I'm back from my 3/30 Star Princess cruise! Well, I'm still "rolling" a little here on dry land, but I have to tell you, this is the first time I have NEVER even felt the least bit "dizzy" or seasick on board a ship! I've sailed to the Mexican Riviera twice and each time, ran into rough seas. Not this time--very smooth sailing! Just a wee bit of motion on the way back to LA.
On to the review. Since I've only sailed on Carnival previously, I'll do some comparisons in different categories.
Embarkation: Piece of cake. Stayed at the Sheraton Hotel in San Pedro the night before. Highly recommended, by the way. Beautiful lobby with chandelier. Was shuttled over about 12 noon. Luggage was checked and we got into the Express line. Went fast and we were on the ship in no time!
My 9 year old daughter and I had the "cheap seats" (Inside cabin on Caribe deck.) No cabins on either side of us. Just storage rooms for the stewards. Even though it was smaller than Carnival, I found it to be prettier, surrounded by mirrors. Pastel colors. Our bed was made up as one, but it worked well for us. I never felt claustrophobic in there, and the mirrors helped, I'm sure. I really liked this little state room! Even the miniscule bathroom! Lots of storage and it reminded me of an RV or trailer. I had no problem with it.
I was a bit disappointed in this. I had specified Early Traditonal Dining over 7 months ago when I booked. Princess even confirmed it with me via the Cruise Personalizer. Well, I noticed there was no table number, etc. on our cards. So,I called the Pursor's Desk and they said it was the Amalfi dining room. When we arrived, they said we had Personal Choice. HUH?? Anyway, they put us on a waitlist, but couldn't accommodate us. So, we settled for PC. Why sweat it? While being able to dine when we want (unless it's at a very busy time), that's about all I like about it. And, for the most part, we dined at 6:15 or so, anyway. We never got to have the same waiter twice. I never got to know our waitstaff or our tablemates. The first night my daughter and I were alone at the table in a corner before someone finally joined us. We were halfway through dinner by then. And, people coming and going all the time. It seemed more like a busy restaurant. I just didn't have that feeling of being "pampered" by my own waiter each night or getting to know my tablemates. And, the dining room, itself, (Portofino or Capri), didn't have that jovial feeling of everyone being there together at once, joining in the festive activities of the wait staff. I liked Carnival better at dinner time. I never really looked forward to eating dinner in the dining room on the Star Princess. As for the food in the dining rooms---well, I have to admit, while it was okay, I had better tasting meals on Carnival! I had a couple other people say the same thing to me.
Horizon Court and "fast food" places:
Breakfast was tastier on Carnival, but there was MORE variety on Star Princess. I only ate muffins and rolls, though. The eggs looked runny! Oh, I did have some bacon. The sausage looked grey. The orange juice was warm and watered down. The coffee was...uh...well, not the dark French roast I like. And, there isn't any half and half on the entire ship! Liquid non-dairy creamer in little containers or plain milk in the dining room! Lunch and other times at the Horizon Court varied. Some of the food was very tasty, especially the shrimp and sushi when it was available. Loved the deep fried shrimp. Desserts looked good, but tasted a lot like cool-whip or they just began to all taste the same after awhile. Other stuff looked scary! I never went hungry there, though! I always managed to find something I liked! Pizza at Prego's (especially the pepperoni was tasty.) Cheeseburgers and fries were good. Never any long lines. I wished they kept these areas open longer, though. I would have enjoyed a late-night slice of pizza. We each bought a soda card and took advantage of them.
I never tried the alternate pay-restaurants. I heard mixed reviews about these, and I really felt I could find enough food wherever I went. One woman said they got into Sabatini's at 9:30 PM and didn't get out of there till 12:30 AM---they almost fell asleep at the table. She didn't think it was worth the extra $$ and time.
I enjoyed the Afternoon Tea the 4 times I went. Yummy little scones and other delectables. I looked forward to this at 3:30.
I wasn't altogether thrilled with the production shows or ship entertainers (dancers and singers). Seemed robotic, for the lack of another word. Again, I liked Carnival's big shows better. I did enjoy the guest entertainers, though. They had a singer named Karen Saunders who had a voice to die for. I also got a kick out of "Sarge", a guest comedian. The cruise director was Paul O' Loughlin, originally from Ireland, but moved to England at age 7, hence, no Irish brogue. . We loved the karaoke and the talent show was fun. Some of the passengers should apply for jobs on board!
've seen on a cruise ship. Heated, fresh water. Open all the time. Water was also flowing along the decks if you just wanted to cool your toes off or even sit in it. I won't GO in a Carnival pool! Cold and salty! A big thumbs up for Princess pools! The one with the retractable glass roof was ideal for chillier days. I never tried the hot tubs, but felt the water and they were very warm and inviting.
Public areas: Very beautiful and nicely appointed. Nothing glitzy or odd colored like Carnival! Elegant, but not overdone. Comfortable seating and good viewing in the lounges and theater. I will say, though, that in the Vista Lounge there is an area of slightly elevated step-ups to the seating area. Not well marked. One night I walked in with a small bucket of coins from the casino and took quite a fall over one of these steps! Tokens flew all over the place and people gasped! I fell smack on my knee and felt like a dope! But, I have to tell ya, it HURT and I have the large bruises to prove it. Also, I saw 3 people trip in the same place after I did. (didn't fall, though.) I mentioned this to the pursor's office later so they might consider marking that area better. An elderly person could really hurt one's self. I walked up to Skywalker's a couple days to "catch the view". A quiet place to sit and gaze out the window or read. But, at night I hear it turns into a loud and vibrant disco. I never made it up there then.
Gym and track:
I tried the gym one morning and it was great. Not crowded. Walked on the treadmill and used the weight machines. I also walked a mile on the jogging track combined with the outside promenade walking deck (which included some stairs). The wood didn't look "real". In fact, I was rather surprised at the amount of "fake wood" around for such an expensive and new ship. I liked the wood benches on the promenade deck.
Navigation around the ship:
After a few days, I felt very comfortable for the most part, finding my way around. Sometimes, I got confused if I was heading fore or aft. But, actually, a nicely laid out vessel. I didn't need my little map after awhile. The walkie-talkies worked just fine everywhere on the ship. And, the elevators weren't too bad. I took these and the stairs about 50/50.
My daughter was in the 9-12 age group and she had a blast. Thankfully, she was ready to join in from the start. They had the Kids' Patter activities all written out for the week, so she checked off what she wanted to do (which was almost all of it.) The counselors seemed to keep them occupied with age-appropriate activities. She also met a very sweet girl and they ended up hanging out together a lot. Her parents were very nice and we joined them on a couple occasions for dinner or a show. I heard that there were 600 kids on board--the most on any Princess cruise ever. For the most part, I didn't see a lot of them, at least not "in my face". Some exuberent teens celebrating Spring break, but thankfully, we never crossed paths much! But, then I didn't hang out in the disco areas late at night. I peeked in the Off Limits teen room and it looked very well utilized.
Sometimes better. Sometimes not so good. I never did get a good feel for it in the dining room. Again, I blame that on Personal NOT my Choice. Very efficient in Horizon Court. Almost too much so! Our cabin steward, Lester, was very nice, although he did forget a few trivial things in the bathroom. No big deal. Didn't see any towel animals either. But, the chocolates were where they should be every evening---on our pillows. :) Overall, Lester was a sweetheart.. He was from the Phillipines.
Let's just say Stone Island in Mazatlan is not what some of us expected! I met Randi (from Randi's Happy Horses) over there and she was the BEST part of it! Hugo from King David Tours was also a nice guy, but the horses he used were downright sad looking. Skinny and full of burrs. I felt so bad for those creatures. Thankfully, we were able to ride Randi's horses later, who were healthy and plump. And, the area where they take you riding, (King David's tour) is NOT what I would consider beautiful. Basically through the "poverty-stricken" neighborhood. But, Randi also told us that many of these people all know her by name and are quite friendly. I guess some of us were just taken aback. I was also expecting the actual catamaran ride to be different, at least the way it was described on the website, with rum punches flowing. More of a festive atmosphere. But, Hugo, our guide, was a really nice guy with a sense of humor.
In Puerto Vallarta we hung out at the Krystal Vallarta Resort all day. They had this great winding shallow pool with bridges over it and built-in tile lounging "chairs" into the side of the pool. A swim-up bar. Little tile tables you could wade up to and play checkers with bottle caps. Water volleyball and other activities. I really liked that place, and so did my daughter. Within walking distance from the ship. Seemed longer in the humid climate, though. In Cabo we chose to walk to the town and then shop for trinkets. It was harder to barter there than in the other two ports. My daughter had her hair braided back on Stone Island and a woman added some beads to her hair in Cabo San Lucas. I wish we had more time there. I loved the song they played as we left each port. Andrea Boccelli and Sara Brightman, "Time to Say Good-bye". Beautiful and almost haunting.
It was the PITS! First of all, I had thought it was going to be like Carnival where people went to an assigned public room and sat till their color was called. So, we gathered together our carry-ons (not light because we had to pack some stuff that we usually put in our luggage). Anyway, here we are lugging this stuff around in this LONG, snaking line that was actually several lines winding their way around the atrium trying to find its way to the Vista Lounge. I noticed that no one else had their carry-ons! Turns out we could leave them in our cabins, and all we were doing is going to the Vista lounge to be checked by the immigration agents! Here I thought we would be going in there to SIT and then leave the ship, hence my reason for lugging along the carry-ons. Sheesh. Next time I'll know better! I sure hope they can improve on this whole process. It does not make for a happy way to depart. I also think they should try to make these last few hours as pleasant as they can, by at least making us feel glad we just spent all week and all our money with them. It seems like they're "finished with us" and "too bad" if it's not a good experience departing. I guess debarking always leaves me with a bitter taste in my mouth. But, it doesn't ruin my trip!
All in all, the Star Princess is a gorgeous ship. Large, but never over-whelming. My first Princess cruise. The crowd was no different than any of the Carnival cruises I've sailed, however. A fair mixture of all age groups, with the average looking to be about 40 or so. Definitely not a geriatric crowd. Some folks were more laid back looking than others, but no one looked "overly refined". I saw lots of formal wear on the two formal nights, but an equal amount of casual clothing on the other days and evenings. I missed some of the "fun" of Carnival, but by the same token, it was there if you looked for it. I joined in on an Island Deck Party one night and had a blast! Danced to ' 50s and ' 60s music till the sweat dripped off me, much to my young daughter's embarrassment. Tough! :-) .The fun just wasn't as blatant as it is on Carnival. Not really many pool deck games, but I was there to read and lounge and swim anyway. I recommend this cruise on the Star Princess and would have no problem going again! But, I do have to say, I still don't see the big fuss about Princess being so much "nicer" than Carnival! Sure, the public rooms and cabins are MUCH prettier, but I honestly didn't experience anything much different or superb on Princess. The service was about the same, if not LESS than my previous cruises on CCL. I certainly was not made to feel "more pampered", but by the same token, I'm not complaining. :) I also think that as I get older I tend to be more scrutinizing. And, nothing will ever beat my very FIRST cruise, even if it was on the CCL Tropicale. It was like magic. Everything was perfect in my eye! But, the Star Princess came very close to meeting my expectations and I would gladly cruise on her again.