Let me begin my commentary by describing my interaction with several departments at Princess Cruises head office prior to sailing.
I sent an E-mail to Captain's Circle requesting correction of an error in my wife's status. I received a form letter reply that bore absolutely no relevance to the request submitted. I sent a second E-mail to Captain's Circle, this time I also copied Princess Customer Relations. I was again ignored by Captain's Circle, but Princess Customer Relations Department quickly, courteously and efficiently resolved the problem. Captain's Circle can learn a great deal about courteous customer service from the Customer Relations Department.
Shortly after we made our final payment, I sent an E-mail and all other relevant documentation on December 6, 2011 to "email@example.com", requesting an on-board credit provided to holders of 100 or more shares in Carnival Cruises, (the parent company). I sent a follow up E-mail in early January but still received no response. My travel agent was able to navigate the Princess bureaucracy and had the credit deposited to my on board account by late January 2012. Again disappointed by a Princess department's lack of courtesy.
Fortunately, the staff and crew of Golden Princess had not attended the same customer service training program as either Captain's Circle or the Shareholder Benefits Administrators. Everyone we came into contact with aboard Golden Princess was most accommodating in every way. No request went unresolved. I hesitate to single out one person, group, or department because we were so well and respectfully treated by all of the Hotel Division staff we had the privilege of interacting with on this voyage.
The food, while not what I would consider "5 star" was certainly as good as one would find in any quality restaurant ashore in either Canada or the U.S. Our waiter was always quick to offer his recommendation, and in most cases he was right on. The desserts, in my opinion, were exceptional. My only disappointment was with the highly praised, (by some Cruise Critic folk), daily pasta dishes. They did not live up to my expectations as I found the two that I tried were not that tasty and seemed overly salted. We ate a few meals in the Horizon court, and much to my amazement, unlike past buffet experiences, the hot food was most often actually hot. Of course, as is usually and unfortunately the case, we encountered a few boors among our fellow passengers who felt that pushing and shoving was the accepted norm in the buffet area. The International Cafe, on deck 5, was a pleasant place to eat a lighter meal or grab a quick snack, and it's open 24/7. If you like coffee buy the coffee card at $29. + tip for 15 "specialty coffees" plus all of the brewed coffee you care to consume from the Coffee Shop in the International Cafe area.
Regrettably, there was one, (in my opinion), seriously negative experience. The recent bouts of Norovirus on other Princess ships have heightened awareness of the need for personal cleanliness and infection prevention. Especially before eating. On one rather rocky sea day, we came down the stairs and, like everyone else, had to hold quite tightly onto the hand rail. As we entered the dining room I asked one of the staff where I could find the hand cleanser/disinfectant. I was invited to go find a washroom. Prior to coming back to Princess, we had cruised four or more times with Celebrity and Royal Caribbean. On every one of these cruises, a staff member proactively stood outside the main dining room and squirted a small amount of disinfecting cleanser into the hands of everyone entering. I highly recommend that Princess institute this $10. solution to a multimillion dollar problem.
The on board lecturers, Gary Shahan and Rachel Dunham each provided informative, educational, and sometimes humorous presentations in their area of expertise on each of our sea days. If you see the presentations by the on board lecturers advertised in the "Patter" and think "dry, dreary, dull", attend at least one and you'll be hooked.
Finally, disembarkation. This was probably the most efficient, smoothest, well organized process I have ever encountered at the end of any cruise. Bravo Princess!!