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Golden Princess - Pacific Coast Getaway through the eyes of a blue card holder!

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Golden Princess - Pacific Coast Getaway through the eyes of a Princess blue card holder.

 

PREAMBLE

 

3 years ago, my wife and I started brainstorming about where to go for our 10th wedding anniversary. Initially, we had selected a wonderful Eastern Mediterranean cruise aboard Celebrity Silhouette, sailing on a Sky Suite, with a pre-cruise stay in Venice. As the date approached, our plans changed several times, including a canceled sailing on the Royal Princess. A new house, a 2nd baby, and finally, an attractive job opportunity, were all blessings which regretfully changed our anniversary plans dramatically. With only 5 days to get away before starting the new job, a drastically reduced budget, and dates not coinciding with our official anniversary date, we didn't have much to choose from. And that's how we ended up sailing on the Golden Princess from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara and Ensenada! :eek: Not quite our original plan, but it would HAVE to do!

 

We booked this cruise about 2 months before departure, and although we were aware that this short Pacific Coast itinerary was the equivalent of a short Bahamas cruise for us "East coast" people, the experience would be almost new for us. We had never sailed on Princess, and had never visited Santa Barbara or Ensenada. (Weeeeell, not quite. I had been to Ensenada....16 years ago....on a college Spring Break....in a quad inside bunk cabin. In all fairness, I couldn't "remember" much from that 1st visit) :o

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DAY 1 - Long Beach, CA

 

We took an early flight from Atlanta to Los Angeles (LAX) and checked in at our hotel in Long Beach around 2:00pm the day before the cruise. We selected Hyatt The Pike for our stay. It had been ranked as one of the top 10 resort hotels in Southern California by a reputable travel magazine and it also ranked very highly on Trip Advisor.

 

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In a nutshell, it was wonderful. It had the feel of a modern, boutique hotel with comfortable rooms, large bathrooms with a rainfall walk-in shower, and wonderful views of the Queen Mary and the Carnival cruise terminal from its rooftop resort pool and bar area.

 

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We walked to nearby Shoreline Village where we had a late lunch on an open terrace overlooking the Marina and enjoyed the great views. We called it an early night as we were exhausted after the day of travel and the time change.

Edited by Tapi

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DAY 2 - Embarkation

 

We were up early and enjoyed a morning walk before taking a 15 minute taxi ride to the Los Angeles Cruise Terminal. We had our first glimpse of the Golden Princess as we crossed the bridge and we knew right away that the next few days would be memorable.

 

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We checked in around 11:30am. The check in process was fast and very efficient at the hands of a very courteous and professional staff. We were given boarding number 7 and were then directed to a waiting area. We had been sitting for no more than 10 minutes when our number was called. Before noon, we were walking past the beautiful Piazza on our way to our stateroom!

 

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- The Ship

 

Without a doubt, the Golden Princess is one of the most beautiful ships we have ever sailed on. Elegant, tasteful, well laid out, and airy. The Piazza is a wonderful focal point, and one where we spent a large part of our time onboard, either enjoying a light snack at the 24 hour International Cafe, or watching one of the many live performances. The piped in classical music playing at a soft level throughout the ship was a nice touch and one that made us realize from the get go that this would not be a party, booze short cruise. Other attractive and unique venues, unlike what we had experienced on previous cruise lines, included The Sanctuary and Skywalkers. Personally, I loved the adults only, heated fresh-water pool near the Lotus Spa. The only place where we noticed a bit of wear was at the Princess Theater. It could benefit from new upholstery and wall coverings.

 

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Edited by Tapi

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- Our Stateroom

 

As a general rule, we book the most economical stateroom which we'd be happy with (which normally is an oceanview stateroom) and as the cruise date approaches, I monitor for price drops and upgrade to a more desirable category. While this technique has worked many times before, this time, it backfired a bit. We booked an OZ obstructed view stateroom (whose view was thankfully not obstructed). A few weeks prior to sailing, all mini suites sold out :eek:. However, balconies were still available and prices for those dropped to within $60 of what we'd pay for our OZ stateroom! Unfortunately, when I called our TA to upgrade, he informed me that the price was for new bookings ONLY, And that if we wanted to upgrade, we'd need to pay $480 instead. NO, thank you, specially considering that we'd snagged our original stateroom for less than what the upgrade would cost.

 

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Still, we were VERY satisfied with our stateroom. The design, with an open closet facing the bathroom, provided a separately lit and useful changing area. The stateroom, while smaller than similar categories on other cruise lines (at 158 sq ft), was smartly laid out and tastefully decorated. As previously mentioned, while our stateroom was categorized as having a fully obstructed view, it didn't! The lack of a sitting area with a sofa didn't bother us at all. One thing that did bother us were the pillows. I don't remember experiencing worse pillows on a cruise ship. They were horrible; flat and thin! Both my wife and I felt the same way. As a funny note, we didn't realize that we had a refrigerator until debarkation morning when we were doing our final check and opened all drawers and cabinets!

 

- Dining:

 

I will not say whether the food was good or bad since the topic seems to be so subjective. However what I will say is that the quality, freshness and texture of foods were definitely superior to what we've experienced on other cruise lines. Everything that we ate tasted fresh, and was consistently very enjoyable, whether at one of the main dining rooms (we ate at all 3, Bernini, Canaletto and Donatello), or at other venues on the ship.

 

We didn't make it to Sabatini's or to the Crown Grill. We tried to make reservations but they were full. We were told to check again for cancellations or no shows, but after a few tries, we gave up.

 

- Fellow cruisers:

 

Definitely more diverse and well traveled than what we normally find on short cruises. For example, one night we shared a table for 8. Our table mates ranged from a couple from Australia, on a 25 day honeymoon which included a second cruise on P&O from Sydney and a few days in Hawaii, to 2 friends on their 4th cruise for the year, getting ready to fly to Venice for the Regal Princess' inaugural transatlantic crossing, to a globe trotting retired couple. We interacted with several other passengers, many who were seasoned travelers (and who were dumbfounded that we had picked a short, Pacific Coastal cruise for such a special occasion). Age wise, fellow cruisers were a bit older, although we saw several families with very small children as well.

 

- Entertainment:

 

We were impressed at the number of entertainers onboard, which included an illusionist, acrobats, singers, and musicians, ranging from a pianist, to a full band playing modern pop songs to mariachis. That was definitely a step above what we've experienced before. What we were NOT impressed with was with the main theater productions (British Invasion and Caliente). They were a bit on the amateur side, and the lead singers were so off key that people around us would flinch every time the singers tried to hit the high notes.

Edited by Tapi

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DAY 3 - At Sea

 

Due to "technical issues" involving a bow thruster repair on embarkation day, our departure from Los Angeles was delayed, first to 9:00pm, and then to 1:00am. We woke up this morning still docked in L.A. and wondering if we'd even depart. Thankfully, the Captain made the announcement shortly after 7:00am that we were ready to go! Since we were scheduled for a sea day, and the distance to our first port of call, Santa Barbara, was short, the impact of the delay was minimal. All activities during our first evening aboard proceeded as normal, except for the casino and the shops which remained closed until we sailed.

 

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We spent most of our first full day between eating and relaxing. We took an early morning walk around the ship (2.5 times around = 1 mile). While we had the best intentions in the world to partake into some of the activities onboard, doing nothing seemed to be the way to go!

 

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We ate at the main dining rooms for most of our meals, alternating mostly between the Donatello and the Bernini. We chose anytime dining, which sometimes worked very well and other times not as well. While we preferred to have a table just for the 2 of us, we opted to sit at a larger table this evening to avoid a lengthy wait.

Edited by Tapi

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DAY 4 - Santa Barbara, CA

 

One of the things that worked to our advantage with the time change was that we were wide awake and ready to go VERY early in the morning, normally avoiding the crowds. We arrived in Santa Barbara at 7:00am, and while we were supposed to stop at the Bernini for tender tickets, there were no lines to get off the ship, so a crewmember directed us to continue walking straight to our tender!

 

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We took the electric shuttle for .50 cents up State Street and got off near the Santa Barbara Courthouse.

 

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We toured this historical landmark on our own and then made the decision to walk from there to the Santa Barbara mission, about 1.5 miles away (even though one of the volunteers at the welcome tent tried to discourage us, saying that it was a very long and exhausting walk). The weather was absolutely wonderful, with sunny skies and warm temperatures, but with a cool breeze, so it made for a very easy walk. We toured the Mission on our own and then walked back to State Street (an even easier walk going downhill).

 

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We shopped along State Street as we worked our way back to the ship, and then we walked along the beach before taking a tender back to the ship.

 

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The cold towels were a nice and welcome touch after a long day sightseeing. Once back on the ship, we opted for a light, late lunch at the International Cafe in lieu of eating at the Horizon Court buffet (over the last few cruises, we have increasingly avoided the buffet and opted for alternatives whenever possible. The International Cafe was that alternative on the Golden Princess and we thoroughly enjoyed it).

 

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DAY 5 - Ensenada, Mexico

 

Ok, as mentioned before, I had only been to Ensenada once, 16 years ago on a college Spring Break. All that I had a clear memory of from that visit was going straight to Papas and Beers with my friends (sober), and walking out a few hours later so drunk and not even knowing what time it was, that we almost missed our ship's departure time (in fact, we made it to port PAST departure time, but the ship was still waiting for us since there were around 30 of us running late :o). That we didn't get left behind that time is a fact that still amazes me.

 

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But times have changed. I'm now a married, professional (and semi-mature and responsible) husband and father, so this visit to Ensenada would be completely different. We booked the La Bufadora Adventure and City Drive tour through Princess (I don't mind booking directly through the cruise line for the peace of mind). I had read a lot about this tour, so I knew what to expect. Our tour guide, Esther, did a great job providing us with facts and information about what we were seeing along the way, and she turned what would've been an unimpressive drive into an entertaining and educational one.

 

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As we got closer to La Bufadora, the scenery started getting more dramatic, with some breathtaking views along the way. La Bufadora was interesting, although it's one of those "been there, done that, probably not going back" kind of places.

 

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After that, we quietly drove back to downtown Ensenada and made a stop at the Riviera del Pacifico Civic Center (where apparently ALL tours stop) since we caught up there with several buses and other fellow cruisers from our ship.

 

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After that, we made one final stop downtown for those wishing to stay and do some shopping. I looked for Papas and Beers with my eyes, and I must admit that for a moment, I was tempted to get off the bus and go in, even if it was just to take a picture and forward it to those who'd been with me on that previous visit, but common sense won this time!

 

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We returned to the ship, enjoyed a relaxing afternoon at the Lotus Spa pool, grabbed a drink at the main pool bar, listened to the band, and watched Ensenada as the ship sailed away, bound for Los Angeles.

 

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We enjoyed one final dinner at the Bernini dining room where we were presented with a chocolate anniversary cake and our waiters serenaded us. This was one of those little details that makes Princess stand out. While you can still get an anniversary cake or stateroom decorations on other cruise lines, they charge you for them. Princess provided both of these complimentarily!

 

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DAY 6 - Los Angeles, CA (and flight home)

 

We were back in Los Angeles around 6:30am. We had a leisure breakfast at the Canaletto Dining Room, strolled around the ship one final time, and left our cabin at 8:00am (as requested on the debarkation instructions). We then met at the casino at 8:05am for those wishing to debark on their own. Within 10 minutes, the announcement for debarkation was made, and we were through security and on the sidewalk by 8:20am! Princess' silent debarkation process worked perfectly! We had planned on taking a 12:50pm nonstop flight back to Atlanta from the Orange County Airport (SNA), thinking that it would take much longer to debark, but we were past the airport's security checkpoint at 9:30am, with 3 hours to kill before our flight departed! SNA is a WONDERFUL airport. Small, uncrowded, modern, and with no long security lines! Such a wonderful alternative to the extremely busy and sometimes horrendous experience at LAX!

 

And on that positive note, our 10th anniversary trip was over! It wasn't a 2 week, lavish vacation out of Venice to the Eastern Mediterranean on a Sky Suite, but it was WONDERFUL. We were consistently impressed with the Princess experience, and even though this was a short cruise, it was enough for us to rank this cruise line at the top of our list. I don't think I would choose it for a family vacation with our toddler aged kids, but for an adult vacation, it's ideal.

 

We will definitely be back on Princess! We returned from this cruise with wonderful memories and, to quote their own advertisement, we "Came Back New"! Thanks Princess for providing us with a truly fantastic anniversary cruise!

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Sounds like you had a wonderful time. Your photos are great. I'm leaving for the Golden in two weeks, and this just gets me ramped up. Thanks for taking the time for the review and photos

Edited by rocker57

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Thanks for the review! We are on the same itinerary in 4 weeks. Looking forward to it now more than before!

 

......................

I looked for Papas and Beers with my eyes, and I must admit that for a moment, I was tempted to get off the bus and go in, even if it was just to take a picture and forward it to those who'd been with me on that previous visit, but common sense won this time!

...................

 

If our experience there on our return from our Hawaii cruise last year was any indication, unless you are drinking bottled beer there was no way of getting too much alcohol from their mixed drinks. Also, their prices were actually more than the ship's drink prices. The best choice, "stay thirsty my friend". :cool:

Edited by ar1950

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Really enjoyed your review and the wonderful pictures, especially the sunset.

 

How was the temperature in the dining rooms and theater and ship in general? Usually they are on the cool side which is fine by me.

 

Thanks again and Happy Anniversary

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Excellent review with pictures. I especially liked one of your early pictures with the view of the Queen Mary. DW & I were married on her in 1989. Happy Anniversary also to you and your DW.....:):):)

 

Bob

Edited by Woobstr112G

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How was the temperature in the dining rooms and theater and ship in general? Usually they are on the cool side which is fine by me.

 

 

Temperature throughout the ship was consistently comfortable. We didn't find any venue to be "too cold" or "too warm". In our stateroom, I was happy that the thermostat was very responsive to temperature change commands.

 

I was grateful to have a fall jacket with me though as the temperature on outdoor decks, specially at night and early in the morning, was a bit on the chilly side.

 

Thanks for all the well wishes! :)

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Forums mobile app

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Beautiful pictures and nice review. We were on the cruise before you celebrating our 22nd Anniversary....had a wonderful time!:)

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Lovely review and refreshed my memories of our experiences on the Golden.. We too walked off and were home in Orange County by 9:30.

 

We were lucky to dine in the Crown Grill on the last night and celebrated our 50th as well as DH's birthday. The filet was better than Morton's or Ruth Chris. We loved every minute sitting in an ocean view booth in Art Decco surroundings with impeccable service.

 

Thanks again for the pictures.

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happy anniversary!

I love a review with lots of pictures, thank you so much.

you should come along on my cruises and take pictures for me, your photos are wonderful.

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Lovely review and refreshed my memories of our experiences on the Golden.. We too walked off and were home in Orange County by 9:30.

 

We were lucky to dine in the Crown Grill on the last night and celebrated our 50th as well as DH's birthday. The filet was better than Morton's or Ruth Chris. We loved every minute sitting in an ocean view booth in Art Decco surroundings with impeccable service.

 

Thanks again for the pictures.

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We will definitely be back on Princess! We returned from this cruise with wonderful memories and, to quote their own advertisement, we "Came Back New"! Thanks Princess for providing us with a truly fantastic anniversary cruise!

 

Tapi, as always, you wrote an excellent review. I'm glad you had a nice anniversary and enjoyed your first Princess cruise, with the exception of the mechanical issues. Thanks for taking the time to review your cruise.

Edited by Disconnections

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