Cruise ships often operate on a tight schedule, with most modern vessels capable of covering upwards of 400 to 500 nautical miles per day.

When something goes wrong that prevents a ship from reaching her full speed, which is what happened to Sapphire Princess, the delays can be detrimental to the current and subsequent sailings. 

While en route from Los Angeles, California, to Vancouver, Canada, to begin her Alaska cruise season, the Gem-class cruise ship experienced a mechanical issue that impacted the ship’s propulsion, resulting in a delayed start to her first official sailing of the 2024 Alaska season, as well as cancelled port calls.

Photo Credit: MollieGPhoto / Shutterstock

“We experienced a technical problem with our system controlling all main power plants including the ship’s propulsion. This does not affect the safety of our guests and crew, which is always our highest priority, but it does restrict our ability to operate at desired speed,” Ship Captain and Master Paolo Ravera wrote to guests onboard the previous sailing. 

The current 7-night sailing, which was scheduled to embark on May 11, 2024, from Vancouver, was meant to call on Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, and Glacier Bay, before concluding in Whittier, Alaska on May 18. The itinerary also called for scenic cruising days to the Hubbard Glacier and College Fjord. 

However, because the 2,670-guest ship arrived in Vancouver several hours later than planned and repairs needed to be made, her first Alaska cruise of 2024 was delayed. 

According to social media posts from guests currently onboard the ship, Sapphire Princess did not depart from The Port of Vancouver until the morning of May 12, after the crew ran a series of tests while the ship remained docked. 

Additionally, the port calls to Ketchikan, Glacier Bay, and the scenic cruising day through College Fjord, which is located in the Northern sector of Prince William Sound, have been removed from the itinerary.

The visit to Juneau, Alaska, that was scheduled for May 14, is still on the schedule – but now the ship is expected to arrive at around 11:15 pm local time instead of at the intended 1:15 pm earlier in the day. Presumably, guests will be able to explore the popular port the next day, on May 15.

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Per the posting passengers, these changes were made because the propulsion issues remain unresolved – but this has not been confirmed by Princess Cruises. 

At this time, it’s unknown if future itineraries onboard Sapphire Princess will also be affected. But as it stands, the 115,875-gross-ton vessel is scheduled to sail one-way, 7-night cruises between Vancouver, Canada, and Whittier, Alaska, until mid-October 2024. 

The problem with Sapphire Princess’s power plants and propulsion began on her previous cruise – a 4-night sailing from Los Angeles, California, to Vancouver, Canada, that embarked on May 7, 2024. 

The repositioning cruise did not include any port calls, but rather served as a quick getaway for guests to enjoy the ship’s amenities, including specialty dining restaurants, live performances, spa treatments, and a plethora of pools and jacuzzis. 

While guests had previously been made aware of the technical difficulties through announcements from Captain Paolo, they were notified on May 11, 2024 – the same day their cruise ended and the next one was due to set sail – that they would arrive in Vancouver several hours late.

Sapphire Princess in Argentina (Photo Credit: Steve Heap)

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Instead of docking in the early morning, the ship arrived in Vancouver closer to 11:00 am local time, putting a wrench in travel plans for many of the previous guests. 

That said, guests who booked flights directly through Princess Cruises automatically had their travel plans re-booked, and the cruise line offered to reimburse up to $200 (USD) per passenger for airline change fees and increased ticket costs incurred among those who made their own arrangements. 

Compensation for guests onboard the current May 11 sailing is unclear at this time, but some posted on social media that they had been given the option to switch to a different 7-night Alaska cruise with 100% of their cruise fare refunded as onboard credit prior to embarkation. 

Interestingly, Sapphire Princess also isn’t the only major cruise ship to recently experience propulsion issues. Royal Caribbean’s Radiance of the Seas also had a rough start to Alaska cruising for the same reason. 

In Royal Caribbean’s case, the first Alaska sailing of the season, which was scheduled for April 26, was cancelled entirely after guests were already onboard because repairs took longer than expected. 

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