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Rick

Age: 34

Occupation:Consultant

Number of Cruises: 6

Cruise Line: Princess

Ship: Golden Princess

Sailing Date: February 27th, 2005

Itinerary: Southern Caribbean

I have divided this review into the categories I found most helpful when I was researching prior to the cruise.

Staterooms: The staterooms are slightly larger than standard cruise ship staterooms. My wife and I had an interior room on the Baja deck and found it to be fine. We aimed for the back of the boat as it has a little less motion than the front (my wife gets seasick). There was plenty of closet space, and the room safe came in handy. I had read about asking the room steward for an egg-crate foam to put on top of the mattress. This made a BIG difference in the comfort of the bed. Per usual on cruises, our room steward was fantastic and seemed to always be around when we needed him. Princess does a nice job of delivering information to your rooms each day. We found the ship’s television updates each morning to be very valuable (of not a little corny). Each morning, the video updates had the cruise director (Paul) telling us about the port we were in, and give us highlights of the island.

Tip#1: if you are getting a balcony room, make sure it is on Baja deck. Anyone on Aloha deck balcony was in full view from people looking over the side of the boat from the pool area. Same goes for some of the lower decks as the boat gets wider in those sections.
Tip #2: if making last minute reservations and there is a wheelchair-accessible room available, take it. They are the same size as the suites which are about 3 times the size of the other staterooms.

Ship Facilities:
The ship is very impressive, with every amenity you could possibly want. The spa was very nice and surprisingly well priced. The pools are nice, but get VERY crowded when everyone is on board – almost to the point of being claustrophobic. If you don’t like crowds, aim for the pools at the very back of the boat and by the spa. We had the best luck finding chairs at the pool by the spa.

The night club was the nicest I’ve ever seen on a cruise ship. It is called Skywalker’s lounge and is at the very top of the very back of the ship. The casino was nice and will surely be nicer now that they have all the money I gave them.

Entertainment: I was shocked. I expected the usual ho-hum entertainment you usually get on cruises. This was by far the best entertainment I have ever seen on a cruise. The only gripe I have is that they almost NEVER had the entertainers in the right venues. There were shows in the smaller venues that were very popular and you couldn’t find a seat, while the bigger theatres were next to empty. Best shows were: Mauriccio (pianist), the illusionist, the hypnotist, and even the obligatory Broadway show. Even the steel drum band that plays on the pool deck was really good.

Dining: This was the biggest drop-off from my past cruises. I would classify the food as “good but not as posh”. Per usual, there were things I really liked, and things I didn’t like so much. The glory of cruises is that you can try lots of new and different things. I am a big fan of anytime dining – it was very convenient to be able to eat whenever we wanted, and at a smaller table (just my wife and I and another couple we were traveling with). We only went to the buffet once and saw no reason to go back unless is was late at night. The pizza and burger/chicken grill on the pool deck was very good and only crowded at lunch time. The only gripe there is that they closed too early. Bottom line is that the food was good, but not incredible. We certainly had no complaints about it, though.

Service: This was my biggest worry prior to boarding. Since there is no individual tipping (a flat amount is charged per person for each day), I expected a drop-off in service from my past cruises. To my surprise and delight, I would rate the service as among the best of any cruise I have ever been on. To a person, everyone was friendly, helpful, and most importantly – available. Princess should be commended for whatever program they have to facilitate this level of service quality.

Ports of Call: This was my least favorite cruise from a ports of call perspective.

- San Juan is awesome, and I’m glad I came down a few days early to see more of it.

- St. Thomas still has some of the best snorkeling in the Caribbean. We did the Captain Nautica snorkel tour which went to three spots – including St. John. It was the best excursion of the trip.

- St. Kitts I would rate as “okay”. I did the kayak/snorkel tour, and my wife did the island tour. I enjoyed the kayaking, but my wife would have skipped the island tour.

- Grenada is just a mess. They were hit very hard by Hurricane Ivan and it is clear that it will be many, many years before they are rebuilt. This would have been a good stay-on-the-boat day.

- Isle Margarita was a substitute port for Caracas (which I was really looking forward to). I found Isle Margarita to be really beautiful, but we only had 4 hours or so to enjoy it. If your cruise goes there, just plan on it being a beach day. The market just off the boat has some neat shopping.

- Aruba was very nice. We didn’t do any tour, but just walked around the town. I liked Aruba and would definitely go back. It reminds me a lot of Grand Cayman.

Embark/Disembark: These processes could have not gone any more smoothly. Major kudos to Princess for figuring out how to do this.

Tip: If you are in San Juan early (or the day before) you can get on the boat around noon. This gives you a chance to learn the boat and relax a little sooner than if you wait until later when all the Sunday flights come in.

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