I must preface this review by saying that we were on the Star in April and it was one of, if not the worst cruise we'd ever been on. So it was with much trepidation that we boarded the ship again but the port is convenient and my wife had never been to Hawaii and I hadn't been in years so we decided to give it a go. I'm glad we did because this cruise was the antithesis of our last one and perfectly wonderful.
Boarding & Cabin & Sail Away
Embarkation was a breeze. Very swift and simple although the woman who checked us in was a bit cheeky. We got on board and found our glorious room suite room--well mini. We like the minis on Princess they are large and very comfortable.
We got two of our suitcases immediately unfortunately the two missing suitcases had our shoes in them and when you wear a size 15 it's hard to easily find shoes but the casual clothes came so I'd be a sensation in my Aloha shirts and my shorts while wearing black socks and shoes...fortunately the other suitcases came a few hours later.
We ate lunch in the Boo Fay. It is always difficult on sailing day as the Horizon Court is crowded but the food was good.
We were four hours late sailing away. I'm not sure why because I asked and got four different answers ranging from waiting for passengers or supplies to avoiding the worst of a storm to divers under the ship. Obviously it wasn't a surprise or a last minute thing because the departure time was in the Patter.
It was wonderful to be able to sit on the ship and look out at our beautiful San Francisco bay. We sailed during dinner and we were able to see the skyline as we sailed by.
I cannot say enough good things about the service on board we were treated as if we owned the company by almost everyone on board. The service was prompt, personal, and almost always excellent and smiling. Not only did the people in the shops, front desk, bars, and dining rooms greet you by name but seemed genuinely glad to see you.
We had fixed dining for dinner and a superb waitress named Catarina who was excellent, at breakfast and lunch we had Rada who was also excellent. We were very lucky with our wait people the junior waiters Ku and Pegee were also excellent. We were well cared for. The food was good and if it wasn't they made it right. One night I got a tough steak and Catarina went to the kitchen and personally watched them cook another one to make sure it was good. Since we were on the Star in April some of the people that were on then (waiters, bartenders, etc.) were still working on board which was fun .
On humorous incident one day at lunch when we didn't get our usual Rada. I ordered a burger (which was excellent) and fries (which tasted like axle grease) the waiter noticed I wasn't eating the fries and asked if they were all right. I said, "They taste funny." He said "Very good sir." And walked away. I truly believe he didn't understand me but I thought it was hilarious.
We ate once in each specialty restaurant with the Crown Grill having an edge in food and Sabatini's having the edge in friendly service.
The front desk people were great and always smiling and helpful as were the shop people and the Captain's Circle person and Future Cruise person.
Although we love our mini we did have problems with the electricity and A/C going off. However the personnel at the front desk were helpful and 'Yuppy' the electrician was amazing. He came by ever two hours to check on the breaker and even gave us his extension in case we needed him. They finally changed the breakerer in Nawiliwili and then all was well naturally two of our lights also went out flickering madly. But "Yuppy" was always there to change them and it makes for an interesting story and the next inhabitants of this mini should sail with great electrics.
The cruise staff was friendly and personable.
The entertainment was spotty some of it great some not so. And because we've sailed with Princess many times a lot of it was repeats.
At Sea Part 1.
One of the reasons we took this cruise was for the many sea days. It began with four sea days which were completely relaxing. For people who lead busy lives there's nothing like sea days to make the transition from crazy to calm.
Our first port was Hilo. We rented a car. Car rentals are very easy in the Islands and all ports have shuttles. We drove out into the country and then to the Macadamia nut factory. We got lost on our way to the zoo and stopped at a 7-11 to ask directions I noticed a sign in the window saying that they won an award for their Spam Sushi. Who knew that there were Spam sushi awards? We tried one and it was quite good. We then went to the zoo. The grounds of the zoo are magnificent. . Extremely verdant with landscaping that was lush and tropical.. Onward into downtown Hilo which is a bit down at heel and sad...we ate at Cronies's which was good. We stopped at Walgreen's to pick up a few things that we had forgotten. Forgotten? How could we? We have lists and lists of lists. Oh well.
Our next port was Kauai where we again rented a car. Our goal was to see the two waterfalls that are nearby. We missed the turnoff to the first but got to the second which was spectacular. A trio of waterfalls cascading down the verdant hills/mountains. On the other side of the road a beautiful expansive canyon that was equally spectacular.
We then drove back toward Nawiliwili (love that name) to try and find the other waterfall. We turned up a random road and were just about to turn back when we saw a sign to the falls. It was a long narrow 5 mile road but the end was worth the climb and drive. It was a beautiful waterfall dropping scores of feet into a jungle like setting. Allegedly this is where "Fantasy Island" was filmed and it truly is paradise.
We then went to the original Hilo Hattie's, which oddly enough began in Kauai and not Hilo, it was fun especially since a cashier told us the Hilo Hattie story.
On we went to Duke's Canoe Club for lunch. Duke's is named after a famous surfer. Our waitress was surly and the food was horrid but it didn't matter because the Mai Tai's were great (it was my wife's first Hawaiian Mai Tai and a great beginning) and the view from the second story dining room was spectacular although there seemed to be more of a wind and less of breeze than in Mexico.
After lunch we went in search of a bakery (Hamalima) we read about in the guidebook it was closed. Considering the same person who recommended Duke's recommended that one it was probably just as well. We did find the Maui bakery which was recommended by a couple of locals. Their cookies are delicious I can't imagine that they'd be any better anywhere else on the island.
We sailed away serenely on calm seas past a beautiful lighthouse, a picture postcard moment.
We took a cab to Iolani Palace and the King Kamehama statue and then on to the International Market Place. Honolulu has become a big city but the IMP remains much the same. It has the air of a bazaar It is fun to poke through and around. We bought some stuff there and all in all had a great time.
From there we went to the Halekulani hotel for drinks on the terrace of the House Without a Key. It was made famous in the first Charlie Chan book of the same name. They have, of course, completely remodeled the hotel but it has the same feel as always. It was so pleasurable to sit on the terrace in the tradewinds and sip drinks and watch Waikiki.
After drinks we strolled along Waikiki two people in love hand in hand through the surf. OK two people in love lugging a rolly bag and tromping through puddles on the walkway.
We went back to the Halekulani hotel and sat in the lobby until lunch time. We had lunch and our waiter was Brandon the same great waiter who served us our drinks. My wife had a Mediterranean sandwich and I had Mahi Mahi...at last Mahi Mahi that was delicious and moist. Not like at Duke's.
After that we cabbed to the Aloha Tower and went up to the top. It was exciting for me to see the views from up there and reminisce about the first time I came when ships docked there and sailing day was a huge thing. We weren't docked there this time a Celebrity Ship was but it was great to visit the tower. There had been a Tsunami warning the day before and they had evacuated the tower area which was sad because they were having a huge Halloween extravaganza. But no problem Brudda. They rescheduled it for the next day.
We got back on the ship and went to the show which was a Hawaiian show called the Halau Hula Olana Show, it was excellent. They had young dancers and older ones. The adult dancers moved with great fluidity. Lovely to watch and I'm glad we went to this touch of Hawaii. The woman who narrated and I think owned the dance school had the most soothing voice. I would love a recording of it for those nights when I can't sleep. I don't mean she was boring she was very interesting but her voice was so calm and like velvet. I was going to tell her but I'm not all that sure that telling someone you'd like a recording of their voice for sleepless nights would be construed as a compliment.
We tendered in. The wait wasn't long and we were read our Kindles which made the time go by quickly. The tender was hot and crowded as usual but it gets you there!
We looked at the world famous Banyan Tree and Pioneer Hotel which has been there for over a century. We then walked the streets of Lahaina. It has become touristy beyond belief, the first time I went there it was a sleepy little village. My how times have changed. I love how enterprising people can be. There were already shirts saying, "I survived the October 27th Tsunami" We were there on the 29th so it was amazing that they could get the shirts out so quickly.
We ate lunch at "Cheeseburger in Paradise" which was recommended by our cruise director. Strange server who seemed to float somewhere around reality, the food was excellent when we ate it but was not kind to our tummies.
We walked to Hilo Hattie's. Hilo wasn't as hospitable in this port and as in others but she did provide a shuttle back to the ship. We got off and went into the historic Pioneer Inn. I realized that I'd been telling my wife about fresh pineapple for years and this was our last chance to try it. They also had macaroni potato salad which I wanted to try. The pineapple wasn't the sweetness I remember but certainly better than at home and the macatato salad would have been good with better seasoning but has definite possibilities if not probabilities. We went to the Lahaina Trading Company for a few last minute buys it is a bit like the ubiquitous ABC stores.
It was hotter than--you know where--in Lahaina so we went back onto the tender for a very warm ride back to the ship and we were very glad to be back "home". We thought we had hours and hours of time to relax, read, catch up etc. but suddenly it was time to go up to Skywalker's for Sushi and cocktails and then on to Crooners and another cocktail and then to a delicious dinner.
At Sea part 2. The sequel.
We enjoyed four more glorious days at sea. Since daylight savings time was ending we only had to go forward two hours to get to California time. Lucky that. Days at sea are always filled with fun and seem to fly by. We did get a lot of reading done, a lot of relaxing and even found time to engage in activities aboard. They had unusual ones this time Lei making (OK that's obvious) but they also had ring toss and juggling.
My only complaint is that Crooner's bar is too small and when they stack the activities in the atrium it's impossible. Add to that a bad musical group playing in the Explorer's Lounge and pre dinner bar choices are severely limited.
We unabashedly love Mexico and so even though we only were here for less than four hours we hustled ashore (long line to do so but it moved quickly). We went to our favorite store Bazar Casa Ramirez which has things from all over Mexico and is reminiscent of the wonderful Michael's Gallery in Mazatlan. We went to Hussong's for Tequila up (me) and a margarita (wife). Then we walked back along the street soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying the vibrant street night life. We took a taxi back to the ship and went to Skywalker's for drinks and hors d' oeuvres then down to drinks and dinner.
At Sea part 3. Back by popular demand.
We had one final day at sea to pack, take care of a few last minute details. We had lunch with new friends bought some last minute gifts etc.
The evening bought a round of emotional goodbyes to favorite staff members. And a farewell drink at our favorite bar. We also cashed out our casino winnings. An odd thing happened I had evidently left $10 in the poker machine and the casino host called to remind me to pick it up. I had forgotten about it and was impressed with their honesty.
Disembarkation was a breeze. Even the elevators weren't crowded. We were outside in minutes. Our shuttle was delayed by a gas leak and so the wait was longer and hotter than we hoped but the shuttle arrived and we got home to the world of unpacking, tons of mail, an pounds of papers. It's always good to be home but this was one of our best most memorable cruises.