We are a couple in our 50's and have sailed on Princess 12 times and this was our 34th cruise overall. We love it when find itineraries that sail from our home port of San Francisco so usually book two or three cruises a year when we can sail to and from so close to home. This was our first of 3 cruises on we have booked on the Star Princess but may cancel the last one if the next one isn't improved over this last one. It was rather disappointing overall but there were definitely some highlights I will touch upon as well.
DEMOGRPAHICS: First, I must mention that I have never been on a cruise where the average demographic seemed to be over 90 years of age. There were just a handful of people that were our age and even less that were younger. The ship was held up several times over health issues of the passengers. We, too, succumbed to a nasty cold on the 5th day onboard. Seemed as though everyone started getting sick and it just spread like wildfire and by the time we finally hit land, it was full blown.
EMBARKATION: This was by far, the worst job of embarkation in all of the cruises we have been on. As mentioned, we try to sail out of SF whenever possible and were excited to see a new option available to us, Hawaii roundtrip. The only problem being, it left on a Monday which required a full 2.5 weeks off from work. Well, as it turned out, we did not sail away until after 9 PM, so could have worked on Monday after all. We received an e-mail that embarkation would not start until 2 PM and everyone was to be onboard by 4 PM. It was as though they couldn't estimate what a problem this would be...like it was their first time ever??? To begin, not everyone can get to the pier at an exact scheduled time. In our case, our ride could only get us there at 11:30, so we knew we would have to stand in line for at least an hour or two. Little did we know that it would actually take 5+ hours to actually board. We were some of the first people in line but were told that the 'port authority' does not allow people lining up on the sidewalk. After disagreeing with the port representatives that made us disburse, we were told there would be no line if we came back at 2 PM. We got tired of arguing with them and walked down to Pier 39 with our luggage in tow, only to return to a line that extended back beyond Pier 19. We explained that we had preferred boarding status and were told we would not have to wait in line again when the rather snarky representative laughed at us and gestured to the back of the line. What was so upsetting is that they let people begin to board about 15 minutes after they kicked us out of line and preferred boarding passengers were allowed on at 1:15 PM. It is shameful we were lied to, laughed at and not allowed to board when promised. By the time we got onboard, it was time for the fire drill -- which they then delayed -- but they had already stopped taking the boarding photos, which is our one memento that we buy on every cruise (except for this one). We were starving by this time but missed out on any decent lunch -- and picked up some pitiful picked over leftovers from the Horizon Court. It was gross -- more along the lines of what we would feed to our animals. Of course, standing room only for the fire drill, which was delayed as not everyone was onboard and it was close to 6 PM. What got my goat is I could have worked a full day but no -- we were supposed to be onboard by 4 PM. So, no sail away party either as we didn't sail until after 9 PM as it appears they were still loading luggage onto the ship. By the time we left, the entire day was pretty much ruined -- wow -- and we paid for a vacation that started out so very frustrating.
CABIN: We have been on this same itinerary before but out of Los Angeles on the Golden, so chose the same midship location as this cruise can have very rough waters. We made an excellent room choice and ended up getting an absolutely wonderful room steward. He stocked us with pool towels, wine glasses, robes, plenty of clean fluffy towels, two extra pillows, ice, etc. He never missed a thing. He was one of the best ones we've had. The bed was comfortable with the egg crate topped we ordered and the pillows were fine. The shower was compact but efficient and had a great shower head. The bathroom til grout needed some attention- not as much dirty as stained. Everything else was in pretty good condition. The thermostat would jump from cold to hot all by itself at times but would readjust itself again within 5 minutes and never really made the temperature uncomfortable. Our location was perfect - stable and without any outside noise. The last night, the crown moulding popped off the wall as the ship was really shaking. Otherwise, the rattling of the ship was noticed outside of our room only.
POOLS: The indoor pool was a treat as the weather wasn't always so good during this cruise. There was always a lounge chair somewhere in there -- nice place to read a book or take a nap. The main outdoor pool was also not so crowded that you couldn't find a seat. MUTS by this pool was so fun both day and night. We saw several decent movies on MUTS and the popcorn, brownies and milk that are served are a nice treat. They seemed to have toned down the sound at MUTS that it was sometimes a struggle to hear the movie, but have read a lot of complaints about the volume levels so nice to know Princess is listening. The pool attendants were abundant and so friendly -- always around to grab you a dry pool towel or whatever you needed, including a very nice greeting every day.
INTERNET CAFE: OMG -- so slow. Most times, it took nearly 30 minutes just to open one e-mail. They warn you that it is slow but this was ridiculously slow. I am sure the internet cafe host was just tired of hearing people complain about it but kept his cool. He also always greeted us warmly every day we were in there. Of note, I brought my netbook but never was able to connect from my room -- no signal strength at all in the midship rooms.
FOOD: Now for the moment of truth. The food ranged from very good to extremely poor. The Horizon Court was consistently awful. They actually had sandwiches -- on white bred or wheat bread -- premade and wrapped in plastic wrap. Nothing you could get made to order. The salad bar was pitiful and the salad dressing was watered down so thin that it poured like milk. The theme seemed to be stew for this cruise -- very few vegetarian choices and the other choices were pretty bad -- consistently. No omelets anymore in the morning and they actually seemed to run out of English Muffins. Gone are the scallops on embarkation day (maybe we missed them) and we never saw the seafood buffet. We've not experienced this ever before on Princess, which usually had the best food out of all the cruiselines we've sailed. No turkey burgers at the Trident Grill but the chicken burgers and fries were actually quite good. The pizza was not very good and one day, even the dough drooped down as it was still raw. The International Cafe, always a winner, had great tuna sandwiches but no longer has that great chicken salad. They now serve a waldorf salad instead, which just isn't the same. The staff at the Horizon Court, the Trident Grill, the Pizza Counter, the International Cafe were all so friendly and helpful and very hard working. The dining room staff ranged from extremely good (in the Amalfi) to rather incompetent (in the Portafino and Capri). We received the wrong meals or portions of the meal just forgotten several times. One of our table mates ordered the turkey dinner and she was asked how she wanted that cooked. I think there was a communication breakdown somewhere but seemed as though maybe the waiter's command of the English language might not be up to par. I just don't know why it happened so often if it weren't for that. Room service food was inconsistent as well. Instead of an English Muffin, I received a hamburger bun, juice was missing, cream for the coffee not brought and fruit sometimes looked as though it was leftover from weeks ago -- all dried up and shrivled. Room service was always timely, though -- but the food and food choices were disappointing.
CASINO: The casino had a few non-smoking nights which were so very nice. It was a fun casino and actually had some luck on the video poker machines. Alex was one of the casino hosts and always greeted us warmly....he made it fun to gamble in there. Anita and Feliz always made sure we had something to drink if we wanted something. I actually saw these two working in different areas of the ship and they are both great hard working employees...and super friendly!
ENTERTAINMENT: The entertainment was pretty good overall. The hypnotist, comedians and magician were all very good. The newlywed game is always a favorite as is the piano bar -- great involvement from all passengers. We are not much for the production shows so cannot comment on those. There was great entertainment in the Piazza including the pop choir (very fun) and dancers, singers - top notch. The band by the pool was pretty disappointing but maybe it was due to the demographics of the ship. As above, MUTS is a winner!!
ACTIVITIES: Again, I think the activities lacked due to the demographics on this cruise. The sexy legs contest by the pool had participation but it lasted only 5 minutes and it was over. On our previous cruise to Hawaii, they had a Survivor Game set up that lasted throughout the entire cruise. It was so much fun to pick a team and follow their progress throughout the cruise. The lecture series was very good and we learned a lot about Hawaii and its people and history.
MEDICAL CENTER: I hurt my knee on the big island and needed assistance to get back on the ship. I thought this was handled so well -- someone ran to get me a wheelchair and took me to the medical center and back to my room. The medical center was so busy but was in and out within an hour. The knee brace they provided me with was not very good, wish they would stock some adjustable braces as my knee was so swollen that I had a hard time getting in on and then off. My DS was able to run down to Walmart in Honolulu the next day to get me a decent brace. Of note, we never use the elevators on any cruise but needed to after this injury and noticed that several elevators seemed to be out of order and it would sometimes take forever to get from one floor to another. Glad when I was actually able to use the stairs again. The doctor actually stamped our tour tickets for Honolulu and we were not charged for missing this tour. That was unexpected and so appreciated. Kay and Steph took such good care of me in the medical center, as did the doctor. Better joint supports / braces are my suggestion here.
TOUR / EXCURSION DESK: There was an employee that worked here that was so helpful to us, including refunding our missed tour in Honolulu. We had to fax some paperwork back home - she even called to find a business center in the islands. We ended up using the one on the ship -- even though it was pricey and slow ($10 a page and not sent until half a day later...yikes). Anyhow, the girl at the tour desk went above and beyond in recommending tours and helping us find just the right day trips. I believe her name was Adriana?
So, even though there were some disappointments on this cruise, mainly the horrible embarkation and the cutbacks in the food quality, there were also some improvements we have noticed. The service, except for that in the main dining rooms, was pretty awesome and we did meet some extremely nice people onboard.
We noticed that there was purell containers everywhere except for outside the main dining rooms. As mentioned, we both got sick and are still trying to recover -- some nasty bug and we rarely get sick as we are habitual handwashers. There did seem to be a lot of sick people onboard by the end of the cruise.
The ship seemed to be in pretty good condition but thought it might be a little more spiffy after being in dry dock just a few months early. Guess they didn't replace everything.