Golden Princess Review
Here's my review.
I got to the pier around 11:30-11:45 that Sunday morning, and all things considered, the lines moved fast. I think I was onboard by about 12:45 - 1:00. I went to my room to put my bag down, then went up to the buffet for lunch. I ended up hanging out on the open deck until it was close to get ready for the muster drill. One thing, though, although this is true of all ships in Seattle. Local noise regulations prohibit them from playing music (live or recorded) on the open decks. At least that's what they said in the Princess Patter. One thing I did like about Princess was that their muster stations are all in lounges, as opposed to the open decks, so we could actually sit down for the announcements, until we had to demonstrate that we knew how to use the life jackets. We had to carry them to our muster stations, but not wear them. One given the cue, we had to demonstrate that we knew how to put them on.
As far as the service, it seemed like they must have recently changed crew. One guy (Marvin, from the Philippines), said this was his first week aboard the Golden Princess. This seemed to show when he did bingo, as he didn't seem that knowledgable with the software they use. Also, that Monday morning for breakfast in the dining room, there were lots of wrong orders, most of which the waiters caught before they served the dishes. It also took a long time to serve because of this (over an hour). They got it straightened out by the last morning of the cruise, though. Except for that Monday and the following Sunday morning, I just went to the buffet for breakfast, which was good.
In regards to the food, I didn't think the food was anything to rave about. It wasn't bad, but nothing too fancy or special, either, from what I thought, until the last couple nights. The lobster tails and prawns were great, as were the mussels served on the final night of the cruise.
On that note, one thing to note about the Alaskan itineraries. This may be true for all the Princess ships. On the night that they are in Victoria, they will open the dining rooms at 5:00 pm. Those with the assigned first seating, normally around 5:30, will go at 5:00 pm. There is no second seating on the night you are in Victoria.
One thing that would be nice to see would be copies of receipts for the guests in the dining room that ordered beverages other than water, coffee, etc. I ordered glasses of wine almost every night. They'll write it down, then bring it to you to sign, but to my knowledge, didn't ask if I wanted a receipt for my records. I usually like to try to have receipts, so I can double check them against my folio up until the last night of the cruise.
I also would like to see Princess maybe change the way they do their photos at the ports of call. They do the photos on the inside of the gangway, before you get off the ship. Because of this, I didn't get any of those photos, but did get a photo of me on the second formal night in the dining room. I usually like a photo with the ship in the background on the outside of the ship, when I get off.
I did have a nice stateroom attendant, Warlito. A couple times he saw me coming after I did laundry, and was nice enough to open my door for me. I did have one minor issue with my stateroom, which was quickly resolved. I discovered one morning that my toilet didn't flush. I brought this to Warlito's attention as I was going to breakfast, and within an hour, it was fixed. Granted, mine was probably not the only stateroom impacted when something like this happens. I noticed it around 8:30 when I got up, and when I got back from breakfast around 9:30, Warlito told me it had been fixed, which I confirmed. I'm guessing someone just flushed something they weren't supposed to, which clogged the system. He was aware of the issue when I brought it up to him. Also, it seemed pretty obvious that this was an older ship, as it seemed there was always at least one elevator in the center bank of elevators that wasn't working, whether it was the regular elevators, or the panoramic elevators, with views of the Piazza on Decks 5 - 7.
I did the Alaska itinerary, with calls in Ketchikan, Tracy Arm Fjord, Juneau, Skagway, and Victoria. I booked my excursions through Princess, as I was more comfortable doing it that way, rather than just booking them when I got there. Just do research and figure out what it is you may want to do. It was raining when I got to Juneau, and I booked a whale watching excursion. I was aware it would go rain or shine, and knew that it may be raining when I went. That being said, I may have waited until either I got onboard or got to Juneau to book the excursion for that day, and may have booked something that was inside.
In Ketchikan, I did a wildlife cruise, which I enjoyed. I saw lots of eagles and even some orcas, as well as a bear. That was a great excursion. I had about two hours to kill before my next excursion, so I walked to the Crab Cracker Seafood Bar for lunch, which was good. I had the fisherman's platter, which was fish and chips, and also some fried clams and shrimp. A bit pricy, but that was expected. My second excursion in Ketchikan was the duck tour, which I actually thought was just okay. Saw some more wildlife on the water portion of that cruise.
Cruising Tracy Arm Fjord was a good experience, although a little cold to be out on the open decks, and it was also raining. It was amazing to see the glaciers and mountains as we passed through. There was one rather large iceberg, and we were lucky it was off to the side. Our onboard naturalist, Kathy S, (not sure if we're allowed to use full names), stated she asked the captain what would have happened had this been closer to the middle of the water, and the captain responded we most likely would have had to turn around and leave. I didn't do the excursion to get up close to the Sawyer Glacier at the end of it, but a few people did, and caught up to us in Juneau.
In Juneau, I did a whale watching excursion like I mentioned before. This was also a good experience, despite the fact it was raining. It was hard to get the timing right for photos and videos, and also it was a little crowded compared to the one in Ketchikan. In Ketchikan, there were only about 12 of us on the wildlife excursion, and on the one in Juneau, there were probably over 100 of us. We did get a good view of what I think was called Mendenhall Glacier from the water on this excursion. After the excursion, some people did an add on excursion to go see the glacier, but I just went back to the ship for dinner. The shuttle driver will make a stop in town, for those that want to stay in town and maybe have dinner in town. I chose to have dinner on the ship, since that was already paid for.
Skagway was probably my favorite port of call. I did a horseback riding excursion in the morning through part of the Tongass National Forest. The scenery was amazing once we got to a clearing and saw the mountains and a stream, and the guide will dismount his or her horse here and get photos of you on your horses, and will move the horses if necessary if you want a family or group photo. On the way back, I got off the shuttle in town, and got a sandwich to go from the Sweet Tooth Cafe for the White Pass and Yukon Railroad, which I did in the afternoon. This was also an amazing experience. I only went as far up as the Klondike Summit, as that was all I had time for, and this was a ship's excursion.
A couple things to note about Skagway, though. We were there on the 4th of July, so needless to say, it was a little crazy in town. On the way back from the horseback riding excursion, the guide said it took her 10 minutes to find a way through town when it normally only takes her under a minute when she had to go get the second pickup. That being said, if you're there on a holiday, you may want to consider doing a ship's excursion. Also, Dave mentioned earlier in the Alaska section about the Skagway Fish Company, where I was looking to eat, near the railroad dock. That is currently closed due to a fire, and I'm not sure if or when they will reopen.
Our last port of call was Victoria, BC; Canada, required because of the Passenger Services Act. This was a beautiful city, and I just did the double decker city highlights tour, again, offered through Princess. The driver did make a stop in Chinatown for those that wanted to get off, but if you do that, you are on your own getting back to the ship.
I had some time to kill before my flight when we got back to Seattle, so I did the short Seattle tour, which was the Space Needle and Pike Place Market, where we had about an hour at each. The driver also took us to the Pioneer Square area and the outskirts of the International District, where we could see the baseball and football stadiums. I just had my duffel bag with me, which I left on the bus. I did the Princess ezCheck luggage program, which is $20, plus the bag fees for your airline. The bus driver will ask what time people's flights are, so he knows when to start heading to the airport, which is about 30 minutes or so from Downtown Seattle. A few of us had 3:30 flights, so we started heading there at 12:45, and got there around 1:15 or so. We did have to make an unscheduled stop at the Seattle Airport Marriott, as a passenger must have left something there when she got there on her pre cruise stay.
Overall, a good cruise, but I think I like Royal Caribbean better. Any questions, feel free to ask, and I'll try to answer them as best as I can.
2007 - Majesty of the Seas (Bahamas)
2009 - Enchantment of the Seas (Western Caribbean)
2010 - Freedom of the Seas (Western Caribbean)
2013 - Golden Princess (Alaska, roundtrip from Seattle)