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Old October 25th, 2001, 02:08 PM
Ernie
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Default GOLDEN PRINCESS Review - Transatlantic

GOLDEN PRINCESS
September 25, 2001 - October 10, 2001
15 Day Transatlantic Voyage

Ports: Barcelona, Marseille, Monte Carlo, Livorno (Florence), Civitavecchia
(Rome), Lisbon, Ponta Delgada (Azores), Ft. Lauderdale

Senior Officers:
Captain Andy Proctor
Bernard Warner (from
Lisbon)
Staff Captain Stefano Ravera
Passenger Services Director Nigel Stewart
Cruise Director Alastair Greener

Cabin: D736 (St. Tropez Suite)

Cruise Pictures: Go to http://www.cruise-addicts.com/picturepost/
Click on "GOLDEN PRINCESS Transatlantic" from the drop down menu

Background: 35 year old male from Atlanta, GA

Past Cruises: 45 total including..Holland America, NCL, Celebrity,
Princess, Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Premier, Sitmar, Home Lines, Royal
Viking Line, Dolphin, Costa, Chandris, Eastern Steamship Line

Next Cruises: CARNIVAL PRIDE 1/9/2002....SEVEN SEAS MARINER 6/6/2002

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PRE-CRUISE A+
Princess Cruises does an excellent job with pre-cruise documentation,
including shore excursions, a cruise answer book, and other pertinent
information. This package is sent out approximately 60 days prior cruise
and is a nice way to get geared up for the upcoming trip!

Princess allows you to pre-book shore excursions online. In addition, you
may enter all your pre-cruise documentation information online (including
credit card info for onboard purchases) by going to www.princess.com .
Princess is currently the only cruise line which allows you to pre-enter all
this information. You may also look at your booking online to check on
dining and cabin assignments. The great thing is that Princess allows you
to do this regardless of who you booked through, so long as you have the
correct booking number and name. Other cruise lines such as Carnival will
only let you view the booking if you booked it directly through them on
their website.

The actual tickets arrived about three weeks prior to sailing. They are in
a ticket-book style with coupons rather than paper tickets. This seems to
be the norm for most major cruise lines these days. Since I had already
entered my personal information online, everything on the immigration and
credit card coupons was already filled out for me. Princess calls this
feature "express check-in".


EMBARKATION A
We flew into Barcelona the day of the ship's departure. We took a Delta
flight from Atlanta to Madrid, then a short flight on AirEuropa from Madrid
to Barcelona. We were in BusinessElite on Delta, which truly made the
flight enjoyable. We befriended one of the flight attendants who supplied
us with a bag full of liquor upon deplaning. Nice touch! The amenity kits
in BusinessElite were great. They are in a "period style" tin with the old
Delta logo embossed on the front. The AirEuropa flight was also pleasant,
and a brief service was provided on the 45 minute flight. Upon arrival in
Barcelona, we easily claimed our luggage and caught a cab to the ship.

The actual embarkation was painless. We handed over our forms and ticket
along with a credit card and were issued our cruise card (cabin key and ID).
Our picture was taken for the A-Pass security system, and a second picture
by the photographers. We were onboard GOLDEN PRINCESS within minutes of
checking in. While Princess does not offer an escort to your cabin, they do
position staff throughout the ship to offer directions.


CABIN A+
The St. Tropez suite is located all the way aft on Dolphin Deck (Port Side).
I loved the suite and location. The suite consisted of a marble entry,
living room, bedroom, walk-in closet, mini-bar area with sink, two TV's, and
a marble bath in two sections (green marble sink and toilette in one room,
Jacuzzi tub and glass enclosed shower in another room). Of course the best
part was the balcony. It was quite large and contained all teak furniture.
A table and four chairs along with two loungers and cushions. We made great
use of the balcony and suite, entertaining guests with no less than four
parties during the voyage. I loved the aft view of the wake, especially at
high speeds, which was the case many times during this cruise.

There was a fully stocked bar upon arrival (not replenished) and two flower
arrangements from the ships staff (Captain and Passenger Services Director).
Robes and terry cloth slippers were provided, as were upgraded linens and
towels. I loved the huge ribbed white towels which were quite luxurious.
Every night at 5pm, a fine selection of hot and cold canapés were delivered
to the cabin. This extra service was not because we were in a suite, but
because we were placed on the ship's VIP list thanks to a friend of mine
that works in the Purser's Office.

A nice touch in the corridors are glass mail slots outside each cabin.
They use these to deliver the Princess Patter (daily activity sheet) and any
other mail to your cabin. It's a lot better than slipping things under your
door, and it must save the backs of the poor delivery personnel. Part of
this device includes a place for your name, which is printed onboard for
every passenger and placed in the slot. Very nice touch Princess Cruises!


THE SHIP B
GOLDEN PRINCESS is a lovely ship, although not my favorite in terms of décor
or layout. The ship is very low key, and nothing stands out that could be
considered garish or over the top. The ship is almost too mainstream or
cutsy for my liking. The artwork is probably a bit below average although I
'm no connoisseur. All the materials used are first rate, but certainly no
chances were taken on the design. You might be wondering what type of décor
I prefer, well, Celebrity Cruises is more my style in this department. They
are a little more daring and unique in their artwork and décor. They take a
few chances and might be considered a bit eclectic. I also prefer the large
two and three story dining rooms offered on Celebrity and Royal Caribbean.
Princess is trying to be intimate even with large ships, and they succeed at
this but at some cost. For example, the three dining rooms on GOLDEN
PRINCESS are virtually identical and are largely forgettable in terms of
décor.

There are some areas that stand out, and they include all four pool areas
which are exceptional in function and design. Of course Princess uses fresh
water in the pools and they are open 24 hours. I certainly enjoyed this
feature which I think is unique to Princess.

Skywalkers is the disco (or shopping cart handle from the outside of the
ship) and serves it purpose well. I would rate it as one of the best night
clubs afloat and we had great fun in this lounge. Another bar which we
enjoyed every night around 8pm is the Wheelhouse. All new Princess ships
offer this bar, which is nautical in theme and includes music and dancing.

The Lotus Spa/Gym was an area I frequented every day except for a day or
two. I like to work out and the gym was fairly well equipped. The cardio
equipment was by StarTrek and was quite good. Of course there were free
weights and resistance machines that were first rate. The gym itself
probably needs to be larger, especially for cruises in the Caribbean, and
that is something that will be addressed on the new STAR PRINCESS. Just
outside the spa area is the "swim against the current" pool, which really
works, and separate men's and women's saunas and steam rooms. I enjoyed
speaking with the trainers (especially Corey from New Zealand) as these guys
were in incredible shape and really gave me some good tips. The spa area is
run by the infamous Steiners, and I did not partake in any of their
services. There were two supervisors onboard from Steiner's Head Office who
were trying to boost sales and get the spa team onboard into high gear.
Apparently this team was not even close to meeting their sales goals. For
those of you familiar with Steiners, you know how aggressive they can be.

The rest of the ship is also lovely but nothing really strikes out in my
mind. My previous cruise was onboard RADIANCE OF THE SEAS in May, so many things about that ship were fresh in my mind. The RADIANCE had a lot of the "WOW" factor which the GOLDEN does not.

For those of you familiar with GRAND PRINCESS, there are some differences
between these two sister ships. They include:

Atrium - the atrium on GOLDEN is much more open and bright, with glass
staircases

Mid-ship Staircase - this staircase is actually a crew staircase on the
GRAND
PRINCESS (although it is scheduled for refurbishment to a passenger
staircase)

Gym/spa - The juice bar is removed and the aerobics area enlarged.

Wedding Chapel / AOL Internet Café - on the GOLDEN, the wedding chapel is
located where the F/X Limelight studio is on the GRAND and the AOL Café has
been greatly enlarged. The F/X Studio has been moved adjacent to the video
games on Deck 15 aft.

Promenade Deck - Unfortunately on GOLDEN, this area has a rubberized surface
instead of teak as on GRAND PRINCESS

Most other areas are identical between the two ships. More extensive
modifications will be made to the next sister in the series, STAR PRINCESS.
On this ship, the spa will be greatly expanded offering far more services by
moving the kids and teens area to Deck 15 aft.

Of course everything on the ship was basically new, and was kept in pristine
condition. Painting, varnishing, carpet cleaning and so forth seemed to be
a round the clock operation.


FOOD B-
I'm not going to get too in depth about food, because it's so subjective.
Suffice it to say, no one should starve onboard the GOLDEN PRINCESS. Food
was literally available 24 hours a day. I've found food to be pretty much
equal in quality and variety on all the major cruise lines I've recently
sailed. When serving 3000+ passengers, there is only so much you can do.

I never ate breakfast or lunch in the dining room, always opting for room
service and my far more scenic balcony, or the Horizon Court / Trident
Grill. Breakfast was the usual and you could request made to order omelets,
pancakes and French toast even in the Horizon Court. In most cases I had
lunch from the Trident Grill. Here you could order hot dogs, hamburgers,
grilled chicken and so forth. Everything was made to order and fairly
fresh. I did nickname the server in the Trident Grill "soup nazi". For
those of you that watch Seinfield, you will understand. He was probably the
only unfriendly crew member I encountered on the entire ship.

Dinners were quite good for the most part. I was surprised to see so many
repeated items on the menu during this 15 day cruise. We opted for Personal
Choice dining and I'm glad we did. I loved being able to show up at the
dining room at anytime and be seated. In fact, on the second night of the
cruise we sat in a section of the Donatello Dining Room with exceptional
service. The waiters were Darius and Kataryna, and we decided to sit in
their section every night. This was never a problem and the Maitre d' knew
exactly where to sit us the minute we walked in. Some nights we ate alone,
other nights with new friends that we asked to join us. It really worked
out well and we enjoyed the flexibility. With Personal Choice, your orders
are more made to order, and this was evident in that all items arrived at
the proper temperature and did not appear to have been sitting under a heat
lamp for a ˝ hour.

One night we ate in Sabatini's with several new friends. The cost is $15
per person and I thought it was OK, but not great. Our servers in the main
dining room were actually much better than our waiter in Sabatini's. I don'
t eat a lot of the items that Sabatini's serves (I watch my carb intake) so
that may be part of the reason I did not enjoy it as much. We never did eat
in the Desert Rose, as we just did not find it appealing. The décor looked
like something out of your local Acapulco or Red Onion restaurant. Not a
lot of atmosphere in my opinion. I will say other's that ate there were
impressed. I believe the cost is $7.50 per person which includes a
margarita.

Room service was excellent, delivered on time, and with all items as
ordered. We really took advantage of room service due to the large balcony.
Sometimes we would order cheeseburgers at 3am after the disco. Never a
problem. Also, we were able to order off the dining room menu during dinner
hours if we chose to.


SERVICE A
Service on GOLDEN PRINCESS was excellent all around. The staff was friendly
and always helpful. Most everyone said hello in passing, which you don't
see as much of these days. As stated earlier, our waiter and assistant were
exceptional, as was our cabin steward. No complaints here.


ENTERTAINMENT B-
Entertainment was good, but not great. In 15 days there were only three
production shows, which I tend to enjoy. The first was "Lights, Camera,
Action" which I consider to be the best onboard production show I have seen.
The only exception to this might be the ice skating show on VOYAGER OF THE
SEAS. The second show was "Shake, Rattle & Roll". Typical 50's and 60's
type show which I did not care for. The last show was "Words & Music" which
was also excellent, but not as good as the first show.

Of course there were other entertainers onboard, in fact three different
shows a night in the different lounges. I really can't comment on the rest
of the performers because I did not see their shows. We usually were so
late getting out of the dining room (our choice) that it was too late to see
anything. Certainly the Disco was the best show in the house!

We made friends several of the dancers and Officer's since they also
frequented the disco. It was great to hear about shipboard life on GOLDEN
PRINCESS and also have such talented dance partners! There were actually
two different dance teams onboard, as one was preparing to leave in Ft.
Lauderdale and they were rehearsing with the new team to get them up to
speed.

Regarding other activities, they were all offered as you might expect.
Dance classes, napkin folding, pool games, etc. This was pretty much the
same as any major cruise line.


WEATHER
Some of you might be wondering what the weather was like on a fall
transatlantic cruise? Well, it was excellent for the most part. Out of 15
days, I think there were only 2 or 3 days that were not sunny. Most days
were warm and I certainly came home with a tan. The crossing itself was
quite smooth except for maybe the last day. Surprisingly, GOLDEN PRINCESS
handles the seas fairly well considering how top heavy she is. One night
during some moderate swells we were up in Skywalkers. The periodic shaking
was incredible! You literally had to hold on to your glass or it would
shake off the table! Too much fun.


PORTS
The ports on this cruise were fantastic! It was such a great mix of
interesting places and wonderful sea days. I love days at sea, and that is
one of the reasons I picked this cruise. A westbound transatlantic cruise
is truly idea for another reason as well, you pick up an extra hour sleep
almost every night of the crossing. Believe me, that came in handy.

My favorite ports were Monte Carlo, Rome and Florence. We took an escorted
tour in both Rome and Florence as we wanted to see as much as possible.
Both tours were excellent. Princess has this down to a science and they use
first rate tour operators. I was amazed at how easily the ship was able to
organize hundreds of people and several different tours and not lose a
single person. Kudos to a job well done!

In the other ports we were on our own, which is what I usually prefer. They
were all easy to walk around and Princess provided maps for assistance. I
any of you have specific questions, please feel free to email me.

One interesting tidbit happened in the Azores. About an hour after we left,
Captain Warner came over the PA with an "important announcement". The ship
was returning to the Azores as two passengers had disembarked with no
explanation. Of course the logic was that these passengers may have planted
something like a bomb onboard the ship. The crew went into high gear and
started searching the ship left and right. Once we were back at the Azores
we never actually docked. The Captain made another PA stating the situation
was resolved, the ship was safe, and we would be on our way. It was not
until returning to the US that I found out what really happened. One of the
Cruise Staff members made a bomb threat from onboard the ship. It was
supposed to be a joke, which in this day and age is not something you joke
about. He was locked in a cabin for the remainder of the cruise and
arrested upon arrival in Ft. Lauderdale. Needless to say, his employment
was terminated from Princess Cruises. He was only employed by the line
since April of this year.


SECURITY A
Speaking of security, let me touch on this for a moment. I think Princess
did a suburb job in this respect. They are one of the only cruise lines
which use the A-Pass system. Other cruise lines are getting it, but it may
take a little time. The A-Pass system imprints a picture of you in the
computer (taken at embarkation) along with your cabin information. You
swipe you cruise card each time you enter and depart the ship. Your picture
pops up and the officer on duty can identify you. Also, it lets the ship
know if you are on or off the ship at any given time. I felt security was
taken seriously onboard GOLDEN PRINCESS, and never once did I feel a lapse
or have concerns in this area.


DISEMBARKATION C
Disembarkation was a bit disorganized in my opinion. Although this was the
first time GOLDEN PRINCESS had entered the US, the GRAND PRINCESS uses the
same dock every week, which is pretty much exclusive to Princess Cruises.
Each of us had to go through Immigration onboard the ship beginning at 6am
depending on your last name. Well, the Customs and Immigration Officers did
not even board the ship until after 6am, so this is where the trouble began.
The line stretched through every lounge on the Promenade Deck. I took one
look and decided to eat breakfast instead (lines are not my thing). By the
time I finished breakfast things were moving and I was through in about 20
minutes. As it turned out, there was a single Immigration Officer taking a
quick look at your passport picture compared to your face. Nothing else to
verify you even went through this line. I'm all for extra precautions, but
only when they accomplish something. This seemed like a waste of time since
they were not crossing off your name when you passed through.

We were the second group of passengers to debark, and I was amazed at the
congestion to find your luggage. By far the worst set up I have seen. The
luggage for the first group was placed right at the entrance to the luggage
holding area. For this reason, a huge bottle neck formed with people
literally unable to move. Only a small walkway was left open between the
luggage and the exit. Adding to the problem were the porters who had large
luggage carts and were blocking the only exit. It was a nightmare and very
poorly set up. Once we exited the building, there was no problem getting a
cab for the short ride to the airport. I never use the ships transfers
because I hate busses and waiting for the seats to fill up. I guess I'm too
impatient for that. In this case, as usual, I was relieved to get in a cab
and leave the madness behind. Of course we arrived at the airport far
earlier than any of the busses, and zipped right though the check-in lines
at the airport. Just as I finished checking in, the first busses were
beginning to arrive. Boy was I glad I took a cab!


CLOSING
In closing, I hope you can tell this was an exceptional cruise in almost
every way. Although the ship itself was not my all time favorite, the
entire experience as a whole ranks as one of the very best. It's been
several years since I've sailed Princess, and I'm happy to say they are
still an exceptional cruise line, which offers a superior product.

Should you have any specific question about the ship or this review, please
email me at eroller@peoplepc.com and I will do my best to answer it.

Until then, BON VOYAGE!
Ernest Roller
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