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Age: 52


Number of Cruises: 5

Cruise Line: Princess

Ship: Sapphire Princess

Sailing Date: 2010-06-6

Itinerary: 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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Internet was overpriced and extremely slow, making the expensive per minute charges infuriating.

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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