Star Princess April 3-13, 2012 Coastal cruise to Mexico from San Francisco
This was our 5th cruise to Mexico, but the last one was in 2004. We really were not interested in seeing any of the cities in Mexico. We just wanted to take a cruise since we had not been on one for over a year. We had one planned for March of this year in the Caribbean, but it was cancelled because of propulsion problems on the Caribbean Princess. We received 25 % of our cruise cost for the cancelled cruise and applied it to this one which was also discounted. It was almost cheaper than staying home.
We live south of San Francisco, so we took a taxi to San Francisco Airport and caught the Princess bus to the pier from there. We received an Emergency Notification from Princess a couple of weeks before the cruise stating that boarding would take place according to deck and cabin location and we should not arrive at the pier until 2:00 PM. We left home at 10:15 and arrived at the airport at around 10:40. We saw a Princess bus loading and asked the lady in charge if we should go inside the terminal and wait for a later bus. She said we should get on the bus that was about to leave. We did and left about 5 minutes later. When we got to San Francisco, there was a traffic jam that had traffic backed up for at least a mile from the pier. The bus driver had mentioned that he might have to drive around for a while before we could get off the bus and when we finally got to the pier, we were told to take another drive and come back in another twenty minutes or so. We did and this time we were allowed to get off the bus. We went directly to the check in counter and were on the ship in less than 10 minutes. The driver took care of offloading our baggage. Our cabin was ready and we were able to get settled there and go to lunch by noon. Our baggage was late arriving and we finally got it around 4 PM.
We had taken an inside guarantee for a category M, but were assigned an upgrade to category II, Cabin A319 on Aloha deck forward. I was concerned that we might hear a lot of noise from water hitting the bow in rough seas, but most of the cruise was smooth and we did not have any problems with the bow banging into swells. We did, however, hear the deck hands moving things around on the deck above during the late night and early mornings. During breakfast on the day we returned to San Francisco, the other guests mentioned that there was a horrendous lightning storm late on the previous night. They said the thunder was extremely loud all around the ship. We heard nothing.
The size of the cabin was adequate and nicely arranged. The only problem was the two extra beds that were suspended from the walls on each side of the lower bed. They made getting in and out of our bed somewhat difficult. There was a long closet between the sleeping area and the bathroom with more than enough room to hang our clothes. The small closet of shelves was adequate for the two of us, but may not have been large enough for two extra people if a family was using all four beds. Two night stands on either side of the bed had two drawers each and a reading lamp. The lamps had fluorescent bulbs that were barely adequate for reading. There was a very large vanity area with additional drawers for female use, one chair and a small table that just got in the way. The table was only used when we ordered room service. There was a flat screen TV above the refrigerator. The bathroom was typically tight with a small shower. The shelves above the sink were just adequate for two people.
Being Elite members of the Captain's Circle, we are entitled to certain benefits. Princess asks that we indicate in our Member Profile what kind of items we would like to have in our cabin. Unfortunately, the information from the Profile never seems to make it to the ship.
1. Complimentary Mini Bar Set Up-We are asked what type of drinks we want in the Complimentary Mini Bar Set Up. We have never received what we asked for and always have to call room service to exchange the items
2. Complimentary Wine Tasting. I am not a wine drinker, but my wife is. We attended the wine tasting one afternoon and were happy we did. Princess did an excellent job and the experience was educational.
3. Complimentary Internet Packages. The ship was having a constant problem with their Internet connection. At least half of our 250 free minutes were used trying to get online or get back online after being bumped off. I was happy that we did not have to pay for the Internet time.
4. Platinum Disembarkation Lounge. We were instructed to go to the Capri dining room and wait there for our disembarkation instructions. As Elite members, we could also have gone to the Vista Lounge that was set aside for Platinum and Elite members. There was supposed to be "light refreshments and peace" in that room. I walked through the Vista Lounge and saw no refreshments being offered. The room was also packed with people, many of whom were standing due to the lack of available chairs. We went to the Capri room which was half empty and directly adjacent to the disembarkation door. When we were called to leave, we were off the ship in a couple of minutes. Those people in the Vista Lounge were two floors up and probably had problems getting an elevator to take them down to deck 5.
All the other Elite Benefits worked out very favorably.
The food was fine in the main dining room throughout the cruise. There was an outstanding selection of entrees each night; more than I remember on other Princess cruises. Most evening, the menus had a selection of at least six items plus those that could be ordered every night. There was also an excellent selection of soup, salads and appetizers. Desserts were good throughout the ship. All the breads and rolls were outstanding. The service was always excellent. We had a few meals in the buffet restaurant. The food there did not seem to be of the same quality as the dining rooms. The deserts at the International Cafe on Deck 5 seemed to be better than those offered in the buffet restaurant. Some people think that they will be charged for items at the International Cafe, but that is not the case.
We tried the hamburger stand near the pool a couple of times and found them to be very good. The hot dogs were not. The fries were excellent. The food from room service was also very good. The pizza in the pool area was very good and very hot.
We don't care for the production shows, so we only attended one. It was well done. Other passengers that attended the other shows said they were all excellent.
We did go to all the comedy shows. The first comedian, George Casey, was very good. We wished he had done another show. Unfortunately, he left the ship after one show. He was replaced by another one, Don Ware. Mr. Ware said he had been a comedy writer for Bill Cosby and others. He should have stayed with writing. He did two shows. During the first show, he spent much of his time walking back and forth trying to get his thoughts together and checking his watch. He seemed totally unprepared and acted like he wanted to leave. During his second show, he did very little comedy. The show started at 7 PM. He told a few jokes and then started to interview audience members about their occupations or time spent with the armed services. We had to meet another couple for dinner at 8 PM. When we left, he was still talking to the audience members. A couple hundred people were waiting outside the room for his second show. We don't know whether he ever got back to doing any comedy.
The ventriloquist, Dan Horn, was just OK.
A harmonica player, Bernie Fields was very good.
We did not leave the ship in Puerto Vallarta. However, we were entertained by watching the ship do a 180 degree turn in the port and coming within a very short distance (like maybe 40 feet) from a Celebrity ship. It was a heart stopping sight.
I did go ashore in Cabo San Lucas for a short time. This port has changed radically since we were last there in 2004. Many new hotels have been added and new stores are all along the wharf area. It was pleasant walking through the shops and seeing all the boats in the harbor.
In San Diego, we took a cab to Balboa Park to visit the museums. This is a beautiful park and it would take several days to visit all the museums located there. We went to one and then walked through the art complex with its many shops selling locally made art objects. It was a good day even though it rained off and on.
The Captain did a good job of keeping the passengers informed of the weather ahead. He was Canadian so we were able to understand everything he said over the PA system.
Ship Pros and Cons
We prefer anytime dining and it was available at two of the three dining rooms. We took most of our meals in the dining rooms. The buffet room has been remodeled and has a much better layout than before. There is a separate area with a large selection of deserts and breads. The International Cafe has a very good assortment of delicious deserts and sandwiches. Unfortunately, they did not have the Gelato section that is available on the Ruby Princess in Europe. The shops on board are nicely located and laid out. They have a good assortment of just about everything one might need on a cruise and a lot that one might not need. All the show rooms are well designed for comfort and the sight lines in most locations are good.
It was a very comfortable cruise with smooth sailing and good weather most of the time. I especially enjoyed swimming is several of the pools onboard. The food was good and the service excellent. The cabin and public rooms were clean and well maintained. I only wish that Princess would do a better job with the entertainment.