Number of Cruises: 4
Cruise Line: Princess
Ship: Sapphire Princess
Sailing Date: July 10th, 2005
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.