Princess — the way to cruise

By Philip Wagenaar

Large whitecaps topped the waves. The gale prevented us from going on the deck. Amazingly, we hardly felt the ship rock as we were sitting on the verandah of our stateroom. The stabilizers worked amazingly well.

For days we had been enjoying our cruise on the vast, 18-deck, majestic Star Princess as it hurtled through the vast expanse of the empty Pacific, never encountering another ship.

The Star Princess. Photo courtesy of Princess Cruises

The 2½-year-old vessel, four times the length of Grand Central Station and 49 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty, was on a 25-day voyage from Los Angeles to Sydney, Australia, with a full complement of 2,600 passengers and 1,100 crew members.

It was with some trepidation that we had made our booking on this huge ship. Would we feel overwhelmed by the sheer multitude of passengers? Would we have to wait in long lines everywhere? Would the food be top quality?

The dining experience

Our misgivings were soon dispelled. Each of the Star Princess’ large dining rooms, most of which were placed amidships to ensure greater stability, was configured by means of appealing, rounded, partly glassed partitions into mini-banquet rooms. Every mini-banquet room had four to six tables, which, together with the low ceiling and attractive lighting, made the dining experience an intimate one.

While the 504-seat Amalfi restaurant provided traditional fixed first and second seatings, the Portofino and Capri dining rooms, each with 486 chairs, offered so-called Anytime Dining, enabling a person to walk in on a whim at any time and claim a table.

Service by outgoing, smiling, pleasant, super-polite waiters and waitresses, for whom no request was too much, was exquisite.

All personnel made each passenger feel as if he or she were the most important person on board. No request was ever too much.

Private tour of the Star Princess

The Passenger Services Director (PSD), who is in charge of all the operations not connected with the vessel’s navigation and who commands 1,000 of the 1,100 crew members, gave me a private tour of the service areas of the ship.

As we walked, he explained that every ship has its own budget and orders its own supplies; disbursements are made by the PSD.

He showed me how provisions, which were flown in or brought by container ship from the U.S. or New Zealand, were stored in massive stainless-steel containers inside huge, squeaky-clean walk-in areas. To ensure freshness, each food item is kept at its own optimum temperature.

Would you believe that (by order of Carnival, which owns Princess Cruises) each day 2,000 pounds of potatoes have to be peeled by hand, since machines waste too much?

All refuse is recycled, crushed and sold. The profit goes to the crew.

Other shipboard activities

Of course, besides eating, there are many other pursuits to keep the cruiser occupied.

Three pools, one of which is covered, give the aficionado the opportunity to swim.

A huge, attractive gym, packed with bicycles, stair climbers and treadmills (for which prior reservation is required), is a haven for aerobic fans.

The less energetic can improve their computer skills, attend numerous lectures, play bridge, watch movies or take part in arts and crafts.

Bingo and the casino vie with each other to separate the traveler from his money.

In the evening, the 450-seat Vista Lounge and the 748-seat Princess Amphitheater, both with excellent acoustics, offer shows by Princess’ own world-class dancers and singers, top-notch comedians and magicians.

Of course, if dancing is your forte, you can waltz to your heart’s content in one of the lounges. If you just want to drink, you will find an ample supply of liquor aboard.

One evening, a fully imbibed passenger waddled over to the casino’s blackjack table, where he amazed everybody by betting $1,000 at each round. In the process, he became so ecstatic that he stuck a $100 chip in the bottom of his vodka-tonic glass. As he emptied the tumbler, the chip stayed inside. When the waitress brought his next drink, he handed her his empty, expensive $100 glass.

While many people join a cruise to partake in all these activities, others look for the excitement of visiting faraway, exotic ports. Our cruise stopped in Hawaii, Bora Bora, Tahiti, Pago Pago (American Samoa), Fiji, New Zealand and, in Australia, Sydney. The swiftness with which passengers were ferried ashore by tender whenever the ship was unable to dock at the quay was remarkable.

While Princess offered guided excursions in every port, passengers not interested in a tour could rent a taxi at a reasonable cost wherever the ship docked. This worked out well except in Pago Pago, where drivers reneged on the mutually agreed-on round-trip fare established before the tour had started.

Medical facility

After having read about all the fun you can have, a nagging question may raise its head. What if I get sick on board or have an accident?

There is no need to worry. The ship is staffed by two M.D.s, employed by Princess. The senior M.D. took me on a tour of the tiptop medical facility, which has seven beds for inpatients.

The large, polished laboratory is equipped to do most blood tests, and the pharmacy is stocked with a tremendous variety of oral and intravenous medications.

State-of-the-art digital x-ray machines can magnify a chosen area of an x-ray film with the click of a mouse, resulting in a picture of unsurpassed clarity on the single $1,000 x-ray plate, which, after copying and erasing, can be used again and again. Placing the plate in the lighted viewing box and hitting “send” transfers the picture immediately to a consultant in Southampton, England.


I can heartily recommend a cruise on the wonderful Star Princess.

I want to thank Princess Cruises for the wonderful cabin upgrade and all the other courtesies extended to us.

For further information, call 1-800-PRINCESS or go to or call your travel agent. We routinely use the very accommodating agency Cruise Specialists in Seattle, who invariably have offered the best fare. Call 800/544-2469, fax 206/281-0269.