This cruise on Sapphire Princess was our longest and we visited nine ports in all and crossed the Atlantic twice. We were told that the ship was full and that out of the almost 2,700 passengers there were 1,800 (or so) Elite and Platinum Captain’s Circle Members onboard.
Our sailaway from Southampton was in bright sunshine and made all the more exciting by passing the SS Shieldhall – always a beautiful sight when leaving. For the next four days we crossed the North Atlantic with only slight seas and one day of moderate seas.
To Canada across the Atlantic
The entertainment for this part of the cruise was on the whole excellent. Our only comment would be that with only one venue in use in the evening for guests everyone soon learned that to be sure of getting a seat in the Theatre you had to be there at least thirty minutes before the show started. We found it strange that the guest acts only did one evening of full shows and then shared with another act 50/50 for their other evening’s shows.
Linda Gray (ex-Dynasty and the ‘legs’ from the Graduate) gave a very interesting talk one afternoon. The Theatre was rammed and sitting on stairs or standing was the order of the day. It was fascinating to hear about her life and about how she is producing and raising money for new films. It was a shame that her ‘talk’ was not recorded and made available on the ship’s A/V system.
Our first ports were in Canada and were great places to visit with lots of history and lots of friendly helpful people there (St John’s, Sydney and Charlottetown). Sydney Nova Scotia was a surprise as there were a hundred or more cars in a rally parked on the closed off main street. The owners were more than pleased to talk about their cars and to rev the engines for us. The weather was fantastic with no rain and I even was able to go ashore in my shorts and t-shirt.
Apologies but I didn’t rate the first guest speaker who simply read his PowerPoint slides and didn’t add much to font of human knowledge (in my opinion). The ship’s entertainers presented ‘Born to be wild’ – one of the best shows we have seen on a ship (plus I love the replica Pink Cadillac).
I was lucky enough to see porpoises and humpback whales as we went between these ports and to get some great pictures too.
To New York
Two more sea days followed before we came to New York and the second formal evening. The seas were not as smooth on the first day but calmed down on the second. The ship’s clocks went back the final hour on the last night before New York. Sapphire Princess sailed past Liberty and Ellis Island early in the morning. The views of them and Lower Manhattan were fabulous.
The ship’s reception had organised for the passengers to be streamed off the ship in batches for US Immigration to save us all from excessive queueing time. Our officer was one of the friendliest we have ever had on entry to the USA – a great way to start our two days in New York.
We had no trips booked and simply walked from Pier 90 onto 7th Avenue before walking downtown to Times Square and onto Madison Avenue to have lunch with our daughter. Walking back up 5th Avenue we ran into all the traffic chaos caused by the annual UN week. After a visit to the revamped Apple Store we went for a horse and carriage ride around Central Park.
Our second day took us on the subway to the 9/11 Memorial, Wall Street and then a beautiful walk back along the Highline.
The ship had passed its US Coastguard inspection while at Pier 90 and we had a new Captain to take us back to Southampton.
The evening sailaway gave us all another opportunity to see Manhattan all lit up and to pass close to Ellis Island and of course the Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island.
Port calls in the USA
After two busy days in New York City we then had five days of port calls – no time to catch our breath! Debbie Shields, the ship’s destination expert, had given excellent presentations on our ports of call with tons of knowledge and tips. She was one of the best port presenters we have heard.
Our excursion at Newport Rhode Island was a boat trip (!) and a visit to Rose Island to explore and to see the lighthouse there. This was our first port needing a tender and the operations ran smoothly.
Next up was Boston. With other cruise ships in port and it being a Saturday the city was hectic to say the least. We had to sit and wait for quite a while for a suitable gangplank to be made available. The first ones had been a very steep angle and passengers were advised to wait. Listening to Reception saying ‘a few more minutes to wait’ every few minutes for the whole time was frankly more irritating than the nearly hour wait!
On our trip on a trolley bus, our driver/guide managed to speak non-stop for over two hours and I was pleased to be back among the crowds at Quincy Market for peace and quiet! We walked along the history trail and I managed to find probably the only bar not serving Sam Adams in the whole of Boston.
We were on Anytime dining and this evening was the first dinner that we heard serious complaints about the cruise (as opposed to usual ones about seats, food, RCI & Cunard being better etc.) One of the excursions in Boston had been a four-hour bus tour, no stops for drinks (despite the heat) and no comfort breaks. The guide being oblivious to the obvious distress of the majority of passengers on his tour.
Rockland was another port needing a tender and we waited until after 10 before going down to get our tickets and by then the queues were all gone. I was able to ride sitting outside on the tender for the long trip in. We were met by more enthusiastic volunteers (a feature of almost every port) and directed to some of the pretty walks around the port. Their Summer season was ending in a couple of weeks and everyone was pleased to have another cruise ship visit.
Back to Canada
St John, New Brunswick, was next and using the local map we walked (a long way) to see the reversing falls. The fast wi-fi in the terminal was a bonus and we all took advantage of it. This port was the only one that wanted to see passports before we went back on to the ship.
We learnt at dinner that the ship had lost 2 crew members in New York and this partially explained some of the glum faces on the crew when shoretime had been curtailed when the ship was there.
Our last port of call was Halifax. We were docked in the working port and were transported on old London Routemaster buses to the cruise terminals. We walked around the city visiting the sights recommended by Debbie including the fort on the hill. The boardwalk was a great place to be and we had a fabulous lunch at one of the restaurants.
To summarise none of the ports disappointed, we had great weather and were well briefed on where to go and what to look for when in port.
Back across the Atlantic
After Halifax we set sail for Southampton and home. Our Captain explained that he would try and avoid the low pressure areas. The ship ran at times at 22 knots to keep away from the worst of the weather. The seas were not as smooth as our crossing out and were at times very rough. The ship coped very well and with stabilisers deployed the rolling was kept to a minimum. We now had six sea days in which to enjoy the shops, the entertainment and the food and drink!
The second guest speaker was Valerie Singleton (of Blue Peter fame) who was a substitute for Fatima Whitbread. We couldn’t get into the theatre to see her talk but heard from others that it was very good. A shame again that it was not recorded and played on the ship’s A/V. The talks from the second ‘enrichment’ presenter also were not recorded and played on the A/V system so I missed all his talks.
The large number of top tier guests meant that there were four Captain’s Circle cocktail parties. The top three most travelled passengers were all Aussies. The vast majority of passengers were from the UK, there were a handful (less than 20) from the Americas and a few from the rest of Europe.
The laundry onboard must have been on double shifts with so many Elite gusts taking advantage of free laundry. Four days out from Southampton were told that no more laundry could be accepted.
Our issues with the cruise
Crooners Bar (our favourite) is so much smaller than the equivalent bar on P&O Azura and getting a seat was a struggle especially with so many passengers saving seats for 30 minutes or more for their ‘missing’ friends. Equally annoying was not being able to get seats or a table in the Piazza to eat food from the International Cafe as during daylight hours the chairs were filled with sleeping passengers, card playing passenger or just books. We watched passengers going into the Theatre at 6.30 pm as the doors opened after rehearsals to wait for the 8 pm show and we had to join in and get there shortly after 9.30 for the 10.15 show.
The nightclub and the casino had times when smoking was allowed, and we finished up avoiding both venues as we never knew when it was OK to avoid the smoke – the ship’s Patter didn’t seem to pass on this info. Similarly missing from the Patter was the theme for the buffet’s evening meal and we missed the excellent Mexican evening, which was a shame.
Our special meals in Sabatini’s and the Steakhouse were excellent, Alfredos for pizzas was always special and our regular dining room, The Pacific Moon, had some of the friendliest servers anyone could wish for. The meals were generally good- just the Steak Diane served once was inedible but one meal out of all the meals probably helped reduce my weight gain.
It was one of our best cruises!
This was one of the best cruises we have ever been on and it is great to be home after being to the USA without any jet lag .
What more can we say?