This was our second cruise with Princess to Hawaii & back. Our overall experience with Princess has been excellent; great service, friendly crews, reasonably well maintained ships, excellent dining, decent entertainment, and comfortable accommodations.
Embarkation was swift and efficient. We were on the ship within 45 minutes of arrival at the terminal. Our room was ready when we boarded (approximately 12 noon). We had room A209, forward on Aloha Deck (deck 12). This proved to be a great location, even though it is one of the lower classifications of balcony cabins. The beds could use an upgrade. We asked for a topper for our bed which was readily provided, and greatly improved our sleeping situation. Don't be afraid to ask for a mattress topper and different pillows if you find the bed uncomfortable.
The sea days were relaxing and enjoyable, although there was plenty to do for those who wanted to always be on-the-go. We enjoyed lots of down time, reading, resting and attending lectures. We used the gym every day, and by using the stairs instead of the elevators managed to stay active enough to keep from gaining much weight; food was everywhere, and a person could eat all day (& some probably did!). The gym facility was excellent and we made full use of it. Early or late morning were the best times. By mid-morning the place was packed.
We had early dining in the Portofino dining room. Our head waiter Nestor was excellent as was the food. We started at 5:30 and were done by 7:00PM. There were two lobster nights, and took advantage of those by having seconds. All of their seafood preparations were excellent. We ate a lot of fish which was always prepared perfectly. We did not use the premium restaurants.
One of our favorite venues was the International Café on deck 5 mid-ship. We each purchased a coffee card for about $30 which provided 15 specialty coffee drinks and all the brewed coffee you could drink. Great coffee and great complimentary pastries. The café also served excellent sandwiches and salads. Their breakfast sandwich was delicious.
The ports were all enjoyable. We did a circle island tour with Enoa Tours in Honolulu; it cost far less than the ship's equivalent tour. We rented a car in Kauai and visited a coffee plantation and farmer's market plus a great shrimp restaurant. In Hilo we took the Hoppa-on Hoppa-off bus for $15 each and were able to visited lots of sites at our leisure, including the great farmer's market where we enjoyed many tropical fruits. Try the white pineapple, dragon fruit, rambutans, and longans. In Maui, we just walked, shopped, and went to Moose McGillycuddy's for their $3 mai tai. We got off the ship for a short walk in Ensenada and to buy the local vanilla.
Entertainment opportunities were good. The comedians were enjoyable as were the movies under the stars. We skipped a couple of the production shows, but heard good reviews from other passengers.
Debarkation was a breeze and went very quickly. You only have to declare to US Customs items purchased in Mexico and on the ship. You do not have to declare items purchased in Hawaii.
Note that Princess allows you to bring two 750ml bottles of wine on board per cruise for consumption in your stateroom. We purchased pineapple wine in Hawaii and enjoyed it in our room.
We already have another cruise planned on Princess. We wouldn't hesitate to recommend the Star Princess as one of our top cruise experiences.