Booked our flights with Princess and will never do this again. Appears Princess has a 'block' of space which is at the rear of the plane and there is NOTHING you can do to change it. I tried on two separate occasions to upgrade with Delta and more than willing to pay the difference but sorry, no can do. Checked with Princess to see if they could offer a solution but sadly, no. When we checked in at the Delta counter, the res agent said that it was too bad we couldn't have had the seats closer to the front for a possible upgrade of $29 each, but sadly there was nothing left. And she said it as if we could have accessed it all along! So we sat at the back of the plane with rows of screaming children surrounding us and specifically the little guy who sat behind me and kicked my seat all the way to LAX just to assure me he would be a constant presence. Never again. I will book directly with the airline.
Stayed at Crowne Plaza, San Pedro, via the very disorganized Prime Shuttle and after checking in, walked 2.5 blocks to Off the Vine which is an obscure wine store with limited offerings. Returning to the hotel, the concierge suggested a minimart about 2 blocks in another direction. Decent wine; decent prices, dusty, and owner has baseball bat in full view behind the counter!
Cruise Day One - Shuttle to pier at 10:30. Boarded the ship at 1 pm! Most disorganized embarkation ever. Greeter directed us to lounge for refreshments and we waited for over an hour. Pax were getting restless. Waited outside the lounge where others decided to stand/sit. Greeter now literally yelling at folks to move to the back, and was joined by another greeter who joined her in screeching and arm waving. Finally they yelled for the elite to get in line and then screeched for Group A. I had almost thrown my little slip of paper away as I wasn't told what Group A was - and so many others felt the same as they were looking through the garbage! When we finally queued up, among the cruisers mumbling under their breath how awful this embarkation was evolving, it then became confusing as to which line we were supposed to be in and then had a photographer jump out from behind a pillar with her camera - surprise! It truly was an awful embarkation.
The first item on my agenda was to book the Chef's Table. Upon arrival in our mini-suite (AB) I called the dining line only to be told I was on a waiting list?! We're platinum status and apparently the elite and suite guests preceded us.
Checking the cabin doorway to see if our luggage arrived, it was obvious we were directly across from the service entrance/exit for staff. Last trip to Hawaii, we were also in a mini across from a service entrance and every single morning, they banged through the doors with their carts to begin their day's work. So I go to the purser's desk and throw myself on their mercy and explain the reasons why. I know the ship is full and the purser/attendant asks me if I would be willing to pay for an upgrade should something become available and I told her we'd cross that bridge when we came to it. She said I would be notified within 24 hours - by letter. Please be aware that Dolphin 626 (Deck 9)is directly across from a service area.
Getting on the elevator to return to my cabin, a Princess senior staff member blocked the door on our already overcrowded elevator, to allow 2 more pax WITH luggage, to get on. The doors started to close on her and she actually turned and angrily yelled at a lady to NOT close the doors. The lady sheepishly stood there with her hands folded and quietly said she hadn't touched it. Way too early for Princess staff to be this angry.
Back to our room, and need a respite from the disappointing turn of events so far - and step out onto our balcony only to be greeted by our neighbor who turns out is a chain smoker. Just when we thought it couldn't get worse. For the remaining 14 days, we had to keep our balcony door closed most of the time.
As it's just the first day, our expectations are minimal and we go to the Piazza and our favorite hangout, the Lobby Bar, and we have a nice martini to relax and enjoy our surroundings. We're Anytime Dining in the Bernini and finally get a table at 7:30 but the food was substandard. Staff rushed and appeared tired. Salmon was good but the veggies were cold. Desserts are as uninspiring as our last 4 Princess cruises but it's the first day and we live in hope eternal!
Hands down, the Crown Grill! Superb food! Superb waitstaff! We enjoyed the food, ambiance and experience three times and regardless we had to 'pay' for what should be pretty standard food and service, our new-found cruiser friends felt exactly the same. Lobby Bar is our favorite but it's difficult to get a seat. Very small bar considering the size of the ship and 2500 pax, and it's right outside the Bernini Dining Room which handles the Anytime Dining Venue. They line up around 4:30 in the afternoon and Alfredo the Maitre D' does a magnificent job.
Loved the International Cafe, except for the morning I approached to get a lemon danish and the chef was mopping the floor. Without washing his hands, reached in and picked up a danish, without tongs, and put it on a plate. No thanks.
ELUA are very good! Very professional. Took a hula lesson and she makes it look so easy but I soon lost count of the many steps!
The Casino: Too much smoke. Too many people who didn't even gamble, congregated there to sit on stools, etc., to read a book and smoke. Awful. Thankfully after Jan. 15 there is to be no more smoking on balconies but the Casino people have to be 'phased in.'
Not crazy about MUTS. Used to enjoy going to Deck 15 to enjoy the sun and breezes but now there is so much noise with MUTS and when the movie or football game took a break, we had the very childish ACD John Loney who was bogus, screeching into a microphone while arranging poolside drinking games.
The theatre is too small to accommodate the crowds for performances.
Don't feel my cabin was ever REALLY clean. Saw how the steward cleaned the tub and sink with same cloths - not sure how the toilet and floor was done, but all of it was done quickly. Hopefully he didn't do the next cabin with the same cloths - nor came into my cabin directly from another one with their cleaning cloths. Yuck.
The Food: Generally mediocre. Horizon Court had a variety of foods on display and much of it was acceptable. Fruit was often woody and tasteless. Dining room food was barely acceptable. I realize food is subjective; but only food 'taste' is subjective, not food quality. And the only quality we found was in the Crown Grill where we had to pay for the experience. I'm amazed at people who actually 'swoon' about the mediocre food in the dining room as if it was manna from Heaven and it was anything but.
The Dining Room Staff: We were Anytime Dining and had to wait for dinner until after 7 pm every evening - if we didn't make a reservation. Hello? A reservation for 'anytime dining'...isn't that a misnomer? Consequently we had different servers every evening and only once in 14 nights did we have staff who were friendly and cheerful - Allan and Cintia - and the food was HOT for the first time. The worst was Shein from Jamaica when I told him the rockfish was inedible and apologized because I couldn't eat it. He offered me nothing more and seemed annoyed when he whisked my plate away mumbling to his assistant. He also challenged one of the gentlemen at the table who barked back at him, so he tried to be a bit friendlier. Staff during the later seatings appear exhausted but it's not our fault. We'd love to eat earlier and while Alfredo does his best as Maitre d', the anytime dining is just too busy.
Hygiene: Hand cleansers need to be enforced! It may not be the cure for norovirus but it can sure help the spread of other infectious diseases. People in Horizon Court absolutely ignore the hand cleanser prior to entering but cough into their hands and then handle all the serving utensils! There are no hand cleansers in what should be considered 'obvious' places such as all elevators and entrance/exit to the casino and theatre - and all dining rooms.
THE INTERNET - S-L-O-W!! More frustrated pax cursing the slowness of the 'net which is expensive at the best of times.
THE UGLY: I don't think I got the dress code memo that stated on formal nights it was pretty okay to wear cut-off jeans and western hats into the dining room. The lineups were pretty funny with definite country/western gear right down to the boots mingled with gowns and sequins. Watching those with shorts and T-shirts entering the dining room for dinner and chatting with Alfredo, who was always immaculately dressed in a tuxedo - was entertainment.
CHEF'S TABLE: Was successful in finally getting an invitation and wondered how it was managed and if the 8 other guests were suite/elite pax. At the briefing, the maitre d' knew two couples and spoke with them as if he'd met them previously. One couple were travel agents who had a large group of western garbed guests on board and the other couple own a restaurant in California where Princess rents space to test recipes. And they've done a Chef's Table before. The maitre d' pointed out to us that she was highly allergic to seafood and we were to be aware of this - why?? Two of the remaining couples were not suite/elite/platinum pax and my husband and I are only platinum status. The night of the special event, the appetizers were wonderful and prepared very well. Several had seafood mixed in the presentation but the entree was two different types of veal - roasted and rack - done to perfection but HUGE portions. Wine accompanying each dish was good but the price of $95 per person should indicate a better quality than e.g. Spellbound syrah. As someone who was born close to the sea, I would have preferred at least one of the entrees to be seafood but not to be. Would I do it again? Probably not. Especially when similar food was well prepared and served in the Crown Grill for less money.
Golden Princess is tired and I understand going in for refurbishment in May. Our mini-suite balcony was rusty and needed painting and halfway through the cruise, we received new deck chairs with foot rests. There were previously 4 chairs and now we have 2. Still couldn't enjoy due to smokers on both sides of our cabin and above us. We tried Skywalkers for the complimentary appetizers each evening along with a special drink of the day, but found it crowded with very slow service and regular drinks were the same price as any other bar on the ship. I'm glad Vines is being replaced by a pizza venue as the host was not very friendly if you only wanted a glass of wine while waiting for dinner, as he catered more to those enjoying flights of wine. Consequently it was not a busy area and is being replaced along with Godiva chocolates which is adjacent.
Will look long and hard before I book another Princess cruise which is a bit distressing as we used to thoroughly enjoy.