MIKE AND RENÉE
|For 2011 we decided on our first Christmas cruise, 14 days on Sapphire Princess to Hawaii. It was a delightful trip, providing the rest and relaxation we were looking for after an eventful year in our life.
Our shipmates were a varied bunch. The scooters, wheelchairs and walkers parked outside the dining room each evening showed how many seniors we had on board, but there was a full complement of families, too. The 500 kids on board were well behaved and provided with lots of activities, and Santa did not miss the ship on Christmas Day!
|The itinerary for this cruise was departure from San Pedro for four days cruising across the Pacific, then four days in Hawaii. Then we returned for four more days at sea and made a short stop at Ensenada to satisfy the PSA. The next day we disembarked at San Pedro.|
We had booked for a balcony guarantee and got a nice upgrade to the highest balcony category, midships on Caribe deck. The balcony was a nice place to read, nap, and have breakfast.
The balconies on Sapphire Princess are exceptionally large, being twice as deep as those on many ships, holding two lounge chairs, two chairs and a decent size table comfortably.
|Sapphire Princess is a very large ship. Three times around the promenade deck is one mile, so we figured that a walk down the inside corridors was at least two blocks!|
|As we crossed the Pacific it was a wonderful time to relax and leave cares behind.
The ship had many activities all day. Just sitting and reading was also a popular option, as well as naps.
On some sea days, they served the Pub Lunch. I enjoyed fish and chips with mushy peas and a Foster’s, while Renée had the Ploughman’s Lunch with her Guinness.
As always we enjoyed dressing up for formal night. As Platinum passengers we were served hors d'ouevres every night in Skywalker's. Vergel was the chef and he was a delight.
|For $99 each we bought cruise-long passes to the Thermal Suite. This is a wonderful place for relaxing. We enjoy the mild sauna and the very hot steam room. After steaming you can jump in the Tropical Rain Shower and when you are ready you hit the button for the Icy Mist!|
|As soon as we boarded the ship we signed up for the Executive Chef's Table evening. We were fortunate to be one of the five couples booked for this.
We were met by Maitre D'Hotel Jean Paul Musiu. After donning white robes and washing our hands for 20 seconds we were taken into the galley for a tour.
We met the Executive Chef Nilo Palma, decked out with his regalia of the Chaine Des Rotisseurs, and began with a champagne toast served by Alexandre, the Chief Somellier.
|We got a tour of all the workings of the galley, from the fruit and vegetable department to the waiter's stations to the dishwasher.
It was very interesting to see how it all worked and also to see all the gleaming stainless steel and the many precautions to keep the galley spotlessly clean.
|While in the galley we were served a variety of hors d'oeurvres. I never thought I would try steak tartare, but the way they presented it and the lemon marinade it had undergone really made it a delectable bite.
In all fairness, my Dear Wife then consented to try the caviar, uniquely presented on potato timbale with sour cream. The potato was a nice contrast to the caviar, much better than traditional toast points. So each of us had a new experience!
The other appetizers were a mini quiche with white truffles, and king crab with avocado and mango.
|Then we moved into the dining room where we enjoyed the wonderful dinner, accompanied by appropriate wines.
First was Porcini Mushroom Risotto with Stuffed Halibut, a delightful dish. The Somellier chose a Pouilly Fuisse to accompany it.
Then the chef offered a lemon sorbet to clear the palate, presented in a nest of spun sugar with a flame shaped cookie topping it.
|Then the big show began. Spiked racks held beef, veal and pork tenderloins, with cherry tomatoes and other vegetables.
The chef lit a marinade including a lot of brandy and poured flaming ladles over the meat and vegetables to give them a fine char.
He said that nowadays, this is the only time they are allowed to flame anything in the dining room. It was very flashy and we enjoyed the show.
A rich Sonoma Artesian red wine accompanied the meat.
A cheese course of Baked Camembert with Pine Nuts followed.
Then we were served with a fantasy in sugar, and raising the lid revealed a soft center Chocolate Cake to finish the meal, along with a white dessert wine.
|This was truly an evening to remember. Our hosts Jean Paul and Nilo were gracious and instructive and enjoyed showing off the facilities of the Sapphire Princess and the skill of her Executive Chef.|
|After four days at sea, we arrived at our first port, Hilo. Here we were booked on a Progressive Culinary Tour with Chef Ann from Hawaii Home Tours.
Somehow much of our experience on this cruise seems to center around food.
We had a nice drive around the island as Chef Ann regaled us with her history, including a stint cooking for Ethel Kennedy which gave her a stock of anecdotes about the famous guests.
We visited three different island houses, and in each were served island delicacies. Our first stop offered guava juice, pineapple, cappucino bread, taro malasada, banana macadamia nut bread and Portugeuse sausage palmiers.
We toured the beautiful house and enjoyed the lanai high above the sea, surrounded with lush tropical vegetation.
Of course we also had the famous Kona Coffee in its full strength, not blended. It was delicious, but it almost spoiled us for any other coffee!
|Two other fabulous houses continued the tour, with a short drive through the Botanical Gardens between them.
At the second stop we had mango gazpacho and guacamole with Taro chips, with a beautiful view of ocean and foliage.
|At the final stop we had chicken macadamia nut salad, lomi salmon stuffed avocado and passion fruit iced tea, followed by tropical ice cream and passion fruit mousse.
From the lanai we had a wonderful view down a green canyon to just see our ship through the foliage. Flowering trees on the grounds gave the ladies a chance to decorate their hair.
|The next morning dawned bright and sunny as we anchored in Honolulu. We had no tours planned so it was a fine time to enjoy relaxing on the balcony.|
|Tthe Aloha tower is a famous landmark here. We climbed all the way up to Deck 18 to get a picture of it!
Many passengers on our ship were disappointed that high winds kept them from visiting the Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor.
|Of course Renée could not pass by a chance to shop at the Hilo Hattie's. She returned with two shopping bags and a beautiful frangipani lei which added its fragrance to our cabin for several days.|
|The next day was our scheduled stop in Nawiliwili, Kaui. Sadly the winds were still high and the Captain was advised by the Coast Guard that it was too dangerous to enter the harbor. This really did not bother us as we had no tours planned anyhow. We got a day of scenic cruising along the Na Pali Coast instead.|
|On Christmas Day we had our final stop in Hawaii, Lahaina Maui. It was a nice sunny day, and we tendered ashore after lunch to walk around the town a bit. We stopped to enjoy the shade of the famous giant banyan tree.|
|The ship was beautifully decorated in traditional Christmas fashion. There were many beautiful Christmas trees, as well as poinsettias, wreaths, garlands and twinkling lights.|
|Renée decorated our door for the holiday, and donned her fine apparel for Christmas dinner.|
|We returned to the ship from Lahaina on Christmas Day to find a Christmas stocking waiting in our cabin. A bit later, the Captain announced that Santa Claus had been spotted, approaching the ship on a tender with reindeer in front, and hula girls dancing on the roof.|
|To the great excitement of the 500 kids aboard, as well as many others, Santa climbed up a ladder into the ship and paraded through the atrium with the kids following. Then each and every child aboard had the chance to sit on Santa's lap and get a stuffed puppy, while his Hula elves danced nearby.|
|Then we turned away from the islands and began our return trip across the Pacific. We had four more restful days with no stress and no pressure. The weather was mostly overcast with bits of rain. From our balcony we saw a couple of beautiful rainbows.
||Dining on this ship was very good, with four different themed restaurants for anytime dining. This magnificent seahorse guarded the door to the Savoy Dining Room.
||We enjoyed playing trivia all through the cruise. There were a lot of tough teams fighting for the magnificent prizes as well as the glory of winning. We had a good team and were always in the running but only finished in first place twice, winning keychain flashlights both times. Here we are, Renée , Carol, Bill and Sandy, and in back Mike.
||The Elite lounge in Skywalker’s on the 18th deck was a nice place to relax with hors d’oeuvres before dinner most nights.
||On the last formal night we dined in Vivaldi's with Bill and Sandy, and even indulged in a professional photograph.
||There was a very short stop in Ensenada to comply with the PSA. These sea lions were lounging around the dock. Renée got off the ship just long enough to buy some Vanilla.
The next morning we disembarked in San Pedro. Disembarkation by the numbers was very easy and our porter took us right through customs and to the shuttle for our hotel.
This was a great cruise for relaxing. We had a wonderful two weeks and it was over all to soon.
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