We booked this cruise in November 2001 for the kids' spring break. Princess wouldn't take the booking for a quad room, as they were trying to limit the number of children and teens on the sailing. They were happy to book the same kids as long as we booked two adjacent cabins. We did and got a good price. We flew Southwest for the first time from Norfolk to Ft. Lauderdale, less than $100 each way. Called the Holiday Inn Express, Convention Center, shuttle and were delivered about 1115pm the night before sailing.
Saturday we had breakfast at the hotel, walked 1 ½ blocks to the bridge overlooking Port Everglades and could see Golden Princess, Celebrity Century, A HAL ship, and RCCL ship. Walked back to the Publix which was on 17th, a block from the hotel and purchased 12 packs of soda for the kids to carry aboard. We took the 1230pm shuttle to the pier (a 5-minute ride) and were through check in by 1:10pm. They x-rayed everything, and took a photo which is used to check faces and ship ID cards. They were confiscating for safekeeping all hard liquor.We were on Caribe deck 725 and 729, two adjacent inside rooms, but not connected. Refrigerator with filled ice bucket, ample space, end tables, dressing table with drawers, mirrors give the room a feeling of spaciousness. There is a closet with 7 feet of hanger space, a cabinet with 8 shelves and a save, and the entrance to the bathroom. No trouble storing all luggage under the bed, and the case of wine under the dressing table, with several bottles of champagne in the fridge. This was the largest three inside cabins we have had on Princess. Muster in cool lounge where they instructed everyone on how to put on lifejackets.
We had opted to try Personal Choice dining. We have normally been traditional late seating on all previous cruises, with or without kids. We had read that 7-8pm was the busiest time so we sent down at 8:30pm and were told there was a 15-20 minute wait in both PC dining rooms. We got to a table at 9:05. The show was a comedian who toned down the late show due to the large number of children in the front rows. The Princess pools are fresh water and open 24 hours, so we did a late night dip before turning in. Many of the hot tubs are closed and emptied, however, at night.
The first at sea day was Easter Sunday. There were Protestant and Catholic services at 9, and huge chocolate eggs decorated in the atrium. I attempted to make a dinner reservation for PC dining but was advised at 10am that only one PC dining room was taking reservations and had only 5:45-6:15pm available. With that, I went to the dining room captain in the traditional dining room and request late seating. He said if we had not heard from him by dinner, just show up at 8:30 and he's find a place. From that point on, everytime he saw us all week he was able to call us by name. 16 years with Princess, starting as Asst Waiter. We checked out the four pool choices: Terrace Pool, aft, which is adults only, the spa pool which is a lap pool with artificial current, the Calypso Pool with the retractable roof, and the Neptune Pool. Family preferred the more secluded Calypso Pool, but seldom could find an empty chair due to inconsiderate passengers marking their spot with towels and disappearing literally for hours. This was the first formal night. Ordered rose corsages for my wife and daughter for $8 each, delivered to room. The 11 year old was thrilled! Captain's Welcome Aboard reception, formal photos. The dining room seated the four of us and two others at a table for 10, and by the next night had us at a table for 6 with a good wait staff, Jun from the Philippines and Flavio from Acapulco. They were great. The show that night was Lights, Camera, Action, a Vegas style show. Afterwards we tried out Skywalkers, the disco suspended high above the stern, accessed by escalator from deck 17. Lots of current top 40 hits, a conga line, we had it all.
The second at sea day we had made a lunch reservation in the Desert Rose, the southwestern theme restaurant with an $8 cover charge. We had ample salsa, chips, guacamole, fajitas, empanadas, quesadilla's, and the first drink free (great Margarita's). Much of the day as spent at the pools, but I spent time exploring the library (not only books, but computers with games, and other programs), shops, the exercise gym where I rode stationary cycles and they had many other machines, walking track. Tried out the pizza, which is available by the slice on Lido Deck only 11am -6pm. Also great burgers, hot dogs, brats, etc..all just off the Neptune Pool area. The evening show was Shake, Rattle and Roll, an anthology of music/songs from that era with singers and dancers.
We took our own wine each evening to the dining room. The first three nights, we were not charged the $10 corkage fee. We had heard that it was sort of up to the waiter to write it up. They wrote it up the 4th and 5th nights, because they said it was apparent that the ship did not carry these wines, and the dining room captain would notice. I told them we would be bringing champagne the 6th night and they said to wrap in it something and they wouldn't charge us. We did and they didn't. Nor the last night. So we paid $20 corkage and had 7 bottles of wine of our favorites that I had purchased at discount wine shops and had shipped as luggage. Total expense for 7 bottle: about $91, which would have cost about $26 each, or more on board for a total of $182. We saved 50%. While we did attend wine tasting ($5 each refundable if you purchased dinner wine), the ship's wine list is poor. Sure they have a few $60-110 wines, but most are $10 wines that cost $28 each onboard.
The third day was St. Maarten. We berthed at the new pier, across from Disney Magic, with her crumpled, fire marred funnel and smokestacks. We took a taxi from the pier to Orient Beach on the French side for $6 per person, found a beach vendor, Pedro's, where we got four chairs and 4 drinks for $20, and he tossed in a free umbrella later. Despite SPF 50, I got quite sunburned while swimming, sunning, snorkeling (got three nice conch shells). They have parasailing, jet skis, etc. Also visited the clothing optional end of the beach, although the kids remained in the more public side in the chairs. The joke back on the ship is always: "Gee, I didn't recognize you with your clothes on." Back by taxi to town to the Guavaberry Emporium, the local liqueur, and a little shopping. Ended the day by being at Every T'ing Cool until last call, which comes early since the ships are leaving. Two beers, a rum punch, and a soda for $8.25. Taxi back to ship was $3 per person. There was a nice sail away party with two bands, and that evening was Island Night. Starting about 1015pm the aft Terrace Pool was covered over with a bandstand, There was dancing, limbo contests, a Mr. Golden Princess contest, in which at the asst. cruise director's urging I joined. A great night under the stars. This venue, right below the Skywalker's lounge, is superb for this kind of evening.
The next day was St. Thomas. We were berthed at the West India Co. dock at Havensight, and walked to the pierside shopping mall to make our liquor purchases, and some other souvenirs. There is also a drug store for those who might want something not available onboard. We went back aboard with all our purchases, had lunch in the Horizon Court on Lido. The rear section of Horizon is very quiet glass all around, and my favorite place up there. After a king crab dinner was the crew talent show, with the "If I were not upon the sea" skit. Alistair was the cruise director. He and his assistant did a good job during the week.
Thursday was an at sea day. We ate in the dining room where they had and outstanding Cioppino seafood soup, and glasses of Italian wine for $3. That night was the second formal night, and the Captain's Circle member reception. I was surprised at how relatively few were present, and with 3 or 4 exceptions, most were, like us, on about their 3rd or 4th Princess Cruise. After lobster and Beef Wellington dinner there was a champagne waterfall put on by the matre'de, with photos' available for those who chose to get up and help pour, as my wife and daughter each did.
Friday was the visit to Princess Cay, by tender. It was beautiful, and I liked it much better that HAL's Half Moon Cay. The snorkeling was great, with coral fans and lots of fish. The sand was a bit rocky, the picnic lunch was a typical picnic lunch. Some local crafts, bars, music, etc. were available. But the scene must have been cut out and pasted from the Corona' "change your whole latitude" commercials where they skip their pages across the water. The green water, white sand, sun,.it was the best! But it was Friday, and time to begin filling out forms, luggage tags, and packing. They wanted bags all but one bag in the hall when you leave for dinner, with the other to be out when you turn in. Prime rib and turkey dinners highlighted American Landfall night. Wish they would spread it out more instead of having multiple stellar entrée's on the same night.
Saturday we returned to Ft. Lauderdale. Breakfast was 6:30 - 8:30 in the dining room and 5:30-9am in Horizon Court. They called the first tags away about 8:10, and we were called about 9:30, with about 30% still waiting. We had chosen to wait in the Vista Lounge after vacating our room after breakfast. Hardly anyone there. They prefer to clog the stairwells and passageways for an hour and a half in the belief that somehow that will speed their departure. Customs and immigration was painless and the bags were waiting. We hustled them to an Alamo bus and rented a van so we could store the luggage and go to the beach strip. You can't check luggage at the airport anyway until 4 hours before you flight. We drove by the Elbow Room I had visited on my own college spring break many moons ago. We parked in a lot for 75 cents and hour and walked to Sloppy Joe's, of the Key West Sloppy Joe's venue, and enjoyed lunch overlooking the beach, then off to turn in the car and to the airport for a return home on time.
A few general comments. Food is available 24 hours a day in the Horizon Court. It typically parallels what is being served in the dining room. However, sitting on a buffet line, it is usually overcooked and drying out. There was lots of steamed and pealed shrimp available on several days. There are 3 identical dining rooms. Two for Personal Choice and one for traditional dining. We did not use the cover charged Sabattini's Trattoria. Maybe if it had been a steak house. But not for Italian. The dining room food was medium, at best. It was not up to our prior two Princess cruises, and was more on a par with RCCL: good, but not exceptional. It was better on Carnival Sensation last spring. Lots of fish. Steak, Caesar salad, fettuccini alfredo are always available. Desserts did include banana flambé and cherries jubilee. Coffee was okay to me, and I drink it black. I know lots of people complain about cruise coffee. Maybe 20 years of black Navy coffee helped me adapt to any kind of coffee. They were not pushing alcohol. It was available, period. Soft drink stickers for your ship card were $17.50 for unlimited soft drinks by the glass. Same with photos. The only candids were upon arriving, leaving the ship in port (but only till 1030), and a few on Princess Cays. 8x10's are $21.95, and 5x7's are $7.95. I found not so many quiet little corners. The ship is huge. There were over 2900 people aboard but it didn't seem like it. There were laundromats on every deck: new equipment, $1 wash, 50 cents dry. Soap and bleach $1 each, 4 irons and boards in each. It cost $3.75 to have my tux shirt laundered and pressed. Motion of the ocean was greater on this ship than I would have expected. Is it top heavy? Even in mild seas it rocks and rolls.
My teenager had plenty to do with virtual arcades, miniature golf, internet café, and lots of teens to hang out with.
All in all, a nice week on a nice ship. But it is nicer with just me and my wife, than supervising the 11 and 14 year old, who thinks he is 20 and dad of course knows nothing, and times to check in are optional. We'll cruise as a family this summer, but looking forward to anniversary cruises with my wife. More romantic.
Oh, must have been a good week, as I did put down the $100 per person fully refundable till Nov 2004 deposit on a future Princess Cruise. How can you lose on a deal like that? The Love Boat....strains of music
Pre night and Embarkation Day 1
Our much anticipated and carefully planned cruise along with our friends had finally arrived! Our group from Ohio has sailed together for the last 13 years aboard all the major lines. Having decided to do the day before program, we arrived in Ft Lauderdale around 12PM on Friday 2/8 after an uneventful flight out of Akron/Canton Regional airport. Surprisingly, check in was a breeze in light of recent enhanced security and luggage inspection. Had made arrangements for a private limo to meet us at Lauderdale airport and take us to 17th St AmeriSuites (which is really on 10th St!)as well as returning on Saturday at 11:00am to take us to port as we had heard about long waits for the free shuttle that is offered by this hotel and just didnt want the hastle!
AmeriSuites is moderate to mid priced, clean, in a good, safe location and provides a continental breakfast with quite a nice selection. Got checked in at hotel then took off for a light lunch at the Wendy's that is nearby and decided to walk to the pier. The Ocean Princess was theonly ship in port at the time. Spent a little time visually checking her out from the 17th Street pier bridge then walked back to our hotel. Weather was a little too cool to attempt to lay by the outdoor pool so we spent the next couple of hours just relaxing, sitting in the lobby and having conversations with other folks who were to cruise the next day. Had dinner at Chuck's Steak House which is within walking distance of the hotel. Great food! Called it a night early as we were all pretty beat from having to be at airport at 5:00am for our 7:00 am flight that morning.
Up bright and early on Saturday for our breakfast then walked to Eckerd Drug to buy some potatoe chips, bottled water, juice and a few snacks to have in our cabin during the cruise. Driver met us at the agreed to time and we were off to the pier which is about a 5-10 minute ride from the AmeriSuites. Arrived at pier by 11:15, checked in and were up in waiting area to board by 11:30. What a breeeze that was! Got our first glimpse of the Golden from the second level of the terminal. What a truly magnificent beauty she is...we are seasoned travelers and I must admit I was awestruck!
Had embarkation picture taken (smile pretty now!) and were boarding Golden by 11:45. Met by smiling crew members who directed us to our cabin via closest elevator. We were in E726 and were pleasantly surprised with both the size of our cabin as well as the balcony which is TOTALLY private. (We had BIG FUN on that balcony!) Dropped off our carryon luggage and were off to Horizon court for a quick bite of lunch then on to snooping around and familiarizing ourselves with the ship. Returned to our cabin and watched sail away from my cousin and his wife's balcony as they were in E728 and had the larger wrap around balcony that held all 10 of us easily! True to form, Lauderdale residents gave us a resounding Bon Voyage with bells, music, cheers, waves, banners and flags!!! Our group of 10 had originally requested traditional dining but 2 weeks prior to embarkation our agent was advised that there was little likelyhood of our getting requested seating as there are only 2 tables of 10 available and they had already been assigned. We chose to eat each evening at 6:30 with Personal Choice and made reservations with the Matre D to seat us at the same table each night. So it really ended up much like traditional for us though by definition it was Personal Choice. Will state for the record that food was good but not exceptional...nothing memorable or truly "to die for" That would pretty much hold true for the balance of the cruise. After dinner, we spent remainder of evening checking out the ship stores and the many amenities Golden Princess had to offer. Decided to call it a night when Tom and I couldnt keep our eyes open any longer. Lulled to sleep by the gentle rocking of the ship and the soothing sounds of the sea coming from our open balcony door.
DAYS 2 At Sea and First Formal Night
Put out room service card night before to have delivery between 7:00 and 7:30 am since we are both early risers. Nice selection of food items to choose from including seasonal melon, danish, dry cereal and juices. Knew from reading this board that you could write in anything else you would like including scrambled eggs, sausage and bacon etc. To me, breakfast on your own private balcony at sea is a little heaven on earch and we scheduled this time for ourselves daily..OOH the memory of it alone brings a smile to my face as I type! Spent a few hours relaxing on deck at the pool and catching some rays but we were careful not to over indulge in the sun; learned from past cruises just what can happen! Did see some chair saving going on..typical put your towel down on chair and then disappear for hours. Did my "cruise duty" and told whoever asked about the chairs "Nope, no one has been sitting there or been around since I've been here...go ahead and have a seat!" So much for those chair hogs as far as I'm concerned! Attended the port and shopping talk on the islands we were to visit. Had been to the islands many times but hoped maybe I would be one of the winners of some of the $700 worth of door prizes they were giving away..no such luck ! Around 11:30 or so most of the gang set out for the first triva game on board and the team won that round. Nice ceramic Princess mugs for all team players. Lunch at Horizon Court; pretty good for your standard buffet food. Also be sure to try the hamburgers and pizza from poolside..very good! Afterwards went to Princess Theatre on Deck 7 to catch the afternoon movie "Shallow Hal" Pretty good flick and nice to just relax a little. Later in the afternoon headed up to Neptune's Reef to catch the wet, wild and wacky pool games. Watched but didnt volunteer this time (I know better now' I've learned my lesson from past cruises and embarrasing pictures!) Soon it was time to head back to our cabin to get "gussied up" for the first formal night. Word of advise to the ladies-Dont make yourself crazy trying to get your hair to do what it normally does at home--AINT GONNA HAPPEN! Something about that humidity and air makes your hair crazy! by the time I was done trying to make it cooperate I realized I would need a whole can of hair spray and looked like I had "helmet hair"! Started all over again, blew it dry,let it do whatever it wanted and threw the spray into a suitcase never to be seen or used again the rest of the cruise! Picture taking was in full swing by 5:45..Try to have your formal pictures taken BEFORE DINNER and get there early to avoid having to stand in line because the photographers DO TAKE THEIR TIME! Have to admit that our pictures were actually quite good considering the hair fiasco! Caught the 8:30 showing of Lights, Camera, Action..great production...dont miss this! Course same chair hogs that were by the pool were trying to save whole rows at the show! Sorry...no seat saving I say and plopped myself down amidst the angry looks and huffing and puffing! Wish Princess would back us up on this and handle the situation themselves! Afterwards went to Promenade Lounge and listened to the music maestro Maurizio. He has the most amazing voice! Spent the remainder of the evening trying our luck in the casino (dont ask!) and walking around the outside decks, admiring each other and the calm starlit night! A beautiful ending to a perfect day!
Day 3: At Sea
Awoke to the sound of the ship cutting through the water; kept the balcony door open just a little bit each night to enjoy the fresh ocean air and the calming "music" of the ocean! Slipped out of bed and sat on balcony to enjoy the sunrise while hubby slept in a little. Had our routine morning mini breakfast on the balcony around 7:30, showered and headed up to pool deck around 9am to catch a few rays. Still taking it easy as far as the sun was concerned since we anticipated being out in it most of Tuesday and Wednesday while at the islands.Seeing that I was comfortably "baked" after about 2 hours decided to catch a quick shower and head up to Wheelhouse to see what the Scavenger Hunt involved. Decided to pass on this after seeing the list of everything participants would be expected to find throughout the week. Just way too many hard to find items plus they wanted signatures of different staff members as well as entertainers on the ship...would have been chasing and running the entire week! Too much like work! Had a light lunch in the dining room this time since I was appropriately dressed (no bathing suites here please) and afterward checked out the Art Auction Preview in Explorers...not really my cup of tea but once again I thought maybe I would be one of the lucky winners of the giveaways...NOT! Quick stop to the cabin to pick up the video camera and spent remainder of afternoon catching the Golden on tape for some "live" memories to take back home! At 3:30 having decided to try something we have never done before on any of our cruises, we had afternoon tea in the Donatello Dining Room. Neat experience that everyone should try at least once during their cruising adventures! Sufficiently relaxed we headed back to the room around 4:30 for a short nap; then time to get ready for dinner. Our group had reservations at the Desert Rose this evening at 7PM. Dont miss this Alternative Dining Restaurant. With a cover charge of $8 and the free marguerita it was one of the most enjoyable and delicious meals we had onboard! Many entrees to choose from; not limited to Mexican and wait staff was outstanding. Preferred this experience vastly over that of Sabatini's (more on that later) Entertainment tonight had the 50's theme througout. Caught Shake, Rattle and Roll show then stopped in to the Explorers Lounge for the Sock Hop followed by Karaoke at 11:00. Hit the casino afterwards for another shot...still no luck!!! Do you see a pattern here? Topped the evening off in the Skywalkers Nightclub dancing to some great 50's music! (If the kids could only have seen their "over the hill" folks!) Back to the cabin around 12:30 or so to change into bathing suits and head up to the Neptunes Reef for moonlight swim and dip in the hot tub! Back to the room to enjoy our private balcony and make some "special memories"!
Day 4: St Maarten
Up bright and early with a light room service breakfast at 7:00am on our balcony as we watched Golden Princess come into port at St. Maarten with the Disney Magic directly in front of us and Radiance of the Seas across and in front of us. Grabbed a quick shower, packed the collapsible cooler with a couple bottles of water and cranberry juice and headed up to Horizon court aft, a much quieter and less crowded area, to meet up with the rest of the Ohio group for breakfast. Since most of us had been to this island many times we had decided beforehand to forgo the beach scene and just do some shopping and have lunch on the island. There are three options for reaching the downtown shopping area from the cruise ship: Firstly, by water taxi from the end of the cruise ship pier which operates a continuous circuit, dropping off at the Town Pier and Bobby's Marina before returning to the pier. An all day pass costs $5 and is purchased at the end of the pier. You are issued a colored wristband which is your pass for the complete day. Second choice is to take a regular motorized taxi to the town stopping at the Court House. Cost is $3 per person one way. Third choice is to walk the distance which is about a mile and takes maybe 15 minutes. We opted for the water taxi and where in town by 9:45am. Group decided to go their separate ways for a couple of hours. We did some jewelry shopping at our preferred shop Omni Jewelers on Front Street. We have been shopping there for so many years that the staff knows us on sight and greets us by name! by 10:30 Tom was on the first of many complimentary beers (Oh sure why not..he ALWAYS has breakfast beers back in the states right!!???) Did a little credit card damage as usual (so much for COMPLIMENTARY beers .. Tom says they end up costing him plenty each time he goes in that store!) Snooped around Jimmy Buffet Shop and few of the other shops before meeting up with the rest of our group in front of the court house at noon. While at Omni's we had made reservations for 12:30on to have lunch at DaLivios which is about a half mile up front street past the shops and center of town. We were met at the door by our host Daniel and escorted to our ocean view table under a open air covered veranda. The view was most spectacular with the sail boats , jetskiers and cruise ships as a backdrop. It was the most relaxing enjoyable time..picture perfect and phenominal Italian food! Truly a memorable afternoon!(Looks especially nice on our video) Back to the ship around 5:00 as our sail away was scheduled for 6:00 and went to the Sunset Sailaway Party. Watched the Radiance leave port amidst the sounds of laughter, well wishes and Caribbean music. Theme for the evening was Tropical Island Night so in keeping with the motif we all donned our Caribbean outfits and headed to dinner at 6:30. Decided to catch the 8:15 showing of "Behind Enemy Lines". Afterwards headed up to the deck party on the Aft of the ship followed by the Tropical Isalnd Night Buffet around midnight or so. Dont miss the Chocolate covered strawberries and grapes! (We smuggled a plate full of them for our fridge and enjoyed them the rest of the week on the balcony!)
Back to the cabin to change into our swimsuits and to the pools for a relaxing night swim and hot tub session. A perfect ending for a special Caribbean night!
Day5: St. Thomas
Up very early this morning, in fact well beforee room service was to deliver our 7:00am mini breakfast. Decided to have early bird coffee in Horizon court and watch Golden pull into port and dock in St Thomas from the upper deck. Returned to cabin and sleeping hubby just as troom service was arriving. Showered, packed beach bag and met group in Horizon court for breakfast before disembarking for our Champagne Catamaran Tour to St John. This was the only ship sponsored tour that we signed up for and it far exceeded our expectations! 47 Golden Princess guests boarded the catamaran around 9:15am led by the captain and 2 crew members. Catamaran sailed via motors until we cleared the bay area, then the crew hoisted the sails and for the next 2 hours we truly "sailed" to St John anchoring around noon in around 20ft of water. Rum punch, beer, and assorted non alcoholic drinks were plentiful throughout the sailing with lunch being served on deck around 12:30. Metal/fiberglass stairs were lowered into the water for easy access or you could dive from the catamaran. The shore was approx. 75 feet from where we anchored. We spent 2 hours at St John before pulling up anchor and setting sail for the return trip to the Golden Princess.
Quick shower and change of clothes and out to Havensight Mall for a shopping trip returning in time for the Sunset Sailaway Party at 5:45 or so. Back to cabin to change clothes for our Ohio group's 7:00 dinner reservation at Sabatini's. Sorry to say this restaurant just didnt do a thing for any of us...in fact in fell WAY BELOW our expectations! I am 100% Italian and I KNOW what true Italian cuisine is and believe me..Sabatini's DOESNT! Too much fish and seafood with and on everything including the pizza! Food wasnt hot or seasoned correctly and service was so SLOOOWWWW! Worse of all, we came to find out that Italian night was the order of the day in the standard dining rooms! I must say that we spoke with quite a few folks who raved about the brunch that is served at Sabatini's. Different selections entirely and great service. Guess we should have tried it on one of our days at sea. Oh well, live and learn! Did some snooping in the shops on board, listened to Maurizio entertain in his own unique style in the Atrium for a while then headed up to Skywalkers for 70's "Boogie Night" Gave up and admitted that we were totally wiped out around 1:00am and headed to our cabin. No nightswim or hot tub tonight; afraid we might pass out!
Day 6.....VALENTINE'S DAY 2002
AH..love was certainly in the air! Up bright and early to video the sunrise and snap a few pics. Better half (?) still sleeping soundly so I decided to venture out to Horizon for a cup of coffee and to walk the decks. Worked my way down to the Atrium and was surprised to see them decorating for the "Lover's Special Day" Beautiful display was being set up that was made entirely of hardened colorrd sugar and frosting. There were roses, cakes, plates with a pink letter on each one that spelled out Happy Valentine's Day, candies, and cookies all fashioned from colored sugar. Numerous milar balloons in all shapes with different messages and latex balloons filled with helium arranged to form a large heart shaped "picture frame" on the second level of the atrium. Pink, red and white crepe paper streamers added just the right finishing touch. This was something to share with that special someone so of course I raced back to the cabin to wake up old Rumpelstilskin! Princess also had a special for the day that allowed anyone to call anywhere from their stateroom for only $1 a minute to celebrate Valentine's day with loved ones at home. Took advantage of this and called the kids and our parents ..they were really surprised and the grandkids loved it! They couldnt believe PapaTom and MamaTene were talking to them from a ship in the middle of the ocean! We agreed we had enough sun from St Maarten and St Thomas and decided to pretty much stay out of it today so headed to the galley tour at 9:30 followed by Gaetano and his Close Up Magic at 10:30 on Atrium Deck 5. Visited the Future Cruise Sales desk and decided to purchase 2 cabins. $100 pp deposit is all that is required to hold a cabin until you decide which specific cruise you wish to sail and the date. You simply give the booking number to your agent once you decide and no further money is due until final payment. Vouchers good thru Nov 2004 so knew we couldnt go wrong! Also free onboard credit with each voucher (amount of credit depends on type of cabin booked) Up to the Horizon court for lunch then to Neptune's Reef to watch the Flip, Flop an Fly biggest splash contest. Boy..some people will do anything...(and some of you folks thought I was bad..you should have seen what was on display!) Afterwards we headed to the Princess Theatre to catch Serendipity..great Valentine's flick! Back to the cabin for a quick "nap" (gotta keep it clean here now guys!) and took our time getting ready for second formal night. Another round of pictures (hubby was such a good sport about that!) Had dinner at our reserved time of 6:30 then walked around the outside decks, followed by some time in the Casino. Decided to head up to Skywalkers for a little dancing then back to the Atrium around 11:30 or so to watch the Maitre D and waiters build the Cascading Champagne Waterfall. At midnight the party truly got underway with music, dancing and free flowing champagne. First time for us seeing this and have to admit it was pretty spectacular. By now we are feeling hunger pangs (I know that is hard to believe..like we havent had about a ton of food already!) so headed to cabin first to change into bathing suits, stopped at Horizon for a snack then on to the pools for a swim and hot tub session. I see a pattern developing here! (Wonder if I can get Tom to install a hot tub on our deck...hmm...I can gently remind him of all the good times we had while on board! )
Day 7: Princess Cays
Our last full day aboard the stunning Golden Princess and we all intended to make the most of it. Up bright and early to walk the decks well before dawn, take some sunrise pictures and simply enjoy the quiet morning. Back to the cabin around 7 or so for "balcony breakfast" and to clean up. Breakfasted today in the dining room for a change of pace. Stopping back at the cabin first to pack a beach bag, we headed to deck 4 to catch one of the first tenders to Princess Cays. Princess has done this up right! It is truly beautiful, white sand and so very clean. Knew to turn right off the pier (thanks to this board) walked over the bridge and set up our little area under one of the palm shaded tables. Weather was absolutely perfect; we spent some time walking the beach from one end to the other, watching the folks on the banana boats. No jet skis available to rent; floating mats to surf with or lay out on are $8 each. Barbecue lunch served included hamburgers, hot dogs, sausage, ribs, salads, fruit etc. Snooped around the little huts that are set up by the locals selling various items. Pretty high priced to start out but you can barter with them and get some deals on trinkets to take home. Decided to head back to ship around 1:30 to get a jump start on packing the luggage as I hate to do that on my last evening aboard ship. We had brought a collapsible suitcase that we used all week for dirty clothing. Just had to zip it up and put a tag on it (they had delivered these to the cabin late Thurs night) and it was ready to go. Balance of packing was easy and we were done in no time flat. Headed up to Deck 14 for some pool and sun time; most folks were still ashore so we pretty much had the area to ourselves. Cleaned up then headed to photo area on deck 7 to finalize our choices. We had 6 free vouchers (4 from our agent and 2 from Princess)These are only good on 5X7 pictures not the 6X8 ones so we ended up with all the table pictures as well as the embarkation one. Had dinner at our usual time with our group then headed back to the cabin to place luggage in hall remembering to keep clothes out for the next day. Stayed up quite late spending some time in the various onboard stores for those last minute deals, still trying to hit something in the Casino (never did happen)and walking the decks enjoying the view. Hit the pool and hot tubs one last time before returning to our cabin.
Up early the next morning having breakfast in Horizon as no room service available today. Disembarking was a breeze; we were the 3rd group off, claimed our luggage, out to the busses and were at Ft Lauderdale Airport by 9:15..took about 45 minutes total to get through security. Uneventful flight arriving home around 4:30 to COLD RAINY DISMAL OHIO!!!
My wife and I sailed aboard the Golden Princess the week of Jan.19 through Jan.26. Our overall experience was great and I would like to take this opportunity to tell of our experience.
Getting on and off the ship was a breeze. The use of the ship's card made everthing go smoothly and quickly. The ship's staff did an excellent job of doing their daily tasks without disrupting the passengers.
My wife and I made a point to go to as many of the production shows as possible. After the first night, we realized the shows were as good as any we had seen in LasVegas. Getting there early also assures you of getting a good seat,unlike LasVegas.
The food however fell short of expections. The night we had king crab legs, we were given the lower part of the crab legs not the upper,more meatier part. The service was exceptional. We preferred the traditional seating.
Another minor thorn in what should have been an excellent review of the food experience was the decision to to invalidate the soft drink priviledge of the ship's card on Princess Cays. I was told that itcould only be used aboard ship.
Also with all the things that were top notch I can't beiieve that Princess Cruises would stoop so low as to charge you for the bottle of water that was placed in your room upon arrival. You don't notice that you will be charged for it until after you have opened it. Worse yet. It doesn't appear on your bill until the last day.
We steered clear of the Cruise Director of the ship(Janet)and her "gay" assistant (Frankie). We found her to be too boisterous and him to be too "open). o be more sensitive to those passengers who do not advocate the alternative lifestyle.
Dennis' Supplement to Kuki's Golden Princess Review Dec. 29-Jan. 5 New Year's Eve sailing
I have read Kuki's previously posted review of this particular cruise and really did not find anything significant that he said with which I disagreed. At the same time, there are things that we noticed that he did not report on.so I thought I would add my/our thoughts for the enlightenment of those sailing on the Golden in the future or those contemplating doing so.
This was our fifth cruise--the third on Princess plus two on HAL. We selected this particular cruise over a year before sailing (and six months before the Golden was launched) because we wanted to try a new ship of the mega variety. This was also our third New Year's cruise, two with Princess and one on HAL.
Embarkation/Debarkation-Princess does a wonderful job of getting people on and off this ship. It's the best job of any cruise we have been on. It does help if you have completed and submitted all paperwork well in advance. The Golden is in berth 2 at Port Everglades. We arrived and departed the pier via the BudgetRent A Car courtesy shuttle. This worked well. The berth area is fairly small and congested so it can be difficult getting into and out of that area. We decided to let the professional drivers handle the headaches.
Cabin/Balcony-we were on Baja deck which means a smaller, though more private, balcony. Unfortunately, the balcony is poorly furnished with two small, armless, plastic chairs and a small pedestal table. My wife likes to lounge and sun so we tried to bribe our cabin steward to procure a lounge for her. He was afraid to do so (had to pass it by his supervisor who nixed it) but he did come up with two chairs with arms which were slightly more comfortable. The larger balconies (Caribe deck and below) were larger though less private and came with better chairs but still no lounges. There seems to be an artificial shortage of lounges on this ship. You can't get one on your balcony and people keep reporting shortages in the pool area. Yet, in my almost daily workouts on the exercise bike in the fitness salon, I stared all week at over two hundred lounges stacked right in front of the window that were never moved from their moorings. Why have them on a completely full ship and not use them? Why not accommodate your guests by supplying them with what they want when it is easily within your power to do so? I loved my balcony but my wife had to go elsewhere to lounge and sun. The balconies were mostly empty so apparently others did likewise.
Dining-we had first seating traditional dining. We had requested a table for eight since we were traveling alone and wanted to dine with the same group of people each night. With one exception, one of the highlights of our previous cruises has been the people we meet by this approach to dining. This time, on the first night, we ended up at a table for four with the other couple the overflow from the next table of eight (there were ten in their party). by the next night they corrected the problem and we ended up with three other couples, all traveling singly, who we had a great time getting to know over the next five nights. As mentioned in the previous review, a lot of people who wanted traditional dining did not get it because two of the three dining rooms were devoted to Personal Choice dining. Why is Princess seemingly devoted to promoting PC at the expense of traditional? If it's harder on their personnel (which it seems to be) and it's making a significant number of their guests unhappy, why force it? Why can't they split one of the PC dining rooms to accommodate those who want traditional?
Dining Room Food-as in previous cruises, Princess food is "spotty". There are some very good things on the lunch and dinner menus but you have to work hard and turn some things away and reorder to find them. Beef items are uniformly poor to mediocre. Some seafood is pretty good (halibut) and some is too dry. The lobster on Thursday night was surprisingly good. The cioppino on one of the lunch menu's was the best dining room item I had all week and it was on there as an appetizer. Rated very good: the "always available" cheesecake and the Mediterranean pasta on the first night. Other "worth ordering" items: the French Onion soup; the escargot; and the clam appetizer (first or second night).
Dining Room Service-we had an excellent waiter (Zoltan) and his assistant (Robert). We are somewhat demanding (dry blue cheese for the salads each night, a bowl of chocolate sauce with dessert each night, etc.) and they quickly picked up on our eccentricities and made sure they were met. The head waiter for our area (Pietro) also did a nice job, making our table a special platter of bruschetta on Italian night because I had asked about it the night before. Even though a gratuity for our dining room staff was automatically added to our bill, I felt they deserved extra for their extra efforts and provided such on the last evening. by the way, the ability to go to one of the bars aboard and put gratuities on your master bill is a nice addition over our last Princess cruise three years ago.
Room Service (food)-we utilized room service for several breakfasts (instead of the Horizon Court which is just buffet food that you can get anywhere) and for a couple of lunches so as not to interrupt my balcony time. Service was prompt, the food was good (the Cobb salad especially) and hot when it should have been, and we wrote in special requests several times which they always delivered.
Room Service (Cabin Steward)-we have always had great cabin stewards on Princess (unlike on Holland America) and Victor was no exception. From greeting us by name with a nice smile before we ever reached our room on Saturday to picking our room up promptly when we put the card on the door, he earned his tip and then some.
Soda Card-we really got our money's worth on this one! I like sparkling water with every meal, in the theatres during shows, etc. and my wife has to have her regular infusion of diet cola. The $17.50 was well spent.
Internet Access-Expensive! $8.00 for 15 minutes plus $1.00/page to print. Time flies when you are on the net and, on the Golden, so does your money. No trouble getting on, though.
Alternative Dining (Sabatini's)-we rushed aboard and went immediately to book Sunday brunch since I had the impression from the Internet that demand was high. Several others were also in line when we got there but not anything like I expected. We booked brunch for Sunday at 11:00. We were the only guests' in the restaurant until 12:30 so we had plenty of attention. The food is really excellent (the pork loin I had as an entree was truly exceptional) and we felt the $15.00 per person extra was well worth it. As one of the waiters explained, the dining rooms have to prepare their foods hours in advance and then hold it until you arrive. They have no choice since they have to serve so many people in such a concentrated amount of time. The alternative restaurants prepare everything fresh so it should be a lot better and it was. We liked it so much that we also scheduled a dinner for the last night-which we ultimately cancelled because we didn't want to miss the last night with our new found friends and dining mates in the Canalleto dining room.
Alternative Dining (Desert Rose)-this may have been the most pleasant surprise of the entire cruise. Going aboard, I had not read a single positive review on this restaurant. After Sabatini's, however, we looked closely at the menu and booked a late dinner on New Year's Eve since on previous New Year's Eves there seemed to be a lull aboard ship between the evening show letting out and the midnight festivities kicking in. (by the way, we also had a light dinner with our tablemates in the dining room at 6:15). We like Southwestern food and this was very, very good. Great guacamole, the black bean tortilla soup with lobster was excellent and the pork entree quite good. The complementary margaritas in themselves were worth most of the extra $8.00 we had to pay. In fact, when bad weather cancelled Princess Cay on the last day, we went back to Desert Rose for lunch and had another excellent meal.
Entertainment-like the food, the entertainment was "spotty". There was some good stuff but you had to pick and choose. The first night's production show in the Vista Lounge, "Shake, Rattle and Roll" had great costumes and sets but I felt the cast's voices were really lacking. The same cast in later shows in the Princess Theatre did a first class job for a cruise ship so my conclusion is that they should not be doing production shows in the Vista Lounge. In fact, we ultimately left the Vista Lounge that night and went to the Princess Theatre to catch the last half of the "World's Worst Ventriloquist". This guy did not belong in the Princess Theatre or in the Vista Lounge. He should have been left on the dock. We also particularly enjoyed the vocal impressionist (Tony ?) and the Jerry Seinfeld opening act comedian. Avoid the juggler-if you have seen one, you have seen them all. The Benny Hill style English magician was--well--unique. The last night's show in the Princess Theatre featuring three of the entertainers with Alister, the cruise director, doing a Jay Leno format was a terrible finale after three nights of good production shows in that theater. Conclusion: with all the new ships, I think the entertainment is getting a little diluted. I didn't feel it quite came up to the standards of previous cruises.
Cruise Summary: As I mentioned at the beginning, this was our fifth cruise. Of the five, I would probably rate this as #5. At the top of the list (#1 and 1a) would be the 7 day Alaska cruise on Holland America out of Vancouver and the 10 day trans Panama Canal cruise on Princess starting in Acapulco and ending in San Juan. Numbers 2 and 2a would be the 7 day Southern Caribbean on Princess (out of San Juan) and the 7 day Western Caribbean on HAL out of Ft. Lauderdale. I really enjoyed each of these four cruises and wasn't ready to leave the ship on the last day. This time, by the last day, I was ready to get off and get home. I was tired of life aboard ship and ready to get back to California and back to work. Don't get me wrong. I haven't given up on cruising. I'm sure we will go again but maybe next time we will try something slightly different like a small boat cruise (Windjammer or such).
This cruise was out of Ft. Lauderdale going on an Eastern Caribbean route to St. Maarten, St. Thomas, and Nassau in the Bahamas (substitute for the Michelle-damaged Princess Cays). This was our 8th cruise, if we count our 2 adventures on the Baltic Shipping Company (now defunct) going to St. Petersburg a few years ago. We really did have a good time on this cruise. First of all, it was cheap...an unreal price for a balcony cabin during Thanksgiving week...the first Thanksgiving in 16 years I haven't cooked all day! Plus, we had perfect weather all week and enjoyed all three ports and three lovely days at sea, and there really is no such thing as a bad cruise in my book.
Part of this will be a day by day travelogue, other parts more rambling impressionistic commentary. After reading it you will probably know more about me than the cruise ship itself!
For you lazy readers out there, here's my quickie guide to this cruise:Cabin: B Food: B Staff: B Activities: B Ports: B
Feeling in a very "B" mood I guess!
For the truly information deprived, here are all the details....
Giventhe state of air travel in the US, we decided to go down a day early just to be careful. Normally we would fly out of Washington National airport (I'll never call it Reagan!) but it was still closed when we booked this cruise in early October. Side note: we are habitual "late bookers" when it comes to cruises...due to our work schedules and I love to monitor the prices on various online booking engines to zoom in on good deals....which more and more seem to go to late bookers.
Our driver picked us up at home and whisked us off to BWI airport. We have found this to be a very nice start to traveling, a little conversation, a nice town car, and someone else to worry about traffic or parking. Since our original flight for 11:00 am was cancelled by USAir a few weeks in advance, we were put on the 5:00 pm flight to Ft. Lauderdale. We arrived over 2 hours early and found curbside check-in for USAir, which we took advantage of. I believe they were doing this only for folks with paper tickets...which I always get anyway even if there is a service charge. There was a long line to check in with USAir indoors so I was especially glad to avoid that. The line at the metal detectors was not bad at all.
We checked in at the gate about an hour prior to liftoff and were assigned seats in the front row of a 737. We did get to talk to the cabin stewards during the flight, who were nice, and in fact one of them was on our return flight...what a nice lady. Snack mix and half a coke onboard.
We arrived at Fort Lauderdale on time and got our bags quickly and grabbed a cab to our hotel - the Extended Stay America on 17th Street. As most folks know, it is a quick ride from the airport to the hotel or to the port area and cost us only a few bucks. Upon checking in we found that our reservation had, for some reason, been cancelled, even though it was reserved online using a credit card for $64/night. This was irritating to say the least but they did find us a room even though they were "full" for $89/night. At 8 pm at night I was in no mood to fight so we took it. I was more concerned about getting food at that point since I was starving.
The hotel room was large and clean and had a little kitchenette area. I don't think I could stay in this place for more than one night but for one night it was ok. Location wise it was nearly across the street from the Publix grocery store and the Einstein Bros. bagel place. We walked around the neighborhood and ended up at the restaurant next door to the hotel, called "Hopps" which was a brew pub sort of place. It was decent if nothing to write home about. Our waitress had some friends eating there at the table next to us so we were sort of an afterthought to her evening...
Waking up the next morning....over nearby buildings I could see the Golden Princess from our hotel room! Boy was I excited! After getting a bit cleaned up we went out for coffee across the street (there is literally nothing in this hotel) and picked up a few sodas at the drug store, some film, a little notebook, and took a stroll over to the causeway bridge so we could see the ships in port. The Golden is one big "mutha" of a ship! Don't care much for the "spoiler" on the back, but I was getting quite excited about getting on board. I wondered whether the pool area in the back got much sun due to the spoiler effect. It was about 9 am....waah! Too early yet to go over there to board.
Somehow we managed to amuse ourselves until about 11 at the hotel and then had them call a cab for us, and off we were. The cab ride was all of 2 minutes or so to get to the Golden Princess. Since we never got our cruise documents before we left (hey, we live in Washington DC...we don't have real good postal service right now for obvious reasons...) so the porters at the cruise terminal gave me some Princess luggage tags to fill out, I gave the guy a $5 for our 3 bags and off to the cruise terminal we went. Needless to say, at 11 am there weren't a whole lot of people there so we went to one of the Caribe deck lines for express check in. In advance of the cruise I had filled out our information (passport #, credit card, etc.) online on the Princess web site "Cruise Personalizer". What a great feature! Jay, our check in person, was super fast and helpful and had us checked in with no problems in mere minutes. I liked the cruise card...featuring a nice picture of the Golden at sea! There was a little neon green sticker dot on our card...never did figure out what that meant. After going through security (no hooch confiscated that we saw) we were directed to the 2nd floor of the cruise terminal to wait for boarding time. This area of the terminal was laid out extremely badly....the "archway" where a passenger would stand for the embarkation photo was only about 3 feet from the railing of that level...an extremely cramped layout. And there was absolutely no way to avoid getting that picture taken, as we've been able to achieve on other lines. It was a must as far as Princess was concerned. I guess "what you want, when you want it" is more of a marketing gimmick. I'm not talking about the security system photo...that we gladly did.
Let me digress for a moment here to talk about some of my own tastes on these things. We tend to avoid cheesiness at all costs....goofy photos, singing waters, bingo anouncements...these are things we avoid like the plague!
In any case, we were greatly appreciative of the fast boarding even if we had to run the cheesiness gauntlet.
We wisked ourselves off to our cabin (no white gloved person to show us the way...boo) and were greatly excited to be on the ship.
First impression of the cabin...small! We are balcony people and love having our little piece of real estate on the sea however. This balcony cabin was imminently affordable and that we truly appreciate. We had cabin C325 on the Caribe deck....huge balcony, half convered, half exposed. This was to be one of the saving graces of this cruise. We were on the starboard side and thus had direct sunlight on the 2 sea days at the beginning of the cruise...no fighting for deck chairs up top! The balcony had 2 upright chairs and a small 30" tall table and two larger chairs which reclined. I used the reclining chairs and put my feet up on the other chairs.
The cabin is nicely appointed though...nice wood veneers, wood trims, tasteful bedspread. A desk area with a chair, a barrel chair and a refrigerator/shelf/TV area. The very light veneer used on the desk top could get dirty I think in a few months? Overall, the cabin was a terrible use of space however! There is one "hallway" from the front door to the bed area and another "hallway-ette" that contains a very large open closet and the door to the bathroom...thus making two "hallway" areas that take up huge amounts of cabin space for no practical reason. I would have preferred having a larger bathroom! This was the tiniest bathroom we've ever had. I didn't like the open closet concept either...I really don't want to look at my junk every time I come into the room and would have loved to have closet doors to hide it away! Also in this area were a closet full of shelves and a small safe (numerical password type). All and all, for a ship that's going to be doing 7 day runs in the Caribbean this is an excess of closet space most likely. They did have a very large number of wooden hangers though! Very much liked the nightstand lights that had their own dimmers....very nice.
On the little wood table in the cabin was a tiny plate with two fancy little cookies on it on a doily with a little tent card saying "compliments of the Captain"....I guess the Captain doesn't think all that much of us! Why bother with the 2 little cookies?
The bathroom, like I said, was tiny! Three corner shelves above the sink area, a toilet on a diagonal corner and a tiny shower wedged in there somehow. The shower had a fixed head, which I don't like (I love the ones on the metal hoses that you can move around), and even though I am by no means a big person, I found the shower curtain catching my a** a couple of times during the week. I always find it a bit hard to rinse off on a cruise ship because the water is so soft...so this shower was a little bit of torment all week. The blowdryer was over by the desk in the main cabin area...creating a clutter of sorts by the phone. Given how small the cabin was, it would have been nicer to have a blowdryer right in the bathroom where we could shut the bathroom door and dampen the noise for our partners who are still asleep. Oh well.
Am I sounding too negative here? I really did like how the cabin was furnished, if not it's layout or size, and that balcony....what a treat. Oh...the floor covering on the balcony...this hard pebbly blue plastic stuff that was indeed hard on the feet a bit (and hot in the sunlight!). I missed the teak decking we have had on other balconies.
Oh...the beach towel policy...don't like it! It was another thing to lug around a big ship (in addition to my book, suntan lotion, CD walkman, etc...) I definitely have found it much more convenient to just pick the darn thing up by the pool every day and I like to have multiple towels..one for the lounger, one to dry off with, one for making a little pillow... :) I know, not very environmentally friendly of me is it?! So I found this practice a bit annoying. We had a constant "battle" with the cabin steward over where the towels were put in the room...he insisted on putting them on top of the TV and I would put them back under the open shelf under the sink.
The bathroom amenities...liked the soaps and shampoo, conditioner, and body lotion, although the little packs are a bit hard to open. I always bring special soaps with me on trips (this time...lemon verbena/rosemary...luscious) so we didn't actually use the Princess soap and brought it home to enjoy instead.
Our excitement of being on the ship continuing....we went up to the Horizon Court for a bit of food. Seemed like a nice area and tons of tables. Can't remember at all what we ate, and I made a resolution on this cruise not to overeat...which I largely succeeded at as it turns out. The Horizon Court has two service areas and no "line" set up per se. I thought this was largely a good idea but wondered how it would fair when it was crowded. To some extent, over the week, I concluded these areas were too small for the size of the ship and the number of people onboard and during crowded time periods there was a sort of "turkish bazzar" chaos to the place. I think this area must also save Princess a bunch of money on personnel costs...there is virtually no personal service of food in this area. The buffet is almost entirely self-serve. The infamous big oval platters were plastic as well...kind of cheap I thought! I kind of missed the level of service we have experienced on other lines, but hey, it's still just a buffet and I'm not a big buffet person by nature so it's no biggie to me.
As was often the case, if we ate upstairs we would take our food all the way to the back of the ship to eat outdoors. This was an area of the ship (spoiler not withstanding) that we often enjoyed. The people at the bar back there were great and would procure for us our sodas. We got the soda sticker option on day one for $17.50 for the week. We were told this was $15 for the soda and $2.50 gratuity. We got large sodas whenever requested...I guess those glasses were a good 20 ounces at least? Hard to say. Not all ice either, so that was appreciated. I had countless ginger ales all week as a result.
After lunch we took our own little tour of the ship starting at the top! This ship has lots of nooks and crannies to explore and I enjoyed that immensely. One area that was hard to find was the "Princess Links" or whatever the mini golf thing was called. It was up an obscure staircase from the main pool area or through a door and up a staircase from the covered pool area...no signs to it! We played a little round of 9 that day but never got back there again all week. It's a fun little course (although showing some serious wear and tear after only 6 months!) with no borders around the individual holes...so your ball can go flying into other holes..which I actually enjoyed! Needless to say, we didn't keep score LOL!
Walking around the ship you see just how big it is!
I liked how on the top decks they had various interspersed "wind baffles", for lack of a better term, to help cut the wind while at sea. This indeed seemed to make these spaces more usable for people to lay out on deck chairs without blowing away completely. The two hot tubs in the back up top also got some good use out of me. The back of the ship, in general, was a nice quiet adult area. I only laid out in the sun on the last sea day up on the decks, however, since I had that big lovely balcony to lay out on the first two sea days on the Caribe deck, so I didn't much notice whether there was a fight for deck chairs or not, but the design of the areas seemed to allow these spaces to be more usable on windy days.
Slightly less aft were two areas for teens, with a hot tub, and for little kids with a kiddie pool. I never noticed any kids up in these areas very much although there was no shortage of either on this holiday sailing. I did notice on the last sea day a large number of elderly adults laying out in the sun in the teen area however. Can't these people read?? I thought that was pretty rude! The teens seemed to find their own places to hanging out, as would be expected. One mom I met on board at our little internet party the first day described the teen disco as "a joke". Oh well.
I don't know that I can do justice to describing the rest of the ship, as it was beautifully documented in photos by Bart de Boer on his great web site. I would say there were areas on the ship that I thought were very nice but by and large I thought it was pretty ho-hum, bordering on yuck in a few places.
I liked the 2 personal choice dining rooms. Understated. Nice wood paneling. Some truly ugly paintings however. I didn't have the heart to take pictures of them. There was this one that was a painting of Zeus perhaps holding a lightening bolt. It was embarassingly amateurish, like most of the paintings in the 2 dining rooms. One funny story...the first night in the dining room 3 older ladies were right near our little table for 2 on the wall near the fore area of the room...they were pushing on the wall thinking it was a door. Now, mind you, it didn't look like a door to me, but they were sort of drunk and confused. I helpfully pointed them on their way to the real door. There were sort of curving walkways through the dining room which were a step down from the dining areas...I had a constant fear of a senior going flying off one of those steps somewhere.
Skywalkers disco up in the spoiler had a very wild decor which I kind of liked. I had never seen gold lamee leather used on a chair before. Undoubtedly this was a space that would look better at night....we never did get up there to disco the night away, but we did go up there on the last night for a cocktail party and really, it did look better at night.
The Wheelhouse bar was a very attractive space. Perhaps the best room on the ship. We never did get down there for drinks...our internet party the first day at sea was to have been there but there was a "special event" that afternoon and we moved ourselves over to the atrium bar. Next time around we're going to make more of an effort to get over that way. Lots of very nice leather couches and a "clubby" feeling to the place. Not sure if they allow cigars there but it looked like it would give Michael's Club on Celebrity a run for its money.
The Princess Theater and the Vista Lounge were fairly non-eventful decor-wise. The Princess Theater has almost a non-decor...it reminded me of a plush college lecture room...tight together arm chairs with little fold out tables that came out of the arms. Perfect for putting a drink on..or taking notes. Better was the Vista Lounge, which had more sculpted areas of seating with actual cocktail tables in them. Didn't go there often but for watching the horse race on Friday and for immigration purposes however. Now the Explorer's Lounge was also nice, and would be a great room but for some of the bizarre "art" they have in there, which Bart de Boer has already documented. It really is an attractive room but for that, and open on one end so that folks strolling through the ship could gaze in while passing by and see what was happening. This is how I stumbled upon a few events in that space. The Explorer's lounge was also where they held the "art" auctions.
Let me digress into that topic for a while....the "art" for these art auctions is strewn everywhere throughout the ship. No deck is safe from having to look at this "art". Much of it is just terrible....semi-naked misty eyed maidens riding horses, neon clowns with tears in their eyes, etc., you get the point. Ok, there were a few nice things, but not very many, and they were literally everywhere all over the ship. There was an entire room (or rather, very wide hallway) devoted to their display all week as well. Yuck! Actually, of the 8 cruises we have taken so far, I would have to say this one was the one most devoted to pushing onboard revenue centers, from the content of the Princess Patter, to the nearly endless promotional fliers put in the mailbox at our cabin. Endless huckstering for onboard spending! I found it kind of obnoxious. Thankfully they did not do these things via onboard announcements...or I would have been screaming to get off the ship in St. Maarten! The Patter also has some very tiny print! 2/3 or more of every day's Patter was about selling stuff, yikes.
Ok...off the soapbox and back to the ship tour.
The atrium area was lovely and the bars surrounding it attractive. I loved the tulip petal stained glass sculpture thingee at the top of the atrium...it evoked a bit of Louis Comfort Tiffany. I also liked the half art deco/half art nouveau-ish brushed steel thingees that encaged the panoramic elevators. Very attractive, although they made seeing out of the panoramic elevators a bit of a challenge! The furniture and decor in the atrium area was generally a very nice job and the atrium, being just 3 decks high, wasn't overwhelming or too mall like (not yet at least...) Also in the atrium area, on boarding day, were the fabulous Lodz Quartet! They largely played classical music, although they snuck in "strings" treatment of more recent compositions every now and then as well. They were great and I enjoyed hearing them on various days and nights aboard the ship.
The shops seemed nice on the various atrium levels (in fact I picked up a bottle of my cologne at a good price later in the week) and I liked some of the mosaic tile treatments they had in the floors in these areas. The Atlantis Casino was huge but I intensely disliked the seahorse-heavy motif of the carpeting there. I know, that's the theme of the place, but boy was that ugly carpeting.
Speaking of floor treatments...it seemed to be a big Princess thing to cover the floors with carpeting with the edges of the room/hallway/etc trimmed in marble. Sometimes this worked, other times the colors of the carpet vs the marble just did not make an attractive combination. The marble seemed to be trying to say "we're classy" while the carpeting often said otherwise. There was one particular carpeting pattern that stood out as ugly...it was used often in landing areas or hallways....it was this basically aquamarine color with bits of red and other colors thrown in looking like confetti almost (ok, that's not what I really called it, but that word will suffice). It's chief virtue seemed to be its ability to hide stains or wear I suppose. It was not attractive. I did like the numbers on the elevator landings in the carpeting, which was a must on such a big ship, and the fact that the port side hallways in cabin areas were red and the starboard side blue. Of course, it took us 2 days to figure out that little bit of color coding!
The one pool area that was decorated in any sense of the word was the Calypso Reef area, which is covered by a movable dome thing. Lots of colorful tiled columns with pictures of fishes and stuff like that. A little busy for my tastes, but this was one of the few areas of the ship with teak floors and they had the best loungers and chairs in this area with thick pads. The chairs and tables on the upper level were particularly attractive as well. One thing I liked about the covered side areas in the various pool locations was that the ceilings had attractive wooden fans on them....a very helpful thing to take some of the edge off the Caribbean heat if you're sitting at a table near the pools eating or whatnot.
Walking around the various cabin hallways and stairwells...noticed no art whatsoever in the cabin hallways. The stairwells (especially the center stairwell near the panoramic elevators) had the best art on the ship..just about the only art I would consider attractive. A variety of contemporary modern paintings, collages, photographs. Finally on this ship some art that I'd actually consent to have hanging in my home! Generally no name folks but some really decent stuff.
The Lotus Spa area seemed nice enough. Actually kind of small I thought for a ship of this size. I didn't end up availing myself of any spa services this time, but I did find the gym to be rather small for this ship. Also, they charge for some of the exercise classes such as yoga and pulse cycling (and had big warning signs on those bikes not to otherwise use them!) I don't think I've seen charging for classes before but I generally don't take the classes. Other aerobic classes were free. The weight machines were decent and the dumbbell sets went up to 75 pounds, which was adequate for most folks. I didn't see what the competition for the few treadmills, etc., was like in the mornings. The lap pool thingy in the spa area seemed to be closed a few days due to excess motion of the ship while at sea. I missed not having the Thallasotherapy pool! The steam and sauna areas seemed nice. Corey and Wayne of the gym were the best looking personal trainers I've ever seen on a ship...they seemed to inspire some confidence that they knew what they were doing and had all sorts of certifications and trainings. Usually I look at these folks and I'm in better shape than they are...not these two. Up top of this area was a basketball/paddle tennis area that seemed to be well shielded from wind and sun alike.
Up top as well were the F/X digital center (never saw anyone there) and the Voyage of Discovery video game area, both areas designed to separate you from you money of course!
One odd observation...in the Neptune pool area, the main pool, there was no stage or area for the band...Xtent (who were very good by the way). They were just sort of off to the side against a wall. What an afterthought! I guess it was more important to make room for the Haagen Daas revenue center!
Also up top, the chess set and some shuffleboard areas. I actually saw some folks playing chess through the week (as this was my preferred sun tan area!) The back pool area they did play recorded music quite a bit..which after 7 days of the exact same tape/CD/whatever, got to be a bit monotonous. Whatever happened to just the sound of the sea being enough?! Robert says it was quiet back there (i.e., no music) usually much of the morning however.
The laundromat on our floor was not far away and I used the iron a few times to touch up my shirts. I would never do laundry on vacation (eegads no!) but having the iron around was handy. Of course, I usually pack a tiny travel iron for this purpose (and haven't burned down a ship yet!) to do my touch ups on the desk so it was convenient not to have to pack that this time.
What am I leaving out here??
The Desert Rose, or the southwestern hallway as we called it, seemed attractive, but we never got around to eating there. I did use the AOL internet cafe one day to catch up in 15 minutes (mostly deleting junk e-mail of course) and sending a few notes to family. This was an attractive area (and our muster station as it turned out!) and had Aeron chairs and flat screen monitors. Never seemed to be busy in there. $7.50 for 15 minutes. A tad pricey but I only did use it once. Saw several onboard brides so I gather the Hearts and Minds wedding chapel was in use a couple times this cruise! Nice enough space but I think I'd opt for a beach wedding instead! In fact, we had a newly minted couple in Sabatini's the night we went. The photo gallery seemed a bit small for the size of the ship and the # of people on board.
That's about it for my ship tour on this first afternoon. Tiring walking around such a big ship isn't it!?? We were truly excited and eagerly anticipating our week aboard. Oh, public bathrooms...very nice! Lots of marble, and some intriguing design to the sinks (little conical bases underneath the sinks.) Hand dryers and paper towels. Oh...there are some areas of the ship that don't seem "bolted down" all the way...go to the men's room on the port side of deck 14 all the way at the back of the ship behind the Horizon Court. This entire space rattled...even while docked in port! Since we were at the back of the ship we never could figure out what the problem was there.
When we were by Sabatini's we stopped in to make reservations for one of the non-formal at sea nights so we could have dinner there. There was a bit of a line, so I asked the gentlemen from Princess a simple question as to whether they were accepting reservations at this time. A male passenger at the front of the line then starts harassing me saying "hey guy, loosen up, don't be so type-A about it..." whatever. All I did was ask a question, in my usual nice way of course, because it was not clear as to whether the place was open yet to take reservations. So within two hours of being on the ship this guy was already drunk and harassing fellow passengers! I wasn't encouraged. In any case, we got a nice reservation for 7:30 pm for Monday, for 4, thinking we might meet some folks onboard who we might want to invite with us.
We went back to the cabin, and voila, our luggage had arrived. This was about 4:30 or so. We unpacked and I took the drawers in the desk area and my nightstand and Robert took the shelves near the bathroom. Seemed like a good amount of storage space. I do wonder how they fit 3rds and 4ths into these little cabins though!
I also took a little time to write a personal note to the Cruise Director, Alistair Greener, asking for his help in setting up a party for the gay and lesbian cruisers onboard...a "Friends of Dorothy" gathering as they're called. I had met some folks on Cruise Critic (a couple from Dallas) prior to our sailing and we planned to set something up in Skywalkers in the afternoon of either Sunday or Monday while we were at sea. I dutifully hand delivered this down to the Purser's office a bit later today.
At some point, we were off to dinner...our first experience with Personal Choice. We selected the Donatello restaurant on deck 6 and generally we are late eaters...8:30 or 9:00 pm usually. We didn't wait very long for a table for two. This was the table near the really bad painting and the night the drunk ladies tried to make the wall their door. We had a very nice Thai man for our waiter this night. I got the Prime Rib (to be repeated on the last night, btw...never saw a menu repeat before on any line!) and Robert had the seafood in the puff pastry. Both were decent but nothing to write home about.
Like I said earlier, I tried to be very good on this cruise so I skipped the salad and appetizer (and I ended up skipping a few courses most nights) and ordered what I thought looked liked an interesting soup on the menu....pina colada and cream with a touch of rum. This, of course, turned out to be a pina colada served in a fancy glass and not a soup after all! I was startled when the waiter brought it to the table! Well, that was my soup course I guess. Service-wise I was a bit confused on this night (as I would be throughout the entire cruise) as to who on the service staff did what....like who do I order my drink from? Most nights I would just tell the waiter everything and let him or her deal with it. I had a sense that turning over tables was a high priority of the service staff and felt rushed every night. Why I don't know, because we often ate late and the dining room would be pretty darn empty by the time we finished usually. On this first night I noticed the water pitchers were clear plastic (yuck) and that the tables weren't set ever with the china, silverware, etc. I felt like this was missing out on part of the whole "dining experience" for me. I always love seeing the beautifully set table before we start to dine...it seems to lend a "specialness" to the whole affair. This was distinctly missing from the personal choice experience. Also, on this first night, no crumber! The crumber is that little metal thing the waiter uses to clear the bread crumbs off your table, usually after dinner and before dessert. Actually, a few days later in another dining room the crumber emerged! All and all, the dining room persistently had a feeling of being "understaffed" the entire week. Saw numerous examples of food being spilled, plates dropping, glasses crashing in these dining rooms, including one spectacular dump in Sabatini's...right onto this one woman. Her husband was none too happy. I did like the free capuccino and espresso in the dining rooms...not the best, but not bad. For dessert I ordered the profiteroles, which I love. They are tiny cream puffs basically with chocolate sauce. These were the saddest little profiteroles I've ever seen...very small and kind of lumpy. Had they been frozen at some point in their short little lives? Hard to say, but they were not fresh. I guess this was also the night the guy and family came in shorts to the dining room...not bad in itself but the father had a tank top on with a hairy back...not what I wanted to see while dining! Don't know if the maitre'd suggested the Horizon Court to them or not and I guess their luggage maybe wasn't delivered to their room yet? I'll give them the benefit of the doubt this being night one.
After dinner we trotted over to the welcome aboard show in the Princess Theater, which we got late to. There was not a seat in the house to be had, so we left. Being tired, we called it a night and went back to the cabin. We ended up filling out the fruit bowl request card, but we never did request the bathrobes (too hot in the Caribbean to wear on the balcony imho!) Absent from the cabin...no tote bag like we've gotten on other cruises. Is this something they've cut back on?? An ice bucket in the nicely empty fridge...but no ice water pitcher! A big bottle of bottled water, for purchase of course, took its place. Hmmm...
Somehow I've missed telling you about the muster drill and the sailaway..both pretty uneventful. Not much of a sailaway party up on deck, which I usually enjoy.
A lazy day at sea. My favorite thing. Laid out in the sun much of the day from our very sunny balcony on the Caribe deck. I had bought a couple of 20 oz ginger ales in Ft. Lauderdale so I didn't have to move far to get a "cold one" as it were.
We went to the open seating lunch in Donatello and were seated with a couple from Florida and a couple from nearby Gaithersburg, Maryland. Had a very nice Cobb salad and polished it off with some cappuccino ice cream. Very yummy! Also had a chocolate and almond cake in puff pastry (seemed to be a lot of puff pastry on this ship...) I wanted to save a piece of it to be analyzed in a professional laboratory...there wasn't a whit of chocolate in this thing! Decent company, so it was a nice lunch. Still that ugly painting of Zeus nearby....oy veh!
Much more suntanning in the afternoon. Ship has an interesting motion at time...thrusters working a bit hard. As the ship rocks gently from side to side on the down side of one of those rolls, every now and then, a pronounced "grind" or shudder to the ship. Also, later in the week I noticed a sort of "fishtail" phenomena on this ship. I guess I was sitting up above the Lotus Spa pool area looking towards the back of the ship...the tail end seems to shimmy a bit back and forth. This is a huge ship...should have brought my binoculars to see all the way to the end!
Reading Stephen Ambrose's book on the building of the transcontinental railroad today.
A wonderful event at 3 pm today....a party that some of us from the internet (RTC, Cruise Critic, Cruisemates...) put together. We met in front of the Wheelhouse Bar (which ended up being closed for a private event..I hate when that happens!) so we moved ourselves over to the Lobby Bar a few steps away. Absolutely lovely meeting Michelle and Dorothy who helped put it together and it was wonderful running into folks from the party all week onboard and on land. A great ice breaker and I highly recommend setting up such events and have done so on our last several cruises. This time we even had a little web page to help build our excitement for the cruise!
Tonight's dinner was ok. Not bad medallions of beef, although somewhat overcooked and dry. Robert (the fish lover) said the Mahi Mahi was definitely dry. Liked the hazelnut souffle thingee! Very tasty and quite hot from the oven. I ordered a bottle of Chateauneuf de Pape for dinner (I usually only have 1 glass a night...tummy problems...and it lasted me nearly all week...a tasty wine!) Oh, did I mention tonight was formal night? Seemed like a fair amount of dressy-ness on board. Tuxes, under 50% certainly. No candlelight in the dining room, no fancy palette cleanser sorbets between courses though.
Tonight was the big production show..."Lights, Camera, Action". Very big on production values...sets, costumes, etc. The physical comedian Uber Rossi really is quite a gifted man, ala, Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin. Very acrobatic as well. Princess had obviously spent a lot of money conceiving this show (or whoever really did it, of course) and I thought maybe they should have spent a bit more on the singers and dancers to pull it off! The only good singer in this show was Hunter Gerard, a tall charismatic African-American guy with some stage presence. The other 3 singers...not so good. The dance corps were often out of sequence with one another as well. Whoever the dance captain of this show is should be forced to take everyone back to the rehearsal hall a bit! The content of the show was decidedly curious....one of the early numbers was a Casbah-like setting with dancing arab girls...the song "Midnight at the Oasis". Having lived through the 70s, this is a song that should never be performed in public again-it was awful enough the first time around! This segued into an interesting musical arrangement of a Madonna song from the 80s, "Rescue Me". I thought, given current affairs, that rescuing dancing arab girls in scanty clothing was perhaps not the most entertaining plot line to explore at this time.
A later sketch featured Uber Rossi, done up in full French aristocracy "dandy" costume, flirting with a male member of the audience (it was a continuing gag of sorts, you had to be there)...all of which made me somewhat uncomfortable as a gay man because the aristocrat was then marched to the guillotine where his head was chopped off onstage (a bit of magic actually). I thought, hmmm, you flirt with another man and off with your head! Another number to be cut from this show. Strangely enough, the scene continued....all turned out to be well in the French aristocracy after all....a musical number featuring the song "Masquerade" (ie, sing in your best chessey/lounge lizard voice..."we're lost..in a mask, Masquerade".) So I guess once the gay guy gets it the aristocracy can go back to partying huh? This is such a cheesy song that it too should be banned from public performance! I will say, the set for this number did have some nifty visual references to the decor of the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles. Oh well. Who the heck wrote this piece of schlock?? In any case, like I have said before, I think most cruise entertainment is pretty cheesy. After these two less than desirable numbers, I started to get worried when a few bars of the theme from Schindler's List started playing and thought....oh God, their not going to cheese that one up as well are they? I'm happy to say, it was an elegant little number. A couple dancing, no singing, and since the theme of this production show was "the cinema", a man brought an old fashioned movie camera on stage and projected onto the video screens were images of the couple dancing, but somehow electronically altered to make it look like an old fashioned, sepia-toned silent movie. It was well done. If only this level of thought and artistry had gone into the rest of the show!
No sign in tonight's Princess Patter of the "Friends of Dorothy" party for the next day at sea...hmmm.
Tonight we were also going to test out a little trick I learned from my extensive cruise research online.... regarding the little door knob card for breakfast tomorrow. All of the items (other than hot coffee or tea, etc) on the card are cold...cereals, danish, rolls, fruit, etc. You can write in something else you want in your own handwriting and within reason (I presume) they will bring it to you. Tonight's request for tomorrow....french toast with syrup (don't neglect to write the syrup in specifically..or you won't get it!)
Around 5:00 am I woke up to go to the bathroom and then wandered out on to the balcony to have a little look. The most magical moments of the cruise.....the Leonid meteor shower was taking place at full display! I had recalled reading something in the Lauderdale paper about this on Friday, but made no mental note of it until I stepped outside and couldn't believe my eyes! Better than fireworks on the 4th of July! It truly was one of the most special moments of the entire cruise. I didn't have the heart to wake up Robert, but what a show. Great job Mother Nature!
Another glorious day at sea. A little cloudy in the morning but...brightened considerably by the arrival of french toast with syrup!! :) Since we were again pointing south, our starboard side paradisical balcony beckoned. Fighting over lounge chairs...not I! Today I decided to be truly daring....I was going to sunbathe in the nude! :) The Caribe deck balconies are half covered and half exposed, as it were, to the decks above. The sun comes in at an angle, insuring great tanning, while allowing me to stay comfortably under the covered part of the balcony. I almost felt like I was in the south of France again! Robert's not a big sun person so many of these sea days or quiet afternoons he spent in the shade up by the aft pool area...an area of the ship he enjoyed very much. Great bar service there too! For lunch I ordered a cheeseburger and slaw. It came to the room hot, and it was not overcooked like oh so many burgers one gets on cruise ships! It still had a little bit of juice to it! So that was tasty. More suntanning in the pm. Really these first two days at sea I didn't get around the ship during the sun light hours to see or do much else of anything so I can't comment on what the activities might have been like. I was up near the main pool a little bit late in the day since the sun was down on the horizon and thus out of suntan "range". The wonderful band Xtent were playing and boy could they swing...they let this old guy (for lack of a better term) who was a passenger from Ft. Lauderdale sing "Autumn Leaves" with the band. This guy could sing! The arrangement of the song had some swing to it and this guy wasn't too shabby! It was one of the magic moments of the cruise for me. An old guy in a bathing suit (he was fresh from the volleyball competition I might add!) rockin' the house!
Tonight would be our time to try out Sabatini's, the Italian specialty restaurant on board. It was a $15/person extra charge, and I think worth it if you like seafood...plus you can get a lobster there as well. This was, however, just the basic charge...at the end of the dinner the waiter presented us a form with which we could tip the waiters....huh?? We tipped them a $20, but really, I wondered what the deal was with that.
This was a very interesting meal. The room itself was basically attractive. Not as assaulting as the comparable (free however...) restaurant aboard the Rotterdam, although the wall murals were not too great. The room had a mall-like artificiality about it somehow. The dinner menu itself was sort of strange. Some antipasto choices (great prosciutto though...much better than in the main dining room), with several seafood choices, and then a caviar course (not something I knew Italian food was known for particularly), some wonderful thin crust (fire oven? I guess not on a ship) pizza, a very good minestrone soup, some tasty pasta choices, and then main courses. Many people got the lobster, of course. The non-seafood choices were somewhat limited I have to say (not being a seafood eater myself...it was all those years of fish on Fridays during Lent that permanently turned me off to the stuff!). I was also somewhat mystified by the lack of Italian wines on the wine list in this place. Seems like a wonderful venue to try to highlight the wonderful grape-based products that country is rightly famous for! Also, the dessert choices were very curious as well....Tiramisu, of course (although once frozen in a previous life I think...I was starting to thing Pepperidge Farms was the major dessert supplier for this ship or something...), a cheesecake choice, and several other choices....one of which, an apple tart that bore a striking resemblance to Tarte Tatin, the famed French dessert....oh yeah....it was "French Night" in the regular dining rooms! I wondered why no Canolis (the original pastry cigar!) or Panne Cotta or Spumoni or one of the many fabulous gelatoes that Italy is famed for??? In fact, Haagen Daaz, surprisingly, makes a wonderful hazelnut gelato...maybe the waiters in Sabatini's could have run upstairs and gotten me some?? I also found the service quite rushed at times, and very inattentive....I repeatedly had to tell the waiter that I did not eat seafood..averting within split seconds his spooning various fishy-things onto my plate! It was almost like the guy was not paying attention at all. Also, coming in at the proper time for our reservation the maitre'd was pretty insistent that "wouldn't you want to join a table with 2 ladies"...hello!!! I guess he wasn't too swift.
They seemed to be always rushing around...in fact I noticed that at nearly every dinner onboard. No time to chat up the waiter or assistant! One night we had a Lithuanian waiter (my mother's side is Lithuanian) and I startled and befriended him by saying hello in Lithuanian to him. Another night we had a Hungarian assistant and we got to briefly recount our travels in his country. He seemed genuinely flattered/touched that we wanted to celebrate his heritage, in however a small way. It was one of those nice moments that I really enjoy on a cruise. This waiter even taught me how to properly say "Szentendre"...a town on the Danube bend.
The service tonight did have its high points, however. The maitre'd did make a valiant effort to locate my open bottle of wine in the other dining room...it turned out it was on 5 in Bernini rather than on 6 in Donatello, and they brought us some special treats that the tables nearby us did not get....a plate full of amaretti...various almond based cookies (super yummy!) and a generous glass of Limoncello...the potent Lemon based liquor. This managed to help salvage what was otherwise a somewhat disappointing meal. Hey, even I can make a passable fresh Lemon sorbet from scratch here at home....let's see some real Italian desserts in this place! We stole the remaining cookies and stuffed them in my pockets before leaving. They were worth stealing! (Little did we know, we'd see the same plate of cookies on "Italian Night" in Bernini later in the week...)
Tonight Robert was somewhat in pain as he slipped in the (tiny) bathroom and pulled something out in his back...a somewhat recurrent problem of his actually. So he took some pain killers (actually, it was hard for him to even get to Sabatini's and sit down in a chair) so we went back up to the cabin after dinner (with our amaretti of course....need to get my blue blazer cleaned after smuggling them though!) and got him situated up there. I went back out to see the production show "Shake, Rattle, and Roll" in the Vista Lounge. This show didn't have any sets and all that kind of thing, but the singing got much better, and the dancing somewhat better. Hunter Gerard shined again, especially singing "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" as a duet. This guy did have some definite chops and charisma. There were some very comical moments in the show...a little wry parody never hurt anyone. During the song "Who's Sorry Now" (although maybe it was "It's My Party"???) the beehive hairdo on the Connie Francis wannabe (wearing a poodle skirt, of course!) got bigger as she sang! That was (quite intentionally) very funny! Also, when they did a Sonny and Cher skit, the male singer came out in costume on his knees to make him 2 feet shorter than the Cher character! It was a bit of fun visual humor to go with the much improved singing.
I have noticed, although maybe I'm wrong, that in the production shows the dancers are not miked....so who is singing the backup vocal parts?? And for that matter, where's the orchestra or band playing the music? The back up singing was some of the best singing in all of the shows....because it had been recorded by professionals some time in the past??! I truly don't like "canned" performances. I mean, why not just let me up there on stage to lip sync?
After the show I tooled over to the Princess Theater to catch the end of the Gaetano magician show. He seemed pretty good. I really only caught the last trick....I won't give it away but it caught me by surprise! I'd like to see that one again and really watch it to see if I can figure out how it was done! The crowd seemed to really enjoy this show as well. I also passed by and watched the famed Maurizio for a bit in the Promenade Lounge. He's really pretty good. I'm somewhat more of a Bobby Short fan, more traditional piano bar (Marilyn Woods on the Horizon...still my favorite!), but Maurizio definitely had a fan club on board! He really should be moved to a bigger venue on board for his nightly performances because he draws a crowd (and a dance floor too would be good). I saw some couples, of various ages, holding each other close and swaying to his music...what a romantic sight. My recommendation would be: ditch the Desert Rose concept, kick the yahoo band off the ship (can you tell I'm not a big fan of country western?), and make that space into a little Russian Tea Room at sea, fill it with plush burgundy velvet banquets, twinkling stars on the ceiling, and give this guy a little palace to play in! He'd fill it every night I'm sure.
Ok, to bed now. I filled out my breakfast card suggestion for tomorrow..a cheese omlet with bacon on the side. Princess Patter....still no sign of a "Friends of Dorothy" mixer. Giving up hope!
Success two days in a row....cheese omelette with bacon! I'm liking this breakfast card trick, and I have to admit I'm not a big fan of buffets to begin with. We never did get down to the main dining rooms for breakfast this entire cruise...oh well. Can't tell you if they had anything different down there!
Featured on today's Patter...several column inches of things for sale of course! The virtual reality center, the fitness programs you pay for, several inches of shore excursions you can buy! The entire back page, like every day, nothing but ads! The front page...spotlight on purchasing the crappy art on board, purchasing future cruises, and purchasing flowers on board. Why do I get the sense this is a publication not intended to convey useful information to us!?? Yikes!
The Golden docked first in St. Maarten. Another beautiful day I might add. I watched the Radiance of the Seas pull in about 8:00 am. Little did I know Bart de Boer was aboard! What a missed opportunity to meet someone I truly admire! The Radiance seemed like a handsome ship I thought. Our plan for today was to escape St. Maarten and go visit St. Martin! Being the French-American that I am...I can't resist a little bit of France wherever it might be! We hopped a van taxi over to Marigot...can't remember the exact price but it was very reasonable. We even got off the ship at a reasonable hour....we're often not off until 11 am...being the late risers that we are! We walked around Marigot for a couple hours. A charming little town...made especially attractive by the absence of throngs of cruise passengers. We got ourselves a real Napolean pastry! Yum! We were trying to find the Cartier store in Marigot so I could get my watch band replaced - I took it with us on this trip certain that we'd find someone to fix it (of course, there is a Cartier a few miles away from our house here in Washington...god forbid we just get on the Metro and go there instead!)...and we looked round and round and even had it on a tourist map of the town...it ain't there no more! Happily, while looking around town, we stumbled upon a confiserie/chocolaterie called "Jeff de Brugges". How can you not trust a name like that? :) We bought a nice kilo of various little treats, including nougats, fruit pates, the chocolate covered orange peel things, and some calissons. These brought back wonderful memories of our recent trip to the south of France in September. I especially love the chocolate covered orange peel things and the nougats. YUM! The woman in the store was super nice and we alternatively spoke french and english throughout the conversation. She had moved to Marigot to be with her boyfriend and had only been there a few months. St. Martin is no colony or territory - it's literally a part of France!
Marigot has a wonderful marina area that is lined with cafes and stores, I thought much more attractive than Phillipsburg. by comparison, Phillipsburg kind of reminded me of Pottersville in Jimmy Stewart's nightmare sequence in "It's a Wonderful Life"! Ok, so maybe that's an exaggeration.
I did stop by one of the Little Switzerland stores to pick up another piece of the Waterford Nativity set that I have been buying my mother for the last several Christmases. These were "discontinued" by Waterford before 2000 but magically I am always able to find pieces she does not yet have in the Caribbean at Little Switzerland or elsewhere. Good prices too. I noticed that liquor and cigarettes were very cheap here (much cheaper than St. Thomas as it would turn out) so I picked up a bottle of Raspberry Stolichnaya vodka here. Little did I know that Robert (who took the van right back to the ship) had picked up a bottle of Vanilla Stoly as well. Gosh, I don't even drink all that much! These bottles went for $5 for a fifth, I guess that's the quantity. Cigs seemed to be around $10 or $11 a carton. Not my thing anymore, but just a price reference for you readers out there.
I went back to the ship and met up with Robert for lunch. I wanted to get my hands on one of those juicy cheeseburgers again and there was a little line at the grill but not much. The down side to having such a big ship....the hamburger and pizza place is on the forward side of the first main pool...the Horizon Court is further aft on the ship...after walking through two pool areas. So if you want a little salad or something with your burger....it's a HIKE! Naturally, we ended up taking our food to the back terrace area...our favorite little place.
Empty ship later in the afternoon....time for some more primo suntanning! I love an empty ship! Our beautiful balcony wasn't getting any direct sun so I headed up top to the back of the ship near the chess set thingee. Even at 38, oops, 39 now, I am a bit too "fidgetty" to just sit there and lay in the sun...so I had to lug around my minidisc player (Bjork, Robbie Williams, The Producers, and Shirley Horn featured this week) and my book, and of course the ubiquitous beach towel. How much nicer it would be to just pick up the d*mn thing somewhere on deck! What you want, when you want it.....hmmmm....
Tonight's dinner turned out to be a pretty good one. Nice aspargus tips, a very nice apple and peach cold soup, pretty decent rack of lamb, kind of small though. For dessert I had a semolina custard cake. Very good and something different and unusual for a change. Robert had a banana custard Napolean...not very good! Thank goodness we got a real French one on land today! Robert is the self-styled King of All Napoleans after all!
Robert's back was acting up quite a bit tonight so we skipped the shows and really were pretty tired and went back to the cabin. Of course, after wondering for a few nights whether the Golden would have any deck parties.....tonight was the "Tropical Island Night" deck party! I really enjoy the deck parties even though they can be pretty cheesy (think Macarena). Something about the sea air and the sway of the ship, some music, and maybe a funny tropical drink can be just the ticket. Oh well, next time. Also, I was kicking myself for not buying a tropical shirt I had seen earlier in the day in Marigot...it was medium and I wear a large. It had large Tiki heads all over it! It was the best tropical shirt I saw all week, although I can be partial to black or navy shirts with white flowers on them as well. If only they had the Tiki head shirt in large!
Ok...filling out the breakfast car for tomorrow...let's try for pancakes with syrup!! Princess Patter...still no sign of a party.
Pancakes it is! Although two orders arrived instead of just the one ordered. Robert looked at me like I was going to have to eat all that food rather than have it go to waste! I can't eat that many pancakes! The pancakes themselves were about 4 inches in diameter and suspiciously perfectly formed. Robert was convinced they were frozen and heated up, but I wasn't quite sure. Hard to say!
This morning we were to arrive in St. Thomas (another perfect day weather wise I might add!) and this was the morning we had to report to US Immigration at some ungodly hour of the morning. I can't remember exactly..7 am? That sounds about right. My name is early in the alphabet and Robert's is much later and he had a later time than me. We went together just to get it over with. Although the proper "path" to the Vista lounge was a bit confusing, it did move along very quickly and we were in and out of that in under 10 minutes. I did feel bad for the older folks and mobility challenged....quite a hike (as is everything on this ship) for them at such an early time of day. Quite unusual for us, we were off the ship by 8:30 am and were docked in position 1 at Havensight. We grabbed the $3/person open air taxi thingee to downtown Charlotte Amalie. The two Russian couples sitting next to us looked a bit shocked when I asked them in Russian to please excuse us so we could get out of the van once we hit downtown. They seemed nice.
You may have noticed by now...we are not big beach people! Robert is not big on the sun so I generally only hit the beach if I have someone else to go with. Today we did have a mission though....Cartier! Recalling from our Galaxy sailing of a few years ago that there was one in Charlotte Amalie we set off to find it...grazing our way through other stores on the way of course as well. Since it was still early and most of the ship's passengers were still grazing their way through the Horizon Court buffet, the streets were pleasantly empty for the most part and Charlotte Amalie was still rubbing the sleepiness out of its eyes. Nonetheless, there were any number of folks offering to take us on island tours of course. One of these days we'll actually go out and see this island! I know, it really is a crime that we haven't. Actually, I think I'd rather spend a week or two down in this area and spend a few days on each island and take the ferries between them....seems like one could easy do St. Thomas, St. John and some of the British Virgins for an extended period of exploration.
We found Cartier...darn...not open until 10:00 am...so we continued looking about. Charlotte Amalie seemed a bit cleaner to me than it was 3 years ago. Ok...we've killed time. A little espresso in a local joint did the trick. Off to Cartier. Met this wonderful lady there who tried to help me. We spent a good half hour going through leather straps to fit the deployant clasp that this watch has....unfortunately, it's an antique Cartier and it looks like we're going to have to go to NYC to get a replacement strap! I really should have gotten this lady's name so I could write a nice letter to the company commending her service. She really did take the time to try to help me out.
In my general distress over that, I just had to go buy something!! Plus, I had no nice watch for the second formal night! So, sniffing around I went. Saw a Movado watch that caught my eye...something a bit less formal than the Cartier. It's one of the new Sports Edition watches. Steel band and case, either black, silver, or cobalt blue faces, with the little Movado dot on the top, of course. Hmmm, silver or blue face? We went to several stores and got the clerks to give us their best price and their business cards. Ended up at Little Switzerland (a company I do generally trust...) and bargained them down below the lowest price I had received elsewhere, but they did moan about it a lot. I opted for the cobalt blue faced one. Kind of a sleak looking watch and really I've never owned a metal band watch before (never liked 'em much) but this one definitely caught my eye. It's a design thing. I thought it could go well with dressy stuff, or I could wear it to a rave party, in the unlikely event I would ever be attending one (oh yes, I'm getting old aren't I!) I was happy with the price and the service at Little Switzerland was just great. They took me upstairs to take out a few links to adjust the size of the band for me right there. When buying something like this I'm a bit more comfortable dealing with an "authorized dealer" rather than some of the more marginal operations I stuck my head into this day.
Meanwhile...since this purchase was taking quite a while, Robert amused himself in the other jewelry sections of the store....Christmas was coming up and a special gift for mom was in order. Really, with his father passed on some years now you can't leave him in jewelry store for long without some damage being done...somebody's got to buy his mom a few nice things. So if you can keep a secret, she's getting a gold necklace with a big pearl set with a diamond clasp thingee on it. Seems like a nice necklace and hopefully she will like it.
Ok, mission, if not accomplished with regard to the Cartier watch, at least shopping demon partially exorcised for now--it's back to the ship. Lunch in the Horizon Court, can't remember it! Heading to the upper deck for more sun! Mother Nature has been doing such a good job this week! Some other ships in port...a Disney ship and the Veendam. The Veendam seems really tiny near the Golden! Watching from up top while the Disney ship pulls out of port..."When You Wish Upon A Star" on the ship's horn tooting away. Cute!
This afternoon I did the unthinkable - I called my parents on my cell phone while in port from an open deck! I promise I was really quiet!! And really there was no one around. I just wanted to wish them a Happy Thanksgiving since we'd be at sea tomorrow and didn't much care to call from the ship. They were stunned to get the call to say the least (they don't know how these things work) and dad of course asked me if we found "Smitty's Hideaway" in St. Thomas...a place he had gone to in the 50's when he was in the Navy. We did ask around about it in town, but found no info. Anyone out there on the internet ever run into the place?
We decided to break the mold....and go see a movie before dinner. We tend to eat late, 8:30 or 9:00, so we went to the 6:30 pm showing of "Moulin Rouge" in the Princess Theater. Was a little disappointed that the movie was shown in "pan and scan" format rather than widescreen, although this is the movie distributor's fault rather than Princess of course. The cinematography of this film is so outlandish that you really do have to see it in widescreen. Previous films this week have been "Legally Blond", the "Mummy Returns", "A Knight's Tale" and "The Mexican"...generally stuff at a video store or airplane near you.
"Moulin Rouge" is a loud movie in some ways...hey, it's a musical, but during the quiet parts of the movie........the Princess Theater squeaks like nobody's business! It's all that sound and light gear in the ceiling not bolted down too good! So that was a bit of a distraction. They had movies about half the nights of the cruise, and otherwise in the afternoon. You would think on a ship this size they could have a dedicated movie theater like HAL or Celebrity and show more! Oh well. HAL has that lovely popcorn as well. The Hearts and Minds wedding chapel can't be used all that much, and certainly not at night. Why not have a Hearts and Minds Wedding Chapel Cinema...only would take adding 1 word to its name on the wall and deck plans!
The line in this movie I love the most....when somebody says to Nicole Kidman: "only your acting can save him now" or something like that. That is truly a hilarious line!
After the movie we toddled off to dinner in Bernini and met our best wait staff of the cruise....Esther from Mexico. What a doll she was! (We never did hunt down Doreen in Donatello, stupid us!) We were fairly late eating so she seemed less rushed than others we had earlier in the week. It was "Italian Night" in the dining room, but for some reason I didn't write down what we had other than the amaretti, like those we had at Sabatini's. Yummy cookies...and we stole the whole plate of them as well!
I'll get on my philosophical soapbox for a minute here....much like on HAL, this whole "theme night" thing in the dining room on the Golden I thought was pretty cheesy. Esther had on an Italian flag themed vest and bowtie (I think) and there was a little Italian flag on the table. This evokes for me what the borscht belt hotels of the 50's must have been like. Corny! Of course, HAL hands out goofy hats and sends the "little Dutch girl" out to every table to have their pictures taken with the dirty old men on board. Do the cruise lines really have to do such silliness in the dining room? God only knows what my reaction to singing waiters would be! Oh well...I'm willing to give that a go even just for the experience. I shudder to think what "French" night (we were at Sabatini's that night) must have been like onboard...little berets and penciled in mustaches? Or perhaps an interpretive dance tribute to Pepe LePeu?? Gosh, I could use a good martini bar right now!
Caught the last song or two of "70's Night Fever" a tribute to that "wonderful" decade. The band was, rather credibly, doing an old ABBA favorite. Sorry to have not seen more of that. Also, missed the London Pub Night comedy show....Robert kind of in pain from the back and me tired. Next time!
Didn't fill out a breakfast card tonight...I decided to live on the edge and see what the Horizon Court might offer tomorrow.
Another gorgeous day at sea...no direct sun for us since the starboard side is facing sort of northeasterly today. I had finished the book on the transcontinental railroad and was starting in on "A Painted House" by John Grisham. I spent most of the day trying to be a bit out of the sun for a change. I think this was the day I saw the adults taking over the teen sunshine area! I spent some time up above the Lotus pool area..not bad, although noisy basketball players. Not as windy up there as you would think. Picked up some fruit in the Horizon Court...this space is kind of on the small size when there are a lot of people up there....today would be the "Turkish Bazaar" day! Although "Inch of Gold" has been making regular appearances in the skinny walkways around the atrium area, today would see tables and tables of merchandise (have these people never seen a t-shirt before?) all around this somewhat "space challenged" area. I will say also, on the big nights (such as tonight...formal night and Thanksgiving) they have the photographers set up in one "chokepoint" off the atrium and then another in the panoramic elevator lobby as well...making it hard to navigate around the atrium. These flea market tables they had out this afternoon once again contributed to this effect. Although this ship is attractively sliced up into smaller spaces, it sometimes works against the sheer number of people on board.
I think this was the day I checked my internet mail. They do have some really goofy paintings in that area of the ship....happy couples lying on the beach with a laptop...give me a break! Yuck!
Rather strangely, we've been seeing various colored construction paper notices all around the ship (in elevators, bathrooms, the dining rooms, wherever...) touting some upcoming horse race. Some of them are actually quite funny, but I can't imagine why Princess would let folks put tape all over their wood veneers, glass, brass, etc. I know, that must make me sound like a fussy grandmother LOL. But it was a sort of visual pollution. Very strange, never seen this before. There was even a gay horse...with quite a life story as I was to learn on Friday. Some truly tongue and cheek humor from this horse syndicate.
Since I was avoiding the sun today I thought I would partake of some shipboard activities. Nothing says Thanksgiving quite like a bellyflop contest up by the pool. Some of the folks were actually quite funny and the crowd seemed to like this. Of course, everyone wants to kiss up to the female judges, naturally. One middle aged guy made a bold play for their sympathies by dropping his trunks right in front of them and giving them a generous glimpse of the moon! Then he strutted around the pool to the other end where he would launch his bellyflop and mooned the other side of the ship...nothing like family-friendly entertainment! I actually thought it was somewhat funny but the cruise staff was a bit horrified, and there were small children within a few feet of the guy's butt. Hmmm....
In the atrium was a big Thanksgiving decorative display. Nice to see. It wasn't there the day before so it must have taken some work to get it up that day. Earlier in the day we made sure to make a reservation for 9 pm so we could have dinner with Esther as our waitress tonight for Thanksgiving.
Tonight people were dressed to the nines...much more so than on the first formal night I would say. It was Thanksgiving after all. We arrived at Bernini right at 9 pm. Our reservation was not honored....but they managed to find us a table for two (again, a folding card table I might add...how reminiscent of the Thanksgivings of my childhood!) Sadly, this would mean no Esther tonight. The dining room, unlike other nights at this hour, was packed. (We later heard reports of very long waits to get in to personal choice on Thanksgiving...over an hour some people said.) Unlike other nights, I would order something from each course...since overeating is a Turkey Day tradition!
For appetizer I had the gnocchi filled with pumpkin and asiago cheese. It was to die for! Super tasty. For the soup I had the chilled creme of pumpkin and chestnut. It was also very good. This was shaping up to be the best meal of the cruise! I had the mesclun salad which was ok. For my entree, of course, I ordered the Vermont Tom Turkey with all the trimmings!
When the waiter delivered the entree to the table I wondered - what is that gravy on top? It was hamburger gravy! Literally ground beef swimming in some brown sauce. by the end of the cruise we referred to it as the "boeuf chutney" to give it a classier sounding name. I was completely aghast and I'm sure I sat with my mouth open for several minutes. What the h*ll was up with that??? Some crazy Italian chef just went wild in the kitchen that night I guess. To say I was upset would be an understatement. (Oh, I'm not the type to send things back...I really should get in the habit of that, but for the life of me I can't imagine what possessed anyone to do such a thing to turkey!) The trimmings were pretty good although the stuffing portion (usually my favorite thing!) was a little paltry. The pumpkin polenta on the side was good.
Princess managed to salvage this traumatic dining experience by having a wonderful pumpkin (it was pumpkin night tonight!) creme brulee with cinnamon ice cream. This was to die for! I really should have ordered a second one, but I ordered a slice of pumpkin pie as well...which was lacking in spice and kind of bland. I asked our waiter for a copy of the menu as a souvenir...he never got back to us on that one (these folks are constantly rushing around...I really do think the staffing is not what it needs to be) so I just picked one up and took it with me.
Of our 7 dinners, I never did get around to ordering the cheese course. I really need to do that the next time. I usually like to try that out at least once a cruise.
Tonight's show was "Words and Music" which was a basic sort of "best of broadway" type revue. The singers were only ok and I again wondered who was playing the music and doing the backup singing. I lost my $20 at the roulette wheel. I really didn't end up going to the casino very much at all this cruise, only 2 nights. Usually I can be counted on to be there nightly. I think it was the seahorse carpeting! There didn't seem to be a non-smoking area in this casino at all, but I could be wrong about that.
Princess Patter for tomorrow.....the "Friends of Dorothy" party scheduled for 6:00 pm in Skywalkers! While I'm glad they finally got around to scheduling it...it really is kind of worthless doing a mixer on the last friggin' day of the cruise, so I was still officially annoyed with Princess for all of this. What you want, when you want it....hmmmmm, I think not! How hard could it have been for them to find an empty room on this ship on one of the first two sea days??? They had parties for newlyweds, and singles, and people with anniversaries, and Masons (how many of them still alive?), and the Bill W people, and members of service clubs, and college graduates (never seen that one before).....in fact, the "Farewell Cards and Games" meeting was scheduled to take place earlier than our little party. Anyhow, we would go tomorrow night of course but I was annoyed!
Another sunny day! Thank you Mother Nature! Really, to be in such beautiful places and have the time, money and ability to travel really reminds me of how blessed and thankful we truly are. Now if we could only convince our families and friends to take cruises as well - we know they'd love them. This morning I think we only ordered coffee for breakfast...sitting out on the balcony, the cabin steward for the cabin above us once again dumps water from the balcony chairs above onto our balcony! They really need to stop doing that! This was the second time this week water's landed right on our table with the coffee on the table. I continued reading my book and thought about the restaurant recommendations for Nassau my sister in law sent me by e-mail.
We went into town once the ship docked and really Nassau was nicer than I expected it to be. Didn't see any bobbies though. We nosed around some stores (another Waterford nativity piece for mom!) and set off for the Queen's Staircase, Ft. Fincastle and the Water Tower. The Queen's staircase is really pretty cool...carved out of solid rock by slaves. What an interesting little place. Of course, tables of vendors lined the walkway somewhat spoiling the overall effect of the place. Nonetheless, we did purchase a bunch of straw Christmas ornaments from a lovely woman working at her table there. After climbing the staircase you are at the Water Tower and Ft. Fincastle. Not much of a fort really, but some nice views up there of the port area and of the Atlantis resort. We didn't climb all the way to the top of the Water Tower since it was pretty hot that day.
We never did get to any of the restaurants recommended by my sister in law and ended up going back to the ship for late lunch, a little more sun, and a few activities. For one, I had to see what this whole horse racing thing was all about.
Allistair Greener, the cruise director, proved to be a champion race caller. Very quick, just like you'd see at "the track". The whole thing is goofy fun, and of course, another way for the cruise line to shake you down for more money! The Vista Lounge was packed for this activity, although some of the folks might have been hanging around for the all important Bingo to follow.
Greener and a guy named Frankie also did "Big G TV" every morning, which was pretty funny when we tuned in. What a pair.
After showering and changing, Robert and I went up to Skywalkers for our little "Friends of Dorothy" party. Skywalkers really does look better at night and kind of fun. I realized being up there what a nice view there is and really should have gone up there during the day a few times while we were at sea. I did notice this ship does not have a forward observation lounge of any sort. Is the Star Princess going to be a sister ship doing Alaska? That would seem to be a drawback, as Skywalkers is also very small. Don't know how many glacier viewers you'll be able to get in there. The covered pool area (Calypso?) would be great in Alaska though, of course.
The party was nice, although sparsely attended. There were definitely more lesbian and gay folks on board (I'm not counting staff of course) than attended the party, but still we met four nice women from the Minneapolis area, an older couple from Houston, and Greg and Ty, two friends traveling together from DC and NYC. Greg and Ty sponsored the gay horse in the horse racing derby! They were nice guys and the kind of folks who can make a cruise...we all wished we had met earlier in the week so we could have shared some dinners and that kind of thing. We talked up there for about two hours. At one point we were joined on an "unofficial" basis by one of the cruise staff who wished us well and wanted to get our perspectives on whether other lines did this kind of thing, and general feedback. That was considerate of him to ask and he got kind of an earful from us all! Hopefully Princess will do better in the future. He really seemed to want to try to make a difference.
Having hit it off, we decided to meet Ty and Greg for dinner tonight down in Bernini, and join their friends who they met onboard, Lisa and Dave, who were from the DC area as well. We met for drinks down in the atrium and then went off for dinner. We got a table for 6 in Esther's area! Although I can't remember at all what we had to eat....what I will remember is this was the kind of experience we had been missing all week at dinner...good social conversation with intelligent, interesting people. What a shame that we didn't meet some of these folks earlier in the week. On such a large and somewhat impersonal ship, it was nice to find a little place to drop anchor after being adrift all week on a social level. We enjoyed our conversation so much that we were virtually closing down the dining room at 10:30 pm....whereupon they turned up the lights and started playing loud polka music...I kid you not! What you want, when you want it.....hmmm.... So on that off key note, the best dinner of our cruise was ended.
Not having packed a single thing into a suitcase yet (Princess recommends your bags be put out at dinner time) we begged off playing a round of cards with our new friends. We did invite them up to our balcony so I could give them my card so we could stay in touch. No big balcony party this cruise....if we had met folks earlier in the week we could have planned one I suppose.
A few days ago I thought to myself that I wouldn't be all that upset about getting off the ship today...and when today arrived I started to think otherwise! :) We started getting sad that our cruise was over, however mixed our feelings have been all week. We went up to the Vista lounge at around 6:20 to do the whole immigration check thing with our passports. Again, it went quite quickly. Then it was off to the Horizon Court for breakfast. We ran into Greg and Ty and so had breakfast with them out on the outdoor terrace area aft. Since we had an 11:15 am flight out of Fort Lauderdale we had disembarkation #1. After breakfast we went back to the cabin (why people wait in hallways and large public rooms is beyond me....just insist on staying in your own cabin!) to enjoy the balcony for a few more moments until our number was called. by 8:30 am we were off the ship, found the bags ok (although that was chaos in the terminal...a very cramped space where the "red" bags were) and literally in a cab to the airport in 10-15 minutes.
At the airport Robert's 1/3 consumed bottle of raspberry Stoly was confiscated by the security folks. Oh well, it was darn cheap in St. Maarten, so no biggie. Cheaper than a mixed drink here in DC! The flight was uneventful and our driver was waiting for us at BWI to whisk us home. Quite cool and rainy in DC...YUCKY!!
I hate back to reality!
I know it must sound like I've done nothing but bitch throughout this entire travelogue!
Honestly, we had a lot of fun and we would sail Princess again. I'm kicking myself for not booking Christmas week at the same price!
Now these are my own opinions....I found the ship attractive in places, not in others. A swanky little hangout for young urbanites would be cool....this ship has a very "middle of the road" feel to it. Not bad, but not exciting either. Both the food and service were a bit hit or miss. I think when we sail a big Princess ship again we're either going to go with people we know (it's a huge ship...) or definitely do traditional dining over personal choice. While the scheduled dinner time concept is a bit of a constraint, there is ample alternative dining on board for when you want to "buck the system", and really, most nights we ate at 8:30 or 9:00 anyhow. For the money we paid, it was a great cruise.
What's next for us? Hmmm, maybe one of the cheapo Windstar 7 day cruises in the Bahamas this winter (god I love all this discounting), or maybe the Celebrity Summit 10 or 11 day sailings (would be nice to do more than a week for a change). Hey, I would even try Carnival for once if the price was right...but probably not in the Caribbean...that might be too much. They go to Canada so maybe that next summer. Bermuda would be nice to convince my parents to take a cruise as they can drive to Boston or NY or even Baltimore or Philly. Would love to get back to Scandinavia and Russia again so I'll need to watch those prices too (so few ships next summer there though...) The Galaxy out of Baltimore also beckons.
Well, hope you enjoyed my meandering recap of our Golden Princess cruise!
We are back and WOW! What a ship and fantastic cruise! This was our first cruise, but reading the boards we had pretty high expectations. This review was written by Scott (40) and Dawn (29).
On Saturday we checked in and were in our room by 11:45. We were in L214, which is Lido deck, port side with a balcony. The first thing we did was go to the balcony and what a view! Our steward (Jose H) came by pretty early. He introduced himself and explained things that first time cruisers would need to know. We asked for some better chairs for our balcony and our robes, which he said would come by turndown (and did!). He was a bit worried about the chairs as the ship was full. We sat on the balcony for a while and then went out to get some lunch, a drink and check out the pool area. We went back to our room and the luggage arrived about 2:30.
We unpacked and there was plenty of space for everything, and yes, we over packed. When we unpacked we discovered that Scott couldn't find any "personalgarments" in his packed luggage. He was sure that he packed them, but we couldn't find them anywhere. Scott did not want to roam free like for the week like Frugalist does J, so at about 3:45, we decided a road trip was in order to a Kmart (fortunately we drove). When we got out to our car, we discovered a flat tire, so we changed it and added a tire plug to the list of things to do. We were able to find a place to fix the tire and a Family Dollar and were back on board by 5:00. We fixed a drink (yes we smuggled) and went out to our balcony to enjoy the view. Our chairs had arrived. Jose later explained he had to smuggle them when the supervisor wasn't looking. The chairs he brought were from the pool area and at least had armrests but did not recline. He did not remove the other 2 chairs. There was plenty of room for 4 chairs and the table and you could still stand at the railing comfortably. The balcony was completely private except one side of it could be viewed from the bridge. Not a problem though. We stayed on the balcony all the way through the send off and then went to the buffet for dinner. The prime rib was probably the best we'd had from a buffet. We explored the ship a bit more and sat out on our balcony. We filled out our room service request (we did follow the tip on writing in items not on room service menu) and then off to bed.
Sunday 11/18 - Because we read the coffee was poor on the Golden we brought a coffee maker and our Gevalia coffee. This was one of the best things we could have done. We made a fresh pot of quality coffee and drank it on our balcony. Room service was a few minutes late today. I ordered French toast, bacon and hash browns; Scott ordered scrambled eggs, bacon and hash browns. My French toast was good but they did not bring any syrup L, be sure to write in syrup if you want it. We both thought the bacon was awful, actually it was the only bad thing we had all week. After breakfast we went to the pool to enjoy the sun. Lounge chairs in the sun were always at a premium on Lido pools this cruise. Even though signs were posted everywhere that there was no reserving lounge chairs, people were always doing it (very annoying). Get to pool area early particularly on sea days to get good chairs. Ate lunch at Horizons. Horizons is very good for a buffet. Dessert selections were very limited though. Checked out ship from bow to stern in the afternoon. We were very impressed with all areas of the ship. Met the Cruise Critics gang outside the Wheelhouse bar at 3:00 PM. We were supposed to gather inside however the room was reserved for a wedding party that day so we went to the Atrium piano bar. Everyone was very nice, and we really enjoyed meeting and talking. Throughout the cruise we would run into one another and talk about our cruise experiences. Thanks to Dorothy and Michele for arranging our meeting. Sunday is the first formal night, so after our meeting we had drinks on our balcony and dressed for dinner. Scott rented a tux through the cruise line formals after much deliberation. The tux fit great and Scott looked very handsome in it. We had formal pictures taken and then went to dinner in the Donatello dining room. We were doing personal choice dining and preferred a table for two for dinner. We were lucky to be seated at table 130, which was an awesome table in the corner with a pretty mural behind us. It felt very private and roomy (highly recommended). Our waiter Joseph was excellent! He and his assistant Marlon gave us personalized service and made us feel special. We liked the table and wait service so much that we reserved the same table for the rest of the week at 8:30 PM. We asked the headwaiter Eduardo if we could reserve for 8:00 but 8:30 was the best he could do which was fine. The food was great and we sampled many of the menu items each night. Scott liked the fact he could order more that one entree and could sample a variety of things. The Love Boat Dream dessert is awesome! We ordered cappuccinos with dessert each night. They were very good! After dinner we went to the Steve Patient show, which was a juggler/comedian act. He was OK but not nearly as good as some of other shows we saw. After the show we went to Skywalkers for some late night partying. It was the "millennium party" night. We had a great time at Skywalkers. It is a great club and you can dance and party till the wee hours. We didn't get back to our room until 3:30 AM!
Monday 11/19 - Had room service delivered again today but this time just the croissants and coffee. We requested delivery for 8:30 - 9:00 but they came at 8:15, which was way too early after the late night. We wanted to try the room service coffee. It was about the same as the coffee in Horizon's. One word sums it up...NUTTY. The coffee has a nutty flavor but is not really all that bad. Given we had our coffee maker we made a pot of the good stuff and drank it with breakfast on our balcony. Ah, what a life! Relaxed at the pool again and got ready for lunch. We made a reservation on Saturday for brunch at Sabatinis for Monday but really did not need it. Our reservation was for 12:00 but we decided we wanted to wait until 1:00 as we were still a bit hung over. The restaurant was nearly empty. The food is excellent and yes they have all you can eat king crab legs on the buffet. The omelets were awesome too. We drank mimosas and bloody mary's and ate lots of good food. After lunch we lounged around most of the afternoon. The sunset on Monday was spectacular from our balcony. Went to dinner in Donatello dining room again but our table was taken. Eduardo said he would give us the same table on the other side of dining room, 122 I think. It was a nice table but the wait staff was not nearly as friendly or attentive. I think Andre was turned off that we didn't order wine and Scott wanted 2 entrees. We went back to the room after dinner, had a drink on our balcony and went to bed early to be fresh for St. Martin. Tuesday - 11/20 - St. Martin - Our first shore day has arrived. Scott watched the sun come up on the balcony as the ship pulled into dock. A spectacular sunrise indeed. We decided to rent a car and explore St. Martin on our own. We made our "to go" cups of coffee and we're off. We had to lug our bag of snorkel equipment down the length of the dock as the Golden was in the far spot. It was definitely the worst part of our day. We negotiated a price for an economy rental with the local Hertz agency at the pier. It cost us $50/day, which is high, but you have the convenience of them being right at the pier so no taxi into town and back. We were a bit surprised by the condition of our car. As we went over the existing damage on the car, I recommended that the Hertz guy just circle the whole car. Of course he wouldn't do that (but he should have as he circled every possible area on the car diagram). We drove off. We saw signs for Dawn Beach so we followed them. We wanted to check out a place called Scavengers that we heard about before we left. We got there, but Scavengers parking lot was still closed, so we decided to move on to Orient Beach. When we turned off onto the road that led to Orient Beach we had our first "wild encounter". In the middle of the road a mother and baby goat had decided it was feeding time. The sight of our dinged up rental car didn't seem to bother them, but the camera did and they walked off. We moved on and not more than 100 feet down the same road another goat tried to play chicken with the rental (maybe that explains some of the damage). We finally got parked and walked down to the beach. It was beautiful, at least until the naked men showed up. I knew it was possible, but it was a bit too much for me, so we decided to move on. We drove around and checked on the northeast end of the island. It was very beautiful. About 10, we decided to see if Scavengers at Dawn Beach was open, so we went back. It was, so we unloaded and set up on the beach. It was a little cloudy and you could see some storm clouds far off. We saw a water spout develop, drop from the sky and then disappear. It was awesome. We went snorkeling. The snorkeling was great. There was coral reef right off the beach and you could see so many fish. Lots of Blue tangs and damsels. We snorkeled some more and had lunch at Scavengers. They had great burgers and we had an awesome raspberry Margarita and some Caribbean beer. There were very few people at Dawn beach this day and the water was calm and clear. Highly recommended! We packed up and drove to Marigot to check that out and then went to Phillipsburg to shop. The pricing was great on smokes (10.95 a carton) and liquor, so we stocked up on some extras. Back to the ship around five where we watched the sunset from our balcony and showered off the salt. Went to dinner for Alaskan King Crab Legs (yummy). Joseph brought us double portions and Marlon loaded our plate with extras, when we thought we couldn't eat more. We had an after dinner drink on our balcony and went to bed early to be fresh for St. Thomas.
Wednesday - 11/21 - St. Thomas - Woke up early today to see the sunrise. We were pulling into St. Thomas as the sun was rising over the hillside. It was beautiful. We had a great view from our port side balcony. We booked our only excursion through Princess for 8:30 am to go scuba diving. The diving arrangements were very convenient as the dive shop that operates the tour is only a 5 minute walk from the ship and the dive boat was located right next to the Golden. The dive boat went to Buck Island which is about a 10 minute trip. We dove an area called Shipwreck cove, named so because there are several shipwrecks there. Our first dive was a reef dive and the second was a shipwreck. Both dives were excellent. The visibility was fantastic (80+ feet) and there was a wide variety of marine life to be seen. We even saw a sea turtle. Overall we were very pleased with this excursion. We at lunch on board at Horizons and went into town for shopping. Dawn had been looking at jewelry in St Martin and really wanted a tanzanite ring. It seemed like most of the stores did not really want to bargain too much. She did buy a ring and is very happy with it. Liquor prices are a little higher in St. Thomas than St. Martin but the allowance is more generous. They allow you to purchase 4 liters as opposed to one in St. Martin. We boarded the ship at 5:00 and prepared for sail off by having some drinks at the pool. The sunset over St Thomas was awesome and made for some excellent pictures. Went to dinner and table 130 was running late so we took the other table. It was Italian night. I had the veal chop and Dawn had the shrimp dish. Dinner was good but probably our least favorite night except the dessert was tiramisu! Yum! After dinner we went to the Vista lounge to see Jonathan Clark, the vocal impressionist. He was good and does a darned good Sinatra. He sings as himself a few numbers and he does have a great voice. It seemed that he should be at one of the bars versus one of the main showrooms though.
Thursday 11/22 - Thanksgiving at sea - Slept in a bit. After coffee on the balcony, we went to the pool for some sun. Once again people were saving seats. Very frustrating and we ended up in the back of the boat on the sun deck. After getting some sun and some time in the hot tub, we decided to try lunch in the dining room. I had the lasagna which was very cheesy and delicious. Scott had a chicken and rice noodle stir fry which was also good. We shared a delicious quesadilla appetizer and had ice cream for desert. We then went to the casino for the blackjack tournament we signed up for earlier in the week. That was a lot of fun! Neither of us made the finals, but we stayed around to watch and see who won. We walked around the ship and made our way back to the room to have a drink and watch the sunset. This was probably the most beautiful sunset the whole trip. There was an awesome contrast of color and we got some great pictures. Got ready for the second formal night. Again Scott looked so handsome in his tux. We were off for our Thanksgiving feast. LOBSTER!! Again Joseph and Marlin gave impeccable service. We also tried the Beef Wellington and would highly recommend it for anyone who doesn't care for seafood (or does and orders both as Scott did). We also tried a couple of the pumpkin dishes and they were good too! We went to the Billy Vader show in the Vista Lounge after dinner. I guess he was the bathroom humor every one referred to in our pre cruise readings, but we found him hysterical and the audience gave him a standing ovation at the end of his show. We would love to see more shows like his on future cruises. Following the show we were off to the champagne fountain. Watching them set up the fountain is interesting, but if you arrive too early it is a bit like watching paint dry. But once it's done, let the champagne flow. We enjoyed several glasses of free champagne and got our picture taken with Guiseppe the maitre 'd . We went to Skywalkers to finish off our night, but I was a bit too tipsy from the Champagne to dance. We got back to our room about 2:30 and went to bed with the sound of the ocean drifting in from our balcony. A wonderful Thanksgiving day!
Friday - 11/23 - Nassau - As you know we were supposed to be at Princess Cays but ended up in Nassau. Woke up and could see the islands in the distance as the sun was rising. Docked at 10:00 AM, The entry to the port is actually quite pretty but once all the cruise ships arrive they are all you can see. We went to Horizons and took our plates back to our room for breakfast on the balcony before going into town. We really wanted to dive in Nassau but with the ship not docking until 10:00 and having to back on board by 3:30 there was not enough time to go. Princess should have given us more time in port. Nassau was about like we expected from what we had read. The "hawkers" were very aggressive and wanted you to buy everything from taxis, braids, carriage rides and moped rentals. Town and shopping was not too interesting. Did get some good souvenirs from the Hard Rock Cafe that were heavily discounted. The Hard rock is a store only and serves no food (What???). Got back on ship by 1:30 and got some good chairs at the pool. Stayed poolside for sail away party. Was a sad sight for us, knowing our cruise would soon be over. We had several "errands" to run including getting tip receipts for the room steward and wait staff. . Princess charges the $6.50 per person per day for tips for the wait staff and if you want to give additional you can charge to your shipboard account by going to any of the bars. They ask who and how much and print a receipt for you to give to the staff personally. You use the same procedure for the room steward. They recommend $3.50 per day per person. We also wanted to pick up some of our formal pictures. While they were more expensive than we expected, we thought they were very good quality photographs. We also got some digital pictures developed onboard at $.35 each. We even got doubles for this price because they only printed singles originally and we had to wait for them. (Thanks for great tip Frugalist). After errands we packed some (reluctantly) and went to comedy show with all 3 of the acts we had already seen. They did some new material and Billy Vader was again a riot. He really digs on Alastair (cruise director) and it is hilarious. By the way, we thought Alastair was a pretty good cruise director. Went to our final dinner. We both had prime rib which was excellent. Had our favorite dessert, the love boat dream (if you like chocolate this one is for you). We gave our additional tips to the staff and they were all appreciative. Joeseph talked to us more this night than any other. He told us contracts with Princess for 10 month stints and then goes home to the Phillipines for two months. His wife and children are there. Must be difficult being away from your family for so long. After dinner we finished packing and put our bags outside our door. Had a final drink on the balcony and went to sleep.
Saturday - 11/24 - Debarkation - Woke up early as our letters said we had to report to immigration at from 6:40 to 7:10 am. We asked for earliest possible debarkation since we getting of the ship and driving straight back to Raleigh. They issued us red tags that indicated we were in first group to leave. Immigration was a breeze and we waited in atrium lobby until everyone cleared immigration. As usual there were a few folks whose names had to be called to report to immigration. They began letting people off the ship about 8:00 AM. Finding our luggage in all the confusion was difficult. Some folks who had other color tags snuck through with the red tags and their luggage wasn't out there yet. Made it even more congested than it should have been. We were on the road by 9:00 AM. Traffic on I-95 was brutal. Arrived safely in Raleigh at 11:30 PM.
All in all we had an excellent cruise. This is by far the best vacation we have ever had. I now understand how one becomes "addicted" to cruising. We took advantage of the deal Princess offers for future bookings while onboard so soon we'll have another cruise to look forward to.
Hi Everyone, I have never cruised before and I want everyone to know that this review is probably a little bias because my husband and I had the most wonderful vacation we have ever taken. It was my dream come true and all my expectations were met. The Golden Princess is a magnificent ship; her beauty is not deterred by her size. The ship is elegant but very comfortable. Therefore, I will try to tell you my views of what I experienced on the Golden.
Day 1 Oct 13,2001
This morning I awoke with the excitement of a child waiting for Santa Claus. I had anticipated this very moment for 8 months and it had finally arrived. It was 5:30 am Saturday morning and I wanted to see the Golden as she docked after her "two day cruise to nowhere", but she was not there yet, I tried to curb my excitement and go back to bed for awhile but I couldn't. About 5:50 am, I looked again and there she was. I was amazed at her size and the grace she had as she maneuvered into her berth. TheGolden Princess is everything you dreamed of and more. I could barely curtail my enthusiasm; this was going to be the most wonderful week of my life.
First, I wanted to explain that we had stayed at the Best Western Marina; they have recently remodeled this hotel as I had been told horror stories about it, and however it was very nice. The lobby is gorgeous and the rooms are nice with subtle colors and very clean. This was perfect for us and reasonably priced as well. In addition, it is directly across the harbor from where the Golden was docked. Our stay was pleasant and I would stay there again.
We went to the terminal around 11:00 am and people were already boarding, even with all the security we were onboard and in our stateroom by 11:40am. Everyone on the board had told me how efficient the embarkation process was and they were correct. As I walked up the gangway into the main atrium I was mesmerized, all the beauty of the marble and etched glass reflecting the light off the polished brass and the rich and elegant woodwork, it was truly a remarkable sight. I had never seen so much beautiful craftsmanship in my life. There was a classical sting trio playing as we boarded and the sweet sound of the music filled the atrium and added to the effect. The Golden Princess gleamed and sparkled like a new penny. Everyone was very helpful and pleasant but I was very grateful for all the times I had looked at the ships deck plans because I was able to make my way to the stateroom with no problem. Our stateroom looked exactly like the ones in the brochure, Caribe deck C306 it was close to the forward elevators, which was a good thing. The bathrooms seemed smaller than I had expected but since it was my first cruise, I had nothing to compare to. Being on the Caribe deck our balcony was one of the larger ones and I loved it, my husband and I spent a lot of time looking at the sea and the stars at night.
Like everyone else we went to the horizon court on the Lido deck for lunch, it was very good the food was fresh and hot and nicely displayed. After lunch we looked around the ship some, my husband soon gave way to all the walking and we went back to the room to rest and relax. I knew the luggage would be coming around 4:00 pm because of all the good tips I picked up from the board. Our room steward was Jose, he introduced himself and spent much of the afternoon filling our cabin with the amenities of our anniversary packaged I had purchased for my husband. We had roses and champagne, balloons and steamers. Our luggage arrived about 4:15, we attended the muster drill at 4:30 pm and once again thanks to all the help from the board, I knew what to do and what to expect. Sail away was set for 5:00 pm but it was about 5:15 before we started to edge away from the dock. My heart almost jumped out of my chest with excitement as we slowly entered the channel past all the farewells from the condominium residents. It made for a memorable day. The Coast Guard was very prevalent and as they escorted us out of the harbor and were ready to release us, people on board clapped and cheered thankful for their hard work and effort for our safety. We stayed on our balcony for a while and I was just taken aback at the grace this lady had as she cut through the water, never cruising before I was afraid I may be seasick, but from the minute the ship started to move I was too spellbound to be sick. The sound of the waves splashing against the hull and the breeze blowing in my hair provided me with the most serene and calming moment of my life. I began to feel completely renewed and refreshed, this was certainly a "hallmark" moment for me.
I had unpacked and around 6:30 pm we went to the Donatello Dining room for dinner, we had personal choice dining and I really like the flexibility for we ate at different times almost every night. Our waiter was Florien, he was from Romania and Marius, his assistant was from Portugal, we requested his table every night and there was not a problem. The food was wonderful, Florien was very attentive and the meal was a very pleasant experience. We walked around some and just checked out a few of the lounges the first night, we went up to the room around 11:00 pm and had a romantic evening on the balcony, part of this balcony is private and part can be seen from above. The gentle rocking of the ship lulled me into my first night sleep on the ocean, it was very soothing and I slept like a baby.
Day 2 Oct 14, 2001
I woke up early this morning and watch the sun come up, as we were on the port side of the ship, the view was breathtaking, seeing the sun peaking over the horizon, all the explosive colors in the sky, it was an awesome sight. We had breakfast in bed (part of our anniversary package) it was very good and hot, we had western omelets and the works, even champagne. My husband wanted to sleep in after that and I went to the terrace pool for some sun. It was so nice but it is very windy on the top deck. Later I just browsed around the ship, I went back to the room around 1:00 pm and just chilled for awhile, I was suppose to meet fellow cruise addicts in the Wheelhouse Lounge at 3:00 but my husband and I lost track of time, if you know what I mean, after all it was our anniversary. I got to the Wheelhouse and 4:00 and did not find anyone. I am so sorry I missed everyone.
Tonight is the first formal night and I went to get my hair done around 5:00 (all they did was put my hair up and it was 30 dollars plus tip) but it looked very nice and the girl was very pleasant. My husband wore a tuxedo that we had rented through Cruiselineformal.com, he looked very handsome. I would have to say that most people I saw were dressed very nice, probably 60/40 tuxes for men and most all the women had long formal gowns. Again, dinner was wonderful, we had our formal portrait made (it came framed with the anniversary package), and then went to the comedy show to see Steven Rawlings, he wasn't all that good, that is only my opinion. He juggled a lot! We went up to our room about 11:30; it has been a wonderful day.
Day 3 Oct. 15, 2001
This is our second sea day and has been very relaxing, we had breakfast in the horizon court, it was very good and lots of choices, the coffee was not all that great, but that's a little complaint. The rest of the morning we just walked around the ship stopping to find all the hidden away spots. We went to the Skywalkers disco on the 17 deck, the view was gorgeous, the weather today has been a little overcast with sporadic showers, today was the first time I had noticed the ship rocking much, but it wasn't bad I sort of like it. I did spend some time this morning on my balcony and when I looked over the railing down to the balcony below, a young man was lying in the sun in the "buff" with just a bath cloth covering his private area.
We went to the casino for a while before lunch and I lost $3.05, I guess we don't qualify as high rollers. We had hamburgers and FF from the Trident grill, on the Lido deck, also tried a slice of pizza, it was ok but not much selection, only cheese, pepperoni and vegetarian. We decided to go back to the room for a while around 3:00 pm and I took a short nap (3 hours.) At 7:30 pm, we had appts. for massages in the spa (anniversary package), it was so relaxing; I wanted to do this again but never found the time. We had dinner about 8:30, this time we sat with another couple from Fla. They had been on many cruises so they keep us busy answering all our questions. After dinner, we went to the 50's sock hop in the Explorer's lounge, and then went to see the Magician, Guitano, in the Princess Theater. Tomorrow is St. Maarten
Day 4 Oct 16, 2001
We awoke early this morning to watch the docking in St. Maarten, I hadn't booked any excursions with the ship so about 9:30 am we just decided to walk into town and look around, It took about 20 minutes to walk it but after all we had been eating we needed the exercise. It is very commercial, vendors everywhere trying to sell you something, or someone wanting to braid your hair. We stayed a few hours and then made our way back to the ship. I wish now I had booked an excursion for this island, but live and learn maybe next time.
In the afternoon after lunch (horizon court) we went to the hot tub on the Sports deck, it was really nice not crowded at all, we stayed for the Sail away party, it was nice to hear the band playing as we pulled away from the dock toward our next destination, St Thomas. At 7:30 we dressed and went to dinner, again it was fantastic, and then we went to hear the comedian Philadelphia, in the Princess Theater, we had to stand thru this on as all the seats were taken. It was so bad. During the program, a man named Bill came on stage and asked his girlfriend to marry him. It was very romantic the whole crowd applauded his effort. After this we went up on the lido deck around the Terrace pool for the "Island Party", it was funny watching all the people line dance and do the limbo. They also had a Mr. Golden Princess contest with great participation from the audience. A man around 80 won the title.
Day 5 Oct 17, 2001 St. Thomas.
I woke up very early just as we were docking at the pier, we had an excursion scheduled for 8:30 am but first had to clear immigration. I understand that this is new at St. Thomas since the events of Sept. 11. There was a lot of confusion, that I am sure with time will be handled better by both the cruise line itself and the passengers. One source of confusion was that many passengers received to letters the night before with two different areas to report to. Many passengers did not go at their allotted time but went early, which caused more confusion. Just remember that U.S citizens report to one area, ours was the Vista Lounge aft of the ship, and all non-U.S. citizens reported to the Princess Theater in the forward part of the ship. Once inside the line moved fast and all went on as scheduled. It was just a minor annoyance unless you wanted to create a bigger one. We cleared immigration with time enough to spare for breakfast in the Donatello the omelets were great. We were going on the Coral World and Island Drive tour, everything was right on time and very efficient the drive and tour guide were one in the same and did a fine job. I really enjoyed the marine park even though it was small it was very interesting especially to watch the helmet divers. Coki Beach was nice the water was beautiful. We toured in an open-air bus, which made it easy to see the sights; up in the mountains the view of the ship was spectacular. When our tour was over we went to the Paradise tramway and rode to the top for the most awesome view of the island, we stayed for a few hours just looking over the island and watching the boats in the harbor. It cost 15 dollars per person but we felt it was worth it for the serenity and beauty we saw. After this, we spent sometime at the Havensight Mall, which is walking distance to the ship, found some good prices on souvenirs then returned to the ship about 2:30 pm. After depositing our goods to the stateroom we went back up to the sports deck and the hot tubs, it was still not crowded and was very peaceful. We watch the sail away from St. Thomas from our own balcony, it was gorgeous, the city lights were just beginning to twinkle and the breeze was mild, I could hear the sound from the band on the Lido deck Neptune pool, wow, what a life. We dressed for dinner and went to the Donatello and our favorite waiter Florien. Just to clarify for some we chose not to eat in either Sabitino's or the Desert Rose because the food was excellent in the dining room. I have heard some complaints about the food but I think maybe that is from people who are hard to please anyway. My opinion only! We also made reservations for the last two nights for 8:30. The desserts on this ship have been “to die for” and Florien would bring us three or four selections to try. I gained about 5 pounds; definitely take looser fitted clothing for the last few days. No shows tonight even though there was a lot going on we just went to the room and watch a movie. It had been a glorious day! Only two days left! Tomorrow is our last sea day, I think I like these the best of all, and the second formal night. We also were invited to take a tour of the bridge even though the Princess Patter had said there would be none.
Day 6 Oct 18,2001
We slept in this morning until around 9:30, and then went to the Horizon court for breakfast, I cannot say enough about this because it was consistently good. It seemed no matter what time we went the food was hot and the choices plentiful. Like others, I do wish the coffee would have been stronger but that again is a minor thing for a few days. We walked around for a while looking at the photo gallery and trying to decide if we should buy some more. 5X7's were $6.95 but one of the 8X10's I purchased was $21.95 this can really add up if you are not careful. I went back to the room for a while because I needed to wash a few things, the Laundromat was located just a few doors down from our stateroom, it cost $1.00 a load, and $.50 to dry; laundry detergent was $1.00 also. It was painless. When that was done it was time to eat again, we went back to the Horizon had to much to eat and then went to lay by the pool for the rest of the afternoon. It was a little crowed but there was enough lounges for everyone. The Terrace pool is so nice and I just love the view from the back of the ship. The waiter's on the deck are a little slow but then again patience is a virtue, so either wait for them or go get it yourself. At 4:45 pm, we went to the forward elevators on the Lido deck to wait with the group that was to tour the Bridge. There were 24 people and when they had accounted for us, all we made our way through the locked doors to the bridge of the ship. On the Golden, this looks like wings on the front of the ship. The view from there was great and the technology used to run this magnificent ship is nothing short of amazing. All the instrument panels were explained to us and we were given detailed explanations on how the ship is maneuvered and how she operates. It was very interesting.
Then it came time to get all dressed up again for the last formal night, I really enjoyed getting all decked out and strolling down those marble staircases, it made me feel like royalty. Most everyone I saw was dressed so nice, however I did see a few people that were turned away from the dining room because of their attire. The lobster was great, I ate and ate; once again, I have to say that the food in the dining room was excellent. I have heard a few critics but for the most part I believe you could not have found any better. We had photos done again, just to see how they turned out, you don't have to purchase them so we had them taken. I did go the next day and buy some more, I mean my husband does not wear a tuxedo very often. We went to see some of the action in the bars, in the Explorer their was the Murder mystery evening and the Vista lounge we saw another comedian, David Orion, he was pretty good, but I like Philadelphia better, just get there early or you may have to stand like we did a few nights before, that was not fun.
We then went back to the Explorer's lounge for Maurizio he was a good entertainer. Then we went to the room and crashed, boy this having fun makes you very tired and tomorrow was Princess Cays day.
Day 7 Oct 19,2001
We slept till about 9:00 and waited till after 10:30 to go get our tender tickets from the Explorer lounge. We didn't have to wait at all for a tender to take us over to the island, when we arrived we went to the left and it was pretty crowded, by 11:15 they had started serving the buffet so we had to eat again. They served chicken, hamburgers, hot dogs, slaw, baked beans and plenty of fresh fruit. It was pretty good. We walked around the beach some and then went to the other side and found two lounges and plopped our stuffed self's down for a rest. The water is beautiful, so many shades of blue and green, it was so inviting I had to go in, it was also a little cold when you first got in but in a few minutes you adjusted and it was great. You could see all the way to the bottom even at about 20 ft. People were on floats and using the banana boats, snorkeling, there was a lot to do. One of the people from the spa was even doing massages on the beach. There are three bars on the island and they serve all kinds of drinks and plenty of restrooms too. Of coarse you can purchase souvenirs. We went back about 1:45 because it looked like it may rain but it went around us instead, back on the ship we went to our stateroom, showered, changed into shorts, and went walking around. The sun had been hot so we stayed inside where it was cool. There was still a lot going on, we stopped by a watched some of the Art auction, this is probably my least favorite thing about the ship. The art is beautiful but there is so much of it. There was a backstage tour it was interesting too!
Later on, we went back to the stateroom to start the awful task of packing; I cannot believe it was our last night. We did go up to the Lido deck to watch the sun go down it was breathtaking. Our time on the Golden has been the best vacation of my life; I know that some people did not see it quite as I did. I cannot wait to go again.
Saturday Oct 20, 2001
It was sad to get up this morning knowing we had to leave the ship. The immigration process was painless this time, when we were through we had our last breakfast in the Donatello. The disembarkation process was slowed down due to some people not having their accounts settled; they will call your name over the whole ship. We were of by about 9:45 or 10:00 am, it to was painless, we had use the terminal parking, which cost $70 for the week and we were on our way home. Back to the real world.
I hope that you have not been to bored by my ramblings. I have never experienced cruising before and I feel my trip was greatly enhanced by the knowledge I received from the many different boards and their members. Thank you so much for your help.
Having sailed on HAL, Celebrity and Royal Carribean, I have to say thumbs down on the Golden Princess! Our group of 10 selected the late dinner seating and requested we all be seated together when we booked our reservation. At dinner our first nite we were separated into tables of 4 and 6. After requesting a table of 10 for the next nite, we were seated at a table for 10, however our poor waiter was responsible for THREE other tables of 10. We were never served before 9:30 p.m. every nite! Because tipping is a given for the waiters and cabin men, there was no inititive to provide the kind of service I had experience on other cruiselines.
The entertainment was a big disappointment with some not-so-funny comedians - rather than the standard Broadway type entertainers other cruiselines employ. Was the Golden using the passengers to provide the entertainment with passenger talent show try-outs and shows, Karyoke nightly and the passenger enlisted The Weakest Link??? There was a charge for the ice cream bar and the alternate dining resturants. I felt we were being nickled and dimed the whole cruise. There wasa sign in our bathroom asking that we hang up our towels if they were still clean - in an effort to economize on laundry! The cruise director, Janet, and her sidekick were the most obnoxious! Never gain, Princess.
Kuki's Golden Princess Report Dec. 29- Jan 5 New Year's sailing
I'd previously sailed the Grand Princess, in 2000, so pretty much knew what to expect out of the ship. Though we had been a bit under-whelmed with some of the layout of the Grand, we'd hoped Princess may have made some corrections on the Golden. Other than adding mid-ship stairs and elevators, and making the Atrium area a bit larger, nothing seemed too different on the Golden.
Unfortunately some of the things about the Grand Princess that I didn't care for were carried right over to the Golden. They are both HUGE ships, and in my view Princess had tried so hard to create areas with more of a small ship feel, that they've gone overboard. It seemed to us, by overdoing the small spaces, they've made a large ship feel cramped, crowded and rather choppy.
Admittedly, we were traveling with a group of 71 cruise mates, so were often looking for a larger space where we could all congregate comfortably, so that was a problem most smaller groups may not take note of. The only lounges onboard which were rather wideopen and airy were the Vista Lounge aft, which is used as a movie theatre, bingo hall, and show room, and the Explorer's lounge, located mid-ship, which I liked a lot. Other areas, like the Promenade Bar, which should have been a great people watching spot, were so small and sectioned off, as to leave them rather useless if we were meeting more than 4 other people for a drink. We did manage to find a few bartenders who were antler friendly, so that helped ease some concerns.
Even the Lido deck was chopped into smaller spaces, with two small swimming pools, and not much deck area that actually got sunshine during the course of the day. This limiting design was exaggerated by people saving deck loungers on sea days. The "Princess Patters", daily onboard activity guide, always mentioned that saving deck loungers and seats in the showrooms was against policy. However, with no staff ever visible to enforce these policies, it was rather a waste of ink and paper printing them. It's probably clear that not having any enforcement of policies is a pet peeve of mine.
I'm certain if I were to light a cigarette in the dining room, or showrooms, someone would have come right over and informed me of the rules against this. Of course, I wouldn't attempt such a thing, but I was certainly tempted. Selective enforcement of ship's policy just serves to irritate me more.
Now that I've taken my opportunity to rant, let's get back to discussing the ship and the cruise experience we had.
The embarkation process was a breeze. We arrived at the pier early, by about 10:30 AM, thinking we would be there to greet people, as the rest of our group arrived. We really didn't expect the boarding process to start much before noon. However, they started letting people begin the check process by about 10:45 AM. All our documentation had been filled out in advance, online, using the Princess web page. Even though when our documents arrived they did not carry the Express Check In sticker we were expecting, when we reached the counter we found all our information had made it's way into the system. Therefore the check in process was a breeze. We gave them a credit card to swipe, received our shipboard charge card/ID/cabin keys, and were on our way through security and upstairs to the embarkation lounge. After waiting for a very short period of time, they started boarding the ship. As we entered our cabin, I checked my watch and surprisingly it was only 11:15 AM. In my experience, this is the earliest I can ever recall being onboard a ship.
The debarkation process, at the end of the cruise, was equally painless. When our color was called to leave the ship, we took the elevator down to the gangway, and I was pleasantly surprised to see there were no hordes of people filling the Atrium areas, or stairways, as we'd experienced previously on so many other cruises. We walked off the ship, found our luggage easily in the appropriately color tagged area, and left the building.
We had a mini suite, on Dolphin Deck. Nice sized cabin, and neatly laid out with plenty of storage space. The bedroom area is separated from the sitting area slightly, by a half wall counter space. Some sort of separating curtain would have been a nice finishing touch, but not big deal. One oddity in the cabin is the two television sets. One facing the bed, the other facing the sitting area. A nice thought in theory, but with the size of the cabin, they really served no purpose. If one person was in bed watching TV, and another in the sitting area, you had best be watching the same program, or the dialogue from both gets lost in the jumble.
Our balcony was totally open to above. We knew this ahead of sailing, and it really didn't bother us. In fact Mrs. Kuki and I probably had more fun talking to the passengers above and around us, than if we would have had the privacy of being together. If you're after some private moments on your balcony though.. This deck is not for you!
There is also a mini-bar fridge in the cabin, and it comes empty, so you'd have room to store any drinks or sodas which need refrigerating.
The cabin's interior decoration seemed rather stark, but not really an issue with me, as I am not an interior design critic. My only real complaint was the tub/shower unit in the bathroom. When used as a shower, the ceiling is very low, so you'd best not be too tall. At 6'3", I'm a bit on the tall side, and could just fit in without banging my head. However, when lifting my arms to wash I kept banging my knuckles on the ceiling. And, of course, not being very bright, I repeated this process over and over for the duration of the cruise. The height of the shower head was quite low, and water flow hit me right around chest high. And the bathtub is quite small, so a man my size using it would look alot like a hunter in the jungle waiting to be cooked in the cannibal's pot.
Also, tall people be warned about the beds. They must be about 6 ' long, because my ankles hung over the end of the bed. The beds were at a very good height. We were able to store all our luggage under the bed, just by sliding it underneath. No lifting and pushing involved at all, other than my pushing Mrs. Kuki to store them.
All and all a very comfortable cabin, but why it's referred to as mini suite is questionable. To me, suite or even mini suite implies two rooms. Oh well, again not an issue, just the thought process of a sick mind.
The Golden has three dining rooms. Two mid-ship dining rooms are used for the Personal Choice option. The idea is that anyone using these dining rooms may show up at the time of their choice, during dining room hours, and be served. There is one dining room on Deck 6 furthest aft which is used for assigned traditional dining times; main seating at 6:15 PM, late seating at 8:30 PM.Princess is really pushing the Personal Choice options. On this sailing, so much so, that people who had requested Traditional dining, were unable to have their requests fulfilled, and were assigned Personal Choice. This seems a bit of a oxymoron, if your choice is Traditional, but you can't get it. At any rate, we had requested main Traditional dining, and that's what we got. 54 members of the group were seated in the central area of the dining room, at 9 tables. It was fun being to walk around amongst the group tables between courses, visiting with the gang.
Our wait staff were both wonderful and somewhat clueless. The waitress, Katirina, was warm, friendly, fun, cute and professional. Her ass't/bus girl, Zita, didn't seem to understand what her job was. So, while food service was mostly excellent, simple things like drink service. drinks, ice tea, sodas was left lagging behind. By the third night something happened. Either the head waiter noticed, or Zita realized she was out of her element. Whatever the case was, she sort of disappeared; replaced by a number of different assistants. From that point on the flow of team service improved greatly, and made the dining experience much more enjoyable.
Of course, as a group, we gave them some challenges along the way, by inviting people from other dining rooms to join us for dinner. We'd ask them to add a chair to this or that table, or move around amongst the tables, etc., and the head waiter and the rest of the staff were VERY accommodating.
I had intended to try the Personal Choice Dining Rooms one night, but never did get around to it. In talking to people who were assigned Personal Choice, either by choice, or assignment, we found a few loved it, and the flexibility it awarded them. Others were not so enchanted with the process. Besides occasionally having to wait for their choice of tables, they mentioned those dining rooms being very busy. Traffic constantly moving in and out, servers running around more than usual because some people in their sections would be on appetizers while others were on desserts.
Everyone at PC was told the best times to come to be able to enter those Dining Rooms, with no wait was between 7 and 7:30 PM. A decent time to dine, but they are basically telling you your "Personal Choice" would work better if you come when they suggest. The mind maze of this kind of gave me a chuckle.I'm not a fan of the layouts of the Dining Room on these ships. Once again the drive to create small spaces makes the dining room choppy and congested. Combine this with the low ceilings of the one storie Dining Rooms, and the noise levels seemed pretty significant as well. At a table for 8 we found it difficult to carry on a conversation without raising our voices. Being a bit of a low talker, my tablemates either never heard me, or pretended they didn't (which happens to me often).
The food in the dining room was decent quality, but I honestly didn't find any of the meals I sampled close to what I would rate excellent. Within the past couple of months, I'd sailed both Carnival Triumph, and RCI's Explorer, and I would rate Princess food quality below both.
I never found myself without food I could eat, and enjoy, but didn't feel I could rave about any of my food the entire week.
The Horizon Court-- 24 Hr service
I liked the looks and feel of the Horizon Court, and I much prefer it's unlimited opening hours, to ships which feature midnight buffets, or midnight bites served in ships lounges.
In my mind, without a doubt, Princess has the best salad bars at sea. Lots of choices for what you can include in your salad, and the vegetables were always crisp and fresh.
The set up of the buffet areas though are quite an interesting mess. There is no real traffic flow at all. People are heading in all different directions, depending on what they were after.
In one sense this worked ok, as there was no waiting in lines. Everyone simply butted into the crowd near the particular food they were after. Selections at the buffet seemed to vary a lot. The temperature of the food in the serving trays under the warmers did seem to vary considerably, but most of the time I found the food close enough to the temperatures they should be served at to make do.
One thing missing from these buffets, that is becoming very common on most ships these days is the fresh omlette stations at breakfast, and fresh pasta stations at lunch. These items are available pre cooked in the buffet, but not always at the temperatures they can be enjoyed at, and not freshly cooked.
To be perfectly frank, I'm not a food connoisseur. Pretty near anything I eat makes me happy, and I had all my breakfasts and lunches at the buffet.
The Golden also has a pizzeria located by the mid-ship swimming pool, and a burger/hot dog/ grilled chicken Grill as well. I tried the Pizza twice (for research) and found it to be average. I still maintain Carnival has the best pizza at sea! The pizzeria disappointingly closed at 6PM each day. To my mind pizza is a lunch, or late night snack food, and the limited hours of operation here has me wondering what they were thinking.
The Room Service menu was more substantial than other cruise lines I've sailed recently. While not elaborate, it had both hot and cold items available. Service was quick and efficient, and the hot food actually arrived to the cabin hot.
If forced to quantify my opinions of overall food onboard, I'd give it a 6 or 7 out of 10. Food service, in all areas about a 9.
We didn't sample either of the alternative (pay extra) restaurants. Sabitini's and Desert Rose both seemed to be pretty quiet, and underused on this sailing.
The Cruise Director, Allister Greener, and his staff are very visible throughout the ship, and very involved with the passengers. Easy to stop and chat with any of them, and most social.
I was told the best shows onboard were the "song and dance" production numbers. I have such a bad ear for music, that I don't attend any of these. Unfortunately, to me, the singing just sounds like Mrs. Kuki screaming at me. The ship did feature an excellent juggler, and pretty good comedian, and perhaps the worst ventriloquist show I've ever seen. The various musical lounge acts around the ship seemed to be well accepted by the crowds, but again to my ear it wouldn't have mattered how good or bad they were.
The Princess Theater, the main showroom onboard has excellent sight lines. No posts or obstacles in the way of the view of the stage. However, it's quite small, and the entrance to the Theatre from Deck 6 is just plain ugly, and awkward. You enter a narrow passageway, up a set of stairs, then down another. Entering through here felt like you were going to a peep show (though I don't admit to know that from experience).
The Vista lounge, right at the aft end of the ship, is also used as an alternative show room. There's a few posts and pillars to block the view of the stage here, but the bigger problem is the floor doesn't have enough pitch to allow good views. Being relatively flat (the floor, not me) you're stuck trying to look over or around the people seated in front of you.
I had little problem finding my way around the ship because of my previous experience on the Grand. But many people found the layout quite difficult. With two dining rooms located mid-ship, and one aft, with the galley between them, one had to know the tricks to get there from here.
We dined in the Carmello Dining Room located aft. To get there one had to take the aft elevators down, or come across the ship a deck higher, and go down one flight to the Dining Room.The entry way to this dining room was quite small, with no real foyer close by to congregate in.
The closest lounge to the dining room is up a deck, and mid-ship, making it a trek to dinner, if you were meeting for pre or post dinner drinks.
I've sailed on other ships which share this problem of the galley in between two dining rooms, but in those cases, the deck above normally goes the length of the ship, and has had better traffic flow than we experienced on the Golden.
We were on this cruise with over 70 CruiseMates people, and the group got along so well, we had an absolutely FANTASTIC cruise. That likely wouldn't have changed if we'd been together on a garbage barge, other than some added odors.
With some of the changes in the way Princess does things, since my last Princess cruise, I have to say I feel Princess seems to have lost some of their "identity". Now this is a particularly hard thing to define, but I'll try and break down some of my thoughts on it.
- Princess has eliminated their pasta course at dinner. They've moved their daily pasta selection into the list of entrees, so it's not that pasta is unavailable. But in doing this I believe they are trying to lead people who want pasta to order it as an entree. Of course, they didn't fool me. I simply ordered it as it's own course, when the particular pasta sounded appetizing. However, except for one night, when the head waiter made a special pasta, and everyone was given a sampling, the pasta course made table side is a thing of the past.
- In a move that was almost disgusting, Princess has added to the "nickel & dining" experience, of charging for ice cream except in the dining room. We came back to our cabin one evening to find a packaged disposable camera laying on the bed, along with a note describing what a great price it was available for. In other words, if you opened it, you bought it.
We just left it sitting there, but the first thing Mrs. Kuki and I thought of was people traveling with young kids. The kids could easily enter the cabin, see the cameras, and assuming they were gifts, rip them open. This whole thing was just plain tacky. They would be better served to put a note in the Princess Patter saying these cameras were on sale in the sundry shop. Leaving them on the beds in every cabin showed a complete lack of class, and though in and of itself, not a "big deal", displayed an attitude that most found intrusive.
- This was my 4th time sailing over New Years, and it's a wonderful time to be at sea. Very festive, and the passengers are out and about and enjoying each other and the ship's nightlife. Being a New Year's sailing there was a premium charged on fares for that reason. However, this was the first New Year's sailing I've been on where complimentary Champagne was not offered at least for a short, limited time. I'm not even a Champagne drinker, so this had no direct affect on me. Just another display of a "chintzy, tacky" attitude.
- I had the privilege of meeting and talking to the Master of the Vessel, Captain Remano on a couple of occasions. He has a delightful personality and sense of humor. But, I did notice, unlike most cruises I've sailed on, there was no Captain's Welcome Aboard Party. These are normally held the second evening onboard, and serve as bit of a mixer for passengers and crew. By eliminating this evening, it wasn't the few appetizers or a free drink that I was missing. It was just another example of changing attitudes of Princess towards their passengers.
- With the cruise lines all searching for additional onboard revenue sources we did run across one real oddity. There happened to be an unusually high number of cigarette smokers in our group. They discovered the sundry shop onboard did not sell cigarettes by the carton. They only sold them, by the package, at the bars onboard. Of course, most smokers simply waited until the first port of call, and bought their cigarettes on shore. Therefore Princess was directing a possible source of extra revenue off the ship.
Normally on a cruise I like to jot down notes each evening to remind me later of my thoughts about things I experience each day. This time I was so busy enjoying the CruiseMates group, I didn't take the time to do this, and I regret it a bit now.
Therefore this report is just a compilation of thoughts about the cruise from someone who has a really bad memory.
I'll end by saying we had an absolutely incredible cruise! I enjoyed it as much as any cruise prior. However, the group we were traveling with had a significant impact on that. Definitely more so than the ship.
It would be very hesitant about sailing a Grand Class ship again, and somewhat reticent about trying Princess again, until I hear some passengers coming back describing a general change in attitude by the cruise line. Of course, that could change if Mr. Ratcliffe wanted to hire me a consultant.
OVERVIEW "It's more than a cruise, it's the Love Boat." This 21st cruise for us (in the past five years), had a full moon and since we had cruised twice on its sister ship, the Grand Princess, there was also a sense of deja` vu as we spent an excellent week aboard the beautiful new Golden Princess.
She was built by Fincantieri Shipyards, Monfalcone, Italy and is the 6050th ship launched by this venerable company. Her Port of Registry is Hamilton, Bermuda. The Golden has a gross tonnage of 109,000; a length of 951 feet; breadth of 118 feet (not Panamax); her cruising speed is 22.5 knots and a passenger capacity of 2,600 (this cruise had approximately 2,500) with a crew of 1,150.
Princess has made these two sister ships distinctive through the use of a rear spoiler, which houses the Skywalkers Night Club-- a gorgeous two tiered room with surround view (and an automatic moving sidewalk to reach the club). This is the closest place to heaven on the ship and an excellent place for reading and ocean watching during the day, and disco dancing at night.
The first two cruising days wererainy, but port days were sunny. The last two days we rode the high seas caused by Hurricane Michele. There was a bit of movement and we saw "barf bags" placed at every elevator, but fortunately we never saw anyone in need of them. They were just precautionary. Captain Bernard Warner is an excellent skipper, who treated us to a lovely sail away from St. Thomas, USVI on the Bridge -- 6:00 pm, at dusk, we watched the sunset and then the lights of St. Thomas came on and twinkled as we departed. This was a fabulous first time experience for us.
EMBARKATION We normally embark at noon, but this time, because of a family obligation, we arrived at Port Everglades, Ft. Lauderdale at 3:30 pm, when most of the passengers had already boarded. The shore crew was closing up and we had no wait! There were no curb side attendants left, so Mary had to push the wheelchair on board by herself. We also missed the Welcome Aboard Buffet, but judging from those we had during the week, our old friend Executive Chef Antonio Cereda (14 years with Princess Lines) out does all others and surprises the passengers with delectable culinary masterpieces. When we saw that he had moved over from the Grand Princess, we knew that we were in for a week of dining pleasure. . . . Complimenti Antonio, you've surpassed yourself.
THE SHIP'S PUBLIC AREAS As passengers board on Plaza Deck 5 (first of the three lower decks of public rooms), they enter the three deck high Grand Plaza (though not as grand in size as we have seen in some other mega/giga ships), yet it is a very lovely and stylish area with lots of mosaics, especially a really nice round one on the floor of the atrium. Glass cage elevators with truly unique fern and wildlife walls face the Plaza. Here also you will find a nice, larger than life bronze sculpture by George Kerish called "Standing Woman." Deck 5 has the reception desks, the library, card room, Bernini Dining Room, and the art galleries (with one of the most extensive collections afloat (and art auctions boasting 85% off).
Fiesta Deck 6 has a second reception area, boutiques, the Atlantis Casino (almost exactly like the casino on the Grand with 3D aquariums on the walls. Mid ship is the Donatello Dining Room, the ship's galley and aft is the Canaletto Dining Room, while forward is the Princess Theater.
Promenade Deck 7 has boutiques, the Desert Rose Restaurant (Southwestern/ Mexican), Explorer and Wheel house Bars, Sabatini's upscale restaurant, the photo shop and aft is the Vista Lounge, where Captain Warner hosted the Captain's Club Repeater's cocktail party. This room has tiered seating and a spacious dance floor.
On decks 8 through 12 and 14 forward are cabins, mostly with balconies. There are 21 wheelchair accessible cabins: 14 with balcony, 6 inside, and 1 suite.
Decks 14 through 17 are again public areas: Lido Deck 14 has Mermaid's Tail, Trident Grill, Prego Pizza, Neptune's Reef and Pool and The Conservatory with the Calypso Pool, which sports the Oxford Dipper, unique to Princess. This lift allows wheelchair bound passengers to be lowered into the pool and gives them the joy of swimming. The Conservatory has a retractable roof with eight functional columns supporting it, which are decorated with mosaics of fish. Very nice! Aft, on Lido deck, are the Horizon Court (buffet), the Horizon Terrace and the Outrigger Bar (a beautiful outdoor setting overlooking the ship's wake).
Sun Deck 15 has the Lap Current Pool, Lotus Spa and Beauty Parlor, Aerobics and Gymnasium Exercise Rooms. Also on this deck and on 16 there are the Off Limits (Teen Ctr.) and the Fun Zone (Children Ctr.).
Sports Deck 16, in addition to the Kids and Teen Centers, has a Jogging Track, Center Basketball Court, and, at mid ship, Shuffle Board and other deck games. This ship has something for everyone.
FOOD AND SERVICE Princess offers Personal Choice Dining which gives passengers the freedom and opportunity to dine in varied venues with different menus and at flexible times. No longer are passengers rushed on port days to meet a rigid dining schedule. We are happy with the Personal Choice system and hope other cruise lines will adopt it. Two of the restaurants offer Personal Choice, the Donatello and the Bernini from 5:30 pm to 10:00 pm. The third restaurant, the Canaletto dining room still has the traditional main (6:15 pm) and late seating (8:45 pm) arrangement.
All three of these formal restaurants use the same menu, and are beautified by murals and pictures evoking the work of the famous artists for which they are named. There are many beautiful tables by the windows. Chef Antonio Cereda offers the passengers wonderfully prepared and plated food always fresh and palatable. We feel he is the best chef we have encountered afloat. His pasta sauces are authentic. The menu is vast with many choices for appetizers (some of our favorites are fried calamari, the avocado boat filled with shrimp and seafood, prosciutto and melon, escargot, and small portions of pastas made available as appetizers). The soups were excellent including the oriental ones, minestrone and the pumpkin one served for Halloween. Salads aboard the Golden were especially fresh and crispy (Caesar is available every day, but there were excellent combinations of fruit, nuts and vegetable salads, Belgian Endive and roasted zucchini, eggplant and red peppers, etc...). Breads and breadsticks were fresh, hot and varied.
At dinner there were five or six entrees to choose from in addition to a list of constant dishes always available: steak, chicken and the delicious Fettuccini Alfredo, fresh made noodles served in a basket made of Parmiggiano Reggiano cheese. Also Chef Cereda prepared delicious Risotto with Porcini mushrooms, Rolle` of eggplant and angel hair pasta and, on Halloween night, potato gnocchi with pumpkin; what a treat!
Aaaah!, the desserts were out of this world both in presentation and flavor. The pastry chef Franco Gentile is a wizard; he made chocolate do things that we had only dreamt about. Vincent's favorite Swan Puffs were tiny, delicate and presented floating on a heart shaped pond of melted chocolate. Chef Gentile's baskets of chocolate and pulled caramel were decorated with butterflies so light that they seemed to float. Bravo Franco!
Sabatini's upscale restaurant charges $15 per person. Make reservations as soon as you board, since it fills quickly. Sabatini's Supervisor Luigi Clesceri makes this three hour dining experience unforgettable; if you are really nice, Luigi will treat you to an after dinner liquor Limoncella (and his recipe). We had a nice table for two by the window with a view of the full moon rising: This is cruising, this is living! The antipasto here is excellent with freshly sliced prosciutto, porcini mushrooms, and a superb Pizza Margarita made by Antonio (he also makes the pizza at Prego's, Lido Deck). Our waiter Augusto was excellent.
Princess has an Afternoon Tea served in the Donatello Restaurant from 3:30 to 4:30 pm. There are gloved waiters offering hot scones with clotted cream and preserves and delicate tea sandwiches. Don't miss it.
The 24 Hour food service is as follows: The Horizon Court is open from 4:00 am to 11:00 pm. Trident Grill and Prego Pizza is open from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm. The Bistro is open from 11:00 pm to 4:00 am. There is also 24 hour Room Service (we usually have breakfast from room service, linen napkins and silverware).
Service aboard the Golden is top notch under the direction of Maitre d' Giuseppe Gelmini (Italy) whose background includes two of London's best Hotels, the Dorchester and the Savoy -- he knows how to pamper people and he has taught his staff well. Our head waiter Sandro Ranieri (Italy) was very attentive and kept a close eye on the waiters. We were served excellently by waiter Ricardo De Guia (Philippines) and ass't. waiter Luciano Patrasou (Romania).
Of course service depends on a great leader, which Golden has in Nigel Stewart, Passenger Services Director, with whom we had a nice chat. He patiently provided answers to all of our questions. Thank you Nigel.
CABIN Our Baja Deck 11, wheelchair accessible Cabin B302 is spacious and beautiful. Entering, on the left is a triple armoire (with personal safe, shelves and wooden hangers). Then there is a wall unit with TV, refrigerator, and then a long desk/vanity with lighted mirror and hair dryer. Entering, on the right is a large bathroom with a 5'X5' shower, safety rails all around and handy. The there is a double dresser with dimmer lamp, a king size bed, and another double dresser with dimmer lamp. The wall behind the bed is mirrored and there are two upholstered barrel chairs. The sliding glass door leads to a balcony (60 sq. ft.) with room for a table, stool, two chairs and a chaise, which Vincent used extensively, especially on sunny days. The spectacular view of sun rise among interesting cloud formations on the morning of arrival to St. Maarten, with all of the splendor of changing colors from fiery red clouds to the brilliant golden rays and pastel blue sky, is a sight to remember: Another dose of pure pleasure to our eyes and minds to keep our "addiction to cruising" alive!
This cabin with almond cabinets, maple wood trim, and linens and carpets of blue, peach and salmon was crisp in its newness and quite spacious.
The in cabin T.V. offered several satellite channels, such as CNN, ESPN, TNT, Discovery, and a Financial News channel, along with several movies, repeated during the week, and the regular ship's channels showing nautical data, shore excursion information, taped shows and a live cam from the bridge. The entertainment and T.V. guide available in the cabin was very clear and accurate.
ENTERTAINMENT Cruise Director Alastair Greener (England) with his varied background and managerial expertise kept the ship's routine working with clock like precision. The Cruise Staff was everywhere, leading everything from Trivia Quizzes, Bingo, Basketball, Ping Pong (Paddle tennis) and Golf (both Virtual and Real Rolling greens) to Sail Away Parties. This ship has it all.
The shows were on a par with those of other cruise lines. The headliners "Welcome Aboard Showtime," "Lights, Camera Action" and "Words and Music," featuring Hunter Gerard, Joseph Hale, Susan Orrell and Tiffany Hale are the usual Las Vegas style shows -- the dancers were bouncy, but the truly notable performers were the following:
1. Maestro Maurizio, a singer/musician, performed in both the Promenade Lounge (packed) and the Explorer's Lounge (in concert). He sang many songs from around the world, but the show stoppers were Andrea Bocelli's "Con Te Partiro`" and Modugno's "Volare" with standing ovations.
2. Acrobat/ Comic Uber Rossi was superb and his contortions were unbelievable.
3. The Magic and Illusion Spectacular show by Gaetano was excellent.
ACTIVITIES AND PORTS In addition to previously mentioned activities there is also the Lotus Spa and Fitness center. Vincent tried some of the equipment and liked the set up. Many cruisers enjoyed the art gallery as we did. This seven day cruise starts with two sea days, then two port days, a sea day and a final port day and then return to Ft. Lauderdale.
Ports of Call: 1. St. Maarten (7:00 am to 6:00 pm) Capital of the Dutch Leeward Island Group is divided between Dutch and French rule. It presents a unique opportunity for cruisers to enjoy two international cultures. There are several shore excursions: 1. Beach and Shopping ($25.) 2. Mt. Bike Adventure ($69.) 3. Hidden Forest Hiking ($79.) 4. "America's Cup Regatta" ($82.).
2. St. Thomas US Virgin Island (6:00 am to 6:00 pm) This lovely island has it all -- beaches and shopping (especially Mr. Tablecloth with the best linens and prices available). There are three tours available: 1. Sailboat & Snorkel ($49.) 2. New Waves Snorkeling ($69.) 3. Wild Thing Around St. Thomas ($66.) This port also has taxis available at the pier and for only $3 you can go downtown for shopping, or you can also arrange for a private island tour; however, always remember to fix the price and the itinerary first.
3. Princess Cays (8:30 am to 3:00 pm.). The ship gives a Barbecue & Buffet ashore from 11:30 to 1:00 pm. There is tendering ashore, so the physically challenged may encounter problems if the sea is choppy.
SUGGESTIONS After a great cruise there is very little to suggest. However, there is always room for improvement until perfection is achieved. The following suggestions are about minor things which can be easily corrected.
1. We arrived at the peer at 3:30 pm and did not find any wheelchair assistance for boarding. This was unexpected since boarding time was until 4:00 pm and helping staff had already disappeared. What a difference from our embarkation experience on the Grand, six months ago, when we were escorted from the front of the terminal all the way to our stateroom, albeit at noon. We suggest that Princess Lines make available staff personnel to help those in need during embarkation until the gangways are closed.
2. The drinking water in the dining rooms, as well as the juices, cold drinks and ice cubes has a strong chlorine smell, more so that we experienced on other ships. We suggest that Princess Lines install water filters at the various distribution points, where needed.
3. A problem in common with some other ships is the type of pasta used aboard, not the freshly made one, but rather the pre packaged one. We noticed that even though the chef has tried to cook the pasta al dente, it always tastes starchy and gluey. We believe that the fault is in the quality of the pasta. It is possible that several cruise lines use the same pasta supplier, thus, the problem is rather common. Pasta is not an expensive ingredient, thus for a few cents more per pound, the chef can achieve better tasting pasta dishes. As pasta lovers we can attest that the great sauces of Chef Cereda deserve a better pasta, such as La Molisana, Barilla, Colavita or some other good durum wheat pasta, possibly imported from Italy, the cradle of pasta lovers.
We will surely cruise with Golden Princess and other Princess ships again; however, our next cruise will be on the new RCI Adventure of the Seas on 12/9/01. We are addicted cruisers who have never had a bad cruise, but we'll always be looking for the perfect one.