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297 Princess Fitness Cruise Reviews

Our arrival into Rome was flawless and our B&B had arranged transportation from the airport. As we exited the baggage area the driver was there waiting and our trip was uneventful except for the Rome traffic. The B&B we chose was ... Read More
Our arrival into Rome was flawless and our B&B had arranged transportation from the airport. As we exited the baggage area the driver was there waiting and our trip was uneventful except for the Rome traffic. The B&B we chose was located close to the Vatican and our hostess met us at the door and helped us get settled. Our accommodations were excellent but small. Breakfast was served daily in our room and consisted of sweet rolls and yogurt. There was free Wi-Fi which was a terrific bonus in staying in touch with those back home. Our travel agent did a great job with all the arrangements. Embarkation was flawless, we arrived at the ship around 2pm and were in our cabin 45 minutes later. The cabin was clean and our luggage arrived within an hour. No complaints at this point! The lifeboat drill was the easiest I have ever experienced so no complaints here. The Grand Princess is old and is showing her age in lots of ways. The venues for entertainment were dated and the public areas were small. I understand what happens with age though so I am willing to be a little forgiving in this area. Crew. This was the first ship I've ever been on where the crew went through the buffet line with the passengers and sat in the passenger areas to eat. There were several times I saw crew members sitting in a bar, smoking a cigarette and drinking a drink. I knew they were crew members because they were wearing uniforms and or name tags. There was no professionalism! We were in one of the theaters waiting for a show to begin and a waiter approached the passengers in front of us. He was wearing jeans, a casual shirt and a name tag. I would have been a little hesitant to give him my cruise card to order a drink. The cruise director and staff were less than friendly and it seemed that anytime you were participating in an activity you were imposing on them. They were also quite sarcastic and offensive at times. The staff in the Horizon Court were acceptable but there were many times that you couldn't get anyone to stop and help you. They would walk by with eyes downcast to avoid making eye contact. Our waiter and his assistant in the dining room were acceptable but didn't make you feel special as I am used to. Food. The food choices at Horizon court never did improve. I can't really complain about the quality here, but I will say it was nothing special. The choices for free drinks were tea, coffee and water. We did ask about lemonade after the second day and found out that they have it but you have to find a server in the dining area to go get it for you. I asked once and watched the server go pour a glass of water and squeeze lemon slices into it. Needless to say this wasn't lemonade and I could have done this myself. The food in the dining room was just OK, nothing remarkable. I will recommend the pub lunch in The Painted Desert, one of the specialty restaurants. The lunch doesn't require a cover fee and the food was consistently good. The service here was the best we had experienced the entire cruise. Entertainment. The guest entertainers were good and the ships entertainers were also very good. The production shows were flawless but the venues need updating. No complaints here. Ports. We chose this cruise based on itinerary and we had no complaints here at all. I wish we had more time in each port but then we wouldn't have been able to visit as many great places. Tours/excursions. Because these ports were all unfamiliar we decided to book excursion through Princess. As always they were quite expensive but we were assured we would make it back to the ship in time for departure. The day we visited Istanbul the Eurasian marathon was being held and streets were closed to traffic. This resulted in much more walking than originally anticipated but we were notified ahead of time and the day was still great. We had wonderful guides on all of our excursions as well. Disembarkation. No problems and baggage was just where it was supposed to be. I wish I had more good things to say but overall I was disappointed. Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
My wife and I cruised French Polynesia (aka Tahiti) on the Pacific Princess from 9 to 19 October 2009 for our 30th Anniversary. We loved Tahiti but did not enjoy the ship as much as other ships we'd been on (9 total cruises). But ... Read More
My wife and I cruised French Polynesia (aka Tahiti) on the Pacific Princess from 9 to 19 October 2009 for our 30th Anniversary. We loved Tahiti but did not enjoy the ship as much as other ships we'd been on (9 total cruises). But due to shallow waters and cost of getting to Tahiti, small ships are all that cruise there. We flew Air Tahiti Nui from Los Angeles to Papeete, Tahiti, to catch the ship. The ATN counter at LAX international terminal opened 3 hours prior to the flight and everything went smoothly. Food on ATN in coach is somewhat poor, especially the dinner - breakfast was OK. I recommend you eat prior to boarding - note the restaurants at LAX international terminal are before the security lines, there is only a coffee shop once you pass thru security. We arrived in Tahiti at 4:30 AM - the bank at the airport is open 24/7, it's the best place to exchange dollars to French pacific francs. I recommend you bring enough cash for what you want to exchange - my ATM card did not work at any banks I tried in Tahiti. Also, the Pacific Princess did not have an ATM machine. Most merchants took credit cards - visa & master card - the street vendors took only cash. Some islands, like Bora Bora and Moorea, took dollars, but don't always count on it. We stayed overnight at the Intercontinental Hotel in Papeete in an overwater bungalow - very nice room worth the exorbitant cost. Going to Tahiti is expensive so you might as well enjoy it. I highly recommend planning 1-day stops in LA and Tahiti before getting on ATN and the ship. We ran into several couples on the ship that had to divert to Tokyo or Hawaii to make connections to Tahiti and either missed the ship in Papeete (so flew to Huahine to board) or did not have their luggage. We stayed overnight in LA & Papeete and had no problems. Boarding on the Pacific Princess at 11:30 AM on 9 October was fast, we never saw much of a line the first day. Passengers arrived up to 5 PM on 10 October when we sailed. Although we felt the ship was small and dated, with not too much to do, we both thought the crew were very friendly and helpful. Having cruised on the RCCL "mega ships" before, the Pacific Princess seemed tiny. It's OK for Tahiti where you have a lot of stops, but I'd think an overwater cruise would be very boring. Also the ship pitched and rolled a lot, even in gentle seas, so plan ahead if you are prone to sea sickness. We stayed in a mini-suite, the cabin was roomy. Only complaint was they "upgraded" us to a wheelchair accessible room (#8044) which had a large shower in the bathroom instead of a tub - it took up way too much space plus the water flow was poor. We tried to get back to our reserved mini-suite (#8002) but were told the ship was full and room assignments were made at Princess HQ, not by the ship. Food onboard was adequate, not that tasty, but plentiful. Dinners had gourmet titles that often tasted strange. Best meal was the lobster on the second of two formal nights. Buffet was open 24/7 so you could usually find something there, like pizza, if still hungry. Best food was the fresh pineapple but they ran out halfway thru the cruise (in Tahiti?) until near the end. Room service menu is very limited, only a few sandwiches. We did the continental breakfast on our balcony, which included some basic egg dishes, a few times to watch the ship sail into ports. We ate at Steakhouse ($15 per) and had great filet mignons, worth the cost as you can't get good beef in the main restaurant. One tip - we chose late dining at 8:15 - this was too late as dinner was slow so we didn't finish until after 10 PM. Early dining at 6:15 is better choice although you may miss some island viewing. The one pool was pitiful, barely a large tub. So we bought passes to the spa deck in front of the gym/spa. Although slightly expensive, it was worth it! Had a large jacuzzi and was limited to 16 people the entire cruise, but you have to buy the passes at spa within first day or 2. We spent most of our deck time there as it's also the best view out the front. Gym had old equipment - we were told it was due to be replaced this winter. Exercise classes were great - the instructor, Arlene, was fantastic. But limited in size so sign up the first day. My wife enjoyed some of the spa treatments as well. Shows in lounge (no theater on Pacific) were OK, singers/dancers not great, but we enjoyed the comedy acts. Not very crowded as most people tended to go to their rooms after dinner, mostly due to the tropical sun & heat of the day. IMPORTANT! Take a lot of sun tan lotion, SPF 50 or higher - we went thru 2 bottles. We saw many red bodies in the beginning as the sunshine is brutal near the equator. We had great weather which was a mixed blessing as some days we hoped there would be clouds to keep sun off. Also take bug spray if you go inland as flies and mosquitoes abound away from the shoreline. Islands were fantastic and got better at each stop. Main island, Tahiti, is very crowded so we just took a ½ day trip sightseeing. We used Carl Emery for our tour, he speaks English and is very knowledgeable about the island - check out his website. Papeete is OK to shop before ship sails but I recommend you just browse and check prices, then look for better deals during the cruise. You are back in Papeete at end of the cruise so you can always make the last purchases there. First stop, Huahine, is OK. Pretty at first, but paled in comparison to later islands. We took bus to the small town and walked to the beach. I recommend you bring your own mask & snorkel and take them with you onshore wherever you go as there are always places to swim. Sea day to sail to Rangiroa, which is on east side of Polynesia. Rangiroa has best scuba diving, also good snorkeling & glass bottom boating. We did a drift dive along a gorgeous reef, most colorful fish I've seen! Saw one gray shark and many small barracuda. Sea day to sail back to Raiatea. Raiatea was only place we docked besides Papeete, rest was tenders which were pretty efficient. We did the pearl farm/snorkel and enjoyed it, the pearl farm is interesting and you snorkel right off the overwater farm so you can see their oyster beds plus the reef. Wife bought some Tahitian dark pearls there since they are authentic although pearl prices are pretty consistent throughout Polynesia. We also hiked up the 1,000 ft hill behind the ship to get a great view of Tahaa & Bora Bora - take water if you do as it's a hot hike. Good Polynesian dance show on ship that evening and a dessert/fruit buffet. Bora Bora was fantastic. We stayed 2 days and enjoyed both. Scuba dove the first day, reef was good but not as colorful as Rangiroa, but saw several 9 ft lemon sharks and many 4-5 ft black tip sharks. They are fed by local scuba divers so are docile and looking for hand outs (but I kept my hands in). Good shopping in Bora Bora - finally found some T-shirts and other tourist junk. Tahitians don't go in for tourist junk like they do in Caribbean so you have to hunt to find what you want. Also they are very friendly and not pushy. Second day we went wave runnering (aka jet ski) thru the local tour vendors by the pier. Went totally around Bora Bora in 2 hours, saw all the fancy resorts as well as the mountain from all sides - expensive but worth it. Had lunch at Bloody Mary's restaurant about 2 miles from the pier - apparently a well-known tourist stop, especially for Americans. Last island was the best, Moorea. Very beautiful, amazing mountains, not too crowded. We did a catamaran/snorkel trip, it was OK. Heard scuba diving was good also. But best tour was the whale watching as they found a pod of whales and were allowed to snorkel with them... so take your mask & snorkel if you do it. Good shopping there also. Only 3 hours from there to Papeete, we were docked by 8 PM on 18 October. As most of us had late flights on ATN the next evening, we did not have to leave the ship until 6 PM on 19 October. You have all-day in Papeete to finish shopping and take any last excursions. Princess was very gracious to let us stay on the ship using all facilities as the new passengers were arriving. We had to leave our cabin by 8 AM but gym/spa has good changing room with lockers and showers, so we swam & sunbathed most of the day. I recommend taking Princess transfer to airport as otherwise they want you off the ship by 3:30 PM. The lines to check-in, immigration, and security for ATN were slow but we got thru in 1 hour total. They provide carts for your luggage. Once inside terminal, the waiting room is great - comfortable couches and a small restaurant. I recommend you keep 2,000 francs (about $25) for last-minute snacks & drinks there. ATN flight back was OK - poor dinner and better breakfast. Tight seating in coach. I recommend going first or business if you can afford it - we will if we do it again. Once back in LA, it was nice to hear announcements only in English as everything on ATN and ship was repeated in French, Tahitian, sometimes Spanish, and English. To summarize, Tahiti was fantastic - expensive but a once-in-a-life trip for most. Ship was not great but it was OK. Crew was great and tried hard to please, given the small older ship. I think we're spoiled by the larger RCCL ships like Voyager & Independence but their destinations are limited. Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
Thank you to all Cruise Critic members who have contributed trip reports. I found them very helpful while planning my own trips. Slight guilt has motivated me to write this report - my first - since it doesn't seem fair to keep ... Read More
Thank you to all Cruise Critic members who have contributed trip reports. I found them very helpful while planning my own trips. Slight guilt has motivated me to write this report - my first - since it doesn't seem fair to keep benefiting from all of your time/efforts without adding my own contribution to this wonderful website! Ship: Crown Princess Date: Oct. 13-23/2009 Itinerary: Canada/New England (embark - New York, debark - Quebec City) Stateroom: Inside - Riviera Deck Traveler: "40 something" professional (female), solo on this trip, fairly experienced cruiser - this was my 16th cruise (1st on Princess). Previous 15 cruises: - 14 RCL (7 Alaska, 6 Caribbean, & 1 Canada/New England) - 1 HAL (Caribbean/Panama Canal) Most of my observations/comments will be in comparison to the various RCL ships I have been on (Vision/Radiance/Voyager class only). There will be very few comparisons to HAL - my only cruise with them on Zuiderdam was not very good, about all I can say that was positive about my HAL experience was great cappuccino at dinner and a large, wonderful library - that's it. Embarkation in New York: Excellent - Princess shuttle from JFK left right on time (noon) and processing from the pier facility onto the ship was super organized and efficient - I was at the buffet within 30-40 minutes of arrival at the pier. Stateroom: Clean and well laid out - bathroom very similar to insides on RCL, really liked the "walk in" closet aspect to the Princess layout. With mirrors both at the head side of the bed and behind the desk, it seemed very open. Steward was excellent - kept the room spotless, added the top sheet under the duvet upon request (thank you to previous cruisers who recommended this - it felt more comfortable to me, as well), and he replenished the lotion/shampoo/conditioner regularly. I really liked being one deck away from the buffet - quick to run up stairs for various snacks/beverages at all times of the day. I didn't hear any noise from the pool area above, but this may be an issue on warmer weather cruises - rarely was anyone in the pool area due to the freezing temperatures for most of this cruise! Meals: Overall, I thought the food was very good, in both the buffet and dining rooms - comparable to the food on RCL which I always enjoy. (I thought the food on Zuiderdam was terrible - there was very little I liked.) A couple of slightly negative comments regarding the buffet on Crown are following: - The buffet area was VERY cramped/small for the passenger capacity of this ship. Even the smaller Vision class ships on RCL seem to have much larger buffet areas. More than a few people picking up food caused a huge logjam on the Crown - most times when I was up there it was complete gridlock! - The buffet seating area was also very cramped/small for the passenger capacity of this ship. Again, even the smaller Vision class ships on RCL seem to have more tables/seating capacity. On a warm weather cruise, I imagine the outside seating would alleviate this? - You could not pick up your own cutlery/napkin like you do on RCL. Therefore, if your hot food is not already cold by the time you wander around looking for a table, it will certainly be cold by the time staff come by to bring you your cutlery. I ended up "borrowing" a few sets during a less busy time at the buffet, kept them in my stateroom, then brought them with me for the next meal. Breakfast/Lunch - mostly ran up to the buffet, also went to the dining room a few times. The advantage of going to the dining room is that you have at least a chance of having your warm food eaten warm - due to buffet issues noted above, any bacon, pancakes, oatmeal, soup, etc. I got from the buffet were cold by the time I found a table and/or cutlery (until I borrowed the extra cutlery to bring myself). Afternoon Tea - attended 3-4 times and always asked for a table for 2 by myself so I could read. Twice they ended up seating another solo lady with me, which ended up being quite nice as I met two wonderful people that I really enjoyed talking to. Dinner - only went to the buffet the first night (included shrimp/crab) - other nights went to the dining room (Anytime Dining) at 5:30PM - if you get there about 5:25, you are seated right at 5:30 - after that, there seemed to be lines/waiting involved. I went with a "shared table" and met some wonderful people - often eating with the same people a number of evenings, especially since many of us were creatures of habit and went around the same time. I liked both Anytime Dining rooms (Da Vinci & Michelangelo) - didn't notice any difference in service/speed/etc - both excellent. For dessert, I must say the ice cream and sorbet was incredible - the best I have had anywhere! Crew: Excellent - all contacts friendly and professional. I had some initial concerns since I was used to RCL's system of "tip envelopes" instead of an automatic service charge - if they get the tips automatically, would the service suffer as a result? No issues at all! The CD (Ron Goodman) and his staff were very good - I didn't have a discussion with any of them personally, but they ran the various events well and were friendly/energetic without being cheesy. (Zuiderdam last December had a terrible CD, and my most recent July cruise on Serenade had a fantastic CD, so I was curious about the quality of the CD staff on Princess.) Ship DEcor/Services: Beautiful ship - thought it was very similar to RCL. Although I prefer the larger/higher atrium/centrum in RCL ships, overall the dEcor and availability of services were very comparable. Nice artwork, open staircase and elevator areas, and very clean in the public areas (including the washrooms). Service offering similar to RCL, with coffee shop, pastry area, multiple gift shops, etc. (To compare to HAL, I thought Zuiderdam was hideous - of course, this is a very subjective topic! Z'dam dEcor appeared to be designed by a drunk, color-blind, drag queen? Also, Z'dam had extremely cramped hallways, no atrium to speak of, tight/steep stairwells, and ugly artwork - including many black/white photos of old ships that are not very attractive. Felt claustrophobic on her the entire trip!) The only negative comment regarding the Crown Princess in general is that the common areas do not seem to suit a cold weather itinerary - it was way too crowded for the # of passengers. For cold weather cruises where everyone stays inside, you were basically in huge lines for EVERYTHING and forget about getting a seat in public areas. (I'm not sure why this was less of an issue on my Alaskan cruises with RCL - similar cold weather was experienced, yet the RCL designs in both Vision and Radiance class seemed to handle the "everyone inside" situation better? Maybe it is something as simple as higher ratio of passengers on Crown Princess per "square foot" of available inside common area?) I'm glad I didn't pay extra for the coffee card, because even though both the dining room and buffet coffee were terrible, the lines/crowds at the specialty coffee shop were typically so bad it would not have been worth my time to wait? I only found a short line at the International Cafe once - tried a few things and everything was good - but again the lines scared me off - just crazy most of the time, even during port days when you think it should be less busy. If you go on this ship anywhere cold, expect gridlock everywhere but your stateroom. For a warm weather cruise, I imagine the ship size is just wonderful - people distributed outside around the pool or deck areas, and the outside food venues, would take the load off the inside venues. Entertainment: Very good overall - similar to RCL. I especially enjoyed the production shows and the guest entertainers, plus the game shows by cruise staff were also a lot of fun. In particular, Duncan Tuck was fantastic, plus the female lead singer (Angela?) in the band Indigo was a pleasure to listen to. A couple of slightly negative comments related to the Princess Theatre - very small for the passenger capacity! The theatre is much larger on RCL ships, even on Vision class which has way fewer passengers than Crown Princess, plus RCL has more room between rows of seats (and there was no way the bartenders circulating around could get to anyone besides those near the edges). Passengers: I'd say about 60-80% seniors? I enjoyed everyone I talked to - what a wonderful group of people. Since I was on my own, I talked to people everywhere - shows, excursions, dinner, etc. Everyone I met (except one* - see below) was friendly and a pleasure to meet! *Considering I probably talked to over a hundred people in the 10 days, I kind of chuckled when I ran into the "one rude person" that you will find everywhere ..... since the theatre was so crowded all of the time, it wasn't unusual for people to be standing at the back to watch. During one show, I was at the back standing behind a group of "petite" seniors, as I could see over their heads. They were standing a bit back of the walkway, so the bartenders and others could walk through as necessary. One lady (with ample proportions) decided to stand in front of these other ladies, basically blocking both the view of those behind her, plus blocking the walkway itself. The ladies she blocked didn't say anything, so I tapped her on the shoulder and asked politely if she could please move a bit so the people watching behind her could see - she angrily said they should move instead! I shut up, not wanting to cause a commotion and get in an argument, but it was too bad those who had come in before her now had to look through/around her or juggle around in a rather packed area to find another vantage point. Ports/Excursions: Newport - just walked around within a few blocks of the tender dock, looked very nice and I would like to return for a longer visit in the future. Beautiful buildings and friendly people. Since I wasn't on a tour and didn't need to hurry, I waited for the tender rush to be over prior to heading out - had a very short wait as a result. Weather was good - probably a bit chilly for those from warmer climates, but very nice for us "canucks". Boston - didn't get off the ship. This was such a port-intensive cruise, and I had been on 2 tours in Boston about a year ago, so I decided to treat this like a "sea day" and just snoop around the ship, take pictures, read, and relax. Bar Harbor - nice scenery and cute buildings. Weather was super windy and chilly - I was dressed for it (and I'm used to it) but it did make touring a bit miserable. I took a tour called "Cranberry Islands and Cadillac Mountain" - not recommended at this time of year, as pretty well everything like washrooms and food places were closed everywhere we went. The small (40-50' long?) boat that we took to the islands had waves and wind blowing in - for those in the open area at the back, torture!!! Looking out into the waves, they were higher than my head, so very scary and not good for anyone prone to seasickness. The bus tour up Cadillac Mountain was nice - got some great photos - but with the cold wind howling up there, you needed to dress for it. I would say I was dressed for a -30C day at home, and the wind still cut through and chilled me to the bone. Another warning about this tour is that in the approximately 5 ½ hours we were on the tour, there was no chance to buy anything to drink or eat, so if you didn't bring a snack/water with you, you were out of luck. One man really needed a drink of water on the boat and the tour guide let him use her own personal water bottle - very nice of her but sad there were no other options for him. Saint John - weather was good - once again, probably a bit chilly for those from warmer climates. I took the tour to St. Martens/Bay of Fundy - enjoyed it a lot - nice scenery and very good tour guide. I particularly enjoyed talking to the ladies who staffed the restaurant where we stopped for lunch at St. Martens - once they knew I was also from Canada, but from the Western Prairies where they knew the weather was just terrible that week, they were joking around with me, and I really felt "at home" and welcome. Halifax - one of my favorite cities to visit and really enjoyed it once again. Weather was windy but good overall - I did not take a tour, just walked/shopped around the harbor front to the ferry dock (was very glad to be able to grab my favorite coffee here - the Tim Hortons was like an "oasis" to me!), then uphill to the Citadel where I paid the $7.50 to walk around on my own (interesting but would probably not go in again). There is still so much to see in Halifax, so I will have to go back again (and again) in the future. Sydney - port cancelled by Captain Proctor, due to safety concerns about docking with high winds/wave action. I will just have to go back some day! After leaving Halifax, the weather was very stormy. The wind/waves were so strong that evening, and into the night, that the ship was really rocking. Up on deck 14, it was so noisy I could not sleep - great thundering shudders seem to move along the inside of the ship, like it was going to break apart. As an experienced cruiser, I wasn't that intimidated, but for the newbie cruisers, I'm sure they were a bit concerned? The ship was rocking so much, the floor of the gift shop (for perfume/make-up) was littered with all sorts of stuff that had fallen off the shelves. I wish I would have caught a picture of it, as I couldn't believe how much was scattered about! Saguenay - Weather was chilly but again, I just dressed for it. I took the walking tour of Saguenay National Park - loved it!!! Incredible scenery, good bus tour guide, and very good tour guide in the park. The cultural displays at the dock area were nice, and it was very touching to see so many locals gather to say good-bye to the ship when we left. Quebec City - Weather was a bit crazy - rain/sleet/snow/strong winds/chilly!!! (Everyone with umbrellas found them turning inside out.) I had booked the walking tour but after seeing the weather that morning, I was not keen on being outside that long, as I did not have my snowboots with me - only running shoes - and didn't want to walk for hours with drenched, cold feet. For the $29 tour cost, it wasn't worth it. Instead, I just walked around for about an hour on my own, taking the many staircases up to the Chateau Frontenac, plus walking around all of the older streets - loved it!!! A beautiful city - I would definitely like to return some day when the weather is better. Debarkation in Quebec City: Excellent - most people seemed to follow the instructions, to go to your meeting area at the right time. I was in the last group, since my flight wasn't until 5PM. It was very nice to relax in the dining room, with coffee/tea available, reading until my color/# was called. Once in the terminal, again the Princess staff were organized and efficient - a bit of a wait for Canada Customs but nothing major and not in Princess control. After that, pretty well got right on to the shuttle to the airport, sad to leave! Other general comments/comparisons to RCL: • Buffet was open longer hours on Princess, definitely late into evening (or maybe even 24 hours?) - I really liked that - often ran up late in the evening for a cheese plate (very good) or a cookie (OK). • Coffee "included in your fare" (I refuse to say free) is lousy on both RCL and Princess - another subjective topic, of course (however, on RCL I can add a bit of hot water and it is almost OK, whereas the Princess stuff I could only have a few sips before I gave up, even with a bit of water added). • Cold beverages "included in your fare" are better on RCL regarding variety (I missed the lemonade & fruit punch from RCL) - there was only iced tea on Princess (both cold and hot tea are very good on both RCL and Princess). • Wonderful ice cream and sorbet in the Princess main dining room - loved ALL of it (RCL's used to be good, but the last couple of cruises it seemed to go downhill). • Princess dining rooms were very nice, but I really missed the 2 or 3 level dining rooms on RCL - to me, they make meals a more grand event (again, a very subjective topic, as many people may like the cozy feeling of only one level - if you haven't noticed already in my report, I prefer more open/large spaces!). • Many of the Princess shows were repeated a 2nd night, so if you missed one due to conflicting schedules, you could often catch it the next day. • Princess ship announcements were similar in frequency to RCL, the only comment I have is the "main announcement guy" (not the Cruise Director) spoke so quickly, about important stuff like when is the ship cleared in each port, tender instructions, and which deck to exit on, etc that I could hardly understand him .... for people who have slight hearing problems or have English as a 2nd language, there is little chance they would have understood him! (If anyone from Princess reads this, please ask him to slow it down a bit!) • Library on Princess was smaller than on RCL ships, and was only open certain hours, but I did enjoy a number of books - I like a variety of fiction, including mystery, adventure, crime, and "chick lit" - their selection included fairly recent bestsellers, so I was happy. • Daily planners very similar, though the Princess Patter did not have the hours for the various food/beverage locations like the RCL Compass - I really missed that feature. Summary: Although RCL is still my favorite, I would definitely cruise on Princess again if the price, timing, and/or itinerary were better with them for a specific cruise. I had a GREAT trip on Crown Princess, even with the cold weather and bumpy seas! Thanks again to all previous cruisers who have submitted trip reports on this site - hopefully this one will also help others. Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
Golden Princess Pacific Coastal 9-20-09 C753 BB Aft Balcony SUMMARY Overall, a very good cruise when combined with the follow-on HI cruise. Definitely in our top 5, if not the #4 cruise. We added this particular coastal ... Read More
Golden Princess Pacific Coastal 9-20-09 C753 BB Aft Balcony SUMMARY Overall, a very good cruise when combined with the follow-on HI cruise. Definitely in our top 5, if not the #4 cruise. We added this particular coastal cruise to the HI 14 day cruise because of the price and it was different. Different ports and a nice starter to the 14 day HI. The most recent cruise to compare to would be the Grand Caribbean Collection in April of 2009. That cruise was in our top 3 at #3. Not only that but we were able to get C753, one of our favorite aft cabins. Food - Overall: Very Good. The Crown Grill on this Golden cruise was not as good as the Grand's steakhouse (April 2009 Caribbean Cruise) or the Ultimate Balcony Dinner (UBD) we had on this cruise as well, but well worth it since both the Grand and the UBD were absolutely fantastic. (Sort of comparing a fantastic experience to a just very good experience.) Dining room food is just as good as the Grand, and because of Mario's (our Head Waiter) little tidbits here and there, even better. HC food is actually better in the morning and the luncheons than the Grand was in April. With the addition of the International Cafe and Vines, I'd have to give the Golden the edge here over the Grand in April as far as overall food. Service - Simply top notch. Again because of Jean Paul (Maitre De), Mario and Konrad (Head Waiters), I'd have to give the edge to the Golden. Not to take anything away from the Grand and Bruno (Maitre De), but the Golden was just about perfect. Cabin Steward - Dead heat for service. Both fantastic, but Inri has given us TOWEL ANIMALS, which we have named. A really nice touch and greatly appreciated, all the while he is worried about his family in the Philippines getting flooded out by a typhoon. One of the best of our cabin stewards, in 21 days, never once caught him cleaning the cabin. Entertainment/Activities - Quite frankly, a little disappointing on this cruise. Granted, it was a repo cruise and a fair judgment cannot be made until the end of the next cruise, but between the canned dance music in the Wheelhouse, and with an inadequate canned music selection, and a cruise staff that just wasn't jelling together, maybe because there is only one girl and a bunch of guys, it just doesn't hold a candle to Tim Donavan and his staff on the Grand in April. But, I'll recheck these observations next week when the real cruise starts to and from HI. (It got much better during the HI cruise the following week.) A couple of entertainment bright spots: Vian, the ballroom dance instructor, the production shows, especially Motor City, the Baby Dolls (Explorer's dance band) and Dave's (David Cole - Cruise Director) morning show. Vian especially was just not teaching ballroom, he was enthusiastic and it was contagious. The dance company on the ship just seems a bit more "mature" (read older than 21) than we're used to, and it shows in their dancing and singing. It really showed in Motor City when you are up close and personal with the dancers. The Baby Dolls, in spite of the 11 minute opening cha-chas, in which I refused to wimp out, are lots of fun. Both lead singers (Karen and Kenyata) have great range and they can play a large range of music. Dave's morning show was never recorded, which I really appreciated, short, sweet and to the point - in spite of his cruise ship joke book. TRAVEL LOG 9-19-09 We flew up the day before from Denver, Colorado, Saturday, to stay in the Hampton Inn in Richmond, BC, close to the airport. We stay at the Hampton for a couple of reasons - 1) HH Points, only 20k, 2) The Boathouse, which is walking distance down the street and; 3) STEAMERS AT THE BOATHOUSE Yes, I am a clamaholic. I've had them on the East Coast, in Florida, CA, the North Sea, but nothing beats Pacific Northwest steamed clams and mussels in a light white wine boil. The boathouse has a large bowl of steamers with the most perfect bread dipping au jus, and all the sourdough bread you want to dip. Add a couple of pints of the local ale, a great view and you have the perfect start to a vacation. 9-20-09 On Sunday we boarded the Golden for the 7 day coastal down to LA. Port stops in Nanaimo, Victoria, San Francisco, San Diego, Catalina and then San Pedro. Then we get set to be "In Transit", do the funny off and on shuffle in the San Pedro terminal, and then back to the buffet for a 14 day cruise to Hawaii (Hawaii, Oahu, Maui and Kuai'i...with a stop in Ensenada) and back. 21 glorious days including 9, count them, 9 days at sea. (We like sea days...) Yes, I also suffer from OCPD (Obsessive Cruise Planning Disorder). An affliction which causes those of us sufferers to scour cruise message boards for two year old menus and Patters so that we may plan to the last minute the shows we will see, the food we will eat and the schedules we will keep. We worry, up until the time we actually arrive on the ship, that we've booked the right flight, know how to fill out each form, cringe over the thought of forgetting one item, constantly checking to make sure the passport is in the pocket - and then having that little moment of panic when it's not, ITS IN YOUR RIGHT HAND. The good news is that OCPD lessens a bit with experience, age and senior moments - or at least it has with me. Yes, last night was the dream that we missed the ship and this morning's bridge cam showing the Golden still at sea was a bit of start - until I found the Canada Place webcam and breathed a sigh of relief. Get the picture? Almost time to catch the cab. And another moment of panic...The Canada Place headline this morning was to the effect that 4 cruise ships in port will impact traffic and loading times and OMG here I go OCPD again...(slap)...(slap)...better now...with a Starbucks across the street and unlimited coffee in the Hampton, caffeine overload is rapidly approaching. The cab ride was actually pretty interesting. We had to fit 2 suitcases and 3 carry-ons in a little Prius cab. A tight fit. The port was very crowded and they were only allowing traffic in from one direction, but the cabbie did an illegal U-turn, cut in front of the line and zoomed in to the offload. (We tipped him well...) The lines were pretty long with 3 ships in Canada place, but they weren't boarding yet. So we went through the line, waited about 10 minutes in the elite holding pen and then bolted for the cabin. All in all, about 45 minutes from stepping out of the cab to the cabin. We are in C753. Yes that BB cabin on the aft starboard corner with the big balcony. Our favorite BB cabin. Plenty of room, covered balcony, aft wake view, it does not get any better. (They could have put more furniture here. Only two chairs and a little coffee table, but what the heck.) First business of the day, LUNCH, pizza, burger, washed down with a nice cool refreshing Long Island Iced Tea. Well lubricated, fed and relaxed, we toured the new amenities on the Golden. The Piazza, Vines, Cafe and Crown Grill makeover are absolutely incredible. They did a great, great job! From the tile, marble and wood floors to the dark rich wood trim, the Crown Grill is a sight to see. Far, far better than the old Sterling Steakhouse. We can't wait to try the Crown Grill for my Birthday. We did not like the casino on Deck 7. You basically had to walk through holding your breath or go outside on the deck and bypass the smoke. But if it increases revenues and holds down cruise prices, I can hold my breath for a couple of minutes! We did the Sail-Away party and I noticed three changes right away. No live band. (Might be because this is a once only itinerary.) The cruise staff was hawking lanyards. Never saw that before. And the giveaways were to a raffle in which you had to visit 10 kiosks around the ship, get your $1000 card stamped at each one, then deposit it in the drum for drawing. ($500 of the giveaway was a credit on art work.) It was pretty popular, so must have been a good idea from someone. New line dance called the cha cha slide. A rather subdued sailaway, but then all of the ones from Vancouver have been subdued compared to Caribbean and Mex Riviera sailaways. I bet the one for HI will be pretty wild. Hit the Wheelhouse at 530 for dancing. NO SMOKING IN THE WHEELHOUSE! They have eliminated the smoking section next to the dance floor - someone has been reading our gripes over the years! We can now breathe and dance at the same time. Unfortunately, the band was so-so. One cha-cha later, the band took a 2 hour break and we headed for the new Elite Lounge in Skywalker's. (Yes, they card you at the door.) Gorgeous view. We must have missed the advertised sushi and had cheese/crackers with olives instead. Mingled with a few other couples then went in search of more dance venues. Believe it or not, this would be the only time we make it up to the elite lounge for the next 21 days! Ended up at Explorers for the Baby Dolls. OH BOY! Latin, salsa, rock and roll, jazz, swing, you name it, they do it and they do it well. We're gonna have fun with this band. Well, let's get it out front now. Our newfound hobby during cruises is dancing. Latin, ballroom, freestyle and line. They play it, we dance it. We are self taught with a pile of DVDs, but we take all the day time cruise classes we can get. This cruise we're trying out something new. Dance sneakers - Sansha. Like a running shoe, but with a dance sole. Not leather, but a special neoprene that isn't too slick or too sticky. Judy has a pair and I have a pair, plus we both have our regular dance shoes. The Dance sneakers ended up working great. Made a quick side trip to the Intro Show. Place was packed 15 minutes prior to the early show, but we got two seats up front. We did recognize a few of the singers from previous cruises. Dan Bennet, juggler, comedian did a nice show, he's one of our favorites on Princess. We'll have to make time for this full show. Never did make it to the dining room for dinner. Lunch and cheese snacks in the elite lounge were enough for me. Judy ran up to the buffet and had beef, gravy, mashed potatoes and veggies, which she pronounced very good and tasty. At 1000 we called it quits. Long 3 weeks leading up to this cruise. Time to catch up on some sleep. Service has been very good from the get go. Minimal hawking, minimal pushiness, good service. Water and free cokes delivered with a smile and quickly. Lots of servers around. Speaks very well of the maitre de, JP, whom we will talk much about later. 9-21-09 Nanaimo (Tender Port) Breakfast this morning in the HC was actually quite good. The French toast was actually good - French Toast is my benchmark for breakfast - the scrambled eggs (my other benchmark) not overcooked, the omelets nicely done, bacon crispy and even the dreaded syrup coffee not too bad either, although Judy still sticks with her tea bag Folgers. So now, she's making reservations for tonight at the Crown Grill at 6pm. It's a formal night and we're going to skip the dining room and celebrate my birthday tonight with a nice quiet romantic meal. Back to the cabin, get all the shore excursion stuff and head to Nanaimo on the tenders for a couple hours of exploring. Nanaimo is a really great port. Everyone was so friendly, the weather was gorgeous, the RCMP was there in all their dress uniform glory - there's just something about that bright red uniform and the Smokey the bear hat. I like ports where ships only come once in a while. Astoria, Oregon is like that. Everyone really appreciates you stopping by and the site of the Golden in the harbor surrounded by just drop dead gorgeous scenery was worth the price of admission alone! People who live in this town are very, very lucky. It's just simply gorgeous; the water front, the trees, the mountains in the background. Phenomenal. We hit the local drug store to pick up one of our forgotten items - foaming hand soap for the bathroom. Much easier to use than the bars of soap and rinses better. We walked up down and through Nanaimo, snapping pictures as we went, checking out the local crafts, shops and entertainment. Came back to the ship for a swim and a hot tubbing. The main pool was still drained and the front pool was way too cold, so we just soaked in the hot tub for a while. On the tender back from Nanaimo, we got a good look at the balconies on the new deck 15 suites. My next goal in life: 30days across the pacific in one of those. The bad news, the smaller ones are PH class suites. Very pricey. We did get to go into them on turnaround day. Very, very nice layout. I WANT ONE! Lunch on board was drink, pizza and burgers. The pizza is thin crust and very, very tasty. The burgers fresh and done to order. (The chicken breast, as I would find out later, was also very tasty.) Then it was power nap time. Since it was formal night we ordered our canapEs, love those black cards, got dressed and hit the Crown Grill for dinner. (There really was no pre-dinner dancing available. A solo guitarist in the Wheelhouse was just not dance material.) Now, about the Crown Grill. The menu is extensive with more seafood and a larger selection of meats and appetizers than the older Sterling Steakhouse or Desert Rose. The new decor installed during the Golden dry dock in May 2009 is absolutely stunning. You have to see it and touch it to appreciate the design and execution of that space. Just phenomenal. I ordered the scallops and goose liver (faus gras?), onion soup with blue cheese and lamb chops. Judy ordered the grilled salad and the Brazilian Lobster tail (additional $9 charge). The ambience was so much better than the old steakhouse, BUT, the service and the food just didn't hold up to the Grand's Desert Rose steakhouse in April of 2009. It wasn't bad, it just wasn't as good. There was nothing specific to fault. For example, service was not as good, but that was probably because the Crown Grill was packed, whereas on the Grand, there were only 3 other couples in the Desert Rose with us. The lamb was not as good as the Grand, or as I would find out later, as good as in the dining room, but Judy's lobster was grilled perfectly and worth every extra penny. Recommended? Absolutely, but it did suffer in comparison to our experience on the Grand, which was near perfection. (You can read my review of the Grand in the Member's Section.) After dinner we hung around the Piazza to see the champagne waterfall. Another example of a simple change that really works. Rather than staying up until midnight, everyone gets to experience the waterfall during a decent hour. I'll bet there were even 2x or 3x as many waterfall pictures taken and will be purchased because it wasn't done at midnight. A lot more people were able to participate. A great idea where everyone wins! After the champagne waterfall we changed clothes to start a night of serious dancing. With over 20 days of rich food remaining, we have to work some of this off! We started in the Wheelhouse with Equinox. Better than the night before. The place packed up quickly and the dance floor got very crowded - thank goodness for the new smoking rules. From there we wandered over to Explorer's lounge to dance to the Baby Dolls for 30 minutes and hot footed it back to the Wheelhouse when Princess Pop Star started. We are not Pop Star or Karaoke fans. After that it was back to the Explorer's for the 70's party and about 45 minutes of non-stop disco, including the hustle line dance. The Baby Dolls took a break, came back and Judy and I finished the night with a few more dances and then off to bed well after midnight for some sleep. This is the way we like to cruise. Earn that good nights sleep. 9-22-09 Victoria This is a great port for just getting out on your own and walking. We'd been here once before and did the "Walk on the Wild Side", which we really enjoyed, but this was a low cost cruise so we were going to do everything on our own until the HI cruise excursions. We left the docks in Victoria and walked around the southern water's edge through the parks. Blue sky, clear water, absolutely beautiful. The parks and walking paths are just great for walking and picture taking along the seashore. We then cut across to the inner harbor via the Beacon Hill park and gardens. Really, really nice. Lots of picture taking, flowers, trees, gardens, peacocks, totem poles. Just a great morning jaunt. Went by the Museum, the parliament building, all the other totem poles, statues, harbor front and the cute little houses on the docks near the fishing marina. I seem to remember a "This Old House" episode with similar houses, or maybe they have the same thing back on the East Coast. Really cute little studio type apartment sized "houses" on the docks. Note about Travel Insurance. You never know when you will need it. A lady slipped and fell on the curb and hurt her ankle. I'm sure they would recommend x-rays and wrapping. The cost of which would completely exceed any travel insurance purchased - and just for a simple slip. But we made it back to the ship after 9 klicks according to Judy's pedometer. (Don't ask me why it was registering in km. Ask her!) After coming back from the walk, we hit the buffet. Lunch in the buffet was actually quite good. Here the Golden shines better than most of the other Princess ships. It's hard to make buffet food look and taste good, but they do a pretty good job and service in the seating areas is simply second to none. After the obligatory shower and relaxation nap we started with the ball room class in the afternoon. Taught by one of the ship's dancers, Vian. This is the first time we've ever been taught by one of the pro dancers. I was a bit apprehensive at first. We've had pro and amateur instructors on Princess before, and quite frankly the pros are too insistent on doing things right - in other words, their way. Not Vian. He was great. We did a swing class in the Wheelhouse, technical difficulties in the Vista, and tomorrow, hopefully we will do the foxtrot. (It turns out, Vian and his partner Jane would be one of the highlights of our 21 day cruise.) Dinner was actually in the dining room tonight. It was the Alaskan menu. Very good. I had the cheese plate for an appetizer, I love cheese, learned that trick from Cruise Critic and I love cheese. Judy had the Fettuccine Alfredo. She is my pasta holic, and she pronounced it MMMMMMMMM - impolite to talk with your mouth stuffed full of pasta. At least she didn't lick the bowl clean - we were in public after all. I had the seafood soup which was a clear consume with pieces of fish, shellfish and veggies. Pretty good. Judy had the corn chowder. It was better. Thick, rich and creamy. Our main course was the surf and turf. Filet cooked perfectly, three grilled shrimp, grilled asparagus, carrots and potatoes. Wonderful, great, tasty, MMMMMMMMM... Dessert was the Vanilla Crème Brule for Judy, cheesecake and nectarine ice cream for me. Just can't beat Princess cheesecake. Judy really liked the Crème Brule - I'm just not a fan of Brule at all - and the nectarine ice cream was light on nectarine flavor but good. So after dinner, it was time to work off some calories. Once again they had canned music in the Wheelhouse. So we waited for the Baby Dolls in Explorers and then danced for a couple of hours until time to go to MUTS at 10pm for Wolverine. The MUTS screen is brand new, has a couple of pixel flaws in it, but it is much better than the one on the Grand. But after such a packed day, we lasted about 45 minutes into the movie and crashed. Hard to watch a movie with your eyes closed. Since the captain is booking for San Fran, we had the door open last night and went to sleep with the wake noise, a slight rolling motion, completely exhausted and in each other's arms. Just can't get any better than that. 9-23-09 At Sea The one and only sea day occurred on the run to San Fran. I see the predicted California heat wave everyone on Cruise Critic is talking about has not occurred. We are currently in the marine layer with just bits of blue here and there. Cool, breezy, but no cooking, cleaning, washing or working. Can't complain. Speaking of ice cream - ITS FREE SOFT SERVE!!!!!! Scoops is no more. Now we have free soft serve, vanilla or chocolate or swirl, as many or as much as you want. Still not sure if they have the ice cream in the HC at 330. A couple of notes of interest in today's Patter. They will be serving a pub lunch in the Crown Grill. They are having a sale in one of the dining rooms, it'll be left over Alaska stuff, today as well. They do have "shows" by resident comedians and jugglers in the Piazza during the day and they have wine events in Vines. Today's is a Stammtisch with 3 wines and cheeses for $15. But we basically chilled the entire day. Turns out Judy's handy, dandy pedometer clocked us for 18 klicks on Tuesday between the Victoria walk and all the dancing during the night. I think that deserves a day off! Lots of activities on a sea day, but dinner was Italian, so I skipped lunch. For those of you who don't know, I'm also an Eggplant Parmigiana junkie. (Come to think of it, I'm probably a cruise food junkie.) We did the ballroom class with Vian, Cha-cha. We like Vian. He's a pro instructor that isn't teaching us to be pro's, just to have fun, which we appreciate. I have to say, the Vines area in the Piazza was a brilliant marketing idea by somebody. With wines becoming more and more popular, what better place to sell more wine than offer a wide selection by the glass with free tapas or sushi. From what I can tell they essentially took away from crew space, and reduced the size of the old Patisserie, to make more room for the Piazza, including the International Cafe and Vines, and the internet cafe. There's much more space in the "atrium" area now. With more seating, a more efficient layout and I just can't get over the decor, the flooring, the woodwork, the way everything goes together so well. It's a treat to the palette and the eyes at the same time. We also checked out the new machines in the gym. All are new Precors, including their new elliptical with the individual TV screen. Love that machine. I want one when my old Precor wears out. Service has remained excellent as well, the buffet food pretty good, the drinks, well, what can go wrong there, except my tastes are switching from Long Island Iced Teas to Whiskey Sours. So after the obligatory power nap, an important part of every cruise, we did the Italian Dinner - a very special benchmark for every cruise we go on. The Eggplant Parmigiana did not disappoint - I had two. A little milder and sweeter than the Grand in April, but every bit as good. I was able to resist licking the bowl clean. Judy had the seafood salad appetizer sans the mayo. It was actually very good as well. Clean, fresh, almost an Italian ceviche, but with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I had to try the red beam Fagioli soup. As usual, rich, thick and tasty. We need to talk about Mario, our head waiter, and Konrad, the head waiter that runs the dining and handles reservations. We talked to Mario to see if he knew Gino, our first ever head waiter, and Albuquerque, our favorite all time Princess head waiter. He knew Gino, but not Albuquerque. We talked about how Gino would make Pasta during the cruise and how Albuquerque would come up with these special pastas as well. During the conversation, he asked if we liked the table, which we did, so over comes Konrad and basically makes us a standing reservation at that table for us for the rest of the cruise - and the next cruise as well. I guess Mario decided he should take us up on the Princess Top Pasta Head Waiter challenge. The night before, he mentioned he would have some special pasta delivered to our table. So tonight he delivered Rigatoni, with a cherry tomato sauce that contained garlic, olive oil and jalapenos. Judy was in heaven. I was simply enjoying a fantastic tomato sauce. The cherry tomatoes were sweet, perfectly acidic with just the right amount of garlic. Could have used a bit more jalapenos, we like things a bit spicier than others, but otherwise excellent. (Who's ahead in the Princess Top Pasta Head Waiter competition? I think we need at least a couple more cruises and many more bowls of pasta to figure that out.) The main course arrived. Judy had the chicken and I had the vegetarian course of stuffed zucchini. The cheese on the chicken was a bit strong, but still pretty good. The Zucchini was really different, not "interesting", and very good. It's new on the menu and really tasty. Try it, don't let the Vegetarian scare you off. Anyway, dinner was so good, we just skipped dessert. (Don't fall out of your chair, it happens to the best of us.) Besides, I needed room for a Dirty Banana later on in the evening. We ended up in the Wheelhouse after dinner, dancing to canned music. Now this I have to whine about a little bit. 2 1/2 hours of canned dance music, but they just have 3 audio CD's which the bartender (Monica) has to rush over and change out every 30-40 minutes. I know Princess is trying to cut costs. Over the past 8 years I have seen the bands reduce in size and in fact on the Grand in April I said, you should just go to canned music instead of trying to dance to a soloist guitarist. So they went to canned music. Ok, I'll live with it. But at least leave a good selection of dance tunes, or an MP3 with a couple of hundred on it, in place. That can't be too much to ask. So after the canned music, we hopped over to the Baby Dolls. (I think Equinox thinks we don't like them, they come back and we leave.) They're just fine, but the Baby Dolls are better. So we danced with them for the rest of the night, through the 50's and 60's tribute and then off to bed. 9-24-09 San Francisco Time to do a little more hiking, less than 9 klicks I hope, and a little shopping. I want some sourdough bread. Hard to beat San Fran sourdough bread. We learned something about San Fran sourdough. Did you know its only flour, salt and water? Plus the 140+ year old mother? No oils, no seasonings, no eggs, nada. The perfect vegan food. Seems that there is a certain bacillus in the air in San Fran that makes the unique sourdough flavor. (Several other analogies and comments come to mind, but let's keep this on the up and up.) So we bought, yes, MORE FOOD. We are going to go to the movies and have sourdough instead of popcorn - nuff said?. YUM. We saw the sea lions down on the wharf. Holy smokey frijoles! Have they taken over or what? It's pretty incredible. What are they eating, besides every living thing in the bay? And loud! And smelly! Anyone who hasn't seen this has just got to go down there. Needed a new SD card for the camera. Boy did we pick the right port. On board a 2GB is $34.95. An 8GB was $49, (+ $149.65 in CA sales tax - just kidding) on shore. Yeah, I know more than Amazon, but we simply didn't have time to wait for FedEx. So we walked up and down the Embarcadero looking at all the shops. After buying the sourdough we headed back to the ship to do our workouts in an empty gym. The precors are nice. They have therapy balls, free weights, half balls, treadmills, ellipticals, and a host of targeted Precor toning machines. We went to Vian's ballroom class. Foxtrot and Rhumba. We already know the Rhumba, but have never learned the Foxtrot. Nice to start a new dance so that we don't just sit around during Sinatra. Today is my B-Day. So we planned the UBD. Now this was a real treat. Combine fantastic food, one on one service, great company, a romantic setting and you have a memory for a lifetime. Our waiter was Magdalena and her assistant waiter Alla. It was a pleasure to talk to them, interact with them, hear about their countries, how they got into cruising, contracts, Princess (don't worry it was all good), just great dinner conversation without the noises or interruptions from the dining room. So where were we, ah yes, the UBD. It was simply to cold on the balcony, so we set up inside. Yep, plenty of room for the card table in the BB cabin. We started with cocktails, moved to champagne, canapEs, a crab cake, a salad, and for the main course a lobster tail and filet with drawn butter for the tail and a wine/mushroom sauce for the filet. Dessert was a duo of chocolate mousses with a chocolate fruit cup and mixed berries. Everything was simply superb. The highlight was the lobster and filet. (Putting on my Gail Simmons hat.) The lobster was sweet, succulent and perfectly cooked, the filet a perfect medium rare, very tasty, the sauce an excellent complement, not overpowering, but tied the elements of dish together quite well. (The chef is now safe through to the next round.) If you've never done the UBD, do it. If you have, do it again. Unfortunately Magda is leaving the ship in LA, but I'm sure they will find another partner for Alla that is as fun and entertaining. And yes, I did tip the girls extra because they are room service personnel and not part of the standard tip pool. We actually did not dance that night. It was one of those nights that there was too much to do. We wanted to do it all. We failed. Star Trek and sourdough bread was calling us from MUTS, Motor City was playing and we promised Vian we would watch it, the Newlywed game was on as well, Ballroom Blitz and Kevin Jordan. Some nights you can't win for losing. It's a rough life and if it was easy, anyone could do it. Anyway, we started the UBD promptly at 6pm exactly. (These girls are precise.) And finished about 830. We went to Motor City, then to the newlywed game and then to see Kevin Jordan. Motor City was good. Two sequences are our favorites. Judy liked the black light sequence to "Superstition" and I really like "Heard it Through the Grapevine" in which all the ladies are dressed in men's zuit suit jackets and hats, no pants. What is it about a woman dressed in a man's suit jacket or long sleeved shirt? Especially a dancer with legs all the way...but I digress. The newlywed game. Now you have to hear about this. The host, the deputy cruise director Benjie (Australian), apparently had never had a gay couple in the game. It was a whole series of exchanging one foot for the other. If he was faking it, he was very good. Everyone lost track of the score, it didn't matter. For those of you familiar with the game and the questions, now put yourself into a host position asking those questions and you can see what I mean. Kevin Jordan is the comic, ex LAPD, with the flashlight. We'd forgotten his shtick but it came back quickly. Turns out the audience had the perfect setup. A brother and sister (22 and 23), no jobs, on the cruise with their parents. That, 4 ladies traveling together, 2 guys in tuxes in the balcony seats and 2 guys in very casual clothes in the front section and you have a recipe for a lot of situational and improv comedy. After the show, we crashed. Slackers! (Hey, we're on vacation!) 9-25-09 Headed To Catalina So we did our first room service breakfast on the balcony this morning. Our first ever actually. It was ok. It would have been better if the balcony furniture would have been more complete - only two chairs and a small coffee table. We should have hit Inri up for a dining level table, but never thought about it. The sun has finally come out and we are booking it to Catalina. We probably won't get off the ship. I know we can black card it to the head of the line, but why tick off a ship load of people. Catalina is a hard tender port. The entire ship is awake and everyone wants off NOW. Best to stay low, do our workouts and prep for the evening. But we missed Catalina. The sun starts shining and we hit the fog bank. I've never seen it this foggy at sea before. Could hardly see the water from our Caribe deck balcony. That's foggy. That plus a medical emergency transfer and Catalina was aborted. Tonight is Country and Western night. We just spent the last four months learning the Tush Push so we could participate in the Tush Push challenge - hey, everyone has to have a hobby! Let's just hope it's the same Tush Push! Once again we just can't do it all. We have to go to country night, but I wanted to do the movie and sourdough as well. Tonight is Ghosts of Girlfriends past. (Yeah, I know, the sacrifices I make for my wife.) She loves movies, especially MUTS. Hopefully they will replay on the next cruise, and we did buy enough sourdough. Judy's girlfriend of 50+ years will be joining us on the next cruise. We called them from San Fran to give them packing tips. If they follow them all, they should be easy to spot with the roll around dump truck carrying their luggage. But not having planned to get off, we did the workout thing, then lunch. Did I mention the grilled chicken sandwiches at the Grill? Very good, or the Pizza? Yesterday was a four cheese pizza with a blue cheese as well. WOW! Nice bite, unique flavor. So dinner last night continued the Princess Top Head Waiter competition. Mario presented a bruchetta appetizer and a pesto lasagna. (The bruchetta had a bit of Jalapeno and Cilantro in the tomatoes.) WOW, again. I think this definitely puts Mario in the lead. We've never had a pesto lasagna and tonight he promises a seafood pasta. None of this stuff is even on any of the menus. But it keeps appearing at our table. LOVE IT! The regular dinner was the Chef's Dinner. I had the goat cheese souffle. This, along with our wine and the bruschetta was a real taste treat. WOW, WOW and WOO HOO! Then we had the strawberry sorbet, this was really good as well. A fantastic palette cleanser. Judy had the seabass, which she liked, it was ok with me, I prefer a grilled fish, but the risotto underneath was quite tasty. I had the seared pork. Nothing spectacular there, but not bad either. We skipped dessert. After all the "extras" from Mario, we were stuffed. So we headed for the Wheelhouse for some canned dance music. We actually got to practice the Tango and the foxtrot basics we learned on this cruise. Vian is a great teacher. On a previous cruise, we learned the Tango, but simply didn't care for it. Vian taught it in a different way and made it much more fun. Then it was Country Night in Explorer's. So we got there early for the Baby Dolls and was treated to an 14 minute Cha-Cha. (Geez, that was painful, but we cowboyed up and danced the whole thing.) Country Night included several line dances (Acky Breaky, Electric Slide, Boot Scootin Boogie), the bang bang game, no Cotton Eyed Joe and the Tush Push challenge. We started the challenge but Baby Dolls sped it up too fast too soon to get in the groove. But we tried. We missed the movie start by about 20 minutes, so we didn't go. After 3 solid hours of dancing we just called it a night. It took about an hour to come down anyway. 9-26-09 San Diego So we docked in San Diego, next to Carnival Elation. Going to go out and look around, see the sights do some supply shopping, come back and work out. We need water, another memory card and some miscellaneous stuff. We walked downtown to the mall about 4 blocks from the ship, picked up some supplies, moseyed south through the village and back up to the ship. We've been in San Diego before, so we really didn't do anything this time. But if you go, you have to do the Midway museum or the harbor cruise or Sea World or the zoo. All of it is good. This afternoon we did the HC lunch. Excellent. From the shrimp salad, the Greek salad, through the sandwiches and desserts, it was all good, except for the fried chicken. Judy likes fried chicken, but it has to have seasoning in it. This one not so much. We had a very nice talk with the HC stewards, had our drinks (hey its 5 o'clock somewhere), relaxed and watched the world go by for a while. Sailaway from San Diego on our rear balcony was a real treat. Sunset in the west reflecting off the downtown highrises onto our wake. Wow. The Landfall dinner menu that night was pretty standard. What wasn't was the pasta Mario ordered for us. A seafood pasta (spaghetti) with shrimp, mussels, squid, clam and scallops, sautEed in olive oil and garlic. It was the best pasta of the cruise so far. I have since informed Mario that we will not be cleaning our plates and that if we do he will have to roll us off the ship. The food is so, so good. Judy had ordered the poached sea bass and I the meatloaf. Both were just so-so after that sea food pasta dish. Again, we just had to skip dessert. The sea bass was so-so, the meatloaf not recommended. Its MEATloaf. In other words, the crackers or rice fillers that my mom used to make were not in there. So it tasted funny. We went to MUTS and saw Monsters vs. Aliens. MUTS on Golden is so much better than the Grand. Not quite the setup as on the Ruby, Emerald, Crown or CB, but very nice nonetheless. We did pack everything into our suitcases, but left the clothes in the closet on the hangers. Inri said he would take care of them. 9-27-09 Turnaround I love turnaround day when you are "In Transit". You get to watch everybody else grumble off the ship while you lounge around waiting for the trip around the block. It's a blast telling everyone you're not leaving and they laugh and chuckle until they realize you're not joking. So we all meet in the Promenade Bar at 11am, go out and around, sit in the holding pen, then in through security and back to the room where everything is already there. The bad/good news? Inri, our room steward was to leave and go home after his 9 month contract. The typhoon in Manila has delayed all flights and messed up his replacement. He is staying for our trip to HI. FANTASTIC.... So now we're getting set to go to Hawaii, but then that's part of the next cruise Travelog... See ya on the flip side! Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
Golden Princess Hawaii 9-27-09 C743 BB Balcony SUMMARY This particular cruise follows on the heels of the Golden's coastal cruise the prior week. We booked them both as a B2B because of the low cost of the coastal cruise ... Read More
Golden Princess Hawaii 9-27-09 C743 BB Balcony SUMMARY This particular cruise follows on the heels of the Golden's coastal cruise the prior week. We booked them both as a B2B because of the low cost of the coastal cruise when we booked, and the neat idea of using the 7 day cruise as an intro to the Hawaiian cruise. Not only that, but coastal repo cruises stop in new ports that are rarely visited during the regular seasons. All in all, a wonderful 3 week vacation. Not perfect. As we've explained to Vian, perfection implies a lack of need to continue practicing. And we intend to practice cruising with Princess until they do get it perfect - and hoping they never do. But, the worst part of a 21 day cruise is leaving the people you have become amazingly close to in such a short time - both passengers and crew. Such a wonderful bunch of people we met on this cruise - Mario, Konrad, Maria, Inri, JP, Christianna, Vandolph, Monica, Karen, Olga, Kenyata, Karen and the boys, and most especially Vian and Jane. These kind of people make Princess the line it is and why we keep coming back - ok the free laundry helps... And a great bunch of fellow passengers. We've probably made new life long friends in Paul and Elizabeth, if they will have us. Paul has made me rethink working myself to death. Early retirement sounds pretty good to both of us right now. A lot of people have mentioned several of the cutbacks seen over the years since we started cruising with Princess. Time to mention a few additions. The Vines and International Cafe, lemonade in the HC, free soft serve, the Elite Lounge, MUTS, to mention the most obvious ones. Princess has been listening, or reading, for sure. Smoking sections that bothered us on prior cruises have been moved or eliminated. The internet cafe is pretty user friendly. The layout of the old atrium into the new Piazza is really something to see. The new suites on Deck 15 and 6 were a great idea. It was fun, relaxing and carefree with great food, entertainment and service. What more can you ask for? So Let's Cruise To Hawaii... TRAVEL LOG 9-27-09 We arrived in LA on the Golden itself, being my favorite type of passenger: "In Transit". Movement from C753 to C743, 10 whole feet, was painless, as was the trip around the San Pedro terminal as we "in-transits" were walked around to the elite waiting area. Customs didn't get the memo as we were asked questions like "where are you going now", errr...back to the ship, we're hungry (here's your sign), and grilled us on how much money we won at the casino. Yeah right! Judy's girlfriend of 50+ years and her husband were one of the first to get into incoming line at 11am - we happened to see them go by. They were on board and their luggage arrived in less than 45 minutes. I hotfooted it down to deck 5 to sit with Maitre De' Jean Paul and reserve Chef's table for the 4 of us. There already was a line 8 groups long when I got there, but no one left upset as Jean Paul must have addressed everyone's concern. Really a nice and professional Maitre De' - one of our favorites. We've moved around the corner from C753 to C743. Still that great Caribe Deck balcony, half covered. This time we have a dining height table, two recliner chairs and two normal deck chairs. Diana and Keith were able to join us and enjoy those elite bar setups. But while the ship is in motion it is windy on the side balconies. Much windier that the aft cabins, which is why we really like the aft cabins. We have the same cabin steward - Inri. He was supposed to go back to the Philippines, but with the Typhoon and the closure of most of the airports, he's staying at least one more cruise. Bad news for him, but great news for us. Sailaway was much better attended, organized and performed. Yes, Elua is on board. Elialoha and David. A very nice couple that does most of the Hawaiian cultural talks, hula lessons and specialty music. We learned the little grass shack hula, then the standard electric slide, hey baby, mambo #5, Macarena, etc. The crowd was a little bit more enthusiastic compared to the Vancouver Sailaway the week before. We did an hour of pre-recorded ballroom dancing in the Wheelhouse, then hopped over to the Baby Dolls in the Explorer's lounge, had some dinner and then went to the welcome aboard show, with Kevin Jordan. Well, let's get it out front now. Our newfound hobby during cruises is dancing. Latin, ballroom, freestyle and line. They play it, we dance it. We are self taught with a pile of DVDs, but we take all the day time classes we can get. This cruise we're trying out something new. Dance sneakers - Sansha. Like a running shoe, but with a dance sole. Not leather, but a special neoprene that isn't too slick or too sticky. Judy has a pair and I have a pair, plus we both have our regular dance shoes. The Dance sneakers ended up working great and you don't have to change shoes all the time, just wear the sneakers and you're set. Dinner in the dining room was Sailaway. Judy ordered the pan fried barramundi, I had the beef filets in peppercorn sauce. The cream of porcini mushroom soup was great, as usual. The cream vegetables soups are some of our favorites. I did have to send the first round of filets back, as Tom Colicchio would say, it was already dead, there was no need to kill it again. (Yep, we're Top Chef fanatics as well.) Judy's barramundi was good as well. The second round of filets was great. Mario (Head Waiter) has placed us in the middle of the dining room with Christianna and Vandolph. Christianna has just joined the ship from vacation and her husband is the head pastry chef. Mario informed us that he is ordering a special pasta for the 4 of us tonight. Konrad (Head Waiter at the door) has already arranged a standing reservation for this table. These people go out of their way to make sure you have a great vacation. That's why I find it hard to believe some of the horror stories that are told. We have never, in 17 cruises, run into anyone that was rude, or deliberately mean. They all go out of their way to show you the best time possible, and we really appreciate it. 9-28-09 At Sea The Patter this morning is chock full of stuff to do, AND, there's another dance band in the wheelhouse tonight - The Golden Quartet. We're planning to do the morning Foxtrot class with Vian, go the Cruise Critic M&G at Skywalkers at 11, do the history of cruise ships at 1:45, line dance at 3:30, dinner at 5:30, dancing at 7 in the wheelhouse, dancing at 8 in Explorer's, back to the wheelhouse at 9:30 (we're not Karaoke fans), back to Explorer's at 10:30 for the 70's party and then up to Skywalker's at 11:45 for Mardi Gras. Started out a bit on the rock and roll side this morning, not bad as far as open water cruising, but enough to kick start Judy's motion sickness. So now she's doped on generic Dramamine, sea bands and ginger. Breakfast this morning in the HC was actually quite good. The French toast was actually good - French Toast is my benchmark for breakfast - the scrambled eggs (my other benchmark) not overcooked, the omelets nicely done, bacon crispy and even the dreaded syrup coffee not too bad either, although Judy still sticks with her tea bag Folgers. We started the day with Vian, the Foxtrot and the Rhumba. With Diana on board, Judy's childhood friend, and her non-dancing husband, a couple of us helped Diana through both dances, which she thoroughly enjoyed. (Side note - Guys, you can buy her all the dinners and diamonds you want, but if you really want to make her smile, take her dancing.) We then moved to the Piazza for line dancing. Dave, not CD Dave, still can't get the count for the electric slide right - he leaves out the boot scuff. So half of us were stepping on the other half. And there were about 50 of us strung around the Piazza. Our CC M&G was held at Skywalkers at 11am. Good attendance. Finally met some of the one's we've been posting back and forth to over the past year or so. Nice to put faces with names. No one from the ship showed up, but we had a great time talking cruising. I think it's pretty unanimous though - the upgrades on the Golden are fantastic, well designed and well executed. Dinner was Princess Dinner 1. It doesn't say 1 on the menu, just one of 4 Princess Dinner menus, all different. But this one was pretty good. Diana and Keith joined us for dinner. For apps, I had the ceviche (very nice), then the oyster bisque (needed a bit of salt, but after that mmmm). Judy and Keith had the prickly pear cactus and pineapple in tequila - which they both enjoyed. Everyone else had a salad, but the vinaigrette was a bit flat. We had Mario's cherry tomato, basil and rigatoni pasta after that. The pasta was very good. For the main course, I had the duck, leg and thigh portions, Judy and Keith had the Turkey pot pie and Diana had the steak. The duck was good, the Turkey pot pie was, surprisingly to me, perfectly seasoned and very good. Diana said the steak was good as well. Christianna's husband is the head pastry chef so we had to try the black forest cake, black cherry ice cream and the cheesecake. Of all the meal so far, the cheesecake really caught Keith's attention. He really liked it. The Black Forest cake was very good. I like the use of whipped cream rather than heavy frosting in the layers. After dinner we danced in the wheelhouse for a while, then went to Explorer's lounge for the Baby Dolls. We danced to their first hour, and then I crashed and burned. There was no way I was going to be able to stay up. I needed Nyquil and a nice soft bed. (Yeah, I caught a little head cold.) Turns out our new bed was hard as a rock. So Inri put another eggcrate on it and its much better now. Inri is taking very good care of us. 9-29-09 At Sea The weather on deck is definitely cool and will only get cooler as the winter months approach. Yesterday it was overcast marine layer, this morning it is mostly cloudy, broken high clouds with patches of blue. My recommendation would be for the lighter weights, like hoodies and sweat pants, easy to pack and multi-purpose. As fall winds down, it will be quite chilly on the open decks. Breakfast in the HC remains pretty good. Waffles, scrambled eggs, omelets made to order. Peanut butter is available upon request. Peanut butter with syrup on the waffle. Breakfast that stays with you more than 30 minutes and hey, the syrup coffee is not too bad! Tonight is formal night and the waterfall will be up around 630 or 700. Judy wants to get some formal photos of all of us and her and Diana at the waterfall. Oh - they have a ship building contest on board. Float a 6-pack across the pool. (Dicey horse racing is back as well.) So if you are interested, you might want to pack some building supplies. Now I have a use for the duct tape! We are having a blast. We still can't seem to do it all, but it doesn't matter. The food is fantastic, the service great, the entertainment top notch, the people friendly. What more could you ask for, except maybe another 2 weeks on the ship? I am very impressed with the activity schedule for these four sea days. It is non-stop. Boat building, ducky adventures, survivor and pool games starting today, lectures, sarong tying, hula lessons, line dance, ballroom dance, bingo, lei and ukulele classes. It fills one page of the patter in much smaller type size than normal. Ballroom class came first, then a private lesson from Vian in Skywalker's on the Foxtrot. A few other couples are taking one on one lessons as well. Judy went to line dancing with Diana and a couple of other activities while I had a Nyquil nap. It was formal night, and the champagne waterfall. I think it was great that they moved it to earlier in the evening. Keith and Diana were able to get their pictures taken at the waterfall, as were Judy and Diana. Then we wandered around different photo ops for photos of the 4 of us and then some formals of Keith and Diana. This is going to be an expensive photo trip for sure. The Top Princess Head Waiter Competition continues. Our standing reservation came in VERY handy on formal night. Mario had ordered up a very simple pasta for us - spaghetti lightly sautEed in olive oil and garlic - and a bruschetta appetizer. Boy that was GREAT! So good for something so simple. It was the Captain's Welcome Dinner with the new menus. Three of us had the smoked duck breast (this is very good) and Diana had the shrimp cocktail. Judy then tried the yogurt and tamarind cold soup, while Keith and I had the cream of asparagus soup. The asparagus soup was very good, but I did not care for the yogurt and tamarind. Reminded me of cumin infused yogurt and I'm not a big fan of cumin. For the main course I had the beef filets, cooked perfectly, Judy and Diana had the Wok shrimp and Keith had the pork roast. Everything was great. All are highly recommended. For dessert, Judy and I had the cookies and cream parfait with grapefruit sorbet on the side. This was VERY good. The sorbet was unsweetened and absolutely wonderful. Diana had ice cream, chocolate, vanilla and raspberry, which are always good, but Keith really liked the cheesecake from the night before, so he had the raspberry ice cream, the cheesecake and the chocolate soufflE. All of which he absolutely loved. After dinner, listening to the Captain's speech and more photos, we went to the Princess theater to see Words and Music, and this time, at Vian's request, we sat in the first few rows up front. A much different perspective and a nice production show. We've seen it on other ships, but this one has Vian in it, so its much better - what can I say? Now for those of you who haven't read the coastal travelog, we are mid-theater people, not up front people. The difference is incredible. We will never sit in the back again. There is an interaction with the singers and dancers. Vian let us in on a secret. They can only see the first couple of rows, but they try and connect with each and every person that they can see. It brings a personal quality to the show that we've never experienced before and will never miss it again. But honestly the two lead female singers have great range and crystal voices. Very nicely done. The Baby Dolls had finished their first set and a ballroom blitz was happening in the Vista. We went to see that. I just can't dance in formal wear. (I end up drenched.) So we had a very nice talk with David Cole about Princess, the cruise, the ship and things in general. A very nice guy. Personable, energetic, and a great scheduler. One of the nice things about his show schedules is that each is on for three showing. Two one night, one the following or preceding night so that you have three chances to see each show or entertainer. 9-30-09 At Sea (Day of the Southern Pacific Tsunami) Apparently two Princess ships left HI docks prior to the Tsunami arrival, which the captain says was about 12" in HNL. When he made the announcement at about noon no one knew how bad it could be. Better safe than sorry. Too bad CNN can't give a simple straight answer - they were running around talking about 7 meter waves, come on folks, that's 20+ feet high! This morning the weather, according to David Cole, will be great from now on. Broken clouds, about 72F outside, very nice, very comfortable weather. Today we plan to do a lot more outdoor stuff, or at least watch it, to give you a flavor of what there is to do. But we have a private lesson first off this morning and then cha-cha class. We are having a blast teaching Diana in ballroom, and she's picking it up quite well. Some bad news for you later on cruisers. Had breakfast with Karen from the Baby Dolls, this morning. They are leaving with us. They were supposed to leave the end of Alaska and we thought they had a couple more months to go, but Karen says they only extended two more cruises. This might change, everything is subject to change, but hopefully the replacement band is as good. We've gotten to know them quite well and like their music. Interlude - Princess People Any of you who have read my previous reviews and "live froms.." know that we interact with the staff and the crew from day one. It's one of the most enjoyable things we do on a cruise. Tonight, for example, we had drinks with Vian and his fiance, Jane, in the wheelhouse for an hour. Paul and Elizabeth, along with Elizabeth's mother "Mom", sat and chatted about how they met, how they got into dancing, their life on a rose farm in South Africa, what they plan to do in the future, shipboard life, you name it, we talked about it. One of the most enjoyable conversations we've had in weeks. When we left Vancouver, I hunted up the Head Waiters and talked to Mario about Albuquerque on the Star. Quite frankly we wanted to know if he was on this ship. Jean Paul, the maitre de, knows Albuquerque and one of the other head waiters knows him, but not Mario. So the conversation turned to loving pasta and Albuquerque's special pasta. At which time Mario asked if we wanted some special pasta the next night and standing reservations for a particular table and it just went from there. It's hard to describe in words, but these people are professional hosts. They would not be head waiters, which takes years of apprenticeship, specialized training and a great resume, without enjoying their jobs. Just like I get satisfaction from solving an engineering or project issue, they get satisfaction from interaction with happy customers and showing off their trade. Tonight, for example, Mario ordered the seafood pasta for us, but the chef used red sauce instead of olive oil. (Judy just doesn't like sea food in red sauce, it just doesn't settle properly on her stomach.) Mario apologized up and down for the error. Diana, Keith and I enjoyed it, but Mario felt really bad about it and he promised to make up for it, which he most definitely did. He knew Keith and Diana were first time Princess cruisers and that they were essentially our guests, so he just went all out to give them the best experience they could possibly have. And we're not the only ones being treated this way. There are several different tables in the dining room that Mario is frequenting and plying with specialized treats and service. But it all starts with interactions, talking to head waiters, the maitre de, the wait staff. Does it work every time? No. We didn't get special pasta on the Grand, even though Bruno, the maitre de, would stop by and see us almost every night. Did we miss it? Sort of. Did we have a great time? Absolutely. Are we enjoying ourselves this time more? Yep. It does really depends on the head waiter and Mario is one of those special head waiters that just really goes out of his way to make give you an enjoyable experience. When we don't have a head waiter like Mario, we have fun with our table waiter and junior waiter. It's all good. Dinner was French-Mediterranean menu - yep, with frog legs and snails. Snails were as good as ever, wish my taste buds were behaving better. Duck al'orange was good as well. Already talked about the pasta mixup. Keith really likes the cheesecake, and I mean really likes the cheesecake. Afterwards we danced to Equinox in the wheelhouse, then hopped over to the Baby Dolls for one of their opening 11 minute cha-chas, then back to the wheelhouse for an hour long conversation over cocktails with Vian and Jane. That for us was the highlight of the evening. We'd seen Kevin Jordan on the last cruise so Keith and Diana headed for his show while we had drinks. Nothing else was going on until 1030, so we just turned in early. 10-1-09 It's amazing how much stuff Dave is piling into the activities list. Ballroom with Vian (Diana learned the cha-cha really fast), line dancing with Martin (the other Dave is doing something else - us line dancers are tickled with Martin), Hula classes with LeiAloha, survivor tribe selection, pool games started, no way to do it all. BTW, if you plan on using the ellipticals or treadmills, they are the Precor's with the individual TV screens. Bring a set of earphones that you are comfortable with so you can hear the sound while running. Standard mini jack that almost all MP3 players use. And tomorrow we land on the big island and do the volcano hike. My cold is getting better, able to pop my ears this morning. Judy's motion sickness is under control, although there are no waves to speak of. I just don't know how to fit this all in and still get some sleep. Yeah I know, life's tough all over. Today and tonight is going to be a lot of stuff. We can't do it all, so we'll probably split up, since Hula dancing is not my forte. I can do the Huki-Lau, but that's about it. No special pasta tonight, but the roast lamb was excellent. Even better than the lamb chops in the Crown Grill last week. We are scheduled for Chef's table on the first sea day home. They have people lined up waiting for chef's table, so get your reservations in early when you board. They are planning for 3, maybe 4 on this cruise, but because of the new 14 day menus, the chef is pretty busy. On later cruises they may have more Chef's tables. Keith continues to marvel over the cheesecake. I like watching first time Princess cruisers. He thought I was paying extra for the special treatment we've been getting, standing reservations, pasta, all the head waiters stopping by, JP stopping by. Nope, just good old Princess service. We've never been disappointed with the overall service, maybe an incident here and there, happens all the time, but never with the overall service. I recommend you do Crown Grill, Chef's Table and a UBD on this cruise. Sabatini's as well if you haven't. In priority , I would do the Chef's Table 1st, UBD 2nd, Crown Grill 3rd and Sabatini's 4th. BTW, an elite note, we've been turning in a bag of laundry every other night rather than every other morning. That ensures we get it the next night and it's much easier to put it together after dressing for dinner and before heading out the door. No missing clothes yet, nice pressing job. Very handy. Love that little black card. 10-2-09 Hilo A little rainy this morning in Hilo. Getting ready for our volcano hike. I feel like a pack mule with all the "stuff" we take. Never been to the big island before. Always wanted to. The last four days at sea have just flown by. Activities packed into every nook and cranny. Survivor games started yesterday, but Judy got too hot in the sun and developed a heat headache. Watch the sun. Just as bad as in the Caribbean, you must stay hydrated and after a couple of days in the marine layer, you might let your guard down. My hats off to Dave for managing a jam packed schedule with just a regular CD staff. The addition of Eric in LA as a senior ACD has helped, he's a blast, and the staff seems more relaxed. Us line dancers are very happy with Martin, who can count the Electric Slide and the Achy-Breaky, and teaches quite well. Trust me when I say, you will not be able to do it all and don't even try. Well the ship is now turning to dock, so we're going to head up to the decks and watch the goings on, plus pack my backpack for the excursions, water, binocs, cameras, first aid kit, rain coats, towel, sunscreen, insurance paperwork...no wonder I feel like a mule sometimes. (Note - I just got a nudge from Judy who's reviewing this for me. "HEY, I had backpack on too!". Yeah, but it was a small one.) So starts an almost perfect cruise day. Up early, great sights, heavy activity, tired, but hungry body, great food, fantastic entertainment... We've never been to Hilo before, so we were up and at em. We did the Volcano Hike in and around the Kilauea Iki Crater and Thurston Lava Tube, a Princess Excursion, which covered about 4.2 miles, walked the lava tube, along the Kilauea Iki crater lip, down into the crater, around the vents on the bottom, and up the other side. Then went over to the Volcano Observatory to see the current eruption in Halema uma u Crater in the Kilauea Caldera. Left the docks about 9, got back about 3:15. Very energetic hiking, not too bad, but a good walk. We felt sorry for the helicopter people. It drizzled the whole time, overcast, grey, but perfect hiking weather. Rained really well in Hilo as well. We carried rain gear, but didn't use it. Needed the cooling rain to cool us down while hiking. A great excursion. Now some people used local guides, not Princess, and paid much less, got just as good a tour, had lots of fun, but one couple got back at 525 for a 530 all aboard. Too close for my OCPD nerves. Independent tours are always an option and there are a lot of them right outside the warehouse doors, but just be aware of the time. The ship will not wait for you. Keith and Diana did not get back until 515 and then promptly crashed so Judy and I, hungry after our hike - we only had a little sandwich and a snack bar on the hike - and I mean really hungry, did dinner alone. It starts out really good... Another Princess menu, but that was promptly tossed aside as Mario brings Anti-pasta to the table. Think Sabatini's. Thinly cut sausage and hams, grilled zucchini, eggplant and peppers, then add the assorted cheese plate (a double), the freshly baked bread, a Long Island for me, a sour apple Martini for Judy and you have a wonderfully tasty appetizer treat. OMG this was good, and the fact that we were really hungry helped. Then it gets better... The only thing that caught my eye on the menu was Grandmother's Coq Au Vin. Chicken cooked in a heavy wine sauce. This was the single best dish on the cruise(s) so far. WOW, OMG and lick the bowl clean good. My mom's side of the family is Swiss. The Swiss, and I do at home, make a rabbit, or beef or liver stew, with red wine, to go over polenta (coarse ground cooked cornmeal). This Coq Au Vin wine sauce rivaled my Grandmother's polenta stew. I literally was scraping the bowl clean with the spoon to get the last drop. It was that good. Dessert was coffee crème brule for Judy, and the apple strudel for me, with vanilla ice cream of course. Both excellent. And better... So after dinner we run up to MUTS to see Ghosts of Girlfriends past. Yes it had rained, a lot, and yes the chairs were soaked, yes the movie started without sound AND IT DID NOT MATTER. We were having a blast. (I was translating the movie for her since I'd seen it before.) We were laughing and joking with people around us. All of us were just having fun with the no-talky picture show. Then the sound kicked in and we enjoyed the movie together - munching on sourdough from San Francisco. (Keep in mind the ship is rocking pretty well going out of Hilo.) It's a good date movie with its moments. Dave comes wandering by and we chat for a while. He's just checking on everything. After the movie we went back to the cabin and almost, I mean that close, almost crashed, but we had to go see Cinematastic. We had promised Vian So I drug my lazy rear end out of the cabin, and its a good thing I did, because It got even better... So we go down to the Princess Theatre early and have a great discussion with Bengie (Deputy CD), Martin and Alex (ACDs). For about 30 minutes we just talked about cruise critic, cruising, princess, HI, just a very nice conversation. The staff seems so much more relaxed in the past few days. I think getting off the Alaska itinerary and then getting the HI itinerary settled in has helped them get into a bit more of a groove. We talked about the HI cultural programs during the day on the ship. During the sea days, there are lei classes, Ukulele classes, cultural lectures, (heck Dave's port lectures are a lot of HI information as well), just a whole host of getting to know HI culture, language, dance and people. This is in ADDITION, to the normal sea day pool games, trivia, dance classes and other stuff. The staff was basically in awe of Dave. Apparently he set most of this up over the past couple of years and takes a great deal of pride in the "Princess Hawaii Experience". He is really in love with HI, the Islands and the spirit of aloha, and it shows in his cultural and activity programming. And then WOW... Ok folks, we've been to every Princess production on a lot of ships. BUT we've always sat about halfway up in the theatre - you know the place. It's where you can make a quick escape after the show, but not have to stand up all the time with new people coming in. You know the places... Vian recommended we sit front rows, center, and so for the past two shows we have. IT MAKES A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE. First of all, the performers can see you and they look directly at you while performing. It is a personal, direct connection, slightly uncomfortable at first (to me), but almost hypnotic. Secondly, you can see, and appreciate, the facial expressions they work so hard to project during the show. IT ENHANCES THE ENTIRE SHOW. Trust me. So I've mentioned before that this is a more "mature" cast of performers. In other words they don't all look 18, but it shows in their performance. Cinematastic includes the use of the silk ropes and the two hoops from the ceiling in a Bob Fossy'sh, a bit more risque, sequence with the men in tight white shorts and the women in white bikini "underwear". GULP, this was Coq Au Vin on the stage. Vian does the men's silk rope part, effortlessly, with incredible strength and smoothness. Two of the ladies do the hoops and a third does the women's silk rope dance?/trapeze act?/gymnastic? And from the front you can see the strength and grace as they transition through the various moves. Breathtaking. Cinematastic is a high energy trip through the dance and music of movies. Flashdance, Footloose, Ghost, The Muppet Movie, tune after tune, dance after dance, it was visual mocha, double espresso coffee. We did not dance after the show, but it still took me 30 minutes to come down afterwards. YOU CANNOT MISS THIS SHOW FROM DOWN FRONT. DO NOT MISS THIS SHOW FROM THE FRONT. Get a seat rows 2-4 down front near center. You will not regret it. An aside, after the show, Judy commented that she did want to see more of Vian during the cruise, she just wasn't sure she wanted to see that much more of him. I'm not sure I wanted her to see that much more of him either! We had a nightcap at Explorer's and then turned in. A completely satisfying day of cruising, easily the best day of the cruise. 10-3-09 Oahu So today in Oahu we are headed to Todai's in Waikiki for sushi and shopping. We've been to Oahu before. I was there just 3 weeks prior on business, and it's certainly not one of favorite places, but anyway we wanted to hike, get some miles on our dogs and I promised Judy sushi. In addition, we needed to do some shopping for our new friends on board. What else other than Chocolate macadamia nut candies? We have about 6 people on board we are going to buy some goodies for. We did our 6 miles for the day. It's a nice walk along Ala Moana blvd, then Ala Moana park and beach. I bought Judy Sushi at Todai's. Then we went to the Ala Moana shopping mall to pick up gifts - Hilo Hattie's of course. Chocolate covered Macadamia nuts for Christianna, Vandolph and Mario, chocolate macadamia kisses for Olga, Maria, Inri and Luis. Yes I gave permission for Judy to give kisses to Inri and Luis, but only if I got to give kisses to Maria and Olga. The downside was, unfortunately, the walk sealed the fate of several blisters on both of our feet, so that would limit our dancing for the next few days. Diana and Keith went to Pearl for the VIP tour and loved it. (Diana is a blue star mother - her son is currently on a second tour in Iraq with the Marines.) So I would recommend the VIP Pearl tours for Oahu, if you haven't been. They got in and out with hardly any delays. Kuai'i and Maui I would recommend independent tours or rental cars. There are many, many beaches in both places, especially Kuai'i, that are completely accessible and actually very private. Listen to the port talks that Dave gives, they will give you the tips and tricks. Dinner was the South Pacific Menu. Keith and Diana didn't make it, but Mario hit us again with fried calamari and shrimp, so we skipped the appetizers and went straight to the main course. Judy had the sea scallops and I had the roasted lamb loin. As with all the dining room lamb dishes, this was really good. I guess I'm also a lambaholic on a ship. That night in the princess theater was a cultural exchange show with kids from the local Halau Hula Olana. Very authentic, very nice. After two hard days of walking, we hit the bed and hit it hard that night. 10-4-09 Kuai'i Kuai'i, was completely different from Oahu. From the dogleg entrance to the pier with a multi-million dollar ship to the gravel roads to the limestone, yes I said limestone, formation where the cave was, it was an interesting place to visit. We got in the van to go on the cave hike and traveled to the cave site and hiked down the beach. We've been walking on lava rock for the last two days and I was totally surprised to walk on a limestone formation. That was unexpected and weird. I wish the professor were there to explain this "anomaly". It is, after some googling, called a "sea level high stand of mid to late Holocene formation of the Hanalei Coastal Plain." Now that really cleared things up... The cave was interesting, no real wow factor. It was smaller than expected but a pretty standard limestone cave carved by a waterflow. But, unfortunately, I wouldn't recommend this excursion simply because of the cost. It was a beautiful walk, a magnificent beach, interesting cave, but simply not worth the price Princess was charging. Having now been to Kuai'i, the next time we will do something a bit different. After getting back to the ship, we showered, cleaned up and hit the dinner bell after watching the maneuvering out of the harbor. Tonight Mario hit us with the anti-pasta again, but this time Diana and Keith joined us. This was the Princess dinner #4 menu with some interesting new things on the menu. Judy tried the fresh mozzarella and Tomato salad, which she liked. I just stuck with the anti-pasta. It was sooooo goooood! I didn't care too much for the chilled spicy tomato soup, but I really enjoyed the Chateaubriand. Diana had the grilled beef medallions while Keith and Judy had the Shepherd's pie off of the new Home Style Cuisine menu. I tried a bite and it was very good. The Home Style Cuisine menus have proven to be very good. Dessert for Keith was ice cream and cheesecake. We'd all had a pretty active day Tonight was the deck party, one of our favorite things to attend. But Judy's blisters were just too much - she had 5 on one foot. We hit the hay early. (I have just been informed by my editor that it was I that caved in, not her. Gee, not how I remember it.) 10-5-09 Maui Maui is a tender port at Lahaina. We did the waterfall and hike tour. For those of us with excursions, we met in the Princess Theater and waited to be called to a tender. Once ashore we met up with our guide(s), piled into vans and drove to Kahulai to pick up lunch, water shoes and drinking water. We then drove to a farm on the Hana Highway. Again, interesting but simply not worth the price Princess is charging. 1.5 hours in a van to hike 100 yards to a muddy waterfall. If they would have hiked us to the upper falls, about 1 mile, and let us swim there, that would have been much better. The water was still cloudy, from recent heavy rains, but much clearer. We got back to the docks around 3:30, in time to catch a tender back, take a shower and get some rest before dinner because tonight was Chef's table! This would be our third chef's table. Dawn Princess in April 2008 and Grand Princess in April 2009. We are treating Diana and Keith to Chef's table as well. For those of you who know Judy and myself, we are foodies. We watch Food Network, Bravo and Travel Channel. Cringe sometimes at Andrew's dishes, are jealous of Bourdain's meals with Morimoto, think this year's Top Chef has the best chef's of any of the past seasons, love Alton Brown, root for "The Chairman" on Dancing With The Stars, want to follow Guy Fieri's Triple D across America, and would have hired Kevin, not Dave on Hell's Kitchen, and spend most of our cruise blog time commenting on food. (Actually Judy tells me she would have hired Dave. Harumph. Comments from the peanut gallery for sure.) So, without further ado, here's Chef's Table. A very good presentation, food was excellent, the wines incredible. One of the reasons I like Chef's table is that the wines are picked for you to match the food. I'm not a wine person, but I do appreciate a good pairing. 49er and his wife (from Cruise Critic) were at this table as well. So it was nice to have people familiar with Chef's table around. The most important thing is that JP only seats 10 at Chef's table. We're used to 12 in a seating. We like 10 very much. The table is much less congested, much more open to conversation and just a much better environment. Apps in the galley included fau gras, caviar, crab margarita, spicy shrimp, all with accompanying champagne. I didn't care for the fau gras that much, but the caviar, crab margarita and spicy shrimp were great. We met the man responsible for Judy's fettuccine alfredo, gave him a big thumbs up! The galley is a stainless steel wonder. It would make Tim the Tool Man Taylor jealous. The main table seating was in one of the dining rooms near the front door, where you can hear all the whispered conversations of people wondering what was going on with us and others wanting to sign up as well. A mushroom risotto followed at the table. I like risotto ever since the first Chef's Table. Having heard about it so much on Hell's Kitchen I now order it whenever I get a chance. For a palette cleanser a grey goose vodka soaked lemon sorbet follows. I really liked the spicy bloody Mary sorbet with cracked pepper on the Grand in April better, but this was pretty good. Main course was veal chops and shanks followed by a camembert cheese tartlet, with a port wine reduction, and then dessert on a sugar plate. The dinner was fantastic. Comparing to the Grand in April would be like comparing apples to bananas - but here goes. The table of 10 was much better than a table of 12, the apps were very comparable as was the risotto. The spicy bloody Mary sorbet on the grand was a clear winner compared to the lemon, but the veal on the Golden was simply stunning. The camembert was just as good at the goat cheese tart and desserts were comparable. The wine selection, one of the main reasons I like Chef's table, was stellar. JP sets a good table and Chef Norbert can really cook. A champagne, a white, a red and a dessert wine, all matched very well with the food and just downright good. It was basically a tie. This is our third chef's table and every one of them has given us our money's worth. It's highly, highly recommended. You get a cookbook, photo, all the wine you can drink, specialty coffees, a rose for the ladies, a printed copy of the menu. Well worth the money. And Keith and Diana enjoyed it a lot as well. After dinner it was time to find out if Judy's blisters were going to prevent her from doing the Country Western hoe down. So we started in the wheelhouse with canned dance music, danced with Equinox until the Baby Dolls came in, popped over there for a while, came back to the Wheelhouse when horse racing started and then scampered back over to Explorers for the Country Western Hoe down. Now this was a fun night. We knew pretty much all the staff by now, all the band members by now and much of the bar staff. We also knew there was a line dancing club on the ship with about 20 members. So the Country Western night was a few line dances, apparently they have stopped doing Cotton Eye Joe in the circle (sanitary reasons), but they did the bang bang game, electric slide, boot scooting boogie, a couple of others and the Tush Push Cruise Staff Challenge. I talked to the band prior to the show and asked them to slow the progression of the Chattahoochee so that those of us that knew the Tush Push could get started and keep up with the cruise staff. Sure enough there was about 20 of us on the floor with the cruise staff. And we kept up just as long as they did. After all of that we just kept dancing for a while and then finally got back to bed around 130am. Another long night, but satisfying. 10-6-09 At Sea I am very glad that there is 5 days and nights left to dance and party after Hawaii. I wish we were in the ports longer and they were spread out more in time, but I know the logistics make this impossible and no, NCLA is not an option! Besides, PoA looks funny. That bulldog front is not one bit cute. Suffice it to say we are having a blast. Good food, good entertainment, good company, no work. PDG! We did order room service this morning, but the wind on the balcony and the motion of the ship made it near impossible to eat outside. Love those rear balconies with no wind. Because of the change in ship motion, Judy went back to bed. I think she will be fine later, just a matter of adapting to the different movements the ship makes going in this direction. While Judy got her sea legs back during a nap, I wandered around the ship to the ballroom dance class, Survivor Part 3 and a couple of trivia games. So I did our ballroom dance class in the morning with Vian and Jane, Rhumba, and Vian picked a perfect modern Rhumba tune to dance to; the lyrics include ' a vertical expression of a horizontal desire...'. Yep, that says it all. This was a formal night, and Italian night at dinner, Caliente, the Love and Marriage Game Show and late night dancing. Tonight is also the final showing of Caliente. They've just stood up this show on the HI itinerary. Vian actually has danced it 3 years ago, but had forgotten most of the steps, unless you play music and then muscle memory takes over. We've promised to be there for sure. Italian night is one of my favorites. Two Eggplant Parmesans, special pasta from Mario and the veal. Judy really only ate the special pasta and the fettucine alfredo. Her taste buds were still a little off from the morning's motion. Diana had the turbot saltimbocca and enjoyed it. The star was Mario's pasta with red sauce and capers. Very nice. Our second favorite after the seafood pasta with shrimp, mussels, calamari and scallops sautEed in olive oil. I also tried the lemon cello. Not one of my favorites. I probably should have just shot it, but I preferred to sip. Back to whiskey sours, yes I've changed over from Long Islands to whiskey sours. Variety is the spice of life. So we went to Caliente and sat with Paul, Elizabeth and her mother - Mom to the rest of us. They had previously seen Caliente and directed us to the best seats. So we sat center, row 3. Caliente was GREAT. Even more energetic than Cinematastic, with much more dancing, less singing, many more set changes... And now, with our sitting in the front rows, it's a whole different perspective. I swear, it seems like Vian and Jane are pointing us out and all the dancers and singers look straight at us and smile or wink at us during the whole show. It really changes the show dynamic and brings you into the show itself. You just have to try this once. Caliente had a lot of Latin music and dancing. Our favorite style of dance. Vian, as usual, was precise, energetic, graceful, but did keep his clothes on this time. Jane was gorgeous, as were all the girls. There is one girl with such a big smile, she literally lights up the stage. We are really enjoying the shows all over again from this new perspective down front. By now all of you should now that Vian teaches ballroom, he is classically ballet trained, he does the silk rope thingy in Cinematastic, with few clothes. ( A side note. Apparently as he walked on the stage a couple of days ago, and those of you who have seen Cinematastic know that the walk to the silk ropes is done with a very stoic facial expression and a tense body posture, a little girl in the front row exclaims ' mommy, that man is naked' to which the mother replies ' no dear, he is wearing something'. Vian claims he maintained a straight face.) So anyway, at the end of Caliente, one person wears a puppet harness for a large oversized giant paper mache figure manuipulated via the harness and poles attached to the harness. Yep, it was Vian. Apparently this guy can really do it all. So after Caliente, we hotfooted down to the Vista lounge and signed up for the Love and Marriage show, and got on. We were the middle couple and the intent was to have fun, not win. (The couple married for 67 years; who's first kiss, and first tryst; occurred on her mother's door step in 1942 in London, England won.) It was a hoot - with free champagne. Unfortunately I am now called "tugboat" as I walk through the Horizon Court and Judy wants to use it as a nickname now. (This is not how I intended this to go.) And of course they found out Judy robbed the cradle while I was going out with her sister...take that editor in chief... So we went dancing after the show to the Baby Dolls music in explorers and finally packed it all in after midnight. A long day, an entertaining evening and a good nights sleep. 10-7-09 At Sea Once again, today and tonight, there is a lot to do. The boat building finals, survivor final round, Gaetano the magician, a new comedian juggler, dancing... Judy's just fine this morning. No motion problems at all, even though the boat is moving more than yesterday. There was so much to do, we had to skip ballroom and line dance. Had to sample the other stuff at least once. Judy went to a Lei demo class, while I puttered around the Wheelhouse. Passenger feud was fun - just like family feud, sort of. Judy and Diana were on the girl's team. When I left they were behind and still came back to win. We watched the survivor finals - an older guy who got voted out the first day won over the younger crowd - experience and sneakiness triumphs again! A couple of things about Survivor on a cruise ship. Dave makes this game so interesting. A lot of twists and turns. On the first day, 3 people get voted out, but then he has them form a new tribe and one of them ends up winning. Challenges include swimming, diving, throwing water laden foam balls in a bowl to be squeezed into a glass. The last challenge between the two finalist was to put two arms and a head into a tee shirt. Except the tee shirt, cotton, had been tied into knots, soaked and then frozen solid in a block of ice. Really a lot of fun. The boat building finals - someone needs to design a submarine with a motor. That would be unique. The winner basically tied, with dental floss, a raft together of empty aluminum bear bottles. One of the runners up was a duplicate of the Golden Princess made out of empty water bottles, complete with cork skywalkers and bridge wings. Very creative, lots of fun. Cosmopolitan Dinner menu. Didn't matter. Mario whipped out the anti-pasta. Grilled asparagus joined the peppers, zucchini and eggplant. The ham, salami and sausages were delicious - especially when joined with the cheese plate cheeses. Yummy! Everyone had the fettuccine alfredo - even me. Good stuff. The barley soup was ok, but too much like oatmeal for breakfast. I had the leg of lamb, love that dining room lamb, Judy had the home style cuisine Dutch Ribs, also good. Diana and Keith had the surf and turf, which they also enjoyed. Dessert was cherries jubilee made by Mario. One of our favorites - with vanilla ice cream of course! Peter Sasso, a juggling comedian, was in the Vista. After he warmed the crowd up, it got very funny. Tomorrow night he has a different show, one liners only. We danced prior to dinner, after dinner, before the show and after the show. Mainly to Equinox in the wheelhouse. The Golden Princess band did Latin tunes in Explorer's from 1030 on, but they covered the whole range and we don't know how to Mambo or Samba. About 1130, we headed over to the Wheelhouse for a night cap with Paul and Elizabeth. So I wanted to try a shooter. Monica and Olga came up with a Woo-Woo. Cranberry, vodka and triple sec. Very dangerous drink. Tasted like watered down fruit juice. Light, not too sweet, did not taste the vodka. She must have used the good stuff. Slept like a baby... 10-8-09 At Sea Actually not much happening in the morning, so Judy and I did our 1 mile walk around the Promenade deck prior to lunch, which was a Sushi lunch. Went to ballroom blitz rehearsal after lunch and signed up for swing and cha-cha. Enjoyed Dave and Ben's Life @ Sea talk. The held a Q&A with passengers on what life working on a cruise ship is like. Cruise critic got a big plug. Apparently someone posted a Dave comment two weeks ago that got Dave an email from corporate - 'you said what!?' A power nap was absolutely necessary - and it was a good one. Dinner was Chef's dinner and Mario's pasta was great. Spaghetti sauteed in mushroom, garlic, olive oil and pepper flakes. Simple and extremely tasty. Judy had the fried chicken from the home style menu and I went straight to the rack of lamb. Judy requested no slaw and the mashed potatoes from another main course. Mashed potatoes and fried chicken. MMMM! Again, the lamb was better than the Crown Grill lamb. Nicely done. Entertainment was Peter Sasso and a host of jokes and one liners. No juggling this time. Then we went to see Gaitano, yep front rows and jeesh is his assistant absolutely stunningly gorgeous - did I just say that out loud? We've seen his show before, but again totally different up close and personal. Then it was dance, dance and more dance. For some reason Equinox had the Rhumba hour, 7 Rhumba's in a row, then the Cha-Cha hour, 6 cha-chas in a row. Hopped over to the Baby Dolls and they did their obligatory 12 minute opening cha-cha, followed by 2 more. Learned a new line dance from the line dancers in the audience, danced a few more times and then headed to Skywalkers to check it out. We found all the smoking refugees in Skywalkers. The only indoor party venue that allows smoking now. A quick pass through there and it was time to call it a night - at 2am, again. Good thing we did that power nap thing. 10-9-09 At Sea Tonight is formal night, but we just don't feel like dressing up, so we will be eating in the buffet at some time during the evening. We got to get in enough dancing to carry us through the next 3 months between cruises. Luggage tags in the mailbox, Ensenada, packing, paying the bill looming tomorrow, work and home details starting to intrude back into the brain, thinking about scheduling, traveling, work tasking, problems, issues while in the shower. Happens every cruise, which is why I don't like the 7 day ones anymore (2 days to unwind, 2 days to wind back up) unless they are B2B2B2B...you get the idea. So today we did the ballroom tango class (T-A-N-GO). Then we watched the culinary show with Norbert and JP. We still haven't found a culinary show to compete with the one on the Dawn several years ago. That one was a roll on the floor show, but this one was fun to watch. They make those dishes look so easy to make. We missed line dance class, sorry Martin, since we had to get lunch having gotten up too late to do anything but coffee this morning. We went to the Morning Show Live taping with David and Ben, Judy went to ribbon lei class and I snoozed. Quite well actually. The buffet is nice. They have cut back on the number of selections over the past couple of years, but the quality of the individual selections is much better, at least here on the Golden. Tonight though, I just wanted some fruit and cheese. Tonight is one of those busy nights. Dancing, Motor City from the front row, Ballroom Blitz and then dance till we fall asleep tonight. I can always sleep on the plane on Sunday. Motor City - up front and personal. We did indeed sit in the front row, and yep it was totally different, again. Judy gets picked out to go up on stage and dance with James, one of the lead male vocalists, and I get an up close look at "heard it through the grapevine". (Needed a smoke after that number, the girls were all wearing zuit suit jackets - no pants.) Apparently Vian had a hand in it since one of James' comments was, 'so you're Judy'. Too bad on the "no photo" policy. Motor City is very high energy with a trip through Motown through song and dance. Kirsten (Bourke) and Leslie (Turner), the lead female vocalists, have amazing voices with great range. No offense to the guys, James and Roger, but these ladies can flat sing. It's funny we've been missing half the show all these years by sitting in the back. I did peruse a couple of roll calls for follow on cruises. It appears that at least a few people are going to try the front rows. I think they will be pleasantly surprised. Then we went to Ballroom Blitz. We haven't done that in several cruises. We signed up to do the Cha-Cha and the single time swing, and survived that. Hey, free champagne! Because of a technical glitch at Motor City, part of the stage wouldn't move, Vian and Jane did not do their Salsa demonstration because they were running late. So we're sitting there at ballroom talking to one of the other couples we've been dancing with, all cruise by the way, and find out they live about 2 miles from our house, and that it's snowing and 37 degrees in Colorado Springs. Small world! After ballroom, we went to the wheelhouse with a few of the other couples and kicked back with drinks for a while before heading off to bed. 10-10-09 Ensenada Ensenada is a technical stop required by the PVSA, the Passenger Vessel Services Act. Any foreign flagged ship when carrying passengers roundtrip to a US port MUST stop at a foreign port prior to arriving back at the US. This is why Victoria is a stop on Round Trip Seattle cruises. (A foreign flagged ship carrying passengers from one US city to another, MUST stop in a "distant" foreign port. A port NOT in central or north America, which is why most panama canal ships stop in Aruba and/or Cartagena!) We did not get off the ship. We've talked to some people about Ensenada, but the last day of a cruise is somewhat melancholy to us. It's a bummer. We really like the Princess Cays part of a Caribbean cruise, but you also have to pack. We took our last look at the photos, picked up our DVD, had one last dinner with Diana, Mario, Christianna, Keith and Vandolph. Passed out our additional tips to everyone, shook hands, hugged and said goodbye with tear filled eyes. We danced our last dances with the Baby Dolls, went back to see Motor City again with Paul, Elizabeth and Mom. 10-11-09 Disembarkation Very smooth. We went to Elite Lounge and hung around for a while until our color was called about 930. Went out and caught a cab to LAX, checked in on United and flew home to Colorado. Picked up the car, went by and picked up the dogs and got home about 7pm that night. A very good cruise, and highly recommended. Definitely in our top 5 at #4 or #5. We will do this cruise again for sure... Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
This was our 5th Princess cruise and we definitely enjoyed it. We heard that the boat is going to into dry dock next year and it could use some work. The ship does look like it has some wear and tear and could use a sprucing up. We ... Read More
This was our 5th Princess cruise and we definitely enjoyed it. We heard that the boat is going to into dry dock next year and it could use some work. The ship does look like it has some wear and tear and could use a sprucing up. We left from Southampton, United Kingdom. It is a hassle to get to Southampton from London. We traveled by bus this time which is the cheapest option if you book online and travel from Victoria Station. However, we don't suggest traveling this way unless you are strong and fit and have very little luggage, since there are no elevators(lifts) at Victoria underground and it is a couple of blocks from the underground to Victoria Coach Station. Getting on the ship was great. There were no long lines to wait on. Our room was typical. Small, with a comfortable bed, a chair, a window, enough storage, a refrigerator, a tv and a tiny bathroom. Food was very good. We ate breakfast and lunch at the buffet which had a varied enough offering and we ate free style in the dining room. The dining room meals were excellent, with wonderful service. We ate with different people every night and especially enjoyed dining with people from the United Kingdom. It is interesting to hear their view on things. The shows were enjoyable. They had two excellent comedians which we enjoyed, eventhough it is sometimes hard for Americans to catch the English humor. The magician was great. However the song and dance shows with the staff were pretty amaturish. The dancers never seem to be together and the singing for the most part isn't anything special. There were a lot of movies shown and the tv in the rooms had a lot of good movies too. Only low point was the Cruise Director, Martyn Moss. He came out at the end of the shows and had some juvenile humor. When he was telling us about the ports we were to visit, he had nothing positive to say and just complained about how expensive the beer was. The other activities on the ship were never announced during the day and you had to study the Princess Patter, the newsletter, like a bible. Some of the other members of the entertainment staff were more enthusiastic and did some fun activities like the Newlywed game and the Liar Game. The cruise director and assistant cruise director, however, never seemed to be around for any of these activites. When we left Oslo to get back to Southampton and had to travel on the North Sea, the water was incredibly rough. They had to cancel the dancing show. A lot of people on the boat weren't feeling well, but we were fine. We take ginger pills whenever we travel by ship and it seems to work well for us. Haven't had to miss a meal yet. Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
Our Perspective CB New England/Canada 8/22-8/29 General Information: We are 'active seniors' in our early 60's. We exercise daily, enjoy each other's company, meeting people, and cruising. When given lemons we always ... Read More
Our Perspective CB New England/Canada 8/22-8/29 General Information: We are 'active seniors' in our early 60's. We exercise daily, enjoy each other's company, meeting people, and cruising. When given lemons we always make lemonade! Embark/ Disembark: This is our 7th cruise with Princess; we are Platinum so it was an easy 5min, no wait process to embark . (We boarded at 1:20pm). Disembarkation was also easy. Off the ship via Platinum Lounge and used Princess transfer to JFK. Reasonable $ and they handle the luggage. Dining: We had Anytime Dining. We have had anytime for 5 other cruises and traditional one time when we were traveling with a group of 8. We prefer the flexibility that this style dining affords us. Everything you have read from other posters was true for the CB. We had sailed on CB during her first season. We were well aware that this sailing was full -3500 passengers (500 children). Long waits for seating, difficulties getting a reservation, phone not answered after an hour of trying and once seated less then efficient table service. (food arrived cold twice and DH sent it back also spoke to Maitre'd without much response . The worst was the Deck 6 dining room- Deck 5 was a much better experience short wait times and we tried all different times, Not just Prime Time -5:45-about 8pm) There seems to be a basic problem with the amount of people, and flow through the dining room as well as slow serving for the larger tables 6-8 or more. We commented on our experiences on the evaluation and via e-mail. We have never had these issues on the other Princess ships with less passengers. We are not buffet fans. I did check out the sail away buffet to see if there was the seafood buffet.... There were seafood entrees but no seafood buffet. Probably a victim of corporate cutbacks? We loved the International Cafe offerings and the Tapas and Sushi at Vines (no charge for these) We had the Champagne Balcony breakfast... Our waiter made us mimosas and served a Fabulous Fruit selection, great Blue Berry Pancakes, Eggs Benedict, Assorted Pastries coffee and herb tea Afternoon tea - it was good but sequence out of order...we had to ask for scones.... Crown Grill - fabulous!!!! Worth the additional charge. Over all the food was good - we enjoyed and there is Always the "always available" standard items that are consistently good. Pastas were wonderful! Ports: Newport was cancelled by Hurricane Bill. We enjoyed the sea day... Boston: Arrived at 8am instead of 10am. We had reservations for HOHO Old Town Trolley. Saw all the highlights of the city. Toured Fenway. Walked the entire Freedom Trail. Had fabulous lunch in No Name Eatery. Went to Mike's Parterres for treats and espresso in the North End. On way back to ship Thunderstorm hit. . We had a great day. Bar Harbor: We did the ship's excursion- Biking Arcadia NP. It was a good work out and the park was serene and very beautiful. Had a great lobster lunch at Testa's on Main Street. When to Bill's for Ice Cream after visiting some shops and DH had the lobster ice cream, I had the blueberry... (THE BEST) St John's NB. Lots of Fog!!! Took trolley tour then walked to City Market. Sampled yummy seafood chowder and some local beers. Saw the Bay and Reversing rapids. We opted not to go kayaking, as the weather was damp and overcast... Halifax: We had wonderful weather . We went to the Maritime Museum, took a carriage ride around the city, toured the Citadel, and loved the Public Gardens. We walked the entire boardwalk, stopped into the Casino. DH won $50 on the slots better than he did in the ship's casino. Had great Fish and Chips at Murphy's on the water. On return to ship: We saw the RCMP Bagpipe and Drum Corp perform in the Princess Theater. They played traditional Scotch tunes and also had a Scotch folk dance. Very nice! Entertainment: We went to all 3 Production shows: Do You Want to Dance?, Caribbean Caliente and Piano Man. High energy dancers lots of glitz and costume changes. Wheelhouse.Bar Ashley Clarke Quartet & Elements-great for dancing Crooner Lounge Bert Stratton, Piano entertainer. He has 'groupies' and we did not care for him. Explorer's Lounge Comedian Jay Moore (1st part of the week) &James Michael - majic act and comedy. Skywalkers's had a DJ nightly . We enjoyed the 50's and 60's dance party. (Our music) MUTS was fun showing recent releases such as Star Trek, Ironman and BrideWars. Monsters vs Aliens, Marley and Me and Bedtimes Stories for kids and families. Concerts included Beyonce, U2 and Christine Aquilera The Crew Talent show was great, especially the skit by Dan Styne (CD) and Co - halarious Other comments: Our cabin - balcony on Lido deck forward near the door to the deck above the bridge. The cabin was kept immaculate by Resty our steward who attended to our every need. He was personable and made us feel pampered. There were crew cleaning and maintaining the ship everyday. (They were out polishing the brass and varnishing the handrails. We did not use the Sanctuary (weather and short itinerary.) but for a warm weather cruise it looks very nice. Overall we had a very enjoyable cruise but have decided that this ship is too big for us and we will definitely consider size when making our next cruise choice.... Bigger isn't always better. We are booked on the Golden to Hawaii next and have sailed on her before with 1970 passengers we never felt crowded nor did we encounter the Anytime dining issues. Thanks you for reading this review - our perspective! Dot and Paul Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
First, I must thank the cruise critic website for such a good, and informative site concerning cruising, ports, tips, deals, and other travel information. I must also thank everyone who have contributed to the site, concerning cruises, ... Read More
First, I must thank the cruise critic website for such a good, and informative site concerning cruising, ports, tips, deals, and other travel information. I must also thank everyone who have contributed to the site, concerning cruises, reviews, boards, and all other travel advice that I have repeatedly read on the site. Further, a special thanks to the cruise critic people I have met in person on this cruise and the several people I have shared numerous emails. Before I book any cruise I consult extensively w/ CC. Thus, this cruise was selected b/c of cc's reviews, the itinerary, and my experiences w/ Princess. I feel indebted to the site and their numerous contributors. Here is a review as a small down payment to this debt. This is my 6th cruise, 3rd w/ Princess, (The Diamond, and The Tahitian) I have sailed w/ Carnival, Cunard and another smaller line that I cannot remember from the 80's. We are an active couple in our 50's We stayed in cabin C323 on the Caribe deck w/ a nice size balcony, which all balconies on the Caribe deck has b/c of the ship's design. It was a quiet location and we felt very little, if any movement on the ship. Yes, you can see into other people's balcony and people can see into yours, but what are you planning to do on your balcony that would warrant anyone's interest? I enjoyed a friendly wave to another couple that we meet on CC. I really do not think that people have traveled this far, and paid this amount of money to engage in voyeurism or exhibitionistic activities. After all, there are beaches in Cannes and Mykonos that were included on this sailing where this is allowed. One area where Princess can improve and be progressive, like a few other cruise lines are starting to do, is to install a non-smoking policy because smoke can blow into your balcony if other people on nearby balconies are smoking. Further, we went to the casino on the non-smoking nights and it was more crowded than on the smoking nights. Princess really needs to assess this policy for safety reasons; a lit fire is nothing but trouble. This is non-debatable. A no smoking policy was installed in the bars of NYC & business actually improved, after the initial out cry. Oftentimes, there is a need for change. We arrived in Rome after about an hour delay at JFK. Delta served unlimited wine and the service and the food was good. I was pleasantly surprised. Customs in Rome was a breeze. Watch the boards, in order to find the carousel your luggage was placed on. Pay attention to all the signs. It would help to brush up on your Italian. A few phrases can go a long way. We took the train into the termini roma and transferred to the metro, which took us to w/in blocks of our hotel, the Residenza Paola IV. Yes, there may be some walking involved but we are New Yorkers and used to it. Further, it is always good to travel light, especially for the stairs. In addition, when using the bus, trains, and waterbus in Rome and Venice, make sure your tickets are validated from a nearby machine. We arrived in Rome 2 days prior to our disembarkation, and stayed in a lovely hotel named the Residenza Paola IV. The staff was very friendly, helpful w/ dining, travel, and sightseeing recommendations. The breakfast was incredible. This was not a heavy American type of breakfast, but it was very adequate. They did have scrambled eggs. After all, when in Rome,.... The hotel also had a nice terrace overlooking St. Peter's square and was near transportation and w/in walking distance of the must see-sights. The room was nice, clean, and most important very quiet to be near such a busy area. I would definitely stay there again when in Rome. We arrived from Rome to the port in Civitavecchia by train in about 50 minutes, for about 4.50 Euros. We did not have to change trains and the station was w/in walking distance of the hotel we were staying near St. Peter's square. Tip: I would strongly advise having small Euro denominations and plenty of change to purchase your ticket from the machine. It is also a good idea to carry change for the WC (public bathrooms) because there is a small charge 30 to 50 cents. The ticket windows are close on the weekends. We had to depend on the kindness of strangers for change. If possible, purchase your ticket a day in advance or arrive early to the train station. The embarkation in Civitavecchia went very well. It was smooth and very quick. One of the best and quickest I have experienced. However, that joy was quickly dampen when it took Princess over 3 1/2 hours to delivery our luggage to our stateroom. We had to dine in the clothes we had on all day. Further, when my luggage did arrive, the cologne I had wrapped around clothing and put in a plastic bag were broken, and my other clothes were wet and sweet smelling. I promptly informed the passenger's desk of this, and they gave me claim forms to fill out and offered to do my laundry and ironing. I accepted they offer, although I had to wait for about 2 days b/f my laundry came back crisp, clean, and plain smelling. I was informed that if Princess does not contact me after 2 weeks to contact them about my claim. I was also left with the impression that Princess would reimburse me for my loss. Apparently, their personnel was not aware of this policy or simply mis-lead me. On September 14, 2009, I received a letter from Princess that stated, "Princess recommends that passenger's hand-carry all personal, valuable, and/or fragile items. "As you are probably aware luggage passes through many hands during the course of a cruise and Princess has no jurisdiction over personnel handling luggage on the piers, during transfer operation or air travel." I called Princess to register my complaints, and the Property Specialist Claims person stated that this was stated in the contract.-----in the fine small print of course. I also stated that the luggage was literally snatched from our hands w/o anyone offering us the option of carrying it ourselves. Therefore, future cruisers please by advised, and if you can and want to be 100% safe with your luggage arriving to your cabin undamaged and without delay, carry it yourself. Stand up for your rights. If I do another Princess cruise (I do enjoy their itinerary's) I will be carrying my own light luggage. However, I do not feel any animosity towards Princess, and I understand that things happen. Still, It is time for me to try another cruise line. I am very curious about the buzz that is circulating around Celebrity's Solstice. I Also, they have adopted a progressive no smoking in the rooms or balcony policy. It would be nice to compare both cruise lines' top ships. I am looking towards a booking in 2010. After meeting a couple whose luggage never arrived in Rome, with their necessary medication, camera, etc., I felt my little incident was very minor. Travelers, never, never, pack your medication, camera, or other values in your checked luggage. This couple had a time trying to get a prescription from the states for an Italian pharmacy to fill. I am sure you do not want this experience in Aug. when many people are on vacation on both sides of the Atlantic. The muster drill was done very well. It was professional, informative, done w/ the appropriate amount of seriousness from the staff and passengers. I have seen people not attend and done rather cavalier on another un-named cruise line, which shocked me. Usually, and hopefully, this is the most serious part of any cruise. Dining The seats near the window Botticelli dining room are very nice. The food was good to very good. However, there were many people in the dining room w/ shorts and very informal clothing for the 1st dinner. I deducted that their luggage was also delayed in arriving to their cabins. We dined at the 1st seating in the Botticelli dining room. The lighting and dEcor was elegant and subdued. The food overall was very good, well presented and with some creative flourishes, despite that fact that they served rice, albeit in different ways, w/ different pairing on four consecutive nights. I simply asked for a substitute and was graciously accommodated. The deserts were very good. I enjoyed some of the best tiramisu I have ever tasted. They also had their traditional baked Alaska presentation, minus the flames, apparently because of a fire mishap. Once again, an example of the dangers of an open flame. We also lunched in the Da Vinci dining room and were very pleased with the staff and food. I was also impressed with the Pizza. The buffet style breakfast was good in the Horizon Court. However, they must have run out of the variety of smoked fish they served the 1st couple of days. They did have a good selection of fresh fruits w/ succulent strawberries. Specialty Dining: We visited Sabatini's twice on this cruise. The service and quality of the food was all first rate and excellent. Make a reservation as soon as you get to your cabin. The tasting menu is extensive, and it would help to arrive with a healthy appetite and to pace yourself. The seafood was extremely fresh and delicious, with some of the best scallops I ever had. This can easily be a 3-hour affair. Yes, it is worth to do the specialty dining at least once on any cruise, you owe it to yourself. Any real foodie should do at least one cruise and visit the ship's specialty restaurant. Our waiter Michelangelo was knowledgeable, extremely gracious, and skilled at his job. Other waiters and service employees can learn from him. Why is it becoming so rare where you can find someone who is skilled at what they do, especially in the service industries, and actually enjoy what they are doing? Excursions: They were all booked through Princess, (although I did considered booking them independently) and were well organized, although many of them left very early in the morning. I begrudgingly made the adjustment. Val, was a little spooked on booking independently b/c if the port is passed for any reason, there are no refunds. Also, the Princess excursions have priority in disembarking and using the tenders. Rome is full of ancient history, monuments, and ruins. It is a walking town, and we walked to all the major sites, St. Peter's Square, The Vatican, the Coliseum, the Pantheon, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, etc. Monte Carlo & Cannes was nice and elegant. The lunch option is worth it b/c the guaranteed reservations. We witnessed many restaurants were filled to capacity. Cannes had a very nice public beach. The Amalfi coast excursion was simply exhilarating. The tour guide was humorous. The shopping in Florence, although expensive, was nice with some high quality leather goods. The historical churches and architecture were nice. Pompeii is educational; archeologists dream that and is well preserved. Pisa was nice but the visit was too short. Expect plenty of tourists. In Santorini, the wine tasting and Oia for shopping was nice. In Athens, the acropolis w/ The Parthenon is a must. Katakolon was nice, we did some walking and sightseeing on our own. Sample the olives and bring back some olive oil. Corfu was photographic, as was the ship, and Europe. I took over 2,000 photos. Bring a large memory card, and a charger that hold at least 2 sets of batteries. Entertainment It was much better than on my previous cruises b/c the live bands played with so much feeling and energy. The B-way style shows were enhanced w/ video and special lighting effects. The dancers and some of the singers were good. The comedians were average to good. The hypnotist was hypnotic. The lounge singer was very good. The karaoke lounge was very popular. Overall, the entertainment was a huge step up from the other Princess cruises I have previously experienced. The aerialist and acrobatic dancer was a very creative touch. The movie under the stars (muts) was nice w/ the popcorn, although we never sat for a movie, just took in some clips b/c of competing events on the ship. I did not use the Internet and heard it was expensive. I understand that the point of a vacation is to get away and to leave the routine behind, therefore, I had no desire to check my emails or use the internet. Further, it could be some bad news, and what could you really do about it, other than ruining your vacation, being in the middle of the Mediterranean? The fitness Center is nice, well equipped w/ a nice panoramic view. I was a frequent visitor b/c I was taking in more calories than usual and I try to stay fit. Twice, I had to wait for an elliptical machine, but most of the time there were just a few people in the fitness center. I also enjoyed the hot tubs and the swim against the current pool. I was determined not to gain weight during the cruise by staying active, although I did gain two pounds. This was all balanced out b/c the week bf/ I eat very lightly. I did not use the services of the spa, even though I booked on line, but cancelled as I saw less expensive prices advertised in the Princess Patter and flyers that were placed in the cabin. I did visit the area and it was nice and serene, similar to the adult's only areas and the sanctuary. (there is a charge but it is worth it if you prefer a more serene environment) I stumbled into the children's and teen areas & they were kept busy w/ various video and other games. The children were well behaved. Even though a handful of teens were turned away when they attempted to sneak into an empty disco, by saying they were over 18. I thought it was funny b/c the disco was empty or near empty most nights b/c this sailing is very port intensive. Tip: On port days, and later in the evening, and as the cruise gets closer to the last port, the spa and store prices tend to drop w/ "special sales." In conclusion, We could not ask for better weather throughout our 16 days in Europe. It did not rain once, and we only had to use the air-conditioner in our hotel room and cabin for only about 2 nights. The sunsets and sunrises from the ship were amazing. I was late and missed a few evening shows b/c of these natural wonders. 5 Stars The Ruby is a new, beautiful, clean, and elegant ship that exemplifies class. The marble on the ship is gorgeous. This is by far the best cruise I have taken. The Ruby provided a wonderful experience. They put forth a good effort to please the passengers and often times succeeded in many areas. One of the highlights and a very nice touch from Princess was to arrange a daytime arrival into Venice, as opposed to the scheduled 10 pm arrival. I thank Princess for this pleasant surprise. It is an experience to behold w/ the Ruby slowly and gracefully arriving into Venice's port w/ Italian music playing while passing St. Marco's Square. That was one of many wow factors throughout the cruise. I believe all cruises should have at least one, if not a few. A few other highlights were the fine dining; the window seat in Sabatini's overlooking a fountain, and the ocean, the white, and faux New Year's Eve party. The champagne party on Princess cruises are always a blast. The live bands kept the passengers dancing. The disco was very colorful w/ a nice light show. However, most nights it was near empty because the daytime excursions can be exhausting. This can be minimized if you Increase your stamina by doing plenty of walking or other exercise b/f the cruise, and you should be fine. Also, pay attention to how the excursions are rated. Further, this cruise is port intensive w/ plenty of excursions and activities in the day. The Piazza is very nice w/ the musicians, and various entertainers. Sweetpk / Ken W. Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
My best friend and I (active women in our 50's) just returned from a wonderful 7 day Inside Passage cruise to Alaska on the Golden. The weather was unbelievable and really added to the experience. We arrived in Seattle a day ... Read More
My best friend and I (active women in our 50's) just returned from a wonderful 7 day Inside Passage cruise to Alaska on the Golden. The weather was unbelievable and really added to the experience. We arrived in Seattle a day early and took the Go Airport shuttle to the Travelodge at the Space Needle. While the newly remodeled room was quite nice, the rest of the motel was very tired looking. We did enjoy the complimentary breakfast and used their $7 shuttle to the port the next morning. In the afternoon we took at taxi to Pikes Market and ate a fabulous seafood spread at the Crab Pot. That evening we went to Lula's Restaurant and Jazz Club for Greek food and good music. The next morning we arrived at Pier 91 at 11:00 and were in our room by 11:30. Here is my commentary on our cruise, arranged by subject: Ship: The refurbished Golden had so much to offer. Because of the unusual weather we utilized Movies Under the Stars twice. We watched "She's Just Not That Into You" one evening and "Shopping Mall Cop" on a sunny afternoon. The covered Calypso pool was great even when the weather was cool. I loved the International Cafe and their pastries and light lunch options. The internet cafe is nice and the atrium entertainment is good. Staff: We thought CD David Cole and his staff were great. I especially enjoyed the "Life on a Cruise Ship" talk and Q&A by Dave and his deputy director. Room: We had a mid-ship inside room, A514. This was a very quiet location nice and close to the Horizon Court and main pools. Just as other reviewers have noted, the bedspread and mattresses in the room are in quite poor shape. Everything else about the room was fine. Food: We enjoyed the food more than we should have. We visited the special sushi bar and dessert extravaganza when they were offered. The Horizon Court buffet can be a little chaotic, but I found most of the food quite good. We had anytime dining and ate dinner most nights at the Bernini dining room as it was less crowded than the Donatello. I highly recommend the lamb chops and Beef Wellington. Daytime: My friend and I participated in line dancing lessons several times. It was really a blast, but should be held at the Vista lounge instead of the Atrium. I think more people would participate if there wasn't a large audience viewing from decks 5, 6 and 7. I used the gym on several occasions as well as the Spa pool and hot tubs. I didn't try the casino, art auctions, bingo or other fee offering because I wanted to spend my money on tours. Evening Entertainment: There was lots of great entertainment. Our favorite was the comedian Carlos Oscar. The magician put on a great show also, with a surprise ending. We saw the production shows Cinematastic and Motown. Both were high energy fun. Once night we went to a New Years Eve party at Skywalkers that was jammed and another evening we lost at the "Majority Rules Game show", a fun twist on trivia. Ports: Juneau: We did the Alpine Zip and Glacier Adventure. The zip line was great thanks to the enthusiasm and assurances from Zach and Julie. The Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center has fantastic views of the glacier. After the tour we went to the Red Dog Saloon for seafood chowder and draft beer. Skagway: We took the Yukon Expedition and White Pass Rail tour offered by the ship. What a great day! The sun never stopped shining and the weather was in the 80's. The views from the train are breathtaking and the motor coach trip to Carcross was fun thanks to our driver and guide Mel. After the tour we still had time to stop at the Red Onion Saloon for another Alaskan Ale. Tracy Arm Fjord: This was the only time I got out my headband and gloves. It was chilly but the natural beauty was well worth it. Although the ship was unable to proceed to see the Sawyer Glacier due to the ice, we did have fun waving to the Star Princess passengers when they turned around also and passed us coming out. Ketchikan: Early morning we left the ship and looked at the offerings that the non-ship vendors had. We quickly decided on a two hour wilderness/Saxman Village tour for $40 per person from North Shore. We saw eagles, hawks, and even a starfish on the tour, but the bears decided to stay out of sight. The visit to the Saxman Totems was so interesting because our guide had told us a story about each totem during our driving time. After a quick run into some souvenir shops we were back on the ship. Victoria, BC: We signed up for the Enchanted Butchart Gardens tour. We had about 45 minutes of daylight then another hour of viewing with the lights. The gardens are beautiful, but I preferred the daytime tour I took there previously. Summary: Alaska beauty and tons of sunny weather. I don't think it could get too much better. My friend and I both put $100 down on our next cruise. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
Hotel Info - We stayed at the overpriced Mark Hopkins. Our AAA travel agent didn't bother to inform us that parking would be over $50 per night. It does not have a restaurant. The hotel has a nice view and that's about all I can ... Read More
Hotel Info - We stayed at the overpriced Mark Hopkins. Our AAA travel agent didn't bother to inform us that parking would be over $50 per night. It does not have a restaurant. The hotel has a nice view and that's about all I can say for it. We should have found a Best Western. Ship Info -  This ship was clean, but worn. The gym was nice. It was comical when a gym employee was giving my hubby that hard sell about taking some "Abs" class. My hubby is in great shape and doesn't need an abs class! The staff was not as diligent about assuring the passengers used the germicide gels after the first day. On board, they were always trying to nickel-and-dime you for coffee cards, soda cards, water bottles, etc. As new cruisers, we weren't expecting this after the price we paid. They had a rummage sale in the dining room one day. They were selling the most hideous art and had poorly-attended art auctions in the middle of the ship. They would have sale merchandise in the middle of walkways around the Atruim. There was an air of desperation. The ship was jam-packed with cruisers. There was nowhere to find a quiet spot. We managed a load of laundry one morning. The laundry room was the site of a few arguments according to our travelling companions. The instructions on the laundry machines was in Klingon. The ships photographers varied form nice to downright annoying. We did buy some of the formal night photos at eyebrow-raising prices. (Figureing that we might ever do this again.)Activities - There were not enough activities on sea days. Service - Average in general.Port & Shore Excursions - Overpriced, but OK. Tending to shore was not a fun experience as the tenders' engines were smoky and we'd have to sit in the smoke while they figured out which tender got to board first. We saw no bears or whales at any time. We did see eagles and dolphins. Stateroom - We splurged for a mini-suite, thank God. It was very clean and comfortable. The ship was so crowded it was great to have a place to retreat. Our steward was very nice. (Folks always say that the cabin doesn't matter because you are hardly ever in it. Well, when I saw how tiny some of those cabins were, I could see why you wouldn't want to spend much time in one. I was glad I'd been paranoid enough to book a larger one to escape the crowds!)Dining - Our waiter for the first two nights was a surly man by the name of Carlos. He was rude and even argued with my hubby about an order that Carlos had gotten wrong. He came back to the table to whine about it *three* times and hubby was ready to get up in his face. We begged to be moved to a new table. Our new servers were outstanding. Our travelling companions, who have done several cruises, told me that Carlos was very unusual. Formal nights were less than formal and any outfit at all (including shorts) was allowed in the the dining room. We ate at the steakhouse one night, which is just a partitioned off area of the food court. I wouldn't say that any of the meals were more than average. Entertainment -  Average. The stages are so small that I was concerned that somebody would fall off. The naturalist was a cure for insomnia. I was thrilled that Libby Riddles came on board. Her lecture was great!Disembarkation - OKSummary - The highlight of the cruise was Tracy Arm and Sawyer Glacier. Absolutely gorgeous! I could see all the majesty from the comfort of our cabin. In general, this cruise was a disappointment. Perhaps our expectations were too high from all the wonderful cruising stories we had heard. We usually travel by RV, so we really didn't know what to expect. Our travel agent was no help. We'd ask questions and all she's say was, "You can find that out online." Well, if I'd wanted to find out everything online, why did I bother to go to AAA??? I DO NOT feel that we got our money's worth. (Except for the cabin, which I loved.) Someday, we may try cruising again. But, no way on Princess. Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
Just got back from what was to be the Mexican Riviera cruise (3rd Princess - 7th Cruise), Embarkation was better than expected.  We arrived at LAX at 9:30am and Princess reps were already in the baggage area and buses waiting for us to ... Read More
Just got back from what was to be the Mexican Riviera cruise (3rd Princess - 7th Cruise), Embarkation was better than expected.  We arrived at LAX at 9:30am and Princess reps were already in the baggage area and buses waiting for us to take us the Sheraton for light snacks and drinks as the ship was late with disembarkation.  We met two wonderful couples there.  We got to the ship around 2:30pm and once at the pier it went really fast.  We were pointed to the floor where our cabin was mid-ship Dolphin mini-suite D515.  I would recommend the mini-suite it was very spacious and nice especially nice for this cruise as the weather turned out to be very cold most of the cruise and we were both able to sit on the couch and read.  Too cold and windy to use the veranda.  When we could go out we noticed lots of smokers and ashes landing on our balcony.  Had anytime dining (a first for us - would do it again)ithe food was good, enjoyed all of the dining rooms.  Best service we had was Paula in Vavaldi, but all service was very good.  We really enjoyed the Conservatory pool and the adult only pool.  We did purchase the thermal spa package and I recommend it, it was the best relaxation we have ever had.   Both Steve Moris and Kevin Jordan were great entertainers as well as the princess dancers, never missed a show, always had great seats.  Some of the staff performed one night and they were amazing to see.  We did not go to Mexico as soon as it started to get warm we went to San Diego, the best tours sold out fast so we missed out and walked on the pier which was nice and enjoyed the ship and the sun for first time in days. Then we went to Santa Catalina Island where we took a bus tour and went to the botanical gardens and walked through town.  This was a great tour.  We really liked Santa Catalina Island.   In the late evening before we left we saw otters playing in the water next to the ship.  It was overcast and cool in Santa Catalina, we would love to go back.  We did get to see a friends balcony room on the Aloha deck and it was nice, very private covered balcony (balcony larger than it looks) would probably take it next time or a PS suite on the Carib deck (covered and large).  Overall great relaxing cruise we were wanting. Read Less
Sail Date April 2009
This was my 2nd cruise on princess, the first being an alaskan cruise which I went on with my parents. I took this cruise with my partner and it was her first time cruising.We flew into San Juan a day early. We had no problem getting ... Read More
This was my 2nd cruise on princess, the first being an alaskan cruise which I went on with my parents. I took this cruise with my partner and it was her first time cruising.We flew into San Juan a day early. We had no problem getting around the city. Taxis were very clearly priced. We had a hotel close to the airport and beach and took a taxi into downtown. We went to both of the forts, they were beautiful, but we really only needed to see one. Walked down 'calle del sol' which is just a quaint little street lined with colorful houses. We did alot of walking around and enjoying the weather. We enjoyed the beach that was about 2 blocks from the hotel, and also the hotels pool and swim up bar :)On the morning of embarkation we took a taxi to the pier... it was not in downtown san juan, so we didn't get a chance to walk around any more as we had hoped. But we got on the ship rather quickly and started finding our way around. We purchased two bottles of wine at the duty free shop and brought them on board to our room.We had booked an inside cabin, but had been upgraded to a balcony a few weeks before the cruise!!! We were so psyched! Our travel agent said that hardly ever happens, so we were pretty lucky!The islands:St. Thomas-We took a champagne catamaran excursion over to St. John. I believe it was called Honeymoon Beach. It was an awesome boat ride. Our tour guides were great. Snorkeling was awesome. Everyone really spread out and we got really close to some sea turtles. We tried to call over the rest of the group, but literally no one was around. It was a great experience. wine, mimosas or rum punch on the way back, and there was plenty to go around!Dominica-we did the wacky rollers ziplining excursion. It was fantastic. Although they gave very little guidance, it was great and very safe. A great challenge-and we were pretty sore the next day! Grenada-we stayed on the ship. enjoyed the pool and some ice carving.Bonaire-we decided to do another snorkeling tour, which we hadn't signed up for in advance. Turned out to be great. It was an older wooden boat which sailed us over to Klein Bonaire. Again, it was beautiful, swimming among the fish and coral. They took 'advanced' snorkelers out a bit farther and then we swam back to the boat. We are not 'advanced' nor did we need to be! We are athletic and were able to swim the distance without being tired. With fins and an inflatable vest, it's pretty easy. Our tour guide was slightly pushy and kept telling us to keep up with the group. I would've liked to be able to take my time and enjoy what I wanted to see. But it was nice that we knew that they weren't going to leave without us!Aruba-we did not do an excursion. We walked a couple of blocks to the bus depot and paid a few dollars to go down to lines of hotels. We didn't really know the lay of the land, so just hoped off at a hotel and walked out to the beach. We ended up renting a chair from the hotel and enjoyed the day! it was great, clear blue water as we had imagined! Back in PR-disembarkation was quick and we ended up at the airport way too early for our flight. We convinced our driver to bring us back to the beach that we had been to before-across from the hotel. We spent a couple of hours there and then took a cab back into the airport.On the ship-activities were plentiful! We took many dance classes, went on the behind the scenes tour, got a spa treatment. The entertainment was good, not great. It's not broadway or anything, but it's entertaining.Overall a great time! Read Less
Sail Date April 2009
We are a family of three, 40's with a teenage son. This was our sixth cruise. We have previously sailed on Princess, Holland America, and Norwegian Cruise Lines. Our Panama Canal cruise on the Coral Princess from LA to FLL 03/09/09 ... Read More
We are a family of three, 40's with a teenage son. This was our sixth cruise. We have previously sailed on Princess, Holland America, and Norwegian Cruise Lines. Our Panama Canal cruise on the Coral Princess from LA to FLL 03/09/09 was fantastic! We were fortunate to have great weather and calm seas the entire trip. Having CCL (Carnival Cruise Line) shares we were able to take advantage of the On Board Credit of $250 for a 14 day cruise with Princess. The OBC was easily obtained after the final payment was made. We flew into LAX the day before and stayed at the Crown Plaza LA Harbor. It is a great location, with enough things to do and plenty of restaurants within walking distance. Crown Plaza's free shuttle took us to the Cruise Terminal the morning of our cruise. The embarkation was very organized and fast, once the previous passengers were all disembarked. Once on board, we made our way to the buffet for lunch, being some of the first on board it wasn't busy at all. After lunch and a little walk to get acquainted with the ship, we made our way to our balcony mini-suite state room C727. This was a wonderful room. We were the last aft balcony on the starboard side. This room could sleep four. There was a bed that came down from the ceiling and the sofa could be made into a bed. There was lots of room for the 3 of us. Our balcony had 4 chairs and a table. The balcony was exposed on 3 sides. We unpacked our luggage, (there was tons of storage and closet areas) and met our room steward. Alvin introduced himself to us and asked if we would like some champagne. Wonderful! After getting our room setup we were off to purchase our Couples Thermo Suite passes for DW and myself, a discount and limited capacity first day only. DS purchased his internet minutes, extra 40 minutes if purchased first day then registered with teen program. The teen room was extremely well equipped. We chose anytime dining as it works best for us. We had our dinners in the Bordeaux dining room usually when it opened at 5:30pm. A table for 4 was always available for us. After a few evenings of trying different tables and waiters, the maitre'ds knew our preferences. We took advantage of Princesses bring your own wine policy. Some nights we arrived for dinner with a glass of wine, or a bottle of wine without a problem. On a few occasions we purchased a bottle from their reasonable selection. Celebrating a wedding anniversary on this cruise, we enjoyed anniversary balloons, heart shaped towel animals, and acknowledgement from the staff close to us. We were up early every morning and in the gym using the very adequate weight machines and free weights. Then a few miles around the promenade deck and off to the Thermo Suite for a steam sauna. Breakfasts were either on the balcony with room service or something quick from the Horizon Court buffet and taken out to the pool area. Huatulco - We taxied to La Entrega beach and snorkeled with our own equipment. There is a nice reef with numerous fish. We rented a Jet-Ski for half an hour. We sampled a few Cervezas, fresh homemade tortillas and guacamole, and local mescal. Ah heaven! Wish we could have stayed longer. Guatemala - What an experience! We booked Princesses "Antigua on your own" bus ride to Antigua. Armed with my own map of all the sites to see, we negotiated a tour with a driver of a three wheeled Baja taxi called a Tuk-Tuks, for an hour. What fun! Photo opportunities galore! Great restaurants are also to be found for lunch, as we discovered. After lunch we negotiated a ride with a horse and carriage operator, who showed us some hotel restaurant establishments. Nicaragua - We booked a private tour with Va Pues tours to climb Cerro Negro Volcano, have lunch, and tour the city of Leon. With all the volcanoes in Nicaragua, I think it's a must. The climb was over an hour. The descent took minutes. It was one of our most wonderful and amazing tours! Fantastic tour guides and tour, I can't say enough. As a side bar, we were talking to some gentlemen outside the gates of the pier, who are offering tours. There are many things to do and the prices are good, if you are the active type. Would love to go back! Do not be afraid of the country. The people are marvelous. Costa Rica - We took a tour through Princess "Corobochi River Float w/ Lunch". Level 1-2 rapids. We saw monkeys, crocodiles, various birds, iguanas and other animals that our guide was very quick to point out and was also very knowledgeable. Panama Canal - All day site seeing and you don't have to leave the ship. I read "The Path between the Seas' before the cruise. This gave me a great appreciation as to what was involved in building the canal. Cartegena - due to Gas Turbine problems on board, this port was missed. Princess gave every passenger $100.00 OBC. Good for Princess, as this has happed before to us, (other cruise lines) and the refunds haven't been as good. Aruba - Due to missing time in Cartegena, Princess gave us more time in Aruba. Yahoo! We booked a catamaran sail & snorkel with lunch through Princess. We snorkeled overtop of the sunken German tanker, "Antilles". This was a rush! We did some snorkeling near a beach, and then had lunch at Pelican Pier. There were many shows every evening, catering to various tastes. We attended a few comedy shows, the galley tour, wine tasting, also participated in numerous sports, pool and stage entertainment. It was all enjoyable. Disembarkation was the easiest we've experienced. We chose express disembarkation and carried our own bags off. We had a quick breakfast and we were amongst the first off and through customs in less than half an hour. A short $12.00 taxi to the FLL airport and we were on our way. Summary - The dinners in the Bordeaux dining room were excellent. The waiters were "excelente". Our favorite table was #30 with waiters Juan Carlos and Ricardo. The room service breakfasts were on time and adequate. Room stewards were friendly and attentive. We stayed away from the buffet as much as possible. (do not enjoy the atmosphere) We also avoid all the aggressive sales techniques on board, and the usual tourist shops in port. We enjoyed the more out of the way ports, and had our best cruise as of yet. Read Less
Sail Date March 2009
We drove from Central FL to Ft. Lauderdale and boarded the Crown Princess seamlessly at about 1:30. We had a picture taken and went directly to our stateroom. We chose a balcony room mid-ship. It was lovely but the bathroom was a bit ... Read More
We drove from Central FL to Ft. Lauderdale and boarded the Crown Princess seamlessly at about 1:30. We had a picture taken and went directly to our stateroom. We chose a balcony room mid-ship. It was lovely but the bathroom was a bit smaller than the Caribbean Princess. What really made the room was Samuel our cabin steward. He was fantastic! He noticed we had wine and brought glasses. We requested ice at 4 each day and because he was not working then, he brought a large container just before lunch. He was really pleasant and it makes a big difference. Our first day at sea was uneventful. The weather was sort of cool for the whole cruise. An unusual cold front had come in but we were still able to use the balcony. The seas were seldom rough. We chose anytime dining and really enjoyed the flexibility of it. No complaints about the food - - just wonderful. The one complaint was that they have done away with teaspoons in favor of those little sticks. Ick! We complained they did not have premium tea and got some - - seems you have to ask for it as people were taking large amounts home. We chose not to try the upscale dining as the dining room had something we loved each evening. The entertainment was good. The dancers and singers did a great job. The comedian (1st one) was absolutely hilarious. We could not stop laughing. The second one was so-so. We noticed they did not have as much entertainment as other years but we really did not care. If this is how they keep prices down it's fine with us. We were unable to get into Princess Cay because of the weather. Got our port fee refunded. Really enjoyed St. Martin and St. Thomas although we noticed the merchants were much more aggressive in St. Thomas this year. We enjoyed inexpensive beer on the beach and met a couple from Canada. It was lovely. We walked in St. Thomas and enjoyed the stores. Grand Turk was a later than usual stop because of wind but they gave us extra time. The beach and stores were a nice (if somewhat cooler than normal). All in all the Crown Princess was beautiful and we would go again. No major complaints and seven days of relaxing with an ocean view - - doesn't get much better than that! Oh, should mention that Princess lets you bring wine on and has an empty fridge. Also, you can bring a bottle to the dining rm. for $15 corkage fee. Very reasonable. Read Less
Sail Date March 2009
Having sailed the Emerald Princess last year my wife and I were really looking forward to our return trip this year. Embarkation went smoothly and we got on board early enough to enjoy the day reacquainting ourselves with the ship. Once ... Read More
Having sailed the Emerald Princess last year my wife and I were really looking forward to our return trip this year. Embarkation went smoothly and we got on board early enough to enjoy the day reacquainting ourselves with the ship. Once our cruise started we were more than a little disappointed in the following. The production shows in the Princess theater were the exact same shows we saw last year and now they show them two nights. So there goes some of our evening entertainment. The cruise director was basically nonexistent other than his daily appearances on his morning TV show and his staff as a whole seemed to be following in his footsteps as they also were rarely seen. The wait staff in the Michelangelo dining room left a lot to be desired. On more than one occasion we were left wondering if we aliens due to the fact that we left holding our menus with not so much as a glass of water. We complained to the Maitre D' who seemed to take it personally and basically became a nuisance afterwards. We were much happier when we switched to the Da Vinci dining room. Our visit to Sabitini's was excellent as always with a great wait staff and a wonderful meal. My wife saw the s'mores dessert on the Crown Grill menu and being the dessert freak that she is wanted to try it. The dinner seatings were filled so I took a chance one evening and asked if we could come in, just for dessert and coffee and was quite happy when they said it was no problem. Kudos to the Crown Grill. We are active people and try to find the most active shore excursions we can on all our cruises. A word to the wise DO NOT book the bike tour on Water Island in St. Thomas. The bicycles they use are UNSAFE and in severe need of attention. The chain popped off my bike three times. The cable fell out of my rear brake on a downhill and it has to be one of the shortest bike rides around an island I have ever encountered. In comparison the bike tour on Bonaire was on of the best. Excellent equipment, attentive tour guide, excellent ride around the island(if only it were longer than 13 miles). Highly recommended for those looking for something a little more active. Stay in Grenada was to short, I realize that its a long way to Bonaire from Dominica but if thats the case skip a port and hit all three of the ABC islands. Dominica is one of the most beautiful islands I have ever stepped foot on a must see for anyone who loves the tropical side of the Caribbean. Bonaire is just as beautiful but in a completely different way. The desert atmosphere is amazing and the island is very low key. A complete opposite from the tourist mecca of Aruba.I guess after writing this I have come to the realization that overall we did have a great time, other than a few minor incidents it was a wonderful time except for the fact that the time flew by and it was over before we knew. I guess we are going to have to start booking longer cruises. Read Less
Sail Date March 2009
Background: Our friends had a grandson with a celebration scheduled in St. Thomas. They didn't want to fly so they asked my wife (our resident cruise booking expert) to see if there was a cruise that was stopping in St. Thomas on the ... Read More
Background: Our friends had a grandson with a celebration scheduled in St. Thomas. They didn't want to fly so they asked my wife (our resident cruise booking expert) to see if there was a cruise that was stopping in St. Thomas on the designated day and if we would go with them. She found the Emerald Princess and we agreed to go with them. That is how we came to be talking this cruise. Travel & Hotel. We live in Florida and drove to Fort Lauderdale. We've done this before and stay at the Hampton Inn on SW 12th Street. Good hotel, free shuttle, and you can leave your car there for a nominal charge. Embarkation was well done. There was a long line but it moved along. Once you got to the check-in the process went quickly. There was space to move around the ever present photographer's back-up. Our balcony stateroom was a disappointment. It was smaller than any balcony we can remember on any line. We were on Holland America in Dec 08 and our room was at least 1/3 larger. The bathroom was really small and the shower almost laughable. Our friends got a large balcony room (+$800) and the only difference was a larger balcony. We found that with the larger balcony you didn't have any privacy as all the decks above can look down on your balcony. We were disappointed in the ship design. It appears that the primary consideration was for the number of cabins at the expense of the public areas. All the public areas were too small for the number of people on the ship. The theater seats are narrow and very close together (think discount airline). I found it so uncomfortable I skipped all the shows. My wife went to the shows with our friends. Anytime people gathered (shows, evening entertainment, and Piazza events) there was never enough room. I use the fitness center, dry spa and steam room extensively. The fitness center, equipment, and classes were fine. The locker room is too small for the size ship. It is poorly designed with towel storage on the small bench and thus nowhere for more than one person to sit at a time. There is an additional thermal spa for $80 that I joined. I will not do that again as there is really no benefit over the free facilities. We used Anytime Dinning. This was fine as long as you made reservations. If not, there were long lines most of the time. There is a dining room on Decks 6 and 5. Most people went to the Deck 6 room and Deck 5 was less crowded with a shorter wait. The food was fine. The free pizza was very good. On the days at sea there was an English pub food lunch menu in the Wheelhouse bar. It was very nice and I enjoyed it. There was the usual spread of shipboard activities. All was as expected. Another disappointment was the Princess policies on getting more money from the passengers. I ordered a drink and was asked if I wanted a medium. Now to me that means there is a small, medium, and large. Not the case. A medium is a larger drink than a regular size and more expensive. I haven't seen this type of deceptive marketing since McDonalds Hamburgers used it with their french fries. A fellow passenger fell on the ship and cut himself. The Purser's Office charged him $1.09 for band aids. There is free ice cream on board for a few hours a day but it is totally unadvertised as opposed to the for fee ice cream which is well advertised. The gym classes are $10 each if you buy a package for the entire cruise or $12 if you want to try just one. I could go on with more examples of, in my opinion, the loss of prestige of the line and the move to mass marketing techniques based on the size of the ship. When you are on-board, let the buyer beware. The cabin service and our table service were very well done. We felt that clean-up and drink delivery on the Lido deck dinning were a bit slow. Everyone was pleasant and made the cruise enjoyable. My wife enjoyed the entertainment. As mentioned before, all evening events were very crowded. Most shows were repeated three times over two or three days; I guess so everyone would have a chance to see them. We think the variety and quality was as expected for Princess. We visited five ports. Excursions and other details were as expected. Disembarkation was fine. We had the option of early walk off which we didn't use. Our group was called within five minutes of the expected time. It was a usual, timely disembarkation. I filled out my comment form but couldn't fine a place to drop it off. I guess there was a box by the Purser's Office but who goes near that place on the last day? I expected a box by the gangway but there wasn't one. Summary: A day cruising is better that any day ashore so don't take my comments above to mean we didn't have a good time. It was just a series of small nits that kept it from being a great cruise. Princess seems to have lost the ability to do the last 5% that separates a great cruise line from a good one. Overall I told my wife that we will not cruise on this class of ship again but I don't mind going on Princess. Perhaps we'll find the smaller ships still have the old Princess charm and quality. Read Less
Sail Date March 2009
Pre-Cruise: We flew into Sydney 2 days early and had a blast. Embarkation: Easy as the cruise terminal was just a couple of blocks from our hotel, just walked on and went to our cabin. Cabin: Balcony. Plenty of room (have yet to have ... Read More
Pre-Cruise: We flew into Sydney 2 days early and had a blast. Embarkation: Easy as the cruise terminal was just a couple of blocks from our hotel, just walked on and went to our cabin. Cabin: Balcony. Plenty of room (have yet to have one that didn't), enjoyed the balcony throughout the cruise as we always do. Room steward (Rizza) was perfect as was the room service which delivered our fruit for breakfast each day without fail at 7:00 AM. Dining: We had standard late dining at a table for 8. Great companions, waiters and meals; so good in fact that no one at our table missed a single meal! We had no complaints about the food at the other venues. The Horizon Court was fine, if you couldn't find something to eat, it was your problem. PS: the salads were terrific, fresh and great variety. The pizza's and hamburgers and hot dogs were the best we have had on a cruise (especially the pizza!) Itinerary: Could not have been better. Exmouth was a happy surprise as it allowed us to really see the Australian land scape in all its glory and natural environment. All the other stops were all we could have expected. We have been all over the world and this was one of the top 5 trips we have taken out of at least 20. Disembarkation: Easy and Painless! We took a tour of Bangkok which took us off the ship at 7:30AM and ended with us being dropped at our hotel in Bangkok (Ramada on the river which was beautiful with a river view)with our luggage at the airport the next day...could not have been better. Read Less
Sail Date February 2009
This is our 11th cruise, the third one with Princess. We travelled with two other couples, (one in their 50's, the other in our same age range 41-52). Ruby Princess is the best Princess ship we have sailed on, beautifully decorated, ... Read More
This is our 11th cruise, the third one with Princess. We travelled with two other couples, (one in their 50's, the other in our same age range 41-52). Ruby Princess is the best Princess ship we have sailed on, beautifully decorated, with a more classical look than Sapphire, and with many improvements on the Grand class. We flew from Toronto to Ft Lauderdale two days ahead of the sailing, rented a car and enjoyed shopping at Sawgrass Mills Mall and spent a day at Key Largo. We stayed at University Inn, which was of great value; it's about 12 miles north of the terminal. Embarkation on Feb 21, 2009 was smooth and very efficient. We were there before noon. They lined us up according to the decks and it took no time at all, after staying briefly in the waiting area. Of course, it depends on whether you arrived with other passengers from buses and bigger groups at the same time, for that would slow you down. We were in our cabin by 12:30 pm. Our luggage arrived after we had lunch on the Lido deck (after 2 pm). We had enough time to unpack and tour around, well before the Emergency Drill. There was ample room for storing our bags and clothing in the closet area; there were more than enough hangers for the two of us. Service was as good as we have experienced in previous journeys. The only thing is the cabin stewards did not fold the traditional "towel animals" this time. Having read other reviews that criticized the food on the ship, we were pleasantly surprised by its quality and selections. (Perhaps Princess has responded to those criticisms). It far exceeds our expectation and the dining experience of previous cruises, including RCCL & Celebrity, which was excellent. We were not fans of Anytime Time Dining, but we are very happy with our experience this week. We went to the Da Vinci most of the evenings. Even though we had different servers every meal, they were fantastic, made us feel welcomed and valued every time. We did not miss having the same servers every dinner. Even the staffs at the Horizon buffet were great; of course, some were better than others... We found the food at Horizon/Caribe Cafe also as good as it can be, not disappointing at all. Another couple tried the Crown Drill and they really liked it, and told us it is worth every dollar they spent. We had just one bad experience with a Sea Bass dish one night, it was very fishy - but other than that, all the seafood and beef dishes were excellent! The overall selections were more than adequate. We tried the Fish & Chips/English Pub Lunch at the Wheelhouse Bar on the second At Sea Day, it was fantastic as reviewed. There were no line-ups at about 1:30 pm that day. It was free - I mean no extra charge. The two new theatre production shows (Broadway Ballroom & Once Upon A Dream) were both excellent, definitely worth getting there early to get good seats. They ran them two evenings in a row, so everyone on the ship gets a chance to watch it. The stage is beautiful and it truly seems to spark. Even the "Welcome Show" on the first night was very well done. The performers and the Cruise Director, Lisa Ball certainly set the right tone for the rest of the week. The highlight of the week was the guest performer from Las Vegas, Tony Tillman, a high energy song & dance act that worked the crowd to a frenzy! We also enjoyed the different musicians and performers who worked the Piazza, which made the mid-ship "gathering place" very pleasant. While "Movies under the Star" was a nice experience, the movies offered were rather limited. We seldom went near the Lotus Spa in our previous sailings. But this time, I really enjoyed the Thermal Suite through the whole week, and had a Seaweed /Hot stone massage on the first At Sea Day. It is a most relaxing experience; highly recommended, if you don't mind paying for it. We had gone through the western itinerary before, so the ports were nothing special for us. Still, it was nice to snorkel at Cozumel again, and fun to climb Dunn's River Falls in the pouring rain. We went ashore on our own, without taking any of the excursions offered by the ship. (Note: the ship did change time on the night before going to Cozumel, so ship time and local time is the same there for that day). Overall, the sailing was very smooth the whole week; my wife did not feel too sea-sick, except on two occasions. Of course, she enjoyed all the shopping. She did take the Photoshop computer @ sea course, and Steve the instructor was great! The only downside was disembarkation on Feb 28. Something went wrong and things were delayed for at least 20-30 minutes according to schedule. When we went to the baggage claim area and through to the US customs & immigration, we were stuck with another 500 passengers with no clear lines guiding us. While the ship was able to handle the 3000+ passengers rather efficiently throughout the week, they really dropped the ball this time. It was totally chaotic. They simply let too many people down from the ship at the same time, perhaps to make up for lost time. We were stuck in this crowd for over half an hour. Thankfully, most of the passengers were courteous and patient under the circumstances. We tried not to let this last bit of disappointment ruin a wonderful week of cruise experience for us. Now that we are back in the cold white north, it's time to dream of another vacation, and work off the few extra pounds... which was proof that the food was indeed good! Read Less
Sail Date February 2009
We Liked:) * Most dinners (lamb chops, prime rib, chicken topped with shrooms & Fontina, king crab legs). * Most lunches aside from the burgers (low-grade). * Cabin steward was the BEST! Guy was like a ninja. * Comedian/juggler ... Read More
We Liked:) * Most dinners (lamb chops, prime rib, chicken topped with shrooms & Fontina, king crab legs). * Most lunches aside from the burgers (low-grade). * Cabin steward was the BEST! Guy was like a ninja. * Comedian/juggler was very funny and entertaining. * Availability of food. Prego's pizza & grill was going at 1:30 AM for MUTS. * Skywalkers is still the coolest club at sea. * Freshwater swimming pools. * Cold towels when getting back onboard from port days. * Most bands were good. * Champagne party even though more difficult to get a glass this time. * Disembarkation was smooth aside from the sheer mayhem that goes on outside of terminal trying to get a taxi, but that is Puerto Rico's fault. * Muster is as painless as they can make it. Much better than other lines. * Wife enjoyed 2 spa treatments, well sort of - see last bullet under "We did not like." We did not like(: * Lack of A/C in common areas. * Water fountains (hot water) and cardio equipment (old) in gym. * Most waiters were not properly trained and lacked motivation, in our opinion. Example, one guy tried to test a 2nd bottle of wine by pouring the test sip into a 1/2 full glass from 1st bottle. Also would not know to always take ladies orders first. * WORST breakfast in the world and HORRIBLE coffee, even by cruise line standards. * Some dinner items were embarrassingly bad inc. filet mignon (leather) and scallop & shrimp appetizer; Think $0.10 shrimp cocktail in Vegas quality. * Always a line at pursers which wasted our time when needed to check on our account; we had lots of credit to be used. * Comedian/magician put us to sleep. * Location of embarkation is away from the action of Old San Juan where Carnival and others dock. * Hard-sell of products in spa while wife still naked under sheet at end of her treatment left a bad taste in her mouth and ruined the whole experience. She left frustrated rather than relaxed. Okay, that's it! We had a terrific time with a few blemishes. Princess CB has room for improvement. Still, we booked an FCC and probably will go through with it. They changed the rules a bit because they are currently offering double OBC's. Only thing is that if you cancel you will get your $200 deposit back but lose the OBC. In other words, we had to pick an itinerary to get the 2x credits. If we change our mind, we lose the credits and can't switch itineraries. Rumors are true, Crown Grill still a work in progress. Lots of painting going on around the ship still, even at sea. You NEED to play the chair game when at sea if you want a decent spot. We hated that, but it is a part of life so keep it in mind when you go. There are signs about holding chairs for more than 30 minutes but guests would assist their friends, family, and new shipmates by speaking on the violator's behalf when inquiries were made. If you booked, you'll have fun but you will need to know it will not be a flawless cruise. The staff said the sailing prior to ours - 1st out of drydock - was a disaster. Maybe in a few months all will be back to normal. Many of the staff did not even know there way around the ship yet. Happy travels to all and hope this helps! Read Less
Sail Date January 2009
The Emerald was everything we hoped it would be. Prior cruises on Princess included the Coral to Alaska, Sapphire to Mexico, and the Grand to Western Caribbean. The Emerald incorporates changes that prior Princess cruisers really ... Read More
The Emerald was everything we hoped it would be. Prior cruises on Princess included the Coral to Alaska, Sapphire to Mexico, and the Grand to Western Caribbean. The Emerald incorporates changes that prior Princess cruisers really appreciate: bigger gym, doors that open automatically in heavy winds, an alternative dining buffet at the rear of the ship (Caribe Cafe), and the Sanctuary. I don't want to spread the word too much on the Sanctuary, but my wife would kill to have that again. It is at the front of the ship and there are no kids, attendant service is full-time, comfy lounge chairs, Bose headphones with free Mp3 players, massage tables in private tents... You get the picture. It is an oasis away from the chaos of the main pools on any ship. It is right above the Lotus Spa at the front of the ship. There is a charge but it is worth every penny. It really irks me when people complain on boards about the food on the ships or poor service. The standard rule of life applies: If you are kind to people, they are kind to you. The food was fantastic in the dining rooms and even better than on any prior cruise. The cabin attendant was efficient. I am amazed those guys smile al the time when they are stuck in the jobs they do. We visited Aruba, Bonaire, Grenada, Dominica, St Thomas, and Princess Cay. On Aruba, we went to Palm Beach but get out your wallet if you want a chair and umbrella. Taxi fare is $10 each way. On Bonaire, we went to Jibe City in Lac Bay. It is where the windsurfers are and I have never seen more beautiful water and I have been all over the world. In Grenada, we walked around downtown but I was not impressed. In Dominica, we joined a private tour fabulous day touring with Reyno. I had read many great reviews of Reyno on Cruise Critic. There were about 20 of us total, ten in each very comfortable van. We were lucky enough to be in the van Reyno was driving, he also supplied a very knowledgeable guide to accompany each van, and ours was Roslyn. Our first stop was Emerald Pool, before the crowds. We hiked to the pool and when we returned to the parking lot Reyno was waiting for us with a cooler of ice cold water and beer. After the Emerald Pool we stopped at one of the Hot Sulphur Springs. Our next stop was Mr. Nice's Fruit Stand. Mr. Nice's isn't a place to stop and buy fruit, but a place where we could sample all kinds of fresh fruit and some very good candied coconut then give a tip if we desire. There is also a stand that sells drinks and hot sauce, we bought some hot sauce and really like it. All along the way Reyno stops to point out beautiful flowers and various fruit. On the way to Trafalgar Falls we stopped at a small beach to check out the black sand. Then we drove through the Botanical Gardens in town. After the short hike to Trafalgar Falls Reyno had another treat for us, a very tasty rum cream, or more water or beer if we preferred. Our last stop was a scenic overlook high above the town, a great photo opportunity. We highly recommend Reyno as a tour guide. as funny as I expected. Reynotours@hotmail.com,TeL: 17672451129/ 17676157698. You can read other posts about the ship but it is a gem Enjoy. Read Less
Sail Date January 2009
Note-I'm copying this off of my review on the CC forums, so please excuse the odd use of "More later" :p Weather blessed us on this cruise . Seattle was overcast when we left, and Juneau was cloudy with an afternoon rain, ... Read More
Note-I'm copying this off of my review on the CC forums, so please excuse the odd use of "More later" :p Weather blessed us on this cruise . Seattle was overcast when we left, and Juneau was cloudy with an afternoon rain, but after thatwe had amazing weather. Skagway had pure blue skies with the sun out, Ketchikan also was sunny, and the Endicott Arm Fjord (we couldn't enter Tracy) was magnificent, not a cloud in the sky. I'd bring one pair of shorts just in case. It actually got quite hot in some of the towns  I suppose I'll be doing my review in parts. Let's just do Day 1 for now Let me start out by saying a few quick things:-The food was the best we've ever had on Princess.-The service was the best we've ever had on Princess. -The captain, John Foster, and cruise director, David Cole, as well as our server, Arnulfo, were all the best.-We skipped Tracy, and went to Endicott, due to fog, which I definitely did see and understand. We passed the mouth of Tracy and had to keep blowing the fog horn, so Captain Foster decided to just turn around and head to Endicott, his personal favorite fjord.-The naturalist, Michael, was really knowledgeable and entertaining, despite his odd speaking tone.-We missed Victoria due to high winds, which I actually didn't feel, but I trust the Cptn's judgement. We got right to the side of town though, we could see it from our window quite closely.Saturday, June 20th, 2009The alarm went buzzing at 5 A.M., and I rushed into the shower to wake myself up. I then got dressed, gathered up 2 family members that went with me, and we headed to LAX. OUr flight was on time, a relief, and we left LAX around 7:40 and landed at SEATAC at 10:05. No hassle, very easy, kudos to Virgin America. We then contemplated whether to explore Seattle, or just head to the ship, and we chose the latter. We arrived earlier than we've ever arrived before at a cruise terminal. After a 20 minute drive to Pier 91, we were there! The ship came into view and our stomaches tightened. It was about 10:45 and we went to the terminal, checked in and went through security, all under 10 minutes or so. We then got in the three lines to get onboard, as they hadn't started letting passengers on yet. We were on around 11:10 or so, and went to check out our balcony stateroom, mid-ship on Baja Deck. The space was cozy, as expected, and the balcony was bigger than we had thought it to be. Our steward, Timothy, then introduced himself, and every time we saw him, we'd get a huge smile and small talk, something we've never actually experienced before to such a degree on any cruise line.He was truly excellent; room was spick and span. We had lunch at the Horizon Court, but I'm happy to say that the Donatello Dining Room was open ! We then just explored the ship and unpacked, and headed to the muster drill. Then we went to sailaway, which was definitely quieter than usual, and we were on our way. The sailaway view is beautiful. We tried the International Cafe for the first time ever, and truly fell in love. We then booked the Crown Grill for what was supposed to be Victoria on Friday, at 6 PM, so we could explore the town. Then, we headed to dinnersecond seating traditional in the Canaletto Dininng Room. Our server, Arnulfo, and our assistant waiter, Vasiliy introduced themselves, and they were a great duo. Never before had we had such a close connection to our server. Dinner was great, prime rib for all three of us, spring rolls were delicious, as was the salad. Turned out to be the best food on a cruise we've had yet. We then went to MUTS, our very first experience with it, and watched Marley and Me on it. it was really cold out, but we managed with the blankets we provided. Then, we headed to bed in hopes of another great day.More to come  __________________ Saturday, June 21, 2009 Our first sea day aboard! Being that Princess does go west of Vancouver Island, we did have a little bit of rocky seas our first and second night, as well as our sixth, but it wasn't that bad, just a little bit of motion in the ocean! We woke up around 9ish, and headed up to HC for breakfast. It was good. On the Golden, the buffet stewards had silverware at the table, and provided drink service the entire cruise. That was a first for us as well. Our prior experiences showed that that happened for the first day or so, but didn't last after the second or third. Pax would have to get their own silverware and drinks, not a big deal at all, but a nice touch. We used the stairs to get everywhere, never stepped foot in an elevator. I figure that I owe my body that much after having it endure a cruise . Let's see. We headed to Demonstration Nation, which had fruit/sushi/flower carving/making/organizing, followed by a martini demonstration; all very nice and cute. We then pretty much relaxed and for the first time, I've never done it before sadly, we ate in the dining room for something else besides dinner! Lunch seating turned out to be an absolute delight on days when we weren't in port, and I am hooked on it now . The rest of the day flew away with exercise on the Promenade deck, snacks at the INternational Cafe, and relaxing on our balcony. We then watched Carlos Oscar's comedy in the Vista Lounge, which was alright, got better as we went through it. It was a formal, we went to the Captain's address and waterfall then headed to our first formal dinner. Had the beef medallions, so tender and juicyabsolutely delicious. Stopped by Princess Pop Star, and went to bed around 11. Another great day at sea. This day really flew by fast. Juneau would come next!I have all of the patters, papers, as many as you can imagine. I stuffed them all in my backpack that I took along, so if you need a document, just ask me .To be continued... Monday, June 22, 2009 Also, regarding patters, my scanner isn't working, so stand by for those. Today was Juneau! We woke up around 9 AM, grabbed some breakfast in the Horizon Court and hung around the International Cafe until we arrived right on time at noon. Man, the International Cafe is delicious. Paninis, salads, and soups during the day, grilled to perfection, not to mention the completely fresh out of the oven cookies. So warm and chewy....I want one now! Anyways, we left the ship right away, and we had pre-ordered a shuttle for $12/pp/each way. We got on it, it was right across the pier, and we headed to Mendhenhall. We had narration, although when booking it said that it wouldn't be provided, so that was nice. Today was the only day where weather wasn't on our side. We had cloudy skies at this point. We approached Mendenhall Glacier and from the very tips of the trees I saw the highest point of it. As we reached closer, people on our shuttle were gasping at the enormity and majesty of that amazing glacier. We hopped off the shuttle right in front of the glacier, and hiked over a huge pile of rocks to get as close as possible. The hike over the rocks took a good 10 minutes as you had to get on hands and knees, but it was really worth it. We stood right next to the huge, loud, raging white waterfall and were treated with tall icebergs and a front seat view of Mendenhall. We were so close that the waterfall continuously sprayed in our face and sprayed mist across our camera. When we were there, they were constructing a trail through the rocks, so everyone could go there more accessibly. Definitely go. A must see. We spent a good two hours there and headed to catch the next shuttle. As soon as we hopped on, it started raining, so I suppose weather waited for us .We headed to downtown Juneau, and went to go through a free tour, I repeat free , of the government building. We saw the Governor's Office, as well as the Lt. Governor's Office. It was about a 30 minute tour, informative, but not a must-do, as much of the building was closed for construction. Palin actually lives in Anchorage, and we heard 2 jokes relating to the SNL skit on that day from locals . We looked for a lunch place for an hour and a half. There really aren't too many inside of Juneau. So we settled for the Hanger, which wasn't very good...at all. Very expensive lunch for miniscule crab legs. After this, we continued to walk around the quaint little town, but it got a little too rainy and cold, so we headed for the ship after a good 5 hours in town. The Amsterdam and Eurodam were there as well. We took a peak at Cinematastic, and we were not very happy with it. We walked out. It turns out I mixed things up, Cinemantastic was on the sea day, Carlos was in Juneau . We had dinner, it was the Alaskan Dinner, and it featured quite a bit of fish. I had prawns with beef tenderloin medallions, and they were so tendered. Great dinner and we headed to bed for Skagway! Tuesday, June 23, 2009 One note about embarkation daythe beds were really bumpy. We asked for egg crates which helped a little bit, but it was still somewhat uncomfortable. I had never asked for an egg crate before so I was expecting an actual crate, and I was surprised when he brought foam Anyways, let us continue! Today was Skagway, and we had an excursion, our one and only, booked through Princess today. It was Summit, Suspension Bridge, and Salmon Bake. We woke up around 9 and had breakfast in the HC. We headed off the boat around 10 and walked around for about 3 hours. Skagway is a very small town, so there isn't too much to do except walk around, eat, and shop. They have about 30 jewelry shops owned by cruise ships...a shocking number. The Red Onion Saloon and just about every restaurant in town hosted an hour wait at least, so we headed to the ship around 1:15. We rushed to try to get lunch seating and made it by two minutes, arriving at 1:28. We had a very delicious lunch, and headed out to our excursion at 2:45. We left at 3 and our tour guide was Jo, and she was hilarious. The entire bus was roaring with laughter the entire trip and we ended up telling stories instead of learning about the Yukon. Approaching the summit of the White Pass is amazing. The tram followed most and went past where the railroad went. It was beautiful, and we were able to get off for pictures about five times. We arrived at the Suspension Bridge, which was in Canada, and the scenery was magnificent. Under the bridge when crossing are white water rapids, the view to the leftmajestic snow capped mountains, and to the rightbeautiful green fields and trees. It was quite a sight! Had some hot cocoa there, which was great! We then headed to Liarsville for the Salmon Bakeit is close to the pier and it took about an hour. The food was great, the salmon was delicious. They had a lot of characters there that could play songs on saws, as well as story tellers. There were huskies, and old wagonsit was quite a nice stop. Then, we headed back to the ship and said our good-byes to our wonderful tour guide. By this time it was around 7:15, close to the all-aboard time, so we went onboard and had to get dressed for dinner right away (not that we were exactly hungry after that huge meal at Liarsville). It was Italian Dinner night, which was good. We were pretty tired after this, so we hung around lounges and tuned into Princess Pop Star, and then went to bed, for our next lovely day in the Fjords! Wednesday, June 24, 2009 Today was Tracy Arm. I didn't want to miss this at all, as I expected it to be the highlight of our cruise. Set my alarm nice and early for either 6 or 7 AM, don't recall. When I woke up, we were treated to islands and icebergs outside of our balcony. However, I knew that our ship was not yet in the Fjord. Soon after, our ship was COMPLETELY blanketed in fog, and our fog horn was blowing nice and loud every minute. I, personally, love hearing that sound, but I wasn't happy that our fjord would be missed by fog. It then disappeared, and I heard the three tones, meaning an announcement was coming. As soon as I heard the word, "safety", I knew what was coming. We were going to skip Tracy and visit Endicott, which the Captain soon announced. I was slightly disappointed, but I was still looking forward to it. The Endicott Arm Fjord is one of the most beautiful places I've even seen. Granite walls surround and tower the ship, and seem so close to the rails that you can almost touch the cliffs. Icebergs, some HUGE, surround the ship, and the movie Titanic comes into mind. I was surprised that we could just run right over them without a problem. We passed the Star Princess while entering, nearing the Dawes Glacier. They were SO loud and we were quiet, but passengers on the Star say the opposite. View the Star here:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IxI4nAGI0jUThat was a very interesting experience! We then got unbelievably close to the Dawes Glacier, as close as we can go, and I praise Captain Foster for his commitment toward giving his passengers the best scenery. We even went out of our way on our way to Ketchikan to visit an Island filled with bears, and to go to a different route to view whales. Captain Foster was great! The fjords are truly magnificent. Hundreds of seals lie on the icebergs. Pictures could not, absolutely could not, capture what we saw. We spent a good 4-5 hours in the fjord. After we left, we were still treated with scenery. GREAT day, highlight of the cruise by far. After exiting the fjord, we had a sea day-like schedule of activities. Before our wonderful dinner, we went to a magic show, featuring the magic of a name that slips me, Gaeteno or something like that. It was great! David Cole participated in a disappearance scene at the end, quite a surprise! Definitely see this. Dinner was the Chef's Dinner, something never before experienced on Princess. It was great, I had Alaskan King Crab Legs, Yum. They were nice and fat too . After dinner, at 10:45, we went to the International Crew Showthe absolute highlight show of the cruise. The crew is so, so talented. Four singers, all better than the lounge singers. The band was fantastic. They really were great, like record-recording quality. I can't praise them enough . Comedy acts were good, final act was goofygreat show. Headed to bed, and set a very early wake up alarm for Ketchikan the next day. Thursday, June 25, 2009 Today was Ketchikan. We set our alarm for 7, and we were off the ship at 7:30. We were only in port until Noon today, and all aboard was at 11:45, so we had to get a nice and early start. We got off the boat, and went to the visitor's center, where we decided to purchase a tour for $35 pp that took us to creeks and waterfalls, it was short and adequate, but I was expecting a bit more. We saw tens of bald eagles in flight, including the nest. I thought that the totem pole visit was a waste of time, as they have been touched by modern man for touch-ups, major touch ups. We walked around town, and it was a nice little town, my favorite that we visited. We had some fish and chips by the pier and it was the best that I've ever had, without a doubt. Crispy, without being greasy, it was just perfect. We then entered a looong line to get back on board, but we didn't mind too much. We went on board, but we didn't sail until 12:30 because of the long lines to get back. We enjoyed the rest of they day at sea, and we had a nice and scenic sailaway as well. We had lunch in the dining room and the rest of the day flew by, and before I knew it, it was time for a second formal and our last night with our wonderful servers in the dining room. Dinner was great. Beef wellington was much improved then from when it was last had on Princess, and the lobster was good as always. Tomorrow was Victoriaer, was supposed to be. __________________ Friday, June 26, 2009 Today was our last day of the cruise . It went by oh so fast. It was a sea-day like of activities until we were schedule to reach Victoria around 7 PM. We would be having the Crown Grill at 6 PM. During the day, we watched movies like Gran Torino,at 3 PM, which was very good as well as having our final dining room lunch, going to the Culinary Show and Galley Tour, as well as taking a nice visit to the dessert buffet which was open from 11:30 AM-2 PM. The fruit tart was great! . After those activities, it was already 5:30 and we had our scheduled dinner at 6. We got dressed in normal smart casual attire, and we went to the Crown Grill, and we enjoyed our almost free dinner, because of the Twitter Contest that I won. I must add that getting this recognized was difficult. I had to spend $12 at the internet cafe just to print out and prove that we had actually won something, and several visits to the Purser's Desk later, they finally contacted corporate and our OBC was added. The Crown Grill was very good. I had a 4 oz. lobster tail and a filet mignon, which was perfectly cooked and very tender. During dinner, I noticed that the ship had stopped right outside of Victoria. I could see the buildings of the town quite well, even the Empress Hotel. But right after I finished my steak, I heard the three tones, and I heard the word "safety" again, and I had a strong hunch that we'd be skipping Victoria. The Captain said winds were much too high, approaching 25 knots, and that the ship couldn't handle it. I went outside to the deck shortly after the announcement and felt no wind at all, but oh well, I trust the Captain's judgement. We were looking forward to this port though. They sent a tender with a few passengers ashore to comply with law, and then we set sail quite early. Dessert at the Crown Grill was very good. My molten chocolate lava cake was pure batter, and our waiter insisted that he had to report it to the Executive Chef, so he did, but everyone else's souffle was delicious! DH went up to the room, full and uncomfortable, and called it a night really early. DS and I went to the dining room, as he loves the Princess souffle on the last night with that warm vanilla sauce, so we said that we'd go just for dessert and to see our wonderful dining team again. We had our souffles and our waiter ended up talking to us for a good hour and a half. The other tables in our area were getting ignored . The Head Waiter came in and joined the conversation for thirty minutes as well, haha.We had a very funny conversation. We thought we'd be there for ten minutes, but we stayed longer that passengers that had the full dinner . We gave our servers a big hug at the end, and took a picture, and then we left . I headed to bed after this but DS went to watch Princess Pop Star Finale in the Princess Theater. Then DS went to bed, and we had to disembark the next day. __________________ Saturday, June 27, 2009 Disembarkation day. Blech! We woke up at 7 AM, and we vacated our stateroom as requested around 8. We then had a nice breakfast in the dining room ( a first for me again), and we headed to.....our meeting place. We had silver 6 tags, and we had to meet in the Vista Lounge at 9 AM. We went into the lounge at exactly 9 AM, and they called our tags at 9:01. I've never had that happen before; it's usually 30 minutes of a delay for each tag, but that was surprising. We were off the ship quickly, and we headed to the luggage area. They should have more signage in this area, but the collection was typical-chaotic. After about 20 minutes, we found all of our bags, and we headed past customs, out of the port, and into a taxi. There was barely a line for this, actually there wasn't a line, even at a peak time like 9:30 AM. We had wanted to go into town, but we had luggage and it was $50 in and out of SEATAC, something we didn't want to pay, so we tried to get on an earlier flight. OUr flight was scheduled for 3:35, but we arrived at 10:40, and they put us on standby for the 11:50 flight out of Seattle to LAX. We were called up at the gate, and they told us that they had 2 seats for us, so we didn't take itone extra. The next man had a wife and a young child with him, and he completely left his wife and child there to wait. After he got on the plane, his wife was quite mad! We waited the four hours, and I started this review .My sister picked us up and drove us home, and we relaxed. Didn't get home until 7ish, so it was a long day. We slept long and hard. This was a fantastic cruisemy second favorite that I've completed. Alaska is so beautiful, and is a must-see. I would absolutely do it again. The Golden was beautiful and Vines, MUTS, and the International Cafe were icing on the cake. The food was wonderfulthe best I've had on Princess, as was the service. Embarkation and disembarkation was simple, plenty of time to relax and to explore. Grade A cruise. Thank you Princess for a wonderful vacation.  Read Less
Sail Date June 2008
A LITTLE ABOUT US We are in our late 30's and this was our first cruise. We were traveling with a group of 11 people, including our parents. At the time of cruising we were together for about 5 years and living happily. We were ... Read More
A LITTLE ABOUT US We are in our late 30's and this was our first cruise. We were traveling with a group of 11 people, including our parents. At the time of cruising we were together for about 5 years and living happily. We were not the only new cruisers in our group, in fact the only members of our group who had sailed before were my parents who had sailed with Princess on 5 other cruises. SHIP Caribbean Princess is an amazing ship. Since this was our first cruise we have nothing to compare it to, however, this ship was well beyond our expectations. Rooms were exceptionally clean, as were the public areas. This ship is huge so be prepared to walk-a lot !! EMBARKATION Swift and painless!! It was with great excitement that we made our way through this very simple process. Princess staff members are well trained and moved cruisers along with ease. It was great to have so many staffers around to assist us. One recommendation- have a few single bills on hand as there seemed to be a lot of tipping from the hotel to embarkation. OUR ROOM Amazing-fabulous-exceptional-perfect!! We had a stateroom with a balcony and it was marvelous. The bathroom is a bit small but this is the norm so it was ok with us. We were happy to have a safe in our room to hold our valuables and important documents. Our bed was very comfortable and the balcony was phenomenal-we REALLY recommend the balcony suites. We loved sitting out during the morning and evening hours. I would have liked to have had bottled water complimentary in our rooms. We drink a lot of water and luckily we brought some on board with us, however, we would really like to have had some chilled water provided in the rooms. Our steward was amazing!!! Our room was kept impeccably clean and she was super nice. She was always smiling, like most of the staff, and she seemed genuinely happy to be working for Princess. FOOD AND DINING Delicious- we ate most meals in the buffet and it was unbelievably good. We also enjoyed three dinners in the restaurants and they were sooooooo good. We ate so much food-luckily, like I said earlier, we did a lot of walking !! We were slated for "anytime dining" and it was perfect. On the evenings we decided to dine in the restaurants, we simply phoned for reservations and it worked out perfectly. Some people enjoy the traditional dining but we like the ability to dine when we wanted to as opposed to having a set time. PRINCESS SERVICE Exceptional!! Everyone, everywhere-exceptional. ENTERTAINMENT Incredible! The entertainment is second to none. It is quite varied and was wonderfully entertaining. We laughed, we sang, we danced, we jumped, we clapped, we listened ! All day everyday, there is something happening on this ship. From dance lessons, to ice carving, fruit and veggie carving, pool contests, deck contests, movies, bands, bingo, horse races, theme parties, sports, golf lessons, golf demos, scavenger hunts, etc.......... RELAXATION We really loved the fact that even with all this entertainment happening, we could still find quiet spaces to relax and read, or enjoy a cold drink and the hot sun. Again the service on the sun deck was terrific. EXCURSIONS Super fun!! We went into the ports of Saint Maarten, St. Thomas and Princess Cays and we loved all three. We didn't particularly enjoy the street vendors constantly begging for a sale, however, the ports were beautiful. We did some shopping and enjoyed the beaches. My hunny enjoyed a fabulous day of golfing in St. Thomas. This was an organized excursion and although it seemed a bit hectic when they were heading out, it turned out to be a great day and worth the money. We really enjoyed our relaxing day on Princess Cays. We did some snorkeling and some swimming and just totally relaxed and enjoyed the day. We really liked the BBQ on the beach; it was a lot of fun. Our group really had a good day! FAVORITE MEMORY AND FUTURE CRUISING PLANS Our favorite memory of the trip was our excursion in Saint Maarten as this is where WE GOT ENGAGED!! We had both decided we would not get married (again) however, after being together for 5 years, the romance and excitement of this trip swept us both off of our feet and the next thing we knew, we were buying a ring and announcing our engagement. It was incredible. We are going to be married "At Sea" aboard the Crown Princess in November 2009. Our children, our parents and 43 of our friends and family are also joining us for our wedding cruise!! If you can't tell, we highly recommend Princess Cruise Line ? Read Less
Sail Date November 2007
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