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Heather Weber

Age: Heather 28 - Joe 30

Occupation:Software engineer

Number of Cruises: 2

Cruise Line: Princess

Ship: Golden Princess

Sailing Date: March 22nd, 2003

Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean

EMBARKATION

Embarkation was very easy and ran very smoothly (be sure to take care of everything ahead of time on the website). The bus ride from Ft. Lauderdale airport is about 10 minutes. Once at the boat, we were sent to the big warehouse where the luggage is put after your cruise. There were lines there, based on which deck you were on, to check in. There was no line at ours, so we were ready to go in after about 2 minutes at the check in desk. I think all we had to show was our passports. She gave us our room cards there. Be sure to look and make sure everything is valid before you step away. Our dining time said PC dining, when it was supposed to be Traditional Early seating. After check in, they take your picture (to purchase later on, if you want) and they also take another picture for security reasons. I have heard that this is the picture they see when you scan your room card after each port.

THE ROOM

This was our first time with an outside room and it was worth it. We stayed in C510 (Caribe deck). The room was small, but we were expecting that. The shower was VERY small. The drawers that they have in the end tables beside the beds are not big enough for clothes. We hung up what we could and stored our suitcases at the bottom of the closet and lived out of them. There are a few shelves where you can put some things where the safe is, but it is not a lot of room. If you want a private balcony, do not get a deck that is below Caribe. All of the decks below us were 100% non-private. Ours was 50% private and 50% non-private (the front half being the non-private part). I don’t know if they had any that were 100% private – possibly on Aloha deck.

THE FOOD

I was unimpressed with the buffet food. I did not care for the choices (or lack of choices) offered. I also did not like how the buffet was set up; it was a big circle, instead of a long line of tables. It made it very congested at times. I did like the lunch and dinner sit down meals. There are “always available” choices (steak, chicken, etc.) for the sit down meals if you can’t find anything you want on the menu. The pizza is AWESOME! The only problem is they are only open 11:00 AM – 7:00 PM. We would have had much more pizza if they were open later. You can purchase a soda sticker (gets put on your room card) for $20.00 (or $22.50 with the Coke container). The Coke container did not hold much soda, especially when it was filled with ice, so I would not recommend buying the container. The wait staff does not get the “automatic” bar tip that is included when you purchase alcoholic drinks, when you only order a soda with the Coke card, so they were not really enthusiastic about getting sodas for you. My husband and I only purchased one sticker for the two of us. Sometimes, we were able to get 2 cokes for free and other times we were not. It just depended on the wait staff. We did not eat at either of the restaurants where you had to pay extra, but we heard nothing but good things about the Italian one – Sabatini’s.

PERSONAL CHOICE DINING

As I mentioned earlier, we were originally scheduled for Traditional Early Seating. This means that you show up to the same dining room every night at 6:15 and sit at the same table with the same wait staff. Some people like this, so you get to know your wait staff and the people you are sitting with. After the first night, we decided to try Personal Choice dining and loved it. It gives you the choice of going to dinner when you want and if you want, you can sit by yourself some nights. It also lets you meet new people every night. We usually showed up between 5:30 and 6:00 for dinner and never had to wait. The last night, we met another couple at 8:00, so we had to wait about 10 minutes. We will stick with Personal Choice dining in the future.

THE CASINO

My husband and I spent a lot of time at the casino. We thought it was excellent, and we had a lot of fun. My husband actually won the blackjack tournament. We have been to Vegas several times and the dealers on this ship were by far, much more friendly and talkative (excluding a few small casinos in Vegas). Be sure to tip your dealers since they only make $7-11 a day! They work for their tips, so help them out once in awhile. There was never an issue of the casino being too crowded that you couldn’t find a seat somewhere. I did hear though, that it varies week to week. The following games were available: Blackjack, Caribbean Stud, Caribbean Draw, Let It Ride, Three Card Poker, Roulette (double zero), Craps (single odds) and many slot and video poker machines from 5 cents to 5 dollars. Table minimums were almost always $5, with the exception of a few $10 or $25 blackjack tables (but most were $5), and roulette which had a $1 minimum.

TIPPING

As for the $10/person/day tipping system they now have, we were fine with it. It saved us the time, at the end of the cruise, of having to get the tips together for each area. These tips include all of your wait staff at the meals and your room steward. At the end of your cruise, you can have the amount adjusted up or down. Each meal is split out on your bill, so if there is a particular waiter that you liked or didn’t like, then you could just adjust that day if you wanted to. I had read before the cruise that people were concerned that service would suffer due to this automatic tipping system. This was not the case at all; service was excellent throughout the entire cruise.

THE PORTS

We took a taxi over to Orient Beach at St. Maarten. Since it was a full van, it cost $6/person. On the way back from the beach, since it was only 2 of us in the van, it cost $18 for both of us. Orient Beach is a clothing optional beach. There were only a handful of naked people on the beach; the majority of them should not have been naked. The taxi ride to and from the beach was scary. They don’t really have 2 lane roads there, but they drive like they do. After coming back, we went back to the ship to eat lunch. Then, we took a water taxi ($5 per person for the whole day) to downtown for shopping. It was a festive atmosphere; you could walk around with open containers.

St. Thomas was a lot of fun. We went on a snorkeling excursion to St. John’s. It was amazing. We stopped in the middle of the ocean by some reefs and saw a large number of fish. It was an incredible experience. The second stop was at Honeymoon beach and we saw a lot of fish there too. I would highly recommend the snorkeling excursion. I don’t even really know how to swim and I still enjoyed it. After that, we went back to the ship to eat lunch. Then, we took at taxi for $3/person downtown for shopping. Be sure to check out Touched by the Sun, Del Sol and Captain’s Corner. We had heard that if you want liquor and/or jewelry, the better deals are in St. Maarten.

We did not have to tender to St. Maarten or St. Thomas. In the Princess contract with the islands, we are guaranteed a docking spot. You will have to tender to Princess Cays. We had storms and rough seas the day we were supposed to go to Princess Cays, so the captain had to cancel it. He took us out to a sunny spot for the rest of the day.

ENTERTAINMENT

The entertainment was high quality. We really liked Randy Johnson, the comedian. I walked out of the other comedian, Rick Starr. We saw Lights, Camera, Action and really enjoyed that. We saw Kimika, but it didn’t interest us; however there were plenty of people that really enjoyed them. They were billed as a musical comedy duo so we were expecting funny songs, but all they did was tell a few jokes in the beginning and sing songs during the rest of the show. Pub Night was so-so. The Battle of the Sexes game they did was great, but the closing bit they did was not all that good. We absolutely loved our cruise director – Graham Seymour! He was so funny! We would try to catch his morning show on the TV and any other shows he had, when we were in the room. The first day at sea, we decided to go to the art auction, just to check it out. We know NOTHING about art, but ended up buying 3 pieces on the first day. You would be surprised to hear that you can get items for less than $200. They also give free champagne at the first auction. We ended up going to all 5 art auctions and buying 2 additional pieces. Mitch, the auctioneer, really knows his art and made it very interesting. There is not just art at these auctions, there’s animation cells, sports memorabilia and sometimes music memorabilia (there was a guitar signed by all of the Eagles there).

EXTRAS

The ice cream by the pools was not free. The only place you can get free ice cream is for dessert at the sit down lunches or dinners. The pictures that they take of you are expensive. We bought a formal picture for $20. I asked it we could get one smaller than 8x10, and she said yes, but it costs the same. All bar bills add a 15% gratuity. Bingo was $20 for 3 cards for each game and you can’t share, since you cannot rip one or two games off of the strip (or they are invalid). The soda sticker was $20 ($22.50 with the container). Horse racing was $2 a game I think. It was just as much fun to watch, since all you win is $4-8 a race anyway. The water sport equipment rental was expensive for Princess Cays ($30 for a half hour on a kayak). Since we didn’t go, everyone was reimbursed for the equipment they had already signed up for. Also, if you bring kids, they can charge their arcade time to your room card. The way the arcade works is it costs $20 to purchase tokens. You can’t just go in and play one game; you have to buy $20 worth. Don’t forget the $10/person/day tipping, although that was worth it. If you take all of these into consideration, the bill at the end won’t sting quite as bad.

DISEMBARKATION

This is never as smooth as embarkation. On Thursday night, you get luggage tags in your room. The color is based on your flight time and your deck. If your flight leaves before 12:00 PM or if you scheduled an excursion in Ft. Lauderdale, then you will get red tags. The rest of the people get colors based on their deck. We were on the Caribe deck and got orange tags. After red is called, they call the other colors at random. You then proceed through security and then down to the luggage area. It is a mob scene in there. Your luggage is in the same HUGE room that you first checked in at. All of the same colors are together, but that doesn’t help. There are too many people looking for their luggage to even move around. Also, they told us to have our passports available, but we didn’t have to show them once. We had to show our room cards as we left the boat and we had to turn in our customs paper. I would suggest getting a porter to help carry your luggage to the buses, since they get a much shorter line and you will get to the buses sooner.

OVERALL EXPERIENCE

Overall, we had a great time. We would definitely cruise with Princess again. We visited the Future Cruise rep on the boat and paid for an Open booking. We gave a $100/person deposit (unlike the $500/person your travel agent would ask for). This will entitle us to $50/person ship credit, if we book an outside room ($25/person for an inside room). It also gives you 4 years to make/change your plans without losing your deposit. We did not know where or when we wanted to go next, so we did the Open booking. Once you decide, you can still work with your travel agent for your arrangements.
Next time we go, we will not book our cruise during spring break. We were told it was not spring break, but it actually was for other states. There were a lot of young teenagers and pre-teens on the ship that we could do without (college kids were not a problem). I heard that the middle of March through the middle of April is spring break season.

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