We sailed on the Golden to Hawaii from San Pedro departing on Dec 20, 2009 and arriving back on Jan 03, 2010. We booked his holiday sailing over Christmas and New Years in May 2008, so we had quite a long time anticipating this cruise. We've sailed Princess 3 times prior to Mexico (twice) and Panama Canal (5 other cruises on other cruiselines). Over the period of time awaiting for the cruise dates to arrive, we anticipated a wonderful time at sea on the Golden (sailed once before to Mexico) and the 4 stops in Hawaii. Since it was a holiday cruise we were also worried about the crowds and number of children onboard that might take away from enjoying the cruise itself. That being said, now that we are back home, I have to say this cruise ranks up there as one of the best cruises we've been on. EMBARKATION: We arrived the terminal at around 10:45AM - I knew there would be 2 other cruise ships docked that day so was worried about getting in the terminal - dropping off bags and then getting a parking spot. Although there was congestion, we arrived in front of the Golden's drop off point relatively smoothly with a porter coming to us before I even got out of the vehicle. Bag drop off went smoothly and found a parking spot easily. As we walked into the terminal we were greeted by many Princess reps who were all congenial, friendly and helpful. We had about a 2 minute wait in queue to check in. Our check in representative was extremely friendly and courteous. Obviously profiles are shown on their screens during check-in as he made mention of our previous Princess cruises. After check-in we walked to the security area and had about a 15 minute wait before our group number was called to board - another 15 minutes and we were on board! CABIN: We originally had booked an AB category mini-suite (back 1/3 of ship), however as I watched pricing changes over time, Princess had a AA category 'sale' which made upgrading location to mid-ship actually cheaper than our original choice. Mini-suite is spacious, has a nice "sitting" are with small sofa, 2 flat screen TVs in the room (one facing bed area, one facing sitting area). Bathroom has a full tub with shower. Balcony is spacious with 4 chairs and table - completely open (not covered at all) and the Golden balcony's "cascade" downward so all balconys above look down on these Dolphin Deck mini's. DINING: We had 1st dinner seating confirmed. On our card key, we were assigned one of the Anytime Dining rooms (BERNINI) but we had a table number assignment (56). This concerned me, I went to the Passenger Services to ask about this and they sent us to see the Head Maitre-D who was taking questions in the SABATINI Specialty Restaurant. This wait was fairly long (about 45 minutes) as each person was held at the door, and when it was your turn you were escorted into the restaurant to the Maitre D seated (I felt like I was being brought to the "King" who was holding court!). The Maitre-D could not have been nicer assuring us that although we weren't assigned in the traditional dining room we had a reserved table for 2 (as we requested but knew couldn't be guarantee'd). True to his word, the fellows in the "white coats" who sat folks in our dining room had our names (and those of a few others) and our table 56 was waiting for us when we arrived each day (shout out to our wait staff David and Abraham from Mexico who were excellent and fun). Menus varied throughout the 2 weeks and the selection pretty good with a group of foods "always available" everyday in case nothing for the day interested you. Food quality was good and always came to the table looking appetizing, most tasted good (hey you cant get everything right 100% of the time) although I thought more spices could be used but understand they are cooking for 3000 people not just me. TOURS: We took tours on 3 islands (Honolulu was on our own) and had very professional, knowledgeable guides everytime which made the tours that much more enjoyable. Princess has done a very good job in their selections here. Tours were as described except our Lanaii adventure which is more of a "discover Lanaii" tour than a "4X4 Trekking Adventure." Very enjoyable tour and our guides there were concerned that most people would shy away from this tour due to what they call it.
OVERALL: As stated we rank this trip as one of the best cruises we've been on. The kid situation did get dicey toward the end of the 2 weeks (kids running races down the hallways, all the floors buttons pushed in the elevators when you got in, that sort of thing). All the folks who work at Princess that we experienced on board and ashore were friendly, fun, professional, and obviously tried to do anything possible when special requests were made. Since this is a 14 day cruise with 5 sea days each way, I would recommend this to people who've cruised before and know that sea days fit into their particular interests. This cruise was great and we plan to do it again in a couple of years.
D529 Mini-suite. Plenty of room for the 2 of us with 4 suitcases. good location as no inside cabins directly across. Dolphin deck runs the entire length of the ship so this made "racing" back and forth by the kids a prime location, but nothing serious to complain about. This cabin is mid-ships and the ride was very smooth.
We took the Hilo cave and lagoon adventure. This took us around Hilo on Christmas day so most activity in Hilo was non existant. We went to Rainbow Falls, a Lava Tube and a beautful location on the beach with "wading pools" deep enough to swim in. Very enjoyable day.
Instead of Maui itself we chose the Lanai'i 4X4 trekking adventure. Lanai'i is an island off the coast of Lahaina and is about a 50 minute ferry boat ride across the channel. This tour is amazing. We toured the island and had a very knowledgeable guide who lives on the island. This tour does take some rough roads but isnt a 4X4 trekking adventure, more simply a charming tour of Lanai'i city and beautiful island landscapes. Lunch was provided by the local coffee shop and everything was waiting for us as we arrived.
We took the zodiac boat to the Na Pali coast - an awesome ride taking us very near the Spinner Dolphins and Whales as we toured the shear cliffs of the beautiful Na Pali coastline. Very good tour and the captain was always talking giving facts about what we were witnessing as we also kept eyes peeled for the dophins and whales. Very good tour.