By Marcia Levin, Cruise Critic contributor
The third of a trio -- sister ships are Grand Princess
and Golden Princess
-- Star Princess flat out takes aim at America's mid-market passenger. The ship is big and offers mostly pluses -- and occasional minuses --- of its size with a wide variety of onboard features that appeal to just about anybody. At the same time, it offers passengers a choice of a traditional cruising experience or a contemporary one -- or even a smattering of elements of both.
During its most recent dry-dock -- in late 2008 -- Star Princess received a boatload of new features, including the Piazza, an energetic space offering entertainment, on-site bakery, Internet cafe, and wine and sushi bar; the Sanctuary, an adults-only area that boasts padded lounges, shady and sunny areas; the for-fee Crown Grill, whose menu blends seafood and steakhouse fare (replacing the existing steakhouse on Star Princess); and seven new suites, each with sitting room, walk-in closet and shower/tub combo. Retail therapy got a makeover this time around as well, with a doubled-in-size Essence shop on Deck 7 and Meridian Bay moved to the site of the former Essence shop on Deck 6.
For the most part, the staff on Star Princess handles its passengers well enough, though we found service to be mediocre, fairly consistently, whether it was the dining room or cabin stewards. Be prepared for lines, particularly at embarkation and disembarkation, which were equally horrific in terms of "hurry up and wait" and rude direction. New disembarkation procedures have quickened the process.
Ultimately, though, Star Princess, like its siblings, offers something for virtually every type of cruise traveler -- as long as being part of the masses is no big deal.
Star Princess Fellow Passengers
Star Princess, because of its kids program and its range of multi-generational activities, attracts a lot of family groups. Passenger ages ranged all over the board. This is not a great ship for solo travelers (because so many fellow passengers arrived in "packs").
Star Princess Dress Code
Onboard dress is generally casual. Officially, there are two formal nights on a 10-day or two-week cruise, more on longer itineraries. On these nights, men typically don tuxedos or suits, and women wear cocktail dresses, though passengers not inclined to dress up can head up to the Horizon Court in any attire. Otherwise, the ship's evening dress code is "smart casual." Smart casual can be simply defined as what you'd wear to a nice restaurant or a cocktail party -- slacks and a nice shirt for men, casual dresses or dressy slacks for ladies.
Star Princess Gratuity
Gratuities, which are automatically charged to onboard accounts, are $11.50 per person (including children), per day, for passengers staying in standard accommodations and $12 for passengers staying in mini-suite and suites. A 15 percent gratuity is added to beverage purchases onboard, including wine at dinner. Spa and casino staff members do not share in the gratuity charges -- if you use these services, tips are advised.
This was my ninth (and longest) Princess cruise, and one my partner and I were particularly looking forward to. And it was a great cruise...almost.
The Star was in excellent shape, except for occasional sewage smells. And the journey was ...continue
Tuesday was embarkation day, but we couldn't board the ship until noon. We grabbed some breakfast a few short blocks from the hotel (Courtyard, Long Beach) to Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles. Best fried chicken ever! We had chicken, waffles ...continue
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March 23 cruise on the Star Princess. With this cruise, you get what you pay for which isn't a bad thing, just not very good. If price is your only consideration, this is a good deal. Fortunately, we traveled with friends and kept ourselves busy ...continue