Princess Cruises Star Princess Review
Aims for a consistent, if conventional, experience, catering to the masses, and delivering a little something for everyone
A large area of Deck 15 aft was set aside for dedicated kids programs, divided into three separate facilities based on age.
The entry-level program is Princess Pelicans, for ages 3-7, and activities include arts and crafts (T-shirt coloring), a disco night, scavenger hunts, ice cream and pajama parties. Children needed a parent to sign them in and out of the facilities daily.
Pre-teens age 8-12 were grouped into a program called Shockwaves, which featured arts and crafts, Playstation 2 tournaments, sports, a spelling bee, and scavenger hunts. Kids age 8 to 12 were allowed to sign in and out of the facilities daily, with the parents’ permission.
Teens rocked out in Remix, a facility that was not always staffed. Activities included T-shirt graffiti, dance parties, a casino night, DJ workshops, mocktail parties, teens-only formal dinners, and games like Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Pictionary, Scrabble, Jeopardy.
The general hours on sea days were 9 a.m. to noon, 2 to 5 p.m. and 7 to 10 p.m.; on port days the facilities were staffed 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 7 to 10 p.m. Group kid-sitting was also available from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m., for $5 per hour, per child.
Staff & Ship Policies
Across the board, we found the staff of Star Princess to be polished, engaged and appealing. From our check-in attendant to cabin attendant and waiters in restaurants and bars, service levels were well honed. We would happily sail with this crew again.
One exception was the ship’s staff of photographers. While all were probably doing exactly the job they were hired to do—meeting a designated quota of passenger photos per day—they were particularly distracting on one scenic morning. While cruising through Tracy Arm, when the view was most definitely looking out from the ship (and not at paparazzi), the photographers asked guests to pose for photos, over and over. While some guests may have happy to have a few pricey shots to take home (or been flattered for the attention), we found that the photographers took away from the most scenic portion of the cruise.
Princess adds a tip of $11.50 per day, per guest for crewmember services, other than bartenders ($12 per day for guests in Mini-Suites and Suites). The charge is automatically added to the statement during the cruise.
For bar service a 15 percent service charge is automatically added onto all beverage tabs. Tips for spa and casino staff are left to the discretion of guests.
Dress Codes & Alcohol Policy
Princess Cruises’ dress code encouraged sports wear and casual attire by day, with swimwear discouraged from public rooms and lounges. After 5:30 p.m., suggested eveningwear was Smart Casual—open-neck shirt and slacks for gents; and dress, skirt and blouse or trouser suit for ladies. On formal nights (there were two on our seven-day cruise), suggested attire was tux, slacks with dinner jacket or suit and tie for men; and evening gown, cocktail dress or trouser suit for women. Shorts, tank tops and T-shirts were not permitted in the dining rooms.
While there were plenty of passengers on board who dressed to the nines, there were just as many (especially teens) who kept their attire fairly casual.
Princess Cruises’ policy regarding alcohol at check-in allows one bottle of wine or champagne per adult per voyage. A $15 corkage fee per bottle is charged for any personal wines opened in public areas of the ship.
The frequent-cruiser program Princess Cruises’ Captain’s Circle has an ardent following. The top 40 most-traveled cruisers aboard were invited to a private lunch with the captain, and the top three most traveled were heralded at a members’ cocktail party and awarded crystal trophies.
Passengers become Gold Level members following their first cruise, which avails some preferential pricing, launch savings and a members-only cocktail reception. Following the fifth cruise, passengers are awarded Platinum status, which includes preferred check-in and onboard internet credits. After the 15th cruise, Elite Level benefits kick in, including free laundry, 10-percent boutique discounts, upgraded cabin amenities, complimentary minibar setup, and more.
Self-service, coin-operated laundry facilities were available on all decks with cabins, except Deck 14; irons and ironing boards were available here as well.
Health & Safety
General Health and Safety
Held just prior to disembarkation, room keys were scanned when we arrived for the Muster Drill. Our Muster station was the Princess Theater, a venue that holds about 750 people. To our surprise, there weren’t enough seats for the attendees—at least 45 passengers were left to stand or sit in the aisles. We didn’t find this reassuring as we thought about how a real emergency might be handled.
All passengers were required to bring their life vests for the Muster Drill, and instructions for wearing them were provided. The information was conveyed in a thorough, detailed manner.
Hand sanitizers were present at all restaurant entrances and their use was encouraged.
The medical center was located on Deck 4, mid-ship. It was staffed 9 to 11 a.m. and 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.
Indoor areas of Star Princess—including staterooms and their balconies—were designated as non-smoking. The three exceptions to this policy were the casino (an area we found well ventilated), Shooters Bar (where cigars and pipes are also permitted), and one side of Skywalker’s Nightclub. Smoking was permitted in designated outdoor areas of the ship.
Internet Café & Library
This facility just off the Lobby Atrium combined the ship’s library and internet stations, and coffee was not far away (at the International Café). There were 18 IBM computers for surfing the web, with varied seating arrangements.
The basic rate for internet access—using our own laptop anywhere on the ship or using the Internet Café’s computers—was a heady .79 per minute, plus a $3.95 activation fee. Packages reduced the per-minute rates, and a 40-minute bonus was availed for those who signed up for packages on the first day of the cruise. A “last day” package was also available for the last full day of the cruise: 15 minutes for $8.99.
The library had a few hundred books, with a particularly constrained selection of travel guides to the areas that Star Princess sailed (none of which could be removed from the area). A few board games were available as well.
Although computers could be accessed anytime, the station was staffed several hours in the morning, afternoon and evening.
Hearts & Minds
Found on Deck 15, just outside the Lotus Spa, Hearts and Minds was the ship’s small interdenominational chapel. Times for bible study were announced in the newsletter Princess Patter (which referred to the venue as the Wedding Chapel). The space was also used for Bill W meetings, spa seminars and for various groups onboard.
There are five main shops clustered around the Lobby Atrium, on decks 5, 6 and 7 at mid-ship.
The ship’s informal shop is Calypso Cove, with liquor at duty-free prices (purchases delivered to cabins on the final afternoon of the cruise), binoculars, snorkel gear, Princess-branded merchandize, sunglasses, T-shirts and informal clothing, handbags, and basic drug store sundries including sun block and pain and cold remedies.
Meridian Bay carried costume and other jewelry items, while the Facets was dedicated to higher-end jewelry, as well as Swarovski crystals and watches.
At Essence we found the fragrance and beauty products.
Next to Vines Bar was the Vines Shop, which carried chocolates along with oddball novelties and stationery products.
This was the gallery where photos of passengers were displayed for purchase. On Star Princess, we found the photo crew was omnipresent, snapping away at guests at many points of the cruise. On one particularly scenic morning, the photographers were assertive to the point of being obnoxious in repeatedly asking guests to pose for photos.
Photos were on display in this gallery, with 8×10 snaps sold at $19.99; portraits (posed in front of backdrops on formal night) were $24.99—no discount on multiple copies.
In addition to selling photos, picture frames and albums, binoculars and cameras (Fuji, Nikon), and common batteries and memory cards were available.
On Deck 5 was the ship’s art gallery, with art auctions held in the Explorer’s Lounge.
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