I preface my comments by noting that we are in the top tier of princess’s loyalty program, so we have cruised a lot with them.
We got on the Golden Princess just two weeks after getting off the Diamond Princess. Apart from a few minor glitches, the Diamond Princess was the best cruise we have ever been on. In contrast, the Golden Princess was the poorest experiences we have had on a cruise ship.
We were on the Golden about 4 months ago. At that time it was in desperate need of a dry dock/ overhaul. We had high expectations when boarding in Tokyo because the ship had undertaken a dry dock only a few weeks earlier. There were some signs that work had been done. For example, there was a new Sabatini’s, carpets had been replaced, and a new (but NOT on demand) TV system had been installed. However, the ship was still the worse for wear. There was still rust evident in the upper deck areas and in one place an electrical box mount had rusted loose and the electrical box were dangling against the wall. Our balcony had visible rust and when we first boarded was covered in paint chips and rust flecks, presumably from upper decks. There were also buckets in the corridors catching water leaks. Some of these water leaks were from light fixtures.
It seems obvious that Princess use the first couple of cruises after a dry dock to continue working on a ship. It also appears that they did the minimum required to keep the Golden going until its sale to P&O in 2020. The cleanliness, serviceability and presentation of the ship was very poor compared to the Diamond Princess. The condition of the ship was also having a detrimental effect on the staff, who were always apologising for the water leaks, room issues and other matters. It was not a happy crew. They were not angry but looked tired and worn, presumably for having to apologise on behalf of ship so often.
The organisation of the first few days of the cruise was a shambles. Paperwork for our first port of call mentioned a last shuttle to the ship at 4:00pm even though elsewhere, there were notifications that all were to be on board by 1:30pm. The latter was correct.
At our second port of call we had to go through Japanese immigration departure procedures. Most people stood in line for between 1.5 and 2 hours to be processed. Princess blamed the Japanese Immigration process, but we had already experienced this previously on the Diamond and there were no issues. Furthermore, even if the Japanese Immigration officials were at fault, the way Princess managed the queueing line was appalling. Most of the line was outside, thankfully it was not a hot day. There were no, or at least very few, chairs provided for the elderly and infirm, and very few Princess staff visible to explain what was going on and how long the wait would be. Most annoying was having to queue up again to get on the ship after passing through immigration. This is because Princess had only one access point to the ship, which was so narrow that the line had to be halted periodically to allow wheel chairs etc to get from the ship to the shore. Surely at least 2 access points should have been organised.
To add insult to injury the next day there was no apology from any Princess authority for the inconvenience suffered. Again, I contrast this with the Diamond where on board authorities such as the Captain and Entertainment Director kept all informed of what was going on and when there were mishaps they informed everyone, explained what went wrong, and most importantly how they would address the problem in future.
We hardly saw any of the officers roaming the ship. For example, on the Diamond on sea days the Entertainment Director would make herself available for an hour or so each morning to solicit comments/ questions about the entertainment on the ship. This did not happen on the Golden.
Another frustration was the reluctance of the Princess administrative staff to resolve any issues. . The Purser’s office was either unwilling or unable to resolve issues with other departments on the ship. The Purser’s office, IT department, and Shore Excursions office all operate as separate entities and there appears to be no one on the ship that can resolve issues between them. This includes the Captains Circle host who will sympathise with to your concerns, express regret on behalf of Princess and then ….. do nothing about it.
For example, we had booked the cruise from Tokyo to Vancouver via Whittier for a total of 23 days. As an elite member we were expecting to get 500 minutes of complementary internet. When we only got 250 minutes credit the ship’s internet office explained that we were treated as being on 2 cruises for internet purposes (250 minutes for the Tokyo to Whittier segment and 150 minutes for the Whittier to Vancouver segment). I had no issue with this interpretation but when I spoke to the Purser’s office about getting two mini bar setups (one for each cruise segment), I was told that we were to be treated as having only booked one cruise mini bar purposes.
When I told the purser’s officer that the I.T. office had a different interpretation of our cruise status, I was told the best they could do was email the IT person about it and they would get back to me ‘as soon as possible’. Two days later I saw the Purser’s office again only to be told that nothing had been done yet but they were going to email the I.T. gut (who was one floor down) and get back to me ‘as soon as possible’. However, they were not prepared to give me a time (eg within 1 day, 2 days or by the end of the cruise. Furthermore, we found out that other couples who made the same booking as us were told different things by the Purser’s office. We eventually had the matter sorted out after 5 days.
Our specialty dining experience was also not the best. We dined in the Crown Grill one night. We were provided with meal menus, but had to ask for a wine menu. They wanted to take our meal orders before we had a chance to look at the wine menu and order out drinks. Our mains arrived in instalments. First we got our meat on a plate. A little while later the side dishes, all of which were cold, were delivered, and finally after asking 3 waiters our baked potatoes arrived. It was a disappointing night all round.
Other minor issues that were examples of systemic issues with the cruise were as follows:
• Details on the printed patter were sometimes different to what was on the electronic patter, eg starting times for events.
• We were told in one bar that the ship had run out of certain wines only to find out that the wines were readily available in other bars.
• The ship ‘ran out’ of certain beverages within 2 days of the start of the cruise.
• No one appeared to be monitoring the Gym to ensure that antiseptic wipes were available for the wipe down of equipment before and after usage.
• Room service was often late and one time was not delivered at all.
• Our table waiter gave the impression that he did not want to be there
• Our accommodation steward did the minimum amount required.
Ok but not very clean after recent refit, especially the balcony area, which had rust flakes and paint chips on it