We embarked the Star Princess in Rio de Janiero. Embarkation seemed very unorganized, as he (my cabin mate)is Elite, and usually goes right to the front of the line. Not so this trip. We were told that there were more elite passengers than any other status. This may have been true, due to the fact that the average age of passengers were over 70.
Once on board (the whole process took about an hour and 30 min.) everything went smoothly. Our luggage arrived shortly after we were shown to our cabin.
Cabin: ours was an obstructed view outside, and was nicely appointed with room for everything, including a lot of clothing for our 4 week odessey vacation. Although it was listed as "obstructed view" we had only a little bit of the very top part of a lifeboat under our very wide picture window. So it was not very obstructed at all.
Public spaces: Although the ship held some 2400 passengers, at no time did it seem crowded. You could always find a quiet spot for reading, etc. The non-smoking nights in the casino were much appreciated by all of us non-smokers.
Entertainment: The singers and dancers were nothing short of fabulous. One review mentioned the fact that it was geared to us "old timers" which is probably true considering the average age of the passengers. Nevertheless they were wonderful. They did a total of 4 or 5 original productions. All different and all spectacular. We hit some very rough seas, and the how went on as scheduled. It's a wonder they could keep their footing. One nice addition was
the "get to know your entertainers" one day in the Vista lounge. It made it so much more personal finding out all about how they were hired and trained.
Food: My biggest disappointment for the entire cruise. Although the service in the MDR was wonderful, and everything was tastefully presented, it was just not up to par with RCCL and Carnival. (my only basis for comparison) We had a lot of people from the UK onboard, and the menus seemed geared to them. Lots of lamb, duck and veal dishes. None of which appeal to me whatsoever. Give me a good, and I truly mean a "good", steak and I'm a happy camper. The fish, scallops and shrimp selections were very good, and the lobster was excellent.
On the first leg of the cruise the lobster was paired with shrimp, but on the 2nd leg, it was offered with, not very good, crab cakes. My room mate and I opted for the "optional" menu of medallions of beef, or fettucini alfredo with caesar salad on more than one occasion.
Outside: Movies Under The Stars! Absolutely wonderful addition to any ship, and I'm glad that Carnival is following Princess's lead in adding this to their new ships. It was like going to the old fashioned drive-in movie. I've heard that Princess is better than the Carnival edition, only because they give you blankets and serve popcorn during the show. I actually had 2 wonderfully pleasant young men serving hugely delicious cookies and milk.
Casino: I can't compare table games, as I don't play them. I mainly sat at those wonderful slots that happily take your money and don't give back. At least not often enough! I do like the fact that you can put in your cruise card and then your money goes into your "casino bank" for you to draw on during the cruise. Mine never stayed in the "bank" very long, as the minute I would win anything, I would go to the cashier window and "cash out" putting my winnings away, and start all over with my original $20 each time I sat at a machine. I guess you can guess by the fact that my start money is $20, than I'm not a big gambler. I hate to lose!
Ports: All of the ports throughout South Amerca were interesting to say the least. My least favorite was Nicaragua. Oh my gosh, the people are so poor, no money for irrigation, so farms are suffering terribly. Trash everywhere, horses terribly under nourished with skin on bones literally! Would not go back there. I loved the Tango show in Buenos Aires, and Costa Rica was beautiful. didn't get to Ushuaia due to the fact that we landed in the Falkland Islands to see the penguins, and since we were of British registry, we weren't allowed to enter that particular port. It was the 30th anniversary of the Falkland Islands war. Loved whale watching and Senior Frogs in Cabo San Lucas. Didn't get to leave the ship in Peru, due to the fact that I was quarantined in my cabin for 48 hours. Noro Virus hit our ship hard. Many, many people were sick and quarantined. I had a particularly mild case, keeping me close to the bathroom, but no horrible stomach upset as so many others had.
Ship hospital: beautifully antiseptic with a reception area, a couple of examination rooms and what looked like an operating room. Wonderfully staffed with very caring people! If you had to be sick, they took good care of you!
Debarkation: OMG, how long did it take to go through customs and get off the ship? Waaaaay too long! The immigration officers came into the Vista lounge (aft) for all of the passengers from the USA, but the line went completely through the main part of the ship, and around a corner and back again. There's got to be a better way. You are way better off coming onboard with one pull along suitcase and a dufflebag, as these people went through first and were off by 9 a.m. We, on the other hand, didn't get off the ship until 11:30.
All in all a wonderful experience with a few unpleasent things, but a 30 day cruise is just too darn long, at least for me.