Fodor’s Expert Review

Ship Overview

Princess Cruises
Cruise StylePremium
Ship SizeLarge
Prince Range$$
Sails To


Alaska, Pacific Coast, Hawaii, South America, Antarctica
Sails From

Anc...enos Aires

Anchorage (Whittier), Vancouver, Los Angeles, Santiago, Buenos Aires
Duration7-34 days

Launched in 2004 and refurbished in 2018, Sapphire Princess was the third ship to join the cruise line’s Grand Class. This class launched with Grand Princess in 1998. Ruby Princess in 2008 was the seventh and last before the significantly larger Royal Class ships began rolling out in 2013.Read More

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Sapphire was out of service for over two years before emerging from dry dock in September 2022. Though it does not have flashy attractions, Sapphire remains popular with its core demographic of retirees. It boasts four swimming pools, a splash pool for kids, eight hot tubs, a sports court, and an 804-seat theater.

The ship spends summers in Alaska on 7 or 14-day itineraries that always include Glacier Bay, while land guests get whisked by rail from Whittier to the Princess Wilderness Lodge in Denali National Park. Sapphire then sails down the Pacific Coast, makes a detour to Hawaii and the South Pacific Islands, before sailing South America and Antarctica on long voyages, some lasting for 34 days. The ship’s self-service laundry facilities and The Conservatory, which has an indoor pool, two hot tubs, and deck, definitely come in handy for lengthy itineraries. However, having only two specialty restaurants and five complimentary dining rooms sharing the same daily menu means food may feel limited.

Princess Cruise Line has a loyal, multicultural fan base. It is not unusual for some to do three or four trips a year or spend months sailing on a single ship. The average age of passengers on Sapphire skews older, around 60 to 70, and this age group is well catered to, though impressive 2022 renovations of the kids club will please multi-generations traveling together.

All the traditional elements of a Princess Grand Class ship are here. The 2,670-passenger vessel has 14 bars and lounges to relax, drink, and be merry. The ship adores a theme and each space has touches to set the scene, from the signature nautical-style Wheelhouse Bar, to Explorers Lounge, an homage to old-world exploration of ancient Egypt. It’s fun but not too over the top.

The heart of the ship and meeting place is the Piazza, a sparkling, golden atrium spanning three decks. Two glass elevators flank the small stage where a pianist and other musicians serenade passengers cooling down after an excursion. Curved staircases connect each level. It’s a gathering place to shop, grab a snack or coffee from the 24-hour International Cafe, or watch

mixologists shake up a global inspired cocktail at Good Spirits at Sea. You can order food or drink to you through the app.

The ship may look traditional but Princess has fully integrated technology into the experience. Known as MedallionClass, every passenger is issued a free quarter-sized waterproof medallion which can be worn on a lanyard, or accessories such as wrist straps can be purchased. It replaces the key card, however, it does much more than just unlock your stateroom and identify you when returning to the ship.

In conjunction with the app, order food and drink delivered to almost anywhere on the ship, purchase with contactless payment, and if you have a beverage package, keep track of consumption. Set up the OceanCompass Shipmates function so you can locate where other members of your party are on the ship. Tap the medallion at one of the many interactive touch screens to check reservations, shore excursions, bookmark events, see how many others have signed up for trivia or mahjong, print a statement of account charges to date, find the nearest restroom, or let the map guide you to your desired destination. There’s even games to help kill a few minutes. The app is available in English, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Japanese, German, Spanish, and Russian. Download the app before sailing to set up an arrival time and contactless boarding. Complete the “OceanReady” steps in advance for smooth embarkation.

Some passengers lament they prefer the days of having just a key card. There is no need to worry that service will be diminished by technology. Sapphire’s service remains warm and personal, and even familial for long-staying guests.

Lengthy itineraries require a full program of activities. The fitness center offers yoga, pilates, TRX, and spin. Staff facilitate friendly competition through many different tournaments, from pickleball, ping pong, and Pictionary, to bocce, bingo, and bean bag toss. The evenings might kick off with line dancing and live music, before a Broadway-style production, musician, or comedian at the main theater. Head up to the sun deck for Movies Under The Stars on a big screen. Hit up the casino, or one of the two nightclubs; the aptly named Skywalkers is perched way up on deck 17.


Many indoor and outdoor spaces to spread out  
Interactive touch screens throughout the ship to check reservations, find your cabin mates, or guide you to a location  
Self-service laundry facilities, an important amenity for longer itineraries and long-stay guests  
Limited indoor dining with windows for outside ocean views  
Lack of international cuisine and upscale fine dining options  
No indoor observation lounge, an ideal feature for Alaska and Antarctica cruises

What to expect on board

Staterooms & Cabins

Editor Rating

Sapphire has 1,337 staterooms, of which 890 are outside. Over 700 cabins in the total inventory have balconies. There are two family suites (two cabins connected by a living room) that can accommodate up to six people. There are no cabins specifically for single occupancy.

The experience starts as you approach your cabin door. A digital touch screen senses the OceanMedallion, unlocks the door, and displays your profile picture and any messages. The screen also shows if you’ve requested privacy or housekeeping service.

Stateroom interiors are classic and comfortable. The neutral palette of mostly beige and brown creates a calm and uncontroversial space. Balcony staterooms (214-222 square feet) have either a queen or two twin beds, a large open closet, desk, and mini-fridge; elite members get a complimentary mini-bar set up. Sliding glass doors open to the balcony which has two chairs and a table. The cream-colored bathroom is small but functional. Princess’ Lotus Spa bath products are in dispensers.

Interior (158-162 square feet) and oceanview (146-206 square feet) staterooms follow the same formula. Bright lighting, large closet space, and mirrors help make it feel less cramped.

At 323 square feet, the mini-suite has significantly more space to move around than the balcony. They’ve squeezed in a separate sitting area that holds a sofa bed and coffee table. Club Class takes the mini-suites with the best locations and adds VIP perks such as priority embarkation/debarkation, a half-bottle of red and half-bottle of white wine on embarkation day, and upgraded amenities (better bathrobe, an umbrella). mini-suites have a bathtub-shower combo, so be aware you must be able to step in and out of the tub. Both suite and mini-suite guests can enjoy club class dining. On Sapphire that means a private section within the Sante Fe dining room with dedicated waitstaff and additional daily specials.

Twenty-seven staterooms (balcony, oceanview, and inside) are designed for wheelchair accessibility. To request special assistance or equipment, the company requires submission of their mobility questionnaire at least 60 days prior to sailing.

Sapphire is fully ADA compliant, however, as an older ship, there are only some automatic doors in public areas and parts of ship like the stern have a number of stairs. In the theater, the wheelchair seating is limited to the back row. Find more details on the website.


Food & Drink

Editor Rating

The dining on Sapphire is straightfoward and select compared to bigger, newer ships. Some would consider this a blessing, as the options are not overwhelming — there are no dining packages to calculate or strategically plan out, no fine print on inclusions or exclusions to study. When it comes to complimentary dining, the ship has a buffet, five main dining rooms, four casual eateries, and 24-hour room service. Two specialty restaurants are available at a cover charge. Princess has replaced traditional dining with “Dine My Way”, giving guests the freedom to make reservations for their preferred time and to customize the experience. For example, through the app you can even indicate whether you want a slow or fast pace for dining.

Horizon Court is the complimentary buffet on deck 14 sandwiched between midship Calypso Pool and Horizon Terrace at the stern. The food stations are all clustered within one semi-enclosed area and the self-service area is cramped. On the upside, they open a duplicate buffet on the other side during peak hours to ease congestion. The dining room is spacious, neutral, uncluttered, and comfortable. Floor to ceiling windows bring in natural light and sea views. The spread is somewhat limited. There are two soups, bread, tapas, crudités, salad, cheese and cold cuts, sandwiches, Tex Mex, pasta, fish, roast meat, fruit, and dessert.

Sapphire has five complimentary main dining restaurants: Savoy, Vivaldi, Pacific Moon, Sante Fe, and the largest, The International, ideal for groups and families. Each restaurant has a specific style and ambience. All serve the same menu of mainly American and Continental cuisine, though the menu changes daily. The dinner features three starters, three salad/soups, two pasta dishes, six mains including one vegetarian option, and a core menu of “Princess Favorites” that are always available: shrimp cocktail, romaine & kale caesar salad, French onion soup, seared salmon, and pan-roasted chicken breast. A few dishes highlight local flavors of the destination. For example, it might be seared Mahi Mahi with pineapple-mango salsa or pork in ti leaves when sailing Hawaii. Seafood lovers will be happy as the menu always has several seafood options and unlike some other ships, these do not incur a surcharge. However, vegetarians might find the menu limited and vegans would have to be accommodated off-menu as the vegetarian dishes commonly feature dairy or eggs. The menu is especially jazzed up for Gala night.

Rounding out the complimentary options: International Cafe in the Piazza, a 24-hour shop for small bites, salads, sandwiches, baked treats, and barista coffee; Alfredo’s Pizza, also in the Piazza, where waiters in white shirts and black ties serve up individual-size specialty pizza; outdoor poolside Trident Grill (burgers, hot dogs, fries), Prego Pizzeria (pizza by the slice), and Swirls ice cream; and 24-hour room service, which can be ordered through the app or TV, charges may apply to select items. In fact, you can order food or drink to almost anywhere you are through the app. Whether you are feeling thirsty or peckish while sitting in the Piazza, are at Movies Under the Stars, lounging on the sundeck, or catching up on emails in a quiet corner of a bar that is technically not open for service, it can be delivered to you.

Sapphire only has two specialty restaurants. Painted wall murals of Italian scenes, Roman columns, and faux brick adorn Sabatini’s Italian Trattoria. A $25 cover charge includes one of each course, a filling deal considering you get soup/salad, antipasti, pasta, entree, and dessert. Think burrata cheese and tomato salad, deep-fried calamari, Mediterranean lamb skewers, a wide selection of fresh pastas, sole piccata, chicken scaloppine, and tiramisu. The restaurant is also the special breakfast venue for suite and most-traveled guests.

Normally on a cruise ship, the steakhouse is the showcase restaurant, the place to splurge for a steak and seafood dinner, where a passenger would get dressed up to match the fine setting. Here Sterling Steakhouse falls a little flat in terms of ambience as it is simply a section within the buffet dining room transformed in the evening. At least there are ocean views and the cover charge is a reasonable $29 per person. There are choice cuts like New York strip, rib-eye, filet mignon, porterhouse, or for an additional $10, a surf & turf option with Maine lobster tail.

There’s no shortage of places to figuratively put your feet up and have a drink. Sapphire has 14 bars and lounges, most of them are surprisingly spacious and chock full of comfortable chairs and sofas. These are the places to find social intimacy on a large ship. Live music is showcased every evening throughout.

Located in the Piazza, Good Spirits At Sea is one of the star attractions. In partnership with the Good Spirits TV series, the bar’s cocktails are inspired by fresh, local ingredients from around the world and each cocktail tells a story about a destination. Catch the mixology show several times an evening. Across the Piazza, Vines Wine Bar is a casual spot for wine and tapas.

The ship has a flair for the thematic and Wheelhouse Bar harkens back to the olden days of nautical travel. Paintings of steamers adorn the cherry wood walls. Brass detailing gleams, a contrast to the plush softness of velvety navy blue sofas and padded wingback chairs. It’s a classy space to listen to the jazz band or move on the large parquet dance floor.

Egyptian accents are found throughout Explorers Lounge, the venue for convivial fun in the form of trivia, game shows, karaoke, movies, and comedy shows. Fashioned after a British pub, Churchill’s Cigar Lounge has leather chairs, a wooden bar, and vintage UK photos. This is a cozy nook to grab a pint, smoke a cigar, and watch a game on the TV.

Princess has two zero-alcohol drink packages and two alcohol beverage packages; all packages incur a 18% service charge. The classic soda package is $9.99 per person, per day and includes fountain soda (not bottled or canned), fruit juices including fresh juices if available, mocktails, and smoothies. The $19.99 per person, per day coffee & soda package also has the addition of specialty or premium coffees/teas, hot chocolate, and milk shakes.

The plus beverage package costs $59.99. In addition to non-alcoholic drinks, it includes spirits/cocktails, wine by the glass, and beers up to $12 each. The premier beverage package costs $79.99 per person, per day and includes everything in the plus beverage package but alcoholic beverages up to $18. This price is comparable to other premium cruise ships and much cheaper than Norwegian’s $138 all-inclusive package.

One way Princess is unconventional: they are one of the few cruise lines that do not require everyone in the same cabin or all passengers under the same method of payment to purchase the same drinks package. Of course, you are not supposed to use your package to get drinks for others, so most cruise lines prevent sharing by requiring people traveling together to all buy a package. Princess’ way is a definite perk when one half of the party does not drink alcohol or drinks significantly less.


Editor Rating

The program is full of free social events and tournaments, especially on at sea days. Friendly competition keeps things lively. Join tournaments for pickleball, golf putting, ping pong, bocce, bingo, speedy Sudoku, trivia, Pictionary, and shuffleboard. There might also be line dancing, adult arts and crafts, and a number unhosted gatherings for bridge, mahjong, LGBTQ+, veterans and military personnel, bible study, singles/solo travelers, knitters, and Friends of Bill W.

Sapphire has several shops. In addition to the usual cosmetics, perfume, and alcohol sales, Limelight sells handbags, fashion jewelry, cruisewear, and sunglasses, while Calypso Cove has Princess branded merchandise, souvenirs, sundries, and sunscreen. There is a watch shop, Effy Jewelry, a photo desk selling GoPro cameras, point and shoot, and memory cards. Passengers can also buy Medallion accessories such as fancier lanyards or wrist bands made from recycled ocean plastic.

A wide range of live music kicks off in the late afternoon and continues throughout the evening in the Piazza, bars, and lounges. On Formal Night, the main theater has a Broadway-style production with two showtimes. On other nights, there will be guest singers, comedians, magicians, and acrobats. The sundeck of the midship pool becomes movies under the stars. A film is shown once or twice every evening on the big outdoor screen, weather permitting.

Sapphire has not one, but two clubs. Any given night there could be bands, ballroom and latin dance, karaoke, and theme parties at Western-themed Club Fusion on deck 7, which has a small stage and wide open dance floor. Don’t expect Jedis and Wookies at Skywalkers. The name refers to the nightclub’s sky high location on deck 18, not Star Wars. The shiny glitzy club goes from around 10 pm until late, a DJ fueling the party.

Spa & Fitness

Editor Rating

Located on deck 15, the Lotus Spa, beauty salon, and fitness center wraps around a central swimming pool. A pleasant aroma welcomes guests as they enter the wide open reception. The Chinese-inspired spa has Chinese motifs and artwork of birds, flowers, and nature scenes. There are black lacquer accents in the 11 clean and simple therapy rooms; some have a jacuzzi tub that can be added to treatments. A small downside is that the post-treatment relaxation area is in the hallway, and not a tranquil private room.

The spa’s signature treatments are the Elemis Biotec Anti-Aging facial ($199) that can target a range of skin conditions; the Aroma Spa Seaweed massage ($229 for 75 minutes) where a heated seaweed mask is applied before cocooning in a wrap; and a Fire & Ice manicure ($69) with a massage of heated stone and cooling gels. The Kerastase salon has two nail stations and three hair stations. Barber services, GO SMILE teeth whitening, acupuncture, microdermabrasion, Thermage skin tightening, Restylane dermal fillers, and DYSPORT cosmetic wrinkle treatments are also available. A 18% spa service charge is added to the bill.

The Thermal Suite is underwhelming and small compared to those on newer ships. There are heated tile loungers, a fog shower, a dry sauna, and two wet saunas, regular and aroma. The Thermal Suite is free for suite guests, all other guests can purchase a pass. On a 15-day cruise, it is $299.

The Sanctuary is an adults-only retreat located on the deck above, wrapped around the Lotus swimming pool. Posh sun loungers are spread out in the semi-enclosed area, and on a sunny day, the location on deck 16 at the bow means a fantastic panorama of piercing blue ocean. Enjoy the dedicated service, have a massage in the cabana, pop down to the pool, or order wellness-focused bites like sesame tuna or fattoush grilled chicken salad. The $20/half-day pass or $40 full-day pass is well worth it if you want to escape crowds or kids.

Though on the small side, the Fitness Center (7 am to 10 pm) is well stocked with Precor treadmills and elliptical machines. The equipment runs along the floor to ceiling windows which unfortunately have its vantage partially obstructed by railings. There is one, sometimes two free classes per day in the large crescent-shaped aerobics studio such as stretch, body conditioning, and abs. Yoga, Pilates, TRX, and spin cost $20 each or a class pass can be bought, $99 for a 7-day cruise. Personal training goes for $90 a session.

Three loops on the deck 7 walking track equals a mile.

Key cruising tips

Health & Safety

As of October 2022, most mask, vaccination, and testing requirements have been lifted, except itineraries for countries where restrictions remain. The website has a CruiseHealth tool where booked travelers can find out any requirements for their upcoming voyage.

Though Princess MedallionClass was introduced pre-Covid in 2017, the technological advancement has worked well in the shift towards reduced physical contact. MedallionClass pairs a wearable device the size of a quarter with an app and this system allows you to select an arrival window for staggered embarkation, have a contactless arrival, keyless entry into your stateroom, and to order food and drink on the app instead of waiting in line. It is also used for contactless payment.

On embarkation day, instead of the traditional mandatory safety briefing at crowded muster stations, passengers can watch it on the app or stateroom TV, then check-in with the medallion at the muster station before sailing. QR code menus are still being utilized at restaurants. Access more information on the website.


Dress Code

Princess recommends dressing for the cruise the same way one would for a stylish resort on land. In the daytime, casual sportswear is acceptable, including shorts, lightweight pants, and sundresses.

For dining rooms, the dress code is either smart casual or formal. For smart casual, men should wear pants and dress shirts or collared shirts, women can wear dresses, skirts, slacks, blouses, and sweaters. Shorts, pool/beachwear, baseball caps, and jeans with holes are not allowed. Formal nights are still traditional. Tuxedo, dark suit, or dinner jacket for men, evening gown, cocktail dress, or elegant pant suit for women. There’s one formal night for every week of sailing.

Junior Cruisers

The Camp Discovery Youth Center is huge and the spend in a 2022 refurbishment clearly shows. The four different spaces for kids are bright, colorful, fresh, and cheerful. It’s a surprising investment considering that there are few children during the long voyages in the fall and winter, but the rooms will be put to good use when more are on board during school holidays.

The TreeHouse is for age 3-7, The Lodge is for 8-12, The Beach House is for 13-17, and the family room is a space for parents and babies under 2. The partnership with the Discovery and Animal Planet brand means activities have a nature, science, wildlife, and exploration tilt, in addition to the usual boardgames and crafts. In the modern and cool teen Beach House, there’s both free time to hang out and play video games or foosball, and hosted group activities, dinners, movie nights, and even dodgeball tournaments on the sports court.


The ship has a passenger to crew ratio of 2.43 to 1. Princess is known for its international staff delivering professional, friendly, hands-on service, which is part of the reason why the cruise line has a loyal fanbase. Long-stay guests and repeat travelers are treated warmly. Staff greet every passenger they pass and can pick up on past conversations. Despite the size of the ship, guests and staff know each other’s names.


To ensure fair distribution and to take the hassle out of tipping, like other premium cruise lines, a service charge (“crew appreciation”) is automatically added, per guest, per day. For Interior, Oceanview, and Balcony staterooms it is $14.50, Mini-Suite and Club Class $15.50, Suite $16.50. Tipping staff directly for good service is always welcome and appreciated.

A 17-18 percent service charge is automatically added to beverages, beverage packages, dining, and spa.


Entered Service
Number of Cabins
Passenger Capacity
Crew Members
Passengers to Crew Ratio
Gross Tons
164 feet
952 feet

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