cruises

Princess Cruises Star Princess Review

Aims for a consistent, if conventional, experience, catering to the masses, and delivering a little something for everyone

December 17, 2012
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We had some good meals on Star Princess, along with a couple disappointing experiences.
Counting the three “main” dining rooms as one, Star Princess offered seven distinct venues for us to enjoy meals, with one spot–the International Café–open 24 hours. We appreciated that the main dining room is split in three—we found this slightly preferable to a single room seating more than 1,000, as is common on many ships. We also found that, for those of us on the Anytime Dining plan, two-top tables weren’t hard to come by (especially when we weren’t trying to sit down at 7 or 7:30).

Although we didn’t have much put in front of us that we didn’t like, we will say the food on Star Princess didn’t exactly aspire to greatness. It aims for the middle-of-the-road palates, delivering satisfying if not ambitious cuisine—maybe a cut above comfort food. The Alaskan dinner we enjoyed in the main dining rooms was a highlight, the tasty steak at Crown Grill was a worthwhile (and modest) splurge, and we found good, hearty breads served nightly; desserts and pastries were also generally solid. On the other hand, the ship’s salads left us wanting and the lobster entrée at Sabatini’s was poor.

Throughout, we found restaurant servers to be well trained. Star Princess may be just another Princess vessel, but this crew made it feel real, unique and warm.

Amalfi, Capri & Portofino Dining Rooms

There are three matching “main” dining rooms on Star Princess on decks 5 and 6 aft, each providing an identical setting, ambience, kitchen and menu. Only the fresco backdrops seemed to change from one to the next (and these were so generic in style we weren’t even sure about that). Guests booking the traditional dining plan—seating at 5:30 and 7:45 p.m. nightly—had dinner in the Amalfi each evening; those choosing Anytime Dining ate in the Capri and Portofino rooms. We tried all three, and found service consistently friendly and upbeat, and our special requests were easily accommodated.

The Capri dining room was open each evening from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.; those on the Anytime Dining plan could also eat at Portofino from 7:45 to 10 p.m. Those on the Traditional Dining Plan were seated at 5:30 (Portofino and Amalfi) or 7:45 p.m. (Amalfi only).

Portofino was open for breakfast daily from 7 to 9 a.m. Lunch was served at Portofino on sea days from 12 noon to 1:30 p.m., and afternoon tea daily from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m.

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Horizon Court

Comprising a series of rooms wrapping around the aft of Deck 14, Horizon Court was the ship’s efficient buffet restaurant. The selection was easy to navigate, in part because choices weren’t very extensive. But the variety was still good, and most of the menu changed daily. Despite the ship’s size—and Horizon Court’s popularity at breakfast—we never had a problem locating an empty table.

The breakfast selection was somewhat more varied than the menu at the Portofino Dining Room. As we’ve found on other Princess Cruises, the breads, pastries and muffins were very good. Lunches were somewhat uneven, but we usually found tasty items to enjoy. Again, desserts were a highlight, and after a couple days we found we couldn’t pass up the daily cupcake. “Light snacks” were offered late afternoon. Horizon Court was much less busy at night, but hearty meals came out, along with the usual spread of desserts.

Coffee, tea and iced tea were provided from dispensers, made from a concentrate. Juice flavors available at breakfast included orange drink, grapefruit, tomato, cranberry and apple. Fresh-squeezed orange juice was available at the nearby Calypso Bar for $2.75. The ship’s standard wine list was available, and cocktails from the standard drink menu could be ordered from servers.

Sabatini's

Of the two surcharge restaurants on Star Princess, we expected the Italian Sabatini’s to be a pretty safe bet, with food cooked to order in an open kitchen. Murals of classical Italian coastlines lined the walls in an attempt to transport us to the Med, but we were distracted by the sound leaking from the adjacent bar, which competed with the light opera music playing in Sabatini’s. While the appetizers and desserts were fine, our entrée—lobster three ways—was not. But the atmosphere and personalized service was appealing, and we left feeling that we simply ordered the wrong entree.

In addition to the standard wine and cocktail list, and expanded, Italian-focused wine selection was available. Italian themed after-dinner drinks were also offered. The tiramisu martini—vodka, Kahlúa, espresso, Mascarpone cheese sugar and milk—intrigued.

Sabatini’s was open from 6 to 11 p.m. nightly, and it was fully booked on several nights of our cruise.

Crown Grill

Located just off the atrium lobby area on Deck 7, the Crown Grill is the second of two surcharge restaurants aboard Star Princess. The add-on was reasonable for a hearty meal of Sterling Silver beef, served in wood-paneled rooms that faced an open kitchen. Our only complaint was the harsh florescent lighting that poured in from the Promenade Deck (we’d recommend a table away from the windows). Our waiter initially seemed gruff, but we admired his very direct reply when we asked if there was something from the seafood selection he recommended. “It’s a steakhouse,” he stated bluntly.

We chose the 12-ounce New York strip, which we found to be good if unexceptional. The chop was ordered medium rare and was delivered just so, with a pleasing layer of char on the surface. The marbling was about right, and gristle was at a minimum.

A series of gourmet sea salts was on the table from the start—black, pink and smoked. A nice touch, but we found all our dishes to be adequately seasoned, so we didn’t partake.

The standard bar menu is available at the Crown Grill, along with an expanded wine list.

Crown Grill was open from 5:30 to 11 p.m. nightly, and the venue was large enough that getting a reservation didn’t seem to be a problem during our cruise.

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Trident Grill, Prego Pizzeria and Sundaes

No surprises here: These side-by-side eateries delivered competent grilled items, pizzas and ice cream.

Trident Grill served burgers (as well as veggie burgers and grilled chicken), hot dogs (including bratwurst) and fries. We tried a cheeseburger here, and found it pretty good. Roughly comparable to the one we received from room service, though the room service burger was a bit thicker.

The pizzas were okay—especially fresh out of the oven—but nothing to get excited over. Cheese and pepperoni were always available, along with a daily special.

We didn’t find sundaes at Sundaes—go figure—but there was vanilla and chocolate soft serve, and strawberry ice cream by the scoop, as well as milk shakes ($2.50) and boxed candy ($1.95).

The ship’s standard bar menu was available from Mermaid’s Tail, sandwiched between Trident Grill and Prego Pizzeria.

All three venues were open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

International Café

Open 24 hours, the International Café was our go-to spot for a quick bite or shot of caffeine. Plates could be eaten at tables scattered around the lobby area (at a premium during the lunch hour), and coffee beverages were available in glassware or to-go cups. It was good to check the daily newsletter to see what entertainment might be scheduled; the lobby atrium became crowded at these times.

Served from deli style cases, the food selection rotated through the day. In the morning there was an egg, ham and cheese muffin available, along with various pastries and muesli. By noon the selection alternated to quiche, soups, salads and smaller sandwiches. Later in the afternoon pastries returned; a basket of cookies was also available. No one went away hungry.

The coffee bar served better java than was available at other venues, at prices ranging from $1.25-$3.75. Iced blended drinks were also available ($2.50-$3.75). A coffee card was priced $29 for 15 drinks.

The International Café was open 24 hours.

In-Room Dining

Breakfast was ordered with a door hanger the night before. Princess doesn’t set the bar very high for this meal. Primarily continental, there was one hot option: a bacon, egg and cheese muffin. The balance of the menu was cold package cereals, yogurt, fruit, and baked goods, along with juices, coffee and tea. Breakfast could be delivered any time from 6:30 to 10:30 a.m.

The standard room service menu was available 24 hours. Although it was not extensive, there were a decent number of options for when we weren’t in the mood to go out. A door tag was provided that we could use to request fresh fruit be delivered to the room. The tag said the fruit would arrive in the early afternoon, and would be replenished as needed. Beer, wine, liquors, soft drinks and juices were also available.

Some room service options carried a surcharge. Twelve-inch pizzas—pepperoni, cheese or the daily special—were offered for $3/delivery. These were available from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. to midnight. Hors d’oeuvres could be ordered with 6 hours’ notice, at prices ranging $6-$14. Other options included the champagne breakfast ($32/couple), and the lobster balcony dinner ($100/couple), which required 24-hour notice and includes a cocktail, a half-bottle of champagne, canapés, a flower bouquet, an 8×10 photo and a four-course surf and turf dinner.

Breakfast was delivered in the requested 30-minute time block. The simple fare was fine—the O.J. cold, the coffee hot, and the sandwich warm and oozing with cheese. No surprises here.

At lunch we were asked to allow 20 to 25 minutes for delivery; our order arrived 19 minutes later. The burger was on a plate with a plastic lid to keep it warm, served with lettuce, tomato and onion, and coleslaw on the side—no pickle or other condiments (they might have been available had we thought to request them), and no French fries (not mentioned on the menu).

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Sections

  1. Introduction
  2. Cabins
  3. Dining
  4. Drinks
  5. Activities
  6. Kids, Service, and Other Details
Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

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