Number of Cruises: 5
Cruise Line: Princess
Ship: Golden Princess
Sailing Date: July 16th, 2003
Itinerary: Grand Mediterranean
This is my fifth cruise, second in the Mediterranean and also second with Princess. Before the cruise my parents and I toured Spain for two and a half weeks before the cruise. We went to Madrid, Sevilla, Granada, Estepona, and Barcelona. It was a great experience and when the cruise finally arrived it was finally a chance to relax….!
We arrived at 11.30 with our friend from Norway who was also going on the cruise and went straight to check in. Express was very easy plus priority embarkation so we were on the ship in no time. It was very exciting and our first glimpse of the ship was really amazing…she is definitely big!
It was really easy getting to the cabin. Rooms were ready at 12 pm so we went up to Horizon Court buffet and enjoyed some food while looking at Barcelona’s Port Vell before going to the cabin. It was a beautiful day for embarkation!! Our cabin, Malaga Suite Caribe 425 was gorgeous. It was incredibly large with plenty of space. Luckily we had got a last minute upgrade from category AA. I can mention some special things you receive in suites such as appetizers around 5 in the afternoon and expedited embarkation but no debarkation. And…of course bathroom stuff and besides that nothing else. There were two rooms. Double bed and sofa bed separated by blue curtains, two TVs (not many channels), and a large sized marble bathroom. The best part was the balcony! It was gigantic, half covered by the Baja cabins above and half uncovered, perfect if you either wanted to relax in the shade or get a golden tan….
Public Rooms & Pools
The public rooms are not that bland as people often mention in the reviews though there could be some help with the many paintings that appear amateurish all around the ship. The internet café is really nice and useful and there is always a computer available (almost people don’t want to think of home or work or school if they are on holiday!) The connection is considerably fast with a charge of 35 cents per minute. One note, remember to check the bills on your internet use…
Sky walkers is very relaxed and quiet with no people during the day, a nice place to stop if the sun and heat is too overwhelming. I don’t know if the music is very good. My parents said it was not that great. All the rooms were nice and it would take forever to cover every point!..... and Its true that although there are 2,800 people on this cruise, (fully booked and over capacity) you never really feel crowded on this giant ship. The lounges were very normal… they never really used the wheelhouse or explorers except auctions or bands.
The pools are okay, they look nice with cool fresh water but it is one area where you know its going to be crowded during the day, especially when you are at sea. The terrace pool on aft deck 12 which I had a chance to walk by is really nice but I don’t recommend standing by the railing overlooking the wake of the ship right on the back because it makes you feel as if you are falling forward into the ocean. I might mention that some nights while going through the Aegean Sea, the ocean was very very rough and the winds were extremely strong.
We had previously heard of the excellent dining on princess and were shocked. My parents love food and it is a major part of a vacation to us. We had no problems with the food being fresh but it was mainly on taste. My parents considered the food as horrible, I myself didn’t think that it was too bad but they could definitely work on it. The dining rooms served the same food as horizon court and if you ordered room service (which took eternity) they would just go up to the buffet and pick what you wanted….this was not prepared in a kitchen…now what is that?? Dining room food was okay but my parents sent back almost everything they ordered. Some of the stuff was impossible to eat. I think that Princess should really concentrate on putting more care on this department, a very big disappointment……….
On the positive side, we did try the alternative dining choices and found that they were actually quite good. The desert rose food was good, try the Papaya and cheese quesadillas..
We like spicy food too so if you wanted it to your taste they made it really good. Sabatini’s was delicious. We ate there twice…and they do give you a lot of food, it just kept coming and coming! They have quite a few good antipasti! If you are going on the Golden Princess, don’t expect gourmet food.
Entertainment was advertised in the Princess Patter and was pretty much okay. Lights Camera Action was good but the scenes were a little bit awkward sometimes. Uber Rossi was fantastic! Some of the entertainment was also usually held in the vista lounge. Bingo was horrible; you can’t imagine how rude the people were. If someone got bingo and shouted it so gleefully, the whole room would go Boooooooooo… I also liked the bands that were playing around the ship. The comedy jugglers were not bad and the comedian did have a knack of teasing and making fun of people that left in the middle of the show as my friend unfortunately experienced. The Cruise director was Paul O’Loughlin, he seemed to be everywhere at once! And then there was Frankie who appeared to be quite popular to the older aged ladies!
1. Here is a simple list of the nightly activities in the Princess Theatre, Explorer’s Lounge, and Vista Lounge
Day One Barcelona
Welcome aboard showtime with Reeves Watson and Billy Vader Welcome aboard anything goes dance party with Hip Pocket band Barcelona Folkloric Show – Music and dance from Barcelona
Day Two Barcelona
Lights Camera Action ( you should see it) with Uber Rossi! Newly wed and not so newlywed game with Hip pocket band Golden Showtime with Lorenzo Clark comedy magician
Day Three Monte Carlo
Lights Camera Action (last show 10 pm) Karaoke Party with Hip Pocket band Spotlight showtime with Vocalist Jacqi Michaels
Day Four Livorno
Musical Comedy Duo Kimika Maurizio in Concert with Hip Pocket band Feature Movie – The Hours
Day Five Naples
Feature Movie – Catch me if you Can Believe it or Not Trivia time and 50’s Sock Hop Shake Rattle and Roll
Day Six At Sea
Magic and Illusion by Gaetano (YOU HAVE TO SEE THIS) Karaoke with Hip Pocket Band
Country Roads show with Noelle Kenney and Michelle Chadwick
Day Seven Athens
Spotlight Showtime Duo Miro ‘from flamenco to tango’
Name that TV Theme and Country and Western Night
Country Roads show
Day Eight Kusadasi
Musical Variety Showtime with Las Vegas’ Glenn Smith
Hip Pocket Band
Movie Night – My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Pub Night Comedy Show
Day Nine Istanbul
Comedy Showtime ‘the final ruin’ with Billy Vader
Maurizio in Concert
Movie Night – Chicago and Gangs of New York
Day Ten At Sea
Words and Music an intimate cabaret
Karaoke Night and Hip Pocket Band
Musical Variety showtime with Mark Donoghue
Day Eleven At Sea
Spotlight Showtime with Darren Lynton
70’s night Fever
Golden Showtime with world champion comedy jugglers ‘freefall’
Day Twelve Venice
Feature Movie – Emperor’s Club and Chicago
Dancing under the stars, Essence, and Ciao Maurizio
A Classical Concert – The Lodz String Quartet
They had many activities on the ship but with this 12 day itinerary there are so many days in port and only 3 at sea. There were quizzes and game shows. Basketball court was always busy. The gym looked very good but the spa on the boat was much overpriced. They had many lectures onboard and a lot of pool games. The duty free boutiques didn’t seem to have great things on sale and each day they had a special like watches, pearls, bracelets, and princess shirts with each port specialized. A word on the teen program which wasn’t very good, I was surprised that none of the activities were on schedule and it really wasn’t fun for much younger teens…. Overall I really expected much better onboard programs.
Some of the staff was outstanding like my mom told me such as Arnold from the Philippines who was at the Lobby bar near the atrium but most of them were fair. For those who had a suite you would expect more than average service which we certainly did not get. Our cabin steward Pol was also very nice.
As my parents have been on many cruises they know that shore excursions are not very good on ships. First of all if you want to learn something especially in Europe with so much history to be explained, you are most likely not to hear much when traveling in a group of around 50 or more persons. Then you have no freedom in the ports…. We did go on one in Pisa but I will explain it in a little while.
Barcelona is a great city with so much to see. We stayed 5 nights before the cruise and it was hardly enough… We stayed at the Hotel Claris which is very nice with a great location in the Example district. Because we stayed here before we didn’t go offshore after going on the ship. The weather was perfect. We went on a trip to Montserrat one day with a private car and driver which was definitely worth it, Gaudi’s fun and kitschy Parc Guell with its beautiful ornamental details. Sagrada Familia we didn’t go inside but it was amazing on the outside. Las Ramblas was much too crowded for us and if you want to shop the example district is pretty nice. The Gothic area is quite charming but again there are too many people. Spanish food proved to be quite bland so when we went on our last night we had dinner at a great place with outstanding food. The restaurant, which I think was named La Torre Del Mar was situated in an old tower overlooking Port Vell which was originally built for a cable car. You would zoom up in the high speed elevator and reach the glowing restaurant with a great view. The food was delicious; you can’t find a better restaurant in Barcelona. My parents highly recommend it. You had a nice panorama of the Barcelona waterfront and it was perfect as we could gaze at the Golden Princess, tomorrow’s beginning adventure!
No tour again…. We have been to Monte Carlo twice before this so we wanted to take it easy. We decided to walk to the Hotel De Paris where we stayed before and had tea before we went shopping at the boutiques near` the hotel and the Metropolitan shopping center. Then we took a taxi up to the royal palace on the hill which was a huge disappointment when we went to a ridiculously expensive restaurant. If you are lucky to take the bus down to the harbour, you can walk a short distance and be at the tender to the ship in no time. My mom said that the fashion is too much for older ladies. The best part was definitely the view of the Monte Carlo and its plush blue waters from our balcony on the starboard side…
There is nothing to see in Livorno and the dock is very ugly, so basically you had to know where to go in Pisa or Florence on your own or take a ships tour. This is the only day that we took tours and we definitely wish we had not. My dad and I took the Italian beach and Pisa but more to our taste should be Pisa and Italian beach. It was easy getting to the bus and it was about 45 minutes to Pisa where we were dropped of and told to meet 40 minutes later. Hardly enough time to see anything and we wanted to climb the leaning tower. It was so hot and we were soon on our way where we had 5 hours at Viareggio a beachside resort. It wasn’t attractive but it had good shopping. We had lunch at a nice place and spent the rest of the time doing nothing on the beach when we could have been in Pisa where we would really be doing something! My mom and our friend took the Florence on your own tour. They started off at the Santa Croce church and went straight to the Gucci stores and fashion stores and went to lunch at the Savoy Hotel at the Piazza Republica which had excellent Pasta Dishes. The Strotsi Palace and saw a remarkable exhibition of still life, perhaps the best in the world by everyone from Carabaggio to anonymous painters. Baroque to Renaissance period. They wanted to go to the Uffizi because there were too many lines. Here is some advice, if you want to go to the Uffizi you have to book tickets by reservation and they will be waiting for you if you can find the number otherwise you are lucky to get it after waiting for half a day in line. If you do take this tour you have to be prepared and know where you are going to go because you only have 5 hours on your own.
Two years ago we were delighted by staying in Amalfi’s Santa Caterina and Capri’s Grand Hotel Quisisana for a week, and it really was heaven. This was a difficult choice to make. Crowds in Capri at this time of year is almost impossible to go especially if it was a Sunday! We had heard of some incidents when passengers missed the ship and had to fly to Athens to meet it. Or you could take the $166 tour… definitely not if you didn’t want to go through the ship’s strict itinerary paying $600 for the four of us when you’re herded around in a group on a Sunday when the shops are also closed. You could take the risk of going to Capri and back or just hang around Naples beautiful nearby towns… and that’s what we decided to do. We hired a car and driver and made our way through Naples to our first stop, the mountaintop town of Ravello. An amazing lunch at one of the five star hotels and a browse through the ceramic shops is just as enchanting. Positano is worth a visit but a warning on the twisted windy roads that can make your stomach feel queasy! Very queasy! After lunch we drove through Amalfi and Sorrento (the view of the sea is heart-stopping) and arrived at the ship about an hour and a half before the ship moved on. DON’T MISS when the ship passes Capri at Sunset on the starboard side around 8.30….
The first day at sea is a perfect time to indulge in some of the ships relaxing and grueling activities! There’s movies in the theatres, music groups in the lounges, the boutiques, the LOTUS spa, game arcade, virtual reality center, basketball & tennis, POOL activities with Calypso music, the library, bridge, shuffleboard, lots of health seminars, Bingo, Art Auction, Dancing lessons, Scavenger Hunt, Princess Grapevine wine tasting… and the list goes on! Whatever you do its your choice!!! Theres no doubt that you’ll have fun!!
Today in Greece my mom and our friend went on the ‘Best of Athens’ cruise tour and from what u heard they said that it was excellent. They got everything they needed and the guide was incredible, of course lunch could’ve been better Greek Food. On the other side, Dad and I chose to go around in a hired car and driver again by the ocean. We left Piraeus and drove by the glistening azure sea of the Aegean, little white houses, and small ruins. Our destination was the Temple of Poseidon about and hour and a half away. It was beautifully perched on a rocky cliff overlooking the ocean… an amazing backdrop… something I will never forget. Then we went to the countryside, more inland to see the farming villages and dry paddocks and mountain towns. We also stopped at the Temple of Artemis for some pictures. Then we drove back towards Piraeus and stopped for lunch at a Greek restaurant overlooking the water. We ordered delicious grilled seafood which was pretty good. Then we went back to the ship and decided to relax for the rest of the day. When my mom came back she said that the Acropolis was very crowded and soooooooo hot!! We were lucky to have been by the ocean with cool winds!
Located right on the Aegean, Kusadasi is a marvel of a seaside village… the water was a limpid crystal color just like the Caribbean and the air smelled of history. We had hired a guide, who was not very informative and was hard to understand and a private van. We went through some mountains to the ancient ruins of Ephesus! Now this was beautiful. Make sure you have someone to explain the history well enough for you. You could see the faint lines and scratches on the marble from those days when the kids used to play games on the street…a little bit like tic tac toe. The ruins stood majestically and the Library was astonishing. You could also see the harbour path where Antony and Cleopatra entered Ephesus. On the way out we purchased some books from the street vendors and some fresh orange juice to sip the heat from the sun out! After Ephesus we went on to the House of the Virgin Mary, a very special place…
Then we went to the best kebab place the best best best restaurant you could ever hope for
Istanbul was an amazing port. Right on the dock we met our guide, this time he was so kind, his name was Levent Solmaz, also recommended by a cruise reviewer. We took taxis to the Topkapi Palace. There was really so much to see there he said that we needed three hour to see the main things. One horrible thing occurred before we even went in.. We forgot my dads digital camera in the taxi… and he never came back. Oh well, that was that, we had to continue our awesome tour of the palace. First we went to see the Chinese Ceramics collection, not too interesting! Then we went to see the inside of the palace. The big gate, courtyard and everything else. DON’T MISS the topkapi when you come to Istanbul. Then we went to see the Harem, which was amazing having to live there and not being able to come out, they must’ve been driven crazy! The walls and interior were incredible…. The Jewellery collection was just spectacular and really charmed my mom. The story was sad of the end of the empire here… Then what were really amazing were the old relics of the prophet Mohammed. This you should really see! We decided to go back early after a bad lunch in town! DO NOT MISS the view of the Dardanelles after you pass the sea of Marmara. Around 12 or 1 you will see the Turkish city lights only a few hundred meters away from the balcony. This was the most beautiful night of the entire cruise…you wont be disappointed.
At Sea and At Sea
The next two days were a time to go back over everything and everywhere we have visited. It was sad to think that the cruise was almost over and I would not think of saying goodbye to my new friends….
Make sure you’ve done everything possibly fun on the boat, even if there are many things you found disappointing you have to look on the bright side. Enjoy the time that you have, because its your last days on the cruise…
We’ve arrived at the last port and guess what!? It’s a Sunday again! What horrible time for most shops to be tight on the time schedule. Very busy with the Costa Atlantica also there.. But Venice is a true marvel. We were here also for four nights two years before but it was just as beautiful… We walked around alone over the bridges and through the winding alleys… Sigh… What a perfect way to end the cruise… It was really gorgeous. The artists and everything. We walked ourselves numb the entire day browsing through shops and dodging dangerous flying pigeons! There were many people in Venice that day. We walked past the Guggenheim and took the Vaporetto to the Rialto where we bought a soccer shirt for a fan at home and went on a search for a restaurant. We finally found Trattoria a la Madonna. One of the best restaurants of the trip. Fresh Fresh Fresh. Back on the ship it was time for a siesta. We planned on going back for dinner so at sunset the few people who were willing to go out to PAY for a nice romantic dinner all enjoyed a ride to the Piazza San Marco and took a vaporetto to the restaurant we had enjoyed two years before, El Gondolieri… great food. We enjoyed a great last dinner there appreciating the whole trip. On the way back, we strolled through the empty streets of Venice with lanterns lighting the way…it was in a way quite haunting!!! We took a private taxi back zooming through the waters for one last goodbye to this Serene Paradise….
1. Mainly of course the food!
2. The tours could have been better proportioned
Barcelona: Dinner at the La Torre del Mar
Athens: Temple of Poseidon and Artemis
Kusadasi: Lunch at Oz Zurfa
Venice: Lunch at the Trattoria a la Madonna
Venice: Dinner at the El Gondolieri
This cruise was definitely a dream. We enjoyed every single day especially in our cruising adventure! My mom hasn’t been on a cruise for seven years but my dad and I have been going on many. Maybe my mom will be back for another cruise soon! I am already looking forward to a next one! But in the meantime I should like to say that the Golden Princess is a magnificent ship, one of a kind and somewhere you won’t be able to find an experience like this one. You’re in luck if you’re booked but if not yet then what are you waiting for!
Whatever you do, and whatever it is you’re looking for, you’re sure to have a brilliant, audacious, tranquil, and unbelievable HOLIDAY!!!!!