Embarkation: We did the Bon Voyage Experience to show my son and his wife the ship and to introduce them to the idea of cruising. They were blown away by the ship and had no idea what was inside, the food, the decor, etc. Unfortunately the Seattle Bon Voyage Experience was unorganized and we were sent to the wrong area to meet the Future Cruise Director who was to be our guide for the experience, so she missed us and then we missed a good hour of the experience. Finally the passenger services desk found her, she was very apologetic, took us to the dining room and we were able to have a great lunch in spite of the late time (we were supposed to board a half hour before other passengers). She did comp us a bottle of wine in our suite later in the cruise. Drop off is right at the ship terminal for those taking you to the Smith Cove Terminal, and parking is daily or hourly if you have a car to leave there. Because we were Bon Voyage we were supposed to be first on with those who have Elite Status, but, as I mentioned above, that was not the case for us.
Stateroom: Interestingly enough, we first booked an inside cabin on the plaza deck right near the Piazza, thinking that we would have a place to sleep and the Piazza would be our "living room." Then we got to thinking of all the beautiful scenery we would love to see from our room and we paid extra to move up to a mini-suite on the Dolphin Deck (no covering on those). But three days before we were to sail our travel agent called and said that Princess would like to upgrade us to a Penthouse Suite and gave us 5 choices: we chose C748, Caribe deck, right over the wake. I read many threads about the "dreaded vent" next to that room and C749, or the "dreaded beam" that bisects the C750 and 751 decks, so was apprehensive about the noise, or smell, that had been suggested by other bloggers here. There was virtually NO noise from the vent at sea, and in port is was so minor it would be the equivalent of a small fan running on low speed in a corner of your home, and you forgot about it and it never bothered us. We looked around the corner of our balcony to see the "dreaded beam," and knew we had the right decision to go with the vent. The beam was an inconvenient obstruction, and would limit the ability to entertain on your balcony. Our balcony was 20 feet wide by about 8+ feet deep, with a teak table, 4 padded teak chairs, and two padded teak lounges with blankets. Our steward Jimmy was amazing, refreshing our room many times during the day. And Lena, room service, was so detailed in the way she set up the table clothes and coffee service on the balcony table. The suite amenities were unbelievable, and we took advantage of them all. Note that there is no Lotus Spa on the Golden, so the use of the thermal spa (an amenity mentioned for suite passengers) doesn't exist. But the canapes, chocolate strawberries, free first day mini-bar setup, priority reservations (you need to remind them you are a suite passenger), in room jacuzzi, etc. were fabulous. We would book C748 again in a heart beat!
Food: We found the food was good in the dining rooms, but for some reason was not as spectacular as we had experienced on the Sapphire Princess, or on Holland America cruises. The service in the dining rooms was always good, but please see the "irritation point" below.
Piazza: THIS is the place to have lunch, snacks, etc. Their chicken salad, grilled veggie salad, Greek salad, Paninis are the BEST! Wonderful coffee's also. Don't do the Horizon Court; instead do the International Cafe in the Piazza and you will eat well.
IRRITATION POINT: I don't know why Princess does this but it drove us crazy! At the end of a meal they would try to up-sell you with after dinner drinks (and even a Princess cookbook!!). We politely declined, but they kept pushing it. PLEASE PRINCESSS, DO AWAY WITH THIS POLICY!
Shows: The magician Alexander was amazing, even doing a promo for his show by roaming the Piazza and doing tricks at various tables of passengers...clever idea. He then did several amazing shows! He is wonderful. We missed the comedian. We did see one show and it was typical cruise fare: a non-stop medley of songs and dances tied to a theme featuring two female singers and two male singers. No plot, no storyline, just basically a concert. Good voice, no spectacular dance routines, beautiful sets and lighting. I would love to see Princess produce some mini-musicals like they do on some other cruise ships (90 minute "Hairspray" or other show) that has some substance to it.
Sabatini's for breakfast: an amenity for the suites passengers and was that a treat!! Fabulous breakfasts and amazing service.
Horizon Court: We never went to Horizon Court, and had room service for coffee and pastries before going to Sabatini's in the morning, and we ate all our meals in the dining rooms. HC was just too crowded, and difficult to maneuver around people.
Weather: We were told we had some of the best weather of the season. Our cruise was from July 14 to 21. We actually had sun in Skagway, partial sun in Juneau, a nice bit of sun in Tracy Arm Fjord (breathtakingly beautiful), but rain, as is expected, in Ketchikan. Victoria was an evening stop so it was a bit cool, but no rain.
Excursions: We did the narrow gauge railroad up to White Pass, and that as so much fun, and amazing scenery. Again, we had SUN! We also did the Juneau City Tour with Mendenhall Glacier visitors center, and that was well worth it. The White Pass Railroad tour was through Princess Cruise excursions, but the Juneau City tour/Mendenhall Center was through CruiseOne.com's vendor "Last Chance Tours" and was very well done. I recommend both tours.
Disembarkation: Since we were suite passengers we had the convenience of meeting in the Wheelhouse Bar with other suites passengers, with coffee and pastries, and priority disembarkation. That was a treat! Very efficient. And our traveling companions who had a regular balcony were allowed to join us with the suites passengers.
Alaska is truly amazing, and you feel like you are cruising through undiscovered country, waterways and fjords. This is our second Alaska cruise and we are glad we booked with Princess.