Background: I decided to take my wife on a cruise to Alaska to celebrate our 10th anniversary. We had always discussed cruising before, and always decided against it. We just never thought it was our type of vacation. We like to be very active, outdoors, and go at our own schedule. We have about ½ a day maximum of sitting on a beach. We want to DO, that is how we relax. However, with kids and jobs straining the amount of time we can get away, and with a strong desire to see Alaska, I decided to take the plunge and try out a cruise. We elected for the 7 day Seattle-Alaska-Seattle cruise on the Golden Princess.
Overall Thoughts on Princess and the Golden: Dealing with Princess was easy. I booked directly with them, and they were good about sending documents, updates, etc. I booked my flights separately, which caused no problems. The website for Princess was easy to use, and allowed me to complete all of the required information online. I also pre-reserved two tours (Skagway and Ketchikan) online prior to our cruise, which worked out nicely. On board, the staffwas very responsive to our needs. A couple of examples: We need to change our Skagway tour from the AM to the PM. This took about 30 seconds; was really easy. One morning I went to the buffet and tried to get a pot of coffee to bring back to my wife in our room. When the person suggested I contact Room Service, I indicated I wasn't willing to wait the 30-45 minutes. She thought out of the box, and got me 2 large "to go" coffee cups that I could take back to my room. Was it the pot I asked for? No, but it solved my problem 100%. One afternoon while leaving my room, I noticed that the door was not locking correctly. Within 30 minutes, a crew of guys had taken the entire locking mechanism off the door, disassembled it, fixed it, put it back on the door and had me test it with my key to ensure it worked. The most impressive thing was that 5 minutes later the supervisor knocked on the door, checking in to make sure we were satisfied. The staff on board the Golden really do want to make sure everything is perfect for you. On the down side, there was a lot of trying to sell us stuff. Not so much the soda package (a few people asked us the first day, but after that nobody tried to get us to buy it), but everything. For example, many of the "activities" were actually trying to sell us stuff. The art "auctions?" Sales event. The "trunk shows?" Sales event. The port shopping lectures? Sales event. It got old after awhile. Is that just Princess, or the industry overall? My guess is that it is the industry overall (and based on other reviews I have seen, I think it is an industry thing, not a Princess thing).
Weather: The weather in Seattle was great; a bit foggy in the AM, but sunny and mid-60s the rest of the time. Really nice. The weather in Alaska was bad. 50's the whole time, and raining all the time (or cloudy and about to rain). However, the mist and clouds added an element of drama to the scenery, and rain doesn't make me melt; so I was happy! It is the second to last cruise of the season; I didn't expect perfect weather. In Victoria we had a beautiful evening; 60's to high 50's, and sunny.
Embarkation: All of the Princess materials say to arrive after 1 PM for faster boarding. We took Princess at their word, and have to say it was true. We got to the terminal at 1:45, and were on the ship 20 minutes later. I have waited in check in lines at airports for much longer. It was EASY to embark, we couldn't have been more pleased. We found our cabin, and set out to explore. Our bags arrived about 2 hours after we did, which was fine.
Cabin: We booked a mini-suite on the Dolphin Deck, starboard side. The room was fine, exactly as expected. The balcony was nice, with plenty of room for 4 chairs and a table. The carpet, curtains, bedding, décor, etc. were all fine. Not worn out and old, but not sparkling new either. There were no obvious signs of wear and tear, but it wasn't brand new either. There was plenty of space for all of our things. Three things to note: First, there is no iron in the room. We had some wrinkly clothes that we sent out to be pressed (about the same as we would pay in Chicago). Second, there are very few outlets in the room (total of 4, three in the room one in the bathroom). With two laptops, two cell phones, two ipods, a camera and other electronics; .keeping everything charged was a juggling act. Our cabin steward, Antonio Pereira, was good. Always there with a smile and energy, happy to do everything he could to make our cruise the best possible.
Public areas: The public areas are designed in the same fashion as the cabins. The look was fine. Not to my taste, and maybe a bit dated (it is 8 years old or so), but fine. No paint peeling, nothing hanging by a thread; .in general it was in good shape.
Dining/Food: We elected for anytime dining, and were happy we did. The food in the dining rooms was good, not great. The service in the dining rooms was good, not great (to be great, I would have expected napkins that match my pants so visible lint didn't get on them, crumbs swept off of the table between courses, a charger plate at my place setting when I arrived at the table, consistent clearing from the left, a never empty glass, etc. I have high standards for "great" service at a restaurant). I would equate it roughly with the quality of food and service level to be found at the hotel restaurants of the flagship hotels of the various national chains (Hilton, Sheraton, Marriott, etc.). Better than an Applebees or Friday's or those types of places, not as good as a fine dining restaurant of acclaim in any large city. The buffet was a buffet. Buffets are never that good, and this one is no exception. There is a lot of food, and a lot of people trying to eat it, and it was OK for a buffet. We have friends who have cruised on other lines and raved about the buffet, about fruit carvings, people taking pictures of the buffet before people started to eat from it, etc.. The Golden Princess had none of that; it was just a buffet. When we did eat in the buffet, finding a place to sit was not really tough at all (and our cruise was sold out, 2,800 passengers). We ate almost all of our meals in the dining rooms. Formal night wasn't very formal. Only 2 tuxedos in the restaurant we were in, which made me glad I had not brought mine. Lobster night was the 2nd Formal night, and was a disappointment. The lobster tail was small, probably 4-5 ounces. It was drowned in butter. The two king prawns served with it were so drowned in butter that you couldn't taste the prawn. Like I say; .disappointing. Overall, the service was good and the food was good in the dining rooms, and the buffet was a buffet.
Casino: The casino was surprisingly not crowded. They offered all of the standard table games, and lots of slots. We are not slot players, but they appeared to have most of the slots I remember seeing in land based casinos. It was always easy to get a seat at the table games, which was nice. We won a bit (mainly my wife) and lost a bit (mainly me) and enjoyed the entire time. The staff was great, made you feel at home either way.
Internet: The internet café is well stocked with computers, each with a port for all types of digital media (so you can upload your photos to a web service if you wish). Internet packages were a touch expensive compared to buying time on land, but hey; it's a ship based satellite connection. Between $.40 and $.75 per minute depending on how much you want to spend. Wifi was available in some of the public areas, not in the cabins. I had some work I needed to do, and was disappointed when the link was down for a large portion of Sunday, but hey; it's a satellite link. They go down. On the last day of the cruise, lots of people were in the café trying to print boarding passes, etc. The connection was slow, and some people were upset that they were getting charged by the minute for a slow connection. I say tough for them; .it's clear that the charge is by the minute, and there were big signs everywhere saying the connection was slow.
Naturalist: Michael Medz-Whateverhisnamewas is entirely miss-able. We attended his first lecture on our first sea day, and we excited to learn about Alaska, the culture, etc. Three major criticisms of Mikey: 1. His delivery was so pretentious, so arrogant, that I had to resist the urge to get up and leave. Not everyone in the audience did resist though; as several people got up and left mid-presentation. 2. His content was aimless. He had no theme for his talk, and basically told a bunch of random, unconnected stories. In searching for a theme, the only thing that we could come up with is that he did something (lived alone for 2 years) that he believes nobody else he has ever met could possibly do, and therefore he is far superior to everyone. 3. His delivery was awful. I know I already mentioned it, but I have to say it again. The man is hard to listen to. It's like he took speaking lessons from Shatner, and decided that Shatner's style needed to be emphasized and elongated. Painful to listen to. This guy should be fired. Keep in mind when you listen to him talk about how we should get away from material things, how we should live like the indigenous peoples; .that he's getting paid to tell you that, and that he has 3 homes (Alaska, Florida, and Tanzania). We make a lot of money, and don't have 3 homes. How far, exactly, did he get away from the material aspect of life? He speaks like he is arrogant and pompous, and his talks were self-serving. Which is all a shame, as the content could have been really good. During the tour of Tracy Arm Fjord, he was on the PA system with tidbits about the fjord and what we were seeing. He was slightly easier to listen to, as he was discussing something everyone was seeing rather than his own experiences. Except, of course, when he apparently felt that the grandeur of Alaska needed to be made more grand with his commentary, and launched into his "speakers" voice. Alaska is grand enough; Mikey only distracted from the reason we were there. The disappointing part was that the PA system could be heard on all balconies; you couldn't get away from the pompous jerk. I really didn't like him.
Juneau: Juneau was a cool little town. We got to port around midday, and walked around downtown Juneau for an hour and a half or so. Walked into most of the shops; found very little that we wanted to purchase. Most everything was tourist junk. We then went whale watching with Harv and Marv (not through Princess). This was outstanding. Thank you to this board for recommendations on Harv and Marv. We were picked up and driven for about 20 minutes out to Auke Bay, where the boats are docked. Along the way, Ted (Jay's Brother) gave us a running history lesson on Juneau. He was great. Jay Beedle was our captain (Harv that day), and he took the two of us and 4 others out on a 3 hour tour. The fog was thick, and we spent around an hour or so watching humpbacks in an area that the bigger boats were as well. Closest we got was about 400 yards or so. They we went to a place close to Shelter Island (where Jay lives) and got within 50-100 yards of a mother, a calf, and another adult. It was awesome. Then we went and checked out some sea lions, got some great scenery pics, and cruised back to Auke Bay. On the trip back to Juneau, Ted asked if we wanted to stop at the Mendenhall Glacier. Of course we said yes, so we took the short detour and had about 45 minutes at the glacier. The glacier is awesome, I am so pleased we were able to get there. Don't miss it. While there, we also saw a small black bear (Ted said it was probably 2-3 years old, on it's own but not full grown yet). Everything about our experience with Harv and Marv was top notch. Book a tour with them, it is so totally worth it you just can't believe. After the tour, we went to the Red Dog Saloon and had dinner (Reindeer sausage, yummy!) and listened to a singer, and drank some beer. It was actually a fun place, don't miss it.
Skagway: We got to Skagway bright and early. Permit me to set the scene: Skagway is a town of roughly 900 permanent residents. 4 "mega" cruise ships docked in Skagway at about the same time (including ours). That is somewhere around 10,500 tourists invading a town of about 900 people. And that happens a couple of times a week all season. You know exactly what to expect in Skagway, and the town doesn't disappoint. There are 30 jewelry stores in a town of 900 people. Before the cruise ships started coming, there was 1. It is ALL about separating you from your money. Having said that, it is also a cute little place and the shopping is MUCH better than in Juneau. We took a rainforest bike tour booked through Princess, and enjoyed ourselves. The guides were local (owned the local bike shop) and did a nice job of putting history and scenery together. The bike ride was really easy, not what I would consider exercise, and overall it was a fun time. Tons of people did the White Pass and Yukon Railroad, but sitting on a train for 7 hours wasn't what I was looking for.
Tracey Arm Fjord: We were so looking forward to the scenic cruising. We ordered room service, got our blankets and rain coats, and camped out on our balcony. We were psyched. Only problem was the fog. It was foggy. Foggy like you wouldn't believe. Fog combined with icebergs is a bad deal for ships. We cruised about a third of the way down the fjord (which was really cool), and then they decided to turn around and head out. While this was disappointing, I understand; .and frankly that is the chance you take when you take the second to last cruise of the season. I can't blame Princess for the weather, or deciding to turn around when faced with fog and ice. However, our itinerary stated that we would do the scenic cruise from 7:30 to 12:30. We turned around at 9:30. I thought that they should have waited another hour or so to see if the weather lifted.
Ketchikan: We liked Ketchikan. It was a nice place, seemed like an actual Alaska town like Juneau (unlike Skagway). We did not have much time in Ketchikan. We got up early, grabbed some food from the buffet, and got off the shp by about 7:25. We did a crash-shopping stop (we needed to buy some gifts, and this was going to be our last chance!) and then met our tour for the day at 7:50. We decided on the Eagle Island Kayak trip, booked through Princess but operated by locals.. We boarded a bus and took the roughly 30 minute drive up to the outfitters. Also on the bus were a bunch of people going on a zip line and ropes course at the same place we were kayaking from. There were only 2 other people that had signed up for kayaking that day, and we had one guide with us (really cool guy, turns out he was originally from Chicago). The tour said double kayaks, but we all got our own, which was nice. The tour also said a weight limit of 250 lbs, which I am close to (but under!), but nobody even thought twice about it. The kayak tour was great, the water was so flat and clear you could easily see 30-40 feet down, star fish, sea urchins, salmon, eagles, and seals were all spotted on the trip; .it was a great time. Then back on the bus and to the ship; no time to do anything but get back aboard the ship.
Victoria: Surprisingly, there was no queue to get off the ship in Victoria. Could be that everyone wanted to eat dinner on board before exploring the city, or that people were just going to stay onboard the whole time? Not us. We made bee-line for the gangway, and set off to explore Victoria. Now, the Gardens are the big attraction in Victoria, but we were there at night, and they stop lighting the gardens on September 15th, so seeing dark gardens wasn't on our hit list. Instead, we just walked to the downtown (about 20 minutes, very pleasant), saw the parliament building (very pretty), and then wandered over to the Empress Hotel. We had been told that the Bengal Room at the Empress was not only a really cool place, but also had a killer curry dinner. We were told correctly. The best meal of the cruise was found at the Bengal Room, the curry was great. The room itself is old world luxury, with the seating being in leather high-back club chairs and on sofas. It is a must do for a drink or dinner. Full of delicious curry, we walked back to the ship (about 30 minutes, we were walking slower!) and got back on board. There was no customs to speak of at all on this boarder crossing. Never saw a Canadian official or border person.
Disembarkation: The process was very easy. We elected to carry our own luggage off the ship, and were asked to meet others of the same persuasion in the Vista Lounge at 7:45 AM. The others who had elected to carry their own luggage off ran the gamut of ages and were both men and women. Good for all the older folks who still carry their own things. The ship was allowed to begin disembarking people at about 8 AM (this is controlled by customs, not by Princess) and the process was orderly. We were off of the ship and clear of customs (a Princess worker took our customs declaration, I literally never laid eyes on a US Government employee) by 8:25. Easy as easy could be!
My husband and two sons, age 13 and 16 years, took our 4th cruise. We booked the Golden Princess, and we were very impressed with the ship. (We have cruised on the Diamond Princess which is similar).
EMBARKATION We arrived early at around 10:30 am at the pier and our bags were taken straight away by a porter. We than waited for half an hour outside the pier and then were shown to another waiting area to find out it would be another hour's wait. After checking in at the terminal, we had to proceed to another waiting area. We finally got to board the ship around 12:30 pm.
CABIN We booked two balcony cabins on Baja deck. The cabins were very clean and spacious. We opened up the balcony door so we could walk between both cabins, which is a great idea if you have children.
DINING We had Anytime Dining, which I think is wonderful because you never know what you're doing late in the afternoon or early evening. So, eating at Anytime Dining worked well with us. We never had to wait long for a table, and could sitwith other guests if we wanted, which we did a couple of times. The food was fantastic, lots of choice, and we had very funny waiters who couldn't do enough for us.
KID'S CLUB Both of our children went to kids' club every night and they enjoyed it. They made some new friends, won prizes, and just had fun.
SHORE EXCURSIONS We booked a few shore tours, which we enjoyed. However, we hated the disembarking at each port. This was very disorganized as you had over 2000 people trying to get off the ship from one exit point. What a mad house! Getting back on the ship at each port was just as bad. Once again only one gang plank to get back on the ship. The only other thing that was annoying on this cruise was that there was way too many old people on the ship -- I'd have to say about 80% were over the age of 75.
SHOPPING Shopping on the ship was fantastic, with lots to choose from, and some really good prices as well.
CASINO We went to the casino every night, won and lost a bit, but it was fun just to do a little gamblinge each night after dinner before the shows.
SUMMARY Overall I love to cruise and I love the Princess cruise ships. You're always treated like royalty onboard them. I just wish you could find out the average age group of passengers before you book.
Looking at booking our fifth cruise. We plan on going to the Caribbean next.
We sailed on the Golden Princess' sister ship, the Diamond, three years ago. While this ship is slightly older, it was very nice and we had a wonderful vacation.
The embarkation process has greatly improved in the last three years. From the time we were standing in front of our taxi at LAX until we were standing in our CABIN on the Golden, only 45 minutes had elasped. It was just terrific.
The cabins are small but nice. They had very adequate storage space for two people. There are lots of drawers and storage shelves, a refrigerator and a safe (we really like that). The bathrooms are small, showers only, but fine for a week cruise.
Although we requested the beds be made into the twin configuration, it was made up as a queen when we arrived. We requested the change and also the egg crate mattress covers and it was changed while we were at the lifeboat drill. I really recommend requesting the egg crates at least three weeks before departure so you can be assured of getting one. There were new mattresses being loaded onto our ship during the cruise,but only a very few, so I know it will take a while to redo the entire ship.
The food was excellent. If you are asked how your meal was, just say "excellent". It is kind of a joke in the dining room where the staff seems disappointed if you use any other term. Our meals were far better than three years ago. A lovely surprise for sure.
We had Anytime dining. That did not work well for us as we wanted a table for two only. You can have a long wait unless you want to join a larger table. The second night out they assigned us a table but we had to eat at 5:45pm. That worked out better than the very late other options we were given.
This was our eighth cruise and the entertainment was the best we have ever seen. Could it be just a "lucky" cruise or has Princess upgraded their entertainment? The production shows were outstanding as was the magician, Gaetano.
We have been on this itinerary four times so did not do any formal shore excursions. We like P.V. the best and found the shopping to be the most reasonable there. We walked into town, about three miles, then back to the Walmart store across from the pier for some last minute items.
Our inside cabin was Baja 625. I MUST WARN ANYONE who has this cabin booked -- we were awakened every night at 4am with noise from the galley. It was bad for about 45 minutes and then we got back to sleep. Two calls to the Purser's office and two chats with both the Captain and one of his crew did not resolve the problem. The odd thing was you could not hear it in the hall, only inside the cabin. I heard other passengers in that general area complain as well.
We had one small issue that we took up with the Purser's office regarding an onboard credit that was promised in writing on three different receipts directly from Princess. I suppose we asked for assistance about six times and provided all three receipts for them to copy. No one ever really took responsibility for resolving the issue so we finally gave up and decided to challenge the charges with Amex when we got home. One lengthy call to Princess reservations did result in a promise of a credit to our credit card which I am still waiting to see on my statement. I am wondering why the Purser's office cannot resolve such an uncomplicated passenger issue.
Those annoyances aside, we had a wonderful cruise and have booked the same itinerary and ship for our family on March 15, 2008. We had friends who were one day behind us on the Vision of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean ship. We met them in Mazatlan and they were disappointed in their trip. Apparently, it is an older and much smaller ship. I looked at the price and it was a lot cheaper than Princess. Guess you really do get what you pay for!
We took the Golden Princess out of Seattle. Embarkation was smooth. We arrived early, around 11:30 am, and it only took about 20 minutes until we were on the boat! What a ship -- it was beautiful. We had a balcony cabin on the 11th (baja) deck, across from our teens who had an inside cabin. Both were very nice, very comfortable.
The cruise itself was fantastic -- we loved the entertainment -- a great comedian, wonderful dancers (shows), the naturalist lectures were very interesting and informative.
We enjoyed the casino, and our kids (14 & 17) loved the teen hangout and made great friends. In fact, we hardly saw them at all, they were kept so busy.
The excursions on this cruise are expensive, but we like the trip to Mendenhall glacier (Juneau) and the bus ride "to the summit" (Skagway). I thought the lumberjack show wasn't worth it, in Ketchikan, but my daughter and husband liked it (not my son). Buchart Gardens in Victoria was beautiful, but we wished we were there during the daylight hours.
We had great weather and really didn't need the many warm clothes we brought, except forthe one day of scenic cruising in Tracy Arm Fjord (which was the hightlight of the trip, by the way). The cruise director was great too!
We liked the food and service in the dining room very much, better than in the buffet (which was convenient for breakfast or lunch).
Our cabin steward was very good, very polite, very nice. No complaints about anything, except the fact that they're constantly trying to sell you drinks (we don't drink) and the casino slot machines were the tightest I ever saw. Don't waste your money. Other than that, a fantastic 5-star experience.
This was our first cruise, and we're now hooked for life! (Oh, and disembarkation went very quick, they're so organized on this ship!)
This was our first cruise and we did not know what to expect. We were pleasantly suprised.
The boarding process went smoothly and we waited maybe 10-15 minuites. Once on board we found our room fairly easily and was very glad to have gotten a balcony! The room was small but comfy. We had plenty of storage for our 3 suitcases of stuff! The steward was very nice and took good care of us thru the cruise. They kept the room very clean.
We bought a coke package which allowed us unlimited coke or sprite while on board. For us, well worth it ($30).
The food at the buffet was ok, not alot of variety and rather bland. We chose anytime dining and the food was good there, but since there were two of us, we had to wait 45-60 minuites for a table. If you want to sit with other people, you got seated right away.
We went to a specialty restaurant one night and the food was great. Service overall was very good. All pleasant and respectful.
Room service was great, but you had to be very specific as to what youwanted (mustard, ketchup,etc.)
Ports were fun but would have liked more time in them, but since it is a 7 day cruise, there is only so much time.
Be aware they charge 10.00 per person per day automatically for the staff and if you order room service, even just for a pot of tea, they charge another 10.00 for each time.
Ship was very clean and well kept. Lots of activities for everyone. The ship excursions we did, we not impressed with, but alot of people did enjoy them. Depends on your taste. Would have been cheaper to wait and buy excursions once we docked at ports.
Shopping on ship is limited but they put out new stuff every night on the promenade deck.
Ship is very well organized and we did express check-out and paid 15.00 to have them print our boarding passes and take our luggage to the airport and check them. This to us was well worth it and very convenient. All we had to do was get on the bus and go thru security at the airport. You must leave your baggage out the night before, so make sure you have a bag of travel size shampoo, etc. and fresh clothes for the next day! The day we left the boat we waited in our cabin until they called our group and that went very smoothly. We did not have to leave at 7 am like we had heard from other people.
Overall the cruise was well worth our money and we would sail on princess again. The views are spectacular!!
Princess is getting "CARNAVALIZED".
This was our fourth cruise with Princess, since Carnival took them over things have changed. They seem to be trying to reduce costs with many negative effects. Ship had stained and frayed carpets, unkempt public areas, and dirty and scrapped walls. In short a somewhat shabby apperance. They have lost attention to detail, just one example: We were cruising north from Chile to Mexico. The daily Princess Patter announced on the day we were crossing the equuator or passage into the southern hemisphere. "Today we will be crossing the Equator to enter the southern hemisphere"!!.
Just one example of many.
Lastly, generally the crew is not as friendly and outgoing as in previous cruises. In short we will not travel on the Carnavalized Princess again.
Getting There: We were the only ones to book this cruise as it dropped off the CruiseMates group tour list. Folks said that airfare was too much. I used an online broker who does only first/business class air arrangements. Princess wanted $1750/pp RT for a coach ticket. I got first/business elite on Delta for $2100/pp RT. The cheapest that I found on the typical sites was $6000 - 8000 total. So, I think I did pretty well on the airfare.
We left Las Vegas on 21 February bound for Santiago Chile with a change of planes in Atlanta. The flight to Atlanta was uneventful and we had about a 2-1/2 layover for the next flight. We used the Delta Business Elite room to relax and wait in. Boarding was on time for the scheduled 2200 departure for Santiago. As we waited at the gate, I could hear the crew cycling the flaps and slats. Scheduled departure time came and went. About 2230, the pilot informed us that the flaps and slats were working correctly, but he had a red indicator light and that he could not fly until that was fixed. Therepair was not going smoothly as the ground crew tried to fix the issue. The captain said that another plane was being towed to the gate next to us as a backup plan. At midnight, we left the plane and waited in the terminal as the crew transferred luggage and food from one plan to the other. About 0230 we began to board the new plane. Finally at 0330 we pushed back from the gate. We arrived in Santiago at 1330 on 22 February.
Pre-Cruise Package: We booked a 2 night pre-cruise package with Princess staying at the Grand Hyatt. After arrival in Santiago, we paid our $100 USD/pp Reciprocity Entry Fee and went to collect our bags. When we got there our bags were already on a cart and we headed for the bus to take us to the hotel. Upon arrival at the hotel, the check in process was disjointed. There was only one hotel employee to handle the entire herd. Many folks, like me, did not get a room assigned until after 1530. The package included a 3 hour city sightseeing trip after dropping us off at the hotel. Due to the length of the check in process, we missed the tour. The next day we were off to an all day wine country tour with a visit to a local winery (Concha Y Toro) with wine tasting. This was a fun a very good tour. I talked to the Princess rep about missing the city tour and she arranged for us and another couple a van tour of the city. One bit of caution (I should have known better - stupid me). The Princess tour guide wanted to show us some handmade items at a “factory”. She never mentioned what we were going to see. It was a souvenir shop and the prices were sky high. But dumb I bought a penguin for $180 USD. Later in Punta Arenas, I bought two of the exact same penguins for $25 USD each.
Boarding in Valparaiso: After a long bus ride from Santiago, we finally made it to the docks in Valparaiso. The check in process was as smooth as glass. The only thing that I would suggest is to send out those CDC questionnaires with the other stuff that Princess mails you, or have it online for download. Since the pier is in an industrial port, we had to take a bus from the check in are to the ship. We were in our cabin by 1300 and we were greeted by our cabin steward Reymond with a glass of Champaign. The captain was Bob Oliver, the cruise director was JJ Ullrich, and the assistant cruise director was Frankie. JJ was all business with not the slightest bit of humor. Frankie was just the opposite - the ship's clown. At 1800 we set sail for Puerto Montt.
Ship's Condition: The ship is in good shape. Public rooms were clean and comfortable. Due to the sea conditions on this voyage, there was only one day suitable to use the outdoor pool.
Cabin Condition: We were in a mini-suite on the Dolphin Deck. The cabin was always clean and there was plenty of ice. The refrigerator was not working correctly, but Rey fixed that. I find that the duvet is too hot for me and would prefer just a sheet and blanket. The feather pillows felt more like foam and were too small. I had thought that they were larger, but my memory could be slipping. With some adaptation, I still had a good night's sleep.
Food: We had the Anytime Dining which was convenient except for one quirk. Catalina was the same hostess that we had on the Golden last June. There was no issue reserving the same table for 1900. However this time, she would not do it for that time; it was 1830. I guess that ½ an hour is not a big deal, but I am curious why she did it last cruise, but not on this one. So, I usually was a “little late” to make it closer to 1900.
We are all our meals in the Donatello Dining Room with the exception of night that we went to Sabatini's. We found that the meal were very good with excellent presentation. If something was not right, it was immediately taken away and fixed. The soup was cold one night, but the replacement was bubbling hot. There was only one night that not one of the entries appealed to me and I ordered the always available steak. The menus are usually pretty predictable, but this time there were some changes to make things more interesting.
We received a free dinner and a bottle of Champaign at Sabatini's courtesy of my Platinum AMEX card. Our last experience at Sabatini's was on the Grand and was a disaster. We were in and out in 45 minutes and starving afterwards. This time it was better. The meal was 2 hours long, but I would really call it a tasting menu as they do not give you a sample of everything; just one item per category and what they want to serve not what you prefer. Overall, it was good and free.
This is the first cruise that I gained weight on. I put on a good 8 pounds, so the food had to be good.Entertainment: I have always given Princess an “F” for entertainment and this time I gave it a “D”. The production shows are poor in quality. “Motor City” in the Vista Lounge should have been called Stevie Wonder night. I like Stevie, but this show was 65% his songs. Gaucho Del Plata (I don't know what it was), Jeri Sager (singer), and Gaetano (magician) were awful. Darren Lynton was the only bright spot. However, if Simon was judging his performances he would say that it looked like something that you would see on a cruise ship. And he would be right. Darren was the only reason that I gave Princess a “D” this time. We skipped John Martin (comedy act), The Den West Show (some sort of instrumentalists), and Shirley Dominguez (harp). Ports and Points of Interest: Puerto Montt, Amalia Glacier, Punta Arenas, Ushuaia (docked), Cape Horn, Port Stanley, Montevideo (docked), and Buenos Aires (docked). The seas were rough for most of the cruise and we had winds of 150MPH after Port Stanley. After Puerto Montt, It got progressive colder with strong winds. The Horn was relatively smooth, but very high winds. I stayed a good 10 feet from the rail for fear of getting blown overboard. The first day out of Port Stanley was the worst and after that it was smooth sailing. I am glad we took our New York snow jackets, boots, and gloves. I don't think the layer thing would work very well. It was very scenic especially after Puerto Montt and up to Port Stanley. I booked all the shore excursions with Princess since I did not comfortable doing it on my own in South America. The biggest rip-off was The Penguin Colony tour in Punta Arenas. After about a 2 hour bus ride we arrived at the colony. We had to walk 1-1/2 miles to what I called “The Gallows”. There was a wooden structure with three wooded steps and three slits about 4 inches wide to view the penguins. There were two groups of them. The closest being about 75 yards away. Each group had maybe 12 - 18 penguins. After that, it was a 1-1/2 mile walk back to the bus. It was very disappointing. The Sparrow Cove Penguin Adventure in Port Stanley made up for the previous tour. We were able to walk very close to the penguins (had to stay behind the line). A few penguins were only a few inches from the line. This was much better. Due to global warming, there was not a lot of snow on the mountains and the glacier looked pretty small. The original glacier had too much ice around it, so the captain substituted the Amalia Glacier. I did not learn from the penguin rip-off in Santiago. This time a leather shop called Casa Mario in Montevideo was highly advertised on the ship for the quality and price of leather goods. I had been told that Argentina was the place to buy leather, but I should have noticed that nobody was leaving the store with any packages. I bought a leather briefcase for $220 USD which I found on Florida Street in Buenos Aires for $110 USD. Oh well, I guess it could have been worse. Post-Cruise Package: I booked a 3 night “Gaucho Tour” package with Princess. Since the Delta flight on Saturday was fully booked for business elite, we had to stay another night and leave on Monday. This part of the trip went wrong as we disembarked the ship. It was pouring rain and Princess said to take the red shuttle busses to the cruise terminal, collect our luggage, clear immigration and customs and then meet our bus. Wrong. There were no bags to collect as they were already on a truck to the hotel. OK, just clear immigration and get to the bus. Wrong. We were to meet the bus at the pier by the ship and not take the shuttle. The police in the cruise terminal would not let us go back outside to where the red shuttle busses were. We were trapped in the cruise terminal. We went out to the immigration/customs area and just walked out of the building. What a zoo outside. We had to walk around the building to the area where the red shuttle busses dropped us off at. There were no Princess busses. The Rotterdam was also in port and the bus driver took us back to the Golden. We boarded the bus and there were two other couples on the bus. After several hours a few more folks made it to the bus. We ended up leaving 8 people. They might have taken a cab to the hotel.
The hotel was the Intercontinental just two blocks off the Avenida 9 de Julio (the widest street in the world). These folks were worse than the Grand Hyatt when it came to checking in. They would not give out any rooms until 1600. Folks swarmed the desk at 1600; it was total chaos. After three room changes, we finally got the correct room at 1730. It was time for a quick meal and to bed as we had the Gaucho tour the next day.
The Gaucho Tour was an 8 hour affair. Due to the rain, it was too muddy to go horseback riding. (We were the only ones in group that signed up for it.) They did a carriage ride instead. After that we had a fabulous Argentina BBQ lunch. Sausage, chicken, steak, salads, bread and the wine and beer never stopped. It was a 1000% better than our wine tour lunch in Santiago. After the feast, the Gauchos put on a show for us.
I picked up a virus/cold/cough or whatever last Saturday. I still cannot shake the cough. The Princess lady said that a lot of folks got the same thing. I felt so bad that I had to cancel our Tango dinner and show. Oh well, maybe next time.
The hotel would not give us a late checkout on Monday, so we spent most of the day in the hotel lobby waiting for the van to take us to the airport.
Getting Home: The Buenos Aires airport is a complete zoo. Checking in at the Delta counter was the easiest part; that took about 12 minutes. After that, it was 20 minutes in line to pay the $18 USD/pp departure tax. It took another 20 minutes to go through security and at least 20 more to go through immigration. We arrived at the gate and they already started boarding the flight so there was no time to enjoy business elite lounge. At the boarding area, Delta hand searched our carryon bags again as well as using the handheld wand on us.
Uneventful flights back to Las Vegas where the temperature was 89 degrees F.
All-in-all, I would do it again in a heartbeat - skipping those two tourist shops next time around!
This was our first time cruising on a Princess ship and we were very impressed overall. Having sailed with RCCL, HAL MSC and several others over the past 16 years we decided that the crew members on the Golden Princess were the friendliest we have ever encountered. It seemed that each and every crew member we had contact with had a genuine smile and a gracious "hello" for us every time they saw us.
EMBARKATION: This was the only bad part of our entire experience. Leaving from the Poland Terrace dock was a mess. The entire procedure was held in a tent, it was hot and muggy and the process took a long time. There was absolutely no direction from the staff and the lines for checking in and security became intermingled at one point making the process even longer.
THE SHIP: Once onboard we made our way to our cabin which was on the Aloha Deck towards the stern. Even though we were situated towards the rear of the ship, we were surprised that the ship's movement and vibrations were very minimal in our cabin. The ship itself was showing someage but otherwise was very clean and comfortable. There was a very good mix of ages among the passengers on our cruise and everyone we spoke with seemed to be very pleased with their own experiences onboard. One nice feature I'd like to mention which we especially enjoyed was the cell phone service that Princess provided to the cabin areas. It was fun calling our friends back home and more or less "rubbing it in" about the wonderful time we were having.
OUR CABIN: Our cabin was nice, not extremely large but certainly not small, we found it to be very comfortable especially with the balcony. Our Cabin Stewart (Stewardess) MAGDA who hailed from Poland was an absolute angel. Not only did she keep our cabin spotless and well stocked with everything but she was also very well informed on just about everything concerning the ship. She also never failed to let us know when she was about to go off duty and always asked us if there was anything we needed before she left. We would definitely give her 5 Stars for her service and great attitude.
THE FOOD: We primarily ate in the Horizon Court Buffet during our voyage and found the food to be excellent in almost all respects. Even though it was a buffet, it was good enough to deserve a 4 Star rating. Our experience in the dining room was wonderful. Although we had decided to use the "open seating" option we found the wait staff we encountered were very attentive. The food itself was very good and we would give it 4 Stars.
PORTS OF CALL: The ports were very typical for a Western Caribbean cruise, Montego Bay, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel. We did not avail ourselves of any on-shore excursions since we were already very familiar with all the ports. In Montego Bay we rented a car, went shopping and visited the Half Moon Resort which is one of my wife's favorite places on the island.
ENTERTAINMENT: I can't comment on the quality or variety of the entertainment in the theatre since we did not attend any of the shows. However, the Atlantis Casino onboard was excellent and again we found the staff to be extremely friendly. One drink waitress in particular named OLEANA from the Ukraine always made us feel at very much at home whenever we patronized the casino. NATALIE from the UK who worked in the cashiers cage also impressed us with her smiles and her questions about how we were doing in the casino that evening.
DISEMBARKATION: We must say that the disembarkation process we was the best we had ever experienced. It was relaxed, smooth, and quick. Even the passengers luggage left in the passageways to be collected on the last night of the cruise were removed almost immediately. On previous cruises we were always left with such a sad feeling (cruisers will understand) as were walked down the passageway from our cabin to go somewhere the last night. Not seeing all that luggage sitting there made the sad feeling of having to leave our ship the following day just a little bit easier to take. It's funny how little things like that do seem to make a difference. Kudos to Princess!
OUR OVERALL EXPERIENCE: On a scale from 1 Star to 5 Stars we would definitely give our experience aboard the Golden Princes a 4 1/2 Star rating and we are very "conservative" when it comes to rating any ship we have sailed on in the past. We would definitely sail on the Golden Princess again in the future and would not hesitate to recommend her to our friends who cruise.
CONTACT US: If anyone wishes to contact us with specific questions about the ship or our experience onboard please feel free to do so. We would enjoy hearing from you. My name is Patrick and my wife's is Patricia. Our e-mail address is NuHomes@aol.com.
HAPPY CRUISING TO ALL!!
The Golden Princess did not deliver services that were promised to us on this cruise. We encountered bad weather during the air flights to New Orleans, which caused a delay in receiving our luggage. When we signed in to the ship we were promised formal wear to use for the New year’s celebration – despite our repeated attempts to find out why the clothing was not being delivered to us and several promises that it would arrive in time for dinner we eventually ended up wearing our traveling clothes – very embarrassing to attend dinner when the rest of the dining room is in formal wear.
Embarkation was slow with the Princess staff seemingly more interested in eating and visiting than serving us. Disembarkation was similarly very poor - rushed us off the ship and made us stand in a lineup on the dock for a couple of hours - they could have better controlled the process so we spent more time on the ship and less standing in a lineup at customs. The food and food service was very good. The cabin steward service was also below average perhaps caused bystewards having too many cabins and other duties to perform. The stewards were not accessible during most of the afternoon period and did not respond to electronic paging system, which they use on this ship.
Our cruise on the Golden Princess started badly with our transfer from Victoria Coach Station in London to Southampton. There was only one Princess representative at the station and as a result most people stood in line for over an hour to give in their transfer tickets. The lorry driver for the luggage got lost and didn't arrive at the station until an hour after we were supposed to go. Male passengers had to climb up on and load the lorry or we never would have been able to leave. We were further delayed by an accident on the highway. By the time we on the ship it was time for lifeboat drill---no lunch for us!
The hallways were very narrow and difficult for room stewards and passenger so navigate. The space in the Princess Theater and the Vista Lounge was not adequate for the number of people wanting to see entertainment and many were angry at being turned away.
On a positive note, The food and service in the Canaletto Dining Room were first rate. The balconies were large and a joy to be on. The shore excursions were excellent.
Thinkwe'll stick to Holland America and Celebrity in the future.