• Overview

  • Overview

  • In-Room Dining Overview

  • Lounge and Public Spaces

  • Lobby Atrium

  • Lotus Spa, Salon and Fitness Center

  • Lotus Spa, Salon and Fitness Center

  • Sports Court

  • Lawn Court

  • Gift Shops

  • Photo-Video Gallery

  • Art Gallery

  • Internet Café and Library

  • Youth and Teen Centers

  • Hearts and Minds

  • Princess Theater

  • Movies Under the Stars

  • Neptune’s Reef

  • Calypso Reef and Calypso Bar

  • Terrace Pool

  • Lotus Pool

  • Neptune’s Reef

  • Calypso Reef and Calypso Bar

  • Terrace Pool

  • The Oasis

  • Lotus Pool

  • The Sanctuary

  • Promenade Deck

  • Deck 15

  • Deck 17

  • Ship Tour Overview

  • Staff

  • General Health and Safety

  • Overview

  • Overview

  • Overview

  • Overview

  • Overview

  • Overview

  • Drinks

  • Overview


Overview

We stayed in an Interior Cabin, a category that represents 28 percent of the accommodations available on Star Princess—it’s also the least expensive. Heading up the price scale are Oceanview Cabins (in three categories: obstructed view, porthole, or picture window), Balcony Cabins, Mini-Suites and full-size Suites.

As is common on most of Princess’ ships, the exterior has a slightly pyramidal design, with balconies that jut out slightly beyond the deck above. This meant that virtually all of the balconies on decks 9 and 10 were mostly or completely visible from the decks above. On the plus side, with less ceiling above, from these decks you can see the stars overhead.

While the arrangements were pretty tight for two, this cabin had ample storage space.


Overview

Measuring a tidy 160 square feet, our cabin was definitely not spacious. Given that there was no couch and only one chair, the small quarters made it a prerequisite to be on good terms with our cabin-mate! As an inside cabin, there was no view to enjoy—just a mirror that stretched across most of the rear wall of the room, which made the space feel a little less cramped. The décor was fairly bland, with token real and veneer wood finishes—not ugly, but lacking in any character.

To save a few bucks, for our cruise we had booked a “guarantee” interior cabin—this meant the exact location of our cabin wouldn’t be assigned by the cruise line until some time before our sailing date. In fact, it wasn’t assigned until the day we sailed. Initially we didn’t spot anything amiss regarding the location, but the first evening of our cruise, at 9:45 p.m., we heard music coming through the walls of the cabin. The music was not audible in the hallway, so we knew it wasn’t from an adjoining cabin. Then, when we looked at the deck plan we discovered that our cabin was one of about a dozen located directly above the Princess Theater—the floor of our cabin was also the roof of the stage and the evening show had just begun.

We asked if the front desk could move us to a different cabin but we were told that nothing could be done, the ship was fully booked. Although when inside the theater we did not find the music volume to be over-amplified, the sound leakage in our cabin recurred each subsequent night the theater was in operation, up until 11 p.m. The issue might only be a consideration for early-to-bed types, but we feel a careful perusal of cabin location is warranted for Star Princess.

Our queen-sized bed had a small nightstand on either side. The mattress was actually two twin beds pushed together (they could be separated for passengers not sleeping together), and the split between mattresses was evident but not a problem, concealed by a pillow-top and wrapped in good linens. There were light switches under the mirror/headboard (behind the pillows) for the two main lighting fixtures—one for each side of bed. The low-wattage reading lamps on the nightstands at either side of the bed were barely adequate for reading.

Like most cruise ship bathrooms, our bathroom was small but used the space efficiently. There was a large mirror over the sink to the left of the door and the shower (no tub) was to the right, with the toilet in between. On one side of the mirror there were three shelves adequate for a standard travel kit; there was no makeup mirror. The hairdryer was fixed to a mount above the desk, not in the bathroom.

The bathroom floor was elevated a couple inches above the cabin floor, while the shower stall was level with the bathroom floor—a two-inch lip kept the water in its place; there was a fabric shower curtain and, inside the shower, a retractable laundry line. There was a bottle each of shampoo, conditioner and body lotion, branded to the ship’s Lotus Spa. These products were okay, but hardly worth pocketing the leftovers at the end of the cruise (anyone with demanding hair will want to BYOB).

A sign in the bathroom asked us to help Princess conserve the environment by indicating whether we wanted to re-use our towels by leaving them on the “rack/rail/hook”; towels left on the floor would be replaced. Our towels weren’t replenished when they were hung on the towel rack, but when we hung them on the hooks on the door they were unnecessarily replaced with clean towels.

The layout of features was fairly efficient, with the closet area separate from the bedroom, creating a dressing room of sorts. The closet was 6-foot 2-inches wide with a shelf overhead, allowing ample storage space for clothes on hangers (there were 13 hangers but room for many more). There was no door on the closet, meaning everything on hangers was easily accessed. There was also a cabinet with five shelves (plus two more for the safe and life vests), and space under the bed for storing luggage.

A desk was built into the wall facing the bed, with three drawers on one side along with three small shelves that didn’t have much practical use. There was a small coffee table that didn’t serve much purpose; a stool might have been better, so a second person could sit somewhere beside the bed. Also built in was a mini-fridge that contained four cans of soda (Coke, Sprint, including diet versions—$1.95 each) plus a 1.5-liter bottle of Crystal Geyser ($3.50). Above the minibar was a shelf where the ice bucket was kept, along with a pair of glasses; the ice bucket was refilled daily.

The hairdryer was on a coil next to the bedroom mirror. The bedroom had a pair of electrical outlets at the desk—110-volt. Above the desk was a ViewSonic 27” flat screen TV. The TV did not pivot, but given the limited seating options this was fine for viewing.

Our cabin was illuminated by two main overhead lighting options: There were two lights illuminating the closet area on one switch, and three lights that illuminated bedroom area on the other. These were controlled by switches at the cabin door another behind the bed-pillows. A third fixture provided ceiling lights illuminating the desk area. Combined, these were sufficient for lighting the cabin.

Two beach towels were provided and were replaced when used. A waffle-weave bathrobe was also waiting for us in the closet.

At check-in, nametags were posted outside all cabin doors, identifying the occupants and their status level in Princess Cruises’ Captain’s Circle.
We did not stay in the rest of these cabins, but we have summaries here provided by Princess Cruises. Note that any photos on this page may be provided directly by the cruise line and not our reviewer.


Oceanview staterooms offer value and picture windows for a greater sense of space. For extra savings, we also offer categories of Obstructed View staterooms, providing the benefit of sunlight to the room though with a restricted view due to lifeboats or other obstructions outside the window.


Balcony staterooms provide more space than other staterooms. They feature two twin beds that make up into a queen-size bed, and a bathroom with shower.


Mini-Suites with balconies are larger than staterooms with balconies. They feature a queen bed or two twins that convert to a queen-size bed, a separate sitting area with sofa bed and desk, and a bathtub with massage showerhead.


Suites with balconies can be significantly larger than staterooms with balconies. They feature a queen bed or two twins that convert to a queen-size bed, a separate sitting area with sofa bed and desk, and a bathtub with massage showerhead.


The standard amenities were provided, or were available on request.

A limited menu was available for room service, even if there wasn’t much space to enjoy it.


In-Room Dining Overview

Breakfast was ordered with a door hanger the night before. Princess doesn’t set the bar very high for this meal. Primarily continental, there was one hot option: an English muffin with egg, bacon and cheese. The balance of the menu was cold package cereals, yogurt, fruit, bread roll, croissant or Danish (with preserves), along with juices, coffee and tea. Breakfast could be delivered any time from 6:30 to 10:30 a.m.

The standard room service menu was available 24 hours and featured soup of the day, three salads and a half-dozen sandwiches, from peanut butter and jelly to club sandwich. Hot dishes included hot dog, burger, croque monsieur, black bean chili with ground beef, lasagna and a Moroccan vegetable crock pot. Flan, fudge cake and chocolate chip cookies were available for dessert. Although the menu was not extensive, it was a decent number of options for when we weren’t in the mood to go out.

There were additional room service options that carried a surcharge. Twelve-inch pizzas—pepperoni, cheese or the daily special—were offered for $3 per delivery. These were available from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 6 p.m. to midnight. A selection of hors d’oeuvres for a stateroom private party could be ordered with 6 hours’ notice: vegetable sticks with blue cheese dip for six, assorted canapés, chilled shrimp on ice with cocktail sauce, guacamole with chips, and chocolate dipped strawberries were available, at prices ranging $6-$14.

Another option was a champagne breakfast ($32 per couple), which included a half-bottle of chilled French champagne, pastries, cold smoked salmon, fruit, and a crab quiche. The lobster balcony dinner ($100 per couple) required 24-hour notice and includes a cocktail, a half-bottle of champagne, canapés, flower bouquet, an 8x10 photo and a four-course dinner including surf and/or turf.
Our breakfast order was delivered within the requested 30-minute time block. The breakfast sandwich came wrapped in paper with a lid over the plate, while the orange juice was capped with both plastic wrap and a paper cap; milk for our coffee came with a plastic wrap as well. Sugar packets (and substitutes) were on the side.

When we ordered lunch we were asked to allow 20 to 25 minutes for delivery; our order arrived 19 minutes later. The burger was on a plate with a plastic lid to keep it warm, served with lettuce, tomato and onion, and a dish of coleslaw on the side—there was no pickle or other condiments (they might have been available had we thought to request them), and no French fries (not mentioned on the menu). We requested Dijon or another dark mustard, but only yellow mustard was available, also on the side.

Our simple breakfast was fine—the O.J. cold, the coffee hot, and the breakfast sandwich warm and oozing with cheese. There were no surprises here.

For lunch we ordered a cheeseburger and found it reasonably satisfying. The plate arrived with a slice of tomato, lettuce and small amount of onion. But the chunky coleslaw on the side was saturated with dressing—unappetizing to our taste.

A door tag was provided that we could use to request fresh fruit be delivered to the room—apple, kiwi, pear, banana, orange. The tag said the fruit would arrive in the early afternoon, and would be replenished as needed.

Beer, wine, liquors, soft drinks and juices were available. Full bottles of wine ranged from Round Hill Merlot ($22) to Simi Chardonnay ($32), with French champagnes available for $60-$179. Spirits included 375ml bottles of Jim Beam bourbon ($15), Johnny Walker Red Label scotch ($22), Absolut vodka ($18) and Bombay Sapphire gin ($22).
We had some good meals on Star Princess, along with a couple disappointing experiences.


Counting the three “main” dining rooms as one, Star Princess offered seven distinct venues for us to enjoy meals with one spot, the International Café, open 24 hours. We appreciated that the main dining room is split in three—we found this slightly preferable over being seated in a single room seating more than 1,000, as is common on most ships. We also found that, for those of us on the Anytime Dining plan, two-top tables weren’t hard to come by (especially when we weren’t trying to sit down at 7 or 7:30).

Although we didn’t have much put in front of us that we didn’t like, we will say the food on Star Princess didn’t exactly aspire to greatness. It aims for the middle-of-the-road palates, delivering satisfying if not ambitious cuisine—maybe a cut above comfort food. The Alaskan dinner we enjoyed in the main dining rooms was a highlight, the tasty steak at Crown Grill was a worthwhile (and modest) splurge, and we found good, hearty breads served nightly; desserts and pastries were also generally solid. On the other hand, the ship’s salads left us wanting and the lobster entrée at Sabatini’s was poor.

Throughout, we found restaurant servers to be well trained. Star Princess may be just another Princess vessel, but this crew made it feel real, unique and warm.

Star Princess offered a good variety of lounges to choose from, and a long list of cocktails.


Star Princess had more than a dozen dedicated bars sprinkled across the ship. Bar service could also be ordered at the pool areas, inside the theater, and at the casino. We particularly enjoyed Crooners, the spot for martinis (especially at sunset) while the retro Skywalkers Nightclub suspended above the ship’s aft section was fun for dancing late in the evenings (and conveniently quiet for enjoying the view by day).

A 15-percent service charge was added to all drink orders. The minimum age for drinking was 21.
Wines available by the glass included Chateau St. Michelle Riesling, Simi chardonnay, Rosemont shiraz, and Kenwood Jack London cabernet sauvignon, at prices ranging $7.25-$10.50. Korbel brut reserve was available in 187ml bottles for $7.25 and Nicolas Feuillatte brut reserve by the glass for $13. An expanded wine list was available at both the Crown Grill and Sabatini's dining rooms.

The beer selection included the usual domestic favorites for $4.25, plus Bass, Dos Equis, Blue Moon and Beck’s for $4.95, and Grolsch swing-top and Guinness for $5.95. There were also a few beer cocktails for $7.25, including Michelada (Dos Equis, Bacardi Limon, lime juice and hot sauce) and Blue Moon Grand (Blue Moon, Grand Marnier).

Martinis were priced $7.95 and included the traditional “007 Classic,” plus Key Lime Pie, Cosmopolitan and Passionada. The list of signature margaritas were all $7.95, as were other mixed drinks such as the Moscow Mule, Raspberry Collins, Caipirinha, Lynchberg Lemonade and the Ultimate Mai Tai. Simpler rum, tequila and whiskey concoctions (made with house brands) such as Bahama Mana, Pina Colada, Manhattan and Tequila Sunrise were $5.50.

House spirits were $5, while call brands started at $5.50 for Canadian Club bourbon, Dewar’s White Label scotch, Beefeater gin and Absolut vodka. Bombay Sapphire gin, Johnnie Walker Black Label scotch and Grey Goose vodka were $6.95.

Several drink packages were available for cabin consumption. A six-pack was available for the price of five for beer ($21.25) and soda ($9.75); four 187ml bottles of wine were $25 (brand unspecified) and a beer and wine package availed three 187ml bottles of wine and four beers for $32. There was also non-alcoholic drink package: the Ultimate Kids Package of unlimited soft drinks, mocktails, milk shakes and juices was $7 per day, “for kids aged 2 to 102.”

Non-alcoholic cocktails included the No-Jito, Sunshine Daiquiri and Key West Cooler, all priced $4. A coffee card was priced $29 for 15 drinks at the International Café, a good deal for those wanting a better grade of java.
From line-dancing lessons to basic photography classes, Star Princess offered an array of activities for the ship’s broad demographic mix.


Star Princess has a broad range of public areas, catering to virtually all demographics at all hours.


Lounge and Public Spaces

Public areas indoors were mostly found at the ship’s bars, several of which—Explorer’s Lounge, Wheelhouse Bar, Club Fusion—were used for other events through the day and evening. Crooner’s was a fun spot for sunsets and people watching, while Skywalker’s Nightclub was an outlandish perch hoisted above the rear decks.

Deck 16 forward—a prime observation area for cruisers—has been converted into the fee-access Sanctuary. While the fee wasn’t outrageous, given that we never spotted more than a couple dozen people here it seemed like marginal usage for this valuable real estate.

Lobby Atrium

The three-level atrium lobby of Star Princess, also known as the Piazza, was an attractive space that bustled with activities and events during our cruise. Live music included solo guitar, piano, a string quartet playing classical, and a tight band playing Swing and Big Band hits. There was also the Captain’s Welcome Aboard reception on the second night that included Princess’ traditional champagne waterfall, cameras at the ready.

On the lowest level, Deck 4, the lobby was flanked by the Vines and Lobby bars, the International Café and the Internet Café and Library. Deck 5 was where the ship’s passenger services desk was located.

The Lotus Spa is imbued with a vague (very vague) Asian theme.


Lotus Spa, Salon and Fitness Center

The ship’s spa facilities are located on Deck 15 forward, in a horseshoe shaped space that wraps around the (outdoor) Lotus Pool. The spa is operated by Steiner Leisure, a company that manages spa services on many cruise ships, and prices are in line with their prices on other cruises, somewhat higher than is charged at most quality resorts. But prices were discounted on port days, and other specials or multiple appointments also availed discount for one-off treatments not on the regular menu.

Services offered included massage—seaweed, hot stone, bamboo, herbal poultice, etc. ranging $155 for the 50-minute Exotic Lime and Ginger Salt Glow with Massage to $259 for the 100-minute Seaweed Massage or 50-minute Couples Massage. Facials, acupuncture and salon services for men and women were available.

The spa also had a Thermal Suite, a communal relaxation area with thermal grottos, aromatic steam rooms, saunas, heated ceramic benches and mist fog showers. A pass to use the facilities throughout our seven-day cruise was $99, but (unadvertised) day passes were also available.

We sprang for a massage on Star Princess, a special offered late in the cruise—60 minutes for $119 ($99 for a massage focused on three body areas for 20 minutes each, and $119 if hot stones were thrown in). The treatment was handled by a Thai masseuse, and although her technique was not—perhaps—by the book, it was an excellent massage that left us both relaxed and restored after days of hauling about luggage and gear. Though we didn’t care for the sales pitch for various beauty products at the conclusion, we wouldn’t hesitate to book another treatment with her. Only caveat: Our treatment room had a vent that flooded the room with white noise; our treatment should have been one of the quietest parts of the ship, but the steady drone of ventilation noise was at odds with that.

We found all manner of activities, ranging from basketball to shuffleboard, ping pong tournaments to aerobics classes.


Lotus Spa, Salon and Fitness Center

The ship’s spa facilities are located on Deck 15 forward, in a horseshoe shaped space that wraps around the (outdoor) Lotus Pool. The spa is operated by Steiner Leisure, a company that manages spa services on many cruise ships, and prices are in line with their prices on other cruises, somewhat higher than is charged at most quality resorts. But prices were discounted on port days, and other specials or multiple appointments also availed discount for one-off treatments not on the regular menu.

Services offered included massage—seaweed, hot stone, bamboo, herbal poultice, etc. ranging $155 for the 50-minute Exotic Lime and Ginger Salt Glow with Massage to $259 for the 100-minute Seaweed Massage or 50-minute Couples Massage. Facials, acupuncture and salon services for men and women were available.

The spa also had a Thermal Suite, a communal relaxation area with thermal grottos, aromatic steam rooms, saunas, heated ceramic benches and mist fog showers. A pass to use the facilities throughout our seven-day cruise was $99, but (unadvertised) day passes were also available.

We sprang for a massage on Star Princess, a special offered late in the cruise—60 minutes for $119 ($99 for a massage focused on three body areas for 20 minutes each, and $119 if hot stones were thrown in). The treatment was handled by a Thai masseuse, and although her technique was not—perhaps—by the book, it was an excellent massage that left us both relaxed and restored after days of hauling about luggage and gear. Though we didn’t care for the sales pitch for various beauty products at the conclusion, we wouldn’t hesitate to book another treatment with her. Only caveat: Our treatment room had a vent that flooded the room with white noise; our treatment should have been one of the quietest parts of the ship, but the steady drone of ventilation noise was at odds with that.

Sports and Fitness

Located past the Lotus Spa, the ship’s fitness room offers a decent variety of weight and cardio equipment by Star Trac, TuffStuff and Precor—we even found a First Degree Fitness rower. The facility was busy most days, especially while at sea, and waits for some of the cardio equipment were not uncommon. The facility didn’t seem large enough for the number of passengers on our itinerary.

There was a good selection of fitness classes available. Free sessions included daily stretching and abs workouts, while Pilates, Balance (Yoga), and Spinning classes were $12 each ($30 for three); the four-session Body Sculpt Boot Camp was $120. Personal training sessions were priced $45 for a 30-minute express exercise session, $85 for 60 minutes; a package of three 60-minutes sessions was $209. Body composition analysis was $35 ($50 for a couple) and nutritional consultation was $85 (for one or two).

Sports Court

Perched on Deck 19, the ship’s highest level, this basketball court should be the spot for breezy games. Unfortunately we didn’t find any games or free throw sessions announced in the ship’s newsletter. Shuffleboard courts were just outside.

Lawn Court

Hidden behind the Movies Under the Stars screen on Deck 16, a spread of artificial grass in an industrial setting is the spot for lawn games—bocce ball, croquet and golf putting. We scoured the ship’s newsletter for tournaments but none were announced.
The shops wrapped around the lobby atrium on decks 5, 6 and 7, but we didn’t find much that was unique.


Gift Shops

There are five main shops clustered around the Lobby Atrium, on decks 5, 6 and 7 at mid-ship.

The ship’s informal shop is Calypso Cove, with liquor at duty-free prices (purchases delivered to cabins on the final afternoon of the cruise), binoculars, snorkel gear, Princess-branded merchandize, sunglasses, T-shirts and informal clothing, handbags, and basic drug store sundries including sun block and pain and cold remedies.

Meridian Bay carried costume and other jewelry items from Camrose & Kross (the Jacqueline Kennedy Collection), Guess and Majorica, while the shop Facets was dedicated to higher-end jewelry from Oriana, Asher and Tara. There were also Swarovski crystals and watches from Citizen, Philip Stein, Fossil, Tag Heuer, Tissot, Swatch and Guess.

At Essence we found the fragrance and beauty products, including Chanel, Calvin Klein, Chloé, Bvlgari, and Davidoff, and skin care by Lancôme, Clinique, Clarins, Prevage and StriVectin.

Next to Vines Bar was the Vines Shop, which carried Gylian, Godiva, Toblerone, Cadbury and Valor chocolates, along with oddball novelties and stationery products.

This was the gallery where photos of passengers were displayed for purchase. On Star Princess, we found the photo crew was omnipresent, snapping away at guests at many points of the cruise. On one particularly scenic morning, the photographers were assertive to the point of being obnoxious in repeatedly asking guests to pose for photos.

Photos were on display in this gallery, with 8×10 snaps sold at $19.99; portraits (posed in front of backdrops on formal night) were $24.99—no discount on multiple copies.

Retail

In addition to selling photos, picture frames and albums, binoculars and cameras (Fuji, Nikon), and common batteries and memory cards were available.

On Deck 5 was the ship’s art gallery, with art auctions held in the Explorer’s Lounge.

Princess Patter, the ship’s daily schedule, detailed the many activities that took place across the ship each day.


Internet Café and Library

This facility just off the Lobby Atrium combined the ship’s library and internet stations, and coffee was not far away (at the International Café). There were 18 IBM computers for surfing the web, with varied seating arrangements.

The basic rate for internet access—using our own laptop anywhere on the ship or using the Internet Café’s computers—was a heady .79 per minute, plus a $3.95 activation fee. Packages reduced the per-minute rates, and a 40-minute bonus was availed for those who signed up for packages on the first day of the cruise. A bargain “last day” package was also available for the last full day of the cruise: 15 minutes for $8.99.

The library had a few hundred books, with a particularly constrained selection of travel guides to the areas that Star Princess sailed (none of which could be removed from the area). A few board games were available, including Scrabble, Backgammon, Taboo and Trivial Pursuit.

Although computers could be accessed anytime, the station was staffed several hours in the morning, afternoon and evening.

Youth and Teen Centers

A large area of Deck 15 aft was set aside for dedicated kids programs, divided into three separate facilities based on age.

The entry-level program is Princess Pelicans, for ages 3-7, and activities include arts and crafts (T-shirt coloring), a disco night, scavenger hunts, ice cream and pajama parties. Children needed a parent to sign them in and out of the facilities daily.

Pre-teens age 8-12 were grouped into a program called Shockwaves, which featured arts and crafts, Playstation 2 tournaments, sports, a spelling bee, and scavenger hunts. Kids age 8 to 12 were allowed to sign in and out of the facilities daily, with the parents’ permission.

Teens rocked out in Remix, a facility that was not always staffed. Activities included T-shirt graffiti, dance parties, a casino night, DJ workshops, mocktail parties, teens-only formal dinners, and games like Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Pictionary, Scrabble, Jeopardy.

The general hours on sea days were 9 a.m. to noon, 2 to 5 p.m. and 7 to 10 p.m.; on port days the facilities were staffed 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 7 to 10 p.m. Group kid-sitting was also available from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m., for $5 per hour, per child.

Hearts and Minds

Found on Deck 15, just outside the Lotus Spa, Hearts and Minds was the ship’s small interdenominational chapel. Times for bible study were announced in the newsletter Princess Patter (which referred to the venue as the Wedding Chapel). The space was also used for Bill W meetings, spa seminars and for various groups onboard.

We didn’t need Vegas style razzle-dazzle, but entertainment aboard Star Princess seemed pretty routine.


Princess Theater

The ship’s main showroom was used for multiple events during our cruise, including naturalist lectures and a few afternoon movies. But the main focus is evening stage shows, ranging from a comedy-magic act to Broadway-lite extravaganzas to the closing night Princess Pop Star guest showcase. One show, called “Destination Anywhere,” struck us as creaky and dated. But the “British Invasion” production was invigorating, with vivid costumes and sets, solid choreography, and a talented cast of singers and dancers.

Architecturally, the theater not a flashy joint, efficiently squeezing in about 750 passengers at a go.

Movies Under the Stars

This was one of our favorite features on Star Princess: a dedicated outdoor movie theatre. Although many ships have movie screens above their main pool areas, Princess does a particularly good job for its guests, putting blankets out on loungers, having fresh popcorn and even servers providing cookies and milk. It’s like a cozy drive-in at sea.

The outdoor screen rises above the Neptune’s Reef pool area. The movie selection represented relatively fresh releases that had been theaters within the last 6 months. And the presentation quality was strong enough that a relatively bright, crisp picture can be enjoyed, even when the sun is out (though it’s at its best after sundown). The usual schedule was each movie would play once or twice in the evening, around 7:30 and 10 p.m.; most of these repeated on another day at 10 a.m. or 3 p.m. There was also a daily concert video—Stevie Wonder, Pavarotti, U2, Paul McCartney—that would be played at 5:30 p.m.

The popcorn station was next to Sundaes, and the adjacent Mermaid’s Tail Bar offered a small selection of candies to complete the movie-going experience.

One complaint: Although sound volume was fine during most movies played here, one action film had a hefty bass track. The volume was so loud during certain scenes that bottles and glasses on the bar shelves opposite the screen rumbled and rattled, and conversations came to a halt. The entertainment staff should have been more attuned to the divergent needs served on these decks.

We found the outdoor Movies Under the Stars pretty appealing, but staged entertainment fell short.


We found plenty of open areas, and the amphitheatre-like aft section of Star Princess was a fine multi-level environment.


We were impressed with the variety and quality of the pool areas.


Neptune’s Reef

Of the five pools on Star Princess, Neptune’s Reef is the central pool and serves as the main outdoor facility. The pool depth ranged from 4-foot 6-inches at one end, to 7 feet deep at the other. There were two hot tubs, showers and the screen for Movies Under the Stars. Depending on the weather, this area was sometimes quite busy.

Bar service was available from the Mermaids Tail Bar facing the pool area.

Calypso Reef and Calypso Bar

Of the five pools on Star Princess, Calypso Reef is one of the two largest, and the ship’s one indoor swimming facility. The pool depth ranged from 5-foot 2-inches at one end, to 7 feet deep at the other. There are two hot tubs, showers and loungers, plus the Conservatory, an upper deck wrapping around the pool that has Ping Pong tables and more loungers (the Conservatory was little used during our cruise).

Terrace Pool

This area was one of the more curious elements of Star Princess. The Terrace Pool is a bit smaller than Calypso Reef and Neptune’s Reef, but it sat at the tail end of Deck 12, meaning we could sit in the pool and gaze aft, watching the world go by. The oddest thing was the T-shaped “spoiler” suspended above us, Skywalkers Nightclub, a structure that shaded the pool for most of the day and provided a spacy view overhead. It was a great spot to hang out and bar service was available from the nearby Outrigger Bar.

Lotus Pool

This smaller pool occupies a sunken space within the spa facility. There were 10 loungers, a couple small hot tubs, and showers. It’s outdoors, but with walls enclosing this space, sun didn’t land here most of the day. Still the secluded spot was somewhat more private than the ship’s other pool areas. It was also convenient for guests using the Sanctuary, just upstairs.

Star Princess had lots of areas for sun and sea breezes, plus the Sanctuary, a cosseting private deck with a surcharge.


Neptune’s Reef

Of the five pools on Star Princess, Neptune’s Reef is the central pool and serves as the main outdoor facility. The pool depth ranged from 4-foot 6-inches at one end, to 7 feet deep at the other. There were two hot tubs, showers and the screen for Movies Under the Stars. Depending on the weather, this area was sometimes quite busy.

Bar service was available from the Mermaids Tail Bar facing the pool area.

Calypso Reef and Calypso Bar

Of the five pools on Star Princess, Calypso Reef is one of the two largest, and the ship’s one indoor swimming facility. The pool depth ranged from 5-foot 2-inches at one end, to 7 feet deep at the other. There are two hot tubs, showers and loungers, plus the Conservatory, an upper deck wrapping around the pool that has Ping Pong tables and more loungers (the Conservatory was little used during our cruise).

Terrace Pool

This area was one of the more curious elements of Star Princess. The Terrace Pool is a bit smaller than Calypso Reef and Neptune’s Reef, but it sat at the tail end of Deck 12, meaning we could sit in the pool and gaze aft, watching the world go by. The oddest thing was the T-shaped “spoiler” suspended above us, Skywalkers Nightclub, a structure that shaded the pool for most of the day and provided a spacy view overhead. It was a great spot to hang out and bar service was available from the nearby Outrigger Bar.

The Oasis

This area was underused during our cruise. The pool was smaller than most, a glorified plunge pool, perhaps, and there was a kiddie pool next to it, but as it was quiet most times the space provided a nice area for sunning and relaxing.

Lotus Pool

This smaller pool occupies a sunken space within the spa facility. There were 10 loungers, a couple small hot tubs, and showers. It’s outdoors, but with walls enclosing this space, sun didn’t land here most of the day. Still the secluded spot was somewhat more private than the ship’s other pool areas. It was also convenient for guests using the Sanctuary, just upstairs.

The Sanctuary

We had mixed feelings about the Sanctuary, a paid-access club on Deck 16. With cushy loungers, screened sun, potted (fake) vegetation, and attentive waiters, it’s a lovely facility offering some of the ship’s best sea views. But we also felt such prime space should be accessible to anyone booking a cruise on Star Princess. Instead, there’s a $20 day use fee for the facility—it’s one more strike against the all-inclusive nature of the cruise experience.

We’ll put aside egalitarian notions for a moment. Much of what makes the adults-only Sanctuary so appealing is the dearth of bodies. The facility has ample loungers for its relatively few guests; a couple oversized private cabanas are reserved for massages (regular spa prices prevail). Waiters deliver light meals from a limited menu, but a $3 delivery fee was applied to food orders; considering there’s already a cost to use the facility, we found the additional surcharge to be a bit tacky.

It’s a quiet area, but MP3 players with themed playlists (Smooth Jazz, Chill Lounge, etc.) were available, with BOSE Acoustic Noise Canceling headphones. Free from crowding or romping kids, this elite club provided a good hideaway to a select few.

Promenade Deck

The Promenade Deck circuited most of the exterior portion of Deck 7. Near the front of the ship the deck ends, but staircases on both sides of the ship lead up to Deck 8. Three complete circuits of decks 7 and 8 equaled one mile, but note that the forward portion of Deck 8 is closed after sunset. There were ample deck chairs for taking in the sea breezes.

Deck 15

This large exterior deck extended from the bridge area of the ship and wrapped around the pools, leading to stairs and the Oasis. The forward section above the bridge represented some of the best views for those not wishing to spring for day-use fee at The Sanctuary. There were no deck chairs or services here, and the area could be windy (it’s closed after sundown), but still a nice perch.

Deck 17

This smallish deck towered above the Neptune’s Pool area. We found it rarely used during our cruise, but it was a nice spot for catching some rays. It was also the highest accessible point on the forward part of the ship.

Star Princess had a pretty solid range of activities onboard, and we found the staff to be accommodating without being overbearing.


Each night the ship’s newsletter, Princess Patter, arrived in our room and provided details on the activities scheduled for the next day.

Ship Tour Overview

With 14 public decks, there was a lot of ground to cover inside and out.


We found this ship to be quite well managed, with a polished crew.


Staff

Across the board, we found the staff of Star Princess to be polished, engaged and appealing. From our check-in attendant to cabin attendant and waiters in restaurants and bars, service levels were well honed. We would happily sail with this crew again.

One exception was the ship’s staff of photographers. While all were probably doing exactly the job they were hired to do—meeting a designated quota of passenger photos per day—they were particularly distracting on one scenic morning. While cruising through Tracy Arm, when the view was most definitely looking out from the ship (and not at paparazzi), the photographers asked guests to pose for photos, over and over. While some guests may have happy to have a few pricey shots to take home (or been flattered for the attention), we found that the photographers took away from the most scenic portion of the cruise.
Princess adds a tip of $11.50 per day, per guest for crewmember services, other than bartenders ($12 per day for guests in Mini-Suites and Suites). The charge is automatically added to the statement during the cruise.

For bar service a 15 percent service charge is automatically added onto all beverage tabs. Tips for spa and casino staff are left to the discretion of guests.
Princess Cruises’ dress code encouraged sports wear and casual attire by day, with swimwear discouraged from public rooms and lounges. After 5:30 p.m., suggested eveningwear was Smart Casual—open-neck shirt and slacks for gents; and dress, skirt and blouse or trouser suit for ladies. On formal nights (there were two on our seven-day cruise), suggested attire was tux, slacks with dinner jacket or suit and tie for men; and evening gown, cocktail dress or trouser suit for women. Shorts, tank tops and T-shirts were not permitted in the dining rooms.

While there were plenty of passengers on board who dressed to the nines, there were just as many (especially teens) who kept their attire fairly casual.

Princess Cruises’ policy regarding alcohol at check-in allows one bottle of wine or champagne per adult per voyage. A $15 corkage fee per bottle is charged for any personal wines opened in public areas of the ship.
The frequent-cruiser program Princess Cruises’ Captain’s Circle has an ardent following. The top 40 most-traveled cruisers aboard were invited to a private lunch with the captain, and the top three most traveled were heralded at a members’ cocktail party and awarded crystal trophies.

Passengers become Gold Level members following their first cruise, which avails some preferential pricing, launch savings and a members-only cocktail reception. Following the fifth cruise, passengers are awarded Platinum status, which includes preferred check-in and onboard internet credits. After the 15th cruise, Elite Level benefits kick in, including free laundry, 10-percent boutique discounts, upgraded cabin amenities, complimentary minibar setup, and more.
Self-service, coin-operated laundry facilities were available on all decks with cabins, except Deck 14; irons and ironing boards were available here as well.
Star Princess seemed clean and tidy to us, and safety issues were carefully addressed during the Muster Drill.


General Health and Safety

Held just prior to disembarkation, room keys were scanned when we arrived for the Muster Drill. Our Muster station was the Princess Theater, a venue that holds about 750 people. To our surprise, there weren’t enough seats for the attendees—at least 45 passengers were left to stand or sit in the aisles. We didn’t find this reassuring as we thought about how a real emergency might be handled.

All passengers were required to bring their life vests for the Muster Drill, and instructions for wearing them were provided. The information was conveyed in a thorough, detailed manner.

Hand sanitizers were present at all restaurant entrances and their use was encouraged.
The medical center was located on Deck 4, mid-ship. It was staffed 9 to 11 a.m. and 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.
Indoor areas of Star Princess—including staterooms and their balconies—were designated as non-smoking. The three exceptions to this policy were the casino (an area we found well ventilated), Shooters Bar (where cigars and pipes are also permitted), and one side of Skywalker’s Nightclub. Smoking was permitted in designated outdoor areas of the ship.
As the third largest cruise line working the highs seas, Princess Cruises possesses a fleet of (mostly) big ships that deliver a consistent if conventional cruise experience. This cuts both ways. Our trip aboard Star Princess was certainly pleasant and the operation didn’t hit any rough patches, but in aiming for the broadest possible audience the cruise line is anything but surprising—a Princess cruise is the antithesis of edgy.

Our Interior Cabin was small and the décor was a bit bland, but it offered an economical cruise option—we were just glad not to be sharing the confined space with someone we didn’t get along with! For instance, other than the bed, there was only one place to sit in the bedroom (these quarters are just fine for singles). We did have an issue with sound leaking into our cabin from the Princess Theater below—light sleepers might want to pay careful attention to deck plans and cabin locations on this ship.

While there were no standouts among the ship’s four main restaurants, we had mostly good, if unexceptional dining experiences. The main dining rooms Amalfi, Capri and Portofino, where we took most of our meals, were consistent, and service was steady. The buffet venue Horizon Court showcased a decent array of food—not quite a broad range, but most of it changed daily so we never tired of eating here. Of the ship’s two surcharge venues, Crown Grill came out ahead, despite its harsh lighting. The meal was good—again, not exceptional—and the add-on for a steak dinner did not seem unreasonable. But our meal at Sabatini’s was disappointing, primarily for the lobster entrée that was, in a word, terrible.

Would we sail on Star Princess again? Sure—the ship’s dining was generally decent, and service levels were above average, from a crew that was on the ball and engaging without being overbearing (one exception: the photography staff). The pool and deck areas were extensive and appealing, kept spic and span, and we enjoyed the variety of bars and lounges. We’d spring for a larger cabin, and we’d pay closer attention to the screening schedule for Movies Under the Stars, to catch up on a few flicks we might have missed in theatres. And we’d invite our extended family to come along for the ride. In catering to the masses, a clear strength of Princess Cruises is delivering a little something for everyone.
The trio of main dining rooms on Star Princess delivered.


Overview

There are three matching “main” dining rooms on Star Princess on decks 5 and 6 aft, each providing an identical setting, ambience, kitchen and menu. Only the fresco backdrops seemed to change from one to the next (and even these were so generic in style we weren’t even sure about that). Guests booking the traditional dining plan—with seatings at 5:30 and 7:45 p.m. nightly—had dinner in the Amalfi Dining Room each evening; those choosing the Anytime Dining plan ate in the Capri and Portofino dining rooms. We tried all three and found the service to be consistently friendly and upbeat, and our special requests were easily accommodated.

A small vase of fresh flowers was on every table and every dinner started with basket of nicely varied breads.

At one meal our waitress recommended the skillet fried halibut with Swiss chard—the fish wasn’t skillet fried (more like poached), but the mild taste of the fish was nicely contrasted against the bitter and sweet of chard and tomato-cumin sauce, with a bushel of green beans on the side. We also liked the pan-fried rockfish served on a decadent potato and leek casserole. Among the appetizers we enjoyed the tasty quiche with crabmeat, a perfect pie slice against a red pepper salsa. But we ordered the salad of butter lettuce, endive, radicchio and arugula and found it suffered from fairly tired greens, awash in too much dressing.

The heralded Alaskan dinner was surprising in that the state’s star item—fresh summer salmon—was a no-show (though it was offered at lunch). But we enjoyed every item we tried, including the warm crab and artichoke dip, flush with flavor (though the menu promised bagel chips, and a few slices of the day’s bread had to suffice). The Alaskan seafood soup was silky, though the chowder was not quite as advertised—the menu promised white fish, shrimp, and mussels but we only tasted the fish. The soup was tasty, but the dominant flavors were of potato and celery—seafood seemed to be an afterthought. But the entrée was right on: cured smoked pork loin sitting on a bed of sauerkraut with a couple small potatoes alongside diced carrots. Our waitress spooned applesauce on the side and we were quite happy.

Most desserts were good, including bananas Foster flambé; the bowl wasn’t aflame when it came to our table, but still redolent with sweet caramel and orange flavor. There was a delightful tapioca pudding that with lots of almond flavor (only flaw: the biscotti that accompanied had been perched atop the dish ahead of time, meaning one half of the small cookie was almost soggy). One dessert was a letdown: We ordered the “artisan” cheese plate, which was comprised of a cluster of grapes, three undistinguished (non-artisan) cheeses and three plastic wrapped packets of Ritz crackers—tacky.

On sea days lunch was served, and ours started well with a “maccheroni alla Chitarra” with lamb ragout and bell pepper, more like a linguine noodle, cooked al dente with a healthy layer of a gently sweet red sauce. Our seared salmon salad entrée was unimpressive—fresh silver salmon fillets, still warm, blanketing an uninteresting salad with a creamy dressing. Other lunch offerings included grilled tilapia tacos, turkey scaloppini, and a beef pot pie, along with

Breakfasts were just fine if traditional in scope. There was a selection of cold cereals and hot oatmeal, a bagel with salmon and cream cheese, egg dishes, fruit plates, compotes, baked goods and griddle items (the blueberry pancakes were tasty). Two specials each morning included a daily egg dish—an Alaska scrambler one morning, eggs Florentine another.

The ship’s standard wine list was available, and cocktails from the standard drink menu could be ordered.

The Capri dining room was open each evening from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.; those on the Anytime Dining plan could also eat at Portofino from 7:45 to 10 p.m. Those on the Traditional Dining Plan were seated at 5:30 (Portofino and Amalfi) or 7:45 p.m. (Amalfi only).

Portofino was open for breakfast daily from 7 to 9 a.m. Lunch was served at Portofino on sea days from 12 noon to 1:30 p.m., and afternoon tea daily from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m.
The buffet venue showcased good variety and excelled with desserts.


Overview

Encompassing a series of rooms wrapping around the buffet on Deck 14, Horizon Court was the ship’s efficient buffet restaurant. The selection of foods was easy to navigate, in part because the number of choices wasn’t very extensive. But the variety was good, and most of the menu changed daily. Despite the ship’s size, and Horizon Court’s popularity at breakfast, we never had a problem locating an empty table, especially in the rear sections.

The breakfast selection was somewhat more varied than the menu at the Portofino Dining Room and included the expected scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, hash browns, trays of Belgian waffles, pancakes and French toast. Omelets cooked to order offered ingredients such as asparagus, smoked salmon, fresh spinach and jalapeño—Egg Beaters or egg whites on request. There was a station for breakfast parfaits with yogurt and compote (peach with bran one day, raspberry with almonds and oats another), along with plain yogurt and stewed fruits. Fresh fruit was okay, but could have been better. There was a daily quiche, salmon with fixings, and trays of cold cuts and cheeses, and an Asian soup of the day was available at breakfast. As we’ve found on other Princess Cruises, the breads, pastries and muffins were very good.

Lunches were somewhat uneven, but we usually found tasty items to enjoy. The spread included a daily carving station, ribs, fried chicken, mashed potato and other hot items. There were two soups daily, such as Philadelphia pepper pot, consommé with profiteroles and a bortsch style soup—we found the latter thinner than mom used to make, without much beet flavor, but it was a nice change of pace nonetheless. Another station offered cold cuts, cheeses and a modest salad bar (a little more variety here would be nice), plus a rotating selection of prepared and pasta salads. Less pleasing offerings were the lasagna (a puddle of mush laden overloaded with cheese) and pre-made sandwiches in plastic wrap—these deserved something better than white bread and more imagination than ham and cheese and its cousins.

Again, desserts were a highlight, a rotating selection of fruit tartlets, mousse, short cake, cheesecake, and a hot dessert such as baked apple in puff pastry with vanilla sauce. After a couple days we found we couldn’t pass up the daily cupcake.

“Light snacks” were offered late afternoon—this included baked potatoes with all the trimmings one afternoon, and a very tasty guacamole with chips and salsa on another.

Horizon Court was much less busy at night, but hearty meals came out, including such fare as pork chops with herbs, turkey with giblet gravy, baked sweet potatoes, green bean salad, meat and vegetable capricciosa salad and fruit stuffing, along with the usual spread of desserts.

Coffee, tea and iced tea were provided from dispensers, made from a concentrate. Juice flavors available at breakfast included orange drink, grapefruit, tomato, cranberry and apple. Fresh-squeezed orange juice was available at the nearby Calypso Bar for $2.75. The ship’s standard wine list was available, and cocktails from the standard drink menu could be ordered from servers.

Continental breakfast was served at Horizon Court each morning from 5 to 6 a.m. followed by full breakfast from 6 to 11:30 a.m. The lunch menu was available between 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., with light snacks available till 5:30 p.m. The dinner selection was offered from 5:30 till 11 p.m., with light snacks available till midnight.
The specialty Italian restaurant had a pleasing setting and good service, but our entrée was a loser


Overview

Of the two surcharge restaurants on Star Princess, we expected the Italian Sabatini’s to be a pretty safe bet, with food cooked to order in an open kitchen. While the appetizers and desserts were fine, our entrée was not. Murals of classical Italian coastlines lined the walls in an attempt to transport us to the Med, but we were distracted by the sound leaking from the adjacent bar, which competed with the light opera music playing in Sabatini’s. But the atmosphere and personalized service was appealing, and we left feeling that we simply ordered the wrong entree.

The menu hints at a reasonably ambitious Italian meal—branzino (striped bass) in salt crust, duck with fava beans and pancetta, grilled veal chop with mushroom ragout, along with a nightly pasta special. Our dinner started with assorted breads served with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and accompanied by green and black olives. We had an insalata mista—the mixed green salad—which was scantily dressed; the nice spring greens still had the spark of life in them, capped with three thin sheets of pecorino cheese. Our pasta carbonara was fine, not loaded down with cream and butter, allowing the egg and bacon flavor to ring through.

For entrée we took our waiter’s suggestion and ordered the tris d’aragosta, lobster three ways. Alas, not one of the three ways was a road we wanted to head down. The lobster bisque had a robust, but off-putting flavor; the lobster risotto was overcooked mush. The third member of the trio was inedible—a lobster tail that tasted as though it had been marinated in brine. Of course, our waiter offered to bring a replacement, but we were so repelled that we wanted only a palate-cleanser. The Sinfonia di Sapori for dessert was tasty and attractive (you know we’re a sucker for nuts and caramel).

In addition to the standard wine and cocktail list, and expanded, Italian-focused wine selection was available. Italian themed after-dinner drinks were also offered. The tiramisu martini—vodka, Kahlúa, espresso, Mascarpone cheese sugar and milk—intrigued.

Sabatini’s was open from 6 to 11 p.m. nightly, and it was fully booked on several nights of our cruise.
The ship’s steakhouse was a handsome venue with competently prepared meats.


Overview

Located just off the atrium lobby area on Deck 7, the Crown Grill is the second of two surcharge restaurants aboard Star Princess. The add-on was reasonable for a hearty meal of Sterling Silver beef, served in wood-paneled rooms that faced an open kitchen. Our only complaint was the harsh florescent lighting that poured in from the Promenade Deck (we’d recommend a table away from the windows). Our waiter initially seemed gruff, but we admired his very direct reply when we asked if there was something from the seafood selection he recommended. “It’s a steakhouse,” he stated bluntly.

Beef choices ranged from an 8-ounce filet mignon to 16-ounce Kansas City strip to a 22-ounce porterhouse steak, with sideshows of New Zealand rack of lamb, Madeira-glazed Wisconsin veal chop, and a pork chop served with caramelized apples. These were handsomely displayed on a table at the entrance to the restaurant. Seafood choices included a mussel pot, Chilean sea bass and king prawns, and a barramundi papillote. Do you think we dared ask further?

We chose the 12-ounce New York strip, which we found to be good if unexceptional. The chop was ordered medium rare and was delivered just so, with a pleasing layer of char on the surface. The marbling was about right, and gristle was at a minimum. Scalloped potato on the side was appropriately decadent.

For a starter we tried the seared Pacific scallops served on a truffled potato confit, trimmed with crispy bacon and shiitake mushrooms—it was delicious. We also enjoyed the Grill Salad (or at least we think we did; what we received was a bit different than the menu’s description, but just fine nonetheless). Our dessert was a kind of deconstructed caramel cheesecake parfait, an elegantly presented dish with candied pineapple and a coconut madeleine for good measure. It was a fitting end to a satisfying meal.

Nice touch, but: A series of gourmet sea salts was on the table from the start—Hawaiian black, Himalayan pink and Yakima Valley smoked applewood—but we found all our dishes to be adequately seasoned, so we didn’t imbibe.

The standard bar menu is available at the Crown Grill, along with an expanded wine list.

Crown Grill was open from 5:30 to 11 p.m. nightly, and the venue was large enough that getting a reservation didn’t seem to be a problem during our cruise.
Located on the Lido Deck these eateries were noshing around Neptune’s Reef.


Overview

No surprises here: These side-by-side eateries delivered competent grilled items, pizzas and ice cream.

Trident Grill served burgers (including veggie burgers and chicken breast), hot dogs (including bratwurst) and fries. We tried a cheeseburger here and found it pretty good. It was roughly comparable to the one we received through room service, though the room service burger was a bit thicker.

The pizzas were okay—especially fresh out of the oven—but nothing to get excited over. Margherita and pepperoni were always available, along with a daily special such as Hawaiian.

We didn’t find sundaes at Sundaes—go figure—but there was soft serve vanilla and chocolate ice cream, along with strawberry ice cream by the scoop. Milk shakes were $2.50, and boxed candies were offered for $1.95.

The ship’s standard bar menu was available from Mermaid’s Tail, sandwiched between Trident Grill and Prego Pizzeria.

All three venues were open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
For coffee drinks and light meals at all hours, this was the spot.


Open 24 hours, the International Café was our go-to spot for a quick bite or shot of caffeine. Plates could be eaten at tables scattered around the lobby area (at a premium during the lunch hour), and coffee beverages were available in glassware or to-go cups. It was good to check the daily newsletter to see what entertainment might be scheduled; the lobby atrium became crowded at these times.

Served from deli style cases, the food selection rotated through the day. In the morning there was an egg, ham and cheese muffin available, along with various pastries, including donuts, muffins, cinnamon rolls, and Danish, and muesli with berries served from the deli case.

By noon the selection alternated to quiche, soups, salads and smaller sandwiches. There was shrimp salad, chicken Waldorf salad, Greek salad and grilled vegetable salad. The sandwiches were fairly basic, ham and cheese on croissant, chicken and tomato, and a tuna, tomato, mozzarella and pesto (the selection never seemed to change during our cruise). There was also a crab meat quiche.

Later in the afternoon pastries marched in, including fruit tartlets, chocolate mille feuille, cherry cheesecake, pavlova, carrot cake, tiramisu and a gluten free peanut butter chocolate cup; a basket of cookies was also available. No one went away hungry.

The coffee bar served better java than was available at other venues. Priced ranged $1.25 to $1.75 for brewed coffee (regular and large), $2.50-$3.50 for cappuccino or café latte and $2.75-$3.75 for mocha, white chocolate latte or caramel latte. Iced blended drinks were also available ($2.50-$3.75). A coffee card was priced $29 for 15 drinks.

The International Café was open 24 hours.
The lobby bar was conveniently situated next to the International Café, making it a nice place to gather for a drink and hors d'oeuvres. It was also a good spot for live music of all stripes, including solo guitar, piano, a string quartet playing classical, and a band that played Swing and Big Band hits. The schedule for performances was found in the ship's newsletter, Princess Patter.

The ship’s standard wine list was available at the Lobby Bar, and cocktails from the standard drink menu could be ordered.

This wine bar on Star Princess is a pleasant enough hangout, located on the ground floor of the lobby atrium. But it appeared that most or all of the wines offered—32 choices, by the glass—mirrored the ship’s standard wine list, which seemed like a real underutilization of the concept. This was the only venue, however, to offer flights of wine—three smaller pours for prices ranging $8.25-$10.25, served in Riedel stemware. Even here, it would have been nice to sample some more-exotic wines.

Light crudites were available at Vines, for those imbibing.

Most glasses were priced $7.25-$9.50, and among the better options were Seghesio zinfandel, Santa Margherita pinot grigio, and La Crema pinot noir. There were three choices with bubbles—at $17.50 per glass, Veuve Clicquot Brut was the most expensive offering at Vines.

As the ship’s de facto martini bar, Crooners has an expanded selection of the drinks on offer—more than 50 iterations including quite a few we’d never heard of. The friendly bartenders knew their way around the cocktail list. It’s a great spot pre-prandial, with lots of people-watching or enjoying the sunset panoramas; a pianist shows up most evenings for light entertainment.

In addition to the standard bar list, Crooners has a special martini list, most of them priced $7.95, but some Ultra Premium for $8.95. The long list of included a Golden Nugget (Bacardi Limon, coconut milk and passion fruit) and Tango Tini (Stolichnaya vodka, Blue Curaçao and melon liqueur), and a roster of chocolate-flavored martinis. All were shaken tableside (or at the bar) and served with cocktail mix and (as appropriate) a choice of olives—stuffed with almond, garlic, blue cheese, etc.

Several versions of the Manhattan and Rob Roy are also served, along with wine and champagne by the glass as well as champagne cocktails (Bellini, etc.). Wines by the bottle include Santa Margarita Pinot Grigio ($41) Rosemont Shiraz ($31) and Veuve Clicquot ($74).

Crooners Bar was open from 10 a.m. till late in the evening.
This large, theatre-style venue on Deck 7 aft was an all-purpose room, used for many function during our cruise, from Bingo sessions to movies—the bar was sporadically open for these. Other events included future cruise presentation, dance lessons and photography lessons.

The ship’s standard wine list was available, and cocktails from the standard drink menu could be ordered.

This large, centrally located bar was decorated with paintings of old ships and sea heroes. The venue was used for various events during the day, before the bar opened at 4 p.m. There was a bandstand and dance floor here, and techno music ramped up as early as 7 p.m.

The ship’s standard wine list was available, and cocktails from the standard drink menu could be ordered.

Wheelhouse Bar was open daily from 4 p.m. till late in the evening.
This all-purpose cabaret lounge had a stage for music acts and other events such as trivia contests and art auctions. The design is a tribute to intrepid travelers, with Egyptian columns and bookcases full of travel memorabilia.

The ship’s standard wine list was available, and cocktails from the standard drink menu could be ordered.
Explorer’s Lounge was open daily from 5 p.m. till late in the evening.
Tucked away next to the lower entrance to Princess Theater on Deck 5, this cozy bar was an enclosed space for cigar lovers. More than a dozen Dominican stogies were available for purchase, starting at $8 for Puros Indios Rothschild, along with various whiskeys and cognacs. Shooter's Bar also served as the ship’s sports bar and occasional live events were shown here, but those pool tables on the ceiling were strictly decorative!

The ship’s standard wine list was available, and cocktails from the standard drink menu could be ordered. We also found Johnnie Walker Blue Label here, along with Rémy Martin Louis XIII cognac ($75 for a 1-oz. shot).

Shooter's Bar was open daily from 5 p.m. till late in the evening. It could be used for indoor smoking when the bar was closed.
This was one of five bars available on the upper open decks for sun-lovers—this one on Deck 14 facing the screen for Movies Under the Stars. During movies a small selection of candies was available for purchase.

The ship’s standard wine list was available, and cocktails from the standard drink menu could be ordered.

Overlooking the Terrace Pool, the Outrigger Bar was one of five watering holes available on the upper decks. It was also a good option for those dining at Horizon Court, just inside.

The ship’s standard wine list was available, and cocktails from the standard drink menu could be ordered.

When the weather was right, this was a great spot for enjoying a drink. The open-air spot faced the giant screen for Movies Under the Stars, but during the day, people-watching was a solid diversion.

The ship’s standard wine list was available, and cocktails from the standard drink menu could be ordered.

Spoiler alert! This was a cool retro nightclub that hung out over the aft of the ship, accessed by a tunnel with moving walkway. While some have mocked the architectural styling as giving Star Princess (and sibling Golden Princess) a shopping cart look in profile, we prefer to think of this outlandish accessory as the nod to space travel that it was intended to be. Of course, a decade after it was completed, the appendage looks wonderfully kitschy, as well.

Skywalkers represents the highest accessible point of the ship, Deck 18. The bar spreads to both the port and starboard sides of the ship, offering sweeping views both forward and aft. By day, the bar was not staffed, and it was a great, often empty place to stretch out with a book. At night a DJ was present and the dance floor got somewhat of a workout.

The ship’s standard wine list was available, and cocktails from the standard drink menu could be ordered.

The bar at Skywalkers Nightclub officially opened to all at 10 p.m. for dancing till late in the evening, but bartenders were usually present earlier in the evening.
Of the five pools on Star Princess, Neptune’s Reef is the central pool and serves as the main outdoor facility. The pool depth ranged from 4-foot 6-inches at one end, to 7 feet deep at the other. There were two hot tubs, showers and the screen for Movies Under the Stars. Depending on the weather, this area was sometimes quite busy.

Bar service was available from the Mermaids Tail Bar facing the pool area.

Of the five pools on Star Princess, Calypso Reef is one of the two largest, and the ship’s one indoor swimming facility. The pool depth ranged from 5-foot 2-inches at one end, to 7 feet deep at the other. There are two hot tubs, showers and loungers, plus the Conservatory, an upper deck wrapping around the pool that has Ping Pong tables and more loungers (the Conservatory was little used during our cruise).

The Calypso Bar was one of the busier bars on the ship, serving many of the guests using the Horizon Court buffet, and the ship’s standard bar menu was available. This was also where we got our fresh squeezed orange juice in the morning ($2.75).

This area was one of the more curious elements of Star Princess. The Terrace Pool is a bit smaller than Calypso Reef and Neptune’s Reef, but it sat at the tail end of Deck 12, meaning we could sit in the pool and gaze aft, watching the world go by. The oddest thing was the T-shaped “spoiler” suspended above us, Skywalkers Nightclub, a structure that shaded the pool for most of the day and provided a spacy view overhead. It was a great spot to hang out and bar service was available from the nearby Outrigger Bar.

Overview

This area was underused during our cruise. The pool was smaller than most, a glorified plunge pool, perhaps, and there was a kiddie pool next to it, but as it was quiet most times the space provided a nice area for sunning and relaxing.

Drinks

The Oasis Bar never opened during our cruise, even on days when the pool was fairly active.

This smaller pool occupies a sunken space within the spa facility. There were 10 loungers, a couple small hot tubs, and showers. It’s outdoors, but with walls enclosing this space, sun didn’t land here most of the day. Still the secluded spot was somewhat more private than the ship’s other pool areas. It was also convenient for guests using the Sanctuary, just upstairs.

The Lotus Spa is imbued with a vague (very vague) Asian theme.


Overview

The ship’s spa facilities are located on Deck 15 forward, in a horseshoe shaped space that wraps around the (outdoor) Lotus Pool. The spa is operated by Steiner Leisure, a company that manages spa services on many cruise ships, and prices are in line with their prices on other cruises, somewhat higher than is charged at most quality resorts. But prices were discounted on port days, and other specials or multiple appointments also availed discount for one-off treatments not on the regular menu.

Services offered included massage—seaweed, hot stone, bamboo, herbal poultice, etc. ranging $155 for the 50-minute Exotic Lime and Ginger Salt Glow with Massage to $259 for the 100-minute Seaweed Massage or 50-minute Couples Massage. Facials, acupuncture and salon services for men and women were available.

The spa also had a Thermal Suite, a communal relaxation area with thermal grottos, aromatic steam rooms, saunas, heated ceramic benches and mist fog showers. A pass to use the facilities throughout our seven-day cruise was $99, but (unadvertised) day passes were also available.

We sprang for a massage on Star Princess, a special offered late in the cruise—60 minutes for $119 ($99 for a massage focused on three body areas for 20 minutes each, and $119 if hot stones were thrown in). The treatment was handled by a Thai masseuse, and although her technique was not—perhaps—by the book, it was an excellent massage that left us both relaxed and restored after days of hauling about luggage and gear. Though we didn’t care for the sales pitch for various beauty products at the conclusion, we wouldn’t hesitate to book another treatment with her. Only caveat: Our treatment room had a vent that flooded the room with white noise; our treatment should have been one of the quietest parts of the ship, but the steady drone of ventilation noise was at odds with that.

We found all manner of activities, ranging from basketball to shuffleboard, ping pong tournaments to aerobics classes.


Located past the Lotus Spa, the ship’s fitness room offers a decent variety of weight and cardio equipment by Star Trac, TuffStuff and Precor—we even found a First Degree Fitness rower. The facility was busy most days, especially while at sea, and waits for some of the cardio equipment were not uncommon. The facility didn’t seem large enough for the number of passengers on our itinerary.

There was a good selection of fitness classes available. Free sessions included daily stretching and abs workouts, while Pilates, Balance (Yoga), and Spinning classes were $12 each ($30 for three); the four-session Body Sculpt Boot Camp was $120. Personal training sessions were priced $45 for a 30-minute express exercise session, $85 for 60 minutes; a package of three 60-minutes sessions was $209. Body composition analysis was $35 ($50 for a couple) and nutritional consultation was $85 (for one or two).

Perched on Deck 19, the ship’s highest level, this basketball court should be the spot for breezy games. Unfortunately we didn’t find any games or free throw sessions announced in the ship’s newsletter. Shuffleboard courts were just outside.

We had mixed feelings about the Sanctuary, a paid-access club on Deck 16. With cushy loungers, screened sun, potted (fake) vegetation, and attentive waiters, it’s a lovely facility offering some of the ship’s best sea views. But we also felt such prime space should be accessible to anyone booking a cruise on Star Princess. Instead, there’s a $20 day use fee for the facility—it’s one more strike against the all-inclusive nature of the cruise experience.

We’ll put aside egalitarian notions for a moment. Much of what makes the adults-only Sanctuary so appealing is the dearth of bodies. The facility has ample loungers for its relatively few guests; a couple oversized private cabanas are reserved for massages (regular spa prices prevail). Waiters deliver light meals from a limited menu, but a $3 delivery fee was applied to food orders; considering there’s already a cost to use the facility, we found the additional surcharge to be a bit tacky.

It’s a quiet area, but MP3 players with themed playlists (Smooth Jazz, Chill Lounge, etc.) were available, with BOSE Acoustic Noise Canceling headphones. Free from crowding or romping kids, this elite club provided a good hideaway to a select few.

Hidden behind the Movies Under the Stars screen on Deck 16, a spread of artificial grass in an industrial setting is the spot for lawn games—bocce ball, croquet and golf putting. We scoured the ship’s newsletter for tournaments but none were announced.

The ship’s main showroom was used for multiple events during our cruise, including naturalist lectures and a few afternoon movies. But the main focus is evening stage shows, ranging from a comedy-magic act to Broadway-lite extravaganzas to the closing night Princess Pop Star guest showcase. One show, called “Destination Anywhere,” struck us as creaky and dated. But the “British Invasion” production was invigorating, with vivid costumes and sets, solid choreography, and a talented cast of singers and dancers.

Architecturally, the theater not a flashy joint, efficiently squeezing in about 750 passengers at a go.

This was one of our favorite features on Star Princess: a dedicated outdoor movie theatre. Although many ships have movie screens above their main pool areas, Princess does a particularly good job for its guests, putting blankets out on loungers, having fresh popcorn and even servers providing cookies and milk. It’s like a cozy drive-in at sea.

The outdoor screen rises above the Neptune’s Reef pool area. The movie selection represented relatively fresh releases that had been theaters within the last 6 months. And the presentation quality was strong enough that a relatively bright, crisp picture can be enjoyed, even when the sun is out (though it’s at its best after sundown). The usual schedule was each movie would play once or twice in the evening, around 7:30 and 10 p.m.; most of these repeated on another day at 10 a.m. or 3 p.m. There was also a daily concert video—Stevie Wonder, Pavarotti, U2, Paul McCartney—that would be played at 5:30 p.m.

The popcorn station was next to Sundaes, and the adjacent Mermaid’s Tail Bar offered a small selection of candies to complete the movie-going experience.

One complaint: Although sound volume was fine during most movies played here, one action film had a hefty bass track. The volume was so loud during certain scenes that bottles and glasses on the bar shelves opposite the screen rumbled and rattled, and conversations came to a halt. The entertainment staff should have been more attuned to the divergent needs served on these decks.

There are five main shops clustered around the Lobby Atrium, on decks 5, 6 and 7 at mid-ship.

The ship’s informal shop is Calypso Cove, with liquor at duty-free prices (purchases delivered to cabins on the final afternoon of the cruise), binoculars, snorkel gear, Princess-branded merchandize, sunglasses, T-shirts and informal clothing, handbags, and basic drug store sundries including sun block and pain and cold remedies.

Meridian Bay carried costume and other jewelry items from Camrose & Kross (the Jacqueline Kennedy Collection), Guess and Majorica, while the shop Facets was dedicated to higher-end jewelry from Oriana, Asher and Tara. There were also Swarovski crystals and watches from Citizen, Philip Stein, Fossil, Tag Heuer, Tissot, Swatch and Guess.

At Essence we found the fragrance and beauty products, including Chanel, Calvin Klein, Chloé, Bvlgari, and Davidoff, and skin care by Lancôme, Clinique, Clarins, Prevage and StriVectin.

Next to Vines Bar was the Vines Shop, which carried Gylian, Godiva, Toblerone, Cadbury and Valor chocolates, along with oddball novelties and stationery products.

This was the gallery where photos of passengers were displayed for purchase. On Star Princess, we found the photo crew was omnipresent, snapping away at guests at many points of the cruise. On one particularly scenic morning, the photographers were assertive to the point of being obnoxious in repeatedly asking guests to pose for photos.

Photos were on display in this gallery, with 8x10 snaps sold at $19.99; portraits (posed in front of backdrops on formal night) were $24.99—no discount on multiple copies.

In addition to selling photos, picture frames and albums, binoculars and cameras (Fuji, Nikon), and common batteries and memory cards were available.

On Deck 5 was the ship’s art gallery, with sales and art auctions handled by Park West collection (auctions were held in the Explorer’s Lounge).

This facility just off the Lobby Atrium combined the ship’s library and internet stations, and coffee was not far away (at the International Café). There were 18 IBM computers for surfing the web, with varied seating arrangements.

The basic rate for internet access—using our own laptop anywhere on the ship or using the Internet Café’s computers—was a heady .79 per minute, plus a $3.95 activation fee. Packages reduced the per-minute rates, and a 40-minute bonus was availed for those who signed up for packages on the first day of the cruise. A bargain “last day” package was also available for the last full day of the cruise: 15 minutes for $8.99.

The library had a few hundred books, with a particularly constrained selection of travel guides to the areas that Star Princess sailed (none of which could be removed from the area). A few board games were available, including Scrabble, Backgammon, Taboo and Trivial Pursuit.

Although computers could be accessed anytime, the station was staffed several hours in the morning, afternoon and evening.

A large area of Deck 15 aft was set aside for dedicated kids programs, divided into three separate facilities based on age.

The entry-level program is Princess Pelicans, for ages 3-7, and activities include arts and crafts (T-shirt coloring), a disco night, scavenger hunts, ice cream and pajama parties. Children needed a parent to sign them in and out of the facilities daily.

Pre-teens age 8-12 were grouped into a program called Shockwaves, which featured arts and crafts, Playstation 2 tournaments, sports, a spelling bee, and scavenger hunts. Kids age 8 to 12 were allowed to sign in and out of the facilities daily, with the parents’ permission.

Teens rocked out in Remix, a facility that was not always staffed. Activities included T-shirt graffiti, dance parties, a casino night, DJ workshops, mocktail parties, teens-only formal dinners, and games like Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Pictionary, Scrabble, Jeopardy.

The general hours on sea days were 9 a.m. to noon, 2 to 5 p.m. and 7 to 10 p.m.; on port days the facilities were staffed 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 7 to 10 p.m. Group kid-sitting was also available from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m., for $5 per hour, per child.

Found on Deck 15, just outside the Lotus Spa, Hearts and Minds was the ship’s small interdenominational chapel. Times for bible study were announced in the newsletter Princess Patter (which referred to the venue as the Wedding Chapel). The space was also used for Bill W meetings, spa seminars and for various groups onboard.

The three-level atrium lobby of Star Princess, also known as the Piazza, was an attractive space that bustled with activities and events during our cruise. Live music included solo guitar, piano, a string quartet playing classical, and a tight band playing Swing and Big Band hits. There was also the Captain’s Welcome Aboard reception on the second night that included Princess’ traditional champagne waterfall, cameras at the ready.

On the lowest level, Deck 4, the lobby was flanked by the Vines and Lobby bars, the International Café and the Internet Café and Library. Deck 5 was where the ship’s passenger services desk was located.

The Promenade Deck circuited most of the exterior portion of Deck 7. Near the front of the ship the deck ends, but staircases on both sides of the ship lead up to Deck 8. Three complete circuits of decks 7 and 8 equaled one mile, but note that the forward portion of Deck 8 is closed after sunset. There were ample deck chairs for taking in the sea breezes.

This large exterior deck extended from the bridge area of the ship and wrapped around the pools, leading to stairs and the Oasis. The forward section above the bridge represented some of the best views for those not wishing to spring for day-use fee at The Sanctuary. There were no deck chairs or services here, and the area could be windy (it’s closed after sundown), but still a nice perch.

This smallish deck towered above the Neptune’s Pool area. We found it rarely used during our cruise, but it was a nice spot for catching some rays. It was also the highest accessible point on the forward part of the ship.

Reserved for guests age 21 or older, the Grand Casino on Deck 6 is a spacious, uncluttered facility. In addition to plenty of slots (starting with penny slots), table games included Roulette, Craps, Blackjack, Face Up Blackjack, Caribbean Stud Poker and Texas Hold ‘Em. The schedule of activities here included a Poker night and tournaments for slots, Blackjack and Texas Hold ‘Em; early in the cruise lessons were conducted for Texas Hold ‘Em and Blackjack. Players can charge up to $1500 per day to their room account, with no cash advance fee.

We appreciated that the well-ventilated area was not as smoky as some, and that benefits from being neither claustrophobic nor as smoky as some we’ve been to. On one night ofour cruise the casino was designated as non-smoking.

There was a bar in the casino, with video poker games embedded in the counter. The ship’s usual selection of drinks was available here.

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