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Old September 6th, 2009, 11:27 PM
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Default Review: Golden Princess to AK - 8/29/09

Having just arrived home yesterday, I wanted to get thoughts down quickly on our cruise to Alaska (Inside Passage) on the Golden Princess. For reference, this was my husband's and my second cruise and second time with Princess. Growing up watching "The Love Boat" definitely had an impact.

As Seattle is our home city, getting to the pier was a breeze. Word to the wise - do not expect to find much around the pier in the way of hotels, shopping or restaurants. You will need to cab it for any sort of amenities.

There were 10 of us traveling together - myself, husband, mother, father, in-laws, and extended family. I had sent the gang a "be sure to pack" list that I assembled from posts on this site and others. My mother-in-law thought that this was some sort of official list from the cruise lines as she packed EVERYTHING on the list including an entire extra suitcase full of soda and water. Needless to say, the amount of luggage we had was insane.



ROOM: We were in an aft balcony room (Caribe 709) which we booked at the recommendation of this site. Unfortunately, this meant we didn't get the grand atrium entrance with the string quartet. The balcony was sizable and I was happy to see much more closet space than we had on the Dawn. The shower was TINY, however (shaving my legs was very hit and miss as a result). The balcony was by no means private, so the rule about Caribe balconies being covered is not true on every ship. We could see below and above (and they could easily see us). It was also noisy out there as well which I hadn't anticipated. I got to hear things I would rather not have including private conversations and rather loud gassy emissions. Overall, still was very happy to have our own outdoor space.

Was sorry to see that the bed linens had apparently not been part of the dry dock update earlier this year. The Princess bed spreads always look a little faded and shabby to me. Not sure if the design is intentional or not. I do wish they had updated the decor a bit.

We took the afternoon to run all over the ship before dinner. After being on the petite Dawn, it was fun to be on a larger ship. However, there were some definite layout challenges and I was sorry to see that the atrium actually appeared to be smaller than the Dawn's. My husband missed the much larger, more luxurious Wheelhouse Bar as well.

We did traditional dining, early seating, in the Canaletto Room. Robert, our waiter, was definitely a highlight of the trip. Not only was service excellent, but he was absolutely hysterical! He handled our table for 10 with ease and all was well orchestrated. He would frequently see us in the Horizon at breakfast and come over to check on us even though we weren't technically sitting in his section. I was torn between two deserts one night and asked his opinion. He recommended one of them, but brought me both in the end without my asking.



Horizon Court was good. Not the best buffet I've ever been to, but certainly not the worst. I was VERY pleased this time to see they had lox every single morning this cruise! I piled my plate high with salmon and fruit every morning. My husband joked that I probably ate at least $20 in smoked salmon daily.

We had our final meal in the Crown Grill. Lovely decor, weird music. It was a 70's/80's soft rock soundtrack ("Xanadu", anyone?) in a restaurant that should have had jazz playing. The food was EXCELLENT and the four sampler desert was just amazing. Well worth the $25 cover charge, IMHO. I even tried fois gras for the first (and last) time.

ATTIRE: I took special care in looking at cruise style during both our formal and informal nights since there are always a myriad of questions about what is and isn't appropriate/acceptable. Yes, you can wear jeans on an informal night. I wore dark jeans one night with a dressy sweater and didn't get nary a glance from any of the wait staff. However, I tend to like to be dressed a bit more on the fancy side and felt personally under dressed. On formal night, it seemed most anything went. I saw everything from tuxes (quite a few, actually) and ball gowns to attire that would have been questionable on even an informal night. The table next to us had men and women dressed in "dressy" polos and sweaters. I opted for cocktail dresses and my husband was in a dark suit and tie.



PORTS: In Juneau, we did the Mt. Roberts Tram. I was a little nervous as I don't necessarily get along with heights, but the day was sunny and the ride was smooth and breathtaking. It was amazing to see Lady Baltimore, a permanently wounded bald eagle, up close. We did a mini hike at the top and just enjoyed the views. Highly recommend this! Frankly, don't bother with the port shops in Juneau unless you are looking for trinkets made in China, furs, or jewelry.

In Skagway, we did the White Pass Railway. It was gorgeous, but LONG. The ride there was wonderful, but the ride back was a bit repetitious. The landscape at the top of the pass is surreal. I almost felt like I was on another planet. My parents did the bus version of the trip and had a lovely time. The bus stopped periodically for photos which the train did not.

Tracy Arm and the Sawyer was just indescribable. The best day of the cruise! Not only was it a gorgeous sunny day, but we got the closest to the Sawyer Glacier than any cruise had in the past three years. In fact, our captain told us later that day that had we gotten closer, we would have been off of the nautical charts. My one complaint, the rail hogs at the bow of the ship. It just seems like the polite thing to do to move aside once you have taken your photos and absorbed the beauty so that others can get photos as well.



Ketchikan was cute, but we didn't do any excursions as we were only there from 6:30 AM to noon. I did a bit of souvenir shopping (hint: the "outlet" store near the dock is more expensive than the regular stores just a bit further down). I would have loved to have seen more. We also stayed on ship in Victoria.

Coulda, woulda, shouldas:
1. We didn't buy either formal night photo. I am still kicking myself. We didn't like the ones from the first night (washed out) and the checkout line for the photo desk after the second night was insane.

2. As pretty as it was, I could have done without the White Pass tour. It was spendy and long. The bus would have been a cheaper option, shorter, and allowed for photo stops. I would have also liked to have done town tours to learn more about where we were.

3. I love the slots, but the machines on the ships are TIGHT. That money would have been better spent in the gift shops (I am still coveting a Majorca pearl necklace I saw...).

4. Soda card. Husband bought one, I did not. Consequently, my drink tab was high. I will also pack individual drink pouches and a water bottle next trip.

5. MORE photos. I took almost 600 and still am seeing gaps. Lugging around the camera is worth it.

6. I didn't pack enough. I tried to be comprehensive, but careful, and was sorely missing a few items of clothing as a result.

NOT TO MISS:
1. Art auctions. Even if you aren't an "art person", give one a shot. At worst, you will learn a lot and get some free champagne.

2. The lunch fare in the International Cafe. The sandwiches and cold shrimp salad was amazing as were the fresh-from-the-oven cookies.

3. The views from the Sky level and Skywalkers Lounge.

We had AMAZING weather for the whole trip. We were told that most of the ports hadn't seen sun in weeks and that we truly were lucky. The seas were rough coming back, however, to the point where barf bags hung on the garbage cans around ship and they closed the decks off. I was reading on the Promenade deck at 2 AM because I couldn't sleep that night.

Specific questions about the Golden? Feel free to ask! I am still editing and posting photos and will likely post an album within the week.

Bon Voyage!

ETA my husband's comments:
Things I liked about the Golden more so than the Dawn, in general, not our cabin:

* Much more deck space, pools, outside areas on Golden
* Outside movie screen
* Crown Grill and International cafe
* Princess Theater a little nicer on Golden
* Larger casino on golden
* Golden's Vista Lounge! Explorer's Bar! Skywalkers!
* Horizon Court hours


Things that I liked more on the Dawn than Golden:

* Dawn seemed to have more little nooks, crannies, lounging areas in public
* Nicer feel, more character on the Dawn; Golden felt a little too 'corporate'
* Dining room decor more interesting, inviting on Dawn

It seemed that some jewelry/watch prices were actually quite good on board, so go ahead and buy some without feeling like you're being ripped off. Same goes with the art. Nino Barrette was the auctioneer/art director and he never lied or BS'ed anyone, and I talked to him personally a few times. The James Flood QE2 limited edition numbered/signed piece we got was $60. Park West auctioneering on other cruise lines are in hot water, but there's not one bad word online anywhere about Princess Cruise Lines / Global Art. Would buy with confidence (after doing research first, of course, and only that what you can afford and really like)
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Old September 8th, 2009, 06:57 PM
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Thanks for the great review. We sailed the Golden before she was dry docked. If you visited the spa, did you notice if stone beds were available in the sauna area? This is one thing the Golden didn't have, which we truly enjoyed on the Diamond and Sappahire. Thanks for including the photo of Robert. We were fortunate to have him as our waiter on a previous cruise. Excellent service and great sense of humor.
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Old September 10th, 2009, 12:26 PM
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Great objective review, we sailed her about a year and 1/2 ago. We had a good time, loved some of the bars and the food. We didn't care for the horizon court, it seemed to conjested. overall we too, had a good cruise and would cruise the ship again but like you, we were not impressed with our cabin.

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Old October 5th, 2009, 07:56 PM
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WE luv the Golden Princess. We have been on the Emerald and understand the Golden looks just like Her.

We are Sailing to AK 6/5/2010 from Seattle and perhaps you can suggest Hotels, Clothes List and sightseeing in Seattle/ We are coming from Fl 6/2/2010 and would love some suggestions, We would like a 4 star hotel where ? and perhaps at a good rate.

Your day trips will be a great guide for us.

Hope you can help up.

With much appreciation
Arlene[/b]
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Old May 30th, 2010, 10:58 AM
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Hi Arlene,

I just now saw your post and it looks like you'll be arriving this coming week for your trip! Hopefully you have found a good place to stay and have some fun things planned for your short Seattle stay! We have had a nasty spring, but it looks like things might clear a bit for your sail next weekend.

One thing not to miss is Pike Place Market. The street level is packed with vendors - fresh flowers, fresh produce, fresh fish and some local arts and crafts. The lower levels are full of small shops (some of them wonderfully odd) and a few restaurants.

Now, I am not sure if this is something they now distribute nationwide or not, but one thing NOT to miss at the Market is a store called Market Spice on the main level at the south end of the Market. It is a tea shop and, even for non tea drinkers, you MUST buy a box of their original Market Spice tea. I am not much for tea myself, but this stuff is unbelievable. It's a black tea with a very heavy orange-cinnamon punch. VERY pungent and has a naturally sweet taste without sugar. Trust me, when you make this, everyone around you will ask what you are drinking.

Bon Voyage!
Anne
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Old May 30th, 2010, 12:44 PM
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Hi Anne,

if you were to do it again and wanted a balcony what deck would you suggest-I had a balcony on the caribe deck on the carribean and crown, and you are right about not being that private and heard our neighbors, but we had a nice size balcony

Judi

also what side of the ship would you suggest-starboard or port doing round trip from seattle
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Old September 6th, 2010, 03:01 AM
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My cousin and I were also on the golden princess this week. We were on the port side on the baja deck and had great views. We had a blast and really tried to do so much. I also noticed that the sheets were a little worse for wear on our beds. I still thought it was a beautiful ship with a great crew. Did you catch the names of any of the cruise director staff?... I know David Cole is in charge and Riz was beautiful and elegant. Julio was funny and a great dance instructor. I'd love to cruise with that team again.
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Old September 6th, 2010, 07:17 AM
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Wow, that cruise brought back some great memories...I was suprised and glad for you that you got the early/traditional dinner, I tried without success....Great pictures too...Thanks for posting your review.
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Old September 7th, 2010, 01:33 AM
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That was a great review. We have never sailed on the Golden, but we have on the Dawn 2x. Your pictures were great. Our last cruise was on the Diamond and the sheets were new, go figure. It sounds like you still had a great cruise.
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