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# Whale-watching with Captain Bye-Bye

## Star Princess Cruise Review by peter grant

Trip Details
Michele Tuvo is the captain of the Star Princess, the star, the de facto cruise director, gregarious raconteur, charming host and tour guide. He never saw a whale he didn’t talk about, even if his passengers were having an afternoon nap or showering before dinner. Occasionally he would broadcast his commentary in public areas only, but, typically, he’d blast away anytime during daylight hours. Most of the passengers thought he was cute. He ended each of his scores of broadcasts with the same words: “Nevertheless, bye-bye.”

Interruptions notwithstanding, the good captain showed his real mettle during the two emergency medical evacuations, keeping all of us fully informed and imparting an attitude of calm professionalism.

His passengers, 1,500 of whom had taken six or more Princess cruises, were attracted by bargain prices. A majority came from the southwestern US, quite a few within driving distance of San Pedro. Too bad so many of them had apparently never used an elevator; even late in the cruise, there were clusters of confused people trying to get from one deck to another. We also learned early on that any mention of American politics was very unwise.

We took the trip to escape rain and cold at home and because it visited La Paz and Loreto, two ports we hadn’t been to. Excursions in all the ports are reviewed separately.

The cruise, overall, was very good, a significant improvement over our last outing with Princess two years ago. Our veranda cabin was a bit cramped but wholly adequate. Our traditional-dining table-mates were pleasant and interesting. Service everywhere was much better than we saw last time. The food in both the dining room and buffet was excellent. The pool-deck cheeseburgers were great and in-room breakfast appeared on-time and as ordered. Cruise-line nickel-and-diming was thankfully almost completely absent.

The entertainment? Another big improvement, with only two exceptions. The production shows, in concept, choreography, staging, props, lighting and performance, were the best we’ve seen in many years. The classical musicians, The Imperial Trio, were superb. The guest comedians, Joe Yanetty and Steve Caouette, had everyone in stitches.

The exceptions? The resident rock band Slinky had lead singers whose voices were totally unsuited to one another. And the ship’s show orchestra was not up to Princess standards, also not helped by what seemed like a wonky sound system. It wasn’t clear if the musicians or the sound mixing were at fault.

The emergency drill was poorly run, lacking coordination between pronouncements from the Bridge and exhortations within our muster station. Princess (and other cruise lines) needs to rethink these drills for maximum effectiveness.

Captain’s Circle member benefits are nice to have, but the nightly gathering for free nibblies in the Skywalker’s Lounge should remain open longer. It runs five-to-seven p.m., so later diners are left with an empty chunk of time. I queried the CC hostess and was told that head office flatly refuses to extend the hours. Head office should recognize that even its most loyal customers can and will cruise with competing companies.

We used Princess EZAir, and but for the misfortune of flying United, got to and from the ship efficiently. Walking distances inside the San Pedro terminal were far too long and could easily be cut by more than half. Given the large number of walkers, wheelchairs, scooters , canes and guide-dogs on board, Princess needs to address such issues.

I wish also that Princess would pay enough attention to its Voyage Channel (weather, course, speed, location, etc.) to at least provide accurate information. On our cruise, the date and time were wrong for three days in a row. A complaint to the front desk brought only a baffled response.

Some crew members were truly worth saluting: Maksim, newly arrived from Belarus and working in the Internet Center, was friendly, empathetic and helpful to his many hapless customers. On this ship, he was the rule, not the exception.

Overall, on our 17th cruise with this line, our faith in Princess has been pretty much restored and we look forward to our next cruise with the company.
peter grant’s Full Rating Summary
Enrichment Activities
Value For Money
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## Cabin Review

Balcony
Cabin BC
The standard Princess veranda cabin has excellent storage but it's a bit cramped when moving around. Twin beds were quite comfortable, but one passenger must use one as a sofa if the other passenger is occupying the only chair.

Our balcony door wouldn't lock and we had a light burn out; both fixed after we complained, but Housekeeping staff are paid to keep an eye on such things. Otherwise, the cabin was clean and we were well looked-after.

## Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

• Cabo San Lucas
If you've gone swimming, seen the whales and the rock formation on previous visits, Cabo is pretty boring despite its growth. We walked around, but places to sit (absent buying something) are exceedingly rare so we retreated back to the ship
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• La Paz
The ship's excursion to the Serpentario cost $140 for two, a ridiculous price. We saved$104 by doing it on our own, taking the "free" shuttle 35 minutes into the city, hiring a cab with English-speaking driver who waited for us while we gazed at the snakes, lizards and turtles. Enrique the cabbie had spent 11 years working (illegally) in the USA. "Trump," said he, "don't like Mexicans."

The Serpentario (admission $8 per person) is a small exhibit space, quite charming, run mostly by volunteers and worth a donation. We oohed and aahed over the cute little chicks and baby rabbits until we realized their purpose in life: to provide food for the reptiles. Well worth a visit, but not at$140 or anything close to it.
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• Los Angeles
Adequate as a boarding port; Princess, as usual, overcharges for the transfers from\to LAX.

Note to Cruise Critic: Loreto is a port of call on this and other cruises; you should include it on your drop-down list so contributors can review it.
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• City Tour
First time in PV in many years; wanted to see the highlights. At $29.95, this tour looked like a good way to do that. The stops were typical: Malecon, walking tour to the cathedral, higher-end jewellery shop, scenic overlook with iguana photo-op and a beachfront cafe. The guide was a disaster: she had both limited fluency in English and very little knowledge of her city. I don't blame her so much as the tour operator and Princess. We'd have been better off to hire a cab for a couple of hours and take our chances, or maybe just wander to Walmart across the highway from the pier. View All 54 City Tour Reviews • San Diego First time here in many years: the tour hasn't changed, just the ships on view along the way. The walk to and from the tour boat was lengthened by the port bureaucrats, and we endured two security screenings (belts-off included) to get back on our ship. Excursion itself was fine, good value at$29.95 per person.
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