I'm one of the very happy and satisfied passenger on board the 18-night Sydney to Bangkok cruise (Feb.14-Mar.3) This is my very first cruise holiday experience. I booked this cruise with a girl friend from work 6 months prior to its sail. Being a first timer in cruising, I prepared well on this cruise, read a lot of articles about Princess cruises, passengers review to gain knowledge on what and what not to expect.
The STAR PRINCESS made its inaugural sail in Sydney harbour on Nov.26, 2003, en route to a 12-night Sydney to Auckland cruise. This is the biggest ship ever to visit Sydney harbour, so news of its grand arrival were flashed all over the TV and radio. Several thousands of curious onlookers flocked the harbour to have a glimpse of this magnificent megaliner. I'm one of the excited onlooker, and immediately fell in love with this giant beauty. The atmosphere around the harbour during that day factored by a larger crowd beat the excitement generated during the Sydney Olympics 2000 and the welcoming of the millennium. People were just amazed and stunned to watch this beautiful ship all lighted when it departs the harbour at 9 PM boasting a display of fireworks after countdown.
Star Princess visited the Sydney harbour 4 times on its repeat Sydney to Auckland and vice versa voyage - Nov.26, Dec.20, Jan.17, Feb.14. I always hang around the harbour on these dates, eagerly waiting for my turn to come, and continuously admiring this beautiful ship. Finally, the big day came - Feb.14, Valentine's day! I checked in a little after 2 PM. It took an hour to complete all embarkation formalities before I finally set foot on the ship. I went to my stateroom straight away, it's in deck Baja. I was greeted by the cabin steward - Luisito, who happens to be a Filipino like myself, and found later on, that Filipino crews are everywhere on board. I start exploring the ship as much as I can, visited the Horizon court, foods are tempting, so I had a quick snack, then at the Lotus Spa and gym. I have to leave the ship to meet my family and friends who have been waiting at the Cruise bar of the Passengers terminal, eagerly waiting for me with my initial feedback about the interior of the ship. I even managed to show them a copy of the Princess Patter I found on my bed, we got all excited to know there will be fireworks when the princess departs.
All passengers must be on board at 8:30, so I finally bid farewell. I stayed at the promenade in deck 7 to see my family and friends as they waved goodbye from the top floor of the passengers terminal. Then I went up at the Lido deck where most of the passengers hang around as the ship departs and watched the fireworks. From this vantage, I saw the Sydney harbour bridge and Opera house at its best form. When the Sydney harbour totally disappear from my sight, I went to my stateroom where I met my roommate Ellen. We opted to unpack our luggage, and retire early on our first night. Feb.15 - At sea. Woke up early, around 6 AM, proceed to the Sports deck, and watched the sun rise, jogged a few laps on the jogging track.
The atmosphere and feeling is just unbelievable in the open sea and on top of this ship! This is the best time of the day throughout the cruise. We explored the ins and outs of this ship. The whole place is immaculate, spotless. Several workers are everywhere, tirelessly cleaning and maintaining the pleasant surrounding at all times, but still managed to smile, greet us and made us really feel especial. This ship carries 2600 passengers, 1100 crews, but you will never feel crowded. There are varied activities prepared on different times of the day, which suits to anyone's liking and mobility. There is never a dull moment. Every night before we retire, we're always excited to find the Princess Patter which contains all important announcements and activities available the following day, so we can plan our itinerary on the next day.
On a typical sea day, I start the day early jogging on the tracks at the sports deck or at the Promenade in deck 7, attend gym classes at 8 and 9, line dancing or culinary art demo, mass, shopping. After lunch, the art auction at the Explorer's lounge is something not to be missed, swim in the pool, sunbaking, spa, then back to the gym to do treadmill and another class. We then prepare for dinner, most of the time on fine dining, then watched 2 shows, at the Princess theatre and the Vista lounge, if we still have the energy, go dancing in one of the many lounges or the Skywalker's disco. We only retire for the day when we dropped dead! On our first formal night, we went to Amalfi, but was turned away since we don't have reserved seating. I requested for a traditional fixed seating at 6 PM when I filled up the passenger information but only found out that night that we were on the waiting list - #125! However, a couple backed out so we were granted 2 seats on a table for 4. Here, we met a nice couple from Alabama - Ging and Barbara. We also met two lovely people from Mexico - Roberto and Marisa, who were assigned on the table allocated for us Both looked after us everytime we had our dinner.
The courses served on this restaurant are all mouth-watering and delicious, from the appetizer, salad, soup, main course, dessert. The presentation are very appealing as prepared by top chefs, majority are Italians. The open seating venue, Capri and Portofino offered similar dishes. There's no booking on these venues, one can walk in from 5:30 to 10:00 PM, in most cases there's no queue. Although we have reserved seating at Amalfi, we don't dine there every night, sometimes we opted to have dinner at the Horizon Court or request for room service. The Horizon court is open all the time, breakfast have almost the same selection everyday, but lunch and dinner are varied, so one can never get bored on the foods served here. All dishes are fresh, there is a huge selection of homemade pastries and desserts, taste appeals to everyone's palate. My favorite is ice cream served every night. There's too much food around, one can't avoid the temptation and indulge. Anyone can easily put on extra kilos.
My favorite hang out is the gym to burn out easily acquired calories. Our fitness instructors, Graeme and Ross are both very dynamic in handling the classes. Both are quite good looking too, so ladies are inspired and motivated to workout. We have lots of fun on various classes such as Body Express, Aerobic Combat, Fusion, Body Conditioning, Aerobics, Yoga, Pilates. We booked dinner at Sabatini's Trattoria once. This is something not to be missed. There is a cover charge is 20 USD, but it's quite worth it. You have to allow a minimum of 2.5 hours stay here. Sabatini's offers a sensational menu. This unique treat includes a full array of appetizers, a delicious selection of pastas with a variety of sauces, Italian-style entrees from tiger prawn over langoustine to lobster tail and of course, the same irresistible pizzas and mouth watering desserts that Princess passengers have learned to love. We left Sabatini's quite full, and satisfied. Tequila's, is another fine dining with cover charge of 15 USD, where you can have the best steak in town ! Entertainment at night are just superb and quite enjoyable.
The shows in Princess Theatre and the Vista Lounge were mostly entertaining. I enjoyed every show performed by the resident singers and the Princess dancers. These young performers are so dynamic and energetic, the shows are Broadway style, everyone is amazed on how quickly they changed the stage setting and their colourful outfit. I enjoyed the Comedy showtime with Paul Romhany, and Spotlight showtime with the master of art and illusion British magical champion Richard Griffin.
On Feb.24, we witnessed the "Crossing the Equator Ceremony" - this is a ceremony performed on board ships when members of passengers or crew are crossing the equator for the first time during a voyage. The action was held at the Lido deck where the Cruise staff who acted as pollywogs become "Shellbacks" with King Neptune and his Royal Court. I also attended especial parties such as the Tropical deck party and the Champagne Waterfall Party where the Maitre d'Hotel Mario Propato built a cascading Champagne waterfall. On both occasions, music was provided by the dynamic performer - Maurizio.
The shore tours I attended were not very exciting. Lining up on long queues under the sun while waiting for the bus is not a pleasant experience, especially the tours at Cairns and Penang Bay. The 9.5 hours tour to Ho Chi Minh City charged at 107 USD is not well worth it. We were treated to a buffet lunch at a 5-star hotel, but the food I must say, are very much inferior as compared to the ship's food. I could have a better time if I had just stayed on board ! I enjoyed every minute of my stay on this beautiful princess. It's a magical experience of a lifetime and I wish I could share it to everyone. I'm looking forward to my next cruises, on June 13, the brand new Sapphire Princess will make its inaugural sail on a 7-night Alaska Canada cruise, my husband and I will be among the excited passengers on this maiden voyage. Then on Dec.23, the Sapphire princess will make its inaugural sail to Sydney on a 14-night Sydney to Auckland tour, where this time, I will be with my husband, my daughter and her family, and a few friends. Imagine us celebrating Christmas and new Year on this magnificent megaliner ! After this wonderful experience on my first cruise, I cannot opt for another type of holiday except cruising, and of course, there's no other like Princess cruises - where I belong !