We just arrived back in Ft. Lauderdale on 10/31 from the 7 day Western Caribbean cruise and we thought we'd pass along our observations.
1. Embarkation was the worst we've experienced in 5 cruises. The Star had arrived from Europe and we were told that the Coast Guard and Immigration took an extra long time before they released the ship. Don't know for sure if this was true, but this is what we were told. We took a shuttle from the Renaissance Hotel and the Sheriff''s dept. wouldn't let our driver park the van and unload us. The traffic situation was a mess. Once we finally were dropped off, no one knew where to stand in line. We decided to stand in the shade behind a short line of people. The ladies in front of us promptly told us we weren't allowed to stand there. They were switching ships...had been on the Dawn and were now sailing on the Star. The line was ONLY for re-embarking passengers. This is what the Princess reps told them and they then went to lunch and told these passengers to pass the word along. TERRIBLE! We ignored them because we didn't want my 80 year old Dad standing in the sun for who knows how long. The doors finally opened and were among the first 50-75 people inside. After that, we were on the ship within 10 mins. We were on the ship by 12:30 PM. We really can't fault Princess if they can't proceed until the ship's released...what we CAN fault them for was poor signage and lack of communication to the hundreds of us waiting outside.
2. Now the fun could begin! We sailed on the Grand in 2000 and the Star reminded me of her. Beautiful ship. We had adjoining balcony cabins on the Baja deck, starboard side. Great room, fantastic cabin steward.
3. The layout of the ship was easy to figure out. It is a lot of walking, but if my Dad, who's had 3 hips replaced (2 times on 1 side) could walk it, most other folks probably could too. We usually had to wait a bit for an elevator; they were pretty crowded. In fact, we read the Star accommodates 2600 passengers; this cruise we had 3100. Go figure.
4. Neptune's Reef pool area was ALWAYS crowded; quite a few kids in addtion to lots of adults. We tended to go to the aft pool each day; a lot less crowded and very peaceful. One night we went to the adult pool near the Lotus spa which is a resistance pool. Boy, was that a challenge and very invigorating. What a sense of accomplishment when I reached the grab bar near the jets!
5. The food was very good overall. My folks were amazed at the quality and quantity available. 95% of the wait staff was fantastic. Our worst experience was in the Sterling Steakhouse...a nonchalant, disinterested waiter. The steak was terrific, though. We went to Sabitini's one night and were bowled over. In our opinion, well worth the $20 charge. It's essentially a tasting menu. We chose Personal Choice dining and ate in either the Portofino or Capri dining rooms. I would recommend making reservations earlier in the day. Most nights, after 7:30 the line was 10-15 deep. It was never an issue for us.
6. The entertainment that we saw was okay. We didn't go to any production shows but we did to go see a couple of comedians and a pretty darn good juggler named Big Gron. We always enjoy The Marriage Game in the Explorers Lounge. They showed a movie in the Princess Theatre or Vista Lounge each afternoon (I, Robot, De-Lovely, Shrek 2, etc.)
7. The ports we stopped at were: Costa Maya, Cozumel and Ocho Rios. We didn't do any excursions. We thought Costa Maya was a big yawn and the vendors were very insistent on selling trinkets. We laughed because they told us, "Come in, the air-conditioning's free." We LOVED Cozumel just because we loved the view from our lounge chairs on the back of the ship. What a fantastic port....tons of party boats, dive boats and at least another 7 cruise ships in ports to gawk at. Ocho Rios didn't impress us. Some passengers were intimiated by street folks trying to sell them pot.
8. Disembarkation went pretty smoothly. They started calling baggage tag colors at 8:45 AM; we were called at 9:15. Customs was easy. The hardest part was tripping over everyone else trying to find your luggage. We can't suggest enough that you get a porter to help. They expedite and get you through the line FAST. We were going to take a cab to the rental car agency but he said he'd take us to the free rental car shuttle area. Our porter was the nicest man and it was a pleasure to give him a BIG tip; well worth it.
9. We know tipping is a hot topic on these boards....we gave extra tips to the cabin steward and the young man who delivered coffee each morning. The staff overall was wonderful...so friendly (all except the the waiter mentioned above.)
Hope we didn't go on too much! By the way, we took advice offered on this board and put a down payment on our next cruise while on board. It was very EASY! My parents were so bowled over by their first cruise that they too put a down payment on another cruise. Overall, we had a fantastic time and would rate it a 9 out of 10.