As a self-proclaimed foodie, I was eagerly anticipating the Sapphire Princess offering, as I boarded the vessel for a 3-night round trip voyage from Singapore.
After all, Princess prides herself as a brand that’s big on food quality. Princess was voted ‘Best Cruise Line for Food Lovers’ by Food & Wine Magazine, and her Italian specialty restaurant Sabatini’s was voted one of the ‘Best Cruise ship Specialty Restaurants’ by USA Today. Complimentary dining venue Alfredo’s Pizzeria was also named ‘Best Pizza at Sea’.
So, does Sapphire Princess’ food measure up? My verdict: Yes – but know where to go and what to eat.
Make a beeline for the dining rooms. Sapphire has five main dining areas serving the same menu. You won’t get that grand ‘ballroom style’ experience like on other cruise ships, but the food quality will keep you coming back for more.
My favourite starter was the addictive wild mushroom tartlet, with creamy veal sauce and truffle oil. Mains were outstanding too, particularly the salmon and marinated skirt steak fajitas. The menu includes Asian options as well, such as Hainanese chicken rice and spiced duck breast.
Over at specialty restaurant Sabatini’s, our travel party enjoyed the tasty bread, well-flavoured seafood spaghetti and tender steak. Specialty dining restaurants require a top up of USD $29, but we say it’s well worth it for the superb service and premium food.
And I definitely couldn’t miss out on the ‘best pizza at sea’, at Alfredo’s Pizzeria. To be honest, pizza isn’t my go-to when cruising (I’m all about the seafood and steak), but Alfredo’s thin-crust margherita pizza is impressive, generous and satisfying. Alfredo’s is a complimentary dining venue as well, so you can return for seconds (or thirds) anytime.
All-in-all, our culinary experience on Sapphire was well-worth the calories. We were even treated to masterclasses in cooking gado-gado (a Indonesian-style salad) and Yusheng (raw fish salad) by MasterChef Australia winner Diana Chan. The friendly celeb chef was on the same voyage, and wowed class participants with her gastronomy skills.
My dining experience at the Horizon Court buffet on day one was a little more hit or miss. Whilst the selection is enough to please most diners and the pasta options were lovely, my turkey was tough and my fried rice wasn’t as flavourful as I would have liked.
But perhaps that was first day blues. Food quality did pick up on the second and third days. I enjoyed items like mussels, tasty Dhal curry and a delicious maple walnut cupcake that was consumed in seconds.
Of course, there’s more to Sapphire than her culinary offerings. Here’s what I thought after my cruising experience:
Sapphire doesn’t show her 16 years. Last refurbished in 2018, the line has done well in revitalising her.
I love that Princess has maintained an ‘old-school’ cruising feel with her design, especially in the bars and lounges The wheelhouse bar, in particular, is splendidly decked in traditional maritime decor. We’re talking steering wheels on the walls, dark wood accents and nautical paintings.
There are lots of cosy corners to be found around the vessel too, giving Sapphire a small-ship feel despite her 2,670-passenger capacity.
If you’re after high-tech, modern thrills and endless family activities, Sapphire Princess isn’t the ship for you. We did see numerous families, but most kids were either chilling at the pool or hanging out at the children’s and teen’s centers.
With no kids running around, Sapphire’s perfect for couples and friends who like to cruise in peace. Port days are especially quiet, so the ship really is “all yours”.
Organised activities include trivia challenges, scavenger hunts, singles and solos meet & greets, and late-night music and dancing at the Skywalkers Night Club and Explorers Lounge.
But I’m all about cruising to relax. This means a dip in the pool and whirlpools, and a visit to the ship’s Lotus Spa. Elegantly designed, the spa contains a well-equipped fitness centre, a beauty salon, a thermal suite, saunas, steam rooms and a private lap pool. I highly recommend the massage treatments − my therapist was an absolute gem and really loosened up those knots!
Most of the entertainment happens at Princess Theatre, located at the forward of decks 6 and 7. I caught ‘Born to Be Wild’, a musical-theatre style show on the second night.
Get there early to reserve seats, especially on shorter cruisers. My travel party came in just as the show was about to start, and by then most of the venue was at full capacity and people had to stand.
The theme of the production was a classic American road trip, with iconic rock songs and upbeat dance routines. The performers were great, but the sound system could have been improved − some singer’s voices didn’t quite fill up the room and words were drowned out.
Other shows included a stand-up routine by comedian Simon Cotter and a concert by Taiwan-based singer Birdy. Movies under the Stars at the ship’s outdoor pool area had comfy deck chairs and blankets for windy nights.
I stayed in an ocean view balcony cabin on deck 14. The location was perfect − right next to the pool, Lotus Spa and a short walk from Horizon Court on the same level.
Rooms are generally well-appointed, with a generous supply of amenities like body lotion, shampoo, conditioner, soap bars, a hair dryer and towels. Each room also has a Smart TV, with ship information and a surprisingly wide selection of movies and TV shows.
I was more than happy to find 7 bottles of drinking water on my table too. After my last cruising experience where only one bottle was provided on the first day, this was a much-welcomed change.
Available in all staterooms, the Princess Luxury bed is an absolute godsend. Designed by renowned sleep expert Dr. Michael Breus, it’s so comfortable that once you sink into it, you might not ever want to leave the room. You’ve been warned!
The bathrooms could use a little sprucing, but the rest of the cabin appeared fresh and well-maintained.
Highs: Sapphire will definitely please food lovers, especially in the main dining rooms and specialty restaurants. Her spa offerings are top-notch, and she’s perfect for cruisers who crave peaceful getaways.
Lows: Wi-Fi packages cost an arm and a leg. The passport return process could use improvement − many guests were woken at 5am on the final night to have passports returned to their staterooms.
Best suited to: Couples, food-lovers and repeat-cruisers who truly want to “escape from it all”.
Cruise line: Princess Cruises
Vessel: Sapphire Princess
Star rating: 4
Passenger capacity: 2,670
Passenger decks: 13
Entered service: 2004
Facilities: 9 dining options (including five main dining rooms), 24-hour room service, various bars and lounges, 5 pools, 8 whirlpools, theatre, casino, duty-free shops, fitness center and spa, sports deck, children’s and teen’s centers, library, internet café, art gallery and golf putting course.
Bookings: Sapphire Princess will homeport in Singapore until April 16. Sailings range from 7 to 21 days, with an 11-day Southeast Asia roundtrip from Singapore costing around USD $2549.
Vote in this year’s special Readers’ Choice Awards
No doubt 2020 will go down in cruise history as the year of the pandemic – a once in a generation event. And this year’s Cruise Passenger Readers’ Choice Awards will reflect it.