Our 1st cruise was on Carnival's original ship, the Mardi Gras (ex-Empress of Canada), which was 25 years old at the time we sailed on it. With this in mind, I confess to being amused at the comments having to do with the Golden Princess "showing her age", "looking tired", "needing a facelift", etc. I thought she looked stunningly beautiful and cut a striking profile against the backdrop of
Alaska's Inside Passage. Perhaps our cruise history betrays our naivete in that
we are not as discerning of cruise quality as we should be, so take what follows in that context.
Most reviewers seem to be satisfied with the embarkation service provided by Princess and the Port of Seattle. We heartily agree with that assessment, so I have nothing to add on that subject.
Our luggage arrived shortly after we arrived at our cabin, which we found to be quiet and which rode well since it was located not strictly midships, but in the middle third of the ship. The bed was very comfortable. I don't know whether it was a king or just twins pushed together with a topcover, but it was very nice either way. View was of Lifeboat #17, but that's what "Obstructed View" means, after all. The window and outside light were welcome. Temperature control in the room was responsive to our infrequent adjustments. Wardrobe hanging space is generous and the bathroom, while typically small, presented no problems for a couple of "young" seniors. We made only one "special request" to
our cabin attendant which she fulfilled promptly. Beyond that she performed her
assigned duties well and with a smile.
We chose "Anytime Dining", which assigns you to the Bernini Dining Room all evening or to the Donatello Dining Room after the 1st sitting is over. To me
this was the most impressive part of this cruise experience: the performance of the service personnel. Even though we had different servers every night (you can, of course, request being seated with the same servers nightly), they waiters and secondary servers were buzzing around us constantly, refilling coffee cups and water glasses, removing used dishes, asking if all was satisfactory and if there was anything else they could do for us. (We found this
to be true even in the Horizon Court, where my wife preferred to eat breakfast, as did the vast majority of passengers, or so it seemed.) Since food selection and quality are highly subjective, I'll just say that, while nothing on the menu made my eyes pop out, my wife and I were always well satisfied with the product, at times strongly so. Another thing: Dishes were conservatively seasoned. I had the scampi for an appetizer one night and I tasted shrimp with
some seasoning---NOT seasoning with some shrimp added. I've had some scampi that
gave me heartburn just from the aroma. This was true even of Sabatini's, which
turned out to be a delightful experience. We were somewhat concerned going in
(since we both have digestion issues) that we'd be up all night. No problem, though.
Weather on the cruise (beyond anyone's control, I know, but be advised) ranged
from marvelous (Seattle sailaway, Ketchikan), to spotty (Skagway, Glacier Bay), to miserable (Juneau), where all helicopter/floatplane excursions had to be cancelled due to the low ceiling. Our 2 excursions (the "Evening Wildlife" at Skagway/Haines and the "Misty Fjords Floatplane Exploration" at Ketchikan) went
off without a hitch and turned out to be well worth the expense. In both cases, we saw what we'd hoped to see and the operators were first-rate.
The biggest disappointment of the trip was Glacier Bay, where I arose early to film the pilot boat boarding the National Park Rangers on the Golden Princess.
The sky at 6am was broken clouds and I was hopeful that they would break up and
give us a clear day. However, as the ship sailed northward into the bay the opposite happened. So, while the glaciers were visible, the magnificence of the surrounding mountains remained hidden by the thick fog, to be seen on a later trip (we hope).
The only complaint I had with something Princess COULD control turns out to
be relatively minor. One of the things we both had planned to do was use the
ship's hot tubs several times. (Like I said: We're in our sixties...) Well, the
hot tubs were not hot(and I checked them all), but barely lukewarm, and the whirlpool action was frequently inoperative. The whirlpools were eventually fixed but they never got the water any hotter. Whether this was a mechanical problem or the modern American malady of lawsuit wariness, I don't know.
Back in Seattle, we chose a late debarkation time since we live in the state
of Washington and had only a 3-hour drive home. Once again, since we hadn't
cruised in 12 years, we don't know if Princess's procedure is standard for the
industry, but we were impressed by its efficiency. Passengers were divided into
small groups debarking 10-15 minutes apart. Our group was called within 5 minutes of the published time and upon entering the baggage area we found a
comparatively small assortment of baggage separated from the other groups. We found our 4 pieces within 5 minutes of arriving at the area, were in line for
Customs/Immigration and out the terminal front door no more than 10 minutes
later. A short walk to the end of the bus/limo parking lot, a 15-minute wait
for our transfer (which had been pre-reserved and prepaid), and we were on our way to the SeaTac Clarion Hotel to pickup our car and head home. About as painless as it could be...
In summary, we were VERY pleased with the Princess product, which delivered
just what we wanted for our cruise experience. We don't need to be "wowed" at every turn; we just wanted to completely separate for a week from the workaday
world---to "Escape Completely", as Princess's slogan says. This, to us, is something a cruise does like no other vacation available. And since my wife had
cancer surgery (mastectomy) earlier this year following her 3rd go-around with
the vile stuff, we really needed a complete break. We both are well-satisfied
that the Golden Princess exceeded our expectations, and we'd walk up her gangplank tomorrow if we could...