This was our seventh cruise on Princess, and third on the Golden Princes. All three of our cruises on the Golden have been to Hawaii, and this remains one of our favorite destinations because of the number of sea days coming and going. Because of that, and the two Hawaii cruises we did on Celebrity before, we did not do any shore excursions, but we did take advantage of some of the shopping buses in Hilo, and Nawiliwili. So for the balance of this review I will concentrate on our time on board.
Our fight to LAX on Southwest was seamless and after claiming our bags we met the Princess Agents for our transportation. There seemed to be some kind of snafu as there was a fairly large crowd in the waiting area. I am not sure how many BUT we filled at least one bus from just this terminal. After boarding we arrived at the pier for check in, at first we went to the Handicap line but then opted to go to the Elite Status Express Check In because that handicap line was moving VERY slowly as there was only one agent on duty. Once on board we stowed our carry on bags in our stateroom and headed to the buffet for lunch. As we arrived fairly early, the buffet was not crowded, and we settled down to enjoy our lunch. Princess usually has fried scallops, one of my favorites, on departure day, and I was NOT dis-appointed as they had them. The food quality of this meal and meals throughout the cruise was very good.
It is always a bit rough going out of LAX the first day, so we both took our Dramamine and settled in. Our stateroom was an Obstructed Ocean-view, which we usually take on Princess. I was very satisfied with the room and the stateroom attendant Jeoffrey. We seldom saw him, however anything we asked for we received in quick order and our room was most usually made up by the time we returned from breakfast.
On this cruise, as we always do, we chose anytime dining. Our first night we lucked into two exceptional waiters Beny and Tanya. We were lucky enough to have them 12 of the 14 nights we were on the cruise in the Bernini Dining Room. I can say that they were among the best waitstaff we have had, and they went out of their way to make sure we were well fed! Beny always asked if I wanted a side of Fettuccine Alfredo and if I wanted Cheese cake for desert. Princess, I feel, has exceptional Fettuccine and their cheese cake is some of the best I've had. I can not say enough about Beny and Tanya, they were absolutely wonderful and we wrote recommendations for both of them.
The next morning at breakfast we received another pleasant surprise. he Maitre d' in the Donatello Dining Room, Florian; we had met him on The Island Princess in May. I think he was impressed that we remembered him and we inquired about a waiter we had met on the Golden the last time we sailed. To our surprise Adam (Adamson) was not only still on the ship but was working that dining room for Breakfast and Lunch, teamed with his partner Archie; we had wonderful service and ate most of our breakfasts and lunchs in the Donatello Dining room. Florian made sure when he saw us we were directed to Adam and Archie's table, I feel that a lot of times it is the little things like that kind of extra service that makes or breaks a cruise.
The Golden Princess was re-furbished in 2009 and we found her to be in excellent shape in general. To be sure if you ran a white glove test you might have found a few things wrong, but they were MINOR! The biggest thing I noticed is quote often one or two of the mid-ship elevators were out of service. The ship was decorated for Christmas and really looked beautiful, and during the cruise additional decorations were added in the Atrium.
We did not attend any of the shows as we had seen most of them before opting to sit in the Piazza several times and listen to the Hawaiian Music of Elua. It was most enjoyable as they are a very talented duo. We had seen them before on The Golden. This time we bought two of their CD's. The one show we did attend was ONLY 35 minutes long. Apparently Princess has shortened all the Production Shows to 35 minutes and now schedule 3 shows per night. With the amount of time you need to be in the theater in advance of the show to secure a seat we felt it was was JUST NOT WORTH the bother. I personally feel that Princess is making a BIG mistake and instead of shortening the show should issue tickets to the performances on a first come first serve basis similar to the process Royal Caribbean uses on its Oasis Class ships.
Princess seems to have a knack for having great on board lecturers. This time Retired F.B.I Agent Tom Kimmel, the Grandson of Admiral Husband Kimmel, had an extremely interesting lecture series about the events leading up to Pearl Harbor and his take on how Admiral Kimmel became the scapegoat. Someplace along the way during the cruise he was no longer listed as a presenter, no explanation of that.
Also on the Cruise was naturalist Randy Ashley who gave several talks about the Hawaiian Islands. I never cease to learn something new from the on board lecture series aptly named "Scholarship At Sea".
In the past two Princess Cruises I participated in The Princess Pop Choir, and had ever intention of doing so again. However, after the first two rehearsals I no longer wished to participate. The person in charge of the Choir, Asst Cruise Director Marahscalh had seemed to think he was doing a Broadway Production. He was adding choreography, far beyond anything I had experience in my previous participation. I am mobility limited and can not stand for a long periods of time, so I sat in a chair, with all the moving of the other participants I was often hit in the head by the music binders. I was NOT HAVING FUN, so I did not return. I did run into Marahscalh one afternoon and told him I felt that he was trying to make this into too big a production, after all it is supposed to be FUN. I talked with a couple of other members of the choir and they were frustrated as well. The next time I am on a Princess ship I will probably participate in the Pop Choir, BUT not if there is someone like "Mr. Broadway", as I called him, in charge.
While I am on the subject of the Cruise Directors staff, I have NEVER seen LESS of a Cruise Director than of Sammi. Outside of the morning blab, rather show, on TV, I think we made three sighting in 14 days. I did hear her on the ships PA with some updates, but never have I seen less of a Cruise Director. Her lack of visibility might also help to explain the rest of the Cruise Directors Staff. I got the impression that the staff was not very happy. Nothing was said, but it was a feeling that they were going thru the motions instead of caring about what they were doing. This carried over to the library where my wife witnessed, Matt, the person in charge of the book club, complaining loudly about a 17 hour day and accusing some passengers in front of my wife and other guests of stealing books from behind the counter. This same person was also in charge of the Lei making class and made several in-appropriate comments to those participating. As I often say "Gavin would not be pleased." BTW Gavin McLeod does a series of Travel Agent Training Videos showing the way things are supposed to be done to honor the Princess C.R.U.I.S.E. Pledge. The only exception was a young man who joined the ship in Los Angeles; unfortunately I do not remember his name. The rest of the crew was very friendly and helpful if I had a question.
We purchased $75.00 worth of DVD's and were told by the clerk in the Photo Department that they would be delivered to our stateroom the last day of the cruise. THEY NEVER CAME, and no message was left on our phone to come and pick them up. Needles to say we will NOT buy any more DVD packages from Princess! On another cruise a DVD purchased, on a Panama Canal Cruise, had no sound, but alt lest we had pictures. On this cruise $57.00 worth of NOTHING!
Aside from the few negatives I have mentioned above the cruise was quite enjoyable, yes the seas were a bit rough on several occasions but nothing we could not handle.
Dis-embarkation was smooth in LAX on our return. Unfortunately Princess did not have a baggage check through with Southwest at this port meaning we had to pick up our bags in the terminal. We did get a friendly Porter and that saved us quite a bit of effort.
We will seriously consider the Hawaii Cruise on Princess again as for us, it is a great length and a short flight to get to the port.