This post covers photos taken during our cruise aboard the Sapphire Princess down to France and Spain in May 2018. Some of the information here will already have been covered in the preceding post A Cruise On Sapphire Princess and the majority of pictures (as you’ll be able to tell just from scrolling) are simply of cocktails. I’ve just got into the habit of taking photos of cocktails when we’re on a cruise ship and see no reason to stop doing so.
At first glance, especially for a week on a cruise, it might look like we had a lot to drink and, indeed, the first couple of days saw us go through quite a number of cocktails, even though we’d had the great majority of them numerous times before on other cruises. We’ll put that down to the excitement of being back on a ship. However, we drank surprisingly little (for us) on the sea days and our evening drinking tailed right off after the first couple of days as well. We can easily identify the reason for this and that’s the removal of the BOGO (Buy One, Get One For A Dollar) promotion on Princess ships. When that was present in the mid-afternoon in one of the lounges and the late evening in Skywalkers previously it would keep us around for not just the hour we were there but also some considerable time after, and we wouldn’t be the only ones. On this particular cruise, the first on Princess without BOGO for us, the venues were quieter, we were barely inclined to have one drink during the day let alone two or three (and the continued drinking that would then lead onto) and earlier-finishing evenings in a mostly empty nightclub was the rule. It’s my hope (probably forlorn) that Princess has seen a drop-off in spending as a result of this move and I hope not as many people have been convinced to go for the drinks package as I assume they were expecting because, quite frankly, for you to get your money’s worth across the duration of a cruise you’d have to be an alcoholic.
Main Dining Room Food
That’s the end of my regular Bring Back The BOGO rant and now on with some pictures of food and drink. I’ll start with some food, that being from the main dining room, most of the photos below having been taken on the first night where to our surprise and pleasure, despite indicating we were fine to share with other people, we got a table to ourselves (something that happened on two other nights on the Sapphire Princess; a very unusual thing indeed).
First up is a sample menu showing what you can typically get to eat in the main dining room on a Princess Cruises ship. On one side you’ll see the “always available” options as well as a description of any particular theme to go along with the dining options (it’s often quite tenuous). On the other side you’ll see the starters and mains for the evening with the dessert menu making an appearance at your table later on. As a general rule, if there’s a frozen soup starter with alcohol in it then I’ll often go for that. If you’ve never dined on a cruise ship before then it’s perfectly fine for you to order multiple starters, no starter, multiple mains if you want, etc. They’re very accommodating in that way.
Now for some starters, mains, and desserts.
The quality of the food on Sapphire Princess was the best we’ve ever experienced on any cruise ship to date. It was so good that we didn’t actually feel the need to book any specialty dining for a change although it being only a week-long cruise and the lack of a Crown Grill with the simple setting-aside of an area of the buffet for the Sterling Steakhouse instead (and its subsequent less-than-special appearance) also played a part there. That said, with a longer-duration cruise on the Diamond Princess coming up later this year we shall certainly be testing the steakhouse out there as well as the sushi restaurant they have on that ship.
Gluten-Free And Vegan Food Options On Princess Cruises
If you’re wondering about gluten-free dining options on Sapphire Princess or any other ship in the Princess fleet please take a look at Cruising Gluten Free On Princess Cruises Sapphire Princess.
For vegan food options on Princess Cruises please check out Can you cruise vegan on Princess Cruises? and keep an eye out for future updates on that site as there is an upcoming cruise on Crown Princess in their future.
Vines Wine Bar
A location we’ve only previously tried once or twice on previous cruises aboard Princess ships and found disappointing turned out to be a nearly daily pre-dinner drinks venue for us on the Sapphire Princess. Generally speaking, the wines that Princess have on board – and I’m only speaking about the reds here because we only drink red wine – have tended to be on the thin side and not very varied. Our experiences aboard P&O ships have shown that this might be a British versus American idea of what constitutes a good wine as we’ve never failed to be impressed there by way of comparision. However, there were definite improvements in the available wines on Sapphire Princess including a Malbec for the first time which, though still not as full-bodied as we’d have liked, ended up being the drink of choice for my wife.
I took more of an experimental approach to picking wines and in this I was helped out by Ronnie, the sole member of staff whose job it was to oversee the wine bar on the cruise ship (which sometimes led to long waits though that was not his fault). Ronnie was, in fact, a star among the Sapphire’s staff, chatty, funny, and knowledgeable in all the right amounts. A discussion about wine heaviness was followed by a quick, free wine-tasting for me and my wife to determine which drink’s body most suited my palate.
Glasses of red wine aren’t the most photogenic or varied things to show but that’s not going to stop me.
Adjacent to Vines at the bottom of the piazza on the Sapphire Princess is Alfredo’s Pizzeria. This is one of two places on the ship where you can get free pizza most of the day, the other being Prego Pizzeria up by the swimming pool. Whereas Prego serves pizza by the slice from one of two (usually) that have been recently made and kept hot, Alfredo’s makes an individual-sized full pizza for you (although there’s nothing to stop you sharing if it’s too much) from a slightly larger choice of options. You can take your Prego slice and wander off with it but Alfredo’s is more of a sit-down location for your pizza. The important thing is that both are very different but both are absolutely lovely (and if you’ve tried the equivalent offering on P&O cruise ships then Princess beats them hands down here). We were so taken with our pizza from Alfredo’s we even considered it as an option instead of the main dining room one evening but the place was rammed and with a queue of people obviously thinking similar things. As it was, we only went the once, fairly early on the first sea day when there was just one other couple present. This allowed us to be seated by the window with a lovely view out at the water undulating past and we complemented our lunch with a glass of Italian wine (naturally) which was exclusive to the location and superior to anything available in Vines. It might have been a Barolo but I can’t quite remember right now.
On the last sea day we attended a cooking demonstration. Taking place in the Princess Theatre and hosted by the maître d’hôtel Generoso Mazzone and the executive chef Ottavio Bellesi we were shown how to make Trenette alla Moda Ligure (pesto sauce), Gamberi alla Fra Divolo (flambéed shrimp in hot and fiery tomato sauce with pearl rice), and Tiramisu whilst being presented with various facts and figures about number of staff and volumes and quantities of foodstuffs, etc. The self-deprecating, often very humorous general commentary from Ottavio in particular made the event very enjoyable. Overhead cameras were supposed to show what was taking place in the bowls or on the plates on the preparation area on the stage of the theatre but what we quickly saw was that the chefs’ tall hats when they leant over to do whatever it was they were doing often completely obscured the view shown on the TV screens. Something for Princess to work on there.
At the conclusion of the demonstration we were taken to the opposite end of the ship in order that we could walk through the Sapphire Princess’s kitchen area. There were a few people at work, some carved showpiece fruit arrangements, numerous attempts to offer a cookery book for purchase, and we finished off in the dining room which was having its traditional final day sale. There were chances to talk to Generoso or pose for photos with him during the galley tour but we didn’t have any desire to do so. Still, an interesting activity just to see how large and how spotless the galley on the cruise ship was, and well worth trying out even if only once if you’re cruising.
I’ve been putting off photos of the cocktails we consumed on Sapphire Princess so we didn’t look like complete lushes but I can do so no longer. Behold the sorts of pretty drinks you find materialising onto your tables when you least expect them.
If you’re Platinum (we are that fancypants) or Elite (one day we’ll be that fancypants) cruisers on a Princess ship then you get exclusive access to the Elite Lounge in the early evening. This took place in Skywalkers Nightclub on the Sapphire Princess for all but one day when a private function was taking place and the event was relocated to the aft lounge instead. In the Elite Lounge you can choose from a range of discounted cocktails not available elsewhere on the ship – this differs from how the Elite Lounge worked on the Crown Princess during our Baltics cruise where a single drink, changing daily was offered instead; the new way of having a set selection of drinks worked far better in our opinion – and there are a range of free nibbles to select as well.
Cruise Excursions Food And Drink
When we’d originally booked this Sapphire Princess cruise we’d paid for an excursion to the Hennessy Cognac distillery, a trip that included not only cognac-tasting but also a restaurant meal. We’d very much been looking forward to it. But the French had other ideas and so one changed port and one cancelled excursion later our actual cruise didn’t end up with us eating anything while ashore anywhere with one exception, that being the tapas we were surprised with when ordering beer in Santiago de Compostela. This consisted of a (we think) Galician white bean soup with chorizo and it was delicious enough that when the weather gets a bit cooler we’re going to have a go at making this ourselves.
Local beers were also consumed after considerable exertions in the heat in both St Peter Port, Guernsey and La Rochelle, France though it’s only the latter location I thought to snap any photos at.
As already mentioned, the food on Sapphire Princess was impossible to fault. When you consider that everything we ate on board during our short cruise was included in the price and that we didn’t spend any extra on the specialty dining options available you shouldn’t have any problems should you be thinking of taking a similar trip soon. I didn’t discuss the buffet food options simply because we only used it for breakfast and we’re pretty much creatures of habit in that respect, rarely varying the few things we choose in the morning. No complaints there either and since we tend to eat away from the main Horizon Court area and near the pools we never had any issues with finding a table or being served coffee or juice in the mornings either (with one exception).
Drinks options, similarly, were very good and a notable improvement from cruises we’ve taken in previous years except, of course, for the removal of the BOGO promotion.
Food and drinks service was a little bit hit-and-miss as I’ve covered here – Sapphire Princess Cruise: Hits And Misses – but it’s something that as part of a review you can moan about, be upset about, rant about a little but as a recommendation or as a basis for determining whether you should cruise with Princess or any other line, for example, it’s something you should ultimately ignore. These things just sometimes happen. One person can have a flawless experience and another might run into an avalanche of little gripes on exactly the same vacation. It’s the luck of the draw and you should always accept that there’s always a chance that no matter how good something is one time it might be dreadful the next and vice versa. The great thing about these sorts of things taking place on a cruise, though, is that you’re in the most relaxing environment in which it’s possible to holiday (in my opinion) and everything’s better a few minutes and few more sips of a cocktail later.
Absolutely loved what we ate and drank aboard Sapphire Princess in May and it’ll be very interesting indeed to see how it all stacks up against and what sort of new culinary adventures we can experience aboard the more Asian-oriented Diamond Princess in October.