My wife and I had always wanted to see the South Pacific, but did not want to fly. So we were really excited to find this 28 day cruise to Hawaii and the South Pacific round trip from LA. We picked the March departure over the Fall departure since we had heard that the weather was better in April, than October.
Embarkation: We had flown to LA a couple of days early and stayed with relatives. We had been notified from Princess that embarkation would be late and would not begin until 3 PM. We arrived at the port about 3:15pm and found about 2,000 people waiting to board. Many had been there since before noon due to early flights. You may read some horror stories from them, but we allowed to board almost upon arrival and were at our room by 3:30 pm. Others were not happy about waiting so long, since they though boarding would begin about 1 PM.
Cabin: Our cabin was B631, a balcony that we got as an upgrade. It was a great cabin location. Not far from midship and not too far from elevators and the laundry. The room was very quiet. It was a standard outside room. About 170 sq feet. There was plenty of closet space and the bags fit nicely under the bed. It had a TV and refrigerator and a desk and extra chair. The bed was against an inside wall and that made the room seem bigger than the configuration where the bed is against the outside wall. There were sliding glass doors to the balcony.
We usually do not book a balcony, but for this trip it was really nice. Used it a lot after we got to Hawaii and it was great in the South Pacific. The balconies on Baja deck are not as big as the ones on Caribe, but much more private. We loved being on Baja deck.
Ship: This was our 16th cruise on Princess and we had been on Grand a couple of times and found the layout on the Star very similar. It still has Skywalkers. The ship was in good shape. Very clean and well maintained. A couple of times there was a sewage smell, but it was taken care of. The captain was the best we have ever had. It gave briefings twice a day and always had something interesting to tell us. He was out and about the ship often. The crew and staff were very friendly and helpful. I can say nothing bad about the ship or the staff and crew.
Dining: The food in the dining room was generally very good. The menus always had something interesting and Princess continues the practice of having several things standard every night. The menus repeated after 14 days. The waiter and assistant waiter we had, Rada and Juanito were the best I have ever had. They took me back to the old days of cruising, when after the first night they knew what we wanted and you didn't have to ask for ice tea, or extra butter. Just perfect. Every night they made sure that we had the next nights menu to look at in order to see if we wanted to come to the dinning room. A nice touch. My wife had crÃ¨me Brule every night. On the night when we went to the Crown Grill to celebrate my birthday, Rade sent a birthday card to the Crown and when we got back to our room, there was CrÃ¨me Brule waiting for my wife with a note from Rada that she knew Susan could not get it in Crown and would not sleep well without it! Now that is service! The Assistant head waiter for our section was also the best. He came to our table every night to be sure everything was right and on at least 5 occasions made us special dishes we requested. No question, just if we wanted it, it would be there the next night. Very nice.
The food in Horizon Court was hit and miss. Generally, it was hot and there was good variety. The organization was good and they served you your drinks at your table.
The Pizza and Hamburgers and Hot Dogs were great. The meal in Crown Grill was outstanding. Among the best I have ever had at sea. Much better than Holland America. I would never spend the money again at Holland America, but would go back to the Crown in a heartbeat. I would strongly suggest you try it.
Entertainment: The worst I have ever seen on Princess. The cruise director, Billy London was terrible. He could not schedule his way out of paper bag. He did not take suggestions well! The singers and dancers were pretty good, but only performed 5 times on a 28 day cruise. They told me that the only knew 5 shows, but would have been willing to repeat a show, but the CD said no. Well, maybe if they had repeated a couple of shows it would have been possible to get in to see them. Because of the way Billy scheduled the shows, everyone wanted to get in at the same time, so unless you were there 40 minutes early you could not get a seat. Then you had to rush from one end of the ship to the other to try to get a seat for the second entertainer. Just a mess. If Billy had published a tentative schedule of entertainment at the beginning of the cruise, as some CD do, and repeated some major shows, maybe it would not have been such a mess!
The featured entertainers were really bad. The only bright spot was Tom Franek, who began performing in the Crooners Bar and ended up in the Vista lounge because he was the one bright spot. He did over 70 hours of shows on the 28 day cruise and still packed the house. The others were marginal at best. The special entertainment in Tahiti was really nice and I am glad they brought them onboard.
The movies were another scheduling mess. There was a movie about Pearl Harbor. Did we see it near Hawaii, no-- on the next to last day of the cruise! Did they show any of the great WWII films--nope. Did they show South Pacific--nope. Just not aware of where we were.
However, the worst part of the entertainment was the Lectures at sea. I had spoken with some people who had done a South Pacific cruise and they talked about the great lectures on WWII and the culture of the South Pacific. I was really looking forward to the lectures. What did we get? The Iranian Nuclear Threat! Why Russia needs a Czar! When teachers teach lust? Who is my mother? I just could not believe it. These topics will really help me relax completely! One of the lectures was not a bad speaker and in another place might have been worth listening to, but the other guy was just boring and self absorbed. No way should he have been on a cruise, let alone for 28 days. They were total inappropriate.
I will say that we had a nice crossing the line ceremony. But overall this was the worst entertainment I have ever seen on a Princess ship.
Ports: They were all great. We really loved Moorea and Bora Bora and all the Hawaii stops. The people in Samoa were some of the friendliest we have ever met.
The 8 days at sea at the end were not bad at all. Lots of time to relax, read and play cards. I loved it.
Internet: Was much better on the Star than other ships we have been on. We able to get it in the room most of the time. There were a couple of days when it was not strong, but we were in the middle of the South Pacific!
Cruise Critic Meet & Greet-- We had over 200 attend the first meet and great and it was very well organized by some members who had obviously done this before. We had an excellent turn out by the cruise staff including the captain and cruise director. One thing that does need mentioning. Princess is getting very touchy about privately organized shore excursions. If you put one together, make sure that everyone has signed up BEFORE getting on the ship and do no onboard promotion of your excursion. Do not ask Princess do anything for your group. They will have some harsh words for you. It does not matter that all the ship shore excursions are sold out and have been for months. They are coming down hard on this and the best advice is to keep it quiet and small and have it all taken care of before you get on the ship! We had some great shore excursions done by CC members, but they did hear from Princess.