Last week we were fortunate enough to sail on the Star Princess, on a short but sweet three-night repositioning cruise from Vancouver, B.C. to Los Angeles.
Since we had never sailed on a ship this large before, I was concerned I might not like it. My husband had dreamed of sailing on a mega-ship, and it turned out that we both LOVED this ship. We had selected "personal choice" dining, and on that we are split -- he liked it and I don't. Oh well...
The promenade elevates from Deck 7 to Deck 8 near the bow. It is really incredible to stand on the bow of the ship: In calm or rough seas, either way it was beautiful. And the sound of the water in the aft was just as impressive.
The ship has four regular-sized pools, one smaller pool and about eight hot tubs. The pool by the spa and fitness center near the bow is a lap pool with limited access for kids from noon to 3 p.m. We never saw any kids in this pool area. It would be difficult for more than two people to do laps at the same time, but the warm water was inviting and there are two hot tubs adjacent to this pool. The gym along the side of this pool is probably too small for a ship this large, but it has good equipment.
The two pools in the center of the ship are more family-oriented, kid-inviting type pools. One is open-air and the other has a retractable roof that was closed during this cruise, having just come from a summer in Alaska. There are two hot tubs adjacent to each of these pools.
There are also two pools in the aft part of the ship, one on level 15 (the smallest of all five pools), with a hot tub and kids' wading pool on either side; and the other on Deck 12 (sort of, since there is no Deck 13). These two pools overlook the wake of the ship and are directly below the Skywalker Disco/Lounge, providing a wonderful scene to look at while sunbathing or leaving port.
The dining rooms were very typical of Princess: lovely and intimate. The wait staff was very attentive and courteous -- our wish was their command. I did miss getting to know the waiters and waitresses. I tried to make a contact with those we saw more than once. But I missed the interaction you'd get on a smaller ship.
As far as cabins go, this was our first inside cabin in a long time, but the price was right, and the design was new and refreshing. I really liked the layout of the regular (non-suite) cabins. Check out the Princess web site for cabin layouts -- they put out a diagram of their cabins and this new layout is good.
There are many small, intimate seating areas throughout the ship. If you're meeting someone before or after dinner, there are lovely places to get together. Or if you need a quite place with a view to sit and read, many can be found, including a writing room, a card room, and the library. And the Skywalker Lounge almost anytime before the music starts is a great place with a view.
But there was a downside. Princess had invited its vendors and suppliers on this cruise--they made up about 60 percent of the passengers--and it was enlightening to talk with them at breakfast or lunch. We found out a few juicy details about the line. But the real downside was the number of rooms set aside exclusively for private functions, and the dinning rooms being closed for those groups. We weren't upset about not being able to use these rooms, since they could be accessed outside of the "conference" times, but we were not informed as to when they would or wouldn't be available.
Since this was a conference for a specific group, Princess knew well in advance what the schedules were going to be. Notices could have been printed in the Princess Patter as to what would not be available. All in all, it gave us some extra exercise. On a cruise, we use the stairs and walk around the promenade all we can, so that is not the complaint -- just the fact that they didn't think to inform us of these special circumstances.
As I stated on my comment card, we will cruise Princess again -- this was our third Princess cruise out of 14 sailings -- and we are looking at the Star Princess for Mexico, possibly in the fall of 2003.
Feel free to ask any questions, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or post to the message board.
Happy Cruising. Any day at sea is better than any day on land.