Friday, July 20, 2012

Review: Sapphire Princess sailing Round Trip from Vancouver, BC to Alaska

We set out on our second cruise to Alaska (as a family, my wife is on her third) on a Thursday at dinner time in Houston. That is not the ideal time to head to the airport because leave too early to ensure traffic is not an issue and you will get plenty of wait time at the airport, but leave too late and you could just miss your flight. We were on our hometown airline United, which is an easy choice here since we are home to their largest hub in the entire world.  The flight was uneventful, I suppose in part because it was a Continental aircraft and crew operating the flight (the merger has not settled well for all employees).  We made it safely to our hotel around 1am or a bit before.

We had a day to enjoy Vancouver before boarding the ship on Saturday. This was fun because we got to see the Celebrity Millennium come and go on the Friday. (We saw her again a couple of times during the next couple of weeks as well.) Sadly it was a rainy day, but that passed by late afternoon so we got a chance to enjoy the area around downtown. Then we were really revved up for the cruise the next morning.

I first saw the Sapphire Princess as she came around the building and into her berth just below our hotel room window. That is one reason I picked the hotel I did. We scurried about taking care of business until it was time to head on down and board the ship. We knew we would be in for a fun filled couple of weeks.

Overall this ship is a lot like the Island Princess, so different from other cruise lines. That is a good thing as if all cruise ships were completely alike life as an avid cruiser could get very boring quickly.  Again we have found that crew are trained to the C.R.U.I.S.E. standard and serve as much as hosts as they do crew/hotel staff making sure the ship sails safely and guests are served properly.

Again I am pleased with my choice to sail Alaska on a Princess Cruise ship. In fact my impression is that Princess probably is the best choice for sailing to Alaska based on a comparison to the Royal Caribbean sailing on the Serenade of the Seas three years ago, almost to the day. Princess seems to have more locals come aboard to enhance the Alaska experience than we recall on the prior cruise and Princess has half of the slots to sail into the Glacier Bay National Park.

The ship’s various venues are all in good shape. I only noted rust in a couple of spots that are more difficult to maintain on a regular basis. Of course, the ship was recently renovated so everything would be expected to be in good shape. I was pleased with the condition of the ship and attention most crew paid towards keeping it neat and clean.

We did not see tons of hand sanitizers. I suspect the fact that really they do little to help with norovirus leads to reduced placement of them around the ship. It would be nice if everyone would wash and dry their hands after using the bathroom. However, I saw often where people didn’t do so for whatever reason.  I’d love to see more crew cleaning the handrails on the stairs thru the day and also the inside of the elevators. That is my biggest beef with cleanliness.  

The crew are quite pleasant. They typically did whatever they could to make guests happy while aboard the ship.  I saw several crew members go out of their way to assist guests even in areas of the ship they normally do not work. We also saw and personally experienced several times teamwork not spotted on most other ships or even in everyday life. It is amazing to see how well oiled things can run when there is teamwork, especially in dining venues.

We generally enjoy cruising, so it may be easier to keep a positive less critical view of what is going on around the ship. I know over the course of the cruise I saw other passengers who were having bad luck and things were not going their way. On a couple of occasions the issue was being resolves right by where I was sitting. In each of these cases it appears there was a dropped ball somewhere along the way that led to the strife for the guest. It was however generally resolved fairly.

I write a much longer review based on a daily journal from the cruise and also post much of what comes to the cabin in the form of the Princess Patter and other handouts. I know many cruisers looking at Princess, Royal Caribbean, or Celebrity have commented how helpful the reviews and information are for them.  This review was purely to give a very quick overview of the ship.

We were so glad to have come back to Alaska via cruise ship on a two week round trip cruise from Vancouver.  We were fortunate to get a great room at the Pan Pacific above Canada Place and will stay there again when we need to stay in Vancouver in the future.  We will continue to cruise Princess when the itinerary fits our cruise needs and desires as Princess does a great job caring for the passengers and delivering a good cruise product.

Princess is definitely a great way to cruise, especially when in Alaska!

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