Star Princess is an elegant midsize ship. It's perfect for older couples or groups of friends who enjoy lingering over drinks and long dinners, as well as those who want to find local influences in dishes, lectures and activities onboard. The ship accommodates children and families, but it doesn't cater to them as heavily as other cruise lines do. There are clubs for kids and teens and a pool with a retractable roof for rainy-day swims, but you won't find water parks, big-brand partnerships, private babysitting or activities for children younger than 3.
Dining and drinking are strong points on Star Princess. About 10 dining options and a dozen bars offer the chance to jump around or find a favorite, and the specialty and main dining restaurants (even the grill) offer menu items inspired by the itinerary. We didn't eat one bad thing onboard, and you don't need to spend a night at the extra-fee Sabatini's or Crown Grill to enjoy a gut-splitting gourmet meal. (Though we do suggest trying at least one alternative restaurant. We doubt you'll be disappointed.) For casual dining, you'll have more than enough choice at the buffet, and the standout International Cafe serves up bistro-style snacks any time, day or night, gratis.
If you're keen to splurge on spirits, the whole page of chocolatier Normal Love's concoctions makes it easy to succumb to the "well, I'm on vacation" mentality. Wine aficionados should head to Vines, where they can choose from pages of wine selections not available elsewhere on the ship. Enjoy your glass with the day's complimentary selection of tapas and sushi or an extra-fee wine-and-chocolate pairing. For a deal, take advantage of the drink specials extending until midnight at Skywalkers Nightclub, though be warned: It's easy to lose track of the hours (and cruise card swipes).
Enrichment -- especially in Alaska -- is a highlight that Princess makes a point of emphasizing, and we totally dig it, from the lumberjack show to emotional tales of an unlikely friendship in the wild. Entertainment, on the other hand, is hit and miss. There is music all around the ship, but it's the instrumentalists and not the vocalists who stand out. Similarly, evening entertainment is varied -- a comedian, production shows, a ventriloquist act, a singer and pianist -- but seems like something to do if nothing else is going on, not something to make a point to see.
Service left us with kind of a shoulder shrug. It certainly wasn't bad, but it wasn't outstanding either. Our room was always clean, and requests were always accommodated, but we never got to know our cabin steward. Perhaps it was a matter of timing. Similarly, we had one waiter in the main dining room who was enthusiastic, but the rest of the time, requests were simply fulfilled around the ship -- coffee handed, plates cleared, order taken -- with little personality.
Overall, the ship is comfortable and polished, and the crew has a firm grasp on a reliable level of service. While tropical paintings seem out of place as cabin decor on cooler-clime itineraries, Star Princess does a fine job of highlighting local flavors through daily activities and menu specials, making it a refined ship for any destination.
The ship's 1,301 cabins are divided into 10 categories. A whopping 711 (more than 55 percent) have balconies.
Cabin decor is simple with warm tones -- peaches and creams -- mixed with an ocean blue in the carpet and pillow accents. Artwork has a tropical vibe, which didn't quite work on our Alaska itinerary. On cold-weather itineraries, plaid red and green fleece blankets are left in your cabin so you can enjoy the fresh air with some added warmth.
In each cabin, two twin beds are pushed together to form a queen-size bed. All cabins come with TVs offering a variety of channels (we dare you not to get the "Love Boat" theme stuck in your head -- it's on all the time), a closet, storage space, a safe, a hair dryer, refrigerator, phone and desk. Some cabins feature Pullman beds to sleep third and fourth passengers.
All cabins contain private bathrooms with showers. Showers with bathtubs can be found in minisuite-category cabins and higher. Bath gel and shampoo/conditioner come in dispensers attached to each shower.
A nightly turn-down service is included in all cabin categories, but chocolates on your pillow will only appear if you're booked in a balcony or higher cabin category.
Interior: Windowless inside cabins are 160 to 182 square feet. They can be found on decks 5, 8, 9, 10 and 11.
Oceanview: Outside cabins each feature a picture window for ocean views and range from 163 to 171 square feet. They can be found on decks 5 and 8. Outside cabins with fully or partially obstructed views run 168 square feet.
Balcony: Balcony cabins range from 232 to 274 square feet and are found on passenger decks 8 through 11. Balcony furniture consists of two reclining blue mesh chairs with silver armrests and a tall, round white table. Balconies are about 47 square feet. Premium Balcony cabins are about the same size inside -- 274 square feet -- but feature larger 89-square-foot balconies. You can find aft balconies in this category.
Mini-Suite: There are 180 mini-suites onboard at roughly 323 square feet apiece, with 61-square-foot balconies. These cruise rooms are located on decks 8 and 9. In each of these cabins, a separate sitting room features a sofa bed that sleeps a third passenger, if necessary, and an additional flat-screen TV. Interestingly, the balconies jut out from the rest of the ship's verandahs. The upside of this arrangement is there's no roof, and it's a great place to watch the stars at night. The downside? No privacy. You're totally visible to anyone in a balcony above yours. Unlike other cruise lines, Princess offers mini-suite passengers some additional perks like a welcome glass of Champagne and a pillow menu. Don't forget the bathtub and addition of footstools on your balcony.
Suite: In general, suites range widely in floorspace from 468 to 1,314 square feet. Balconies in these cabins range from 114 to 450 square feet and feature upgraded furniture with room for four (two loungers, two chairs and a table). You'll find a separate seating area with a sofa, full bathroom, deluxe bath amenities and a walk-in closet.
Located on decks 10 and 11, each Penthouse Suite is approximately 468 to 473 square feet, including the balcony. All three suites onboard include rear-facing aft balconies with views over the wake.
Six Vista Suites are located two each on decks 8, 9 and 10. At 484 to 527 square feet each, they include aft-facing balconies.
At approximately 591 square feet, including the balcony, the one Owner's Suite is located on Deck 11 with sweeping views and suite perks.
There are two 595-square-foot (including balcony) Family Suites on Deck 9. This cabin category is essentially two interconnecting cabins that can form one large cabin with a shared living room and two bedrooms. Family Suites can sleep up to eight.
Located on Deck 11, the Grand Suite is 1,314 square feet -- the largest cabin on the ship -- and offers spacious rooms; an expansive, aft-facing balcony along with more seating outside; and a dining room table inside. This is the cabin to get if you plan on entertaining a group. Three TVs and a wet bar round out its offerings.
Suite perks might include: goodies from the chef on embarkation day, a free meal at a specialty restaurant on embarkation night, complimentary mini-bar setup, pillow menu, CD/DVD player with access to a complimentary library, fresh flowers, upgraded bath amenities like salts and an eye mask, priority embarkation/debarkation, priority shore excursion reservations, complimentary laundry and shoe polishing, a private portrait with onboard photographer, a dedicated help line, use of the thermal suite on select ships, exclusive Elite Lounge access on select ships, an extended room service menu, exclusive suite breakfast in Sabatini's served each morning with a mimosa, preferred dining reservations, nightly canapes upon request, tea service ensuite upon request, a corsage and boutonniere for the first formal night and enhanced turn-down service.
If you like to eat -- particularly seafood -- Star Princess offers solid selections without a dizzying amount of restaurant options. A full breakfast on the terrace, bistro-style sandwiches and salads, pizza and burgers by the pool, formal tea with scones, fine dining at night and pastries over coffee at twilight: All of this is included in your cruise fare. The three Mediterranean-themed main dining rooms serve up the same carefully selected menu with different seatings; lido deck selections, from the buffet to the grill and pizza counter, leave most families (and midday or midnight snackers) feeling more than full. A standout is the International Cafe with its convenient and totally free a la carte options for sandwiches, salads and sweets any hour of the day or night. It also includes a coffee bar.
Portofino Dining Room (Deck 6): The most utilized of the three main dining rooms, Portofino serves as the sit-down option for breakfast, lunch (only on sea days), afternoon tea and dinner. Breakfast is served 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and is a simple affair comprising coffee and juice, fresh fruit, compotes, cereals, yogurt, pancakes, eggs a few ways, breakfast meats like bacon or sausage, and hash browns. A page of daily specials might offer up eggs Benedict or French toast with figs, peaches and pears.
Lunch is brief -- noon to 1 p.m. -- but with much more of a selection. Try award-winning Bacardi & Coke marinated spicy chicken wings (like candy), a New Orleans muffuletta sandwich, a pot pie, a fish fry or Greek spanakopita. Pastas, burgers, soup and salad are also available, as are five delightful brunch options, including corn flake-coated French toast. Desserts are included (of course), and they range from a baked apple and custard tart or pineapple trifle to ice creams, from butterscotch to the more outrageous chocolate Curacao or kiwi frozen yogurt. Afternoon tea is served from 3:15 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. and includes a selection of tea, scones and tea sandwiches with white-glove service.
Dinner is a multicourse affair and has enough mainstay and rotating options to please any palate. Each night has a theme, from Italian to Alaskan. On the menu's left page are starters, such as prosciutto crudo con melone or antipasto, and Princess Favorites (available every evening), which include shrimp cocktail, Caesar salad, pan-seared chicken, a sirloin beef burger and, on our sailing, an Alaskan salmon with root vegetable hash by award-winning Chef Travis Haugen. Along the right is a description of the evening's theme with dishes that coincide and two suggested beverages, such as wine or a paired cocktail. Six Princess Favorites are available each evening for dessert: chocolate mousse on a brownie, French vanilla bean creme brulee, New York cheesecake, create-your-own sundae, fresh fruit or a cheese plate. A nightly selection -- perhaps something from Chef Norman Love's Chocolate Journeys (a partnership with the cruise line) -- is made, along with a sugar-free option, ice cream and a few more goodies. Coffee and tea are served, but specialty coffees and drinks like wine or soda are additional, unless you have a drink package.
Decor in all three dining rooms is understated and elegant with wooden chairs and colored cushions, table linens and fresh flowers on each table. Murals of Italian islands are painted along the back walls. Lighting above creates a starry effect.
In Portofino, an early dinner is served at 5:30 p.m., and anytime dining opens up from 7:45 p.m. until approximately 9:30 p.m.
Amalfi Dining Room (Deck 6): Amalfi is at the back of the ship, apart from the other dining rooms. Traditional dining (set seating times, same waiters and tablemates) can be found there at 5:30 p.m. and at 7:45 p.m.
Capri Dining Room (Deck 5): Your place for anytime dining, Capri is probably the most crowded of the dining rooms at dinner, due to its location off the Piazza and bars on Deck 5. Come for a meal anytime between 5:30 p.m. and 9 p.m.
International Cafe (Deck 5): A surprise sweet spot during the voyage turned out to be the International Cafe, centrally located in the Piazza. With breakfast pastries; daily soups and quiche; sandwiches like tomato, mozzarella and basil with balsamic reduction or ham and cheese on a croissant; Waldorf salad and orzo pasta salads, as well as green salad; and sweets like fruit tarts, we were looking for a price. Amazingly, it's all free, and the venue is open all the time. The cafe is also a coffee bar, and specialty coffee drinks come at a price, although we were given regular coffee free of charge. (If you're a picky coffee drinker, think about purchasing a punch card for specialty coffee.) This became our go-to spot for between-meal snacks, a sandwich for an early excursion or late-night hunger pains (if that's possible on this ship). We found the food to be consistent and the service friendly.
Horizon Court (Deck 14): Star Princess' buffet has round-the-clock dining and is tucked into its own nook on the lido deck. Food stations are separated by type and are mirrored on either side of the deck. Take a quick peek which side might be less crowded before you take a plate. A Continental breakfast is served from 5 a.m. to 6 a.m. and regular breakfast from 6 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., with typical morning fare. Lunch can be eclectic, with various dishes representing different international cultures; we saw sauteed bok choy with garlic and ginger, a surimi and crabmeat salad, Cantonese rice, Indian lentils and even game terrine (a British farmhouse specialty). Tamer sandwich options, such as sliced turkey, cranberry relish and tomato on ciabatta bread, are also available. A dessert counter is located on the opposite side of the buffet at its own station with its own attendant doling out individual-sized portions. Lunch is 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., when many of the dishes are cleared away in favor of a light snack served until 5:30 p.m. Dinner is served until 11 p.m.
While the quality and variety of the food at the buffet weren't issues, the area did feel cramped. Despite the multiple stations, the entrance made it seem like a one-way, single-file line at times. In our opinion, the stations could benefit from being spread out and more accessible.
Beverages can be found at back counters throughout the extensive Horizon Court seating areas (indoors and outdoors). These counters offer water, iced tea, juice, hot water, regular coffee and decaf. Lemonade can be served tableside free of charge. (Waiters will come around to take drink orders if you are seated in the area.)
The Horizon Terrace, an area in back of Horizon Court and in front of the Outrigger Bar, makes for a quieter seating area, but only in agreeable weather. Its location at the back of the ship makes it a prime location for sipping coffee while sailing into port, but beware: Ashtrays are on the tables, and smoking is permitted.
Trident Grill (Deck 14): Much of the lido deck is consumed by food options, and the grill is one of them. During the day, this small counter near the Neptune pool offers up complimentary hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken breasts, French fries and even bratwurst and knockwurst. Look for occasional specialties. As part of our sailing's North to Alaska program, a recipe was provided by Skagway Fish Company for a halibut burger with slaw that was one of the best things we ate onboard. From 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., Trident shifts its gears for dinner, dishing out smokehouse BBQ. Trident Grill is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., weather permitting.
Prego (Deck 14): Adjacent to the grill is the ship's pizzeria. Princess is known for having some of the best pizza at sea, and the pies were certainly creative, but for us, the slices were just OK. If nothing else, the pies are fresh, and grabbing a slice or two is pretty easy. Expect ingredients like bacon and pineapple, even artichokes and olives, but plain is always available (or in the oven). Prego is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., weather permitting.
Sundaes Ice Cream (Deck 14): We were disappointed to find that the former ice cream bar featuring Haagen-Dazs had been replaced by a clever ruse. At its own polka-dotted counter, behind a giant, pastel-colored ice cream cone, is Sundaes. It all looks very exciting, but Sundaes merely offers your standard soft-serve machines -- the ones found off to the side at any buffet -- now behind a counter with a longer line. We got a cone with sprinkles (there are minimal toppings, if that were to be the saving grace), and all we could taste was the sugar of the sprinkles. We would prefer to see a selection of brand-name hard ice creams, shakes or gelatos, and would happily pay a nominal fee for the treat. Hours coincide with the other outside deck outlets: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., weather permitting.
Room service: Available 24 hours a day, room service on Star Princess offers a limited menu of hot and cold sandwiches (tuna, peanut butter and jelly, etc.); soup of the day with saltines; mixed greens or chef's salads; hamburgers, hot dogs and hot entrees like lasagna, beef chili or a Moroccan vegetable crock pot with pita bread (a nice addition). You can also order desserts like caramel flan, fudge cake or milk and cookies. Service is consistently prompt and pleasant, and usually correct. Room service breakfast is Continental, while suites have access to full breakfasts.
There's no need to supplement meals onboard with for-fee options, although the temptation is worth the cover charge, and you won't be overwhelmed with wallet-busting choice. Crown Grill is a New York steakhouse-style restaurant with intriguing selections for every diet (not just devout carnivores). Sabatini's is not just about Italian cuisine -- it's about food spectacularly prepared and plated. Special experiences like the balcony breakfast and dinner, Crab Shack and Chef's Table need to be booked in advance (Chef's Table most of all).
Sabatini's (Deck 7); $25: As Princess' signature Northern Italian venue, Sabatini's offers a multicourse spread worth double the cover, in our opinion. Among the starters (hot and cold soups, salads and appetizers), the burrata (creamy cow's milk cheese like mozzarella) on tomato carpaccio with balsamic is a must-have; as with everything we ate at this venue, the simplicity and quality of the ingredients were standout. Pastas can be spaghetti with black mussels or braised short rib over penne. No one at our table had a bad main course, from baked branzino with a zucchini crust or a strip steak in garlic, rosemary and olive oil to the highlight of the night: lobster three ways, which we all couldn't shut up about between bites of the tail, the orzotto and the bisque sauce. Dessert is paired perfectly with a cappuccino or a cordial; choices include desserts such as an almond, hazelnut and pecan napoleon or a delicate espresso creme brulee.
We sat near the kitchen/prep counter, and we could see the chef nearest to us beaming when we complimented the dishes. Apart from the white pillars, candlelit tables and Mediterranean vistas painted on the walls, the authentic atmosphere is reflected in the tiniest details, from the sea glass-colored bread plates to the artful oil and vinegar bottles. Sabatini's is open for dinner nightly from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Crown Grill (Deck 7); $29 per adult and $14.50 for children ages 3 to 12: New York-styled seafood and steakhouse venue Crown Grill serves an impressive selection for dinner. We were expecting the wide selection of beef cuts and cooks, but not a mussel pot or grilled tiger prawns in whiskey, chili and garlic marinade. Appetizers include carpaccio of pine nut coated lamb loin with gooseberry chutney, pan-seared scallops with fennel and apples, and onion soup with Jack Daniels. A special regional menu was included as part of the North to Alaska programming on our voyage, and it offered up six appetizer-portioned dishes local to our ports of call, including copper river salmon with spruce tips and Alaska red king crab legs. Sides are generous -- served for the table -- and range from grilled asparagus and (our favorite) sauteed wild mushrooms to loaded baked potatoes and mashed potatoes. Six dessert choices also follow, with one of them being a sampling from the executive pastry chef. While the food was more than worth the cover, service during our seating was sporadic, and our main dishes came out well after our starters.
On select sea days, a British pub-style lunch is served for free at Crown Grill. The menu features pub food favorites like bangers and mash, fish and chips and a ploughman's lunch. Varieties of beer (which can be had for an additional fee), along with decorations of the British flag, are displayed in front of the restaurant.
Crab Shack (Deck 14); $29: About every other night, a portion of the Horizon Court (Deck 14 aft and portside) turns into a traditional crab shack, with lobster bibs and brown paper on the tables. The venue isn't private, and you'll be dining near others who are eating at the buffet, but the food is fine. (Try the shrimp spiced with Old Bay.) Hushpuppies and steamer pots are menu options large enough for two people. There's nothing available for those who don't like seafood; something from the buffet or main dining room can be retrieved, but that sort of defeats paying a special cover charge. The Crab Shack is open on select days from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Chef's Table; $95, or $80 without alcohol: The Chef's Table is so exclusive that it is held only once per weeklong sailing and limited to between eight and 10 people. Reserve early if you're interested (worth the cover); you can do so through the ship's DINE telephone line or in person at the dining reservations table set up on the first day of the cruise. The event begins in the galley, where your small group will learn about the everyday workings of a cruise ship kitchen, including health and safety. You will then stand around a long table within the galley itself (decorated with stunning ice and fruit sculptures) for some Champagne and a number of small appetizers expertly explained by the master chef and maitre d' onboard. A headwaiter is also present throughout the experience and offers wine pairings at dinner. You are then whisked into a sectioned-off area of one of the main dining rooms for your elaborate five-course dinner as the chef whips up your main entree tableside and fellow diners look on agape. The plates look as wild and artistic as they taste. At the end, a single rose is given to all the ladies, while a signed cookbook (with an insert of your specific menu so you can relive those taste memories) is gifted, along with a souvenir photo of your party, the chef and maitre d' -- an unmatched experience.
Ultimate Balcony Dining; $45 per couple (breakfast), $100 per couple (dinner: If you have a balcony, take advantage of dining on it (and time it well with scenic cruising or a port arrival) with Ultimate Balcony Dining, an upgraded version of room service. Breakfast is served at a time of your choosing, and drink orders (coffee, choice of juice) and special requests can be made by leaving out the appropriate card left in your room the night before. Arriving with a tablecloth and many plates, your server will arrange your meal however you choose --inside or outside -- and expediently, a small bottle of prosecco arrives on ice (perfect for mimosas). Our breakfast consisted of king crab legs, a crab quiche and side salad; brioche bun with fresh salmon and all the accoutrements; and a plate of muffins, rolls and pastries.
A romantic balcony dinner includes a multicourse lobster (or steak) dinner and pre-dinner cocktails, as well as a souvenir photo. It's private as long as you're not in a mini-suite where balcony onlookers can crane their necks to see what's on the menu.
Onboard dress is generally casual, and most nights call for "smart casual" (what you would wear to a fine dining restaurant at home). Shorts are not permitted in the main dining rooms or specialty venues for dinner. Seven-night sailings have two formal nights; expect more formal nights on voyages two weeks or longer. On those nights, men typically don tuxedos (you can rent onboard) or suits and ties, and women wear anything from smart suits and blouses to cocktail dresses or gowns. Passengers not inclined to dress up can head up to the Horizon Court in any attire (and many did). We didn't feel as if the formal nights were that intimidating, and it was a treat to "clean up" and go out for the evening feeling a tad more fancy.
Editor's Note: Star Princess' theater now hosts the line's own spinoff of NBC's "The Voice," called "The Voice of the Ocean," in which passengers who are handpicked from karaoke auditions earlier in the week compete for winning title.
The Princess Theater is pretty plain, with light wooden bannisters and seats in a sea of deep rose. While the concept is uncomplicated, so are the sight lines. Whomever or whatever you're there to see, there's a good chance you'll have a decent and unblocked view. Our sailing hosted run-of-the-mill variety shows from the ship's mainstay song-and-dance team, a comedian, a ventriloquist, a man described as a "singer, pianist and entertainer" and a vocalist. While we never heard any complaints about the evening entertainment, we didn't hear rave reviews, either. For us, it seemed to be a weak point on the cruise.
When not out on a spectacular shore excursion, we found the highlights of the onboard activities each day were the ones that tied in our location or something educational. Princess offers a number of enrichment programs onboard, such as Discovery at Sea, the line's partnership with the Discovery Channel. Activities related to Discovery at Sea include plenty of themed trivia (sharks, ocean habitats, even the paranormal), along with a family hunt around the ship for Big Foot, a Deadliest Catch challenge at the Neptune pool and a crab-sorting game (we were in Alaska after all). Tied into our itinerary was a number of activities listed as "Klondike Festival" in our Princess Patters; they included learning the penny whistle, dancing along with a whiskey jug band and making bracelets out of gold nuggets. In addition, North to Alaska programming brings special guest lecturers onboard. We listened to New York Times bestselling author Nick Jans discuss his book "A Wolf Called Romeo" in a very personal way; naturalist Shari presented a number of enrichment lectures about marine life, Alaska's national parks and more; and Iditarod champion Libby Riddles presented her book about sled dogs and adventure.
Other general onboard activities include games in the casino, art auctions, bingo, sales at the boutiques, trivia, table tennis tournaments, fitness classes like Zumba, movies (indoor and outdoor), dance classes, scrabble and Sudoku tournaments, arts and crafts, demonstrations like ice carving or napkin folding, spa events, a charity walk and live music. A galley tour is typically held once per cruise. For $150 per person, you can also take a behind-the-scenes tour, visiting crew areas that include the bridge and the theater's backstage.
The Promenade is a major focal point for entertainment on Star Princess. Styled as a "boulevard," this area houses the three main showrooms -- Princess Theater (forward), the Explorers Lounge (midship) and the Vista Lounge (aft) -- as well as the nautically decorated Wheelhouse Bar and both specialty restaurants (Sabatini's and Crown Grill). The Vista Lounge does double duty as cinema and live performance venue, hosting a variety of indoor "big-screen movies" throughout the week, as well as spill-over comedians and cabaret performers from the theater. The Explorers Lounge, with its dance floor and nightly live music, has the potential to host energetic themed evenings, but we hardly saw anyone shaking a tail feather. Musical performances by cover bands, piano players and acoustic guitarists take place in hallways and lounges around the ship on any given evening.
The Grand Casino on Deck 6 is open on sea days and evenings after the ship sails from port. Smoke-free days and nights were hosted during select times, which we found interesting given the rising amount of smoking restrictions in recent years. Table games and a cornucopia of slot machines attract crowds, and tournaments are scheduled each cruise for slot and blackjack players. A bar is centrally located to provide gamers with liquid courage.
One of Princess' signature offerings fleetwide is its Movies Under the Stars program, showcasing brand-new and beloved feature films (as well as news, sports events and other programming throughout the day) on a big screen outdoors. On Star Princess, seating is located midship near the Neptune pool on Deck 15. We noticed that one film was shown on days in port, while three to four different showings took place on sea days. Blankets and popcorn are provided.
The bars on Star Princess are pretty low-key; sip some afternoon vino at Vines, or grab a nightcap at Wheelhouse without much fuss. To turn it up a notch, head to Skywalkers, a nightclub on its own deck. Whatever you're in the mood to drink, you won't be far from an outdoor bar or lobby lounge that serves it.
Vines (Deck 5): Vines is a wine bar located just off the Piazza, serving more than 30 varietals, as well as sushi and tapas that are free with any glass of wine. The space is done in dark woods and with bottle-lined walls. The selection of tapas and sushi rotates daily, but there is no written menu. A staff consisting of "knowledgeable Wine Tenders" is on hand to help you select a wine perfect for your mood -- whether you're a connoisseur or not. Glasses range from $7 for a cabernet or Riesling to $17 for a glass of Veuve Clicquot brut. A wine and chocolate tasting experience is available each night by reservation, pairing a handpicked selection of reds with five gourmet Norman Love chocolates for $25 per person.
Lobby Bar (Deck 5): As the name suggests, this bar is where the action is happening in the Piazza. Seating is available around either side of the bar, in a common area or along the windows behind the bar. This behind-the-bar seating (tables for one or two) is where we found a quiet moment among the crowds to do some reading, check emails and even order a cappuccino. (The International Cafe is steps away, but a kind waitress retrieved our coffee so we wouldn't have to wait in line.) It makes for an easy meeting place and a visible hangout to do a bit of day-drinking. Plenty of passengers were seen buying their drink packages there on the second day.
Shooter's Bar (Deck 6): Shooter's is located behind a small door between the casino and the Princess theater. Smoking is permitted in this cigar-style bar, so it is largely closed off from the main thoroughfare. It's the most convenient place to grab a drink before heading in to a show in the theater. If smoke doesn't bother you, it's also a quiet place to have a nightcap.
Crooners (Deck 7): Crooner's is a centrally located bar overlooking the atrium. It's the place to read and relax while gazing out the window during the day and to enjoy light music and drinks at night. A pianist is typically found tickling the ivories in the evening, with occasional string melodies played by a duet at night or even in the afternoon. Located near Crown Grill, Crooner's is the perfect place for that pre-dinner cocktail.
Explorers Lounge (Deck 7): This lounge with bar service is huge, and a stage in front hosts a variety of bands each evening (some just fine, some not as great), along with Princess Pop Star, a karaoke-style singing competition for those 18 and older. This venue also hosts art seminars and auctions throughout each cruise. A gold-bordered plaque with a lion denotes the lounge as you walk aft on Deck 7, and once inside, you'll find scenes of ancient Egyptians and hieroglyphics surrounding alcoves with booths and an array of tiny tables with little lamps, most with seating arrangements for four.
Wheelhouse Bar (Deck 7): A favorite hangout of ours, Wheelhouse is the perfect place to keep the night going, although the venue typically closes around 1 a.m. Next to Sabatini's, the Wheelhouse is a dark but sophisticated lounge that feels like you're having a tipple at a historic governor's mansion (or in this case, a seafaring captain's). Presidential-looking portraits and dusty books line the walls, and the whole place has a nautical-days-of-yore feeling. At night, a band or duo typically plays in the back of the room, but it's sectioned off enough that if you don't care to listen, it won't much affect your conversation. A selection of specially crafted (and indulgent) Norman Love cocktails is available to order there ($12 each).
Vista Showlounge (Deck 7): An alternative to the theater, Vista Lounge features a number of nighttime activities and entertainment, including Discovery at Sea trivia, comedians, dancers, ventriloquist acts and the final of the Princess Pop Stars competition. Typically, the shows in the theater and the lounge will rotate, so if you miss a night at one, you can probably catch the act again in the other venue. The Vista is more open and relaxed than the theater, which has tiered seating. During the day, it plays host to bingo games and ballroom dance lessons.
Outrigger Bar, Calypso Bar & Mermaid's Tail (Deck 14): The Outrigger, Calypso and Mermaid's Tail are all outdoor bars near the ship's pools and sun decks. They're also the spots to grab a beer to go with your burger at lunch. Outrigger is aft, just above the Terrace pool; Calypso is midship in front of Horizon Court and near the Calypso Pool; and Mermaid's Tail is located forward between Prego pizzeria and Trident Grill (closest to the Neptune pool). Typical drink menus offer a variety of vodka, whiskey and other cocktails for $8.95; beer from $4.95 for a Miller or Coors Light to $5.95 for a Stella Artois or Strongbow Cider; beer cocktails for $7.25; and wine for $7 or $8 a glass. Alcohol-free cocktails are offered for $5, and soda is $2.
Tradewinds Bar (Deck 15): Looking down on the Neptune pool, Tradewinds is an outdoor drinking hole with a killer view of Movies Under the Stars. There is a tiny wooden bar that arcs in front of Tradewinds and offers stools that face the big screen. If you can snag them, it's like having mezzanine seating to a motion picture -- but with drinks and fresh air.
Oasis Bar (Deck 16): An off-the-beaten-path bar, Oasis is an outdoor outlet all the way aft near the top of the ship, but below Skywalkers Nightclub. If you're looking to hot tub it with a view, this is a nice place to do so. There's also a hot tub designated for children with a kiddie set of stairs, but we never saw it open on our sailing.
Skywalkers Nightclub (Deck 17): For the after-after party, Skywalkers is the only true late-night venue on the ship; the eye-catching nightclub levitates over the back of the ship in a design lovingly known as the "shopping cart" because it resembles a shopping cart handle. The name Skywalkers becomes apparent as you take a moving walkway up a slight incline past windows and beams of neon pink light -- seemingly into the sky. The motif is bright stars and swirls, which works especially well in the glow of night. A DJ spins tunes, with various theme nights (think '80s, '90s and disco), well into the wee hours, and the dance floor is a mix of bored teenagers, curious night owls and regulars. BOGO hour (buy one get one free) is in effect each night from 11 p.m. to midnight. It's a dangerous -- but fun -- prospect after a long evening of wining and dining. (We sometimes noticed BOGO also from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Check your daily schedule.) Even though nighttime hijinks don't start until after 10 p.m., Skywalkers is the perfect vantage point to take pictures during the day, especially pulling into or out of port. The Elite Lounge is also located there.
There are four pools onboard, so despite Star Princess' huge passenger capacity, pool areas are so varied and plentiful that none seem overcrowded (and very few people "reserve" deck chairs). With nine whirlpools sprawled across the top outdoor decks, everyone can find room for a soak.
Neptune's Reef and Pool is Star Princess' main pool, located smack in the middle of the ship on Deck 14, below the Movies Under the Stars screen and surrounded by ice cream, pizza and the grill. The pool is flanked by hot tubs, with plenty of seating and the Mermaid's Tail bar nearby. In the distance, you can see a family of orca whales dancing in a playful statue looking down on the area.
Our vote for best family pool onboard, the Calypso Reef and Pool is dazzling, outfitted with colorful mosaic tiles and scenes of marine life. Also on the lido deck, the pool area is steps away from the Horizon Court buffet, the Calypso Bar and an overlooking sun deck area with padded loungers called The Conservatory. A retractable dome roof provides protection from the elements, so despite the weather, a family could spend the entire day there. Two hot tubs are nearby.
The Terrace (or aft) pool is peaceful and serene -- though it's not located at the spa. All the way at the back of the ship on Deck 12, the Terrace pool is a quiet area with fantastic views of the wake. Just above, on Deck 14, is the Outrigger Bar if you're looking for a cocktail to coincide with your lounging. One evening, a live acoustic guitarist was playing by the pool as the sun set, and it was something special.
Star Princess' fourth pool is so secluded it seems exclusive, but it's open to all adults. The Deck 15 pool -- situated below the Sanctuary and near the Lotus Spa -- is a meditative place to go for a dip; you can also take advantage of the two hot tubs on either side. A statue of Buddha watches over the pool, which includes a swim-against-the-current feature, and a decorative green bell enclosed in a circle sits high above the bathing area.
Both a lawn court and a sports court are located outside at the very top of the ship on Deck 17. It's the spot to engage in a friendly game of Ping-Pong, shuffleboard, oversized chess, bocce, croquet or basketball. A nine-hole putting course is available; on Deck 16, "Cyber Golf" offers passengers 30 minutes of golf simulation for $30 or 60 minutes for $50. It's available by appointment only. (Call 6000 to make a reservation.)
The Sanctuary, forward and way up toward the top of the ship on Deck 16, is an adults-only retreat. Covered in an AstroTurf-like lawn with padded loungers and topiaries, the space is certainly subdued, with attendants called Serenity Stewards assisting you with any request. Passes for the enclosed relaxation space run $20 for a half-day (8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. or 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.) or $40 for the full day. Passes for your entire cruise are also available upon request, but prices vary by length of sailing. For an additional cost, book an alfresco massage in a private cabana, or have a healthful smoothie or drink. From a complimentary menu, order a snack, or even unwind with a themed playlist available on Bose noise-canceling headphones. On cold-weather itineraries, enjoy the comfort of a fleece blanket and earmuffs (which provide a playful pop of red), hot beverages, chowder and pastries. Special one-day Glacier Bay viewing packages are available on sailings through Alaska for $60 per person (6 a.m. to 3 p.m.). While the sun deck is entrance fee-only, the Zen pool below and adjacent hot tubs are complimentary.
Protected by a retractable roof, the Conservatory on Deck 15 overlooks the Calypso Pool and is where it's at for families. Its padded loungers offer a place to soak in some nice views while still keeping eye on the brood splashing below. The only issue is the strong stench of chlorine when the roof is closed, but we noticed -- weather permitting -- doors to Deck 15 were kept open so some fresh air could pass through.
Most of the ship's public rooms are designed around the centrally located three-story atrium, called the Piazza. The filigree-decorated set of panoramic elevators and graceful sitting areas attract crowds, and it serves as the ship's key meeting place.
Starting on Deck 5, you'll find the Art Gallery just forward of the atrium, with two wide hallways of columns and wood-paneled partitions featuring mostly painted artwork. Vines wine bar and its associated gift shop are also on Deck 5, offering a selection of sweet gifts from candies, fresh flowers and teddy bears to Guylian and Normal Love specialty chocolates. Next to that is the Internet cafe and library, a pretty stale space with 15 to 20 computer stations, a printer and a wall of shelves sparsely filled with books and board games. A one-time $3.95 activation fee applies to any Internet package, and options are: pay as you go for $0.79 per minute, 100 minutes for $69, 200 minutes for $99, 400 minutes for $159, or 600 minutes for $199. Laptop rentals are $5 per hour, but use is complimentary (if available) with purchase of an Internet package. Printing is $0.50 per print job. We found the wireless Internet (even when used in our cabin) to be relatively reliable, compared with that found on other cruises.
On Deck 6, you'll find the passenger services desk. Also on this deck are the atrium boutiques where you'll find liquor, sundries, apparel and logo items at Calypso Cove, and perfume and cosmetics at Essence. The Platinum photography studio is nearby.
One floor up on Deck 7, you can browse with a bigger budget at Facets, a jewelry and watch shop, or find costume jewelry, accessories and other gifts next door at Meridian Bay. Walking from the center of the atrium, down the long corridor past Wheelhouse, Explorers and Sabatini's (aft to Vista Lounge), you will pass through the photo and video gallery. Choose to purchase captured memories throughout your cruise from shipboard photographers and videographers, or pause to gawk at strangers' portraits (organized on large wooden partitions by port location or onboard event).
Heading forward on Deck 7, bookending either side of the Crown Grill are the shore excursions desk (with shopping host hours), along with the Captain's Circle loyalty information desk and future cruise sales.
The Hearts & Minds wedding chapel, done in demure taupes and browns with a faux stained-glass facade in the front of the room, is on Deck 15 forward. This room is also used as a meeting place for passenger-led/self-guided religious services onboard, as well as sessions of Friends of Bill W., LGBT gatherings and more.
The medical center is midship on Deck 4.
Self-service launderettes are located throughout passenger decks 8 through 12. Tokens can be purchased at machines inside the laundry rooms by swiping your cruise card. A load of wash is $3, a dryer load is $3, and detergent or softener is $1.50. Use of the iron and ironing board is free. There are only about two washers and two dryers in each room, and one or two on our floor were out of service during our cruise, so set aside a couple of hours if you need to do laundry. Professional laundry and dry-cleaning services are also available onboard for a fee.
Both youth and teen centers are located aft on Deck 15. Consult the appropriate Pelicans, Shockwaves or Remix Patters for daily activities and events for your child's age group. In order to appreciate most of the daytime enrichment activities that families could participate in together -- including Discover at Sea trivia, guest speakers and more -- children should be at least 9 years old.
Star Princess' expansive Fun Zone program is divided into two groups: Princess Pelicans (ages 3 to 7) and Shockwaves (8 to 12), but they're generally grouped together as "youth activities." Hours run approximately from 9 a.m. to noon, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Programs typically break up at mealtimes (to promote family togetherness), though there are special food-related functions, as well. One plus about Princess' kids program is that the staff arrange diversions while the ship is in port -- at no charge -- to give parents a chance to engage in the occasional kid-free day off.
Kids onboard can take part in a wide variety of activities, from arts and crafts like T-shirt coloring to video games and learning-based projects in conjunction with the ship's relationship with the California Science Center. On our Alaska itinerary, there was also a junior park ranger program during our Glacier Bay scenic cruising; a national park ranger came aboard for the day to teach kids about Alaska's national parks and answer their questions.
The Fun Zone space is bright and geometrically shaped, so the tiling, cabinets and backsplashes look like construction paper cut-outs. There's also an enclosed area with a mini-basketball setup and a wading pool.
Late-night babysitting is available nightly from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. if pre-booked by 8 p.m. the same day; a $5 fee applies per hour, per child. Private babysitting is not available, nor can staff change diapers.
Teens have their own program, Remix. The space is geared for those ages 13 to 17, and the clubroom has a juice bar, jukebox, dance floor and big-screen TVs. Teens can take part in activities that include hip-hop dance classes, yoga workshops, video game play, foosball, teen-only dances and hot tub parties, sports tournaments and scavenger hunts. During formal nights, a teen-only dinner is hosted to let mom and dad have a romantic night for two. Hours mirror those of the kids club, except the teen club is open until 1 a.m.
Important to note: An informal group called Club 18-21 meets on the first night and is aimed as a social outlet for those young adults aged out of the teen clubs, but not old enough to imbibe at the bars. Listed activities in the Princess Patter included nighttime Wii Sports. Skywalkers, the dance club, is open to those 18 and older.
Star Princess attracts couples in their empty-nester and golden years, along with multigenerational family groups; we saw few young couples on our Alaska cruise. This demographic can change on shorter sailings but will likely hold up on longer South America itineraries. Passengers are mostly American or Canadian with a smattering of Asians, Europeans and Australians onboard, and they range from repeat cruisers to first timers.
Forward on Deck 15 is the Asian-influenced Lotus Spa, run by cruise ship spa mogul Steiner, with a beauty salon, men's barber shop, lounge and treatment rooms. The spa is open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, with the exception of the first and last days of your cruise. Green lotuses imbue the carpeting, and the tranquil space is enhanced with jade-like pillars and a statue of Buddha outside in the courtyard in front of the Sanctuary pool. (Windows face out to that area.) Services include seaweed wraps, hot stone massages, manis/pedis, keratin blow-outs, hot shaves and pro-collagen quartz lift facials. A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to all spa services. While the sauna and steam room are open to all patrons, the spa's thermal suite is only available for an additional fee. A day-pass to the Lotus thermal suite ($29) will buy you access to a heated aromatherapy relaxation room.
The onboard gym, known as Lotus Health & Fitness, is located within the Lotus Spa, forward on Deck 15; hours are 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, with the exception of embarkation day and the final day of each cruise. Equipment consists of free weights, a few stationary machines, a row of treadmills arced along a window and a small, separate room for stretching, yoga, Pilates and similar classes. The equipment seemed adequate, while the space was definitely crowded the first few days of our cruise.
Daily fitness programs are pretty varied and include TRX suspension training, body sculpt boot camp and personal training, as well as yoga, Pilates, Zumba and abs classes -- for a fee. We liked that the complimentary stretch class was not only offered early in the morning, at 7 a.m., but also in the evening, at 5 p.m.
Outside on the Promenade Deck (Deck 7), you can walk a mile by completing 2.5 laps around the deck.
Gratuities, which are automatically charged to onboard accounts, are $11.50 per person (including children), per day, for passengers staying in standard accommodations and $12 for passengers staying in mini-suites and suites. Passengers have the option of increasing or removing these gratuities from their accounts. The daily gratuities are shared by waitstaff, cabin stewards, buffet stewards and housekeeping staff.
A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to beverage purchases onboard -- including wine at dinner -- as well as spa services.
Tipping for room service is not included, but it's appreciated; usually a dollar or two is appropriate. The U.S. dollar is the onboard currency.
Date Refurbished: 2011
Country of Registration: Bermuda
Regular Capacity: 2600
Maximum Capacity: 2600
Number of Crew:1200
Crew Nationality: European/Asian
Officer Nationality: British/Italian
Language(s) Spoken:< Multiple Languages
|Featuring all of our signature features, this cruise ship is truly a shining star of the Princess fleet. Comfortable surroundings and relaxing venues such as The Sanctuary®, the Piazza-style atrium and Movies Under the Stars® may entice you to spend all your time on board, as Star Princess is truly a destination in of herself. Her Wheelhouse Bar offers a complimentary British-style pub lunch menu on sea days for a treat, and our renowned Sabatini'ssm Italian restaurant is as authentic as they come. Set sail on Star Princess® and you truly will come back newsm!|
Health and Beauty
No. of Dinner Sittings: 2
No. of Dinner Sittings: 6:30pm & 8:30pm
Special Diet: Available upon request
Dress Code: May vary from Cruise Casual to Formal.Gratuity Policies
Suites $15.50 USD per passenger per day
Club Class $14.50 USD per passenger per day
Regular Staterooms $13.50 USD per passenger per day