Star Princess Cruise Review by Cruisin_Greg
- Sail Date: September 2015
- Destination: Hawaii
- Cabin Type: Balcony
Itinerary: 15-days Hawaii cruise round trip from Vancouver BC (Canada).
The itinerary included ports in the Hawaiian Islands: Hilo (Hawaii), Lahaina (Maui), Honolulu (Oahu) and Nawiliwili (Kauai).
We flew direct from Edmonton, Alberta to Vancouver the morning of cruise departure. Arrived into Vancouver about 11:15AM, luggage gathered, and grabbed a taxi almost immediately upon entering the Taxi line at the YVR airport. Quick comment: LOVED seeing signs in the taxi line which provided actual costs from the airport to various locations for which you want to travel in Vancouver. Airport to Canada Place pier - $35.00, and that's exactly what the Taxi driver asked for, and received (+ tip of course). We were at the Canada Place port arrival area approximately 30 minutes later, handing off our luggage to the porters.
Embarkation: I feel we were quite lucky having arrived at the Port as early as we did. We heard a number of stories from other passengers that arrived about an hour after us, and they were struggling to get through all the lines 3-4 hours later. Our experience was not nearly as bad. There were 2 ships loading passengers during this time (Princess & HAL). We managed to get through Princess Check-in / Security / US Customs within about 1 hour of time.
Once we were aboard the Star Princess, I headed right to the front desk to enquire about a couple things. I had previously read on Cruise Critic that other passengers were able to book Specialty Restaurants and Chef's Table on their behalf, instead of calling the Dining Line. The Front Desk was not yet busy, so thought I'd give it a try. I was told 'No' to both of those requests, and to call the 'Dining Line' from my stateroom. I said "Ok – fine… oh by the way, which restaurant is open for the Embarkation Lunch?" Their response… "Oh there isn't one. Please head to the Horizon Court for the buffet". At this point, I figured no use wasting my breath and decided to just head off to my stateroom to try and use the "Dine-Line" sooner than later. Headed straight to our Cabin, and called the #, and was able to immediately get through. Crown Grill / Chef's Table / Crab Shack taken care of in 2-3 minutes.
We then decided to just go take a look at the Horizon Court to see how busy it was, instead of looking for a 'Possibly Open' dining room. Still having boarded so early, things in the Buffet were quite calm, and we actually enjoyed ourselves. Also, I was able to put my "All-Inclusive Beverage Package" to immediate use as soon as we sat down at a table to order my first Mojito. Side note – during our first dinner in the MDR that evening, other table guests, and even our waiter stated that yes, there was indeed an Embarkation Luncheon. I'm only stating this here, so that others realize – Yes…conflicting / contradicting information is provided to Passengers.
Cabin / Cabin Steward – We had booked Caribe – 705. We were extremely pleased with our cabin, and cabin steward (Janice). Lots of closet space to hang clothes. Once unpacked, luggage was placed under the bed. Beds were comfortable. We enjoyed the balcony. Janice took excellent care of our room. We really enjoyed the location, having only to go 3 decks up to the Lido, or 3 decks down to Promenade Deck, for easy navigation to other locations on the ship. Noise was not an issue what-so-ever, being near a bank of elevators.
Dining: For the most part, we really enjoyed all of our dining experiences.
MDR – We opted for Anytime Dining. We usually headed to the MDR (Capri) between 5:30 and 6:00pm, and never had more than a 5-10 minute wait for a table. We were always willing to 'Share' a table, so were usually placed at a 6 or 8 seat table. We met many interesting travelers and heard many interesting stories. Didn't have a single disappointing meal, as we always found something that appealed.
International Café – We quickly got into a morning routine of heading down to the IC for a morning Coffee (usually with Baily's for me), and a Hot Chocolate for my wife. The morning pastries in the I/C were fantastic. Our favorite was the light/soft "Beignet". Sigh, thinking of one of those 'Triangular Delights' now, my mouth starting to water. Other options appear in the café throughout the day depending on timings. These range from Soup/Sandwiches, salads, to a half-decent cheese selection.
Horizon Court – we found the buffet to be average. Nothing overly bad, or outstanding.
Prego Pizzeria – Really enjoyed the pizzeria as a quick go-to snack. I think the 'thin-crust' pizzas which Princess offer are one of the better types of pizzas available on most cruise lines.
Trident Grill – Another decent option for a quick go-to snack/meal. They offer pretty good burgers, Hot Dogs, Brats throughout the day, and have 'BBQ options" (Ribs/Wings/etc) during the evenings.
Crab Shack – We had a very good experience with our visit to the "Crab Shack". They do have a $20.00 p.p. charge, but we felt it was well worth the surcharge for everything we got. Also, it is a sectioned off portion of the 'Horizon Court" buffet tables areas. They start off with some 'Garlic Bread / Popcorn Shrimp / Hushpuppies. Then a 'Manhattan Clam Chowder" is served (which I particularly enjoyed). My wife opted for the "Steamed Alaskan King Crab Legs/Shrimp" option, while I went with the "Mixed Steamer". There were plenty of offerings in each of the entrees. We did observe one or 2 other tables in the area requesting for some additional Crab, and receiving it with no issues what-so-ever. Then we finished off the meal with dessert.
Chef's Table – Let me preface this that neither my wife nor myself consider us to be 'Foodies' in any shape or form, but both of us are VERY happy we decided to sign up for this extra-cost option, as it turned out to be a wonderful experience. Cost was $90.00 p.p., which included wine pairings with dinner. We had our names added to the "wait list" by calling the Dining Line on Embarkation day. A few days later we received a letter in our mailbox that asked us to attend a pre-dinner information session, where we met one of the Head-Waiters that provided us a brief overview of what to expect, asked if there were any allergies, etc. The actual Chefs Table dinner happened a couple days later, where we met the same Head Waiter, and the Maitre 'D, and was given a 30 minute tour of the kitchen. We were able to observe the hustle/bustle of the kitchen staff from a bit of a distance, and given a descriptive overview of how things work by the Maitre D', and then introduced the head Chef. We were served Champagne and offered about 3 different appetizers which included Beef Tartar, Caviar and a Tuna sampler.
We were then taken out to our table for 10 in the dining room, and the wine started flowing. Sorry, I can't remember the types of wine offered, but… they were good. The Head Chef then came out with a big pot of Mushroom Risotto, which he said he's been working on all afternoon. It was wonderful. We were then served a salad, sorbet, and then the main Entrees (Lamb / Lobster / Steak) came out. The Head chef had to flambé the Lamb first off to the side of course. We were then offered a Pear w/bleu cheese "pre-dessert", and then finally a wonderful chocolate dessert to finish. Overall, this was an extremely wonderful evening, and we enjoyed ourselves tremendously.
Crown Grill – spent my birthday here in this specialty restaurant. We really enjoyed the experience. My wife had the 8oz Filet Mignon with side of lobster tails, and I opted for the 12oz New York Strip. Instead of choosing sides, our waiter said, he was just going to bring out all the sides for us to share. They also had no issues with us requesting for a couple additional lobster tails to be brought. Overall, a very enjoyable evening, but be prepared for a lot of food.
Pub Lunch – I tried the Pub lunch one time. They have it situated in the Crown Grill restaurant on a few of the 'Sea Days'. I believe it was open 4 times of the 15-day cruise we were on. I had the fish and chips, which weren't too bad. Definitely 100% better than a fish and chip dish I had on a different cruise line (that's another story). Favorite thing at this lunch was the "Bread and Butter' pudding for dessert.
Excursions – we opted for 2 Princess excursions. We visited the Volcano National Park on the Big Island (port was in Hilo), and a 'Beach Snorkeling" excursion in Kauai (Nawiliwili). We enjoyed both very much and felt we had received good value for money. Maui was a tender port into Laihaina, and Oahu was in Honolulu. Both of these we just walked around a bit, snooped around, and went back to ship.
Disembarkation: Very smooth process in Vancouver. Our meeting area happened to be in the Casino, so chairs were readily available. About 30 minutes after our arrival in there, our luggage tag color/numbers were announced, and off we went to get scanned off the ship, down to the luggage hall, find luggage, and hand over our Canadian Customs forms on the way out of the exit doors. Taxi lines were readily available for us to hop in, and start heading to the airport. From point of leaving the casino area to getting into the Taxi, maybe 25 minutes total.
Overall Impressions: This cruise was exactly what we wanted. We wanted a 'relaxing' type of cruise, and that's what we received, having 10-11 sea days out of the total 15. Lots of time sitting, reading, out on deck somewhere or just on our balcony. Having purchased the All-Inclusive Beverage Package, I enjoyed a fair bit of time sitting / visiting with other patrons and bartenders/staff at a few different lounges/bars. Speaking on the AIBP – I'm not so sure I'd purchase it again. I enjoyed the fact that all beverages were paid for up front. There were no issues meeting the expected daily quota of say 7-8 drinks a day, to meet the 'break-even' point of cost of package versus number of drink per day. But after day 10-11 into the cruise, it started to almost feel like 'work' to meet that criteria. I know… tough job. Just my feelings about my experience with the package.
One final point I'd like to make. There were 2 separate 'outbreaks' where the medical department notified all passengers with letters to the cabin, and the Captain made announcements during daily reports. One was for an upper-respiratory (flu-like) situation that was being passed around, and the second being a "Noro-Virus" outbreak. The first occurred about day 3 or 4 into the cruise, and the second came about day 9 or 10, on our way back from Hawaii. Staff worked extremely hard sanitizing, cleaning, wiping anything that wasn’t moving. They had extra staff available in the Horizon Court serving passengers all food items. I feel Princess did all they could do to try and contain these 'outbreaks'. Hand sanitizers were available in numerous locations throughout the ship. Staff were constantly cleaning the public washrooms. Speaking of the public washrooms, I really liked seeing the signs in them instructing patrons to use their paper towels to open the door upon exiting. Nice touch! I caught a mild version of the “upper-respiratory’ cold about day four, but was over everything but the cough before our return to Vancouver. Neither of us caught “the Noro” and counted our blessings.
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Port & Shore Excursion Reviews
HiloExcellent tour. Guide was awesome. She provided lots of info, and was very courteous/friendly.View All 569 Hilo Cruise Port Reviews
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KauaiThe company used by Princess for this excursion (The Original Aloha Kauai Tours) was fantastic. They provided an excellent snorkeling tour.View All 537 Kauai Cruise Port Reviews
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MauiExcellent tour. Great guide. Lots to see.View All 618 Maui Cruise Port Reviews
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VancouverPretty good experience with Embarkation here, but we were EARLY.View All 672 Vancouver Cruise Port Reviews
View Cruise Critic's Vancouver Cruise Port Review