I'm always interested to know something about a reviewer to see if I can relate to them, so let me say that my DH and I are in our early 60s. This was our ninth cruise, and second on Princess. It was our first cruise on a ship this size. In the past, we have really enjoyed smaller ships -especially the R-ships. We are not hard to please and rarely have a negative thing to say about any of our previous trips. We took this trip expressly for the purpose of some relaxation and pampering.
What did we enjoy about it? We were pleased with the hotel staff, most particularly our room steward who went out of his way to anticipate our needs and make our trip better. Also the Pursers office was very helpful anytime we contacted them. We thought the food was above average and that there were many choices that were tasty. In fact, the desserts were much better than we've experienced on previous cruises.
However, this ship has been so highly rated by travelers that I have to think that something went particularly wrong with the last round trip Hawaiian cruise from LA. I can't imagine that a ship that has done the same itinerary for several years could have been so unorganized... especially on the last cruise of the season! Where do I start?
First of all, the Patter, was the most poorly produced informational sheet that I've ever seen. The things people were most interested in were hard to find or not to be found at all. However, special boxes highlighted many of the revenue making activities like art auctions, the lotus spa and portrait specials. Not that passengers don't want to know these things, but instead of a large profile on one of the ship's officers dominating every front page, I wanted to know the weather prediction, evening dress code, port talks, and any special buffets that would be going on that day. It took me a couple of days to realize the weather and dress code wwere in small print under the date. The special poolside buffet information NEVER appeared in the Patter. I understand on earlier cruises that it was included, but not on ours. Why? We missed several good buffets because of this. The port talks were scheduled 4 days before we arrived in that port and according to the TV schedule, only repeated twice at odd hours.
It takes a cruiser a day or two to acclimate to a class of ship on which they have never traveled. During those first couple of days, meetings were held for some of the cruise long activities like the scavenger hunt and scrap heap boat building contest. Most cruisers never saw the notice and the activities director never promoted them. These are activities that could have been a lot of fun, but people weren't aware of what they were and that they were ongoing. Had they had their own promotional box in the Patter for a couple of days, there would have been more participants. We asked about the boat building half way through the cruise (having heard about it on Cruise Critic) only to find out the meeting had occurred day one or two. The pursers office gave us a copy of the rules and when we showed up for the race with our boat, there was only one other participant... the only one that had shown up at the original meeting. Others by the pool saw our boat and said they wish they had known about it. If nothing else it the race would have been fun entertainment for those lounging by the pool.
We did enjoy the entertainment in the Princess theater and Vista lounge on this cruise. The comedians were especially good. The 8 and 10 show times sometimes made dining difficult for Anytime Diners (more about that later). Unfortunately, we felt the staff actually interfered with some of the other evening events such as the Sock Hop. Everyone was dancing and enjoying the nostalgic music when the dancing was stopped so that a twist contest could be held. It took up the rest of the allotted time and what had been fun participation, now became observation...not as much fun. Maybe they did this for the elderly who couldn't participate... but many of those folk were already in bed.
I also was surprised that there were no hand sanitizers outside of ALL of the dining rooms...only the Horizon court buffet. We never used the elevators and consequently were holding onto the hand rails of the staircases all the time. As I went into dinner I always wondered who else had grabbed that handrail. I wanted hand sanitizer before I sat down to eat. I've seen that on other cruises and don't think it's too much to ask.
Back to eating, I've never seen Anytime Dining handled so badly. While it's true I previously had not cruised on a ship of this size, discussions with other Princess travelers said that the long lines we endured were not usual on other large ships. For one thing, one of the AD rooms was used for traditional diners which left only one dining room available to ADers before 7:30pm. If one wanted to go to the 8pm show, they had to eat early. People would start lining up at 5pm (and once I saw 4:45!) for the 5:30 seating and once that dining room was filled...no other ADer would get to eat early enough for the 8pm show. I had heard beforehand that there would be no lines if one went outside the 6:30-8pm peak dining time. That was not true on this ship. What aggravated the problem is that the maitre d didn't operate the AD room like a restaurant where if a table was empty and cleaned for the next person, it was filled. Instead, they waited until most of a section to be empty before seating anyone so that the server could keep all his tables in sync. If we had wanted that, we would have chosen traditional dining. Once when seated at a 2 person table in a section, we were given menus and then had to wait 15 minutes or more while the other tables were filled 2 at a time. The waiter then came around and took the orders from all the tables in that section. I know I sound like sour grapes. But I didn't speak to one Anytime diner who was satisfied so something must have been wrong. There were many disgruntled passengers. I should also mention that many told me they had tried getting reservations in the morning and could either not get through or when they did only times after 8pm were available.
With a cruise ship that holds 2600 people, I think Princess should enforce their own rules. If they say traditional diners can't dine in AD room, then they should check to make sure they aren't doing so. Check the passengers' cruise cards. If the rules say that if any deck chair/lounge is unoccupied for 30 minutes, it should become available to others. However, there is no enforcement. I think many people put their towels on a lounge out by the covered pool early in the morning and then go to breakfast and come back 90 minutes later. Then midday they repeated the process for lunch. Other passengers don't want to create a scene so don't set the towels aside. On a cruise with 4-5 consecutive sea days, it is important that every one has a chance at being comfortable and Princess should monitor the more popular areas of the ship... or at least make announcements encouraging passengers to remove towels from lounges vacant for long periods of time.
For us, the negatives outweighed the positives. We would not cruise on the Golden again.