It had been a decade since I last went on a cruise with my college mates on Star Cruises’ Superstar Virgo. Though I vaguely remembered all the things we did during the cruise, I just knew we had so much fun together. The beautiful thing about going on a cruise is that it’s really a relaxing and hassle-free holiday because there is no need to do prior research or plan an itinerary since everything is provided for in the ship from accommodation to food, entertainment, leisure activities and more.
This is also why I decided to surprise the husband with an impromptu 4D3N Straits of Malacca cruise (Singapore -> Penang -> Port Klang/Kuala Lumpur) on Princess Cruises’ Sapphire Princess to celebrate our 10 years of friendship (and 3 years of marriage). Booked just one week before the cruising dates and off we went! This was my 4th cruise (but my first on Princess Cruises) and the first for the husband which he was really excited about because he didn’t know what to expect. I just told him we would eat, sleep, gamble, watch shows, laze by the pool and do nothing. And he was cautioned about gaining at least 5kg when back, haha! Well I was probably the one coming back with the excess baggage ;p
Princess Cruises made its first presence on Singapore shores when the Sapphire Princess sailed from Singapore for a four-month period from November 2014 to February 2015, to mainly South-East Asian countries like Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia.
I happened to come across an attractive rate for interior cabins that Citystate Cruises was selling at the last minute so I went ahead to book one cabin for a cruise the week after and was thrilled that we were given a free upgrade to an Oceanview Cabin (Obstructed View) a few days later – always good to have natural light into the room rather than having no windows at all!
Check-In / Embarkation
We took the MRT and alighted at Marina South Pier Station as we didn’t want to be caught in peak hour traffic jam if we took a taxi. There was a long sheltered walkway that led to the Marina Bay Cruise Centre where the embarkation point was. It was raining quite heavily just before we reached the cruise centre and it was just super annoying that the shelter discontinued at where the pedestrian crossing was so we ended up dragging our luggages in the rain across a super congested road just to get into the building O_o Not a nice way to start off a holiday, eh.
Thank goodness the check-in and embarkation procedures were smooth and hassle-free. Royal Caribbean literally occupied the whole of ground level while the check-in counter for Princess Cruises was one level up. Though the whole place was very busy and noisy, there were many Princess Cruises’ ground staff available to help direct the way so it wasn’t too difficult to locate the check-in spot.
Prior to that, we had to check-in our luggages at the baggage drop-off point so we need not have to lug them up the ship ourselves.
And just before boarding, the crew would collect the passports from all passengers. Do note that if you’re a Singapore Permanent Resident, you would have to surrender both your passport and blue I/C as well.
Accommodation / Cabin
We were allocated Cabin #E411 which was located on the Emerald Deck (Deck 8). I must say it was an excellent location because it was somewhere in the middle of the ship so it was convenient to get to everywhere else without having to walk from one end to the other end all the time.
And it didn’t take long for our luggage to be delivered and left outside our door too.
And the best part was even though this cabin was supposed to have obstructed view because of the life boats, the view wasn’t blocked by anything at all as the life boats were all on the left and right hand side from where our cabin was. How lucky!
The cabin room was much spacious than I expected. In fact, I thought it was better designed than SuperStar Virgo’s. The Queen bed was made up of two twin beds which wasn’t much of an issue – quite comfortable anyway. My only gripe was that the pillows were too thin and soft and couldn’t provide enough support for the neck so I had to request for 2 extra pillows (only came the next day after at least 3 reminders to our room steward & housekeeping) just to prop them higher. Also, most of the pillows had very visible brown or black stains! We had to put towels over our pillows as we didn’t like the idea of having our faces on dirty pillow cases O_o
There was a small safe right behind the mirror and some pool towels were also provided for our use at the pool or spa. No iron/ironing board would be provided and bathrobes were available upon request from our room steward.
The bathroom was tiny as expected but at least it was well-maintained and clean plus there was plenty of shelf space at the sink area to place our toiletries and stuff. No toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, shower cap or disposable shaver were given. They only provided shampoo/conditioner, shower gel, body lotion and soap.
For the shower area, though there was a curtain and we even had a floor rag put out, they couldn’t prevent water from trickling onto the bathroom floor (as well as the carpet outside the bathroom door). Tsk tsk tsk. We always ended up throwing another large towel on the floor just to keep the area dry!
Every evening, our room steward would leave chocolates on our bed during turndown service. They were only standard plain milk chocolate but were of pretty decent quality, lol.
Unlike most hotel rooms that come with free bottled water, well, there were none in the cabin as bottled water were chargeable at US$2 per 500ml bottle or US$3.50 per 1.5litre bottle (before 15% gratuity). Though the tap water in the bathroom was potable or we could also boil water using the available electric kettle, what we did was getting cups of iced water everyday from the international buffet dining room and leaving them in the fridge for later consumption.
On the desk, there was this directory that had all the information we needed to navigate around the ship. Before you start exploring the ship, it would be good to run through the folder just so you’d know what the options are for dining, dress code at dining rooms and other helpful information. The room service menu was also in the same folder.
IMPORTANT: The cabin came with standard U.S. plug fittings so please bring along your travel adaptor!
Itinerary & General Information
The itinerary for the 4D3N cruise is as follows:
|3||Port Klang, Malaysia||0900||1800|
But in actual fact, the duration of the whole cruise was about 3 full days because boarding time on Day 1 started from 11.30am onwards which gave us extra time to explore the ship and have a buffet lunch plus afternoon tea before the ship departed at 4pm. And on the last day, the ship docked at Singapore at 7am but we didn’t leave the ship till about 9am which gave us some time to chill out after breakfast. We were happy and satisfied with the length of the cruise as the timings for embarkation and disembarkation at all ports were well planned (no rush!) and we had ample time to enjoy ourselves to the fullest even though the trip wasn’t exactly that long.
Before the ship departed, everyone had to attend a compulsory half-hour muster drill just so you’d know which emergency exit was assigned to you and how to wear a life jacket correctly. Do remember to bring along your personal room card as the crew would scan your card for attendance record.
The Princess Patter which was their daily newsletter would detail the programme for the day such as the production shows and movie screenings, activities like ballroom dancing, card & board games, zumba, fitness seminars, art auction and many more. The newsletter would be left outside our door every evening then we would just mark out the activities that we were interested in so it was like a time-table for us. Really easy 😉
Currency onboard the cruise ship was USD but there wasn’t a need to bring along USD in cash because all onboard spending would be charged to your room card unless you are thinking of tipping your room steward and/or the dining room service staff separately in cash (which wasn’t really necessary because of the daily gratuity you’d already be paying for – see below).
There was a mandatory gratuity of US$11.50 (or US$12 for mini-suites and suites) per person per night that would be charged to your room account so take note of that.
Exploring the Sapphire Princess
If you haven’t been on a cruise before, just imagine you are having a staycation at a floating hotel on the sea that has literally everything that you possibly need for a short holiday. Sapphire Princess may be one of the world’s largest cruise ships with a capacity of approx. 2,670 passengers but because the ship was huge, we really couldn’t feel the impact of overcrowding within a confined space. There were about 14 bars and lounges (already pretty amazing!) and sometimes when we merely walked into any random one, we probably only saw 1 or 2 persons reading or taking nap. How great was that!
Let me take you on a photo tour of the ship:
The Lotus Pool was my favourite pool of all because it was an adults-only pool which meant there wouldn’t be kiddos disturbing your peace should you want to chill out by the pool. It was so private that most of the times we were here, we had the entire pool to ourselves including the two jacuzzis which the husband preferred more than I did because the water was too warm for me! Hot jacuzzi in 33 deg C weather was just insane! Haha.
For a nominal entrance fee, one can escape into paradise here at The Sanctuary away from the rest of the people and going-ons – it was like going into reclusion, haha. I didn’t think anyone made use of the facility because there really wasn’t a need to escape from anything when the ship wasn’t even that busy to begin with. The Lotus Pool downstairs however is open to public (adults only) at no extra charge.
We both brought like 2 sets of exercise gear each cos’ we said we would definitely be going to the gym to work off those food that we were going to feast on but the lazies obviously set in and we didn’t even use a single machine throughout the cruise, haha. So much for keeping fit :p
We had the whole Lawn Court to ourselves one morning so we challenged each other to some golf putting. Fun!
There was quite an extensive collection of books (both fiction and non-fiction) at the library which you could borrow to read. We didn’t do that cos’ we already brought our own books which we didn’t even touch, haha. No chance to!
For the shopping divas, you can get your dose of retail therapy onboard – fine jewellery, fine gifts, fragrances & cosmetics, watches, fashion jewellery, fashion apparel, liquor & tobacco, art pieces – there was even a drug & sundries store and florist too.
Good Buy: The Coach store offered (past season) products at reasonable reduced prices but selections were quite limited. I had my eyes on a wallet but too bad they didn’t have stock for the colour I wanted.
The Piazza was where live performances and special activities were held. A lovely place to chill out for an afternoon tea break or late night supper cos’ the 24-hour International Cafe that offered light bites was just there too. More on food in Part 2 of my post to come 🙂
The Grand Casino was our favourite night time hangout spot, lol. Yes, we literally spent hours every night here trying our luck to get rich :p While I was addicted with the jackpot machines, the husband preferred his blackjack table games. And we both won a humble sum which we used to offset our onboard spendings 😉 Not bad at all!
One thing that I loved about the Sapphire Princess were the numerous art pieces that adorned the walls around the ship as we walked around. Very elegant and tasteful. If anyone is interested to purchase any painting, the ones at the gallery here are all for sale.
Everyday after dinner, we would head here for different signature production shows that were written and choreographed specially for Princess Cruises. For show times, just refer to the Princess Patter.
And this was the 24-hour cafe that I mentioned earlier that offered both sweet and savoury bites 🙂 Coffee/tea here were chargeable though so if you want a free cuppa, just head to Horizon Court which was the buffet dining room.
Every night, their resident cabaret band would be playing here. We also watched a couple of standup comedies here.
This was where live music, game shows, karaoke and theme nights were held.
Other parts of the ship that I didn’t capture on camera included a basketball court, spa, nightclub, internet cafe, youth and kid’s arena, many more bars/lounges and the restaurants/dining rooms which I will cover in Part 2.
Ok, so this is it for Part 1 of my post which I hope has been helpful so far for those of you considering to go on a Sapphire Princess cruise so you now have a better idea of what to expect when you’re onboard the ship. In Part 2 of my post, I would be talking about the most exciting and enchanting part of our cruise i.e. FOOD, FOOD and more FOOD. Haha. A slew of scrumptious pictures would be awaiting you so stay tuned 😉