We anticipated this 'trip of a life time' with eagerness, and now that it is over we are still awe inspired by this southernmost continent: Antarctica. So little is known by many of us, that when we think COLD, it is the Arctic North Pole which first comes to mind; however, actually it is Antarctica and the South Pole where the coldest temperatures are recorded (-112 to -130 degrees F. in the winter and 41-59 degrees F. in the summer). Don't forget that the seasons are reversed in the Southern Hemisphere. Antarctica is a frozen desert with hardly any precipitation. Then why go there? Actually less than 20,000 people have visited it. But, those of us who have, can now relate the beauty of the snow covered mountains, the stunning variety of icebergs seen in “Iceberg Alley” and the various wildlife (whales [9 varieties], seals [3 types], penguins [5 varieties] and the many other birds like albatross, petrels, cormorants, etc.).
Now let us go back to the beginning -- We flew American Airlines from Miami, FL on Feb. 17th. Flight #909 was set for a 8:15 pm departure and we boarded ontime. Then we sat on the tarmac for two hours while baggage handlers searched for a passenger's luggage in order to remove it, since this person had opted to be paid to make a latter departure. In the waiting areas, it was obvious that AA had over booked several flights and enticed passengers to give up their seats for money plus free hotel rooms and meals etc. We left two hours late, but the time was made up in flight and we arrived on schedule in Buenos Aires, Argentina the next morning. We spent overnight with Vincent's family and embarkation was Feb. 19, 2008 at noon.
EMBARKATION Embarkation was chaotic to say the least. In port were the MS Symphonia and other ships. There were no baggage carts and very few handlers to take luggage. Vincent with the help of his cousin Fabian found someone to help with the wheelchair, but there were huge potholes and we didn't get far. Out of the blue, the taxi driver from yesterday at the airport appeared: Giorgio! He came straight to us and said,”Signora! May I help you.” Problem solved. When Vincent returned and heard about it he said,”nothing like tipping well.” We had done pre boarding at a downtown hotel the day before and received cream colored boarding cards. Thus, we moved straight ahead to buses and the ship's gangway. It all seemed well, but we were told we still needed boarding cards which were supposed to be on the pier. After a mix up, where our passports were sent back to the pier, Jr. Asst. Purser Suzanna Romano got our boarding passes from the ship. She assured us our passports were safe with the ship's personnel. And they were, because all passports were collected, so that clearance for each country we entered was done on board in each country we visited.
SHIP The Star Princess was built by Fincantieri in Monfalcone, Italy and launched in January 2002. Her length is 950.1 feet; Breadth is 118.1 feet and she has a draft 27.7 feet. Her total passenger capacity is 3,100 and she sails with a crew of 1,120. She is propelled by six diesel electric engines. Her cruising speed is 21 knots and maximum speed 23.3 knots.
The Star Princess is beautiful both inside and out. We have already done a deck by deck description of this ship, published in 2005, when we first cruised on her in the Caribbean. So this review will center on the Ports and the gorgeous natural vistas offered by Antarctica. There were over 1,800 Princess Captain's Circle Members on board and Captain Bob Oliver of Harwich, England hosted four cocktail parties in order to accommodate us all. We had a fantastic Bridge Tour with Capt. Oliver and his 3rd Officer Raffaele Ansanti. We learned of the many ship's components all linked to the LIPS joystick giving terrific maneuverability to this huge 109,000 ton ship. This was soon to be appreciated as the very able Captain threaded our way among icebergs.Overall the ship's decorations are in exceptionally good taste. There is simplicity and elegance rather than neon and gaudiness. We found the ship to be in excellent condition and well kept.
CABINS Our wheelchair accessible cabin #E304 on Emerald Deck 8 is centrally located near the forward elevators. It has a wide entrance which is necessary for a wheelchair. On the left is an excellent large bathroom with safety rails all around. There is a fold away seat in the 5'x5' shower. There are also two large shelves for toiletries above the single sink.
There are two low dressers flanking the king size bed with the “de rigor” heavy white puff, but, for the first time, since we were travelling to the South Pole, this puff was necessary. When entering on the right there is a parking space for the wheel chair. Next, there is a triple armoire with hangers in, two sections and shelves and a private safe in the third section. There s a TV, bar and refrigerator,and a long desk/vanity with a lighted mirror and four drawers. The back wall has a huge window which was partially obstructed by a life boat. Our view was “letterbox”, just as when viewing an old Vista Vision film on TV. Top and bottom are cut off, but the panoramic sweep is wonderful. We had an excellent view of the continental shelf from our cabin.
Our steward was Luis and he was very efficient. Thanks.
SERVICE & FOOD Service is overseen by Passenger Services Director (PSD) Claudio Mazzoni, who was extremely helpful in answering our many questions. The ship service is excellent, Asst. Purser Suzanna facilitated boarding, assessed delays and took control. How nice it feels when it seems everything is mixed up and someone can take control and ameliorate the situation.
We were leery about taking this trip so far away from home with a wheel chair etc. Mary has a distinct fear of falling, since she broke her leg that way last October. However, Dr. Marguerite Bozian, our travelling companion, was the one who slipped and broke her arm. Princess' Dr. Stewart Buchanan and nurse Vina came to the rescue: they expertly cared for her and sent her home with a write up, DVD, X rays and a history of the whole matter. All of which her husband Dr. Richard Bozian termed as “not only efficient, but accurate and sensitive....the whole matter was impeccable” and a credit to Princess Cruises. Thus, we learned about the medical service on board through our friends, and it is comforting to know that the quality is excellent.
Of course, it is in the dining rooms where service reaches its apex. The suave Maitre D'Hotel Daniele Saredi secured for us a table for six near the entrance to the Capri Dining Room. We don't like to disturb diners with our walker or wheel chair. We had sixteen happy evenings with our travelling companions the Drs. Bozian and the Drs. Chen. Our Waiter Emmanuel and his Asst. Waiter Ariel were spot on. The Head Waiters Silvio and Angelito always charmed us with Executive Chef Francesco La Forgia's marvelous food! We can still smell the wonderful Limoncella cake served in an artisan crafted chocolate bowl. How delicious!
The best way to describe the food is to start at the beginning; each morning we were served continental breakfast in our cabin by the very prompt and efficient Elena. Her smiles and her bouncy curtsies were a delightful way to start off the day. The meal consisted of Cappuccino, hot chocolate, croissants, and brioches with fresh fruit plates and marmalades along with cereals. Excellent!
At lunch we mostly dined in the Portofino Dining Room where Maitre D' Vincenzo outdid himself with excellent tables near the windows. The lunch menu was terrific. Some of the selections were Mozzarella in Carrozza , fried calamari, Monte Cristo sandwich (ham & cheese on French toast) and crispy English style fish & chips. So many choices, so many decisions. When the weather was nice, we went up to the Horizon Court Buffet or to Prego Pizza and the Trident Grill, for Hamburgers, Chicken Sandwiches, Hot Dogs or German sausages, which were served with the lightest French Fries afloat.
Dinner was the best time for our group, because we all got together after going our separate ways during the day. We talked of the ports, the Antarctic scenes, the photos we took, the gigantic tabular icebergs, the wildlife and the wonderful food. Appetizers were Pate', shrimp, pineapple boats, etc.... Soups included Lobster Bisque, clam chowder, cream of wild mushrooms, clear broths with tortellini, or refreshing cold slurry style soups of pineapple or mangos --- so nice.
Entrees of many types were offered, plus a pasta course. Try the Fettuccine Alfredo served in a Parmigiano Reggiano cheese bowl, or spaghetti alle vongole or primavera. The main entrees included succulent and tender beef Prime Rib; fillet Mignon; veal, lamb or pork chops; and seafood such as salmon, Chilean bass, shrimp, lobster, etc.... Desserts were many and varied pies -- lemon, apple, pecan, etc.; profiteroles; souffle`, cheese cakes and mousses -- plus a large selection of ice creams and sorbets. Our hats are off to Chef Francesco La Forgia. When he strolls through the dining room, you can't miss him-- 6'2” with a 10” chef's toque, he's easily spotted.
ENTERTAINMENT Cruise Director Frank Castiglione keeps the passengers hopping with the following: Bingo, Trivia (Get some new questions, players are tired of seeing the same back-to-back and round the world cruisers walk off with all the valuable prizes [the real plastic key chains and the Princess logo luggage tags are collectors items!] and No, if you are on the ship nonstop for 76 days, it does not make you smarter than the rest of us, even a parrot could win if it heard the same questions over and over again). There are dances in the Skywalkers Night Club on Sky Deck 17and Casino tournaments. The on board Lectures by Joe May and other University Professors were very well received. The Las Vegas style entertainment each evening was lead by the following: Philippa Healey with her mix of opera and classical songs had a standing ovation, the tenor Vincent Talarico was enjoyed in concert. Maurizio, who played several nights in the Atrium, Plaza Deck, was a sensation in concert one night titled “The Duke of Verona” in the Vista Lounge. The ship has many areas for entertainment and relaxation. We had a wonderfully relaxing time, but of course, it was the itinerary which drew us so far from home. This was a never to be forgotten trip. In view of an article dated March 6, 2008, which detailed the breaking off of a 400 square kilometer ice sheet from the Wilkins Ice Shelf on the SW Antarctica Peninsula and with scientists saying that this is another indication of global warming, we feel that future generations probably will not be as lucky as we have been to enjoy the wonders of Antarctica. Perhaps, these wonders will diminish with the passing of time.
ITINERARY 2-19-08 Buenos Aires, Argentina Sail away. 7:00pm
2-20-08 River Plate out to the Sea headed to the Falkland Islands.
2-21-08 At Sea
2-22-08 Stanley, Falkland Islands Arrive 7:00am Depart 7:20pm Tendering to the on shore pontoon.
2-23-08 At Sea. At 1:15pm we passed over the Antarctic Convergence Zone where the sea temperature falls rapidly due to the constant melting of Antarctic ice into the Southern Ocean. The first look outs for icebergs were put to work on the Bridge.
2-24-08 Elephant Island -- The first pieces of ice were detected on the ship's radar. This island juts out of the ocean. At 4:30am we passed latitude 60 S. and formally headed into Arctic waters. At 9:00am we sighted Elephant Island, numerous icebergs and many penguins. After cruising around the island we headed SW.
2-25-08 We set course toward the Antarctic Sound, but conditions worsened and at 8:24am we turned around and began a slow exit of the Sound and crossed the Bransfield Straight towards Admiralty Bay. This was the first of several stunning days, with the slow movement of the ship affording passengers magnificent views of icebergs and spouting whales. The sun was shining brilliantly and we approached 400 foot high icebergs. Surreal! They were so huge compared to the ones in Alaska.
This was our first glimpse of Antarctica and it was spectacular! The age of an iceberg is told by how low it sits in the water. The blue ice is the oldest and most compact, the white ice is newer and has more air in it. These huge icebergs usually last about 8 years and are eroded by water and air. They turn over in the water and there is a tide line around the bergs. The seals are in the water even in the winter. During the winter, this area is 80% covered in ice and only ice breaker vessels can enter here.
The famous explorer Captain Cook would pull up the smaller icebergs, called “Burgy Bits” and bring them on board as a source of fresh water. On the Port side of the ship we saw part of the ice shelf 100ft. above water and 800ft. below. There were spectacular icebergs every where, with some bigger than the ship. There were tabular perfect rectangles of pure white that looked as if they were sawed off. There were some shaped like ramps which could be used for water skiing. Our first glimpse of Antarctica revealed its pyramid shaped mountains, snow and vertical striations and the ice cap that in some places can be over 5 miles deep.
We sailed through out Admiralty Bay and at 1:15pm the scientists from the Polish Artowski Research Station boarded the Star Princess and gave a short informative talk. They were invited to dinner and left soon after to return to King George Island. Their station has been operating continuously since 1977. We heard of glacial movement and the micro chemistry of their layers which trap pockets of atmosphere. At 6:32pm we passed out into the Bransfield Strait and headed south to the Neumayer channel.
2-26-08 Sunrise 5:55 am and Sunset 9:47 pm gave us an almost 16 hour day -- fantastic, like the white nights of the Baltic! This morning there was a brilliant sunrise. Humpback and orca whales were sighted spouting everywhere, easily spotted by the oil slick they leave on the water. Penguins were also seen. The orca whales work in packs much like wolves; they separate out the weaker prey and attack. Thank heaven, we did not witness them in action. The view from our cabin window is picture perfect.
The on board Antarctic specialist says this is a rare clear day here. Port side lets us view the Ice Cap and the Antarctic Peninsula. It is the narrowest point of the peninsula called Paradise Harbor. The other side of the peninsula is the Weddell Sea. The water is incredibly calm and there are Burgy Bits everywhere with penguins on them and pods of whales in the Gerlach Strait (Gerlach was the first explorer to spend a winter here and with him was Armundsen the first man to go to the South Pole). At 11:20am we reached our Southernmost point of this voyage, latitude 64, which places us 3,898 nautical miles south of the equator. The eeriness and quiet of this scene is remarkable, the water is almost glass like, today.
Lion Island is at the head of the Neumaier Channel. It looks like a sphinx with a black face. There is much more snow and ice here, actually, yesterday we saw snow flurries. In 1819 Anvers Island was named by a Belgian Expedition. We sailed northeasterly toward Deception Island.
2-27-08 At 7:45am we approached Deception Island and it was visible from some 10 miles away. All morning we saw minke and humpback whales and then penguin colonies on the shore. The island is actually the remains of a volcano with a caldera similar to Santorini. From here we turned away from the Antarctic and faced patches of fog where visibility was near zero.
2-28-08 We crossed the Drake Passage neared the Pilot Station at Cape Horn. The waters were exceptionally calm, unlike the last time we rounded the Horn. The pilot boat was an hour and a half late and Capt. Oliver circled patiently waiting. Fortunately, the sea was very calm, and we had an excellent view of the Chilean Flag over the weather station and the Albatross Monument dedicated to those sailors who lost their lives in these treacherous waters. There is an old tradition for sailors who round the Horn: they had their ears pierced, got a tattoo and had a drink of rum, which they shared with the sea by pouring some into the ocean.
2-29-08 Ushuaia, Argentina Arrive 6:50am Depart 4:28 pm Many passengers were happy to set foot on terra firma and do some shopping. Magellan called this Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire). It was named that because sailors feared it due to the wildness, fierce winds and the rocky shores that literally ate up whaling ships. Today it was 58 F degrees and bright and sunny in the morning. In the afternoon we headed for the Beagle Channel. The Argentinian pilot debarked and the Chilean pilot steered the Star Princess through the Beagle Channel past the European named glaciers.
We have seen these glaciers six years ago and we were amazed by how much they have receded: in some of them the ice that once arrived all the way down to the water has been replaced by waterfalls, more evidence of global warming.
3-1-08 Punta Arenas, Chile Arrive 6:48 am Depart 7:50pm This is the southernmost Chilean city which is a center for oil drilling. It has stark snow less mountains and was the turning point of our journey, for today in the rain we headed back east and then north to Uruguay. Our travel companions returned to Sotito's Restaurant where we had dined in 2002. They enjoyed it, but not as much as when we had eaten there before.
3-2-08 At Sea Smooth seas and a sunny day in the open waters of the South Atlantic. 3-3-08 At Sea Sailing Northeasterly in over cast skies. 3-4-08 At Sea Sailing Northeasterly in clear skies. 3-5-08 Montevideo, Uruguay Arrive 7:45am Depart 5:00pm 3-6-08 Buenos Aires, Argentina Arrive 6:00am Debarkation 8:30am
DEBARKATION This was much smoother than embarkation. We had wheelchair assistance from our cabin to the bus only, and then we were stuck until we were moved to luggage pick up. Once more we were on our own until we managed to get a porter. Needless to say, it was not too smooth, and we were happy to see cousin Fabian again, waiting for us outside the terminal.
CONCLUSION Definitely, this has been one of our best cruises ever, considering the itinerary, our traveling friends, Marguerite and Richard Bozian and Yvonne and Alan Chen, the excellent food and service, especially in the restaurants, and our return to the Star Princess. And just think that we almost canceled the booking of this cruise due to Mary's recent knee replacement surgery. We are glad we didn't!
We have booked two future cruises with Princess, one on the Norwegian Cruise Line without specific dates and one in November on the new RCI ship Independence of the Seas. We have not booked a cruise for this spring or summer due to Mary's knee surgery scheduled for April 10th. However, we hope that she will recover fast, so we don't have to wait too long for the next cruise. Happy Cruising!
Introduction On December 20, 2007, we embarked on our 21st cruise. We sailed Star Princess 21-day repositioning cruise from Ft. Lauderdale to Buenos Aires. This was our first time sailing Princess.
Embarkation Embarkation was out of Ft. Lauderdale. It was the most disorganized embarkation we've ever experienced. We arrived at the port at 11:45 am, we boarded the ship at 4:05 pm.
Stateroom We opted for a mini-suite and we were located on Deck 9 (Dolphin Deck). The stateroom was great. We had a walk-in closet, a large bathroom with full-size tub as well as shower, a small sitting room with a loveseat, and a nice balcony with no roof.
I was a bit reluctant to take a mini-suite on this ship because of the “terrace effect" of the balconies. Balconies on Decks 12 and 11 can look down on the balconies on Decks 10 and 9. It also seemed unusual for the most expensive balcony staterooms to be on Deck 9 when less expensive balcony staterooms (not mini-suites) were on Decks 10, 11, and 12.
I had nothing to worry about regarding the "terrace effect" balconies or Deck 9. It was nota problem in the least. I loved the open balcony and on warm nights being able to look up at the stars. I didn't have a feeling of being "intruded on" by terraced back balconies above me.
Dining We enjoy traditional dining, so we selected that and had early seating in the Amalfi Dining Room. The other two dining rooms, Portofino and Capri, are open seating dining rooms. All three dining rooms are small and none of them are grand. The positives are that the dining rooms don't get noisy, and it works well with accommodating traditional and open seating passengers. The negatives are that there is no large, grand dining room that you find on non-Princess ships.
We had a table for six. We had four cordial dinner companions that we looked forward to seeing every night. Our waiter and assistant waiter were terrific. They knew all of our beverage orders and had them on the table minutes after we were seated. The food was good, not great.
Lunch was open seating in the Portofino Dining Room. Our waiters, for the most part, were fast and efficient. Again, the food was good, not great.
Most mornings we opted for breakfast on the Lido Deck. The breakfast foods up there were terrific.
Ports Our ports were Dominica, Barbados, Grenada, and Trinidad in the Caribbean; Fortaleza, Recife, Salvador, Rio do Janeiro in Brazil; Montevideo, and Buenos Aires. This gave us ten glorious days at sea. We took some ship sponsored shore excursions as well as venturing out on our own.
Entertainment The Star Princess Production Cast was probably the most talented group of young people I've seen in a ship ensemble. They performed five production shows and all of them were good. The guest artists were less enjoyable. There were two comedians, one hypnotist, a classical music couple, and a female singer who loved singing Connie Frances/Vickie Carr/Brenda Lee type songs. We had the same singer for three separate shows. That was too many times for her.
The Enrichment Lecture Series on Star Princess was very disappointing. The quality of their material was poor as was their delivery.
Disembarkation Disembarkation in Buenos Aires was smooth. We opted to stay in Buenos Aires an additional six days after the cruise. Transfers to the hotel and the airport could not have run any more efficiently. The Plaza Hotel in Buenos Aires is in a terrific location. We had a ten minute walk down to Avenida de Mayo, and a ten minute walk in the opposite direction to Recoleta. The hotel dining room was superb as was the wait staff.
I came away from my first Princess cruise with mixed feelings. We selected this cruise solely on the itinerary and the number of days at sea. Here is how I rank the Star Princess compared to the other ships I have cruised.
Stateroom: A Balcony: A Dining Room: C Dining Room Staff: A Dining Room Food: C Public Rooms: B- Entertainment: B- Staff: A Shore Excursions: C-
I wouldn't hesitate to take another Princess cruise if HAL didn't have a similar itinerary. But, if HAL had something similar, I'd take that in a heartbeat.
This cruise that gave us the opportunity to see the Mona Lisa painting, lunch on the Eiffel Tower, ride the canals of Amsterdam, tour the Sagrada Familia cathedral, see the Monte Carlo casino, ride up the Rock of Gibralter, walk around the leaning tower of Pisa, stand in St. Peter's Square, and much more. This cruise took us to nine countries, all in the comfort and security of the Princess grand class ship, the Star Princess.
The itinerary was titled the "European Explorer", originated in Copenhagen, Denmark and ended in Civitavecchia, Italy with eleven stops along the way. It was a one-of-a-kind itinerary when I found it about a year before sailing.
This review is designed to provide information that you may find useful when planning to cruise to Western Europe, give some potentially helpful hints for getting the most out of your cruise, and to share our experiences so that you may look forward to cruise visits to the same ports.
Getting There and Back It's a nine to ten hour airplane ride between the U.S. departure city and Europe, plus you have to get to the departure city. Expect almost twentyfour hours of travel each way. We booked our own air transportation, arrived a day before embarkation and stayed a day after disembarkation.
Hint: Arriving a day early provides a high level of confidence that you will have little or no difficulty making the cruise. It will also help with jet lag recovery.
Pre and Post Cruise Accommodations We booked transfers and hotels for both Copenhagen and Rome through Princess. We booked our own on a previous cruise. The difference is huge! The cruise line meets you in baggage claim upon arrival, sees you to airport security on departure, and its representatives are there to provide information and assistance. Princess had five representatives in our hotel in Rome.
In comparison, on a previous cruise, transferring on our own and selecting our own hotels left us anxious at several points in the process. Our taxi driver was two hours late meeting us at the cruise terminal and we had no way of contacting him. Another driver spoke no English. Uncertainty about when and how to get to the ship are all negative fringe benefits of doing it yourself.
Hint: Take advantage of the experience and assistance offered by the cruise line. Book through them. The differences are major.
Princess Hotels We stayed at the SAS Scandanavia in Copenhagen and the Crowne Plaza in Rome. Both were nice. The Crowne Plaza is not near the center of Rome so if you want to walk the city streets there are better choices. It is good for visiting St. Peter's Square.
Hint: Be prepared for surprisingly high costs in Europe! Be especially prepared for high costs of food and drink in major hotels. People are frequently stunned! One example: a pint of beer for $11 in a hotel bar.
Embarkation and Disembarkation Embarkation in Copenhagen and disembarkation in Civitacchia were both done efficiently. With transfers handled by Princess we were in their hands getting to and from the terminals. Completing embarkation forms on line speeds the process. If you have sailed enough to get preferred line privileges use them. That makes the processes even faster. Security will be the only slowdown and that was very tolerable in Copenhagen. Rome security lines were longer.
Security Thank goodness for strict security! However, it does mean long lines both at airports and cruise terminals.
Hints: Be prepared for long, slow moving security lines, especially at airports. Give yourself three hours for check in and security in Rome. Give yourself at least two to three hours between your arriving flight back into the U.S. and your connecting flight home in order to clear customs and transfer your bags. Know the rules for carry-on baggage.
The Star Princess and Crew The Star Princess is a 109,000 ton grand class ship, a sister to both the Grand and Golden Princesses. Its size allows for most, if not all, the amenities a European traveler could want. The ship and crew were excellent.
Dining is a special consideration on shore excursion intensive cruises like those to Europe. Dining flexibility is a requirement because of the timing of the shore excursions; for examples returning too late for normal lunch or early dining. The buffet on Princess is always open so you can always get something to eat. They also have "anytime dining" in two dining rooms so you have a four hour window for scheduling dinner. We selected "anytime dining" and had no more than a five minute wait to be seated in the dining room.
Hint: For shore excursion intensive cruises select "anytime dining". You will have a wider choice for your dinner schedule.
The Star Princess also has a steak house, Tequila's, and an Italian Trattoria, Sabatini's, where cover charges apply. We have eaten in Sabatini's on three Princess ships. It is a unique dining experience.
Entertainment on the ship was varied and good, ranging from the main theater cast dancing and singing to lounge singers and bands to comedians and much more. The casino was large and a pleasant place to play either slots or table games.
Ports We made eleven stops in fourteen days, each stop at a port with the potential for visiting well known places and experiencing the best of Western Europe. A major question we have planning our cruises is "Does the ship dock within walking distance to city shops and restaurants or how can you get to these places if you don't go on a shore excursion". I made note for each of the ports we visited.
Every port had a list of shore excursion choices, most pretty extensive. Some highlights of the excursions we took are included here.
Rotterdam, The Netherlands: A free port shuttle provides service to town and the ride is ten minutes.
Rotterdam is the port city for Amsterdam. We took the "Best of Amsterdam" excursion that gave us a visit to a wooden shoe factory, a nice bus ride around the city, lunch and a canal boat ride. Amsterdam canals provide opportunities for very scenic views of the city and a very different perspective. The wooden shoe factory was an only in Holland experience, but interesting. People still wear wooden shoes.
Zeebrugge, Belgium: A shuttle costing $5 or 5 Euro is available for trips to the center of Blankenberge.
We took the "Bruges and Belgium Chocolates" tour. Bruges was one of the unexpected highlights of the trip. It is an old, picturesque town with narrow streets, a seemingly endless number of cafes, numerous canals, and buildings dated from several centuries ago. It had town squares with restaurants and shops, horse drawn carriages, cathedrals and many historic buildings.
The chocolate factory was our introduction to Belgium chocolates. Very, very good!
Le Havre, France: A $5 shuttle takes people to town.
Le Havre is the port for Normandy and Paris. Normandy highlights the WW II invasion by allied forces. We took the " Louvre Museum in Paris" excursion. This included a brief tour of the Louvre where the highlights included the Mona Lisa painting, Winged Victory and Venus de Milo statues, numerous old master paintings and statues, and the upside down glass pyramid of "DaVinci Code" book fame. It also included lunch on the first level restaurant of the Eiffel Tower. Even the first level of the tower provides spectacular views of Paris. The bus took us on the Champ Elysees, past the Arch de Triumph, and through the French countryside.
Hint: Lines at famous places are long. Joining a tour helps to minimize the waiting.
Vigo, Spain: Shops and cafes in an older part of the city are an easy two block walk from the ship. There are also free shuttles to modern downtown.
We went into both downtown and the old port area. Vigo is built on big hills so the streets are steep and a difficult walk. It is worth visiting both areas.
Lisbon, Portugal: The pier is in an industrial area but there are a few shops just outside the port terminal. A $5 shuttle will take you downtown in about twenty five minutes.
We took the "EZ Lisbon" tour which visited a few highlights including the Monument to the Discoveries, a very recognizable monument, and the Belem Tower along with a good overview of Lisbon. The 25th of April suspension bridge, under which the ship travels, is impressive. It is named for the successful Portugese revolution date. Passing under the bridge is a popular event with passengers.
Cadiz, Spain: A very nice shopping and café area is an easy two block walk from the pier.
Cadiz was impressive for its cleanliness, impressive buildings and very active shopping. We took the walk into town and thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere.
Gilbralter, U.K.: The pier is a long mile plus walk from town. There is no shuttle.
We took the "Gibralter Highlights" tour that took us up the Rock of Gibralter to St. Michaels Cave with a couple of stops along the way, one to see the barbary apes. St. Micheal's Cave is very large and filled with illuminated stalactites and stalagmites with a theater in the middle. The views from the rock are impressive, including a very busy harbor and a surprisingly large town center area.
Malaga, Spain: The ship docks in an industrial area and there is a free shuttle to the port gates from where it is an easy walk into town.
We took the "City of Malaga" tour which visited two of the city's main attractions, the Alcazaba fortress and Malaga cathedral. Both are impressive. The fortress requires a very tough up hill walk from ground level to 1000 feet on cobblestones walks and steps inside the fortress. The views at the top are a payoff for the climb. Malaga is an impressive city.
Barcelona, Spain: A $5 shuttle takes people into Barcelona, a ten minute ride from the port.
We took the "Barcelona Highlights" tour. The centerpiece of the tour was the architecture of Antoni Gaudi which stands out from anything near it, whether it is an apartment building or the Sagrada Familia cathedral, a must visit in Barcelona. The cathedral is clearly visible from any high point around the city including Mt. Montjuic which we visited. A statue of Christopher Columbus is in the center of a traffic circle near the port.
Cannes, France: The ship anchors in the harbor but the tender pier is walking distance into the city.
We took the "Monte Carlo" tour that took us through Cannes to Monte Carlo, Monaco. The Monaco palace currently occupied by Prince Albert, the cathedral near the palace that contains the tombs of Prince Ranier and Princess Grace (formerly Grace Kelly), and picturesque streets are on the "rock" above the harbor. We also visited the Monte Carlo Casino and Hotel de Paris area, just across the harbor on another hill. The entire area is beautiful.
Livorno, Italy: A $5 shuttle takes ship passengers the two plus miles into town.
We took the "EZ Pisa" tour that drove us to and through the city of Pisa to the walled city that houses the leaning tower of Pisa, the cathedral and baptistry along with shops, restaurants and a large number of souvenir vendors. The tower is impressive and a great photo subject but the city wall, cathedral and baptistery are also impressive. The "EZ" tour, complete with a special tram from the bus to the main attractions, was one of the most traveler friendly "EZ" tours we have ever taken.
Hint: The "EZ" or "highlight" tours are excellent for first time visitors to a city and for seniors with limited mobility or stamina. They provide very nice overviews, usually include famous landmarks and take less than a full day, normally three to five hours. That leaves time to select a second tour option or just rest.
Conclusion The Star Princess European Explorer cruise with pre and post cruise Princess coordinated hotel stays was an excellent and affordable way to sample Western Europe. We were fortunate to see major cities and famous landmarks while guided by Princess sponsored staff. With the Star Princess as an operating base with all its restaurant and entertainment options the trip was made into a memorable experience with virtually no travel anxiety.
Lets begin with a review of the ship, then the ports. First of all we chose to cab it from the airport in Copenhagen to pier one, where the Star was. Princess charges 40.00 pp or $120.00 for the three of us. The cab was about $55.00. So do the math. Easy choice.
The embarkation process was pretty easy really. We got to the ship by around 1300 and were in our cabin by 1325 at the latest. Our luggage arrived in a timely manner as well.
I must say my previous experience with Princess was on the gorgeous Sapphire Princess and the Tahatian. Both, especially the latter usually get higher marks. The Star is a very nice ship but it is a notch below the Sapphire and Tahatian to be sure, both in terms of service and food. Not to say its bad. It's not! But the other two are better.
The ship overall is very clean and well appointed. I give high marks for hygiene. Hand sanitizers are everywhere along with employees to dispense before you go into any restaurant. In many cases there are employees in the buffet areato actually dispense the food for you. Bravo!
The lounges and public areas are neat and clean. We in particular liked the Skywalker lounge on the 17th deck aft. There was a great view of the wake and at night, being in the land of the midnight sun you could almost see day ending and night beginning. Also it was never crowded when we were there so you had that view pratically all to yourself.
The service was very good though I must say the Tahitian was better. I had one encounter with an unbelievably rude person from the casino staff and reported her. Princess assured me the matter would be addressed and I believe them. They take this sort of issue very seriously.
Our cabin attendant Jirasak from Thailand was a sheer delight. He always smiled and our cabin was spotless. Overall the service was very good, not great.
The food was very good too. I must say yet again I was spoiled by the Tahatian last year, but that does not demean the Star in any way. Also I must give top praise to the Star for meeting our group's special requests. There were 5 in our group and three of them requested Indian food every night. The chef far exceeded our expectations. The food was expertly prepared and plentiful. In addition the Maitre'D Franco made sure to facilitate this request. However unlike the Sapphire there were no Anytime Dining restaurants. You could go to the Horizon for buffet. We did use Sabatinis once, and for those of you who are familiar with it, it's a treat to be sure; easily worth the $20.00 pp surcharge.
The shows overall were very good as well. There was some fellow, Mac Frampton, who played piano so well I could not believe it. Also they timed the shows very well. That is after the show finished, other shows were scheduled to begin in the lounges, so it was pretty easy to go from one to another.
We were invited to the Capt. Circle party and found out Princess is building a new ship, the Ruby, and it's a sister ship of the new Emerald. In addition, they purchased another ship from the defunct Renaissance line, ala the Tahatian, and are in the process of refitting her for service.
Disembarkation was a breeze, but for a good reason. we were the second group off the boat at 0530 (right on time as promised). We had an 0825 flight and I was a bit concerened about getting a cab that early, but there was one right there at the pier and we got to the airport with plenty of time to spare.
As for the ports, our first stop was Stockholm. Except for St. Petersburg we did the town on our own, so to speak. Prior to leaving we determined what we wanted to see in each port. In Stockholm it was the Vasa Museum, Gamla Stan and the famous ice bar. Well two out of three ain't bad, at least according to Meat Loaf. That is the ice bar, which is a bar set at around 30F and has glasses made of, what else but ice. It did not open till 1500. Too late for us.
We did go see the Vasa which is a ship built to be the pride of the Swedish Navy that sunk minutes into its maiden voyage in the harbor and stayed there until it was lifted up in the 1960's. Overall it was under water for 333 years! It capsized due to a poor design. It was top-heavy with too little ballast in the keel. It took about 2 years to actually raise her and though she is now on display it is not yet finished. They plan to repaint her to the original colors once research is completed to discover the paint scheme. The Vasa is truly a wonder to see not for its seaworthiness, but for its splendour and for the amazing engineering it took to lift her off the sea bottom, and the still in process restoration.
From the Vasa we strolled to a water ferry nearby and went to Gamla Stan, the old town. This is what I luv about Europe, i.e. old towns with winding cobblestone roads full of shops, sidewalk cafes and people. We meandered about and found an Indian fabric store. The saleslady was Indian and my wife and our Indian friends had a delightful time chatting with her. We also bought some souvenirs, had the best apple strudel in my life with good, rich European style coffee to accompany it. We then decided it was time to return to the ship. Cabs were easy to get, and they all take credit cards. In Stockholm English is readily spoken.
The next day we were in Helsinki. Unfortunately our time was limited due to the weather. It was quite chilly and rained all day. We did manage to see the church carved from granite, did some shopping at Stockmanns, the largest dept. store in Europe (prices are very high but it's just that way everywhere in Europe) and did some limited shopping at the market in Town Square. We did get some fruit, but the weather got the best of us so we headed back. Dollars are not accepted in the market so if you want to shop there you will have to exchange for Euros.
The next day was the highlight stop, St Petersburg, Russia. Oh my God! What a place! We decided to book the grand tour, two full days, with Princess. Day one began early, at 0715. Well there was a Russian band on the pier and they began playing, of all things New York, New York. Kinda weird but that's what makes traveling so interesting. Later that day we were in a park. There was a band there too and when they saw us getting off the bus you won't believe what they played. It was "Anchors Aweigh," the US Navy song. Go figure.
St. Petersburg is simply amazing. we saw in those two days spledour beyond belief. Our stops included Peterhoff palace, the Yusupov Palace, St. Isaacs Cathedral, the Church of the spilled blood, which was built around the spot where Czar Alexander was murdered, the unbelievable Hermitage Art Museum, a canal ride and the Peter and Paul Cathedral when Russian royality including the murdered last czar Nicholas II and his family, also murdered, are interred. It's a very moving place to say the least.
One thing you see in Russia and throughout the Baltic are nesting dolls. You know, those wooden carved dolls, usually of a girl in her native costume that has several others, about 6 in all just like it, inside but smaller of course. Well in St. Petes there were nesting dolls of Derek Jeter, Donovan McNabb and Rex Grossman just to name a few. Need I say more?
For the two days we had a superb tour guide, Anna, who was a virtual encyclopedia of Russian and St. Petes history. Amazing amount of knowledge to be sure.
Lunch was included each day. Day one was at the Academy, a Russian place, and day two was at the Radisson. The food was good but in both cases we felt the service was rushed. Also people there seem sort of serious, if not grim. Not too many smiles, but the sights are to be seen to be believed.
The next day we went to Tallinn. It was was a Sunday and we were in port from 0700 to 1300, so we had to be back by 1230. My criticism here is that this arrival is too early, especially for a Sunday. It was a bit rainy too, but not cold. If you get off here be aware that just beyond the gated area are cabs. They are not allowed in any further so you are set up to take the shuttle into town. The shuttle is $5.00 one way. That's $25.00 for 5. Cabbing it back was $10.00 for 5. Again, do the math. We found some local shops selling sweaters and linen goods and found them to be reasonably priced. Tallinn is a neat old town with lots of shops and restaurants. It's just a shame the time in port was inappropriate to seeing it all. 0900-1500 would be much better.
The next day we visited Gdansk. What a city! Amzingly beautiful, clean and green. We met a great cab driver, Stanley, who greeted us as soon as we got off the ship. For $200.00 we had him for the whole day. He not only took us places, but also got out with us and escorted our tour. We saw the resort town of Sopot, which is gorgeous and has the longest pier in Europe which seems to extend way out into the sea. Along the way are vendors, food stands and street performers. We stopped at a rather famous church, the Oliva, and saw the show. That is, at 1100 every day the huge organ comes to life and the ornately carved angels all around it become animated to the music. Amazing show. We had lunch and strolled in the old town, saw Lech Walesas' home and offices and saw the Solidarity Monuments which are truely moving. Gdansk was a surprise and a delight. It is very beautiful and by contrast to Russia the people seem to enjoy life more.
Our last stop was Oslo. This too is a beautuful city but the ship gets in at 0700 and we have to be back onboard by 1330. I don't think there is enough time to see this great city. There is a hop-on, hop-off bus right at the pier as well as a souvenir shop, so it's conveniently laid out and you can exchange money there as well. We did see the famous Viking Museum with three ships discovered and dated to circa 800AD. We did want to see the famous Vigeland sclupture park but found out too late that it's about a mile walk from the bus stop in the park to the actual sculptures, so we ran out of time for this. All in all Oslo is really neat, but I think you need timings of say 0900-1800 to better see it.
Any questions please ask. Thank for reading.
The ship departed 4+ hours late due to the prior cruise's late arrival in port. Very jumbled check in. No toilet facilities in the terminal fit to use. Security was a joke as they were so pushed (late) that God knows who got through carrying what.
Food onboard was unimaginative, fatty and salty to the max. Imagine being in Mexico for 10 days and never having a Mexican Food nite or choice of Mexican fare.
The cabin was adequate (a balcony on the Baja deck), but the A/C was spotty, and went off at night (95 in Acapulco). There was NO ventilation in the bathroom at all.
Most of the clientele on this cruise were lower middle class, boozers or older infirmed passengers. We were definately out of place here.
We have cruised with Celebrity, WindStar, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean in the past, and this was the least acceptable of all of our past cruises. We will never travel on a huge ship again.
The entertainment was excellent, except for one of the ancient Osmond Brothers who was pathetic.
The shore excursions NOT as described. One promised beach time and a tour -- therewas no beach time -- a total blow out of a day that was 95 degrees in the shade.
Forced tipping was also unpleasant.
Second time on a Princess ship, second cruise overall. Married couple, early '60s.
After researching the message boards a lot, we asked for mini-suite E728 or E 729 to get the covered larger balcony. 729, on the Starboard side (docking side) would have been more interesting but it was already taken. A mini-suite is well worth the extra price for added elbow room.
When we printed our boarding pass the day before the cruise, we found that we had been bumped out of our choice and put in cabin C749. THAT was a full suite. Very nice, and faced the rear of the ship with double the space and double the balcony. Full suites also have other added perks, such as free internet. Check the catalog for what else they give you if you are considering a full suite.
Check in was lightning fast at about 1:00 pm.
Coke card. This $30 option got me a sticker on my cruise card that allowed me fountain drinks at any bar, from any waiter, and from any table clearer in the Horizon buffet. It worked well for me and I had little trouble getting allthe diet cokes I wanted. Iced tea, hot tea, water, and so-so coffee were free. Canned Cokes were not included in the deal.
We picked the early seating for dinner (4 couples at a table,) and felt a little rushed each evening.
Shore trips. We went on three, and for us, one would have been enough. It seemed like all we did was wait in lines to go ashore, get on a bus, come back, etc. We went to the Plantation and Duns River Falls in Jamaica, the Highlights tour in Grand Cayman, and the Tulum ruins in Mexico. Email me at DDavisFLA@aol.com if you have specific interests in hearing about any of these. None of these extra-cost items was essential to our good time on the cruise.
Princess Cays. We reserved a cabana and enjoyed the shade it gave us. Most chairs were in the sun. We also rented a couple of floats, but the water was cold. A few hearty souls were swimming and snorkeling, but not many.
Parking. We chose the cheaper remote parking United Airport Parking -- $54.36 for the week. The shuttle service was marginal at best, but it DID work and saved us a few bucks. I think that next time we’ll park in the cruise terminal lot, though -- less aggravation and waiting.
My husband and I just got back from a week long cruise on the Star Princess. Overall, we had a great time. This is our second time sailing with Princess and we really like the line. I'm not going to get too detailed in this review but I do want to point out a few things based on other reviews I've recently read.
Departing from FT. Lauderdale normally goes very smoothly. We got there right after 11 AM. If you get there right at 11 AM, they open the doors to the terminal up and there is limited seating for about 200 people. After they fill up those chairs, they close the doors and the line starts outside. Anyway, we waited for about 40 mintues and then started boarding. They really aren't suppose to start boarding till 1 PM but both times I sailed with Princess they started right or at noon.
Anyway, no problems during boarding we went straight to our cabin D114. It was a minisuite on Dolphin Deck towards the front of the ship. I had read a review before our trip about someone in D112 who didn'tlike this location on the trip. We were fine with it. Yes, there is probably a little more movement. My husband and I have no motion sickness issues. We take no dramamine or wear those patches and it don't bother us at all. Also, it may be more windy at this end when you are out on your balcony but you can feel wind everywhere on the ship. We really liked the balcony. Next time we will just get a balcony room. The mini-suite was nice but the extra room isn't that big of a deal.
The ship was spotless. All the public areas were clean and our room steward did a great job in our room as well. I didn't see one carpet stain or spec of dust anywhere. Also, I never once smelled sewage. Not once ! I have a very keen sense of smell too. My husband always yells at me for commenting on smealls. However, as I said above. I didn't smell sewage once. Maybe Princess corrected the previous problem. I wouldn't worry about this if you are a future passenger.
My husband and I always choose anytime dining. We like just getting a table for the two of us. If you chose anytime dining and go to the restaurant at peak times between 6:30 and 8:00 PM. You are going to have to wait. Its just how it is. What my husband and I do is call the DINE line and make a reservation for 8 PM every night for a table for two. We walk right in this way. If you want to eat earlier, you can do that too. But if you show up with a group of 6 people right at 7 PM, you are going to have to wait. So, either make reservations or go with traditional dining.
The food was good. Not excellend but good enough. I do think they need to shake-up their menu a bit. We went on the Caribbean Princess last year and the menu was almost identical to that ship. I am a meat and potatoes girl so I can always find something but I do think they could add more variety.
We also always go to Sabatini's and Sterling Steakhouse. THe surcharge is well worth it. They were our best meals of the trip.
The cruise staff was great. We don't go to many shows since we are in our early 30's and the production shows don't normally appeal to us. We did see 2 comedians that were pretty good and also a magician. Other than that we went to Bingo a lot and the casino.
Overall a great trip. We will sail Princess again.
We were three couples all on our second cruise. Flew from Toronto to Philly to Fr. Lauderdale, US Airways. Great flight. No problems getting connecting flight. All our luggage arrived with us. Bonus!
Our Mission: To have a good time and not let anyone or thing disrupt our mission.
EMBARKATION: Started at 1:00pm. We arrived around 2:30 and were aboard ship at 2:45. It truly pays to do all the pre-registration stuff.
CABINS: 2 OV/ Plaza Deck, Front of ship. More than enough space given the amount of time spent there. Great for sleeping and showering. Bed was comfortable; shower was hot (though we didn't have much cold water in the sink). Lots of closet space. Oceanview was great for that morning sunshine otherwise will from now on opt for inside cabin. (Nothing to see but water, that ½ hour or so in the morning, and will save a few dollars).
Other couple had balcony on Deck 12. Bath & closet same as ours, but maybe a little larger area were the bed was. Nice balcony. Unfortunately, they too spend so little time in their stateroom that the balcony was only a novelty. Inmy opinion, not worth the extra $400 they paid.
CLEANLINESS: We could not get over how well kept and clean all the public areas were. Of course that has also a lot to do with the passengers not treating the ship like a floating garbage container, but kudos to the staff.
Our cabin steward, Joyce, was fabulous. I swear she must have been hiding somewhere in our cabin just waiting for that split second we would leave so she could do her "flight like a ninja" routine and keep that room sparkling. I just felt bad for her when she had to clean the cabin next to us where this man kept it like a gas chamber from his cigarette smoking. I'm an ex-smoker and I gagged as the fumes permeated our cabin. Hopefully someday this will not be allowed.
We were very impressed with the cleanliness from stem to stern.
FOOD: First class! I am somewhat involved in the food industry and have an open mind when it comes to food. The quantity was plentiful. The quality excellent. The presentation pleasing. The variety abundant. What more could one ask for.
We mostly ate buffet breakfast at the Horizon Lounge and never found long lines, impatient guest or unpleasant staff. The selection for a breakfast was more than necessary, but enabled us to try a variety of foods, and please different pallets.
A couple of mornings we ate at Capri. Other than these two mornings we did not have a decent cup of coffee the entire week. It tasted very, very bitter and had a slight burnt taste (just like your drip coffeemaker you would leave warming the entire day). The other disappointment was the "room temperature" juices. I know you could add ice cubes, but they should have been refrigeration temperature. I'm trying not to be picky.
Lunch was always at Horizon. It was great after a shore excursion to walk up and find a large variety, warm and ready for you, even at 3:00pm.
Dinner: We opted for anytime dining but found ourselves eating around 6:00pm. This gave us time to attend some of the early shows as it seemed we were tired out by 10:00 and ready for bed. Only stayed up later one evening. We liked this option as it kept our evening and day plans flexible. We always made sure we sat at a table of 10 never the six of us only. After all, that's one of the best features of a cruise, meeting such interesting people from around the globe. And so we weren't stuck with Fester at our table to bore us with his life story. It was an interesting adventure every meal.
Everyone raved about Sabatini's, so one night we tried it. The wait staff were very friendly and made us feel at home as if with old friends. Food was good, but the whole experience nothing to write home about. Slightly over-rated.
Both Capri & Portofino were very good. The menu changed every evening with some entrées remaining constant. The servers were very polite and knowledgeable of the food being served. The quantity, quality, presentation and flavor excellent. Not what you would be served in a "shi-shi" type 5 star restaurant, but equal to a fine dining experience. Again, it's all in your personal tastes and especially expectations. Back home the meals we ate on a daily basis would be about $80 per person. Based on the total cost of the cruise the food was worth the cost.
The only disappointment was not having a wine expert in the dining room to suggest what types of wine we should be pairing with our meal. Wait staff only suggested, "Oh that's a good wine".
Considering how busy these dining rooms were the whole experience and ambience was excellent.
ENTERTAINMENT: Fabulous throughout. There is no way anyone on this ship can state that they are bored. There is something for everyone. Great variety. Bands were super. Whether it was a pianist, guitarist or blues or jazz, the musicians in the lounges very pleasant and entertaining.
All the games and activities presented by the Cruise Director and his tireless staff were always well attended and made for some great memories. Every evening we got the itinerary for the next day's activities, and I would suggest that this be your guide as to planning what activities you want to partake in and in many cases arrive early to get seating.
AMMENITIES: What more would you want. Pools were never crowded (Except I am not a fan of people creeping up to the pool area at 7:00am just to drop off their beach towel so as to reserve their lounger for the day and show up around noon to claim their spot). Great little pool up on the 15th Deck near Lotus Spa. Shallow and was only used by older (over 50). Like me who can't swim.
Great running/walking track.
PORTS of CALL: As with any cruise, ports are what you make of them and what your expectations are. We are not water activities aficionados and so we tend to do sightseeing tours. On both our cruises we have never take a ships excursion. We've always paid a little less and never had any difficulties. It was a great experience to share a van in Cozumel with four other couples from around North America as we traveled the sites for about 3 hours ($25 each). It's those experiences that make our trips memorable.
Spent a lovely day (burnt my shoulders) on Seven Mile Beach in Grand Cayman. Once we tendered in (which was very pleasant – especially for my wife who doesn't like smaller boats) we took a $4 bus ride to the beach and back. Gorgeous day!
In Jamaica we did the Dunn's River Falls and some sightseeing. Loved the falls and the scenery. Unfortunately, one young woman slipped on the rocks and broke her arm. The brochure claims that this is not that difficult to walk up the falls, I wouldn't do it. Very narrow, uneven rocks with very fast running water – not a good combination. And so we walked the boardwalk down to the bottom. You will find many people within this park to assist you with everything from; taking your picture with your camera to assisting you down the steps to ensuring your trip to the bathroom is safe to handing you toilet paper. Just be prepared to TIP everybody and his brother. Spoke to a few people who did the snorkeling and other water sports who said they had a blast.
DISEMBARKATION: Our group was called out at 8:15 am and by 9:00 we were at the airport. It was very well organizes and swift. I think this is because of the enormous size of the pier which allows for a large number of people. We were concerned that we paid for transfer to the airport and at the pier we were all herded into a bus with no-one asking to see our transfers. But mostly upset when the buss driver stood at the door with his hand out expecting (demanding) a tip. He didn't get one from me.
All in all the six of us would not hesitate to take this ship again and definitely recommend it to friends. A thoroughly enjoyable and memorable vacation. Just remember that you are there for a good time not to be nit picky about every little thing. Sure nothing is perfect so just enjoy the moment.
Go visit Acheesh in th cigar lounge and enjoy his stories.
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 dolaps 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 email@example.com or post to the message board.
Happy Cruising. Any day at sea is better than any day on land.
We just got back from a Caribbean cruise on the Star Princess. The itinerary was great -- Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Cozumel, and the Princess private island in the Bahamas -- and we'll definitely cruise again, but not on this ship.
The food was very poor (cold, poorly prepared, tasteless), the shows were generally boring (except one comedian), the activities offered were few and disorganized... there was, for instance, a Latin dance hour in the disco the night BEFORE Latin dance lessons were offered. And the attitude of the crew was, overall, either annoying or laissez-faire to the point of being annoying.
This may be true of all ships (this was our first cruise) but there were children in every single hot tub, even the one that was posted as 'adults only.' Plus, the night before the cruise was to end, the crew closed all the hot tubs at 8 p.m. I guess the cruise was supposed to be over 12 hours before we docked.