We have been toying (for a few years) with the idea of booking a family cruise. We finally decided to go ahead with this, and selected Alaska, since my parents enjoyed their Alaskan cruise a few years ago. We selected the Inside Passage, ... Read More
We have been toying (for a few years) with the idea of booking a family cruise. We finally decided to go ahead with this, and selected Alaska, since my parents enjoyed their Alaskan cruise a few years ago. We selected the Inside Passage, since it included Glacier Bay, the highlight of the cruise.
We opted to spend a few days in Seattle prior to embarking. We stayed at the Westin Seattle. We chose this location, based on it's central location to everything. It was a wonderful choice! Wonderful restaurants nearby, monorail to the Space needle is 1 block away, and it's 5 blocks from Pike Place market. We experienced some great weather. It was sunny, highs in the 80s. Our rooms were on the 31st floor (north tower) and faced Puget Sound..it was a great view! The hotel was completely full, as it's cruise season in Seattle...and there was a video game convention taking place, so lots of activity in the lobby. NOTE - we spent lots of time waiting for elevators. For some reason, we only noticed two of the four elevators working. This caused lots of problems and complaints...imagine 15 people huddling around, waiting for an elevator.
The Golden Princess is a nice ship. It's showing it's age (launched in 2001), but it's still charming. Lots of public spaces, lounges, bars, the piazza etc. There were times when it seemed 2,600 couldn't possibly be aboard, I'm referring to never feeling crowded...but our cruise was sold out. We spent lots of time in the Piazza. I purchased the All inclusive beverage package, which allows one to purchase ANY beverage up to $10. I enjoyed Vines Wine Bar...the bartender Vukman, was a great host and provided wine suggestions. The pool areas are nice too. We did experience a mix of good and bad weather...but mostly sunny, so the pool and upper decks were frequented by passengers. The promenade got crowded at times, when they displayed photos taken during the voyage. The lounges were nice, spacious and provided a great location for some activities.
Service was good to great, depending on who you dealt with. Our cabin steward was fantastic. Main dining room waiters and their assistants were also good...as were the bar staff. The passenger service desk personnel need some work on their customer service...and they also were not prompt. For example - at check in, my room card was supposed to have the (pre-paid) all inclusive beverage package sticker affixed to it...well, it was inadvertently placed on someone else in our group's card. They told us we had to ask Passenger services fix this problem. It took over 20 minutes until they sorted this out.
We arrived at pier 91 (Seattle) around 11:30am for check in. Check in was a little chaotic....lines not set up well. We are Platinum members with Princess' Captain Circle...but check in took a little longer than we would have liked...our agent was a little slow processing us. We started boarding at noon....by 12:45pm we were having lunch in a dining room.
Food - I realize food is an important aspect for many cruisers. For this, I know Princess has a reputation for offering above average quality. This is partly why we selected Princess this time. I was impressed overall, but there were some issues.
Horizon Court - This was the most underwhelming part of our dining experience. In all honestly we avoided the buffet, as I'm not a buffet person in general. I was surprised to see only half of the overall area was utilized for lunch. This resulted in long ques of people lining up. It was often crowded, with the get-all-you-can types of people. It seemed impossible to find a vacant table. Since the buffet covers a large part of the 14th deck, you are forced to walk through it to get to the pool area, or forward parts of the ship. Again, I only had one breakfast here...and the options were not all that abundant. The other part of the dining area of the Horizon Court is used for the Crab Shack, a new specialty restaurant...so they really need to figure out how to best utilize the dining space.
Main dining room - overall, good quality meals and service. There were days I felt rushed, but overall, not bad. Some of our selections were hit and miss, but overall it was ok. BEWARE - if you have the All inclusive beverage package, you need to check your account folio, as we were mistakenly charged for glasses of wine in the MDR....when it should have been covered buy the package. Some dining room servers seem unaware of this new package. Embarkation lunch was one of the better meals, since not many people know you can eat lunch in the dining room on the 1st day. Then again, it closes at 1:30pm and most people are STILL boarding. Formal nights were good. Generally, steaks were the best part. Pasta was ok...avoid the gnocchi!! The fettuccine alfredo was ok. The beef wellington was good...I ordered a lobster tail with it!
Specialty restaurants - if you want to spend $25 per person, you can dine in one of the specialty restaurants aboard. Sabatini's offers Italian food. The Crown Grill is the steakhouse. We ate at both. The service is better and more personalized at the specialty restaurants. Sabatini's was just ok. The pasta was underwhelming but the appetizers were the most enjoyable aspect of the night. Crown Grill was very good! Based on our experience, I would recommend Crown Grill.
The International cafe, located in the Piazza, is a great place to grab your morning coffee and pastries. They are open 24 hours, so their offerings will change with the time of day...breakfast items until 11AM, then they switch to desserts, sandwiches, salads, quiche and soup. The pastry chef on the Golden does a great job! The bread and desserts were very good. I do wish to note, coffee service at the International Cafe was SLOW. Our cruise was 100% full, and they should have more locations aboard the ship where you can get a quick espresso drink. The lines were very long and moved at a glacial pace. The staff wasn't motivated to move fast, so it seemed. Many passengers echoed this sentiment too...specially on Glacier Bay day....when everyone wanted to take their coffee out to the desk...thus resulting in long lines.
Tident Grill and Prego Pizzeria - located on the 14th deck near the pool are two snack bars. These are obviously geared for the pool crowd and offer pizza by the slice (cheese and pepperoni) and also made to order hamburgers/hot dogs etc. I tried the pizza one day, it wasn't very good and there was too much oregano in the sauce. It reminded me of high school cafeteria pizza. This, along with Sundae's (the soft serve ice cream shop) were full of teenagers and young kids.
Entertainment was quite good and varied. They had numerous musicians aboard, ranging in styles from a string quartet, to a pianist and a jazz combo (guitar, saxophone and trombone). There was trivia, karaoke, bingo, culinary demonstrations and dance instruction etc. There were also lectures and wine tasting.
Ports/excursions - good. We had great weather in Juneau, Skagway and Victoria. I wish we had longer in Ketchican and Victoria. In fact, 4 hours in Victoria is hardly worth it.
Disembarkation was a little chaotic, it took 30 minutes to get off the ship, once they called our name...and then processed through customs. Airport transfers were poorly organized....we pre-paid, and it was not so good.