Just returned from the Canada/Ne England cruise out of NYC with stops in Halifax, St JOhn, Bar Harbor, Boston and Newport RI. This was our second trip on the Golden Princess - previous one was to Eastern Caribbean in jan '03. The processing at the NYC port both embarking and debarking is terrible. Princess said they had no control but they were no where to be found while 2500 folks waited to go through 2, yes two, security metal detectors.
Everyone was unset about it and really set the tone for the week. This was a much older group than the carribean -- so we felt in amny cases we were moving in slow motion. The cabin staff was excellent - Personal Choice seating for dinner did nto work -- since the group was older everyone wanted to eat at 6:30 -- unfortunately if you eat later, the entertainment was not there -- it was geared to an early eating group.
Overall an ok week but we'll try another line beofre returning to Princess -- Food in dining rooms was Excellent and service -- if you have the same wait staff-- is was excellent -- If you are crusing out of NYC be prepared to wait on getting on and off the ship. Allow ample as in extra hours to get to LaGuardia -- we had a 1pm flight and if we didi nto have one of the early disembark tags wouls not have made the flight -- therrible traffic and not enough cabs to accommodate three ships returning to port at the same time .
My Wife and I have just returned from our cruise. Only one word discribes......Wow!!!! Boarding was a breeze, in cabin in less than one hour after parking. Check-in was easy, except there was no difference if you had express check-in. Which really did not matter because it was so fast. Off the the cabin. We had booked guarantee AC. Upgraded to AA. Exactly ten feet from mid-ship elevator. Cabin D411. Cabin was huge, nice size sitting area, frig, 2 tv's and plenty of closet space. Now the balcony....some have said that everyone can see you. So what, we met so many nice people this way. They are even in our video. We thought this was wonderful.
Now it was time to check out all the sites around the ship. Lunch time to the main buffet, it had islands, no flow, plates bumping into each other, food was so-so, kind of bland.....so no more buffet, we like the dining rooms anyway. Touring the ship until our luggage arrived was fun and easy to get used to fast(pick up card at front desk). Luggage came at about @ 2 o'clock, which was great,fastest I've seen. We had put everything away and still had over 2hrs. until we sailed. We then walked around again and even checked out the nightclub 18 stories above the sea. We chose P.C. dining, how wonderful this really is. We ate at 6:30, 8:45, 9:15 or whenever. The food was wonderful, deserts awesome. We choose the Brunch at Sabatini's for Sunday.......Wow.
The service was incredible(thanks Franco), all you can drink...mimosa's anyone! Starting off with king crab legs and shrimp then ending with lobster & shrimp, including Italian of-course, it was just fantastic. Then we made reservations for our Wedding night on Wednesday.
Two days at sea was just enough time to really relax nicely. Never felt rushed, nothing to over crowded. Cruise Director, Graham and his staff were funny and caring, and always smiled and said hello. Watch the morning show on T.V., really lets you know what's going on. So much to do that I think we only did 10% of all the stuff happening. St. Maarten was wonderful. Water taxi was a nice touch. Shopping was great(thanks Anthea). Then we rented a jetski, had a blast.
St. Thomas, our Wedding day on Magen's Bay Beach....We will never forget. The most beautiful place we have ever seen. Thank you Patty and Drew, you made this so fun, enjoyable and relaxing. by far the best place to be married. Then we had an excursion to Buck Island. Sail & snorkel was great. Our vaction just turned into our honeymoon.
We had 9:00p.m. dinner at Sabatini's again. We can't stop talking about this place. After our bottle(thanks William) was served, all of the staff sing happy honeymoon and everyone applauded. Incredible way to end our wedding day. The food just keep coming and coming. Can't wait to eat there on our next cruise.
Entertainment was good, drink were not too over priced, casino was fun, disco just awesome, played bingo and even putt-putt. Another day at sea was relaxing, then on to our final stop of Princess Cays. Fun place, we had the first tender to the island. The funny thing was people were racing to reserve a lounge chair, there were only about 2000 of them on the beach. We found the quite funny. Had a great time meet alot of nice people.
In closing, the Golden Princess can't be missed. Make the time to take this cruise. I think we will go on the Grand next, to do the West. Such a beautiful ship, first class service, everyone smiles. Not even one person working complained, but treated us with respect and good manners. One last thing, Dine at Sabatini's. Rated 10 out of 10. I hope you enjoyed this review.
Dennis & Miriam
This was our 24th cruise 2nd on Princess (on Grand in May 2002). Once again Princess lived up to our expectations. Check in was wonderful. 10 minutes after you arrived (we did our own transportation)we were on our way to our room. We were in category BA room C214. Nice and roomy, with plenty of hanging space and hangers.
The balcony was great, 12 foot deep with 2 loungers 2 chairs and a table. The only draw back was if you went out to the outer 6 foot of the balcony it was like you were in a fish bowl as all the other decks looked down on you. We really like this itinerary (so much we booked the Grand again in June 2003) Two days at sea, then a full day in St. Marteen, a full day in St Thomas then another full day at sea and then a private island. It is really relaxing, no rushing off to a new port every day. The food at the buffet was very good, perhaps the best of all the ships we have been on.
The food in the dining roomwas just OK. Compared to Celebrity or Royal Caribbean it was of much lower quality. The shows were good when we could get into see them. It seems that they would show the good shows in the small showrooms and show a movie in the main one. The Cruise director was great, We had Graham when we were on the Grand and were really happy to see him on the Golden.
If you go on this ship by all means do the personal choice dining. It is really nice not being on a schedule and going when you want. We had a handicap person in our group and this ship and all the personel were great. Getting off the ship was as easy as getting on. Fort Lauderdale is a great place to cruise from. If you have any questions, send me an email.
This was my third cruise, and my second on Princess. We took my two teenage daughters and we all had a great time.
Everyone always asks if people get sea sick on these big ships. I used to say "no way, these ships are too big to feel motion". We left Ft. Lauderdale at 6:00 PM and by 7:15 PM 25% of the people were sick because of rough water in the Florida Straights which only lasted until about 9:30 PM. The rest of the week was calm until the last day. We were supposed to dock at Princess Keys but it was too windy and rough to tender to the island. The rest of the day Friday we spent in 18-25 foot waves and 30 mile an hr winds! Boy did that ship rock! We did not get sick but many people did. I was sitting in the hot tub on the upper deck and I had water from the pool splashing into the hot tub and lawn chairs flying by in the isle. it was great!
I hope I did not scare anyone away from cruising withthis review. We had a great time dispite the screwed up weather. This does not happen very often this time of year but we were just unlucky. Heck it was only 40 degrees in Florida! This type of weather is not normal.
The ship is beautifull, there are grea shows every nite, and the crew is great. They will do anything you ask of them and be happy to do it for you.
Personal Choice dining was good because we could eat any time we wante to. The food in the main dining room was great and you could always have as much as you want.
The selection at the buffet for lunch was not the best, but breakfast and dinner in the buffet were fine. I was a little supprised there was not a cheif making eggs to order on the buffet. Omlets, scrambled eggs, and fried eggs were allo n the buffet line.
I will cruise with princess again in the future.
This was only our third cruise. The first one in 1995 with Hawaiian American and in 200 on RCL Grandeur of The Sea. My husband and I are not into snorkeling or scuba diving or the athletic type. We enjoy cruising for the relaxation.
We flew to Ft. Lauderdale on Saturday, December 7. all went well with the flight and arrived around 11:30 a.m. We took the transfer bus which was already waiting. We we got to the Princess terminal it was very crowded. We did have express check in. but that didn't seem to matter. The lines were long. When I finally got up to the counter the girl saw my express check in and kept apologying to me because I had to wait so long. Apparently too many people don't read signs and were in the wrong line. We probably reached our cabin around 1:45. I do think the next time I cruise that I will fly into port the day before the cruise. It was too stressfull worrying about the weather if flies would be cancelled.
We were on the Emeral Deck, port side, aft, room 718mini suite. I was really happy with our room. It was more than what I expected. What was really nice was the private balcony. I think the highlight of my trip was having coffee every morning on my balcony watching the sun come up. Our cabin stewart Patrick was wonderfull. Always around when we needed him. He kept our cabin spotless. If anyone wants a mini suite on the golden I suggest don't get the ones on the Dolphin deck as there is no roof over your patio and every deck above can look right down on you. OUrs on the Emeral was perfect. There was lots of cupboard and drawer space.
We choose PC Dining. the first night we had to wait 30 minutes for a table for two. After that we decided to dine early at 5:45 and we requested the same section all week. Our two servers, Jenny & Happy were fantastic!! I was concerned about service changing since they eliminated how the tips are given out. But Jenny & Happy treated us like we were their only guests. We found all the food very good. Especially the cold soups were delicious. It amazed me how cooking for 2,600 passangers on board how my food could come out perfect every time. We enjoyed the breakfast and lunch in the Horizon court. Found that they had a big selection. As for the eating we enjoyed everything.
As for the ship. I found it to be spotless. I saw many times crew members washing railing, walls, ect. The ship is beautiful but I do find it was hard to get around on. Too many time have to go up and down steps to get where you wanted to go. The elevators I thought were confusing. You never knew when you got on an elevator which floors it would go to. That was a big complaint I heard most people say.
The entertainment was pretty good. Better than what we had on my two previous cruises.
The week of our cruise I think that probably about 70% the age was over 70. There apparently was a large groups of seniors from Florida on this cruise. Didn't see alot of children but what I did see I can say they were very well behaved.
The main pool area on deck 14 was always crowded. I perfered laying out on deck 16 aft. It was nice and quiet and there was two large hot tubs there.
And yes you do feel the motion on the ship this large. The first night out we hit rough water and the ship rocked and rolled. But after that calm waters and you still felt motion. But it was kind of a nice motion. Like rocking you to sleep at night.
Princess Cays was a nice island. Weather was great, the BBQ they had was good.
We really enjoyed our trip. As for the Princess Cruise Line, I would definately cruise with her again and on the Golden. Also didn't find one miserable staff on board. My husband enjoyed the trip so much he wants me to start looking for another one.
The Man With the Golden Gang Report on the Nov. 23/02 sailing of the Golden Princess
Because of the tradition of wearing my tuxedo on formal nights on a ship, the somewhat weak reference to James Bond in the title seems fitting.
We set out from Ft. Lauderdale, with our group of CruiseMates friends (some who knew each other from previous sailings, some who had never met) onboard the Golden Princess. This was around cruise number 30 for us, with previous cruises on Carnival, Celebrity, Holland America, Princess, Royal Caribbean, Seabourn cruise lines.
The 109,000 ton Golden Princess was built in 2001. She's 951 feet long, and her normal capacity is 2600 passengers, and 1150 crew, and she stretches to 17 Decks high. This itinerary featured 2 days at sea to begin with, then stops at St. Martin, then St Thomas, followed by another day at sea, and ending with a stop at Princess Cays, before returning to Ft. Lauderdale.
Due to the length of this report, for those with short attention spans, I'll offer some quick rankings (1-10) of the various aspects of the cruise, and I'll elaborate later.
Embarkation - 7 Maintenance andCleanliness- public areas - 9 Cabin- 5 Entertainment -7 Entertainment staff-8 Cruise Director and staff -8 Entertainment venues- 4 Dining Rooms - Food - 7 - Service Staff-5 - Head Waiter-3 Casual dining - Food quality and choice -7 - Layout - 6 Personal Choice Dining -1 Ships Layout - 2
If you've read any of my previous ship reports you're very likely to find this particular report takes on a much more negative tone than usual. There is no such thing as a bad cruise, but this one surely does not rise to anywhere near my top 10 list. Now I'll try and explain why.
My Initial Reactions-
I had just sailed this ship 11 months ago, to celebrate New Year's Eve 02. I wasn't in love with it then, so some might ask themselves why I chose to repeat it. Good question! The first thing we noticed was how much less smoothly the embarkation process went in comparison to our previous Princess cruises. Arriving at the pier at approximately the same time as we did 11 months ago, we didn't find ourselves walking up the gangway until an hour later. I believe this was likely due to a delayed debarkation from the previous week's cruise, rather than anything different in the Princess embarkation system.
As had happened on our New Year's cruise, even though we had completed the registration process online, when our documents arrived they were missing the "express check in" sticker that this process is supposed to ensure. This was not really an issue, as express check in lines, on non express check in lines were about the same. It is just an observation that someone is not paying much attention to the process. If they are going to encourage people to participate in the process of registering online, they should at least take steps to be consciences of the results.
Once we walked onboard, rather than being greeted by white gloved staff to take over the handling of our carry-ons, and show us to our cabin, we were herded rather like cattle, to one particular set of elevators. Having been on the ship before, I knew this bank of elevators was the opposite direction from our cabin. I tried to make my way in the correct direction (and I remembered some awfully long hallways), but I was told by a crew member that this was not allowed, and I had to stay with the herd. I'd heard Princess had been using electric prods to keep passengers in line so I obeyed.
This didn't ruin my cruise, by any means, but it also did nothing to make me feel welcome onboard!
We made our way to our mini suite cabin on Dolphin Deck, and though a decent size, and pretty well laid out, I think it's poor use of the English language to use the word suite (mini or otherwise) in reference to these cabins. With the size, and the amenities they're equipped with, they are nothing more than a standard balcony cabin on any of the other major cruise lines recent new builds. No question, very decent cabins, but any semblance to a suite is only in the designers imagination.
What disappointed more, especially knowing this ship is only 2 years old, was the severely stained sofa and chair in the cabin's sitting area, as well as the stained carpets. While I understand ships are heavy use pieces of equipment, these are simple maintenance and housekeeping issues, and not what one would expect from what is considered in "the industry" to be a Premium Cruise Line.
Through the cruise the air-conditioning in our cabin was more of a dream than a reality. Though we kept both thermostats at their lowest settings, the system seemed to work minimally. The cabin was never cool, though admittedly it never got sweltering hot either, so the system must have been working to some limited extent.
The maintenance and upkeep, fortunately seemed much better in the ship's public areas. In those areas, the ship sparkled with cleanliness, as it should.
One other concern about our mini-suite cabin is only applicable to tall people. The mini suites are equipped with bath tubs, which also double as showers. The ceiling in these bath tub enclosures are not very tall. I'm 6'3" tall, the ceiling is about 6'3 ½ inches tall, so after smacking my knuckles on the ceiling a couple of times, I learned the key was to skip washing my armpits.
After the initial peak at our cabin we headed to the Horizon Court for our first of many visits to the feeding frenzy. All over the ship we saw temporary bars set up, and bar waiters roaming around, pushing the all you can drink soda cards (for both children and adults), along with special Coca Cola cooler cups.
I'm somewhat of a sick puppy with the amount of soda I consume, so I purchased the card and cup for $22.50 for the week. The problem--- after making the purchase, finding a bar waiter to refill it was a pretty much impossible task. One basically was required to go to a bar yourself for sodas.
Of course, the obvious reason for this. outside of the original purchase price, there is no gratuity included for the server. So, unfortunately the bar waiters concentrate their efforts on finding people who are ordering drinks which aren't already paid for.
The theory was demonstrated later the first night when I was in the casino playing Blackjack, and ordered a soda from a waitress. 40 minutes passed with no drink before I asked a casino supervisor to expedite the delivery.
The Road to Disrespect-
This cruise was to be my first encounter with Princess's "Personal Choice Dining". "Dine when you want, with whom you want" says their promotion. I spent the entire first day onboard choosing the ladies I wanted to dine with. I told them they'd be required to dine with me because it's my Personal Choice. And also told them what time to meet me at the dining room. All showed their excellent judgement, and didn't show up.
The first night we arrived at one of the PC dining rooms to find a significant number of people in line. Some holding small electronic pagers flashing to indicate their table was ready, and the remainder waiting to be handed a pager. When I requested a table for 8 the Maitre D rather bluntly told me if we want a table for 8 we really should have made a reservation. I wondered silently. though I later thought I should have wondered aloud. If I should have made reservations, why didn't I simply reserve "traditional dining" and not have to bother with this hassle?
Of course, because Princess is so intent on "encouraging" their Personal Choice program, that they can not accommodate all the requests for Traditional.
It took only 20-25 minutes of waiting in a lounge for our pager to light up, and when we returned to the dining room we had to literally push our way through the line up to get to the door and be seated at our table. If they are going to use this pager system they really need to create a separate entrance for those responding to their page. As it operates now, those who are just arriving in search of a table are in the same line as those responding to their page, and trying to enter the dining room. Basically, this creates longer lines than necessary, and people stand in line to request a table and to get to their table when it's available.
Frankly, even with the waiting and line ups, I would have adapted to the situation without complaint for the benefit of the flexibility. However, that flexibility was taken away by the Maitre D almost insisting we make reservations, rather than just showing up at his door. Had we just been allowed to show up at the dining room each evening, make our request, get our pager, and go off to wait the 20-25 minutes having a drink in a lounge, we'd have been perfectly content.
As we went to sleep this first night, I recalled more vividly why I was under whelmed by this ship the first time I sailed her. Plus, with a few new wrinkles adding to my disappointment, my impression after one night onboard was not very flattering.
Outside of our cabin we've noticed the ship is very clean and well maintained. Yet my feelings regarding the layout are still less than enthusiastic, even in comparison to our last cruise on her. I've grown to like her less with experience, rather than more.
On Decks 5,6 & 7, where most of the public rooms, and dining rooms are located, there simply isn't good passenger flow. Our cabin was located on Dolphin Deck (Deck 9) forward. As we went down the forward staircase to go to the dining room on Deck 6, if we forgot, and took the wrong hallway, we found ourselves walking through the centre of the Desert Rose alternate restaurant. We chose not to eat here, but I could see how the hallway traffic would irritate people who were dining here.
Another display of errant design, as far as I'm concerned, is they way the Lido Deck is laid out. Around the two centre swimming pools only one row of lounge chairs really gets any sun. The remaining loungers are under the roofs of the decks above.
Of course more open air loungers are available on the decks above. A reasonable solution in this case, when the winds are low.
On other mega ships we've sailed, the pool decks seem to make better use of the massive amounts of space available rather than create smaller areas, where the end result seems to make these areas feel crowed and congested.
The strong point on this ship was the entertainment. Not necessarily the specific entertainers, but the various number of entertainment venues.
And most evenings the scheduled entertainment in each is varied and interesting. But, even this area suffers somewhat from poor design. The Promenade bar featured a talented and popular piano player. However the bar is quite small, over striving for that "intimate feeling". So, many times the overflow crowd enjoying the piano player were left standing in the hallway. This fellow was drawing such big crowds that one night they enlarged his venue by moving him down to the bottom floor of the atrium, and they filled the atrium with conference centre style stacking chairs. It accommodated the larger crowds, but not in the comfort of a nice lounge.
The Princess Theatre is too small for a ship this size as well, and for the more popular shows, people either stood in the aisles, or were turned away.
Perhaps the most glaring shortcoming in designs are the areas immediately prior to entering the Donnatello and Canatello Dining Rooms. The latter is located on Deck 6 at the stern, and one can only get there from the deck above. This problem is exaggerated further by the fact there is virtually no room outside of the dining room for people to gather, causing quite a log jam of passengers prior to dinner seating.
The Donnatello dining room is located on Deck 6, amidships, but also suffers from the lack of an area for passengers to congregate, or meet for a drink. Immediately outside of the entrance to this dining room are the ship's shops.
Considering the size of this ship, it seems to have been a glaring oversight not to have some sort of lounges immediately next to the dining rooms, so passengers could meet for pre dinner drinks, or wait for table space to open in the dining rooms. This would be especially helpful in servicing PC passengers.
The low ceilings in all the dining rooms created a high noise level as well. It was sometimes difficult to carry on normal dinner conversation without yelling.
Though the wait staff in the dining rooms was very friendly, the service was spotty. On a number of occasions our orders weren't even taken until 30 - 40 minutes after we were seated. They were however good about replenishing the bread baskets we were furiously attacking while waiting. During the cruise we tried 5 different dining room service teams. While some were fun to joke around with, none provided excellent service.
I'm not a drinker, but on a couple of occasions tablemates ordered wine with dinner, and asked for recommendations from the staff. Princess no longer employs Sommeliers, and the staff we encountered certainly had limited knowledge of the products they were selling. For fun, I asked one if a particular wine had a cork or screw top. The response. I'll go ask.
Basically this ship seems to be suffering from a lack of attention to detail when it comes to passenger services. No major disasters to be sure, but we felt somewhat bombarded with mishandling of so many little things. They just seemed to keep adding up, to the point where viewed totally became quite irritating.
We had a wonderful time, and a fun cruise, because we were with some wonderful people from CruiseMates. However, I have to say I don't believe Princess had a lot to do with this, and during the course of the cruise earned a bit of disrespect from this passenger.
Princess Cruise Line, perhaps more than any cruise line, seems to get a large percentage of repeat passengers, and they seem almost unusually devoted and loyal to Princess. Personally, I have to question what it is they see in it, that I'm missing.
Many of them seem to love the Grand Class ships, and after my 3rd sailing on this class of ship, I'm still shaking my head, wondering why.
Princess, Celebrity, and Holland America are considered Premium brands. In my never so humble opinion, Princess has fallen behind, and there is a significant gap between Princess and the other two.
I think Princess has a good thought in operating the Horizon Court 24/7, rather than midnight buffets. The way the buffets are set up is a bit odd though. During busy times stepping into the buffet area can feel like a Moj Pit for old people. ( I have to find a young person to tell me how to spell that, and none is handy).
It can be fun pushing smaller people around at the buffet, as there are no organized lines. You simply zig zag in and out of whatever stations you're interested in.
Selection is wide and varied. Some of the variations meet with great success, some not so.. I was surprised to see there was no station available for fresh made to order omelettes or eggs for breakfast as is so common on other lines. Here they had eggs cooked daily in almost all manner desirable, but they all suffered badly from chaffing dish syndrome. The buffet also managed to serve daily some of the worst French toast and pancakes I've had at sea.
Fortunately I'm not a big breakfast person. 80 cups of coffee and I'm set for the day. If breakfast is an important meal for you, I suggest giving the dining room a try.
I'm uncertain if Princess has changed their pizza recipe since we last sailed this ship in January, but the pizza was ugly. Soggy thin crust. doesn't it sound delicious?
Princess lunch buffets have absolutely the best salad selections of all the lines we've sailed. If you're a salad person, it's very easy to have a full lunch on their salad choices.
Dining room food was mostly quite good. A couple of hit and miss items, but mostly satisfying. If it came with good service, it would have tasted that much better.
I'm certain there were others on this sailing, who could have thought this cruise was near to perfect. And they wouldn't be wrong. There is a simple explanation.it's the reason there are many different cruise lines. You can't make all the people happy all the time, and on this trip, I get to come home and be a whiner. Something different for me, but I'm rather enjoying "putting it all down" on paper.
This was our 2nd cruise on Princess. Our first was on the Dawn. We have also been on the Celebrity Millenium.
Our overall experience on the Golden was excellent. The ship was big and beautiful. The trickiest part was learning the way to the dining room, and after a day or so we didn't have too much trouble with that.
Embarkation: We got to the ship at about 11:30 AM. We had express check in. There was only 1 Express line open at that time, but the lines were pretty short. The line to go through the security scanner was short until I went through it. My husband got held up on the other side for about 20 minutes as they tried to clear out the line upstairs from early arrivals. This may have been due to a delay in the disembarkation process. Once onboard we were directed to the elevator to go up to our room.
Cabin: We had a mini suite in the middle of the ship on the Dolphin deck. Our room was very clean and about what we had expected. We liked the set up on thePrincess Dawn a little better. The bathroom on the Golden was small in comparison. Design and decor were lacking in the bathroom. The balcony was exposed to balconies above. We would prefer a private balcony, but it wasn't a real problem.
Entertainment: Overall I would say the entertainment was fair. The comedians were the biggest disappointment for us. The Broadway shows were a little better. The best show for me was when the Cruise Director and his staff put on a little revue. The talent show on the last night by the passengers was also a lot of fun.
Food: The food was very good. We had the Early Traditional Seating. The first night we ate in the Personal Choice Dining because there had been a mix up. That was straightened out by the 2nd night. I enjoyed the Cruisemates at the table in Personal choice, but I didn't care for the atmosphere in the dining room. Wait staff was busy changing tables, rolling in bigger tabletops and it was just noisy in general. I was glad to go back to traditional seating. There was some confusion in getting us back into the traditional seating, but I believe it was just a misunderstanding between me and the Maitre De. I do believe he did his best to accommodate my request.
Specialty Restaurant: Sabatini's We ate one meal at this restaurant. The service was excellent. The food seemed to be never ending. The best part was sampling a little bit of almost everything. I would say some things were outstanding and others just average. We would definitely dine there again.
Horizon Court: The food at the Horizon court was just fair. We did enjoy the salad at lunch time, but ate in the main dining room for breakfast and evening meals. I didn't like the set up and traffic flow at the buffet. It was very confusing and difficult to get to things at busy times. They need to create some kind of organized traffic flow pattern.
We really did have a wonderful time even with the little annoyances, and would go on this ship in the future. The layout isn't the best, but it really didn't interfere with our enjoyment. We were satisfied with the service on Princess, but we still think that Celebrity does a better job in that department.
Golden Princess Canada/New England September 28- October 5, 2002
With cruise prices falling, we decided to watch the leaves drop from the decks of the Golden Princess.
Our weeklong vacation was very nice and we have very little to complain about. But maybe after six cruises the "wow" factor has become more elusive.
The Golden was absolutely spotless. There's no debate; the Princess ships are beautiful. Polished marble, chrome and wood fill the public areas. As music fills the atrium, it's easy to forget you are on a ship in the ocean and not in a land locked luxury hotel.
Princess has trained its staff well to send passengers subliminal messages that everything about the cruise is "excellent." During the week we were told to have an "excellent day," that beef was an "excellent choice and to be sure to mark "excellent" on our survey forms. Webster's defines "excellent" as being of the highest and finest quality." The current prices and deals are certainly excellent. But while the quality of the food, service and overall cruise experience are high, none of it was the highest or the finest.
Our original plan was to arrive in NewYork, rush to the ship to drop luggage and eat, and then meet a friend to see ground zero. We arrived at the pier and found a giant crowd lined up to board. by 1:45 we were not even close to the boarding area. We got out of the line and grabbed a taxi and headed to the financial district (this turned out to be an "excellent" decision). We found a small deli behind the Marriott and had a small bite to eat (we were booked for early seating and would eat again in four hours). The deli happened to be at a corner that was surrounded by police, fire and other emergency personnel. We discovered a small building across the street from the deli was going to be knocked down because of the damage it sustained in the September 11th attacks. We saw a large crack running down the façade of the old structure much like what you've no doubt seen on TV following an earthquake. We finally had to leave before the demolition because time was running out and we wanted to see ground zero.
A friend of ours made arrangements for us to go into a restricted area to see ground zero. Words can not even begin to describe the sadness that still hangs over the land where the towers stood. One year later and crowds still jam around the fence that surrounds the site. Most people stood silently and looked in disbelief. A few days earlier I was in the doctor's office and saw the People magazine featuring all the widows who had given birth to a child since the tragedy. Being a father of a two-year-old, and expecting another in a few months, I couldn't read the article. Anger rose up in me when I saw some venders hawking t- shirts, postcards and snow globes within feet of the fence. But a look at my watch made me realize we had to find a taxi fast.
We arrived back at the pier at 4:28 and found no lines. In fact they had already removed the check- in computers. We were ushered on board and taken to the Purser's desk and given our cruise cards. The lady behind the desk welcomed us on board and told us dinner was open seating at any of the restaurants the first night. This turned out to be wrong and created a bit of a hassle later on.
Cabin Steward Gustov greeted us when we arrived in our two cabins and we asked that the twin beds be put together in one of the cabins. We also asked for guardrails for the 2-year old's bed. We asked Gustov about those rails twice, but I'm not sure he understood. Frankly, I don't even know if they exist, even though Gustov said they did. We asked for terry robes and received them the next night. We brought a case of Caffeine-free Coca- Cola since my pregnant wife is supposed to limit caffeine and put the cans in the mini- refrigerator. This was the first time we brought our own drinks on board a cruise. The Coke card was not an option because of the caffeine factor. The Coca-Cola refillable containers appear to be very thin and I would imagine you'd have to get it refilled two or three times to equal the amount of Coke in one can.
One of the highlights of the cruise was the sail- away from New York past the Statue of Liberty. What a shame the ship can't go slower, because the sights are awesome. Cruise Director John Anderson provided interesting information about the Hudson Bay area. pointing out the old pier where the Titanic was supposed to have docked and showed where the World Trade Centers once stood. The sun was setting behind Liberty and a fire boat sprayed water into the air. These were the Kodak moments of a lifetime. Some passengers enjoyed the view of New York from the comfort of one of the hot tubs on deck! We tried to find places to avoid the wind.
After the wonderful sail-away, we thought we'd go to dinner. We went to the Donatello Dining room, which is usually reserved for Personal Choice dining. We were told we had to go to our assigned dining room (Canaletto). Our dining room happened to be hard to find. Once we found it, we were told we were too late, that we should have been there at 6:30. They sent us back to the first dining room. I asked that they call and tell them we were being sent back. Back at the first dining room, they tried turning us away again and apparently had not received the call to allow us to eat. I suggested they call the other dining room and work it out with each other and then tell me where to go. We were seated.
During our week we found the food better on the Golden than on the Dawn. While they had the same dinner menus, we thought the presentation and taste was much better on the Golden. My wife hates buffets, but enjoyed the Horizon Court's breakfast. Maybe it was our imagination, but there seemed to be more variety than on the Dawn. For example, there were two or three different kinds of hash browns every morning. Our favorites were the deep fried ones like you find at McDonald's. It's funny how a little thing like hash browns can change your whole perception (all of a sudden my wife looked forward to the Horizon!). We only encountered lines during breakfast one morning-in Newport. It seemed that everyone on the ship decided to eat breakfast at the same time that day. The staff was clearly working hard to catch up. One morning I heard one of the kitchen staff say something about an egg beater omelet, so I wondered if anyone could order an omelet. I asked for a special omelet (bacon and cheese) and it was cheerfully made. The chef on the Golden deserves credit for keeping the buffet food fresh and hot. not always an easy task on a buffet. The area where Princess continues to fall short remains desserts. especially on the buffet. Each day at lunch we found a selection of tarts, filled with custard and topped with blueberries, strawberries or a number of other fruits. A tray of very hard chocolate cookies was always there, along with a tray of crunchy (but not hard) chocolate chip cookies. A few days there were a few triangle slices of sheet cakes. Why not "recycle" dining room desserts from the previous night?
Our lunches were usually a combination of pizza and buffet offerings. We'd eat at a table on the deck between the Horizon Court and the Pizza & Grill counters by the pool. We'd each get what we wanted from the various venues and eat together. Pizza was a hit with everyone. The cheeseburgers were quite good-thick and moist with a nice grill flavor. The salad bar in the Horizon was very complete and hit the spot during the last couple of days.
Can I just make a note about drinks? The drink stations offered iced tea and coffee. They were often out of ice. Why can't Princess offer juice or lemonade like Holland America? The ice tea is the horrible dispenser kind (Forgive me, I'm southern-and if it's not sweetened with sugar just after it's "brewed" then forget it!). Half way through the cruise, the morning juice selection dwindled down to only orange or grapefruit juice. Guava, cranberry and others were available in the main dining room.
A rare sight is becoming less rare in the main dining rooms-waitresses. Our waitress, Virginia from Romania, was very elegant and tried her best to please us. We actually became more amused as the week went on by the attention she paid to my wife. We could not figure out if the attention came because my wife is pregnant or if it was a cultural thing. In some countries the woman is "really" the one in charge of family situations. Virginia would ask me how I liked my food, but would look at my wife to verify my response. She would check with my wife to find out what to bring "the kid (our 2-year old son)." If I ordered something for him, she would glance at my wife to make sure it was ok. Virginia worried when my wife ordered pasta as the entree. Apparently she thought pasta was more appropriate as a side dish. Our complaint in the dining room was over the details. We've been spoiled on previous cruises by staff members who would think of the details before we did... such as sour cream for the potato or cranberry sauce for the turkey. These lapses certainly did not stop us from enjoying the food.
But I will complain about the lack of drinks brought to the table. The first three nights we had to ask for iced tea. It would be brought to the table during the entree course. Once the glass was empty-that was it. We had to ask for refills every night. It wasn't until the last night that we received tea at the beginning of our meal. Again, once you finished the tea-you had to ask for more or drink water. And on the subject, another very minor detail: The slice of lemon was always at the bottom of the glass. You had to fish it out if you wanted to squeeze it or before you added sugar.
There is a lot of discussion about Personal Choice Dining. It should be noted that in the traditional dining room we were offered Bananas Foster, Cherries Jubilee as well as Baked Alaska. It is my understanding those items are not offered in the Personal Choice Dining Rooms.
Oh yes, about dress. I was one of a handful of men wearing a tux. I happen to have one of those cheap $100 tuxedos from a manufacturer outlet (and who would know? So what if something gets spilled on it?). Very few long dresses or sequin tops on the ladies. On "resort casual" nights, I didn't see a single man wearing a jacket, so save the suitcase space!
Our cabins were on the Caribe deck (C711 & C717). Now that we bring a child and mother-in- law with us, we've found it's so much cheaper to go with two inside cabins. Yes, we'd like to return to the outside one day, but since they charge for a 2-year old and mother-in-law, we might as well get two cabins and have the extra space (and EXTRA BATHROOM!). Naps go so much easier when toddler is in a dark room next door and adults can talk or watch TV in the next cabin. In all honesty, now that we've tried inside, we really don't mind them at all. Our cabins in theory can hold four people. They had pull-down beds on the walls for two extra passengers. that meant the closets were extra large. These cabins had no tubs but did come with small refrigerators. We tried asking for raspberries for the fruit bowl, but never received them. We appreciated the refilled ice bucket every day, but wondered why our used glasses were never replaced. Our two-year-old sleeps in a "big" bed at home with side rails. We asked our cabin steward if rails existed and he said yes, but they never appeared. We just pushed the chair up to his bed. This was our second Princess cruise and we noted something this time that we didn't notice before-the amount of paper delivered to our cabin each day. We received flyers for photo specials, for inch of gold, for clearance sales, collectible sales and of course ever present art auctions. Each was in addition to the daily newsletter, The Princess Patter, which included ads for everything we got separate flyers about. We're normally not bothered by this kind of thing, but noticed what seemed to be a very excessive amount.
On the sea day, my wife and mother-in-law took our son to the children's room. He's too young to actually enroll in the program, but he could play as long as an adult stayed with him. He loved it. It also gave us an up-close look at the kinds of things they offer. We now understand why everyone raves about the children's programs on these ships. They had toys and crafts and it all appeared very alluring to one girl who couldn't participate. Her parents had not enrolled her and she came by several times while my son played. The staff gave her the paperwork to take to her parents but apparently they never filled it out. We saw the child wandering the ship several times during the week all alone. It broke our hearts. We also discovered the children's pool and outdoor play area. Because of the cool weather, the children stayed inside. But it was not hard to imagine how the area would be packed with little ones on warmer days. The arcade was huge and I'm sure gets plenty of business when school is out.
We tried to catch several movies during the week. They are shown in the Princess Theatre in the afternoons. I saw Spiderman on our sea day, but missed the others because we were always on shore. We couldn't help but to compare to Holland America. They have separate movie theatres and so films can be show in the evenings as well. When on HAL, we would go to the main stage shows and then take in a movie. With a small child and work schedules, we never get to see movies anymore. There is also no popcorn like on HAL.
There is no doubt about it-Princess spends money to mount its main stage production shows. It's amazing to see the high energy dance steps on a moving ship. "Lights, Camera, Action" is fast and has a bit of an edge to it. I realize Princess is trying to attract younger cruisers to these musical reviews, but I think they're trying a bit to too hard to be "hip." We're in our 30's and wish they had thrown in a few more musical numbers that "everybody" would have identified with. The show, "Words and Music" is less flashy and was indeed "excellent!" This show allows the vocalists to really show off their talent. We actually went to see this show on two nights because we enjoyed it so much. There is also a 50's-style show that was very good and would be entertaining for every age group-kids and adults.
Just about anywhere you go on the Golden you can find live music. Our two-year old son seemed to especially enjoy the live musicians. In fact, he wasn't pleased at all when we tried to move him away from the music. Piano players, string quartets, jazz bands and others could be found in the lounges, by the pools and in the atrium. Our regret was not being able to spend more time enjoying their talents. It's so hard to do everything! We enjoyed our quick dance on night.
Photographers were everywhere. Portable portrait studios were set up in so many different locations we lost count-and this was not just on formal nights. This brings me to a general comment. The entire ship seems cheapened by the continuous hawking. the atrium is crowded with portrait photographers, boutique sale tables and art auction displays. The ship is really beautiful; too bad you can't see it without the clutter.
The Golden really does have it all. The gym was filled with the latest exercise equipment and we REALLY had every intention of using it! The indoor pool is more than just a pool. it has wonderful atmosphere with upscale lounge chairs, tables and live music.
Dilemma for the next cruise: how to watch the sail away from each port from Skywalker's Lounge. This venue is located above the sea and offers the BEST views. The problem is the ship normally leaves each port between 5 and 6 o'clock. So if you have early traditional seating you miss out. If you have Personal Choice you can watch the sail away, but then you probably wouldn't finish dinner before the early shows (8:30 curtain, but you MUST get there early to get a seat). The late shows are too late after a full day of excursions.
Speaking of excursions.. Since the Canada/New England season is so short, I will not go into detail.
Halifax - We rented a car from Hertz. They have a pickup service at the ship, but we decided to walk along the waterfront to the Casino Hotel where the car pickup point is located (approx 15 walk). We enjoyed the walk and the ability to get an up-close look at some of the boats and buildings along the way. We drove to Peggy's Cove and took pictures. Our full size car was roughly $34 and Hertz provided written directions (easy!). After snapping plenty of pictures at Peggy's Cove, we went to the nearby memorial for the Swiss Air plane crash. It's a beautiful view. We then drove through several fishing villages and couldn't find a place to eat, so we ended up back in Halifax and then decided to eat lunch on the ship. After lunch we drove around Halifax and discovered the Public Gardens. All of the flowers were still in bloom! We walked around the park while mother-in-law stayed in the car with sleeping child. Back in the car, we followed a walking tour route as quickly as we could. We stopped at a few places for one of us to hop out and take a picture. We rushed back to the hotel to drop off the car and got back to the ship with about 15- minutes to spare before they pulled the gangway.
Saint John - A pleasant surprise. The locals were VERY friendly, giving each woman a fresh rose and each man a lapel pin. Throughout the day, strangers went out of their way to welcome us. We spent the morning following a walking tour map from the visitor's center. The map provided some information but would have liked to have "heard" more from a guide (not sure though if a two year old would agree). Stopped by the restored general store and schoolhouse. There are a lot of hills in Saint John, so expect to get some exercise. We walked through the Victorian house area as well as through some commercial areas. We had no idea Saint John would be so fun. Went back to the ship for lunch and then more walking to visit the old market (a quick peek is all you need because it's mostly fresh meat and vegetables) and simply wandered around.
Bar Harbor - The AAA Tourbook and Chamber recommended Acadia National Park tour via the local company (Acadia National Park Tours). The bus pickup is about a 5-minute walk from the tender pier. Our tour was $10 ($8 with AAA discount) in a school bus without air conditioning. Princess sponsored excursion was $24 in a tour bus. The tour stops at the famous tea house inside the park for you to try some famous local root beer. A few yards away from the tea house is the horse gate that's featured in the opening segment of Martha Stewart's TV show (she has a home nearby). After lunch on the ship our son and his grandmother went to the cabin for naps (which one needed it the most?) and my wife and I went shopping in Bar Harbor. We found some awesome deals at the Timberland outlet store. Almost every store had huge sales going on because apparently the town closes down for the winter, so stores wanted to get rid of their merchandise. We decided not to try the lobster ice cream.
Boston - My favorite day! We met a cousin who took us on a short car tour of Boston so we could get a few pictures of some historical sites. Then we drove to her home near Walden Pond. The leaves were starting to turn. This was the day we enjoyed the must-have lobster rolls and clam chowder. She drove us through some amazing towns - Lexington and Concorde. We passed by the North Bridge, the Colonial Inn where George Washington stayed and more.
Newport - This was the port where we really needed an extra day. House tours and little boys do not mix well. We decided to only go inside one mansion-Rough Pointe, the home of Doris Duke. A van picks you up at the visitor center (near the tender port) and then takes you back. The unique thing about her house is the fact that everything inside was actually hers and in the house when she died. Some of the other mansions in Newport are full of reproductions and antiques that have been brought in to illustrate the Gilded Age. Most of the families moved their possessions or sold them over the years before the houses became tourist attractions. We did some of the cliff walk by ourselves (it's free and open to anyone), however we would have liked to have had a guide to tell us about the mansions we passed. When you have a family, you skip the guide and save the money the ship would have charged. The famous Vanderbilt mansion, The Breakers, was covered in scaffolding. Many of the mansions were sold by the families in the 60's and early 70's because the heirs couldn't afford the upkeep. The local collage now owns many of the mansions and uses them for classroom and dorm space. The Preservation Society owns the mansions that are open to the public. A daily trolley pass is $5. It takes you through the town and down Belview Avenue where all the mansions are located. The pass allows you to get on and off as much as you would like.
Back on Board our waitress informed us it would be very helpful to her if we marked "excellent" on our comment forms. I would like to find out more about how the company evaluates their staff based on passenger comment forms. Getting off the Golden is a slow process. I don't quite understand why so many people were all dressed and sitting in the lounges an hour and a half before the disembarking procedure was to begin. Why not eat a slow breakfast in the dining room. read a magazine or book?
While we waited to get off, we noticed a fairly large number of crew members getting off the ship with bicycles. We wonder where they store those things. I guess we had our shore excursion time, now it was the crew's turn in New York before the next group of passengers arrived later that afternoon.
We hurried to our cab and to the airport saying "next time" we'll be sure to visit the gym, play the games on deck, read a book, see more movies, attend the cooking demonstration, walk the deck and go swimming. But right now, we just need to rest from our vacation.
The Golden Princess's Grand Meditteranean cruise was the best cruise I have ever been on. The ship was great with loads of things to do (Miniature Golf, Paddle Tennis, and Basketball). I have heard people say that they had to wait for long amounts of time for Personal Choice dining. On my cruise, i was with a group of 12 and we had personal choice dining. The reason we chose it was so we could have dinner at 6:30 instead of at 6:00.
This enabled us to have some extra time every night after our tours. So my advice for personal choice dining is to have a reserved time every night and you will be able to cruise right in. In my opinion, the only functional purpose of Personal Choice dining, is to eat dinner at a different time than the normal dining room. Overall, this is the best cruise I have every been on.
My husband,myself and my parents were on the Golden Princess the week of April 13, 2002. We had a fantastic time. We were on the Sun Princess 5 years ago with our whole family for my wedding and really enjoyed the ship and the crew and decided to try Princess again. The Golden is a magnificent ship. The service and the food was excellent and the rooms were very spacious. I liked that there was a laundry room just down the hall. Jose our steward was excellent, he would wait until we left the room, then cleaned it and if we came back half an hour later it was done. It's true there were never enough chairs around the pools but that happens with every ship I have been on or Island resorts too.
We had a excellent time and would sail Princess again. My parents have been on 19 cruises and enjoyed themselves too. Had excellent weather too! I would recommend getting the soft drink sticker, $17.50 US for unlimited soft drinks. I'm from Toronto, Canada, had great rates for cruise only. Went on two shore excursions, Regatta Racing inSt. Martin and Helicopter ride in St. Thomas. Worth the money