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 your attitude 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.