Sapphire Sojourn
Published Jan/Feb 2005

Princess’ newest ship is a palatial gem, offering cruisers
multiple options and outstanding amenities.
By Jill Carstens-Faust

When we dropped anchor in Skagway, the ship’s comedian joked that we tripled the city’s population. As crazy as it sounded, it was true. Pulling into port earlier that day, Princess Cruises’ newest ship, the Sapphire Princess, with its 2,600 passengers and hundreds of crew members, considerably swelled the population–albeit temporarily–of the tiny town of Skagway, Alaska, population 860.

The Sapphire Princess’ stats are astounding. The 116,000-ton vessel features 18 decks and 1,337 passenger cabins. In the course of a week’s voyage, the ship serves up more than 400 pounds of smoked salmon, more than 57,000 eggs and as many as 8,000 pieces of pizza. More than 97,000 dishes are used each day, all in an effort to keep the sea-faring vacationers satiated.

Stunning Resort at Sea

In spite of its colossal size, the Sapphire Princess is unusually intimate, with dozens of venues ideally suited for relaxation or seclusion, from its adult-only pool and table-for-two spots in the themed dining rooms to the quiet nooks perfect for reading and relaxing and the private balconies available on more than 700 of its outside cabins. And, while the notion of the mega-cruiseliner is nothing new, the idea that a ship this large can still be cozy and intimate and yet accommodate hundreds of guests with tremendous flexibility is a concept being tested out by Princess with the launch of three new ships in 2004–the Caribbean, Diamond and Sapphire Princesses.

After its inaugural cruise last June, the Sapphire Princess spent its summer in Alaska, taking passengers on seven-day voyages through the Inside Passage. It was during that inaugural month that my husband and I were among some of the Sapphire’s first passengers–and the first to test out what Princess hopes will be a big hit with cruisers: a philosophy that emphasizes choice, innovations and customer service.

Nowhere is this more noticeable than in the multiple-themed dining facilities where passengers can choose between a traditional fixed-seating dining room and four smaller themed restaurants featuring Italian, Southwestern, Asian cuisines and traditional steakhouse fare. Diners at any of the restaurants have the option to choose what’s on bill for the evening or request something from one of the other restaurant menus. A quick call to the Princess Concierge Service reserves your evening’s seats and allows you to choose a time convenient for you and your day’s plans. In addition to these options, the traditional 24-hour dining sites are available as well as Princess’ signature Trattoria Sabatini, a festive Mediterranean-style bistro that treats diners to course after course of sumptuous Italian dishes. It’s well worth the $20 per-person surcharge.

Innovative Services

While cruising is all about being pampered, the Sapphire Princess’ new in-house Lotus Spa takes indulgence and customer service to a new level. The spa features sea-based products and a menu of more than 40 treatments for men, women and teens, including facials, pedicures and massages–all in a facility that makes passengers feel like they’ve walked into a serene Asian garden. What’s more, Princess has created an online reservation process that lets passengers book their spa treatments long before they have even embarked on their cruise. This system is the first of its kind and is an invaluable service to passengers who can be assured that they will get the spa treatments they wish, said Jeff Kohl, Princess’ director of spa operations. The online reservation system can be accessed through the Princess Cruises Web site and guests already aboard ship can contact the Concierge Service.

Personal choice and the convenience of online reservations also extend to the host of port excursions that Princess makes available at its Alaskan stops. Last year saw an expansion of offerings that introduced 18 new tour options. New itineraries include biking and kayaking excursions in the Tongass National Forest, rock climbing and rappelling near the White Pass and a visit to a sled dog and musher’s camp--a favorite among families. Through the online Cruise Personalizer, a passenger can make their port selections well in advance of their cruise, possibly assuring them a spot on a tour that typically fills up quickly.

Onboard Experience

This theme of innovation and service carries throughout the ship’s public spaces, from the new nightlife venue, Club Fusion, with its high-tech video screens, lighting and sound systems to the expansion of the ship’s popular Internet Café, featuring 29 stations and a coffee and pastry bar. Access is 35 cents per minute but is still a less expensive option for those of us needing to check out what’s going on at home. Couples can even get married on board in the ship’s wedding chapel as part of a program where the ship’s captain conducts ceremonies at sea.

In 2005, the Sapphire Princess will offer cruises around Australia and New Zealand, as well as itineraries in Alaska along the Inside Passage.

Jill Carstens-Faust is Senior Editor of “Home and Away” magazine.



Above: The colossal ship has 18 decks and 1,337 passenger cabins.

Below: The ship features four different pools, including one under a retractable glass dome. Princess Cruises photos

Before You Go
With the addition of the Sapphire and Diamond Princess, Princess Cruises has expanded its presence in Alaska. Cruisers now have 44 sailings to choose from with itineraries to both the Inside Passage and Gulf of Alaska. A AAA Travel specialist can help you decide the date and itinerary that best fits you.

To plan a cruise, visit your nearest AAA Travel office. Find a list of offices to serve you or search for cruises at www.aaa.com.

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