We just returned last week from our cruise on the Golden Princess, Southern Caribbean, out of San Juan. This was one of the best cruises I have taken out of 8. I have heard cruises described by other posters as "happy ships" and I really felt that positive energy on this ship and enjoyed every minute of it. I felt it really epitomized what Caribbean cruising is supposed to feel like, with a warm and friendly crew and enough entertainment and activities to keep just about everyone happy.
Embarkation: This was quick and efficient. We had flown done the day before and stayed in the Hampton Inn near the airport in Isla Verde, nice clean hotel with a pool area in the enclosed courtyard, a swim-up bar and grill for drinks and sandwiches,and some a small whirlpool. It was noisy near the pool from the airport, but not inside the hotel, and they include a continental breakfast. You are close to the expensive hotels and 2 blocks from Isla Verde beach. On Sunday, we checked out at 11:45am and took a taxi to the pier for $15+tip.
We had done our documentsonline so within 15 minutes were being shown the way to our room to drop off the carry-ons. I'm sure it got a lot busier later on, but that is the beauty of going a day ahead, so much less stressful and you beat the crowds flying in. We were up in the buffet by 12:30pm having lunch, then explored the ship and took some pictures while everything was empty and then settled in near the pool, which we had pretty much to ourselves, a great relaxing way to start the week onboard. Some nice private whirlpool time, too.
Cabin-This cruise was kind of a last minute booking, I usually plan way ahead, so we got one of a few cabins that were available, an obstructed view on Emerald Deck in the middle. This turned out to be one of the best cabins I have ever stayed in. We usually book an inside for the price, but this was a great choice, lower and center which I need because of motion problems, but I needn't have worried because this was also one of the smoothest cruises I have been on, only felt some rocking one night early in the cruise when we speeded up some to make the next port. Captain Nick Nash did an excellent job and we felt like we were on land most of the time. The view wasn't totally obstructed either, we had plenty of light and we could see some of the water and the ports through the window between the lifeboats. The room seemed more spacious than it was because Princess uses a lot of mirrors on the walls, we had 2 beds, a desk vanity, a corner unit that had the tv, a small refrigerator and a bar and a long open closet near the bathroom. There was also a tall cabinet in that area with shelved and the safe and the vanity had several drawers as well. Each bed has a nightstand and lamp with a dimmer switch which is a nice touch. The bath is the usual tight fit, but there were always plenty of towels and bath products left for us as well as new pool and beach towels every day. We also were blessed with the best cabin stewardess who kept the place spotless. Her name was Sommung Wancome and she did a fantastic job, never had to ask for anything, it was always provided.
Dining-We always chose anytime dining for the freedom it gives you as we like eating early to catch the many shows and entertainment options on board. The first night was open seating but after that, Bernini and Donatello were designated for Personal Choice. The menus are the same in all the restaurants, so depending on the time, you would go to one of these. Bernini started serving at 5:15pm so we usually went there. We always got a table for 2, never had to wait because of the early time, and each member of the staff gave such excellent service that it was a joy to look forward to each day. We ate breakfast every day at the buffet, it has a big variety of choices and you can get fed fast and on your way. The buffet area is not long lines, but a lot of individual serving stations. Some people find it confusing, but I like it because you can just go get what you need without being stuck behind people that don't know what they want. The only problem there is that it is very busy in the morning so you have to search for a seat, but the staff was really good at clearing tables fast and there is more seating in the Calypso Pool area which adjoins the buffet. Other folks are right about the coffee, though. It is not very good, but I only drink one cup a day for the kick-start, so I managed very nicely. Princess has the buffet open 24hrs a day which is fantastic and quite different from other lines I have cruised and near the main pool, you can get pizza and hamburgers for a quick lunch as well. You will never go hungry on this ship.
Entertainment- There are so many choices of things to do at night, we could never cover them all. They had 2 big production shows "Words and Music" all Broadway type singing and dancing, and "Caliente" which was the best show I've ever seen, great costumes, dancing, and music. They also had a country show, comedians, hypnotists, game shows, various types of music for dancing each night at the many clubs on board. They had a Princess Idol karaoke contest which was fun as well as a big sail-away party with music and dancing in the covered Calypso pool area, a huge 3 deck high Caribbean party at the back on Wed. night and a Champagne Waterfall party in the Atrium on Fri. night. We also tried to fit in time each night to make a donation in the casino, didn't win but its fun to try.
Staff- Couldn't have been better. Never saw one without a smile or a friendly hello. Cruise Director Paul O'Laughlin and his terrific staff kept things hopping and made sure everyone had a good time. There was always something going on during the day at the main pool and at Skywalkers Lounge at night.
Ports- We picked this cruise for both the ship and the 5 port itinerary, love to see places we've never been and cruising is the best way to do it.
St. Thomas- Been here before, booked with Godfrey Tours online, per recommendation of many people on these boards. He is just as good as everyone says, he picked us up at 9am, went downtown to shop, should have gone later as we didn't need that much time. Left there at 12, did some sightseeing with a stop at a gift shop, and then chose Sapphire Beach, along with most of the people on the tour. This is a very nice beach, with warm clean water. One tip, eat downtown first, we got a dry hamburger and a very small coke for $8 at the beach and not too many choices. This beach is part of a resort, so maybe that is why. Godfrey picked us up promply and returned us to the ship in plenty of time. Its a super deal at $20pp, make sure to give him a nice tip. The same trip was twice as much on the ship.
St. Kitts- Never been here before but did research. Took a taxi to South Friers Beach, $15 and tip. We asked him to return at 11am, it was deserted when we got there and I got a little nervous, but in awhile, others from the ship came, so it was ok. The beach here is not real nice, lots of seaweed on shore and in the water. We like to find shells and it was great for that, we found a lot, even some big conch shells that we took home. There is a run-down snack shack here that opened later, but we didn't try it, also old broken beach chairs that they don't charge for. We enjoyed it as something different, but would try a different beach if we ever return. Did a little shopping near the pier and got back on board for some pool time.
Grenada- I have wanted to see this island for a long time. I was told it was very beautiful before the hurricane. They are starting to come back, but there was such damage from that storm and it is hard to get building materials, everything must be shipped in. We took a ship tour here, the party boat to Morne Rouge Beach. A lot of people took this tour, it was an open sided ferry with a steel band and they gave out rum punch and snacks. On the way back they have a conga line, and limbo contests and everyone seemed to be having a great time! On the way to the beach, they go over a reef and throw out food to attract the fish. The beach is very beautiful. I had picked this tour because the description said there were not many vendors here, but a lot at the other beach at Grand Anse. This was not true, the minute we got off the ferry, we were swamped with people selling things. We rented chairs for $5 each and never got to sit in them because of the aggressiveness of the vendors. I had read about this in other posts and I don't know if it was always this way or since the storms, but it kind of ruined a beautiful time at a gorgeous beach. I got so tired of saying "no thank you" that I had to stay in the water, which was warm and clean, but it still put a damper on things. If they would just stay in one area and let people come to them, they would sell much more, in my opinion. Once you are mad, you tend not to buy. Back at port it was the same way, I quickly bought spices from the least aggressive person,and a t-shirt I really don't like but had no time to chose before escaping. We had more time and decided to take a quick taxi tour for $20pp to see some of the island. We saw first hand some of the terrible damage that the hurricanes did, and our driver, a young man with 3 children said it was the most frightening experience of their lives. We really felt for these people and had planned to do more shopping here to help out, but it is so hard to do with so many pulling at you. We stopped at a spice factory and I bought a few things there, he took us to Annandale Falls, we took a short walk to see them, but again, you are besieged by people and it was not enjoyable, we never got out at Grand Etand Lake for this reason, and ended up going back to the ship early. We were the last ship going there until the fall, so I don't know if its always that way there, or if that was the reason, but I would have liked to see more of this island in a more relaxed way than we did.
Isla Margarita,Venezuela- The ship has stopped going to Caracas because of safety problems in port, so it now stops here. This was a very short stop, only 5 hrs, so we booked the Fiesta Party bus to the beach through the cruise line. This tour was the most fun I have ever had, and it was all due to the guide Estella and the driver. They give you a great tour of this beautiful island on the way to the beach, she told us so many interesting things about the island and the beach that we went to was the best one of the cruise, absolutely gorgeous with surf. There were many vendors here, also. I did get a couple of really pretty necklaces from them, they gave out empanadas and drinks at the food stand and there was a monkey and a parrot to take pictures with. Back on the bus, the fun began. The music was really loud, the rum punch flowed, and Estella, who is so much fun and has so much energy, had almost everyone dancing in the aisles! We stopped at a shop on the way back, also, where they had beautiful pearls for sale. Estella had told us all about the quality and the colors before we got there, Isla Margarita is "The Isle of Pearls". These were not in my budget, but I guess you could get some great buys if you knew what you wanted. This port is put down by some because you dock in an old warehouse area, but as you get off the ship, there is a whole line of souvenier stands to browse and a small beach nearby. We felt like we really didn't have enough time in this port, the tour took most of the time and we would have liked to shop all the stands. The vendors here were really nice and didn't bother you to buy. I have heard that a nice new pier is being built on this island and I really hope that more ships will stop here in the future and we get a chance to come back.
Aruba- Not much more can be said about this gorgeous, clean island. Its all been said before. You can get around real easy on your own here, public buses are frequent. We made a mistake, which I will pass on to others. I had been here before, but daughter had not, thought a tour of the island would be good for her before hitting the beach. As you get off the ship, they will try to sell you a comprehensive tour of the island for $20. It sounded like a good deal, so we took it. He didn't say he was filling the bus before we left, said 10 min. We waited nearly an hour, my fault(should have got off) they took you to another town to a back street, with a small sovenier shop that must belong to a relative. Big waste of time, there. We did go to Natural Bridge for 15min. stop, drove by Casibari rocks, (no stop) 5 min. stop at lighthouse, and were finally dropped at the Holiday Inn on Palm Beach. Lesson to self and others, take tour in small mini-vans, or bus directly to beach. Fare from beach to town was $1 in mini-van, did some shopping at the stands near the pier. This is another very nice island, no one bugs you, save some shopping for here. Downtown area is gorgeous and safe, wish we had saved more time an energy to look around more. I could handle a week here.
Sea Day- Relaxed all day at the pool soaking up the last of our wonderful time on board. More pool games and music. Saddest part of any cruise, packing up.
Odds and Ends- Lots of nice shops on board, 5 pools, drinks were reasonable as were the soda cards, clean and well designed decks, and the staff and service get an A+ from us. If you don't have the time of your life on this ship, I think no one could please you. Thanks to everyone who made this the perfect week.
Disembarking-We weren't flying back until Monday so we were one of the last groups called. We had a last breakfast in the buffet and waited for awhile in the cabin, then went to Deck 7 and were off the ship in minutes. Again, congratulations to Princess, they are so organized and efficient, I wish it were always that easy. We found our bags with no problem and took a taxi to the Wyndham Condado Plaza for a one night stay. We love this hotel, it has everything and is close to the dock. Had an 11:30am flight, so checked out of hotel Mon. at 9:30am for taxi to the airport. It was pretty crowded for a Monday, long slow lines for security, but made our flight to Boston with plenty of time to spare. Arrived to cold weather, what a let-down after the perfect week. Our shuttle was waiting and we got home by 5:30pm.
I can't think of many things about this trip that were wrong, which makes me sound like a pollyanna, but, honestly, I couldn't find many flaws. Getting back onboard there were long lines at times, wish they would let you use the closer entrance. They re-board you depending on where your cabin is, so you have to walk another 200 ft. sometimes when you are hot and tired from a day in port. The coffee does need some work, but was a non-issue for us. Too short a stay in Isla Margarita,would have liked a few more hours.
This is such a long review, I'm not sure if it will be used, but it was filled with so many experiences that I wanted to cover everything while it is fresh in my mind for anyone considering this cruiseline and itinerary. They will not be back in the Caribbean until fall, but I have gotten so much good information on this website, that I wanted to give something back. Happy cruises to all.
I just wanted to post a brief review of our cruise on the Golden Princess on April 3 - April 10, 2005. It was our first cruise. We cruised to the Southern Caribbean to Barbados, St. Lucia, Antigua, St. Martin, and St. Thomas.
EMBARKATION - This process only took about 20 minutes. Once we tagged our luggage and it was taken we waited in line for a very short time. We checked in and received our room keys, went through security and were on the ship in no time flat.
CABIN - We were in cabin C709 (Caribe deck - 10), with a balcony. The cabin was very clean and we were completely satisfied with it throughout the week. Our Stewart, (JayJay) was wonderful and fully attentive to our needs.
THE SHIP - the Golden Princess is a very large ship. The day of departure, after we had a wonderful lunch, my wife and I explored the ship to acquaint ourselves with this beautiful vessel. I highly recommend that you explore the ship to get a feel for it.
FOOD - We thought the food was absolutely wonderful. You never go hungry,not with 24 hour room service, and a buffet that is also open 24 hours a day. We ate at two specialty restaurants - The Desert Rose (Steak House), and Sabitini's (Italian). The food was great at both, however at Sabitini's be prepared to spend two hours eating, because there are so many courses to eat you have to take your time and enjoy it. The other nights we altered between Donatello's and Bernini's. The menus are pretty much the same, but we switched night to night. We never had a dinner at the buffet. All the restaurants had excellent service with a staff that catered to your needs and wants, an example being, one night my wife could not decide between two deserts, so the waiter brought her a couple to choose from. That was great. The grill by the main pool was unreal. They had the best pizza I have ever eaten. I am from the Philadelphia area where there are more pizza places then you can imagine and the pizza on the ship was better than any in our area. They also had great hot dogs and hamburgers (not cheap patties).
We bought the Soda-Card for $25/each, which allowed you to drink all the soda that you want. I was not crazy about buying the cards, but it worked out well. I guess it is a personal choice as to whether or not you want to pay $1.50 per soda or by the unlimited card.
THE EXCURSIONS - we did three excursions:
- BARBODOS - We did the Snorkeling with the Sea Turtles and Ship Wreck. It was a lot of fun and worth the price. - ST. LUCIA - we did the Whale and Dolphin watch. It was really a waste of money, did not see anything. I know they can't guarantee that you see a Whale of Dolphin, but looking back, our money would have been better spent on a different excursion. - ANTIGUA - we did not do any excursions, we walked around the shopping district and took in the town. - ST. MAARTEN - again we did not do any excursions, but preferred to take in the town, Phillipsburg - Dutch Side, which was very interesting and colorful. Lots of jewelry shops. Cheapest liquor prices in the Caribbean. - ST. THOMAS - We took an excursion to St. John 's Island where we did the Island Tour. After we took a 45 minute boat ride from St. Thomas to St. John's we boarded an open-air bus which toured the island with the tour guide stopping at several locations to give us the history of the island. We also stopped at one of the beautiful beaches (Cinnamon beach) for approximately one-half hour.
If I had to choose on excursion again, I would probably do Island Tours on all the islands rather that snorkeling, etc. If you are visiting an island for the first time, looking back, we feel that a tour of the island would have been better.
DISEMBARKATION - This process is very organized by Princess. They disembark you based on your airline departure time, so if you have an early flight, they with put you in one of the early departure groups.
One other point, we flew into San Juan on the day of departure on US Airlines out of Philadelphia. We had absolutely no problems with US Air. Our flight was at 8:30am Eastern, arrived at 12:30 and spent the day exploring the ship. The only thing I would do different, would be to leave a day earlier which would give us a day to see San Juan, I think we missed out on an opportunity to see Old San Juan.
Overall, we feel that Princess did a great job and we really enjoyed the cruise.
This was our fifth cruise. It was our first Princess cruise, and we were so impressed. Here is how we rate Princess in terms of food, comparing it to the other lines we have sailed on:
Princess A+ Celebrity A Disney A / A- Carnival B+ Royal Caribbean D-
We were so impressed with Princess. The food on this cruise was better than on any other vacation we have had -- land or sea. If it were a restaurant at home, would we return as soon as possible! Here is why Princess had the edge on all others:
1) Impressive quality of food - not just in the dining room but in the Horizon court buffet as well.
2) Variety at buffets - not just the usual suspects like on other lines! We were delighted with the unique and varied offerings, even at breakfast.
3) Personal Choice dining - Every cruise line should do this. We fell in love with any-time dining. Whenever we were ready, we just went to one of the two dining rooms. We never made a reservation. (We had one wait of 10 minutes on formal nightwhen we got there at 8 p.m., no big deal). We did not like to make reservations because to us, that was the whole point of any-time dining: you have dinner when you want. Some days we wanted to eat at 7 p.m., other days we wanted to go later if we were watching a movie or wanted to see a show. My husband said he would have trouble getting used to traditional dining again. For those who prefer a table for two like we do, Personal Choice dining is the way to go. A table for two was never a problem!
We only made one show, the "Words of Broadway," on the second formal night. We did not particularly like this show because it focused on older Broadway shows from the 1950s that we are not familiar with.
Pools/Deck Chair Situation
Great. For all late sleepers, there were always lounge chairs available. There was great music from the band by the main pool. The port side of the ship was for smokers. The majority of smokers seemed to stay by the solarium pool, closer to the Horizon buffet. We stayed on the port side of the main pool and were never bothered by smoke. There was only one sea day on this cruise, which was good in a way because there was so much to see; on the bad side, we missed our usual last day at sea toward the end of the cruise to unwind.
A+ again. From the room stewards to the dining room staff, we were impressed by the friendly, efficient crew. We met a lot of nice servers in Personal Choice dining. Some people made standing reservations the first night because they loved their server, but we just went wherever they put us in a table for two, and met a lot of great servers that way!
We had room A227 balcony. What I liked about Aloha Deck is that you are not exposed on your balcony like on lower decks. (The floor right below us was not exposed, but those two floors below us on were.) We loved this forward cabin; we felt very little movement, and could not ever hear our neighbor's toilet flushing (as we could on other ships). Our only criticism was the cabin's unreasonably small bathroom and shower. Hubby had problems fitting into the shower. Next time we will spring for the junior suite, which has a bigger bathroom.
We usually do our own thing on cruises, but I had a hard time locating independent operators prior to this cruise, and the ones I did find charged the same rate as the ship, so we stuck with the Princess excursions.
Barbados: We did the sea turtle and snorkel trip (including snorkeling at an underwater wreck). We loved this excursion and recommend it highly. They even took us to a beautiful beach and gave us free drinks after snorkeling. The guides were wonderful; we had a blast. If you go shopping, in our opinion, stay away from the town here. We had a bad experience in town and were hassled. The shopping at the port terminal is better and safer.
St. Lucia: We did the New Waves Snorkel. We snorkeled at Anse Chastanet marine park. The snorkeling was terrible. I got stung, there were riptides, and marine life very limited (except for jellyfish). The only nice thing about this tour is that we sailed by the Pitons. We wished we had taken the whale and dolphin watching excursion here. The shopping at the pier terminal was great. For a wonderful copy of a designer bag, go to the Oasis shop. I got a magnificent copy of a Gucci there.
Antigua: We did the New Waves Antigua snorkel adventure ($39 per person). We loved it, and had a great time. The boat we were on, the Excellence, was beautiful. The crew was great, and it was a good way to see the island, sailing by all the sites on the way to Cades Reef, which was very nice.
St.Martin: We did our own thing here. We took a cab to Dawn Beach (which was listed as the snorkel beach). It was terrible! There was no sea life and we had to leave within an hour because of sand fleas biting us. We took the water taxi to town and found great shopping there.
St. Thomas: We had vacationed here before so we knew what we wanted to do. We took one of those cute trolley taxis to Coki Beach and snorkeled there. The snorkeling was great & the beach very nice. We did some shopping in town and got nice things (took a cab to town).
It was great. We had a 12:15 flight, and had more than three hours to kill at the San Juan airport. I wished we had an earlier flight, because we had NO problems at all at this airport.
Vibe of the Ship
I read in other reviews that cruises out of San Juan have a very Latin vibe, and that Spanish is spoken more than English. That was not true at all on this cruise; all the other passengers we met were from the U.S. or Canada. We did not meet any passengers from San Juan. The only people we got to meet from San Juan were the people at the airport and our taxi drivers, who were very nice.
Hello, just returned form our 4th cruise( second with Princess , twice before with Carnival) on the Golden Princess. Had a great time. Weaather was a bit rough first two days out, so our cabin choice did matter!! We had been "upgraded " to a cabin forward on the Lido deck( 14th deck) .Being that high up and forward you will definatley feel the motion more than on a lower more mid ship deck. We did have 15 ft seas so motion was felt everywhere, but it was much better on lower decks.
We used Princess air and transfers. Won't do that again. We were flown in the day before( as we are west coast Canadians) and put up at the Marriott North. The hotel was fine, but sort of in the middle of nowhere,we arrived late so had to have a over priced hotel dinner( didn't want to wander around and look for somewhere else at 9 at night) Trnasfers were late, we were supposed to be out of room and in lobby by 12, buses didn't arrive till 2:30! Thats 2 1/2 hours of sitting around with abouttwo hundred others.They didn't tell us much except the buses were " coming" so you didn't want to wander away! The doorman said a taxi was 35 dollars to port, and since we had paid for transfers we just stuck it out! .
The embarkation process was easy and fast, except there was a long line for embarkation pictures, whcih we just skipped. Our cabin was lovely , clean as a whistle and other thatn the motion issue well located for access to pools and buffet. We never encountered any noise issues at all. Elevators seemed fine to us, they were prompt and there seemed to be manyof them. We often just used stairs anyways.
The Food: Good to very good. We do consider ship board food to be " banquet food" since they are coooking and serving at ousand meals at once. With that in mind we enjoyed most of our choices form the dining rooms, with a few exceptions.
The Cheesecake is EXCELLANT' ditto the Onion soup !
The menu has an "always available side" that had a nasty tough steak on it, and the caesar salad was alawys too soggy( may-be some like it that way?)
The Horison Court buffet is excellant. There is alswys something good there, and yes there were a few duds, but there was so many choices that if you couldn't find anything you liked then we decdided you are just too darn finicky!
Pizzza...The BEST! The pool side hamburgers , fries and onion rings , very tasty, and a nice change form " fancy stuff" . The food being availbale form the buffet 24 hrs is really nice, when we returned to the ship we could grab a snack to tide us over till dinner .
Personal Choice dining . We loved it. Never waited for more than ten minutes and that was only once. We dined early ( before 7 or so) so alwys just walked in. We were flexible about table size( if you demand a table for two you will have more waits if you go at peak times(7:15 till 8:15) . We sat at big talbe s and had fun, we did get a table for two once night when I was a bit under the weather,and knew I wasn't fit for anyones company! LOL We won't go back to traditional.Ours servers were nice enough and we really aren't the type that insist our waiter know what drink we want without asking, nor do we care to have a " relationship with our servers" . Service was fine. On Lobster night our waiter brought extras to the table without being asked!!
The shows were pretty good, especially" Lights Camera and Action" . We also recommend getting to the passanger talent show( called Criuse Ship Idol) early as it fills up quickly!! We have done the Eastern Caribbean before, so not being " shoppers " we basically spent the days at the beaches. We did get our liqour in St Marten, $12:95 for a big bottle of Baileys and $7.95 for a big bottle of Rum! We went to Orient Beach and loved it, walk down the beach a bit to get a good deal on a lounge chair and umbrella, some places throw in a free drink! Taxis are all over the placre son't worry about not having one to return to ship! On St Thomas we made a big mistake and went to MAgen Bay Beach. Boring. Crowded. We should have gone to Coki, or taken the ferry to StJohns, oh well next time!! Princess Cays was one of our favorites. Decent snorkling, wear water shoes or flippers as under the water is rocky ,(corrally). Nice beach great views, fine beach type lunch provided ( bbq) .
All in all we'd give this cruise a 8 out of 10. Points lost for some less than steller menu items, and because we did have a hard time finding lounge chairs no matter where we went on the ship!!!! ( Ship was full)
This was my first cruise with Princess and it won't be the last. I've tried Carnival, NCL, Celebrity (Galaxy), and Holland America (Zuiderdam). This was the best thus far.
Boarding was a dream. It took all of 10 minutes. From the moment you are on the ship, the service was impeccable.
My room was C-424, a suite. Well laid out and the room steward, Nestor kept it clean. Room service was always on time. Had dinner and breakfast on the balcony at least once. Wonderful Jacuzzi tub and shower. My only complaint was the bed being too hard and no stereo, CD, VHS, or DVD player in any of the rooms.
We cruised the Eastern Caribbean. If you get a chance, book a tour with Thunder Hawk. He does eco-tours on St. Thomas and St. John. We met him on St. John and its like going on a hike with a sober Peter O'Toole. Very knowledgeable and funny guy. Although I found liquor to be cheaper on St. Martin, the US Government allows up to 5 liters as long as one bottle is made in the USVI. The ship runs specialsfor duty free merchandise but it was still cheaper on the island.
On St. Martin, we headed to Friar's Beach. This is a small beach with 2 little restaurants/bars. It was beautiful but the Euro exchange can hurt on the French side of the island. They take the dollar but the Euro is king at the moment on that side. Better deals can be had on the Dutch side for liquor and Cubans.
Princess Cays was a nice beach but Holland America's island is nicer. But, at Princess Cays, restrooms, food, and bars are only feet from the lounge chairs and beach. The water was gin clear.
The entertainment on the ship runs the gamut. No matter your age, you will find something you like, from a classical quartet, to standards, to disco, to house music spun by a DJ. They have it all. The shows are good too!
I loved the 5 pools. Each one has their own personality. So, if one is noisy or too sedate, go to another and you will find what you are looking for. The lap pool has a strong current that will make you work.
Tried the spa. Lisa provided an Asian inspired message and facial. Worth every penny. Also tried Sabatini's. It was good but the Chilean Sea Bass I had was not up to par. Poorly filleted, lots of bones, and fishy. Two other tablemates ordered it and were equally disappointed. Also tried the Mexican restaurant. It was actually good but I understand it will be changed to a steak restaurant shortly. If you like Margaritas, this ship isn't for you. No matter what bar I tried, all you get is sweet and sour mix with a dishrag squeeze of Tequila. As for dinning, the open seating worked very well. I had to wait only 10 minutes for a table for 2 or you could go right in if you didn't mind sitting with others.
Celebrity in my opinion is neck and neck with Princess but this cruise tipped the scale towards Princess. Everything was as close to perfect as possible.
We just returned from our fabulous Honeymoon on the Golden Princess. This was our first cruise. If this is your first, you should read my review. I am now an official 'cruiser', we loved it!! We weren't as picky as some people and just made the most of it. We arrived at the Radisson on Friday night at midnight, it was a dump. A lot of people complained about it, but our bed was clean, we had a hot shower, and just needed a good night sleep, so it was fine. They had free transfers from the airport, and to the Port so no complaints. We got on the ship around 11:50am, we saw most of the ship by the time dinner arrived. Don't plan on watching your weight on a cruise, it can't be done :) The food was amazing, we chose Personal Dining, and met new people every night. The islands were beautiful but we loved the Princess Cays the best. So clean and beautiful and we just wanted to soak up the sun for our last stop. We snorkeled, played volleyball, and just veged. We wishedwe had longer there. Unlike another review I read, the coke card DOES work at Princess Cays. There was so much to do around the ship, we were never bored. The Cruise Directors, Paul & Gavin were amazing. We watched their little video on the TV each morning to review what was going on but still had the "Princess Patter" newsletter that we kept with us. For entertainment, it was all good. Try and get there by 8:15pm for the 8:30pm show and "Lights Camera Action was the best. We also enjoyed the hypnotist. We are in our early 40's, and there was a variety of age groups, including a few kids.
For entertainment outside the 'shows' Bert Stratton was so entertaining, we usually ended up there each evening. We played in the casino, played bingo and the horse racing. The slot machines are a little tight but always fun.
I would highly recommend the Golden Princess, we had such a great time, met some wonderful people, and can't wait to cruise again.
Any questions, I'd be happy to answer.
Food: The Horizon Court buffet was good. I thought the food was better on the Sun Princess which I just went on two months before this cruise. Dinner was very good. Im always to full for dinner anyways. We ate at the "eat wherever dinning" which we all loved. You could go whenever you wanted. Since we had such good service from our waiter and buss boy we asked for them all time and always had the same table by the window table 14. The Golden Princess dining rooms were just like the Sun class ships. Very cozy! Not big or loud like on other cruise lines. In the Horizon Court from 3-4pm they have free ice cream. If you were still hungry after dinner, the Horizon court had dinner up to 10:30 pm. Some times they had the same food as in the dining room. After 10:30 p.m. they brought out sandwiches. I would eat every two hrs on this ship. You will never go hungry on princess like you do on other cruise lines. Food is everywhere! The pizza was very good at the pool area.
The GoldenPrincess did not have the Sterling Steak House, but had some other pay restaurant instead which looked nasty. This place was never crowded. And the main walkway cut right though the restaurant. This pay restaurant was only $8. The Sterling Steak House was so awesome on the Sun Class Ships. So I was disappointed they did not have the Steak Houses on the big ships..
Entertainment: The Entertainment was very good on Princess. They use to suck, but have gotten a lot better since Carnival bought out Princess. Some people we saw were: STU MOSS(Comedian), Sarge(Comedian), David Deeble(Comedy/Juggler), Gaetano (Magic & Illusions), Ed Fernandez (Comedy Hypnotist) They also had some evening movies in the Vista Lounge.
Cabin: Our cabin was P203 outside front of the ship. I like the front so I can feel motion. With this cabin we never really felt motion. So I was disappointed in that. You have lots' of space for your clothes. This cabin is so big. I was use to the Sprit of Alaska on Cruise West. Their cabin was the size of princess bath room. Don't complain about the bathroom being small because on the Cruise West their bathroom was the size of princess shower. So Princess has some big bathrooms and cabins.
Why I don't like this ship? I did not like this ship just because it was too big. Things were to spread out and you had to walk far to get somewhere. You had no deck chairs on promenade deck because the walkway is to narrow. Instead, they had a few benches. It sure isn't like the Sun class ships. Too many people everywhere. You can never get away from people on this ship. People are everywhere. Even at 1:30 in the morning I saw people. At the dinner buffet at 10:20 it was always packed up there. Whenever you went to the dinner buffet at 10:20 on the Sun Class Ships, you were basically eating with just the crew. You can tell there is an extra 650 passengers than the Sun Class Ships. Another bad thing about this ship is you could not go in the front of the ship to see the bow. The only area where you could see forward was in front of the basketball court looking though glass and you still could not see forward. The only good area to see forward was on promenade deck, but was closed after dark. I like to see forward and look for animals with the wind in my face. Not on this ship! Golden, Grand, Star, Diamond and Sapphire Princess would be terrible for Alaska. You could not see anything. My family booked a balcony on the Diamond which is just a little bigger than the Golden. Since you could not look forward on this ship, the balcony we choose was facing forward. But Princess just changed the forward balconies because on their sea trails the wind was blowing furniture around. So instead of the front balcony, Princess will just have a window for the front. So we booked a north bound on the Dawn Princess instead of the Diamond. The Dawn is just like the Sun. The Sun Class Ships are the perfect size. Since I don't like the bigger ships, I asked the caption why princess keeps building bigger ships. He Said "Princess gets a lot more money with the bigger ships."One more thing, If you have a balcony on the Golden Princess you may be looking down on another balcony or a balcony above you may be looking down on you. The Golden's balconies don't go strait down but, stick out more by each level. One good thing about the bigger ships are you always have seats to sit at the buffet compared to the Sun class ships.
The Golden Princess is a nice ship with a ton of things to do. It's great for the Caribbean or Mexico, but wont be good at all for Alaska. My family and I booked a cruise to Alaska on the Dawn Princess a north bound. After we get off the Dawn, my sister, bother and I will go on Cruise West The Sprit of Alaska where you can actually see stuff. Feel free to write me if you have any questions. Im very picky on my ships and one of my hobbles is cruising which I know a lot about. Most people love the big ships since there is so much to do, but for me I like the smaller ones where it seems like your on a ship. Brian Lashchuk
My husband and I sailed on the Golden Princess the week of December 13 to celebrate our third wedding anniversary. This was my husband's first cruise, my second. (My first one was a three-night Carnival cruise about eight years ago, so after this experience, I won't even count that.) I am 29 and my husband is 31. We have no children and did not travel as a part of a group. The first thing I will say to anyone who is worried about the cruise, don't worry! I found myself reading review after review and wondering if I had made the right choice. If you have booked a cruise on the Golden Princess, you will not be disappointed.
Our trip started with an overnight stay in Ft. Lauderdale Friday night. We stayed at the Sleep Inn in Dania, Fla. It was very clean, with good rates and service. The best thing about the hotel was its free transfers from the airport to the hotel and from the hotel to the cruise terminal. Both are about 10 minutes from the hotel. There is also a Walgreen's next door for last minuteitems and a park nearby for an early morning jog/walk before you go to the ship. I had heard horror stories about airlines losing luggage or flights getting delayed, so I wanted to make sure I was there and settled in.
You can avoid the hassle by booking air with the cruise line, but we found better rates, and wanted to travel on our airline at our convenience. We left the hotel at 11 a.m., arriving at the dock around 11:20. There was already a line at the doors to the check-in area. We waited half an hour as the line got longer and longer. They opened the doors around 11:50. Check-in was quick and simple. Make sure you do the advance check-in. With security and everything we were on the ship and in our room in 10 minutes.
We found our cabin on the Plaza deck. We booked an inside cabin in July, hearing about all the upgrades available. We did not get any free upgrades and the cost of upgrading to a balcony or an ocean view was higher than if we had booked it months ago. We were concerned, being in a small room on the lowest level of the ship, but I was very happy that we did not spend the money to upgrade. It was perfect for us!
I expected the rooms to be slightly cheap looking. I was surprised to find wood trimmed furniture, a spacious closet, nice lighting, pleasant paintings, mirrors, and a comfortable bed. The bathroom is tiny but there is a ton of storage space for toiletries and clothes. I had heard that I would need a nightlight and a power cord. Neither was necessary. There were plenty of outlets; we only used it because my husband's razor was not compatible with the outlet. The nightlight was nice because of the fragrance, but the controls for the hall light for the bathroom were conveniently located on both sides of the bed.
We did not miss the balcony or seeing the water. There were plenty of private spots a short walk from our cabin where we could spend time outside or watch the water. We were on the same deck as the dining room and library, and only one or two decks from the shops, theaters and show lounges. We were far from the pools, workout facility and the food buffet, but it was no problem to take an elevator, and we got plenty of exercise taking the stairs.
Back to the balcony: I will not pretend it is not a nice option to have. If you are going to spend the money, just make sure it is private. Some balconies can be seen by those above you. If it is not going to be private, you might as well go sit with the other folks and save $500! Also, some balconies extend right over a public deck. My husband and I were talking a walk on the promenade deck and looked over to see two people sitting on their balcony. They were less than five feet from us, elevated a couple of feet above the railing. I would not consider that type of balcony worth the extra cost.
The first night of our cruise, I was pleasantly surprised by all that the ship had to offer. by dinnertime we had seen most of the ship. We decided to eat in the dining room. We had Personal Choice dining, so we could eat at any time the dining room is open. Be prepared for lines. I did not expect that, but there were lines 20 to 30 minutes long at dinner. Reservations did not help because the maitre d' did not take kindly to people coming alongside of him to tell them they had a reservation. It was very chaotic and distracting for him. So reservations did not really help; we still had to wait in line.
I was worried about the food. I work for a company that allows me to dine in the finest restaurants during business meetings, and on my own I dine mostly at non-chain restaurants. I was hoping the food was decent. It did not have to be five-star, but I was looking for tasty, quality food. I was not disappointed. I did not have a "best I ever tasted" experience, but the food was good. You eat what you like and leave the rest on your plate! Just because it is there and free does not mean you eat things that are not good! You can maintain your weight on a cruise if you don't eat things you don't like and eat small portions of the things you do like.
The pizza was great, hamburgers good, and the buffet was good if you use the rules above. Some things on the buffet were good, others were not. Just pick and choose. And use the small plate! They hand you a huge platter when you walk in. You would never eat on plates that big at home, so why do it now? Tell the waiter "no thank you," and find the smaller plates near the fruit section.
One more tip: If you drink Cokes at every meal or in between, buy the Coke card for $22.50. It covers Cokes from the bars, at all shows, and in the dining rooms. They give you a sticker to place on your cruise card. The Coke card does not work with room service or on Princess Cays.
The entertainment was decent, depending on your taste. Although we are younger, I felt that some of the entertainment was a bit racy and if I had young kids I am not sure I would have wanted them exposed to some of the material. The opening show was no better than an MTV video, with provocative dance moves and outfits. The magic show was good, but again, the assistant was wearing bikinis and g-strings. I'm not judging others' tastes or preferences, but you should be aware if you do not prefer this type of entertainment.
Outside of those issues, the comedians were funny for the most part. My advice is to just go. You can always leave if you don't like it, but it is better than sitting in your cabin. We did not go to the casino or nightclub, but I am sure they are pretty standard.
During the day there was a variety of activities. Again, I would suggest trying something you may not normally do. We went to a trivia session and had a great time and met some nice people. My husband entered some of the basketball competitions and won three silver medals! There were movies that played during the day; the only thing missing was the popcorn!
We did not spend a lot of time at the pool, but they are very crowded during the day. The lap pool near the lotus spa had fewer kids and you could actually swim a bit. The workout facility was great. It has everything you need. Take advantage of the free classes. They are a good way to maintain your weight and it is fun to vary your normal fitness routine. The Lotus spa was very nice too. Watch for daily specials and you get a break on the prices. I got a mini facial that lasted about 45 minutes for only $20.
The ports of call were nice. It was our first time to the Virgin Islands. St. Maarten had good shopping. We chose to explore on our own instead of a tour. They will tell you a ride to the French side will cost you $15 per person, but if you go with another couple or more, they will only charge $5. The ride was nice, but I was not that impressed with the island. It might have been better to do an official tour to get more out of it. We are not big shoppers so I can not really comment. I will say, save your money on a water taxi or a land taxi to get to downtown Phillipsburg. It is a 10-minute walk and there is a sidewalk all the way.
We did take a tour on St. Thomas. Godfrey was the tour guide and he has a website. This was the highlight of the trip. He will pick you up from the ship at 9, 10, or 11 depending on how long you want to shop, and he will take you downtown. The island tour starts at 12 from downtown and it takes you over the entire island. You can visit one of three beaches -- Sapphire Beach, Coki Beach, or Magens Bay for two hours, or have him take you back to the ship. We chose to go to Sapphire Beach because it was less crowded, no charge to get in, and the snorkeling is great. We rented beach chairs, and snorkeling and other water sport items were available for rent. For this personal service and the ability to shape the day to your preferences made the $20 per person price seem like a steal, especially compared to the excursions the ship offers.
This was a great vacation. We spent last summer at the Ritz-Carlton in Jamaica for a week, and although the cruise was not as luxurious, there was more to do, especially at night. For the money, this is a great deal. Have fun and enjoy your cruise!
Caribbean back to back cruises on P & O Golden Princess and Holland America Volendam - A comparison P & O Golden Princess 7 night Eastern Caribbean itinerary - Inside Cabin B316 Baja Deck 11
22 November 2003 Departure from Fort Lauderdale 23 November At sea 24 November At sea 25 November St Maarten 26 November St Thomas 27 November At sea 28 November Princess Cays 29 November Arrival Fort Lauderdale
Holland America Volendam 10 night Southern Caribbean cruise - Outside Cabin D2599 on D Deck
01 December 2003 Departure from Fort Lauderdale 02 December At sea 03 December At sea 04 December Willlemstad Curacao 05 December Isla Margarita Venezuela 06 December Port of Spain Trinidad 07 December Fort de France Martinique 08 December St Thomas 09 December At sea 10 December Half Moon Cay 11 December Arrival Fort Lauderdale
We are Australian, married a "Baby boomer" couple still working. We travelled with 2 very good friends, also from Australia. Our occupations are Manager of a Travel College, Registered Nurse and our friends are Managers of General Stores in the Australian outback. This was their first cruise and the fourth in total for us.
We stayed atThe Holiday Inn express prior to the cruise and between cruises. This hotel is well located about 5 minutes by taxi from the Princess Terminal. It is a comfortable "no frills" hotel reasonably priced.
We took a taxi to the ships, as the Shuttle bus at times was unavailable or booked out. The taxi ride was about USD 5.00 per person.
We will talk in this report about the cruising experience on the two ships as much has been written about the ports of call in other reviews.
The Golden Princess cruise
In June 2002 we undertook a cruise from Barcelona to Venice on the Golden Princess and were so impressed that we booked again on the same ship for the above Caribbean cruise. We had exactly the same cabin, B316 an inside on Baja deck 11.
1/ Positive Comments
The design of the inside cabin made good use of mirrors to enhance the feeling of light and maximise space. The open space wardrobes without doors provided plenty of hanging and storage space for our requirements. The self-service laundries were spacious with plenty of washing machines, dryers and ironing facilities. Change machines and laundry powder dispensers were available in each laundry. Cost of laundry - USD $1.00 per wash and 0.50 per drier.
The service in the "Go as you please" dining rooms was excellent on all occasions. We tried these restaurants at breakfast, lunch and dinner. During the evening, if there was a wait for a table, we were given a paging device and we had a drink in one of the bars until it activated. We found this very civilised.
The two "Ozzie" men having hearty appetites, had 2 entrees at some dinners. This was not a problem for the waiting staff or kitchens and the second entrée was supplied cheerfully and graciously. Exactly the same thing happened on a few occasions with extra desserts being requested.
The Horizon court buffet self service operates 24 hours a day and was also very popular, particularly before and after shore excursions. The availability of any type of cooked egg including boiled eggs for breakfast in the main dining room was great.
Sabatinis Restaurant, where a surcharge was paid was good. The Italian food was excellent and well presented. The service was a little slow, possibly due to the staff stopping to sing congratulations to most of the customers who were celebrating birthdays and anniversaries etc.
A master class wine tasting was also very well done, held in Sabatinis during an afternoon when we were at sea. The Head Waiter was extremely knowledgeable about the wines presented.
The coke card, purchased for USD $22.50 per person enabled us to get as many club sodas or cokes as we wanted. We found this very good value, particularly when we came back hot and thirsty from the tours.
We were the only four "Ozzies" on board and must have made a lot of noise or had distinctive accents as quite a few people commented, "you must be one of the "Ozzies".
The wine list in the restaurant is a great improvement on our last Princess cruise with much greater variety and well priced.
The Skywalkers lounge is a great place to relax during the day a very quiet spot with a great view.
Afternoon tea is served in one of the dining rooms at 3.30pm by white gloved waiters worth "putting on the Ritz"
The cooking demonstration and tour of the galleys is great. The Golden Princess was also promoting its cookbook, personally signed by the Head Chef. Our mate Gary, who is also a very good cook himself, bought one and was impressed with its photographs and recipes.
The service aboard Golden Princess was exemplary. Toiletries were replaced in our cabin without asking. The dining and drink waiters didn't miss a beat. These staff came from all parts of the world such as Eastern Europe and South East Asia and spoke excellent English, even understanding our Aussie accents!
Captain Bernard Warner stated, "This is a happy ship." How right he was. He and his officers were highly visible in all areas of the ship - managing by walking around and ensuring the passenger's needs were met. Nothing was too much trouble.
2/ Negative comments
The decking or wooden veneer on the Promenade deck was very slippery when wet for people walking and running for exercise.
The main evening show "Lights, Camera and Action" we had seen 18 months previously on the Mediterranean cruise. Perhaps they could change the shows every 12 months or so. The comedians were also not very funny in comparison to our previous cruise.
I think that ice creams and Cappuccino should be included in the cruise fare, rather than as an added expense.
We were confused once we arrived at the Princess Cruise terminal at Fort Lauderdale. After getting out of our taxi we were not sure if we had to take our luggage to the check in counter ourselves as was done on our Europe cruise. Eventually a porter told us to leave our bags behind and they would fix things up. It was a little confusing and we suggest that a large sign be placed telling people to leave their bags with the porters and that bags do not have to be taken into the terminal building. I think that more Princess staff should be outside the Terminal building assisting with "meet and greet" as first impressions that people make are important.
The Volendam cruise
1 Positive comments
Very good wooden decks give a good grip on the walking deck and jogging track. On the Volendam joggers must jog around the sports deck. They are not allowed to jog around the Promenade deck. Very good "Las Vegas" style shows with high quality dancing. Our hearts were in our mouths however when the poor female dancers on several occasions nearly lost their balance as they were performing on a revolving platform on a ship that was sailing in rough seas.
The appearance on the ship of an excellent steel band called "Caribbean Magic" whilst we were docked in Port of Spain Trinidad was a highlight of our visit to this Port.
A lockable drawer, as well as a safe in our cabin provided a secure place for cameras, video equipment etc.
The shipboard accounts gave an accurate listing of expenses and shipboard purchases.
The cabin gave privacy by means of a curtain across the passage leading to the door of the cabin, blocking off light from the main corridor at night.
Three handrails in the bath and a non-slip bath mat were good safety features.
The sandwich and ice-cream bars available in the Lido buffet were of a high standard, with cheerful staff working hard to oblige the passengers.
The cooking demonstration and tour of the galleys was entertaining and well presented.
Dutch high tea was elegant and delicious.
The Marco Polo restaurant, where an additional fee was charged, was a culinary highlight for us. Utterly professional and gorgeous food and wine.
The Captains cocktail party was good fun with generous serves of drinks. It was great to see public acknowledgment of excellent crew service by the Captain at this event.
The midnight dessert extravaganza was a visual and culinary feast.
The Java Coffee shop provided excellent complimentary coffee and cookies during the day and was well patronized. Having take-away popcorn for patrons of the cinema was a nice touch.
Hot appetisers were served prior to dinner in the Crowsnest lounge and this was much appreciated.
Jean loves kippers for breakfast. These were available most days in the sit-down dining restaurant - Rotterdam. The Crowsnest bar had the most beautiful views at the front of the ship with very comfortable recliners and foot stools to take a nap in. Judging by the snores from some of the chairs, other people enjoyed them as well.
The Captains cocktail party provided multiple photo opportunities. We had several formal photos taken which were of very high quality. The organization of the portraits was more streamlined that Princess, without long lines forming for different photo backgrounds.
The embarkation and disembarkation were well organized, with staff members positioned at various points to get people through with a minimum of fuss.
There was a very good updated map of the ship's current position on the level 5 deck.
Passengers were able to remain in their rooms until their departure time was called, rather than waiting in a lounge area, as we had to do on Princess.
1 Negative comments
The safe in the room required a credit card to access it, thus requiring us to wear neck pouches continuously on board for our ship card and credit card.
No photo I.D. in the computer meant carrying photo I.D such as passport or drivers licence when entering and exiting the ship.
Very little space was available on the bathroom vanity unit for toiletries (poor design).
The wardrobes had doors, rather than open space, opening into the area opposite the bathroom, causing congestion.
A fridge was not available in the room, although an ice bucket was provided.
There wasn't a light stand on the bedside cabinets but a light was positioned above the bed. The design of the light switches over the bed made the controls difficult to find at night.
Our cabin steward was friendly and helpful but forgot a few times to renew soap, shampoo etc. We left a reminder note on the bed for him and this was always attended to promptly.
The toilets had an unfortunate habit of not flushing in port. Was this a design fault? We encountered a few distressed passengers like ourselves, searching for a public bathroom when this occurred.
On at least two occasions, we noticed a very strong odour in the cabin and corridors like a strong blue vein cheese smell, which was most unpleasant. Other passengers also commented on this.
The self-serve laundry seems designed to get passengers NOT to use it, instead encouraging use of the expensive ships laundry service. A change machine was unavailable, instead passengers had to go tho the Purser's desk for change. The washing machines were half the size of those on the Golden Princess-for the same amount of money. The one iron and ironing board were designed for right-handed people- running along the wall instead of 90 degrees to it. The iron would not turn fully to the cool setting, making it difficult to iron delicate fabrics without "catching".
There are 3 dress codes instead of 2, for dinner. Formal, Informal and Casual. We feel 2 dress codes of Formal and Casual are enough otherwise the men need to have a dinner suit for Formal as well as a Jacket and tie for Informal. This makes it a little difficult for people travelling a long distance or people who are away for a long time on their holiday and who want to travel as lightly as possible like us on this trip. We were away in total for about 5 weeks.
Dining room service was inconsistent. Our second sitting evening dining staff were good, although overworked and distracted at times. The wine waiter had a great sense of humour and was a lot of fun.
The breakfast staff in the main sit-down dining area were sometimes taciturn and argumentative with food mix-ups occurring regularly. It seemed as if they were lacking sleep and possibly had communication difficulties with the English language. (Maybe it was our Ozzie accent).
Jean was also seated at one breakfast sitting in the Rotterdam dining area with a charming elderly couple from Florida. The waiter was brusque and abrupt with them and they became confused about their breakfast order. He left the plates of food on the table when they stated they had not ordered it, embarrassing them. Jean reassured them that the waiters often mixed up breakfast orders and not to worry about it. Jean works in an aged care environment and realises the importance of speaking clearly and slowly to enhance communication and preserving the dignity of older persons.
Many of the passengers on this cruise were elderly and some were frail as well. It would be a good idea to train the crew in the special requirements of this group as becoming impatient and bustling them makes communication much more difficult.
Why is it not possible to have eggs on the menu for breakfast other than fried in the main dining room? This happened on at least two occasions.
The restricted dining hours in the Lido buffet caused long lines to form for meals-particularly during breakfast. Waits of 10-15 minutes were common. It would be a better idea to have 24 hour buffet service as on Princess. Or at least extend the breakfast hours.
Staff serving up hot food at the breakfast buffet limited the amount of food offered. Heaven help the passengers who forgot something once they had passed through the line. Jean found the easiest way to get tomato juice for breakfast was to order it on room service. This was very well done by our room steward.
On the formal nights "special" food was not served until the last of 3 formal dinners eg Lobster, caviar, and escargot. This differs from Princess, who "rewarded passengers for attending formal nights with Lobster, Tom turkey. Pheasant etc on each formal night.
We wondered being a 10 night cruise, if the kitchens were starting to run out of various menu items as the cruise progressed. Towards the end of the cruise, 2 of us ordered oysters as a starter for dinner. 2 oysters were served for each portion.
The bar staff were also inconsistent. During the day the passengers needed to go to the Crows nest bar for service, rather than staff circulating around the lounge for orders. Service was much better during the evening. On one afternoon Jean enquired at the bar if it was open. The surly reply was "I just served you a glass of water didn't I"? This type of lippy sarcastic comment reveals that the male serving staff require further training in customer relations. The expression "The customer is always right" springs to mind.
We do not believe we are hard to please passengers, being easy going Ozzies. Other passengers asked us our opinion of the service staff and agreed with the inconsistency as well.
For our type of cruising, we think Princess has got the right formula for today's cruising market.
The four Ozzies agreed that the modern approach to buffet and dining service shown on Princess is the way of the future.
We have all booked on future Princess voyages for later in the year
Princess - well done - keeping up the high standard will encourage us baby boomers to continue cruising with you. The motto "Back where we belong" says it all for us.
Holland America have some corrective work to do to fix the problems outlined by us above, particularly in the service area. More of a "Nothing is too much trouble" approach is what is required to meet the present passenger expectations.
Itinerary: 7-Day Eastern Caribbean Cruise leaving from Fort Lauderdale, Florida and visiting the following locations: St. Maarten, St. Thomas, and Princess Cays in the Bahamas (Private Island owned by Princess Cruises.
Rating of Cruise: Excellent, One of the Best Vacations we've had, Can't wait to cruise again, loved relaxing on sea days and being busy on port days
Food: A- Entertainment: B Service: B Ship: A Embarkment/Debarkment: A Ports: A- Cabin: B (as expected)
Fort Lauderdale: For the past few weeks, my husband and I were debating whether to change our flight to Fort Lauderdale to arrive the day before. We were concerned the plane would delay (our flight would arrive in Fort Lauderdale at 2:15pm) and we would miss the ship. We took the chance and made it on time. We took Airtran Airways from Philadelphia to Fort Lauderdale. We arrived at Fort Lauderdale's airport at 1:45 (30 minutes early). Unfortunately, we waited almost an hour to get our luggage. Many folks complained about this delay even though there was nothing we could do about it. The cruise rep from Princess Cruises came by as we were waiting for our luggage and toldus where to go to get the bus transfer to the ship. The bus driver loaded our luggage on the bus and we were off to the ship. The transfer only took about 10 minutes.
Embarkment: We arrived at the pier around 3:15. We did not see our luggage until after 5:00. We waited a few minutes in line at the check-in. We had express check-in and got our cruise cards immediately. The Muster Drill at 4:30 was fast and orderly. We took a tour of the ship and the ship left around 5:10.
Our Cabin: Our cabin was L208 on the Lido Deck (14 floor). This was an inside cabin. The cabin was small as I expected since this is what we paid for. The beds were very comfortable and we slept great almost every night. Our cabin steward Diamond from Romania was excellent and kept the cabin clean and he was helpful as well. Always catering to our needs very promptly. The only regret we had was that we did not bring an alarm clock and you could sleep there forever since it was always dark in our room especially if you did not get up to check a watch to see what time it was. We utilized the wake-up call feature from our phone and that helped up get up early on days we needed to. Hopefully, next cruise we will splurge and get a balcony.
Things to do: Laying out by the pool, swimming, hot tubs, trivia games, bingo, movies, afternoon tea, shuffleboard, internet café, tread mills, other fitness machines, art auctions, wine tasting, gambling, film developing, photo gallery, lotus heath and beauty spa (hair, makeup, facials, "Detox" treatments, stone therapies), aerobics, yoga, fitness seminars, step, scuba diving training, library, golf, culinary and fruit craving demonstrations, volleyball, pool games, massages, basketball, arcade, movies, ice craving, excursions, snorkeling, etc.
Entertainment: "Lights Camera Action" was an excellent show and Uber Rossi was hilarious. "Shake Rattle and Roll" was good in some parts and ok in others. We did not get a chance to see all shows.
Food: Breakfast: We ate at the horizon buffet. There was a large variety of food: scrambled eggs, bacon, bagels, muffins, breakfast sandwiches, different types of cereal, oatmeal, eggs benedict, different types of fruit, etc. I loved the granola cereal and ate that every day. Sometimes, I got something addition to my cereal and that was good, but my cereal was my favorite. My husband loved the eggs benedict.
Lunch: We ate mostly at Prego Pizza. The pizza was excellent and we both enjoyed it very much. The pizza would have been perfect if it had more sauce but we still enjoyed it. We both also liked the burgers at Trident Grill, but we both opted to eat the pizza since we liked it so much.
We dined once in the dining room on Thursday and had lasagna. My husband had the lasagna on the grand princess during a lunch on his last cruise and loved the lasagna. However, this lasagna was ok and it was very cheesy. My husband was disappointed that it was not as good as he had on the Grand Princess. Although, some friends we met on the ship really liked the Lasagna.
Dinner: Both my husband and I are not seafood eaters but found the food in general to be good or excellent. Our favorite dish was "penne alla arrabbiata" made on Italian night. I am Italian and loved the tomato sauce used in all the pasta dishes we had. We loved the desserts especially the ice cream and soufflés. We had personal choice dining and loved it. We loved the flexibility with it especially since we had dinner at different times. We both do not like to be tied down to certain dinner times.
Fruit: The fruit in the dining rooms and the horizon court was disappointing at times. Sometimes, it was not fully ripe. I was expected the fruit to have more flavor. Anytime, the fruit was prepared with a liquor it was excellent.
Dining Rooms: We ate at the Bernini dining room a couple nights and found the service to be a little slow. Most nights, we ate at the Donatello dining room. The service was excellent in this dining room. Some waiters were very pleasant and friendly. Others were nice, good with the service, but not so outgoing. Since we ate at different times, we had different waiters so we did not really get to know really any of them.
Here is a listing of food choices we made each day and how we rated it: Saturday: Sail Away Dinner Appetizer: Seasonal Fresh Fruit w/ Armagnac- excellent, crisp spring rolls- good Soup: Iced Pina Colada Soup- ok Salad: Watercress, Shredded Carrots & Iceberg Lettuce w/ Balsamic Vinaigrette- good Entrée: Nebraska Prime Rib- excellent Dessert: Hazelnut Ice Cream- excellent, Love Boat Dream- good
Sunday: Gala Dinner Appetizer: Seasonal Fresh Fruit- ok (not all fruit was fully ripe) Soup: Chilled Yogurt & Tamarind Soup sprinkled with Grated Lemon Rind-good Salad: Mixed Salad of Arugula, Endive & Butter Lettuce w/ Low-fat Garlic Chive dressing-not very good dressing, Classic Caesar Salad-good Entrée: Homemade Fresh Pasta Tossed w/ Tomato and Grated Parmesan Cheese- excellent, Tournedos of Beef Tenderloin- ok Dessert: Peppermint ice cream- excellent, Chocolate Hazelnut Soufflé- excellent
Monday: French Dinner (thought it would be on Wednesday): My husband and I are not into French cuisine. So, we went to the Dessert Rose. It was very disappointing and a waste of money for the cover charge. I wish we had gone to Sabbatini's instead. Appetizer: Guacamole & Salsa w/ Chips- Excellent for me, but too spicy for my husband Chili Beef and Cheese Empanadas- not very good, very greasy Entrée: Traditional Chicken Fajitas- ok but lacking in flavor
Tuesday: Chef's Dinner (thought it would be Monday) Appetizer: Pineapple Dotted with Honey-Roasted Pistachios- ok Soup: Chilled Golden Delicious Apple & Peach Soup with Rum- excellent Salad: Classic Caesar Salad- Good Entrée: Grilled Skinless Chicken Breast- ok (dry breast) Grilled Dry Aged Sirloin Steak - Ok Dessert: Vanilla Ice Cream- ok
Wednesday: Italian (thought it would be Tuesday) Appetizer: Prosciutto crudo di parma with sweet cantaloupe melon- good Salad: Baby leaf Spinach with Butter lettuce, bacon, pecorino cheese, & pine nuts w/ Italian dressing- excellent Entrée: penne alla arrabbiata-excellent, fabulous, five stars, Brasato di Manzo al Barolo (beef pot roast)-excellent Dessert: Cassata all Sicilian
Thursday: Commodore Appetizer: Golden Fresh Fruit Collection flavored with Kirsch-excellent Soup: Chilled Strawberry Cream Soup-ok Salad: Boston lettuce, Radicchio and Tomato with Balsamic Vinagrette-good Entrée: Ravioli di Ricotta with Fresh Tomato Sauce- very good (but small portion) Dessert: Hazelnut Ice cream
Friday: Landfall Appetizer: Oranges Steeped in Grant Marnier and Mint- Excellent Soup: can't remember Salad: can't remember Entrée: Prime Rib au Jus- good but fatty Dessert: can't remember
Ship: The ship was beautiful and quite large. I thought it was kept very clean and nicely. Whenever we were at a port and I saw our ship near the other ships I was proud of how beautiful the ship was compared to the others. The pools and decks were beautiful.
Internet Café: The computer is very easy to use. My husband spent around $15.00 for so many minutes. It costs .50 a minute. It was nice to email our parents back home.
Fitness Center: State of the art equipment, enjoyed working out
Ports: St. Marteen, Tuesday: St. Marteen was a bit of a disappointment for me. From the ship, St. Marteen looks beautiful. We took at water taxi for $5.00 was is an entire day pass for each person. That was a great deal for us since we utilized this several times. The water taxi takes you to the town's pier (main shopping area) and back to the ship. We went shopping looking for watches and found the best deal on a gold ladies watch at Grand Jewelers. The watch is valued twice as much here in the states. There are many jewelry shops and much to chose from. I was not impressed with the other store that sold stuff other than jewelry. When you get to the pier, be careful to not allow anyone to talk you into seeing their resort in return for giving you some cash and gifts. One lady tried to talk us into seeing a resort. We nicely listen to her and then we told her that we were not interested she kept persistently trying to talk us into it. She was very annoying. Finally, we got away from her. Supposedly, I hear people like them get people to lock into the time-shares and then they later rip you off. People like this lady are usually located in front of the stores you want to go into. My husband learned to walk faster and ignore these people. After shopping, my husband and I took the water taxi back to the ship and placed our purchases in our cabin. We then ate pizza at Prego to save money and then went off the ship. Next, we decided to try the beach near the town pier. Even though it was a beautiful day and the water was clear. The beach is very rocky which makes the sand uncomfortable to walk on and the beach was not so clean. However, it was convenient to the ship. Regretfully, we did not go to Orient Beach or travel and see the French side.
St. Thomas, Wednesday: I really thought it was a beautiful island. We got up early and went through immigration very smoothly. We took a taxi downtown for $3 per person not including a tip. We got off our taxi and met our private tour guide: Timmy from Timmy's Tours. He explained the tour and we reserved our seat for 12:30. He charged us $20 per person not including a tip. We then had time to walk around to the shops and shop. The shops here were better than at St. Marteen. There is a greater selection for good quality t-shirts, memorabilia, jewelry, watches, and there is more shops there. Again, there were annoying vendors and tour guides asking for your business as your walked the streets near the shops. There weren't as bad as St. Marteen. We ended up getting a great deal on a JVC Digital Camcorder at the Royal Caribbean Store. It was around 11:00 and we decided to bring our purchases back to the ship. We took another taxi from downtown back to the ship for $3 per person not including a tip. We placed our purchases back in our cabin and ate Pizza at Prego Pizzeria to avoid having to buy lunch on the island and spend extra money if we did not have to. We then took another taxi back to downtown (same price as above) to meet our tour guide Timmy.
Timmy was a great guide. He was very knowledgeable with St. Thomas. He took us to some beautiful spots on the island for great pictures. One place was on the Mountain top where the world famous banana daiquiri was created supposedly. We tried it and it was good but nothing spectacular. In this location, we saw one of the most beautiful views I ever seen of Magen's Bay. Then, he took us to Coki Beach. He claimed that it was cleaner and beautiful then Magen's Bay's Beach plus there is no fee to enter the beach. Even though National Geographic rates Magen's Bay as one of the top ten beautiful beaches of the world. The tour guide gave us the option to take us there if we wanted. Coki Beach was very clean and the water was clear. We spent $10 dollars for 2 beach chairs. They were comfortable and worth buying. Coki is a small beach and some of the vendors were very annoying and very untrustworthy. One vendor guy would not stop bothering me to buy stuff and then rudely started talking loudly on his cell phone near husband and I. I felt like he was being a jerk because I did not buy anything so he wanted to be in my way. Due to this reason, I wish we had gone to Magen's Bay beach.
Timmy came to pick us up in a couple hours and took us back to the ship. The entire fee for his tour was $20 per person not including a tip.
Princess Cays, Friday (Private Island owed by Princess Cruises part of the Bahamas) This was our Favorite Island and beach. We took a tender to the island. It was very fast and efficient process getting to and from the island.
The fruit was actually great there and the buffet food was ok. There was burgers, grilled chicken and other barbeque related foods.
The beach was very clean and the water was blue and turquoise in color. It was very clear and breathtaking. The vendors were nice and did not bother you to buy stuff. It was a more comfortable and a safer atmosphere compared to the other beaches we went to. We snorkeled near the red pier and there was a lot of fish there. It was really fun. We rented snorkeling equipment (the Deluxe Package that comes with a fish identification card and fish food). This was worth it because the fish came up whenever you feed them.
The last tender left at 2:30 and we had to get ready to pack and eat dinner.
Debarkment: We were off the ship around 9:00. It was sad coming home.