in planning your vacation!

Pam & Rex, some of my favorite clients and my first clients, wrote a fabulous and fun "Cruise Journal" of their experiences on the Sapphire Princess's first two cruises  

This is the journal of the first cruise - the Pre-Inaugural cruise, sailing just two nights with lots of press and Princess VIPs onboard giving the ship a shake down before her official 7-day Alaskan inaugural cruise


June 9, 2004- Flight from Atlanta to Seattle



Rex and I stayed up most of the night trying to figure out how to get our stuff into the suitcases. Rex usually blames me for the amount of luggage we take on trips. This time however, he brought along 4 changes of clothes for each of the 13 days we’ll be on this journey. Rex kept telling me it was time to get up but he never told me the time. Last time I looked it was 3:46 AM. Our flight was at 11:36 AM and the Atlanta airport is less than an hours drive so I thought he was overanxious. I looked at the clock again and it was 6:40. “Why in the hell didn’t you tell me to get up?” I screamed. I blasted out of the bed and took my shower. We stayed up until 2AM the night before so my mental faculties were somewhat off. I neglected to rinse the shampoo completely out of my hair. By the time I discovered this it was too late to do anything about it so my hair looked incredibly weird for the flight to Seattle. My mother arrived promptly at 7:15 AM to take us to the airport. This was a problem, as she was not expected until 8AM. She takes punctuality to the extreme.


We made it to the airport with hours to spare. We purchased our lunch from the Atlanta Bread Co. to carry-on the plane. (Time: 8:42 AM) There was nothing left to do so we had bloody Mary’s until 11:AM. By that time I was quite relaxed. We staggered to the gate and boarded the plane. We found our seats and much to my dismay, my hiney still does not fit in those seats. I am wondering if all the seats are made in Japan where derrieres are somewhat more petite than the “more than average” American butt.


The flight was uneventful, bought the 2-buck headphones and watched Starsky and Hutch. Can you believe that movie did not win a single academy award? As we approached Seattle, I was awed by the fact that Mt. Rainier was as high as we were. Amazing!


Then the most amazing thing happened. I spotted Safeco field and there was the Sapphire. What a great picture that would make. We tried our best to dig the camera out of the backpack. Much to the dismay of the third party squeezed in beside us. (He mumbled at our giddiness most of the flight. Might have had something to do with the bloody Mary’s we had on the plane. 8^)


From the airport (which is small to me though others disagree) we took the Grayline Shuttle to the Westin. As I type, I am sitting in front of the floor to ceiling picture window on the 37th floor looking out over Pike Place market. The Sapphire is in plain view off to the left. Rex is snoring……


(To be continued)



Hi Ya’ll…Rex here…in italics no less… I’m sitting here on the 37th floor of the Westin looking at Elliott Bay and wondering why they didn’t call it Elliot Sound.  Surprise: it’s rainy.  But our spirits are not to be dampened.  I’m looking forward to Pike’s Market and exploring Seattle.  I’m just waiting on Pam to decide which outfit to wear today.  She’s busy going through the 18 suitcases we brought.  I just got off the phone with the president of Samsonite who called to ask how our vacation is going and would we be interested in their latest suitcase model since it’s the only one we don’t have.  Apparently it’s the size of one of those things they stack on container ships and it’s stackable.  I told him we could do lunch and discuss it. 


The Westin is okay (read: expensive for what you get).  The towels are great but the see-through toilet paper is not. Everything here is expensive. We had dinner at Asiogo’s (sp?) last night. It was excellent and I recommend it.  However they did relieve us of 100 bucks.  A nightcap at the hotel bar last night: $25.  We had breakfast this morning downstairs: $30.  I have to go now.  I’m going to call the Samsonite guy and order the new stackable container.  We’re going to need it to carry money next time.    rx





He said/She said



We woke up for the final time around 6 AM. This is very late for us as in Atlanta it was 9 AM. One of the first things I noticed was that my computer was dead. Oops! Forgot to plug in the A/C adapter last night. “Where’s the power cord for the computer”, she said? “What cord”, he said? “The one I told you to pack,” she said. “You didn’t tell me to pack any power cord. I don’t know what you are talking about”, he said. “You asked me what it was. It was on the floor by your nose-hair trimmer”, she said. “I don’t remember that”, he said. “How can you not remember an entire conversation”, she said. And then she realized the answer for herself. Said power cord was located in his backpack along with the nose-hair trimmer.


After we showered, we dressed….like tourists. I chose “new stuff”. I wore Khaki cargo pants from llbean….zip ankles with draw string closures in case of an immediate need to take them off before removing shoes or protection from crawling insect attack. They have nice big pockets to stuff full of things. I wore an Eddie Bauer charcoal-gray long sleeved fleece top. Over that, I wore a fatigue green Eddie Bauer trekker vest…many pockets and clips to attach things to. Even though it was daylight, it was overcast, windy, and chilly so I attached my mini halogen flashlight to one of the clips. You just never know….we could have an unexpected eclipse. Besides, it looked cool. Into the numerous Velcro pockets, I packed my hairbrush, chapstick, digital camera, spare battery etc. Over that I wore my lands end navy blue gortex jacket. I was ready for adventure. Two blocks from the hotel I discovered I had not packed my earmuffs. Big mistake as cold wind can give me an earache. I had on my brand new, shiny white keds…complete with gel inserts I purchased last night at the drug store near the Westin when I discovered I needed them.


Coming soon….Pike Place Market.


He said:


Rx here: I really liked Pike Place Market. It was everything I hoped it would be and more.  It made me want to live in Seattle. I love all the fresh fish, bright colors, and interesting smells. If memory serves (yeah right) it is a more intriguing market than Boston’s Haymarket Square.  It is interesting to note however that the folks in both markets look very much alike…strange how that happens.


 Pam and I have an iron clad rule about going to a restaurant: One should always do research to determine the quality of a restaurant before you actually eat there.  Well, after carefully looking at their neon Miller Lite sign for about three seconds we decided that we would eat at Lowell’s.  As always, Pam held true to the research and selected the best thing on the menu, which turned out to be Miller Lite.  I, on the other hand, ordered the shrimp-n-chips and who cares if they’re $13, I’m on vacation. And, I must say that while the shrimp was expensive, at least it wasn’t very good.  The shrimp were so small they were both hard to find.  I asked the waitress if she had a magnifying glass I could use.  She said, “Yes, but it would be $75 extra.  Oh well, it was a cold rainy day and the warm beer somehow seemed appropriate.


She said:


I loved Pike Place market. The flowers, the ethnic diversity, the fresh seafood…shrimp and lobster the likes of which I’ve never seen. When we passed City Market, Rex got the look. You know what I mean…head tilted back, eyes narrowed, slack jaw, and mouth wide-open. After drinking our way through the market, nature called. Funny thing about the restroom there, the stall doors are only 3 feet high. What’s up with that? I don’t know about you but I have a unique public restroom posture that I’d prefer not to share with the rest of the world. Oh well, once a teacher always a teacher I suppose. More interesting is the outdoor, self-cleaning unisex restroom near the waterfront. Sounded good to me. A lady I presumed was homeless was blowing her nose nearby. She said, “Hey lady, need some tissue” and waved the soiled tissue at me. I didn’t ask how much it would cost and just said, “no thank you” and smiled at her.


By the way, I waited until very late last night to get the 24-hour Internet access for 16 bucks at the Westin figuring that would get me through tonight. No such luck. Once we found the power cord and reconnected this morning I discovered the 24 hours runs from noon-to-noon no matter what.


6/10/2004 epilogue



We are in for the night. I hope that we have taken care of the jet lag thing. The Sapphire just left. Where is she going and why aren’t we there? It’s almost 9PM in Seattle.


We had dinner at the Icon grill right across the street from the hotel relieving ourselves from more of that bulky cash we purchased the extra suitcase to carry. Good Food. We then decided to walk towards the Space Needle heading north on 5th Avenue following the same route the monorail takes. It is a very easy walk…completely flat. We were basically at the Needle but it was getting dark and we are unfamiliar with what happens after nightfall so far from home so decided to head back to the hotel. We will catch Seattle Center and the Space Needle on 6/20 when we return from the cruise. For those interested, free buses are running the monorail route to Seattle center and the Space Needle while repairs are being made. Who would guess a fire would destroy the monorail built for the worlds fair in 19??. When was that anyway? Think Elvis.  Rex is snoring. My feet are killing me.




6:30 AM



I woke up at 4:30 AM anxious to get going…that’s 4:30 Atlanta time, 1:30 here in Seattle. It’s going to be a long wait. We watched a Celebrity ship dock at about 6AM. The Sapphire is still nowhere to be seen. It is foggy and rainy. It looks cold, too. I could not care less about the weather; it’s all part of the adventure. I think I neglected to mention that in the packing frenzy we decided to leave our warm coats at home. We just didn’t have the luggage real estate for them. I am hoping that all my name brand outdoor active wear will suffice.


7:15 AM


Rex went downstairs and brought coffee back. Ah, the breakfast of champions. I am going to need more soon but I am not going to say anything until what I perceive is the opportune moment. I feel like an eagle hulking over my keyboard, facing the bay, waiting somewhat impatiently for my prey.


7:45 AM


Oh, boy! Here she comes.


8:45 AM


Okay, Just got out of the shower. I want to make sure I have plenty of time to bath again just in case I forget to rinse something. Why is it that leg hair grows at an accelerated rate when on vacation? Rex told me to leave it as I might need it for warmth in Alaska but I didn’t take his advice. The orange stripes from the “tan-in-a-can” Rex put on me Tuesday are much less noticeable. I’m glad this isn’t a Caribbean cruise all the same. I used the Westin bath products. My hair smells like a fresh mown lawn….maybe I forgot to rinse?!?


9:25 AM


We are in a time warp. The passage of time has slowed to a crawl. I hope the time on the ship passes this same way. He’s probably going to say something different but Rex has started the clean clothes-hoarding thing. (You know….he wants to keep all his clothes clean so he’ll wear something he’s already worn to get on the ship). We’ve already agreed to have our laundry done on the ship. That’s why he brought the 4 outfits for each and every day.


The sun is out!


9:50 AM


The sun is gone!


9:51 AM


The sun is out!


9:58 AM


The sun is gone!

We have finally made the decision to have the Taxi pick us up at 11:00. Yes, that’s early for what appears will be a 5-minute drive but the Sapphire is really calling to us now. My stomach is churning and it’s not from all the beer, wine, bloody Mary’s, and margarita’s I consumed yesterday….really, it isn’t.


10:22 AM

Okay folks. It’s time to pack the laptop. I’ll keep up the journal as well as I can during the cruise. I don’t know when I’ll be able to post again but I’ll attempt it on the ship. I know you are anxious to hear how the ship is as opposed to the bathing ritual stuff and I’ll do my best to oblige.


06/11/04 cont. The Ship



Embarkation was painless. We arrived at the port about 11:20. We were in our cabin by 11:35. We were originally assigned D629 for the preinaugural. We stopped by passenger services and requested to be moved to D415 since that is our assignment for the inaugural. No problem. Done deal. Now we don’t have to worry about moving in a couple of days.


The ship is beautiful and immaculate. Yes, you can smell the new and I love it. The robes in the cabin have never been worn. Whoever said (and someone on the CC boards did say this) that he couldn’t understand why anyone would book a maiden voyage, might want to give it a try. This newness is nice! The new color scheme is very pleasing.


We met with some great fellow cruise critics at Tradewinds Bar and shared a few drinks and many laughs. We met Lynn and her friend Cindy, and Karen and her husband Howie. All nice people. The next thing I knew they were in the hot tub. They wanted us to join them and I might have if it had been really, really dark outside. I didn’t tell them about my aversion to swimwear and more importantly public swimming facilities however and they are none the wiser…until they read this that is.



Our cabin steward is Andrew. He’s very, very nice. In fact, we’ve seen nothing but smiling faces all day. The crew is very attentive. Of course, I think they may out number the passengers on this sailing. I’ll try to remember to ask for numbers tomorrow.


Originally we were told there would be no personal choice, only traditional on this 2-day cruise but that isn’t the case. We went to the International dining room at our assigned dining time and approached the Maitre’D. There was a very sad lady speaking to him. It seems she and her husband had not been assigned a table with the rest of the family. We had. What a coincidence! It was nice to make her day.


We choose the Santa Fe dining room for no particular reason. Our dinner was delicious. We both had crab-stuffed avocado with cream sauce, (this had a fancy name that escapes me) Caesar salads, and lobster thermadore. We passed on dessert basically because we were exhausted and although I look like I’ve never missed a dessert, I almost never eat sweets. Strange isn’t it? We toured the ship a little more, checking out Club Fusion, and the wake bar as well as Skywalkers and the aft pools….all beautiful.


We stopped in the horizon court to see if the coffee had improved…it’s the same. We had a bowl of fresh fruit and strolled through the Atrium. By this time I wanted to lie down on the floor.


FYI Several of the bars have some sort of new elaborate coffeemaker for making fresh brew but something is wrong with them…ALL. Hopefully, the technicians will take care of that for those of you who don’t pack your own coffee maker.


9:50 PM


Rex is snoring. Butchart Gardens is tomorrow. I hope we get over this Jet lag.




6/12/2004 Victoria


5:30 AM



Up and showered. Ah, I smell like Princess bath products. Life is good. We are on the starboard side of the ship. There is a magnificent view of snow-covered mountains, which I wasn’t expecting this early in the cruise. I am geographically challenged after all.


Room service delivered a carafe of hot water and some cream for our coffee. We dump out the hot water that is just to heat the carafe prior to our pouring our cabin-brewed coffee into it. You didn’t think with all that luggage we didn’t bring a coffee pot did you?



  1. We are mid-ship on the Dolphin deck. You can smell the Diesel fuel. We also noticed it last night when waiting on the sun deck. Not unbearable, but noticeable, and intermittent I suppose dependent on the breeze.
  2. Bring an extension chord. The outlet is mounted under the mirror in such a way that it makes plugging in boxy things like our battery charger difficult.
  3. The bed is hard as a rock but I slept like one too. Firm bed lovers will like it. We had Andrew make it up with an egg-crate pad.
  4. Brush up on your metric conversions if you need to.
  5. Uncovered balconies….this is my first (uncovered) and I discovered what is wrong with them….you forget! The snow-covered mountains beckoned me. I stepped out to enjoy the view. I was wearing a T-shirt and nothing else. That would probably be okay for small people who can wear T-shirts like dresses. For me however, the t-shirt is more like a crop top. When it occurred to me that I was putting on quite a show, I ran inside. I did not look up to see who that was I heard snickering. Rex told me he did the same thing. If I had some post-its, I’d post a note on the glass doors to remind myself not to do that again. I am memory impaired after all. So is Rex.


Wow, I just realized we are still moving….very slowly. We must be docking. The snow-covered mountains are now to my left. Jet Lag. That’s my story and I am sticking to it. What a beautiful day! (50 degrees Fahrenheit)



We waited to get off the ship and go to Butchart Gardens. There was quite a delay. We waited.  Not fun.  No explanation.  The crew seems somewhat disconnected. The delay was about an hour.  While waiting we met a nice couple from Chicago who were on their way to a (pardon me Dave Berry but I’m not making this up) Wine and Chocolate tasting thing.  Hello? Can you say, “Headache”? How about, ”Pounding headache”!?


After about an hour’s delay we were excursion-bound.  The Grayline tour-guy was very informative and the drive through the city was enjoyable. Victoria is very beautiful although I never did spot that company that makes those secret things for women.


 Butchart Garden was wonderful.  It’s like things you see on the Discovery Channel.  I don’t know the names of the trees, flowers, and stuff but I do appreciate them.  There is a Japanese Garden, a Sunken Garden, a Rose Garden, and an Italian Garden. The Japanese Garden was my favorite.  Indescribable. It reminded me very much of our own back yard except without the trees, flowers, and stuff.


We walked about 257 miles and I was worn out.  When we got back to the ship we saw the nice couple from Chicago walking through the lobby.   They indicated that they had a good time but we couldn’t understand what they were saying because they both were crunching handfuls of Excedrin like they were M&M’s.


6/12 Continued



At 8:00PM we pulled along side the Diamond and played dueling foghorns. We got a lot of great pictures from a vantage point you don’t often see.  There was a helicopter flying over heard. We think maybe they were shooting some promo pictures. Passengers from both ships were out on the decks waving and whooping it up. (Southern Colloquialism) We cruised in Tandem for quite awhile…very cool. And I want to emphasize cool…freezing really. Most people were scantily dressed in their dinner clothes and there was some shivering going on.


We had dinner in Vivaldi’s with Lynn and Cindy our cruise critic buddies. All had Crab legs (advertised as King, but my guess is they were snow-small diameter) except me. I’d never tried the Beef Wellington so I opted for that knowing I could snatch a few crab legs from Rex if I so desired. Good Service. I like Marco. It was nice to meet up with our cruise critic friends. Ken, the party animal, was a no show. We figure he drank too much pre-cruise and had a 2-day hangover. During the cruise, every time a man walked by fitting the description Ken gave of himself, Cindy took it upon herself to call out, Ken! Ken! She did it so much it caused her to develop a strange twitch. 8^) This was very funny but we never did find him.


We went to bed at 11:00 PM content in the knowledge that we weren’t getting off the ship the following morning.






We had a leisurely breakfast in the horizon court. While others were bustling around to disembark, we were content and anxiously awaiting the new adventure. As the new group of passengers embarked, we began to get a feel for the rhythm of the Alaska cruise. It seems much more energetic. We are full of optimism. There was a bit of confusion with the in transit passengers this morning. We did not receive any instructions as we have on previous back-to-backs and as a result, Rex and I were the only in transit passengers to show up when the announcement was made though there are 65 of us. Had I not done this before, I don’t think I would have known that announcement was meant for me. The purser’s desk had to make multiple inquiries as to what to do with us and once we got off the ship and went through customs, no one seemed to know that we were to be allowed back on the ship if we so desired. They tried to make us go into the terminal and wait with those early birds who were waiting to embark. Been there, done that, so we tricked them by separating. Rex stayed behind in the customs area and I went forward to turn in our paperwork that I had been given by the customs agent that had to be turned in at another location even though the agent had stamped it. The second agent tried his best to get me to walk into the terminal so I told him I had to get my husband. I walked beck to where Rex was and we got back on the ship. Then, it became quite confusing because no one could figure out where the rest of the "in transits" were…they had not gone through customs. Oh, well…time for a bloody Mary. 8^).


For some reason, they are not mixing the drinks. They just poor all the ingredients into the glass…no shaking, no stirring. I don’t know if that has to do with sanitation or not. There are automatic antibacterial dispensers located outside of all the food service facilities. I like that but I see many people choosing to ignore them. The ship is gorgeous.


I discovered there were 2033 passengers on the 2-day pre-inaugural. It seemed like much fewer to me and I doubt that figure a little. There were very few children. This cruise is said to be at capacity but one of the assistants to the cruise director (Michelle) told us the number is 2600. She said true capacity with a “bum” in every bed is over 3000. There are 300 children on this cruise and she stated an upcoming cruise would have over 900. (I am secretly glad I won’t be sailing on that one). Rex is snoring.


We are waiting for Muster to end. We were told we did not have to attend since we attended on Friday. It was the most laid back muster I have attended thus far by the way.


There are little signs here and there which indicate to me there was a little bit of a rush to complete the ship by the turnover date. Bits and pieces of trim coming unglued and the like. I don’t think most people would even notice these things but I am looking for them. There are no little surprises in the panoramic elevators, just black steel. I miss those squiggly light things. (Suzy’s note: squiggly light things were behind the glass elevators on the Star and Grand behind the glass in the elevator shaft on the higher decks to keep you entertained.  Pam sailed on these previoulsly.)