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We sailed on the Star Princess from San Francisco to the west coast of Mexico ("Mexican Riviera) in February 2015. Our choice was motivated by the time of year, the departure port, the itinerary (Mexico Pacific coast) and it wasn't Carnival. We booked through a travel agent in Canada. Administratively there were no glitches at all, but we did drive our agent crazy with price drops. After booking, we signed up for a Cruise Critic Price Drop notification. And notify they did. Princess must have grossly over priced our cruise at the outset, because we went through SIX re-bookings including two upgrades before the price finally locked in (three months before sailing is normal). In the end our fare went from about 3500 CAD to about 2500 CAD. Stayed over in San Francisco at the SW Hotel on Broadway at the entrance to Chinatown. Quite serviceable and reasonably priced, overall we gave it a 4. Star Princess is the last of three "Grand" class ships in the Princess fleet, built in 2002. It had a moderately severe fire in 2006. We sailed shortly after a minor drydock re-fit in December 2014. At 13 years old it is in good shape although a little dated compared to newer ships such as Celebrity's Solstice class. If a 20 year life service life with the original owner is normal, it is solidly in middle age. There are some quirks to its layout: Toilets in the public areas (e.g. pools, restaurants) are few and far between, and hard to find. The Amalfi (set seating dining room) is located down a flight of stairs from Deck 7. Bizarrely there are no washrooms attached to the dining room itself, the closest are on Deck 7. On the positive side it is possible to walk or jog a complete lap around the ship (on Deck 7 with an up-and-down to Deck 8). A fairly recent addition is a Jumbotron to the pool area on the pool deck. Puzzling, because the demographic at least on our cruise was at least a full generation older than the music video crowd. One wonders if the hand of Princess' corporate owner Carnival is at work, trying to target a younger crowd. So far it isn't working! We had some pretty rough seas on the Pacific the last couple of days. Our cabin, just aft of mid ship, was relatively free of rock-and-roll but the fore and aft sections, especially the higher decks, were heaving. Activities Gym - equipment is in great condition. The spin bikes aren't accessible for use outside of the (extra cost) spin classes, a common but irksome policy. The "Infinity" endless-current lap pool on Deck 15 wasn't working. It required asking at least six ship's crewmembers to learn it wouldn't be fixed any time soon. Pity, we had enjoyed the one on the Golden and looked forward to using this one. The two larger pools "Calypso" and "Neptune" on the Lido Deck (14) are nice for lap swimming (about 10 metres) but it is puzzling that the shallow - end depth isn't kid friendly, it's about 4 1/2 feet. The sliding glass roof over the Calypso pool is great when north of Mexico and the air gets cooler. Hot tubs next to the pools were iffy for temperature: lukewarm one day, OK the next. The spa area didn't seem as opulent as some we have seen on newer ships. As is normal for cruise ships, the price for the spa is outrageous. There wasn't much for us in the way of enrichment activities. The only "lectures" we attended were the customary cooking demonstration (a hoot) and a talk about navigation by an officer. You can tour the ship (wheelhouse and engine room) but it costs $150. Come on, Princess, this used to be free. WiFi is available all over the ship and, although a rip-off, does connect solidly. Service Other reviewers have marked down Star Princess' service as " mediocre, fairly consistently, whether it was the dining room or cabin stewards". We agree on balance -- some bright lights (dining room and International Cafe) but some dim bulbs (Customer Service / Purser desk and room steward). Cabin service - Our particular cabin steward was OK on the basics (bed made, bathroom cleaned up) but fell down on details (soap, towels, glasses). Other passengers didn't have issues: maybe our guy was sub par. The farce of "tipping" deserves comment. What a schmozzle. Our custom is to opt out of the ship's automatic tipping system and do it ourselves, and other cruise lines have facilitated this with percentage guidelines as well as pre-addressed envelopes. Not so the Star Princess customer service / Purser's desk ... pretty clueless. But wait! On the last day of the cruise, voila, what should appear at the same customer service desk but a tray of envelopes for tips, organized according to "cabin steward", "waiter" and so on! Hmm ... In all fairness, conversation with other supervisory crew revealed that Princess are following a system where virtually every service crew member, whether visible to the passenger or not, participates in a weighted tip-allocation program. The advantage to this system is it much more equitable to a wider group of crew. The downside is, why should we reward poor performance (in fact we did significantly under-tip our under performing cabin steward). Language: There were a number of “out in the public eye” crew service staff whose command of English was pretty marginal for dealing with the prdominately English speaking passengers (U.S. Departure port). Port & Shore Excursions Cabo San Lucas We were pleasantly surprised by Cabo, after a bad visit there some years ago. The town has recovered amazingly well since a hurricane hit it in late 2014; there is one still-damaged section on the walk from the tender dock to the beach. We hung out on beach most of the day. Loreto (not included below ... Loreto not in Cruise Critic pull down menu) It is very small and laid back, not yet as spoiled by the commercialism of Cabo or Puerto Vallarta. We went on a snorkelling trip to Coronados Island, basically a nice whale watching trip to a very small quite murky-water beach. The water is pretty cool in February. If you want to go to Loreto for the snorkelling ... don't. La Paz We hit La Paz at their annual Carnaval festivities. What a hoot, hanging out with the locals. The ship docks there (no tender) but the dock is a half hour drive into town. Fortunately Princess (or the Chamber of Commerce?) provided a free bus. Puerto Vallarta What does this tell you ... your ship docks right in front of the Wal-Mart. So much for "quaint" or even "Mexican". If you don't go on some organized excursion into the hinterland, hanging around the beach is a good option. It's a taxi ride (US$ 8 flat rate) from the dock to the beach. San Francisco Although not a "shore excursion" it sure is nice to stay in this very pretty city for a few days at either end of the cruise. Embarkation Port Flying from anywhere where winter is a factor, you pretty well need to fly to San Francisco the day before embarkation, and lay over the night before embarkation. Princess, like other cruise lines, lies to you about the hour of check-in. It's always earlier than announced. At San Francisco that meant they started boarding passengers at 1:00 for an announced 2:00 - 4:00 boarding. We heard that some started queuing-up early in the morning. The new cruise port at Pier 27 is amazing and kudos to both Princess and the Port Authority for a very smooth, low wait time and issue free boarding. Cabin Layout was out a lot better than other lines and ships: made better use of the small available space. Despite the age of the ship most of the furniture and fixtures were un-damaged, solid and they worked. The balcony in the "BB" cabin while small was certainly adequate for the two of us. Don't spend the extra money on a "premium balcony" cabin which is the same size room, but a much larger balcony. Dining We never strayed from our assigned seating in the "Amalfi" dining room. To Princess' credit they provide not one but two additional dining rooms, the "Capri" and the "Portofino" with non-assigned seating, come anytime, same menu as the "Amalfi". The early seating (5:30) is about a half hour too early for our likes. The menu for the "Crown Grill" extra charge restaurant looked very enticing, but you need to book early in the cruise to get a table: reservations filled up very early. It's worth while to get a "Coffee Card" at the International Cafe: 15 specialty coffees and all the specialty tea you can drink for about $30. Plus the server lady was one of the brightest lights of the crew service-wise. Entertainment The theatre ceiling in the Princess ships isn't high enough for some of the aerial dance / gymnastics acts we have seen elsewhere. That said, the song - and - dance stage shows were tight, the singers were good and the house band was awesome as always in adapting to a succession of guest artists. Go at least a half hour early if you want a seat. Their selection of guest entertainers was about normal for a large main line ship: soloists and comedians mostly, some better than others. Kudos to Princess for organizing a choir of passengers. Disembarkation Amazing and full marks to both Princess and the Port of San Francisco. We were literally one hour from our cabin on board to our hotel room in town. Just no comparison to the gong show that is San Diego, and the endless queues at Fort Lauderdale. Summary Overall impression of the ship and the cruise was "very good". Maybe a notch below "excellent" but we would certainly recommend the Grand class Princess ships and the Mexican Riviera itinerary to anyone wanting a winter vacation which combines a cruise, hanging out on some Mexican beaches, and seeing San Francisco.

Very Good, Not Excellent; Nice Itinerary and Port

Star Princess Cruise Review by energizer0_0

Trip Details
  • Sail Date: February 2015
  • Destination: Mexican Riviera
  • Cabin Type: Balcony
We sailed on the Star Princess from San Francisco to the west coast of Mexico ("Mexican Riviera) in February 2015. Our choice was motivated by the time of year, the departure port, the itinerary (Mexico Pacific coast) and it wasn't Carnival.
We booked through a travel agent in Canada. Administratively there were no glitches at all, but we did drive our agent crazy with price drops. After booking, we signed up for a Cruise Critic Price Drop notification. And notify they did. Princess must have grossly over priced our cruise at the outset, because we went through SIX re-bookings including two upgrades before the price finally locked in (three months before sailing is normal). In the end our fare went from about 3500 CAD to about 2500 CAD.
Stayed over in San Francisco at the SW Hotel on Broadway at the entrance to Chinatown. Quite serviceable and reasonably priced, overall we gave it a 4.
Star Princess is the last of three "Grand" class ships in the Princess fleet, built in 2002. It had a moderately severe fire in 2006. We sailed shortly after a minor drydock re-fit in December 2014.
At 13 years old it is in good shape although a little dated compared to newer ships such as Celebrity's Solstice class. If a 20 year life service life with the original owner is normal, it is solidly in middle age.
There are some quirks to its layout: Toilets in the public areas (e.g. pools, restaurants) are few and far between, and hard to find. The Amalfi (set seating dining room) is located down a flight of stairs from Deck 7. Bizarrely there are no washrooms attached to the dining room itself, the closest are on Deck 7. On the positive side it is possible to walk or jog a complete lap around the ship (on Deck 7 with an up-and-down to Deck 8).
A fairly recent addition is a Jumbotron to the pool area on the pool deck. Puzzling, because the demographic at least on our cruise was at least a full generation older than the music video crowd. One wonders if the hand of Princess' corporate owner Carnival is at work, trying to target a younger crowd. So far it isn't working!
We had some pretty rough seas on the Pacific the last couple of days. Our cabin, just aft of mid ship, was relatively free of rock-and-roll but the fore and aft sections, especially the higher decks, were heaving.
Activities
Gym - equipment is in great condition. The spin bikes aren't accessible for use outside of the (extra cost) spin classes, a common but irksome policy.
The "Infinity" endless-current lap pool on Deck 15 wasn't working. It required asking at least six ship's crewmembers to learn it wouldn't be fixed any time soon. Pity, we had enjoyed the one on the Golden and looked forward to using this one.
The two larger pools "Calypso" and "Neptune" on the Lido Deck (14) are nice for lap swimming (about 10 metres) but it is puzzling that the shallow - end depth isn't kid friendly, it's about 4 1/2 feet. The sliding glass roof over the Calypso pool is great when north of Mexico and the air gets cooler. Hot tubs next to the pools were iffy for temperature: lukewarm one day, OK the next.
The spa area didn't seem as opulent as some we have seen on newer ships. As is normal for cruise ships, the price for the spa is outrageous.
There wasn't much for us in the way of enrichment activities. The only "lectures" we attended were the customary cooking demonstration (a hoot) and a talk about navigation by an officer. You can tour the ship (wheelhouse and engine room) but it costs $150. Come on, Princess, this used to be free.
WiFi is available all over the ship and, although a rip-off, does connect solidly.
Service
Other reviewers have marked down Star Princess' service as " mediocre, fairly consistently, whether it was the dining room or cabin stewards". We agree on balance -- some bright lights (dining room and International Cafe) but some dim bulbs (Customer Service / Purser desk and room steward).
Cabin service - Our particular cabin steward was OK on the basics (bed made, bathroom cleaned up) but fell down on details (soap, towels, glasses). Other passengers didn't have issues: maybe our guy was sub par.
The farce of "tipping" deserves comment. What a schmozzle. Our custom is to opt out of the ship's automatic tipping system and do it ourselves, and other cruise lines have facilitated this with percentage guidelines as well as pre-addressed envelopes. Not so the Star Princess customer service / Purser's desk ... pretty clueless. But wait! On the last day of the cruise, voila, what should appear at the same customer service desk but a tray of envelopes for tips, organized according to "cabin steward", "waiter" and so on! Hmm ...
In all fairness, conversation with other supervisory crew revealed that Princess are following a system where virtually every service crew member, whether visible to the passenger or not, participates in a weighted tip-allocation program. The advantage to this system is it much more equitable to a wider group of crew. The downside is, why should we reward poor performance (in fact we did significantly under-tip our under performing cabin steward).
Language: There were a number of “out in the public eye” crew service staff whose command of English was pretty marginal for dealing with the prdominately English speaking passengers (U.S. Departure port).
Port & Shore Excursions
Cabo San Lucas
We were pleasantly surprised by Cabo, after a bad visit there some years ago. The town has recovered amazingly well since a hurricane hit it in late 2014; there is one still-damaged section on the walk from the tender dock to the beach. We hung out on beach most of the day.
Loreto (not included below ... Loreto not in Cruise Critic pull down menu)
It is very small and laid back, not yet as spoiled by the commercialism of Cabo or Puerto Vallarta. We went on a snorkelling trip to Coronados Island, basically a nice whale watching trip to a very small quite murky-water beach. The water is pretty cool in February. If you want to go to Loreto for the snorkelling ... don't.
La Paz
We hit La Paz at their annual Carnaval festivities. What a hoot, hanging out with the locals. The ship docks there (no tender) but the dock is a half hour drive into town. Fortunately Princess (or the Chamber of Commerce?) provided a free bus.
Puerto Vallarta
What does this tell you ... your ship docks right in front of the Wal-Mart. So much for "quaint" or even "Mexican". If you don't go on some organized excursion into the hinterland, hanging around the beach is a good option. It's a taxi ride (US$ 8 flat rate) from the dock to the beach.
San Francisco
Although not a "shore excursion" it sure is nice to stay in this very pretty city for a few days at either end of the cruise.
Embarkation Port
Flying from anywhere where winter is a factor, you pretty well need to fly to San Francisco the day before embarkation, and lay over the night before embarkation.
Princess, like other cruise lines, lies to you about the hour of check-in. It's always earlier than announced. At San Francisco that meant they started boarding passengers at 1:00 for an announced 2:00 - 4:00 boarding. We heard that some started queuing-up early in the morning.
The new cruise port at Pier 27 is amazing and kudos to both Princess and the Port Authority for a very smooth, low wait time and issue free boarding.
Cabin
Layout was out a lot better than other lines and ships: made better use of the small available space. Despite the age of the ship most of the furniture and fixtures were un-damaged, solid and they worked.
The balcony in the "BB" cabin while small was certainly adequate for the two of us. Don't spend the extra money on a "premium balcony" cabin which is the same size room, but a much larger balcony.
Dining
We never strayed from our assigned seating in the "Amalfi" dining room.
To Princess' credit they provide not one but two additional dining rooms, the "Capri" and the "Portofino" with non-assigned seating, come anytime, same menu as the "Amalfi".
The early seating (5:30) is about a half hour too early for our likes.
The menu for the "Crown Grill" extra charge restaurant looked very enticing, but you need to book early in the cruise to get a table: reservations filled up very early.
It's worth while to get a "Coffee Card" at the International Cafe: 15 specialty coffees and all the specialty tea you can drink for about $30. Plus the server lady was one of the brightest lights of the crew service-wise.
Entertainment
The theatre ceiling in the Princess ships isn't high enough for some of the aerial dance / gymnastics acts we have seen elsewhere. That said, the song - and - dance stage shows were tight, the singers were good and the house band was awesome as always in adapting to a succession of guest artists. Go at least a half hour early if you want a seat.
Their selection of guest entertainers was about normal for a large main line ship: soloists and comedians mostly, some better than others.
Kudos to Princess for organizing a choir of passengers.
Disembarkation
Amazing and full marks to both Princess and the Port of San Francisco. We were literally one hour from our cabin on board to our hotel room in town. Just no comparison to the gong show that is San Diego, and the endless queues at Fort Lauderdale.
Summary
Overall impression of the ship and the cruise was "very good". Maybe a notch below "excellent" but we would certainly recommend the Grand class Princess ships and the Mexican Riviera itinerary to anyone wanting a winter vacation which combines a cruise, hanging out on some Mexican beaches, and seeing San Francisco.
energizer0_0’s Full Rating Summary
Enrichment Activities
Value For Money
Embarkation
Dining
Public Rooms
Entertainment
Cabin
Fitness & Recreation
Shore Excursions
Service
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Cabin Review

Balcony
Cabin BB B603
Layout was out a lot better than other lines and ships: made better use of the small available space. Despite the age of the ship most of the furniture and fixtures were un-damaged, solid and they worked.The balcony in the "BB" cabin while small was certainly adequate for the two of us. Don't spend the extra money on a "premium balcony" cabin which is the same size room, but a much larger balcony.
Aloha Deck Inside Cabins, Outside Cabins, Balcony Cabins

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews