This was our first cruise ever so we went in with eyes wide open not knowing what to expect. We booked our cruise through a local TA over a year and half ago and kindly forgot about it until February of this year when we paid for the cruise in full with our tax return. After some searching I found CC and began the quest for all things Princess. After finding all the great threads and reviews on this site I had somewhat of an idea of what to expect.
We live in Northern California so we decided to make the 10 hr drive to Seattle. Weute were traveling with my parents who were cruising to celebrate their anniversary. Saturday morning arrives bright and early and we leave, 4 am! We arrive in Seattle at about 5 pm and after checking into our motel we decide to drive to the pier and do some recon for the next day. The pier is easy to find and it is impressive to these massive ships for the first time (I believe the Star was docked when we were there on Sat)!
Sunday finally arrives and we head to the pier about 9:30 in the morning. We get to the pier and drop off our luggage and go to park. We thought we were going to park at the terminal in the lots there but we were directed to another lot on armory way. We left my wife and my mother with the bags at the terminal thinking it would just be a minute, after about 20 minutes we get parked and Dad and I hop the shuttle back to the pier, couldn't be easier. We used Seattle Cruise and Park.
Checking in and embarkation are run very well. We were through security and had our sail cards in hand in about a half hour. After reading on here that staggered boarding times are not really enforced we wanted to be in line and ready to board at 11 am. They started boarding at noon we snaked our way through the lines and walked the gang way on board in about 15 minutes.
Once on board I was immediately struck by how grand the ship is. Beautiful hardwood accents, marble flooring in the piazza, live music just gorgeous! We decided to skip our embarkation picture and head straight to our state room.
We booked an inside room an the Aloha deck (12). I was concerned because it is right next to the panoramic lift and right under the Calypso pool on Lido. There was no noise from the lift what so ever, but we did hear running and chairs being moved above us. The noise lasted until about 11 pm when things start to shut down on Lido. It never woke us up once we were asleep. The room itself was bigger than I expected and clean. My wife and I are big people and that shower was a tight squeeze! Our room Steward met us in our cabin and introduced herself to us and let us know how the door tag worked for turn down service. She did an awesome job of keeping our room nice and tidy for us all week long. A note about the beds here: they are hard as a rock! If you don't like sleeping on a sheet of plywood then ask for an eggcrate topper right away. We waited and although I was fine with the bed my wife had a hard time getting rest until about the third night when our steward was able to put one on her side of the bed.
Our first meal was at the International Cafe. We got a sandwich and some salad, all very good. We met up with my parents and toured the ship for a little while. The Golden is in great shape. I had heard that she was starting to show some wear and tear but I couldn't really find any. I think that it needs to be recognized that she is a sea going vessel with no downtime. There will be rust, areas of chipped paint. I think the crew does a great job of keeping her clean and "ship shape".
After a few hours of wandering and getting familiar with our surroundings we headed back to our room. Our bags were in our cabin waiting for us when we got there. We unpacked and had to as for extra hangers which were promptly delivered to us. It was then time for Muster! This kinda got my wife a little freaked out because she has never been on the ocean and because Titanic! The drill couldn't be easier, once they call for muster just grab your life vest and follow the signs. All muster stations are on deck 7, ours was in the explores lounge. There are plenty of crew in hats that say muster on them and wearing a life vest that will direct you where to go. After the drill its time for sail away!
We headed back to our room to stow the vests and headed up to the sun deck to watch us leave! When we got up there the Oosterdam was docked next to us and was leaving just as we got up there, kinda neat to see another ship leave the dock. After they clear and start north, it's our turn. Due to noise regs in Seattle there is no loud fanfair, just a quiet push off the dock and away you go.
Our first sit down meal was in the horizon court. I was not overly impressed by the selection, but it's a buffet and serves its purpose. We decide to eat on the terrace aft of the ship. I was told to wait and purchase soda cards until after sail away to avoid taxes in port, so we purchased ours from the bar in the terrace. This turned out not to be true as my parents purchased theirs first thing and were not charged any tax. No big deal just putting it out there. After a while more we decide we're hungry again and decide to check out the MDR. I got the prime rib It is good but not great. The service was excellent and prompt.
The next day is a sea day and also the first formal night. The dress code was not strictly enforced but in no way was it let down for our good time. We did run into a guy later in the cruise who was denied entry to the dining room because of his dress, he was wearing shorts and a tee shirt. I wore a suit for formal and anything from khakis to jeans any other night. I never felt out of place and was never the least dressed one for dinner.
Food was good for the most part but the wife and I agreed that it just seemed to lacking something. We could never pinpoint any one "bad" thing but I guess it was just a little bland. There are plenty of pics and reviews of the food on this site so I'll just leave this to others to debate about. We never had a bad meal but nothing really spectacular either.
The staff on board were always friendly and greeted us throughout the whole of our voyage. Our steward always greeted us by name and had the room made up and turned down while we were out. toiletries were well stocked and we never had to ask for more.
The ports of call were Ketchican, Juneau, and Skagway with a few hours in Victoria. It rained every day we were in port but that was ok by us. Where we live was 115 when we left and 115 when we got back! All of the ports were pretty, but all of them pretty much had the same stores selling the same stuff. We didn't do any excursions so can't comment on that. We saw all of the animals on our list in Ketchican, eagles, a bear and we saw whales while at sea. Creek street in Ketchican is very picturesque and is not to be missed. Our favorite was Victoria, very awesome city I thin we would trade Juneau for more time in Victoria to be honest.
Towards the end of the cruise we did start to see some maintenance issues creep up. A lot of the elevators were not working and we could smell raw sewage when out on the promenade deck.
All in all it was a great cruise on a great ship. We had the time of our lives and would do it again tomorrow.
Along with the maintenance issues described above I would also like to add a note about selling on board the ship. Princess was constantly trying to sell something to us the whole journey. I understand that's how the keep fares low but it's a little much to be honest. They even have sales in the MDR during off hours. We went to a couple and were surprised to see dollar store items! We thought it was a little ridiculous.
The entertainment on board was good. We went to British Invasion, we thought it was a good show and were pleased with it. We also saw the comedian, Sarge. he was hilarious. Get to the show early because it fills up fast! There is always something to do so check your patters!
Disembarkation was a breeze. We opted for walk-off so we could get an early start to our drive. We had all our luggage packed and were off the ship by 7:45 am. No fuss no muss. Caught our shuttle back to the parking lot and were off!