The megaship Star Princess debuted in 2002 to sail on the West Coast after attracting much international attention. She sails a 7-day Mexican Riviera itinerary year round, except for an Alaska summer hiatus. The Mexican Riviera cruise sails round trip from Los Angeles, stopping at ports in Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, and Cabo San Lucas. She will be the largest cruise ship to sail the Gulf of Alaska from May to August. Since this huge ship is a destination in itself, with a "small ship feel," a passenger can enjoy a variety of amusements: a spa vacation, casino vacation, a gourmet vacation, or a golf vacation, since guests are able to get off at great golf courses in Mexico.
The Star Princess is a megaship, so at embarkation, we were greeted by long lines, but soothed by polite personnel. The Star is a sister to the Grand Princess and Golden Princess, and very similar in lay-out, except for a few changes, such as an expanded area for the kiddie camp. The putting green, golf simulator, tennis court and AOL cafe have been made larger. The wedding chapel has been relocated. The enlarged Lotus Spa is now Princess's largest state-of-the-art spa.
Princess Cruises, responding to the requests of passengers, has provided a large percentage of outside cabins with balconies. Few things are nicer than waving bye-bye at the sail-away, enjoying breakfast, or sun-bathing in the privacy of your own balcony. Once passengers experience a balcony cabin, they are hooked, as the stateroom seems more spacious. The average size outside cabin is 165-210 square feet. Besides the standard outside/inside cabin, suites, mini-suites, grand suites and family suites are available. Even in a mini-suite the skimpy bathroom size is a sin. We would like to hear from readers, as to whether they would sacrifice space in public rooms in order to have slightly larger cabin bathrooms. After all, the cruise industry stresses luxurious pampering.
The interior decoration of the Star Princess is restful and inviting, mostly in blues, greens, and soft roses reminiscent of an undersea aquarium. In some venues, intimacy is increased with freeform low ceilings, dotted with twinkling, tiny lights like undulating ocean waves. Floor to ceiling windows, greenery, granite, graceful woods, and tile and marble flooring throughout add to the rich ambiance.
Some say 2600 passengers plus 1200 crew, are too many bodies on a cruise ship. However, there is never a feeling of crowding on this floating resort. The personal choice dining concept gives passengers many options to eat, drink, and play. The 24-hour Horizon Court buffet is served at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with a full-service bistro menu from 10:30 pm to 4:30 am. The Star Princess has three main dining rooms. Casual dining Pregos and the Trident Grill serve pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers and grilled lunch fare; Scoops offers Haagen Dazs ice cream; Tequila's alternative restaurant serves popular southwestern fare; diners who choose elegant Sabatini's Trattoria dine on impressive two-hour long Italian meals. Passengers can host a private party at sea by simply picking up a phone. Princess cuisine provides something for everyone - even low-fat salad dressings are now being offered. Special dietary needs such as kosher meals and controlled menus for diabetics can be ordered in advance. Service was outstanding in every venue we chose.
A dramatic glass-enclosed moving sidewalk carries passengers to Skywalkers Lounge, Disco and Observation Lounge. There are at least eight bars, including The Oasis, Tradewinds, Calypso, Mermaid's Tail, Wheelhouse, Explorers Lounge, and Promenade Lounge. For those passengers craving athletic diversion there are The Princess Links nine-hole putting course, golf simulators, the Calypso pool in the conservatory located under the retractable glass magradome, other swimming pools and spas, sports court, jogging track, spa and gymnasium.
For entertainment the Princess Theater and the other main show lounges offer outstanding cruise ship productions. Princess has raised the entertainment bar for the other lines. Current films are shown on a large screen in the theater, as well as on cabin television sets. The glittering, enormous casino exerts its lure. The passengers visit the Hearts and Minds Wedding Chapel, AOL Internet Café, library, and the Full House card room. The shopping-arcade boutiques feature fine perfume, cosmetics, Lladros, Swarovski crystals, and clothing at duty free prices. Popular art auctions are held on board.
The ship offers many nice appointments in compact, standard cabins: color cabin televisions, multi-channel music system, refrigerator, hair dryers, private safes, and a multi-function telephone. Suites/Mini-Suites add a walk-in-closet, bathroom with tub and shower, some with whirlpool tubs, and terrycloth robes. Grand suites add a Queen-size bed, separate sitting room with sofa bed, separate dining area, large private balcony, bathroom with whirlpool tub, and a wet bar. We were lucky enough to spend our honeymoon in a Princess Grand Suite. Loved every suite minute and never wanted to leave. Family suites include two self-contained staterooms that connect through a living room. This suite can sleep up to ten people, if four are children, eight if all are adults. Family suites have two bathrooms. Fresh fruit may be requested for the cabins. Self-service laundries and valet service are available.
Only on Princess ships, by prior arrangements, are couples permitted to be married at sea by the ship's captain. Thanks to a Princess exclusive, the wedding-at-sea cam, as the Captain conducts the ceremony, family and friends, as virtual guests, will be able to join the bridal couple by watching the proceedings on their computers at home. The live image updates every 60 seconds on the Princess website. The Hearts and Minds Wedding Chapel seats 36, and is a wonderful addition to this class of cruise ship. The ceremony is perfectly tied-in for honeymooning in exotic ports, but it is not only for first timers. Many couples choose to renew their vows in this romantic atmosphere.
Many in the crew have been with Princess Cruises since the 1970s. We were told that Princess believes in treating its crew very well. They are content because they have their own gym, internet café, swimming pool, dining room, and medical care. A contented crew translates to excellent service on Princess cruise ships.
Fun Zone - Chilfren's Play Room
This Hollywood Star is worthy of a cruise ship Oscar!
Photos courtesy of Jack White.
Jack and Toni White of Rancho Mirage, California have, for many years, been freelance travel writers specializing in cruise travel. Their articles have appeared in newspapers throughout the United States and Canada, including the Chicago Tribune, Dallas Morning News, and Vancouver Sun. Prestigious Palm Springs Life magazine published their article on filming the movie "Out to Sea" on the Holland America Line Westerdam. They also write regularly for Mature Living and Plus, formerly Senior Life.
Jack graduated from USC as an architect. His background in architecture allows him to review, write, and produce photographs from a unique perspective. Toni attended UCLA after graduating from Hollywood High School where she had been the Feature Editor of the Hollywood High School News, where one of the writers was comedienne Carole Burnett. Toni lived abroad for many years in South America and in the UK and has a familiarity with different cultures that influences her writing. The Whites love to travel and especially want to share their passion for cruising with you.
Toni & Jack White may be reached at: JACNTONI@aol.com.
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