One of the classic "Grand-Princess" style ships with a "Skywalkers Disco" - big but cozy shipBest For People Who Want
A roomy ship with ample choices for alternative dining, wide-ranging fitness programs; true onboard weddings as well as vow renewal; programs for children of all ages, tweens and teens; balcony cabins; lots of nightlife choices, extensive golf and snorkeling programs.Should Be Avoided By People Who Prefer
A more personalized cruise experience on a smaller ship, world-class cuisine.Onboard Experience
Golden Princess entered service in 2001, a sister ship to the 2,600-passenger Grand Princess, once the biggest Princess cruise ships at sea, though that didn't last for long. Despite the mega-ship status size of these ships at 108 gross tons (anything over 100,000 ton is considered mega-ship for now), the fact is Golden Princess and her sisters carry far fewer passengers (2600) than cruise ships of similar size from other cruise lines. The Carnival Conquest class at 110,000 tons, for example, can carry close to 3400 passengers at maximum capacity. This means that the space per passenger ratio on these ships results in lounges, theaters and dining rooms that are all intimate enough to make passengers forget they are aboard a megaliner.
Thanks to shrewd layout, multiple dining venues, four expansive outdoor deck areas (1.7 acres!), multiple sports facilities, four pools, and nine hot tubs, passengers are rarely concentrated in any one area. As a result, these ships often feel almost too spacious, eerily empty at times. Not that this is a bad thing, most luxury ships have the same feel. Meanwhile, the mega-ship amenities included for those who can never get enough dining, entertainment, and fitness choices, means the Princess ships of this class make the best of everything for ships in this size and price range. Their programs for younger passengers are exemplary, and their Lido buffet dining spot is open around the clock.
Having offered the first wedding chapel at sea (with the Captain doing the honors) on Grand Princess, Golden Princess now also features a complete professional digital photography studio in the F/X Digital Photo Center for those all-important wedding photos. The medical center is one of the most advanced at sea, the first to offer real-time teleconferencing support from a leading national cardiac care center in the United States.
The most incongruous factor about these mega-ships is that the public rooms aren't much bigger than those on much smaller ships, and there are surprisingly few bars and lounges for a ship this size. The one head-scratcher to the design is the compromised privacy of many balconies that extend out far enough from the ship that people from several decks above can look right down into your "private" enclave. From the Baja Deck, for instance, you can watch other passengers on their Caribe and Dolphin Deck balconies. Caribe occupants can in turn observe their counterparts on the Dolphin Deck.Decor
Unlike the theme park atmosphere of some other cruise lines, these Grand-class Princess ships décor bestows 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 each ship. The cabins are tastefully decorated in soft, inoffensive shades -- beiges, creams and muted pinks.Public Rooms
The Vista Showlounge presents production shows, cabaret, comedians and magicians. The performers in the smaller lounges are of consistently high quality.
Skywalkers, the real disco, is suspended between two pillars protruding high above the stern, fully 18 stories above sea level. The moving sidewalk you ride up to Skywalkers is one of the most breathtaking views on any ship, and one that many passengers probably never discover.
As with all Princess ships, you will quickly find the Wheelhouse Bar and the Explorers' Lounge offering cabaret, trivia competitions, art auctions, and pre-dinner dancing. Churchill's Lounge, the one-time sports bar, is now behind the casino and is used for the cognac and cigars set. The sports paraphernalia is still there, but seems oddly out of place.
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. The gigantic Casino contains some 285 slot machines and gaming tables beyond counting. 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.
The Internet room on these Grand-class ships do not qualify as "cafés" as there are no café-style treats available. Even worse, there is no tech support and if you can find the printer you may have to fix your settings on your computer to make it work yourself. The connection is generally slow and inconsistent. Sadly, these are some of the worst, and most under-utilized, Internet centers at sea.
Those who want the captain to pronounce them man and wife will meet him in the Hearts and Mind Wedding Chapel, which has much stained glass.Cuisine
What can you say about a ship that offers three main dining rooms instead of the usual multi-tiered, bigger than life one? They are more intimate and definitely quieter, but like the Princess "included in the cruise fare" cuisine, they are not likely to elicit a "wow" response either. These main dining rooms predictably offer Princess' Continental-style cuisine unlikely to win any culinary awards, but also elicit few complaints. For gourmet dining, try the alternative option, refined but not snooty, Sabatini's Trattoria for a wonderful selection of Italian antipasti, complemented with such garnishes as Sevruga caviar, delicious pizza, homemade pastas, soups and breads. Salads are tossed before your very eyes, and soup ladled into fresh bread bowls. Seafood predominates on the list of main courses; there are lobster, langoustines, tiger prawns, Chilean sea bass and scallops, with red meat dishes also on offer. Save room for the exquisite Italian pastries that will be wheeled before you toward meal's end.Restaurants
The three principal restaurants, Canaletto, Donatello and Bernini Dining Rooms, 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 Canaletto), 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 midnight. Many passengers are understandably grateful for this reprieve from having to hurry 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.Entertainment
With a dozen or so venues for nightlife, you're virtually assured of finding something that floats your boat, to coin a phrase. There's no faulting the lavishness of the production shows, which feature extravagant special effects. The performers in the cabaret are a talented bunch.Cabins
are built out from the body of the ship so as to permit bigger staterooms. Seven hundred ten of the 1300 staterooms have balconies, ranging up to 257 sq. feet, but they're not very private, as they're in plain view of the occupants of the cabin on the next deck up. Standard inside staterooms are 160 sq. ft., while outside cabins range from 168 to 210 sq. feet. Closet space is minimal except in the suites; leave some things home! Mini-suites with private verandas are 325 sq. feet. Vista Suites, called mini-suites on other Princess ships, range from 515 to 800 sq. feet. Sun and Dawn Princess offer larger minisuites for less money.
All staterooms have color TV with CNN and movies, a radio and small refrigerator, and spacious bathrooms with storage space and hair dryers.Fitness/Spa
It is rare to find such ample fitness facilities. The four pools, including a "swim-against-the-current" lap pool, are uniformly gorgeous, thanks in no small part to colorful mosaics and surrounding palm trees. Low marks, though, to whoever decided to put the separate jogging track right above the spa, as the relentless thundering of hooves overhead isn't terribly conducive to one's enjoying her massage or beauty treatment. Even though prices are substantially higher than ashore, spa services are very popular, especially in the afternoon. You'll occasionally have to stand in line for some of the more popular workout apparatuses in the gym. There's a golf simulator and 9-hole putting green, and courts for basketball, volleyball or tennis.Attire
Seven- to 14-night cruises offer two opportunities to put on the Ritz in formal attire. Many men opt for dark suit instead of tux, while their distaff companions often prefer dressy pants to gowns. The rest of the time, think smart casual.
14 day RT Hawaii from LA to LA. I can only sight one fault with this ship and that is with the food both in the DR and Lido. Most dishes were tasteless and the beef was of a poor quality. First night's prime rib looked as if it had been washed, no flavor and tough. My fellow table mates said the same thing. My husband and I had the pot roast one night and it was nothing but fat and grizzle covered in gravy.
We had an inside cabin which had enough storage space, but the pillows were as flat as pancakes and I had to ask for an egg crate mattress cover as the beds are too firm.
The service in all departments on this ship was excellent. The Staff was very friendly and always willing to help you. Also the ship itself was very clean and smoking limited to certain areas.
The entertainment was very good,especially the 2 lectures who were outstanding. We spent most of our time at the Lotus Spa pool which is in a very quiet area. The Promenade which seems to be narrower than otherships had only benches to sit on, missed the deck chairs.
There were many excursions in the Ports of call in Hawaii to select from. In Hilo we did the volcano crater and the lava tube, not to be missed and in Honolulu we did Pearl Harbor and the Arizon Memorial. A very moving experience. We just walked around Kona and Maui as we had been there before.
We loved all the sea days despite the wind and the few showers.
We just completed a short three (3) day cruise up the Pacific Coast on the Golden Princess which we had booked for our wedding anniversary (May 11) while on the Sea Princess in November last year. The cruise was from Los Angeles USA to Vancouver BC Canada and was May 11 - 14, 2011.
As we live in Victoria British Columbia , Vancouver Island Canada I arranged for us to fly Victoria via Vancouver to Los Angeles the day prior to the cruise and fly from Vancouver to Victoria the day after the cruise.
If I say so myself that was a wise (Owl pun of course) move as when we docked in Vancouver on May 14, 2011 another four ships also docked at the same time. Instant pandemonium had by all who were waiting for taxis and busses including the ones arriving to get on these ships.
As we got off the ship, I saw a person with a shuttle bus sign to hotels or airports so was able to get the shuttle in about 45 minutes later and in our hotel by about 11:30 am while our friends were backat the terminal still waiting for the ferry bus to Vancouver Island at 1pm. We did stay at a boutique hotel (Sutton Place) in Vancouver that for dinner also had a Chocolate Fountain Buffet and all the sins you could eat. My wife was very excited.
Back to going down to LA. We flew to Vancouver then went to USA pre-clearance where they showed us our luggage on the computer screen in colour to verify it was ours, nifty as we did not have to transfer then between fights.
We must have been asked five times for our passports and boarding cards while going through Homeland security area and I got moved aside for extra wand checking where it beeped on top of my bald head and my shoeless feet. Give me a break.
We flew on an Embrer I90 , about a 2 hours 30 minutes flight into LAX and our bags arrived on time but to get to the pickup area you have to walk by where all the outbound security are is, a tight squeeze.
We took a taxi to Long Beach where our Hotel Hyatt Regency is located as were told more shops existed in that area as I originally wanted to stay at the Queen Mary Hotel . The taxi ride was about $65 US and the ride from that hotel the next day to San Pedro for Princess cruise port was about $30 US.
WE took a walk around the Hotel which is lovely but went the wrong direction as the next four blocks were all dining or fast food places, no shops or malls in sight. Had we gone the other direction we would have seen the marina and shops and the beach but we had fun. The staff at the hotel are very nice and say hello, it is a clean and safe hotel but no safe in the room for passports and tickets and they charge for WiFi. Otherwise we had a good time and used room service for our supper while in the morning we had coffee and muffins in thr lobby then they ordered a taxi for us to the pier. Next time I might use the hotels in San Pedro but taxi costs will still be about the same.
If you use a taxi, tell then you want to pay by CC when you get in and they do not carry change over $5 US. I elected to get cash prior to our trip.
Finally , we got to the ship about 12:30pm and boarded in about 30 - 45 minutes. I tipped the porter who I had to find as our taxi dropped us off behind a pile of bus passengers, she was only a few feet away, gave her $5 or two bags and she just smiled at me called me "dear' and pointed to where I should go and promised my bags would be on the ship. At least I made her day.
Go in the terminal, a pile of people , a lot of families with children from Disney World and five bus loads of folks from Las Vegas, Lots of Canadians on this trip. Quite a mixed bag of cultures onboard.
It was a sunny day, left port on time and averaged 20.7 knots for 2,700 kilometers from Wednesday afternoon to Saturday Am at 7am.
It was all sea days and the dress code was smart casual , staff were fine considering they would only know us for a few days and we had a mini-suite with two TV's but the remote batteries were weak so one had to stretch to adjust the controls. Balcony was fully out from the ship , not enclosed but the weather of course dropped into the fifties F so we did not sit out a lot but we could have course enjoy the breeze and the sea.
We had swells such at lunch the MDR windows were clear from middle of MDR and then the you could see the swell come up halfway in the window. Stabilizers help and one lady ssaid as she walked , I've not had anything to drink.
We were at a table for eight for 1st seating (6pm) but felt like Mum and Dad . One were a young couple in twenties, other a brother and sister (she left hubby and son at home) in thirties and another couple who must have just got connected (fifties) as he fed her food all the time and she just smiled and said nice things. They were great to know as we all got to know each other but we were a diverse table.
Service was very good and prompt as we got to see the shows this time and our wine when ordered was delivered on time. Lately I noticed on last two Princess Ships you have to remind staff in MDR to give you your receipts while elsewhere not an issue. Front desk and cabin staff were great but the Library has been reduced to about three chairs inside the Internet Cafe which as usual has it often slow moments.
Casino was running all day and night as we were cruising for three days and it was doing a good business , course on the Golden Princess you still have to walk through the casino to move from stern to bow and the MDR you have to walk down the photshop deck to use the stairs to get to the MDR as the kitchens are in the middle.
Art Auctions was doing a great business and people were buying anything for hundreds of dollars in a fast pace, still amazes me. One day they had a Trivia contest in the main bar while we sat near the windows reading as my E-Book (a Kobo) while Liz shuffled her paperback and tried to prevent ourselves from yelling out the answers.
All the meals were great including room service and we really had no complaints but you do notice a slight difference when on a short re-positioning cruise in that all of a sudden you have to pack on the third evening and Princess has not yet gotten to the point where you can stay in your cabin till your number is called as we had to leave the cabin by 8am Saturday. We met in the Vista room for a scheduled 9:05 am departure but did not leave till 9:40am approx. as Canada Customs had only assigned four staff to the 2,800 people leaving our ship.
All in all we had a great time and going back to my earlier entry in this post, 'Owl' made a very wise decision to book a hotel for the night after arriving in Vancouver and getting the Shuttle Bus to the Hotels instead of a taxi.
The lesson here is that if five ships are unloading passengers in Vancouver and getting new passengers on the same day be prepared for a wait or find alternatives as in take a cruise ship bus to the airport or a post cruise hotel to bypass and relax as you deserve it.
Cheers Rob (aka robh) (aka Owl)
Just back from a 7-day on the Golden Princess. First let me say this was my 10th cruise overall, first on Princess, 8 on Carnival and 1 on NCL. My wife and I are both in our 50's and are real easy to please. I'm not going to get into great detail on everything, but will try to keep things to a point.
We booked this cruise on Princess mainly because of the itinerary, ship times in port, and price. We chose an inside room for this trip. This being my first trip on Princess we really didn't no what to expect but were expecting just a little more than we got, I'm talking cruise ship. Our first impression of the ship was rather dull, not much done to the interior to add that bling affect. The ship was very clean and well maintained, but just didn't sparkle. I will get into that later. First the ports and check-in.
Seattle Check-in: If you fly in it's a 40-50 dollar cab ride depending on number of people. This is way cheaper than the ship offered transfer. The terminal area is rather smallbut these people really knew how to get you checked in promptly, this had to be the easiest check-in we have ever had, showed up at 12.30 and was on the ship by 1.30 very impressive.
Juneau: We booked a ship tour of the Glacier and Fish Hatchery, well worth the price. If you haven't seen a Glacier up close this is a must see in your life. The town in general was awful, the same Jewelry stores that you find in any cruise port, and for that matter it was like being at any other cruise port with one exception, everyone speaks great English. If you travel here get outta town fast and see what they have to offer, which is the real beauty of Alaska
Skagway: The ship offered many tours but we decided to venture out on our own. We rented a mini van and traveled the Klondike Highway all the way to Emerald Lake, which is in Canada; this was another one of the great experiences of my life. This is the only way to see Alaska, plenty of stops that offer real souvenirs not the crap they sell in town. Be prepared to be stopped at the Canada border, these guys are very hard-core so don't make any jokes they are way too serious. The same for the trip back into the US, our border guards are the same but it gave me a good sense of security. (DO NOT FORGET YOUR PASSPORT) Both ways don't care if you're on a cruise ship or not. The town was just like I said for Juneau.
Tracy Arm Fjord: One word AWESOME, this is a must see in your lifetime. Nothing else to say.
Ketchikan: We decided to just walk the town, Creek Street and the town is very pleasant, the town still has the same stores as in each port but it was still a nice place to visit.
Victoria B.C: Not much to say, we stayed on the ship.
We stayed on deck 10. Room C532, our room Stewart had to be the hardest working gal on that ship, her name was Lilia and was just Outstanding, she was courteous, kind, and gracious. She seemed to always be at your door greeting you with a smile. She was by far the best we have ever had on a ship. Now for the not so good, this was the only ship we've been on that did not display any towel animals on your bed, way disappointing. This was always something we looked forward to at night, but not on this ship. Sorry Princess you missed the boat on this one. Every previous ship that we've been on was designed with some theme in mind, this ship was about as plain as you could get.
We had assigned dining at 5.30 in the Bernini Dining Room, our waiter and busboy did a superb job, they truly seemed like their jobs. The weeklong dinner menu was just ok; they seemed to put more emphasis on how fancy to make food vice making it taste good. A+ for creativity and a C- for taste. The only night that we truly enjoyed was Lobster night, hats off to the cooks on that night.
Shipboard shows: In twelve words ( The worst shows on any cruise ship we've been on to date), if I was the Princess show director I would resign, the shows had very little flair, no talent and frankly lacked that showroom experience. Very disappointing.
Tours: Be prepared to spend a lot for these tours, I'm by no means tight, but I think with the seasonal tours they have to up the prices to cover their yearly cost.
Disembark: Like check-in this was just way too smooth, we stayed in our room until our assigned meeting time of 9.45 in one the lounges, once we arrived in the lounge we were allowed off the boat and our luggage was waiting for us. (Way too easy). Was kind of hard to get a cab but nothing to complain about.
Overall we would rate this cruise as an 8 out of 10, so taking the good with the bad at least we got to see Alaska. The cruises we've taken on Carnival were always a 9 out of 10. Now, having said that, we always talk to a lot of people while cruising and find many with more cruises under their belts than us. Each of these folks had the identical experience we had. So if the issues we had don't seem big to you then Princess may be the way to go. For me I am going back to Carnival.