On Saturday, September 8th, Eating in Vancouver & the World was invited to a four plus hour media event/tour aboard the Sapphire Princess cruise ship. Hosted by Princess Cruises, a small group of Vancouver’s top food and lifestyle media were luxuriously oriented to the beautifully renovated ship’s culinary offerings. Boasting multiple sprawling dining rooms, a Sterling steakhouse, Italian restaurant and numerous other casual dining experiences, there was a lot to see and do aboard this massive vacation vessel.
Boarding the ship just after 11am, we were shown to the Piazza which is one of the popular general areas on the ship. Home to the International Cafe, Alfredo’s full-service pizzeria, a full service bar and other tasty outlets, the Piazza was where we had our first tasting. Served an assortment of fresh pizzas and miscellaneous cafe items, our culinary team took great pride in serving us our first lunch. All the pizzas I sampled were extremely fresh and tasty, served with generous amounts of very fresh toppings. The bakery items I tried like the mini croissant sandwich and panini sandwich were really good as well. To potential boarders, the Piazza is a great place to grab a tasty drink and a light lunch with friends. Definitely give Alfredo’s a try as well as the chefs are always happy to throw a fresh pizza into the air for you.
After our little “snack”, the executive culinary team gave us a quick tour of the kitchens where food is prepared for the entire ship. The facilities were gigantic but noticeably immaculate, going on for as far as the eye could see. Although we were intentionally brought through during a short down period, I definitely could imagine dozens of chefs furiously working the various stations and an army of wait staff buzzed in and out with trays. It was so interesting seeing how so much food was efficiently prepared each day and how challenging it is cooking on a moving vessel. Our group was led through a short bread making tutorial as well as a dessert making session with two of the ship’s senior section chefs.
The second dining segment we were presented with was a mini Chef’s Table experience with sterling silver grade steak, veal chops and wine. Everything about this quick tasting was extremely polished and high end, from Executive Chef Nino Palma personally cutting the meat to the ship’s Master Sommelier serving the wine. The chef’s table package is a separate $95 cost but worth it in my opinion. Definitely not something you would do every night but for that one special evening, this really is the peak gastronomic experience for ship patrons. A lot of effort is put into making this experience truly special and intimate and I definitely appreciated the efforts invested in previewing this offering to our group.
Although getting quite full from the Piazza tasting and subsequent Chef’s table, our little group went off to the third and final ‘meal’ of the tour at Sabatini’s Italian Restaurant. From what we were shown, Sabatini’s is definitely the top tier dining experience open to the general ship. Serving authentic Italian food from hand made pasta to seafood risotto, this restaurant is beautifully appointed with true Italian warmth and style. We were served sample size portions of prosciutto on crackers with olives, fresh made ravioli, lobster risotto and dessert. This restaurant definitely makes you forget you are floating on the Pacific as the food is as good as anything you will find on solid land. Everything is exceedingly fresh and prepared by hand with extreme care. The open chef’s area is also great as you can literally see your food being prepared from scratch!
After our three separate but equally amazing meals, we were gratefully taken on a tour of the entire ship. General impressions: the ship truly is like a floating hotel. I recall waiting for an elevator and seeing the floor count hit 17 or 18 and just shaking my head in amazement. For such a large ship, it was surprisingly easy to get around. The general layout of the ship maximizes social interaction, offering a myriad of different respite areas to simply sit down and relax.
Being a cruise ship, there were quite a few pool areas on deck for boarders to enjoy. From small, circular hot tub/Jacuzzi type areas to the large central pool area, there is no shortage of places to go for a little poolside fun or simply lay out in the sun. At the main pool area, there is also a full service bar and giant suspended screen playing music. I am told at night, movies are played for guests with popcorn and blankets which sounds like a pretty fun time.
One area of the ship I wanted to give a little attention to was an area aptly named Sanctuary. As cruise ships are family friendly vessels, sometimes you just need to get away for a little peace and quiet. For a little extra, you can book time at the Sanctuary which is a private, adult only part of the ship with a separate pool area, spa etc. I can see this area of the ship getting booked pretty fast so definitely check this area out early after boarding the ship.
Wrapping up with a few final thoughts, this 4+ hour dayscape was one of the best media events I have been to all year. I think Princess Cruises had a lot of information they wanted to give us but did so in a very subtle, courteous manner. At no time during the event did I feel like I was being given a sales pitch, rather it was more of a friendly, laid back orientation. The food itself was top notch and giving us full access to the behind the scenes facilities was pretty commendable. For me, the best part of the day was getting to meet the men and women behind the massive culinary machine that is the Sapphire Princess. Seeing their genuine passion and love for what they do was pretty eye opening as working on a cruise ship can be pretty grueling. I am not sure when I will be on a cruise ship next but after what I have seen from this tour, I have no problem sailing with Princess Cruises. Bon voyage!