The week before my cruise I found cruise critic and became obsessed with reading review after review. Not only did I study every Star Princess Alaska review, but also Hawaii and South America - I really wanted to get a feel for the boat itself and the crew.
To be honest in the days leading up to the cruise I became concerned that I had made a mistake in choosing this particular ship - and feared that my first cruise would be a bust, based on so many reviews that I read here. I am very happy to report that my wife and I took some advice from the reviews and managed to have a fantastic time on-board.
We arrived early. No lines anywhere. We had a seat and waited to board and was among the first 100 or so on-board. I thought everything ran very smoothly.
First, I'd like to thank the member who mentioned that they wished they had known that on the day of embarkation they wished they had know that other dining options, aside from the Horizon Buffet, were available. When we boarded the ship the crew was directing people to the buffet, without mentioning other options - don't be fooled. My wife and our friends made a bee-line toward the Portofino Dining Room (this is the only day that this dining room is open while in port). We had an absolutely amazing meal and nearly had the place to ourselves. Later we went up to deck 14 to see how the buffet lines looked and I must say they were very long and I heard a number of complaints.
The traditional dining rooms offered the same menu - and we found the food very good. We did eat in the buffet a couple of times, as we did not take part in the formal nights - we will in the future, if for no other reason than to avoid the buffet, which was not my favorite, to include the deserts. My wife found a few vegetable dishes that she really enjoyed so she would provide a more favorable review. As an aside, read lots on here about poor drink service - we did not experience that, wait staff was all over it. Once we ordered a drink it did take a bit of time before it arrived. Soda machines are only behind the bars, so this isn't very efficient for the wait staff.
Do yourself a BIG favor - get the soda sticker - avoid the $1.95 per soda and the $4.00 for mocktails. I promise you will thank me later. I did get the coffee card. Which works differently than the soda sticker. With the coffee card you get 15 punches for $32. I found myself struggling to drink that many over the course of the cruise - so many other things to drink! :) But, if you are big into specialty coffee I would say this is also a must have.
We upgraded to Sabitin's one night and the Crown Grill on two nights. Sabitini's is small with just a handful of tables, the service was great! The food was good as well, although our lobster was a tad over-done, not that big a deal. The Crown Grill - WOW! There are a lot more tables, so we were not able to get a window seat, but seriously, do your tongue a favor and go to the Crown Grill, also had amazing service.
I went to one Star Princess singers and dancers show and found the reviews on this site to be accurate. I was underwhelmed and felt like I wasted my time.
Carlos Oscar, the comedian, was fantastic. My review would agree with the large majority of others found on this site - as it would with the Ventriloquist. I did not care for his act - I did not find him funny, and thought it was all a bit odd.
Trivia was a lot of fun. Not a lot of people participate so odds of winning an in-expensive prize are good.
Question of the day. Participate, participate, participate. This is conducted over the "Wake Show" each day, very little participation. Between my wife and I and the couple we were traveling with we won 4 "drinks of the day" - those are something like $8 each- and tend to be milk or chocolate based "adult beverages" - YUMMY!
Alaska is amazing - amazing - amazing. We will do this one again. Another piece of advise I picked up from this site is to book "the Sactuary" for Glacier Bay day. $60/pp. It was very foggy and raining on the day we were in the park so we cancelled that morning, without a problem. But, if this is something you are interested in doing book AS SOON AS YOU GET ON-BOARD. There are only a handful of seats and they go VERY quickly.
We did the EZ pass, which worked great for us. We packed on ship, placed our bags in the hallway after dinner and didn't see them again until we arrived at our home airport. I was a little worried, but it worked out well.
Our only regret is that we booked our return flight at 2 pm, and wish it would have been closer to 11:30 am - we spent way too much time hanging at the airport. With the EZ pass we were off of the boat by 8:10 - Princess is efficient and there is no fooling around when it comes to turn-around.
I've read complaints about the Art - I will say that there is a huge selection and I think Princess tries to have something for everyone. I'm sure if Art interests you there will be a lot that does not appeal to you - but there may be a piece or two there that will catch your eye - pricing isn't bad.
We had a mini-suite, which offered us more room than we needed. We never had an issue with noise. Also we slept most nights with the slider open to listen to the wave - it is Alaska so to achieve this I blasted the heat in the room - not something I would do at home - but it was awesome.
That's my 2 cents. I hope there is something in all of that rambling that you will find helpful. Enjoy your vacation - sometimes it's all about what we chose to focus on. I enjoyed my cruise on Star Princess and I would so it again.