This review is of our cruise on the Golden Princess, sailing from New Orleans to Montego Bay, Grand Cayman and Cozumel on Dec. 23, 2006.
Embarkation was a mess. We made the mistake of arriving at the pier at 1:30, and it was truly a zoo. I know many others have recommended waiting till later and I would totally agree with that. The facilities at the Poland Street Pier in New Orleans appear to be temporary, and Princess was not well-organized. The lines to check in intermingled with the lines to go through security (!), and it was literally wall to wall people. What a mess. 3 p.m. would have been a much better check-in time -- from our balcony, we could see that NO ONE was in line then.
We were in cabin D308. I am always more interested in my own room than the public rooms, and the cruise line sites rarely focus much on that component of the cruise so I've tried to provide a fairly complete description of the cabin. I have a few comments about other aspects of the cruise, as well.
D308 is a mini-suite on the Dolphin deck, port side, midship. We liked the location; it was very convenient to elevators but not in a high-traffic zone. A big plus: We have never been on a cruise ship when we didn't use all of the available storage! This room had 3 shelves plus plenty of counter space in the bathroom, as well as open shelf storage under the sink. There was a cabinet in the closet outside the bathroom with 6 shelves (one shelf was partially taken up by the safe), the closet had about 6 feet of hanging space with a shelf above, there were 2 drawers plus a shelf in each of 2 nightstands, 3 drawers in the vanity/desk, and 2 large drawers in the end table by the sofa. In addition, there was open shelving in the entertainment center/bar area, with a total of probably 8 - 10 linear feet. The open shelving under the bathroom sink and in the entertainment center area had railings so things would stay put.
The bathroom was a nice size for a ship. I'm a bath girl, so I loved having a full-size tub. There were 2 towel bars at the end of the tub, 2 towel bars over the toilet and 2 hooks on the door, as well as a clothesline you could pull out to dry towels, swimsuits, etc. The counter was about 4 feet long. The negative about the bathroom was that it was clear there was mold around the tub and between the tiles. They had re-caulked and even put that plastic molding between the tub and the tile to cover up where they came together, but the mold was still quite visible. Living in a dry climate, I just can't get used to mold in my bathroom! We had a new set of towels twice a day which I liked, but about half the time the towels were very stiff and sandpapery.
The carpeting in the room was fine, but obviously not new. The furnishings were OK, too, but again were showing their age a bit, especially the sofa. Not threadbare, but the cushions were dished out. There was a foam waffle topper on the bed, but the mattresses REALLY need to be replaced. The bedspread showed its age, but the duvet was lovely. One thing because there was only a duvet and no other top covering on the bed (unless you wanted to use the bedspread), you had no opportunity to regulate the amount of covers you could have either none or lots. It would have been nice to have also had a lightweight blanket of some type.
The balcony held 4 lounge chairs, 2 arm-to-arm on each side of the balcony with a round table in between. The size was just fine for us. Balconies on this deck weren't covered, and I think I would try to book a room with a covered or partially covered balcony next time. There were 2 other chairs in the room, one at the vanity/desk and the second in the living room. We were traveling with 10 people and it was nice to get everyone in the room at once, even though we only did that one time it was a little tight!
The vanity/desk area was quite functional with a large mirror; separate, bright lighting above it; and a couple of electric plugs. The hair dryer was built in above the desk. With that and the drawers, it made a great place for make-up and hair in the morning so my husband and I didn't have to fight over the bathroom.
There are 2 televisions, one in the bedroom area and one in the living room area, sort of back to back. Both are on the top shelf of the entertainment center, so it was a little neck-wrenching to view them. Because of the proximity of the TVs, you certainly wouldn't want to be trying to watch 2 programs at the same time!
There was also an electric outlet in the bathroom, and 2 more in the hallway from the door into the room. In the entry way there was another mirror with a small shelf great spot to leave your cruise card when you came into the room so you wouldn't forget it. The cabinet doors in the closet were also mirrored, providing a full-length view. We had a good number of hangers. I did bring a few wire hangers and was glad I had them, though.
I think I caught a fleeting glance of our cabin attendant twice during the entire week. Our cabin service was excellent I just never saw him! On all other cruises I've ever taken, the cabin attendant was always in the hallway; I don't know where this one hid out. One thing I especially appreciated was that we seemed to always have plenty of ice in the ice bucket, kept in the refrigerator so it didn't melt. I'm a big ice user, so that was important to me! Also, be sure to request the robes they are waffle weave, lightweight and comfy. Well-worn and washed many times, but that just made them softer.
Although we took some booze on board, I think the best way to handle that is just to use room service for it. They bring you a .375 liter and 3 sodas for $17. We didn't need the sodas, so we requested and received a very large bottle of water instead.
Some suggestions I followed that I wish I hadn't: (1) bring an extension cord for extra outlets (we didn't need more than what were provided in the room); (2) bring a sweater hanger for extra shelf space there was plenty so I didn't need that either. Suggestion I didn't follow that I wish I had: bring a roll of quarters -- the on-board laundromats were SO helpful, but required 8 quarters to wash and dry a load, not to mention additional needed to buy soap. The bill changers were sometimes out of commission or wouldn't accept a wrinkled bill, so having sufficient quarters would have been great and saved a trip to the purser's desk. If you don't use your quarters for the laundromat, you can always use them in the casino!
Comments on ship amenities we used: liked the Horizon Court buffet good food all the time and I really enjoyed getting a freshly-baked cookie mid-afternoon. I bought a soda card since I'm fond of Coca-Cola. I don't think it was a particularly good deal from a monetary standpoint, but it was convenient not to have to sign every time I wanted a soda. The photos were better than other cruises I've been on with more choices of backgrounds and plenty of spots for photos in the evenings much shorter lines. If you want a picture from formal night, consider waiting till the second one; the lines were a lot longer on the first formal night than the second. The extra-cost steakhouse wasn't worth the money; we had a good meal and the service was wonderful, but the dining room food was every bit as good. Players Lounge was way too smoky, which was a shame since we would have liked to have enjoyed the college bowl games in there. Unlike other cruises, we only went to one show probably because we were with our family, so that took up our time instead. However, the Vista Lounge was quite nice and comfortable with sofa seating available.
We were in Skywalkers Lounge for sailaway from New Orleans. There were only about 10 people in the whole place besides us. The bar wasn't open so you have to bring drinks from another one, but what a great view! We had a lovely seating area with sofas, chairs, etc. all to ourselves and really enjoyed watching the city slip away behind us from that great vantage point. I would definitely recommend Skywalkers for sailaway.
The food was good, a nice selection, but not the same as an excellent restaurant. I like shipboard dining though, for the portion sizes (small enough to be manageable, large enough to fill you up) and the variety. We had anytime dining and really liked it. We had a to wait once for a table, but even with 10 of us we were able to be seated quite rapidly in one or the other of the dining rooms. Since we generally ate during prime time (between 7 and 8 p.m.), I thought that was more than reasonable especially since the ship was completely full.
The Martini lounge was wonderful; the service was lovely and both the bar and the seating area were extra-comfortable. It had much better service than the Lobby Lounge, where the bartenders and waiters were way more interested in visiting with each other than providing good or prompt service. The casino was OK, but smoky and a little dated looking. I had terrible luck there, though, so maybe that colors my opinion!
We didn't spend any time in the Wheelhouse Bar, or in the Explorers Lounge. Both looked like great places to while away an evening, though we just ran out of time, I guess.
I used the spa a couple of times. Something I learned on this cruise - there are other services than the ones on the menu. Since they didn't have an opening for a pedicure at the time I requested, they provided me with one that wasn't the spa pedicure it was the same as I usually get on land and cost about 60% of the pedicure that is advertised. Also, I wasn't able to get a full manicure because of a late return from the shore excursion in Grand Cayman, but they were willing to repair a nail and do a polish change for a very reasonable price. I always assumed that the printed menu of services was all that was available, but I guess those are just the most expensive ones!
We weren't hassled as much as we had feared in Montego Bay. Certainly, there was a plethora of cabs wanting our business and the shopkeepers invited us into their stores as we walked by, but I never felt uncomfortable. Some of the younger members of our group, though, said that they were hassled by people wanting to braid their hair or show them Bob Marley's Club, apparently a real dive that's less than safe. Here's a BIG hint for those who may be affected: DO NOT buy drugs. I know that should be obvious, but 8 people on our cruise were detained overnight in Jamaica. We are too old for that sort of thing and were hardly screened (except for x-raying our bags) when we were ready to re-board but others were patted down. Also, the dealers are apparently in cahoots with the police. When certain people were ready to board through security, they were pulled aside without any sort of screening and sure enough, they had drugs on them. The police knew exactly who they were looking for.
We took only one shore excursion, in Grand Cayman. The tour was around the island to the usual tourist spots: Hell, the turtle farm, the rum cake place, Stingray City. OK, but no big deal and it was a pain having to wait on people who couldn't figure out that we weren't providing a limo service just for them. Plus we had the opportunity to hear our bus driver complain about his tips or lack thereof. I wouldn't take that excursion again; I'd get a cab or rent a car and have a private tour on my own schedule.
Cozumel was pretty, although we didn't wander too far off the main drag. (Shopping and sightseeing aren't our favorite parts of cruising we really like being on the ship instead.) We were hassled much more there, by people trying to get us into the jewelry stores, than we were in Montego Bay! We had lunch at La Choza, which I can highly recommend. The margaritas there are the best I've ever had, and among the strongest! If you want to access the internet and don't want to pay the ridiculous charges on-board the ship, there's a really nice internet spot diagonally across the street from La Choza and the rates are only $1 per hour. They have plenty of computers and fast access there. Just be aware that if you've had those margaritas at La Choza, you might not be able to see the computer screens!
We enjoyed this cruise, and would go again. This was our first time on Princess, and we thought they did a good job.