We did this cruise last year in early december on the Emerald and loved it, so tried it again this time on the Star. Last year we did all Princess excursions on the islands which we thought were extremely expensive, so this time we arranged to do things on our own. Overall we had a great time, but there were a few things that were a little disappointing.
I'll start with the good. We drove to L.A. a couple of days before the cruise so we could take the kids to Universal Studios. Stayed in the Pasadena area and drove down to San Pedro on the 4th Dec which was a very stormy day. Traffic conditions were terrible because of the rain and we saw accidents, but were able to arrive safely at the port by about 11.30. Embarkation was really quick and easy. The sea days out to the islands were fun with lots of activities to do on board. The food was good, in the buffet and the main dining room (Amalfi).
In Hilo, we walked to Carlsmith Beach Park and went swimming and snorkelling with huge Hawaiian green sea turtles. In Honolulu we visited Pearl Harbor and the Arizona memorial (had reserved tickets online a few weeks before). Bus #42 only cost about $2 and runs pretty close to the ship. In Kauai we walked 10 minutes to the beach and spent the day there. And finally in Maui we had booked a whale watching trip directly with Pac Whale which turned out to be pretty good (although in the future if we do another whale watching trip we will pay more and choose a smaller boat). In Ensenada we just took the shuttle into town and met up with Fernando the spray paint artist as we did last year. If you're ever in Ensenada you should go check this guy out - what he does with spray paint is amazing!
The staff on board were really great. Cruise Director 'Micca' was probably the best one we have had so far. We also got to visit the bridge and meet the captain. That was very interesting and he seemed to be very nice although Captain Tuvo was our last captain and he is a very hard act to follow! We enjoyed the shows on board, saw 'British Invasion' and 'Born to Dance', along with 3 comedians and an acrobatic act. Dismembarkation was a breeze too - from the time we were called from the Vista Lounge, we were in the car within 30 minutes!
Now for the disappointing parts - We were on the Star about 6 months ago in Alaska and on that trip the ship seemed to be in great condtion. This time however, there were a number of places where water was dripping from the ceiling. In a few places there were buckets out to catch the water but we did notice several areas with brown rings on the ceilings and a couple of places with mold on the carpets! We spoke to a few people who said they had drips in their staterooms too. Don't get me wrong, I still really like the Star, it was just a surprise to see. Also Princess didn't give out free drinks tickets at the 'welcome back party' - A pretty minor thing I know but that seemed a little bit cheap! And I know this is not a new thing but the constant bombardment of Effy advertising is really annoying!
Also my wife and son took the Ukulele class and last year on the Emerald when the performance was done at the end of the cruise, the ukulele players were up on risers at the back of the stage. This year they were not, so for most of the performance, all you could see was the hula dancers. Again no big deal, but at the end of the performance they have a big group picture taken with the Hawaiian Ambassadors where all of the ukulele players can't be seen - plus they were trying to charge $25 for the picture. And they didn't include the 'Ukulele and Hula' performance on the $40 reflections dvd! No, you had to buy a separate dvd for that, which was another 30 bucks. Finally, we take our kids with us to game shows and comedians unless there's a warning in the patter about adult content - for example the 'Marriage Match' gameshow. Now as a rule we have usually found that with the comedians, if you go to the early evening show then it's generally ok, maybe pg13 but nothing too bad! where as in their late show they tend to get a little more adult. That wasn't the case this time for one of the comedians. We had the kids with us at the early show and there was no warning in the patter, but the show was extremely R rated. I understand that there weren't that many kids on board but it shouldn't be that difficult to include a warning in the patter or even at the start of the show!
Nothing really major in the disappointments, just a few surprises! Overall we had a really good time and would do this cruise again. Definitely glad that we arranged our own excursions this time though and will do that again in the future. If anyone is interested you can check out the pictures / video.