Overall, I must say that my husband as well as my in-laws were all very impressed with the Golden Princess. Having had mediocre cruise experiences in the past on other lines, this was a pleasant surprise.
Pretty efficient overall and a pleasant end to three great days exploring Seattle prior to the start of our cruise. We filled out our luggage tags in advance and therefore could check our bags immediately... some other passengers had not yet done this and were held up. If you are checking luggage, have these ready before you get there. Our embarkation time was 2pm, we were on the ship by 2:30, and had our luggage waiting for us in our impeccably clean balcony state room by the time we got to our room.
We had balcony room towards center ship on the Aloha deck (12th floor.) The view from the balcony was incredible and well worth the extra cost. The beds were small but comfortable, and for the most part the room was very quiet. The only complaint we had about the room was the temperature - the room never really seemed to cool down as much as we would have liked. This was solved easily by cracking the balcony door before bedtime to cool the room down. Even though the room wasn't huge, it was larger than we expected. The balcony was an especially good investment - especially when we sailed through Glacier Bay. The views were incredible and we didn't have to fight for a spot on the upper decks to see the beautiful glaciers. You could hear the narration from the naturalists on your deck as well.
By the end of the 7 nights, we had eaten in just about every eatery - many more than once.
Buffet - could get crowded at peak hours, but tended to move people through quickly. We found the breakfast buffet to be especially good and dined there most days. The eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, etc was all very good and I especially liked the healthier options like fresh fruit and yogurt. At lunch the buffet would vary in quality, but the real stand out for me was the salad bar - many fresh options, everything green and fresh, multiple dressings, etc. The dinner was pretty similar to the lunch buffet, but with a few more signature fish and meat dishes - these varied in quality but there was always something pretty good to eat. There were a lot more seafood options than on other cruises we had been on in the past.
Pizza - very good pizza. Thin crusts, good flavoring, ample toppings, etc. I ate here many times and my husband had a slice or two most days.
Ice cream bar - surprisingly disappointing. They only had two flavors of soft serve and the only toppings were sprinkles. You could also not get a "dish" of ice cream and could only get a small cone. Shakes etc. were extra.
Burger grill - hot dogs, sausages, hamburgers all cooked to order. My husband and I each had a burger and were surprised how good they were. The line could get quite long.
Regular dining rooms - we ate in the Donatello one night and thought the soups and salads were good, but entrees (steak medallions for me) were pretty mediocre and bland. Desserts were fabulous. Another night we ate in the Bernini dining room and this was a better experience. Excellent french onion soup and my pork tenderloin was surprisingly moist and pretty good. The service in both was very good.
Specialty Dining - we ate with my in-laws at each of these restaurants.
-Crown Grill was an incredible meal and worth the menial up charge for what you get. Their gorgonzola onion soup was out of this world. Their steaks and lobster were also very high quality - a significant improvement over the regular dining. I would also recommend ordering their specialty dessert - some chocolate lava thing - it was insanely good. Our service in this dining room was impeccable. After the somewhat disappointing dining in the main dining rooms, I didn't think this would live up to a true high-quality steak house, but it really did.
-Sabatinis was also very enjoyable. The caprese appetizer was amazing and the fresh mozzarella used was some of the best I have had. The chef includes a signature pasta each night - on our night it was a spicy marinara with shell fish. Very delicious. I had the lobster three ways for my entree and was not disappointed. Dessert was also very good. Even though Sabatinis was good, it still didn't beat out Crown Grill! If I could only choose one next time, Crown Grill would win.
Entertainment - we didn't really attend any of the night shows since they didn't interest us, but we did enjoy the naturalist talks. The on-board music was not really geared towards our age group (we are both late 20s) but the musicians were talented and music was still enjoyable. The night club looked fun, but each time we went up there there were very few people in attendance or dancing - probably due to the mean age demographic on the ship. We went to a vodka tasting which was fun as well as some "remember the lyrics" game show that was hokey, but entertaining enough.
Bars/Lounges/Casino - we especially enjoyed the service in the Wheelhouse Bar and spent quite a bit of time there each night. Lounges were pleasant and we enjoyed the wine bar. We also enjoyed the Outrigger Bar at the back of the ship - great ocean views, no where near as crowded as other parts of the ship. The casino was small but had enough tables/slots it seemed to suit everyone who wanted to play. Had quite a bit of fun playing blackjack a couple nights.
Service - everyone was polite and helpful. From waitstaff, to bartenders, to our steward (awesome) everyone had a smile on their face and went out of their way to be welcoming.
Cleanliness - ship seemed clean. The vacuum cleaners were running every day, windows were being washed, dining spaces and restrooms were clean, no complaints here.
Fitness center - great. Lots of machines, plenty of free weights. Tried to hit this frequently to justify all the other indulgences :)
Spa - my in-laws loved their massages, neither myself nor my husband used the spa.
"What to Wear" on the ship - the varying temperatures really brought out the "eclectic" in what people decided to wear. Clothes tended to be on the casual side during the day and somewhat more formal at night. Formal nights were pretty formal - tuxes and ballgowns were not uncommon sights. Most wore dark suits and dressy pant suits or cocktail dresses. Definitely bring a variety of clothing options. Some days were cold and wet, some were warm and sunny.
Fellow passengers - no complaints here either. Very few screaming children running around unattended and virtually no loud "party hard" college-types. Both of those things are fine in their proper setting, but didn't really "fit" with the whole Alskan cruise vibe. The majority of those on board were couples in their late 20s and older, most were 40s and up, as well as some families with a variety of ages.
Cons or areas that could use improvement -
-room temperature (maybe it's because we're from FL and used to cranking the AC down, but I found our room on the warm side)
-entertainment - not much geared at our age group, but I'd rather have this than a loud party cruise any day.
-pool decks could be very slippery. I found myself almost slipping a couple times and did see some other slip, fall, and get injured. It did rain frequently but there has to be some better design to make these areas safer.
The town of Skagway itself is quite touristy, but very cool. We really enjoyed walking around the hokey shops and especially enjoyed pub hopping. While we did enjoy the town, the real winner for me was the surrounding nature - all within easy walking distance from town.
We didn't do any excursions in Skagway, but did PLENTY of nature viewing. The day was VERY windy and mildly cold, but sunny and NO RAIN! To this FL girl that hates the heat, I had died and gone to heaven! Husband and I hiked up to Yakutania Point and Smugglers Cove and loved it. Very well maintained park with few people, gorgeous views, awesome jutting rocks to climb all over - exactly how I pictured the Pacific Northwest.
After getting back to town from our hike and sort of running out of things to do, we decided to take our second hike up to the Gold Rush cemetery (about 2 miles outside of town) and to Lower Reid Falls, which is right behind the cemetery. This was based off the recommendation of a friendly bartender we met and was well worth it despite the 4 mile+ round trip on foot.
My in-laws took a glacier dog sled trip in Skagway as well and LOVED it!
Our dock time in Ketchikan was inconveniently early. We docked at 6am and needed to be back on ship by noon and time on shore felt very rushed. Many shops and restaurants weren't open. We woke up early and were on shore by about 8:15am. We didn't eat in town or take any excursions, but did make the most of our time by walking through downtown, exploring the small (but worth it) museum located in the library, and strolling Creek Street and the "Married Man's Trail."
We also took about a 20 minute walk to the salmon hatchery, eagle rescue, and totum pole museum. All three were enjoyable and very informative. It was a nice walk past a rushing creek.
Weather in Ketchikan was incredible. Clear skies, and no rain. I wish we could've spent more time there.
Some of our best "cruise" views were on the way out of Ketchikan as well. We enjoyed the sunshine and warm weather from our balcony and saw quite a few eagles and whales as well as beautiful mountain views.
Victoria had a similar problem as Ketchikan, but we docked too late instead of too early.
We didn't even arrive in Victoria until 7pm, which was too late for most of the museums/tours/excursions etc. in town. I really wish we could've ported here sooner - even more than Ketchikan - since Victoria is a really cool, beautiful downtown!
The architecture was incredible. You can tell why it was named Victoria! The town was also very clean with flowers and trees everywhere. There was a variety of pubs, bars, restaurants, and shops - but once again, not much time to spend in any of them. We did make a quick loop of the whole downtown and decided we'd love to come back!
We took a cab for four (only 9 bucks) into town and walked back to the ship (about a 30 minute walk) along the water at sunset. The views were stunning! Also, just a piece of advice - with the town being about a 30 minute walk from the ship, you will probably want to catch a ride into town to get as much time there as possible. The cruise ships offer 9 dollar bus shuttles into town, but we caught a cab immediately that was only 9 bucks for four people without the rush and hassle of cramming on a tour bus.
I really regret not spending more time in this beautiful town!
After reading a lot of other cruise reviews, we decided to forgo any "paid" tours to the glacier and just jumped on a $16 round trip shuttle. These are lined up after the short walk into town and run every half hour. We walked the trail to Nugget Falls as well as a couple other trails and spent the better part of our afternoon here. Despite the rain it was absolutely incredible. I cannot stress how beautiful this location is. Don't let the word "hike" discourage you either - the main trails were flat and easily navigated. Those with limited mobility may struggle, but most can handle the main trails with ease. We had the whole place to ourselves for about the first hour before the tour buses arrived - yet another reason to skip the paid excursion. Even with the constant rain and coldish temperatures this was a high light of the trip.View All 971 Mendenhall Glacier Reviews
Great whale watching experience. Saw many active whales as well as a breach! Only complaint was the pouring rain. However, we went in expecting rain so didn't let it ruin our trip.View All 906 Whale Watching Reviews
It was raining so badly and we had just spent hours hiking at Mendenhall so we didn't really explore the town much. We did a quick lap and found everywhere to be very crowded due to the 5 ships in port that day. We did have a great lunch at the Hangar restaurant with a view of the port and the sea planes flying in and out. Great halibut fish and chips and plenty of delicious Alaskan beer :)View All 56 City Tour Reviews