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Detailed review of Sapphire Princess, 10 Day Orient Indonesia, 28 Dec – 6 Jan

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Detailed review of Sapphire Princess, 10 Day Orient Indonesia, 28 Dec – 6 Jan

 

So I have a dilemma, should I go for brief and breezy or detailed and descriptive?  As I am starting to record this post quite late, I have a preference for the former but aspire for the latter. Let’s see what happens.  In either case, I will be posting the review ex-post as I had no internet package on this trip. A veritable digital detox is in order!

 

What would become my regular blog spot – Crooners!

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There will be lots of these!

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A bit of background

I am currently on a 10 day cruise from Singapore to Singapore via Bali, Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Phuket (at least that was the plan) on Sapphire Princess.  Three days after spending Christmas at home in wet and windy Dublin, Ireland, I now find myself on Day 1 of an Asian odyssey in wet and windy Singapore, albeit 20 degrees warmer, it’s a balmy 30 degrees. We left Dublin on St. Stephens Day (as we call it in Ireland) or Boxing Day (for our UK neighbours). Having hosted the Christmas feast of turkey, ham and all the trimming just the day before, it felt very surreal to pack up and fly to Singapore the next day. But that is what we did. Who are the ‘we’ I speak of? Well, my sister (DS), my mother (DM), and I. My cruise partners in crime and I go away together at least once a year. Our land-based trips tend to be in Europe such as Provence in the South of France or Tuscany in Italy. When on cruises we always share a cabin because we love each other, hell no, because it cheaper, alot cheaper!

 

DM, me, and DS on Sapphire

 

Us.thumb.jpg.e47a8075819877ec79230251344fb947.jpg

 

This is my sixth cruise, and DM and DS’s fifth, as I managed to a pack in a sneaky two-day cruise on the Queen Mary II in October of this year on my own, just to tide me over until this one, excuse the pun. It’s our first time sailing on Princess, having sailed twice on Celebrity (Millennium and Reflection) and twice on HAL (Oosterdam and Nieuw Statendam). So we are very much cruise novices compared to many of you on this board.  I have wanted to try Princess for some time now, and having already sailed in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean we were ready for a new continent to explore by water. This cruise ticked almost all the boxes, apart from the ship itself. After sailing on the beautiful HAL Nieuw Statendam last year on its almost maiden voyage, I discovered that I am a new ship kind of girl, and Sapphire Princess is 15 years old. In general, I am not ageist, but I fear, when it comes to ships, I possible might be. So we chose this cruise for its itinerary and timing and our expectations for the ship itself were pretty low. Were we mistaken, well let’s find out.

 

 

But first a sneak peek of Sapphire.

Ship.thumb.jpg.99e5091ac2e9c0b3025b72db13ac6428.jpg

 

 

 

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The Journey

After the annual St. Stephen’s Day invasion of brothers, sisters, in-laws, nieces, nephews etc. to mark Christmas celebrations part II, my cruise-phobic husband kindly took us to the airport for our 7pm flight to London, where we had a 1hr 20 min layover until our flight to Singapore. We knew it would be tight but as both flights were in the same terminal we thought it would be ok.

  

Ready to go

Leaving.thumb.jpg.608888cbf0d3b02e982e055af8346e3f.jpg

 

Obligatory pre-flight prosecco

Airport.thumb.jpg.3c1f5b176fb0002ab1557306ac005c40.jpg

 

 

In hindsight perhaps this was misguided, well almost certainly it was misguided. We did not bank on a slight delay in taking off from Dublin and an even longer delay in getting off the plane in Heathrow. According to the pilot, due to new immigration regulations we were not allowed to disembark directly into the terminal as normal. Instead we had to exit at the back of the plane and take a bus to the main terminal (is this Brexit creeping up on us??). Oh how the gods/buddas were laughing at us; in an attempt to exit the plane as soon as possible we booked seats right at the front, so naturally now that disembarkation was taking place at the back, we were among the last to leave. There followed a mad dash through the airport on planes, trains and automobiles. We made it to the gate with just minutes to spare, boarding had already started but we were nowhere near the last to embark. We survived! Well almost, well most of us, DM took a blood pressure tablet just in case.

 

We made it!

Heathrow.thumb.jpg.d6a85b3e5e7be78d54123a704764ab96.jpg

 

The flight to Singapore was just over 12 hours and passed by pretty smoothly. I had considered upgrading to business class as I am currently sporting a prolapsed disc which is sitting on a nerve causing pain. Due to said disc injuries my sporting activities have been severely hampered over the past 3 months so I really needed to re-think my whole eat lots/work out lots cruise strategy. Anyway back to the plane ride, actually no, back to the disc issue. A week ago today I got a steroid injection to alleviate the inflammation and reduce the pain. It could take up to two weeks to have an effect, so far no joy. Although, it has definitely done something to me, but not necessarily in a good way. Anyway, if by the time we get to Bali (as that will be 2 weeks exactly) the pain is still there, I have to tell my surgeon that I will go ahead with surgery on 13th Jan (3 days after I come home from this trip). For now, I’m crossing everything in the hope that it works (well if I was in a position to cross everything I would, but I can’t due to said disc issue). Just a warning in advance, you may be hearing more about ‘the disc’.  OK, now back to the flight. I can’t believe I haven’t even got to Singapore yet, I guess bright and breezy this is not!

 

After walking through business class on our long long walk to the back of the plane, I figured it was €5,000 well saved. BA business class, at least one this particular plane, isn’t a patch on the other long haul flights I usually take on Emirates or Etihad. Our much cheaper economy class seats were absolutely fine. DS and DM kindly volunteered their pillows, so I was well supported in many ways. The flights details are hazy but I think I read Crazy, Rich, Asians (to get me in the mood for Singapore), then watched the movie ‘Yesterday’ (Beatles related), had food (very good for plane food), took a sleeping tablet (magic), and woke up with only 2 hours left on the flight, perfect!

  

And this view of Singapore below.

1335081724_Singaporefromair.thumb.JPG.35319a683a8ba32b973d215bff8e25b6.JPG

 

We landed at 6.30pm (the next day), so we lost a day but gained a continent, not bad. DS had informed me that Singapore airport was supposed to be ‘amazing’, it even has a waterfall, maybe I was still in a medicated haze, but I didn’t see any waterfalls (turns out it is in terminal 1 and we were in 3, or possibly vice-versa). Anyway there was no waterfall, but there was a big queue for immigration. It didn’t look too bad, but it still took us about 40 minutes to get through. On a positive note, it was the first time that immigration officers provide sweets!  A nice welcome.

 

Sweet from customs officer

Customs.thumb.JPG.b23f5de399402354fa034a59a8121a44.JPG

 

 

 

Our bags were already out, so with a short hop, skip and jump through the terminal building we met our driver. DS had arranged a private transfer in advance, which took the hassle out of finding the taxi rank etc. I think it was about €30 for the ride. 

 

I love driving into a new city, even though it was dark we could see how spectacular Singapore was, remember I live in a city with no tall buildings, none, so I am easily impressed. The driver was great, giving lots of tips about where to go, and most importantly, where to eat.  We only had one night in Singapore before the cruise, but 2 nights and almost 4 days on our return, so we would have plenty of time to explore.

 

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Thank you for your review.  Fantastic so far!

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Thanks for sharing your review. Enjoying your writing style!

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Loving the details ! We are addicted to new ships too (5 maiden cruises from the 3 different lines in recent years) but have a great love for Sapphire Princess as she was our first - interested to find out what you think!

 

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We leave a week from  Monday for our Singapore cruise on Feb. 2, so am very interested in your review.  

Edited by CruzinNoony

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Thank you all for your kind comments so far.

 

For those of you who have already sailed on Sapphire it would be great to hear your comments on the trip, and for those of you who are planning on sailing on her soon, I hope this review will (eventually when I get on the ship!) be useful!

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The Arrival

For the first night DS had booked us into The Westin, mainly because it’s in Marina Bay, so it’s close to the main sights and the all-important cruise terminal. Check-in was swift, our room was massive, we are happy.  I made sure to inform my cabin mates to be that this room was likely to be four times the size of our cruise cabin, so luxuriate in your vast surrounding while you can.

 

Westin lobby by day

 LObby.thumb.JPG.849fc479babd817cd3d69b089c49bc37.JPG

 

Our massive room

Westin_1.thumb.JPG.c28bff875cb675537dac67112d92ac84.JPG

 

Nice bath, which we didn't use 

Westin_2.thumb.JPG.b425626856ccd11c7ad5b64046b0dfc0.JPG

 

Ex-ante, our plan was to order room service and crash out once we reached the hotel.  We didn’t know what shape we would be in after the flight, so we didn’t commit to do anything specific that evening. Shape wise I was actually pretty good all things disc considered. And excited by our arrival in Singapore, we were keen to go out and explore the city. The famous Gardens by the Bay were only a 20 minute walk from the hotel (thank you Google maps), so we decided to go to the 9pm light show. Every evening they have a free show where the ‘Supertrees’ are immersed in music and light. Our walk pretty much revealed that not many people walk in Singapore. We seemed to be the sole pedestrians on this Friday evening. Where was everyone?? Hello.

 

We entered the gardens at the opposite end of all the action, still little sign of life, but even the walk to the Supertrees was pretty impressive.

 

There were blobs bobbing

 GB1.thumb.JPG.a9a24faffd9def1660b952ad86be6bfd.JPG

 

And babies baying

 GB2.thumb.JPG.312f1e5ca73893e5324dc0b94088f367.JPG

 

And then we reached the pinnacle, Christmas music abounds, and we found people! 

 

A supertree with the famous Marina Bay Sands Hotel in the background.

GB4.thumb.JPG.428be18add97b50c70a3dcf70f17809d.JPG

 

 Lots of supertreesGB3.thumb.JPG.6ad5088c3af7819f49c8829259d01451.JPG

 

IMG_1638.thumb.jpg.6b0435f014910c790dc4df95bebb9958.jpg

 

As it was Christmas, they had a special 'village' set up, when you got here the next day they were already dismantling it.

GB6.thumb.JPG.d5c6eab7413cb50a8ae02d123891a21b.JPG

 

 

It really was spectacular and a little surreal to go Christmas in Dublin to Christmas in a balmy Singapore in the space of a day.

 

My hair was starting to have issues with the humidity, although at least my outfit matched the light show.

GB5.thumb.JPG.9f1c8c45168e55a5f368b8452329ff75.JPG

 

We spent an hour or so in the gardens, and by then, well it must have been a wiole 4 hours since  eating, so food was in order! Our driver had recommended a hawker (food) market near the hotel, so we walked back in that direction (I was slightly flagging at this stage). We found the market, and subsequently discovered where everyone in Singapore was - eating! THE thing to do in Singapore. It being a Friday night it was jam packed, with interesting sounds and smells.

 

Here is a pic of the market in daylight…it would feature multiple times!

 Market.thumb.jpg.1b68b5a5d905c8696d7cd241422cd778.jpg

 

Eating in a hawker market, while tasty and cheap, is a lot of work though! Did I mention that I have an aversion to buffets (well if I didn’t, it will be mentioned again). Each stall typically sells one dish, so you have to find a table, order food, wait, go to another stall, order food, wait, back to table etc etc. We decided to deposit DM at a table and DS and I went in search of food. Operation failed (well at least initially). Slight problem, no credit cards taken in hawker markets and we had no Singaporean Dollars, so we made a mad dash to an ATM near the market to get some cash. Disaster averted. We managed to order lemon chicken rice (v good), shredded chicken congee (a mistake) and some type of bao (good), as well as some beer of course (always welcome).

 

Food!

 Food.thumb.JPG.3a2d52323a1efd8d09ddfdcb73022fb1.JPG

 

Food consumed, can I go to bed please now…. We wearily retreated to our massive hotel room, had some tea (English breakfast, no Irish breakfast shock), there was possibly some chocolate involved too, and we went to sleep pretty quickly. But for how long, that is the question.

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The Arrival

For the first night DS had booked us into The Westin, mainly because it’s in Marina Bay, so it’s close to the main sights and the all-important cruise terminal. Check-in was swift, our room was massive, we are happy.  I made sure to inform my cabin mates to be that this room was likely to be four times the size of our cruise cabin, so luxuriate in your vast surrounding while you can.

 

Westin lobby by day

 LObby.thumb.JPG.849fc479babd817cd3d69b089c49bc37.JPG

 

Our massive room

Westin_1.thumb.JPG.c28bff875cb675537dac67112d92ac84.JPG

 

Nice bath, which we didn't use 

Westin_2.thumb.JPG.b425626856ccd11c7ad5b64046b0dfc0.JPG

 

Ex-ante, our plan was to order room service and crash out once we reached the hotel.  We didn’t know what shape we would be in after the flight, so we didn’t commit to do anything specific that evening. Shape wise I was actually pretty good all things disc considered. And excited by our arrival in Singapore, we were keen to go out and explore the city. The famous Gardens by the Bay were only a 20 minute walk from the hotel (thank you Google maps), so we decided to go to the 9pm light show. Every evening they have a free show where the ‘Supertrees’ are immersed in music and light. Our walk pretty much revealed that not many people walk in Singapore. We seemed to be the sole pedestrians on this Friday evening. Where was everyone?? Hello.

 

We entered the gardens at the opposite end of all the action, still little sign of life, but even the walk to the Supertrees was pretty impressive.

 

There were blobs bobbing

 GB1.thumb.JPG.a9a24faffd9def1660b952ad86be6bfd.JPG

 

And babies baying

 GB2.thumb.JPG.312f1e5ca73893e5324dc0b94088f367.JPG

 

And then we reached the pinnacle, Christmas music abounds, and we found people! 

 

A supertree with the famous Marina Bay Sands Hotel in the background.

GB4.thumb.JPG.428be18add97b50c70a3dcf70f17809d.JPG

 

 Lots of supertreesGB3.thumb.JPG.6ad5088c3af7819f49c8829259d01451.JPG

 

IMG_1638.thumb.jpg.6b0435f014910c790dc4df95bebb9958.jpg

 

As it was Christmas, they had a special 'village' set up, when you got here the next day they were already dismantling it.

GB6.thumb.JPG.d5c6eab7413cb50a8ae02d123891a21b.JPG

 

 

It really was spectacular and a little surreal to go Christmas in Dublin to Christmas in a balmy Singapore in the space of a day.

 

My hair was starting to have issues with the humidity, although at least my outfit matched the light show.

GB5.thumb.JPG.9f1c8c45168e55a5f368b8452329ff75.JPG

 

We spent an hour or so in the gardens, and by then, well it must have been a wiole 4 hours since  eating, so food was in order! Our driver had recommended a hawker (food) market near the hotel, so we walked back in that direction (I was slightly flagging at this stage). We found the market, and subsequently discovered where everyone in Singapore was - eating! THE thing to do in Singapore. It being a Friday night it was jam packed, with interesting sounds and smells.

 

Here is a pic of the market in daylight…it would feature multiple times!

 Market.thumb.jpg.1b68b5a5d905c8696d7cd241422cd778.jpg

 

Eating in a hawker market, while tasty and cheap, is a lot of work though! Did I mention that I have an aversion to buffets (well if I didn’t, it will be mentioned again). Each stall typically sells one dish, so you have to find a table, order food, wait, go to another stall, order food, wait, back to table etc etc. We decided to deposit DM at a table and DS and I went in search of food. Operation failed (well at least initially). Slight problem, no credit cards taken in hawker markets and we had no Singaporean Dollars, so we made a mad dash to an ATM near the market to get some cash. Disaster averted. We managed to order lemon chicken rice (v good), shredded chicken congee (a mistake) and some type of bao (good), as well as some beer of course (always welcome).

 

Food!

 Food.thumb.JPG.3a2d52323a1efd8d09ddfdcb73022fb1.JPG

 

Food consumed, can I go to bed please now…. We wearily retreated to our massive hotel room, had some tea (English breakfast, no Irish breakfast shock), there was possibly some chocolate involved too, and we went to sleep pretty quickly. But for how long, that is the question.

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This is fantastic!

 

I can’t wait for the rest of it.

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Thanks for doing this - we are on the ship in early March. Looking forward to reading about your experience. 

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Day 1 Exploring Singapore

I managed to sleep on and off for maybe 6 hours or so, not too shabby.  There is nothing better than peering out the window of a high rise hotel first thing in the morning having arrived late at night. What awaits? In this case, from the 38th floor, the sun was rising, the skyscrapers emerged, and there was a familiar looking ship in the distance….could it be….indeed I think it might be the Sapphire Princess, our ship awaits! I haven’t been on the ship before, but I have read reviews and seen enough blogs to recognise it. Looks quite small from this distance.

 

Sapphire on the horizon

 Rooftop_view.thumb.jpg.f9680fd330294bb3cd8111dd986b0b77.jpg

 

I was adamant that an early morning swim in the outdoor pool on the 35th floor was all I needed to jettison the jetlag, and indeed, it was bracing i.e freezing cold. While the outdoor temperature was a very pleasant 26 degrees, the pool was a virtual ice bath. I lasted a whole 5 minutes, DS even less. It was just enough time to get one of those Instagram-able ‘top of the building infinity pools’ shots that feature in every Singaporean blog… if I was on Instagram it would have made more sense, instead I am sharing it with you.

 

Gritted teeth swim

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Catch the view of the ships in the early morning sunrise through the building

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Job done. It woke us up. Back to the room for a hot shower, hot coffee (instant but needs must), a quick re-pack, and we were out the hotel door before 8.30 having deposited our bags with the friendly concierge who offered us the use of their pool/showers even after check-out – thank you much appreciated but we have a ship to catch!

 

We debated on where to have breakfast. Apparently (according to DS) the traditional Singaporean breakfast involves toast with jam and coconut and soft boiled eggs, not the most Asian sounding breakfast, but why not. However time was of the essence and we had tickets to explore the Cloud Forest and Flower Dome in the Garden by the Bay, so we just grabbed a coffee and pastry in a French cafe near the hotel and walked back to the Gardens. This time we took a different route along by the water and were rewarded with some epic views.

 

Lots of skyscrapers

 skyscrapers.thumb.JPG.1685f4e31748a1279b96adfd58cc4247.JPG

 

The waterfront

 Skyline.thumb.jpg.3e25add417418f0f0d70fb500883d0cd.jpg

 

We took a short-cut through the famous Marina Bay Sands Hotel and in what would become a recurring theme of this trip, were flabbergasted by the sheer number of designer shops in one space, good thing the shops were not open or else we may never have  made it to the gardens. My initial impression of Singapore it that it is unlike any other South East Asian city I have been in, it seems more westernised compared to the cities I visited in Vietnam, Thailand and even China. We had expected that DM, who had never been anywhere in Asia before, to experience some form of culture shock, but there was none to be had. We should drop her off in Delhi on the way home!

 

Marina Bay Sands Hotel by day

 1136462142_MarinaBay.thumb.jpg.edddf0f181fc644dcf8621facd8641d5.jpg

 

We finally made it to the Gardens – quick informational note, it is free to enter and walk around the gardens (like we did last night), but you have to pay to enter the main attractions such as the Cloud Forest and the Flower Dome.  We enjoyed visiting both, although I probably preferred the Cloud Forest. They are one of the main attractions in Singapore, so I am glad we got there early, as the crowds were starting to form later in the morning. So jetlag is good for something.

 

The blogs by day

 GB_Day1.thumb.jpg.3da9410a283425b5e82dd203fb42a210.jpg

 

 

Cloud Forest

Cloud_forest.thumb.JPG.e997279960f0bcd3e5cdb90471ea504c.JPG

 

Cloud Forest II

Cloud_forest_1.thumb.jpg.07bb562533597441758ba02ab9c7f5ac.jpg

 

 

Flower Dome Christmas-fied

1663432306_FlowerDome.thumb.JPG.8cfdd76e43afd527e596b27899985cdd.JPG

 

Although jetlag does have its consequences, and for me, it means I get really hungry really quickly.  So after a couple of hours of wandering through the gardens, a wave of hunger overcame me, I need food, and soon! I even considered going to McDonalds as there one in the Gardens (don’t judge me, I’m jetlagged remember or at least that’s my excuse). But it was not to be as they were still serving breakfast and I don’t care how hungry I am I am never going to stomach a McMuffin, in fairness, who can?? Instead, we went straight for the wine!

 

Well not technically, but almost. This is our first cruise without a drinks package included. This means we would have to pay for alcohol ourselves (or good coffee/hell even water), the shock. A much loved routine on our previous cruises was a glass of prosecco in the hot tub at sunset. This time if we wanted a drink we would have to pay….like in the real world…but cruises shouldn’t be like the real world, that’s the point. Now I should state for the record that we are not big drinkers, but we do enjoy wine at dinner and maybe a sneaky pre-dinner cocktail, so it’s nice to be able to have whatever we like without having to think about it. Anyway, after much discussion, debates, and excel exercises (ok we didn’t go that far), we figured it just didn’t make sense to buy the drinks package as there is no way we would drink $59 plus tax of alcohol per day. So we were going packageless.

 

To ease the burden somewhat we decided by buy some wine to bring on board. This is the first time we have done this – one bottle per person is allowed.  So our next task was to find a wine shop which was open. Not such an easy task in Singapore on a Saturday morning. Using the free wifi in the Gardens I found one, but it was about 30 minute walk away, and it was getting hot, hot, hot, I was still hungry, and time was of the essence (again), so we got a taxi (only $9) to Wine Connections, picked up 1 red, 1 white and 1 rose (note to others intending to do the same, wine is much more expensive in Singapore than Europe).

 

With our main task for the morning successfully completed we walked back in the direction of the hotel hoping to find somewhere to eat along the way. Also turns out that many restaurants are closed in downtown Singapore on a Saturday morning, so we ended up in the same hawkers market as last night (I told you it would feature again, and indeed this isn’t even the end of it). We had intended to share 2 dishes, but, as they say, 2 became 1 as when I went to pay I discovered that I left most of the Singaporean dollars in my other bag – I had €6 dollars in total in spare change. So it was a case of loaves and fishes and one chicken with pineapple rice had to do the job. But who cares about food when there is a ship to board!

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Forgive the prelude, I promise I am getting to the actually point of this post now…the ship! Also forgive my excessive use of the exclamation mark. Note no exclamation mark here.

 

Embarkation

We picked up our luggage from the hotel and got a taxi to the cruise terminal (less than 10 mins). Traffic was a little heavy going into the port but it gave us a chance to take what should have been a good photo of the ship...if it wasn't for the inconveniently parked truck...ah well...

 

TRuck.thumb.jpg.e09b2d2e7bcc9056f7788a170786910c.jpg

 

That's better, thank you

Better.thumb.jpg.f794e6c773a7c4e0e2d9894b5fa016e4.jpg

 

Everything is running so smoothly so far. DS is always ultra-organised, so she had all our docs printed out including the all-important luggage tags, one minor detail was missing though, no tape to ‘attach the said tags. A major blow to her organised ego, but no worries, there was a special line for ‘people who forgot the tape/stapler’ and a kindly porter quickly sorted it out.

 

Then the real queuing began, none of it took very long but there were many many queues – queue for security check, queue for check-in, queue for passport control. Despite the quantity of queues, we were done and dusted in less than 40 minutes, and then we were on the ship and off to find our cabin! Note, no proffered champagne on arrival a la Celebrity, ah well.

 

It’s still Christmas in the Piazza

 Piazza.thumb.jpg.359927419519666a306b4c6e4fb32318.jpg

 

We always stay in balcony cabins as DM likes somewhere to chill out (i.e. get out of our way) when we are getting ready in the evening. On Sapphire Princess however, had we chosen a standard balcony cabin we would be sleeping in bunk-beds, and having already spent 15 years sharing bunk beds there was no way DS and I were going to recreate our childhood arguments about who was going to sleep in the top bunk (always me of course). So instead we booked a ‘mini suite’ as the suites have a sofa which turns into a bed. From looking at photos online, the mini suites on Sapphire looked pretty much identical to standard balcony cabins on Celebrity/HAL. However, as I soon discovered, for not quite the first time, I was wrong, the cabin was much bigger than we expected. The sofa could comfortably seat 3 people AND there was a walk-in wardrobe of sorts. This cabin was so much bigger than our previous cabins, it was almost palatial!

 

Our cabin

 Cabin1.thumb.jpg.a92ffbda49c4927eaecb58f437811281.jpg

 

 

Cabin2.thumb.jpg.a8735bc7b8d33c7995f601f82c5c81d7.jpg

 

Cabin3.thumb.jpg.bf9d44a8a09d5130e05d79c72706dbf1.jpg

 

Sofa.thumb.jpg.b3894cde6a097fc82af7c6dfe147f623.jpg

 

The bathroom, however, was pretty dreary, but perfectly functional. The hair dryer was a disaster, and the toiletries not much better, but we had brought our own anyway.  

 

Our Bathroom 

 Bathroom1.thumb.jpg.012152a56e1387aa8cf405adac8228e5.jpg

 

 

Bathroom2.thumb.jpg.f04cd51125ae227e31f832a457898cc6.jpg

 

The balcony was the piece de résistance, it was fab, very deep, and I especially loved the fact that we could leave the door open without it automatically slam shutting a la HAL. Informational note, the balconies on deck 6 are overlooked by the cabins on decks above it, but unless you are doing something pretty embarrassing on your balcony you should be ok.  In sum, we were happy with the cabin, there was loads of storage room, enough hangers for 3 females (v important), and a weirdly numerous amount of mirrors. Yes, the furnishing are a bit dated and it lacks the freshness and modernity of newer ships, but the beds were super comfy!

 

DM and DS demonstrating the size of the balcony (I was standing on the balcony taking this)

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Our cabin was on Deck 6 midship. This was an automatic ‘upgrade’ from our originally booked mini suite which was much more aft if I remember correctly.  DS and DM cases were ready and waiting when we arrived, although mine had not yet arrived…should I be worried….where had mine absconded to? I mentioned it to the cabin steward and he said that luggage for the same cabin often arrives at different times. Worries averted, we headed for lunch (mark II) where almost certainly there would be no loaves and fishes issues.

 

Our cabin complete with mini decorations 

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As it was too late to go to the Main Dining Room or the International Dining Room (IDR) as it’s called on Sapphire, we walked up to the Horizon Court (buffet) on deck 14. As a rule we always use the stairs, never the elevator, unless DM really protests, which is seldom in fairness, usually only after intensive port days. We sometimes forget that she is more than 30 years older than us.

 

No. of flights covered on one of the sea days (although in fairness this was the max and ignore the 39KM as I later discovered when I tell my iwatch I am walking on a ship the GPS is totally off for obvious reasons!)

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Out first impressions of the Horizon Court were how tiny it was. On our previous cruises there was always two sides to the food court, but on Sapphire there was only one side, everything was very crammed together, and the positioning of the food offerings just made no logical sense. As I said, I am not a fan of buffets, so maybe I am being overly critical. The food itself was very good - I had some salad, fruit and bread, and my first beer to get into the holiday vibe (well ok ok my second beer, keen readers may have observed my beer in the hawkers market the night before).

 

My first Sapphire lunch

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I forgot to mention, but when we arrived in the cabin there were vouchers for $1000 worth of on-board credit waiting for us. My husband, on hearing our numerous debates on the ‘to drinks package or not’ had bought us the credit so ease our concerns over ‘having to actually pay for drinks’. What a gem. I’m pretty sure we are not going to drink $1000 worth of coffee and alcohol, but we can use it to pay for gratuities or the speciality restaurants, so it would be put to good use. Cocktail anyone??

 

Said cocktail at a later date - Bourbon and Spiced Pear seemed christmassy somehow

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In the name of research after lunch I had a soft scope ice-cream cone from the Lido/pool deck – quite tasty and quite petite which is good as I can see afternoon ice-cream becoming a thing. After that we headed back to the cabin to un-pack, my bag had arrived!!! Our cabin steward also called by to introduce himself and unlike previous cruises, he actually spent some time talking with us and asking us how and when we wanted the beds set up, did we want anything else, and most importantly to let us know he left 3 glasses of champagne in the fridge, nice! Bonus Princess.

 

We decided to save the champagne for sail-away, as now was the time to unpack. I hate unpacking, DS normally does it for me…hello DS…DS….

 

Um…I thought I brought more clothes than this, looks like even DM has more than me which is pretty astonishing for anyone who knows me. Ah well, I have enough, just not enough to never rotate an outfit, but needs must. Next up, muster. Ours was in the Princess Theatre and was headed by cruise director Matt who made it much more entertaining than normal. So far I am hearing lots of Australian accents on this cruise so it will be interesting to hear the passenger numbers at the Captain’s welcome tomorrow. I am assuming us Irish will be in the minority.

 

Sail-away was at 4pm so we didn’t have much time after the Muster drill, so quick match back to the cabin to grab swimwear (and champagne) and head up to the Sun Deck (deck 15 I think). While up there we took some photos, looked around The Sanctuary as we had considered booking it for some of the sea days.

 

Doesn’t it look nice!

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However, while it has super comfy loungers and is pretty quiet, it doesn’t have its own pool or hot tub, and right below it there is a small adults only pool and hot tub (Lotus pool) AND there were free loungers, quickkkkkkkkk, grab them.

 

We like this place

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We bunkered down there for the next couple of hours, reading, listening to music on my new noise cancelling headphones (Christmas present from the ever generous DH), and took some dips in the pool which was super warm, like properly warm. I am not sure if I commented on the weather properly yet, it was consistently hot over the whole 2 weeks and very humid – the temperature was always hovering around the 28-30 degree mark. Some days felt hotter than others but I guess that depends on the humidity. In retrospect perhaps it wasn’t a good idea to get my hair cut short a few weeks ago, it was having a mind of its own in this humidity.

 

Sailaway hair literally  

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At about 6.30 we headed back to the cabin to a) cool down and b) get ready for our first dinner in IDR.

 

Obligatory pre-dinner baloney shot number 1 (it was vvvvery windy)

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We had chosen traditional dining at the second sitting of 7.30. This is a much more respectable second sitting compared to 8.30 on HAL last year where I would have sold DM for a bread roll by 8pm. Another feature of Sapphire Princess compared to the other ships we have sailed was the absence of one main dining restaurant (MDR) and instead a number of smaller dining rooms. We were in the International Dining Room (IDR) as we choose traditional dining. Had we chosen anytime dining we could go to any of the other 4 dining rooms - Santa Fe, Vivaldi, Savoy and Pacific Moon. Earlier in the day we had scouted out our assigned table in the IDR, and it was perfect, a table for 4 beside a window, what luck! If memory serves us correctly, this is our first designed window table (although it was always dark when we went for dinner so we didn’t get that much use out of the view).

 

View from our table

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We discovered that we really prefer the more intimate dining experience in the IDR, so votes to Princess for that! First impressions of our first experience in IDR were pretty good, lovely waiters and pretty good food, especially the bread and desserts (DM asked me to say that specifically). I had red snapper ceviche mojito (very good), Bala fish with a side of fries (ok), and crème brulee (excellent!), and for some reason I have a photo of soup, I think it was DS’s.

 

Obligatory dinner food pics number 1 (sorry but I only started taking photos of the menus from day 3 or 4 onwards)

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We also ordered a bottle of white wine. It was the first time I have actually ordered an actual bottle of wine on a ship, the excitement. I like wine, well I like good wine, and as we had beverage packages on previous cruises we could only order glasses of wine, the choices, the choices! We could drink good quality wine and the waiters would save the rest until the next night. Our waiter Joffrey was great, very efficient and friendly with suggestions about what was good each night.  

 

I had a decaf coffee at the end of the meal which was perfectly acceptable. Overall, a very good meal and we would look forward going back to the IDR.

 

At this stage in the evening we were pretty wreaked so we decided to call it an evening and headed back to the cabin where chocolates but no towel animals awaited. HAL had the most elaborate towel animals and it was a treat to retreat to our cabin each evening to see what creation our steward had left us. That said, having towel animals or not is not going to make or break a cruise. One can live quite well without them.

 

Balcony (2).jpg

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I'm so glad you decided on the detailed review -- this is a great read, and I can't wait for more!  Also, I'm seriously looking at this cruise for next December, so I'm eagerly soaking up all your good info.  Thank you in advance!

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Day 2 (Sea day)

It was my intention to start writing this review last night, but that didn’t happen, I fell asleep pretty instantaneously. It was a fitful night of awaking and dreaming, but I managed to get maybe 6hrs in total, not too bad.

 

To gym or not to gym that is the question. For the last three months I was advised (inadvertently it turns out) not to run or workout in order to allow my back to recover. However, when I finally saw my neurosurgeon before Christmas he said that I couldn’t damage myself anymore and it was important to stay active so that I am strong for the surgery (if needed). Basically he said I should exercise to the point of pain.  Over Christmas I just stuck with the walking and the swimming, but come cruise time I would tentatively start exploring how much I could push my body. On previous cruises I worked out every morning and some days I went for another 5km run on the treadmill before dinner. I love going to the gym at sea, the views are to die for (not literally). Running on the treadmill while entering the ports of Istanbul and Valetta are up there with some of my most memorable cruise experiences. There was no way I wanted to miss out on that on this cruise. Although I would be sensible and take things slowly.

 

So on my first morning on the ship at 7am I decided to see what I was capable of or not. The gym, perhaps because it seems smaller than gyms on other ships or maybe because there are so many super fit Australians onboard, was packed. People what are you doing up so early on holiday??? Although who am I to talk. Squats, deadlifts, and basically any lower body weights are out, but upper body weights, treadmill and cross trainer are in (pain wise). DS joined me, although after waiting for 15 minutes to use a treadmill she left, fair enough.  It felt so good to workout again, although I knew I would be in pain later, not from my perforated disc, rather from using muscles which what not seen the light of day in 3 months!

 

Working out on our last cruise when I still had muscles

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Back to the cabin to shower and dress. DS and DM were still in bed which is unusual for them. But today became known as ‘jetlag day’ as everything was blamed on the jet lag. We decided to have breakfast in the IDR rather than Horizon Court as I will avoid a buffet if at all possible. Maybe I am lazy, but I can’t be doing all the going back and forth and everyone eating at different times, up for coffee, up for cereal, oh I forgot the juice etc. It is functional but not at all relaxing, and I am on holiday. The IDR is open for breakfast from 7-9am so only the early birds gets the worm (well I hope not). We were there at about 8.30 and while it was busy we didn’t have to queue. It memory serves me correctly I had fruit, yogurt and poached eggs on brown toast….oh and some stollen, so good! And coffee(ish), much coffee to keep the jetlag at bay.

 

My poached eggs..you can’t look at this and not chuckle

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At 9.45 we went to the Princess Theatre for a port talk on Bali – we all struggled to keep out eyes open and with talk of volcanoes, tsunamis, attacking monkeys and terrible traffic, the talk didn’t exactly portray Bali in the best light. But still we were excited to spend New Year’s Eve in Bali. THE most important thing we discovered was that the Theatre was not cold, a first on any ship I have been on, I am a big fan.

 

After that we headed to one of the many pools to find somewhere to read (in the shade obviously given our Irishness), and we found some free loungers in The Conservatory, which is the covered pool between the Neptune pool and Horizon Court. The loungers there are much more comfortable than the ones around the other pools and it is slightly air conditioned, but, as we found out, it is also a firm favourite with children, and its very loud. But that’s where the noise cancelling headphones come into their own!  Staying awake was a challenge, I need more noise!

 

My spot for the morning

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We were in here but with lots more people, and lots of kids

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Rather than trying Horizon Court again for lunch, we went to the International Café where you can have small salads, toasted sandwiches, and cakes. We all had a small salad and again in the name of research, a mini cheesecake, no beer today. While the salad looks huge in the pic, the portions there are actually very small as they are only served on side plates. So a good place to go if you are trying to limit your cruise food intake!

 

International Café lunch no. 1

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At this point we were on the ship for almost 24 hours and there was still much to explore, so it was high time we got the lay of the land. A ship tour was in order. We started at the bottom and worked our way up, and up, and up, all 18 decks. We found some nice areas to hang out with good views such as Skywalkers.

 

View from Skywalkers

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The Wheelhouse

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Crooners

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Between deck 7 and 8…where I ended up spending lots of time walking around on seadays

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The all important laundry (first time I have had one on a cruise, although I didn't use it)

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Terrace pool (what would become my late afternoon haunt)

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And from the left

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And from the right

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Love the pools and views on this ship 

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Again, I am blaming the jetlag but after the tour it was high time for another sit down, well lie down to be more precise. We found more free loungers in The Conservatory and spend a couple of hours reading (ie trying not to sleep), while dipping in and out of the pool to cool down. Informational note, all the pools and hot tubs on Sapphire are very very chlorinated; it really clings to every fibre of your body. I was a walking chemical for the week.  

 

At about 6pm we went back to the cabin to get ready for the first formal night and headed out to the Promenade Deck for the

 

Obligatory pre-dinner shot number 2

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And with DS in that golden sunset light

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Then we passed through the Piazza to see the champagne waterfall and captions welcome. We snagged some perfect people-watching pews and looked at the beautiful people queuing for photos with the waterfall. We didn’t queue.  It was also a perfect place to snag the trays of champagne and mimosas passing by. Score!

 

Although it was pretty obvious from listening to the accents onboard, the captain announced that there were ~1,200 Australians on board, followed by US, then UK passengers. They didn’t announce how many Irish were onboard, but so far I believe we could be the only 3!  This being a New Year’s cruise there are lots of families on board. The most kids I have ever seen on a cruise ship.  

 Finally, a waterfall

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Next up, dinner! I am hungry, very hungry, and again I blame the jetlag. We possibly went through 2 baskets of the delicious bread before we even ordered! This should not be repeated. Bread aside, I enjoyed a great meal of Waldorf salad, French onion soup, beef tenderloin, banana foster, and decaf coffee(ish), accompanied by some of the Malbac which we had ordered the night before. The banana foster was the highlight, my first one ever - I thought I was being healthy….it’s just fruit right?

 

Um…no pic of the beef…as I said I was hungry…

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We had some time to fill until the show in the Theatre, but we headed there directly from dinner to get some good seats. The show featured the Princess singers and dancers and while I personally enjoyed it, DS and DM thought it wasn’t a patch on the shows on HAL last year (although in fairness they had an amazing new state of the theatre to work with). I thought it was perfectly acceptable. Finally, to bed, to blog, and then to sleep. It was a long day.

 

So what are my initial impressions after my first full day on Sapphire Princess? Pretty positive actually. My expectations for the ship itself were low but they were certainly exceeded. Yes, the ship lacks the wow factor of the newer ships; the art around the ship is a little pedestrian, and in general it feels more old fashioned and a bit tired, but on the plus side there are loads of pools/hot tubs (more than HAL for sure), and there is no upselling of drinks packages, the staff are super friendly, and most importantly, this is the first ship I’ve been on that has a decent temperature. On almost every other ship I have frozen in the dining rooms, in the theatre, and basically in all the public areas bar my cabin where I can control the temperature. The temperature in the public areas was not consistent, but it was never cold, and for that I am forever grateful. When I go on holiday, I want to at least recognise I am in warmer climes and not an air conditioned tank. Thank you Princess! On a more negative note, we really missed the music venues found on HAL, and in particular its collaborations with the Lincoln Center – we loved attending the afternoon classical music sessions with the Lincoln centre musicians and the after dinner jazz sessions in BBKings. The quality and quantity of music on both Celebrity and Hal exceeded Princess, well at least so far...

 

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Great review. The Terrace Pool is my wife's favorite hangout as well and we love reading in the Conservatory up above the pool. Your poached eggs needed some help. I would have ordered that with a side of bacon and a side of Hollandaise. Much better. I've had their Eggs Benedict and it always needs extra Hollandaise on the side. I normally don't order it anymore though as the muffin and the ham generally need a chain saw to cut them. The poached eggs on toast with bacon and Hollandaise would be a good thing for me to try. Sadly though, their Hollandaise is far from great and would actually benefit from a few dashes of Tabasco on top. (That should give you an idea of what I really think of their Hollandaise.)

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Sailing on the Sapphire in April 2020 and we are enjoying your review very much.  Please keep it up.

 

Bill and Kathi

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Looking forward to your review of the stops!   Great review so far.   Enjoying it all.

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20 hours ago, Thrak said:

Great review. The Terrace Pool is my wife's favorite hangout as well and we love reading in the Conservatory up above the pool. Your poached eggs needed some help. I would have ordered that with a side of bacon and a side of Hollandaise. Much better. I've had their Eggs Benedict and it always needs extra Hollandaise on the side. I normally don't order it anymore though as the muffin and the ham generally need a chain saw to cut them. The poached eggs on toast with bacon and Hollandaise would be a good thing for me to try. Sadly though, their Hollandaise is far from great and would actually benefit from a few dashes of Tabasco on top. (That should give you an idea of what I really think of their Hollandaise.)

 

Thanks for the tip! Next time! which means there has to be a next time. 

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Love your writing style and can't wait for the next instalment. We are cruising out of Singapore on Grand Princess in March 2021 so am looking forward to hearing about Princess (our last Princess cruise was in 2001, we are more Celebrity and Royal Caribbean  these days )

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