For our 23rd cruise, our 7th on Princess, and our 5th to Alaska, we chose the brand new mega ship Sapphire Princess. This was the largest ship we had ever sailed on, and it turned out to be a wonderful cruise! We flew to Seattle the night before and stayed at the Fairfield Inn Airport. In the morning our driver from Metropolitan Town Cars met us and took us the half hour drive to the port where Sapphire Princess awaited us. We arrived at the port about 11:30 and went through the very short check-in line with a breeze and were soon aboard Sapphire Princess and hitting the embarkation buffet. Although the buffet seems small for such a large ship, it features a great selection of hot and cold dishes and was seldom crowded.
She is indeed a beautiful ship. She is very large (2600 passengers) but because of the layout of the ship and the many different venues, she seldom seems crowded. The passengers are well divided and go many different ways. Our cabin was on Emerald deck, and our cabin steward George soon introduced himself and tended to all our needs. He was one of the very best we have ever had. We couldn't leave our room for half an hour without George getting in and making the beds! We explored the ship and discovered many beautiful public rooms, such as Crooners, the martini bar.
One of our favorite places on the ship was the Lotus Spa. This is a new feature with Sapphire Princess, as all the other Princess ships have contracted spas from Steiner. We found it to be a wonderful place, and the staff to be vastly more polite, attentive and helpful than the typical cruise ship spa staff. The Lotus Pool in the middle of the spa is a great place to get away. It is open to all passengers, whether or not they are using the spa. The hot tubs are beautiful, and one of the best kept secrets on the ship so they are never crowded. Here is a Spa Menu. All treatments include free use of the Thermal Retreat, a beautiful area with heated couches, an aroma room, a steam room, and this wonderful sauna with its oriental decorations. The Thermal Retreat by itself is also available at a $10 daily charge. We loved it and spent a lot of time there!
Sapphire Princess features the Princess "Anytime" dining, but with a difference. There are four different anytime dining rooms, and each one features its own special menu. The Sterling has great steaks, the Santa Fe has wonderful fajitas and famous onion rings, Vivaldi's has tri-color ravioli and veal osso bucco, and the Pacific Moon has sushi, dim sum, five spices duck and seafood stir fry. The regular dinner menu is also available in each dining room. We made our reservations early and never had trouble getting in, although a couple of nights we cancelled our reservations and just walked up and also got right in. The service in all the restaurants was fabulous, but we did miss the opportunity to get to know our serving team and have them get to know us. One night, we dined at the extra fee restaurant, Sabatini's, and it was truly an exceptional experience! You can find that menu on the special menu page too. Renée loved the charming Italian waiters in Sabatini's!
Cruising the Inside Passage is a beautiful trip. For much of the cruise we were in sight of land on one or both sides. The September weather in Alaska was certainly variable. We had several days of gray, misty, drizzly weather, and a couple of days of beautiful sunny weather. We spent time out on the open decks, but more time in the Solarium or Conservatory where we were shielded from the wind but had great views.

There was plenty to do around the ship. The casino is small, but has some nice quarter and nickel slots. The cruise staff has plenty of activities all day, including galley tours, horse racing, silly games, and our favorite, the Trivia Quiz. This quiz in the beautiful Wheelhouse bar attracted quite a crowd on some days. We found some great teammates, and won the game three different times! Gift certificates for Princess logo items were the prizes.

There was lots of entertainment in the evening. Three different bands played big band, jazz, rock and "current" favorites, with some country music nights too. Karaoke in the night club was a crowd pleaser, and the new "Club Fusion" with its multimedia screens was fantastic. The main showroom featured big production shows with some amazing effects, and the smaller lounges had comedians and some special attractions such as a local rendition of "The Cremation of Sam McGee" and Iditarod champion dog musher Libby Riddles. Here is a sample Princess Patter showing the many activities.

Sappphire Princess has three beautiful pools and eight hot tubs in various locations. The pools got some use, particularly on the bright sunny days, but were never crowded. The pool deck features a great pizza parlor, and also a burger and hot dog grill for lunch time. The solarium pool is covered and well shielded and stays pretty warm all the time. Naturally the deck around the outside pool gets pretty chilly. I thought this pic of Renée all bundled up and that guy in the swim suit making a dash for his robe made an interesting contrast!
The marvelous diving whale sculpture at the end of the pool is just one example of outstanding decoration and works of art that abound on this beautiful ship. Each of the specialty restaurants has its own theme decorations, the halls are full of fine art, and the different public rooms boast everything from wonderful woods in the Wheelhouse to flashing neon in Club Fusion!

All in all, Sapphire Princess is a wonderful ship and we had a marvelous cruise. The service was outstanding and the helpful and friendly staff constantly went out of their way to make us happy. The automatic tip of $10 day is added to each passenger account, and the staff certainly earned it!

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