BACKGROUND - We have traveled on Princess as often as on all our other cruises combined.
EMBARKATION - the worst ever on any line, let alone Princess. Staggered boarding may work for Princess, but not for her passengers. Standing outside the terminal for several hours if you are unable to walk somewhere else is not acceptable. Everyone was supposed to board between 2 and 4, and passengers were still coming aboard after 5. Princess, please go back to the way you used to check us in at San Francisco. We've boarded at Pier 35 with another ship before and it wasn't a problem then.
SERVICE - As great as usual. Princess employees have been uniformly excellent and friendly with very few exceptions.
HILO -The inside of the Hilo pier is closed for repairs, so we couldn't get our usual flowers at a stand there. We went in the free bus to the Farmer's Market to get flowers and back. We usually rent a car and drive to the volcano, but it was raining, so we backed out.
HONOLULU - We recommend the new Pearl Harbor exhibit. You can get tickets on line for the time you want, so long as you're there an hour before your tour. We wanted to be there early, so splurged on a taxi, about $35-40 each way. Other things to do in Honolulu if you've been there before - 1. A docent tour of the Iolani Palace. 2. A trip to Shangri La - Doris Duke's (Reynolds tobacco heir) home on the other side of Diamond Head. She left it to the Honolulu Academy of Arts, and you can book a tour there through them. It's $25, and well worth it, imho. We've been twice.
KAUAI - Lots of tours, or rent a car.
LAHAINA - We enjoyed the whale watching tour. Or you could take a local bus out to Kaanapali (sp?) beach and see the whale museum. Don't forget to sit under the banyan tree.
DINING - We were in traditional dining, which is waaaay aft. We ate in the dining room for breakfast and when it was open for lunch (not in ports). The service in the dining room was generally excellent, especially at night. We found the Trident Grill forward of the pool to be delicious for those of us who enjoy hamburgers and hot dogs. The ship's bakery turns out lovely rolls for that. In fact, the bakery is great all around, tho' it seemed we were getting less variety in rolls than earlier this year. Also, some of the dinner menus didn't show much imagination. On the other hand, I'm not shopping for food, bringing it home, preparing it, cooking it, serving it or cleaning up after it, so I really have no complaints.
CABINS - Love a balcony, even when it's too cold to go out, you're not far from the sea. We spend a lot of our time in our cabin, so the balcony is important. We're glad to see that Princess will be returning some furniture to the Caribe cabins. The new chairs can be made comfortable by sitting on a pillow.
STAR PRINCESS IN GENERAL - Clean, well-maintained and kept up. Crowded. Glad we have a balcony, as there was sometimes no place else to sit on cool days.
LIBRARY - Needs some tender, loving care. Compared to other Princess ships, it was poor. Bring your own books if you enjoy reading.
INTERNET - Seems to be getting slower as more and more people get on line from their cabins. With 2600 people, it was pretty slow.
ENTERTAINMENT - Generally good. We especially enjoyed the ventriloquist, Irish comedian, and magician. The tape evidently broke during one of the production shows, and everything came to a screeching halt. We enjoy trivia. They had interesting questions (I learned a lot) and it was generally held in the Explorer's Lounge, a good place to get 6 people together. For some reason it was sometimes forced between dancing and bingo in the aft lounge, where it's almost impossible for a team to sit together.
PORT EXCURSIONS - Marked down because the one in Kauai to the Na Pali coast was canceled after we had been waiting for half an hour - the only explanation was that there was a "technical problem" with the Zodiac. We enjoyed the whale watching in Maui - saw a mother, baby, and two males who were disagreeing about their place in her life.
DISEMBARKATION - Almost on time, and very easy. We turned in our customs forms a few days early, and didn't need to show our passports on leaving.