Star Princess Cruise Review by MikCar
- Sail Date: November 2018
- Destination: Hawaii
The weather was on our side and even in Hilo where we enjoyed sunshine and a view of the observatories atop Mauna Kea. The first day at sea was a little rough, as was the first day at sea on the return trip. Otherwise by the second day you could feel the balmy weather. Had no rain but some clouds. The sunsets were fabulous.
Embarkation was a breeze. We literally walked through. Princess had a line of at least 20 folks to process us in. And, a change, they eliminated the Health Form you had to fill out before going aboard. I always thought those nubby pencils they provided, that everyone touched, were a source of contamination. We were in our aft balcony room in 15 minutes. Our room steward, Claudine was wonderful. She was furloughed home in Honolulu and another helpful kind lady named Phean was our new steward. We have never had a bad experience with princess steward staff. The cabin was clean. The bathroom was spotless. Carpet a little drab, but so what. Chairs recently recovered in leather. Beds were very comfortable. The televisions are large flat screens.The bedside lamps are new with swivel arms and include a USB port for device charging. Smart!
Another change for the better. No need to lug life jackets to the Muster Drill. Made it a lot easier. And BEST of ALL, Captain Michel Tuvo gave our welcome address. He ended with his signature sign off of “Never the less, Bye Bye”. More on him later. After the drill we avoided the crowd back up at elevators and went to Crooners Bar. Had a couple adult beverages and talked to many excited folks. We got our Olive tray assortment, to include bleu cheese stuffed olives. It seems to be little known that Princess does this, and especially now that they no longer display olive jars at the bar. But ask, they are free and good. The ship started to move from the pier so we went to our cabin for the sail away.
Always enjoyed passing the Port Authority Restaurant because they would call out to us on a PA system as we passed. “Hello Star Princess” and so on. But alas, the place was boarded up. Too bad!
The food on board was outstanding. We ate in Capri dining room, International Café, Horizon Court, had cheeseburgers, brats, pizza, ice cream and popcorn. Zero complaints. The Horizon Court selection was great. As usual we tried food we never had before. We tried the soups this cruise and quickly became addicted. Really tasted great. Wait staff were quickly at our table to take the beverage order and always with a smile. Everyone we talked to was complimentary about the food and staff service. The deserts are especially good. Try the cream puffs and macarons. The furniture is new, with the lighter more comfortable chairs. When the Horizon buffet was crowded, we like sitting all the way aft in the outside area overlooking the ships wake. And, something new. They have added hand washing basins as you enter the buffet area. Great idea. There were no illness issues on this cruise that we heard of. Little coughing that we observed.
Thanks to Ann for the Meet and Greet on sea day one. Got to meet some roll call mates. Several ships officers attended and were gracious and informational. Missed the second one Meet and Greet.
The Tea in the afternoon was great also. Pianist playing, wait staff fast, food good and the pastry never stopped coming. Met some nice folks here.
The casino seemed to have lost half the slot machines. The remaining had high minimum bets, say 60 cents, dollar, etc. We played a little, not like we used to. It was a great place to go after the lecture and have Bloody Mary’s. Never seemed crowded when we were there. We hope Princess changes back to more slots. I did buy a used deck of cards for $1.
An area that disappointed us was on board lectures. The port lecture was delivered by reading a script, little personalization, slides that were out of focus and completely disjointed. No continuity, for example looking at a map of Kauai, jumping all over to different beaches, never saying how to go there, what’s there, why it would be a good stop, etc. After two we stopped going. The naturalist was okay, not useful. He talked about himself and his third wife too much. Went to just one of those but saw one on TV and there was no improvement. And too bad no special lectures. In the past Princess had folks from industry or academia to talk about the History of Sea Travel, Ship building through the ages, Navigation, and so on. Some folks liked them but agreed it should be better. The shopping guy was terrible!
We saw continuous maintenance going on. Everyday an area was being painted and when in ports the hull was painted. Wood rail tops were resealed and some replaced. Observe some rust on pipes on our veranda. Put some water on a paper towel most of it came off. So it looked worse than it was. Carts of new bathroom mirrors were in our corridor as a major replacement was going on. The furniture in the Skywalkers lounge was worn and should be replaced. Otherwise the ship looked good. We kept telling ourselves to look for something “dated”, but had no luck.
The internet was okay. Sometimes slow. Everyone seemed to have devices. So going on line during off peak times helped. The added personalization of Princess at Sea was great. Without logging on to internet, you can look at activities from Princess Platter, look at your booked excursions or specialty dining. One improvement would be to post the dining room menus for lunch and dinner each day both here and on TV. Carnival brand ships do it.
We ordered room service two times after long days ashore. Great sandwiches and salads. Ask for extra whatever you want, such as extra crackers, two cookies, extra dressing, etc. The room service staff was very friendly and helpful. Our orders arrived in 15 minutes. We used the ship laundry service. Returned to us in 1 ½ days.
We used specialty dining two times. Big disappointment at Sabatinis. Good food, great wine, wait staff wonderful. But they did not offer Lobster Three Ways. We were thinking about that meal for 6 months. Oh well, we will not go there again. Come on Princess. The Crown Grill was good. The filet seemed small and I had to send it back twice for more cooking. I’m a carnivore but not a cannibal. Also got a very small baked potato. The variety dessert tray was great. Service okay, although wait staff seemed harried, rushing around. Perhaps they were short staff. But they smiled and were friendly. Next time well do the Surf and Turf to get the lobster hit.
Went to several bars including Elite Lounge in Skywalkers. Drinks good. Notice that they pour to shot glass and then add some more. At one time they had those metered stoppers atop the bottles. Try the Berry Berry Berry AKA Three Berry Daiquiri, a tall red drink glass complete with sugar on glass rim. MMMM good. Folks ask what drink we have and I tell them it’s medicinal and Medicare approved. Bartenders really had to hustle at times due to crowds. Always smiling and watching for you to ask for something.
The photos are overpriced. I think we paid $14 for one. Some were in the $20’s. I think if they lowered the price they would sell more and make more money. Or why not just make it nicer for people. Many we talked to agreed. The photo staff were friendly and accommodated our request to print a picture we had taken on a different background. We like the one that shows the ship with the itinerary. No problem. Ready the next day.
My wife loves the “gold by the inch” sales. Bought necklaces for her and our daughters. Came with free bracelets. These staff were busy also, but smiled, took the time to make them exactly as we wanted, no problem. On the other hand there was Effys. They advertised free gemstones at eleven am. We showed up, snarled at us to come back at noon. We did, they said come back later. I thought the one gal was going to kick us out. Oh well, we avoided that place. Speaking of sales, there was something that really bothered us. We got phone calls from spa asking us to use their services. Come on, we left that crap at home! Also, on sea day on return trip, when elevator doors opened on deck 14, Horizon court, for several days we were rushed and told to attend a back pain seminar, diet seminars and we are given handouts. Hey, I avoid our local mall because of all the hustlers. Come on Princess.
Okay, some really good stuff. There were many older cruisers and some with mobility issues. Princess staff was on alert. In the buffet line, if you were in a walker for example, they came and walked through holding your plate and serving up food for you. The “bosses” you see roaming these areas also pitched in and helped. Folks were very appreciative. My wife walks with a stick due to ortho-issues. Always approached and asked if we needed help. And, on shore excursions, they spotted her, led to bus and got the front seats. How wonderful. I’m very sure all the folks with limitations appreciated the thoughtful and gracious courtesy. My wife sure did.
In Hilo we took a cab to the Tsunami museum. Well done with a lot of personal memories displayed. Then we walked and shopped, had lunch and then stopped at the farmers market. Took a cab through Liliuokalani Park, Banyan drive and the long way back to ship. We miss the bazaar they used to have in the port building and Hawaiian entertainment for our arrival. Hilo charges the highest port fees, I think they could do better. The three excursions we took were good. No problems except some rain in Honolulu on the south shore excursion to Hanalei Bay and around the backside of Diamond head to the Pali Lookout. Actually it felt like a hurricane up there, as the vegetation was going sideways in the rain. Back to Honolulu and the streets were dry. Ended up at the Royal Hawaiian, a table on the rail to Waikiki and a view of Diamond Head. Couldn’t ask for more. On Kauai the Waimea Canyon was clear. Unbelievable views. On a previous trip it was cloudy, rainy and cold up there. We noticed that upon return down the mountain the stop at “Blowhole” has been changed to the stop at the “Spouting Horn”. Makes no sense, maybe political correctness at play.
On Maui we took the Plantation and Ioa Valley excursion. Great driver/guide. The Plantation is very picturesque and the tour of fruit trees was good. We returned to complete a ritual. Ate upstairs opposite Banyan Park at the Cool Cat. Had patty melts and root beer floats. A traditional that goes way back. Then walked Front St. to the Christmas Store at the front of Koas. They have ornaments for personalizing. Add all the names you want. Koas was closed so went to Kimos for adult beverages while ornaments being prepared. Open air, a view of the Star Princess anchored offshore, pleasant breeze and friendly service. Couldn’t ask for more.
We disembarked easily. We were off ship by 8 am. Got car, loaded luggage and on our 108 mile way home by 8:30 am. Amazing. Notice another change, the Immigration and Customs folks don’t ask for those declaration cards to be filled out.
We felt this was one of our best cruises, despite the things that were silly, and could be changed. Sunsets on the veranda, rolling with the ship to sleep, sunrises sitting in the spa on deck 16 and all the places to escape the crowds hide and read or snooze.
The best part of the cruise was Captain Tuvo. We had sailed with him on the star to Sea of Cortez a couple years ago. What a wonderful person. He is so funny, as his Coffee with the Captain in the Piazza was packed and every one was laughing. His signature sign off of Nevertheless, Bye Bye was repeated by everyone. He added to that by opening the noon update from the Captain with Yoo hoo, this is the Captain. Sometimes he would play some appropriate music before he talked. When we sailed with him before, as we left Loreto, Mexico many whales were in the area. He came on the PA, said he was turning the ship into the world biggest whale watching boat, and he did just that. He was on the bow, talking via his phone, telling us where to look. He said don’t worry, I’m spinning the ship around for all to get goods views. And he did. We followed the whales for 2 hours. We were all enchanted and became Captain Tuvo fans.
On this cruise we saw him several times every day. Walking the outside decks, going through Horizon court, the dining rooms, the lounges, he was everywhere. Always stopping to talk to people. Assuring, friendly and always asked if there was anything he could do. His approach was infectious, as the staff was the best we ever had.
We have Princess Cruises booked on the Ruby Princess to the Sea of Cortez this coming February and a family cruise for New Years 2019. There will be 10 of us on the Royal Princess for that cruise.
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