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Thursday, May 07, 2009

Star Princess Live Blog Pre-Cruise Backgrounder

On May 17th, we will be blogging live aboard Star Princess for a week long cruise to Alaska. In advance of our Alaska adventure, here's some backgound on our home-away from-home for a week; Star Princess.

Onboard Experience:
Star Princess entered service in 2002, The Star at 108 gross tons ,has 18 decks, 1,301 cabins and eighty percent of her outside cabins have balconies. She has 28 wheelchair accessible cabins (18 outside, 10 inside). There were 2,800 passengers on board with a crew of 1,200 which is a great passenger to crew ratio. Her crew is listed as British and Italian. High over her stern, fully 18 stories above sea level is the Skywalker's Night Club (Deck 17) accessible by a moving walkway. The moving sidewalk you ride up to Skywalkers is one of the most breathtaking views on any ship. Our group's business meetings will be held in Skywalkers.

Star Princess offers multiple dining venues, four large outdoor deck areas (over 1.7 acres of space), multiple sports facilities, four pools, and nine hot tubs. As a result, Star feels very spacious.

Star Princess décor can best be described as a refined, understatedly elegant atmosphere, with hand-painted murals and etched glass partitions in the dining rooms. Little apparent expense was spared on materials, with rich fabrics, beautiful woods, and marble everywhere, all topped of with a $2 million art collection aboard the ship. The cabins are tastefully decorated in soft, inoffensive shades -- beiges, creams and muted pinks.

Things to do onboard:
The Vista Show lounge presents production shows, cabaret, comedians and magicians. The Wheelhouse Bar and the Explorers' Lounge offering cabaret, trivia competitions, art auctions, and pre-dinner dancing. Churchill's Lounge, is used for the cognac and cigars set.

The main gathering spot, the maple-paneled atrium paneled, has boutiques, cafés and public rooms on each of its three levels, all connected by a circular glass staircase. A string quartet adds to the airy ambiance. There is a Casino with slot machines and gaming tables. You can view live sports on ESPN in the Sports Bar, or recline in leather chairs while perusing any of hundreds of books in the beautiful library.

Restaurants:
The three main restaurants, Amalfi,( for traditional dining 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. ) Portofino and Capri Dining Rooms,( for personal choice dining ) seating from 486 to 504 passengers, feature hand-painted murals and etched-glass partitions. The drapes and carpeting in the main dining areas absorb sound efficiently enough to preclude diners having to holler across the table to one another.

Personal Choice Dining offers either traditional cruise dining (In the Amalfi), with a set seating time (6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.) and the same waiter and tablemates each evening, or new restaurant-style seating, allowing passengers to dine when and with whom they choose, with each party seated at its own table, as at a restaurant ashore (offered in the other two dining rooms). Restaurant-style diners may be seated in either of the two elegant main dining rooms any time between 5:30 and 9:30 p.m.. Personal Choice is great if you do not want to rush to dress for dinner in the traditional way after a long day ashore.

Sabatini's, (surcharge $20 per person) described above, seats 100, the Sterling Steakhouse features Angus beef and other grilled red meats (surcharge $15 per person). The Horizon Court is open 24 hours per day, with menu service at night, plus casual breakfast and luncheon buffet. There's also a festive pizzeria. For $100 per couple, you can book the Ultimate Balcony Dinner, to be served by a butler who discreetly makes himself scarce behind drapes or out in the hall between courses. The ship's photographer snaps a complimentary photo while you're eating.

Service:
While Princess has a well-deserved reputation for good service securely footed in its British roots, truly personalized service may be too much to expect on a ship this size. That noted, cabin stewards and waiters are both efficient and personable. And rote processes that should be standardized and well executed on other ships but often fail miserably, such as efficient disembarkation, are generally practiced and polished to the point of excellence here.

Tipping:
A charge of $10 per person per day (including children) is automatically added to your stateroom account for dining and stateroom personnel. This applies to all passengers, adult and child alike, whether or not they choose traditional or personal choice dining. The amount may be increased or lowered at the Purser's Reception desk during the cruise. A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to all beverage tabs. Gratuities for spa, casino and other staff are at your discretion.

Staterooms:
710 of the 1300 staterooms have balconies, up to 257 sq. feet. Standard inside staterooms are 160 sq. ft., while outside cabins range from 168 to 210 sq. feet. Mini-suites with private verandas are 325 sq. feet. Vista Suites,range from 515 to 800 sq. feet. All staterooms have color TV with CNN and movies, a radio and small refrigerator, and spacious bathrooms with storage space and hair dryers.

The Ship:

Gala Deck 4 has the Medical Center.

Plaza Deck 5 forward has a laundromat and cabins. Midship are the Art Gallery, Reception and tour offices, the Lobby Bar, library and card room and on board shops. Toward aft is the Capri Dining Room and the galley.

Fiesta Deck 6 forward is the Princess Theater (with stairs to the theater), Shooters Bar, the Video Arcade, the Grand Casino, the Reception desk, boutiques and the Portofino Dining Room, the galley and the Amalfi Dining Room aft.

Promenade Deck 7 forward is the Princess theater balcony with wheelchair access ramps and the last three rows reserved for passengers with limited mobility. The last row had room for wheelchairs and seats for companions. Excellent! When going toward midship there is the Promenade Bar, the Internet Cafe, Tequila's alternative dining, the lovely wedding chapel and the boutiques. These venues are arranged along a serpentine corridor. Toward aft is the Explorers Showroom, the Wheelhouse Bar, Sabatini's Trattoria and the photo shop (there is excellent photography on board with formal and black and white sittings available). All the way aft is the Vista Lounge with an intimate design and stage. All seats here have a great view of the stage.

Emerald Deck 8, Dolphin Deck 9, Caribe Deck 10, Baja Deck 11 and Aloha Deck 12 are all staterooms and there are laundromats on every deck.

Lido Deck 14 has staterooms forward. Toward midship are Neptune's Reef and pool area, Mermaid's Tail Bar, Prego Pizza, Trident Grill and the Conservatory. Midship are the Calypso Reef and pool. Aft are the Horizon Food Court & Terrace and the Outrigger Bar.

Sun Deck 15 forward has the gymnasium with many types of exercise machines, the Oriental Lotus Spa and current pool. Here Vincent enjoyed the whirlpool and Mary the current pool, whose temperature was perfect! This area is decorated with an Asian theme with murals, a statue in lotus position and a huge gong resembling a bell. It is very beautiful, especially in the morning. Midship are the Tradewinds Bar and Princess Links with putting green and golf course simulator. Aft is the Fun Zone and Off Limits, the teen area.

Sports Deck 16 forward is Center Court, the jogging track and the top deck of Fun Zone and Off Limits.

Sky Deck 17 is the Skywalker's Night Club suspended high above the ship.

Dining Hints:

Start out each morning with s continental breakfast in your stateroom: juice, coffee, tea, milk, cold cereals, rolls, Danish or croissants. Then if your real hungry, go to teh Horizon Court for as huge buffet breakfast later in the morning.

Lunch is always available in the dining room or the Horizon Court buffet on Deck 14.

Want to dress casual, choose to have dinner at the Horizon Court Buffet.

Just for Kids:

The Princess Fun Zone has three categories: Princess Pelicans ages 3 to 7 yrs. (enroll from morning to night if you like); Princess Pirateers ages 8 to 12 yrs., with activities such as arts and crafts, sports tournaments, ship board Olympics, Scavenger Hunts, and "Edutainment"); The Off Limits, for ages 13 to 17 yrs., has a teen center with video games, movies, giant screen TV, ping pong, and jukeboxes. There are Teen Only Disco and Dinner Parties, Sports Tournaments and Shipboard Olympics. We have noticed on cruises that the youngsters, like the adults, soon find each other and have a great time.

Money-Saving Advice:

If you are on a tight budget, you will want to keep a handle on onboard spending – the casino, liquor, art sales, jewelry sales, photographs, souvenirs, etc. There are plenty of temptations to spend money – don’t. Other wise at the end of the cruise you will get "sticker shock" when you get your bill!

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