The last of the three ships to emerge from its transformation was Star Pride and some friends and I were lucky enough to join the ship's second voyage, from Lisbon to Dublin in June. As we arrived at the cruise terminal in Lisbon to embark, we were met by the startling sight of the 312-guest Star Pride docked next to Royal Caribbean's 4,905-guest Anthem of the Seas. Star Pride looked absolutely tiny and very pretty next to this gargantuan vessel, which might offer bumper cars and a sky-diving simulator, but was definitely not our cup of tea.
Embarkation was quick and easy and we were soon on board and whisked away to our suites by the friendly and welcoming crew. I was in one of the old Balcony Suites, which was spacious and beautifully furnished, with a comfortable queen-size bed, a walk-in wardrobe, a living area with sofa, two easy chairs and a table, a French balcony and a bathroom with a double sink, walk-in shower and gorgeous L'Occitane toiletries. My friends had all booked the new Star Balcony Suites and these were very similar to my suite, with the main difference being that the seating area is by the door and the bed is next to the balcony.
Life on board Star Pride is informal and you can do as much or as little as you want, whether it's chilling out on the inviting sun deck, cooling off in the lovely infinity pool, relaxing in one of the two hot tubs, working up a sweat in the gym, being pampered in the spa or making a splash from the watersports platform, from which you can kayak, sail-board, swim and even water-ski. There are also three bars - the Lounge bar, the outside Star Bar, which is popular throughout the day and evening and Compass Rose, which stays open late and offers music and dancing.
The highlight for all of us was the fantastic food, in particular the modern Spanish cuisine served in Cuadro 44 by Anthony Sasso, which includes dishes such as Paella Croquettas, Confit Chicken Fideos and, my absolute favourite, Pulpo Gallego. We also loved Candles, the signature outdoor restaurant, which specialises in steak and seafood, but also offers some brilliant vegetarian dishes too, such as Bang Bang Cauliflower and Roasted Shiitake Mushroom Cromesquis. Other dining venues include Veranda for buffet breakfast and lunch, Amphora Restaurant for dinner, the al-fresco Star Grill for lunch and dinner and the Yacht Club, which serves coffee and light snacks in the morning and was probably my favourite space on board.
We loved our time on Star Pride. The ship may have increased capacity, but it still feels friendly and intimate and offers what I believe is the ultimate small ship experience with impeccable service, fantastic food, a good variety of bars and lounges and comfortable accommodation.