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.