We have cruised on Princess 9 times and this was the second on the Golden. We did the same Hawaiian itinerary 4 years ago. Like all cruises, there are good and bad aspects of each cruise, but this is the first time that I feel strongly enough to write a review. We had an inside cabin and ate all meals in the buffet. We love to eat outside watching the sunset.We have done this for the last 4 cruises. The buffet food was no where near the quality as in the past. The positives: This ship had a small serving station outside by the pool everyday from 11:30-1:30. It changed everyday and was tasty and had a great presentation.The pork, veal, fish, side salads, salads, fruits, bread, pasta and desserts were all very good. The negatives: This was the WORST COOKED beef and turkey carving station ever!!!The beef was hard as a rock. When it was sliced, there was absolutely no juice to it. The chef even gave my husband an end when he had just cut a new piece of beef. He refused to hand out the new beef until someone took the leather well done ones! Much beef and turkey ended up in the garbage. They do not put mayo out unless you ask. Shrimp cocktail was absent even on formal night. Seafood buffet was absent (This was our favorite thing!)The waffles are to die for, but they only had 1 pan cooking that only makes 4 individual waffles. So, the waffle lines were long, or you just got frustrated and gave up. On the other ships, they had as many as 3 burners going. Hot banana flambe gone. Poor selection on all 3 formal nights. It took an average of 3 times to slightly cook English muffins; 2 times around for regular toast. Milk always warm. You must order it with ice.
Service: There was a young man named Abdul from India who was stationed outside of the egg area. He learned our names and new our order before we even opened our mouths! He was the epitome of the consummate host! Otherwise, the service in the buffet was terrible. We had to wave down a waiter on all days to get juice and milk. If you want a big glass of milk, you must say it, or you will get a small juice glass size. Maitre D' was outside of a door and never watched the staff. Many times the tables were cleared, but not disinfected after use. On previous cruises, a staff member was stationed near the plates to make sure that people used the waterless soap. I found myself telling people to wash their hands myself! Room steward was jovial and pleasant but not efficient at his job. You should not have to ask for soap or shampoo or extra sanitary napkin bags! In the past, there were always an extra set of toiletries on the vanity, but not this cruise.
Pool Area: This is our #1 reason that we our loyal to Princess. Their fresh water pools are clean and heated. Spas worked fine, but jet pressure was diminished. This ship had wonderful lounge pads both inside and outside.
Room: Clean and tidy. We always pick an inside cabin because we like a dark room.
Entertainment: Princess does not change their shows very often. We had seen Stardust, Motown, Broadway, the comedians, hypnotist, and ventriloquist on prior ships. The Frankie Valle and Jersey Boys tribute was EXCELLENT: as was the British Invasion production. We had a very good classical pianist one night, but you have to really like that kind of music. The Deck Party was interrupted by a medical emergency for one of the passengers. The crew was unable to resume the party because people just left. This wonderful activity (another one of our favorites) was never rescheduled. The New Year's Eve party was fun, but the band was terrible. The New Deal Band could not hold a tune. The Hawaiian Duo Elua were wonderful.
MUTS: This is our other reason that we are loyal to Princess. We love watching football on Sundays outside on the big screen. They did not show 1 Sunday game on either Sunday at sea. We were told that the decision was made at the head office and that the cruise director could not put any games outside. We were told to go to the casino or Player's Club. These venues had thick smoke and limited seating. I stood for as long as I could until my throat started to burn. Princess lost a lot of bar money by doing this. MNF was shown outside in the afternoon due to time difference, but we were in Hilo, Hawaii at that time. They also showed Blue Hawaii with Elvis twice, from Here to Eternity twice, Breakfast at Tiffany's and An affair to remember twice. Come on now! There were better movies in the room than outside. People were really angry with this!
Overall, I would rank this cruise as a 4 on a 0-10 scale. I understand that everything has gone up, but food and service have always been Princess's strong points. Princess needs to know that many people do not want to dress for dinner because the airlines charge so much for baggage. The buffet was always full for All meals. You should not be penalized for choosing where to eat! I think the automatic tipping has truly hurt the cruise service area. I tip well for good service, but this time I wiped them out and tipped on my own. I believe that tipping is a personal matter and you should have to work for them. I usually cruise 2 a year with Princess. I probably will not do the hawaiian itinerary again. We were going to book the Golden for Alaska, but I will have to really ponder the choice of the ship again.