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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
STAR PRINCESS CRUISE REVIEW TRANS ATLANTIC SEPTEMBER 2006
Jean and Ralph Walker (Call Sign - OZCATS) Email email@example.com
Itinerary – Baja cabin 316 Deck 11 midships inside cabin22 September 2006 Departure from Copenhagen Denmark 23 September At sea 24 September Dover UK 25 September Falmouth UK 26 September Waterford Rep of Ireland 27 September Greenock Scotland 28 September Belfast Northern Ireland 29 September At sea 30 September Reykjavik Iceland 01 October At sea 02 October Qaqortoq Greenland 03 October At sea 04 October St Johns Newfoundland Canada 05 October At sea 06 October At sea 07 October Arrival New York USA
We are Australian, married, a “Baby boomer” couple still working. Our occupations are Coordinator of Travel courses at a Travel College, and Registered Nurse. This was our eighth cruise in total 7th on P/O Princess. We will talk in this report about the cruising experience and briefly on some of the ports of call. There were only a few Australians on this cruise; most of the passengers were either Americans or Canadians. It was great to talk to a lot of them about their part of the world.
We decided to write thisreport, as there are very few Trans Atlantic cruise reports particularly when the itineraries include some of the Northern Atlantic ports such as Reykjavik Iceland and Qaqortoq Greenland. On completion of this cruise we undertook a New England 7-day cruise on the same ship. We will not complete a report on this cruise as there have been many excellent previous reports done.
The report is split into 4 sections 1/ Prior to the cruise 2/ Embarkation 3/ The cruise 4/ Ship's Restaurants 5/ Bars 6/ Ship's Tours and ports of call 7/ Entertainment on board 8/ Disembarkation and transit in New York 9/ Post cruise New York after our 2nd cruise
1. PRIOR TO CRUISE We strongly recommend that all passengers arrive the day before the cruise commences. There were a few unfortunate people who arrived on the day of departure and only just made the cruise. Some people who arrived on the 22nd September had the unfortunate experience of not having their luggage arrive at the same time as them. There were several people that we heard about who did not catch up with their luggage till the ship arrived in Falmouth.
If there are also flight delays on the day of departure it can cause passengers not to make the ship departure and maybe miss out on several days of the cruise. If you arrive the day before departure and there are flight delays or your luggage goes astray there usually is time to get it to you before you sail.
Arrival at Copenhagen is a painless experience. You can ofcourse arrange flights, hotels and transfers through Princess Tours but quite often it is cheaper to arrange the hotels and transfers yourself. We suggest getting the train into the city centre. The journey takes about 15 minutes and costs around Danish Krone 27 per person. The station is right at the airport and there are lifts to the station level. The station is a 10-minute walk from the Lido amusement park and there is lots of accommodation around the station. We booked our hotel the Hotel Nebo Istergade 6-8 on the Internet through Hotel Club and found it to be excellent. It is no more than 5 minutes walk from the station. We had a comfortable basic room with an excellent continental breakfast. For approx USD 147.00 for the room per night.
We suggest a visit to the Nyhavn canal area with its picturesque old houses and sailing ships on either side of the canal. This area offers a variety of restaurants, pubs, and cafes and is well worth a look. It is an expensive area as is much of Copenhagen. Go for a walk along the Stroget, which is the main shopping street and one of the longest in Europe. See also the Amalienborg Palace the home of the Royal family and the Christianborg Palace the home of the Danish Parliament.
We dined at Jensen's Bofhouse on Vestergade 11 about a 10-minute walk from the Hotel Nebo. The place was full of Danes, always a good sign and the food was excellent.
2 EMBARKATION The ship docked at the port area in the suburban area of Copenhagen. We walked out of the Hotel Nebo and waited for a few minutes before hailing a vacant cab. It cost us about Danish Krone 130 or USD 21.00 for the ride. We were dropped off right by the ship. Some people have mentioned before that you can get a train to a nearby station and then walk to the ship but we think it is too far to walk and it is right through the port area. Much better to take a cab from the city.
The embarkation process was very efficient. The Princess porters took baggage from us as we alighted from the cab and were brought to our cabin later in the afternoon prior to sailing. We strongly recommend that you complete your immigration procedures on line before you depart from home. If you do this every thing is ready for you when you check in at the ship. It saves a lot of time and completing the immigration forms on line is a painless process.
Platinum and elite passengers were boarded first and the rest of us were allocated a group number and boarded in order. It was well organised and we were on the ship very quickly.
I must mention here my only complaint about Princess cruises. For your first cruise you receive a blue security card regardless of your nationality.
If you are American, Canadian or British and on your 2nd cruise you are given a gold card and are able to become a member of the Captain's Circle club. These benefits continue until you have completed your 5th Princess cruise. For your 6th cruise you receive a Platinum card instead of a gold card and are entitled to a free Internet service whilst on your cruise. If you complete 14 Princess cruises you can become an elite member and get all your washing done for free as well.
These benefits are only available if you are American, Canadian or British. Your details are lodged in the Princess database and you receive Captains Circle newsletters etc. If you are Australian or another nationality our details are not captured apparently in the same database so they have no record of how many cruises we have done. On every Princess cruise you do you should go and see the Captains Circle representative who will add a stamp to your cruise passport as proof that you have been on the cruise. As this cruise was our 6th cruise and we were eligible for Platinum membership she arranged that in the computer and next day my cards were changed from gold to silver for Platinum. We also received our invite to the Captains Circle party. We still don't receive a membership number for Captains circle so never get any information on them re future cruises or deals.
This is not fair and I have written to Princess cruises on several occasions about this but they say it is far too difficult a problem for them to fix at this time, however they are working on a solution. I strongly recommend all people in the same situation, as we are to also write to Princess and comment, as this ridiculous policy needs to be changed. I think they should work a little harder on the problem.
Once on board find your cabin and introduce yourself to your steward if he or she is around. Our steward was Supachai and he was from Thailand. He did a super job for the whole cruise nothing was too much trouble so we gave him an extra tip nearing the end of the cruise. Princess cruises adds on a USD 10.00 surcharge per person and this covers tips for all service staff on the ship. You don't have to pay this charge if you feel the service hasn't been too good. If that's the case you need to see the Purser's office prior to the last day when your final bill is made up. We were quite happy to pay the USD 10.00 per person as we thought the service had been very good right throughout the ship. We also wanted to give a little extra to Supachai and several of the bar staff who had looked after us so well during the cruise. All purchases on the ship attract a 15% service charge, which again goes to the crew.
Once you are settled in your cabin you should go up to Horizon Court on level 14 and enjoy the buffet lunch. The selection throughout the cruise seemed to be very good although we did not dine there too often. If you like cokes and sodas I suggest you purchase a soda card from the staff in Horizon court. This card cost us USD 52.50 per person for the whole cruise and allows you unlimited cokes and sodas. We certainly made use of our cards and saved money rather than paying for each individual coke or soda. They stick a red coke symbol on the front of your security card and you only have to flash it to the staff and they will bring you a coke or soda at any time in any of the bars on the ship.
3 THE CRUISE There were mainly Americans and Canadians with a smattering of Australians on this cruise. There were very few New Zealanders and hardly any British. The ship was full and about a thousand of the passengers had completed the Baltic cruise prior to this one. They said that they had great weather for the whole of this cruise.
Tendering was required in Falmouth, Waterford and Qaqortoq. The time from Ship to shore varied between 10 and 20 minutes and all of the tenders were not too rough. Make sure you hang on tightly whilst in the tender boat as occasionally people and objects can be thrown about and damage done. Few cruises are able to get into Qaqortoq Greenland; we were one of the lucky ones.
You will be required to attend the Ship safety drill, which will occur before departure on day one. You will be advised on the safety aspects of the ship and shown how to put on your lifejacket. This is very serious as accidents can happen at sea and all passengers must attend.
Even though the Star Princess was carrying about 2700 passengers and 1400 crew you never felt there was a crowd in any part of the ship. During the day Sky walkers on deck 17 is a great place to do some quiet reading and watch the sea. One of our favourite places.
Always get a receipt for everything purchased on the ship. Make sure that the 15% has been added. Every few days we see the Purser's office and get an account and check it carefully. If you leave it till the end of the cruise it takes a long time to check and sometimes you can actually forget what you have purchased and drunk.
We had an inside cabin on this cruise as we thought the North Atlantic might not be conducive to spending a lot of time on the balcony. I think for us that turned out to be the correct decision as for most of the cruise it was pretty cold but not very rough. We really had only two moderately rough days for the whole cruise which is quite surprising for the North Atlantic. They were between Reykjavik and Qaqortoq and between Qaqortoq and St John's Newfoundland. The rest of the cruise was quite calm. We strongly recommend that you get a cabin in the centre of the ship, away from the stairs and laundry rooms. If you do run into some rough weather there will be less roll in the centre of the ship. Do not get a cabin on a deck directly under the pool decks or Horizon court as passengers who had cabins there complained about all the noise day and night.
Sometimes announcements over the loudspeaker system were a little loud particularly at times in Skywalkers bar at the rear of the ship.
Unless you are a passenger with Elite status you need to pay for your washing at the laundry. Cost is USD 1.00 for a wash load and USD 1.00 for a dryer. Change machines are located in each laundry and there is a washing powder dispenser costing USD 1.00 per serve. Irons are available for free. The laundries are open from 8pm-10pm and they tend to get extremely busy on sea days. Early in the morning or late at night are about the best times. We actually got into the laundry at 6am on several mornings and completed our washing even though it says opening times are 8am. – 10pm. We met some lovely people in the laundry and learnt a lot from them.
We feel a curtain is needed by the entry from the hallway into the bedroom area of the cabin to stop the light from under the door shining through.
The Internet café is extremely busy during the day and you might have to line up. This is particularly so on sea days. Best times again are early in the morning or late at night. The café is open 24 hours a day and is located on Deck 7 midships.
If you are thinking of going on another cruise within the next 4 years see the Future cruise consultant whilst onboard. For most cruises you will pay a reduced deposit and get shipboard discount credits. You don't have to nominate an exact cruise and you can still book with whomever you like. The cruise consultant will have several information sessions giving details about future cruises.
4 SHIP'S RESTAURANTS This ship has 6 main restaurants. Horizon Court on deck 14 a self-service restaurant available 24 hours a day. Tequilas Mexican steakhouse and Sabatini's an Italian restaurant on Promenade deck 7, Amalphi on deck 6 for those passengers on fixed time dining either 6 or 8pm and 2 other restaurants on deck 5 namely Capri and Portofino on deck 6 for those people on anytime dining.
We always choose anytime dining as it gives us the choice as to when to dine. We however feel that anytime dining needs to be revisited by Princess management. On this cruise it really wasn't anytime dining because between 6.15pm and 7.45pm in the Portofino and Capri restaurants it was almost impossible to get a table and bookings are not taken between those times. Between 6.15pm and about 7.30pm there were usually long lines of passengers waiting to get into the dining room. I think that the problem was exacerbated somewhat because on this cruise there seemed to be a lot of fixed time Amalphi restaurant diners who for whatever reason didn't turn up and instead chose to dine in either Capri or Portofino restaurants. I think this situation put pressure on Portofino and Capri restaurants and made it more difficult for the Anytime dining concept to work effectively.
We feel that if you nominate for fixed dining you shouldn't change over to Anytime dining during the cruise. Our solution would be to make the whole ship anytime dining and if people have a preference for a certain time and maybe a certain table they book as soon as they get onto the ship. This may solve the problem.
On several nights we were placed on tables of 14 and it was very difficult to get to talk to people at the far end of the table. We suggest that there should be no larger tables of 8 people. One of the other highlights of Anytime dining is the opportunity to meet a lot more people. I do agree that the disadvantages of anytime dining are that you have different waiters and a different table every night but we don't mind that. Fixed seat diners say that they prefer to have the same diners and waiters each night. They say that the waiters get to know exactly what they want and I can understand their point of view.
There is a USD 15.00 per person surcharge for dining in Tequilas. We tried it once and found the steaks and service excellent however we recommend that you get a table away from the stage and the musicians. They were a distraction for people such as us who just wanted to have a quiet meal. One other small point. I don't think they had the full wine list available in this restaurant. We didn't try Sabatinis on this trip but other people on the ship who dined there said it was very good. There is a USD 20.00 per person surcharge if you want to dine there.
We dined mainly in Portofinos restaurant and found for the whole cruise that the food and service was generally excellent. There were some new waiters who had just joined in Copenhagen and on a few occasions the service was a little patchy. They all seemed keen to help and enthusiastic.
There were 3 formal nights on this cruise. For the men formal wear now varies between dinner suits, tuxedos, lounge suits and even sports jackets. In other words whatever you want to wear. Rest of the cruise was casual. Polo shirts fine for lunch but would suggest an open neck shirt and slacks would be best for dinner. The Maine lobsters on the formal nights were excellent. I had three of them on one of the formal nights. If you want to have 2 main courses or a 2nd serve of a main course just ask. If you want to have several desserts again no problem just ask.
You can order meals, sandwiches to be brought to your cabin at any time. The ship's official policy is that any alcohol purchased when in port cannot be consumed and must be stored till the end of the cruise. I think this mainly applies to spirits as we returned with bottles of wine at 3 or 4 ports and had no trouble getting it on board. We consumed the wine in our cabin. We have done the same on all of our cruises in the past.
You must try at least one afternoon tea on the ship. Held between 3.30 and 4.30pm with coffee, tea and cakes or scones. The waiters are in formal attire and it is a real treat.5 BARS
Our favourites were Skywalkers deck 17 at the rear of the ship. Jeff and Ronald were the regular waiters there and looked after us very well. Cocktails varied between USD 4.00 to 6.50 and glasses of wine USD 5.00 TO 7.00 and bottles of beer between USD 3.50 TO 5.00.
Quite a few people were complaining at times during the cruise when groups booked certain areas of Skywalkers for private parties during the day. One particular instance was for a Jewish church service conducted on the port side of Skywalkers as we were departing from Copenhagen. There were lots of people in Skywalkers for the departure and we felt that we were interfering with their service because there was lots of laughter. We feel that a solemn event such as a service should be conducted in the Chapel and Skywalkers kept for the use of people who wanted to have a few drinks with their friends and watch the departure.
At other times some people were asked to move as the chairs they were sitting in were in the area booked for the private party.
A lot of people go up to Skywalkers during the day for some peace and quiet and on quite a few days we had Karaoke singing for about 2 hours. Again maybe this could have been done somewhere else on the ship. Actually many people left the bar and I am sure Jeff and Ronald's bar takings were somewhat reduced during the Karaoke.
It is a real pity that on most Princess ships they don't have a bar/viewing area at the front of the ship. Skywalkers is a great place but you have an obstructed view of the front of the ship. On a lot of other cruise lines they have a bar/viewing area at the front of the ship. Giving an unobstructed view of what lies ahead. Holland America Lines Volendam has a great viewing area at the front of the ship, with comfortable chairs and great drinks. Just a small minus point against Princess.
The Wheelhouse bar on Promenade deck 7 before dinner was always a great place, one of our other favourites. They always had a great band playing super music in the background.6 SHIPS TOURS AND PORTS OF CALL
The ship's tours are still very popular even though they might be more expensive than organising your own tours. In Iceland I think there were about 25 busses taking passengers on the Golden circle trip. We prebooked the Princess tours we wanted to do prior to leaving home as we thought on this cruise the tours might be well patronised. I think some of the tours were fully booked days before we arrived at the appropriate port.
If you have a group of friends travelling with you it is worth considering prebooking a van prior to leaving home, as it will certainly be cheaper. Some people wait till they get to the port and then negotiate with the tour companies there for whatever they want to do. Again they will get it cheaper.
Generally the tours we took were very good. They were well organised left on time and we thought we got what we wanted from the tours. If you take a ship's tour you don't have to worry about the tour arriving late back to the ship. The ship will always wait for a Princess tour.. Be very careful if you take an independent tour that you get back to the ship well before the ship is to depart. The ship will not wait for individual passengers. The disembarkation from the ship to join the coach was also well organised.
The ports of call on this cruise were well chosen and interesting.
Dover England As we had been to Dover before and visited the Castle we did our own thing here and just had a quick look at the town. If you haven't been to Leeds Castle or Canterbury Cathedral I think they are well worth a look. Some people took the train to London but it is a long way and they were only able to spend a short time there. We used the double decker bus from the ship into town centre and this cost 3 pounds and you could hop on and hop off as you wished. A great view from the top deck of the bus looking towards the white cliffs of Dover. Not a lot to see in the town. Several nice churches and a small museum highlighting the town's history. The Eight Bells Hotel has some nice English beers on tap.
Great harbour views from the ship especially views of the ferries coming in to port.
Falmouth England I have always wanted to visit the tiny fishing village of Polperro and as there was a tour going there we booked it. It was the Polperro Harbour village and shopping tour. We had a very good guide on the coach and it took about 90 minutes to get there from the ship. This is a tender port and it took us about 20 minutes from the ship to the port of Falmouth. Once there we had several hours to have a look around. Quite touristy but several nice pubs. We bought some wine at a very good wine/food shop on the pier as you returned to the tender ship. Excellent service and very good wine.
Waterford Southern Ireland Again we did our own thing in Waterford exploring the city on foot. Quite a lot to see. Many people went to the crystal factory and Kilkenny but as we had seen both places before we walked around the town stopping to have a Guinness before returning to the ship. Being Ireland there were quite a few good pubs in the city centre and all had reasonable patronage at 11am. Shopping for all things Irish seemed to be one of the things to do in Waterford. This is a tender port and the ship drops anchor 30 minutes by transfer coach from the town of Waterford. We bought the Princess transfer for USD 20.00 per person return.
Greenock Scotland We booked the Landscapes, Lochs and sheepdogs tour with Princess. We visited the Trossachs and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. John was an excellent guide. He was highly amusing and made sure that everyone was having a good time. On the way back to the ship he was telling yarns and singing songs, which was well received by all on board. Some of the roads are a little windy and our driver also did an excellent job. This tour visited Aberfoyle where there is a large woollen store with very reasonable prices. After buying the store out we went outside to see the sheepdog demonstrations, which were very interesting. Lunch was included at the McDonalds Forest Hills Hotel near Aberfoyle and that was also very good. The highlight of the tour was a 1-hour cruise aboard the 100-year-old Sir Walter Scott steamer on Loch Katrine. Even though it was a little chilly the scenes were breathtaking. Suggest you take a thick jumper and coat if doing this tour as it is Scotland and it gets cold.
Belfast Northern Ireland We chose the Princess tour Belfast past present and future. This tour went to the city and suburbs. It only lasted for three hours but gave a very good insight into the troubles. We drove past the University and the Falls and Shanklin roads, the centre of some of the past problems. The Belfast authorities are trying to get all the signage relating to the religious problems taken down by Christmas. There is still tension in the city although there haven't been too many recent serious problems. We went to the east of the city and drove up to the Parliament building, which is located in a large beautiful park. This was a very interesting tour.
We finished the tour and went for a walk around the city. We met two lovely ladies who told us about the history of Belfast and the problems. Time for shopping and then back to the ship. Belfast is a very interesting city. Allow yourself time for a walk around.
A free transfer was provided to Belfast city to and from the ship.
Reykjavik Iceland Quite a sight coming into Reykjavik. Suggest you get up early and watch the arrival into port. Iceland was one of the highlights of the whole trip for us. We really enjoyed our visit there. We booked the Princess Golden Circle full day tour with lunch, as did a lot of the ship. There were so many people on this tour, as I said previously about 25 coaches were used to transport us all around. This tour showed us the nearby thermal areas, the Stokkur geyser and mud pools, Gullfoss waterfall and the Thingvellir national park where you can see the effect of the North American and European earth plates grinding together and the European plate moving away. Quite amazing. You will also visit the city of Reykjavik and the Pearl restaurant centre on the outskirts of the city where you get a magnificent view of the city from about the 5th level. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable and did his best to make sure that everyone was enjoying the tour.
Because of the large numbers of people on this tour there were not enough washrooms and some of the ladies were complaining. Some of them even used the men's washroom. At some of the places we stopped at the souvenir stores also were overwhelmed to an extent that many people who wanted to buy ran out of time and had to give up the idea of purchasing anything.
The countryside is extremely interesting with lots of thermal activity and well worth a visit. I would like to revisit Iceland in the future and stay longer.
Qaqortoq South West Coast of Greenland Qaqortoq was the other highlight of our cruise. As it is in the north Atlantic the weather can be extremely rough and as it is a tender port quite often ships that plan to visit are unable to get their passengers ashore because of the rough weather. We were extremely lucky. The day before we arrived we had one of our moderately rough days and we were all fearful that we might not be able to land next morning. How wrong we were. Next morning we got up early to see the arrival and were greeted by some rather large icebergs off in the distance. There were icebergs everywhere and there was hardly a cloud in the sky. Magnificent.
We moored in the port and had to endure a 10-minute tender ride to the wharf in a moderate sea. Remember to hang on tight when you are in the tender. Do not try to be a hero as people have fallen and been severely injured. Hang on tight to you camera and video's as tight as you can. It wasn't that cold by local standards and we though it wasn't too bad but we still recommend that you wear at least 2 thick jumpers, a scarf and a thick coat when you venture ashore.
Once we got to shore the local population were there to greet us. It was great to see all the children and talk to some of the locals. T he locals were saying that it was one of the better days they have had for the whole summer. There are no tours organised although some of the locals were trying to get people to go in cars for a look around. There is an interesting museum here with free admission. We all went to the Church hall to hear the choir singing. This was excellent. We wonder how these people survive the winter. I asked one old chap and he said we basically just ‘hibernate'. Good on them. We went for a walk to the top of the village and had a talk to as many locals as we could. It is always great to speak to the locals. You can learn much about the location. The view from the top of the village looking back over the bay and the Star Princess was amazing.
On the way out of port we saw many small and large icebergs. The white of the icebergs tinged with blue was a great photo opportunity.
St John Newfoundland Canada Strongly suggest you watch the arrival through the narrow entrance to the St John harbour. The arrival time was around 11.30am and is quite spectacular. Once we arrived we went for a short walk through the town, as our booked tour didn't leave till 1.15pm. We took the Princess tour to Signal hill and the Cape Spear Lighthouse. A very enjoyable tour with a good guide.
We certainly saw the rugged coastal beauty of this part of Newfoundland. Signal hill was where Marconi received the first transatlantic wireless message. Very good but rug up well as it is cold and windy at the top of the hill.
I think it would be better to arrive in St John's earlier thus giving people more time to have a look around the town. 11.30am arrival was too late.
7 ENTERTAINMENT ON BOARD Generally very good. The variety shows were excellent particularly the dancers. A lady from England Priscilla, and I forget her second name was brilliant. She was so good that on her last night in the Vista lounge the place was standing room only. Princess management should definitely get her back as often as possible. We went to all the shows and enjoyed them. All the small bands in the various lounges did a great job. I would like to give a special tribute to the rock band ‘Wavelength' who were on most nights in the Explorers lounge and were tremendous. They would be a big hit in the Caribbean with a younger crowd. Well done to all. As I have said earlier I think 10.30pm is too late to start shows. We think the first show should be at approximately 6.30pm catering for those who dine later and then a late show around 9.00pm. for the early diners.
8 DISEMBARKATION AND TRANSIT IN NEW YORK We arose early at 4am to watch our arrival into New York. From previous experience we know that quite often Princess are early getting into port Arrival into New York was supposed to be 7am however we were there around 6am. To see the Statue of Liberty with the Manhattan skyline in the background was awesome. Thoroughly recommend getting up early to see that.
It is a shame that Princess are now docking at the Brooklyn rather than the Manhattan port terminal. It is much further away from the centre of New York. We were undertaking the New England 7-day cruise on the same ship so were just in New York for the day. It would have cost us approximately USD 50.00 each way for a cab ride into Manhattan so we gave that idea away and decided to stay on the ship. We thought about walking down to the Brooklyn street bridge but it is about a mile away and staff on the ship recommended we not do that as some of the Brooklyn port area is deemed to be not very safe. If we had docked at Manhattan as in the past you could have walked right off the ship and into the West village.
I am surprised that Princess does not offer short sightseeing tours of New York for people such as us or people catching flights later in the day. I asked at the tour desk on the ship and they said nothing was available. I suppose a lot of the people arriving into New York are very familiar with the city and there wouldn't be enough passengers to make it viable to operate a short city tour.
We firstly had to go through immigration and as there were about 10 passengers transitting we were told to wait in the Casino at 7.50am for a staff member to escort us through. The staff member duly arrived about 20 minutes late and took us downstairs off the ship to the Immigration building. We were given vague instructions about how we could get back onto the ship and that was the last we saw of her. So much for the escort down and back onto the ship. Immigration officials were not going to allow us to reboard the ship till 12noon when the new passengers would be arriving. We told them we were transitting and showed them our transit cards but that made no difference. This was a bit of a shambles and it wasn't till several of our group started getting irate that the Princess staff organised our return to the ship. Princess needs to look at how they deal with transit passengers. We went back on board using our new cruise cards but were not able to get our photos taken because the computer would not be activated till around 12pm when the new passengers would be boarding. We were told to come down later and get our photo taken. I forgot all about this and it caused a problem 2 days later when we arrived in Halifax because as we left the ship our cruise card didn't work and we then had to have our photo taken.
The whole process needs to be refined so that other passengers don't have to go through what we did.
Once onboard again we were fine. We had to change cabins from B316 to an outside balcony cabin B514 on the same deck about 20 cabins away. Our new steward let our Transatlantic steward know when the occupiers of B514 had departed and the cabin had been cleaned for us and they all helped to move our belongings to the new cabin. They just took all the coat hangers with clothes on straight down. You don't have to leave your bag outside the cabin if you are transitting. Our two stewards Supachai and Manuel were fantastic at helping us with the cabin change and it was all done in a matter of minutes .The now have an express checkout operating on the ship which means you don't have to leave your bag outside the cabin the night before. If you take advantage of this offer you will be in the first group to leave the ship but you must personally take all your baggage with you as you leave the ship.
Once we had settled into our new cabin we went up to Skywalkers to read and just appreciate the great views of Manhattan and all the boat activity on the East river as well as all the helicopters buzzing around. What a great sight.
About 12.30pm we went up to Skywalkers to have lunch.
9/ POST CRUISE IN NEW YORK AFTER OUR 2ND CRUISE The disembarkation from the New England cruise was smooth although there was a little confusion re bus transfers to Penn station. We booked a Princess transfer which cost USD 19.00 per person. The bus was a little old and the air conditioning wasn't working too well. Several people complained about that. The journey to Penn station took about 30 minutes. We would recommend the transfer rather than getting a taxi because if you get caught in the traffic it can take you much longer than 30 minutes and the cost would be a lot more that the Princess transfer.
Once we arrived at Penn station we decided to walk the 5 blocks to our hotel on 31st Street between 5th Ave and Broadway. We stayed at the Herald Square Hotel 19 West 31st Street. This is a budget hotel very well located and quiet. We paid about USD 200.00 per night and received a very good room recently renovated on the first floor. The service and attention to detail at the hotel was excellent and we would thoroughly recommend it and will stay there again on our next visit to New York.
New York is busy and bustling but don't let that bother you. If you stay with the crowds New York is a relatively safe city. There are lots of police stationed in the central area. We purchased 2 metro cards valid for 7 days unlimited travel on the subway and busses. USD 24.00 per card. Wonderful value. We certainly made use of them. After a little while it is easy to work out the subway system. The trains are speedy with lots of express services, which cut the travelling time between various points in the city.
New York is a great walking city but there are times when you need to travel several miles and we found the subway to be excellent. Don't use the trains during the peak rush hour times as you will be crammed in like a sardine. Most other times of the day you will be able to get a seat.
We also purchased a 48-hour Greyline double decker tour pass, which allows you to hop on hop off the busses at designated points around the city. Each bus has a tour guide and all of the commentaries were excellent. We did the Brooklyn, Uptown and downtown loops and on the second day used the bus a little to get around the city. Cost USD 50.00 per person. Very good value.
We did all the usual touristy things in New York. We would really recommend a visit to Ellis Island where the first immigrants to America arrived. A very interesting tour. The ferry takes you to the Statue first and if you want to get off and see the Statue close up you need to prebook that. Security was very tight prior to boarding the ferry and there was a long queue even at 9.30am in the morning.
The New York Metropolitan and the Natural History museum are a must when you visit New York. We could have spent several days in each.
There were several restaurants that we tried that we thought were very good. We mention them here. You will never starve in New York. Most of the restaurants give you very generous portions. I am a big eater and I couldn't get through the main courses.
O'reilley's Irish Hotel in 31st Street one block from the Herald Square Hotel. An excellent meal and a nice pub with good service.
Mr Tang. Mott Street in China town. Very good Chinese food and good service
Nyoyna. Malaysian Restaurant 194 Grand Street between Mulberry and Mott Street in the Italian Quarter. Very good spicy food.
Zum Schneider 107 Avenue C at 7th Street East Village. Really excellent German food. Highly recommend even though it is a little out of the city centre it is only a subway ride and about a 15-minute walk. Still well worth the effort getting there.
Tony's Di Napoli 147 West 43rd Street between 6th and 7th Avenues. Super place with great food and excellent service. So good we went back there twice. Hugh serves. You only need to order one main course, as this will do two people.
Carnegie Deli 854 7th Avenue at 55th Street is an institution in New York. You must try the Pastrami sandwiches and then finish with a baked New York Cheesecake. Big serves so maybe one serve of each will be enough.
We used Super Shuttle to JFK airport USD 20.00 and about a 30-minute ride.
Our 6 day stay in New York was far too short. We will just have to come back again, maybe next year before or after another cruise.
We hope you have enjoyed our report and if you have any queries you are welcome to get in touch with us at any time.
Cheers and happy cruising.
Ralph and Jean Walker.
After our 12-hour flight from Los Angeles to Copenhagen, the Star Princess gleaming in the afternoon sun was a welcome sight. The transfer crew waiting for us at the airport in Copenhagen, Denmark outdid themselves (living up to the Princess tradition) leading us through customs and immigration quickly. The local authorities did not even check our passports.
Princess had provided our air tickets through London from Los Angeles. As we heard of the long lines going through Heathrow security, we opted to deviate from British airlines to a KLM flight via Amsterdam. We were charged an extra $500. But it was well worth to our peace of mind not to see armed guards that are a fixture in most airports.
Checking in at the ship was brief and our luggage promptly appeared a few minutes after we reached our cabin. A quick shower and a change of clothes provided a pleasant relief after the long airplane ride without the customary toiletries.
Inside, the Star Princess sparkled like a jewel in the sun. They certainly earned the 99 CDC score. The hotel upkeep crew were on duty 24/7 and were always polishing and vacuumingthe public areas and their efforts clearly showed. Traces of a devastating fire that raged through the ship last March 2006 are now history
After the mandatory boat drill, we sat down to dinner at one of the "anytime dining" eateries. We were surprised at the beautiful table settings unlike other Princess ships we had sailed on. The cuisine was outstanding and pleasingly presented in heated dishes. The desserts were works of art and a delight to behold.
Three dining rooms called Amalfi (traditional), Capri and Portofino (both anytime dining) that seats at least 500 guests each inferred Italian cuisine but served only a regular menu. Osso bucco a dish always obtainable on other ships like the Diamond and Sapphire Princess was absent from the bill of fare.
Tortilla chips were available exclusively at the Tequila, a reservation only ($15 cover charge per person) steak house. Sabatini's ($20 cover charge per person) tratoria is still keeping up with its reputation for fine Italian foods and great dining. We missed the rural intimacy of the Santa Fe and the dim sum at the Pacific Moon of the Diamond and Sapphire Princess.
We had breakfast, on occasion (open seating) at the Portofino, being the only eating place open in the morning other than the Lido. We had dinner mostly at the Capri. After getting shuttled from table to table every night, later in the cruise we were able to get a fixed spot.
Assistant Maitre d' Rudel (Philippines), senior waiter Sev (Philippines) and assistant waiter Mana (Thailand) provided us with services beyond our expectations. Rudel ordered special dishes for us off the menu. Sev and Mana were very fast and anticipated our every move. Sev has an over 15-year service with Princess. Good men like them are hard to find.
The Horizon Court a buffet style Lido is open 24 hours. Hot and cold dishes are available. There is a constant array of Asian foods like sushi, eggrolls, miso and other hot soups. Various fruit was available except for grapefruit. Desserts did not include jello among the selections.
There is a pizzeria and a hotdog/burger grill that opens from 11AM to 7PM. Hot chocolate, cranberry and other fruit juices become bar items after breakfast, much to the annoyance of passengers.
Our ocean view cabin located amidships proved to be very stable and had a good view of the ocean. It had an aging TV set perched above a small fridge. Viewing was tedious unless one lies down on the bed. We had ample closet space and a shower the size of a telephone booth. Our cabin steward Ramiro (Philippines) kept our room extremely livable.
After settling down we found out that our cabin was directly over the piano in the promenade bar. Music wafted from the bar into our room each evening from nine to 12 PM. A sign at the purser's office said that the ship was full and no more rooms available, so we just had to grin and bear it.
The ship carried at least 2500 passengers and 1100 crewmembers. Most of the travelers were retirees, senior citizens and repeaters. The majority were Americans and Canadians. A few children aboard belonged to the crew. We were quite elated to see several shipmates like Fernando, Arlene, Carol, Art, and David with his wife and daughter. We had met them on previous trips on different cruise lines. We were also very happy to see familiar faces among the hotel staff and ship's crew.
The Baltic cruise had a lot of shore days that attracted most of the travelers. The ship called on Scandinavia, Estonia, Poland and an overnight stay in St. Petersburg, Russia. Persons entering Russia required a visa, except those that purchased tours from the ship. She also stopped at Greenland, Poland and Northern Ireland, that were new countries for us so we eagerly waited to visit these places.
With much luck fair weather followed us through out the 25-day trip. The Greenland natives mentioned that it was unusual to see the sun shining at this time at the year. They happily hung their laundry out to take advantage of the good weather. We could see the wash flapping in the wind as the ship pulled out to sea. The town also declared a holiday for the school children so they can mingle with the tourists visiting the island.
Long lines had formed at the 910 seat Princess theatre. It filled up early. Many guests who came to see a production show were turned away. People often hurried through their dinner to get a seat at the theatre or the movies. Crowds choked the corridors leading to the Vista lounge to see a movie. Groups at the lounge nursing free drinks at a Captain's party were unmindful of the gridlock they were causing outside.
Chaotic scheduling caused most of the activities to overlap. Long queues were a common sight all over the ship. "Anytime dining" required at least an hour wait for those without reservations. Sabatini had a long waiting list.
Employees at the excursion counter were rude and arrogant after selling out most of the tours. They were completely overwhelmed with the demand. Tours were pricey and abbreviated.
The cruise director's staff did a great job offloading passengers on tenders, but lines were lengthy returning to the ship. The crowds were mostly polite and orderly except for a few smokers that evoked arguments as they puffed smoke while waiting in line for tenders.
An Internet café (35c/min, color-printing 50c/page) became a useful link for the outside world. The terminals peaked during sea days. People with five or more Princess cruises get Internet for free as a loyalty perk.
We had purchased a transfer voucher from Princess for use between New York Brooklyn pier and La Guardia airport. The Star Princess disembarked us at past 11 AM although they knew that we had a 1 PM flight to Los Angeles and at least a 40- minute travel time to the airport. The Star Princess released passengers on 5 PM flights much ahead of us.
Due to the lack of porters we had to handle our own luggage. A Princess agent at the pier told us that buses to the airport were due in forty minutes and he suggested that we take a cab in order to make our flight. A kind New York police officer got us a taxi ahead of people waiting in a long line after we explained our plight to him. After a delay with the TSA at the airport, we barely made our flight.
Overall our 25-day trip from the Baltic to New York was a pleasant one because of the weather and calm seas. We missed the fine service we expected from the Star Princess that we encountered on other Princess trips. Princess Cruises might require a small tweak to keep them from becoming just average.