We just returned from sailing on the Golden to Hawaii 1 week ago 2/14/10. It was our 20th wedding anniversary valentine's cruise. It was my third cruise but first time on Princess and my husband's first cruise. I must say we had our doubts going in about this line due to the horrible customer service we received from the customer service dept. the 8 months prior to sailing. We were continually speaking to staff at the 1-800 princess number who knew very little and continually gave us inaccurate or completely wrong information. Our travel agent was horrified and had to report them to her princess contact twice. Needless to say we were apprehensive about using this line and spending the extra big bucks for a balcony cabin which we had to wait list for several months before trip because we needed a wheelchair accessible cabin. We decided to chance it anyway and go. When we arrived at the terminal in San Pedro it was a completely different story. It was like entering a parallel universe thankfully!, The terminal and ship was an airtight, organized, professional, well oiled machine starting with the porter at the curb, Wow! What a disconnect between the two entities. Embarkation was a snap after the hassle of getting thru security. This is when our trip began for us. I have never been on a trip with a more professional, courteous and genuinely polite staff. From the time we arrived to the day we returned we were treated with such respect and politeness. About the ship: We were immediately greeted with smiles and then by our room stuart (Marco), Then wecdid the life boat drill. (important when you are 5 days at sea)The ship was large and beautiful, lots to see and do. We left a half hr. late as someone was not yet on board. The Captain will wait for a short time. Get the 800# you are suppose to call from Princess prior to boarding if you are going to be late. The food was good but could have been better but it wasn't bad. We chose anytime dining a first for me, I would suggest it. We ate at the buffet most days, good variety. Most of the shows were very good. And "movies under the stars" was fantastic sound and picture quality. Our wheelchair cabin and bathroom were huge and ample storage. The balcony was a bit small and covered but nice to have. The ship hit a storm in the Pacific going out and the sea was very rough. The ship was rocking and many were sick, including me. The Captain was an emphatic safety guy and was good about updating us and trying to avoid storms and danger. The ship as very tight security which is good and also a big push for cleanliness of both ship and passengers so as not to spread sickness or disease which everyone appreciated. I never felt unsafe. We sailed during the 2 earthquakes (Chile and Japan) which affected the weather, sea and ports. There were two tsunami warnings, 1 in Mexico and the other for Hawaii (which we just missed) The Captain purposely waited an extra hour before docking in Ensenada to miss the swell although it turned out not to be necessary but he had our backs as usual. The crew was in a word "superb" by far the most warm and inviting ship I have ever seen. I miss the crew (really!) We had very bad weather most of the time and the going out was hardest due to crossing against current we spent little time on deck with only a few sun days but the crew had lots for us to see and do. Coming back was smooth as we went with the current and you didn't know you were on a ship. There was always something going on. (the weather isn't their fault after all) The weather improved once we reached the islands. From here on out it was smooth and relaxing sailing until Mexico that is. The quakes hit a day or so before. I comment on the islands below. They were fantastic, each one unique and different. Here are some helpful hints wish I would have known about: 1)If you get sea sick try eating green apple or wearing the wrist bands, they work but are expensive on board $9 so buy before. Get as flat as you can, it helps. Try to book your cabin mid ship and not too high (avoid top sway) not above deck 10. We were on the Aloha deck 12 port side and our balconies were covered but the most private. This would have bothered me more if the weather was better. The decks 11 and lower are uncovered and I think Caribe has the largest decks. It was nice to have when entering ports. Avoid the very rear of ship (Aft) and the very forward or top decks for entertainment until you get your sea legs. Avoid alcohol, too much food and know where the bathrooms are. A good place to rest is in the conservatory loungers I found.
2)You will be told in Hawaii that you may bring lei's back into the states, which is true if you went straight home. Since you will be going thru Mex. They will not allow it. So, unless you just want to wear them on ship I wouldn't bother, Most lei's only last 3 days. Food must be sealed and in it's original pkg. 3)Princess offers fresh lemonade upon request. They really don't advertise it much but just ask, it's complimentary and good. 4)The Aft (very rear of ship under night club) Jacuzzi's are rarely used in the late evening. I went around 11:30pm and felt I was the only person on board. I think they close at 1am. 5)You will be automatically obligated to pay tips at end of trip unless you opt out at the pursers desk. Not that they don't deserve a big tip, they do but they will delegate where your money goes unless you direct it. You are allowed to cash tip in person which is what we did. 6)Be sure to have your ship card, photo ID and your passport (or photo copy of passport)when you go ashore especially in Mexico. You will not be able to reboard without them. The pursers desk can make you a copy of your passport when you embark. 7)If you book anything prior to sailing like rental cars, non ship tours etc remember to allow time. The Hawaiians don't do anything quickly and think we are always rushing. It takes time to get thru security and on and off ship. So HANG LOOSE! It will save you some stress. 8) Try to plan as much as you can prior to trip. You have such a limited time on islands and you won't want to waste it. Rental car vans will pick you up right at terminal and take you to their office. 9)We suggest not taking the ship tours unless you worry about getting back on time, they are overpriced. We rented convertibles and drove ourselves which is easy on islands but make sure you know your distances, the two way roads and towns get crowded. Listen to your cruise director on the princess TV station in your cabin, He is fantastic and has tons of good information. Other people negotiated a price with van drivers just outside the terminals. For 35$-40$ each they saw much of the islands and had a good time. 10)The very aft and forward sun decks are usually the least crowded for sunbathing and the most pleasant. Also a note: people say the beds are hard. I have a bad back and neck and I did fine. I did ask Marco to bring me a pad to cover the mattress and he did so happily and immediately. 11)Be sure if you have your portraits taken that you gather them and choose before the last day because they will not reprint the size for you or accept credit cards the final day, cash only. Big mistake on our part. 12)The ship is all wheelchair accessible but challenging in parts. Especially getting thru doors during high winds. The Princess theater fills up quickly and w/c seats way in the back are limited. The early shows fill up faster than the late. The Vista lounge is more difficult to find seats especially for w/c users. Don't worry, the crew will try to accommodate you. They will even carry your plate at the buffet. On a scale of 1-10 I would rate this trip an 8. If the weather had been better it would have been a 9. I can't say enough good things about this ship or the people both crew and passengers. I am trying to realistically think of the negatives. The food could have been better I would rate it a 7 and the casino was a bit smokey except two first formal nights. They could use a few more convenient bathroom locations and the spa is a little pricey but that is normal on a resort vacation. A lot of people from the UK sail this line which made the trip extra special. The English don't tip very well so it's up to we Americans to do it. The crew really deserves it. Enjoy your trip and contact us if you have any specific questions at email@example.com.
Our cabin was wheelchair accessible and very large. We were told that it had the pull down rods in the closets prior to sailing but that was not the case. Still there was ample storage and the bathroom was large but a small bench is difficult for a person in a w/c to use. Would have preferred a tub option (much safer) The drawers were always loose and falling out but I worked around them.I was disappointed that the balcony was small and covered. This would have bothered us more had the weather been better.Room convenient to elevators.
Hilo was cool and partly rainy. Not much to do except the volcanic national park. My husband took a helicopter tour over this island and loved it.I would have chosen a more lush island to fly over but he wanted to see the steam activity. The market place downtown was cute and reasonable and the people were very friendly. I didn't mind a slow day as I was still looking for my stomach from the rough crossing.Glad this island was first.
Kauai was fantastic. The wettest spot on earth with a lush rain forest.Most of the island is accessible by car so a helicopter ride would be a great choice here and airport is close by as in Hilo. We rented a convertible and took off to the Waimea canyon. Very pretty but a little far away and cool up there. Nice but once you have seen the grand canyon it pales.If you go by car, go early as the towns pack out by 2pm and you will be stuck. Wish I would not have spend those 2 precious hours going, should have gone to the north shore instead. We drove a loop afterwards and stopped in the little towns along the way.We opted to go off the highway to see the the Iao State park on a whim and boy we're we glad we did, Enchanting!It is only 3 miles off the hwy and the most beautiful 3 mile canyon. At the end is the stunning State park complete with a valley creek and incredible soaring heights of the eye of the needle mountain.They have passenger bridges and view points.What a treasure to stumble upon. We then went to a local waterfall (can't remember the name but it is the closest one to nawiliwili. just ask a local. The waterfall was nice but across the street was a lookout point into a valley. We drove down to see this charming village and private lagoon it was a highlight for us.If we were on a tour we wouldn't have seen it as no buses could get down there.Another perk of driving yourself. You will find all of the islands easy to navigate as there are not many roads and there are free maps at any tourist or visitor ctr. just ask.Wanted to see Kona but too far away to get back on time.
Maui was our favorite next to Kauai. We again rented a convertible and took off from Lahaina to do the west loop of the island. We were surrounded by humpback whales. The loop circled us around the island in about 2-3 hours. We watched mammoth whales jump from the water and crash on their side causing a huge splash. We went from the coastal route and climbed so high above everything on a narrow one lane road carved in the side of the mountain. The beach became smaller and smaller and we felt we were on top of the world (literally) The terrain went from beach,to tropical rain forrest.to cowboy country to red rocked dry landscape. What diversity. Had shaved Ice, a must! and the best homemade banana bread, another must!.The views were breathtaking as well as the diversity of the fauna and flora. People are relaxed and kind. Ended up back in Lahaina, Charming town and lots of shopping and food options.This port must tender you in from the ship so keep that in consideration if you drive. This port is also very far (about 45mins) from the airport so a helicopter ride will need to be planned. Would like to have seen Hana but again too far and curvy. Our choice was better I think.
Ensenada was a waste of time. It was rainy and cold and hard to get around. The vendors were higher than Hawaii for the most part.Some people took tours but said they didn't enjoy it. We would have been better off staying on the ship packing and settling our photos with the on-board studio, that way we could enjoy our last night on board. Instead we missed dinner and the final show. Our mistake but I learned.