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Rascal1

Review of Sapphire Princess - Norway 18th May

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Sorry if this is a bit long, a bit of background:-  We are a couple in our late forties and this was our 8th cruise, we starting cruising with Princess but switched to celebrity to try a few years ago when Princess seemed more expensive and fell in love with the Eclipse and Silhouette but due to a price hike in celebrity we decided to come back to Princess on the Sapphire to Norway.  It would be our 3rd trip to the Fjords. 

 

I admit I was nervous whether we’d fall back in love with princess or would we notice some cost cutting measures I’d read about and would we like the princess style ship decor compared to modern Eclipse.  As it was a shorter cruise we decided to pay for a Suite and had C420.  I didn’t need to be nervous, Princess didn’t disappoint and the Fjords as always were spectacular. 

 

Embarkation:-

 

We got to the pier about 11.30, check-in was really quick, no queues in any of the lines and I liked that there was no health questionnaire to complete, just a sign about telling them if you’d been poorly (not sure whether anyone actually answers truthfully). We got through security really quickly and through to the departure lounge. It looked like everyone was being held in the waiting area and judging by the number of people leaving the hotel early that morning some had been waiting a while. 

 

We were given a priority ticket number and almost as soon as we’d sat down our number was called and we were on our way onto the ship. We went straight up on deck and had our first cocktail and happily took in that cruise feeling and then looked out to sea to soak it all in. From the taxi to ‘Karen’s first cocktail’ it took all of 13 minutes - not sure we could have done it any quicker. Big tick for Princess to the start of the hols. 

 

Suite:-

 

A few cocktails later, we headed to the suite, we met Michael our Steward (more about him later), our cases turned up quickly and I got the unpacking done asap, I always feel truly on holiday once the unpacking is done.

 

C420 is gorgeous, I’m not sure what was done in the refit but everything looked either new or didn’t need replacing in the first place. Loads of storage and hanging space, the balcony furniture had new ‘cushions’. We’d had a Sky Suite on Celebrity and a Suite without going for the mega ‘owners/grand style’ suite, Princess wins hands down. This felt like a suite, the Celebrity one (although v nice) just felt like a bigger mini-suite. 

 

Michael was great, we book a suite for the space and don’t like a steward who makes too much of a fuss, we like relaxed and laid back. Michael either understood this and adapted his approach or we were lucky and his style was perfect for us. One change we did notice was how many more cabins he has to look after. He had 6 suites and I think 11 other cabins or something like that. I don’t know how he’d cope if some of those cabins had over-demanding or ‘messy’ passengers who take up a lot of his time. As it was, he was also still there after 9pm when he was meant to finish his shift. He quickly worked out when we get up so would likely be out of the room and when we went for food, drinks etc. Can’t say any bad word about him, definitely an asset to Princess. 

 

Ship, food and entertainment:-

 

The refit might have made a big difference, but we thought she was in superb shape, didn’t see anything that looked tired or needed fixing. There seemed to be plenty of crew about, we didn’t need to wait for drinks and they always had a smile and a friendly approach. In the buffet food was cleared quickly. 

 

I had heard we might get a bit of ‘hassle’ with crew trying to sell things but we didn’t experience this at all. We got asked a few times but a polite ‘no thank you’ was all that was needed and we were never asked about the same thing twice. 

 

One thing I did miss on Princess compared to Celebrity was ‘comfy’ outdoor seating. They seemed to have more ‘garden style’ furniture rather than just sun-loungers. Wouldn’t stop me choosing a Princess ship again, but do feel that Celebrity have put more thought into their outdoor spaces. The newer Princess Ships might be different. 

 

I did watch a couple of movies on ‘Movies under the Stars’. Needed a few blankets with being the North Sea but the crew came round with blankets and popcorn. I seemed to remember cookies and hot chocolate, so this was one of the ‘cut backs’ I did notice, but hey not a deal breaker, I have legs and can easily walk to grab a hot chocolate and cookie! If anyone is interested the movies included The Greatest Showman, A Star is Born, Mary Poppins Returns, Mamma Mia Here we Go Again, Galaxy Quest, Aqua Man. I have the princess patters so if anyone wants a full list I can find them. 

 

We didn’t find the entertainment that great, it was hit and miss but this could mainly be personal preference. The comedian Jeff Stevenson was very funny, he was on twice and both shows were funny. I’d not heard of Gary Lovini but it was described as ‘evening of music and showmanship’ so I was expecting dancing, singing and a stage show. Gary was a very talented violist and I can appreciate his skill but wouldn’t have gone if the description had been better. Some people left so I’m guessing they felt the same, but lots of others enjoyed it. One of the main acts was Gareth Gates (ex pop idol & west end). He was OK but just added to the feeling of not enough ‘big production shows’.  Steven Jaymes was the pianist in Crooners and he was superb. Played a wide range of music and interacted with the audience. 

 

We thought the food was very good. We don’t like to eat in the main dining room as we find the food quite rich and for us we don’t like spending hours at the dining table. The buffet in the evening was busier than I’d expected, the food was nice, not as much choice as Celebrity but the fish and curries in particular were well cooked and tasty. Suited us nicely.  We did eat at the Sterling Steakhouse one night and the food was perfect. 

 

Breakfast for us was in Sabatini’s (Suite perk) and this was great. Celebrity don’t have this perk and I think they are missing a trick. Everything was cooked perfectly. The service was slow sometimes when everyone turned up together, but it didn’t bother us, we had coffee so were happy. 

 

The International Cafe didn’t disappoint, the sandwiches/panini at lunch as nice. The pastries beat Celebrity hands down.  We had one pizza at Alfredos and it was very nice.  We tried the soft scoop ice cream and didn’t like it at all, it tasted very false and far too sickly/false sweet. Might have been an off day at the machine but it put us off trying it again. 

 

We found getting on and off at ports very efficient. The only queue was at Gerainger due to using tenders but the crew were doing everything they could so it’s just one of those things. 

 

The on demand TV was brilliant, the movies appeared on there after they’d been on Movies Under the Starts so if it’s too cold or clashes with something else, it’s nice that you can catch it later when relaxing in your cabin. They had a good range of programmes/films and I’m sure everyone could find something to watch. 

 

We didn’t see many officers walking about the ship talking to passengers, but this may have been more timing than they didn’t do it. 

 

One small niggle was you couldn’t hear announcements in the cabin and we couldn’t find a channel on the TV with them on. So we missed the announcement about the change to Geiranger (it was confirmed in the princess patter) but didn’t know when customs had cleared the ship etc. It’s nice not to have the announcements blaring out, but thought there used to be ships channel, but perhaps it was user error and we just didn’t find it!

 

Ports:-

 

Our ports of call were Bergen, Geiranger, Olden, Stavanger. We were meant to go to Hellesylt but they cancelled that Fjord so we had the full day in Geiranger. I think it was something to do with the tours not being taken up so there was no need to go. It worked in our favour as we had more time in Geiranger, but some people might have been upset if they particularly wanted to see the scenery. 

 

In Bergen we booked the funicular up to the top and walked down. We chose to book in advance and go straight there, we only had a 5. min wait but others said they’d had to wait 2 hours later in the morning. The view was spectacular and had a nice coffee and cake at the top before starting the walk down. I love Bergen just to wander around.

 

Geiranger is worth getting up early to watch the sail in, beautiful. We walked up the waterfall, around the top at some of the trails and then around the shops. It was very busy as the MSC Meraviglia was in and she is big. We stood on top of the bridge on the way out. The waterfalls were in full flow still and the sun was shining. Nature at it’s best. 

 

In Olden we decided to do the Loen Skylift. We booked in advance, the shuttle was there  and it was only about 5 mins to the skylift. Again we went early and didn’t wait. The views at the top were amazing. The cable car is more vertical than I’d expect, didn’t bother me but if you don’t like heights you probably don’t want to look down and stand in the middle. It’s only the second year it’s open so some work is still ongoing but it’s worth doing and I’d recommend to anyone wanting a good view. We walked around for a couple of hours and then headed back down. Some of the ‘slopes’ are a bit steep and it was slippy as they were loose stones so you need to be careful in some parts but it did feel like you were on top of the world. There was still some snow up there too which was nice. 

 

Unfortunately the rain came for Stavanger. We’ve been there before so had a bit of a wander, got very wet and then came back on board. 

 

Disembarkation:-

 

Very smooth, we opted for self disembarkation at 7.30 but we went at 7.15 and they just directed us straight off so didn’t go to a lounge. 

 

Overall:-

 

I’d happily cruise on Celebrity or Princess again. The decision would be based on price, ship and itinerary.  The crew, ship, ports of call, food, experience was fantastic and for us a 5* experience. 

 

Any questions ask away. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thank you so much for this very thorough and positive review.  We board the Sapphire on June 15th for the 14 day Land of the Midnight Sun cruise and this review just added to our excitement!

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11 minutes ago, capriccio said:

Thank you so much for this very thorough and positive review.  We board the Sapphire on June 15th for the 14 day Land of the Midnight Sun cruise and this review just added to our excitement!

Thank you, I looked at that itinerary for next year, looks fab. Very excited for you (and very jealous). Have a fab time, I don’t see how anyone could not love the Sapphire.  

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Thank you for your great review. We are back on her for the second time this August for a two week cruise to the Baltic.

I'm trying to remember all the little secrets I learnt last time..

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Thank you for the great review. We are joining the Sapphire on 15th June for Land of the Midnight Sun. 

 

One question which you may know the answer to:

We have booked the Princess excursion for Hellesylt/Geiranger - did they arrange an alternate all day excursion leaving from Geiranger? Don't want to be left with nothing planned!

 

Interesting comments regarding the entertainment - it is always my biggest disappointment on Princess. Personally, I would have been quite happy with Gareth Gates &, as far as I can tell, we don't have a "celebrity" entertainer at all on our sailing.

 

Great to hear embarkation/disembarkation went smoothly.

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Thank you for your great positive review. I am also on the June 15, Land of the Midnight Sun cruise and are very excited for my first visit to Norway. How was the weather during your cruise? Do you think it is worth going up the funicular in Bergen if the weather is not good and how long did it take to walk down? Thanks. 

 

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Agree. Soft serve ice cream was terrible on the Grand in April. Plenty of people eating it. They can do better.  Would not try it again. Most of the ice cream on the Grand was poor but the ship was great. Good food etc. 

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Hi there and thanks for the great review.  I'm on the June 15th sailing and found your information quite helpful.

 

You mentioned you had the Patters for your trip.  Would you be able to post them to Cruise Critic or to another website with a link I could follow?  I'd love to get a feel for the rhythm of the days. 

 

All my best.

 

--Karen

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Thanks everyone for the comments. I’ll try to work out how to post patters later today, if not can send them individually to anyone who wants them. 

 

Weather was varied. The first day at sea was fog and the fog horn was sounding most of the day, very helpfully stopped whilst wrapped up watching movies under the stars. At first you noticed it but then got used to it. Bergen and Geiranger were hot and sunny - you could get sunburned easily depending on skin tone,  Then Olden was cloudy and probably 18c, Stavanger was about 10c, cold wet and windy. The the sea day coming back was blue skies, nice and warm out of the wind, but would need a fleece/long sleeves in the wind. So I think layers are the advice I’d give. 

 

From what we heard no-one took any of the full day excursions which was why the itinerary changed, the impression we go from talking was if people had booked it, we’d still have gone but there wasn’t the interest. We were only told the night before so as soon as the decision was made, there wasn’t any other full day excursions offered that we saw. 

 

I think even it it’s cloudy I’d still do the funicular up, if it’s low fog you wouldn’t see much from the top. The walk down was about 3 miles, there is a tarmac road or there are local ‘trials’ which cut the corners but some of them looked a bit slippy so we stuck to the road. We didn’t rush, stopped to take photos and it took us about an hour and a half. When you are up at the top, there is a little trial signposted to a lake, it’s a nice 15 min walk and you come out at a big lake which reminded me of American Summer Camp lakes that you see on the films. I’d do that if you can find the trail. 

 

Very jealous of everyone going on the Land of the Midnight Sun cruise - have fun 

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Here are the patters, hopefully they’ve uploaded OK and people can zoom in to read them. 

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Posted (edited)

Great honest review.  Thank you.  Sorry the weather wasn't perfect;  that part of the world is so pretty.  Glad you enjoyed sailing Princess again.  

Edited by AF-1

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Thank you so much for the Patters and for answering all our questions!

 

I noticed there is a destination lecturer on board.  We've traveled with some excellent lecturers and some appalling ones.  If you went to any of the presentations, how do you rate the one on the Sapphire Princess?

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I did this cruise on the Sapphire in 2017 for second time.  Loved Norway, would do it again.

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18 hours ago, capriccio said:

Thank you so much for the Patters and for answering all our questions!

 

I noticed there is a destination lecturer on board.  We've traveled with some excellent lecturers and some appalling ones.  If you went to any of the presentations, how do you rate the one on the Sapphire Princess?

Sorry we didn’t do any of the lecturer presentations. 

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21 hours ago, capriccio said:

 

I noticed there is a destination lecturer on board.  We've traveled with some excellent lecturers and some appalling ones.  If you went to any of the presentations, how do you rate the one on the Sapphire Princess?

I was on this cruise as well as the previous one (Baltic Heritage). The destination lecturer on both cruises was Debbie Shields and she was excellent, particularly if you were going to go onshore independently. I went to all of her destination lectures over my three weeks onboard. She also had some limited desk hours at the shore excursion office -I did seek her advice once on a port and she was very knowledgeable and helpful.

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53 minutes ago, SteelMagnolia9 said:

I was on this cruise as well as the previous one (Baltic Heritage). The destination lecturer on both cruises was Debbie Shields and she was excellent, particularly if you were going to go onshore independently. I went to all of her destination lectures over my three weeks onboard. She also had some limited desk hours at the shore excursion office -I did seek her advice once on a port and she was very knowledgeable and helpful.

Wonderful!  Something else to look forward to on this cruise.

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