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GE Mom

Golden Review January 9-16, 2005

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We flew into San Juan on Saturday, January 8, took a cab ($13.00)to the Radisson Ambassador. A tip: There were a bunch of American Airlines staff checking in, and they advised us to request a room away from the Burger King across the street.

 

The hotel had our reservation listed for two double beds, and the clerk very nicely upgraded us to their concierge floor when we explained it was our 25th anniversary and we had requested a king. The concierge floor (8) is very nicely decorated in dark green, and the room and furnishings were great. We had a balcony with a view of the ocean a block away. We walked around, to the beach, got rained on, walked up Ambassador Avenue, and ate dinner at a Mexican restaurant a few blocks up. The next morning we ate breakfast in the hotel restaurant (very thick, strong, Puerto Rican coffee; ick). The rest of the food was fine.

 

We left for the ship by cab ($11.00) about 11:30 AM, and were on board by 12:30 PM. Embarkation went pretty smoothly. There was a line outside, where we checked our bags, then were admitted, about 200 at a time, to the 'holding area', and sat in white plastic chairs for about twenty minutes. Then we were called up to the counters, standing in line according to decks. We were checked in within five minutes of getting into that line.

There is a duty free liquor store in the terminal, with amazing prices, like $7.95 for a litre of Absolut and $6.95 for Bacardi rum. We bought two bottles, placed them in our carry on bag, and had no trouble getting them aboard. There doesn't seem to be much effort to enforce the 'no liquor' policy.

 

From here on out, my review is going to be a balance of pros and cons. All in all, I think we got quite a nice vacation for a moderate price. Was it perfection? No. Was it quite nice? Yes.

 

The ship is beautifully and imaginatively decorated. There was none of the garish neon decorating we found on the Carnival ships. I really enjoyed wandering around the ship looking at the various spaces. There were a lot of folks our age (fifty-something), about half from the US, and the other half from Canada, Britain and other places. There were an awful lot of people simply wandering around the ship, looking for something to do.

 

Our cabin (C-246), category BB, was quite far forward, and had a wonderful, extra large balcony, half covered, and half open. The mini-suites on Dolphin deck below us extended out so that their doors were immediately below our railings. We looked down upon their balcony. The bathroom was small – about twice the size of an airplane bathroom. But it was efficient, and actually it was nice to have the very small shower when the ship was rocking and rolling. You weren’t as likely to slip. The beds (together) were not wonderful. The mattresses are old, and the pillows are smashed so they are very thin. No box springs. The bedspreads are kind of tired, and the blanket was thin – two old twin blankets sewn together! This category of room did not have a sofa, unlike some comparable staterooms on other lines, so there was really noplace to sit and be comfortable while watching TV or reading in our room. It did have the extra large balcony, which we loved. Our steward, Dante, did a great job of keeping the room clean. It was really nice.

 

The weather was a significant problem. It rained the first two days out, and the ship’s motion was really noticeable. We didn’t exactly get seasick, but I had a real problem with migraines and my husband reported a definite unwell feeling. We didn’t sleep well, being awakened with every pitch and roll. (Probably needed some more of that rum punch, but the migraines ruled that out.) There was so much motion in the evenings that it was hard to tell whether or not we were sober! Several times, I thought I might be ‘tipsy’ and then realized that I’d had nothing to drink but Coke!

 

Food: The food was wonderful. There was no evening where we weren’t able to find something we liked. The attention to detail in the dining room was astonishing. We really enjoyed the food, and the atmosphere, and the staff. These kids (mostly early 20's) do a great job. They’re obviously well trained, and eager to please.

 

The entertainment was very well done. The singers, dancers and musicians were very professional, and looked like they were enjoying their music and each other.

 

Ports of Call:

 

St. Lucia is just spectacular. We took the shore excursion to the Botanical Garden, lunch and swimming via catamaran. It took about an hour to sail up the coast to Soufriere, then we transferred by a fleet of mini-busses to the Botanical Garden, which may be the most beautiful natural sight I’ve ever seen. The sky just opened up – I was really glad we had umbrellas, but we still got wet. After the botanical garden tour, there’s a ½ hour hike through the rain forest ( in the rain!) to the restaurant, where we ate a Caribbean buffet lunch. On the return, the boat stopped at a beach for swimming. We sipped rum punch all the way up and back, and the crew created such a relaxed mood. It was a really nice day!

 

Barbados was interesting. We went to Harrison’s caves, which were beautiful, but the best part of the tour for me was the half hour drive to and from, when the guide did a great job of relating the history of the island. The long term impact of slavery on the islands' economy, sociology etc. is really sobering.

 

Antigua was a dump. The ship ports right in downtown, which is dirty, and full of the worst kind of vendors. We walked around downtown, went to the Antigua museum, and then returned to the ship. I think we might have liked it better if we had taken an organized tour, but we didn’t.

 

St. Maarten: We took the water taxi to the beach, very close to the ship. We rented 2 chairs with a beach umbrella for the day for $10.00, including 2 drinks. My husband and I went swimming, then sat baking in the sun sipping frozen lemonade with vodka. The liberal use of sun screen protected us from burning, and we went back to the ship to nap, quite relaxed.

 

St. Thomas – was beautiful. We took the St. John tour by ferry, then a tram/truck vehicle drove us all around the island. Spectacular views of beaches and mountains were found beyond every turn.

 

Disembarkation in San Juan was very efficient. We took the tour of San Juan which dropped us off at the airport. It was hot and humid and we were dressed for the weather at home. Bad choice.

 

All in all, a great trip. Now we're back in Chicago and it's in the single digits. Brrr!

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GE Mom, Thanks for the review. Although we're on the alternate route, it's good to read the feelings people have for the ship and crew. I'm also looking forward to comparing our Carnival experiences to our first Princess. We did the San Juan tour after the cruise, nice way to kill the time before having to get back on the plane and head back to the frigid temps.

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Thanks for taking the time to write this review GE Mom! :)

 

We will be on the Golden in less than 5 weeks...and on the same itinerary. We also will be staying at the Radisson Ambassador. Did you find any grocery stores or places to buy Cokes, etc. near the hotel? I'm glad to hear the hotel was okay. If you don't mind me asking, how much did you spend on breakfast and was the food alright?

 

Did you use any of the alternate dining restaurants? We are thinking of trying one but not sure which one to go to.

 

Thanks in advance for any answers you may have. I'm glad you enjoyed your cruise. :)

 

Judy

34 days until we sail on the Golden :D

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Breakfast was a little pricey at the Radisson, maybe $20 for the two of us, and the food was just ok. There are lots of shops etc. near the hotel, including Walgreens about 4 blocks past the hotel. There is a little grocery/liquor store immediately across the street. No, we didn't go to the alternate restaurants on the ship.

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My wife Donna and I will be embarking on our first Princess cruise. She is 34 and I'm 37. Did you find the pax much older than that? In your estimate, what was the average age of pax? This is my only concern, since we did go on Norwegeon Cruise and it was like a geritol convention. Is the casino, dance clubs, bars, and Karoake open late? See, my wife and I are avid Carnival and Royal Caribbean cruisers. Inevitably so, I'm a bit aprehensive about the Golden Princess. No matter what cruise, we usually we meet pax within our age group or a bit older that have similar personalities. Either way, I'm sure we will have a wonderful time. We have yet to have a bad cruise experience. Also, did the ship rock that much? These vessels are equipped with stabilizers that control much of that. I'm surprised you felt it that much. I've been on several ships that rocked a little bit, but not to a point that it would disturb or interupt my cruise.

 

John

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GEMom do you remember if they had tonic water at the liquor store located at the pier terminal?

 

Thanks

 

Mike :D

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John, that's a good attitude. I really did think it was a baby boomer group -- but there were a significant number of younger passengers. In every group, there were people older than us and younger than us. A fair number of honeymooners, and couples in their 30's/40's. But it did seem a lot quieter than the Carnival cruises we've taken, a plus in our opinion. I do think there were a lot of late hours in the bars etc, but we're a couple of poops who go to bed early, so I wouldn't know!

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GEMom do you remember if they had tonic water at the liquor store located at the pier terminal?

 

Thanks

 

Mike :D

 

I believe they did but I'm not certain.

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I did, too. My son thinks maybe the rocking of the ship was exacerbated by the fact that they don't empty the swimming pools at night, that the water in the pools puts a whole lot of mass at the top of the ship, possibly overcoming the effects of the stabilizers. The crew said it was unusually rough, that the staff who slept on deck 3 could hear the water slapping against the hull and were kept awake by it. Or maybe it was because our cabin was so far forward.

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They do have tonic water at the store in the terminal. But unlike the poster of this thread, they were confiscating liquor left and right on our Golden 10/24/04 cruise. The reason that you got yours through is that you put it in your own bags, smart. If you had left it in the shopping bag from the store they would have taken it and sent it to your stateroom on the last night. We tried everything to keep the liquor my husband had purchased and went to guest services to complain that Princess should let us know when we check in that what we purchase in that store will be taken but still didn't get it back. They even told us that they didn't want to have problems with the store by telling us at check in, imagine, they would rather annoy their paying guests! Just remember to place any liquor besides wine, champagne or beer into your own carryon so you can carry it on with you!

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Great Review! I was on the same itinerary back in May 04. We did Barbados ahead of St. Lucia. Was this the plan all along or was it a change for you? I'll be taking the Explorer (alternate) itinerary in a couple months along with Mike, who's already posted in this thread. Am curious who the Cruse Director is now. I had heard it was someone named Omar, when we had Gavin back in May. How is Omar? Was he visible other than MCing events and being on the closed circuit TV in the mornings? Also, do you recall the shopping lady's name?

 

Thanks,

~Paul

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GEMom do you remember if they had tonic water at the liquor store located at the pier terminal?
Mike - Still looking for tonic for that Gin? I thought Cindy was going to have your cabin stocked when you got aboard ;)........

 

~Paul

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Omar was the cruise director, yes. He was more visible at events than CD's on some other cruises. Seems to be very outgoing, likes his own jokes better than the audiences. The shopping lady is Gail, a very tiny brunette from Canada. (She couldn't have been more than 4'8", 'cause I'm 5'1" and I was seriously looking down at her.) I don't know why we did St. Lucia first before Barbados, 'cause it was a change. (I think it was so we could be parked in front of the better shopping center.)

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GE Mom, Thanks so much for your excellent assessment. We are on the Golden on the alternate route in April, also staying at the Radisson. We noticed they have a pre-cruise package that includes breakfast and a ride to the pier (with a luggage fee). We will put your info to good use. Thanks.

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WOW... I did that itinerary in OCt and I also stayed at the Rad. Ambassador.

 

I liked the hotel also and was above the BK on the 6th floor. Had no problems.

 

I am sorry you had problems with Antigua. I would recommend Eli's Eco tour the next time you go. It was definately a highlight of my cruise.

 

Good review!!!!!

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jcruise67,

The alternate route is the explorer route--the one that is still given as Caracas by Princess but has been stopping at Isla De Margarita instead. Also includes Grenada and Aruba.

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jcruise67,

The alternate route is the explorer route--the one that is still given as Caracas by Princess but has been stopping at Isla De Margarita instead. Also includes Grenada and Aruba.

 

Plus St. Thomas and St Kitts. Boy would I love to do a BTB!

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I was on same cruise and will post my own review but I definitely want to second the opinion from GE Mom about the motion of the ship. After reading a lot on this board, I really didn't think I'd feel anything. Once aboard, I thought people that say you can't feel the motion are either blitzed on the ship all the time or sensory deprived...because that boat was rocking!!!! It woke me up one night. Luckily, I didn't suffer any motion sickness although one of our cruising companions did. And being my very first cruise, maybe the sea was rougher than usual so it was an aberration. I actually liked the movement (except one early morning where it was rocking s-l-o-w-l-y back and forth and it was annoying), but I'd tell people to be prepared! My friend had some medicine with (wristbands were not helpful to her) so she recovered by the 2nd day out.

 

I'll do my review later. I second the Antigua review, too!

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During the times the ship was rocking, do you recall what the closed circuit tv said was the kind of seas you were going through? Did it say rough seas? When we did this trip last May, we had a few days that were termed Moderate seas. We definitely felt a slight side-to-side motion, but nothing that kept us from sleeping.

 

~Paul

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From what I remember, they were always listed as "moderate" and I think the amount they showed as "moderate" was between 4 and 7.5 feet waves. I remember one of the nights going back to the room and checking the Ship's Log on TV because I was sure it was going to say something more than moderate that night...but it didn't. On the day we were at sea I was getting a manicure (big waste of money, by the way), and the Kayla (the manicurist) said it was a bit rougher than normal. The crew had a party the night before and she did mention whether some of the "hitting the walls" was from too much drink or the ocean! Again, first time on the sea so nothing to compare to...didn't look too bad when I'd look off the balcony but that's because I was probably expecting HUGE waves:) .

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Yes, the ship's log reported 4 feet to 7.5 feet, or moderate seas. But we really did feel the motion. Thanks for the corroboration! I sort of like my son's theory about the mass of the water in the pools making it worse. I wonder if there are any physics experts out there who can comment on his theory.

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Curious: Were you cabins more fore or aft of the ship? I've been told the further forward you are on the ship, the more motion you'll feel. A cruise person at Princess even informed me of the myth that the middle of the ship was the best, saying that when the ship is moving forward, the back (aft) drags through the water which would make it the most stable.

 

~Paul

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