I always read the 1 star reviews with the idea that a hot headed person wrote them and they should be discounted - now I find I am that hot headed person. It seems I booked the wrong ship for my cruise to Hawaii. The Star had just returned from 28 days to Tahiti and was headed next to Alaska. This seemed to be a 14 day time killer for Princess. Embarkation was fairly smooth but we didn't get our luggage until 8:30 p.m. and were forced to attend our first dinner in traveling clothes. We had been assigned any time dining but requested to move to traditional. Unfortunately the only options are 5:30 p.m. or 8:00 p.m. The second one is too late for us so we were put in an early seating for the Portofino dining room. That room beccame Any-Time dining at 7:30 p.m., so we concluded that they opened a second early seating option after we booked.
Food was mediocre throughout the cruise. We had breakfast and lunch at the Horizon Court. I found it virtually impossible to get anything to drink from a steward and ended up doing self service most of the time. Unlike most cruises in the past, our dining room waiter made no effort to learn our names even though we were with him for 2 weeks. He barely said anything to us.
The room steward was competent but had assigned 4 suites to his load. He told us he was required to take care of them first, so we in our lowly balcony room received hit or miss room cleaning. We constantly had to dodge the motorized "Get Arounds" plugged into the outlets in the hallways. At the safety drill we were told that wheelchairs and scooters would have to stay in the rooms so that hallways were clear but they never enforced the rule. They didn't really enforce many rules. People came to dinner in jeans and shorts and only one time did we see someone turned away.
The biggest disappointment was the Cruise Director and Entertainment staff and activities. We love to dance but the bands in both the Wheelhouse Bar and the Explorer Lounge were South American and chose a lot of jazz type music with massive improvisation. They were great musicians but didn't seem to know a lot of traditional music. Sadly, they told us they were getting off in Honolulu and would be the opening band on the brand new Royal that sets sail in June. Too bad for those folks. It was hard to dance to any of it. The singer in the Wheelhouse was good, but almost every night she invited a "friend" from Brazil that was on board to sing and he was HORRIBLE!
On the way to Hawaii we did have several day time activities including dance lessons and "non revenue producing" activities. In Honolulu both bands, some of the cruise director staff, and a lot of the ship staff got off. On the way home, we asked about dance lessons and were told that there would be no more because they were short staffed. They WOULD be teaching some of the dances we didn't know on the Alaskan cruise. We weren't going to stay on the ship for the Alaskan cruise!!!! We took the Patter and lined through all of the activities that were Spa, Casinco, and Bingo based on the 4 days home and there were only 5 or 6 day time options the whole day long and the majority of those were Trivia. One of the cruise staff's English was so bad he had to spell a lot of the words in the Trivia clues! The new bands were better but the party band has one set of songs that they played over and over and over again. The Wheelhouse band had a great singer but they did more jazzy, easy listening stuff and most of the dancers went elsewhere for the second half of the cruise. Sad for the bar staff who didn't make many tips.
Another big mess was nightly entertainment. We did not even cruise last year and still met with the same old staff shows. How many times are they going to do "British Invasion" and try to tell us that it is the greatest new show around???? We had complained previously on our cruise evaluations, along with most seasoned cruisers, about the problems with getting seats for the entertainment on Princess ships. They "solved" that buy scheduling 3 shows per night instead of two. However, the shows were only 25-30 minutes long and each guest entertainer appeared two separate nights. Supposedly it was different shows each night but it still smacked of money saving move - half the options as before for the same price. The magician on the second half of the cruise had been on a previouse cruise with us and had given magic lessons the day after his appearance. We asked him if he was going to do it again and he replied "I will be giving lessons on the Alaska cruise but not this one". His second performance was pitiful and he spent time after each performance trying to sell his DVD's. Probably that is why he didn't give lessone - he was selling them. We asked the assistant cruise director about a couple of activities we had done on a previous Hawaiian cruise and he told us that the Star was not really the Hawaiian ship and those type of activities were done on the Golden.
We only took one ship approved tour since we had been to Hawaii before. We chose to do a "beach snorkel" on Kauai. We actually entered the water from a narrow spit of sand after climbing down a rock embankment and immediately were told to get our feet off the bottom because we were stepping on living coral. The tour guides were rude "surfer dudes" who constantly made fun of the way other tour groups and experience snorkelers did things all wrong. The water was extremely rough. Two of the people in our group were walking with canes and had a heck of a time getting into the water. When we turned in our wet suits (yes we had to use wet suite because they claimed they allowed for better floatation) they yelled at people for getting sand on them. One guy told an older lady - "you didn't pick it up all sandy, why do you think you cam turn it in that way. Go shake it out!" For goodness sake, for $100 a piece for 1 hour of snorkeling you think they could wash off their own wet suits. The tour information said that experienced people would have an alternate location to snorkel with turtles. The van driver pulled over to the side of the road before we go to the beach and showed us a rocky cliff that we would have to climb down to the alternate place. Supposed a storm had washed the "beach" away. Consequently NO ONE got to swim with turtles. We didn't even see a turle. I asked how this was supposed to be a beach snorkel when there was no beach. The answer was that it is a beach snorkel any time you don't got into the water from a boat. The place we went was actually a surfing place more than a snorkeling place. DON'T PAY $100 FOR THE BEACH SNORKEL AND SWIM WITH SEA TURTLES!
We entered the morning "Wave Show" trivia contest each day and a big deal was made by the cruise director when they awarded prizes. Our cards were drawn from the group of correct answers, so ti was just the luck of the dra, but one of the other of us won several times. Each time a big deal was made about our prizes being delivered to our cabin - coupons for drinks of the day and/or casino slips to use in the "Vault:. We, and another passenger we spoke to, didn't get our prizes for days. We ran into the assistant cruise director and he told us he would look into it. Still no prizes. We went to the Purser's desk 4 days before the end of the cruise and we told we would get them in the cabin that day. Nope. Finally after our second request to the Purser, we got the stupid prizes. It wasn't that the prizes were anything great, it was just that they played it up so much on the show and then didn't follow through. Generally I felt that we got a good deal on the basic cost of the cruise only to find that we were captive for all attempts to increase revenue with Spa seminars, at sea "sales" of the same stuff that was in the shops at the same price, and gambling. If you are planning a trip to Hawaii, take another ship. This itinerary was less than ideal anyway because it went to Kona instead of Hilo on the big island. May people thought they could run over and see Volcano National Park but found it was too far to drive in the time alloted. The tendering to Kona was horrific. We didn't even try to get off until after 11:00 a.m. (started at 8:00) and still had to wait.
Finally, and then I will say no more. I received a brochure in the mail right before we left offering a 14 day cruise to Alaska. We wanted to go at the end of the season because the Arora Borealis is supposed to be really active and visible from Alaska this Fall. I went to the Future Cruise lady and told her I wanted to find out about the 14 day cruise to Alaska. She adamantly told me that there was no 14 day cruise - there were 14 day Land and Sea. I had to go to my cabin and get the brochure to show her that it was in fact a full 14 days aboard ship. She then pointed out that it was only for Sept 2. I had to to correct her by showing her that the brochure rate was for Sept 2 but that other dates were offered. She asked me how I knew what date I could request and I told her I went on Princess.com. She handed me a brochure for "all Alaskan" cruises that she had available and it didn't have the 14 day one. I went to the internet cafe on board and checked it myself. Right there on the list of Alaska cruises it shows 3 dates for a 14 day cruise - imagine that. I decided I would book with my own travel agent or online instead. By the end of the cruise I decided to get to Alaska by some other means than a Princess ship. Very unfortunate for me since I have only a couple of cruises left before I hit Elite status and have a black card key. That even gets the attention of the snotty clerks in the shops on board. In fact they will leave you in the middle of a transaction if an Elite member beckons.
OK Hot Head signs off. Hope this helps you with you decision about cruising. It made me feel better to get it off my chest!