Having sailed on other lines previously, this was our first time on a Princess ship. There has been so much hype about Princess, I actually forced myself to be very neutral about this cruise line, lest I be disappointed (and I'm glad I did). My first impressions weren't that good when I was trying to navigate the Princess site to register. I have to say that they have one of the most user-unfriendly sites around, but several calls to customer service soon had us set.
We boarded the ship in Seattle ... all fourteen of us. Ten adults and four boys ages 6 - 10. Thankfully, we arrived in Seattle the day before so we were all rested and refreshed so the slow crowd on the gangway didn't ruffle any feathers. Embarkation was rather painless and we were soon in our cabins, ready to head out and explore the ship. All in all, the ship was well appointed and fairly easy to navigate. The only "downer" was with the quad cabins. Prior to sailing, I couldn't find any information as to the bunk layout and our T.A. assured me that there was no problem with having a queen bed below and the two bunks above .... wrong!! The bunks, when lowered from the ceiling, are positioned such that the upper bunks cannot be accessed unless there is a four, single bed configuration (I did take photos if anyone is interested). That said, we all had balconies and we had the attendant open the balconies so that the children could easily maneuver between three of the rooms ... which they loved.
The food on Princess was not memorable, except for our dinner in the Crown Grill (sans children). Our waiter was fantastic and we had so much food I think we all gained ten pounds just that one night alone. Everything was cooked to perfection and the food seemed endless. Drinks on the Golden were so-so and consistency was a problem. I have to add here that our main dining room waitperson, Paula, was absolutely fantastic as was her second in command. Our boys (the little ones AND the big ones) loved her and she was always cheerful and right there when anyone needed anything.
The main reception area was a bit of a let-down. Most ships nowadays have large, lavish main areas and the Golden's seemed cramped and a bit "ordinary". There was a wine bar near the reception area, however, which was great. Nice appetizers and a very friendly bartender.
The two main pools were among the highlights, according to our grandsons. They were much larger than on most ships and the tile and teak really added to their appearance. And everyone enjoyed sitting in the hot tubs, watching sports on the large outdoor television.
The children's activities were great as there were very few kids on this cruise. The boys almost had the Kids Club to themselves most of the time ... which was fine with them. The staff there were quite nice and the boys enjoyed their company.
Can't comment on the ship's tours as our tours in Juneau and Skagway were private and both worked out extremely well (Dyea Dave in Skagway and Juneau Limo in ... Juneau). Dave, especially gave us a fantastic tour to the Yukon and our grandsons loved his tales and how he made special stops just for them.
One thing I would caution people about with regard to the Princess itinerary. My husband insisted that we all leave and arrive in a U.S. port (Seattle) while I would have preferred Vancouver. It turned out that we hit one of the roughest days at sea on Sunday (first day) that most of the crew had experienced ... even our waitperson was sick. Leaving from Vancouver would have kept us inland almost the whole way, thus avoiding those rough seas. Then, our last port was Victoria where we were docked for a whole four hours which is not enough time to do much of anything. We found out from the taxi driver that ships leaving from U.S. ports MUST dock at least once in a foreign port before returning to a U.S. port. Thus, the Victoria visit. (Thank you Passenger Vessel Service Act circa 1886. Really, isn't it time to get rid of that law?)
All in all we had a great time on the Golden and were really glad we had a chance to try Princess. While I'm not sure I would go out of my way to sail on Princess again, I certainly wouldn't turn them down. We all said that we enjoyed the trip immensely and were quite impressed by the ship and her crew.