Tuesday Oct 25:
We drove from AZ to San Pedro on the day before the cruise. We choose the Crowne Plaza for our stay. The hotel was well kept and is the nicest, best value close to the port. The rooms were kept very well. They did have old style TV's but that was not what we were looking for either. The park and stay package was $179 and included to buffet breakfasts the next morning. Parking for the 14 days in an underground, secure lot was also provided.
DAY 1 Wed: Embarkation and sailing
On Wed AM I drove to the ship and let DW and in-laws off at the ship and checked all of the bags and went back and parked. The hotel was using 2 shuttles to get people to the port and they started sometime around 10AM and seemed to be doing a good job of getting people to the ship. It was sort of organized chaos but then most people in the hotel it seemed were going on the cruise. I walked to the ship (15 min walk) and started embarkation.
I cannot recall a better embarkation. It was around 11AM and almost NO LINES! DW and in-laws would typically have needed to wait for me so we could all check in together. Maybe it was because father in law uses a walker but they 3 of them were already checked in and waiting with all of the wheelchairs to board. The staff figured out I was the last of the group as soon as I finished security and ushered me to the check in where my documents were checked and I had my room key in less than 2 minutes! We did not board with the elite and platinum since we had dad but wheel chairs were the second group to board before general boarding. We were on the ship in short order and in our rooms before noon! Over all a very positive boarding experience.
We went to Horizon Court (HC) buffet for lunch. The dining room did open for lunch (Donatello on deck 6) but we went to HC anyway. The food was fine, nothing spectacular but good. My view of the HC is that it is too small of a space for its function. There are port and starboard serving areas, both of which have forward and aft entrances. Once in the serving area, there is NO FLOW maintained at all. I would consider the food service there slightly organized but mostly everyone just goes from hot food to salads to deserts in a scrum and comes out at the end with a plate of food.
HC seating outside the buffet exit is quickly full and most people fail to realize that there is ample seating forward by the pool or aft with a much larger seating area. Staff could have helped this by directing people to seating but that did not happen so it got to be a mess with everyone going through the same areas looking for seats and people did get frustrated right off the bat.
The staff was focused on serving drinks once you sat down, re-filling drinks and clearing tables. All of the staff I spoke with were pleasant and helpful and doing what they were instructed to do well.
Now it was time to explore. Everyone is given a drawing card when they board and have their picture taken on the ship. The card is to be taken to different areas of the ship to be stamped and entered for a drawing at the sail away party.
The stamp card will have you visiting the art gallery, boutique shops, shore excursion/captains circle/future cruise sales and Crown Grill, all located together on deck 6. At the casino we were given a free bingo bonus card to be used at the first bingo session. The internet cafÃ© and library are together; both of which were open and accessible 24 hours a day. They have gone with an honor system on the books so they are not locked up anymore on Golden. Then head up to the Sanctuary deck 16 forward. You can spend half a day for $10 or all day access for $20 or the full cruise access for $195. A visit to the spa will take you on a guided tour of the facility with short sales pitches for each of the services offered with the stamp for the spa provided at the end of the short tour.
This is a good way to find areas of the ship that you will be visiting often. It also has you visit the International Cafe (deck 5 Piazza) which is where you get fresh food and the much discussed fresh brewed coffee and specialty coffee. The coffee card is $29, plus 15%, and has the 15 punches and unlimited brewed coffee.
On the coffee card, you need to know how to get your free coffee mug. There are many opportunities to purchase your coffee card (same for soda cards). Should you buy it from people stationed around the ship and be provided with a hand written receipt you need to know this! There is a coupon book provided in your stateroom. One of the coupons provides for a free Princess coffee mug. The only place to obtain the free mug is at the IC. You show your receipt and card and present the coupon and get the mug. What no one tells you up to this point is that if you have a hand written receipt, you must go to the ships office (purser counter) AND OBTAIN A PRINTED COPY OF YOUR FOLIO THAT SHOWS THIS CHARGE to present with your coupon and coffee card at the IC to get your free mug! You can avoid this by finding your coupon in your cabin, go to the IC, buy your card there and they will give you the free mug. Live and learn I guess!!! So much for the coffee card.
Next is the safety drill. I like Princess drills since they have you muster in inside areas, generally with sufficient seating for all. Arrive early for the best seats! We were early and got our first bucket of beers. The best part, NO standing under lifeboats packed in like sardines! Once this is done, the 2 least enjoyable parts of the cruise, embarkation and the drill are over and time to party!!!
I should mention we had fabulous weather in LA and for sail away. The sun was out and it was almost 80. No clouds anywhere. The best part was calm seas pulling out. We had almost no rocking the entire first night out which was wonderful.
We went to the sail away party next. They have a drawing drum for those stamp cards to get some prizes. You can use your card to enter with or without any stamps so be sure to take advantage of the drawing (must be present to win). Since so many things on the ship have charges, it is nice to have an opportunity to get something free. There are plenty of folks selling the drink of the day. If you want it buy it, you will be offered by everyone selling them. Again, they are doing their job and I did not find them pushy just persistent. Off to get ready for the first nights dinner.
We had 5:30 assigned dinner in the Donatello Deck 6. We arrived and were shown to our table. The assistant server was right there with water and menus. After a short wait, our waiter, Patricio(Patrick) showed up and we ordered.
Now is when we start to learn to ask what items really are. I ordered the Creamy mushroom soup. What it really was turned out to be mushroom puree. Not bad, just not what I expected. Then I ordered Hawaiian Luau pork. Now I love pork at luaus but that is not what this meal was. I got 3 slices of pork loin served over baked beans with a sauce over the top and fresh green beans. Again, good food but not what I expected for Luau pork! Bottom line, ask before you order if you want to know what the dish really is.
After dinned DW and I went to the show "one Night Only". We seldom make the first night show on cruises so we were anxious to go. We went to the second show at 8:30 (first was at 7:00) It was a good show. The singers and dancers did some numbers, various presentations were made by the entertainment staff and one comedian did a couple of minutes also. It was about an hour long and played to a packed theater. We learned right away, do not expect to show up for a show 20 minutes before it starts and get seats together! The room fills up early and saving seats is frowned upon and typically not tolerated. Go early, take a book, read, relax and enjoy the show. Better than showing up just before show time and getting frustrated. That was the end of day 1 for us.
There are questions I have seen and I will attempt to give information to address them.
Bingo is generally 4 games and tickets are $10/20 or 30 depending on how many cards you want to play. They use dabbers and sell them onboard for $1.50 each. I don't play but DW does. Get there way early to buy the cards. The line was huge and it delayed the start of the first session. DW said they announced that card sales would stop at the session start time for all future sessions.
Stateroom Breakfast: typical selections but they are offering more egg selections. I am always up early and DW only occasionally gets coffee and yogurt and cereal. With the selections available at the IC and since I go there to get my fresh brewed coffee I find no need for room service breakfast.
Day 2 Thursday: First full sea day
Smooth sailing all day on Thursday. The sun was out early but clouds showed up later in the day. It was cool out and many wore light jackets outside. The inside Calypso pool was popular. Chair hogs had claimed most seats by 7:30. Some people just feel entitled and do not seem to care about anyone but themselves. I do not sit out around the pool and neither does DW. I know some are passionate about this subject but I can only observe and really do not care to jump into the cesspool of that discussion.
Today is the day to get tickets to the Orchid lei making class. They were to start giving out tickets (only 200 total) at 9am. We were there at 5 to 9 and got the last of the first 150 tickets. We received Saturday at 2pm. All of the tickets were gone shortly after 9am so if you want to participate get there early. This is free.
This morning's activities seemed to me to have so many options that I wanted to do at the same time that I was forced to miss things I would liked to have gone to. Today was our Meet & Greet and I thought it started at 11:30 and showed up for 11:30. Oh well, my mistake. If you have a M&G, be sure to keep track of the time and location as it typically WILL NOT be in the patter and is all on you to remember.
ELUA: Not enough good can be said about them. Leialoha and David are wonderful people. Their love for Hawaii and the culture and a genuine desire to share this spirit is amazing. The talks, music, Ukulele lessons (and you will learn the proper pronunciation of Ukulele!) Hula lessons, lei making and their aloha spirit is not to be missed. They will enhance your cruise and Hawaiian experience. This is their 4th season with Golden Princess and there is an entire program on board based on their activities. Thank you Princess for having Elua and I hope they remain for a long time.
Zumba was available today in the Vista lounge. Like most activities I am learning to GET THERE EARLY!! It is almost like being at Disneyland. You need to choose what you want to do and make sure you get there and get in line if you really want to do something. Casually wondering up to a meal, show or activity onboard will sometimes result in your not being able to do what you want to do.
Bingo was better today. They started selling cards early in the morning. Since they sold them for hours before the session, there were no lines. The same was true for the afternoon session.
The British Style pub lunch was offered in the Crown Grill for lunch today. DW and I went to try it but the line was out to the Piazza so we decided to go to HC and try the Special Stir Fry Station. What they called stir fry turned out to be wok fried veggies (preselected, no options) and white rice with egg and ham. They had soup bowls that they put a spoon of the veggies in than packed on a spoon of rice, leveled off the cup and then they empty the bowl onto a plate and there is your stir fry! Tasted fine but if you expected a stir fry experience where you choose ingredients, have your meal prepared and presented to you, which is not Princess stir fry. Again, not bad food just not what I would have expected when I saw that stir fry was available. The regular HC buffet was as I described it for the first day and you can just expect a disorganized crowd to eat there. Pizza and hamburgers are available and I have not seen a line to speak of for either.
Dinner was good tonight and no surprises. We had scallops, cod and steak and the food was all served nice and hot and it was all tasty.
Tonight was the production show Stardust. We went to 8:15 show and it was full and people being turned away at 7:55. The shows are presented 3 times, 2 shows the first night and a third time the next night. Everyone should have an opportunity to see every show onboard. The show was outstanding. The singers really nailed many of the numbers they presented and the dancers put on a good show too. Is it Broadway or Vegas, no. But then I did not expect that. They have great performers on board and everyone enjoyed the show.
We turned in after the show. I will not be providing information on the late night activities as I typically do not go to the lounges and bars after the shows. I will leave that to others to review.
DAY 3: Friday
As usual I was up and out just after 5am. IC is always open and I am making the most of the unlimited brewed coffee. Sitting in the Piazza is the quietest nice place to write all of this down.
DW slept in today and we went with in laws to dining room for breakfast. The service was good and all of the food was hot and tasty. This will become the norm for breakfast since it is easy and not crowded. Also since father has his walker this is soooo much easier for him.
If you have anyone in a wheelchair or using a walker, be careful where you book your cabin. We are in E619 and E621. The passage ways are quite narrow on Emerald deck. In the morning and evening the stewards have their carts out and passing in a wheelchair or with a walker is quite a challenge. For a wheelchair or walker, you would do well by booking a cabin close to an elevator or if you book early enough book a handicap cabin.
The naturalist on board is Rachel Dunham. She is young and dynamic and very interesting. She is very comfortable presenting and also quite well versed in her knowledge of the Hawaiian Islands. Today she presented information on the volcanoes of each island and it was well worth attending.
Later in the morning cruise director David Bradshaw gave a port talk for Oahu. This was quite a contrast from Rachel's presentation. David showed slides and READ his entire presentation. I felt it was emotionless and drab. Where Rachel excelled in her genuine interest and enthusiasm, David fell flat. I doubt I will attend any future talks by David.
I enjoy trivia and they have it 2 times a day, around 10:30 am and then at 4:30pm. Since I go on my own I do not have any trouble finding a group to join. I have met some great fellow passengers and always have an enjoyable time and some good laughs.
A documentary on the battleship USS Missouri was show in the Princess Theater this morning. This was an hour long movie and if you appreciate history it is well worth watching.
Today's special lunch item is sushi. It was well presented, plentiful and actually easy to get a plate and enjoy it. All of the items were quite tasty and you could make a meal of just the sushi(and many seemed to).
This was the first formal night and quite a few were dressed in tuxes (I was one). Dinner was very good. I had the halibut and it was excellent. Filet was also on the menu and it was served as 2 small pieces of steak and tender and tasty. Not what you would get at Ruth Chris but really good for the dining room. The banana flambÃ© desert was excellent.
Tonight was the Captains welcome aboard and Champagne waterfall. The Piazza filled up early for this event. The waterfall was on deck 5 and we watched from deck 7. As soon as they started pouring the champagne, servers were circulation on each deck serving champagne and mimosas. There did not seem to be any shortage of champagne.
We went to see Magician James Michael billed as the bad boy of magic and an R rated show. He did some card tricks, made a $20 appear from an orange and then he pranced around the stage in a dress! I actually fell asleep and was unimpressed. Not a glowing recommendation for this show from me. I called it a night after the show.
This was a busy day for me. As usual I sat by the IC drinking coffee and typing this novel. I ran into a fellow cruise critic member and we talked for a while.
Leialoha (ELUA) had their first Hawaiian Heirloom Lei class today. For a fee ($35 I believe) you can make a beautiful Lei you will have for many years to come. This was scheduled for 9am but started much earlier as the line was VERY long. The theme of this cruise is to arrive EARLY for whatever you really want to do.
Naturalist Rachel gave a talk today on Hawaii's coral reefs. Captains Circle and Future cruises made their presentation today. CD Bradshaw read a port presentation for Kauai.
Zumba was at 10:30am today. The Pub lunch was offered at Crown Grill again today. It opened at 11:30 and was fully seated in 10 minutes. I went here for lunch today and braved the crowd to go early. The fish and chips were our table's choice all around. Fresh, hot and as much as you wanted to eat was provided.
I left the table right away as the Veterans Get-Together was held at 12:15 and I always attend that style function. We had over 60 veterans there. WW2, Korea, and Vietnam were all well represented and several others were there from the Gulf and Iraq. USMC, Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, and many Navy vets were there. There were also British, Canadian and Australian vets were also in attendance.
GOD BLESS OUR SERVICE MEN AND WOMEN AND THANK YOU TO ALL OF MY FELLOW VETERANS!
DW and I and in-laws all attended the 2pm orchid Lei class. Several of the dancers were assisting us to make our leis and it was a great opportunity to meet them. They have an option to work extra at events like the lei class and get extra pay for doing so. I like learning new facts like this about the crew and staff. We left with 4 beautiful purple orchid leis which were worn the rest of the day.
Dinner was the dining room. I think it was referred to as French. I had the escargot since I usually only get this on cruises. Then I had the Maui Onion Soup. It was good but not what I expected. It was a thick brown soup with sweet onions. I will wait for the French onion soup myself. The veal scaloppini was excellent. Duck was also on the menu tonight. CrÃ¨me Brule was desert tonight.
The show was Comic Derrick Cameron. Bring a book and get there early. By 30 minutes before the show it was nearly impossible to get 2 seats together. I have not looked in on the late show so it may offer better seating. Derrick's show was very funny and entertaining.
We went to the game show Majority Rules after the show. It was ok. They ask a question and then each team quickly writes down a response. The most frequent response is the winner and the team gets a point. No prizes but it did get everyone involved. Wanna Be a Rock Star followed right away in the same lounge. We called it a night after the game show.
Day 5 Sunday:
Writing in the IC again. The weather turned nice and warm yesterday. Today is starting out cloudy but warm. I am seeing the same people now each morning getting their coffee. We early risers and an interesting group and get to enjoy a fairly empty ship.
Each morning there is an omelet station set up each morning at the same location as the hamburger station. I have not noticed long lines here.
Today the Heirloom Lei making class is offered again at 9am. This was well attended and some items for the leis were sold out. (turns out this option was available on most sea days)
A church service was at 9:30 am in the Vista lounge. This was full and standing room only. That was nice to see.
The oriental soup at lunch was very good and should not be missed. You fill your soup bowl with the veggies and won ton then give it to the cook. You can choose miso or chicken broth and they cook it in a pot on an induction hot plate. You can add different sauces and peanuts when the soup is done. (Second offering for soup was when we had a sick ship. Soup was just as good but servers put items in the bowls)
Blue Hawaii is on MUTS this afternoon.
There are several shows offered tonight. Comedian Uber Rossi is at 7 and 8:30 in the Vista lounge and "Tonight Only" ventriloquist Dan Horn is in the Princess Theater at 8:15 and 10:15. It would take planning and hustling to see both shows. We decided on Dan Horn. His show was good and full 20 minutes before show time. I did hear nice reviews of the comedy show and it was worth seeing also.
Each night Princess offers Cocktails and Hors d'Oeuvres for Elite, Suite and Platinum passengers in the Skywalkers Lounge. There is a different drink each night (always $3.99) and there are different food offerings. A schedule for these evenings is placed in your stateroom on the first day. We made it there last night for the first time and DW had the Mojito. (The food was stopped when the ship was sick)
I should mention that the Princess Patter that was presented on the first day is a keeper. It shows you all of the MUTS movies, entertainers and shows, port schedule and the dress for each night. There are 3 formal nights and the last, before Ensenada, I found out is lobster night.
Movies: Lionel Richie in concert; Arthur; The Conspirator (excellent IMHO) Limitless; Super8; Jane Eyre; Barry Manilow in concert; Green Lantern; Water for Elephants; Pirates of the Caribbean; Source Code; X-Man 1st Class; Midnight in Paris; Thor.
Day 6: Monday -â€" HILO
I cannot say anything about activities on the ship today. Yes there were costume parties for those that brought costumes. We had breakfast and dinner at HC today. Good but nothing to write about. The show tonight is Walk Like a Man with the singers and dancers.
Back onboard, we did not want to change for dinner in the dining room. They did have Ono available and I wanted that but I will live without it. We headed to the Skywalker for drinks and pupu's. Next,dinner was in the HC and it was fine. No shows for us tonight. DW went out and wandered and I relaxed and pontificated here. The wheelhouse bar was full of costumed passengers. Halloween on board was alive and well! Bottom line, if there is a holiday or special day, bring clothes of a costume and go out and enjoy. You will not be alone at all. Off to Oahu!
DAY 7: OAHU
Tonight was "the Ultimate Deck Party" form 9:30. It was fine but ultimate, not so much. I did hear great things about the local performers the put on the showroom's Halau Hula Olana Show at 7 and 8:45. This show was palyed on TV on the sail back to LA) If you plan on being onboard then, plan to attend the show. We sailed at 11pm to Kauai.
DAY 8: Kauai
The ship had several of the residents of Niihau on board the ship for several hours in Kauai. This was quite a treat as there are only 250 or so that live there. The brought their leis and other sea shell items they make and sold them in the Piazza. These items are quite pricey but they will also appreciate over the years. The supply of shells is diminishing and those that make the leis are getting older. Some of the younger on the island are learning the trade but the numbers are dwindling.
We all had to be back onboard at 4:30 and set sail soon after. Two shows were presented tonight. Motor City was in the aft Vista lounge. The show lasted about 45 minutes. It was a typical singers and dancers show. Comedian Kevin Hughes played in the Princess Theater. This show filled up by 15 minutes before it started. Kevin was very funny and if he is on your cruise he is worth seeing.
DAY 8: Lahina, Maui
Our visit to the islands was nearing an end. We skipped dinner and stayed on deck until dark and the lights of Maui were dimming in the distance.
We were late sailing away from Maui tonight. It turns out that we had a fellow passenger pass away on a snorkeling excursion today. The spouse came aboard and packed everything and was brought back ashore. This was not common knowledge on the ship. We learned of it from a couple that was on the excursion. Our hearts go out to the grieving family for their loss.
Our Island adventures are over and now we have 5 days to enjoy the Golden and all of the activities on board.
DAY 9: Back at sea
Sleeping in toady was nice. I learned that deck 9, 11 and 12 are sick. All the food and drinks are still being served including getting condiments for hamburgers. I do not care if it keeps me from getting sick. We had breakfast in the dining room and it was fine. I love the fresh squeezed OJ there. British Style Pub lunch was offered again today.
Tonight is the second formal night. The dinner is listed as the Chefs Dinner. Tonight is also the Captains Circle in the Vista Lounge at 5pm. The reception was OK. The drinks were free and it was packed. We went at 5 but we have a 5:30 dinner so we did not stay long. There are about 1200 gold cards, over 600 Elites and almost 200 platinum's onboard.
Dinner was good. They offered French Onion soup which was not on the menu and as it turned out, just offered tonight. The rest of dinner was good as were the remainder of our dinners.
The show was Caliente, a production show. This was a very high energy show and fun to watch. Possibly the best show we have seen. This one is not to be missed and it is only offered 2 times on that night. Again, get there early to get seats together.
The warm weather is going away and starting to get windy and cooler. It was ok to lay out today, the sun is still out. Pretty soon you will need to wear a jacket outside.
Monday, Sea Day:
We must be feeling better today. We can serve our own food again at the buffet. That is nice since I missed serving my condiments and such let alone the food itself. Monday night football will be on in the Players Club (REALLY SMOKY) and in the casino. With the show British Invasion tonight, the football crowd may be smaller.
Tonight is the last formal night and dinner is lobster and they also have beef Wellington. I have found all of the food on the ship to be quite good. Some items have been better than others but I would not complain about The Captains Farwell cocktail party is tonight in the Piazza.
I spoke with a cocktail server in the princess theater the other night. They are paid $40 per month and commission on the drinks they sell. I did not ask what the actual average monthly income is but it makes you think differently about the amount of liquor you bring onboard. True we pay $6.04 for a Bud Light 16 oz or $24.15 for a bucket of 5 Bud Lights but those on board working make most of their paycheck serving us while we are onboard. The nice part is most of them are happy to share stories of their homelands with you if you take the time to reach out to them. It is all part of this wonderful experience of cruising.
Dining in the dining room for breakfast and lunch became the norm for us while the ship was sick. It was just easier. Breakfast always had fresh fruit and I love the Papaya. Also the OJ is fresh squeezed. Lunch depends on the menu and is usually pretty good. The hamburgers are all fresh ground meat and you can get them with cheese and bacon.
The sun was out every day on the way home. We had wonderfully calm seas for this entire cruise. Sailing into Ensenada, the sea was nearly glassy. Ensenada was a quick pit stop (pun intended!) and we were only there for 3 Â½ hours.
We packed up and put all of our bags out to be collected. We settled in and opted for a good night's sleep but there was quite a bit going on. The guests Pop Star show was tonight. This is a show we have yet to see and our string remained un-broken on this cruise. The IC was open and busy. This morning, everyone that wanted it could obtain a cup of fresh brewed coffee. We had a punch left and DW had one last cappuccino.
Wednesday morning was disembarkation. We had an early breakfast in the dining room. We were in the earliest group with bags to get off the ship. NO LINES!! This was the most orderly and polite dis-embarkation I can remember! We collected our bags, I got the car from the hotel and we were back in Arizona around 4pm.
WHAT A GREAT CRUISE!!
The hair dryer in the room will take forever if you have long hair. Ladies - bring a makeup mirror if you want or need one. The dryers in the laundry are weak and if you wash a full load of clothes it will take several cycles. Wash and dry are $2 each so a full load can cost $8 per load. Irons and ironing boards are in each Laundromat. Be sure to buy the Purex 3 in one sheet for your laundry. They work well and make the closet smell fresh if you have them in a baggie and store them there. If you do not expect much from the TV onboard you will not be disappointed.
CD David Bradshaw is not one of the better CD's I have sailed with. I find his actions almost forced and low energy. I have only noticed him on the wake show and introducing shows. He made some jokes the other evening and read them and still had trouble with his delivery.
Thank you for taking the time to read this lengthy review. I know it was very long but I hope it is helpful.