The 116,000-ton, 2,670-passenger Sapphire Princess debuted in 2004 as the fifth of nine ships in Princess Cruises' wide-ranging Grand class. While it is the largest of the Grand-class ships by volume, it carries more than 400 fewer passengers than its youngest siblings.
In 2018, ahead of a two-year stint in Europe for the first time since it was built (in Japan, incidentally), the ship went through a significant refurb. Though less far reaching than a 2012 makeover, the two-week dry dock did see the addition of a new kids' club -- Camp Discovery -- and Club Class Mini Suites, as well as new carpeting and furnishing.
The ship may be relatively old (14 years in 2018), and in parts it does show its age (some of the cabins and bathrooms could do with a spruce up, for example), but the refurbs have gone a long way to making it look and feel fresh. It also packs a lot in for what is classified as a midsized ship. It may not have the big wows that some modern ships have (no climbing walls or FlowRiders for example), but it does squeeze a lot in to entertain any age group.
The kids' club is one of the best we've seen on a ship this size; there is a full-size basketball court on the top deck, multiple swimming pools, a putting/bocce green, Movies Under the Stars, numerous restaurant options and a wealth of bars -- as well as the best-situated nightclub at sea.
Everything on Sapphire Princess centers around the Piazza, which acts as a meeting spot and a place to hang out, have a drink or a bite to eat, inquire about your onboard bill or do some shopping. The circular, three-deck space also doubles as an entertainment hub, with nightly music and occasional acrobats. As a result, Sapphire is surprisingly easy to navigate as all roads lead to and from here.
Even with the ship sailing full, passenger traffic is light pretty much everywhere -- with the exception of the Promenade area between Club Fusion and the Explorers Lounge, especially on formal night.
Another thing you might notice is that there isn't a main dining room, or rather what would be the MDR is split into five dining rooms (instead of Princess' typical two) -- which has the effect of cutting down on the cruise ship banquet ambience of big restaurants, but creating a more intimate dining experience.
Sapphire Princess is a ship that knows exactly what its passengers want -- quality food, lots of entertainment and a relaxed, easygoing vibe. It's packed full of things to do, day and night and despite being (relatively) small, punches well above its weight.
More than 70 percent of the ship's cabins are outside, and 78 percent of these feature balconies (748 of its 1,337 total passenger cabins).
All cabins are outfitted with flat-screen TVs secured to the wall, which frees up shelf space where the smaller TVs once stood. Depending on locale, channels include CNN, BBC, Discovery, ESPN and Fox News. There are a ton of movies on demand from classics to more recent offerings. You'll also find TV series from Animal Planet and the Discovery Channel. Oddly, despite how new the TVs are, they are not interactive so you can't check your onboard account or make restaurant bookings (that's all done through the Princess mobile app).
All cabins feature a twins-to-queen bed underneath a mirror surrounded by pastel padding, side tables with drawers, a small table off to the side for room service or other items, a chair, small refrigerator, private safe and a desk area with shelves and another large mirror.
Bathrooms are old (having not been refurbished in the 2018 spruce up) and really feel it. As well as being small, the shower includes the dreaded clingy plastic curtain; there is also a toilet and a basin with some shelving for toiletries.
You'll find a number of large interior cabins classified as accessible across the ship: five on Deck 7, and two apiece on Decks 12 and 14. They are the biggest accessible interior cabins we have seen (and would also suit families). In fact, they might be better described as suites as they include a separate sitting area, with a sofa bed -- and even a wet bar with a sink. There is acres of space between the two beds, with enough room for three side tables and a desk between them. There is even a small "entrance hall" with three wardrobes. The showers are fully accessible and the bathroom is correspondingly bigger.
Interior: Standard interior cabins, at 168 to 182 square feet, feature a roomy closet and shelves hidden behind a mirrored door.
Oceanview: Standard outside (ocean-view) cabins include the same amenities as an interior, but measure 183 to 194 square feet -- and, of course, feature a view from an oblong window. We particularly love the wardrobe in these rooms, which is a semi walk-in space opposite the bathroom, with plenty of space for hanging clothes and a top shelf. It adds a real sense of luxury -- and space -- to the rooms. It's worth noting that there are a number of Premium Ocean View cabins, which are all forward facing and come in at 200 square feet.
Balcony: Balcony cabins are 237 to 300 square feet, and feature private verandas with two blue mesh chairs, footrests and a small round metal side table. Balconies are a generous depth, due to the age of the ship, with plenty of space to stretch out.
Premium Balcony cabins are aft-facing, so have lovely views of the wake. They are the same size as balcony cabins, but in a different layout. There are four on Deck 12 and two apiece on Decks 8 through 10.
Club Class Mini-Suite: Mini-suites with balcony (354 square feet) are, in essence, a larger version of a balcony cabin. Mini-suites add a seating area with sofa bed, cocktail table, bathrobes, corner chair, an extra TV and a veranda. However, most minis are located on Deck 9 (Dolphin Deck) and, as such, feature verandas that jut out from the side of the ship (rather than being nestled into it); this means there's no roof and are pretty exposed. You (and it) are completely visible from the decks above (verandas on Deck 10 also jut out, though not as far, and are about half exposed).
The line added "Club Class" perks to the mini-suite category in the 2018 refurb. First and foremost among the perks is Club Class Dining in the Santa Fe Dining Room, which provides an exclusive dinner each evening, and breakfast and lunch on sea days. Other perks include priority embarkation and disembarkation; complimentary in-cabin wine -- half bottles of red and white wine; priority alternative dining reservations; evening canapes; and a Terry Shawl robe.
Suite: There are a number of different suite types on Sapphire Princes, ranging from the Vista Suite to the top of the line Grand Suite, clocking in at an impressive 1,329 square feet.
All suites have the following features: a separate seating area with a sofa bed; upgraded balcony furniture with room for four: two comfortable loungers, a table and two chairs; complimentary mini-bar setup; CD/DVD player with access to a complimentary DVD library; two TVs (one in each room); and walk-in wardrobes. They also all have tubs with showers. In the higher suite categories these are whirlpool tubs.
In addition to the mini-suite perks listed above, suite passengers also enjoy VIP priority embarkation and disembarkation; VIP priority disembarkation at tender ports; an exclusive disembarkation lounge; priority for shore excursion and specialty dining reservations; complimentary private portrait sitting with an onboard photographer; complimentary same-day laundry and professional cleaning services; complimentary shoe polishing service; a priority line at the guest service desk; golf umbrellas for use during the cruise and cruise card wallet to take home.
Vista: These suites are located on Decks 8, 9 and 10 (two on each deck, all aft-facing) and come in at 525 to 548 square feet. They have beautiful views -- made the most of by the decent-sized balconies (114 to 181 square feet), which include two loungers, four chairs and a table.
Penthouse: The Penthouse suites are 525 to 572 square feet, and are located on Decks 10 and 11. In addition to all the standard suite furnishings, you'll also find a dining table with room for four.
Owners: There is just one 692-square-foot Owners Suite. Located on Deck 11, this aft-facing suite includes a large balcony (but note it is partly obstructed due to a beam).
Premium: There are five 705-square-foot Premium Suites, all facing forward; one on Deck 12 and two at the front on Decks 10 and 11.
Grand: This vast suite located at the aft of the ship on Deck 11 comes with a queen bed in the bedroom, and in the sitting room there is a dining table with room for six people, a sofa bed and four small chairs, a writing desk and a bar area. There are separate entrances in both rooms to the huge balcony, which has loungers, chairs, a dining table and chairs. The bathroom his twin basins and a separate shower stall.
Family: There are no specific "family" cabins, but you will find a number of interconnecting cabins on each deck. There are also two cabins designated as Family Suites on Deck 9 that are 613 square feet. They are, to all intents and purposes, a suite (and enjoy all suite benefits) and feature the following: two rooms and two single sofa beds that can accommodate up to six passengers. The balcony has two loungers, four chairs and a table.
The quality of free food onboard Sapphire Princess is impressive for a ship this size, as is the variety of dishes. We were really impressed by the snacks available in the International Cafe, which are all freshly prepared and super tasty -- and available 24 hours. And the Horizon Court buffet delivered every time. Generally, there's a lot of attention to detail and evident care at every level, especially in the main dining rooms. In terms of dietary restrictions, there is a good selection of vegetarian dishes in the main dining rooms, but we didn't notice evidence of vegan or gluten-free dishes.
There is just one dedicated for-fee specialty restaurant -- Sabatini's -- and two specialty dining experiences -- Sterling Steakhouse and Crab Shack -- neither of which are in a dedicated space.
Savoy, Vivaldi (Deck 5); Pacific Moon, Santa Fe (Deck 6); The International (Deck 6): There is no single main dining room on Sapphire, but five dining rooms. Though all the dining rooms have a distinct design, and to a certain extent, vibe, they all offer the exact same menu.
Savoy, Pacific Moon and Santa Fe are for those who choose the line's flexible "Anytime Dining" program, which gives people the option to choose when they want to eat. Dinner in these restaurants runs from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.
Vivaldi offers traditional seating (same waiters, time and tablemates each evening) at 5:30 p.m., but becomes Anytime Dining from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. The International is the only dining room that offers traditional seating at both sittings -- 5:30 and at 8 p.m.
You can make reservations for those dining rooms offering Anytime Dining -- and if you're counting on a special table for a special night, we'd recommend it. Otherwise, waits aren't typically too bad even at prime-time dining hours (restaurant-style pagers are available to beep you when a table is ready); restaurant managers have a good sense of which dining rooms are busier than others and suggest alternatives if one is backed up.
Of the five, The International is the only one that serves breakfast and lunch, both of which are open seating. (This restaurant is a tricky one to get to -- you have to go up to Deck 7, walk all the way to the back of the ship, and then go down to Deck 6.)
Breakfast features everything you'd expect (cereal, yogurt, a selection of eggs, sausage, bacon), but with a daily specialty or two, typically the same choices available in the buffet, such as flavored pancakes or eggs Benedict. Breakfast runs from 6:30 to 9 a.m. on port days and 7 to 9:30 a.m. on sea days.
The lunch menu might include chicken liver mousse or a seafood quesadilla to start and for mains, a selection of pastas, roast chicken, griddled rockfish or a selection of salads and staples such as burgers and sandwiches. Lunch is served from noon to 1:30 p.m.
Afternoon tea -- complete with white-gloved waiters serving scones, piping hot tea and petite sandwiches -- is offered at Santa Fe every day from 3:30 until 4:30 p.m.
Though classics (or "Princess Favorites"), such as burger, grilled salmon and grilled chicken, are always available for dinner, Princess offers an interesting selection of dishes in the dining rooms. Starters might include beef satay with a spicy peanut sauce, sea scallop and shrimp, or mussels in pasta. Mains include pan-seared red snapper, braised lamb shank or island-spiced jerk chicken, which on paper sound appetizing, but although it's all well-cooked, it tended toward the milder side of tasty (the jerk chicken had no heat to it at all and the red snapper was a bit bland).
Sapphire Princess excels when it comes to desserts, which are uniformly delicious, decadent and filling. Options might include warm chocolate fudge cookie, Princess Love Boat dream (a chocolate mousse on a brownie), New York cheesecake and creme brulee.
There is also always a good selection of vegetarian options (four starters and two mains). We didn't notice any other allergies or food requirements specifically catered for on the menu, but if you inform your steward beforehand every effort is made to cater.
A special mention must go to the wine list -- and the knowledgeable sommeliers -- which was outstanding -- keenly priced, a wide selection and some really standout bottles. There is an emphasis on Italian and New World varietals, with the Belle Glos pinot noir ($59), romping home as our firm favorite (it's not cheap, but it's worth it for a special meal).
Horizon Court (Deck 14): You'll find the ship's buffet venue toward the aft of the ship. It's a large, well-thought-out space with plenty of seating, including lots of tables against the floor-to-ceiling glass windows that flood the space with light. It never feels too crowded even at peak times (i.e., breakfast on a port day) and leads out to the Pool Deck toward the middle or out to the more private Outrigger Bar, which has plenty of outside seating should you wish to take your meal outside. There are buffet stations on both sides, offering the same food and several cooking stations with themed cuisine where you can grab a freshly made pizza or wok-fried noodles, for example.
It serves an early continental breakfast with freshly baked pastries and breads from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. and then a full breakfast until 11:30 a.m. Lunch is served from 11:30 a.m. offering everything from the aforementioned cooking stations to create-your-own sandwiches and build-your-own salads and classics such as burgers, dogs, pasta and roasts. One area is given over to the Pastry Shop, serving delicious, freshly made pastries throughout the day and into the evening.
Light snacks are served in the afternoon from 3 to 5:30 p.m.
It opens for dinner from 5:30 p.m., but note on some evenings the rear of the buffet turns into the Sterling Steakhouse, which is a "pop up" specialty restaurant.
Alfredo's Pizzeria (Deck 5): A Princess stalwart, this occupies a prime spot in the Piazza, offering a selection of tasty pies including capricciosa, Romana and the Sapphire Princess, which includes Parma ham. Oddly, there is no pepperoni or margherita listed, but just ask and they will make one up for you. The pizzas are not the best we've tasted at sea, but they are certainly up there. Open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
International Cafe (Deck 5): Occupying one part of the Piazza, and serving up some of the best coffee we've had at sea, the cafe also offers a lovely selection of freshly baked pastries at breakfast and a wide selection of sandwiches, wraps, melts and soups at lunch. We loved this spot, it's ideal for spending hours people-watching and observing how the character of the Piazza changes, depending what time of day it is.
Trident Grill (Deck 14): Trident is a poolside grill serving hot dogs, cheeseburgers, veggie burgers and chicken sandwiches (among other things), along with French fries. It's open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Prego (Deck 14): A pizza counter (Sapphire's second pizzeria) offering a selection that ranges from day to day. It's open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Room Service: There's no extra fee (except for pizza), but the menu is limited. For breakfast, it's continental fare (pastries, cereal and coffee, for instance) with no options for hot food such as eggs or bacon, disappointingly. The rest of the day you can order a handful of sandwiches and salads; under "hot dishes" you are limited to soup and sandwiches. You can also order room service pizza -- medium-size pies only -- for a $3 surcharge.
Sabatini's (Deck 7); $29: Sabatini's is Princess' popular Italian option serving pasta, seafood and meats. Dinner begins with herbed focaccia grissini, rosemary flatbread with air-cured prosciutto and marinated green and black olives. Then you choose an antipasti (soft-shell crab over baby arugula), a pasta (vegetable pappardelle), a secondi course (duck with fava beans and pancetta, or baked striped bass in a herbed salt crust) and a dessert (raspberry frangipane tart tiramisu). All in all, it's a delightful experience. It's definitely worth making a reservation here.
Sterling Steakhouse (Deck 14); $29 per adult and $14.50 for children ages 3 to 12: Offering the same fare as the Crown Grill on other Princess ships, the biggest drawback of this specialty "restaurant" is that it's not a proper restaurant -- it's a space given over in the buffet, which means there's no special atmosphere, people are wandering by from the buffet and it just doesn't feel, well, that special. However, the food and service are both outstanding. It's straightforward steakhouse fare: chops, steaks and lobster, all served with a selection of sides including delicious garlic and herb French fries. There are also soups, salads and a selection of appetizers, with an emphasis on seafood (shrimps, scallops, mussels). It's all done to perfection, in fact one of the best at sea. Note: Sterling is not open every night; check the Princess Patter for opening days.
Crab Shack (Deck 14); $29: This is another pop up, which you'll find in the Horizon Court buffet once a week. It's a more casual specialty option, with bibs and crab-crackers and a lot of mess. The meal starts with popcorn shrimp in a basket, followed by soup and then you get to choose from mains including "Bayou-style Mad Dog Boil," which includes crawfish and corn on the cob; or steamed Alaskan king crab legs; a mixed steamer; or a shrimp pot. Again, what it lacks in atmosphere (in that it's not in a designated dining room), it makes up for in service, quality of food and fun. But don't even think about booking this if you don't like seafood, in particular shellfish.
Swirls (Deck 14); a la carte: This poolside ice cream parlor offers soft scoop ice cream for free, but if you want a frozen yogurt sundae there is a charge (from under $5). Create your own by selecting a flavor and toppings (like whole chocolate chip cookies and Caribbean rum cake), or order from the menu of concoctions.
Room Service; a la carte: Canapes and snacks are available for purchase to accompany your cocktails, from guacamole and chips to pate de foie gras.
And for a really special evening, try the Ultimate Balcony Dining room service experience. You need a cabin with a veranda, of course. The $100 per-couple dinner includes a four-course meal, a half-bottle of sparkling wine, a pre-dinner cocktail and a photo portrait. The Ultimate Balcony Breakfast includes a chilled half-bottle of Champagne, an assortment of fresh fruit and pastries (including the line's popular Norman Love chocolate bites), as well as smoked salmon and quiche. Unlike dinner, the wait staff at breakfast leaves food and drinks at the table versus serving them in courses.
Chef's Table (Savoy Dining Room); $95: Another splurge-worthy experience on Sapphire Princess is the Chef's Table, which involves a personal, behind-the-scenes galley tour (including hors d'ouevres) with the head chef, followed by a six-course wine-pairing dinner, especially prepared for your small group. Depending on how many passengers sign up, it usually happens twice a cruise.
Sapphire Princess is not a dressy ship, but during a seven-night cruise there are two formal nights (cocktail dresses, gowns or dark pants suits for ladies, dark suits or tuxedos for men), and five smart casual nights (most men wear a shirt and sports jacket outfit while women dressed up in skirts or pants with a nice blouse and jewelry). During the day, resort casual is the norm.
The two-story Princess Theater seats 705. In 2018, a new 270-panel LED wall was installed, which is used in select production shows and by guest entertainers. It can be used to display still images, video and live feeds.
The other striking element here is a huge, black backdrop curtain laced with twinkling fiber optic lights -- very, very neat (and no doubt very expensive). Seats do indeed fill up, so be sure to arrive early; drink service is available and prompt.
The Deck 7 Explorers Lounge often serves as a secondary theater for comedians or a live band.
Princess' daytime entertainment offerings emanate from its Scholarship@Sea program, which features a range of activities, from lecturers on various topics such as marine life, magic and history to more hands-on tutelage on computer skills, photography techniques and scrapbooking.
In addition to these offerings, there are regular wine-tasting sessions (Princess places a strong emphasis on wine), which vary in price. You can go for the $9.50 session, which features popular wines; or the $25 session, which features premium wines and canapes for food and wine pairing.
You'll also find film screenings on the pool deck with Princess' signature feature Movies Under the Stars. At night, complimentary popcorn is served.
There is also trivia, sports tournaments such as golf and table tennis and even a Wii challenge with the entertainment crew.
The ship is full of live music. The hub is the Piazza, where you'll hear various classical musical recitals throughout the day and then up-tempo dance tunes in the evening.
You'll also find live music in the Wheelhouse Bar, Crooners Lounge and Explorers Lounge.
Karaoke is a staple onboard, whether that's karaoke roulette or Princess Pop Star or Welcome Aboard Karaoke, all of which take place in Club Fusion.
On embarkation day, there is always a sail-away party on the Pool Deck (weather permitting) with a live band and dancing. The Captains Welcome Aboard Party -- complete with a Champagne waterfall -- takes place in the Piazza.
Princess Signature Movies Under the Stars takes place (weather permitting) most nights.
There are also various game show-type events such as Musical Charades or Majority Rules Gameshow in the Explorers Lounge most evenings.
The Asian-themed Grand Casino is a marriage of Vegas glitz and Far East glamour, with images of gondolas on the earth-toned walls surrounding clanging slot machines and gaming tables. Chips may be charged to your cabin account, but be aware there is a 3 percent surcharge for this.
Vines (Deck 5): This elegant, wood-paneled venue is part of The Piazza and serves more than 30 wines by the glass alongside a selection of sushi and other small plate options (wine for fee, tapas free). Sapphire also has a "wine blending" experience (not to be confused with wine tasting, which is also available), which takes place in here. This involves blending four (or three if you choose the non-premium varietals) wines to find the perfect mix. The wines are from the Silverado Vineyards in Monterey, California, offering a nod to Princess' West Coast heritage. The 45-minute session is led by an experienced sommelier. The wines are a cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, a merlot and a Malbec for the full experience, which is $37. Take away the cab sauv and it drops to $15 per person. You learn a lot about the heritage of the wines and, of course, what your palate prefers, and it's a lot of fun to sniff, swirl and experiment to find your perfect blend.
Bar Piazza (Deck 5): One of a number of bars in the Piazza, this has plenty of window-side seating and is a great place for a coffee and a read (or even a nap) during the day, while at night it's the perfect spot to grab a pre-dinner drink and enjoy the live music in the Piazza on your way to dinner.
Wake View Bar (Deck 6): The Wake View Bar is hidden deep within the ship on the Fiesta Deck and is only accessible via the spiral staircase at the back of Club Fusion one deck up. This is a quiet place during the day to have a cocktail and collect your thoughts, or even to do some reading, with no music and little chatter. At night, though you can't escape the music from Club Fusion, it's far less hectic than upstairs.
Churchill Lounge (Deck 6): Sports fans and cigar enthusiasts should scoot down to Churchill Lounge, a combination cigar lounge and sports bar. Though an odd pairing, this is the ideal place to view satellite broadcasts of various sporting events when available.
Club Fusion (Deck 7): Club Fusion serves as a dance club and features a nice-sized dance floor and 42 high-definition video screens, which gives it the high-tech feel of a big-city hangout.
Explorers Lounge (Deck 7): Explorers Lounge, with decor inspired by an African safari, is a cabaret-style lounge featuring singing and dancing acts, as well as occasional magicians and comedians. Snag a spot near the Tangier-inspired windows.
Crooners Bar (Deck 7): This spot is situated at the top of the Atrium, looking down on the Piazza and serves a wide selection of cocktails. It's a space, rather than a room, and quite a small one at that but there's a pleasant after-dinner atmosphere, helped along by live piano and vocals.
Wheelhouse Bar (Deck 7): Princess' signature Wheelhouse Bar is another great place to meet, with friendly bar service, a cozy members-only-club atmosphere, and nautical art and history displayed throughout. It also has live jazzy music. (The scene -- and the dancing -- picks up a little later in the evening.)
Outrigger Bar (Deck 14): This is a fine spot overlooking the aft pool, which makes it a perfect place to watch the sunset and the wake of the ship. What we particularly liked were the number of tables, which are ranged around and look down on the aft pool.
Calypso Bar (Deck 14): This bar is part of the ship's covered Conservatory, which also includes the Calypso Reef and Pool. The entire space is covered by a magrodome roof.
Mermaid's Tail Bar (Deck 14): This is the main pool deck bar, serving Neptune's Reef & Pool.
Tradewinds Bar (Deck 15): This bar overlooks the main pool deck and serves wine, beer and cocktails.
Oasis Bar (Deck 16): A small bar serving sunbathers and the hot tub users at the aft of the ship.
Skywalkers Nightclub (Decks 17 & 18): The ship's most stunning public area is Skywalkers lounge located high up on the Sky Deck; a spot we think should get the vote for the best positioned nightclub/lounge on a cruise ship. A Princess staple, the Skywalkers' on Sapphire Princess actually hangs over the aft end of the ship, so that its 125-foot balcony and dramatic floor-to-ceiling windows offer fantastic, unobstructed panoramas both day and night. (When you can, observe the ship's wake by moonlight.) The decor is a nod to outer space with stars and swirls, but done with great style -- we loved the brass table lamps with miniature moon-shaped cutouts.
After hours, Skywalkers' becomes a hopping club scene, but also works as a quiet place for a cocktail-with-a-view before supper.
Princess has a plethora of pools -- four in total (excluding a kids-only splash pool). Neptune's Reef & Pool, a spacious open-air area with colorful mosaics and lots of space for tanning, fills the ship's full-size outdoor pool requirement; the indoor Calypso Reef & Pool, covered by a retractable crystal magrodome, is decorated in a coral reef motif and the whole area is known as The Conservatory. Neptune's and Calypso Reef are located on the Lido Deck (14).
Elsewhere, you'll find the out-of-the-way Terrace Pool at the aft end of the ship on the Aloha Deck just below, and our favorite, an adults-only pool just below The Sanctuary on Deck 15. It looks as if it's part of The Sanctuary or Lotus Spa, but it's not; it's open to all.
The Sports Court is about as high as it can be on the ship -- on top of Skywalkers Lounge, which is effectively Deck 19. Here you'll find a basketball court, which is also used for soccer.
There is also a lovely secluded Lawn Court midship, above the Neptune Pool. Just climb a flight of stairs and find yourself in a bowl, with a grass lawn in between with a little shop for borrowing equipment. It's a nine-hole golf course primarily, but can also be used for croquet and bocce.
The best sun deck on Sapphire Princess is on Deck 16 aft. Not only will you find lots of space to relax, you've also got two hot tubs -- and a bar, almost like your own private sanctuary. If you really want to get away from everyone, and snag a great view, climb the steep stairs to the Sports Court on top of Skywalkers, and you'll find another sun deck. At the other end of the ship you'll find more sunbathing around and just above the adults-only pool, on Deck 16.
Sapphire also has Princess' signature, adults-only Sanctuary (Deck 16). The front-of-the-ship space features lots of thickly cushioned loungers, massage cabanas, signature beverages, complimentary light meals and on-call stewards. Enjoying the area comes at a price: It's $20 for half a day and $40 for a full day, plus there's a $3 service fee for dining orders. There's also a per-cruise price that varies.
The heart of Sapphire Princess is its Piazza on Deck 5, the aforementioned Italian-style atrium. The bustling, three-deck-high space is a combination bakery, wine/sushi/tapas bar, pizzeria and performance venue. You'll find the guest services, shore excursion and Captain's Circle Loyalty and Future Cruise Sales areas on Deck 6, and an array of shops here and on Deck 7, including duty free, branded goods, essentials and some brand names such as Church handbags.
The Art Gallery is on Deck 5; one deck up is the library, a cozy reading room with a mediocre collection of fiction and nonfiction books and a number of comfy chairs.
The Internet Cafe is on Deck 7, sandwiched between Explorers Lounge and Sabatini's, and its huge size is likely a reflection of the ship's age. Even though most people have a handheld device nowadays, we found it surprisingly busy. Internet access costs 79 cents per minute if you pay as you go or you can buy a package: 100 minutes for $69; 200 minutes for $99; 400 minutes for $159 and 600 minutes for $199. Though pricy, the good news is it's fast and it's billed by usage not time, so you don't have to worry about logging out.
The Photo Gallery is just beyond here, and the Platinum Suite -- for professional photo shoots -- is up on Deck 16, forward.
There are self-service launderettes on every passenger deck.
Princess is not necessarily the first cruise line that springs to mind when you think of a family line, however, the family offerings on Sapphire Princess are outstanding. As well as family meals, interconnecting cabins, a port-day drop off at the kids' club and family activities such as family discos, the kids' club spaces saw a complete overhaul during the 2018 refurbishment.
Boasting a new name -- Camp Discovery -- the club is a result of the line's partnership with Discovery Communications (which includes the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet and Discovery for Kids), and provides enhanced entertainment with a bit of education thrown in for good measure.
Sapphire Princess' kids' programs are divided by age group starting with the under-3s and going up to 12-year-olds (teens have a separate program, see below). There are two rooms -- one for the 3- to 7-year-olds and one for the 8- to 12-year-old crowd. Under-3s are welcome, but only if accompanied by an adult.
A few additional things to note -- the facility is high up on Deck 15 and so is flooded with natural light. Also a huge plus -- it has an outdoor play area and even a splash pool, an increasing rarity on new-build ships. There is a welcome event on the first day of the cruise where you can register your child and they will be issued with a muster station wristband. Kids need to be potty-trained to use water play areas and pools and attend drop-off kids programming.
The Tree House is for the 3- to 7-year-olds (and under-3s, if a parent is present). This huge, multifunctional space is brightly decorated and has a host of features including a climbing frame, a soft play area and even a mini-theater. There are plenty of tables and chairs and one whole wall fitted with monitors for gaming. There are also plenty of books and arts and crafts. Two doors lead to outdoor areas: one to a small splash pool and on the other side to a play area with a slide and hoops. Typical activities offered might be learning magic tricks, dressing up, a disco, drawing, coloring and themed afternoons connected with Animal Planet.
All 3- to 7-year-olds must be signed in and out of the program by a parent or guardian.
The Lodge is for kids aged 8- to 12-years-old, who can sign themselves in and out with prior permission from a parent or guardian. It has plenty of floor-to-ceiling glass windows and features a circular dance-floor-type space and a circle of interconnecting chairs, as well as more seats against the wall and windows, foosball and air hockey. There are also plenty of monitors for video games, a small library and arts and crafts on offer. Activities are more sports oriented, and although they don't have direct access to the outdoor spaces, they can use them. Games might include giant Connect Four, bingo, trivia and design challenges.
Kids' facilities are open on sea days from 9 a.m. to noon, 1 to 5 p.m. and then again from 6 to 10 p.m. In port, hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 6 to 10 p.m. When the ship is in port, kids are served lunch.
Kid-friendly activities take place elsewhere on the ship, too, including a "Wizard of Oz" sing-along one afternoon in Club Fusion.
Group kid-sitting (for kids ages 3 to 12) is available for $5 per hour from 10 p.m. through 1 a.m. Pre-booking is required, and private babysitting is not available. The minimum sail age is 6 months.
The Beach House is for 13- to 17-year-olds and is a cool area adjacent to the younger kids' facility. The room is designed like a nightclub, with a circular dance floor and a bar, where teens can mix up free mocktails. There are plenty of seats and sofas for lounging around, as well as barstools, foosball and even a synthesizer for those who fancy playing some tunes. There is a huge TV and numerous monitors for gaming. Teens have light touch programming, which might include Scary Movie night, Rock the Boat Party, video game challenges, dance competitions and arts and crafts. They can also come and go as they please.
The typical Princess passenger is about 50 and relatively well-traveled. The line also attracts a solid number of multigenerational groups -- families and older folks traveling with their children and grandchildren -- and some younger couples. During school vacations, the ship fills up with kids.
The ship divides its time between Southampton and Singapore, and the passenger demographic reflects this. So expect a lot of Brits and Northern Europeans during the summer; and Australians, Singaporeans, Malaysians, Japanese and Chinese during the winter. Announcements are in English when it's in Southampton and English, Chinese and Japanese when it's in Singapore. You'll also notice all signage in Chinese as well as English.
The Lotus Spa is infused with Asian flavor, and perhaps one of the reasons the design is so well executed is that the ship was actually built in Japan. Camel and sage walls and chairs induce immediate relaxation; tall exotic plants and heavy black doors framing opaque glass transport you to the Far East. Another nice touch? Spa staffers wear black kimono-style frocks accented by big, bright flowers, designed exclusively for Princess by L.A. fashion maven Sue Wong. The Lotus Spa had a refresh in 2018 ahead of the ship's European sojourn.
There are 16 treatment rooms in total, and treatments include a wide range of massages and facials, priced from relatively affordable to quite expensive (a 24-karat Gold Facial is $325 for 90 minutes). There are also lots of special offers, especially on port days, and discounts when you book three treatments at the same time.
As well as the treatment rooms, you'll also find a Thermal Suite with two steam rooms, a sauna and heated tile loungers. Entrance to the Thermal Suite costs $99 per person, per week or $179 per couple, or $20 for a day. But worth noting, if you don't want to pay is that both changing rooms feature a small steam room for free.
Sapphire has a high-tech fitness center with 35 cardio machines, 17 weight-training stations and 12 spinning cycles. There are plenty of for-fee classes, including Boot Camp (course of four for $120), personal training ($85 per hour) and Pilates ($12 per hour). There are also free classes early in the morning, as well as feet and posture seminars.
There is a jogging track on Deck 7; 2.5 times around is a mile.
Gratuities, which are automatically charged to onboard accounts, are $13.50 per person (including children), per day, for passengers staying in standard accommodations, $14.50 for passengers staying in a mini-suite and $15.50 for those in suites. A 15 percent gratuity is added to beverage purchases made onboard, including wine at dinner. Spa and casino staff members do not share in the gratuity charges -- if you use these services, tips are advised.
Date Refurbished: 2012
Country of Registration: Bermuda
Regular Capacity: 2670
Maximum Capacity: 2670
Number of Crew:1100
Crew Nationality: International
Officer Nationality: British & Italian
Language(s) Spoken: International
|Sapphire Princess was built in Japan and completed in 2004, fitted with over 700 balconies from which passengers can step out and enjoy the refreshing ocean breeze. Warm, welcoming crew members enhance your experience on board, from your friendly stateroom steward's attentive service, to white-gloved waiters adorning your plate with freshly-baked pastries during Afternoon Tea, to sommeliers recommending the perfect wine to accompany your dish!|
No. of Dinner Sittings: 2
No. of Dinner Sittings: 6:30pm & 8:30pm
Special Diet: Available upon request
Dress Code: May vary from Cruise Casual to Formal.Gratuity Policies
Suites $15.50 USD per passenger per day
Club Class $14.50 USD per passenger per day
Regular Staterooms $13.50 USD per passenger per day