Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships 2017 (Berlitz Cruise Guide) (2016)
Ship: 378 out of 500
Accommodation: 147 out of 200
Food: 250 out of 400
Service: 289 out of 400
Entertainment: 78 out of 100
Cruise: 295 out of 400
Overall Score: 1437 out of 2000
Sapphire Princess Statistics
Size: Large Resort Ship
Cruise Line: Princess Cruises
Former Names: none
IMO Number: 9228186
Builder: Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (Japan)
Original Cost: $400 million
Entered Service: May 2004
Registry: Great Britain
Length (ft/m): 951.4/290.0
Beam (ft/m): 123.0/37.5
Draft (ft/m): 26.4/8.0
Propulsion/Propellers: diesel-electric (42,000kW)/2
Passenger Decks: 13
Total Crew: 1,238
Passengers (lower beds): 2,674
Passenger Space Ratio (lower beds): 43.3
Passenger/Crew Ratio (lower beds): 2.1
Cabins (total): 1,337
Size Range (sq ft/m): 168-1,329.3/15.6-123.5
Cabins (for one person): 0
Cabins (with private balcony): 750
Cabins (wheelchair accessible): 28
Wheelchair accessibility: Good
Cabin Current: 110 volts
Casino (gaming tables): Yes
Slot Machines: Yes
Swimming Pools: 3
Hot Tubs (on deck): 9
Self-Service Launderette: Yes
Dedicated Cinema/Seats: No
Onboard currency: US$
A fine multi-choice large ship for informal family cruising
Overview. Sapphire Princess is quite a grand playground in which to roam and play when you’re not ashore. Princess Cruises delivers a fine, well-packaged holiday product, with some sense of style, at an attractive, highly competitive price, and this ship will appeal to those who really enjoy big-city life with all the trimmings.
The Ship. Sapphire Princess has an instantly recognizable funnel due to two jet engine-like pods that sit high up on its structure, but really are mainly for decoration. The ship is similar in size and internal layout to Golden Princess, Grand Princess, and Star Princess, although of a greater beam. Unlike its half-sister ships, all of which had a ‘spoiler’ containing a discotheque located aft of the funnel, this has been removed from both Diamond Princess and Sapphire Princess, being replaced by a more sensible aft-facing nightclub/discotheque, Skywalkers Nightclub.
Several areas focus on swimming pools. One has a giant poolside movie screen, one is two decks high and is covered by a retractable glass dome, itself an extension of the funnel housing, and one pool lies within The Sanctuary - an adults-only, extra-cost relaxation area.
The interiors were overseen and outfitted by the Okura Group, whose Okura Hotel is one of Tokyo’s finest. Fit and finish quality is superior to that of the Italian-built Golden Princess, Grand Princess, and Star Princess. Unlike the outside decks, there is plenty of space inside the ship - but there are also plenty of passengers - and a wide array of public rooms, with many ‘intimate’ (this being a relative term) spaces and places to enjoy. The passenger flow has been well thought-out, and there’s little congestion.
The interior focal point is a piazza-style atrium lobby, with Vines (wine bar), an International Café (for coffee, pastries, panini, etc.) library/Internet-connect center, and Alfredo’s sit-down pizzeria.
A Wedding Chapel has a live web-cam to relay ceremonies via the Internet. The ship’s captain can legally marry American couples, due to the ship’s Bermuda registry and a dispensation which should be verified in advance according to where you reside. Princess Cruises offers three wedding packages - Pearl, Emerald, and Diamond.
The Grand Casino is one of the largest casinos at sea, with over 260 slot machines (some of which are linked and may provide a combined payout), plus blackjack, craps, and roulette tables.
Other facilities include a library/computer room, and a card room. The wood-paneled Wheelhouse Bar is finely decorated with memorabilia and ship models tracing part of the history of sister company P&O. The Wake View Bar has a spiral stairway leading down to a great viewing spot for those who want to watch the ship’s wake.
A high-tech hospital has live SeaMed telemedicine linkups to the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, with specialists available for emergency help.
The ship is full of revenue centers. Expect to be subjected to flyers advertising daily art auctions, designer watches and the like.
The dress code is formal or smart casual - interpreted by many as jeans and trainers. Gratuities to staff are added to your account, with gratuities for children charged at the same rate. If you want to pay less, you can have these charges adjusted at the reception desk.
Lines form for many things aboard large ships, but particularly so for the information office, and for open-seating breakfast and lunch in the four main dining rooms. Long lines for shore excursions and shore tenders are also a fact of life, as is waiting for elevators at peak times, and embarkation and disembarkation - though an ‘express check-in’ option is available for embarkation if you fill in some forms 40 days before your cruise.
The many extra-charge items include ice cream and freshly squeezed orange juice. Yoga, group exercise bicycling, and kick-boxing classes cost extra. There’s an hourly rate for group babysitting services, and a charge for using washers and dryers in the self-service launderettes.
Families. For youngsters and teenagers there is a two-deck-high playroom, teen room, and a host of specially trained counselors. Children have their own pools, hot tubs, and open deck area at the stern, away from adult areas.
Accommodation. Everyone receives turndown service and nightly chocolates on pillows, bathrobes on request, and toiletries. A hairdryer is provided in all cabins. All bathrooms are tiled and have a decent amount of open shelf storage space for toiletries.
Most outside cabins on Emerald Deck have views obstructed by the lifeboats. Sadly, there are no cabins for singles. Your name is typically placed outside your suite or cabin - handy for delivery service personnel but eroding your privacy. Most balcony suites and cabins can be overlooked from the navigation bridge wing. There is 24-hour room service, though some menu items aren’t available during early morning hours.
Note that cabins with balconies on Baja, Caribe, and Dolphin decks are overlooked by passengers on balconies on the deck above. Cabin bath towels are small, and drawer space is limited. There are no butlers, even for the top grade suites - which aren’t really large in comparison to similar suites aboard some other ships.
Dining. All dining rooms are located on one of two decks in the ship’s center. There are five principal dining rooms with themed decor and cuisine: Sterling Steakhouse for steak and grilled meats, Vivaldi for Italian fare, Santa Fe for southwestern USA cuisine, Pacific Moon for Asian cuisine, and International, the largest, located aft, with two seatings and ‘traditional’ cuisine. These offer a mix of two seatings and ‘anytime dining’ where you choose when and with whom you want to eat. All dining rooms are split into sections in a non-symmetrical design that breaks what are quite large spaces into many smaller sections, for better ambience and less noise pollution.
Specially designed dinnerware and good-quality linens and silverware are used. Note that 15 percent is added to all beverage bills, including wines.
Other dining options. Sabatini’s is an informal eatery (reservations required; cover charge). It features an eight-course meal, including Italian-style pizzas and pastas, with a variety of sauces, as well as Italian-style entrées including tiger prawns and lobster tail. Its cuisine uses better quality ingredients and more attention to presentation and taste.
A poolside hamburger grill and pizza bar (no additional charge) are additional dining spots for casual bites. You have to pay extra if you order items to eat at either the coffee bar/patisserie, or the caviar/Champagne bar.
Other casual meals can be taken in the Horizon Court, open 24 hours a day, with large ocean view on port and starboard sides and direct access to the two principal swimming pools and Lido Deck.
Entertainment. The Princess Theater, spanning two decks, has comfortable seating on both main and balcony levels. It has $3 million in sound and light equipment, plus a nine-piece orchestra.
Princess Cruises has glamorous all-American production shows, and the two or three shows on a typical seven-day cruise should not disappoint.
A second large entertainment lounge, Club Fusion, presents cabaret acts at night, and lectures, bingo, and horse racing during the day. A third entertainment lounge also hosts cabaret acts and dance bands. Most lounges and bars have live music, and a number of male dance hosts act as partners for women traveling alone.
Spa/Fitness. The Lotus Spa is forward on Sun Deck - one of the uppermost decks. Separate facilities for men and women include a sauna, steam room, and changing rooms; common facilities include a relaxation/waiting zone, body-pampering treatment rooms, and a gymnasium packed with high-tech muscle-pumping equipment, and great views. Some fitness classes are free, while others cost extra.
The Lotus Spa is operated by Steiner Leisure (online reservations for any spa treatments are possible).