Having done the Mexican Riviera ten time, mostly 7 nigths on RCI ships, my wife and I were very excited when Princess decided to come back to LA for the fall season offering several Coastal and Mexico runs with more than one ship to choose from.
We planned a short weekend run on the Golden for the first of November, knowing that we probably would not have enough time to fully explore and enjoy all the ship has to offer. We last sailed with Princess to Alaska several years ago and have done 21 cruises on 7 different lines, 3 to 12 days in duration, since the early 80's.
We live half hour from San Pedro and getting to the ship is an easy freeway drive. We arrived to the pier at 12:30, parked the car at the terminal lot, checked in and were on board within 15 minutes. An attendant greated and walked us to the elevators, directing us to our Aloha deck balcony cabin. We dropped off our hand luggage, did a quick check of the stateroom, checked the Princess Patter "your daily guide to life at sea" to find the lunch options and were greated by our stateroom attendant welcoming us onboard. She told us our luggage would arrive shortly and offered help if we needed anything special. We asked for a large bucket to put a bottle of champagne on ice and 4 glasses (more on this later).
We decided to go to the Donatello diningroom for the embarkation lunch, served til 1:30pm, were seated at a table for two and enjoyed a delicious 3 course meal with a bottle of imported white wine. A great start to a relaxing weekend.
We returned to our cabin to find a large tray with our champagne on ice and 4 tall stem champagne glasses on it, our luggage ready to be unpacked and an envelope with welcoming note from the captain.
We checked the stateroom nextdoor to see if our friends had arrived, we were sailing with our travel agent couple who were celebrating a birthday; the reason for the champagne tray. Since we had 1 hour prior to the emergency drill we toured the ship by doing the "$1,000 Treasure Hunt" collecting stamps along the way, hoping to be lucky later in the day when the drawing would take place during the Shopping Spotlight Show at 4:45 pm in the Explorer Lounge. We were not, but enjoyed the time with a nice drink.
This ship is the largest we have ever sailed on (guest capacity 2600) the hallways are long, but with our stateroom's midship location near the main elevator bank, we found it easy to get to where we wanted to be at any given time. At the emergency drill we find our friends, they had embarked late, they were going to have a snack at the Horizon Court and we would then meet for the Sailaway Party at the Neptune pool.
During the drill the Captain announced our departure would be delayed 2 hours to allow for all the passengers inbound from the airport to arrive; earlier in the morning LAX was closed due to a shooting incident inside a terminal, creating big disruptions to all traffic and a nightmare for anyone caught in it.
Actually we remained docked until 9:00pm and sailed 5 hour late, giving time for all those stranded passengers, many of whom had landed at other airports instead of LAX and had to scramble to get to the ship. Princess had to scramble to get all those who had purchased tranfers and regroup also.
Prior to our late traditional dining room seating in Canaletto we met our friends for the birthday celebration and enjoyed the champagne and fruit in their stateroom. Dinner was excellent with a great selection of entrees and wines from the menu; we had more than one appetizer since we could not decide and wanted to taste all. We found the servers a bit hurried and counfused at first, but were told later that because of so many late arriving passengers the first traditional seating was not full and most of them were accomodated during the second seating instead. This created a shuffling of passengers who were not assigned to their table to be seated were possible. A nice touch by the staff.
We did not see the show "Caliente" in the showroom, opting for the Casino and a drink at the Wheelhouse Bar to end the day.
Saturday Nov. 2nd day at sea.
Nice clear and calm sea for a slow ride to Ensenada. Started the morning with a disappointing breakfast in the Donatello dining room 7:00 to 9:00 am. A very small not appetizing choices on the menu, no eggs benedicts offered and the omelets made with reconstituted eggs, unless you specify "real fresh eggs". Note to self: check out the Horizon Buffet and try it tomorrow for sure. We spent a few hours by the covered pool followed by a spin in the fittness center on deck 15. Checked out the on-board Outlet sale in the Bernini dining room for the advertized 50%-70% off retail prices on goods followed by a culinary demonstration by Chef John and Maitre d'Hotel Giuseppe in the Princess Theater.
Time for a traditional lunch in the Donatello dining room, open seating, with excellent offerings and a great time shared with our friends and made new ones at a large table of 10. Walked off our lunch on the promenade deck and explored other areas on the ship, making notes to get to the Skywalker Nightclub for a sunset drink and tranquil oceans views before dinner. Checked out the jewelry event in the shops area for a demonstration of Mexican Fire Opal and drawing...no luck again! We followed with a Cruise Staff game show in the Piazza, midship center, and view but not participated in the Art Action at sea in the Explorer lounge.
Before dinner a Piazza Party with Captain Nicolo Bommarco and Cruise Director Gavin welcoming speeches followed by music by the resident band "Accent". The traditional dinner this night was a lot more relaxed and the staff easier to serve what seamed like fewer guests. The choices were excellent with the steak prepared just like I ordered and the fresh fish offering very good. Dessert to die for, we ordered double portions!
Showtime was "British Invasion" with the Golden singers and dancers in the main theater, an ok show, some talent singing by the main caracters, nothing too extravagant, but audience seemed to enjoy it.
Concluded the evening with a run in the Casino and midnight drink before retiring to our stateroom with small chocolate squares on our pillows.
Arrived in port as scheduled on a very sunny warm day, by 8:30 the Ready-to-go-ashore announcement was made and we had finished our much anticipated breakfast at the Horizon Buffet. We were very impressed by the large offerings of international blend of appealing foods, well presented with made to order egg dishes, breakfast traditional meats, many fruit trays, desserts type sweets, and a server delivered beverage choice, good ambiance and pleasant staff.
We opted to stay on board for the day, having been to Ensenada 4 times before, we had seen all the tourist attractions and done the tours to the usual places. Living in So. Cal. we get all the ambiance we want in our "back-yard" no need to pay-extra for it. We did get off the ship to buy a marble handcrafted chime for our patio at the shipside mall, get a photo at the Gangway with the colorful dressed Princess dancers and take a picture of our ship without any obstructions to block her.
We spent the rest of the morning with a fittness room visit, lounging poolside under a bright sun and a visit to the future cruise sales representative to book our next vojage on the Carabean Princess in 2014.
Booking on-board we got an extra $50.00 perk and got to choose our cabin just were we want midship at a better price, plus extra advice face-to-face from the expert.
After another great lunch in the Donatello we filled out our disinbarkation forms, so-soon, went to see a movie, do not recall the title, explored the back of the ship small pool area, and did the afternnon tea at 4:00pm served in the Donatello. Offerings were very diverse small tramezzini and pastries, with tea served by the staff, with good conversation with new found friends at a large table of 10. Relaxed on our terrace taking in the sunset while a large container ship pull-in opposite our dock. Sailaway was 1 hour late, one last tour bus arrived late and some passengers were running to get to the pier with several shopping bags.
Mariachi melodies by the Princess trio accompanied our pre-dinner margarita drink at the Outrigger bar.
We purchased our duty-free bottles when the shops opened after sailing and they were delivered to our stateroom by the time we returned from dinner. Dinner was superb, with all of our favorite items: Escargot
French onion soup, Rack of lamb, Lobster ...just to name a few...followed by the traditional Baked Alaska parade, with a singing fairwell by the staff. A super way to end an all too short cruise.
Packing was easy as we use a garment bag, keeping all our clothes on our hanghers, and packing light.
Disimbarkation in LA monday morning.
The trip back was easy with calm sea and fair winds. Arrived in San Pedro pre-dawn and got off the ship at our leasure at 8:45 am, having requested an early walk-off so I could get back to the office by mid-morning. Had early 7:00am breakfast at Horizon and did not have to leave the stateroom until our color-cooded time was called. Disimbarkation was orderly, but many people had opted to carry their own luggage off the ship and this created a bit of delay to get in the elevators for the descent to the promenade deck bridge exit. Princess staff wished us well and lined the exit to the dock giving helping hands to those who needed and asked for it. Time flew by this weekend and it all came to an end very fast, but overall a pleasant experience.
Thank you for reading this long review and Happy Sailings .