Bottom Line: Fun Cruise. Positives out-weigh negatives by a large margin. I would gladly recommend Star Princess to the Carib to most folks.
Our history: My wife and I are mid-fifties veterans of 9 or 10 cruises on four different lines. This was our fifth Princess cruise - - 2 weeks in the Med, 10 days to P. Canal, 10 days to East/South Carib, a South to North Alaskan cruise with some days before and after and now this one. This is really the first 7 day cruise so difficult to compare with the previous four.
General thoughts: I believe you can find someone from every cruise who hated it and someone from the same cruise who loved it. Some of that is due to differences in individual preference; some of it is due to differences in preparation. Kudos to Cruise Critic and those who contribute to the Boards for providing so much information. Because of that info and our previous experience, we always have a great time.
If your attitude is - - "OK. Here I am on your cruise. Dazzle me with your greatness," you may have problems. If yourattitude is - - "Looks like an opportunity to do lots of fun things here, I will have a positive attitude and be proactive about things," you will likely have a great time. The cruises provided by the cruise lines we have been on have varied from just O.K. to really good, but we have had a GREAT time in every case.
Going a day early: Of course, depends on where you are coming from, but generally I believe it is a great idea to go a day or two early. We went to Ft. Lauderdale on Friday for this Sunday departure. We did our research and stayed at a great hotel with a room looking out at the Cruise Terminal. Saturday night we watched 6 cruise ships depart and that made us excited for our own departure. Being there early allowed us to relax, not worry about flights or baggage or anything, and facilitated our arrival at the terminal at the best time on Sunday.
Cabin Selection: We spoke with folks who were not happy with their cabin (in one case being located so near a lounge kept them from sleeping until far into the night). We were delighted with our balcony cabin on Caribe deck. Lesson: Do your research. It may not be good enough to trust cabin selection to your travel agent. Get a room in a place that suits you based on your activities and likes and dislikes. We chose Caribe balcony because it is larger than other balconies and is half covered and half open. We also liked having 2 decks of cabins above us and several below us, so we never heard any noise from any clubs, pools, dining rooms, etc. This Board is replete with discussions about inside, outside, and balcony plusses and minuses. I think of it like this - - - your new car will be just fine without the power windows and seats, but you may enjoy the power option more, and if you also get the sun roof, you may enjoy it even more. All just a matter of preference and cost. You can enjoy a good cruise from any good cabin, inside, outside, or balcony.
Large ship/Small ship: The Star is large and therefore more passengers. However, we have felt less crowed on the Star and Grand than on smaller ships because there are more lounges, more dining rooms, more of everything to disperse the people. On this cruise, we NEVER stood in any line longer than a minute or two. We heard older passengers complain that the walk from the dining room to the theater was just too far for them.
Embarkation: Generally smooth; took a little longer than usual but nothing to complain about. We were in our cabin by noon. Lesson 1: If your cruise docs say embarkation starts at Noon, you can be in line at 11 or 11:30 and will probably be on in a short time. Lesson 2: Your embarkation will be quick and painless if you have completed ALL documents prior to arrival including signing the appropriate credit card places inside your cruise docs. Delays in lines (including Express Check-In) are most often due to incomplete docs.
Food: Was as good or better than any Princess cruise we have been on. Perhaps we generally know what to order and what to avoid but most everything was very good. Several threads on the Board lately have complained about Star food. Our experience was the opposite. We thought it was very, very good. Range from fair to great was wider in the Horizon Court, but that is to be expected from a buffet.
Dining Options: We had Personal Choice; have tried early and late traditional as well. We liked PC this time. WE NEVER STOOD IN LINE LONGER THAN A MINUTE OR TWO. Others will have had a different experience, but we went at Non-busy times or made reservations ahead of time, and other times agreed to sit with groups. We met a lot of folks; some we probably did not have a lot in common with, but most were great, and all were interesting.
Sabbatinis: We ate here 1 night. It was very, very good. You must be very hungry to come close to eating it all, but almost everything (not all, but almost all) was very good, and the service was superb. Again, we planned ahead and reserved a nice window table at sunset; worked out great.
Champagne Breakfast. We also tried room service several mornings - - always arrived on time and what we ordered. We also did the Champagne Breakfast in the cabin one morning. It is $25 for two people. We thought it was very good and will likely do it again one time on our next cruise.
Entertainment: As others have noted, depends on your preference. The song and dance shows were comparable to those on other ships/lines. Not my personal favorites, but well staged. The comedians were OK; not great but OK. The jugglers were really pretty entertaining. We also took advantage of Ballroom and Line Dance lesson 6 times. They were fun. Caribbean night was a lot of fun. Princess Idol was a hoot. Marriage game was funny as always. Poolside games seemed just OK this time around. Piano player catered to older crowd. Various lounge acts were generally good. One group was great. We skipped other things such as Bingo, but there were many who attended. If you can't find something fun to do on this ship day/night, cruising may not be for you. Oh, yes. There was a casino. When we were there, we had no luck. Others may have done better. I hope so.
Ports. Princess Cays was cancelled and not replaced. Bit of a downer. San Juan. Lots to do here, but arriving at 4 PM makes it more difficult. St Thomas was same as always - - from my standpoint, going over to St John to beach or snorkel is the thing to do here. Tortola can be a hoot. We ferried over to Virgin Gorda on a tour to the Baths we arranged separate from Princess. It included all the transportation plus a nice lunch at a very nice price.
Disembarkation. Pretty painless. Our Platinum status got us into the lounge with newspapers to read while waiting plus coffee, juice, pastries, etc. We had no delays with Immigration or Customs.
This seems long enough (or too long perhaps) so I will close. I will be happy to answer questions as I am sure I skipped lots of things. We spent some time in work out facility, went to most of the lounges/bars at one time or other, did not do the spa this time.
My two long time friends and I were excited and really looking forward to a fun filled week aboard the elegant Star Princess. It was the first time crusing for one friend, the second for the other, however the tenth for me, my second with Princess. We arrived a day early from Canada and stayed the night at the Embassy Suites Hotel near the Ft.Lauderdale port.
The next morning we groaned at the sight of the very long line upon arriving at the pier at about 11:30 a.m. We quickly discovered that the line moved very well and in no time at all we were on board. The girls were immediately impressed with the elegance of the atrium. Our mini-suite cabin was on Dolphin deck ( deck 9 ), my first time in a suite. A "Welcome Back" card greeted me when we entered the cabin, which was a nice touch, as was having a Gold cruise card to indicate that I am a previous Princess cruiser. In the cabin there was a walk in closet with lots of space and hangers as well as a 5 shelved cupboard thatall provided ample storage for 3 women.
The bathroom was a treat. A real bathroom! Very clean, with a full size tub, lots of shelves, vanity space and towels. The balcony had 2 large high back chairs with padded covers as well as a small table and 2 smaller chairs. The only thing about the balcony is it is not covered overhead and we were quite visible to all the decks above. Not a problem for us but some cruisers might not like the exposure.
We were each given a thick bath robe to use while on board and fresh pool towels were provided daily. Our cabin steward, Boni, was one of the best if not the best I have had in 10 cruises. He anticipated our needs and provided us with excellent service at all times, with a big smile. We decided to give him a bonus tip mid-week for his efforts.
We headed for the spa after touring the ship to book a full body massage with exfoilation. It was a fantastic way to freshen our skin and prepare it for the sun. The hot stone beds in the relaxation area prior to receiving the massage, were wonderful, as was the massage itself. I had checked out the Lotus Spa treatments on line prior to our departure and was surprised that the prices indicated on line, were not what we were told when booking our treatment. The Princess web site indicates that there are in-port and sea day prices which was incorrect according to the Spa staff who told us that the prices were all the same in or out of port. The difference in the prices indicated on line was considerable so inquire as to the cost before booking. A 20% gratuity is added to your bill unless you indicate otherwise. Unfortunately the Spa pool apparently permitted children to swim there which was a bit of a disappointment as I had hoped this would be one area where small kids would not be allowed. Why do people with small children take them to obvious adult areas?? I like to think I had more consideration when my boys were little, in fact I know I did. There are plenty of areas on this ship to accommodate small children. Parents, please leave one pool free for those of us who are on vacation without our children or for those who do not have children and do not find them quite as cute as you do.
Princess allows passengers to bring champagne and wine on board. This is a definite plus! Our cabin steward had a large ice bucket and 3 champagne glasses waiting for us after we mentioned that we were going to celebrate with a bottle of Dom. The dining rooms allow you to bring in your own wine but a corkage fee is applied to your ship board account.
We opted for Personal Choice dining which I was somewhat apprehensive about after reading some reviews that were not favourable to this style of dining. However we found it suited us very well. We waited only on occasion and for just 5 - 10 mins. The food and service was excellent and we always enjoyed the company of our fellow passengers, meeting new people each time we dined. We especially liked the staff in the Capri dining room and after a few days, made it our dining room of choice.The food and service was always excellent. A great selection, hot when it should be, and everything was cooked to perfection.
All areas of the ship were spotless and well presented. The only area that might have been designed better was the Horizen Court buffet as there are two ways to enter each service area causing confusion with the lines when busy. The food here was also very good, fresh and lots of variety, Never did the buffet food appear to me as something left over from the night before, as has been the case on some of my previous cruises.
The pizzeria pizza was excellent with great daily specials. There was an ice cream parlor but a charge for the ice cream.
The entertainment was very good, especially the comedians and the dueo, Live Wire. The Princess Dancers productions were satisfactory but not as good as some others I have seen on ships.
Skywalkers Disco at the top and back of the ship is an awesome place to dance, high above the water with a fabulous view and great dancing music.
We were notified prior to the cruise by our agent that the ship would not be going to Grand Cayman or Princess Cays due to damage from the hurricanes. To our surprise Grand Cayman was added to the itineary but a port change for Jamaica was announced. Montego Bay instead of Ochio Rios. This was a little disappointment as Dunn's River Falls was the only shore excursion we had booked and it had been cancelled. The Falls were added to the excursions for Montego Bay but included a 2.25 hour bus trip each way which we were not up for. We spent the day at Doctor's Cave beach which was very nice.The beach resturant served reasonably priced, good food. We went off on our own in all the ports since I had been several times and knew where to go and how much to pay.
On the second formal night, Princess' traditional Champagne Waterfall was fabulous. It is a very nice touch to the evening. Ladies took turns pouring the champagne into the top glass while everyone looked on and cheered as he ship's photographers captured it all.
I have to mention that the crew of the Star Princess always presented themselves and the activities with professionalism and enthusiasm that led one to believe it was their first time doing it all. Not once did we encounter a surly crew member. The last day of the cruise my friends received their Captin's Circle Club package welcoming them to the club. Another nice touch by Princess that demonstrates good customer service and encourages repeat cruising with Princess.
Disembarkation was smooth and orderly taking less time than I have previously experience even though we were among the last groups to leave the ship.
All in all we had a fantastic time and I would rate this cruise a 9/10. Star Princess.......Well Done!! I will definetly cruise with you again.
Our first cruise! It was our Honeymoon!
Fantastic room attendant.
Loved the buffet!
The ship was beautiful and elegant.
The dance club was so neat where it was located and had lots of fun.
We did the anytime dining and it worked, but next time we'd do assigned time at a table.
This cruise really wow-ed us! We loved it. It was a great experience. We will definitely sail princess again.
Upon check in to our cabin, they had a sign on our door for "Newlyweds Happy Honeymoon" and with some balloons! It was so much fun! We left it up all week! :)
I would definitely tell others to sail with princess!
My wife and I just returned from a 12 day cruise (Barcelona to Venice) on the Star Princess. Let me just say that the cruise, in most respects, was as advertized. We saw some very interesting ports such as Monte Carlo, Naples, Rome, and Athens. The ship carried approximately 2900 passengers,but in no way did it seem crowded. In fact the de-embarkation was the smoothest I ever saw and this was our fifth cruise. The food was generally good and there were alway seconds if you wanted them at meals. We especially liked the non stop pizza, fries, and hamburgers.
Now for the one thing that really made the trip not as great as it could have been. It was the kids, about 750 to be exact. We don't mind children but when they (the teenagers) are running around the ship between 11:00pm and 4:00am unchecked, well lets just say sleeping was a problem. Princess's response, "We have no control over the kids unless they are doing something illegal. It is up to the parents to reign them in". The only suggestion I would have for future cruisers is to avoidJuly and Augest cruises when children are on summer vacation.
Just arrived back from a one week cruise on the Star Princess. I wish I could say something good about the cruise but I can't. I have traveled the world and had many great trips. This was not one of them. Everything was average to poor. Bad service, food was cold and fair quality, long lines for dining and shows, poor attitude of crew, and a staff that only cared about making money on extras.
Perhaps this is a consequence of being owned by Carnival. Try another cruise line.
B419 - Covered Balcony Traditional Dining Late Seating Costa Maya, Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Ocho Rios Charles and Judy Crain - 47 and 49, engineer and homemaker, respectively.
A good cruise overall.
It does suffers by comparison to the 1/2004 Island Princess cruise, which was an almost perfect cruise. But a good cruise and well worth the price paid.
Our balcony cabin was spacious, more so than the Sun Class balconies, but smaller than the mini-suite we had on the Island. The balcony is covered and not viewable from above. The dividers between balconies are solid and you have to lean out to look around. The balcony had 3 resin chairs and a resin table.
The dining room food was good, not world class, but not bad either. The dining room staff was not perfect, but made for an enjoyable dining experience and reinforced our opinion that late seating, traditional dining is the only way to go - as long as you like your wait staff. For us, traditional dining has been fun for the past 4 cruises. We have always enjoyed the banter with the wait staff, the people watching, the leisurely mealpace and the different foods.
The entertainment was ok to good, not unforgettable, but enjoyable. The cruise director staff was friendly, outgoing and certainly competent, but lacked that special spark that was present in the staff on the Island Princess - a sort of zany craziness that made us feel right at home.
We will not do another Western Caribbean if we can help it. Costa Maya is simply too small when two Grands and Splendour of the Seas show up at the same time. Cozumel is Cozumel, but when 7-8 ships are in port simultaneously, it can get hectic. If we go there again, we will do more inland stuff rather than a sail and snorkel. Grand Cayman is heartbreaking seeing the damage done, but 5 ships there are 4 too many for tendering operations. However, the people and the snorkeling were first rate and I would not mind going again. From the dead rat on the dock at Ocho Rios to the aggressive vendors and drivers, we were not thrilled to be there and will stay on the ship if we ever go back - unless we get to dock at the "real" pier.
Unless an absolute bargain presents itself, we will not sail on a Grand Class again, nor will we sail ever, even in a bargain situation, on the Caribbean Class Grands. Why? In a nutshell, too many people. Most events were packed 15-20 minutes before show time to overflowing, so moving from one to the other was not possible. The gym is almost always crowded, the lap pool as well. The Coral class has almost the same number and same size of public rooms, less one dining room and a smaller horizon court, but almost 800 people less.
Now don't get me wrong. We had a good time, didn't regret going, we still like Princess and are sailing on the Sun in April, but Island Princess trip in January outshined the Star in every category. It basically spoiled us.
Sunday - Sailaway Dinner Menu - Monday - Captain's Welcome Menu- Formal Tuesday - Italian Night Menu Wednesday - Caribbean Island Night Menu Thursday - Chef's Choice Menu Friday - Captain's Gala Menu - Formal Saturday - Landfall Menu
Being an engineer I like to define my terms. So here's the definitions for the terms I use when describing how the food was.
FOOD TERMS OK = Edible, it's a meal. GOOD = Equivalent to a stateside restaurant chain - Red Lobster, Chili's, Olive Garden. VERY GOOD = Equivalent to a local favorite restaurant. Different flavor or unique combination. EXCELLENT = Incredibly good taste and texture. You crave more.
SHOW, ACTIVITY OR EXCURSION TERMS Not Worth It - Run laps, stairs, work out - do anything else OK - Only if you have nothing better to do. Good - An enjoyable or fun time. Don't Miss - Self Explanatory
CRUISE LOG - The following is a day to day log of the cruise from our perspective, what we did, what we liked, what we didn't like.
12/5/04 - Embarkation
We stayed at the Holiday Inn - Airport on Sheridan. It's a $15 cab ride from the airport and a $20 cab fare to and from the port. The hotel has a pool, fitness center, free internet access, a decent breakfast buffet and a fantastic sushi restaurant walking distance on Sheridan to the west.
Wan's Sushi House 3327 Sheridan St., Park Sheridan Plaza, Hollywood 954-987-1388
Very Good Sushi.
The hotel has a bus shuttle for $10 per person, which we took on Sunday at 12:00. We were on the ship at 12:45 (a 30 minute check-in time!), our luggage arrived at 1:45 and we were in the pool by 2:30 after wandering the ship and taking pictures and having some quick pizza (good stuff) at the pizza bar. We made reservations at Sabatini's for Wednesday night, at the Maitre De's recommendation, and we made reservations at Tequila's steak house for Saturday or Landfall dinner. (We later cancelled those in order to eat in the dining room.)
The muster occurred at 4:30, after which we went down to the library and waited until 5:15, but no one from the CC boards showed up. Not wanting to miss the sailaway, we went up on deck and watched all the other ships sail out as we did.
Dinner was at 8:15 in Amalfi and we finally had our table by the window, but it was dark so all we could see was our wake in the ship's lights. Our head waiter was Albuquerque (Portugal), yes just like the city. Our waiter was Pompei (short for Pompeillio) (Romania) and the assistant waiter was Lucia (Mexico).
Criticism - The pathway into the Amalfi is terrible. Two stair cases down and only two elevators into a small lobby area (which allowed smoking!) The elevators almost never came down, which created a jam of wheelchairs and carts at the entrance to the dining room from early seating people leaving and late seating people arriving. This eased after the first night substantially as people shifted to Personal Choice - and then ran into crowds there as well, but the layout and entry could be better.
This was the Sailaway Menu. I had the Epicurean Lobster, which was OK, Judy had a shrimp cocktail which was good. We both had the Cream of Porcini mushroom soup which was OK to start, but very good after additional salt and pepper was added. Judy had the Conchiglie pasta and I had the filet of Zander. Both were good. Our table mates had the Smoked Virginia ham which they liked. Service was brisk and reserved, everyone was still checking each other out, but the relationships would get better.
The Showtime feature at 10:30 showcased the Star's new cruise director, Neil Roberts, who had just flown in that morning. A nice guy, but the lack of sleep was apparent and the unfamiliarity and lack of interpersonal dynamics with the rest of the cruise staff showed. But then, he'd only met them a few hours before.
After the show, we toured the ship, especially Skywalker's and turned in about mid-night.
12/6/04 - Day At Sea - First Formal Night
Up early prior to 0630, and determined to keep up an exercise routine, I hit the first snag. The gym didn't open until 0700. On all of our previous cruises the gym was open 24 hours. So I ran stairs for 15 minutes. We had not been able to tour the gym the prior day, so I checked out all the weight equipment and ellipticals. Judy joined in on the whole body workout session at 0800, which she liked, while I swam in the lap pool. A great workout for sure, especially when the lap pool is on high! After showering we hit the buffet around 0930. Food was ok. Standard buffet faire. Note that the Neptune Grill serves make to order omelets in the mornings - didn't try one.
We caught the first 30 minutes of the Costa Maya/Cozumel Port and Shopping talk with Richie. Nice guy. If you want freebies, sit to his left in the 2nd or 3rd row as he will throw out samples during the talks. At 1030 was our first line dancing class with Erin. It turns out after four cruises, we finally have some line dances down just about right. At 1100 was horse racing, then lunch and a quick power nap. Judy signed up and went to Pilates at 2:00, while I went to the diamond shopping seminar, and learned quite a bit from Richie and Dawn about Tanzanite, Mexican Fire Opals and Diamonds.
At 430 it was time for my second workout, then into the lap pool to get our snorkel gear into condition and to try out my new waterproof camera case for my digital camera. Taking a $290 camera into the water is not an easy thing to do, but its good that I practiced with it prior to the real thing.
After swimming I did my one and only trip to the Casino. I played video poker for about 15 minutes, hit a Royal Flush for the first time in my life, but had only bet $0.25, cashed in and left. If I would have bet the 5 quarters, the trip would have been completely paid for, but then if I had won the lottery, I'd be typing this from the internet café on the Island Princess en-route to or from Hawaii! If wishes were fishes..
We went back to the room and watched the rest of the port and shopping talk on TV that we missed in the morning, then got ready for the Captain's welcome gala. There we could snag some free, albeit watered down, drinks before dinner.
The pre-dinner crowd in the lobby area was not as intense this night. Formal nights tend to scare away quite a few diners. Our table mates did not show either and did not show for the remainder of the cruise. They probably switched to PC dining.
This was the Welcome dinner menu. Judy had the Duck appetizer and I had the Crab Quiche. Both were good. She had the lobster bisque and I had the chilled yogurt soup. Both were good, but the chilled yogurt was different and tasty, but sweeter than I like in a soup. Judy had the Mahi-Mahi, as did I, but I added the Mahi-Mahi filet to the tournedos of beef. Both were good as well. More importantly, the staff started opening up to us and the interactions were very pleasant. This contributed to both Judy and I thoroughly enjoying this meal much more than the Sailaway and looking forward to Italian night, our favorite.
After Dinner, it was off to the Vista Lounge and Comedian Philadelphia. Based on previous comments I knew we had to get there early, and was that ever true. The place filled up by 10:30 and people had to leave as it was SRO in the back. Philadelphia was good. Not as much fun as Kevin Hughes on the Island Princess in January, but good enough to make it worth while.
To bed around 12:00 again.
12/7/04 - Costa Maya
The Grand was in port prior to us and had MUTS installed already. The Splendour of the Seas was also in, but hiding behind the Grand., but it had a rock wall as opposed to MUTS.
Breakfast at the Horizon Court was, again, OK. Not much more to say there. No morning workout, so we left for the port about 0900. I wanted to price some diamonds based on our talks from yesterday. Very expensive to say the least, but intriguing to see how well Richie had tagged the sellers and given us pretty good tips (35% off list for diamonds and 65% off list for jewelry). The quotes I got were right on the money with a little room for more bargaining.
Just for the record, I don't get the deal with the Caribbean and diamonds. The 1 carat G-IS1-round in Costa Maya, with solitaire ring, was priced at $7200. This week back home I have been pricing diamonds and they are about the same price, if not a bit less. So I don't understand the allure. Even with bargaining, I don't think I would have saved much at all. However, the selection is much more varied in the Caribbean, that's for sure.
After hearing of a couple getting everything stolen, don't know which ship they were from, and tired of fighting crowds and pushy vendors, we went back to the ship and spend an hour in the lap pool.
Not much happening that afternoon, so we spent it soaking up some sun and wandering around the decks. At 715, we took in the James Michael magic and comedy act. This one we would have to rate as OK to Good. The adult show later in the week is better.
This night was Italian night, our favorite night in the dining room and our scheduled anniversary celebration night. Unlike the previous two cruises, the head waiters, as in our first cruise, cooked a pasta appetizer. Albuquerque added fresh green jalapenos to his pasta and it was INCREDIBLY GOOD, EXCELLENT and other superlatives. Judy and I both had the eggplant parmigiana. She didn't care for it too much, but I thought it was very good. The minestrone soup was good, but it quickly was put away for Albuquerque's pasta.
For the main course, Judy ordered the Pappardelle pasta, but did not like the strong flavor. She quickly got rid of the plate and had Pompei bring her more of Albuquerque's pasta, which he did. I had the Gamberi with a fillet of swordfish added. Both were very good. And about this time, Pompei brought me another dish of Albuquerque's pasta - mmmm, good.
For desert we had the traditional round Princess celebration cake with ice cream. The waiters gathered and sang happy anniversary to us. We sat around and talked with the waiters until about 1000.
Way too much food. We couldn't even make it to the Island Night party. I heard it was a lot of fun.
12/8/04 - Cozumel
We docked in Cozumel next to Carnival Glory at the new set of docks south of town. Our Palancar reef excursion had been cancelled so we signed up for a catamaran sail and snorkel. We won't be doing this again. I wanted to snorkel, not sail on a booze cruise. Other people had a good time, but I would have preferred more snorkeling. This excursion started at the dock near the duty free tunnel/gauntlet exit nearest the ships. It was a Fury catamaran. A carnival group was loading a fury catamaran in front of us. They piled about 50-75 people on that boat! We only had 24 on the same size boat! This is one thing I like about Princess excursions.
The cat sailed north for about 3 miles along the coast while we got lectured on snorkeling. Then it u-turned and sailed south and dropped us in the water about 300 yards from the dock! We drifted north for about 45 minutes looking at the sparse coral near the shore. I did get some underwater shots with my new camera setup, but I seriously needed more practice. Then we loaded up the cat and sailed south along the coast for about 5 miles. The cat beached, along with 4 others, at Fury beach where a BBQ, lounges, water toys, volleyball and kayaks, plus all you could drink. Judy hung on the beach while I snorkeled out from the beach. Not great snorkeling, but better than nothing.
We stayed at the beach for "one Mexican hour" and then sailed back to the dock. The party on the boat began. Line dancing, margaritas and beer flowed freely. I drank while Judy danced, which would cause problems later, but we didn't know that at the time. (The dancing not the drinking.)
Judy and I had to do some serious vanilla shopping at Las Cinco Soles, which just happened to be next to Pancho's backyard. Anxious for some serious chips and salsa, and a frosty margarita, I got us a table while she bought vanilla. She is a tamale nut, so I ordered her some tamales and a small margarita, while I did the hot salsa, guacamole, chips and LARGE margarita. The combination was very good.
So after margaritas and lunch, we lurched back to the ship, had another margarita at the Atrium Bar, went to our cabin and promptly napped out.
Our dinner reservation at Sabatini's was for 7pm, but after dancing on a moving ship, having a couple of margaritas for lunch, Judy was not up for the dinner at all. We had to leave after the first set of appetizers. The maitre' de was very understanding and we were not charged at all. He was concerned that the food or service was bad. For the time we were there, the service was impeccable, though stiff and formal, and the food was very good.
Bedtime, needless to say, was early.
12/9/04 - Grand Cayman
We were to anchor in Grand Cayman about 1200. That left time for an 0700 workout for me and an 0900 pilates class for Judy. Line dancing with Erin was at 1100.
Grand Cayman was hit hard. New roofs and blue roofs (tarps) were the norm. The green island I remembered from January was leafless and almost treeless.
Judy was still a little uncertain about getting into another small boat, so she sat out the Wreck and Reef snorkel and I went ashore. Two Carnival ships, an RCL and the Westerdam were already anchored and the tender wars had begun.
For this port, Princess had all of the excursions meet in the theatre. We were then taken to a tender where we had priority. Even with all the delays we were only 15 minutes late in getting on shore.
Fortunately, this was one of the better snorkel excursions. Unfortunately I didn't take the camera. We first snorkeled the wreck of the Callie, which is about 400 yards north of the tender terminals, still inside the harbor and about 150 yards offshore. The wreck is really neat to snorkel, about 15-25 ft underwater. Water visibility was good, but not as good as I saw it in January. Water temperature was perfect. I really kicked myself for not brining the camera. We snorkeled here for about 40 minutes, then picked up anchor and moved out and north about 500 yards.
This was the reef part of the snorkel and it was really impressive. Huge 6' long tarpon cruised the gulleys between the coral reefs - and me without my camera. Lots of fish, lots of coral and interesting rock formations. Time went by quickly and we snorkeled for about 45 minutes, picked up and headed back to the tender terminal. I caught the very next tender and was back on board in less than 30 minutes. The RCL ship had left and both carnival ships and the Westerdam was in the process of leaving. I rated this excursion as a Don't Miss for sure. If we ever go back to Grand Cayman, I will do this one again.
The good news was that Judy got a couple hours of sleep and felt much better. I was invigorated by the snorkeling and didn't need a nap, so we spent the next few hours watching us sail away from the top decks. The breeze was warm and the rapidly darkening sky against the lights of Grand Cayman were a relaxing and beautiful sight.
The schedule for this evening was hectic. We wanted to see Live Wire, but the only showtime for us was 1030. But 1000 was the country and western dance party. We couldn't let our line dance instructor down. In addition, the adult version of the James Michael comedy/magic show was on at 1130. It was going to be a late night.
Dinner was the Chef's Choice menu. By this time, it was like dining with friends. The wait staff knew us, we knew them and dinner was an enjoyable experience. Judy opted for Shrimp Cocktail and I dared the Green Asparagus, both of which were good. Judy had the diced vegetables in oxtail broth, which she thought was very good, while I had the lentil cream soup which I thought was good. For the main course she had the black tiger prawns, as did I, but I added the boneless chicken kiev as well. The tiger prawns were very good, the Chicken Kiev good.
Tonight Albuquerque was cooking bananas foster - An extremely sweet dessert. I'm sure they were very good, but also very, very sweet and we couldn't finish them all.
During the course of the meal we talked to Albuquerque about his pasta. 3 years ago on the Ocean Princess, Gino, our head waiter, cooked pasta on our Alaska cruise. It turns out that Albuquerque knew Gino and had exchanged emails with him in the past few months. Gino was on the Sun Princess (I hope he's there when we sail on her in April.) During the course of the conversation about Head Waiters cooking pasta, we told Albuquerque that while Gino cooked very good pasta, Albuquerque's addition of the green jalapenos made the difference and his pasta was the better of the two. You would have thought we just told him he won an Iron Chef competition! He thanked us profusely, shook our hands, and went and made us some crepes to go with dessert. Stuffed as we were, we couldn't turn them down. I also mentioned to him that we had cancelled our steakhouse reservations because we really enjoyed having dinner in the dining room.
Just as we were leaving he came back to the table and announced to us that he would be making us pasta the following night - just for us and very special. He asked what we preferred and we settled on spaghetti.
After dinner we went to the country and western dance. It was extremely crowded, so much so that if you got up and danced, you lost your seat. So we just stayed out on floor and line danced for the next hour. A very good time was had by all.
Immediately after the dance, we hot footed to the Vista Lounge to see the James Michael adult show. You have to get to a show early if you want a good seat. The show was good. It had some really funny moments and some really lame ones, but it was entertaining.
After the show, it was off to bed.
12/10/04 - Ocho Rios
We had never been to Ocho Rios or Jamaica before. We don't plan on going again. The first clue was the dock. We docked at the old mineral loading dock, greeted by a dead rat on the dock when we got off the ship. (Later we found out that the Star was the first Grand class to dock at this dock and the captain had to flood the tanks and cause a list to get the boarding ramps to line up just right.) Carnival Victory got the prime parking spot on the new dock, next to the new shops - it really pays to be early.
We went out to the traffic snarl at the end of the dock and met our excursion group. The bus ride through the town was interesting to say the least. Jamaican's use horns more than people on the east coast! It was on the bus ride that I noticed people walking from our dock along the street to the new mall shop at the end of the new pier where victory was parked - Jimmy Buffets' Margaritaville is in this complex. Almost every one of those people were being tailed by a local: some a discrete distance behind; some right alongside and apparently not taking no for an answer. One poor women looked very upset and harassed. Judy and I had planned to shop after the excursion, but not if we had to run a gauntlet to get there.
Unfortunately, our sail and snorkel cruise was essentially a booze cruise with emphasis on Rum, not snorkeling. The rum started flowing before we left the dock and didn't stop until we got back. The catamaran sailed west back past the Star, past the falls and anchored just off the new hotels. The water was not very clear and we snorkeled for about 45 minutes. Then it was back to the dock, rum flowing - and the selling began. First it was cigars, then it was t-shirts, then it was pictures, then it was videos, then it was bootleg music CDs. The crew seemed to be genuinely upset when you didn't buy everything they brought out. For anyone who would want to drink, this is the excursion to go on, but we wanted to snorkel -big disappointment there. This was a definite not worth it.
We got back to the ship about 200 and decided, after seeing the gauntlet we would have to run, to stay aboard. That's when we noticed the ship had a definite list, which the Captain explained later that was deliberate to get the ramps lined up with the dock. We ate a light, late lunch and watched sail-away.
The evening was the last formal evening, Captain's Circle, a new Comedian (Rodney Johnson) and 70's night in the Explorer's lounge. Captain's Circle is another great place to snag free, but watered down, drinks. We even got a picture with the Captain this time.
Dinner was Captains' Gala. Lobster, Escargot (Not the clam's casino as on the CP menus), Beef Wellington and Albuquerque's spaghetti. The Escargot was very good, especially for dipping bread in the garlic juice. We both had the Roasted Garlic Veloute soup which was good until I added salt and pepper and then was very good. The lobster was excellent, the best Judy said she ever had. I had the beef Wellington (excellent) with two lobster tails - very good to me. In the Beef Wellington, the spices had penetrated the meat. It was wonderful.
But the highlight was the spaghetti. We noticed that Albuquerque had disappeared after a while and I thought he'd forgotten. Nope, he brought us a silver dish heaping with spaghetti, a sauce made of olive oil, fresh tomatoes (cherry), fresh basil and green jalapenos. It was heavenly. We ate one helping instead of salad, and a little bit more during the main course. Needless to say, we were stuffed after dinner. Completely and totally stuffed.
70's night was way too slow. Hardly anyone there was dancing except the cruise staff. No one feels like dancing in a tux. So we wandered over and waited for the comedy show. Some people didn't like Rodney at all. He was ok. Probably not as cutting edge as Philadelphia. His highs were not as high, but his lows were not as low either. It rated an OK. We probably should have went to see Da Beat, but we like comedians.
12/11/04 - Day At Sea
I always hate the last day at Sea before docking. The impending doom that is the end of a cruise just hangs over your head like a dark cloud. But we both had to work off last nights dinner, so today would be an active day.
Breakfast at the Horizon court was, well, a buffet breakfast. Nothing special.
At 1000 we went to the summary line dance class with Erin. We reviewed the dances for about 45 minutes.
After class we decided to pack at least one suitcase before working out, and then at 130 I started my workout and Judy went to Pilates at 200. After showering, we hit the buffet which featured fake sushi, which was actually good. (Fake sushi is cooked shrimp, crab and smoked salmon in Negri style and in California Rolls.)
After lunch it was dicey horse racing and the big derby. That was fun to watch and apparently Neil, the cruise director, had caught up on his sleep because he was much more invigorated or at least more comfortable than before.
The Passenger Talent Show was at 530 and most of the people were actually quite good. There was a pretty funny lady from New York doing standup, a lady with a great voice and a young couple. She could really sing. The show though was just ok.
James Michael and Rodney did a show at 715. Rodney was much better than the previous day and James Michael had some new skits/stunts/magic tricks. We rated this show as good.
Our landfall dinner was at 815. We had already cancelled the Steakhouse reservation to be with the folks in the dining room. This was the baked Alaska night, so dessert would be extremely sweet. Judy had a shrimp cocktail and I had the Vol-au Lent a la Reine. It was very good and Judy's shrimp cocktail was good. I had the fresh green asparagus soup, which after pepper and salt was good, but Judy's chilled yellow pumpkin soup was just ok. We're just not cold soup fans. She has the sea scallops, which were good, while I had the prime rib, which was also good.
The biggest problem with this meal was the service. It wasn't Pompei's fault though. To do the parade of the baked Alaska, they pull the assistant waiter away for about 15 minutes and then rush the dinner service to get everyone on dessert at the same time. Add to this the fact that all three of Pompei's tables, except for our table, were now filled to capacity for the baked Alaska and you have a recipe for a harried and harassed waiter.
Needless to say, it wasn't the best moment, but basically we just waited until things calmed down and people watched for a while. Once Lucia got back, things picked back up. We said our goodbyes to Pompei, Lucia and Albuquerque and went up to see the finals in the Princess Idol competition. However, because we'd sat at dinner so long, there was no way to get a seat. We stood in the back of the lounge, in the hallway actually, for the first two acts and then turned in for the night.
12/12/05 - Debarkation
We really tried to sleep late on Sunday, but no dice. The Sun Princess was in the secondary dock, with the Star in the primary spot.
We docked at 0700 and immediately noticed that the outside air temperature was 55 degrees F. No kidding! We went up to breakfast about 0745 and really didn't have to fight lines. We were purple 2 in color. They started calling colors at 0818.
0818 - Red 1 and 2 0823 - Red 3 and 4 0831 - Brown 1 and 2 0836 - Green, Light Blue and Orange 1 0840 - Orange 2 and 3 0846 - Orange 4 and 5 0851 - Gold and Purple 1 0905 - Purple 2 and 3
We were at the cab stand at 0930, in a cab and back at the Holiday Inn by 0945 where we stored our luggage, flight was not out until the next day, and went to see a movie.
We've never had a debarkation this smooth before.
We arrived at the Port at approximately 1 pm to board for our week long cruise. Despite the fact that next door in the convention center was the annual boat show, traffic was not too bad and Princess's porters quickly gathered our luggage from our car, we parked and entered the VERY long line for embarkation. Despite the length of the line this process went fairly quickly, after about an hour we were walking the gangplank to board. After checking out our cabin we decided to go to deck 14 where we had been told lunch was being served. Elevators were impossible to get so we walked up from deck 9 to 14 and proceeded back to the Horizon Café. What a disorganized mess this was. First off there were hundreds of people trying to get to the buffet. After waiting in line for what seemed forever we got to the buffet itself to find some of the most un-inviting food I have ever seen. To add to that, about a third of all the pans that were there were empty. I took a few small samples of things thatlooked slightly familiar, along with two rolls, I asked THREE employees for butter (It never did come) got some iceless ice tea from the drink station, Not only was there no ice but no glasses either, I had to use a coffee cup. At this point from all the confusion one of my friends got separated so my partner and I FINALLY found a seat and tried to eat. What we had taken was honestly some of the worst food I ever got from a buffet. I ate my two butter less rolls drank, the warm Ice Tea and left, more hungry than when I entered. We headed forward and I found the pizza station which had a very long line as well, I waited again, pleasant surprise, the pizza was some of the best I have ever had, I visited this station a lot throughout the cruise.
Now able to make it to dinner and reunited with my friends we decided to explore the ship. Forget the elevators, most were out of service, I assume so luggage could be delivered to the rooms. We explored for awhile then headed back to our stateroom to find our luggage had been delivered, its now about 4 pm, so we unpacked. One thing I found real curious...our room had a refrigerator but nothing in it, I assumed that it would be a mini bar, not. Funny, there is no where on the ship to get anything to put in it. I had filled out a form online where they asked what soda I liked, what water I liked, why bother?
Fast forward to dinner...We headed down to the Portofino dining room where our group of 177 was supposed to be all seated together...NOT..We were close, but scattered around the dining room sitting amongst people that were not part of our group. I ordered the Steak rare, it came well done. Still hungry from my earlier ordeal I ate it anyway.
Being Halloween night the ship was alive with energy and people partying. The disco was pumping and a fun night was had by all. Funny thing though and this applied to the rest of the cruise, the only place one did not have to wait long for was bar service, they always had enough staff around to collect your money.
End of the night was approaching fast, we decided to go to the Horizon 24 hour buffet for late night breakfast at 3 am...Don't plan on this if you're hungry, they had no hot food at all, just some pastries, cheese and ICE for your ice tea, BUT now the ice tea tap dispensed water...
We retired for the night, ordering room service for the next morning as we did every morning. It always arrived on time, however rarely correct. One morning we got four containers full of butter but nothing to put it on, milk instead of crème for the coffee, two coffee cups instead of the three ordered, sometimes no sugar or equal.
The food problem seemed to improve as the cruise progressed, perhaps I became more tolerant. My honest opinion is there are just too many people on board for the staff to handle efficiently. Also, I mentioned earlier the elevators. There are definetly not enough of them for the amount of people on board, there was always a fairly long wait except late at night.
Tequila's Steakhouse....We did this upgrade restaurant one night, WOW fantastic food, great service. Our waiter Victor was courteous, professional, and knew their product. Highly recommended, ask for Victor.
Internet access...I was initially pleased to hear that they had wireless access onboard, this way I could do my work daily on my laptop and upload it to my server at home. Wrong again. My work uploads daily required about 45 minutes. They sell the wireless access for 35 cents a minute in 30 minute blocks of which I had purchased four. Unfortunately there is NO WAY to link these together, so after being connected 30 minutes it disconnected me. A very awkward interface to enter the 2nd 30 minute block, by the time I got this done too much time elapsed, my upload was trashed. I got in touch with the internet person and he just looked at me like I was an idiot, offered no work around and said it was out of his hands, he could do nothing. Corporate takes care of that.. My work around? I took my laptop off the ship to internet café's where they gladly let me plug in and do my uploads, all the time I needed and at a reasonable price.
Our cabin D-208 was adequate and the attendant attentive. He saw to all our needs and requests and always smiled. No privacy at all on the balcony. I ended up mooning a few people up above us, un-intentionally.
As I mentioned earlier I was in a group of 177 people, there were issues that were not handled properly by the ships staff, however since I am not one of the group leaders, I will refrain from further comment.
There was a FOD party the first full day of the cruise, I don't think they quite expected the turnout they had of close to 300 people. They found more bar help real quickly to handle the thirsty cruisers.
All in all, not impressed with Princess. I doubt very much if I will ever sail with them again. I have been on five previous cruises, all with Holland America.
My partner and I have just returned from a 12 night cruise of Europe on the Star Princess.
The ship was lovely and very clean. Food was also quite good with plenty of choices and venues in which to eat.
There was plenty of entertainment - some good and some who left a lot to be desired - especially some of the vocalists in the bars. The star of the show was definitely Mauritzio who sang and played the piano to perfection.
Having been on Princess cruise ships before, one can definitely see there have been cutbacks. No beautiful floral decorations anymore, no magnificent buffets and other little touches which have disappeared, which made the cruiseline that bit special. I just hope Princess don't cutback too far as regards this. Several other previous cruisers were also complaining about it.
All in all though it was a good cruise and the staff work very hard to make one's stay enjoyable.
Mediterranean Cruise with a 6 and 9 Year old -- Or how we went half way around the world to hand feed the pigeons. The room: We splurged on a mini suite on the Star for our anniversary, and it will be difficult to go back to an inside double. Our cabin was quite far aft -- advantages included proximity to the self serve laundry, a few flights downstairs to dinner, a few flights upstairs to breakfast and the kids club. No excessive vibration or movement noted.
The food: OK--Acceptable for a cruise ship this size but not great. Beware -- Princess has unbundled some of the standard perks of all-inclusive cruising -- there is now an extra charge for espresso etc., and most galling, for ice cream (except at dinner). The breakfast room service menu is very limited. A sticker for unlimited fountain sodas was $30.00 per person.
Food Service: We opted for the traditional fixed seating for dinner-- advantages with our children included that by the second day the kids had extra cushions placed on their chairs for them before we arrived, our son had a standing order for chickenstrips and french fries, two shirley temples would appear, and our decaf coffee, with cream, not milk for me, was poured before dessert arrived. Having the same wonderful waitress each night, Anna Maria from Romania, made dinner wonderful. As long as you arrive within 15 - 20 minutes of the stated seating time you can enjoy the most personalized service available to you on this ship. We ate in the "personal choice" restaurant on one night -- service was efficient but nothing like fixed seating.
Horizon Court offers a decent array of foods at all times. Atkins/South Beach and picky eaters should be able to find something.
Kids Club: No matter how nice the facility, and this one is, your child's experience will depend on the counselors on board and the other kids who participate. We were lucky this cruise and our kids loved it. The staff actually played with the kids, rather than watching them play. Please note that the Child Care staff does not share in the automatic tip pool, so please take them some cash on the last day if your kids enjoyed the club.
Excursions: If at all possible book your own. If you go with the Princess trips, you'll waste a very significant amount of time waiting for fellow passengers who can't be bothered to be on time, and you'll spend a lot more money than you have to. If food is included it will be horrible. Don't even think of securing a driver with a car or van through the excursion desk -- you'll pay many times more than if you booked it yourself.
Do not under any circumstances book any Princess excursions within Monte Carlo -- you can WALK or take the city bus to the palace and casino (hint -- the excursion charters a city bus). The casino is not interested in afternoon cruise ship gamblers, by the way, you can play the slots but there were exactly four tables open with people 4 deep around them -- high roller rooms (an extra 20 E) were closed. Overall not worth the 10E to get in the door -- use the money to rent a James Bond movie or buy a postcard to see the inside.
If your kids are not up for an entire day of ruins/art/churches, combine a morning of culture with an afternoon at the beach. We did that in Pisa and Athens.
For two of our tours we knew that we would have a mini van, so we recruited another family to share the tour (and cost) with us once onboard the ship.
Spa -- Steiner runs the spa. Staff is trained to perform the service and hard sell you product (expect ten minutes of your appointment to be a sales pitch). They also offer some miracle treatments with absurd claims, such as that your body stores one pound of "toxins" each year which can only be eliminated with their expensive products and treatment.
At-sea days, particularly those with formal nights were hectic (book sea day massages as soon as you get on board) I enjoyed a peaceful pedicure (after four ports in four days) at 9 pm the night before the formal night.
Gym -- well equipped. There is now an extra charge for some classes. The current pool is great. Kids were allowed in it from 12 noon to 3:00 pm -- plan on a serious swim before or after this time.
Our kids were most impressed by the pigeons in St. Marks Square (Venice), so perhaps we did not need to leave the country. On the other hand our 6 year old earnestly and accurately explained to a friend what went wrong with the leaning Tower of Pisa --
In June we made 12 day Mediterranean Cruise with Star Princess and had a wonderful time.
We ended up with approximately 2000 passengers. There were about 900 from the USA, 700 from Canada and 400 from Great Britain. There also appeared to be a pretty large contingent of Russian and Asian speaking passengers.We were quite aft and never felt any motion from the ship. That, of course, could be due to the fact that we had perfect weather the entire cruise. Our cruise docs said that embarkation started at 5pm. I sure didn't believe that. Since we had been in Barcelona a day early, we arrived at the ship at 2pm. There was no one in line and we got on the ship within 3 minutes. The next day, while looking at embarkation pictures, I noticed that they had them categorized by time of embarkation and it looks like passengers had been arriving since 11am.Barcelona - We stayed at the Regencia De Colon hotel. It is a sister hotel to the Colon, both which sit at the foot of the Cathedral and a 2 minute walk from La Rambla.
The room wassmall, but well appointed in a great location. We had to go to the Colon to get ice for our drinks. We had dinner at Neya's. A small tapas bar 1 1/2 blocks from the hotel. The food was great-tapas and paella. and very inexpensive.We really enjoyed the city. La Rambla is maybe 6 blocks long and activity abounds! We spent much of the time just watching the street mimes. They get dressed up in amazing costumes and hold perfectly still till you come up to have your picture taken..then they go into action! Quite a site to see. La Rambla is also lined with plenty of street vendors, artists etc. But they even have street vendors that are pet shops along with the normal florists and trinket sellers. We had sangria at a street side cafe. Ugh...it was thick and really sweet and reminded us more of children's cough syrup than a cocktail.On the day of embarkation we took the hop off/hop on bus. We took the north route to catch all of the architecture and it really was a beautiful ride. It did, however, take the entire morning as the traffic in the city was really bad. We bought a one day ticket that would have allowed us to take the south route if we had the time. Two day tickets are also available. Cash only, but you purchase the tickets at the boarding stops. We thought Barcelona was beautiful, we were pleasantly surprised. It is a very easy city to do on your own.Cabs are very easy to get either in the city or at the pier. It is about 10-15 E from the pier to the close end of La Rambla. Make sure and negotiate price before you get in.We had late seating, traditional dining. We love traditional dining, however, due to the lateness of some of the tours we ate every night at 8:45 pm. That's pretty late even for folks who like to have prolonged cocktail hours! We were rarely finished with dinner by 11pm. I won't comment too much on food...but...all of the soups were absolutely fantastic. we never had a bad one. Many of the nights I had a hard time choosing which entree to select as none of them completely excited me, but they were all good.
Sail away was also our 1st formal night.We never had any pomp or circumstance for any of the sail ways. I find that disappointing..I really used to love watching the bands or school children perform as we sailed away.PORTS OF CALL :* Monte Carlo: We took the ship tour of the medieval village of Eze. It was a beautiful little village..lots of steps with a cactus garden at the top..not what I would have expected for a Mediterranean town! The drive to the town was spectacular and the guide pointed out the homes of Bill Gates, Tina Turner and Bono from U2. * Livorno : After much deliberating we took the Princess transfers into Florence instead of trying the train. There was just too much at risk if the trains went on strike. The transfer was pleasant and the guide gave us a nice history/cultural lesson on the area. It was 1 ½ hours by bus and then a 5 minute walk from the drop off point into the city.The queue for Uffuzi is very misleading. They have a sign out front telling you how long the outside queue is, but there is also a queue once you get inside. We got in line before the gallery even opened, but still had to wait almost an hour before we were admitted. There are 4 or 5 very long/steep sets of stairs to climb before you even get to the showrooms. Also, the showrooms are very poorly labeled. A good guide book of the gallery is a must or you could wander for hours aimlessly. Unless you're really into the masters..I'd pass. It was also hot in the building.The open air leather market had spectacular shopping, but it was very crowded. If you're willing to pay cash versus credit card you have more price bartering ground to work with.We loved the food markets and bought 6 bottles of Tuscan wine (red and white) for 5 euros each. When our waiter wanted to charge us corkage we jokingly stated that we hadn't been charged in the past. This was the first time that the new ownership was mentioned to us.they said that the new policy no longer allows for waiters' discretion on charging corkage. Oh well..we figured with such inexpensive wine we were still way ahead based on the wines Princess offers. Oh..and the local wine was superb.The street cafes had big umbrellas for blocking the sun and we had a great lunch. Everyone we encountered spoke good English. The bus picked us up at 3:15 for the transfer back to the ship.
Four passengers did not make it back to the ship before we sailed. Never found out what happened to them.* Civitavecchia : Civitavecchia is a nice port town in its own right and some who had seen Rome just stayed there. We had a private driver to take us to Rome for a General Audience with the Pope (he does these Wednesdays). Very nice. Many taxis at the port and prices are not bad. A free shuttle takes you to the train station and its about an hour into town. The Vatican by itself took us all day. Museum, Cistene Chapel, and St Peters are all breathtaking. If you want to see more than a couple of sights take the city tour. The distances via the subway or on foot are too far. You need to buy subway tickets at a tabak or newspaper shop with a "T" sign.
* Naples : We used Marcello Maresca from See Sorrento - www.seesorrento.com Our trip included a visit to Pompeii, Pompei is amazing, a not to miss site. I had no idea how huge the city was and how well preserved it is. You can still see many frescos. The walking is extensive on very uneven cobblestones and it was HOT. We found that in all of the sites where we visited ruins (Ephesus, Acropolis, Pompei) that it was always hot.up on a hill, no trees for shade. Be prepared to wear as little clothing as possible and carry water bottles. * Athens: We used Spiros from www.athenstaxi.net He is very reasonable. He took us to
Acropolis and Plaka. Acropolis is really really really crowded and the stairs up and down are narrow. You can have quite a queue just getting up and down. Great food (I'm Greek) and great shopping. I got lots of kisses from the older ladies when they found out I was Greek.sure didn't help get me any better prices tho'!* Kusadasi: For the Ephesus Tour, we used Shorex Turkey - www.shorexturkey.co.nr We had a fantastic guide with great knowledge. We were so thrilled to make it to Turkey and they were thrilled to have us. This was definitely the highlight of the trip. What amazed us all was how clean and beautiful Turkey was. No garbage in the streets, beautiful parks and landscaping everywhere. And the architecture wow. * Venice: We did Venice on our own for both days. Princess offered a free boat shuttle from the pier to the city..took about an half an hour and dropped you at San Marco. Get a good street map..we used Streetwise. It was a lifesaver. Prices for glass are the same in Murano as they are in the city and there is very little bartering. We bought lamps for our screen porch, Christmas decorations and quite a spectacular statue that is being shipped.Everyone spoke great English. We had an early evening flight out to London. The last Princess transfer to the airport left at 3pm. Perfect for us. Even though it was more expensive than a cab, it was well worth the money as they held our luggage for us. So..we were able to spend the day of disembarkation touring (without worrying about what to do with our luggage) and then get to the airport in a timely fashion.ENTERTAINMENTLest you think we completely skipped the entertainment on the ship, we did eventually catch some shows. We really loved DANCE! and Give My Regards was also good, two Vegas-style shows on the Star. The singers and dancers were top-notch and very enjoyable. We skipped "Da Beat", as we didn't want to see the same entertainers three nights in a row. Maverick the magician was excellent and the comedian Jim McDonald was great too. The only entertainment that was bad at any time was the passengers attempting Karaoke, which was not fault of Princess! Be sure to arrive early for shows. most let you sit a half hour before showtime, and some even earlier. We were turned away from the Princess Theater when attempting to see DANCE! on the second night, arriving 15 minutes prior to showtime we were told it was already full. The two showrooms are very impressive. The Princess Theatre is situated like a normal theatre with rows and rows of seats. Its big and impressive, the stage moves and drops as impressively as any big production stage you would see elsewhere. It is at the extreme fore of the ship. The Vista Showlounge is at the aft and is designed like a Las Vegas showlounge with rows of little tables for two with chairs next to them. Behind each set of chairs and tables is a custioned bench seat with more small drink tables. Both venues work well.
THE LOTUS SPAI had two treatments in the spa while on the Star. I was very pleased with the standard facial. Upon embarking there was a coupon for $15 off any hour long spa treatment on an in-port day found in my shore excursion ticket envelope. The facial was very relaxing and the lady was very nice. The other treatment was a head and shoulder massage called Frangipangi Conditioning and Scalp Ritual, found in the Salon brochure. What I found weird about this, is that on the Star they didn't do it exactly as advertised in the brochure. One of the best parts of this ritual is getting your head wrapped in a steaming towel, which they didn't plan to do. Also, rather than just applying massage oil to my scalp to massage it, the lady slopped oil all through my very long hair, which I could NOT get out on my own. She did say I could come back and get it shampood out if I wanted later. which I did end up doing a couple days later. Her explanation as to why the ritual was different on the Star than what I had experienced on another Princess ship is that they do it a little different on every ship. I think that's a lousy policy if they use the same advertising brochure / explanation on all of the ships! I guess I just suggest you ask ahead, because I LOVED this treatment on my last Princess cruise.. its only $26! LAUNDROMATOn the Star the self-service laundry is not free. You can buy individually boxed soap in a dispenser for $1 each, or a liquid one-dose in the gift shop for a few cents over a dollar. The washers cost $1 a load and the dryers are $.50 a load.. both high capacity. And just FYI.. Princess casino .25 tokens work the same as quarters in the washer and dryer (a great way to get rid of any you find in your pocket at the end of the cruise). We found the laundry facilities busy all the time and had a hard time getting in. I was quite bummed after hearing that they were lightly used by many frequent cruisers. I ended up doing laundry late at night on the first formal night and during the prime dinner hour a few nights later, as I couldn't get in there during the day. The laundry rooms are different sizes on different decks. We were on Baja, which had the laundry room at the aft (a far hike for us) and with only two washers and dryers on each hallway. The laundry rooms were bigger on the Caribe deck below us, and they were closer to amidships there. There are free ironing boards and irons in the laundry facilities, but they are also very busy.. especially on the formal nights. Try to plan ahead and go at an off hour if you want to use these too. Done with the generalities of Star. on to the specific sights and ports!... In conclusion.no problems, no complaints. Yes, I would've liked a bigger cabin and yes, I would've liked the wait staff to be better, but all in all.we had a lovely time.Enjoy your cruise !