Occupation:Computer Programmer Analyst
Number of Cruises: 2
Cruise Line: Princess
Ship: Star Princess
Sailing Date: February 1st, 2003
Itinerary: Mexican Riviera
This was the second cruise we had ever taken. Our first cruise was a 10-day Panama Canal cruise on the Sun Princess two years ago which we absolutely loved. We had some reservations about our Mexican Riviera cruise on such a large ship as the Star. The Sun is smaller (1950 passengers) and was only ¾ filled when we sailed so crowds were never a problem on that cruise. Our sailing on the Star was fully booked (2600 passengers) so really, this would be our first experience on a fully laden, monster ship.
I think people need to be realistic when you are boarding a vessel the size of the Star Princess – it takes time to process 2600 passengers. To expect to whip in and out of the cruise terminal in 5 minutes is completely unrealistic and if you think you’re going to do that, you’re going to be really disappointed. Having said that, I think Princess could certainly do themselves a big favor and invest some money in SIGNAGE at the cruise terminal. We found on both our cruises that Princess shuffles you into the terminal then assumes you know exactly where to go. In LA, we saw one small sign stating that if you were on Decks x-x then line up on the left, otherwise line up on the right. Nothing else. So naturally we went to the one long, snaking line. We lucked out in that someone asked to see our ticket and said “Oh – you have an ‘E’ on your ticket. You should be in the express line.” So over to the express line and we were done in 10 minutes. We talked to others who had submitted their immigration info in advance as we did who weren’t as lucky and waited an hour in the “regular” line only to be told at the end that they should’ve gone to the express line. One big sign noted this would’ve saved a lot of grief for a lot of people – or even confirmation from Princess that they have received your immigration information and that we qualified for Express Check-in
So note to future Princess cruisers reading this: if you have an “E” on the back page of your ticket (where it lists your ship and cruise code), go to the Express Line!!
No problems with luggage delivery – we had everything by 4pm. Once again – be realistic and you won’t be disappointed – it takes time for them to load up luggage for 2600 people!!
We had an outside cabin on Plaza deck. Good sized window giving the room lots of natural light (the main reason we wanted an outside). Decent sized room with lots of closet space – almost double what we had on the Sun Princess. Not much drawer space though. Lots of shelf space in the bathroom which was nice. You needed a shoe horn to squeeze into the shower but I think that’s common on all cruise ships. We were initially concerned about noise as our cabin was directly beneath the casino but no problems there. We couldn’t hear anything.
On our last cruise, we had an outside cabin with a veranda (thanks to an upgrade) on the Sun and compared to our outside cabin on the Star I can honestly say that we wouldn’t pay for the veranda. It was a nice novelty but that’s about it – how much time do you really spend in your cabin anyways? And if you’re looking for privacy, you won’t get it on your veranda on the Star – the decks protrude out as you get lower so all the upper decks (including the public areas) look down into your veranda!! No nude sunbathing for you!!
Cabin steward service was fine, though for whatever reason our steward kept forgetting to replace our beach towels. And a note to travelers – if you’re in your room and your steward is in the vicinity – DEADBOLT YOUR DOOR or make sure you have your Do Not Disturb sign posted!! Almost all knock and open the door at the same time!
Reading the other reviews, I couldn’t help but to notice that Personal Choice Dining was slammed big time. We don’t understand why – we thought it was fantastic. We loved the fact we could eat whenever we wanted, with whomever we wanted without having to miss the “big meal” in the dining room. You show up at one of the two PC dining rooms and they will ask you if you want to sit by yourself or with others. As it turned out, some of the couples we sat with we ended up hanging out with for the rest of the cruise. Service was always great – yes, some waiters were more personable and chatty than others – but the service was always prompt and professional. Some other reviews mention that the service is worse in the Personal Choice dining rooms – I disagree with that. Remember that you are just as likely to end up with a dud waiter in the fixed dining room and unlike PC, you’d be stuck with that dud waiter for the rest of the cruise! As the name implies, Personal Choice dining was very flexible – if you found a table and waiter you liked, you could reserve that table for the rest of your cruise (as we did – ask for Errol table 55!). The food was consistently good – you would never confuse it with that from a top notch 5-star restaurant but it was certainly very tasty and we had no complaints. Breakfast at the Horizon got boring really quick as they served pretty well the same thing every day. Lunch had a different theme everyday and was pretty good. The Horizon Court could get really busy during peak breakfast and lunch times – if you want to avoid the huge line, head Port side. For whatever reason, the Starboard buffet line was always twice as long as the Port side.
Amenities and Entertainment
Even though you were on a ship of 2600 people, it never felt like it. With 5 pools, at least 12 hot tubs (that’s what I counted!), 12 lounges, this ship disperses people well! We never had any problems finding a lounge chair on deck (yeah – if you want that prime spot by the pool you had to be there early but if you’re not picky…), and never encountered crowds in the pools or hot tubs. The “adults only” lap pool was especially nice. The exercise room was very well equipped – again, you seldom had to wait for equipment to be available. The spa was predictably overpriced but it looked nice if that’s what you are after. We didn’t go to any production shows so we can’t comment on that (the ones we saw on the Sun were pretty well what you would expect on a cruise ship, hence we weren’t too interested in seeing the ones on the Star). Friends of ours said they were pretty entertaining though. In the Vista Lounge, predictably, some shows were better than others but to each their own. We really liked the live bands in all the lounges. They had some excellent bands on our cruise, especially in the Explorer’s Lounge. That’s where we spend most of our nights. Bottom line is there’s something for everyone on this ship.
We did a Princess-booked excursion in every port. We found them to be very well organized and worth the money if you are more comfortable heading to shore with in an organized group. You pay more booking through Princess than if you just call ahead to the tour company running the tour (Example: The Sierra Madre tour in Puerto Vallarta was $85 through Princess but if you had booked directly, you would’ve paid $75), but I guess that extra money pays for the peace of mind knowing that you’ll make it back on board on time (I’m guessing that if a Princess-booked excursion ran late, they would hold the ship for you)!!
A Personal Gripe
There was one thing about our cruise that annoyed the hell out of us – those #$^!^$ Princess Photographers!!! I don’t remember them being so “in-your-face” on our last cruise as this one. I don’t know if other cruise lines are like this but this was just ridiculous. Throughout this review I’ve mentioned how crowds were never a problem. The one exception was if stupid photographers were holding up the line (whether it’s going on shore, going to dinner). This was the only time we experienced lineups – and you don’t realize the cause of the lineups until you near the front and realize it’s those photographers. And we experienced a case where we didn’t want our picture taken so as one couple stepped up to have their picture taken, we tried to go around. We were physically BLOCKED by the photographer and told to wait. We’re not school kids – if we want our picture taken, we’ll find you! Case in point – Mazatlan. The line started on deck 4, snaked up and down the stairs to deck 5 and beyond. Gee – it doesn’t take a lot of time to swipe your cruise card and leave the ship. The cause of the holdup? The photographer taking pictures of everyone stepping off. Even the crew manning the security checkpoint realized this and told the photographer to stop taking pictures. Once he stopped, gee whiz – the line disappeared in about 5 minutes!! Coincidence? I think not. We know that photos generate income for the ship but when it gets to the point that it irritates passengers… I know we weren’t alone…
I am still amazed at how fast they can get everyone off. Very efficient and orderly. Save yourself some time by marking your luggage with something distinctive because boy, that’s a lot of black luggage you’re sorting through!!
As with our last cruise, we were very pleased with our experience. We certainly wouldn’t hesitate to sail with Princess again on their Grand/Golden/Star class ships. For first-time cruisers reading this review – be warned! It’s a real let-down when you get home and find the towels you left on the floor before breakfast are still there after breakfast!!