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Guest KateKathy

Golden Princess Review June 27-July 4 (p1)

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Guest KateKathy

Hello everyone - Darn we are back from our cruise. Wish I was still on the Golden Princess. I hope this review is helpful to anyone considering this great ship. This is my second Princess cruise this year. This is page 1 of 2.

 

REVIEW OF THE GOLDEN PRINCESS

7 DAY EXOTIC SOUTHERN CARIBBEAN CRUISE

(June 27 – July 4, 2004 – Roundtrip-San Juan, Puerto Rico)

 

Although I just got back from a 3 day repositioning cruise last month with a friend, my husband and I chose the Golden Princess to celebrate our anniversary. (And of course I’m always on a fact-finding mission to check out lines, ships and ports – this trip I even get to report on . . . . The Medical Center – read on!)

 

Although I often like to fly in the day before a cruise, we chose to fly into San Juan the same day since there was a late sailing (11pm).

 

EMBARKATION was fine but not up to the Princess standards from last month in San Francisco. I’ve come to the conclusion, that although the Cruiseline controls some of the process, much depends on the Port of embarkation. It didn’t take us long to get from the airport to the pier ($22 cab ride) but there were long lines to check-in. There was no one to direct the process but we managed to check-in our bags and get in line. Luckily we discovered that the sign for Suite Check-in included Mini-suites and we were on board in a flash. However people just behind us took about an hour longer.

 

OUR CABIN: We were on the Deck 9 in a Mini-suite mid-ship, and it was very nice. Plenty of room for two of us with a separate seating area with a love-seat, chair and a 2nd TV. Bathroom was nice with a tub and a good shower. More than enough room for our clothing and other things (and regrettably neither one of us are light packers). Balcony was not huge but it had a patio table and chairs plus 2 reclining chairs (not loungers) – and it was uncovered (a good and bad thing depending on what you are looking for.)

 

SAILAWAY: Strange to be a ship that has such a late sailaway (11 p.m. to allow cruisers to arrive on flights), so sailaway was in the dark (not as special). We had time to change and have dinner before sailing out. (Our baggage arrived fairly quickly and was placed inside our cabin, which was a nice touch). It was also strange to have muster all dressed up for dinner – again done with ease as we sat in the Explorer’s Lounge.

 

DINING: As you may know, Princess has several dining options. On the Golden, there was the set seating in the Canaletto Dining Room and open seating (Personal Choice) in either the Bernini or Donatello Dining Room. The smaller rooms created much more of a small ship feel and we enjoyed that. Food is very good and I thought better than on the Sun, with enticing desserts (darn). We never waited to be seated for dining except for Friday night (the 2nd formal night with lobster which is always crowded) and even then it was only 20 minutes.

 

We tried Sabatini’s (Italian Trattoria) one night and were very surprised to find the dining experience to be quite memorable. At first we were unsure given the casual look of the restaurant but the service and food were excellent. There is a $20 per person fee for this alternative dining but it was so good, we ended up there two evenings (rather than eating in the more casual Desert Rose steak house).

 

The Horizon Court on the Grand class ships were in the back rather than the front on the Sun (causing me to be turned around for the first few days). The menu was nice and additionally in mid-ship there was a good grill (burgers & such) along with pizza by the slice (a nice improvement over the sit-down pizza on Sun class). (However, they still don’t really have a Sundaes Bar – just a table set up daily in one side of the Horizon Court from 3:30 to 4:30 daily – a mystery unless you happened upon it at the right time).

 

CREW/SERVICE: Excellent again! Princess advertises that their staff is committed to Courtesy, Respect, Unfailing in Service Excellence (C.R.U.I.S.E) and I think they truly are. The level of service for this category of cruise line was great. Not only were they very attentive and courteous but genuinely friendly too. One reservation some cruisers have with the new personal choice dining is not having the same waiters who know you, but we found that to be a myth at least on Princess. The waiters we had several times in the Bernini Dining room, Alexandru and Francis from Romania were wonderful.

 

ENTERTAINMENT: There were so many entertainment options on this ship, we couldn’t see or do them all. The shows were high quality and the bands very good. We were surprised to find even shows we thought would be “fillers” were so good including an amazing guitarist from Barcelona named Juan Carlos. The star of the Production Shows (in the Princess Theater) Uber Rossi was also amazing.

 

In addition to the live music in the Wheelhouse Bar (as on the other class ships), we enjoyed dancing in the Explorer’s Lounge and I did manage to get my husband up to the exciting Skywalkers Night Club on deck 17 Aft. Too much techno-beat/rap for him but I enjoyed it along with the skywalk to get up there. Great place for a view during the day (feel free to go up there and get some air-conditioning and quiet).

 

I also loved the Tropical Island Night Deck Party with music by Tenacity and Marathon as we sailed out of Antigua – they put a platform over the Aft Pool on deck 16 for the band and there was plenty of room for dancing. They created quite the party atmosphere by handing out streamers that guests threw over strings strew across the deck that made the space into a floating party room.

 

THE SHIP: I have to admit I love this ship. As a TA I usually check out a ship and move on to the next – but I would very much like to cruise again on the Golden or its sister ship the Grand. Understated, pretty, good layout – a large ship with a smaller ( I didn’t say small) feel. We especially enjoyed the aft pool on deck 16 where there was always shade, quiet (adults only and no music), lots of places to sit and a pool with cooler water. This pool was one of 4 on the ship (not counting the small pool for children). There is a also a pool in the Conservatory with a sliding retractable roof.

 

We were unable able to make it to all the lounges or activities. We had planned to do mini-golf up on 16 and Virtual golf but never found the time.

 

The Internet Café on Deck 7 was the best I’ve seen at sea so far (although I have seen pictures of the new one on the Diamond Princess that is even bigger). There were about 21 private stations (and 3 more in the library we found later) – with easy access by the minute just sliding in your cruise card (v.s. some ships where you have to buy a block of time and guess how much you will need!) This was 35 cents a minute.

 

There is even a dedicated Ceramics Studio!

 

CHILDREN & TEEN PROGRAMS:

As we were cruising this time without our son, I can’t comment from personal experience but there were great facilities on board – outdoor areas and in – including separate areas for children and teens and the largest arcade I’ve seen on a ship so far. They even had an outdoor area with lounges reserved just for teens (of course a few adults decided they didn’t need to follow those rules and used the space anyway). I “interviewed” teens and pre-teens on board and all reported they really liked the Golden.

 

EXCURSIONS/PORTS: I rarely do excursions offered through the Cruiselines but for a couple of reasons I made an exception on this cruise and was pleased and not so pleased. I know they usually cost a bit more and are not as exclusive but they do offer “safety” and sometimes it’s the only way to get one you want when the line books the day. We booked three excursions through Princess. I appreciate that you can pre-order them ahead as we did via their web-site (a major plus over a line like Carnival where you can’t even view prices online must less book it). Two of the excursions were great and the third was not (although as usual we managed to have fun on even that one – sometimes you just have to go with the flow).

 

Tuesday in Barbados (our first port) we booked my favorite (albeit expensive) excursion – The all day Jeep and Catamaran tour. There were six jeeps (not trucks) each with 8 seats in open air but canopied back. Seat belts required (and VERY necessary) as the ride got rough. We had a fun driver and there was a lot of competition by the guys to see who could pass the other and be funnier. Great tour of the island up and down hills and through the jungle areas with a great stop at Bathseba beach with scenic (read – get out those cameras – it’s a photo-op!) rocks. Then on-board a 60’ Sailing Catamaran – Cool Runnings which offered plenty of room both in the shade and sun – it was already docked at Turtle bay so we went out a bit and snorkeled with giant sea turtles (underwater photo-op!). Crew got in the water to feed and entice turtles to get close. Lots of fun. Then off to another beach for swimming and a great lunch. A few locals were there offering jet-skis and banana boat rides - for cash of course.

 

On Friday in St. Maarten, we did the America’s Cup Racing. I’ve always heard what a great excursion this is and it lives up to its reputation. We were broken up into 3 groups and assigned jobs and put on board 3 racing yachts that competed in the America’s Cup race in 1987. Hard work for those with the active jobs but it was a blast! (Our yacht – True North IV came in 2nd by about 4 feet!)

 

see page 2 for the rest

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Guest KateKathy

Now on for the rest of the review continuing with the Excursions -

 

My mistake for booking the 3rd Excursion which was a catamaran ride in St. Lucia down to the Pitons. We have stayed in St. Lucia before over New Year’s a couple years back and loved the island – it is a lush beautiful place – not a shopping mecca. But this catamaran was basically a flat barge (IMHO) with little outside space and tables and chairs inside. 76 of us got on-board. I knew that was not a good sign. Snacks included – stale cheetos and tortilla chips is not a snack. But it’s always a pleasure to be out on the water and the Pitons are a sight to see. I give it a 1 out of 10 rating.

 

In Antigua we booked golf at Cedar Valley Golf Course (a public course) through ShoreTrips. Interesting. Not expensive and we almost had the place to ourselves – we knew golf in the summer in the Caribbean is going to be hot – so we didn’t drag our clubs but decided to rent and get a day in – we had a few laughs. – more on this day in my review of the Medical Center!

 

No excursion booked in St. Thomas – not our favorite port – so we just got off and walked around a bit, had lunch and got back on the ship to enjoy it without the rest of the crowd. We did very much enjoy taking an impromptu tour of the Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas which is right in Charlotte Amalie – This synagogue dates from the 1700s and has a sand floor! Quite interesting.

 

MISC:

If you are not into sunning and swimming, there is still much to do – we took Merengue lessons with Kelly (the asst. CD) which was fun, and they also offer Computer@Sea classes and they seemed to be well attended (in addition to the usual offerings of bingo, art auctions and games).

 

As was true on my last Princess cruise, they still don’t offer towels out by the pool and although you can (if you notice the fine print on the piles of paper in your cabin) request extra pool towels from your steward) it’s still inconvenient to haul them up and down from pool to cabin especially if you coming or going to another of the myriad of activities on the ship.

 

Being Princess alumni we were invited to the Captain’s party for members – can’t say it was anything special and it could have been missed.

 

MEDICAL CENTER: At last. Were you scrolling down to find this part! Given that some of these large ships are almost floating small cities, the medical centers are actually mini-hospitals. In my never-ending quest to find out all there is to know to report back – my husband bravely sacrificed himself to the fire-ants on the golf course in Antigua! (Within about 45 minutes of being bitten, his body was covered in hundreds of welts and his lips were swelling up (we feared his throat was next). We rushed by cab back to the ship. The Medical Center was closed (they have open clinic hours in the morning and later afternoon) but after dialing 911 and being examined, he was promptly admitted and given several shots and hooked up to monitors. So – luckily the treatment worked and about 5 hours later he was released. So I can report that the center is large with 5 hospital beds each in their own room, several examining rooms, x-ray machine, two doctors (one for the crew) and about 4-5 nurses. Very capable and friendly staff - thank you Dr. Gowland!

 

You can imagine with the varying ages of passengers and the crazy things that happen on some of the more active shore excursions that they are kept quite busy. Just the day we were there, a woman fractured her pelvis being thrown from a horse and another women dislocated her elbow (and was casted) after the ATV driven by her husband was overturned.

 

Moral of the story – don’t neglect to take out good Travel Insurance - because you never know.

 

LOTUS SPA: I saved this for last – again - run by Steiner’s. Parts of it were very nice – a decent sized gym with good equipment and a lovely outdoor pool surrounded by men’s and women’s saunas and steam rooms that were quite large. After having a bad experience in several of the Steiner facilities, I should have just kept my money in my pocket but I love to indulge in some services while cruising.

First I scheduled a manicure and didn’t ask the price (should have). I got a nice manicure that took ½ hour with a friendly woman from England. Cost of the manicure - $40! Later in my cabin I look in the book showing all the spa services (book doesn’t show prices - I bet they don’t dare) but it does show – 2 things – a manicure and “an exotic nail ritual” which was to be 60 minutes. After going back to spa and calling the manager 3 times, we finally got them to refund $15 on the principle of the thing. Additionally I had a massage that was supposed to be 50 minutes. It was 35 minutes for $99. I live in Philadelphia and am familiar with spa pricing, but I continue to be so disappointed by Steiner’s and really wish more Cruiselines would just hire and manage their own people.

 

And although I’m aware that Princess contracts out the Spa to Steiner – they should ultimately take responsibility for it. After having a less than positive experience on my last Princess cruise (ok I confess – it was just last month!) – I wrote a letter to Princess and their basic response was – thanks for letting us know. Princess could do a better job of creating good will toward future cruising with them if their back office staff was as customer service oriented as the crew!

 

DEBARKATION:

It was well-organized. We were staying over in San Juan for a night so there was no rush to get off. We were able to have breakfast in the dining-room and then waited in the Explorer lounge with our carry-on luggage. A bit tough to get a cab in San Juan so we used a porter who expedited the process.

 

Recap of our Golden Princess cruise:

 

“ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT”:

1. Spa

2. Towels

 

EXCEEDED EXPECTATIONS

1. Crew!

2. Dining

 

Overall, this was a great cruise and I would highly recommend the Golden Princess to anyone.

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An absolutely awesome review. We're on the 8/1 Southern Carib, but the other leg. I'm going to put a link on my website directly to this, for our fellow cruisers. Would you mind if I put it on the site, with full credit to you? BTW, I'm not adding anything to it, like excursion advertising, etc! Thanks again.

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Great Review, Is there a charge for the virtual golf? If so do you know how much?

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Thanks for the great review. We are on the same sailing on 9/19/04 in a mini suite and staying a day later. I am glad to hear that the suite checkin includes mini suites. I also appreciated the tip on using a porter to get a cap when leaving.

 

Thank you also for you detail on the excursions. We were considering the cataraman to the Pitons in St. Lucia. But I have heard several people say that it was not up to standards.

 

Thanks again for all the information.

 

What time did you get to the ship to checkin?

 

Becky

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Thanks for taking time to post a great review. I too like the previous poster (Becky) was considering the Catamaran to the Pitons. How about your fellow passangers..did they mention any excursions in St Lucia that were good?

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Your review was wonderful! We'll be on the same itinerary at the end of October. Quick question - did you have to tender at any of the ports?

 

Thanks!

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Thanks for the great review. How did payment for medical services work. Did you have your own insurance or did you purchase and use the travel insurance. I've always wondered how this works and how much the medical services cost on board. Haven't ever had to use their services, I'm happy to say. But one never knows.

 

Thanks!

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Kate great review, many thanks. :D

 

I believe Princess is starting to take over control of the Spas just as you recommended. I know they have started running some of the spas - just don't know when it will be on all ships. I, like you, am not overly fond of Steiner. I would though suggest another letter to Princess about the service you received from Steiner. I had an awful experience with them on the Coral in 03 and did just that. Although I got a pretty standard 'thanks for telling us' letter from Princess, Steiner themselves wrote me a very sincere letter of apology and included a $100 gift certificate to order from their catalogue. Guess it's a good thing I ordered a life time supply of Sun Glow as they aren't going to be on the Princess ships much longer.

 

Again, thanks for the great review. :)

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Hi Kate,

We were also on the Golden 6-27. Great review. We also injoyed Jaun Carlos and Uber Rossi. Although we didn't enjoy the last show in the Princess Theatre Words and Music.

Our excursions were different from yours and we had a great time on all. The one exception was on Antigua. The ATV ride was awful, to slow and to short for the money.

This was our first cruise and I think it won't be our last.

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Thanx for a great review. We are on the Golden 8/1, Southern Explorer. I have one question about excursions, hopefully I can get an answer. We want to do the Jeep trip in Aruba. Princess charges $236 PER jeep. It's just the two of us. If we book thru Princess will they "pair us up " with another couple so we can split the$236????? $118 sounds a lot better to my ears that $236

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Guest KateKathy
An absolutely awesome review. We're on the 8/1 Southern Carib, but the other leg. I'm going to put a link on my website directly to this, for our fellow cruisers. Would you mind if I put it on the site, with full credit to you? BTW, I'm not adding anything to it, like excursion advertising, etc! Thanks again.

 

I'd be honored!

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Guest KateKathy
Great Review, Is there a charge for the virtual golf? If so do you know how much?

 

I wish I could remember how much. Yes there was. I THINK it was $30 for a half an hour - something like that. It was a great set-up. We meant to do it but there was just so much to do and the ports were so active we never made it!

Any questions - email me at kate@cruisewoman.biz

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Guest KateKathy

[

 

What time did you get to the ship to checkin?

 

Becky

 

Tha's really the key - you can get lucky like I did in SF and get on in 15 minutes or it could take hours. Becuae of our flight arrival we got to the port @ 1 pm. Probably one of those peak hours.

\

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Guest KateKathy
Thanks for taking time to post a great review. I too like the previous poster (Becky) was considering the Catamaran to the Pitons. How about your fellow passangers..did they mention any excursions in St Lucia that were good?

 

Although I really love talking to others and getting all the scoop I'm sorry to report that I never heard anything else that was great in St. Lucia. We love the island itself but it might be one of those places that is hard to do on a one day stop on a cruise.

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Guest KateKathy
Your review was wonderful! We'll be on the same itinerary at the end of October. Quick question - did you have to tender at any of the ports?

 

Thanks!

 

All docks on this itinerary which makes it so great to come and go as you please. Not like the Western Caribbean.

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Guest KateKathy
Thanks for the great review. How did payment for medical services work. Did you have your own insurance or did you purchase and use the travel insurance. I've always wondered how this works and how much the medical services cost on board. Haven't ever had to use their services, I'm happy to say. But one never knows.

 

Thanks!

 

It was always something I wondered about too. We had to pay on our CC for the amount of the bill (not cheap for sure but not terrible as I expected). Spent a lot of time the first morning home talking to our insurance (this trip CSA Silver) and our regular insurer - BCBS. Procedure (for us) was to send a copy of the bill with the required form form Blue Cross (available on their web-site) to BC. They pay what they feel they should - not sure how much yet but I sent it out ASAP - then we submit their form with how much they paid etc etc to CSA and they cover. Feel free to email me later if want more info - we are hoping for the best. And just glad my husband is OK and that the ship had such a great DR & medical staff!

kate@cruisewoman.biz

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Guest KateKathy
Kate great review, many thanks. :D

 

I believe Princess is starting to take over control of the Spas just as you recommended. I know they have started running some of the spas - just don't know when it will be on all ships. I, like you, am not overly fond of Steiner. I would though suggest another letter to Princess about the service you received from Steiner. I had an awful experience with them on the Coral in 03 and did just that. Although I got a pretty standard 'thanks for telling us' letter from Princess, Steiner themselves wrote me a very sincere letter of apology and included a $100 gift certificate to order from their catalogue. Guess it's a good thing I ordered a life time supply of Sun Glow as they aren't going to be on the Princess ships much longer.

 

Again, thanks for the great review. :)

 

Thanks - that will be my next step - to write STeiner directly. They really should know our experiences. I hope to get a good response from them. Thanks!

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I'm very glad you had such a positive review. We have scheduled the Golden's Aruba route in October.

 

I would also typically try another ship, however, I just scheduled another Golden cruise up the Canada coast in Oct, 2005.

 

We really loved the Sun Princess - so we hope to like this bigger ship as well.

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I am looking at our bill from the Golden last week and the Golf Simulator was $30.00 for a round of golf. My husband had trouble with the simulator because he is tall and the ceiling was too low. If you are tall, you might want to try a few swings in the room before you actually commit to the game. The golf attendant was extremely friendly.

 

As for the mini golf - this was dissappointing because people had apparently taken the equipment. One time we went up and there was no equipment for play. The next time they had put out a few clubs, but four of us had to share one club. They really need a crew member to check out the equipment at one of the bars or something to prevent passengers from walking off with it. This also happened on the paddle tennis court. My son and I played early in the evening and there were at least 6 paddles and two balls available for play. We came back two hours later and there was one ball and two paddles left. Enough for us, but someone obviously walked off with the equipment.

 

We also enjoyed the cruise immensly. You will not be dissappointed with this route. We also found the piton catamaran cruise not up to par. We did enjoy our tours on the other islands - Barbados 5-star catamaran, Antigua -Antigua Paddles, St. Maartin - 12 m yacht race, St. Thomas - Atlantis sub and St. John Hike.

 

Have fun.

 

ddpe

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I am doing this same itinerary on Sept. 5th, and I want to make the excursions on my own, any suggestions on sites or preferred excursions, thanks

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Trying to get a copy of a Princess Patter from the Golden Princess. If anyone has a copy they could email me or post a link to, please let me know.

Thanks!

Jan

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Guest KateKathy
I am doing this same itinerary on Sept. 5th, and I want to make the excursions on my own, any suggestions on sites or preferred excursions, thanks

 

Try Shoretrips.com

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Thank you for the awesome review. We are going on this route the end of October and love to get tips on what to do. Thanks again.

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