t any clock in our cabin, luckily we brought our own. The design of the cabin made good use of mirrors to enhance the feeling of light and maximise space. The open space wardrobes without doors provided plenty of hanging and storage space for our requirements. Our main cases fitted side by side quite comfortably. Bedside lights have dimmer switches. Soaps and towels were changed twice a day. There is a safe in every room and our cabin had a fridge as well as 2 chairs, 2 lollabouts and a table on the balcony. Outside your door on the side is a letterbox with your cabin number on it so that the any newsletters or other information can be left for you. If you wish to drink wines in your cabin Princess seem to have no problems with you purchasing wines or champagne and bringing them on board at embarkation or at the ports of call. I am not quite so sure about spirits though. We wanted to have some drinks on our balcony from timer to time and Concierge brought up wine and champagne glasses for us to use for the entire cruise. You can take these wines into the dining room but you might be charged a USD 10.00 corkage fee. They charge for spring water in your cabin so we always take a water bottle with us and go up to Horizon Court and fill the bottle up with fresh water from there. PORTS OF CALL If you are like us and like to get up early to watch the arrival into the various ports we would suggest if the wind is not blowing too much you go to the observation point on top of the bridge at the front of the ship. If the wind is blowing then maybe deck 7 promenade at the bow will give you some protection and nearly as good a view. Other options are deck 15 at the front where you are slightly protected with glass windows or Skywalkers at the rear of the ship but the views straight ahead are somewhat blocked by the funnel. We thought the best ports to sail into and ones you must get up early for are Wellington, Hobart, Melbourne and offcourse Sydney. Be careful sometimes the ship arrives early. It might show an arrival time in port of 8am and you might be docked at 6.30am. That happened to us a couple of times so I always set the alarm earlier. On departure of the ship I think the above also applies. If you don’t want to book any of the Princess cruises at all the ports you will have a choice of shuttles, limousines, and local coach tours all vying for your business. Don’t forget to get the best price. If there is a group of you a shuttle will work out to be a very economical way of getting around. Some people think the Princess tour prices are a little steep. That may be so but I know from previous tours that you generally get value for money on the tours and doing your own thing doesn’t appeal to everyone. If you are travelling independently you need to make sure that you get back to the ship at least 30 minutes before sailing. The ship will not wait for you and I believe we left a few people behind in one of the ports. I can’t remember which one now. If you are on an official Princess tour and the coach is late back the ship will wait for you. This happened on several occasions on this cruise. As we knew most of the ports very well we opted to do our own thing but I will pass on some thoughts to you, which may be of assistance. In every port the local tourist authorities had small tourism stands manned by local people with a wealth of knowledge of the area. They all had lots of brochures to hand out and I was most impress with the way they all tried to help everyone. You will be asked to take photo ID and your Princess cruise card with you whenever you disembark the ship in any port. You will need to show both to get back on board the ship. WELLINGTON Arrival into Wellington is quite spectacular with the city appearing at the front of the ship as you sail in. As quite often happens in Wellington it was wet and we opted to have a look around the town. There is plenty to do there and I really don’t think a tour there is necessary. You can get a free shuttle to the city centre or if you are feeling energetic you can undertake a 15-20 minute walk from the ship to the Railway station where you can board the yellow circle city busses and tour around the city. These busses come along every 15 mins or so and you can get a timetable when you get on board. We did a complete city loop, which took about 20 minutes just to get our bearings. It will cost you NZD 6.00 for an all day hop on hop off pass which takes you past many of the important sights in Wellington such as the Te Papa and Maritime museums which are about 1 stop away from each other. Both these museums are excellent and require a few hours to enjoy. You can also get off at the major shopping area, the New Zealand Parliament house and the famous church near the railway station, which is worth a look. You must stop at the Mt Victoria rail car stop where you can take a 15 minute journey to the top of the mountain for a fantastic view of Wellington and the Harbour. Pray that the weather is good. We were lucky as the morning was very wet and murky and we waited till the afternoon when everything cleared away and we had a great view from the top. Spend some time wandering the park reserve at the top of the hill. It is quite beautiful. All of the above will keep you very busy in Wellington. To get back to the ship again a 15-20 minute walk and I seem to recall someone else in a past review giving a warning to people to make sure they cross over to the right hand side of the road before you reach the rail signals as there is a big bend in the road near the ship and if you stay on the left hand side you will have trouble crossing the road as it is extremely busy and you can’t see what is coming. The cars come round the corner at high speed so it is rather dangerous. One gent was almost hit by a car, as he didn’t move quickly enough across the road. CHRISTCHURCH You will arrive at the port of Lyttleton which is about a 30 minute coach transfer to the Christchurch city centre costing NZD 6.00 each way. There is plenty to keep you busy in the city of Christchurch without going on a tour to the country side. If you look at the Princess tours you will see an all day train ride on the Trans Alpine Express which you can do from Christchurch. Indeed Christchurch is a beautiful city settled originally by the English and one of my favourites in this part of the world. This is a very difficult decision what to do. All I can say is maybe look at the city first time and do the train trip next time you are in Christchurch because I am sure you will be back again. If you decide to stay in Christchurch there is much to do. Here are some thoughts, which will take up the day. Look at the Cathedral on Cathedral Square right in the town centre where the coach will drop you off, do some shopping at the stores around the Square. Possum and merino lamb cardigans are a very good local buy and a lot of the shops don’t mind knocking something off the price for you. Once you have looked at Cathedral Square go down and walk along the Avon River, which is quite beautiful scenery. You will think that you are walking along some of the beautiful rivers in England. You can even go for a punt ride on the river if the weather is acceptable. By now it probably will be time for a drink and we stopped at an English style pub called the Bard on Avon about a 5 minute walk from Cathedral Square. This pub had many English beers on tap as well as Irish Guinness and Murphy’s stout. The meals there look excellent, big serves and there were lots of locals drinking there, always a good sign. Extremely friendly service. Next walk or get the circle city tram for a 5 minute tram ride west of the city to the Arts Museum and the General Museum and Botanical Gardens. Absolutely excellent all of them. You can get a pass on the circle city tram for the day if you don’t want to walk around. If you have time you can get a local bus to the Antarctic centre, which is well worth a look. This museum is about 15 minutes from the city centre out towards the Airport. On the way back to the ship if you have time it is possible to walk to the local bus depot about 5 minutes/2 streets south of Cathedral Square and get a local bus number 28 to the cable car ride on the top of the Lyttleton hills. This bus leaves about every 30 minutes and the trip takes about 30 minutes. We didn’t do this as we ran out of time but will certainly do so next time we are in Christchurch as we were talking to people on the ship who said the view was spectacular looking back to Christchurch and towards the ship. Apparently once you finished the cable car ride they were providing busses to the Lyttleton bus depot and a free transfer from there back to the ship. The cable car ride each way takes about 10 minutes. DUNEDIN You will arrive at the port of Port Chalmers, which is about a 30 minute coach transfer to the Dunedin city centre costing NZD 6.00 each way. You will be dropped off at the Information centre right in the heart of the city at the Octagon. We purchased a city sights tour from the information office. It cost NZD 15.00 per person and lasted for one hour and we were taken around on a double decker bus with an excellent guide. We thought a very good introduction to Dunedin, which was first settled by the Scots. Once that tour was completed we booked another one out to Lanarch Castle and I think this is a very good tour to do because not only does it give you a good look at the castle and the gardens it affords some wonderful views as you travel along the coast on the way there. This tour takes about 2 ½ hours and drops you back at the Octagon. Shops are nearby with Lyle and Scot knitwear very good prices here. Back to the ship on the transfer. FJIORDLAND The Sapphire Princess weather permitting cruises through the most southerly sound known as Dusky Sound and then enters Doubtful Sound finally arriving at Milford Sound the best known of the Sounds. It rains and you have low cloud approximately 260 days of the year here so you need a good day weatherwise. You can be lucky sometimes we had a perfect day. You do not get off the ship but get a good vantage point and keep the camera clicking. A magnificent part of the world. HOBART Arrival in Hobart is at Constitution Dock about 10 minutes walk to the centre of town past the docks where the Sydney to Hobart yachts arrive. Again there are very good tours of the city for AUD 15.00 hop on hop off similar to Wellington. Tickets for these tours can be purchased from the information office one block past Constitution dock on the main street about 10 minutes walk from the ship. We decided to book at tour to the top of Mount Wellington, which left at 12 noon and cost AUD 22.00 per person. In the meantime we went for a walk past Salamanca Place, which is a mecca for shopping and very near the information centre. From there we walked through Battery Point through a couple of beautiful parks then back to do the tour. The weather was excellent and the view from the top of the mountain was superb. After the tour a quick walk around the city and then back to the ship. We like walking as much as possible because it helps to get rid of the bulge. You all know what I mean. Leaves a little bit of room for tea that night. MELBOURNE The ship docks at Station Pier the port for Melbourne, which is a little way out of town. Again you have a choice of doing your own thing or taking tours. If you want to travel around on your own there is plenty to do. We would suggest you get off the ship and walk to the end of the pier near where the tram stop is. Purchase a metro pass costing AUD 5.00 per person, which allows you unlimited travel on the busses, trams and trains around Melbourne for the whole day. It will take you about 20 minutes to travel into the centre of Melbourne on tram 109. On your return to ship look again for tram 109 to Port Melbourne. About 2 stops before reaching the Collins Street - Elizabeth Street stop which is in the centre of the city you must get off the tram and go to the top of the Realto tower for a great orientation view of Melbourne. You then must visit the famous Victoria markets about 3 stops from the centre of the city. Melbourne is a city of Parks and Gardens so a walk through Fitzroy Gardens is a must. St Kilda to the south a busy café scene is worth a look as is Lygon Street to the north a mecca for restaurants and the café society. We are very familiar with Melbourne so walking around is fine for us but for someone new to Melbourne We might suggest a tour to the Yarra Valley and the Dandenong ranges where you can ride on the steam train “Puffing Billy” This is a great trip. CONCLUSION We thoroughly enjoyed the Sapphire Princess and are now thinking about our next cruises, possibly Baltic and Northern Trans Atlantic later this year. We will be looking for reports from other people who have done these cruises. Special praise for the Cruise Director Alistair Greener and his Assistant Frankie together with the rest of the staff who performed beyond expectations. Special praise also for all the people who keep the ship spotlessly clean. Cleaning goes on around the clock 24 hours a day. If anyone wants any other information please email me and we will do what we can to help.

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Jan 6, 2005

New Zealand, Australia

Consultant 1. Embarkation: It took nearly three hours and was the most confusing, disorganized, and slow process of all of our 27 cruises. 2. The ship: It was clean, new, and very large. We like large ships, but this one suffered from too many passengers, and a staff that didn't quite have their act together. 3. 4. Our

main complaint: I don't know if it is the influence of Carnival or simply a desire to increase revenue, but it seemed that everyone was trying to sell us something. For example, on all of our previous cruises, the purser's desk gave out seasickness pills. When we asked for them we were curtly told to buy them at the gift shop. We went to the gift shop and they were out and when we inquired we were told that it had been "a rough trip from LA and they didn't know when they would re-stock. Another small example, on all our past cruises we were provided a summary of news but on this ship we could "buy" newspapers but the were not provided by the ship. There are many more examples, but it leaves a bad taste and is "penny wise and dollar foolish." 5. The communication process: The daily hand out was not very helpful, and seemed mainly a place for advertising more things we could buy. We had to work hard to find out the dining options, hours, and how to make reservations (they seem to be making a transition to "free style" dining, but many of our fellow passengers were denied the standard seating and didn't understand their options. Another example had to do with port information. In past cruises, port maps and highlights were distributed to your cabin the night before. On this cruise, it took us four days to discover that the information was buried in a notebook in our cabin. 6. The cruise director and staff: They were very good with one exception. The assistant director and the director had a morning TV event which seemed to be more of an attempted comedy act than a format to provide information. One morning in port, I simply wanted to know if there was bus transportation into the city. I had to listen to ten minutes of lame comedy before one of them gave a port summary. 7. The art auction: This was a two man show and was way overdone! The two "experts" were more like used car salesmen and the "art" was placed on chairs, and tables in public sitting areas - it was very intrusive. 8. Private use of public areas: The cruise was full and public areas were always very crowded. There were permanent tables set up for a travel agency and for a Japanese group on the fifth deck. This took up public space and was not very professional. 9. The Bridge director. In past cruises we enjoyed playing bridge. On this trip the person in charge was rude and sarcastic and was offensive to some of our fellow travelers. And, yes, he charged for his bridge notes if you went to his lectures - really in bad taste! 10. While all these seem like small things, together they are not. I will never take this ship again and probably will not try Princess again either. This is sad, because our past Princess experiences have been very good.

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Oct 12, 2004

Mexican Riviera

This is my first cruise and I was traveling alone. I live in the Bay area and the SF to SF roundtrip itinerary was perfect. I booked an inside cabin four weeks before sailing and was upgraded to an awesome ocean view cabin when i checked in. Cabin : The cabin was great, bigger than what I thought it might be. The Sapphire is a new ship and

everything was just clean! My shower was cleaned twice a day, who could complain? Food: Food at the Horizon Court Buffet was ok. The 4 dining room selections were good but not amazing. The sorbets which they made on the ship daily however was just awesome! Sabatini's was great, ate there twice during the trip. Spa : The spa was just awesome! I spent most of my time there getting massages and laying on the thermal bed. The fitness center next to gym was nice too although you had to pay extra for yoga and pilates. Service : I thought the service was great overall. From barternders, waiters and other staff, they were all friendly and willing to do something extra for me. I'm hoping it's not because I'm single and i'm travelling alone. Entertainment : I'm a little disappointed on the entertainment on board geared for people my age. The targeted audience for the performance were for older guests. We had a comedian/juggler one night and i felt like I was visiting a nursing home. Almost all guest participation events were for older guests (no offense meant). There's almost no one at the Skywalker (disco) except for one formal night. Overall : I had a great time. It was very relaxing, if I wasn't getting a massage, I was taking a nap by the pool. I have no other cruises to compare this too but I'm definitely hooked! My next trip is on April 27th on the Coral Princess from Ft. Lauderdale to SF , a friend of mine and I booked a mini-suite. Happy Sailing! E-mail me if you want other details or want pictures.

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Sep 12, 2004

Alaska

This was my 4th cruise overall and 3rd cruise to Alaska. I previously sailed on both Princess and Holland America to Alaska as well as Royal Caribbean to the Caribbean. Out of the 3 cruise lines I have sailed on, Princess is by far my favorite. Pre-Cruise: I have relatives in Seattle so my husband & I flew into Seattle a couple days prior to the cruise. We rented a car at the airport and drove to the Homewood Suites in Tukwila. Very

nice rooms and a GREAT rate. On the morning of the cruise, we drove the rental car back to the airport and had arranged for a town car to pick us up and drive us to the cruise terminal. We decided to splurge and get the town car this one time.but it's cheaper and just as easy to take a taxi. ($30 versus $70). Embarkation: Had a minor problem right off. We arranged for the town car to pick us up at the airport at 10am. This put us at the cruise terminal at about 10:30am. We had been told that boarding would normally begin around 10am so thought this would work out good. Unfortunately, the previous cruise had hit some very rough weather the evening before and therefore was late arriving in Seattle. As our town car pulled into the pier, he was not allowed to get in the lane for drop offs. He rolled down the window and asked what the problem was and was told there were still over 1000 people left on the ship and they couldn't begin check-in until the ship was empty. Well, our town car driver (bless his heart) wasn't having any of that and just moved up a little in the line and then pulled right over the curb. He then got out, flagged down a baggage handler, told them he (like the taxis were allowed to do) needed to drop us off and our bags needed to be handled. The baggage handler didn't have a choice, he took our bags and we proceeded to the terminal. The poor baggage handler was telling the Princess folks in the luggage area that our driver didn't give him any choice and they replied it was fine. Poor guy was just distraught!! We gave him a good tip! We were then directed to the check-in area. Because we had a suite, we were directed to the platinum check-in area and there we sat for about 30 minutes before official check-in began. Be sure you fill out your Passenger Information forms on-line..it truly will save you a lot of time during the check-in. Once we checked in, we then stood in-line about 30 minutes before they opened the door. Then we stood in line another 15 minutes before we could actually go down the walkway to the ship. All in all, check-in took about an hour and half. I don't think it would have been that long had the previous ship not been late..but I don't really know. It is a long walk (uphill) from the terminal area to the ship. I was out of breath (but then I'm not in the best of shape either!) We were supposed to depart at 5pm, however didn't leave until almost 6pm. From our balcony we could see a couple running from the terminal to the ship and people out on their balconies cheering. We left shortly after so I assume we had to wait for them. Our Cabin: I booked our cabin about 5 months in advance and I must have booked at the right time. I was able to get a balcony mini-suite for $1300 per person. My mother and my aunt also took this cruise with us, but they booked their room a month later and paid the same price for just a balcony room (not a suite). So we definitely lucked out! Comparatively, this suite was pretty much the same layout and size as the Veranda suite on Holland America and the mini-suite on Royal Caribbean. You can see pictures of the layout by going to the Princess web-site so I won't go into a lot of detail except to say if you can swing a suite..I definitely recommend it. Just the fact that you have a couch to sit on is ideal. Having to sit on the bed or in a straight back chair to watch TV can be a pain after a while. Speaking of TV's, the mini-suites have 2 TV's, so my husband could lay in bed and watch what he wanted while I could sit on the couch and watch something different. That was nice! As far as amenities, the cabin has several, including a small refrigerator. Unlike other cruise lines, the refrigerator is left empty so you can put what YOU want in it, instead of them putting can drinks they will charge you for. We picked up water and soda's in the ports and kept this refrigerator stocked. The charge for a can coke purchased on board was $1.50 compared to $3.00-$3.50 I have been charged on other cruise lines. There are two electrical outlets on the vanity/desk area and two located along the base board right inside the door. My husband said there are also two more in the TV area but I don't recall seeing those. We brought an extension cord with extra plugs..but never needed it. There is a wall mounted hair dryer which I found to work great on my hair. It doesn't blow real hard which I prefer. But you might want to bring one if you have long or thick hair..it could take a while otherwise. Light switches are conveniently located by the bed, by the front door and by the couch. We found the cabin to have more than enough storage space. (Trick-put your empty suitcases under the bed). There are two bedside tables with good lamps. The tables have 2 drawers each. Then the vanity/desk has 3 more smaller drawers. The closet was plenty roomy for our hanging clothes and then there is a separate shelf closet with 5 shelves and a wall safe. The bathroom is tiny, but more than adequate. I also loved the Lotus Spa soaps and shampoos they leave in the bathroom. They only left two sets of towels so we did have to ask our cabin steward to leave a couple extra as I like to lay one on the bathroom floor and I normally use two when showering. After the first day, he always left 4 towels for us. I do want to point out that the bath/shower combination in the bathroom was nice & roomy compared to the single shower stalls in the other rooms. However, getting out of the tub was sometimes a little scary as it is quite a step down to the floor. There are grip bars which I used religiously! If you have mobility problems, you might consider a different room that only has the shower stall. Our cabin steward was excellent. On the 2nd day of the cruise, we passed him in the hall and he called us by our names (how do they remember??!!). Each day, all the mail (Daily newsletter, shopping specials etc.) was left in a little mailbox outside your door. I like this better than them shoving everything under the door as was done on all my previous cruises. Food We all chose the personal choice dining and found we do prefer this to the traditional seating. There are 4 alternative restaurants with no cover charge and one alternative (Sabatini's) with a cover charge. Each alternative restaurant has a fixed themed menu but you can also order off the traditional seating menu. We made our first reservation right after we boarded with no problems. A couple nights later I called to make reservations for 7pm or 7:30 and found the first available time wasn't until 8pm. We don't mind eating this late so it wasn't a problem, but keep this in mind and make your reservations early if you prefer earlier dining. Also, one night we didn't make reservations at all and only had to wait 15 minutes for a table. We didn't make it to all of the restaurants, but let me describe the ones we did visit. First night on the ship (after embarkation) my husband and I elected to do room service as we were wiped out. I ordered the grilled ham & cheese and my husband ordered the club sandwich. I don't know if we were just starving or what but we both ate every bite and it was delicious. Also, they will leave you cards each evening if you want to order a continental breakfast for the next morning. The choices on the card include fruit, breads, juices and cereal. We both prefer a larger breakfast so almost always went to the buffet. However one morning we were just lazy and called room service to see if we could get a more substantial breakfast delivered. They said no problem and we were able to get a cheese omelet, bacon, toast, hashbrowns and juice. Nice to know since it isn't advertised anywhere! Vivaldi- Right after boarding, my mom made reservations for all 4 of us for the next night (first formal night) at Vivaldi. This is the Italian themed restaurant. I ordered the Beef Tenderloin Filet off the main menu and it was exceptional. It was so tender and juicy I could cut it with a fork. I order my beef well done, so getting a steak that is both well done AND juicy is extraordinary! Hat's off to the chef on that one! My mother ordered the shrimp pasta dish off the Vivaldi menu and said it was excellent as well. All 4 of us totally enjoyed the meals we had in Vivaldi. We had the souffle for dessert and it was okay. I remembered the souffles from a previous Princess cruise being much better. Sante Fe- This is the Mexican themed restaurant. 3 of us ordered the chicken fajitas and I must say there were very good. I was surprised as I am a big Mexican food lover (being from Texas and all) and wasn't expecting them to be that good. They were spiced just right and it was a huge portion. My mom ordered another shrimp dish which was a pretty small portion, but just right for her appetite. She said it was very good as well. We skipped dessert as we wanted to make it to the hypnotist show on time (more on that later). Pacific Moon- This is the oriental themed restaurant. This was crab leg night (off the traditional menu) so 3 of us chose that. Unfortunately, the crab legs were slightly overcooked. One good thing was that you could order more..and more. I asked for a 2nd helping because my first was overcooked and the 2nd batch was better. Dessert this night was the baked Alaska.wonderful! Remember, you can order more than one entree anytime you want (my husband did on several nights) and can order additional servings as well. Many times they expect it and/or will ask if you want more..so take advantage if you want! Sterlings- This is the Steak House. Unfortunately, I came down with a cold on the night we planned to go to Sterlings so my husband and I didn't make it. My mother and aunt went and both ordered the lobster off the traditional menu. Both said it was 'okay' but not great. They did comment that it was plentiful in that before they had even finished the first lobster tail, the waiter was placing a 2nd one on their plates. Horizon Court Buffet- We had breakfast here several times, as well as lunch and even dinner one night. The food ranged from good to excellent. The layout was confusing as you could enter from both ends and that led to people trying to go down the lines from both directions. It worked out though and we rarely had to stand in line for very long to get through. Finding a table could sometimes prove challenging, but we often just asked strangers if we could join them and everyone was always friendly about sharing their tables. Standard breakfast fare included scrambled eggs, over easy eggs (which were surprisingly perfectly cooked with runny yolks), bacon, sausage links, pancakes and/or french toast (didn't care for either of these), breakfast potatoes, rolls, fruit, juices etc.. There were also specialty dishes like eggs scrambled with salmon. Standard buffet fare, but it was almost always hot. Desserts weren't always the best, but a couple times they did have some excellent ones! Lido restaurants- On the Lido desk, outside the buffet area, there are 3 different food areas. One is for hamburgers and hot dogs, one for Pizza and one for Ice Cream. The Hamburgers, hot dogs and Pizza are free, while you have to pay for the ice cream. We tried them all. The Hamburgers were always hot, the hot dogs BIG and juicy. The pizza, well, I could have eaten that pepperoni pizza for every meal and been a happy camper. I loved that pizza. Thin crispy crust and just do die for. I had it 4 times during the cruise. Some people felt that having to pay for the ice cream was a rip-off.and it probably is, but it sure was delicious. I had the hot-fudge, banana sundae 3 times and ate every bite. My husband got the strawberry sundae and said it was one of the best desserts he'd had on the ship. They cost around $3.50 per sundae. Entertainment On previous cruises (expect our very first), my husband and I didn't attend many of the shows or acts as we chose to relax in our cabin instead. This cruise was a first cruise for my aunt and we wanted to be sure she got the whole experience so we did attend a few of them. Our absolute favorite was the hypnotist act in the Explorer Lounge. We laughed so hard. There were 10 people on stage and 8 of the 10 were obviously truly hypnotized. He had them speaking in made up foreign languages, the men taking off their shirts and then having the women put them on. When he woke them up and they saw they were either missing a shirt or had on someone else's.the expressions on their faces was priceless. It was so good I was tempted to think the participants were plants..but we saw them frequently throughout the cruise so I think it was all on the up and up. In any case, it was great entertainment. We also attended 3 nights of 'Princess Idol' which was an 'American Idol' contest for the best singer. We had a lot of talented singers on board and the guy who won was excellent! We attended two shows in the Princess Theatre which were good, not great, but very good. Finally we attended the 'Princess Price is' contest which was a takeoff of the Price is Right show. I actually got called up on stage..but alas..I didn't win. Was still fun. My husband did the golf simulator and said it was a lot of fun. It does cost $20.00 an hour, but he went on the last day and there were only a few people playing so the guy let him play an hour for free. He then went back later and paid to play another round. Finally, the casino. First time I've gambled on a cruise ship and actually won money! I went home each night at least $100 richer (my husband on the other hand probably lost that much each night!!). Ports of Call and Excursions As this was our 3rd Alaska cruise, we had pretty much done all the excursions on previous cruises and had, of course, visited all the different cities previously. We go to Alaska for the scenery while cruising, but do enjoy the visiting the ports and of course..I enjoy the shopping! We did do one excursion which turned out to be a highlight of the trip! For the Juneau port, we purchased the Orca Point Lodge and Whale Watching on-line prior to the cruise and it couldn't have turned out any better! Because there were already 3 ships in port, we had to tender to shore. It was raining that morning, so it was a little miserable to start with..however it did clear up. Once on shore, we boarded a comfortable bus and were surprised to see that there were only about 20 people on the bus so we weren't cramped. We took a short bus ride to the boat for the Whale Watching portion of the trip. The boat we were on was huge and because there were only 20 of us, it allowed us to walk around easily & take a whole row of seats all to ourselves. The boat had two levels. The bottom level was enclosed and heated with room for probably 75 people (there were only about 12 that stayed on the first level). The 2nd level was partially enclosed and partially open. There was a small snack bar where you could by snacks and drinks and they provided coffee, cocoa and water free. So did we see whales? Boy did we ever! We started out seeing a couple from a distance and the boat would move closer. They are restrictions as to how close they can get to the whales.but the captain would get as close as allowed. When that couple went under for a 'terminal dive' (stays under for an extended period), he would move on to look for others. The highlight came when we saw a group of about 4 whales and he pulled as close as he could. The whales were doing dives and I was able to get several pictures of them. The captain shut off the boat once we were as close as we could get and we watch in fascination as the whales began swimming closer and closer to us. At one point, one of the whales was within about 3 feet from the back of the boat. The guide opened the back door so we could see the whale up close and it felt like it was so close I could have touched it. Until you see one that up close, you can't appreciate how massive these creatures truly are. After looking for whales, we were then taken to a small rock island that is home to 100's of seals and sea lions. Again, there were restrictions on how close the boat could get, but with binoculars we were able to see them very clearly. We also saw several bald eagles. After the wildlife viewing, we were then taken to a gorgeous lodge for lunch. The meal consisted of grilled salmon, grilled chicken, wild rice, corn on cob, rolls and cake for dessert. It was delicious. During the short ride back to the boat dock, we saw 2 gorgeous rainbows and a beautiful view of Mendenhall Glacier. All in all this was an awesome trip. The guide on the trip said it was one of the best she had had in a while. She said they always see whales, but it was the first time in a long time she had seen one that close to the boat. So, while I highly recommend this excursion because of our experience, obviously, I can't guarantee yours would be as good. As for the cities themselves, we mainly shopped. We were on one of the last cruises of the season so many of the shops had great sales. Real sales..not just sales that are marked up so they can then mark them down to say they are on sale. Having been in these ports before, I was able to tell that the prices were indeed greatly marked down on many items. If you want good shopping deals, take the last cruise of the season! We did eat breakfast at a little diner in Ketchikan and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. It was a run down little diner. The food was nothing special and the prices were very high. $9.00 for two eggs, bacon and toast. I can't remember the name, but if you walk into a place with about 4-5 booths (torn and ragged red vinyl)..then it's the one! A couple of disappointments I need to mention. First, the day we cruised through Tracy Arm we were supposed to end up at a Glacier. Due to the fact that there were too many ice bergs floating in the Arm, the ship was unable to navigate to the Glacier so we never got to see one at all from the ship. This was a major disappointment for my aunt. We previously sailed through Glacier Bay and by the Hubbard Glacier on previous cruises and had raved about the beauty of it to my aunt. She didn't get to experience this site and that was a shame. Also, on the last night when we were supposed to stop in Victoria, BC, one of our engines died. The ship stopped completely for about 2 hours while they tried to repair on. Finally the captain came on and advised they had been unable to repair the engine and while we were completely safe, we would be unable to stop in Victoria at all as we would have to begin heading back to Seattle to make it on time on one engine. Sometime during the night, we felt the ship stop moving again and looked out our balcony to see a huge tug-boat looking boat right beneath us. That boat stayed right beside us for 2-3 hours before it took off and we started up again. I'm not sure if someone on that boat boarded and was able to fix the engine or what, but we made it into Seattle on time. Disembarking For the most part, this went smoothly and quickly with a few exceptions. We had an 11:00am flight so were assigned one of the earlier groups at 7:45. It ran about 15 minutes late and we disembarked at 8am. One of the negatives is that we shared the terminal with the Holland America Amsterdam so we were all piling into building and going through customs together. There were personnel directing people to which line to get in and it did move quickly. It only took us about 5 minutes to get through customs and then we were on to find our luggage. Again, while it was a mad-house, there was someone to direct us to the exact area our luggage was located in based on our gold disembarking tickets. Here we hit another negative as there was not a luggage handler to be found. They all seemed to be working the front of the building and our luggage was in the back. We ended up having to drag 3 big suitcases, 2 carry-ons and box (with handles), by ourselves out to the line of taxi's waiting. My mom later told me they had the same problem finding someone to help with their luggage and she finally just walked to the front entrance and waited to find a guy who was retuning with an empty cart. He followed her to the back of the building and helped her. So..remember that if you need help with your luggage! We got in the taxi line. There was a line of probably 30+ taxi's and a group of guys helping everyone get in them. It moved extremely fast and we were loaded and on our way to the airport in minutes. The taxi ride to the airport was a flat $25.00 (all taxi's have to charge the same flat amount). He dropped us right off at curbside checking and we were then on our way home. Summary Our first Alaska cruise was 10+ years ago for our honeymoon. At that time, we had an inside cabin on Princesses Regal Princess. Because it was our first and our honeymoon, we will always have very fond memories of it.but this last cruise on Princess was by far our best. Much of that is based on the fact that we had a mini-suite with a balcony. I highly recommend getting at least a balcony room for any Alaska cruise. Being able to get up, in your jammies, and sit on the balcony with a cup of coffee each morning was truly a wonder. The sights are just spectacular. The food in all the restaurants was very good to excellent and the service was excellent through-out the entire cruise. I will, however, say that if you want to see glaciers, this is probably not the right cruise for you. We didn't see any from the ship itself, although I know previous sailings on this cruise did make it up Tracy Arm. If you really want to see awesome glaciers, then select a cruise that goes through Glacier Bay. Also, there are positives to going in September-mainly the shopping discounts. However, there is a negative also. On our previous 2 cruises, we sailed at the end of May and all the mountains were still snow covered. Going in September meant that the snow had melted. It's still a beautiful site.but I think I will plan on late May sailings from now on. I like the snow capped mountains! We are taking my in-laws next year and I'm looking to book an end of May cruise that includes a day in Glacier Bay. Unfortunately, while I would prefer Princess (by far my favorite so far), I can't find an itinerary that fits my needs so may try Norwegian. If so, I just hope I get the same level of enjoyment as I did on this cruise. We will definitely sail with Princess again!

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Aug 22, 2004

Inside Passage Alaska

NON SMOKERS BEWARE!! I booked this cruise for my husband's 40th birthday and we knew we would only do an Alaskan Cruise once so we wanted it to be special. We booked on the new Sapphire Princess and went the extra expense for a balcony because it was going to be a scenic trip. Well we were very disappointed to find out that the there was no division between the

smokers and non smokers cabins so of course anytime we went on our balcony to enjoy the scenes so did our smoking neighbors. We got no use of our cabin balcony due to the lax regulations on smoking. Granted all passengers should be comfortable and I believe the smoking and non smoking passengers would be more comfortable if Princess booked their smokers port side and non smokers on the starboard side. This way there is no chance of downdraft as the ship is cruising. We also found that there is no comfortable night life for non-smokers as well. Sure the Theatre is non smoking but not 1 lounge or bar on the ship was non-smoking. Sure it was 1/2 and 1/2 but in a bar room lets face it there is no difference regardless of the ventilation system. We would have spent many of the nights dancing and partying away but we found ourselves with no choice to go back to our room because every entertainment venue you could smoke in. The ship has an ample number of lounges to make at least 1 or 2 totally non smoking but they do not. The casino is completely smoking so a relaxing night gambling was out of the question. I wrote a letter to Princess stating my concerns and requested reimbursement for the difference in the cost for the unused balcony but they failed to satisfactory address my letter. I wanted to share this experience so I may hopefully save others the stress we went through with this issue.   On a positive note the Ship is beautiful and the Spa a delight. Be careful with the Spa though. The Cruise books state that the tip is at your discretion but they did add it to the bill. My husband did not realize this and they got double tipped. We did find that the Special Italian restaurant we paid an additional cover to go to really was not worth the extra money. We preferred the food in the main dining rooms. Especially the Pacific Moon. The servers were professional and very cheery. Regarding my husbands birthday celebration, the travel agent and online cruise profile asked if you are to celebrate a special occasion. I told them about his birthday and the only thing they did to make this a special occasion was put balloons on our door. No special dinner song or anything. Big Deal. Other Cruises I have been on invited you to a special Captains cocktail party or dinner. This was a let down. My family asked me to refer a cruise line for there trip and as long as the smoking situation stays the same I can not recommend Princess!!

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Aug 15, 2004

Alaska

EMBARKATION - Went very smoothly. Princess rep met us at airport and took charge of our luggage. All bags caught up with us within 2 hrs. of boarding. Going through processing and customs was a breeze - could not have taken more than 15 minutes once you were in line. We had Princess take care of all transfers and made it to ship in plenty of time.

SHIP - "What a boat!" Took a couple of days to get accustomed to where everything was because of the size of the ship but after that it wasn't too bad. Ship was brand new so there are no complaints as to cleanliness or anything else. Staff is professional in every manner and will bend over backwards to assist. Seas were relatively calm on our cruise so there was absolutely no problem with motion sickness at all. ENTERTAINMENT - Not too bad. Stage production of Piano Man was very good and worth seeing at the encore performance. Comedian was pretty good but I'm biased as he was from Cleveland (our home area).Other acts were ok as it gave you a place to go to spend some time after dinner. FOOD - Not much to compare to since this was only our second cruise but all in all I'd have to rate the food as very good to excellent. We chose traditional dining at the 8:30 seating and had no complains at all. Our group of four were seated with some very nice people from Wyoming and Florida and we enjoyed their company very much. Every meal seemed to be a culinary adventure with numberous appetizer,soup,salad, and entree selections. The only meal that didn't live up to expectations was the Beef medallions. I asked for them to be prepared medium and they were given medium well but they tasted good so I decided not to send them back. King crab legs were on the small side but split and tasty. Lobster tails (2) were fairly small but you could have all you wanted so our table took advantage of that. They also didn't seem to mind if two (2) entree's were ordered so some of our table also took advantage of that. Our head waiter seemed to come up with and extra appetizer that was especially prepared for us on almost a daily basis.It was very nice to know that the wait staff took such good care of us. Baked Alaska and Cherries Jubilee were prepared at tableside. Horizon Court cafeteria was pretty good. They seemed to have a better selection of breakfast food than the main dining rooms but they were also much more crowded.To each his own. CASINO- No negatives here.I personally walked away with a lot more than I put into the quarter slot machines. Also saw two other individuals hit pretty good on the Quarter machines but I guess it's just being at the right place at the right time. ROOM - Because my wife doesn't care to see the moving water, we opted for inside cabins. They were very nicely furnished with plenty of closet and shelf space for clothing. The small in- room refrigerator that was stocked with ice twice a day really came in handy. Cabin attendant kept the room spotless. Lockable safe was well used as you could leave your valuables in room with no fear of them disappearing. Bathroom was small but aren't they all. PUBLIC ROOMS - Although we didn't frequent the bars too often, they were very nice and spacious. My wife really liked the Atrium shopping areas as it seemed she spent half the cruise there. The theater was decent size but really filled up quickly depending on the entertainment. It was more that big enough to fit the amount of people that were there. Pools always seemed to be filled with people especially the whirlpools. Didn't participate in any sport activities so cannot comment. PORTS - Ketchikan - kind of drizzly but it stopped before we got to shore. Opted for the Lumberjack show as the ladies in our group are not the adventurous type. Show was ok and kept our interest. Walked the town after and shopped for souvenir's. TRACY ARM/JUNEAU-arrived at Tracy Arm at 6:30AM but it was worth it to get up early. Cool on deck but the scenery more than made up for it. Got fairly close to a glacier and the ship was dodging small floating ice bergs. Naturalist said it was 1000 feet deep in this narrow fiord - unbelievable! Juneau was ok. Went to the Mendenhall glacier and saw the salmon hatchery. The glacier was awesome. It's really a shame that it's receding at such a fast rate. Had a great glass of Alaska lager at the Red Dog Saloon. Skagway - went on the Whitepass Scenic Railway. What a trip - 30 miles of unbelievable scenery with numerous places to take some great photos. Would highly recommend this trip. More shopping in town. DISEMBARKATION - since we opted to stay overnight in Seattle, we were the last group to leave the ship at 10:30AM. Transfers to the hotel went smoothly and we were on our way within 1/2 hour. We stayed at the Marriott Waterfront and our luggage arrive with us. Rooms were ready within one hour of arrival. Seattle is an experience unto itself. Only bad thing about this part of the trip was the transfers arranged by Princess from the hotel to the airport. Called for shuttle in what we thought would be plenty of time to get to the airport. WRONG!! Shuttle made seven stops in downtown Seattle and we just made it to this very busy airport in time to just make boarding the plane. We were fortunate that our liggage was on the plane. Should have taken a cab. All in all - a great cruise, a great ship, a great time - would do it again!

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Aug 8, 2004

Alaska

This was our first cruise, so we didn't know what to expect. Princess had been suggested to us because of its Anytime Dining. This option alone made our trip on Princess perfect. Each evening we were able to dine at a different restaurant, each with its own distinct menu and decor. In addition, we could order items from the International Dining Room menu. Each meal was

a delight of color and taste. We spent a week just being pampered by the staff wanting to fulfill our every wish. We highly recommend having a stateroom with a balcony. Sunrises could be enjoyed from the balcony at leisure, and we lounged over breakfast served there more than once. The weather was incredible at each port--sunny, cloud-filled skies--and the excursions were full of educational and historical info. We especially enjoyed the trip in Skagway by coach into Canada and then the trip back by train along the route traveled years ago by the gold miners. Tracy Arm was another highlight with its glacier and icy blue water. On board ship, we renewed our wedding vows with the Captain officiating! We couldn't have been treated more royally. We loved our cruise so much that we planning on taking Andrew's parents on a Princess Caribbean cruise next year to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. Princess is the only way to cruise!

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Jul 18, 2004

Alaska

We traveled the Alaska Inside Passage aboard the Sapphire Princess the week of 7/18/2004. In short, it could not have been better. The scenery, the ship, the service all were perfect. Our room was upgraded to a mini-suite, and I could not have been happier. Large bathroom, sitting room, and a balcony large enough for a "big" man to enjoy (6'3";

340 lbs!). The entertainment was spectacular everynight. The Piano Man routine was great. Food was good, but not outstanding. The Horizon Buffet was convenient but rather "blah". We had early seating convential dinning, and the food and service there was great. Don't be fooled into thinking that because it's Alaska, it will be cold. I wore short-sleeves and shorta all week. My wife, who was ready for "the arctic" weather experience, was not cold. I have cruised with Royal Caribbean twice before, and Princess is definitely a step above. A little pricey (about $7,000 for 2 total cost from Houston) but well worth every penny!

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Jun 20, 2004

Alaska

My wife and I traveled to Alaska with our two sons, ages 16 and 17, on a 7-night cruise round-trip from Seattle. The itinerary included Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, cruising Tracy Arm, and Victoria, British Columbia. We lucked out getting absolutely perfect weather for the entire week. It was sunny, clear skies, and in the mid 80's. OVERALL

RATING: Overall, the cruise was great and an excellent bargain for the money. WHY CHOOSE THIS CRUISE? In deciding which cruise to book, my wife and I primarily wanted to cruise on a quality ship at a reasonable price. Also, we wanted to visit nice ports. We got everything we were after with this itinerary on the Sapphire Princess. I had previously visited Ketchikan and other spots in Alaska on business so I had an idea what to expect. This was our 1st cruise to Alaska. We previously sailed to Bermuda and the Caribbean. GETTING THERE. We opted not to purchase Princess airfare and had no problem getting good fares. We flew America West into Seattle from Baltimore. We got in a day early and took a limo from the airport to the hotel. The limo was an inexpensive option for 4 people with lots of luggage and it cost only $30 + tip. We stayed at the Vance Hotel in downtown Seattle. We paid $75 + tax by booking through Priceline.com and bidding $75 on a 3-star hotel. I=ve had good luck with Priceline. it didn=t work out this time. The Vance Hotel is historic (or just plain old, depending on your point of view). Being in downtown Seattle though allowed us to walk to the Pike Place Market and that was ok. We only had to walk about 6 or 7 blocks to the waterfront but in the evening Seattle can get kind of rough. I=d personally recommend staying at an airport hotel and taking a taxi into town if you want to look at the sights. EMBARKATION/DEBARKATION. We arrived to the ship at 11:00am and got on quick as we are Platinum members and don=t have to wait in the same lines as all others. We disembarked around 9:30am and were at the airport by 10:00am. Princess disembarks based on your cabin location (top down). For the return, we decided to just take 2 cabs to the airport. The cost of each cab was $26 ea taxi + tip. ROOM. Inside Quad, Caribe Deck, Cabin C-411 (10th floor). Most of the inside activities (dining rooms, show rooms, etc.) on the Sapphire are down on Deck 6 or Deck 7 so I personally wouldn=t worry about spending more to stay higher on the ship. We were impressed with the rooms which we found to be large for a cruise ship and laid out well. There is adequate closet space. The room also has a hair dryer, a safe, a refrigerator, and television. Television channels though were very limited. I've always opted for an inside room but would go for an outside room with a balcony if I did the cruise again. Much of the trip is spent close to shore and there is a lot to look at. THE SHIP. This was only the 2nd full week cruise the ship has taken and of course everything on the Sapphire was brand new. The Sapphire Princess is beautiful. I've previously traveled on the Dawn, Golden (twice), Grand, and Pacific (the old) Princess and well as the Norwegian Wind. The Sapphire Princess is very similar to the Golden and Grand Princess. For those who have been on one or the other before, the primary differences between the Sapphire and the Golden/Grand is in the rear of the ship and with the Vista lounge. The Sapphire is supposed to be longer and narrower than the Golden/Grand. This accommodates changes to the back of the ship. The large nightclub that sat over the rear pool has been moved forward and this opens up sunlight into the rear of the ship. There is also now a standing pool in the rear in addition to the regular swimming pool. Princess has also added seating to the Horizon buffet by connecting-up the two sides in the rear of the ship and this makes it a lot easier to find a table. The Vista lounge has been dramatically updated to Club Fusion and it=s a whole lot nicer. Other differences include a larger Wheelhouse bar on the Sapphire Princess which is also a nice place to gather. The kids areas have also been upgraded although I don't think my kids liked the area as much because the Sapphire does not have an arcade. Otherwise, in many of the places on the ship, you won't notice much difference between the Sapphire and the Golden/Grand. FOOD. Overall, we enjoyed the food but it was not sensational. I wasn't impressed with the choices for dinner. We actually skipped a few dinners opting for the 24-hour Horizon Buffet instead. We had traditional, second seating, served in the International Dining Room. There are alternatives for people going freestyle. The Sapphire Princess has several restaurants with various themes, i.e., steakhouse. I didn't personally see a whole lot of theme going on. The alternative dining rooms looked pretty much like the others. The alternative dining rooms do offer a few extra selections which are offered throughout the week in the traditional dining room as well. Service was slow and just ok. Elsewhere, I thought the food in the Horizon Court (buffet) was just ok. Variety also suffered as offerings in the buffet were frequently left-overs from dinner. The coffee and iced tea in the Horizon Court were good. The desserts in the Horizon Court unfortunately were rather tasteless and I=m not sure why, but are usually all filled or topped with fruit. Burgers and Pizza seemed better on this ship than on the others I have sailed on previously. Princess must have worked out something to keep the buns fresh as I have found them to be rock-hard in the past. I think one of the best alternatives is to order room service, even if you just order dessert and take it up to the buffet for a late night snack. Room service has options that aren't available elsewhere on the ship and I found them to be better than what is served elsewhere, especially dessert. SHORE EXCURSIONS. If you like to just get off the ship and walk around or shop, these ports are great. Overall, the excursions in Alaska are expensive. In Ketchikan, we just walked around the town. There are lots of shops and going through Creek Street is a nice stroll. I've previously been to the Totem Village and didn't see it worthwhile for a return visit. While Cruising Tracy Arm, the scenery is fantastic. We cruised Tracy Arm early and the ship had announced we'd see Glaciers at 7:00am. Well, that was true but when you see the Glaciers, you are already all the way up into Tracy Arm. So, plan on getting up earlier than when you are scheduled to see the Glaciers or you might miss them. The Glaciers here are ok but I personally don't think they are as awesome as what I had previously seen in another trip to the Kenai Fjords. In Juneau, we privately booked a sightseeing trip with Capt Larry of Orca Enterprises. This was definitely worthwhile and the highlight of the entire trip! We saw many humpback whales up close, lots of bald eagles, and a few sea lions. A note on spotting whales ... you will see whales if you watch for them from the Sapphire Princess but they will be a ways off in the distance. Instead of looking for whales on the surface, look for their blow holes spouting water 20 foot in the air. Once you find a spout, you just watch that area and the whale will come up briefly. It is significantly different seeing these 40-50 foot creatures up close in a small boat though. Also, the Princess-run excursion boats were packed. The Orca boats, while still crowded, were much easier to move around in. We also walked the town but there really isn=t a lot there for tourists. We were tendered into Juneau and that cut down our time considerably … we had to forego a visit to Mendenhall Galcier. In Skagway, we went on the White Pass and Yukon Route railroad. Instead of booking through the ship, we went up to the railway station and booked it ourselves. I don't think the price was any different but we were afraid to book the trip in advance in case the weather was bad. We paid $89 ea. In rain or even overcast weather, it wouldn't be worth the price. The train is pretty high up and even the conductor mentioned how lucky we were to see so well because of the great weather. As a word of caution, I wouldn't recommend booking the trip at the pier because it was offered only as a one-way trip with bus return for the same price as we paid for round-trip rail all the way and back. If you book it yourself at the rail station, you'll have to walk an extra 10 minutes up the street to board as only Princess excursions board directly across from the ship. In Victoria, we just took a taxi into town (at a cost of about $8 CAN + tip). It could conceivably be walked but would be at least a mile. Most of the tourist stuff is on Government Street. It's worth a visit but there's not much to do here. ENTERTAINMENT. Good, and the Princess Theater offers all a great view with its stadium seating. Various musicians played elsewhere throughout the ship. MISCELLANEOUS. Binoculars are a must on this cruise. My son spotted a bear on the shore with them and we all saw mountain goats. Early in the trip, the binoculars allowed us to see bald eagles up close. Later in the trip, you=ll see bald eagles all over though. The ship offers HIGH TEA everyday (which I admit might not sound too exciting... but, it actually is a lot of fun). I highly recommend you try this activity at least once during your cruise. The CASINO is large and offers a lot of choices. Table games, like roulette, had reasonable minimum bets ($1 inside/$5 outside). There were higher minimums on the Grand Princess. There were a modest number of kids on-board. Even though the ship was full, there didn't seem to be many people around, especially at night. The mix of young vs middle-aged vs old was balanced. There was a modest number of kids on-board. SUMMARY. You get excellent value for your money on this cruise. The Sapphire is a magnificent ship, the service was ok, and the food was generally good. Having cruised several times before, I could have picked out several things to nag about that Princess could have done different but overall I was very happy to have taken this cruise.

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Jun 11, 2004

Victoria B.C.

If after reading this review you have any questions about the ship, please feel free to email me directly at [email protected] . The “official” maiden voyage of the Sapphire Princess sailed for week long trip to Alaska on Sunday June 13th. This two night sailing that we went on was a “pre-maiden” voyage for the weekend that took us from

Seattle Washington to Victoria B.C. and back. We sailed on Friday June 11th and returned on Sunday June 13th. The ship was christened in Seattle on June 10th. There is no arguing that the Sapphire Princess is a gorgeous, and massive, ship. This was my 3rd cruise (my wife’s 4th) and our first Princess cruise. We had previously cruised with Royal Caribbean and Carnival. We fully explored the ship the day we boarded, moving from one deck to the other until we reached all 18…yes 18 DECKS!! Like I said, this ship is massive. We have been on one bigger ship, Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Seas, but when you’re talking 113,000 vs. 138,000 Gross Tonnage, they are both big. On the second night as we returned to Seattle, we met up with the sister ship to the Sapphire, the Diamond Princess. With helicopter circling (I imagine he was taking video or still shots for promotional advertising) we joined up for an hour or so and cruised together side by side. It was an incredible experience. Some of the crew onboard the Sapphire had spent time on the Diamond helping to get her ready to sail back in March and had many friends onboard. Some of them were visibly overjoyed and videotaped the experience. They really do take a lot of pride in their ships and service. With crowds cheering back and forth from each ship, and ship’s whistle’s blowing, we made a short journey together as both of Princess’ “jewels” were together for the first time. Overall Review of We truly were the first people to sail on the ship, other that the crew that was on it for its voyage from Japan where it was built. I have never been on a ship so new that you could smell the new carpet in the stateroom hallways and new leather on the couches and armchairs in the Wheelhouse Bar. The mattress in the room was so new and firm, it was like sleeping on a brick, but that was to be expected. Everything was SO CLEAN! The Casino didn’t even have that “smoky” smell to it…yet. However, we did spend an hour on the last night in the Casino, and even while fully crowded, the ventilation system in there is fantastic as it didn’t smell that bad at all. The décor of the ship isn’t too ‘Vegas Style” which I found nice. Often cruise ships tend to lean more on the gaudy side of décor, but Princess did a fabulous job picking out the colors and fixtures. With a ship of this size, my wife was really hoping for some more shopping options. I feel that Princess could have dropped one of the MANY bars around the Atrium and added a couple of more shops. Other than the gift shop, there was a jewelry shop, a liquor store and a perfume store. This is a beautifully built ship. Even fully booked, as we were with over 2,600 passengers, we did not feel crowded once! Stateroom: We had a private balcony room (one of 750 of them) on the Aloha deck (A200). Our room was port side and 3 staterooms from the front of the ship. We could actually sit on our balcony and watch the captain steer the ship because of Princess’ bridge design that sticks way out on either side. It was a ‘standard’ size room that you would expect. The shower was small, but nice in the fact that it had great water pressure and a massage shower head on it. There is plenty of closet space and lots of hangers. The Princess Theater: The Princess Theater had plenty of seating and was very comfortable. They could have had a few more waiters/waitresses checking in to offer drinks as we were unable to get one during both nights. The entertainment was TOP NOTCH. Absolutely the best entertainment we have seen on a cruise ship. They opened the first night with a small song/dance and introduced the cruise director and staff. They followed that up with a comedian that specialized in impressions. He nailed most of them and overall was pretty funny. The second and final night, the entertainers performed “The Piano Man”. The musical was a beautiful performance celebrating the music of Billy Joel, Liberace, Neil Sedaka, Barry Manilow and Elton John. The choreography and singing talent was superb. Princess really has a group of wonderfully talented individuals onboard. The folks in the band and in the sound/lighting department also did a fabulous job. Explorer’s Lounge: This is where my wife and I headed after the evening show in the Princess Theater. The theme in the lounge is Asian and African themed and also offers plenty of comfortable seating. The talent they brought onboard was hilarious! The first night they offered a ventriloquist. I know, I know, most ventriloquists are annoying and not very good, but this guy really was. It was a family friendly show, but he did get close to crossing the line a few times (which I was hoping for).  The second night, there was a stand-up comedian that has opened for Jerry Seinfeld and Tim Allen. This guy was absolutely one of the funniest live comedians I have seen (on or off of a ship). Again it was a family friendly show, but he did make it very funny and really got the crowd involved in the show. When the two comedy shows ended in the lounge, there was a band who would take the stage. They played mostly top 40 music from the 90’s and some more recent. They weren’t very good and we actually made it a point to make our way past the lounge whenever we saw them on stage. Club Fusion: This venue is similar in style to the Explorer’s Lounge but with a larger dance floor. There are a few video slots/poker in the back so you can gamble while the band plays. The décor is interesting as it’s mostly western style, but never heard western music playing there. It was here that Princess decided to have a contest based on American Idol called Princess Idol. They had guests come up and sing Karaoke. People in the crowd would vote and the second night of the cruise the winners would come back and perform until there was a winner. Leading down a staircase from Club Fusion is the Wake View Bar. This bar is about the size of two staterooms. We walked down there to check it out, but it seems like a waste of space for a bar and probably could better be utilized for storage.  Skywalker Lounge: This is a GREAT place to hang out if you are looking for a spot to party and dance. From the deck below, you take an escalator leading up a black lit corridor to heart pounding bass and flashing lights. The dance floor was a little small, but there is plenty of room around to sit and have a cocktail waiting for an opening. The DJ was excellent and the lighting and effects were intense. The décor was fantastic and really made you feel like you were in a dance club. Wheelhouse Bar: A signature lounge on all of Princess’ Ships, this lounge seemed pretty nice. We walked through it a couple of times, but didn’t see much action in it. It is a nautical themed lounge with a large dance floor and a small three person band that consisted of a drummer and pianist and horns. Churchill’s: Small yet cozy bar. This is Princess’ cigar lounge and the only place onboard where cigar and pipe smoking is permitted. There are a wall of TV’s and a bar with sports memorabilia around the walls. The ceiling has two pool tables in them. This was the perfect place to enjoy the Cuban cigar I had picked up in Canada as well as a nice port wine. Internet Café: We didn’t use this café, but walked through it. It’s definitely more high tech than I’ve seen on other ships. Each terminal has a flat screen monitor and a webcam for video conferencing. You can also print out color pictures to a printer (for a fee). If I recall correctly, the fees for internet service was .35/minute. There is a coffee bar inside here as well. The library also has a few terminals. Lotus Spa/Fitness Room: We took a tour of the Spa when we got onboard before any appointments were made so we could explore the whole thing. What a wonderfully relaxing place. They have dozens of treatments to choose from including two steam rooms which are free of charge. For a massage or other personal treatment, you are led to a private room, each with a water view. You have your choice of music, or none at all, in addition to choice of three scents in the room. Just push a button, and the room is filled with a sweet scent of your choice. While you are waiting for your appointment, you can relax in the Zen room. If you just want a quick back/neck massage. There are sit down tables outside the spa entrance where you can get a 5 minute massage for under $10. The Fitness room is incredible! There is PLENTY of treadmill/elliptical type machines each with their own flat panel TV in addition to plenty of weight machines and free weights. There is a separate room for aerobics. The fitness room overlooks the front of the ship. Poolside: There are four pools onboard, and a fifth kiddy splash pool. There are also several hot tubs around each pool. Two smaller pools in the back and two main pools mid-ship. The main outdoor pool has a walkup bar in addition to a pizzeria and burger/hot dog bar. There also is an ice cream bar, but to my surprise, you have to pay extra for ice cream. In my opinion, Princess should really make this a free food option. I don’t see any point in charging for a scoop of ice cream, but having unlimited free food on the rest of the ship. The temperature on this short cruise was mostly in the upper 50’s so, not many people were at the outdoor pool. Most were next to it in the Solarium pool. All closed in by windows, this pool is a wonderful place to pull up a lounge chair and take a nap. It was always warm and comfortable inside regardless of the weather outside. Food and Dining: We opted for the traditional dining option the main dining room both nights, but Princess does offer an “Alternative Dining Option” which was new to us. In addition to the main dining room, there are four other dining rooms. I didn’t ask too much about this, but from what I understand, you can freely come and go and have the same menu options as presented in the main dining room. Rather than traditional seating where you sit with the same group, you can choose to sit anywhere. In addition to these 5 dining rooms, there is the buffet/bistro in the back of the ship and Sabatini’s restaurant. Here you pay a flat fee and have a dinner in a smaller atmosphere. I’m not sure if the food is any better as I’ve never tried this option on any cruise. I didn’t feel it was necessary to try it on a two night cruise, but may in the future on a longer cruise. The food overall was excellent. I did have one bad meal the first night. I chose to order the New York Strip steak off the alternative menu as nothing appealed to me on the main menu for main course. The steak was a poor cut and was not cooked very well. Other than this choice, everything else on board was wonderful. From the King Crab Legs and Beef Wellington to the scrambled eggs in the buffet/bistro everything was cooked to perfection. Onboard activities: The one thing I love about cruising is the options you have for activities onboard. I had always wanted to try a golf simulator, and did so at one of the two they have onboard. I made an appointment and got up there to play. Apparently the crew member had opened up the simulator a little late that day (although was there on time for me) and decided to let everyone play for free. I ended up playing for almost an hour and finished up 18 holes at Pebble Beach. This was a lot of fun for me, although the putting is impossible!! They have a 9 hole mini-golf course as well complete with sound effects of birds chirping and balls dropping into the cups. There is a walking track on the sports deck and a covered tennis/basketball court. Inside you can participate in trivia challenges, watch a movie, play a board game or just sit and people watch while enjoying a cocktail. Princess definitely provided a lot of options for entertainment. I didn’t see the option to play BINGO either day which my wife and I usually like to participate in. Maybe they offer it on a longer cruise. Overall: The cruise was a wonderful experience. I would have liked to stay on for the next week and continue on to Alaska, but who ever wants to get off of the ship once they are onboard. I definitely recommend this ship for the beginning cruiser or the seasoned cruiser. The food was the best I’ve had of the three companies we’ve sailed with. The entertainment was the best I have seen. The service, while good, was not exceptional. Especially in the dining room where the waiter and head waiter weren’t very personable, nor did we ever see the Maitre d’. We are not heavy drinkers, but do enjoy an occasional cocktail, and the cocktails served to us onboard were fantastic, and VERY reasonable. Martini’s and margaritas for under $5 and well drinks for under $3. This was a nice change from the over $7 drinks we’ve seen on past cruises. One note: Rather than having envelopes to place gratuities in for the end of the cruise, Princess has decided to charge a small fee to your room bill for housekeeping and dining room service. The charges we had were $6.50 for dining room per night and $3.50 per night for housekeeping. Many people decide to not leave a gratuity for service onboard so it’s nice to see Princess do this as these folks rely on gratuities for a majority of their income. However, it isn’t as much as these folks deserve. Definitely try to leave a little more if you can and give it directly to them on the last night of your cruise. Show them that you appreciate their service. They really strive to bring you the best service they can and in many cases are away from family and friends for months at a time to provide a better life for them.

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Nov 30, -0001

Alaska

We traveled to Seattle the day before. We took a Grayline bus from the airport directly to our hotel, the Crowne Plaza, for $10.50 each. The only problem is the bus drops you across the street from the hotel with your luggage on a busy street. Embarkation. We took a cab from our hotel for $12.00 and arrived at the cruise terminal around 10:30 a.m. There was no line for checking in. We had to wait awhile for boarding, but made it to

our stateroom before noon. The ship is beautiful and quite large. We took a tour of the ship at 2:00 p.m. which was a good orientation. This tour is also available the next morning. We opted to stay on the top Lido deck in an inside room. We had several cool and windy days in Alaska and would sit in the covered pool area. Our room steward was very friendly and eager to please. You have to ask for robes, which you will need for coming back from the hottub. The beds are hard, but you can get mattress foam if asked for. All rooms have a safe and a small refrigerator. Activities. It seems to me that besides too many game shows, most of the daytime activities cost money (bingo, art auction, casino, ceramics, computer classes). On the first and last sea day, they sail outside of the inside passage, so much of the area is not scenic. I found this to be true on another Princess sailing and have second thoughts about sailing with them in the future. There is an afternoon movie daily. Right now they feature Sahara, Wedding Date, The Aviator, Phantom of the Opera, and Miss Congeniality. The two production shows were Piano Man and Curtain Up. Both were entertaining. They also had Brandi Chapman, who was a fabulous singer. There were also several comedians who were so-so. The food was generally very good. The afternoon tea and the desserts were a little flat. We were on anytime dining and tried the four themed (included in the fare) dining rooms and enjoyed the variety. The service is spotty, especially in the International dining room which has open seating for lunch and breakfast, with very limited hours. The Horizon Court was bad about having one side closed. This happened at noon just before our arrival in Skagway, causing a long line. I opted for the pizza that day, which was delicious. The only problem with the pizza and grill is that most drinks and dessert in still in the Horizon Court. We heard comments from other passengers that they enjoyed the older Princess ships more because of the crowding in the food court and theater. Ketchikan. We have traveled to Alaska before. We walked around on our own. You can catch a cable car up the hill to Cape Fox Lodge for $2.00 for a scenic view. We found better prices on Creek Street than near the dock. Tracy Arm. We were up early. There was not that many waterfalls, but we did see alot of small icebergs. We sailed up to an island and you could see Sawyer Glacier in the distance. We passed the Diamond Princess on our way out. We went back to bed, and the late sleepers saw some humpback whales. Juneau. We arrived at 2:00 p.m. This was an hour later than the published intinerary and no explanation was given. We apparently waited for an NCL ship to leave and took their space. It is a long walk to town. You can catch a bus for $2.00 roundtrip that takes you to the terminal by Mt. Roberts tram. There are nice souvenir shops closeby. We booked the Whale and Wildlife tour. The bus stopped for a lookout at Mendenhall Glacier. We left on a comfortable boat from Auke Bay up to the Saginaw and Favorite Channels. We saw several humpback whales, bald eagles, and a colony of stellar sea lions. We also saw two lighthouses and two more glaciers. It has been my experience that these tours are your best chance for seeing wildlife and they pull in close for viewing. Skagway. We had aleady booked a rental car with Avis. The only problem was that it was raining in the morning and we had to walk about a mile into town. They are at the Westmark Hotel and seemed to have plenty of cars available. Their staff was very friendly. Including gas over $3.00 per gallon, the rental cost was less than one train ticket. The train only goes to the pass, which was foggy and rainy. The weather cleared up after the pass, so we drove into the Yukon to Carcress. It is about 65 miles. There is not there besides a general store, but it is a beautiful drive. We kept the car to drive past the jewelry stores and expensive shops in Skagway to the end of the strip on Broadway. We went to the Skagway Outlet Store which had a large selection of discounted souvenirs. The ladies at Avis gave us a ride back to the ship. Victoria. The shipped changed to sailing at 11:30 p.m., again wih no explanation. We wanted to go to the Buchart Gardens. The tour from the ship departed at 5:30 p.m. and you would miss the fireworks show. It is a good distance into town. There is a grayline bus for $5.00 round trip that takes you in front of the Empress Hotel. They have a tour to Buchart Gardens that departs at 7:00 p.m. and they tell you that they cannot guarantee your return to the ship for the 11:00 p.m. deadline. When I tried to ask if anyone had ever missed the ship, the girl became unglued and told me that we were not getting on any buses. We as well as several other parties walked away from that rudeness. We walked around the town on our own. The hanging baskets and totem poles add alot of charm. However, the city is unspectacularly urban. There were alot of street people and panhandlers, so Victoria was a disappointment to us. We went back to the ship for dinner. We went out on the deck to view the full moon and skyline after dark. Disembarkation. We arranged transfers thru Princess, but booked our own air. They had us at the bottom of the list, it seems that they disembark by floor ahead of you if you made "other arrangements". They were behind almost an hour, so we did not have "plenty of time" to get to the airport. We had to argue with the pursers desk to move up to an earlier slot. This was my experience and I avoided them when possible. They use Grayline who takes you to a covered tent next to the airport terminal. Alaska, United, and Continental airlines have their own check in booths down there. All others had to walk uphill to the terminal with their bags. Final thoughts. The Inside Passage is unique and beautiful to sail. The Sapphire is new and the public rooms are gorgeous. Due to the lackluster service and daytime activities, I will probably sail with NCL or RCI next. I would not recommend Grayline except for their monopoly on the shuttles to town.

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Nov 30, -0001

mexican riviera

I've cruised many times on many ships. We enjoy Mexico for quick getaway of fun in sun. The Sapphire was well appointed, public areas very clean, robes available, breakfast in cabin or on balcony is most enjoyable. Production Shows were very nice. Most of entertainers comics, etc., were ok, some I could live without. Also too many crafty things - quiz, trivia - felt lounges would have been better served for live entertainment. Piano lounge crammed

into small space NO ONE could get near. Passengers on and off ship runs like clockwork - embarking and disembarking were well organized. Purser desk was friendly and helpful in person or by phone as well as any other crew member I came in contact with. Food presentation excellent and service in dining room very correct just needed to have more spark to make dining fun. I remember that on Princess, we had all Italian waiters, wine steward, head waiter doing cherries jubliee at table as well as pasta...too bad those days are gone. Breads are fantastic aboard ship as well as desserts. **small gripe - do not like to pay for ice cream on deck. They had hamburgers, hot dogs and pizza on the deck by the pool. Greatest idea to sell cards for Soft Drinks. Well worth price. Perfection well lit...bathroom good size. Soaps lotions, etc. very nice, very clean. Beach towels exchanged daily. Having safe in cabin for passport, etc. We had a balcony and that was well worth it to sit outside when you sail away or for drink or breakfast Lots of things to do, though too many crafts. BINGO was fun, I liked all demonstrations flowers, culinary, mixing drinks, art auction (sometimes a bit too many). I enjoyed shore excursion, as the talks were very informative. Cruise Staff work so hard even though few were in attendance for some of planned activities. Country Western not complete bust, the Karakoe was very bad, pool games were nice. Loved the ice carvings. There was music everywhere and I like that, too. First timers to area good idea to take some excursions to see sights. Taxis and vans are always at ports for hire I would advice first timers to take a tour. If you like water sports they are great in this area. Golf was fun but would not advice to take your own clubs. Rentals are available. Group of friends decided to have quick getaway before holidays so off we went on Sapphire flew to Lax used Princess transfers and we were met a whisked straight to Port for check-in. We had a bite of lunch upon arrival in Horizon. Our bags had been delivered to Cabin.We unpacked and joined boat drill and then to dinner. We were early dining table 49. After dinner we watched a show in the Theater, then to the casino and then to bed. One of us needed a wheelchair and they met us at Pier and transported her to the Cabin. We tried to do everything had Tea in afternoon, wine tasting presentation, very informative and enjoyable. We have stopped purchasing photos...much too expensive for souvenier. Need to do more 5x7's and chg less. Big ones are OK for portraits and large groups...most passengers should take their own - just my opinion. Hope to sail again very soon!

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Nov 30, -0001

Beijing to Osaka

My first trip to Asia, something my sister and I have been planning for years and haven’t had the best of luck in putting it together. At first, I always thought it would cost too much money. Then around 1999, I started seeing good specials through Renaissance cruises. We booked our dream cruise (complete with balcony) on the R8. A few months before leaving, they cancelled the cruise and just booked us on another voyage of their choosing. Well being

working stiffs we could not just take any sailing. We explained this to Renaissance and we could not be accommodated on a sailing that suited us so our trip was not to be. Then a few years later we noticed Princess had some good sailings to Asia, so we booked again. This cruise was cancelled due to ‘lack of interest’ because it sailed the autumn after the SARS scare so once again, Asia was not meant to be. Princess did make a deal with us for a wonderful sailing on the Royal Princess from Manaus to Rome, which I can say did ‘ease of pain’ of missing out on our special Asia cruise. On board the Dawn Princess we booked the Asia itinerary once again for April 2005. This was a 16-day Bangkok to Beijing. I began my research, and started reading everything I could on the ports we were going to. As the time drew closer we found out that we would not have the time to do everything we wanted to on one trip. We wanted to spend time pre-cruise in Thailand, as well as post cruise in Hong Kong. The other problem was we had to climb the Great Wall and that was in Beijing. We were not going to have enough time to do all this. We started looking at the itinerary right after ours, and like an angel out of nowhere, we received a captain’s circle special for a complementary cruise tour in Beijing (including the great wall) if you purchase a balcony stateroom on the 12-day sailing Beijing to Osaka. We took a closer look at this itinerary. It would allow us to see the great wall, Beijing and still gave us enough time to stay a few days in Japan afterwards. All this and it would still only mean being away for three weeks from work. We booked it and decided to leave Southeast Asia for a future trip. I started studying the new itinerary ports and really became excited at the opportunity to go to Vladivostok and the possibility of seeing Tokyo and Mt Fuji. THURSDAY, APRIL 7 2005 - DEPART TORONTO For years I was dreading the flight to Asia. I can take a five hour flight no problem, but once the flight gets to be 10+ hours I start getting antsy. With our planning we looked into the most direct flights from Toronto to Beijing and home from Osaka to Toronto. We flew 5 hours to Vancouver and then Vancouver to Beijing was just slightly less than 10 hours. It wasn’t too painful at all. We did the air through Princess but paid a deviation fee for our chosen Air Canada direct flights. We purchased our Princess transfers from the Beijing airport to the hotel. The transfer cost about US$35 each and was about a 30 min drive. Cab drivers do not really speak English so unless you have a map or your destination written in Chinese I was not comfortable that I could make myself understood. I remembered the Beijing airport being quite nice and very easy to navigate. Customs was a breeze and the people were immediately making me feel welcome. TIP #1: I picked up a great map of Beijing free at the airport just before going into the customs hall on a huge escalator. This map was excellent and I never saw another one like it. Everyone was asking me where I got it, so look for things like this when you are there. Immediately at the luggage carousel I found a porter and I spoke to him to see if he spoke and understood English. He got our bags and new where to take us when we showed him the Princess logo on our tickets. After he found our representative he then found out where we were to go and get the bus. Now, this is where the tip comes in handy. TIP #2: Unless you can totally handle your own bags – get a porter. Where we got the Princess bus was not right out the doors where all the cabs were. We had to go upstairs to a big bus loading area. The Princess representative did not even know where to go. It was our guy that led everyone to the elevator. Of course, he got our bags on the elevator first and he asked people until he found the bus and every one just follow him. People were dragging their heavy bags themselves. We had four bags, so I didn’t know if $10 dollars was enough, since we went all over the place but he seemed more than happy. Furthermore, since he was looking after getting our bags put onto the bus as we went right on and got the front seats. So I figured that was money well spent. Thinking about him now, I wish we took a picture with him because he was the first local person we met and really set the stage for the others we would meet in China along the way. Once we arrived at the Great Wall Sheraton we checked in to the cruisetour desk and got our room. This was all pretty painless. We were on the 15th floor which was the Starwood Preferred floor. I am a member but I did not give Princess my number or anything so I am not sure if the Sheraton looked up the names on their database or we just lucked out. I noticed that only us and one other couple were on that floor. Most people on our tour were on the fifth floor. Our room was great! It was really nicely appointed, a great size and very comfortable. The large king size bed had great feather pillows and nice bedding and was a relaxing sleep. I was a bit worried since the reviews were sparse and not many positive ones. So if you are staying here – don’t worry your stay will be pleasant. I remember the hotel having the most beautiful exotic flowers like ginger torches and orchids. Beijing is not a tropical climate so I greatly enjoyed them. Beijing has a road network made up of many ring roads. The Great Wall Sheraton was located in the NE corner of the third ring road. It was in the right in the heart of the Embassy district so it was very safe. The only thing wrong with this location was there was not anywhere you would want to walk to. There was not a lot around the hotel. This did not pose a problem because taxis were so cheap you could get anywhere for next to nothing. The hotel prices were fairly inexpensive compared to American standards. This is why I was worried it was going to be a ‘flea bag’. By the time we got into our room it was about 4pm. We knew this afternoon was one of the only chances we got to do some shopping in Beijing so we had planned to get right out there into the trenches and shop! The thought of all the goodies we were going to get recharged us after the long flight. Our plan was two fold, we figured we would be so tired after the shopping we could just flop into bed and fight any jet lag. As mentioned before the taxi drivers do not speak English so you must get a card from the hotel that has the hotel name in Chinese to get you back. They also have a list of all the major attractions and shopping areas so you merely point to it to tell the driver where you want to go. The silk market was on the list so that is why we decided to go there first. Just in the weeks prior to us going there, Beijing had started to rip down and attempt to clean up a lot of these older markets. We were concerned our shopping areas we had been researching were not going to be there. Do worry about this, as they have just moved them to new, more mall-like structures. The doorman arranged a private car to take us to the silk market for about 21cny which was less than $3usd. It was definitely not walkable to the silk market – it was about a 25 minute drive and would be longer in traffic. The weather was cloudy and threatening rain. This would be the worst day as far as weather was. We were so excited about being there, that the weather did not hinder us. CHINA exchange rates April 2005 1 CAD = 6.89369 CNY 1 USD = 8.27670 CNY 1 CNY = 0.145060 CAD 1 CNY = 0.120821 USD NiHao (knee-how) - Hello or standard greeting. Often said twice along with a nod or slight bow SHOPPING IN BEIJING We did quite a bit of research regarding shopping. What to buy, where to buy (in Beijing vs. Shanghai – another stop later on in the week). We walked into the silk market and before us was a myriad of stalls of designer clothing knockoffs, copies and factory overruns. The market was in a very plain looking building of five or six floors filled with stalls. Top floor – filled with kitsch and other Chinese souvenirs. 3rd floor – bolts of silks and other materials, robes, table cloths, scarves, pillow coverings and anything else you could think of. 2nd floor – clothing, shoes and more Chinese robes and materials 1st floor – clothes, jackets, overcoats, men’s suits, trench coats and anything else designer related that you could imagine. Basement – this was the best place and we only discovered it 40 minutes before leaving. Here was anything & everything related to leather or vinyl. Luggage, purses, wallets, briefcases and on and on. We started off buying imitation Goretex jackets. Now they may have been North Face jackets but they are certainly not Goretex. However, we got two winter coats complete with fleece jacket lining for $450 cny. This is about $20usd each. This booth was run by some high bargaining, high powered business women. We really enjoyed bartering with them. TIP #3: The regular market-shopping rules applied. Try to buy as much as you can from one vendor, buy in bulk and work in a team with your shopping partner. Once we made our first purchase there was a taste for blood and there was no stopping us. Here we bought silk pillow covers, some vintage Chinese 50’s era advertising posters, Tommy Bahama shirts, knockoff designer wear and some kitschy souvenirs. If you are interested in further shopping information you can email me at: StingrayNZ(nospam)@aol.com Just remove the (nospam) from the address please. This was the first place we got taken. We bought the ‘little red book’ of Chairman Mao’s teachings on the souvenir floor. Near the end of our trip when Beijing was a world away I went to read some passages and noticed…..the book was in @#$%#& French! TIP #4: make sure you check everything you buy!!! Check clothes for holes or the wrong sizes (hence the second….and last…time we got taken) When we had more bags then we could carry we went outside to find a cab. To our surprise it was already almost 9pm, dark and pouring rain. There was only one cab waiting and he wanted $150 cny, out of principle we said ‘no’ but thinking back it was only about $12usd. There were so many pedi-cabs but we could not ask them to peddle us a minimum 20-minute drive away in the pouring rain. We decided to cross the road to a busier street to hail a cab. Well, it was a Friday night and pouring rain and hailing a cab was just as impossible as hailing a cab in Manhattan on a Friday night when it is pouring rain! We eyed a McDonalds and decided to go in there to get out of the rain and have something to eat. We had a Big Mac to test out the quality control and for only a few dollars we both ate and rested our weary bones. Afterwards, we walked and walked and finally stopped at another hotel thinking we could catch a cab. We finally did but even at this hotel it was hard to get a cab. At this point it was teeming rain and we bonded with the non-English speaking driver because all of us were nervously giggling at the times when we could not see the road in front of the car! TIP #5: Make sure you point to the meter to alert the driver to turn it on or who knows what you may be paying at your destination. I remember the fare on the meter barely changed and I thought it was broken. In fact, it was just really inexpensive. The fare was barely a few bucks and there were two of us paying so we doubled it and gave it to our friendly driver. He was so shocked that he was refusing it. When we insisted he thanked us like we gave him the world. I thought he deserved it and quite frankly, we were just happy to get back to the hotel. SATURDAY, APRIL 9 2005 - DAY 1 CRUISE TOUR BEIJING Getting up on time was no problem because of the jetlag. In fact, most people were up at 2am and wide-awake. Breakfast was between 6 and 8am. We arrived down around 7am to find no seats and no food. So from then on we went to breakfast after the mad rush but just before we had to go out to the buses. Our first stop on the cruise tour was the Forbidden City also called “Palace Museum”. It is right in central Beijing and was the Imperial Palace of the Ming and Qing (pronounced Ching) dynasties. Construction of the Forbidden City began in 1406 and emperors rules from here for nearly 500 years. My reflections on this are mostly overwhelming and awe inspiring. These words I will probably use to describe many of the things I would see in Beijing. This massive walled palace was meant to protect the emperors however, it is said that some emperors felt it imprisoned them. You cannot imagine the size of this walled city. Even though the day I visited there were thousands of tourists, it appeared and felt uncrowded. It occupies an area over 720,000 sq. metres and has 9,000 halls and rooms. There was a lot of work being done and scaffolding covering buildings. I imagine there will be much more of this restoration before the Olympics in 2008. After seeing The Forbidden City, we went to Tien’namen Square which is right across a huge boulevard from the walls of the Forbidden City. Tien’namen just seems a little more infamous in my eyes as my generation watched protests that took the lives of tens of thousands of protesting students. I was so affected by this visit, as I too, was a student during the days of these protests and could only imagine the oppression felt that would cause those to give up their lives. The square was actually nothing as I pictured, even though this was the one place I was most familiar with. The layout, the size, the placement of the buildings and the feeling of it all, was not at all what I expected. This is one of the reasons travelling has become my passion. You can picture something in your mind and then you get there and it is not what you imagined at all. Be very aware of your possessions in the square, I did get the feeling of many pickpockets and thieves that would grab a purse, bag or camera and disappear into the crowd. We bought some souvenir picture books and I was very nervous taking out my money. There are all sorts of things you can buy from people wandering around so make sure you have some small bills handy in your front pockets. We ended up buying four books on different Beijing sights for around $3 usd each. Usually I buy the same type in Europe for about $8 or 10 each so I was happy to get them at that price. I found that generally the peddlers in the tourist areas (Tien’namen Square, Summer Palace, Great wall etc.) they bargained in $usd but they would take any currency. This way I found it easy to do some fast bargaining because I knew what I wanted to pay in dollars vs. converting CNY on the fly. After seeing the square and buying my books we boarded the bus and went to a big restaurant for lunch. At the provided lunch and dinners on the cruise tour we did eat Chinese food and I always enjoyed it. I noticed most people were interested in trying everything that was offered. There were a few that did not want to try anything and I suspect they went on a forced diet for the few days we were there. Meat and potatoes were definitely not on the menu. In the afternoon we went to the Temple of Heaven, also right in downtown Beijing. Here the peddling was rampant, it reminded me a little of Jamaica. There were two factors that made it unpleasant but I still can’t figure out which one was more against the law. Firstly, they all took US dollars which is definitely black market. Secondly, this was the only place they sold Olympic souvenirs. Obviously they were not authorized and the gear was not authorized. I would have preferred to buy the authentic Olympic wear but there were no stores or stands that sold it. Here the peddlers seemed to be giving this stuff away so if you’re going to buy wait until you are coming out and back to the buses because the prices really drop. I’m talking six hats for $3 or $1 each. They are not well made but by any means, but we all bought them anyway. T-shirts we bought at first for $5 ea and later the prices dropped even lower. Check everything very carefully for flaws. I thought my shirt looked black but it was actually navy blue. I have washed it a few times to date and it washes quite well and everyone loves it. I love my shirt, but I probably would not have gone through the black market garbage I had to go through to get it. I would just wave the people away and be on my way. The Temple itself was very grand but by this time I had enough and was ready to see something else, like the pearl market. After leaving the Temple, we headed back to the hotel and had a free night. We again took advantage of our free time by shopping the fabulous markets of Beijing. We went back to the hotel, got some money together and headed to the pearl market. It is located basically right across the street from the Temple of Heaven, but our guide would not let us stray from the group and it seemed we all had go be delivered back to the hotel together. Our guide did arrange for a ride for us back to the pearl market. We were met by one of the managers of the pearl selling establishments upstairs at the market. She relentlessly kept showing us very expensive pieces of jewelry. Even if I was interested in buying any of this stuff, it was way out of my price range. We finally convinced her to show us something under $50 dollars and I did end up buying a pair of earrings I liked. She just didn’t seem to understand that we were interested in buying just plain stuff for a few bucks here and there not thousand-dollar pieces of jewelry. So if you are interested in such pearls you can get anything you want at the pearl market. I believe through the last few months, they have been clearing out a lot of the older outdoor markets. I read in my Toronto newspaper travel section the original silk market and others are now cleared out. As much as I read people liked these older markets, I think I really preferred the new ones they were clean and well laid out. Even the pearl market I found to be too much. Picture hundreds of stalls with everything under the sun piled 20 feet tall. One area was clothing, another area was scarves, electronics, Chinese kitsch. You really needed a clear head for this place and after a full day of touring we needed easier shopping or we would have been defeated. Some of our best purchases at the pearl market were silk scarves which we thought were only ‘silk-like’ but my sister saw the exact ones here at home for $49 each and my sister bought six for $2 at the Pearl market. We also bought some really cute wine bottle covers for 3 for $1. In our China town here in Toronto, I saw them for $5 each. We gave one to our beloved travel agent on a wine gift and it looked really great. It was like a little Chinese silk robe on the bottle. I wish I bought more because I realized only when I got home how cute they were. While we were at the market there were literally hundreds of thousands and you really had to go through them to look for runs and flaws. The more we asked “do you have more like this?…..the woman went away and came back with hundreds more. This was about the point my sister turned to me and said I’ve had enough. I said I would leave but to only go back to the silk market and she would have to brave it out! On the whole, we thought the pearl market was too overwhelming to pick through and we preferred the silk market. We went outside and caught a cab. With our card that had all the destinations written in Chinese, we pointed to the silk market and motioned to the meter. Once he turned the meter on we were off. As it was we were quite a distance away from the silk market our driver took the freeway. As the driver went to exit the freeway, it was all barricaded off. I can’t understand Mandarin but I could see he had no idea why the exits were blocked. He tried each exit as we drove down the freeway and they were all blocked off. OK what was going on? We took the long way around and you could feel something weird was happening. We saw a pack of marching soldiers – something big was going down. I could see from the driver’s reactions that this was not too common. We finally got to the silk market. First, we had to nourish up so we went back to the McDonalds around the corner. It was just like home and a third the price. We went back to the market and bought more jackets from our friends right at the stall right inside the front door. We went downstairs to check this floor out – since we didn’t get to it the other night. We went down the escalator and my eyes almost bulged out of my head! Purses, bags, leathers and luggage! I wanted so many things and knew I only had time to make one deal. Oh Yeah! We found out later on…. (back at the hotel) that there was a huge protest at the Japanese embassy due to some new history books that were being used that were re-writing history by not claiming atrocities that took place. SUNDAY, APRIL 10 2005 - DAY 2 CRUISE TOUR BEIJING The weather in Beijing was a very pleasant low to mid 70s. At the Great Wall it was about 10 degrees cooler and a great temp for climbing. The drive to the Great Wall at Badaling Pass from Beijing was about an hour. I have a list of places in the world that I have to see in my lifetime. The great wall has been on the list for a long time. In fact, one of the selling points of this cruise was that it began in Beijing so we could see it. During the drive the landscape outside Beijing turned Mountainous. I new we were getting closer. With my eyes peeled out the bus window, I suddenly got a look at a walled structure, then, I saw it in the distance, The Great Wall of China! A structure that is said can be seen from space. Once we got to the area where we could have access to the steps to start climbing up I became very excited with emotion and almost could not believe I was there. I just took my time and stopped often and kept looking out over the expanse and enjoyed my walk. I noticed there was a dusting of snow on the ground but not on the steps. I found out later that due to the snowfall the day before it was almost impossible for the others on the cruisetour that had gone the day before to climb the wall. At this area of the wall, there is a very commercial area and a garrison type structure that you buy your tickets before you start your climb. At this point there are two directions in which you can go up the wall. TIP #6: Where you stand to buy the tickets (if you are facing that direction) you can either go to the left or the right. There are pluses and minuses to both directions. The left is steeper and harder to climb and because of this, less crowded. Our guide recommended us to go this direction because you could tell the other side was already getting very crowded. We took his recommendation and I was glad we did. We wanted to get a picture on a camel, just as our friends did on their visit last fall. We thought that was so odd to have a picture taken on a camel on the Great Wall. The day we were there the camel was not there. We went all the way to top of our section and no camel! Actually, the camel was there, it was on the more crowded side, so we missed it. Choose your side accordingly. If you are not interested in buying the picture on the camel I would take the recommendation of Edward, our guide and stay to the left side. It was not hard to climb and I think having less people make it easier as it is hard to walk up steps behind crowds of people. Wear layers so you can peel them off as you become warmer from climbing. You may also want to bring gloves so you can grab onto the railings and walls even if they look grubby. In fact I wore my gloves for most of my time touring in China. At the top of the section we were climbing, they have someone you can buy a souvenir certificate of your accomplishment. They even have a laminating machine so it stays protected. You cannot say the Chinese are not enterprising. For those who do not want to walk up, there are sitting areas you can sip tea and of course, shop. We spent about 1.5 hours at the great wall, which is about the minimum time you need here. The great wall or as they call it the ‘long wall’ was built for protection against Mongolia. It is a true symbol of the tireless spirit and wisdom of the Chinese people in ancient times. After visiting the wall everyone was in the greatest spirit. We drove through the Yan mountains and their terraced slopes toward our stop for lunch. We went to the Yulong restaurant that was attached to a ‘friendship store’ where you could visit a cloisienne (sp?) museum, change currency and shop. The good thing about this shopping stop was all the prices were marked so you got a good feeling of what things cost. Keep in mind everything here however, is probably twice as much as in the markets. If you were making any big purchases such as pearls or rugs I would buy them here because you have the confidence nothing is fake. We bought some pearls and I love mine. They were freshwater, but still a great deal. In Japan, they would have been far too expensive for me to justify buying. TIP #7: Remember to check to make sure pearls are real you must rub them against each other. Real pearls will feel like sand paper and rough. They should not be a smooth texture when you rub it against another pearl on the strand. The lunch was very enjoyable, however, I loved all the Chinese food we had on the tour. There were some who barely ate a bite. We had about 2 hours here total. After the shopping and a fantastic lunch we were fueled up for some more treasures from the dynasties. We visited the Sacred Road, a burial place of 14 emperors. For the most part we just walked down the road and admired the gorgeous statues. We spent about 40 minutes here and then we had to get back to get ready for our banquet dinner with our Chinese hosts. Regardless of the time we got back I was so bagged I had to have a shower to wake myself up or I would be afraid I would sleep at the dinner table. We had to leave 40 minutes to drive there even though it was only a few miles away because the traffic is so horrendous. The banquet was at the Beijing hotel and it was beautifully ornate in Chinese tradition. Everyone on any of the Princess cruisetours attended the banquet as well as all the guides and hosts. The grand ballroom must have held over 1000 guests. The night was a real treat, not only was the food phenomenal but there was a classical orchestra from the symphony and they had a soprano and a tenor from the opera. The performance was one I will never forget and the voice of the tenor made me very emotional. After dinner, there were many performances from children dance troops and they were so cute. On the way back to the Great Wall Sheraton, I would say most people were sleeping on the bus from such a fun-packed day. The hotel I noted as having the best location was the Grand Hotel Beijing. This is the hotel where we attended the Princess Banquet. Our guides said this hotel was the oldest, the best & very famous. It was over 100 years old and had a very long history. That would be the location I would stay at if I were to go to Beijing again MONDAY, APRIL 11 2005 - LEAVE BEIJING TO XINGANG This morning as every morning we were out at the bus by 8am. We said goodbye to our suitcases as they were going straight to the ship and the next time we would see them would be in our stateroom. Today we were visiting the Summer Palace. It was located on the outer edges of western Beijing and the Monday morning was chalk full of hustle and bustle. The Summer Palace was a palace of gardens used for entertaining for banquets, meetings, opera and other performances of the arts. The emperor went from Forbidden City to Summer Palace by boat down the rivers and canals. They never spent the night there, even thought the place had many palatial buildings and was unbelievably huge. The opulence reminded me of the palaces of the Czars in St Petersburg Russia. The Summer Palace had a huge expanse and was on the shores overlooking a beautiful lake. It was very busy with tourists, pickpockets and peddlers. We finished with a boat ride on the lake and then we were off to eat. Again! This time we would visit central Beijing to the famous Quanjude restaurant that specializes in no other than Peking Duck. There were many courses and the duck comes towards the end of the meal so make sure you save some room. It is roasted and is enjoyed with a thick brown sauce. I enjoyed the meat but the skin was very fatty. After lunch we took this opportunity to walk around the area of the restaurant as it was on a very busy Beijing street. The best part of the area was in behind, there were mazes of back alleys, almost a city within a city that you would never see from the street. This alley community seemed to me to be what the real Beijing was all about. These are the types of areas that are being demolished for newer buildings and huge high rises. We then boarded the bus for the last time and headed for the port and the Sapphire Princess. The port’s name was Xingang and was in the city of Tianjin. Tianjin is the third largest city in China after Beijing and Shanghai. It was a 2.5 – 3 hour drive to Tianjin mostly rural areas. Tianjin is 120 km from Beijing. Tianjin dates back around 600 years to 1405, same time period that forbidden city was built. Our tour guide Edward lived in Tianjin and commuted to Beijing everyday. He told us that within ten years, Beijing and Tianjin would be connected as a huge megalopolis. Unbelievable! I remembered people complaining about Princess having check in at the Renaissance hotel on the CC boards. In fact, this was a great idea, as the port area where the ship is docked had no facilities for check in and people to be comfortably processed. In fact, the Renaissance hotel Princess check in was one of the most organized and pleasant experience in almost 20 cruises. For those that were complaining because they did not want to do a Princess transfer, I’m not sure, but I don’t think you could just hail a cab a get into the port as they are all blocked off. I often think people forget this is still a communist country. If you are planning to get to the ship on your own make sure you investigate this. We were finally boarding the Sapphire Princess and it already felt like we had done so much and been away so long…. Once we were welcomed on board we went to the room and unloaded our clothes from the tour days in Beijing and did laundry. The laundry rooms were pay machines but there was a change machine and a place to buy detergent and dryer sheets. We figured our stuff would be washing/drying during the muster drill. We took a cabin on Caribe 735 on the port side. We paid a little extra to get the larger veranda that the Caribe deck offered. We choose the port or starboard side according to itinerary, often it turns out to be a port side balcony. We like to think it is POSH (Port Outbound Starboard Homeward). We had never sailed on the grand class of ships on Princess. We were not sure how the terraced balconies would be. This was also the biggest ship we have ever sailed on. The Celebrity Constellation or Radiance of the Seas would be the largest ship we sailed on to date. We sailed at 7pm just as we were finishing up our laundry and sailing out of Xingang on a very misty and cool night. Air temp was 57.2F and the seas were calm. We sail through the Bo Hay Bay setting a east/north easterly course toward Dalian. Usually on a longer or particularly special sailing like this, we would go see the Maitre D’ to check our table location and size. This time we just didn’t get a chance. We showed up and had a table for 8, which is a size we enjoy. This is the only time this has happened so far but the table dynamics were not great. We are the kind of people that enjoy a lot of banter and fun at the dinner table. Both of us also look to the waiter for recommendations on almost everything. In fact, one of our favorite waiters we had was on the Constellation and it came to the point where he told us what we were eating for almost every course. They have tried all the dishes they see them all the time, not to mention they see what it looks like on the first seating so they know what looks good. He would often say “don’t get the lamb tonight because tomorrow it is much better” and so on. I would order the pasta and he would smile and say ‘beef it is!’ Our waiter on the Sapphire was a little too serious and refused to commit to a recommendation. If I ask what to have, I am not going to come back and complain to them later for making a recommendation. I asked him about a dressing for the salad and he said he does not know me well enough to recommend. However, if I go to a restaurant at home they have not seen me before and they still make recommendations. I asked him what one (dressing) he likes and he said ‘I don’t eat salad’. I asked him what entrée is the best tonight? And he replied, “everything is good tonight” Ok we all know some things are better than others. He then said he does not feel comfortable making a suggestion. OK fine I get it. After dinner, I mentioned the experience to my sister and it was bizarre as she had pretty much the same conversation with the waiter. I felt since we paid a lot and this was a 12 day cruise, we should look into some other options. Having the same waiter and tablemates is the precise reason we do the traditional seating at dinner. The next day we decided we would go see the maitre d’. TUESDAY, APRIL 12 2005 - DALIAN, CHINA 8am – 5pm Temp 50F / Fresh Breeze / Overcast / Smooth seas A Distance of 196 nautical miles from Xingang. NOTE: 1 nautical mile = 1.15 Statute miles = 1.85 Kilomteres = 6,076 feet. We traveled at an average speed of 18.8 knots. Before you get completely awestruck by my knowledge of our nautical course, I’ll credit that to the ship’s navigator. I woke up just after dawn and very excited about our first day of the cruise. There was a morning dawn I will never forget. The sun was a particularly odd shape because of the haze and clouds, it was a bright orangey-red and completely exquisite. A good day to be alive! Usually, we try to book our own tours and guides wherever possible. The Asian itinerary proved to be difficult to do this. We were also very concerned about navigating on our own and the language barrier. There was very limited information on CC regarding these ports and I found it hard to locate guides. So I hope my review will aid you to do more things on your own. In Dalian we thought the kite flying looked like a fun option. We did a bit of a walking tour first. It was actually more walking than a tour as the students were not that comfortable narrating what we were seeing. In fact, the walking part of the tour could very well be done on your own. Unless there is something specific in the list of tours you want to see you could very well just walk around the city on your own. The only thing was, it was a far walk into the town from the port (maybe 30 minutes) before you start seeing anything interesting. The ship being large must dock at commercial ports. There is a huge monument of a soccer ball (football). Walk towards this monument and then just walk around the main streets. Take note of landmarks to find your way back. Most people do not speak English. This day was very windy and cold so the walk was good to keep us warm. After the walking part of tour, but before the kite flying, we stopped into a small basement bar. It was very unusual and weird. We all had a drink and some odd snacks consisting of small cakes and black eggs. After the bar stop we went to the kite flying park. This made the tour all worth it. The park was up on a hillside and overlooked the entire city and the cherry blossoms were still in bloom. It was breathtaking! We picked out our kites and had about 1 hour or so to fly them. My kite had the face of the dude from the famous Peking opera. After the kite flying we returned to the port. It seemed when there were students hosting the tour they may be 3 – 5 of them so bring smaller bills to tip – just in case. We usually give a $5usd or $10 and we had no money to split between them. These students are mostly college students who are majoring in English. Many of them were studying to be interpreters. They work on a completely volunteer basis so tips were very welcome. The Dalian student guides mentioned how Dalian was a small city in China. With a population of six million, that makes it twice the size of Toronto, the largest city in Canada - where we come from. Dalian is the 3rd largest port in China, with Shanghai being the first and Tianjin being the second largest. We were lucky enough to visit all three on this itinerary and being on such a huge ship we were always berthed at the commercial piers. After we left Dalian, Sapphire Princess rounded the Huanbai Zui Cape and entered into the Yellow Sea at a southeasterly course headed for Shanghai. WEDNESDAY, APRIL 13 2005 - AT SEA Temp 62F / moderate breeze / sunny / slight seas The days at sea are all about relaxation for us, after all this is our vacation from very busy careers. My sister and I are usually on the same page. This makes things very easy. We usually sleep in. On most sea days, if it weren’t for the lecturers I would barely be out of the room by mid morning. On this sailing we were very lucky to have a lecturer from NASA. His first topic was on the investigation into the space shuttle accident. I won’t tell you the findings – you’ll have to go to the lecture series. He was an excellent speaker, very knowledgeable and well spoken. Sometimes you get lecturers who are very intelligent but very dry and boring. You know the types from the university lecture hall – I wonder why no one went to class? Today was the planned day to meet our CruiseCritic group at the wheelhouse bar. We already knew one of the roll call members, a friend of ours from a previous Princess sailing. When we arrived, only Barbara was there which was great to see her however, unfortunately there was no one else there from the roll call. Afterwards, when I returned home there was a posting to the original roll call message board from a couple who said they arrived at the meeting time and no one was there. This was very unfortunate, because we were there and we even sat for a bit and stood around the bar. There were very few people in the wheelhouse bar and no one seemed to be looking to meet a group. So I am quite surprised by the post. We made plans with Barbara to eat at Sabatini’s for brunch. Sabatini’s was the alternative Italian restaurant on board that has an extra fee. I had heard from these boards that the dinner was excellent and very much worth the money, but just too much food to consume at night. They do have a brunch and it was excellent. Sabatini’s was a highlight of our on board experience. The brunch really became popular as the cruise went on and it was often booked. Brunch is only available on sea days so get in there early. The other onboard item that quickly became our favorite was the lecturer from NASA. We always made sure we were up and ready to attend his lectures on Space and other related topics.

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Nov 30, -0001

Alaska

  Three couples traveled together, 2 in our fifties one in their 60's. All have cruised on various lines in the past. We flew the day before our cruise from Hamilton, Ontario to Vancouver, B.C. with a brief stop over for 1 hour in Calgary, Alberta with West Jet Airlines. The flight was fine, on time and the stop over exactly 1 hour only. Kudos to West Jet for efficient, friendly service. From Vancouver to Anchorage we flew

Air Canada and what can I say? They need to take lessons in hospitality from West Jet. No comparison. West Jet has a much friendlier staff, they want to be there. Air Canada staff seem to just be doing any old job. Princess reps met us in Anchorage to direct us to our bus that would take us to the port in Whittier. They were also very efficient with plenty of signage to greet us and direct us in the right direction. We retrieved our luggage put it in an area where Princess staff were located and forgot about it until it was time to unpack it later that evening when it was delivered to our room( approx at 6pm) not bad at all. Bus trip to Whittier port was in a comfortable bus and this trip alone was amazing. Beautiful scenery with a very nice driver who explained as we went along all the sites. Bus trip took about 1 hr and 15 mins but did not seem so long because it was so enjoyable. What can I say about the Sapphire, except that it is beautiful. Very large and we were at almost full capacity of 2670 passengers but we never felt crowded and never had to wait in long line ups for anything. Embarkation was a breeze in Whittier. Disembarkation was just ok, a bit more confusing at the port as to where to go, i.e.. which bus to get on and which line to be in. But we just kept asking questions and eventually were on our bus to the Vancouver airport. We had a mini suite with a balcony on Dolphin deck, mid ship by the elevators. Even though by the elevators it was not at all noisy. Our cabin steward, Ferdinand, opened up the doors between our 3 balconies right when we got in and this way we were able to go back and forth and enjoy the company of our friends while sitting outside.  The balcony is so very worth the extra cost, especially on the first 2 days of scenic cruising. It is spectacular to wake up in the morning and be able to sit on your balcony with all of the beautiful glacier scenery around you. We really lucked out on the 2nd day at Glacier Bay, it was a sunny day all day. We sat out on the deck in the afternoon and just took it all in. The Champagne breakfast for $28.00 dollars per couple to have on the day you are in Glacier Bay is awesome. I had heard that you got a lot of food but did not expect the amount we did receive. A bottle of champagne, 2 portions of smoked salmon with cream cheese (4 pieces of smoked salmon each), 2 bagels, a large plate of assorted fruit and a large plate of assorted French pastries. Well worth the money, especially on this day when the Glacier Bay scenery was so special. We ate at the Horizons Court buffet for every other breakfast and every lunch. A wonderful selection of every food from pastas to fish, fruit, hot and cold cereals. Everything you can imagine. Every lunch hour there was also a different item at the carving area, ex. beef brisket, large leg of pork, meat loaf to name a few. Every evening we ate at the International Dining Room, late seating at 8pm. We were going to try anytime dining but the 8pm worked into our schedule perfectly. Our waiter Louie and the junior waiter Jorge could not have done any more for us or been any nicer. Extra portions of anything you wanted, small portion of anything you wanted to just try and suggestions were the norm for them. We purchased wine every evening and found the prices reasonable. Anywhere from $21 for a nice bottle of Pinot Noir to as much as you wanted to spend. The menus are the same in all of the pre set times dining rooms and the anytime dining rooms. Just the decor changed and each one had their own pre set menus each day, ex. filet steak in the International, fajita in the Sante Fe. In our dining room (International) the food was excellent all the time. Only exception was the Rock Cornish Hen 2 at our table ordered one evening, it was edible buy very dry as if pre cooked and than left sitting too long. Other than this though everything else was perfect. There are 2 formal nights if you want to dress up which we did, men in suits and ties but if you prefer you can eat at one of the many other dining rooms where you do not have to dress up on these nights, or at the buffet. Entertainment was good, shows in the Princess Theatre very well done. Comedian one evening was just ok. There is a band for every taste, Rock, plenty of Ballroom dancing music and a superb Disco, very loud if that's what you like on Deck 18, Skywalkers Lounge and Disco. Art auctions are very big on this cruise ship if you want to attend in the afternoons. We did not. There are also 2 ding rooms, Sabatini's Italian and Sterling's Steakhouse where there is a sur-charge per person, $20 and $15 each. We were going to go and did make a reservation but than found out the next evening was going to be Italian night in our dining room so we did not bother and were glad we did. Our meal was excellent and included our waiter Louie, singing O Sole Mio, just for us. Especially since he found out we were Italian and wanted us to feel welcome. After this we never even thought of paying extra to go anywhere else, it couldn't be any better than what we were getting. Food or service wise. The pools are well kept as are the hot tubs. The ship is spotless, our cabin was cleaned 2 times a day. Everything was beautiful. the only down side to the ship and we put it in our comment cards to them is that you have to pay for soda and for ice cream at the Sundae Bar, very bad taste for what it would cost them to include this, with everything else they provide. Seem to be pinching pennies in this area for some reason. Little Hint, there is free ice cream off to the side in the Horizon Court sitting area from 3 to 4 pm every day. Only chocolate and vanilla with a few toppings but free and very good. We did the Best of Skagway tour on the White Pass Train. Train was good, Salmon bake ok, overpriced $195 per person for what you got. Better to just go on the 2-3 hour train ride without the lunch. We also did the Best of Juneau tour and this was much nicer at $169 per person. The Whale Watching was great. We were very lucky to see many many Beluga whales on this day, which is unusual to see so many. This tour also takes you up close to see the Mendenhall Glacier and museum, awesome scenery. The Salmon Bake on this tour is much larger and better run than in Skagway. There was more variety of food and better prepared and it cost less. In Ketchikan we just walked around the town on our own. Many many many (72) jewelry  shops here all with excellent pieces at very good prices. You can bargain and deal prices with the merchants. Great Totem Village to visit here but we didn't have time. Too busy shopping, as this is the last stop ashore before sailing back to Vancouver. Excellent time, beautiful ship, well run and all the staff are friendly everywhere you turn. Hope this review helps someone as the previous reviews helped me in choosing Princess Cruise Lines before our trip.

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Nov 30, -0001

Mexican Riviera

We have cruised NCL, Carnival and Holland in the past. We love the cruise experience. However, this being our first Princess cruise we were highly disappointed. We traveled as a goup of 7. We had 5 adults and two children in our group ( 7&8). This was my children's 4th cruise and they agreed that it wasn't their favorite. My children utilized the children's program, but it felt more like babysitting than structured play. I was disappointed

with the drop off and pick up system. No one required us to comment on where we would be or how they could get a hold of us. No pager was offered for my 8 year old. They actually asked me if he had my permission to leave on his own. Are they crazy? Also, during the lifeboat drill there was no mention of how to obtain your children if they were in the kids area. I had to ask and got two different answers. I finally just figured if something happen I would go and get my own children and then take them to our muster station. Our overall cruise experience was poor. There were so many disappointing things I hope there is room for me to list them all. We will not cruise Princess again. I thought the food was poor. So many items each day at the buffet was a repeat from the day before. There were no theme meals other than a mexican feast on a day at sea and it was served out at the pool deck. The buffet area is very small and they hardly ever open both sides at once. As for their anytime dining that was joke. They may as well call it reservations only dining. Twice we tried to get a table right at 5:30 when the restaurant opened and were told they were booked until 8:30. That we needed to make reservations. Well, to me that defeats the anytime dining concept. If you choose to cruise Princess you should select traditional dining and then if your plans change just don't show up. All the restaurants have the same menu so it doesn't matter which one you choose. Also, the menus really don't change much each day. Your appetizer, salad and starter menus are the same everyday. The only thing that changes is your main dish. We were upset when our 7 year old was told that he couldn't take a cookie into the lounge where we were going to play bingo. GIVE ME A BREAK! Not enough h2o available either. I found myself dehydrated several times. Our state room was ok. The plus was that the closet area is very nice. We had four in our cabin. My husband and I had to sleep in seperate beds because when the bunk beds were down the ladder had to be placed right between our beds. When the bunks are down you can not see the tv. We have cruised several times with our children and never had this problem. It was very cramped when all the beds were down. There was also never any laundry service offered. There was self serve laundry, but who wants to do laundry on vacation. By time I got home I had about 15 loads of laundry to do. You can imagine how it all started to smell. Four people 8 days of sweating and swimming in salt water. We had a great room steward, but Princess doesn't do any towel art and our kids were disappointed with that. I was disappointed with the lack of activities on board. It seemed like there were so many lounges and bars, but no fun family spaces. If you wanted to watch the movie you had to watch in one of the bars. There were no real family shows offered. This was a family vacation and we didn't get to spend much time together. We were happy that since it was Christmas they had Santa arrive. I felt like other than bingo all there was for me was to lay out by the pool. The pool areas are nice however, there are no lifeguards or staff on duty. There are rules, but no one to enforce them. We had a couple of incidents where my husband had to talk to people about their actions in the pool around so many kids. One family with six teenagers was even trying to walk across each others shoulders and then trying to hold each other down as long as possible. It was ridiculous. Their parents were right there encouraging them. What kind of parenting is that??? I took several photos just in case someone got really hurt. There were all kinds of small children in the pool. It was frightening at times. Princess should be ashamed! In PV we visited Las Caletas beach. It was great. It took 2 hours to get there because we kept seeing whales migrating. Even though it was a long trip is was worth seeing the whales. The staff on the boat was great. When we arrived the food was ready and we had a great lunch. The bad side of this excursion was that we had booked the sea lion encounter for our children. After waiting about 20 minutes we were finally informed that they hadn't gotten the reservation for any of the children. We were told that our children could do the adult version if they wanted. There was no way my youngest was going to snorkel out in open water with a sea lion. My older one went, but only with my husbands help. When we got back to the boat it took Princess three days to resolve the matter. We were finally refunded some of our money. I would double check before you go that your excursion on this beach is actually going to happen. It was a wonderful excursion, but stressful at times. My husband and older son did the snuba excursion in Cabo and they had a great time. Our overall experience was disappointing. One major issue I had with Princess is that using the hand santitizer was not encouraged. On all the other ships we have cruised on there were hand santitizer machines all over and everyone used them. There were no towels on deck so if your towel got wet you were out of luck. I missed the chocolate buffet, or midnight buffet - Princess had nothing like that. The photos were expensive and not the greatest quality. They print almost everything in 8x10 and then try to charge you $25 for each print. If you want a 5X7 it is still going to cost you $25. Every public area restroom I went into had at least one stall out of service so that made lines everytime you had to go. My family will continue to cruise, but we will not choose Princess again. We will not recommend them to our friends or to anyone else that asks. We enjoyed our time together as a family, but will stick with NCL or RC next time. NCL could give lessons to Princess on what freestyle dining truly means.

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Nov 30, -0001

Mexican Riviera

I have never wrote a review before but wanted to let travelers know about the poor customer service of Princess. We were charged a fuel surcharge and inquired about a refund upon return since fuel was about $40 per gallon. Princess gave us several different explanations about this and finally told us that fuel had to be less than $75 for the 30 days before the cruise. When we asked on which days fuel was not below $75, we never got an answer. One

rep told us that fuel was $.05 over on one day but didn't tell us which day. Any corporation that doesn't have 1) Specific written policies 2) data to back up their policy 3) fair and equitable policies is a corporation that is trying to cover something up. As a business person, I am appaled at their customer service. I have traveled on Princess for several cruises but will strongly consider another option next time we cruise. It is sad that what was a nice cruise has turned into something disappointing because a corporation is trying to cheat the customers that keep them in business. Food was generally fair to good. Fair the 1st 3 days and then actually pretty good the last 3 days. Surprised at the improvement. We had a mini suite. Room was nice and balcony was very large. Nice area to relax and enjoy the ocean. Saw some dolphins and wife saw a whale once. Onboard activities were a little weak. No movie theater so movies were shown in one of the bars. Not a good venue. Buyer beware of fuel surcharges.

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Nov 30, -0001

Alaska

A friend and I just returned from the July 17th sailing to Alaska aboard the Sapphire Princess. Overall, we enjoyed our experience, and believe that many couples and families with older children would find the ship and activities agreeable. Alaska is very beautiful, and the chance to conveniently arrive at different ports with relatively little fuss or muss while enjoying fantastic scenery makes up for some of the inconveniences. “Express

Boarding,” which means you have pre-registered your credit card information and completed immigration information in advance could well have been called “Typical Boarding,” as everyone but Platinum or special needs passengers must go through the same lines. The cruise staff member who checked us in took me to task because my birth certificate was not in the same name as my driver’s license. I pointed out that I was not born married, and she said it was alright this time, but I should do something about that! Right when you come onboard, you are offered a soft drink deal – for $21, you can have all the soda pop you want on the trip. This was a surprise, since there was nothing in our paperwork that indicated we would be charged for anything but alcohol, but sadly, it is true: you will be charged for many beverages. Take the deal if you like soda – otherwise you’ll be paying a 15% gratuity every time you order. Our mini-balcony suite on Dolphin deck (9) was nice, very clean, although the “twin” beds are definitely smaller than average twins. The toilets flush using some kind of air-assisted pressurized system, and it sounds like a bomb going off! Fortunately, you don’t hear too much flushing from other cabins – there was noise in the hallway, but not between cabins. I don’t think there is any great difference in what deck you’re on – the motion of the ocean was very mild throughout most of the trip. A word while you’re trying to figure out where your cabin is: carpeting on the port side of the stateroom decks has a red border, starboard a blue border. We had late seating, traditional dining at a large table, and very much enjoyed the people we met and the relatively formal setting in the dining room. The food is what I would call superior country club – if you are used to fine dining in your city, you will find it quite adequate, though perhaps not exceptional. Presentation was very nice, there were always plenty of choices and courses, the low-fat salad dressings were outstanding, and the desserts were varied but not really that tasty, except the ice creams. There was a noticeable lack of real dark chocolate on any of the menus – if you need your chocolate, better smuggle in some Dove bars! I heard many complaints from those who ordered steaks – to a one, they were overcooked. If you choose to go to the dining room for breakfast or lunch, beware that you will be seated with whoever comes in the door with you at the same time. Mostly this worked out well and we met nice people from around the country, but there were a few silent or awkward meals. The only other place to get food other than the dining room (and a very few choices from room service), was on Lido deck (14), which was typically overrun with children. There is a grill, ice cream bar (extra $$), and the buffet on this deck. Many of the items served in the dining room make their appearance in the buffet selection; things can get crowded and seating scarce sometimes. There were also special buffets set up in the afternoons, like a sushi bar, or a seafood BBQ, etc. The Lotus spa was, in my opinion, not worth any price. While the estheticians were well trained, there was no luxuriousness or pampering to the experience. The changing room was like the locker room at the gym, with miniscule lockers, no foot soak, no tea, just the opportunity to sit out in a public hallway waiting for your therapist to come get you. For the facial I scheduled, I had to shuck my top and shoes in the treatment room and clamber onto the facial bed in my jeans. This is not what I would call special. If you have a favorite spa at home, treat yourself before your trip. Some favorite places on the ship: the Terrace pools (go aft on Aloha deck); Skywalker’s for a beautiful view astern, Club Fusion for activities and dancing, and the Wheelhouse bar for a quiet game of Scrabble and a drink. Ketchikan is the place to do your souvenir shopping. Prices were a little more reasonable, and the selection greater. There were some beautiful native art galleries and the museum was worthwhile. I didn’t go ashore in Juneau, and Skagway was cute in a hokey kind of way. They try hard, got to give them credit. Disembarkation was not delightful. We chose to haul our own luggage, thus were among the first group off the ship. We lined up in the Atrium around 6:40, but weren’t able to get off the ship until about 7:20. Customs was a snap. We are considering taking this ship again, when it moves on to the Mexican Riviera later in the year.

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Nov 30, -0001

Alaska

Janice Angle This was only my second cruise, the first having been years ago to the Caribbean on Carnival. Boarding was a snap. We had booked our own flights so we could get in a day early in order to make sure we were there (were flying from Pennsylvania and didn’t want to chance flying in same day) and have a little time to see Seattle. They say boarding begins at noon, but I had read some reviews that said you could board sooner

so we were there about 11:30 and were, in fact, able to board. We were in our room by a little after 12. The room was quite nice. We had a mini-suite on Dolphin deck that had a balcony. The bathroom had a tub with a shower that was quite nice to use: good water pressure and lots of hot water. There was enough closet space and shelves to store clothing for 3 people. The one thing about Dolphin deck is that the balconies are all totally exposed. That may be nice in the sunny Caribbean, but in Alaska, where it rains quite a bit, it makes the balcony less usable. When we booked, we only had the choice of the late seating at dinner or the anytime dining. We picked the late seating but gave up on that after one dinner there. It was just too late for our tastes; you end up not getting done eating until almost 9:30 and if you aren't night owls, well then you're going to bed on a full stomach. We ended up just eating in the Horizon Cafe buffet instead for all our meals. The food there was generally pretty decent with a good assortment, but hey, it's a buffet. We got bombarded with requests for the soda deal the minute we got on board. They stress that it works out to $4 a day, but a glass of soda cost's $1 and a can costs $1.50. Since the most I drink is 1, maybe 2, I just stuck to the free iced tea. We did attend the tea offered in the Pacific Moon dining room a couple of times; it was quite nice but they tend to sort of hurry you along instead of letting you linger. I was aware that they will automatically charge a $10 a day gratuity per person for everyone (even children), which you have the option of changing to a different amount or just not doing it at all. My sister had left her purse in the room that first night when we went to dinner. When we got back and discovered they had been in to turn down the beds, she checked her purse and determined that she had money missing from it - about $20 she thought. As a result of that, she had the desk cancel any gratuities, which she found was very easy to do. I should add that neither my mother nor I cancelled ours; I wasn't totally convinced that any theft had occurred and that my sister hadn't just gotten mixed-up about what money she had where in her purse. So maybe a theft did occur, and maybe it didn't. Just a warning. We took a lot of excursions through the ship and enjoyed every one of them. In Ketchikan we toured both the Saxman Indian Village and the Rainforest (both were fabulous in spite of the rain). For Juneau, we had signed up for the Taku Lodge excursion in Juneau, but had cancelled it after an all day rain in our previous port, convinced we wouldn't be able to see anything due to cloud cover. As it turns out, that excursion was cancelled for everyone due to the weather, as were all flight excursions for the day. Apparently that happens a lot in Alaska because the weather can be so lousy, so be prepared to be disappointed if you want to do something like that. Instead we just took a tour offered by an independent there on the docks; there are lots of them there and you can get away with $5 each way if you just want to catch a bus to Mendenhall. We didn’t do the Mount Roberts tramway for 2 reasons: there really wasn’t time and we probably wouldn’t have seen anything but clouds anyway. In Skagway, we took the White Pass train to the summit and then had the tea at Jewell Gardens. The train was a not to be missed ride, but one word of warning: they tell you that every seat is a good one because they make you switch sides after you reach the summit so everyone gets to look out the good side. However, on the trip up, while there was a clear view of everything, near the top it started raining and by the time we came back down, the higher elevations were socked in with fog, giving us a view of nothing. So if it looks clear on your way up, grab a seat on the left hand side. Jewell Gardens is quite charming and beautiful and the tea and food quite delicious though not an ooooh and ahhhhh sort of excursion. In Victoria, we did the Butchart Gardens Wine and Chocolate Tour. The only negative was the Wine part of the tour; the wine was pretty bad (I'm not a big wine drinker but that was the general consensus I was getting from everyone in our bus) and the time it took to go to the winery to sample it just took away from seeing Butchart Gardens, especially given that we didn't get in to Victoria until 4 and daylight was in short supply. I thought we'd go to the gardens first and then taste the wine but no, we went to the winery first. Definitely Butchart Gardens is a must see, but I'd just go there and skip the wine and chocolate. Victoria looked quite charming and I’m sorry we didn’t have more time there We didn’t get any time to really explore Ketchikan because of our tours. While the tours were great, I am disappointed not to have been able to at least check out Creek St. It’s a trade-off you have to fight with when on a cruise: exploring the town vs. taking tours. Juneau was interesting but not necessarily very charming. Skagway was our favorite though I’m sure the sunny weather we had there plays a role in that. On board, we attended a lot of the talks by the on board naturalist; I believe her name was Pat Kramer. She was very informative and we really enjoyed all of her presentations. We weren't really into any of the games or even the shows so can't comment on them. They show a lot of fairly new movies, both on tv and in the Princess theatre. My only complaint would be about the times of the movies in the Princess theatre; either they were late at night (starting at 11:00pm) or during the day when you're in port and probably out on excursions or checking out towns, etc. Disembarking was also fairly smooth though you do a lot of hurry up and waiting. As I said, we had booked our own flights, though we did use Princess to get us to the airport. They assign you a disembarking time based on your flight plans/time. We were scheduled to disembark at 9; we didn't get to the airport until 10:45 so use that as a gauge for your own timing. That was plenty of time for us, as our flight didn't leave until 10:15PM. We didn't take the post-cruise tour of Seattle simply because we had already seen everything it covered. The ship is beautiful but it’s big! We took a tour of the ship that was offered the first day and good thing; it really helped us find our way even though we still got lost occasionally. Since my previous cruise was so many years ago, it’s hard to compare, but I don’t remember them charging you for anything on board, even soda. I think that would be my main complaint; I was expecting everything to be included and instead found all these hidden fees I wasn’t prepared for. It made me leery of doing things on board.

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By Kat_CR

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Nov 30, -0001

Mexican Riviera

The Mexican ports have fun activities available. The Sapphire Princess is a beautiful ship and even though it was full, never felt crowded. There were a lot of children on the cruise and I did not notice a lot of children. That was appreciated since we don't have any. Very good food and good variety. Roomy and clean. Comfortable for two people. Lots to choose from. The bird watching and boating excursion in Mazatlan was much better

than expected. It was a really nice day.

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  • New

Nov 30, -0001

Alaska

We took the Sapphire Princess leaving out of Seattle. We live in Seattle so thought it would be nice not to have to fly anywhere this time for a cruise. We were able to prepay for parking online with a credit card. Once we got to the port we pulled right in and got a very nice parking spot. The brochure said that they would start boarding the ship at noon, so my plan was to get there around eleven to get in line for embarkation. Well we

were traveling with seven people , my in-laws (in their 70's, first cruise ever) my children (19, 19, 13 all boys, their second cruise) and my husband and myself (My tenth cruise). By the time everybody got their act together it was 12:10 when we arrived. This was the worst embarkation of all the cruises I’ve been on. The line to have your luggage picked up stretched all the way around the building. We asked one of the security guards how long the wait was from our point, and he stated he hadn’t seen it this long before so he didn’t know. It took us and hour and a half to get to the point where they take your luggage. As we approached the front of the line we noticed that the people who were using porters waited in a different line that was less than five minutes long. If only we (and the two thousand other people in line with us) had known! After checking in (very short lines) we were on the ship at 2:00. I had booked balcony rooms for my husband and myself and my in-laws. Even though we booked over 70 days in advance we had been on a waiting list for a room that would sleep three for the boys . We did get it 60 days out, but it put the boys in an outside cabin on the other end of the ship seven floors below us. It ended up working out fine. We had chosen anytime seating, so when I arrived in my room we called the concierge right away and book times for our meals for the first four nights and they said we could call on Thurs to book for the rest of the week. For anytime seating they have 4 restaurants you can eat at (Pacific Moon, Savoy, Santa Fe and Vivaldi (Vivaldi only if you eat after 8:00) There are also two restaurants that you can eat at if you pay a surcharge. They are Sabatinis Trattoria and Sterling. We like the Savoy best, we also thought that the decorations in Santa Fe were beautiful. Each restaurant (except for the surcharge restaurants ) serve the same menu as the main dining room. The only difference is they each have one speciality item available. In the Savoy it was pork chops, in Santa Fe it was Fajitas, in the Pacific moon it was a scallop shrimp noodle dish. The Horizon Buffett was open twenty for hours a day, and the pizza, burger place was open till six. They also have an ice cream stand with Hagendaus ice cream, but that costs extra. We believe that we pay so much for the cruise, why pay extra for meals, so we didn’t try any of the surcharge restaurant or the ice cream. We did hear very good things about the surcharge restaurants from other cruisers. We did purchase my 13 year old a soda card when we arrived on ship. It was 27dollars for the week. That provides free soda from any bar or in the restaurant. (No cans just fountain sodas). This was the second Princess cruise for my husband and myself. We had done the Mexican Riviera out of LA two years before. We though the food this time was just not near as good. The food most nights was just average. The nights I remember being very good were the King Crab legs and the Lobster night both delicious. The deserts were just so so. The baked Alaska (they called it something else) was wonderful, but I could have passed on most of the deserts. The menu was very big on fish and seafood. When they had filet, we all ordered it med rare and everyones turned out well done. We always ate in the dining rooms for dinner, but did use the Buffett once in a while for lunch. It was also average with the exception of the fruit which was always good. Room service is available 24 hours a day with a set menu but they do expect you to tip on this. The service on this ship was very good with the exception of the dining room and the photo gallery. The dining room was hit or miss. Some of the waiters acted like they were going out of their ways to help us, and it was really a stretch if we asked for a glass of milk or anything extra. Some of them were as nice as can be. Especially at lunch. I think part of this is because we had the anytime seating. The photo staff was actually rude while we were purchasing pictures at two different times. And it wasn’t just us, we heard them being rude to others also. Everyone else on the ship was wonderful. Our room steward was great, everyone in the halls had a hello and a smile. The shows were good, we Especially enjoyed the production numbers, Piano Man and the solute to Broadway. We had never been to Alaska before so we really enjoyed the ports of call. I am not a big outdoors person so this was the perfect way to see Alaska for me. It also worked out well for my husband who loves the great outdoors as he was able to take the excursions that fitted him best. Our first stop was Ketchikan. We all got off the ship and walked around the town. My son and I signed up for the duck tour of f the ship it was very informative and nice. We saw lots of bald eagles. My 19 year old did the zip line adventure and thought that was lots of fun. The second morning was our sail through the Tracey arm. It was absolutely beautiful. The ship said this was the furthest it had been able to go up the straight this season. We went very close to the glaciers. It was amazing and made the whole trip worthwhile. The naturalist on board gives a talk that you can tune in on your T.V. and was very informative and helpful. That afternoon we docked in Juneau. My husband had signed up for the extended ice climbing and my mother in law and son were going on the flight over the glaciers and on to dog sledding. Even though these were Very expensive (over $400 each) they all had a wonderful time and said they would do it all again. The next day was Skagway (my favorite port) My 13yo and I had signed up for the gold tour. It was very informative but there was no gold found in Skagway so it was all planned out with a premade pan of rocks and a little gold dust for you to use. No chance of getting rich here. My husband and kids did the rock climbing and repelling in the afternoon and had a nice time with that. There is lots of shopping in this town and lots of history. Our last stop after a day at sea was to Victoria. Very nice town lots to see and do. We didn’t sign up for any excursions at this port, we all just walked around and enjoyed the town. Disembarkation was the smoothest I have ever had. They have a category now where you can carry your own luggage off the ship. You get called off first. We left our room and went straight off the gangplank. Going through customs took less than a minute and we were in our car within 15 minutes of leaving our room. Very nice! All in all we enjoyed this cruise and especially her ports of call. This wasn’t the best cruise we’ve ever been on (nor was it the worst) It was well worth our while to have the balcony room Especially to see the Tracy Arm. This ship was sold out and they said we had 2800 people on board, and yet I never felt crowded! It is a beautiful ship with lots to do and see. I would consider taking this cruise again.

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