Occupation:independant contractor for fed ex
Number of Cruises: 5
Cruise Line: Princess
Ship: Sapphire Princess
Sailing Date: October 29th, 2005
Itinerary: 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.