This was the first cruise for our party of five: The in-laws, husband, daughter, and myself. Being the nerd that I am I spent a lot of time on CC before the cruise and I have to say I am so glad I did. Do your homework and you will be well prepared. I am also really glad that I kept an open mind despite having read some negative reviews on here. The Golden was very good to us!
Yes you can tell that the ship is a little older but the public areas are all very well maintained. Yes there were rusts, paint chips, and stains - but it was mostly on the balcony and other open air spots and they are barely noticeable! Because I read all about the "worn down" look of the Golden on here I was specifically looking for these blemishes and really it did not bother us at all. The piazza and the lounges and the dining rooms are beautiful. The pools were all heated and the hot tubs plenty.
As for the service - it was as good as I could have possibly asked for. Sure there were a very small handful of less-than-enthusiastic crew but the majority are friendly and helpful. Our waiter and junior waiter were amazing and I would absolutely recommend doing traditional dining if you could manage it. I loved developing a bond with them and the one day that we had to go to anytime dining it just didn't feel quite right - it was more rushed and the ambiance was not there.
The food was also better than I expected. I don't know what food is like on other cruises but this was way better food than what we had on our honeymoon at a Sandals resort (the closest thing I can compare it to). No it wasn't super innovative or inspiring but it was always well prepared and well seasoned. And soooo much seafood! The alcoholic beverages were also reasonably priced and the blended drinks (e.g. Strawberry daiquiri) were huge!
I would also say that it was absolutely worth it to have a balcony room. It was a little chilly at times but sitting on your own balcony watching icebergs float by and eagles fly by while sipping room service coffee was quite amazing.
I think the only reason why I could not bring myself to give the Golden 5 stars is because of the entertainment. The live music was always really good - everything from the string quartet, the piano singer, to the few bands that played were all very good quality. The shows however I was disappointed with. The sound mix was always a little off and the dancers not super coordinated. The singers were average and altogether just not the kind of shows I was hoping for. Being used to seeing musicals on Broadway in NY and in SF I think I've been spoiled. The best entertainment was actually the comedian Sarge and I am not even a fan of standup comedy.
All in all we were all VERY pleased with the cruise. I came home and started looking at cruise sales and so Princess has definitely turned me into a cruiser! If you are going on the Golden you will have a good time - and if you are going on the Golden to Alaska you will have an AMAZING time!