This is a review of the cruise portion of my Tauck Grand Alaska Journey. The tour was 7 days on land, and 7-days on sea aboard the Golden Princess. This is different than my typical cruise review, because my experience was unique to being ... Read More
This is a review of the cruise portion of my Tauck Grand Alaska Journey. The tour was 7 days on land, and 7-days on sea aboard the Golden Princess. This is different than my typical cruise review, because my experience was unique to being on a Tauck tour, even on the ship. We had pre-reserved cabins. We did our own shore excursions as a group. We had private receptions on the ship. We had 2 pre-arranged dinners as a group at the Specialty Restaurants (Crown Grill, Sabatini’s Trattoria). We sat as a group at 2 of the Anytime Dining restaurants. We were free to eat where we wanted at any time. We got the beverage package.
Because of illness I caught on the bus portion of my tour, I did not spend as much time enjoying all the shipboard amenities as I usually do. I did attend 2 of the Production Shows in the Princess Theatre. The singing and dancing were very good. I enjoyed the comedian Ken Boyd in the Vista Lounge. I liked the Bohemia Duo, especially when they played classical and contemporary melodies in the Piazza. I thought the selection of Movies Under the Stars on the big screen on the Lido deck was too limited. On a previous Princess cruise (on a larger ship), there was a dedicated movie channel on the TV in the cabin, and you could select the movie to watch. On this ship, pre-selected movies were shown. It was not possible to get a schedule of movies throughout the day. This is likely just another example of old technology on this older Princess ship.
On my previous cruise, I learned about the Princess@Sea communications on the ship, which I came to appreciate. You turned on Wi-Fi on your phone or other device (and turned it to airplane mode, so there would be no cellular roaming charges), connected to the Golden Princess network, entered the web address “golden.princess.com”, created an account, and you were in. You can view the daily itinerary (instead of carrying the Princess Patter around with you) and locate where on the ship each activity is taking place at. You can get information on shore excursions. You can send a text message to another passenger who has set up an account. The service is free, because you only need to use free, local Wi-Fi on the ship. There are no cellular charges. You can also use the app to view Onboard Deals, Future Cruise Deposits, General Information, and Locations, Hours & More (for lounges, restaurants, etc.)
However, implementation of Princess@Sea on the Golden Princess was disappointing. I suspect the technology was a challenge on an older ship like the Golden Princess. Many times, the ship Wi-Fi would be down, and you could not access the daily itinerary. To text another guest on the ship, you needed their Customer ID. Unlike on my previous Royal Princess cruise, you could not search by first or last name. You’d have to go to the person and ask him/her for their Customer ID which was generated when an account was created, which you could enter in your contacts, so you could find their name to text to. This was a nuisance and probably resulted in much less use of the app. Also, unlike on my previous Princess cruise, you could not view your stateroom charges. You had to visit the Guest Services desk in person. I was very disappointed in the app.
My wife and I had a mini-suite on Dolphin deck (Deck 9, Cabin D608). There was storage space scattered throughout the cabin, including 2 drawers in the nightstand on each side of the bed. The room had a spacious sitting area with a sofa and second TV. There was an in-room refrigerator and safe. However, the layout of the rest of the room was cramped. One person could easily slide a suitcase under the bed. The other person had to repeatedly maneuver the suitcase in a 2-foot area between the bed and the cabin wall to get the suitcase out. The spacious closet was by a large set of storage shelves and the bathroom. It was a cramped space. You could not access the shelves (and safe) or the closet, while someone was trying to get in and out of the bathroom. This is just poor design, and may have been considered acceptable when the Golden Princess was first cruising. Other more modern ships do not have this configuration issue.
The queen bed was comfortable, but had a very thick comforter. If you didn’t turn down the temperature in the room at night to at least “cold”—both thermostats—then you would get too hot under the comforter.
The bathroom was spacious. There were pump bottles in the combination shower/tub—one for shower gel, and one for combined shampoo/conditioner. You might want to consider bringing your own conditioner. A bar of soap was provided in the bathroom. There were storage shelves above and below the long vanity.
There was an outdoor balcony, but it was not covered. I had not thought to check that when I selected the room. I just assumed that all balconies had a ceiling so you could sit outside if it was raining, and you would have some protection from the sun. But, no. You could see cabins several decks above you, and been seen on your balcony from those cabins.
The room steward Joao did an excellent job keeping the room clean. He even brought ice daily for the ice bucket.
I found the breakfast area on the Lido deck, Horizon Court, to be on the small side (compared to other ships I’ve been on). There was often a line to get eggs, French Toast, bacon, sausage, etc. in the morning. I never ate at one of the dining rooms for breakfast.
The food, even in the specialty restaurants, was OK, not great. Some entrees I found to be very salty. There were adequate selections on the dinner menus. Some of the desserts, including the Baked Alaska, were very tasty.
The best margarita on the ship was the “24K Margarita” at the Wheelhouse Bar. Instead of salt, you could get sugar on the rim.
One advantage of the ship was its somewhat smaller size compared to other cruise ships. It was small enough to get into the narrow fjords in Glacier Bay, which was a definite advantage. I enjoyed the onboard narration during scenic cruising in Glacier Bay National Park and the Inside Passage. You could turn on the TV in your cabin (to either channel 36 or 37) and hear the narration. If you didn’t have a good view from the balcony of your cabin, you could go forward on Deck 7 (Promenade) and then climb up a couple of flights to go to the bow of the ship for an unobstructed view and to listen to the narration. I enjoyed the presentations by the naturalists about the sights, flora, and fauna.
Be aware that on this 7-day cruise, there are two formal nights. Most did not wear tuxedos or formal gowns. There were guys wearing a dress shirt and slacks. A few wore a sports coat. Many women wore cocktail-like dresses.
One of my observations on cruises is that ships never provide enough hooks in the cabins to hang stuff on. There were none in the cabin. I would have brought several strong, magnetic hooks (e.g., from Home Depot), but I was weight limited for my tour (which was an error in the Tauck documentation).
Compared to other ocean cruises I have been on, one amenity was missing. There were no daily newspapers/bulletins. You could find out news by tuning into BBC, MSNBC, or Fox News on the TV in the cabin.
Here are some tips for getting extra shipboard credit. Before the cruise, you can provide evidence to Princess Cruises that you are an honorably discharged member of the military (submit a copy of your DD214). You can also purchase and provide proof of ownership of 100 shares of Carnival (CCL) stock. You can also purchase a future cruise voucher that entitles you to shipboard credit on a future cruise (voucher cost on this ship was $100 per person, good for 2 years, fully refundable); the amount of credit depends on the length of the cruise and the category of cabin you book. Read Less