Number of Cruises: 16+
Cruise Line: Princess
Ship: Golden Princess
Sailing Date: January 16th, 2005
Itinerary: Southern Caribbean
After having cruised over 15 times with Carnival, Norwegian & Royal Caribbean, we felt it was time we 'move-up' to what we were told was the next class up of cruise lines.
We went back and forth between Princess & Celebrity for the southern Caribbean. Celebrity had Cirque du Soleil while Princess went to Caracas. Celebrity had a mini suite for the same price as Princess had for a balcony cabin. Princess had a Sunday departure vs. Saturday. With all the choices considered, we opted for Princess, mainly because Caracas was a completely different port that was not offered on Celebrity.
We arrived in San Juan on Saturday and had a great time at the Sheraton Old San Juan and local watering holes. We did our best to waste time on Sunday morning since Princess publishes boarding starting at 1:00 pm. When we arrived at the pier about 1:15, we saw a sign that stated boarding actually started at 11:00 am. The 1st of many lies by Princess. Boarding was, however, very quick and efficient.
When we walked the gang plank to the ship, we were handed a small piece of paper that notified us of a change in ports. Yes, the main reason we took this cruise was now changed. Caracas was canceled. The purser's desk said that this was a last minute change beyond Princess' control. I went to the excursion desk and found that the Golden Princess hadn't gone to Caracas in over 2 months and this was no last minute change. If only Princess had told us when we booked, we would have traveled Celebrity this cruise & Princess next. They didn't even make note on the ticket that was issued about 3 weeks prior to sailing. Another deceitful lie by Princess.
On board, we found the ship to be very nice. Our cabin was simple and pleasant, yet smaller than any balcony cabin we had on NCL. I was disappointed about the balconies. They were small and not at all private with the cabins below us able to look up and see us. The basic ship layout was good and we especially enjoyed the 4 pools with lots of seating. By the main pool, there was both a pizza shop and a grill. The pizza was very good and the grill offered hamburgers, turkey & chicken burgers and many varieties of hot dogs.
It was nice not being pestered to buy a drink every 2 minutes by the pool. We actually found alcohol prices to be very good with martinis only $4.95 at the bars. Wine prices were also extremely fair.
As with any other cruise, we managed to get close with a bartender, head waiter, waiter and jr. waiter. By doing this, we enjoyed very good service when we were able to be served by these servers. Food was a 7 on a scale of 10. The extra cost Sabatini's was a waste of both $$ and time, yet the Desert Rose for steak was excellent and well worth the extra charge. We passed on all shows and heard after each one, that we didn't miss anything good. The casino, where we spent much time, was nice to be in but was missing the professionalism found in stateside casinos. Most of the dealers were inexperienced and made many payoff errors.
Lie # 3 came on the 5th day when we received yet another notice from Princess. This note mentioned that since we went to a port other than Caracas there would be an additional port fee (about $2/pp). The note also claimed that the San Juan port fee went up in 8/04 (about $2/pp) and they would be adding a surcharge to our cabin for that also. My gripe is that all these additional charges were known by Princess before we booked the cruise. I find it very underhanded to not mention these surcharges until after the cruise was more than ½ over and we had no choice.
Debarkation went smooth, yet getting an earlier debarkation tag the night before was near impossible. The purser's desk was again rude and unhelpful.
Overall, like all ships, the wait staff and room staff were fine. These staff members are so full of fear of being fired that they are always pleasant. The administrative staff and reservation staff however have no fears and their service proves it. The Princess administrative staff has little to be desired.
I give this cruise a 4 (of 5) for waite & cabin staff, a 4 for the condition of the ship but only a 1 for management due to their deceit.