April 2016 - Sapphire Princess to Other (Asia/Africa/Middle East)
Though I have been to Asia a couple of times in the past, those trips were a very long time ago and they were business trips. And, I traveled there by myself. Thus this cruise and our visits to the various ports was a new experience for my wife. With her company, in spite of my having seen a couple of the places before, this cruise was a unique and most enjoyable experience.
This was our longest cruise to date. Seventeen days. Add to that the travel time to and from and the extra day spent in the area at the end of the cruise and it made for what seemed like a long time away from home. Well actually it was a long time away from home.
When it comes to describing these cruises, after the first few, the accounting becomes a little repetitive. "Left the embarkation port, settled into the cabin, enjoyed dinner and the evening show and the shore excursions." There you go. That can cover the basis. So what is notable about this one? Of course it's in a different part of the world from any place we have ever visited by cruise before but the same can be said for each new cruise destination we've done before. That's ok. It adds to our catalogue of enjoyable cruise experiences.
Every day aboard ship is approached with the attitude that we are going to relish ever minute detail for after all, seven days or seventeen days, in a blink it will all be over and we will be back home. Some things in life are just too valuable in the way of personal experiences to gloss over and let slip past without savoring each tender morsel of the day.
As is our custom, upon boarding the ship for the first time we will dump our extra carry on items in the cabin and stroll about the outside decks just getting to know the ship. This one was no different. We knew that we would have a little while before the mandatory safety muster and besides, we were physically worn from our trip from home to the port of Singapore. No, we try but we both find it difficult to sleep on airplanes thus it had been what seemed like a couple of days since we had actually slept. So, we'll keep moving and keep to the local time schedule and go to bed not too late tonight.
'Sapphire Princess' is the biggest ship we'd been on for the last couple of cruises. Four mostly identical dining rooms plus a fifth, the International Dining room separate from the others. We initially set out to try each of the four at least but shucks, they do have the same menu and other than being physically laid out a little differently, there is no real difference. We'll just stick with the Santa Fe for the rest of the cruise. Besides, after the first couple of nights at the same table, we became more familiar with our regular table mates and that can make for some nice dinner conversation.
We opted for the 'Anytime Dining' rather than a set dining time. That does not mean we differed much in time for our entry into the dining room but at least we had the flexibility in the event that something such as a late return from a shore excursion occurred. Following dinner, it's off to the theatre to catch the first show. Following that, most of the time it's back to the cabin for us. No, my wife and I are not party people. The idea of partying till all hours of the night is just not out thing. Everyone to their own, you know. I have pictures to dump from the cameras to the laptop and some time to spend doing some photo processing while she watches a movie before lights out time.
We do tend to be somewhat early risers. We'll usually be in the Horizons Dining room even a few minutes before it officially opens for service. Coffee, juice and something sweet to start off before going through the line and we'll sit by the window and look for passing ships or the approach of the next port.
Speaking of the Horizon Dining Room. Is it just me or has the quality of the food slipped a bit? This was our second Princess cruise and the previous one was several years ago so whether this was just unique to this ship or the line, I don't know. Now we're not food snobs and we do not consider the food uneatable. It fills the belly and suffices until the next meal which may be lunch on board or out on shore. So, I am not making this a complaint. Just an observation. Additionally, it seems that considering the size of the ship, the size of the serving islands and thus the number of offered items is a little small. It seems no more than on the much smaller ship we were on through the Panama Canal.
But, if there is a complaint about the cruising experience which is pretty much across the board, we eat too much on cruises anyhow. It's not like we're ever going to go away hungry. Our eyes can sometimes be bigger than our stomachs, to use that old adage. Dinner in the sit down dining room will be just fine and there indeed the food quality lived up to our previous experiences and expectations.
We have never tried any of the specialty restaurants before and though we did briefly consider it, perhaps being slightly on the cheapskate side, the cover charge put us off. We did try out the pizza place on Deck 4 in the Atrium area a couple of times for lunch. We do enjoy pizza so that worked for us.
We had what was labeled the "extended, angled" balcony cabin. We do often set out on the balcony on sea days. With its configuration it is a little deeper and even wider but also angled such that the view to the front was a bit enhanced. This one was at the end of the side balcony row on Deck 11. We're good any place on the ship and have had cabins up front as well as all the way aft. The cabin itself was very much like the others on previous cruises. Nothing really of note other than it was clean, comfortable and met our needs as expected.
Obviously due to where we were the shore excursions were interesting, and yes, enjoyable. I may add some comments on some of them at a later point but we did make each one an adventure of its own. Both my wife and I shot a lot of pictures on these excursions and as I get to it I will post a few. The operation of the tours was handled well with the guides and staff being knowledgeable, personable and even entertaining.
The shows in the evening were a treat. We enjoyed some very different and very talented acts. When one makes review posts such as this it's pretty much expected that what is said will reflect just the opinions of the one making the post so though we do enjoy the evening shows we realize that what appeals to us, may or may not be everyone elses' taste preference so I will just say that we found the acts entertaining and enjoyable and let others who also made this cruise judge their own experiences.
I think the same thing can be said for pretty much the entire experience on this cruise and applies to any cruise which I may review. We did not have any negative experiences nor did we find anything to be short of our expectations. The crew and staff were all great. The on board services were good and thus nothing negative or out of the ordinary to report. Thus this may seem to be a bit of a non-informative review and perhaps it is. But, that's what a cruise should be about, I think. Enjoyable with no drama nor unpleasant experiences. Just relaxing and memorable.