CruiseMates' Readers Cruise Reviews

Princess Cruises Star Princess by Chuck Palm Mexico April 5, 2003

This Mexican Riviera cruise was my fourteenth cruise and my partner, Davids's thirteenth. Perhaps number 13 was a charm for him because this trip was as close to perfect as any other cruise we have experienced.

This was our second time to take this itinerary. The previous time was about twenty years ago on the Admiral Cruise Line's Stardancer.We regularly take land vacations in Puerto Vallarta and are, of course, far more familiar with P.V. than the other two ports, which we had only visited the one time previous.

The Star Princess is a huge ship. We were fairly sure we would dislike this ship because of the size, not to mention the fugly spoiler-like tail fin/disco on the rear of the ship.We were most surprised by how wonderful this ship really is.

The food was the biggest surprise of all. In general, this was by far, the best food we have ever had on any cruise ship, including other Princess ships, Holland America and Celebrity Cruise Lines.We started out with traditional late seating. We quickly changed to personal choice after the first night because our "large" table had only one other couple. During the week, we tried all three main dining rooms and all of these were very comparble and actually quite good in both food and service.

We also tried Tequila's, and Sabatini's, which were specialty restaurants with modest surcharges. Both of these dining rooms are excellent and I would venture to say Sabatini's is exquisite both at dinner and at brunch.The brunch was a 21/2 hour affair to remember with limitless Chandon sparkling white wine.The sushi and seafood buffet- style starters were magnificent and excellent.Tequila's is a little bit "Gringo" but the food and service is good despite a somewhat uppity floor manager.The highlight here was the black bean soup with deboned lobster claws ant cotija cheese floating on top.MMMMMMMMM!

Our cabin was D-732, which was the mini-suite furthest aft on the port side. The room was large, comfortable, and had a huge over-sized deck due to the location at the rear.Our cabin steward, Sandi, was absolutely amazing and very kind as well as friendly.For example, the first night we asked for two wine glasses. From that day forward, there were always eight wine glasses on the counter, covered with plastic for cleanliness.

The shows were generally quite good. Juggling comedians are not exciting to me, so we skipped those evenings with little regret. There were two shows that were quite fantastic.

Joani Butler was perhaps the finest singer we have ever heard on a cruise ship. She has a big and melodic voice as good as many in the pop music market today.(Her two grammy nominations were well deserved, I must say.) I was surprised the ship only featured her on one evening in the Vista Lounge when other performers were given two or three shows."Dance" was a production show that would be the envy of most cruise ships.Wow!

There seemed to be ample activities for cruisers of all tastes.They even had a high-end wine tasting at Sabatini's featuring better Italian wines, and outstanding little bites to accompany the wine.This was not the usual crowd herded to a mass tasting of insignificant wines.

The casino was quite nice, well-run, and not particularly smokey for those who prefer to breathe clean air.

The immense size of the ship allowed for a wonderful promenade deck with a few moderate sets of stairs for good measure.Too many newer ships lack this feature.

There was perhaps only one major flaw with the entire cruise. Embarkation was nothing more than a cattle call and being a past Princess passenger gave eager cruisers little or no edge when boarding.Celebrity and Holland America shine in this area and Princess should learn from them, in my opinion.

The ports were pretty much what we expected. We grabbed a yellow cab and quickly visited our good friends, Mare and Conrad, in Puerto Vallarta. They live there nine months out of the year. We did a little shopping and had a long luncheon date with them over vino tinto and great food at a little restaurant in the "Zona Romantica" area. (Which is quite near their condo.) We were able to bring back some trinkets as well as some excellent Mexican Camenbert.

In Mazatlan we took a ship's tour of the colonial villages of the Sierra Madre range because we are not fond of Mazatlan.(We wanted out of town A.S.A.P.) In Cabo we took a glass bottom boat ride/tour from a local vendor. It was a fine but short tour. The rest of the day we walked around town and shopped a bit.Tendering and short visiting hours limit your activities greatly in this port.

All said, it was a great trip I would highly recommend to others considering this itinerary.On a scale of one to ten, I would rate this ship a 9, or so.That is propbably as good as it gets in the "Premium" cruise market.

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