My mum had dreamed since she was a little girl of going to Hawaii but could never afford it and so I saved for 3 years, in order for us to go for her 60th birthday, so that she could fulfil this dream. At Â£4500 for the two of us, it was, for me, a very expensive holiday to save for, especially as I am disabled and on a low income. Many people had told us that cruising was a superb holiday and having previously been on river cruises, my mum and I thought cruising would be a better way of seeing all of the islands.
We flew to Los Angeles where we boarded the Golden Princess - a ship we had been told was superb. We found our room to be very basic, with the beds so hard that I ended up at my GP on my return for painkillers due to the pain in my spine from them. Although the cleaner came in twice a day, the bedding smelt stale and sweaty and we had to request for the duvets and pillows to be changed. Even after this was done, it made no difference. The reception tried to say it was because of feather pillows, but I have feather pillows at home and they certainly did not smell like that.
In less than 8 hours of being on the ship, I had chronic diarrhoea and sickness. I had had a sandwich on the ship when I got on but nothing else. I was confined to the room for 24 hours, given injections and 3 different types of medication. After leaving my room 24 hours later, I found that the cafes and buffet restaurants were serving all foods in one tray - meat, fish and vegetarian. As a vegetarian due to having a meat protein allergy, I was horrified to see the food being served this way. I was more horrified when I saw the waiting staff serving the food using just one utensil for all. I reported my concerns of food poisoning and allergy risks to the Head Chef of the International Cafe. He passed my concerns on to the restaurants. He got the waiting staff to separate the food, but even though the meat, fish and veggie stuff had all been touching in that one tray, he didn't get them to make fresh food. Instead they just put the different foods in different trays then continued to serve using the same utensils. For two weeks, I ended up just having salad as it was the only food that was kept separate with separate utensils. I was disgusted that a so-called 4 star cruise liner had such unhygenic practices when it came to food hygeine. I have never witnessed this in any other 4 star establishment. The veggie sandwiches had pine nuts on as well and so this would pose to be a risk for people with nut allergies.
The entertainment was advertised as big production style shows. Having seen the Princess website and having seen shows about cruises on the Travel Channel, both my mum and I were expecting the shows to be similar to those in the West End or Vegas style shows with the glamourous show girls. Instead, we got staff karaoke. There was little participation for the passengers. It seemed the entertainment was more the staff's own entertainment. In gale force 9 winds, the pool area was flooded and so most people were desperately trying to find things to do inside the ship. Apart from a couple of games of bingo, there was little else to do. The elderly people were playing cards, board games or knitting, but for people between the ages of 20-60 there was nothing to do, day or night, on this ship. With 10 days at sea, many passengers were going stir crazy.
The ship was nothing special - certainly not how we had envisioned it. In fact, it looked like it was in need of redecorating. There were not enough seats or sunbeds for everyone either. The lifts were constantly out of order as were some of the toilets in the public areas. One of the engines had problems and there was an almighty din where it was grinding and so we had to sail back slower from Ensenada. With poor food and poor entertainment, we were glad to get off the ship in Hawaii.
The Hawaiian islands were truly beautiful. We took a helicopter on the Big Island over the volcano, and I would highly recommend this trip to anyone. The scenery is breathtaking. In Oahu, we swam with the dolphins and spent the afternoon at Waikiki beach. If we had the money to do so, we would have found a hotel there and flew back from there if it meant we didn't have to get back on the disappointment that was the cruise, but we were not in a financial situation to do that unfortunately. We had booked Hollywood in Hawaii in Kauai. However, 20 minutes into what should have been a 6 hour trip, the bus broke down. We were stranded at a waterfall for 3 hours until a bus came to take us back to the ship. We were disappointed as we only had 4 and half days out of a total of 18 on the Hawaiian islands and in Mexico. The ship offered us $89 refund each. The trip had cost $149 each. I complained stating that we should be entitled to a full refund but the ship refused to give us more than the $89. La Haina was absolutely stunning. A beautiful, if not the nicest of the towns.
But then we had to go back onto the ship. Four more days of bad food, bad entertainment, hard uncomfortable beds that stank. The worst Â£4500 I have ever spent on a holiday. We were looking forward to getting off in Ensenada, Mexico, even though it was only going to be for 4 hours. The day before docking in Mexico, the ship issued warnings about muggings and drug crime in this location and recommended that we didn't get off the ship unless we went on their excursions. So what was the point of stopping in Ensenada? Most people stayed on the ship.
The other thing we had check regularly was our ship tab. Many times there were charges on our tabs for things we hadn't had and we had to question the bill several times. It doesn't leave a passenger with much trust of the company when they do these things.
We were glad to see Los Angeles again, and Princess had arranged for people on the later flights to have a day in Long Beach. A coach load was dropped by the aquarium but it didn't take us all long to realise that we had 8 hours in Long Beach and there was nothing to do there. The aquarium and the Queen Mary were both expensive for admittance and the local town didn't have a shopping centre safe to walk around (we saw people carrying guns). We were too far away to go to Disneyland, Hollywood or downtown LA. It was as though this whole cruise had absolutely no thought put into it.
We had booked this 'holiday' 2 years ago and so we were not happy when we found that Princess had not even booked their passengers with seats together on the plane. Given my fear of flying and that i needed my medication, this was very inconvenient for me having to keep getting up to find my mum. The plane was full and fellow passengers, who were flying alone, wouldn't even have the courtesy to swap seats with us. It didn't help that on one occasion when i went to get my medication, the foreign gentleman in the seat next to mine, lifted the arm between the seats and sprawled out on my seat. I could not wake him and nor could the steward as he had been drinking heavily and was out for the count. I was stood for 4 hours although the steward did let me sit in the stewards seats for short spells. I was talking to 4 people who were from Essex who had been on the same cruise as we had been on. They had gone on the cruise as a group of 15 and all of them were separated. They said it was their 10th cruise and it was not only the worst cruise they had ever been on, but it was the worst holiday they had ever been on. All of us found it was one of the most expensive holidays we had all been on as well. They, like me, were going to complain on their return home.
I have complained to Princess Cruises on returning home and we got the remainder of the $149 each we had paid for the Kauai trip that didn't happen, but this should not have been questioned in the first place. They also offered my mum and I Â£250 each compensation although, they haven't taken into account the medical bill of $151.89 I had as a result of possible food allergy from the way they were serving the food. They also do not seem to have taken into account that my mum and I, and all the other people on the Kauai 'trip' missed an entire day's holiday given we were taken back to the ship as they didn't have time to run the trip by the time another bus came to pick us up. Out of an 18 day holiday (2 days flying), one of the Hawaiian days was spent sorting things out with the ship's reception trying to get our money refunded. There were no trips at the dock when we were returned as all of the trips were full day ones, so we ended up staying on the ship that we so desperately wanted to get off. They also do not seem to have taken into account that i had salad for 2 and half weeks. If I were to buy that at home, it would have cost me Â£30 for two weeks not Â£4500, and so I found their offer insulting to be honest.
I would suggest that if you want to go to Hawaii, stay on the islands in a hotel. Waikiki, LaHainia and Kauai (from what we were told by other people) are all beautiful and have some stunning hotels. Avoid this ship at all costs as it was not an enjoyable holiday, it was not relaxing, it was overpriced, you have to check everything, the ship is dated and uncomfortable and the food is disgusting and unhygenic.