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Cruise Ship Information

Sapphire Princess is a cruise ship owned by Princess Cruises that entered service in 2004 as the twin sister ship of Diamond Princess. She is one of the world's largest cruise ships, with a capacity of 2,670 passengers [1]and is the sixth Gem Class ship built by Princess Cruises. Sapphire Princess was christened on June 10, 2004 in Seattle—the first cruise ship ever to be christened in that port.[2][dead link]

Currently, the Sapphire Princess is scheduled to sail Asia cruises from Shanghai in the summer months, then from November through February, the ship will sail roundtrip Asia cruises out of Singapore.

Atmosphere on board

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.

The series has evolved significantly between Grand Princess (1998) and Sapphire Princess (2008), so Sapphire and nearly identical sister Diamond Princess have some variations in terms of size and features (more on that in a second). Distinctions aside, over the past half decade, Princess has been busy standardizing its Grand-glass ships -- adding poolside jumbotrons (Movies Under the Stars), "Piazza-style" atriums and adult-only deck spaces (the Sanctuary) initially found only on the line's newest ships, Crown (2006), Emerald (2007) and Sapphire Princess. Sapphire emerged from a month-long refurbishment in February 2012, gaining said signature features -- and the makeover couldn't have come soon enough. The formerly dull atrium has been transformed into the effervescent Piazza, a public area with a wine and tapas bar, bakery, pizzeria and performance space. And after years of dedicated service, the rest of the ship benefited from the refit, too. Throughout Sapphire, passengers will find new bar countertops, tiling, teak decking around the main pool, furniture in the casino, an upgraded buffet and a new top-deck "lawn court" (artificial grass) for putting, bocce and croquet.

Back to the unique stuff: Sapphire and Diamond were built in Japan, at Mitsubishi's shipyard in Nagasaki (the other six Grand-class ships were built in Fincantieri's Italian yards), and they are the largest Grand-class ships by volume, while carrying more than 400 fewer passengers than their youngest siblings. Sapphire and Diamond also debuted Club Fusion, the younger-at-heart secondary lounge, complete with in-table gaming and multiple flat-screen televisions, which was a big part of Princess' efforts to attract younger passengers who enjoy the nightlife. That concept was so successful it's now found on ships that followed. As well, Sapphire/Diamond were the first to get rid of Grand Princess' awkward "shopping cart design," eliminating an odd overhang above the aft pool. (Grand Princess, which debuted the cart, lost it during a 2011 makeover.)

Sapphire Princess also introduced a couple of other new approaches that didn't work well enough to be replicated on future ships -- though we're not sure why. First the main dining room is split into five (instead Princess' typical two) -- cutting down on the cruise ship banquet ambience of big restaurants. In addition to feeling far more intimate, each has its own theme -- the brash Santa Fe, the gilded Vivaldi, the serene Pacific Moon, the clubby, cozy Savoy and the grand International (the largest). While the differences are largely cosmetic (all use the same menu, aside from one specialty geared to each theme), each restaurant offers a welcome diversity of vibe. The Wake View Bar, oddly accessible only via circular staircase that descends from Club Fusion, is just absolutely charming -- and almost always empty as it's nearly impossible to find. And we love the cozy Churchill's, the cruise line's cigar and sports-themed bar, which is another "hidden" gem, located by the main theater's first level.

All said, the "new" Sapphire Princess represents the line's commitment to onboard uniformity, in the form of aforementioned marquee attractions, across its fleet. But while Princess spends big bucks to maintain and standardize its mega-ships, an equally defining factor is the impressive mix of itinerary options on offer that cover six continents. Through this blend of route diversity and brand cohesion, the line aims to offer quintessential Princess, whether you're in Asia, South America or the Caribbean.

Family with Kids/Teens

Sapphire Princess offers three programs for children, preschoolers through teens. Sapphire Princess Pelicans, for 3- to 7-year-olds, is a colorful, indoor/outdoor center where kids can make necklaces and stuffed animals, color their own T-shirts and play in a fenced-in, outdoor area with a mini-basketball hoop and tricycles. Parents may accompany their children.

Staffers are not permitted to change diapers, so parents are given pagers in case a child needs changing or needs a parent for some other reason. Note: Parents whose children are not potty-trained are unable to leave the ship on port days without their children.

Shockwaves offers activities -- including dodgeball, Guitar Hero, science projects, pizza dinners and foosball -- for children, ages 8 to 12.

Admission to the programs is complimentary through 10 p.m. From 10 p.m. until 1 a.m., there is a $6-per-hour, per-child, charge. In-cabin baby-sitting is not offered.

In Remix, teens (ages 13 to 17) can hang out in a cool space to listen to music, play Playstation, drink mocktails and take hip-hop dance lessons.

Past Passenger Programs

The Internet Cafe & Library is home to about 20 computer stations and a decent selection of books. Games like Yahtzee, Jenga, Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit and checkers can also be borrowed there. The library has very limited hours, about two a day. There is a drop-box for retuning books on loan. Interestingly, there are only three seats in the library that aren't associated with computer terminals. Fortunately, there is plenty of seating just out front in the Piazza.

Internet charges are 75 cents per minute, and packages are available that get you more minutes at a reduced price: 100 minutes for $55, 150 minutes for $75, 250 minutes for $100 and 500 minutes for $175. Laptop owners can use their minutes on their own computers and/or at one of the computer stations. Buy a package on embarkation day to receive bonus minutes. Don't expect anything close to land-based speed. The Internet Cafe is very crowded, especially during sea days and before dinner. The ship also charges 50 cents per printed page. You can also save money if you purchase your Internet minutes online through the Sapphire Princess Web site before you cruise.

Wi-Fi is available. Signals are strongest in public spaces and are quite weak in cabins, unless you leave your door open.

Onboard shopping can be found on Decks 6 and 7. Shops include the Vines Shop for wine, chocolates, and wine-themed gifts and accessories; Limelight, for duty-free purchases; Essence for cosmetics and perfume; Calypso Cove for souvenirs and logowear; and Facets for fine jewelry and watches. Patient and helpful staff are ready to assist all customers.

Smoking is limited to designated areas -- parts of lounges, casinos and the open decks -- and is prohibited in passenger cabins.

Fitness And Spa

There are five pools on Coral Sapphire Princess, which help to give this massive vessel a small-ship feel. The Calypso Pool (conveniently located near Horizon Court's buffets) has a 300-square-foot movie screen with day and night programming. The sound system is loud to the point where you can't easily have a conversation. And parents beware: Movies and shows are shown throughout the day -- some family-friendly, some not, like the PG-13-rated "The Dark Knight" or "Baby Mama."

Neptune Reef pool is located in front of the pizzeria and is as deep as Calypso (more than five feet). Hence, it's also not ideal for families with preschool-age children.

Pirate's Pool (located on Deck 16, just below the basketball court) is the best bet for kids. It's just deeper than four feet, has bench seating around it for parents (as well as a bar for drinks) and is located next to a 10-inch deep toddler pool with a dolphin-shaped mini-slide. Hot tubs are located near each one of the pools.

There are two adults-only pools. The Terrace Pool is the quietest, and it's fairly shaded, depending on the time of day, because of its location beneath the suspended Skywalker's Nightclub. It has stadium-style benches and loungers. The Spa Pool sits a deck below the Sanctuary, in the middle of the U-shaped Lotus Spa and Health Club.

The adult-sonly Sanctuary is a heavenly place to nap. The mostly shaded area has potted trees and big, wrought-aluminum lounge chairs with padding as thick as a mattress. "Serenity Stewards" deliver plush towels, herbal energy drinks, smoothies and MP3 players with BOSE noise-canceling headphones (preloaded with 1,000 songs, grouped by themes that range from jazz to gentle wave sounds). Be sure to use the headphones, but realize they are in limited supply. The entry fee to Sanctuary is $10 for half-day use, $20 for full-day.

Lotus Spa treatments range from oxygen-lifting facials and hot-stone massages to acupuncture and teeth-whitening. Couples' massages are popular, but treatments are not limited to the romantic; there is a mother/daughter "Paradise" massage and father/son "Chill-Out" massage, offered as part of the spa's Generation Y Spa program. Manicures, pedicures and facials are also available for kids.

The fitness center offers fee-free stretching and aerobics classes, as well as $12-per-class yoga and Pilates. The spacious floor area for classes doubles as a place to use exercise balls and mats. Free weights, Cybex equipment and more than 20 treadmills are also available.

Other recreational options include a half-court for basketball, Ping-Pong, a cyber-golf simulator and paddle tennis. Wii tennis, bowling and other Wii sports are available for play in Explorer's Lounge. The ship also has a putting green that can be used for mini-golf for a few players.

Food & Dining

There are three dining rooms on Coral Sapphire Princess; all have ceilings with twinkling lights and tasteful, Sapphire Princess-themed artwork. The Palm is for traditional, fixed-seating dining (6 and 8:15 p.m.). Coral and Island are for passengers who have elected "Anytime Dining," which allows you to eat when and with whomever you'd like (between 5:30 and 10 p.m.). Reservations are available, but they aren't required. During peak times, passengers may encounter waits of no more than five to ten minutes on our sailing.Coral is also open for waiter-service breakfast and lunch.

Night rotating menu options include appetizers, soups, mains and desserts. Additionally, there are signature pastas and always-available choices like salmon and Caesar salad. Healthy Lotus Spa selections -- like seared sea bass -- are low in fat and sodium.

Horizon Court and Cafe Caribe (which look identical and flow right in to one another) are open nearly all day long: 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. The Horizon section serves as the ship's lido buffet restaurant and offers uninspiring breakfast buffets, laid out in tight quarters. Lunch choices vary a bit more and may include some unusual dishes like fried banana and peanut butter sandwiches. Two soups are featured daily.

Cafe Caribe offers lots of variety, featuring a different themed buffet each night -- like Bavarian Bierfest (beer is extra), Rijstafel (rice table) and Sapphire Princess island seafood.

The International Cafe in the Piazza is a great alternative for small meals and is open 24 hours. In addition to gourmet coffees and espresso drinks, breakfast offerings include fresh-baked pastries, donuts and muffins. Grilled paninis, Greek salad and a chicken and cashew Waldorf salad were just a few of the delicious afternoon choices. And the cookies! The fresh-from-the-oven chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, peanut butter and chocolate-chocolate chip cookies (not to mention the heavenly scent of them baking) are well worth an afternoon stop at the cafe each day.

Most cafe items are fee-free, with the exception of chocolate-covered strawberries and evening tapas (ranging from $1 to $5). The "Queen of Steam" or "Jack of Java" punch cards are a great deal, giving you 15 espresso drinks of your choice for $29.95. Note that service can be quite slow during peak times of the day.

On Deck 5, Vines is a wine bar offering an extensive menu with more than 30 wines by the glass, as well as wine flights. It serves up fresh bites that include sushi, seafood and tapas. An assortment of meats and cheeses also will tempt your palate. There's both bar seating and cluster seating.

Sabatini's is Sapphire Princess' signature Italian alternative restaurant ($25 per adult). Passengers can order any appetizer (calamari, wild mushroom tart, soft shell grab, cheese plate), main course (striped bass, lobster, duck with fava beans, signature pasta) and dessert (cheese cart, tarts, creme brulee).

Crown Grill, another alternative restaurant, is styled after popular steakhouses. There is both table and booth seating with some tables offering window-side views. The menu is comprehensive, and patrons can choose from a variety of steaks, side dishes, seafood specialties and more. Servers take care and time explaining the varying cuts of beef and was patient with our questions. The steaks were tender, cooked the way they were ordered, and the side dishes were hearty enough to share family-style. The ambience of the restaurant was also very enjoyable. The noise level was low, and we didn't feel rushed. The cover charge is $25 per passenger.

For total foodies, the Chef's Table is an elegant meal option that also allows diners a behind-the-scenes look at how dishes are created and served. The event begins with pre-dinner cocktails and hors d'oeuvres in the galley. The ship's executive chef joins the group to explain the special menu for the night, and then participants are escorted to an intimate table in the dining room for the main course, including wine pairing suggestions to complement the dinner. The $95-per-person fee includes a copy of a Sapphire Princess cookbook.

An delightful English pub lunch menu -- think fish and chips, shepherd's pie -- is available on sea days at the Crown Grill (11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.); there's no extra charge for the food.

Poolside eateries include Trident Grill (burgers, hot dogs and fries) and Prego Pizzeria.

Room service is available 24 hours a day. The menu includes a variety of sandwiches (turkey, tuna, veggie), salads and hot dishes like soup, burgers and hot dogs. For something indulgent, you can order desserts -- caramel flan, chocolate fudge cake and chocolate chip cookies. Also, in addition to this room service menu, passengers can also enjoy limited items from the day's main dining room menu in their cabins, but these selections vary. There is a $3 delivery charge for pizza delivered to the cabin, as well as a charge for beverages, including alcohol.

Sapphire Princess' unique twist on room service is its Ultimate Balcony Dining option for passengers in balcony cabins and suites. The custom multi-course meal comes with a bottle of Champagne, stellar service and special touches. It's priced at $32 per couple for breakfast and $100 per couple for dinner.

Entertainment

Coral Sapphire Princess has more excellent entertainment choices than you can squeeze into a week.

Each venue has a different type of offering. Crooners (overlooking the Piazza) features a pianist and music trivia contests. Explorer's Lounge is primarily an events lounge for everything from art auctions to Wii sports tournaments, plus magicians and comedic shows. The Piazza offers a variety of demonstrations, musical performances and circus-lite acts throughout the day.

Club Fusion is part nightclub, part game show venue and is, indeed, entertaining for the hilarious Marriage Game. On our sailing, a couple who had been married for 53 years gave a couple of newlyweds a run for their money when answering questions about their spouses, such as "if your husband was a car, what kind would he be" and "when was the last time you had relations?"

Sapphire Princess' trademark Skywalker Nightclub (located in the rear-spoiler-looking aft end of the ship) hosts 70's-, 80's- and 90's-inspired dance nights and, thankfully, a few nights with a variety of current music. The disco has security and checks ID's upon entering. For more low-key dancing, try the Wheelhouse Bar, which often hosts combos playing soft rock and standards.

The Sapphire Princess Theater is the ship's main venue for production shows and comedy acts. During our sailing, there were three production shows with a talented cast of singers and dancers. They offered a variety of music and selections that would appeal to a broad mix of ages. Other performances may include PG-rated comedian and magicians.

Churchill Lounge, hidden away near the lower level of Sapphire Princess Theater, is the place to smoke cigars and watch sports.

Movies Under the Stars, in the Calypso Pool area, is an idyllic place to watch, well, movies under the stars. It also showcases concerts by musicians like Beyonce and Josh Groban, as well as sporting events like the Super Bowl. In the evenings, burgundy slipcovers with built-in mini-pillows are slipped over each poolside lounger. Small, wool blankets are passed out, and the smell of popcorn from an old-fashioned cart floats across the pool deck. Staff members take drink orders and deliver complimentary popcorn so you don't have to move. Even non-TV junkies could wile away hours there.

The casino features 11 gaming tables (including one dice, one American roulette and a table to accommodate wheelchairs) as well as more than 150 slot machines.

Daytime entertainment offerings are numerous, ranging from Photoshop and scrapbooking workshops and ballroom-dance classes to ceramic-painting and bridge.

The efficiently run shore excursion department offered easy-to-read registration forms. Each tour was well-described, and the offerings included everything from sedate bus tours to active kayaking and hiking explorations.

Fellow Passengers

Fellow passengers run the gamut from families with children to retirees. The average age on a non-school-break sailing is 51, while school-break and summer sailings skew younger, as they attract more families. During winter holiday sailing, many families will bring children ages 10 and older, so the children's programs are likely to be packed with tweens and teens.

Tipping

The official Sapphire Princess tipping policy is that each passenger is automatically charged for gratuities that are shared among stateroom stewards, wait staff, buffet stewards, galley staff, laundry staff and others. As of August 2010, this charge was $11 per person, per day for suites and mini-suites; it was $10.50 for other staterooms. This charge includes children and is automatically added to your shipboard account. Executive sales VP Dean Brown explained to the Cruise Compare Website that the recently expanded automatic gratuity program "gives guests one less thing to worry about at the end of their cruise." 

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