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Princess Cruises: Golden Princess

Fodorite Reviews

Average Rating
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May 3, 2017

Review of Golden Princess

Richard Age: 71 Occupation:retired Number of Cruises: 8 Cruise Line: Princess Ship: Golden Princess Sailing Date: 2014-09-30 Itinerary: Los Angeles to Ensenada Enjoyable short get away cruise but very disappointed in 1st cruise on Princess. RCCL and Celebrity much better. I even remember Carnival was better. Average food, desserts were good. Anytime dining and buffet a ZOO. Balcony room was smaller than we have had on other lines. RCCL & Celebrity

much better. Smoking limited to certain areas of ship but at times I couldn't sit out on balcony due to marijuana smell blowing back. From now on I want cabin in front part of ship Entertainment was good. Carnival & Princess lines only short getaway cruises out of L.A. If I was taking another long cruise I would stay away from Princess. We had no other choice but anytime dining when we booked cruise. Over an hour wait for average food. Buffet small & crowded compared to other ships I've been on. Embarkation and debarkation at L.A. was easy & smooth, ships personnel friendly for most part, entertainment was good. We enjoyed cruise for just a 4 day get away in spite of dining, but if we go on another short cruise like this I would go with very low expectations & hope for better. Would NOT book a long cruise on Princess. Celebrity is best of 4 cruise lines I've been on.

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Sep 29, 2014

Los Angeles to Ensenada

Enjoyable short get away cruise but very disappointed in 1st cruise on Princess. RCCL and Celebrity much better. I even remember Carnival was better. Average food, desserts were good. Anytime dining and buffet a ZOO. Balcony room was smaller than we have had on other lines. RCCL & Celebrity much better. Smoking limited to certain areas of ship but at times I couldn't sit out on balcony due to marijuana smell blowing back. From now

on I want cabin in front part of ship Entertainment was good. Carnival & Princess lines only short getaway cruises out of L.A. If I was taking another long cruise I would stay away from Princess. We had no other choice but anytime dining when we booked cruise. Over an hour wait for average food. Buffet small & crowded compared to other ships I've been on. Embarkation and debarkation at L.A. was easy & smooth, ships personnel friendly for most part, entertainment was good. We enjoyed cruise for just a 4 day get away in spite of dining, but if we go on another short cruise like this I would go with very low expectations & hope for better. Would NOT book a long cruise on Princess. Celebrity is best of 4 cruise lines I've been on.

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Jul 7, 2013

Alaska

Overall, not a bad cruise. This was my first with Princess, so wasn't sure what to expect. Compared to Royal Caribbean, I think I like Royal Caribbean better, since that tends to be a more upbeat type of atmosphere. This cruise seemed to be a little more laid back than Royal Caribbean. On the flip side, there were some things I liked about Princess. The first is the muster stations are all in lounges, so you can actually sit down, as opposed

to being out on the deck for 15-20 minutes. It's also nice that they only do photos in the dining rooms on formal nights, as opposed to every night. For the Alaskan itineraries, the onboard naturalist, Kathy was good. She seemed very knowledgeable, and pointed out lots of fascinating things on our route. I do wish the Princess Patter (the newsletter) would have done a better job of promoting her shows in the theatre, as I missed one of them I wanted to see, since I didn't see it listed. Food overall was good. I didn't think it was anything to rave about, until I got to the last couple nights, which was the lobster tail and jumbo prawns. Those were excellent, as were the mussels on the last night. A good selection of food, but the service was slow for breakfast that first morning, but they turned it around by the end of the cruise. I mainly went to the buffet for breakfast, except for that first morning. I had an inside stateroom on the baja deck, two floors down from the Lido Deck. Staterooms are on the decks directly above and below, so there was no noise at night, except for the kids running on the same deck. I didn't feel like I was too cramped, either. The shower seemed more spacious than Royal Caribbean's inside rooms, which is another plus for Princess compared to RCI. There was one instance where my toilet didn't flush one morning, but that was quickly resolved within one hour. Not sure when the problem first occurred, as it was fine the night before. I noticed it around 8:15-8:30, and by 9:30 after I got back from breakfast, it was fixed. It didn't seem like there were than many activities to choose from compared to Royal Caribbean. As I mentioned in the open, this seemed more scaled back than Royal Caribbean. I still found activities that interested me, mainly the bingo sessions. Also, it seemed that for the Movies Under the Stars, the Princess Patter was often wrong, as the movie didn't show when it was supposed to. In Skagway, definitely try to do the White Pass and Yukon railroad at least up to the Klondike Summit. This was a great experience, as was the horseback riding excursion in Skagway if you like that type of thing. You may want to wait until you get to Juneau to decide what you want to do there, depending on what the weather is like. It was raining when we were there, and I booked a whale watching excursion. Most tours in Alaska go rain or shine, so keep that in mind if you go. If you do go to a port on a holiday, I would recommend booking a ship's tour, so you don't have to worry about missing the ship. Example, we were in Skagway on the 4th of July, and on our way back to the ship after the morning horseback ride (there was another one in the afternoon), the driver said it took her 10 minutes to find a way through town back to the dock, where it usually only takes her under a minute. A good vacation, and loved the scenery, especially the mountains and Tracy Arm Fjord. Only thing I would say is do some research so you know what to expect weather wise. We had only one really rainy day in Juneau, which can be expected there. We got lucky in Ketchikan, with a sunny day, as there's less than 30 of those a year from what I was told by Kathy, our onboard naturalist. Not a bad trip overall, and not too bad that I wouldn't book Princess again, but I think I prefer Royal Caribbean.

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May 11, 2013

Coastal cruise from la to vancouver

I took my grand kids and daughters to disneyland And cruised back to van. Our boarding was quick, the ship was great, our Steward Dennis was wonderful. It was a great 3 days I did find the maitrd's officious and Some of the waiters not as engaging. The food was great, there was enough to keep Us busy. The 9 yr old enjoyed the kids club All three kids liked the pool and shows. I would sail The princess again. The food was good.

Every evening a different Choice. The 24 hr coffee shop was great With their pastrys and sandwiches. We opted for 2 inside cabins. Lots of room for 3 to share. On a longer trip I would Consider an ocean view and possibly a balcony. There was enough to keep us busy all the time. No excursions all at sea Very enjoyable. Daughters and grand kids first time Cruising.

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Nov 11, 2012

Alaska

Can't wait to head back! We plan on repeating the exact same cruise, as everything was just so perfect and gorgeous. Worth every penny. Princess Cruises Review: Golden Princess: Our ship was in excellent condition, and the crew was constantly working to repaint outside surfaces, and keep everything clean. We had anytime dining, and definitely loved it. There were plenty of seats indoor and out, and it was rarely too cold to sit outside.

That being said, we had perfect weather every day of the trip in mid-August, a truly rare occurrence in Alaska! The crew was wonderful, helpful, and friendly. The food was good, plenty of variety. Don't be deterred by those reviews bashing the food. Princess has the best food of any cruise line: not an opinion, a fact. Definitely get a balcony: you won't want to miss seeing the glaciers from your bed. The only downside is that if you don't book your excursions online at least a week before the embarkation, then you have to book them on the ship. We missed out on a few things we wanted to do, but really enjoyed what we did anyway. Juneau Excursion: Mendenhall Glacier Rafting This was a wonderful excursion. We were transported to the glacier lake, and given suits and boots to protect our clothes from any splashes. Our guide steered the raft, and we were able to touch actual icebergs in the lake, even ripping chunks off and tasting the fresh ice! There were some light rapids, nothing dangerous or too rough, but enough to make the ride exciting in spots. Our guide gave us plenty of interesting information about the area. We also were handed cups and encouraged to try the glacier water, so clean and delicious! Definitely an experience to remember. Juneau Excursion: Evening Whale Watching Amazing! You may not see whales from the cruise ship, so a separate excursion is recommended if you are hoping to see whales. We saw plenty of huge, gorgeous humpback whales, and at a very close distance, an incredible experience! Skagway Excursion: Rock Climbing A great time, with great guides. All levels of expertise are welcomed, as you are able to move at your own pace. Skagway Excursion: Dog Mushing Camp This was by far the best excursion we went on in Alaska, and the best excursion I have done on any cruise trip. While everything in Alaska was gorgeous and amazing, this excursion was truly off-the-charts. My boyfriend and I chose this because I am a huge dog lover, but this trip isn't just about dogs. You are picked up at your port, told about the area from an experienced guide, then transferred to an all-terrain open air vehicle which drives you literally vertical up a mountain side. This in itself was a wonderful tour--but we weren't even 1/2 way through with the excursion! Up the mountain, you are greeted by dog mushers, and groups of 16 dogs, all ready to go! It is very exciting, as the dogs are happy to see you, and love their work so can't wait to pull you off. You sit down in a large golf-cart type vehicle and away you go! The dogs are excellent, and respond with a word from the instructor, who is at the back of the vehicle during the ride. Tip: sit in the front seat for the best ride! After a thrilling ride, you are taken back down to the camp, where you are able to visit, hold, and kiss the puppies as much as you want. There is also a fascinating lecture about the history of the Iditarod. The best part of this excursion was definitely the guides. In many of the ports, college students from the continental U.S. come up during their summers to work in the tourist industry. Therefore, you don't get a sense of the real "Alaskan" from their tours. These guides, however, are in it to train with the dogs, and are much more knowledgeable and invested. A truly wonderful tour. I can't wait to get back to Alaska and do it again! Ketchikan Excursion: Kart Adventure A great ride. Be careful when they say "if you break it, you buy it” since they mean it! Victoria Excursion: We went to a few local pubs and talked with some older Canadians. Make sure you're back on ship on time--they WILL leave without you!

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By Mike_CR

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May 19, 2012

Alaska

We will never take another Princess cruise. Worst customer service in the industry. When booking the cruise (departing in a different city), the Princess rep tried to sell us transportation from the local airport. I wasn't sure if we could get to the airport early enough by bus, so asked if we could call back. The rep told us we could, but that we could also book online. I checked bus scheduled, and found the Princess option would work, so

booked online. We never got any confirmation of the transportation (though they were happy to take our money). I finally called to figure out what time and exactly where at the airport the transportation would leave from. When I did, they told me we had no transportation booked. After searching for almost forever, they found the transportation booking, but told me we had the wrong one! We had transportation from within the departure city itself not to the departing city. The rep called customer service, and told me they could not do anything to switch to the correct transportation, and could not give a refund. It was too late to find alternate transportation, so Princess left us high and dry, charged us for the transportation we did not need, and we had to cancel our vacation. Industry worst customer service aside, why on earth wouldn't you send any kind of receipt, or acknowledgement of transportation when its booked? If they had, we would have had time to find another route and could have gone on the cruise. This is flat out ridiculous. Since our experience, we have heard from many other unhappy former Princess customers. Will never consider another Prince-less experience. I have never been less satisfied as a customer, and I'm doing my best to tell the world about it.

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Apr 5, 2012

LA to Hawaii roundtrip

This was a two-week anniversary cruise to Hawaii. The trip was pleasant, but four and a half days on the ship before our first port seemed a little too long. The weather in Hawaii was perfect and our excursions were good. The trip to Hawaii was fairly smooth sailing but the returned trip found the ship being tossed about by the rough ocean. Anyone wanting to kick back, relax, and enjoy the ship's activities this is your cruise. We mostly

ate in the Horizon Court Buffet. The food was good; some items great, others poor. They can screw up rice fifty different ways. Lots of pasta and potatoes. Best ham, egg, and cheese biscuits I've ever had. Tons of desserts - some good, some bad. They can do some really bad things to chocolate. Just off the Calypso Reef pool they had very good cheeseburgers at the Trident Grill, and very bad pizza at the Prego Pizzeria. Never heard a bad thing said about Sabatini's (the Italian restaurant) but heard some complaints about the Crown Grill steak restaurant. Room service was fast and good. Our cabin was smaller than what we've had on other ships. Also, the bathroom and shower were smaller. THE BED WAS THE WORST WE HAVE EVER ENCOUNTERED ON A CRUISE SHIP. It bowed in the middle, which was quite plain to see. Our stateroom attendant finally located plywood and placed under the mattress, which helped a little. Can't believe Princess would have beds like this one. There are activities from morning until midnight, or later. We don't attend but the art auctions seem to be non-stop. They have movies, bands, pianists, and others to entertain. This is a long voyage (5 p.m. Wed to first port at 7 a.m. Monday) so they had something for everyone. I noticed a large number of people reading, knitting, or doing crossword puzzles during the days. The biggest disappointment for many people was the small size of the theater. Come early or don't see the shows in the theater. My wife and I took a book, arrived an hour early, and read until the show started. One evening the cruise director was going up and down the aisles "making" people move from seats or to other aisles to allow late comers to get a seat together. The theater shows were okay but didn't compare with what we've seen on other ships. Due to the rough ocean one show was cancelled to keep the dancers from being injured. They have a number of smaller venues (Promenade Deck, Wheelhouse Bar, and the Explorers Lounge) where various acts kept people entertained. My wife and I enjoyed the Piazza (main lobby) pianist and string quartet. Spent hours reading which is my favorite form of entertain. If Sean O'Shea is doing his show make certain to attend. He is extremely talented. Don't bother to get off the ship in Ensenada, Mexico. The ship warned passengers about the problems they might encounter if they went into town. The port has one building with a number of small vendors - if you must get off just take a few pictures in their small plaza and get back on the ship. Think of a building about the size of a CVS or Walgreen's with seven hundred to a thousand people pushing and pulling. We got off the ship took pictures and got back on the ship and hit the Sundaes Ice Cream bar. Our trip was as alway; very relaxing. We don't get overly excited about the embarkation (which went very smoothly compared to many places) or the debarkation (which was smooth when compared to places like Galveston) nor were we blown away by the ships activities. It was just another lovely and relaxing trip. I was in Hawaii many years ago but this was my wife's first trip - we both enjoyed ourselves. Great trip. Nice Ship. Good food. Okay activities and entertainment.

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By Joni_CR

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Jun 15, 2011

Alaska

We enjoyed our cruise to Alaska, our room was great, but I was disappointed with the food and dining room. The food was below average with a small variety of food. We dined in the dining room 2 times, but skipped it the rest of the time. We had "Anytime Dining", we preferred to sit alone (party of 2), but they said there was nothing available, we would have to wait 30 minutes. One evening there was nothing on the menu that we would eat.

The stateroom was great, with an excellent stateroom steward. The entertainment was good. But, they appeared to have less activities than Carnival Cruises. The cruise was lovely, but I am not sure that I would cruise Princess again. The only complaints that I have is a the food and lack of cooperation in the dining room. We cruise 2 times per year, and we prefer Carnival over Princess any day.

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Jun 10, 2011

Alaska

The boarding was not bad at all. Had a bit of a delay due to "doors not closing" but all in all, not bad. The room was great. The service spectular; scenery wonderful; did not participate in ship activities so cannot rate, and only one problem. When we got into the ports of Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan and Victoria, it was totally the "masses." In Skagway, in particular, when we docked there were four other ships (you are talking about 2000 plus/minus

people jamming into the town which was very small.) Now true, some of the visitors were taking some tours, but by the time we left the town, we had to walk in the streets as you could not move on the sidewalks which were totally jammed with tourists.. I don't know what the answer is, but there should be some way to stagger the times the ships are at a certain port to keep the masses to a controllable number. Our debarking the ship in Seattle was not bad at all. All in all, I really enjoyed the cruise, but the number of people in each SMALL town was not acceptable. More than I had expected. The person in charge of the room could have not been any better - he was great. Room was always clean and he went above and beyond expectations. We drove from California to Seattle. Stayed the night at the Marriots downtown - it was super! Had a great cruise, wonderful weather! We thoroughly enjoyed the cruise.

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Apr 24, 2011

LA-Hawaii-LA

My wife is a hemiplegic confined to a wheelchair. On the 1st night out, she became seasick and threw up in the dining room. The medical department, consisting entirely of Brits fleeing the National Health System, examined her briefly, then confined us to our room and charged us almost $300. For several days we lived on the meagre diet allowed by the medical team and delivered by room service which invariably got something wrong and tried to make

up for it by forcing chocolate-covered strawberries (the most meretricious, California pulp-centered ones) on us, over my strenuous objections. When we finally survived to arrive at LA, they lost two pieces of our luggage which did not get to for more than two weeks. For this we paid almost $15,000 for a suite on the Fiesta deck with wheelchair capabilities. Since then we have been receiving the odd Princess flyers for their longer cruises, to New Zealand and Australia, as if they want to punish us some more. Good luck to them. Our travel agent told us to be sure to go to what they call "The Sanctuary" where we would be especially delighted with the ambiance. It was not available to wheelchairs. In general, the elevator system is difficult to use for those who are physically disabled. The slot machines make an awful racket. We left the ship once, in Honolulu, for supplies.

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Oct 26, 2010

Alaska

This was our first time to sail with the Princess line. We were very pleased. The ship was equipped with, not one, but two lap pools, heated with fresh water. My husband swam everyday and thoroughly enjoyed the pools. The food was delicious with so many numerous choices. In the main dining room, there were new menus every evening with enough variety to please anyone. Our dining room servers were wonderful, ready to meet our every need.

The buffet was set up in such a way to easily feed guests quickly, but allowing guests to see all that was available. Servers were there to find available tables and provide drinks very quickly. It was all so smooth and easy. The cabins were designed in such a way to allow plenty of movement and lots of storage for our luggage and clothing. The best onboard activity was the narrated ride through Glacier Park. What a treat! We didn't do many excursions, but the train ride in Skagway was wonderful. We had a wonderful time and will certainly cruise with Princess again. 4 Stars all the way!!

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Aug 25, 2010

Seattle-Juneau-Skagway-Tracy Arm-Ketchikan-Victoria-Seattle

This was our first cruise. Sketpical at first, we really enjoyed this one. Of course, the destination (Alaska) helped. But the itinerary, the weather, the ship, activities offered on board and the destinations all combined to a package we can only recommend. My wife and I travelled with our two teenage children, and they too, thoroughly enjoyed the experience, not the least as there were enough other teenagers on board for bonding and joint action

(day and night); furthermore, the boat's "Remix" teen club turned out to be a central meeting point for the younger ones and the club itself also offered enough activities that attracted the teenagers. Perhaps because of the variety of onboard offerings, and the scenery around us, one never felt the presence of over 2000 passengers on the ship. Hardly ever were there any queues. Fitness aficcionados, getting to the gym at the wrong time of the day, may have waited a while for the next treadmill to be available, but as all passengers seemed to be considerate, the wait was no longer than perhaps 10 minutes at the most. This was a big surprise. Coming from Europe, we expected a rather US-based cuisine, but it turned out to be excellent overall, both in the buffet/cafeteria style settings as well as in the regular dining rooms. Desserts were on average less good than the main dishes. We did not use the speciality restaurants that require an extra charge. For the one week we were on the boat, the combination of buffet offers as well as a well-mixed choice of menu dishes in the dining rooms was more than enough and overall thoroughly enjoyable. The wine selection was good too, but of course you need to accept that any alcoholic drink is offered for an additional charge. The bar drinks were OK, to my taste the cocktails came with too much ice, but I guess that is what most passengers expect. A big surprise was also the quality of the coffee. Of course it is not freshly brewed (in the restaurants perhaps) but is generated from a concentrate, similar to cold soft-drink. But, as mentioned, the quality was better than usually to be found in mainland USA. On the other hand, drinks from the soda-fountain (coke/tonic) had an odd taste to it, and unless someone is "addicted" to soft drinks, water and ice-tea do the job perfectly well. We had a room with a balcony, the children an interior room. Both had ample space. The bathroom/shower perhaps on the small side, but perfectly adequate. The beds were excellent, and noise insulation perfect. The TV programme - for those who wish to stay in their rooms - had a good variety, and information on forthcoming or current destinations was ample. Good. There is more than a normal passenger can take in. The only disadvantage is that if someone is set out to "do it all", it won't be possible. But there is something for all tastes every day and that results in excellent distribution of all passengers throughout the boat and the day. The main shows were offered twice in the evenings, so really no need to get worried or to reserve a seat "hours" in advance. Truly amazing. The quality of the shows was good, too. Of course they are not all at the toppest of the toppest level, but all were entertaining and, considering this was a cruise boat, very good. All the musicians on board were true professionals, and manged to provide a "we are playing this for the very first time, and only for you" feeling even thouth they had probably gone zillion times through the same moves. I guess that depends on how adventurous one is, how individualistic, etc etc. No destination was "risky" in any way, and one can discuss endlessly whether it is better to book a recommended excursion on the boat, or try to find an own deal or a different type of activity at a destination. After all, the destinations on the cruise (with the exception of Seattle and Victoria) make a living off cruise passengers, so there is no scarcity of offers for any taste, but expect to pay a LOT for anything that is a bit more exotic or takes you more than 2 miles away from the boat. Excursions booked on the shore tend to be a bit cheaper than those sold on the boat, but be aware that the itineraries may be different, and the "we will wait if the excursion is late" guarantee given to excursions booked on board may be worth the extra dollar. We did not book any excursion on board, and we heard good and less good reports from those who had done so. We had good weather, albeit a bit cool in the northern sections, throughout the trip with no major rainfall, occasional drizzles perhaps. Boarding and leaving the ship was extremely well organised. Staff were overall very friendly and efficient. Most passengers came from the US with a large Asian contingent, several Russian speaking and not too many Europeans. The "movie under the skies" is a great feature of the Golden Princess. The screen - and visibility - is excellent also during the day, so just relaxing at the pool for a while and taking in a concert film or a feature movie (or part of it) were agreeable moments. We particularly enjoyed: the dance classes, the good photographers, the fact that staff had their nationality mentioned on their name plates (makes small talk easy for those who are interested in who is actually making their life on board so pleasant). Sales pitches were measured. Some cruise reviews warn of that, but it was well measured on the Princess (or well packaged) and not a nuisance. It would be nice if the artists on board had a web-page of their professional past (sometimes greater than the present) and present.

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Aug 7, 2009

Los Angeles-Hawaii-Los Angeles

I am permanently in a wheelchair (spinal cord injury). The Golden Princess was a nightmare experience for all of the non-walkers because only two elevators went to the dinner restaurant. You had to go up an elevator to get out because there were no walkways at that level. It was hell to get to the restaurant, and worse to get out. No bathrooms at restaurant level which created an urgent-to-emergant situation for some. I can't believe this ship is

in compliance with basic health requirements because it certainly is not with ADA standards. Princess Lines was minimally responsive to numerous complaints during the cruise, and totally non responsive to letters afterward. Almost everyone we met using walkers, WCs, etc. vowed they would never go on Princess again. This is too bad because aside from this problem the cruise was excellent: very good food, attentive wait staff, it was excellent. No complaints at all. There was an unsafe ramp from our stateroom to the balcony. We had ours changed; the wheelchair-bound guest in adjacent stateroom tipped over on this ramp, fell out of wheelchair and barely avoided serious injury. Again, poor oversight by Princess executives. The stateroom was otherwise satisfactory for a handicapped person. The onboard activities were OK. We like a good library, but found this one very limited. We missed news bulletins. I was irritated with the TV always turning on to Fox News; for much of the trip Fox News was the only current events channel. My paranoid belief is that Princess Lines and Rupert Murdoch have some kind of collaboration. I have no evidence for this, of course. The best "excursion" was when the captain could not get the ship into Nawiliwili harbor because of winds, and he circumnavigated the island of Kauai. We very much appreciated this "ad-lib". For a non-disabled passenger I believe that Princess Lines offers good value. We have cruised with Regent Seven Seas which was outstanding, but too expensive, and with Crystal which was very good, but also very expensive and not as good as Regent. For a disabled passenger I cannot warn strongly enough to stay away from Golden Princess or any other ship of Princess with similar configuration.

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Sep 13, 2008

Southern Caribbean

Background This was our 8th Princess cruise, so obviously, we like Princess. We have also traveled on Holland America and NCL. We weren’t expecting to do a cruise this year as we had done one last fall (Tahiti). We were planning on going to Cozumel so I could dive and Maureen could snorkel. However, Princess sent us a sale brochure and after

we looked it over, we found that it was cheaper for a week on Golden Princess than a week on Cozumel (especially since the food is included on the ship). This is a new route for Golden Princess (we were only the second time the ship had done this route so I assume there are readers who would like to know more. We had a mini-suite on Dolphin deck, D326. We've sailed on Grand Princess three times before, so we knew what to expect and we loved the mini-suite. We find that when we have a balcony cabin, we do spend time in it. We especially love having breakfast on the balcony and sunset wine and appetizers (which we get from the Horizon Court at lunch!). It’s also so nice to just have your own balcony to sit out and read and not be with the noise and crowds up on the Lido deck. Our Anniversary We flew to San Juan on our 22nd wedding anniversary, so this was a special occasion for us. We stayed one night before and after the cruise at the Caribe Hilton, using previously earned HHonors points, so the stay both times was free. We had read very conflicting reviews on tripadvisor.com on this hotel. We wondered since we were staying for free whether we would be consigned to the "closet in the dark". However, the front desk staff was great and welcoming. I had called the hotel Concierge prior to the stay to ask about a corsage for my wife. Since the hotel doesn't have a flower shop, he recommended 1-800-flowers, and I used them. They had delivered the corsage prior to our getting in at 7pm, and the front desk had a note to give it to us. Made for a wonderful surprise for my wife! They gave us a wonderful room on the 5th floor of the main building that had an ocean view and a view of the elaborate swimming pool complex. Very tropical and romantic. We had dinner at Morton's Steak House which is located in the hotel. While we would normally have gone to old San Juan, we had arrived so late that we thought we were better off at the hotel. It was of course a great (and expensive) meal! Embarkation On Sunday, we left the hotel at noon and headed for Golden Princess. This was the only disappointment of the trip. Apparently everyone else staying in San Juan prior to the cruise also checked out at noon, and arrived at the ship. The waiting line was out to the edge of the parking lot entrance and it was warm and humid and ready to sprinkle. And this was just the line to give your baggage to the baggage people. There was a second line then to get into the check in building. Once in there, they had chairs for you to sit while you waited and even a dance troupe to entertain you. Finally, we got ushered into the check in area, and since we were Platinum Princess members, we had a very short check in line here. However, the whole process exceeded an hour, which we thought was excessive. We've been on Grand three times which is a sister ship and just the same size, and never seen lines like that. There's no real excuse for doing things the way they are currently. Golden is a duplicate of Grand Princess. The only things that are different are the atrium lobby (much prettier on Golden), the location of the wedding chapel, Internet cafe, and the Grand suite which we didn't have! The dining rooms, cabins and other public rooms were the same design as Grand (which we like, so this is not a complaint). For those of you who like traditional dining times (we do--so don't flame me), there is one odd thing that happens the first night. The lifeboat drill is at 8pm apparently so late plane flight passengers can attend. However, late seating dinner is at 8:30pm. So it's kind of tight timing. So instead of sitting with your future table mates that night, they just take you to any table for the first night. You go to your assigned table all of the rest of the cruise. We sailed at 11pm. We went up top to see old San Juan since our cabin faced away from it at departure. One "unique" thing we saw, which I've never seen before. When we looked down from the top deck, we could see the balconies of the dolphin mini-suite deck. Someone had taken their bed, blankets, sheets and all, and placed it out on the balcony! What happened to this when it rained, we'll never know, and it did rain a number of times on this trip (we were there just before the big floods in Haiti and the Dominican Republic which made the news.) First day was at sea (and it was the only day at sea, making this a port intensive cruise). We went up and listened to the port lecture, and I took pictures of the ice carving demonstration out on the Lido deck. We both had booked trips to the spa and had great treatments there. We also met 12 of our "closest" Internet friends that we've never seen in person that we had corresponded with via the CruiseCritic website. Had a wonderful hour with all of them. That night was "formal" night and most really dressed up. A tip for formal night portraits… The first formal night is also the Captain's welcome party in the atrium. This essentially kind of interrupts the taking of atrium portraits, and we tried to wait, but finally had to give up and go to dinner as the line just didn't move. Barbados The first port was Barbados and we had a great time there. Maureen likes to snorkel and I SCUBA dive, and all of these islands are great water sport ones. She had a snorkel booked via Princess which she really liked, and I made separate arrangements via the Internet with Dive Barbados. They picked me up and I went on two dives with them, both involving wrecks which were interesting. They are a little laid back and small operation but very friendly. However, they got me back an hour late, about five minutes after the time I had booked via Princess a 4X4 with my wife for the afternoon! Just as I drove up, Maureen was waiting for the group to finally form. So I quickly dashed inside the terminal for a bottle of water and potato chips which formed my "lunch" that day. The 4X4 was a real kick of a tour. We used every feature of the Land Rover that it has. We went into sugar cane fields, slip sliding down the gully's and into the mud puddles (you like that--let's do it again!). Saw a close up view of a major sugar cane factory with all of the steam venting out above it as they refine the sugar. Went over to the Atlantic side of the island which has very rough surf but a very scenic coastline with lots of rock formations just offshore that have been undercut by the strong waves and current. Therefore the rocks begin to look like little "mushrooms" as their bottom 1/3 is worn away by wave action. It rained a little during this tour, but the driver put down plastic side curtains which helped. Guide/driver was very friendly and we learned a lot about the island. St. Lucia Here we booked a tour not from Princess, although it turned out Princess uses them for a piece of what happens. I wanted to dive, and Maureen wanted to snorkel. I had read that one of the best diving operations there is Scuba St. Lucia that is located at the Anse Chastenet resort on the south coast of the island. I e-mailed them and we arranged that Maureen could snorkel and I could dive and they would send a boat to pick us up at the Princess dock. We did get picked up along with others who had booked the same two pieces we did. We also had people from a Princess tour that accompanied us for a mountain bike tour. The 1 hour boat ride down the coast was great and relaxing. The snorkelers and mountain bikers were dropped off at the resorts private beach, and the SCUBA divers were taken one cove down the main resort to dive. For the snorkelers, they had a wonderful beach lined with lots of palm trees and lounge chairs underneath for relaxing. The first dive was a shore dive into the underwater national park that is adjacent to the Anse Chastenet resort. We then were taken back to the beach for lunch with the snorkelers and bikers using a pavilion back in the palm forest. Had a nice relaxing lunch and then the snorkelers and divers had another hour and a half for more diving and snorkeling. Finally they took us back via the same 1 hour boat ride and we just got on the ship at the final boarding time, so this is an all day adventure. Antigua Maureen had a Princess snorkel trip here which she liked very much. I had originally booked a dive through Princess for here as I couldn’t find out much info on diving operator here. However, when we boarded in San Juan, there was a note in our mailbox that indicated that the dive for Antigua was cancelled. The tour staff wasn't too helpful on recommending other dive ships (or even which one they had used that had cancelled), so I went up to the Internet cafe and used Google to find "Antigua and SCUBA". Found a few listings and made a reservation with Deep Bay Divers. The dive master picked me up at the dock. Turns out that this is a one man operation. He has his boat docked at the Rex Halcyon resort where there is also another dive operation (Dive Antigua). Both boats wound up going to the same dive spots. Mine stopped at another resort to pick up a large family who went diving with me. We had a good time on the reefs there. Came back in the late afternoon (to a rainstorm) and did a little shopping. My dive watch had leaked in Barbados, so I bought a new one at Columbian Emeralds which I like very much. It's a Citizen dive watch that records your dive, and then allows you to transfer the information into your computer to keep a record and a graphic representation of the dive. (BOYS TOYS!). St. Maarten The tour here was the highlight of the cruise and has been discussed before as one of the most outstanding trips in the Caribbean. We went on the "America's Cup Yacht Race", which was an absolute ball! We've been on a few lazy sailboat trips before. However, you as passengers on this, become the "crew". You supply the muscle to turn the winches etc to make the sails move and tack back and forth across the course out in the bay. We were on Dennis Connor's "Stars and Stripes" which was the winning boat in 1987. We raced against Canada II and True North, which were the two boats that also raced in 1987. It was so much fun, and we really got going fast. Was a blast tacking and yelling at the other boats. We did loose (the two Canadian boats ganged up on us), but it's one of the highlights of any cruise we've ever been on. St. Thomas Maureen thought she might go snorkeling at Coki Beach on her own, but decided not to. I had arranged to dive with Chris Sawyer's Dive operation at the Renaissance Hotel (since renamed to something I forget). This was a truly first class operation and well deserves the praise that others have given it in reviews. We went to two small off shore islands. The bottom here is a mixture of sand and coral formations, but lighter in color than the other islands I dove on this trip. So it made for the best underwater pictures of the trip. My dive master was a young man who went to high school here in Torrance, CA and grew up not far from the branch library I used to work at--small world! Departure We got off the ship around 10:30am and waited a long time for the customs check. Got a cab with no problem back to the Hilton and arrived before noon. Of course our room wasn't ready (and we didn't expect it to be). So we checked our bags and then took a taxi down to old San Juan as we really like the old city. Went to Mass at the Cathedral (a little long and of course all in Spanish). Then we went shopping and browsing in the old cobblestone streets. About 3:30pm it started to rain really hard. We had brought ponchos just in case. Then it really came down in buckets! We stopped under an awning of a shop that was closed to see if we could wait it out a little. Apparently we looked so drenched that another couple across the lane took our picture as we were so wet! Finally, we braved it down to the Wyndam which is at the bottom of the hill of the old city. Of course all of the rain also goes downhill, and so the streets were flooded up over the curb. We walked dripping through the lobby and casino and out the front door to a waiting taxi, who looked a little disappointed in picking up two very wet people! However, we enjoyed ourselves and relaxed back at the Hilton. The Concierge had recommended an upscale Puerto Rican restaurant called Ajili Mojili. We had a wonderful dinner of Asoapo a kind of gumbo soup and rice dish with giant shrimp. Yum! The next morning we boarded our flight home. There's quite a waiting line at the airport for both the agricultural check, and then the security check too, so allow enough time. In reflection, the week seemed so short. Next time I think we will go for the 10 day version out of Fort Lauderdale as the airfare there is cheaper too. We will probably plan to go in fall instead of May. We were trying to avoid the Spring Break crowds as well as the Summer Vacation crowds, but the weather in May is a little iffy. And yes fall is Hurricane Season, but But it was a truly wonderful trip.

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Aug 3, 2007

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Alaska Hal Steger My family of four (wife, two teenage daughters, 16 and 13, and myself) just returned from a week-long cruise to Alaska. This was our second cruise on Princess, the other being a trip to the Caribbean two years ago. In brief, the cruise was great and we had a fantastic time. We experienced a check-in time of about 20 minutes. Once we got to the counter, we got our keycards and got on the ship quickly. Our bags were

transferred automatically from the airport and got to our rooms promptly. We had two rooms, one with a balcony, the other an inside room. My wife really liked the balcony and we had terrific views throughout the journey. I would sign up for a balcony room again the next time we go, it was worth it. Overall, the food was pretty good, not great, not bad. I'm not a picky eater. The buffet always had nice fresh fruit, a nice salad bar and good sweets. The rest of the prepared food was hit or miss, I found the simpler items to be better and the more complex items to be not so good or to be somewhat bland and thus not worth the calories. The dinners were good, the best part was that we didn't have to cook or clean! We liked several of the desserts, since we don't eat those at home. The dishes at dinner were also hit-or-miss, some were good, others not that great; the salads were always good. The wait staff was generally efficient and friendly. There was one evening when we had to wait an hour and fifteen minutes, but that was our fault for not making a reservation. Any time we made a reservation, we were promptly seated. No complaints whatsoever about any of the staff we encountered, everyone was friendly and provided nice service, especially the cabin attendants. We liked the entertainment, including the Broadway-like shows, the comedians (Kevin Hughes, in particular, was funny), Michael the naturalist was uplifting, Princess Pop Star (American Idol like show) was fun, etc. While on board, we did many things, including using the exercise room and taking exercise classes, swimming in the outdoor pool and Jacuzzi-ing, playing ping pong and miniature golf, my kids playing in the arcade room, game room, teen club, doing the afternoon tea, you name it, there's plenty to do while on board. As to excursions, we did the taste of Juneau, which took us to a brewery, a cooking show and the Mendenhall Glacier, where we saw some bears, which was cool. It was a good tour, we liked all of it. In Skagway, we took a boat to a beach and then a canoe ride to the Davidson Glacier. The people operating the tour were informative and friendly and we saw whales on the way. In Ketchikan, we did the Eagles and Lighthouse tour, where we did see a lot of bald eagles. We also saw a lot of whales all during the cruise. Although not an excursion, the day in Tracy's Arm was the scenic highlight of the trip, we had a beautiful day of sunshine and the whole day was magical. It made the pictures from the cruise brochure look real. In Victoria, we did a tour of Butchart Gardens, it was a great tour and time, even though you only have a few hours, it's worth it. Overall, the weather was overcast and sometimes rainy for a little more than half the cruise and partly or fully sunny for the rest. This was a little better than expected. My wife and I lived in Juneau for two years about 25 years ago so we were expecting rainy weather and it was a little nicer than expected. The ship ride was quite steady, nobody got seasick. Someone mentioned that six weeks ago, on the first day, the seas were rough and 400 of the crew got seasick, but during our cruise, it was very smooth sailing all the way. The demographic of the cruise was distinctly older. The teen club coordinator said there were 210 teens on board, so no shortage of kids for my kids to interact with, but definitely lots of seniors on board. Disembarkation was a piece of cake. We got a ticket that allowed us to take our own bags off and we got off at our scheduled time, no problem. Again, overall, it was a great trip. There were little things that might bother some people but we were on vacation and we also realized that people were just trying to have fun and/or do their jobs, so there's no reason to get upset. We were all sad when the cruise was over, we didn't want to go home. If you get a chance to go on this cruise, I strongly recommend it, you will have a fun time.      

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Jun 15, 2007

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Alaska Inside Passage Jennifer Sunseri My in-laws treated us (my husband, me, our two children ages 2 and 6, and my brother- and sister-in-law) to a Princess cruise to Alaska to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary.  We sailed from Seattle to Juneau, Skagway, the Tracy Arm Fjord, Ketchikan and finally, Victoria BC.  The sites were amazing.  The Glaciers and wilderness were sites to behold.  Alaska is truly the last

frontier.  We did take advantage of two of the ship’s recommended excursions: the Mendenhall Glacier and Alaskan Salmon Bake (4 hours), and the White Pass Yukon Railway tour to the Canadian border and back (about 4 hours).  The train ride was a bit long for my delicate posterior, but the sites were none that I’ll ever see the likes of again.  I have only a few complaints about the Golden Princess, and Princess in general.  For the benefit of people who’ve not cruised before, the Princess Terminal in Seattle is where 2700 passengers are processed and let onto the ship.  This includes checking IDs, passports and birth certificates, checking luggage and going through security.  The majority of the Princess terminal employees were extremely rude.  I have never seen so many rude people and felt so bad about beginning a vacation.  I’ve worked two jobs that entailed moving several hundreds of tourists through a small area, so I can sympathize with these people and what they’re trying to do.  I saw one female line employee yell at two little old ladies who were trying to say goodbye to their party that they couldn’t stand where they were standing.  A simple “please” or an “I know you’re trying to say goodbye BUT” would have gone a long way. Upon arriving in our cab/van to the Princess terminal, our driver asked for directions as to where to drop us off.  The parking security man directed him to drop us off by the busses, even though we were in the front of the terminal entrance.  When our driver pulled up and let us out, a Princess employee came over and told my brother-in-law that he couldn’t be there with his luggage, that he was in the way.  My brother-in-law said, “but the parking security man told our driver to drop us here”, to which the employee responded, and I quote “oh, no he didn’t”.  He basically called us liars. We then took our luggage over to be checked, which went smoothly.  Then came the ID, passport and birth certificate dance, which we did several times before we checked in.  Security is extremely tight, which I appreciated.  At this time (June 2007) the passport law has not yet gone into effect.  A birth certificate and government issued ID is sufficient.  Ken, our very rude but capable intake person, informs me that I should really get a passport.  I will eventually, but I don’t need Ken to tell me this.  Ken proceeds to lecture me about how I need a passport.  I politely tell Ken that I don’t travel outside of the country.  He continues to tell me that soon I’ll need it for everything and there is a six-month wait, after which he pauses a long time, looking at me,  for dramatic effect.  I tell him, through my teeth, thanks for the advice; I’ll take it into consideration.  When we finally board the ship, we find our room very comfortable and much like other staterooms we have seen.  For the children, there are bunks that come out of the ceiling that our stateroom steward pulled down each night.  We had a nice balcony on which we spent a lot of time.  Nopporn, our steward, came in to introduce himself.  He was very nice and capable.  We only had one problem with our room, and that was the shower drain.  It was slow, and slow became stopped up.  After a two-minute shower the water rose quickly and all over the bathroom floor.  It took three calls to finally get someone with a plunger, and before I could stop him, he was out the door, leaving us still with an inch of water in the bathroom.  Nopporn showed up with beach towels and plastic bag and took care of it.  Not a big deal except it took two hours for it to be taken care of. My second big complaint is service in the dining room.  We were a large party (8) and they added another couple to our table to make ten.  On the first night, things went very smoothly.  I think cruise food is basically all the same: kind of old school and safe.  Some things were great, some were just OK.  The second night, which was a formal night, we were all but forgotten.  It was 6:15 before they took our order (seating is 5:45) and we never got some of the things we’d ordered.  By the time we’d finished our dessert, the place had cleared and they were clearly waiting to give us the boot for the second seating.  We skipped the dining room for the rest of the cruise and tried the other restaurants.  I recommend the Desert Rose Steakhouse, if not for the side dishes, for the steaks.  And now for the good things.  The entertainment aboard the Golden Princess was pretty good.  We watched the Princess Pop-star show (Princess’ version of American Idol, funny because of drunk people singing karaoke) and played a lot of Bingo.  We took the kids to see a magic show.  The rest of our crew said the comedy shows were ok. The Newlywed and Not So Newlywed game was hilarious.  The best entertainment of our cruise in my opinion was our Senior Assistant Cruise Director, “Little” Mark.  He made Bingo worth playing and Princess Pop-star worth watching. Princess isn’t like Carnival Cruise Lines, which are more family friendly, but they do have a kids’ club and an arcade and two great pools, not to mention a children’s menu was available in every restaurant.  Our kids are too young to really take advantage of the kids’ club and were with us all of the time.  They enjoyed thoroughly the pool, arcade, going ashore and the buffet.  I think it’s important to mention that cruises can be fun for children, but everyone appreciates well-behaved kids, even the parents of other children.  For this reason, we never attempted to take the kids to any late shows or venues better suited for adults, with the exception of a couple of nice restaurants.  I would stick with Carnival if we ever cruise with our children again. At the end of our cruise, we received a notice that if we wanted to pay $15 per person to have our luggage taken to the airport for us and checked, and have our boarding passes delivered the night before we disembarked, we could.  We all signed up for this option.  By dinnertime, when we were to put out our luggage for the baggage handlers to collect, we’d not received our boarding passes.  Some of our party hadn’t even received their color-coded luggage tags.  After three trips to the Purser’s desk by three different members of our party and three different stories, we found out that because of a computer glitch with Alaska Airlines, no boarding passes would be forthcoming.  And, had I not asked, we would have walked off with out claiming our luggage at the terminal because they weren’t going to take our luggage to the airport either.  There were a lot of very frustrated people.  And since we had to go back the way we came, whom should we encounter at the Princess Terminal on our way out, but the infamous Ken.  Ken told me to wait in the wheelchair section with my stroller (while my husband went for our bags) and would I stay back so he could get these people out of here?  Oh, well.  Some people can only do what they know how to do. To summarize, Princess’ terminal people in Seattle need serious sensitivity training.  A few employees on the ship could use a break, too, but most were very accommodating. Some were even extremely nice.  I can’t help but compare my Princess experience with Carnival, which was much more pleasant (funny, since they operate under the same umbrella).  Of course, my experience could be chalked up to a bad day, the stars’ alignment, the Golden Princess in general.  I know there are other people out there who had a fine time.  I will definitely cruise again, but I would seriously investigate other lines before I’d cruise with Princess again.        

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Jun 13, 2007

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Alaska Inside Passage Laura Quilty Let me first start off by saying this was our honeymoon cruise and it was fantastic. This was my husband’s first cruise and he loved it too. We set off from Seattle. If you’ve never been to the Pacific Northwest, it’s a magnificent scene. The mountains meeting the sea are quite a view. The embarkation was not that bad. We waited for about 10 minutes. Our eagerness to board made the ten minutes

feel like hours. Once we got onto the ship we found our cabin. Our cabin was on deck 10 with a balcony. I would recommend bumping up and getting the private balcony, well worth the investment. It was so peaceful to be out on the balcony in the morning with a cup of coffee taking in the ocean air. The air in Alaska is a pure as pure comes. Our first order of business was to locate the buffet. The buffet had awesome fresh fruit. A treat to have it all cut up and ready to eat. The selection at the buffet was always great. My husband enjoyed the large plates and selection. Not being soda drinkers we enjoyed the unlimited coffee, water, and iced tea. To my surprise and happiness, the coffee was really good. We were both highly impressed with the use of hand sanitizer at the buffet. No illnesses on our cruise. We had anytime dining which we enjoyed. It was nice to have the option to either meet new people or sit alone. We never had an issue with getting a table for 2. But we usually got to the dining room sometime in the 8 o’clock hour so that could be why we never had any issues. We did try both the steakhouse and Italian restaurant. LOVED the Steakhouse, HATED the Italian. Truly, our only negative experience on the trip was at the Italian restaurant. The waiter at the Italian seemed annoyed and the food was not impressive. However, the steak was excellent. On board entertainment was good. The comedian was funny. The shows were all good. What I expected from a cruise ship. I did win $160 on the slots after investing only $5. We did have a great naturalist on board, Michael Modzelewski. He was highly informative on Alaska and a great speaker. We lucked out and had the most spectacular day while doing our scenic cruising down the Tracy Arm Fjord, sunny skies. Pictures can’t even do it justice. I think even in the rain the grandeur of the fjord would be amazing. Our excursions ranged from amazing to pretty good. Our first port was Juneau. Here we did the taste of Juneau. This three part tour started with the Mendenhall Glacier (interesting), a whale watch (we saw lots of Humpbacks and Sea Lions – No killers though), and a traditional salmon bake. All in all, this excursion was fun and well structured. We next went to Skagway. We did the Glacier Point Wilderness Safari. What a trip. This was worth every penny. We took a high speed catamaran out to this isolated beach, and then took canoes to the glacier. Breathtaking and amazing. A bear was spotted but again I was to slow to see it.  Our next port was Ketchikan. Here we did the Eagles and Lighthouse tour. Another neat trip. We saw so many eagles and seals it was spectacular. The final stop was Victoria. Here we did the night tour of Butchart Gardens. A lovely and romantic place. We toured the gardens at night so it made for some memorable pictures. All in all this was one amazing vacation. The ship was beautiful, well kept and the service was all accommodating. The ages of our fellow cruisers ranged from young families to folks celebrating their 47th wedding anniversary. We met several other honeymooners on the ship. All the teenagers seem to be having a grand old time too. If you appreciate the beauty of our country then you will love this trip. Alaska was amazing and I look forward to someday doing further exploration into Denali. If you can get a balcony, it’s worth every penny and don’t forget the binoculars. You’ll be amazed with all the wildlife spotting. Alaska is awesome and cruising is the way to go. We recommend Princess 100%.      

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Mar 19, 2007

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Western Caribbean Jerry Atkinson This is not only a review of our cruise but also a warning to anyone anticipating taking the 23 day cruise on the Star Princess for the spring of 2008 on a similar itinerary stopping in Acapulco, Mexico. This cruise though booked for 23 days was treated by Princess as a 16 day cruise from Santiago, Chile to Acapulco then a 7 day cruise to San Francisco. Some passengers started their cruise in Buenos

Aires 12 days earlier. The first 16 days were enjoyable. Even though we had “Any Time Seating” we identified a waiter and his assistant that were excellent and requested a reservation at their table for 6 PM each evening. The food was as usual for Princess, nothing extraordinarily scrumptious. The Norovirus raised it’s ugly head causing the suspension of bread baskets, salt and pepper shakers and sugar packets being placed on the dining tables toward the end of the 23 days. Self service at the buffet was also eliminated to the point of not being able to fill your own coffee cup or tea glass. We found that there was always entertainment available from the main acts and production shows in the Princess theater to other live music and first run movies in the evenings on the promenade deck at different venues. More constant entertainment than found on most cruise ships but with the usual singers that stepped on each other’s acts with their own renditions of Neil Diamond, Tom Jones and Bobby Darin. The main band was exceptional in setting up with musicians and vocalists that only came on board for short 1 to 2 day performances then flying back to Australia and the UK. The production dancers and singers were not exceptional. Always look for the one singer or dancer with that extra energy or vocal ability. No one was found, no one out shown any one else which results in average. Tours were as usual overpriced but in some instances required to make the most use of time and the absence of alternatives. Shuttle service was provided at South American ports at $10 round trip per person. The port of San Martin’s purpose is only as a jumping off point for Machu Picchu tours. Three charter planes were brought in to the local Peruvian military air field to take 300 guests to Cusco. No matter how attractive the city of Pisco is described it is not worth your visit from this port. As we did, you may not want to get off of the shuttle bus. A walk from the port area along the bay is better. The trip to Machu Picchu is expensive and can be done for less if you plan to return to Peru. The contractor that Princess uses (Condor Travel) is excellent. The first day is spent being accustomed to the altitude in Cusco. A little cocoa tea at your hotel and a little rest prior to your city tour which ends with the always shopping stop, which should not be mandatory for everyone. More rest at the hotel would please some. The early morning trip to Machu Picchu and the return in the evening arriving back in Cusco at 9 PM is tedious (dinner after). 3.5 hours train ride to the ruins, bus ride to the site, lunch, tour of the site (3 hours), bus ride back to the train, a mandatory hour plus shopping at the train station and 3.5 hours back to Cusco. Our group which left from Lima and re-boarded the ship at Manta, Ecuador was ideal at 33 with guides and a nurse from the ship. We could each claim a window seat on our flight from Lima to Manta on our charter aircraft. Arriving in Manta it took inexperienced immigration officers 45 minutes to process 33 people. The cruise continued on as previously enjoyed until Acapulco. A rumor had spread through the ship during the first 16 days with no confirmation from ship’s personnel that spring breakers would join the ship in Acapulco. We also were made aware by our UK friends that they had not been allowed to book the onward cruise to San Francisco but were required to disembark in Acapulco. As we got closer to our 16th day our excellent waiter provided us with more up to date rumor information that we could expect 500 family members (parents and children) boarding in Acapulco. It was an onerous statement uttered by a street vendor in Acapulco when I objected to his continued sales harassment of my wife “this is Mexico” that foretold our future. Golden Princess became a Carnival ship sailing the Caribbean at spring break. If this is your idea of a pleasurable experience stop reading now. We started off with what would be considered Princess’s usual mature clientele and ended with uncontrolled/unsupervised minors and irresponsible adults condoning their actions through their absence. Running in the passageways at all hours of the day and night, hide and seek in the buffet area, pranks, jumping down the stairways, cart wheels and tumbling in the atrium. Never a parent in control. The ship had been turned into a child friendly play area with no controls, no security watches evident for passenger’s safety on a ship at sea. Our excellent cabin steward’s schedule was destroyed because he never knew whether the key slot requests for “make up my room” or “privacy please” were correct. After walking in on couple asleep he was required to wait until later in the morning to be sure he would not intrude on passengers. On a cruise have you ever seen a child sitting on a sink in a public restroom with his feet in the bowl pumping soap as fast as he could go, down the drain? The crew of the Golden Princess were placed in a terrible situation. They had no authorization of control. Even though the buffet area was under the highest food safety controls children bypassed clean hand protocol and use of utensils to help themselves to food items. Dining room ambiance was destroyed with parents who would not sit with their own children. The Purser’s office could only empathize with guests listening to their complaints, expressing their own concerns. To my knowledge no one was injured by impact sending an elderly passenger to the hospital. Luckily we had a nice cabin with balcony and spent the major part of our last seven days, when not ashore, holed up there out of the main stream of traffic. Visits to the entertainment venues in the evening, strolling along the promenade deck and dinner dining with our excellent waiter were halted until our last evening onboard. We substituted room service and quick visits to the buffet for dinner and quick walks to the Vista Lounge for entertainment, avoiding high traffic areas. Both of these areas were at the aft of the ship and could be accessed by the rear stairs and elevators. So this is our last cruise. Between oversold airliners which delay flights in an effort to get passengers to default to next day flights or circuitous itineraries. By the way did you know if you book your air with Princess and have a problem you are on your own? If you miss a flight it is up to you to pay any additional flight charges to get to the ship. The help line, forget it, they have no authority. If you cannot depend on Princess’s brochure statements as to their concern for your cruise enjoyment it’s time to stop.    

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Dec 30, 2006

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Western Caribbean Patrick Newell This was our first time cruising on a Princess ship and we were very impressed overall. Having sailed with RCCL, HAL MSC and several others over the past 16 years we decided that the crew members on the Golden Princess were the friendliest we have ever encountered. It seemed that each and every crew member we had contact with had a genuine smile and a gracious "hello" for us every time they saw

us. EMBARKATION: This was the only bad part of our entire experience. Leaving from the Poland Terrace dock was a mess. The entire procedure was held in a tent, it was hot and muggy and the process took a long time. There was absolutely no direction from the staff and the lines for checking in and security became intermingled at one point making the process even longer. THE SHIP: Once onboard we made our way to our cabin which was on the Aloha Deck towards the stern. Even though we were situated towards the rear of the ship, we were surprised that the ship's movement and vibrations were very minimal in our cabin. The ship itself was showing some age but otherwise was very clean and comfortable. There was a very good mix of ages among the passengers on our cruise and everyone we spoke with seemed to be very pleased with their own experiences onboard. One nice feature I'd like to mention which we especially enjoyed was the cell phone service that Princess provided to the cabin areas. It was fun calling our friends back home and more or less "rubbing it in" about the wonderful time we were having. OUR CABIN: Our cabin was nice, not extremely large but certainly not small, we found it to be very comfortable especially with the balcony. Our Cabin Stewart (Stewardess) Magda who hailed from Poland was an absolute angel. Not only did she keep our cabin spotless and well stocked with everything but she was also very well informed on just about everything concerning the ship. She also never failed to let us know when she was about to go off duty and always asked us if there was anything we needed before she left. We would definitely give her 5 Stars for her service and great attitude. THE FOOD: We primarily ate in the Horizon Court Buffet during our voyage and found the food to be excellent in almost all respects. Even though it was a buffet, it was good enough to deserve a 4 Star rating. Our experience in the dining room was wonderful. Although we had decided to use the "open seating" option we found the wait staff we encountered were very attentive. The food itself was very good and we would give it 4 Stars. PORTS OF CALL: The ports were very typical for a Western Caribbean cruise, Montego Bay, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel. We did not avail ourselves of any on-shore excursions since we were already very familiar with all the ports. In Montego Bay we rented a car, went shopping and visited the Half Moon Resort which is one of my wife's favorite places on the island. ENTERTAINMENT: I can't comment on the quality or variety of the entertainment in the theatre since we did not attend any of the shows. However, the Atlantis Casino onboard was excellent and again we found the staff to be extremely friendly. One drink waitress in particular named Oleana from the Ukraine always made us feel at very much at home whenever we patronized the casino. NATALIE from the UK who worked in the cashiers cage also impressed us with her smiles and her questions about how we were doing in the casino that evening. DISEMBARKATION: We must say that the disembarkation process we was the best we had ever experienced. It was relaxed, smooth, and quick. Even the passengers luggage left in the passageways to be collected on the last night of the cruise were removed almost immediately. On previous cruises we were always left with such a sad feeling (cruisers will understand) as were walked down the passageway from our cabin to go somewhere the last night. Not seeing all that luggage sitting there made the sad feeling of having to leave our ship the following day just a little bit easier to take. It's funny how little things like that do seem to make a difference. Kudos to Princess! OUR OVERALL EXPERIENCE: On a scale from 1 Star to 5 Stars we would definitely give our experience aboard the Golden Princes a 4 1/2 Star rating and we are very "conservative" when it comes to rating any ship we have sailed on in the past. We would definitely sail on the Golden Princess again in the future and would not hesitate to recommend her to our friends who cruise. CONTACT US: If anyone wishes to contact us with specific questions about the ship or our experience onboard please feel free to do so. We would enjoy hearing from you. My name is Patrick and my wife's is Patricia. Our e-mail address is NuHomes@aol.com. HAPPY CRUISING TO ALL!!    

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Apr 28, 2006

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Eastern Caribbean Santo Romeo We had experienced no air conditioning in our cabin L256 balcony. The vents were making noise yet no air coming through. This was for a 7 day cruise.I  use inhalers for asthma and used it to much to breathe. many complaints were lodged to the cabin steward and to the pursers office. No one there could have cared. Someone comes into our room at 7.30 a.m. while we were sleeping and asked if the air was

any better. They claimed to have fixed the problem. No way was this corrected. Wrote a lengthy letter to princess main office in California. Awaiting their out come. Anyone who cares to email us we will tell you more. Princess will never see us again. Regards Michael & Geri

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Feb 4, 2006

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Princess Cruise Line Golden Cruise Review Eastern Caribbean Lynne Tesch This was my husband's and my first cruise experience. In preparation, I read many reviews written by cruise passengers and we certainly benefited from other's experiences. Thank you to all who have taken the time. Sat., Feb. 4 - We flew out of Philadelphia at 9:50 am and landed in San Juan around 3 pm. The flight was very rough. We had read horror stories about

the SJ airport, but to our delight, it has been renovated and is very efficient. In no time we claimed our luggage and were in the bus headed to the ship. Embarkation was a breeze. By all means, do your paperwork ahead of time, on line, from the comfort of your home. Princess personnel were very helpful in directing passengers to their rooms. We had Baja 607, a starboard balcony cabin. It was fabulous! The balcony was a wonderful treat. Plenty of storage, both hanging and shelf. We found both the pillows and the bed very comfortable. I had requested an egg crate mattress and two bath robes on line, but they were not there. Put a post-it note on our room sign for our room steward to please supply the mattress, robes, and forms for ordering breakfast from room service. There was an exotic flower arrangement, a bucket of champagne, and a platter of guacamole and chips, which had been sent by a family member as a bon voyage. What fun! Instead of going to Horizon buffet for lunch we had a feast on the balcony as we looked out onto San Juan. We explored the ship and then went to muster at 8 pm. ended up talking to another couple who invited us to join them and another couple for dinner. We accepted and had a great time. Loved the any time dining option. Never did we have to wait for a table. After dinner we met our Cruise Critic group who we had been communicating with for months, for a sail away party. Very fun. Nice to put faces with names. Sun. Feb.5 - St. Thomas - Woke to a beautiful day, had room service breakfast on the balcony, and left the ship for our first excursion, a catamaran sail to St. John with snorkeling. Met a couple from Ohio while waiting for the cat and struck up an instant friendship. While on the sail, met another couple from Mass., and the six of us became great friends. We got together throughout the voyage on numerous occasions. We would have had a great time on this cruise no matter what, but these two couples added so much to our cruise experience. Don't think I have ever laughed so much. The excursion was great! Discovered all three couples had signed up for the same excursion the next day. Mon., Feb 6 - St. Kitts - The Nevis sail was too early to have a room service breakfast, so we went to the buffet. It was fine. I'm just not a buffet kind of girl. Love good service, and that's exactly what we got on the Golden. The excursion was great! A little cold in the morning, but a beautiful afternoon. Back on the ship, had sandwiches from room service which were great. Got dressed for formal night and visited the casino. Did well at black jack and had fun. Most of the dealers were very nice. Dinner was very good, and then back to the casino. Left with $100 profit. Tues., Feb 7 - Grenada - Decided to see the town since we didn't see St. Thomas or St. Kitts except from the water. The constant hawking of wares and services drove us away. We took a water taxi to the beach and spent a few hours there. Still a lot of soliciting. There is a lot of evidence of damage. If this island is on a future itinerary, we will stay on the ship. Wed., Feb 8 - Isa Margarita - This is the one island we had to use the tenders to get to shore. We were surprised at the beauty of this island. there were many stalls set up selling beautiful jewelry, mostly mother of pearl, and crafts. Lots of fun to see. Spent a little time on the beach looking for shells, then back to the boat as we had an early sail away. Thurs., Feb 9 - Aruba - We exchanged our catamaran/snorkel excursion for a beginner scuba dive. What fun! First had a lesson in a pool and then in 25' of ocean. A little scary, my husband did much better than I. We are going to get certified before our next cruise, it was that fun. Rushed back to our room to get changed and see a little of Aruba before setting sail. Really liked it and bought some beautiful jewelry. This was the second formal night and the three couples met at Desert Rose for dinner. Definitely the best meal all week. Fri., Feb 10 - Day-at-sea - Spent the whole day at the pool. We had such nice weather all week. High 80s. Dinner and then the casino. Left with $200 profit. Yeah! Sat., Feb 11 - San Juan - Made an early morning call to our airline and learned the Nor'easter caused our flight to Philly to be canceled. The earliest flight we could reserve was for Monday. Uh oh! Went to the buffet for breakfast and met up with our Ohio friends. They produced a half bottle of wine they had not finished the night before and four glasses. Insisted we toast the end to a beautiful cruise. So there we were drinking wine at 9 in the morning. Disembarkation was a breeze. We immediately jumped in a taxi and asked to be taken to the most reasonable hotel near the airport. The driver took us to Howard Johnson's.There was no room to be had. And they were overwhelmed with other hotels calling looking for rooms. They took my cell phone #, stored our luggage for free and promised they would call if they had a cancellation. We took a walk on the beach and 40 minutes later they called and said we had a room. Yeah! What a relief! We checked in and decided to enjoy our two extra days in paradise! Rented a car and explored 250 miles of Puerto Rico. Had a wonderful time! The flight home was uneventful except we met some very nice people. Upon our return, we learned that most of the 100+ people who were in our cruise group ended up spending two nights in the airport. Eighteen flew to Miami and rented a van and drove back to Delaware. They said it was a nightmare. Comparatively, we made out great. Tips we appreciated the most: 1: Take insulated cups with lids and straws 2: Room service breakfast - you can write in what you want even if it is not on the menu. We wrote in pancakes, omlettes and French toast on different mornings. 3: Say "hi" to everyone you meet. Hope this helps anyone! Enjoy your cruise. We cannot wait to go again.  

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Dec 31, 2005

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Princess Cruise Lines Golden Princess Cruise Review Southern Caribbean Katie and Jason My husband and I celebrated our 4-year anniversary on this cruise, which was our first cruise ever. Overall, we had an EXCELLENT vacation. First of all, our steward was so friendly, helpful, and welcoming, but not over-bearing at all. Our bags came to our room quickly, and we were unpacked and comfortable with the ship almost right away (besides

getting lost a few times! It's huge!). The food in the evenings was absolutely delicious, and the buffet was pretty good. The entertainment was great, and we were mad at ourselves for missing a really funny comedian on the second night. There are several kinds of live music going on in the evenings and the entertainers seem to really enjoy their jobs. Even the bartenders were friendly and always smiling. The atmosphere onboard was great. We met nice people of all ages and from many different countries. The only bad thing that happened was that our toilet didn't work for a few hours on one day toward the end of the cruise, but it was fixed pretty quickly. We did hear someone complain about a little peeling paint on the ship, but we hadn't even noticed that and it's not a big deal to us anyway. The ship seemed to be in great shape to us. We really enjoyed our balcony and having our door open at night. I would definitely recommend having a balcony, which is a comment I heard from many people. I sometimes get motion sickness, but had absolutely none of that on this trip. One night the waves were a little rough, but it was fine with me. We also had a room toward the middle of the ship, which may have helped with that. We visited 5 islands - St. Thomas, St. Kitts, Grenada, Aruba, and Isla Margarita. They were all beautiful. We golfed on St. Thomas and St. Kitts - beautiful, but challenging! Some of the holes are right on the ocean, which makes for some amazing pictures. THE HIGHLIGHT OF OUR TRIP: Watching our very own UT Longhorns win the Rose Bowl!!! We had such a great time that I started looking for a cruise for our five-year anniversary a few days after we got back! Although we can't compare Princess to any other cruises since this was out first one, I can't imagine that any other cruise line would be much better!

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Dec 17, 2005

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Princess Cruise Line Golden Princess Cruise Review 7 Day Southern Caribbean Eric Nakpil INTRODUCTION My wife and I are new to cruising and while I did sail on the Pacific Princess back in 1980, I was too young to remember much about it and I am sure that things have changed since then. For our honeymoon, my parents offered us a cruise anywhere, anytime. We decided on Princess based on our own internet research, quality of their

website, itinerary and excursions, and from my parents’ own recommendations. We booked through Travelocity.com because they offered a $50 per person shipboard credit and a free “Roaming Gnome” statue. I have to admit, it was the statue that tipped the scales in favor of Travelocity instead of Expedia or Princess.com. We were able to select our cabin immediately and picked a forward balcony stateroom on the Aloha Deck, starboard side. We were able to purchase our transfers and insurance also from Travelocity in the same transaction. We arrived in San Juan, Puerto Rico 2 days early so we could tour San Juan and get a little settled in. We stayed at the Sheraton which is across the street from the pier where the Golden Princess docks. On embarkation day, December 17, we walked our luggage over to the pier to begin the boarding process. EMBARKATION We set off at 11:00am from the Sheraton, on foot, with our luggage in tow. 5 minutes later we arrived at the pier and the scene was a bit chaotic. Our boarding passes stated that boarding would begin at 12:00pm and that if we wanted to avoid crowds, we should arrive sometime after 2:00pm. Since this was our first cruise, we wanted to be early, naturally! Once at the entrance to the pier, we immediately noticed that previous cruisers were still disembarking from the ship, which had arrived at 6:00am that morning. There was a short line for those waiting to embark so we stood there for about 15 or so minutes after we handed off our bags to Princess baggage handlers to be loaded. After about 15 minutes, we were ushered inside the large building at the end of the pier which Princess uses to check everybody in. More lines here, but here you were divided into separate lines depending on what deck your stateroom was and you filled out a health questionnaire, which took another 20 minutes or so. When you check in, you register your credit card number to your shipboard account and receive your Princess Cruise Card. Your Cruise Card is your ticket on and off the ship, your stateroom key, and the way you pay for anything on the ship, since Princess is completely cashless. At exactly noon, they open the gates to the metal detectors and then it’s on to the ship. Once you get on the ship, you are directed to the elevators and there are plenty of Princess Staff to help you find your way to your cabin. EMBARKATION GRADE: B FIRST IMPRESSIONS The ship is HUGE! When you are standing in line, waiting to check in, you get to see just how big this ship really is. The ship has a classy look to it and the atrium, stairs, elevators and passageways are all very elegant. STATEROOM Our balcony room was small, and the balcony was too, but we didn’t really expect it to be much larger than it was. We had 2 twin beds configured to a queen which wasn’t that comfortable but wasn’t uncomfortable either. We did run into our cabin steward and requested an egg-crate foam for our bed which the took care of immediately. The bathroom is tiny. There was just enough space for a sink, toilet and single-person shower. You could sit on the toilet and reach over and brush your teeth if you were so inclined. There were ample closet and cubbyhole spaces with plenty of hangers available. The balcony had 2 chairs and a small table. There was a small refrigerator under a counter which was underneath the television which is mounted on the wall in the corner. A desk, chair and additional cushioned seat were also in the room. Sparse, but more than enough amenities for us. STATEROOM GRADE: A- FOOD Princess offers Personal Choice Dining which is a break from the traditional fixed seating and time dining. If you choose Personal Choice Dining instead of Traditional Dining, you can dine anytime from 5:00pm to 10:00pm in either the Donatello or Bernini Dining Rooms with the same menu as the Traditional Dining Room. Show up to eat between 5:30 and 7:30 and you might have to wait a few minutes. They even have pagers à la The Olive Garden that light up and buzz when your table is ready so you can go have a drink at one of the bars while you wait. The buffet was open 24 hours a day with different selections everyday. The buffet was hit or miss for us. It was only really great once or twice. Breakfast was usually pretty consistent but you never knew what to expect for lunch or dinner. There are two specialty restaurants onboard: a steakhouse and an Italian place both which charge $20 and $15, respectively. Both places we did not sample since we felt that we should not have had to pay extra to eat there. There was a grill by the pool which was open most of the time which served your basic hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken burgers, fries, etc. Next to the grill was a pizza place which served up some decent pizza but it was always crowded. There is an ice cream and sundae type bar near one of the pools and they charged almost $4 for a bowl of ice cream! They did give gigantic portions, but I was still miffed that I had to pay for the ice cream. You can buy an all-you-can-drink soda sticker which goes on your Cruise Card so you can have unlimited sodas from the bars (not in your stateroom) which cost $22 a person. There were plenty of bars from bow to stern so you never had to walk very far to find one. Alcoholic drinks served were okay. You will pay $4 for a Bacardi and Coke and $6 for a strawberry daiquiri. When you order from the bar or from a server, 15% gratuity is automatically included on the bill. FOOD GRADE: B-/C+ ENTERTAINMENT The onboard entertainment was also hit or miss. The comedians were top notch and I was laughing the entire time. The magic show was ridiculously stupid and an insult to my intelligence and the singing and dancing show by the ship’s dancers and singers was equally horrid. Princess Pop Star is their version of American Idol with cruisers as the contestants which provided a few laughs but was predictable. Bingo was pretty fun, but that was only because I won a game. The Cruise Director and his staff were entertaining enough but the whole onboard entertainment was the most disappointing part of the whole cruise. The casino was just like any other casino in the world: you will lose your money but you might have some fun doing it. My advice is to play the game where you drop quarters in and they flip up and hit more quarters that get pushed down to you. Sometimes when the ship is swaying, the quarters fall a little easier. ENTERTAINMENT GRADE: C- (the comedians saved this grade) SERVICE GOOD POINTS Our cabin steward, Michael, was very attentive and efficient. He did his work when we were out of the cabin and always left the stateroom perfect. He would make our beds in the mornings while we were out on excursions and then turn the bed down while we were at dinner. He always had a friendly greeting for us whenever we passed him in the hallways. BAD POINTS The Purser’s Desk and the attendants who worked there were very impolite. Only one purser ever really helped me when I needed it and the rest were downright rude. We had a problem with our return flight and none of the pursers wanted to help us except for one of them. Everyone else, including the Practica, offered no assistance and told us that we had to deal with the problem ourselves. More on this problem later. The waiters and servers were mostly rude and discourteous. My very first meal at the buffet, I asked a waiter or server where I could use my all-you-can-drink soda card to get some Cokes. He actually scowled at me and said “All over the place.” I didn’t really understand what he was talking about so I asked for specifics and he impatiently told me at any bar, without telling me where the closest one was. This was not the kind of reception I was expecting from the crew but I thought that maybe he was just the exception to the rule and I quickly forgot about it. The servers never came around enough and if you ordered just sodas from them, they would not come back periodically to refill your drink because gratuity is not added to soda bills. I found it much faster to get your own drinks at the bar as it will generally save you lots of time. The bartenders are not that friendly either. I actually had to plead with a bartender to pour me a new Coke because I thought the one I had was a little light on the syrup. He argued with me for a few minutes and then stuck his own straw in my Coke and sipped it to see if I was lying! He eventually poured me a new Coke but why did I have to argue with this guy?! This cruise cost more than $2500 and I can’t get a decent Coke without a fight? The mixed drinks were inconsistent: one day a Toasted Almond would be fabulous then the next day it would be absolutely terrible! This is where I feel the automatic $10 per day gratuity charge misses. The wait and bar staff know that they are already getting tipped and do not offer extra services or go the extra mile. There is no incentive for them to do anything special or to make you feel comfortable where you are. The service on the ship was also very disappointing as we had higher expectations. Our standards were not set too high…we just felt that we ought to have been paid more attention too and for the staff to actually act like they cared about us. SERVICE GRADE: C- (Michael, our cabin steward, saved the grade from being lower) EXCURSIONS Hands down, the best part of the trip. We disembarked in every port but we signed up for 3 Princess organized excursions: kayaking in St. Kitts, river tubing in Grenada, and snorkeling on a private island in Aruba. Our complete ports of call in order were: San Juan, Puerto Rico, St Thomas USVI, St Kitts, Grenada, Isla Margarita and Aruba. Every port was great and I wish that we had more time to stay at each location. The beaches were beautiful with white sands and had the bluest water you have ever seen. The fish were abundant with plenty of places to snorkel. Bring some dog biscuits to feed to the fish underwater and bring an underwater camera to snap some pictures too! Just make sure you buy your underwater cameras stateside or else you might pay upwards of $30 to get one on the islands. All the excursions accepted US dollars so currency was not a problem. San Juan is a nice place. We stayed in Old San Juan and walked around the area, checking out the huge walls encompassing the old city. We saw the castles and forts there too. Take the 10 minute ferry across the harbor and catch a cab at the green building to go see the Bacardi Distillery. You won’t be disappointed and be sure to take advantage of the rock bottom prices on their world class rum! St Thomas is the place to do your jewelry shopping. Deep discounts abound on all sorts of precious stones and gold. On the ship, the very first night, be sure to attend the Discover Shopping lecture which will tell you all the best places to get what you need. I was able to upgrade my wife’s engagement ring at one of the jewelers on St Thomas for a steal! Don’t miss St Thomas if you are a shopper! St Kitts (and neighboring Nevis) is gorgeous. If I could, I would move to St Kitts; it is that beautiful. We kayaked for 2.5 miles and snorkeled in the blue waters. Don’t miss St Kitts! Grenada was nice, with most of the shopping you could do located in a bazaar near the pier. The island is beautiful but had been devastated by hurricanes in the last couple of years and you can see all the massive rebuilding. The island is covered in green throughout the mountains and we took a 45 minute cab ride to the river where we went tubing. The cab ride was pretty scary as the roads are very narrow and it is a little unnerving for Americans as Grenadans drives on the left side of the road like in England! Take your Dramamine for this cab ride or any ride through the mountains. Isla Margarita was up next and everything was a minimum of 25 minutes from the dock. There is one beach adjacent to where the ship docks and I would recommend that if you don’t want to go shopping or see the sights. I don’t know if Princess will still continue to go to Isla Margarita since it is part of Venezuela. We were originally scheduled to go to Caracas, Venezuela but that was changed before we sailed. Aruba was our favorite destination and I can now see why it is so popular. The air is clean, the water is blue, the beaches are white and the people are friendly. We picked an excursion to a privately owned island which has its own beaches and an all-you-can-drink bar. We snorkeled but you can also helmet dive and scuba dive there if you wanted to. Aruba also offered ATV rides and horseback rides along the beach. There is so much to do but don’t forget about the shopping. There are plenty of jewelry stores here in case you missed out on St Thomas. The (in)famous Carlos and Charlie’s bar is right across from the pier and the cab and bus stations are very close by too. My wife and I loved Aruba and the people and the atmosphere. I think I could live there too. EXCURSIONS GRADE: A+ DISEMBARKATION A few days before you get back to San Juan, you get papers at your stateroom if Princess doesn’t already know when your flight is leaving. They then organize you into many groups depending on what time your flight leaves. The earliest you can leave is 8:30am on disembarkation day. Make sure you don’t schedule your flight prior to 10:00am or you might miss it! We almost learned the hard way. Our biggest complaint about Princess was when we made our airline reservations to San Juan, months prior to sailing we were told, in fact assured, by a Princess Representative, that we would definitely be able to make a 9:30am flight from San Juan. We would just have to be in the first disembarkation group. We gave our flight info to the Purser’s desk when we were on the ship and were told flat out that there was no possible way to make our flight. Hmmm….Why did Princess tell us months ago that we would make our flight? I asked what I was supposed to do and the Purser told me to call the airline, from our stateroom, and incur the $4.95 per minute charge! He didn’t offer me a free phone call at all! Later on, I went back to the desk, and a different purser connected me to the airline for free and even let me make a courtesy phone call to the states, all of which took more than an hour for me to get settled! My math calculations say that’s more than $300 worth of phone charges I could have incurred had it not been for one very nice attendant I talked to at the desk. I still had to pay the airline an extra $200 to change my flight info and I am writing to Princess to see if I can get that refunded to me as well. The lesson here is not to book a flight earlier than 10:00am. Since we got back on Christmas Eve, and 5 ships arrived at San Juan at the same time, it took us an hour to get through check in and security so you might want to get an even later flight if you can. Overall, the disembarkation and transfer to the airport went very smoothly although we were very sad to leave. DISEMBARKATION GRADE: A ODDS AND ENDS The ship sailed from San Juan about an hour late because of some late arrivals. The television in the room has a channel dedicated to the ships position and weather conditions so you can see the speed, location, etc., of the Golden Princess. The first night’s sailing was the roughest. Maybe not rough, but it sure did sway from side to side a lot. Once we got out of Puerto Rico’s harbor, the swaying began in earnest. My wife and I tried to sleep through it but just couldn’t. So we hit the casino and tried not to bump into too many things. The swaying of the ship has a mildly intoxicating effect; my wife and I both thought we were somewhat drunk! The swaying died down after a few hours or maybe we just got used to it. The rest of the trip was much smoother once we entered the Caribbean Sea and we barely noticed the ride anymore. Still, for those prone to motion sickness, bring some Dramamine or those wrist bands. I saw lots of people with the patch behind their ears too. Better safe then sorry! The pools were always crowded. They are open 24 hours a day and there is at least one adults only pool at the stern of the ship. The elevators in the ship are something else. There are several different elevator locations on the ship with 4 to 6 lifts each but it never seemed like more than 2 were working at any given time! It was so frustrating to try to get an elevator since they were always packed. It was easier to just press both the up and down buttons and get on the first one that comes. ELEVATOR GRADE: F There is an arcade on the ship, a gym with treadmills and ellipticals, a 1/10 mile jogging track, a tennis court, shuffleboard, table tennis and an enormous chess set. The Skywalker Lounge at the top of the ship boasts the best views but at night, with no land in sight, all you see is black. There were 2 formal nights, one of which we attended. It didn’t seem all that special but maybe that was just because there were only two of us, and we always ate at unusual hours of the evening. Every night, you receive your Princess Patter, which is the next day’s guide to the ship and a Discover Shopping shop guide to the next port of call. The TV entertainment was actually quite good but don’t spend all your time in your cabin! There is a Laundromat on most of the levels which are coin-operated. You can get quarters and detergent there also. Each Laundromat also has several irons and ironing boards for your free use. Don’t wait until the last day to do laundry if you plan on bringing home clean clothes. Everyone on the ship is doing laundry on the last day too! CONCLUSIONS We enjoyed our time greatly on the Golden Princess. It was so relaxing having that balcony and just walking around the ship. I like the big ship since there is usually someplace you can go to have some privacy. It just takes a day or so to get to know where everything is. The faults of the ship and its crew will not prevent me from sailing the Golden Princess again although I would like to sail some of her sister ships just to compare. This is an excellent value for your money and the ports of call made this trip worth every dollar spent. We had a fabulous time with Princess and overall, I would definitely recommend this ship and this itinerary to others especially first time cruisers! OVERALL GRADE: B

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Dec 10, 2005

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Princess Cruises Golden Princess Cruise Review Southern Caribbean NJ Earlier in the year we took a cruise with Princess on the Star Princess. I enjoyed the cruise very much and thought the ship was absolutely beautiful. However, unlike our previous Princess dining experiences, the food on the Star Princess wasn't as good as I expected. When choosing to sail on the Golden Princess, I knew that the ships were practically identical and

that the cruise experience itself would probably be the same. But I was wrong! Golden Princess was absolutely OUTSTANDING! These ships are brand new, large, accommodating, clean, and beautifully decorated. There is not one thing I could really complain about. We boarded very late (around 7pm) so there was no line whatsoever. The entire boarding area was empty. Since the ship departs at 11pm you can check in until 9pm. This was very convenient. We were in cabin E425 and our friends were in E607. They were obstructed ocean view rooms. The view wasn't obstructed at all! The rooms were very clean and weren't actually that small. It was definitely MUCH larger than the ocean view room we had on a Norwegian cruise we once took. We didn't really ever run into our room steward, but he did an excellent job. The room was always cleaned well, towels and pool towels always restocked. Our friends' room steward was very caring and catered to them endlessly. It was their first cruise and she really made their experience a wonderful and comfortable one (they both were a little run down from sun burn etc). The food on this cruise was very good. It was much better than the star princess. I would rate it about even with our Norwegian cruise we took last year. The variety of the dining room wasn't as much or diverse as I would have liked it to be, but what they did have, tasted very good. The buffet was much better than normal. This was the first cruise I took where I actually liked the breakfast buffet. They offered some different breakfasts every day. Not just your typical eggs, bacon, cereal, etc breakfasts you get on most cruises. We missed lunch almost every day because we were busy on the islands so I can't really comment about lunch. I didn't try the grill or pizza. Again, so much to do, so little time. The entertainment on this cruise was OUTSTANDING. The dancers put on the best shows I ever saw. They did 3 shows. The final show they did was just amazing. No way to describe it other than dancing through hoops and hanging from ropes. The final act literally made people yell out "oh my!" It was really exquisite. Don't miss the shows. The comedian juggler they had was not a real juggler at all. He was pretty funny because he made fun of his inability to juggle and his ability to juggle ping pong balls with his mouth. You would either love it or hate it. It made me laugh hysterically. The princess star search/princess idol wasn't very good on this cruise. There were many people coming to watch the singers, but not many people volunteered to sing. During the princess idol competition on star princess it was a full crowd and very strong competition. The disco was okay. I'm not into 80's music so I didn't really get into that. However, when the DJ would switch over to more modern/R&B music and the Latin style music, it was great. This is also when the club would get busier and more people would come in and dance. There was a good sized crowd during this cruise (again not as big as the last one we took but decent). The service on this cruise was just EXCELLENT. The waiters were not pushy into making you buy drinks. They didn't bother people like they usually do on cruises. They would simply wait for you to flag them down or look at them before they would approach you and ask you if you want a drink. The waiters in the dining room were excellent and friendly. The pursers desk were very friendly and helpful too. The only thing that I could complain about was the lack of outlets in our room. There was only one plug outlet in our room and one in the bathroom. That's standard though. Also, I would have liked to see more variety on the dining menu. There seemed to be alot of seafood and veal dishes on this cruise. Not much in the chicken/beef department. Also, the high number of Puerto Rican passengers was a little bit disturbing as they can be very rude and inconsiderate, but that is not the fault of the cruise line. Just a precaution for anyone that gets easily stressed out by noise, rude passengers, inconsiderate passengers, and such. However, I didn't let it bother me. There were so many pools and Jacuzzis on this ship, I was always able to find a spot either at the back of the ship or by the lotus spa where I could find an almost empty pool and an empty Jacuzzi.

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Nov 19, 2005

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Princess Cruise Lines Golden Princess Southern Caribbean Snehal Trivedi I am using a previous post as a template as I found the format the most useful when I read it before going. Boarding/Port San Juan: When you arrive at the port, they take your bags outside and I recommend you take a bunch of five's with you as they will come in handy for tipping. The people who will handle your bags were a bit push, but nice enough, and they

really did make it a bit odd about demanding the tip by the way they flashed their hands full of cash. After that bit, it was relatively easy, though it does take a while to get through the line because they group the lines by deck and ours was the busiest. Tip: Buy your alcohol at this port, we bought a few bottles and put one in our carry on and the rest in a bag that we would check-in to the cruise that we get back at the end of the cruise. You an also buy on the ship, and they will price match the brochure you get at San Juan, and if you buy 3 or more bottles, a 10% discount on top of that. The only concern there is the limited options on the ship, though your vodka and scotch should be fine. Staterooms: We had a interior room on Caribe Deck( Deck 10). Since this was our first cruise we didn't know quite what to expect, but we were told that it would be small. And it was a little small, but it was nothing that bothered either one of us. The only problem with the stateroom was that we had two small beds put together, so at night it was a pain if you're a roller like I am as the mattress tends to move easily. The service in the stateroom was excellent and we couldn't have asked for more. Ship Facilities: We are pretty active people and so were quite glad of all the active things we could do on the ship. I played a bit of table tennis (and they have tournaments), padi-tennis (again more tournaments) and my wife enjoyed the pool area. Entertainment: The shows were fine, but not really great. We went to the comedian, and I have to say he sucked. They had a second comedian that we did not make it to, Sarge, that apparently was pretty good. My wife was impressed by the magician, and I thought he was rather lame, so I would call it a wash, as I'm probably a little extra critical and expect too much. There was a dance show called "Caliente" and we thought that was excellent and enjoyed it immensely. One of our favorite things were the free dance classes that they offered. Shelby, the instructor was very good and even my lead feet managed okay. In the evening we would go to "Salsa beat" a Latin band thing and practice what we had learned. Skywalkers was a nice hangout, but we thought the music selection rather sucked, it was pretty much 70's and 80's. We heard reports that they played newer stuff after midnight, but we didn't see that, and it might have actually happened after 2 A.M. but we were in bed by then. Dining: I thought the dining was rather good. We had anytime dining initially, but our friends were in 2nd dining, so we requested that we be transferred, and even though they said it was unlikely, we ended up getting 2nd dining on the second day of the cruise. The dinner menus were great and offered a good variety of choices. My wife is a vegetarian and she thought the food options for here were good to great. She wasn't stuck eating salads and pasta everyday. I thought that the buffets were rather poorly stocked. The food was nothing special, but they did have a variety of fruits and other healthy things that made up for the calorie filled dinner/dessert we devoured the night before. After reading the reviews, I was looking forward to the pizza place, but I again thought that it was okay and nothing special. Lunch was a tough meal to plan out, the time for seating was from 12-2 or something like that and we only made it once due to excursions. The service at lunch was terrible, took too long to get the food. Tip: We bought one unlimited soft drink pass, and in the end we think it was a wasted $27 dollars, we ended up not drinking that many soft drinks and quite honestly we shouldn't because of all the calories we were packing away in food. It wasn't worth it, and that was with my wife and I sharing the drinks when we did get them. So think long and hard before you throw that money away. Tip#2: You can request via the head waiter a special meal, just let them know the night before. My wife requested vegetarian Indian food and they had something for her the next night. You obviously don't get to dictate what exactly but if you wanted something different they will try and accommodate. Service: We thought that the service was fantastic, from our Steward to everyone else. We had one bad incident, but I think it was just that one person, and quite honestly we only saw that person once. Everyone else was great, the cruise director (Omar) and his staff were fun people. Ports of Call: - San Juan is okay, we didn't really get to spend a lot of time there before the cruise. We went to the Old San Juan the night before our departure, visited the fort there which was nice. I would have to recommend a restaurant called Berlin, in Old San Juan for their service and selection. Tip: This is where the 5's will come in handy. After the excursion, you'll probably want to tip the excursion provider, so remember to take it with you, though of course they don't quite demand it like they do when you leave San Juan and those baggage people. We felt like we wanted to give due the excellent service they provide. - St. Thomas was a nice port, the shopping was good, we mainly walked around and bought a few small things. Our excursion was the "Bob" and snorkel adventure aboard the ship Mustang. We have to say the crew was very friendly, fun and went beyond the call of duty. Apparently the ships had overbooked the excursion and so instead of 66 people on one boat, they called in their second crew from their day off. It turned out good for us because we had about 20 people on our ship. - St. Kitts We did a hike through a rainforest here, though I forget the exact name. It was fine, nothing too great, as we have been on better hikes in Seychelles while we were on our honeymoon there a few years ago. The staff of the excursion was and we have no complains. - Grenada was a bit of a mess. The island is beautiful and green!! We loved it as soon as we started our hike and beach excursion. The hike is a bit steep and a few of the older people on our excursion were a bit winded by the time we reached the top. We went to Grand Anse beach after the hike and spent a few hours there and we like the spot. Our guide was excellent and gave a great history of Grenada and the U.S involvement in their independence. We rated this as the second best excursion and island for us. - Isle Margarita : We did not have a planned excursion on this port, and maybe we should have. Our stop here was brief, and we learned that a beach was walking distance from the port. It was, but the beach was a dump, there was some awful stench from somewhere and we hade more further away before we could away from it. The water was shallow for a long while out, and not at all clear, so no chance of snorkeling. This was by far or least liked port, but maybe with an excursion it would have been better. Our friends did do an excursion to some Lagoon and they enjoyed it. The shopping for crafty things was pretty good here and my wife bought a few trinkets. - Aruba was nice. We did a snorkel tour that took us to two spots, a reef and a wreck. We enjoyed the wreck it was really remarkable, but the reef could have been better. The rest of the time we spent on "Palm Beach" which was $10 cab fare from port. I would recommend that you get off at the Hyatt, walk through it (its really nice) to get to the beach. But do not go in the water at the Hyatt, the water is full of seaweed and it stinks. Walk from the Haytt to the Holiday Inn and the water there is better. Again no snorkeling as there is nothing there to see and the visibility was low. Overall Aruba was nice, but we liked St. Tomas and Grenada better. Disembark: This was really a lot better than the boarding, and I have no complaints. Just be aware that the line for customs was rather long. Our turn was in the middle and there were quite a few people ahead of us. Fortunately for me, my wife is a Canadian citizen and they came around asking if there any non US citizens in the line, since they had a different process for the non-US'ers. The non US line had about 5 people in it, and it was a great blessing. If you can find some non-us people and you might be able to jump the gun if you say that you're traveling together. Final Words: Overall we loved the cruise and will do it again with Princess. Being our first time we didn't know quite what to expect and it was beyond our best hopes.

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Nov 12, 2005

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Golden Princess Golden Princess Unknown Mervis Anderson If you are planning a cruise vacation, you can stop reading about all other ships and focus on Golden Princess. I have cruised a number of times and always on a different ship to to find the right one and now my search is over. Golden Princess set the trend, it was clean, the staff was friendly, food was good and entertainment was more than you could imagine, the only bad thing

I could say is there is so much to do that you do not get a chance to do all that you wanted to do. I was on RC last year and I was impressed but nothing compare to Golden Princess. I had a room with a balcony and it was great, but we did not use the balcony as much as we wanted to, there was too much to do, whatever you wanted to do it was on the ship. The time I took my vacation in November school was still in session and I think thats the best time, less kids running around so it was a more mature group of people. I just want to help other to know GOLDEN PRINCESS is the only ship you ever want to cruise on, I am just trying to help you not to loose time looking at all the cruise line, any thing negative you read about Golden Princess cancel that from you mind, nothing is perfect but this is as close as it will get and remember you have those nag, nag people that looks for problems, you just omit them and go right ahead and enjoy you GP vacation.

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By K.C._CR

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May 31, 2005

Northern Europe

My cruise experience: 7th cruise and have traveled with Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Holland America and this is my first time with Princess. Previous itineraries include Eastern and Western Caribbean, Alaska, Mediterranean. The embarkation: This has been the worse experience by far. The Southampton Port – Queen Elizabeth Terminal is not capable to handle the volume. Only 12 or 13 counters were open for check in. We arrived at 12:25

p.m. and took us over one and half hours to complete check in check in process. During this time, there was no service at all. By simple math, with a completely sold out sailing (which we later learnt) it would take way too long. It was very disappointing that Princess did not properly plan for it. The Service: I think with the automatic charging of the gratuity, the service level in dinning room various based on the staff’s work ethics. I found my housekeeping attendant was very friendly and efficient. Some waiting staff were good too. However, our group did have a bad experience with one of the waiting room staff. One the first day when inquiring about whether they have any wine package, the waiting staff was hard selling the wine tasting. I told him I was not interested and he responded, “If you don’t go to the wine tasting, how would you know what to order?” I was stunned with such response. I may not be an expert but certainly will have no problem matching food and wine. Interestingly, one night when we were asking what the waiting staff would recommend with the food we have ordered. The reply was “Would you like red or white?” Sure it was a lot of help. The food: Food in the dining room was better than other cruises I have been on. For the seafood lovers, they had lobsters 3 times, one was with pasta, one was stuffed and one time broiled. King crab legs were served once as well. The steaks were good too. However, the food and arrangements in Horizon court was not as good as other lines. The stateroom: I found the design of the staterooms were better than other lines. I had an inside room on the Aloha deck and the room was very functional and by comparison, it was even my spacious than the balcony room I had traveling with Holland America. This was great. The dining rooms: We did not try any of the specialty restaurants this time. We originally booked the 1st sitting but the noise in the dining room was unbearable. Also, the dining room was small by comparison. We later switched to free style dining and we found it much more pleasant. The lounges: They were acceptable. The band (ONLYNE) in Explorer’s Lounge was good, but they did not seem to be engaged at all. They seemed to be tired and just getting the night over. The wheelhouse lounge was ok. May be because the average age of cliental was 61, there did not seem to have too much activities going on in the skywalkers nightclub. Other public area: One thing I have observed that for a ship of 110,000 tonne in size, the public rooms were small and resemble that of a 70,000 tonne class ships. That’s was a shame. I was expecting it to be more grand. The layout of the ship was not convenient especially for the elderly with mobility challenge. If you, by mistake, try to go to the dining room (a lot of us did that) went to deck 6 by the aft elevators, you will find that you can neither get to Donatello dining room by walking to the centre of the ship. Instead you have to head up one deck and walk to the central set of elevators and then go down one deck to Donatello or two to Bernini dining room. The entertainment: They were somewhat equal or a touch worse than my previous cruises. It is kind of interest to see one entertainer appearing 5 nights out of 10 night cruise. Even if he the best in the industry, it would be a bit much to my liking (may not be shared by other fellow cruisers). The debarkation: Again, there was along line up exiting the terminal after claiming our luggage. There had been some temper flying. After experiencing the embarkation, nothing of the sort would surprise me anymore. Now as for the ports visited, our group went to Berlin and Paris by arranging with tour companies. We went to Oslo, Copenhagen, Rotterdam and Brussels by ourselves and I think they are worth visiting. If I could do it all over again, I would like to visit Bruges instead of Brussels. All in all, these cities were worth visiting. Making your own excursion arrangement would be more economical than joining the ones arranged by the cruise liners. We had made our own arrangement to get to and back between London and Southampton. The one we used can be located at www.london-transfers.com (ray@london-transfers.com). The service and price were both good. The Berlin tour was arranged through www.berlin-starting-point.de. We used MBT Minibus tour (contact@minibus-tours.com) and we were very happy with all our vendors. Will I go with Princess again? I doubted very much. Why? It is the overall experience been more negative than positive.

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Apr 30, 2005

Eastern Caribbean

 Ronald Epstein Introduction This is going to be as comprehensive a review that I  can provide for my first Princess cruise aboard their Golden vessel. The review will also compare my Princess experience against past experiences aboard <b>Royal Caribbean</b>. Up front, I need note we had a very bad experience

aboard this vessel that I will talk about at the close of my review. In all fairness to Princess (as I am waiting to hear back from them), I am going to rate this cruise based on everything up to the "crisis" As our "crisis" is probably not likely to repeat with most travelers, it would only be fair that I rate this cruise with 2 separate entries so that readers of this review get a bias review based on what they should expect when cruising with Princess. My Background I am a male, 41 years of age. I have been an avid cruise enthusiast for the past 3-4 years. I have sailed exclusively with Royal Caribbean and have become highly satisfied with their ships and service. With no less than 5 past RCCL sailings under my belt, I decided to try Princess Cruises. To be honest, the only reason I chose Princess was because my girlfriend and I had some extra vacation time this year and the Golden Princess Cruise sailing from San Juan to New York City was VERY cheap. I expected to go into this Princess cruise hating it. My expectations were very low. Boy was I surprised! The cruise was fantastic and Princess was just awesome! Read on as I compare the Princess against the Royal Caribbean cruise experience. Arriving & Boarding This was not a pleasant experience. We arrived at San Juan airport at 11am. My impressions of San Juan airport is that it is absolutely horrific. Once you arrive there is an extremely long walk to the baggage claim carousel. Since there are many different airlines represented here, finding your specific baggage area can be difficult as signs are not clearly marked. Even worse, once you do reach your specific airline baggage area there are no signs or monitors indicating which carousel will be dumping out which flight's baggage. There is nothing like being amongst a large crowd of passengers who have no clue where their baggage is to appear only to race in a mad rush to the nearest carousel that starts dumping out baggage. Furthermore, there are no self-serve carriages to put your luggage on to tote across the airport. You must depend on porters to help you -- and there were difficulties finding them. I would hesitate ever flying into San Juan again. A 15-20 minute taxi ride (cost $35 for 5 persons) brought us to the ship pier around 11:45am. Upon arrival we were greeted with a HUGE line of passengers waiting to board. There must have been a few hundred people ahead of us who had been waiting in line for an hour or more before we arrived. Our luggage was given to a loud, pushy porter who had his hands filled with money as if to indicate you better tip him if you want your luggage properly loaded onboard. We got on the line, and waited an additional hour. We watched as hundreds of more travelers arrived stretching the line across the parking lot and around the outer fence. These poor people were waiting in the 90-degree beating sun waiting to get on the ship. <b>Princess</b> provided no refreshments or snacks to these people waiting on line. <b>Royal Caribbean</b> boardings have always been speedy with no lines and refreshments/fluids available for consumption. I must say that once the line did begin moving shortly before 1:00pm, it did move rather fast. We were pulled into a holding room, given a health questionnaire to fill out, and then directed to a check-in line according to cabin location. The check-in process took no more than 5 minutes and we were ready to go up the gangplank. Another problem we found with <b>Princess</b> was the manner in which they conducted WELCOME pictures while boarding. The line was at a standstill because a photographer was stopping everyone as pictures were taken. There was not enough room to get around this. On <b>Royal Caribbean</b> they have two lines, making those who don't want their picture taken to board much faster. A major PLUS that we immediately discovered with Princess was that they had staff members on every cabin level waiting outside of the elevators, directing you to your rooms. On all the past Royal Caribbean sailings I have made, there was never any staff member around to guide you to your cabin. They basically made you find it on your own. Way to go Princess! Initial Impressions Being a past <b>Royal Caribbean</b> traveler, I am used to the glitzy neon-lit decor inside their ships. There was actually a time that I enjoyed that type of decor...that is, until I walked around Princess. The Golden Princess was beautiful. She didn't have the glitzy promenade that RCCL is famous for -- but its absence was what made me fall in love with this ship. The Princess ship had a more "classy" feel to it. Her surroundings were more subdued, with emphasis put on her polished brass surroundings. Even the elevators managed to impress me with their expensive-looking golden decor and heavy push-buttons that had a look of elegance to them. Nothing like the Royal Caribbean decor that looked a bit more cheap. There was far more elegance to be found on Princess. Another major plus for <b>Princess</b> is the design of its ship and the manner in which they divide up the dining rooms and pools on different levels so that the guests don't all congregate in the same area. Our ship was sold out and yet you never got the feeling that any particular area of the ship was overcrowded. Try walking down the <b>Royal Caribbean</b> promenade on a sold-out ship and you find yourself shoulder-to-shoulder with your fellow passenger. Our Cabin When I sail on <b>Royal Caribbean</b> I always get a junior suite or higher. I like my room and balconies BIG and I like the concierge service that RCCL offers. The Princess cruise was a "cheapie" for us. It cost only $900 for 7 days and we got a simple balcony cabin. I feared the worst because I knew I would be staying in a tiny room with a tiny bathroom and shower. We booked a balcony cabin, Aloha deck, A719 (near the terrace pool) You know what? The room wasn't that tiny. It was more than adequate for the two of us. While the bathroom and shower were very small, it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be. Even our balcony was the perfect size for just the two of us. I learned a very important lesson on this trip..... You don't necessarily have to get the biggest cabins on Princess to feel pampered. We were so happy that we saved $700 and went with a standard balcony over a Junior suite. My first surprise about our Princess cabin was that a bathrobe was made available to me. On Royal Caribbean they won't even consider giving you a bathrobe unless you book a suite or have higher member status. In fact, unlike RCCL, <b>Princess</b> gives you a form to fill out from their website prior to travel where you can indicate what you would like added to your room at no extra charge. These items include a bathrobe, added egg-crate foam mattress support and specific sodas in your minibar. Another HUGE service that Princess offers over RCCL is self-laundry service. I was shocked tro see laundry rooms with washers, dryers, and a row of ironing boards with irons on top so your clothes always look perfect. <b>Royal Caribbean</b> charges extra for this service and you can't do it on your own. The Food Princess scores slightly higher on food over Royal Caribbean. Upon arrival we ate at the Horizon Court buffet on deck 14. Lunch was fairly tasty with a nice selection of hot and cold items. They have a salad bar that blows RCCL Windjammer buffet out of the water. For breakfast, I had mixed feelings about eating at the Horizon Court. Their eggs and pancakes were horrific. Scrambled eggs were obviously powdered -- not fresh. Pancakes were often hard, and you had to use some effort to unscrape them off the serving plate. Bacon, sausage, hash browns and corn-beaf hash were always available as well as a selection of cereals, rolls, bagels and fruit. My favorite item was EGGS BENEDICT, which they only served twice during the entire trip. <b>Royal Caribbean</b> Windjammer buffet breakfast was usually equally bad, so those wanting a better breakfast should head to the dining rooms. For lunch I always hit the GRILL adjacent to the Dolphin pool midship on Deck 14. They serve 3 different types of pizza daily as well as burgers, hot dogs and french fries. Being an avid New York pizza lover (which is the best Pizza in the world), I was quite surprised by the quality of the pizza. It was actually well above average. I also loved the fact that burgers and fries were often cooked fish when there was a crowd at the pool. We opted to buy Ice Cream at the Sundae bar one day. BIG MISTAKE! It cost approximately $3.95 per person for a Sundae concoction. My girlfriend and I each ordered a "death by chocolate." We watched as the girl dumped heaping scoops into a mixing bowl -- adding brownies, chocolate chips, oreo cookies and syrup. We each received (and I am not exaggerating) a humungous bowl of ice cream that could easily feed 2 people. While I applaud Princess for the portions (and it is  easily worth the price charged), I caution people that you will not be able to finish what you are served. Again, I applaud Princess for the portion size for the price. Now the best part....dinner! 5 of our 7 nights we ate in the dining room. On Royal Caribbean their dining room is one huge entity, 3 levels big. <b>Princess</b> divides their dining areas into three separate restaurants, which makes eating a little more intimate. The service and quality of food aboard Princess was very, very good. Princess offers FREESTYLE DINING, an option I was quite skeptical about at first. Unlike Royal Caribbean where you have an assigned table and company every night -- the Freestyle experience lets you eat in any of the dining rooms whenever YOU want. We were with friends -- a total of 5 persons. On many evenings we strutted in that dining room at a different time of our choosing and never waited more than 15 minutes for a table of our own. In fact, most nights there was no wait. The bad part of Freestyle is that you never have the same waiter, thus, they never learn your names or eating habits. Still, I would go Freestyle over traditional anytime. The dining room staff were exceptional. They had a terrific sense of humor and they were very attentive to our needs. A friend of mine who loves shrimp cocktail asked for 4 orders every night and never was refused. Sometimes I ordered two steaks without a flinch from the waiter. We were with a 9 year-old boy who the staff was very good to. He had a homework assignment where he had to collect seeds from various fruits and vegetables. When the staff learned of this, the head chef came out with a whole red and green pepper so that seeds could be scooped out for his collection. The only problem we had was that with all the nights that little boy ate in the dining room, he was never made aware that there was a kids menu available (with chicken fingers, onion rings, etc.) until the very last night of the voyage. As I stated, food was very good and prepared exactly to our likening. Portions were plentiful and if there was always something on the menu that catered to a variety of tastes. Royal Caribbean only exceeds in this area when it comes to its staff performing songs or having someone walk around and talk with the dining travelers. On RCCL there was a very humorous Indian guy that would walk around, answer questions, ask how your meal was and interject humor. The staff would get dressed in costume and sing/dance. There was even the flaming baked Alaska that was noticeably absent aboard this Princess vessel. Royal Caribbean has a larger selection of desserts over Princess hands down! There were always a variety of  different cakes, pies, cookies and puddings available on RCCL on a daily basis -- even in the Windjammer buffet. You got actual huge portions of whatever you wanted. On Princess the dessert selection was always limited and there were only dinky pastries and cakes available at the buffet. Oh one note that I should make on behalf of my very picky friend who was traveling with me.....he loves the fact that Princess has shaped butter in a bowl at the tables over the square wrapped blocks that <b>Royal Caribbean</b> offers. He feels that it is more classy, and I am inclined to agree with him. Specialty Restaurants As with everyone else that goes on a cruise where your food is included in the price -- a question is brought up to why one should pay $15-$20 extra to eat at a specialty restaurant? The answer is simple: you get what you pay for. On <b>Royal Caribbean</b> my girlfriend and I became avid fans of their Portofino restaurant. The quality of food and service were far better than what you would get in the dining room. When we boarded <b>Princess</b> we immediately signed up for a night at Sabatini's trattoria and Desert Rose southwestern  restaurant. I only somewhat enjoyed Sabatinis only because of the manner in which they served the food. They serve you with a 16-course meal, coming to your table and giving you a slice of meat, followed by a  few crab cakes, followed by a few pieces of pasta, a slice of specialty pizza, soup, etc. All this leads up to your main course. I had lobster tail which was quite good and plentiful. I dunno -- the overall serving process was slow. Dinner took 2.5 hours to complete and it just  wasn't a highly enjoyable experience. I will say that even though you got snippets of food throughout the 2.5 hours, the wait between courses caused your stomach to feel filled up. Cover charge: $20 per person. The Desert Rose was an AWESOME experience. We ate there twice. For appetizers we had shrimp cocktail. The shrimp was huge! We also enjoyed clam chowder out of a bread bowl. But the absolute highlight? You got to choose from at least 7 different types of steak cooked to perfection. I had the 20-ounce porterhouse steak. It was awesome! Cover charge: $15 per person The Pool Here is where I immediately fell in love with Princess! I hate salt water pools. I hate swimming on Royal Caribbean ships for the fact that their pools are salt water. Who wants to taste salt in their mouth and get sting in their eyes -- not to mention the fact you have to wash yourself down with fresh water the second you get out of the pool? Golden Princess has four pools - including one swim-against-the current pool. The pools are filled with (OH YES!) fresh water. I spent a  lot of time enjoying myself in the pool. If you get outside by 8:30am you can grab a prime spot and have the pool to yourself. An hour later the  pool gets VERY crowded. Despite the fact there are 3 main pools, most people opt for the outside pool. Water temperature was about 84 degrees. It could have been a little warmer. There is an ADULT ONLY pool at the rear of the ship, deck 12. Nobody really used it as quite frankly it is a bit of a joke. The pool is not only tiny,  but because it sits at the foot of the ship, the water is always rough. Another PLUS for <b>Princess</b> is that it seems they keep their pools open 24 hours a day. On Royal Caribbean I could swear their pools were not open all night. Here's an interesting thing that Princess can fix.....their poolside and ship music. Sit out at the pool or inside at the bar and you will hear a selection of current and oldies pop music being played. Problem is, the music is on an endless loop so you hear the same damn songs day after day.Don't get me wrong -- the selection of music was great -- but it became tiresome very quickly. The Internet Here is where <b>Princess</b> loses a lot of points. I am self-employed and in constant need of Internet access -- even (unfortunately) when I vacation. I imagine that most people need to check their emails daily. Princess has an Internet Cafe, but unless you are Platinum member, you are going to pay through the nose to use it at about $.35 per minute. There seems to be at least 15-20 computers available. Their computers, however, are painfully slow. Expect your Internet  access to be slower than dial-iup. You read right! I used their cafe  for just two days and I had to stop from frustration of waiting minutes to see pages load -- even when I was the only person using the computer. Fortunately I brought my laptop and took advantage of their WI-FI access. That's very expensive at $10.50 for 30 minutes. Even worse, you have to continually go to the Purser's desk to buy a new access  card when your current minutes are up. I suggest heavy users buy a few access cards at once after you determine your laptop works. The WI-FI access is noticeably faster as it depends more on the speed of your computer. Unfortunately, access is only available in the Atrium area on Deck 5. On many <b>Royal Caribbean</b> ships you can get dial-up access in your stateroom for about $100 for a 7-day cruise. This access is UNLIMITED so you can stay online all day long. The access speed is around 40K compared to the much slower speeds with Princess. Princess needs to make a concerned effort to offer cabins with unlimited Internet access at a rate that is somewhat affordable. Liquor - On the ship and self supplied I talk to many people who cruise. I have loads of friends who take several cruises a year, and I listen to fellow cruise mates who sail with me regarding their experiences. You know why many people enjoy sailing Royal Caribbean and Princess? These lines don't make a huge deal about  bringing your own liquor aboard. I think these lines realize how  important this plays a part in people deciding who to cruise with. Take for example NCL Cruise Lines. Do you realize they hire a staff just to scour your luggage and confiscate liquor when you board? I know so many people who have sailed with NCL only to have their liquor confiscated. While Princess and Royal Caribbean have policies against bringing liquor aboard, they are rather lax about enforcing it as long as you don't blatantly bring it aboard in boxes. Stash it in your checked luggage and it will arrive to your cabin without incident. The liquor on Princess is far cheaper than RCCL. Their drinks are about $3-$5, far cheaper than Royal Caribbean. There was a 5-bottle deal for Dos Equis Beer on ice for $5. How can you beat that? Bottles of liquor ordered in advance can be delivered to your stateroom at reasonable prices. Cleanliness and Appearance Again, Princess exceeds here. The <b>Royal Caribbean</b> fleet looks a little worn these days. I see wear and tear on those ships all the time. On Golden Princess I was amazed at the amount of polishing, carpet replacing, and overall cleaning being done on a daily basis. There is also a great emphasis put on sanitizing hands with dispensed lotion available available at every bathroom and buffet station. You never see this kind of emphasis when sailing with Royal Caribbean Entertainment Royal Caribbean exceeds here by a mile! RCCL puts so much money into their entertainment. Their shows are huge -- almost Broadway caliber. They have an onboard ice rink that offers an amazing show. I was very disappointed with <b>Princess</b> shows. They mainly have comedians, singers and jugglers. Their shows are "okay" and rarely memorable. A nice touch was the movies they showed in the Princess Theater where a great view was to be had anywhere you sat thanks to the fact there are no pillars blocking view. We watched fairly current Hollywood fare that is just about due for DVD release. A major PLUS for <b>Princess</b> is that while their onboard  selection of in-cabin TV channels is greatly limited, they don't douse you with promotional commercials. <b>Royal Caribbean</b> offers a wifder selection of channel choices (including network channels on occasion) but, my God, they hit you  with those damn "Lust for Life" commercials at every turn. By the end of the week after sailing RCCL you hear those damn "Boom Boom Boom" theme music drums in your head. For God's sake RCCL -- cut it out! Princess had a much better in-cabin movie selection than RCCL. Disembarkation Princess again wins here...sort of. Disembarkation could have been handled a little better for the fact that the gangway area was overly crowded and <b>Princess</b> added to the problem by not allowing one color code area to fully disembark before calling the next. Luggage was handled VERY well. Bags were neatly lined in on the dock according to color code. A Princess rep was there to help people find their luggage. Ever claim luggage with Royal Caribbean? It is the most frustrating experience you will ever endure. Bags are tossed on a moving carousel with no order to them whatsoever. There are no ship reps around to help with luggage that can't be found. One one recent Hawaiian cruise RCCL dumped all the luggage in a warehouse in a highly disorganized fashion. Conclusion There are probably little things I forgot to mention here. Please  email me and ask anything you want. My address is at the close of this review. I had no time to proofread so please forgive my spelling and grammatical errors. You also probably noticed that I made no mention of Islands we visited. First, I wanted to concentrate on giving you details about <b<Golden Princess</b> vs. <b>Royal Caribbean</b> . I also have to be quite frank in saying that after sailing in the Caribbean all this time, the islands really suck for people who don't go on excursions. You get dropped off in a tourist shopping area and  on many islands the natives hassle you for taxi rides, timeshare  offers and shopping discounts. St. Maartin, Antigua and Cozumel are amongst the worst spots in the Caribbean to be dropped off. For me, I enjoy the ship. I cruise to the same destinations more than once just because the days at sea are more important than where we go. On Island days I may get off to shop and be hassled by natives, but quickly get back on the ship and enjoy the pool before anyone gets back. Both <b>Princess</b> and <b>Royal Caribbean</b> seem to be the most popular cruise lines for mid-budget cruisers. They give you the best bang for the buck without having to stoop to Carnival level or exceed to Crystal level. In actuality, both lines receive high marks for what they are. In  all honesty, both are very close to each other in plus and minus departments. If I had a choice whom to sail with again, Princess would have been that choice.... ...that is, until this experience.... <b><u>Our bad, unforgiveable experience</b></u> Being this is my first cruise with Princess, I would have rated Princess very high on overall satisfaction.... ...that is, until the tackiness the cruise line showed towards its travelers this past weekend. On Saturday evening the Golden Princess got caught in a rather nasty storm while heading up the Atlantic seaboard towards New York City. The Captain made a very brave decision not to push ahead ahead any further. He slowed the ship and announced that the NYC arrival would be delayed by one day. I have to applaud the Captain's decision. He took into consideration the safety of the travelers over meeting any scheduling deadlines. After all, the Golden Princess was due to leave NYC on its scheduled arrival day for a Transcontinental sailing out towards the Mediterranean. There is a huge nasty side-effect that comes with a decision like this to delay arrival. We experienced those side-effects first-hand and were sort of put off with the manner in which Princess tried to make additional monies over distressed passengers who were GREATLY inconvenienced by the added day of travel. Imagine all the people on board who had plane tickets back home out of NYC area airports. Imagine the people who had limousine or family rides lined up. Imagine the people that had to be back at work on Monday and were losing a day's pay for not being back on time. I have never seen a ship full of discouraged passengers who were full of panic over how they were going to get home. The only help that we saw Princess provide these people inconvenienced by THEIR decision was that they made a phone available at the Purser's desk that you had to wait on a line that was ALWAYS a two-three hours wait to use at any given point of the day. Princess also offered to help reschedule airline itineraries for those who booked airfare through Princess but claimed they could help no-one that scheduled a flight on their own. This is where it gets real tacky.... There are phones avalailable in every room aboard the ship. Princess should have provided ONE free phone call out of room for any passenger that was put out by the rescheduling decision. Instead, they made oodles of money from passengers who called from their rooms rather than wait on a 3-hour line for a free phone call. The call from a room? A standard $4.95 per minute with NO discount offered. Furthermore, Princess had the audacity to charge everyone an extra $10 on their bill for gratuity on a day that ultimately inconvenienced a huge portion of people who were traveling that week. Before anyone slams me for making complaints about all these extra charges, let me make something clear.... I realize that the Captain made a decision that I agreed with all in the name of providing passengers with the utmost safety. However.... There are people who were greatly inconvenienced and lost a lot of money because of that decision. People missed flights. People had Broadway show tickets and sightseeing plans that were abruptly cancelled. People missed work and probably lost pay. Why does Princess feel they have to further profit off of these people? Couldn't they offer a free phone call from the room or perhaps at the very least, a reduced rate? Did Princess really feel it necessary to tack on an extra $10 gratuity for a day that wasn't scheduled? I am all for taking care of the staff through tips, but I am certain the staff can understand this sort of inconvenience affects EVERYONE. And couldn't Princess have gone the extra mile to help those that did not book their airfare through the parent company? I'm really saddened how a wonderful cruise that was so much better than any RCCL cruise I have ever been on had gone suddenly sour because Princess wanted to scrape a couple extra dollars from inconvenienced travelers. And you know what? Before you flame me for making these points, I'd like to hear the opinions of those that were on the same cruise we were on. I'd like to hear their stories and how they feel about the manner in which Princess handled some of these extra charges. Thanks for reading!

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By M.K._CR

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Apr 29, 2005

Reposition-San Juan to NYC

The Golden Princess is the largest ship we have sailed, coming close with the Summitt and Infinity. First thing we noticed up embarkation (which went quite well) were dirty windows...in almost all public areas. ...Now that was not the case the last cruise with Princess, before they became part of Carnival. Princess was always incredibly clean.

...Our room was fine, medium size on the Lido deck forward, w/ a balcony. ...The itinerary was ok...St Thomas is what it is. St Marteen is a nice island, been there many times. Antigua is not one of our favorites... The ocean days were great until we hit the "storm of storms" north of the Sargasso Sea (the wonderful Atlantic). We spent an extra day on the ocean, just bobbing around. However I must say the crew was outstanding, they were very attentive, most likely feeling sorry for a bunch of passengers, many of whom spent a day losing the food they had put away just a few hours before. But that is the chance you take. ...We had a great room steward. A very good waiter (waitress) and the Cruise Director was good, not great.   ...Princess just is not what it was. Princess it seems is a Carnival ship in a gown and tuxedo...only they are rented. Celebrity is light years ahead. HAL is better than Princess, but since Carnival bought them, they too have lost some luster. ...Surprisingly, I think NCL is still a good line. They are kind of funky, but for a real discounted cruise line, they are much better than Carnival and I think every bit as good as Princess. ...If I had my druthers, give me Celebrity. We will pay the extra dough and feel like we are on a first class ship. That is why we have gone on 8 cruises on Celebrity ships. Soon, we will go on our first RCCL. ...The Golden Princess was a good cruise. A good ship. Good food and Good entertainment. Nothing was better than that. But for the money, it was a "Good Time". The ocean is a wonderful place to be (most of the time)... Bon Voyage.

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Apr 3, 2005

Southern Caribbean

My wife and I just returned from a week on Golden Princess to the southern caribbean and we are very pleased. Princess really does a great job of getting you on board and into your room as soon as possible and back to the food too. The food is very high quality and the service is excellent too. We chose anytime dining so we could meet new people

every night. We enjoyed the pools being open 24 hours a day, unlike other ships that close or drain theirs each day. The $25 coke card may seem high, but it's definitely worth the cost, and you don't have to carry a coke container around as others have suggested, just walk up to any bar and flash your card. The cabin was terrific! we had a balcony on C deck and it was great sitting outside in the morning having our breakfast while the ocean went by. One downside.. bring your own pillows! They are like foam covered cinderblocks. Our steward was friendly and brought us what we asked for. No problems. The music productions were so so, nothing special, but we really went to visit islands so we didn't care that much. The Casino is fun as long as you accept the fact that no one wins in there. It's just a way to kill some time and meet people. Overall we would certainly go with Princess again next cruise to the Caribbean.

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Apr 3, 2005

Eastern Caribbean

Embarkation: We boarded the ship without bother. However, it was a case of find your own cabin and our luggage took four hours to reach us after handing it to Princess staff at the airport. Information on boarding the ship could have been better. We didn’t find anything to eat until after the obligatory lifeboat drill at 8:30pm. This was tiresome for passengers

who had traveled from Europe. The purser’s desk did not ease this first impression either. When asked the girl behind the desk said that soup and sandwiches were available in one of the restaurants but wasn’t sure which. Sorry Princess but your greeting of passengers needs work. It was equivalent to 1:30am British time before we got any food. Though the food available was a lot better than soup and sandwiches. This communication problem was a continuing theme throughout the cruise. The purser’s desk never quite sure what was happening aboard. The following day we went on a guided tour of the ship, which made things a whole lot easier as this is a very big ship and finding your way around is difficult for the first couple of days. We opted for fixed dining in the Donatello dining room. Every evening we had our own table reserved for two. The waiters were pleasant and seemed to know the menu well. We found the food and presentation, including lunch, in the main dining rooms very good but perhaps not excellent. The menus were quite varied throughout the two weeks. We did try the Desert Rose but didn’t think it was worth the extra 15 dollars per person cover charge as the food and menu here was perhaps not as good as we had so far in the main dining rooms. This stopped us from trying Sabatini’s, which may have been a mistake. We used the Horizon Court buffet for breakfast the food was so-so but tea and coffee were always available and to the English palette not that bad. The fare offered was more to American tastes during breakfast but the staff, when you could make yourself understood, were quite happy to prepare English bacon and fry the eggs so they weren’t so runny. British sausage was a little harder to come by. Only saw it once in two weeks, but so what, we are on holiday abroad right? There was plenty of entertainment on board most of which we thoroughly enjoyed. Although the ship was sailing fully booked we didn’t think it felt crowded and there was always somewhere to sit in peace and quiet. We had an inside cabin on Carib deck the room was big enough with a pleasant stewardess. She was the usual cabin steward type, always helpful and always there when you needed her. When aboard we mainly used the spa pool as no children are allowed in that area and it’s a shallow pool, good for someone who is not a strong swimmer. Don’t get us wrong we are not against children, but it’s nice to get a bit of peace now and again when you want to. There were quite a few children of all ages aboard but the ship catered really well in the provision of children’s areas and there were ships staff available to take them off parent’s hands for a few hours. They even had children exclusive areas set aside. We went on an excursion every day. The one we least enjoyed was at Harrison’s caves in Barbados. The rest of the tours were all somewhere between good and great. Our Princess charter flight home from San Juan was not until 5:50pm. We left the ship at approx 8:30am we were taken to the airport to check-in our luggage then onto a hotel to pass the rest of the day. This was all part of the Princess package and we were very very pleasantly surprised by the standard of the hotel resort chosen. The Westin Rio Beach Resort Hotel. Listed as fours star but easily deserved five. We were served with a buffet lunch and had the full use of the facilities. We were also given the use of four suites to have a shower etc this was an excellent service from Princess cruises, which we did not expect. The cruise directors staff were very pleasant and worked extremely hard to entertain us. Overall the cruise was excellent and we will be cruising with them again but I do feel that some things could be improved. We do not like the gratuity system as I think individual tipping makes for a better service and this is an option available to you by arrangement with the pursers. Also they closed the spa pool for painting on the last day while we were at sea I think this could have been done on a day when were at port. The only poor thing I can say about the whole cruise is the drinks. If you are a drinker you will find it expensive. The range of drinks is limited to a fixed menu and you would be hard pushed to taste much alcohol in many of them. Beer is canned and a pina-colada is a sugary tasteless concoction from a carton. That said, we are not big drinkers so no problem. Last of all I would like to say something about the ship itself. Golden Princess is an extremely attractive ship. Attention to detail is fantastic, beautifully wooden paneled and finished with marble throughout. Deck screens and many of her guardrails are of blue tinted glass, which add to making her exceptionally striking and modern. All public areas were kept spotlessly clean by a whole army of workers toiling away in the shadows. She is big. Very big which made sure there was always room beside one of her four passenger pools but does as first seem daunting.

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Mar 19, 2005

Eastern Caribbean

Our cruise on the Golden Princess was outstanding. My wife and I have cruised several times in the past, all with Carnival. While we enjoyed these cruises, the Golden Princess seemed one step above in a lot of cases but not all. First, getting on and off the ship was very efficient. Our room on Princess seemed to be about the same size as carnival

but was laid out a little better, with a little more space in the bathroom. The ship itself was in very good condition and was kept clean as was our room. We had originally signed up for the late dining but we're bumped to the anytime dining, which I would now definitely recommend to anyone. Food was very good, but I'd have to say that the food on the Carnival ships may have been just a touch better with a few more choices. We did try the Steak House one night, which was well worth the extra charge. The pizza and burger bars were great during the day, but it was a bummer to have to pay for an ice cream, something that was free on the carnival ships. Several pools and hot tubs and liked the fact that they were fresh water and open all the time rather than just at sea when we were on the carnival ships. The gym had good equipment but was a little small and quite crowded in the mornings. Casino was larger than most ships we've been on, and my wife actually won a few dollars on the slots. Overall we really enjoyed the cruise on the Golden Princess. Wouldn't hesitate cruising with Princess again, and for that matter probably wouldn't hesitate going back to Carnival if the itinery fit well. We found that the average age on the Golden Princess was a little older than on Carnival ships. If we were still in our 20's, Carnival might be a better bet with a few more activities for this age group, but for us now in our 40's, Princess was just what we were looking for. Can't wait until next spring, for our next cruise.

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By Rick_CR

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Feb 27, 2005

Southern Caribbean

I have divided this review into the categories I found most helpful when I was researching prior to the cruise. Staterooms: The staterooms are slightly larger than standard cruise ship staterooms. My wife and I had an interior room on the Baja deck and found it to be fine. We aimed for the back of the boat as it has a little less motion

than the front (my wife gets seasick). There was plenty of closet space, and the room safe came in handy. I had read about asking the room steward for an egg-crate foam to put on top of the mattress. This made a BIG difference in the comfort of the bed. Per usual on cruises, our room steward was fantastic and seemed to always be around when we needed him. Princess does a nice job of delivering information to your rooms each day. We found the ship’s television updates each morning to be very valuable (of not a little corny). Each morning, the video updates had the cruise director (Paul) telling us about the port we were in, and give us highlights of the island. Tip#1: if you are getting a balcony room, make sure it is on Baja deck. Anyone on Aloha deck balcony was in full view from people looking over the side of the boat from the pool area. Same goes for some of the lower decks as the boat gets wider in those sections. Tip #2: if making last minute reservations and there is a wheelchair-accessible room available, take it. They are the same size as the suites which are about 3 times the size of the other staterooms. Ship Facilities: The ship is very impressive, with every amenity you could possibly want. The spa was very nice and surprisingly well priced. The pools are nice, but get VERY crowded when everyone is on board – almost to the point of being claustrophobic. If you don’t like crowds, aim for the pools at the very back of the boat and by the spa. We had the best luck finding chairs at the pool by the spa. The night club was the nicest I’ve ever seen on a cruise ship. It is called Skywalker’s lounge and is at the very top of the very back of the ship. The casino was nice and will surely be nicer now that they have all the money I gave them. Entertainment: I was shocked. I expected the usual ho-hum entertainment you usually get on cruises. This was by far the best entertainment I have ever seen on a cruise. The only gripe I have is that they almost NEVER had the entertainers in the right venues. There were shows in the smaller venues that were very popular and you couldn’t find a seat, while the bigger theatres were next to empty. Best shows were: Mauriccio (pianist), the illusionist, the hypnotist, and even the obligatory Broadway show. Even the steel drum band that plays on the pool deck was really good. Dining: This was the biggest drop-off from my past cruises. I would classify the food as “good but not as posh”. Per usual, there were things I really liked, and things I didn’t like so much. The glory of cruises is that you can try lots of new and different things. I am a big fan of anytime dining – it was very convenient to be able to eat whenever we wanted, and at a smaller table (just my wife and I and another couple we were traveling with). We only went to the buffet once and saw no reason to go back unless is was late at night. The pizza and burger/chicken grill on the pool deck was very good and only crowded at lunch time. The only gripe there is that they closed too early. Bottom line is that the food was good, but not incredible. We certainly had no complaints about it, though. Service: This was my biggest worry prior to boarding. Since there is no individual tipping (a flat amount is charged per person for each day), I expected a drop-off in service from my past cruises. To my surprise and delight, I would rate the service as among the best of any cruise I have ever been on. To a person, everyone was friendly, helpful, and most importantly – available. Princess should be commended for whatever program they have to facilitate this level of service quality. Ports of Call: This was my least favorite cruise from a ports of call perspective. - San Juan is awesome, and I’m glad I came down a few days early to see more of it. - St. Thomas still has some of the best snorkeling in the Caribbean. We did the Captain Nautica snorkel tour which went to three spots – including St. John. It was the best excursion of the trip. - St. Kitts I would rate as “okay”. I did the kayak/snorkel tour, and my wife did the island tour. I enjoyed the kayaking, but my wife would have skipped the island tour. - Grenada is just a mess. They were hit very hard by Hurricane Ivan and it is clear that it will be many, many years before they are rebuilt. This would have been a good stay-on-the-boat day. - Isle Margarita was a substitute port for Caracas (which I was really looking forward to). I found Isle Margarita to be really beautiful, but we only had 4 hours or so to enjoy it. If your cruise goes there, just plan on it being a beach day. The market just off the boat has some neat shopping. - Aruba was very nice. We didn’t do any tour, but just walked around the town. I liked Aruba and would definitely go back. It reminds me a lot of Grand Cayman. Embark/Disembark: These processes could have not gone any more smoothly. Major kudos to Princess for figuring out how to do this. Tip: If you are in San Juan early (or the day before) you can get on the boat around noon. This gives you a chance to learn the boat and relax a little sooner than if you wait until later when all the Sunday flights come in.

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Feb 12, 2005

Southern Caribbean

We took the Southern Caribbean Cruise on the Golden Princess on 2/13/2005. This was our sixth cruise all on Princes, though the first on the Golden Princess. We went with another couple this cruise. Overall we were satisfied with the cruise and princess. We booked our own air and stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in Condado in San Juan. It

is a fine place for a lay over, the area is nice, it is right on the beach in the resort district. It seemed very safe. We boarded around 12 noon, it was pretty hassle free. Since it was early I bought some beer and coke to keep in the cabin. Princess allows you to bring on beer, wine and pop. Our room was an obstructed view outside cabin. We don’t spend much time in the cabin and it was fine, the steward Ben did a great job. We had second seating dining. We had asked for table of 10 but we were given a table of 4 with our friends. That worked out fine, but dinner is a good opportunity to meet people and we missed that. I think we will do anytime dining next time. We had to rush to some of the shows after dinner The ship had 2700 passengers, but I don’t know where they were, it was never crowded. The promenade deck is a little smaller and not made of wood and does not go all the way around. I jog so I liked that better as there was less traffic, but for walk or sitting and watching the stars it was not as nice. There were 2 small pools in the main area. The main area had a 7 foot wave pool. No shallow area, I didn’t like that too much, but I don’t swim much so it was not a big deal. The center pool area is separated from the first and has a retractable top. That was fine when we had rain, but it was too far away from the music and other activities. I didn’t like that at all. That made chair contention in the main area even more difficult. Horizon court Buffet was always open, I thought breakfast was better than in the past but lunch was not very good,. They had a pizza court and burger court in the pool area. That was great. I especially liked the pineapple pizza. The Exercise room was nothing special. The spa looked like it was bigger Dinner in the dining room was fine, service and food was good, and there were enough choices, coffee was bad there though. As an aside, we ate one breakfast in the dining room and would not return. Took a long time, and I had to ask 3 or 4 times for coffee. Coffee in the morning should be easy. Lunch was ok, but nothing special, The shows were just average. They did have a new York comedian. He was great in his first show but he had a short second show it was not much. They had horse races before some of the late shows. You could not get a seat those nights. The casino was fine, and overall there was plenty too do, lots of music and dancing on all the decks. Our first stop was St. Thomas, we went to Megan’s bay in the morning and back to Charlotte Amalie in the afternoon. That was a mistake, 4 cruise ships in port it was too crowded. Next time we do our shopping around the pier. They have most of the same stores and are cheaper. St. Kitts next. I didnt like it. We took the southern highlight tour. From what I can gather it is for people who want a little privacy. Long walk into town too. Tours canceled by the hurricane, seems like they should have known that in advance. BTW, everyone books on line and the good tours sell out fast We went to Grenada next. Grenada was also damaged by Ivan. We took the rainforest hike. It was not much. The tour did go to Grand Anse beach. Very nice. Aruba was next, we have been to Aruba many times, we took the bus to Palm Beach and hung out by Pelican Pier. I really like Aruba. Had lunch at Carlos and Charlies, that is a great place. Caracas was canceled at the last minute. We went to Isle of Margarita for a ½ day. Tours started at 7am so we just walked around the flea market on the pier. Nice enough, they had a little beach there Last day was a day at sea, it was relaxful,, though I would have preferred the sea day at the beginning. I was thinking about home by them Disembarking was easy. We stayed over at the holiday inn express on the return trip. I recommend the Interpol restaurant on Isle Verde. Reasonably priced and good Cuban and Puerto Rican Food. Overall a very nice trip. I would go on Princess again. Our friends who went with us had some complaints about the shows, mainly with the seating. He said Royal Caribbean videos them and replays them the next day, that might be nice

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Feb 6, 2005

Southern Caribbean

My husband and I cruised on Golden Princess, our first time on this cruise line. We were pleased with the itinerary and in general with the ship, and had a good time relaxing, meeting a few new friends, and sampling some beautiful islands in the southern Caribbean. The ship sailed full, with about 2600 passengers, most of whom seemed to be from the Northeast

or Midwest, with a fairly large complement of Britons onboard as well. Perhaps our favorite part of the ship was our cabin, an outside with balcony on deck 11, aft of amidships. Unlike some passengers, we like to spend quite a bit of time in our cabin, so we enjoyed the access to fresh air – especially the sliding door between cabin interior and balcony – and the spaciousness of our cabin. It was large enough for a kingsize bed – unusual on a cruise ship – and plenty of storage space. In fact, we didn’t even use all the storage provided! The large closet serves as a noise buffer between bathroom and bedroom area, and the space between the bathroom and closet is big enough for at least one person to change clothes, so we could leave the drapes open much of the time without sacrificing modesty. We discovered a small refrigerator hidden in a cupboard below the TV; it was great for keeping drinks handy for use in the cabin. And the safe was more than adequate for all our valuables, including our point-and-shoot camera. We also rather liked the smaller dining rooms than usually found on such big ships, each being one deck high instead of multiple stories. They are made to appear more intimate by attractive room dividers built into the design. Unfortunately, this didn’t help with the noise level, and conversation sometimes became a bit difficult when the dining room was full. Another convenience I really enjoyed was having a self-serve laundromat on each cabin deck. Our cabin happened to be quite close to the one on deck 11, which made it even better. Rather than having to pack lots of clothes, or worry about running out of clean clothes partway through the cruise, I could spend an afternoon doing laundry and cut down on what we were carrying! Cost was reasonable too; $1 each for washer and dryer, with the latter running a full 45 minutes on that dollar. It’s important to consider, when reading or writing a cruise review, that food is probably the most subjective aspect. Please bear in mind that this reflects my own tastes and preferences in food, and that your own experience may likely be very different, though the food itself may be just the same! That said, we thought the food was very good, although – at least during the first part of the week – not exactly to my taste. There was a good variety of choices in the buffet, Horizon Court, with wonderful fresh fruit available nearly every day (the papaya and pineapple were especially delicious), both hot and cold foods available for each meal, and at dinner many of the items featured on the dining room menus were also to be found at the buffet. We ate breakfast and lunch in the buffet most days, and had one dinner there. The buffet is laid out in a bit of a jumble, and if it’s busy, can get quite congested and confused, as people move in and out, back and forth, between and around the different little islands within the serving area. It takes patience and courtesy to negotiate successfully. Breakfast in the dining room has a more leisurely feel to it, and we did eat there twice, when we didn’t have early shore excursions. The coffee was much better there, according to my husband; in fact, the coffee in Horizon Court was the one real downside to the food on this cruise, being quite variable, and usually so weak as to be unpalatable. My downside was that the only things to drink during the day that didn’t cost extra were water, tea and coffee. Since I don’t drink either of the latter, that left me with only one choice, which is ok, but I would really have appreciated having access to some juice or lemonade as an alternative. We opted for Personal Choice dining, partly because I wanted to see how the concept actually works. In the main dining rooms that use this option, reservations can be made by calling an onboard “dine line” in the morning, and when one arrives at that time, generally can get right in. Or one can just show up at the dining room during its dinner hours; if a table the size requested is available, one can be seated right away, but if not, one is given a “buzzer” and an approximate wait time (which can be up to 45 minutes or so). We found that we never had to wait if we agreed to share a table, or if we arrived at the dining room before 7 PM. As we prefer to eat early, this system worked very well for us; the one night we requested a table for two, we got that right away as well. We also discovered that Donatello dining room, on deck 6, had longer wait times than Bernini, located one deck lower; as the dining rooms are virtually identical and serve the same food from the same menu, it wasn’t hard to see that going to Bernini was a really good idea! As on other cruise lines, there is at least one fish, one vegetarian and one meat choice, and – endemic to Princess – there is also at least one pasta choice. The traditional standards, like beef Wellington, lobster, and baked Alaska (called “bombe” on Princess), are all there at some point during the week, and there were a few unusual entrees, like pheasant. I twice chose one of the “always available” entrees – steak, grilled salmon or broiled chicken. The quality of the food and preparation seemed to be very good to excellent (again, this is subjective!) and presentation was usually attractive, and sometimes a bit unusual and fun. The lobster was tender and delicious on second formal night, when it was offered, and was apparently quite popular. Kim had a sirloin steak in the dining room early in the cruise and wasn’t thrilled with it, but we had fantastic steaks in Desert Rose the night we opted to eat there. Desserts were excellent, though many were prepared with liqueur, so twice I had to opt for ice cream instead. The alternate restaurants, Sabatini’s and Desert Rose, can be reserved any (or all) nights if one chooses, and is willing to pay the cover charge We didn’t visit Sabatini’s, but we did eat one night in Desert Rose, a “Sterling steakhouse,” and were very pleased, finding the food quality and service truly 5-star, in our opinion. Well worth the $30 we paid for the two of us to eat there. Steaks there (we had filet and NY strip) were tender, juicy and tasty, and prepared just right; we also had our favorite dessert of the cruise there, raspberry crème brulee – and when it was served the next night in the main dining rooms, we enthusiastically recommended it to our tablemates. Our waitress, Magdalena, from Romania, was cheerful, pleasant and offered excellent service with a smile. Both the alternate restaurants have a fixed menu that does not change throughout the cruise. The other food venues, like the grill and pizza corner and the ice cream shop (for extra $!) we visited a couple times. Never did try the pizza – there’s only so much one can stuff in during a 7-night cruise! – but the hamburgers were pretty good, at least not thin like McDonald’s. Ice cream was pricey but the sundaes were good and let us be creative. We wanted to spend much of our time relaxing. Because of that, and due to our port-intensive itinerary, which reduced our time onboard, we participated in few onboard activities. We did attend one of the production shows together, and I went to the other two while my husband relaxed in our cabin or visited the library. I also sampled a couple of the other individual performers on different occasions, and we both attended the culinary demonstration on our sea day – interestingly, held in the atrium, rather than in a dining room or on the pool deck. The production shows were uneven. The staging and costuming were creative, fun and family-friendly (no thongs), and the dancers quite good. The singers, however, were weak, often overwhelmed by the accompaniment, and occasionally off-key, a grating disappointment, and the entire crew lacked pizazz – at least the kind that connects with the audience. Of the individual performers, a male singer/pianist, Maurizio, who had his own electronic accompaniment, got rave reviews from some of the other passengers and attracted big crowds, which often made it difficult getting around the atrium area in the evening. And Darryl Orr, who played Latin-style guitar as background music in Desert Rose, was very good – his playing was quite pleasant, and the perfect dinner accompaniment for a Southwest-themed restaurant. We liked the library – it actually had an attendant a few hours a day, and had a good selection of books to borrow. There was a small swap shelf too. I tried the internet café a few times, but got very frustrated at the slower-than-molasses connection the first couple days. Although Princess charges less than other cruise lines, at only 35 cents per minute of use, I still wasted several dollars just waiting for the darn thing to get hooked up to the internet. Service speeded up dramatically later in the cruise, so I was able to send a few brief messages without breaking the bank. Compared to other cruise lines, I would classify the service by the Golden Princess crew to be average. There were few standouts, for either excellent or poor service. I did mention Magdalena, the waitress in Desert Rose, and we also had superior service from a waiter/assistant waiter combination in Bernini on 2nd formal night – these two, Kieron (pronounced Ky-ron) and Teka, were both from Grenada, and they were so friendly, fun and yet professional that I remember thinking, if all Grenadians are like these guys, that’s an island I would like to visit! We noticed that the people at several other tables around us that night seemed to know these waiters, and I suspect they had asked specifically for them, after having had them as waiters early on in the cruise. Our steward, Roger, was pleasant, remembered our names from the first day, and provided good service. Other waiters ranged from competent but slow to speedier and personable. Buffet staff were attentive to dirty dishes and good at removing them quickly – sometimes too quickly. They did not dish out food or bring drinks, except in one instance. There were plenty of them around. The purser’s staff were helpful and pleasant, as were the shore excursion desk, although at the times I visited them they seemed a bit overworked. Bartenders ranged from remote to mildly friendly; we don’t spend much time in bars, though, certainly not enough to establish a relationship like some passengers seem to have! Shore excursions and getting on/off the ship in ports generally went quite well. I did encounter some frustration with the shore excursion staff when we were in St. Thomas. We had opted for an excursion to neighboring St. John, and when we got off the ship, could not find anyone leading or directing our excursion. Staffing from the ship seemed inadequate that morning and there was a great deal of confusion before we finally got going on our excursion. I was very impressed with how smoothly both embarkation and disembarkation went. Our arrival time at the Pan-American dock, 1:30 PM, was prime time, and there was a good-sized line outside the terminal, but it moved very fast, and was under cover the entire time, so no one had to stand outside in rain (or hot sunshine, had that been the case.) Each of the three lines we were in moved quite fast, and we were onboard in perhaps 20 minutes, tops. The obligatory boarding photo was snapped on the promenade deck, rather than in the terminal. Disembarkation was, if anything, even smoother. We were among one of the first groups to be called, as we had booked a post-cruise shore excursion, so perhaps we encountered less of a line or crush to get off than others did. However, we left the ship quickly, with no line, and even the lines for customs check went fast. The luggage was arranged in the terminal in rows, according to the colors & other designations on our disembarkation tags, and there were crew members there to help if we had a problem locating them. Porters circulated too, and in short order we had our bags on a porter cart and were following him through the terminal to where the bags would be stored (later placed on a truck and taken to the airport) while we were on our excursion. We enjoyed each of the ports we visited (Barbados, St. Lucia, Antigua, St. Maarten, and St. Thomas, with our side excursion from there to St. John). Every island is beautiful in its own way, and they are all quite different. The weather was variable, rainy in Puerto Rico and St. Lucia, but most took this with good humor (especially in St. Lucia, where all of us on the catamaran ride from Castries to Soufriere got quite wet, but many were just dancing in the rain on the ride back). It was nicer on the other islands, and we had a simply beautiful day in the Virgin Islands. Whether wet or dry, it was a lot warmer than back home! We had good guides on all our shore excursions, with an excellent one in Barbados, Geoffrey, who led the photo adventure tour of the island. In almost all cases, not being beach people, we chose tours which offered a basic overview of the island, especially since it was our first visit to all but St. Thomas and Puerto Rico. Having an evening flight back home from San Juan after the cruise, we took the rainforest excursion there as well, and though too fast-paced to be really excellent, it was definitely preferable to spending the entire day in San Juan airport! We really enjoyed this cruise, especially being able to get away and relax, and see some new places. Formal night was dressier than we are comfortable with on this ship – I think there were more tuxes and long gowns here than on any other cruise I have been on (including one on Holland America)! In the future, I would probably choose a more casual line for our vacations, but we have no complaints. What’s not to like about a cruise?

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Feb 6, 2005

Southern Caribbean

Just got back from a one week cruise on the Golden Princess. On the whole we were very happy with the ship and the cabins were better than we expected. We went with my parents, who had flown over from the UK, where we are from, to meet us in DC, then we flew down to San Juan. A cruise is a great idea for a vacation with parents as they could

go off and do what they were interested in while we lazed on the beach. Cabins We both had balcony cabins on the Baja deck and were pleased we had paid the extra $100 or so. We booked in September with vacations to go and got a very good deal, about half of the brochure price. We were pleased we did not have people looking over us like the two decks below - there was a deck above us, but our balcony was covered. My husband and I tipped the attendant to push our beds together and give us the “egg-crate” mattress we have read about on other cruise review sites, which made the beds a bit softer. This was done really quickly, and he was very attentive the rest of the cruise, providing fresh beach towels every day. We were surprised Princess even lets you take their towels off the ship. Having the first day at sea is a great idea as it gives you a chance to find your way around. There are plenty of pools although none are very large. The best one was at the back of deck 15 by the gym, adults only, you can swim against the current and it is heated. There is also a sauna and steam room which we didn’t see advertised anywhere. Food Horizon food court seemed to be open all the time - food was as you would expect for a buffet, sometimes dry and rather tasteless, although we were quite pleased about this as it meant we didn’t eat all THAT much…. Get there early in the morning for the pain au chocolat - really lovely and even better than in France! Coffee is too weak, but you can get expresso from the bar by pizza and burger stall on deck 14 for a couple of dollars - altho we didn’t get charged if we had it afer dinner for some reason. We tried out the pizza and hot dogs once, both were good. We opted for anytime dining in the evening, we never had to wait more than about 10 minutes even though we went at 7.30-8pm most night, prime time. Food was better here, although it took too long and we missed most of the entertainment, which seemed to be scheduled mainly at 8-9pm. You can either sit alone or say you don’t mind sharing, which was a great way to meet people and meant you didn’t have to wait as long. We found the alcohol on the ship reasonably priced, contrary to what we had been told, and the waiters will keep your wine for you for the following night if you don’t finish the whole bottle. Take a jacket, as the air conditioning is vicious. The all you can drink soda for $25 is a con, however, as you only get coke from the tap and it normally costs $1 a glass - as you’re really only on the ship for 6 days, you would have to drink more than 4 glasses a day to make it worthwhile, and you don’t get a discount on spirits with mixers either. Also you have to carry round the special cup with you all the time. We just bought cans for $1.50 a go - after all there are lots of other drinks on the ship, the non-alcoholic fruit punches and smoothies were great. Didn’t bother with room service, and our suspicions were confirmed that it often came too late for people who had excursions booked, just as easy to go up to the buffet. Entertainment There was plenty of entertainment on the first day to keep you busy, despite the not-so great weather - we managed to get loungers together by the Neptune pool on deck 14 after some searching as we left it too late - the half an hour only reserve time is a really great policy. It clouded over in the afternoon so we did a dance class with Shelby, which was great. The mini golf was fun and we also played table tennis although it was a bit windy on the back deck. The only real show we got to see was the welcome show on the first night, which was quite good, although we left halfway through to go to the sailing away party on top deck. These parties were all somewhat disappointing really - just people standing around and no lights like we saw on other ships. The Golden Princess seemed to lack imagination in its décor compared to the Celebrity and Carnival ships we saw, although we had deliberately opted for a non-party ship for my parents’ sake. The Princess Idol karaoke competition was fun although the choice of songs was poor unless you are over 50. The farewell show was a bit of a let down, as we were expecting singing and dancing like the welcome show, but it was just one singer - who was very good - and a not very funny comedian who we had already seen the night before. The disco was great, perfectly cheesey, worth a visit whatever age you are. The cruise directors staff did a really funny Village People and dance show one night, they really livened it up and seem to enjoy their jobs. Excursions The most disappointing part of the trip was Barbados. We decided to book just two tours, one on the first day to see what they were like, and one in St Martin with my parents. They did a tour almost every day. We went for the sea kayak and turtle snorkel, expected to be taken along some scenic beaches and coves as promised. But they only take you about a mile from the ship, dump you outside a rum factory on the beach, and then you kayak along the factory, past the Malibu factory, towards the port again, with a view of the industrial waste site, breathing in disgusting fumes. Then you get back on the boat and are taken… back in front of the rum factory again! Where they feed the turtles on dead fish, not part of their usual diet. The only reason the turtles go there is because they feed them there. The only reason we could think why they didn’t take us further to a nice spot is because they want to save money on gas - kayaking back to the port and then getting a boat back to the factory was just stupid and really annoying. There was a big group of us and the turtles swam right underneath us to get the food so it was a bit like a scramble - we were expected to see them in their natural habitat. We have swum with sharks before and the tour guide then was careful to point out that they never feed the sharks as it disrupts their natural way of life and they become too dependent on humans. I think this practice of feeding the turtles should be stopped - I would rather risk not seeing them. Then for the final part of the trip we were taken to an adjacent beach - on the site of an abandoned hotel, still right next to the factory and within view of the ship. Talking to people at dinner that night who knew Barbados, they said we had been totally ripped off and missed some lovely beaches along the West coast, where the advert for the trip said we would be taken. We complained and were reimbursed 20%, but this did not make up for the fact we missed out on seeing the real Barbados. This trip is definitely not worth the $79 per person! One positive note was the rum punch, which was really lovely and you could have as much as you liked. In the afternoon we managed to get a taxi to the nearest beach to the port, which was OK, but we returned to the ship feeling very deflated and this was not a great start to the vacation. My parents did the best of Barbados tour to see some gardens and a sheep farm - they said it was OK, but the gardens were not that impressive. St Lucia was also disappointing, although possibly because it rained. We just got a taxi to take us on a tour with a group of about 7 others, so it cost $20 a head. We went to see Soufriere and the sulfur spring - I wouldn’t bother again - really not much to see and a smell so bad you don’t want to hang around. This took up most of the day, we returned and met up with my parents, went over to Froggy Jacks, the restaurant recommended by the ship, that meant taking two boats. Not impressed with this - the waitresses didn’t seem to want to serve us, and it was pretty expensive, so we left after waiting for 10 minutes and went back to the ship for a late lunch. There is nothing in Castries, the capital, which is really not very nice and quite hectic. My parents were quite pleased with their mamiku gardens trip. Antigua was much better, we all had nothing planned so we got a van to take us to half moon beach, which is supposed to be the best one, on the other side of the island. Cost us $150 for a driver for the whole day - probably ripped off but still cheaper than Princess tours. Roads are very bumpy! Stopped at the English harbour on the way, interesting. The tour guide warned us there was nothing at Half Moon Bay and to go to a nearer beach but we wanted to go anyway. He was right, so we didn’t stay long and then went to the nearest beach to the ship, (Dickenson Bay?) which was much better, and had lunch there, which was good. St Martin was lovely, we did the See and Sea tour, which was the best one of all the Princess tours my parents said. Really nice friendly guide, we got to see the Dutch and the French side, had time for shopping in the market, then did the semi submarine thing and saw loads of fish and sting rays. Highly recommend this tour. And we were back by 11.30 so had plenty of time to get out to the nearby beach by water taxi. Caution, don’t get out euros as we did on the French side as they are only accepted 1 for 1 dollar on the Dutch side when they should be 1.30 for 1 dollar. Bought a digital camera here, got one for $320 (Konica Minolta 5MP) and found out our local shop does them for $350 so not much of a saving, although we did get a good memory card (over 500 bytes or whatever) with it for $60 which was not bad. Had to get up at 6am to go through customs - not too happy about that… St Thomas was also lovely, we just went to Magens Bay all day, one of the top ten beaches in the world apparently. Get there by 10am ish to get a sun lounger (around $6 each ;plus deposit) or a flotation mat. Loads of pelicans swooping down to catch fish provided entertainment all day. Jetskis and pets not allowed. Disembarking would have been easy although my husband left his suitcase out too late - you are supposed to put them out the night before, although this is really inconvenient, so we just put them out and called the pursers desk in the morning to have them taken down, but they didn’t take my husbands and we had to hang around for about half an hour after getting off. We spent a day in San Juan afterwards, a great idea as it softened the blow of the cruise being over. We thought we’d book a really nice hotel as it was just for one night so we chose the Sheraton in the old town as it was near the port, mistake. It is really run down, not at all what you would expect - dismal rooms and stains on the bedding. We got an upgrade to a mini suite as we are Starwood preferred guest members, but even so it was not fantastic - really small not very nice pool outside - also it was cloudy which didn’t help. Looked around the town - not much to see really - got really ripped off at a lunch place on the main shopping street, one of the ones with tables and chairs outside, awful food, even worse service, very expensive. The next day we had a late flight so asked the hotel to find us a tour, which they did at very short notice, and this was actually the best of them all, far better than the Princess tours. Sorry, can’t remember the name of the company, but our guide was called Mauritzio, and they drove black vans with tinted windows. He has a degree in eco tourism and showed us round the rain forest with such a detailed and knowledgeable commentary on all the plants and animals that went far deeper than the other tours. A fantastic tour, and he took us to a place for lunch that was great, real local food and very cheap. Then he took us straight to the airport, for a total of $140. We were very happy with the cruise and with Princess in general. The people we met were all really nice and friendly. A few years ago I might have been bored in the evenings, but as it was we wanted early nights so we could get out and make the most of the port stops. Would have preferred it if everyone was just on one week, some were on two. One week is just not long enough!

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Jan 23, 2005

Eastern Caribbean

We just got back from a 7 day cruise aboard Golden Princess and we were extremely happy with the cruise. The service on board was excellent. The cabin stewards and wait staff were first rate. The shopping coordinator, Cynde, became one of our family and even helped us pick out and engagement ring. We loved the staff. We also liked the ship very

much. The ship has many beautiful common areas to enjoy and feels very spacious. The pool areas were the nicest we have seen on any ship so far. The biggest negative regarding the common areas is the space used for some of the shows. There was never enough room in the comedy shows, which were in a smaller theater than the main theater (which for some strange reason was showing movies many nights). As mentioned in other reviews, the cruise director, Omar, was terrible. Don't count on him to plan your activities. What about the food? Very hit or miss. Something's were great and others were poor. If you are a big dessert person, this is probably not your cruise. Desserts were fair at best. The quality of the buffet was good, the pizza is good, and the grill area is also a great place to get a snack after a long day on shore but before the late seating. The premium restaurants are also not worth the price as the quality is similar to the regular restaurants. If your cruising because of the cuisine pick Celebrity or better yet Crystal. Many of the cruise said the food was similar to Royal Caribbean. The ports of call are beautiful and why we picked this cruise. Be sure to visit St. John's when you get to St. Thomas (St. John's has the best beaches anywhere and the snorkeling is good too). The St. Marten catamaran snorkeling cruise was a blast too. We would definately cruise Princess again but as in all things in life there are negatives with the positives.

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Jan 16, 2005

Southern Caribbean

After having cruised over 15 times with Carnival, Norwegian & Royal Caribbean, we felt it was time we 'move-up' to what we were told was the next class up of cruise lines. We went back and forth between Princess & Celebrity for the southern Caribbean. Celebrity had Cirque du Soleil while Princess went to Caracas. Celebrity had a mini

suite for the same price as Princess had for a balcony cabin. Princess had a Sunday departure vs. Saturday. With all the choices considered, we opted for Princess, mainly because Caracas was a completely different port that was not offered on Celebrity. We arrived in San Juan on Saturday and had a great time at the Sheraton Old San Juan and local watering holes. We did our best to waste time on Sunday morning since Princess publishes boarding starting at 1:00 pm. When we arrived at the pier about 1:15, we saw a sign that stated boarding actually started at 11:00 am. The 1st of many lies by Princess. Boarding was, however, very quick and efficient. When we walked the gang plank to the ship, we were handed a small piece of paper that notified us of a change in ports. Yes, the main reason we took this cruise was now changed. Caracas was canceled. The purser's desk said that this was a last minute change beyond Princess' control. I went to the excursion desk and found that the Golden Princess hadn't gone to Caracas in over 2 months and this was no last minute change. If only Princess had told us when we booked, we would have traveled Celebrity this cruise & Princess next. They didn't even make note on the ticket that was issued about 3 weeks prior to sailing. Another deceitful lie by Princess. On board, we found the ship to be very nice. Our cabin was simple and pleasant, yet smaller than any balcony cabin we had on NCL. I was disappointed about the balconies. They were small and not at all private with the cabins below us able to look up and see us. The basic ship layout was good and we especially enjoyed the 4 pools with lots of seating. By the main pool, there was both a pizza shop and a grill. The pizza was very good and the grill offered hamburgers, turkey & chicken burgers and many varieties of hot dogs. It was nice not being pestered to buy a drink every 2 minutes by the pool. We actually found alcohol prices to be very good with martinis only $4.95 at the bars. Wine prices were also extremely fair. As with any other cruise, we managed to get close with a bartender, head waiter, waiter and jr. waiter. By doing this, we enjoyed very good service when we were able to be served by these servers. Food was a 7 on a scale of 10. The extra cost Sabatini's was a waste of both $$ and time, yet the Desert Rose for steak was excellent and well worth the extra charge. We passed on all shows and heard after each one, that we didn't miss anything good. The casino, where we spent much time, was nice to be in but was missing the professionalism found in stateside casinos. Most of the dealers were inexperienced and made many payoff errors. Lie # 3 came on the 5th day when we received yet another notice from Princess. This note mentioned that since we went to a port other than Caracas there would be an additional port fee (about $2/pp). The note also claimed that the San Juan port fee went up in 8/04 (about $2/pp) and they would be adding a surcharge to our cabin for that also. My gripe is that all these additional charges were known by Princess before we booked the cruise. I find it very underhanded to not mention these surcharges until after the cruise was more than ½ over and we had no choice. Debarkation went smooth, yet getting an earlier debarkation tag the night before was near impossible. The purser's desk was again rude and unhelpful. Overall, like all ships, the wait staff and room staff were fine. These staff members are so full of fear of being fired that they are always pleasant. The administrative staff and reservation staff however have no fears and their service proves it. The Princess administrative staff has little to be desired. I give this cruise a 4 (of 5) for waite & cabin staff, a 4 for the condition of the ship but only a 1 for management due to their deceit.

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Jan 8, 2005

Southern Caribbean

This was the second cruise that my wife and I have taken. We sailed the Southern itinerary from San Juan, P.R. The ports we visited were St. Lucia, Barbados, Antigua, St. Maarten, and St. Thomas. Although throughout our cruise we had a lot of rain it didn't put a damper on the ports we visited. St. Lucia was absolutely beautiful. The pitons (2 mountain peaks

rising out of the ocean) are worth seeing again and again. Barbados was very trashy. If you are going to do anything there book it with the cruise line. Antigua was great. We highly recommend going to the beach. In St. Maarten we did the America's Cup sailing race. It was worth every penny. Even if I had quite a large lady fall into my lap. St. Thomas was great as well, especially the shopping. Overall the itinerary was awesome. I wish I could say the same about our cruise line. Granted, we have only sailed once before. It was on the Navigator of the Seas from Royal Caribbean. This ship overall was absolutely terrible. For starters the food was so disgusting that we always looked for other places to eat off of the ship and also looked for food to buy to bring on the ship. The Navigator's food was excellent. The Golden Princess's service was terrible along with the food. I bought a coke sticker the first day. Every time I tried to use it, no one wanted to help me unless I went to one of the bars. I was almost scared to use the sticker especially at the buffet and pizzeria. The only good service we received was our bedroom steward and our waiter at the stake house in which we had to spend $30.00 to eat. The ship is so poorly laid out the it is tough to get around. The entertainment was poor. The cruise director (Omar) was ridiculous. He thought he was so cool when we really wasn't. If you are looking for a large ship that you won't get sick on, do not pick this ship. On the Navigator, we didn't feel a thing. On the Golden Princess, we couldn't walk down the hall without falling against the wall. The ship always seemed to stick. They positioned the main outdoor pool and indoor pool directly between the buffet and the pizzeria. The smell of the food seemed to be trapped in the pool area. Especially in the indoor pool area. No one was ever in the indoor pool, probably because of the smell. At time of check out we went to the purser's desk to check out our onboard account. We waited in line for over 45 min. and there were only 3 people in front of us. There were 5 separate people fighting with the worker at the desk over their accounts. The workers were very unprofessional and not courteous. They have no idea what customer service is. I'm just glad we didn't have a problem with our account. Needless to say we will NEVER sail with Princess again. If you want a beautiful fun cruising experience, cruise with Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the seas. If I had to rate this cruise on a scale from 1 to 10, overall I would rate this ship a 4. NOT worth the money we spent. Just to let you know, every one else that we talked to felt the same way we did. I hope this helps.

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Jan 2, 2005

Southern Caribbean

This was our first cruise on Princess. Our experience was not very favorable. We had booked three cabins, one was handicapped for our 23 y/o daughter who is paraplegic. Four days before we sailed, we received a call from Princess to upgrade to a suite, eliminating the handicapped room and our cabin. I asked if the room was accessible and was told it was,

except the doorway to the bathroom was narrow. We accepted the upgrade. We were suppose to have privileged embarkation with the handicapped situation as well as the suite amenities. When we arrived we were told to wait in line with everyone else. A staff member then ushered us ahead but said that only one person could accompany our daughter, the rest of our party had to remain in line. This is not really a service because whoever went ahead would still have to wait for the rest of their party. We saw at least seven wheelchairs who waited in line because of this policy. Princess did not have ramps available. My son and husband had to carry our daughter up the stairs. Carrying heavy wheelchairs up stairs is an invitation to an accident. We saw one lady get out of her chair and walk up the stairs with great difficulty as she could only lift her feet about two or three inches. Later, there were ramps or the stairs were minimized, so I’m not sure what the problem was. Our suite was inaccessible. The door to the cabin was too narrow for her chair. We had to carry her into the room, fold her chair and then have her transfer back to the chair. The bathroom had a 4-5 inch step up and there was an additional door between the vanity and shower area. The purser had no options for us as the sailing was full. Finally we had to insist on a maintenance man to come to the cabin. He built us a ramp and removed the door in the bathroom. Her chair was barely able to get through that door. She is petite if it was anyone else it would have remained a barrier. It is completely inappropriate and against ADA law to not be able to enter or leave your cabin. It is a safety issue which should never be compromised. What if there was a fire or other emergency. It destroyed her independence for this cruise. One day while we were on shore, she crawled out of her chair, held the heavy door and crawled into the room. She then had to secure the door with a wedge, then she was able to fold her chair, drag it into the room and crawl back up into it. She’s a resourceful 23 year old girl who can be very determined. The ship was very nice. The meals in the dining room were wonderful. Our room steward was delightful. When we did our last cruise on Norwegian, there was staff whos’ sole job was to assist those who needed it in the buffet line. We had two offers for help the entire cruise for the buffet. Our daughter can’t wheel and carry a plate at the same time. Two of my three shore excursions were cancelled. One in Grenada, because the hurricane had damaged the facility. The other was in Caracas. Apparently, there have been issues with going to Caracas for two years. It’s a political problem. So our itinerary was changed to Isla Marquerita. This port is lovely with two beaches very close to the dock. Unfortunately, we were only there from 8-11:30 AM. Princess should notify passengers of issues like this. If there is a problem with a port for two years, there should be an itinerary change. The entertainment was fair. This sailing went out of San Juan and so there were many Spanish guests. They often had entertainment in Spanish first then later in English. We were often too tired to stay awake till 10:45 – 11:30 to see a show.

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Jan 2, 2005

NOT FOUND

Eastern Caribbean Juan Cortes This was our sixth cruise, number three in a row with Princess. Always a great experience. As we are from PR it only took us a one hour and a half car ride from our town Isabella to get to San Juan. This was a very special cruise for us because we took with us our 3 years old daughter, it was her first cruise and she enjoyed it very much. We were on a party of sixteen, including friends and relatives.

When we got to the cruise dock we found out that it was changed, PR port has like 6 docks for cruises, Golden Princess were departing from the Pan-American Dock in Isla Grande, but due to something we don’t know that day it departs from the Frontier Pier in Puerta de Tierra (we were told by tour travel agent in advance). We had departed from this pier already with Dawn Princess and with Sea Princess, but both are smaller ships compared with the Golden, the Pan-American Pier is new and big enough to manage over 3,000 passengers but never the Frontier pier. To add at this nightmare this was the date of the inauguration of PR new governor and all San Juan streets were closed or jam with traffic. Anyway it took us almost two hours to get to the ship in a long never ending line at the pier. We always arrive early, since embarkation begins at 11:00 am, but that day we arrived the pier at 3:00 pm when all the passengers that came from the airport had arrived or were arriving. Once we get to the ship our first thing is to go to our cabin, it has a balcony at last, thanks to a Princess upgrade, they’re great. We reserved an ocean view cabin in the 2nd floor but we asked for a upgrade because this was our third Princess cruise, and they gave us a balcony cabin in the eleventh floor. Then we went to the Horizon Court (buffet area) to eat something, the food is good there, but don’t expect caviar… Next we went to the Calypso Reef pool area, there was a Calypso/Soca band playing great music, I love steel pan music it’s very tropical, but I asked them for a request and they told me that they played it tomorrow, What?? forget about it. We reunite with all our group and had a great time talking and drinking beer and piña coladas (note: Cruise ship piña coladas are not that good, if you come to PR drink one here you will taste the real and the original one). At night we went to our muster station with our lifesaver jackets for the drill, believed or not, I like this part, I enjoyed it very much it is part of the beginning of out trip. We departed PR at 11:00 pm en route to ST Thomas. It was our sixth visit to St Thomas, always great, I am always wondering what does the ship does in that period of time because St Thomas is like two hours away from San Juan, if you take a plane you can get there in 45 minutes. But the ship gets there at 7:00 am. This time we took the Tramway to Paradise Point, Great View of the Bay and the cruise ships, there was too the Carnival Destiny who departed from San Juan one hour before us. We went to the Charlotte Amalie Downtown to look for a SD card for our digital camera, we bought one of 256 mb for $25, the same cost us $50 in Wal-Mart later on, so believe it St Thomas is the place for shopping, don’t waste your time there on the beach or touring the island, this is the place to do shopping, let the beach for the other islands. That day was the first formal night, we went to the Explorer’s Lounge to dance to Latin Music. Here I had to say something, I am a musician, and I play Latin music as well as rock, disco etc, but I don’t’ know where the cruise company (all of them) find their Latin musicians, on the Dawn Princess there were a Pilipino band playing meringue, it sound like anything but meringue, and in the Golden there was a band from Mexico, but I don’t like it either, a suggestion to the cruise companies, if you want a Latin music band for a cruise that departs from PR you need to hire one from PR. that’s the right choice. Something you had to know, every cruise that depart from San Juan gets a lot of PR locals in it, specially in the holiday season, be prepared because when we go on a cruise we are going to get noticed, culturally we are a melting pot of three different cultures (Indian, African and Spaniard) so we are the best of those cultures, we love to party, to sing, to chant, to have a great time, so anytime that someone gets the opportunity to tell where he or she is from, is going to shout from Puertooo Ricoooo and the audience will go crazy. Reading other reviews I found out that some fellow citizens on the mainland didn’t like that, If you don’t like to cross culture on a cruise don’t take one from San Juan. But if you want to have a great time and get to know a lot of great people take it. We took anytime dinning and the food there is great, better than other cruises that we were on (Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian). The service was good, but I had it better. The shows, well I don’t like Vegas style shows, they’re boring, I preferred live music, there were a great band called “Just Kidding”, they played a lot of great old American rock, and there were too a three piece variety band who play jazz, samba and a lot of different styles, their guitarist was great, as I told before I don’t like the Latin band.  But there was a guy who had a show, he was Puerto Rican and sings Christmas songs he was the Ricky Martin of the cruise, for the Puerto Ricans of course. I had to say that Omar Rios, our Cruise Director, was the best, I had read in other reviews that some people don’t like him, I don’t know why he was the best. Of my six cruises 3 of them were on the Christmas season, we celebrate on January 6, the Three Kings Day, on the other cruises that day they had taken away the Christmas decoration already, but in the Golden Princess they celebrated with us that day, they even put 3 guys in Kings costumes and gave gifts to the children, my daughter Lara, was very happy because she don’t know that the three Kings were onboard the cruise with us, that was a big asset for Princess and for Omar our cruise director, at last a cruise that think about the Latin Americans onboard, the other cruises were made only for the mainland fellows. But I think myself as an American too, so that didn’t bothered me either. Princess has a lot of activities to do at night, shows, live bands, island night party, get away party, champagne cascade etc, you always find something good to do. There aren’t a midnight buffet, I think that is because the buffet at the Horizon court is 24 hours open the whole trip, why they need to add another one to just one night. The other island we visited, St Kitts – very poor, not good appearance, Grenada, it was devastated by a hurricane three month before the cruise and it didn’t look well, Isla Margarita Venezuela, this was the big mistake of the cruise, everybody were waiting to visit this Venezuelan paradise, but we received a notice that due to the distance from Isla Margarita to the next port Aruba our visit to this island is going to be of 5 hours, we got there at 7:00 am, and the ship departs al 12:00 noon. Yes we made a doctor visit to Isla Margarita, we are hoping to visit it sometime in the near future, it was the only one who speaks our language (Spanish). Aruba was our next stop, it is a great island, a little expensive to do shopping, but you can find there Holland cheese very cheap, and their local beer “Balashi” is great!!!! It taste a little like Heineken but with a better after taste, I drank a whole six pack alone in my stay there. You can buy there the Venezuela’s beer “Polar”, it is good, it reminds me a lot our local beer “Medalla”, but taste better. If you are a beer drinker like me you going to find a lot of different types of beer on board, I love MGD you cannot find it anymore in PR. If you take a island tour in Aruba be sure to let your driver know you are in the Princess Cruise, because maybe there are going to be more cruises in dock, if there is the Carnival Destiny or the RCCL Adventure of the seas, those cruise ships departs later at night from Aruba, Destiny at 11:00 pm, AOS at 1:00 am, but our Princess cruise departs at 5:00pm, we almost got stranded in Aruba. Our driver told us that she will let us pass the night in her house, she was great, if you going to take a tour with a local tour operator ask for Finita, she’s the best. Thank God we got to the ship on time, to tell the truth they closed the door behind us, not a good sensation, so get to the ship on time. Our last day was a day on the sea, it was the worst, there was a bad weather it was very windy, they had to close the pool for security. I never get seasick on a cruise, but that day the ship move a lot. Don’t get the impression that if the ship is big you are going to feel its movement less, no, it depends on the weather and how it is at sea. The disembarkation process were smooth compared to the embarkation, the ship returns to the Pan-American Pier and it was a lot better. We took a cab to the parking lot were our minivan was, there we had the first bad service in the whole trip, the cab driver was very rude, she drove us very fast and with bad manners, I think she was upset because our route was very short, she preferred a trip to the airport that would gave her more $$$. But I’m sure that she treated us like that because we are not tourist, we are locals, well she didn’t win the tip. The Golden Princess was a great adventure, we had a great time on it, this year the Golden gets changed by a new ship the Crown Princess, we are going to take it in January 2007, Southern Caribbean trip again we love it. That is going to be another story…  

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Jan 2, 2005

Southern Caribbean

My family has previously cruised on Royal Caribbean a number of times. This cruise was my second time cruising on Princess; a previous trip on Grand Princess had given me a very favorable impression of Princess cruises. Unfortunately, my voyage on the Golden Princess disabused me of that notion rather quickly. I was not the person who

planned the cruise for my family, and so I can’t speak to price or itinerary choices. What I *can* describe is my experience regarding the cruise itself. EMBARKATION We arrived at the San Juan airport with a minimum of trouble, only to discover that the baggage claim area lacks any way to indicate which carousel the baggage from a particular flight will come out on. People from our flight milled around from carousel to carousel, hoping to see something familiar go by on the belt. The whole time, two Princess representatives were standing against the far wall of the room, simply watching. I found this a little bit weird, since these representatives were obviously native Puerto Ricans who could have given us a hint about the baggage situation. A similar representative from Royal Caribbean was in the midst of the people, helping move luggage and (presumably) giving information to their passengers. The bus ride from the airport to the ship was unusually long, but the Princess representative on the bus with us explained that there was a famous personage appearing in San Juan that day (perhaps the Governor?) and roads were being blocked off, etc. Not a problem, since it was obviously beyond Princess’s control and they made sure to explain the situation to us. Arriving at the dock, where the line to embark disappeared into a small building, was when things started to get ugly: the line curved around the parking lot in the hot sun, with no awnings or anything to cover it. Ok fine, we figured – embarkation lines for Royal Caribbean had always moved quickly; we’d get there soon enough. So we settled into line, towing our suitcases behind us. After about 20 minutes (still in the sun, remember), we realized that wow, we’d moved a grand total of…three feet. To describe the line as “crawling” would be generous. Stoic, we waited and waited, slowly moving forward, until after about an hour we had finally reached the door of the building. Yahoo! We were almost…oh. The inside of the building, far from being the promised land we imagined, resembled the waiting area for a ride at Walt Disney World: rows and rows of people zigzagging around those ribbon-like line barriers. The line turned in on itself so many times, in fact, that we couldn’t see where it was that we were heading. Well, at least we were inside and out of the sun, right? So we continued to wait. After another half hour and 1/6 of the zigzag line, I began to realize that I was hungry – it had been 4 or 5 hours since we had eaten on the plane, and we had been given no opportunity to get anything in the journey from airport to line to more line. So, granted, I was feeling a little cranky by the time we traversed 4 more zigs of the line and approached our goal: 2 metal detectors, each manned by one employee, into which bags and passengers were slowly being fed. To reiterate: this was a ship that holds 2600 passengers, all of whom were attempting to board at roughly the same time…and there were two metal detectors. Once we made it through the detectors and wandered toward a line that we were pretty sure would lead to us getting our cruise cards (no one there to point us the right way), we were given our cards, which the employee screwed up with regard to linking them to credit cards. We were really on edge by this point, but the man was very nice about it and eventually fixed the problem. We were herded toward a fake palm tree, where a ship’s photographer pushed and prodded us into place and snapped a picture of our listless selves. And then finally…we were on board! ACCOMMODATIONS Our two cabins were pleasant, with the usual teeny bathrooms. Some high points: there was more clothing storage in this cabin than we’d ever had before – a full closet, plus a ceiling-high stack of shelves; bathrobes were provided free (which we’d never had on RCC), and we had a balcony (our first!). However, there were also some not-so-good points: the balcony layout of the ship was such that depending on what deck you were on, anyone either above or below you could see into your balcony, the blankets on the beds appeared dirty (although we eventually asked the steward to change them), and the mattresses had a row of very hard, very uncomfortable things that felt like buttons or beads running down the center of them, so that it felt like you’d gone to bed with a piece of jewelry under the covers with you. The room stewards were friendly, though to my disappointment they didn’t make animals out of my pajamas like RCC stewards used to. Ours was a woman (unfortunately I’ve forgotten her name), and by day three, she’d learned the names of all four people in my party and greeted us upon sight. FOOD Food on the Golden Princess was…unremarkable. The buffet, which has always been a high point of my cruising experiences, featured food that was overcooked, stale (from sitting out for so long), and/or mysteriously mushy. The layout was really illogical, so that there were people entering at two points, where they encountered different dishes, and eventually running into each other in the middle as they all tried to get to the non-identical other half of the buffet. I found myself subsisting mostly on bread and fruit salad (both of which were quite good). The water, ice, and iced tea dispensers in the buffet room seemed to be permanently broken, and waiters were scarce. In addition, there was no big Midnight Buffet like we had experienced on previous cruises. We used the flexible dining option for dinner. The two dining rooms that my family visited were better than the buffet, but still not as good as we would have liked. First of all, both dining rooms were identical, which was completely unprecedented to us, as we’d always been on ships that gave their dining rooms distinct personalities. Wait staff was congenial, but the food seemed to be a little slow in appearing. Being a somewhat picky eater, I found myself eating off of their “permanent” menu a number of the nights – steak, hamburgers, etc. – because some of their main dishes were a little “out there.” Not a big problem, since I’m more of a dessert person than a dinner person. To my dismay, the desserts in the dining room were equally blah and uncreative. I’m used to ordering 2 or more desserts each night on cruises, but on the Golden Princess, I found myself getting one – or even no – dessert, and not finding it appetizing enough to finish. The grill on the pool deck was good, though I’ve had better fries. Service was gratifyingly quick, even when the burgers were cooked fresh upon order. Bar service was fine, although again, there seemed to be fewer waiters than I would have expected on deck at any given time. I found myself buying fewer alcoholic drinks than usual, because I was too lazy to get up and go to the bar to get one (due to the lack of waiters). DECKS & ENTERTAINMENT I was disgusted at the condition of the bathrooms on the pool deck. They reeked of old urine, to the point where I would take my wet-from-the-pool self into the elevator and ride down three decks to go to the bathroom in my cabin instead. It was just…disgusting – worse than some public bathrooms I’ve been in in cities on the mainland. The bathrooms were full of hand-sanitizing gel dispensers (put there, the staff informed us, because there had been outbreaks of an illness onboard – how pleasant to think of!), which is a good idea – except that by day 4, they were empty and as far as I could tell, they were never refilled. I asked a maid in the bathroom one day about it, and she just looked confused. The after-dinner “Broadway-style” shows were passable, but of notably lower quality than RCC or even Carnival. My eyes were often caught by dancers being out of sync and shoddy-looking sets. Music was all pre-recorded for the shows, and it was mostly unrecognizable techno and the like. OVERALL Overall, I’d say that though there was no one thing that “ruined” my cruise experience, I found cruising on the Golden Princess very disappointing. I’m used to feeling pampered on cruises, and this cruise just didn’t have that atmosphere. It’s hard to indulge yourself when there’s nothing on board that you’d actually want to indulge in. Because Golden Princess sailed out of San Juan, the ship had a lot of Puerto Ricans. Like, 90% of the passengers. This wouldn’t have bothered any of us, except that at every show, the cruise staff felt it was necessary to start what we came to think of as the “Puerto Rico scream,” where they would yell, “I’m so-and-so, and I’m from PUERTO RICOOOOOO!” and the entire audience would scream deafeningly. We understand the need for Spanish-speaking crew and support, but we felt that the crew placed too much emphasis on that one group of people. I’ve heard similar bad reviews of the Golden Princess, and good things about other Princess ships, so I’m inclined to say that while you should avoid cruising on the Golden Princess, there’s no reason to avoid cruising on Princess in general.

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Dec 12, 2004

NOT FOUND

Princess Cruises Golden Princess Southern Caribbean Kevin & Melissa Swaim My wife and I sailed on the Golden Princess on December 12, 2004 for our honeymoon. Overall it was a great trip and I would recommend this ship and cruise to anybody. Arrival When we arrived in San Juan someone was there with Princess to meet us and take us to the bus. That was a little hectic because of all the other cruise lines doing the same thing

and there was people and luggage everywhere. I remember them putting our luggage on what looked like a moving truck and then putting us on a bus. I didn’t like that because I am used to the luggage being on the same bus with you, but I thought, well they must know what their doing. When we got to the port it was packed as well. We must have got there at a bad time because everyone was there and there were long lines in the hot weather. We were moved to one room that looked like a hanger where we had to wait for probably 15 minutes. Then we had to get in another line according to what deck our room was on. That took another 15 minutes. Once we got to the front, the whole paper work and check in didn’t take long at all. Then we were able to walk right onto the ship. Everyone during this process was nice but in a rushed kind of way. The Ship When we arrived on the ship someone meet us and guided us to the elevators. Staff was in the elevators taking people to their decks and showing them where their cabins were. This was very nice. Our cabin steward came by shortly after we arrived and greeted us and made sure everything was done to our satisfaction. We had a standard cabin with a king size bed and balcony on the Aloha Deck (close to the top) and the view was great. I would highly recommend a balcony. The bathroom was tiny but we dealt with it so no major problems there. We then went up and got something to eat. The dining area was a little crowded and it was hard to find a place to sit but we eventually did. The ship was spotless of course and was very beautiful. It was a big ship and it took us some time to find our way around it but we did and the size didn’t bother us. We were not able to get in the dining room the first night because one piece of our luggage did not arrive until right before the ship left port (11:00PM). Needless to say, when you get your other 2 pieces of luggage around 5 and you don’t get your last (most important one) until 11 you get a little upset. We called 3 times about the luggage because we wanted to make sure we had it before we left the port. Every time we got the same thing, that every piece of luggage was on the ship and it took time to get it out to all the cabins. The food was good, but there were a lot of foods on there that I was not familiar with and I didn’t want to try. They pretty much had the same thing everyday in the buffets but had lots of choices. The dining rooms were very nice, especially on the two formal nights. We had the personal choice dining and we really liked that. Since it was our honeymoon we wanted to eat alone and the waiter staff was great, and went out of their way to make sure you were enjoying yourself. The one complaint I have and it was probably out of their control was the following. About midweek, people started getting sick. Some stomach bug, I don’t really know all the details but because of this, in the buffet lines, the staff wouldn’t let you get your own food. They had to serve you and get everything for you. I didn’t like this because I felt like they were watching me and seeing exactly what I was getting. I didn’t feel like I could get whatever I wanted and that I had to get smaller portions. Room service was great and right on time. If we wanted breakfast at 9:00 delivered to our room, they were there at 9:00 on the dot. Very NICE!! We also ate at the Desert Rose, a steak restaurant on the ship. There was an extra charge of 15 dollars a person, but it was well worth it. Great service and food! We got an appetizer, salad, soup in a bread bowl, huge ribeye steak and potato, and dessert and drink for 15 dollars. It was a nice, quiet atmosphere. Since it was close to Christmas, they had live music playing that just added to it. The ship by the way was decorated for the holidays and that was a nice touch. (Even though it didn’t feel like Christmas in 85 degree weather) The shows were good, but I would have liked to have seen more variety in the shows. Too many dance numbers to fast latin music. We really enjoyed the magic show. The pools were nice too. We found a secluded spot everyday at the very top of the ship and we used to spa pool (the current pool) We found this area the least crowded during the day. Islands The islands were great and we bought 3 shore tours through the ship. We did the Malibu Beach Trip in Barbados (OK, not great) We did the Jeep Safari Tour in St. Lucia (AWESOME!) and we did the Pinal Island Snorkel in St. Maartin (Alright – the drive to the other side of the island took longer than I expected) The islands were great, just too many of them. After we got home and thought about it, there were too many islands on this cruise. We only had one day at sea and we would have loved having more days at see. We were at sea on Monday, and then the rest of the week til Sunday we were at different islands. Overall, it was a great trip and it is something we will always remember. Even though we had a few problems (and everyone usually does), the trip was a success. If you want to go to several beautiful islands for a week, then I would recommend this ship, the Golden Princess was a very nice ship and everyone on board went out of their way to make sure you had a great vacation.

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Dec 12, 2004

Southern Caribbean

I am 73 years old and was traveling with my wife. I am also handicapped and use a walker to get around. When we got off the bus from the airport at the ships pier one of the staff saw that I had problems walking. They immediately moved me and my wife inside and put me in a wheelchair. Did not have to wait on any lines. They expedited my check in and took me

immediately to my room. The handicapped room was excellent. Much wider than a standard cabin with many handrails. We were on Baha deck just outside the elevator passage. The steward and restaurant staff were excellent. Food was great. If you have a medical problem definitely ask for a handicapped room - its no extra charge. We only used one of the ships standard tours. Its was the two flags tour at St Maarten. This is a terrible tour. You drive in the bus for an hour, then they dump you in a flea market for an hour and then back on the bus for another hour. I resent strongly bringing put in a flea market for 1 hour. On the other islands we did our own thing. Got off the ship and took a cab to see the things we wanted to see. This is definitely the way to go. St Lucia is another problem. The ship did not dock at the pier and the passengers had to use small boats to get ashore. If your handicapped you probable cant use the small boats. Old people also have problems. They keep this a secret from you until the day of arrival when its too late to cancel your tours and get your money back. Overall the trip was good. Beautiful ship, excellent staff, great food. The islands are very poor and its depressing to see how the people have to live. Enjoy the cruise and forget the tours. Departing from the ship was also a positive experience. Handicapped people waited in one of the restaurants and they wheeled you off the ship and put you on a bus, could not ask for better treatment.

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Nov 28, 2004

Southern Caribbean

Recently returned from a very nice cruise (11/28-12/5/04) on Golden Princess sailing out of San Juan to Barbados, Antigua, St Lucia, St Martin, and St Thomas. I just want to post a couple tips and impressions others might profit from. I don’t want/mean this to sound negative because we had a great time. Overall, I would give 4-1/2 stars on a 5 star scale

or 85 on a 100 scale. I wouldn’t book transfers through Princess next time. Our plane was delayed due to bad weather and when we arrived, the transportation people were overwhelmed. It would have been quicker and (for a couple) I think cost of a taxi would have been the same. Returning to the airport on the bus, pretty much, locked us in to getting there too early. We had a traditional early dining arrangement in the Caneletto Room. Lovely people at our regular table and each of our lunches at the Donatello (or was it Bernini?) Dining Room. Food and service was very good. Not one bad meal. Only miscue was wine service. They had a really tough time finding our bottle each dinner-time. We also had special dinners at the Desert Rose Steak House and Sabatinis and they had a problem finding our wine too. One would think, open bottles would all be kept at a central repository. As mentioned, we ate at the Special Italian Restaurant and the Steak House and found both of good value. Being from an Italian area, we are spoiled by some of the best Italian Restaurants in the country. We found Sabatini very good, but not, great. Similarly steak was good but not great. We went to all the shows. Comedian (“Something” Ace) was a hoot. The musical kids at each of the stage shows were really good and energetic. (The first night they used taped music backup &#61516; but the other 2 or 3 shows utilized the very competent ships orchestra.) Only Antigua required tenders and that went O.K. – We did our own taxi tours so can’t say much about Princess arranged deals. Like most ships they seem expensive. Only downer was wireless Internet access was a real P.I.T.A. I had only a couple e-mails that I HAD to exchange and it seemed few crew people could direct me to the Hot Spot. When I finally logged-on and sent my short note, I was unable to properly log out, so, was charged for the entire 30 minute ration when I only used 5 minutes. Under protest, I had to purchase another 30 minute chunk at $10.50 to send and receive the other small e-mail note. My REAL complaint, however, is that the Purser’s Desk was very unhelpful. I had to escalate my complaint 3 levels before they gave me a lousy Ten Dollar credit. I really wanted some knowledgeable support. In any event, It’s hard to imagine any hospitality business today that wouldn’t empower their front desk person to make a Ten Dollar adjustment to satisfy a customer. BTW: I was never able to get more than a –very low- signal. I’m not sure I’d schlep my Laptop again. We’ve enjoyed Cunard, Carnival, and Celebrity in the past and would rank Princess #1 among that group. Best all time cruise was on the small Clipper Cruise ship but, that’s really an entirely different experience.

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Sep 11, 2004

Southern Caribbean

To our delight we were upgraded from a mini-suite to a penthouse suite. The room was very spacious and the balcony was enormous. There was plenty of closet space and drawers to put our stuff. The marble bathroom was very nice, especially the whirlpool tub. The only complaint we had was that the room was never cleaned well. The stateroom attendant picked up

the room, but never really cleaned it. We even found someone else's shoes in the room the first day. We were pampered with Champaign and comfortable slippers the 1st day. We also received hors d'ouvers every night. Food: The food was decent and the service ok but doesn't compare to Celebrity. We are very picky when it comes to food. If you want a cruise with exceptional food and service at an affordable price, the best cruise line is Celebrity. The breakfast buffet was ok, but we weren't able to get fresh omelets made to order like on Celebrity. We ate at the specialty restaurant the Desert Rose one night and the food was very good. We had Filet Mignon. The cost was $15 a person. The specialty restaurant on the Celebrity was far superior. The lunch buffet was mediocre. Again the Celebrity's buffets were better. I missed the delicious pastries on Celebrity, however Princess did have the fruit tarts. Excursions: St. Thomas: We recommend going to Magen's Bay or the shopping area. It's much cheaper to just take a taxi than to do a planned excursion through the cruise line. We don't recommend walking to the shopping area. It's way too far and a bus or taxi is only $3 a person. Margarita: We went on the "La Restinga Nature Tour." It was very relaxing and enjoyable. We got to see and pet a lot of animals (monkeys, snakes, birds) at the Margarita Tropical Garden. The boat ride of La Restinga was a lot of fun and not very crowded. We got to see birds and even a sea horse in the water. Dominica: This island was a disappointment. The only attraction is a small waterfall after a 30-45 minute drive. Everyone and their mother was there. St. Kitts: We went on the "Off the Beaten Track" excursion and we highly recommend it. It was a very educational tour that highlighted the most beautiful parts of the island. We got to sample sugar cane, various home grown fruits and other pastries. Aruba: We went on the "Countryside and Beach Horseback Ride." The ranch had a lot of horses (some looked too skinny). There was a fairly decent length ride (1.5 hours) through the desert before arriving at the beach. We were very hot and thirsty when we arrived at the beach. The water was too choppy for swimming.

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Sep 11, 2004

Southern Caribbean

After 25 years of Love Boat reruns, we weren't expecting much from this our first Princess cruise. But the Golden Princess was an extraordinary experience. From first sight of the magnificent eighteen-story-high disco towering over the stern to our last expresso on deck overlooking San Juan, this was our very best cruise. Fares during the September hurricane

season are sweet deals, and the nice thing is that the ship simply avoids bad weather. If you are flexible enough to accept substituted ports (we got Dominica and Barbados instead of St. Kitts and Grenada) you'll have a grand time. Built in 2001, the ship has hundreds of balconies with ample cabin square footage in every cabin class. If you get a balcony, though, get one on decks 11 and higher as lower versions are not very private. Princess treats their customers with exceptional friendliness not found to the same extent on Carnival or Norwegian or Costa and customers return the favor with relaxed appropriate behavior and common courtesy. This is not a party ship, although there are many opportunities to drink, socialize, dance, gamble, and otherwise have a great time. The ports on the Southern Caribbean itinerary are all interesting and Princess has a wide range of entertaining and value priced excursions to choose from should you want to explore. While many cruisers extol the virtues of booking excusions independently, we find the small difference in price not worth the hassle. And no ship will leave a ship-sponsored tour behind if it runs late! This is also a vessel of wonderful deals, such as: 1. Drink prices are lower than other lines and much lower than land prices. For as little as $2 and rarely more than $5, you can consume most any spirit on the menu. The exceptional $22.50 seven-day-all-you-can-drink soda deal is a must-have from day one that also includes a free metal drink mug. We drank 4-6 per day, each, saving around $60 per person. 2. Want a fixed seating dining time but didn't get it? Princess' transition to the anytime format makes it harder to obtain. There's a near-secret third option to fixed or anytime seating. Buried in the first-day paperwork is a phone number called the DIne Line. Call it every day around 8am and you can dine anytime you want in Donatello or Bernini -- without waiting. Otherwise, expect a 15 to 45 minute wait for the Anytime plan. With the Dine LIne, which is free, we bypassed all lines and never waited more than two minutes for a table any night. 3. Those seeking cabin peace will appreciate the attentive but low-profile stewards. The beds and pillows, though, are flat and hard. Ask your cabin steward for a foam pad the first day. Tipping him $10 will have it come almost immediately. Otherwise, it may take a few hours or they will run out of pads. 4. Best views: up in the disco during the day gives you sweeping 270-degree vistas of the ship and ocean. For eating, get your meal at the Horizon Buffet on Deck 14 and walk 100 ft. straight back to the stern where there are nice tables, rarely used, with beaufiful views of the water. 5. Food: The buffet is also open 24 hours. The best pizza I've ever eaten (truly) is available 11-7 every day. Ask for the special of the day. In the main dining rooms, you really can't go wrong. True gourmands will be disappointed, perhaps, but for us average eaters each dinner was spectacular, especially the last three nights. 6. Tech: Internet prices keep falling but you'll still pay about 35 cents per minute. Wireless is available only on deck 5. Wireless is probably coming to the staterooms in the next year, for a fee. 7. Spa: During the Aruba day, massages go on half price sale, 2 hours for $99, a real steal. Split the time with spouse or hog the whole luxurious experience for yourself! We recommend Sara, a physical and massage therapist from Washington state who's going to be on board til at least January 2005. 8. Great Tour, Bad Tour: The Rhino Riders in Aruba are mini motorboats, easy to drive, very safe and fun. You take them down the coast about 3 miles, snorkel, then return. Very cool couples thing to do, as you book the event in two's. Forget about going to Jost Van Dyke, BVI from St. Thomas. There are better beaches on St. Thomas and St. John, and you won't tie up TWO HOURS of time waiting to go in and out of US/BVI customs. Don't forget our standard San Juan advice: use Priceline to get a $99/night room at a $300-400/night resort hotel if you have to stay late or arrive early. Forego the Princess airport shuttles. Get there faster and cheaper by using taxis and save $12-15/person. Arrive at the ship earlier than it says on your ticket. Most ships actually start boarding as early as 12 or 12:30. Best to Jimmy and Joyce from the UK, our winning partners for shipboard trivia! For our other cruise reviews, see www.strategicdevelopment.com/travel Happy cruising! George and Eleanor

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Aug 21, 2004

Classic Southern Caribbean

This was our 5th cruise. This was our first Princess cruise and we were so impressed. here is how we rated Princess in terms of food, comparing them to the other lines we have been on: Princess A+ Celebrity A Disney A / A- Carnival B + Royal Caribbean D- The food: We were so impressed with Princess. The food on this

cruise was better than any other vacation we have had / land or sea. Was this food similar to mass-cooking catering hall - no way! If it were a restaurant at home would we return - as soon as possible! Here is why Princess had the edge on all others: 1) Impressive quality of food, not just in dining room, in Horizon court buffet as well. 2) Variety at buffets - not just the usual suspects like on other lines! We were so impressed by the unique and varied offerings, even at breakfast. 3) Personal choice dining - Let me tell you, every cruise line shoud do this if they are smart. We fell in love with anytime dining. Whenever we were ready, we just want to one of the 2 dining rooms. We never made a reservation. (We had 1 wait of 10 minutes on formal night when we got there at 8:00, no big deal). We did not like to make reservations because to us that was the whole point of anytime dining, you have dinner when you want. Some days we wanted to eat at 7:00, others later if we were watching a movie or wanted to see a show. My husband was saying how he would have trouble getting used to a traditional dining again. By the way those of you who prefer table for 2 like we do, PC dining is the way to go. A table for 2 is never a problem! The shows: We only made 1 show, the "words of broadway" on the second formal night.. We did not particulary like this show because it focused on the older broadway shows from the 50's that we are not familiar with. Pools / Chair Longue Situation: Great, for all you late sleepers there were always lounge chairs available. Great music & band by the main pool. The port side of the ship was for smokers. The majority of smokers seemed to stay by the solarium pool, closer to the Horizon buffet. We stayed on the port side of the main pool and was never bothered by smoke. There was only 1 sea day on this cruise which was good in a way because there was so much to see, on the bad side, we missed our usual last day at sea towards the end of the cruise to unwind. Service: A+ again, from the room stweards to the PC dining room staff, we were also impressed by the friendly, efficient crew. We met a lot of nice servers in PC dining, some people made standing reservations the first night because they loved their server, but we just went wherever they put us in a table for 2 and met a lot of great servers that way! The room: We had room A227 balcony. What I liked about Aloha is that you are not exposed on your balcony like on lower decks. (The floor right below us was not exposed, but from 2 floors below us on were exposed) We loved this foward cabin, felt very little movement, could not ever hear your neighbor's toilet flushing like on other ships we had been on! (And we all know how loud those toilets are)! The only criticism of the room was the unreasonably small bathroom and shower. Hubby had problems fitting ito the shower. Next time we will spring for the JS which has a bigger bathroom. Excursions chosen/ports of call: Note: We usually do our on thing on our cruises, but I had a hard time locating independent opertors prior to this cruise and the ones I did charged the same rate as the ship's excursion, so we stuck with the Princess excurions. Barbados: We did the sea turtle and snorkel (that includes snorkeling at a wreck site). We loved this excursion and recommend it highly. Tey even took us to a beautiful beach and had free drinks after snorkeling. Wonderful guides, had a blast. If shopping, in our opinion stay away from the town here. We had a bad experience in town & were hasseled. The shopping at the port terminal is better & safer in our opinion. St. Lucia : We did the New Waves Snorkel St. Lucia\. We snorkeled at Anse Chasnet marine park (although on the ships tour info. lists it going to Soufrie to snorkel). The snorkeling was terible, I got stung, also riptides, marine life very limited (not counting jellyfish). The only nice thing about this tour is that they sailed us by the Pitons, that was great. We wished we did the whale & dolphin watching excursion here. The shopping at the pier terminal was great. For a wonderful copy of a designer bag, go to the Oasis shop. I got a magnificant copy of a Gucci there1 Antigua: We did the New Waves Antigua snorkel adventure (39.00 pp). Loved it, had a great time. The boat we were on , the Excellence, was beautiful. Crew was great, also it was a great way to see the island, sailing by all the sites on the way to Cades Reef which was very nice. St.Martin: We did our own thing here. We took a cab to Dawn Beach (which was listed as the snorkel beach). Terrible! No sea life and we had to leave within an hour because of sand fleas biting us. Took the water taxi to town & did great shopping there. Town was great. St. Thomas: We had vacationed here before so we knew what we wanted to do. We took one of those cute trolley taxis to Coki Beach & snorkeled there. The snorkeling was great & the beach very nice. Did shopping in town & got nice things (Took a cab to town). Disembark: Great, had a 12:15 flight, had over 3 hours to kill at the airport. Wish we had an earlier flight, had NO problems at all at this airport. Vibe of ship: I have read in other reviews that cruises that leave from San Juan have a very latin vibe, and that spanish is spoken more than English. That was not true at all on this cruise, all the other passengers we met were from US or Canada, we did not meet any passengers from San Juan. The only people we got to meet from San Juan was the people at the airport and our taxi drivers, who were very nice.

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Jul 24, 2004

Southern Caribbean

This was our first cruise with Princess; the 3 others being with RCCL and unfortunately we found Princess to be inferior to RCCL. Our Stateroom was located on Aloha deck, the deck just below the pool/band/etc. On the first night we discovered we were directly below the band and dance floor, which we heard until midnight. The bed was very bumpy and uncomfortable

(although our Steward found an egg crate mattress which did help)and we were once again awoken by loud bangs from above (the crew setting up chairs around the pool). I would not recommend getting a stateroom on the deck directly below the pool and activities for this reason. We found the ship clean and nicely decorated, with the majority of the staff to be helpful and friendly. (We didn't find the staff as interactive and "fun" as we did on RCCL.) We did like the fact that Princess stopped at 5 different Ports during the trip and enjoyed various excursions. (We booked all on our own and found approximately $20 savings each time from what ship charged.) As far as food goes we were rather disappointed; especially with the buffet. Really liked the pizza and hamburger cafes; frustrated that you had to pay for an ice cream cone! Dining room meals varied; some were very good, others only fair. Toward the end of the week it seemed that the menu choices were pretty poor. The other 3 couples at our table all agreed and often sent food back. Missed having a Gala Midnight Buffet....!!!! All in all we did have a good time, but definitely would go RCCL not Princess.

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Jul 24, 2004

Southern Caribbean

Our cruise on the Golden Princess was our first ocean cruise. Previously, we sailed with Uniworld on a trip down the Volga River. The Golden Princess seemed gigantic and held over 2000 people. The ship was full but except for the first day at sea, never seemed overly crowded, and lounge chairs were fairly easy to find. I would guess that the average age of

the passengers were late thirties to early forties. We did not pre book any shore trips and found our own. I would say we saved about 20% by doing so. Here are some of our positive impressions: The ship was very clean and seemed to be kept in great shape. The staterooms were comfortably sized, and as we were on the Aloha deck, had a nice balcony. The extra light and view were worth the cost. The crew members were pleasant and helpful, but a bit reserved. They seemed to be a mixture of people from the Philippines as well as from Eastern Europe, especially Poland and Romania. Embarkation and Disembarkation in San Juan went very smoothly and did not take very long. We stopped in Barbados, St. Lucia, Antigua, St. Maarten, and St. Thomas. We especially enjoyed the Turtle swim in Barbados, Island tour of St. Lucia, and Sting Ray City in Antigua. Cokie Beach in St. Thomas had great snorkeling right off the shore! The Divi Divi beach in St. Maarten was beautiful and chairs and an umbrella could be rented for a reasonable cost. Here are some of our negative impressions: The mattresses were very uncomfortable and quite cheaply made. My sister in law was able to get an “egg crate” placed on top, but that shouldn’t have to be the case. The food varied from very good to unacceptable. We had to send back fish twice. The Mahi Mahi was very fishy tasting and my portion of the Tilapia seemed almost spoiled. My wife’s Tilapia was delicious, so quality control seems to be a problem. Service in the dining room was inconsistent. The lunch buffet seemed only of cafeteria quality, and not a lot of variation as the week went on. Fortunately, they had a pizza counter and hamburger stand. Some of the rooms in the Aloha deck reverberated with a “clunking” noise every morning at around 7:00am. Apparently the crew were placing chairs in position by the pool but dropping them into place as they did so. The shows varied from fair to excellent. The juggler was good…up until he injured his knee on the last day of the cruise. The illusionist was “full of himself” and in my opinion lacked a polished approach to his show. The ship dancers and singers were quite good and seemed to try very hard to put on a good show. I believe that you create your own enjoyment, and my wife and I had a great time, along with her sister and brother in law. However, we all felt that we would be reluctant to cruise with Princess again. Actually, most of the people we spoke to who traveled with Royal Caribbean or Disney in the past, felt the same way. The Golden Princess experience was pleasant enough but the negative points would compel us to try another Cruise line in the future.

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By Todd_CR

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Jul 24, 2004

Southern Caribbean

My wife and I booked this cruise for our honeymoon and I must say that we were EXTREMELY disappointed with Princess. This was our first cruise with Princess after previously sailing with Royal Caribbean and Carnival. To begin, the embarkation process was slow and very disorganized. Once we were on board our luggage was delivered quickly and our stateroom was

very nice (we had a mini suite on deck 9). The shore excursions were priced within reason however we left at least 20 minutes late every day usually to wait for one or two individuals who don't know what a wake up call is. The food was OK at best at dinner (we had the personal choice dining option) but the buffet food was downright bad. It seemed to usually be some sort of mishmash of what was served for dinner the previous night. Most of the waitstaff in the dining rooms were rude. The drink waiters in the Horizon court (buffet) were impossible to find and I usually had to approach one of them to place an order. We will not be cruising with Princess again. Save your money and go with Royal Caribbean, you will not be disappointed.

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Jul 3, 2004

Southern Caribbean

Sailed on the Golden Princess from San Juan. Nine people in four cabins, two families consiting of Mom, Dad, 12 yr boy and 15 yr old girl plus our father. Each Mom and Dad had own cabin, Girls had their own cabin and the boys stayed with Granddad. Granddad and the boys had an outside cabin with a balcony. I thought the cabins were great, plenty of room and

lots of closet space. The showers always had plenty of hot water. Princess will provide robes if you request them, very handy. The balcony was great for watching the ship leave port and for a pre-dinner beverage. We had the Southern Caribbean destinations, 5 islands in 7 days. We were on the Aloha deck which was ideal. One deck down from the pools and the buffet, important if you have kids (especially boys). The pizza and the burger cafes on the Lido deck were very good and we used them quite a bit. Four pools and many hot tubs for your swimming pleasure. One of the pools had a retractable cover which was handy for the rainy day. Golden Princess is beautiful ship. Even though the ship was full it never seemed crowded. We had the first seating for dining. It worked out well with the kids. I thought the menus were varied and the cooking quality was quite good. When you ordered a beef rare or medium rare it was actually cooked to your specifications. The breads, soups and deserts were particularly good. Princess hypes the personal choice options on their TV channel, it seemed to be popular. There was a sign during embarkation that all assigned seating for the dinning was full so maybe you had to try it whether you wanted to or not. We did not try any of the specialty dining options; however other passengers thought it was very good. The girls used the teen program and had fun. The boys were content to swim or watch the cartoon channel later in the evening. When the boys discovered that they could order room service cookies and brownies they were in heaven. We enjoyed the shows, the juggler was amazing and the other shows were fine. The lounges are very nice in that they do not have any pillars to block your view. The Afternoon Tea was really good, the cookies were delicious. We also attended the wine tasting and enjoyed the wines. I thought the wine list was fairly reasonable and we enjoyed wine with dinner every night. There was always plenty to do in the evenings. I have cruised with Royal Caribbean and I thought the Princess experience was more sedate. That is not a complaint, just an observation. The piano player, Brendan Jones was very good and he had a good sized crowd every night. A couple of tips: Pack a swimsuit in your carry onboard bag. The pools were open all afternoon in San Juan and it made a good way to kill time waiting for your bags to show up. They provide beach towels in the cabins and exchange them every day. They had signs everywhere regarding carrying alcohol onboard but in practice if it was not in a carry on cardboard box that screamed BOOZE it sailed right thru security. I carried on rum from the Bacardi tour (highly recommended) in San Juan and they never even looked twice. Unless it was a specialized tour, you can negotiate as good or better deal with the cab drivers in any of the ports. Having said that we did the Southern Tour in the army truck in St Kitts and enjoyed it. We did the Taste of Grenada tour and I would skip it, the description sounded better than the actual tour. On St Thomas we went to Coki Beach on our own and then went shopping. I have added Aruba to my “return for longer visit” list. Beautiful beaches and very nice people. My wife and daughter took the Beach horseback ride tour and enjoyed it. The guys went to Eagle Beach and rode jet skis, which was a blast. Go down a few days early and stay in San Juan, the island has lots of good places to visit and it gets your vacation off to a good start. We stayed at the Hampton Inn and it is great for families, suites and free breakfast included. If you are adventurous you can ride the buses in PR for 25 cents. It takes a while to get where you are going but you certainly see a lot of the island. Please email if you have any questions.

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Jun 24, 2004

Southern Caribbean

First off I would just like to say that this was the first cruise that my family and I took. There is no complaints with anything, the cruise was excellent! The food and services were all great! The staff in every area of the boat was helpful, interesting with stories and comments, and overall you could tell they were happy with their job. The only issue that

others may have a problem with is the waiting time when we arrived outside the ship, waiting to check into the ship. This was in San Juan and we waited for a while, in humid and hot weather, in order for them to space their customers out when checking them onto the ship. On all the islands the people living there and the tour guides were all very informative to us visitors. Our experience was not very great with Barbados. Our tour guide was not pleasant and the island was not particulary our favorite. My family and I took my tours, which I would recommend because it gives you an opportunity to ask questions and see what is on the island available to tourists. I reccomend the Jolly Roger, on either island is its available, if you want to have fun, see the island, and drink a lot of rum punch! We also participated in snorkeling. Your experience will vary with which island you go to, just be aware that salt water is really wicked! Other than that, the cruise was great. There was constantly things to do on the ship to keep you busy. Again everyone working on the ship tried their hardest to make it an enjoyable experience for all their customers. My final comment is that the cruise that we booked wasn't long enough for us. At the end, we had wished that we had booked a longer cruise to enjoy. We have already booked another cruise with Princess for the upcoming year! Thank you to Princess and all the staff on the Golden Princess for making our vacation one of the best.

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Feb 7, 2004

Eastern Caribbean

Joanne and John Bowers Occupations: Legislative Researcher; Data Base Manager Introduction: We never thought we would enjoy a cruise. We like independent travel and were afraid a cruise would too structured. A colleague recommended cruisereviews.com. We read some reviews and decided to take a chance. Our first cruise was on the Grand Princess in February 2003.

What a surprise to learn that we could do our own thing. A floating hotel transported us from port to port – no packing and unpacking, no dashing off to catch the next flight. It was wonderful to return to our room at night to find the bed turned down, a chocolate on our pillows and a light burning low. Work seemed so far away. So did the blizzard we narrowly escaped. It was the most relaxing, romantic and stress-free vacation we ever had. We’re hooked! Why This Cruise? The Eastern Caribbean beckoned. The Golden was our choice for two reasons: 1) we enjoyed our last Princess cruise; and 2) the itinerary included 3 days at sea (more time to relax). Overall Impressions: In the language of the Caribbean, the cruise was boonoonoonoos (“fabulous”)! The ship was clean and in great shape. The crew was very friendly. Requests were handled cheerfully. The food was good. We loved our excursions. According to the Purser, the age group on this cruise was 45-65. We saw many young people and children, however, as well as a number of passengers older than 65. We like a mix of age groups; this cruise worked well for that purpose. The Golden is huge. It took us 2 days to find our way around. There were 2,663 passengers on board, yet the ship rarely felt crowded. Captain Nick Nash enjoyed interacting with passengers. His announcements were humorous. The Cruise Director Paul O’Laughlin planned a wide variety of interesting activities for passengers of all ages – a nice improvement since our last cruise. Pre-Cruise. We spent the night of the 6th at Amerisuites. Our room was clean. The hotel was ½ mile from the port and within walking distance to many stores and restaurants. A breakfast buffet was included in the rate, as was a continuous shuttle to the port beginning at 10:30 a.m. on the 7th. Amerisuites is ok for a 1-night stay, especially if you get a good rate. The down side was worn furniture, a room that reeked of stale tobacco despite a “Non-Smoking Room” sign on the door and a pool that saw better days. Embarkation. We were on our balcony, unpacked and sipping iced tea, 30 minutes after entering the terminal at 11:20 a.m. Our luggage arrived at 1:30 p.m. Stateroom. We stayed in C612. The room had a queen-sized bed, safe, hair dryer, refrigerator, TV, phone, desk with chair, bucket chair, and two nightstands. The bathroom was very small. It had a shower (no tub). Narrow shelves held most of our toiletries. Amenities included shampoo, conditioner, lotion and soap. The best part of the room was the balcony. We ate breakfast and lunch there – dinner on port nights, too. The balcony was 9’x9’, half-covered and half-exposed to balconies above ours (we didn’t see anyone spying on us, though). We had two sturdy, white plastic loungers, a dining-height table and two straight-backed chairs. Dress. “Smart casual” attire was recommended in the dining rooms most evenings. We dressed as if we were dining in a fine restaurant. That’s what we like to do. Others, however, preferred neat casual clothing (e.g., khaki slacks and open collar shirts). Jeans and shorts can be worn in the Horizon Court in the evening. Passengers were asked to be courteous of others and dress appropriately in the public areas. One evening around 7 p.m. we were in the Wheelhouse Lounge listening to a combo. Passengers there were dressed in evening or neat casual clothing. In walked 2 elderly couples in bathing suits, flip-flops and damp towels draped over their shoulders (no other cover up). And they were seated. We don’t spend our vacations fretting over how others dress. Those two couples, however, were inappropriately attired for a lounge at night and should not have been seated. On formal nights, more men wore business attire (e.g., dark business suits with white dress shirts) than tuxes. A handful of men wore dress slacks with sports coats. Women tended to wear long dresses, short cocktail dresses, or long skirts with fancy blouses. Dining. The dinner menu was identical in all 3 dining rooms. It featured 5 courses (appetizer, soup, salad, entrée and dessert). You are not obligated to eat all 5. A 3-course low-fat menu (soup/salad, entrée and dessert) and a vegetarian menu were also offered. Shrimp cocktail, Caesar salad, grilled salmon, green beans and baked potato were available every night. We really liked the lobster bisque, seafood turnover, lobster tail, pasta with chicken and olives and the chocolate-hazelnut soufflé. Shrimp fra divalo and shrimp cocktail with mango-tomatillo salsa were just ok. Grilled mahi mahi was overcooked (as were many of the fish entrées – a real disappointment). Yogurt with tamarind soup was so sweet it should have been dessert. The wine list had selections beginning at $20 a bottle. If you bring your own bottle to the dining room, you will be charged a $10 corkage fee. Breakfast and lunch were served “open seating” every day in the Donatello dining room. We didn’t eat these meals in the dining room, so I can’t comment on the quality or selection. An English-style tea was served in the Donatello every afternoon from 3:30-4:30 p.m. We attended on the last day at sea. It was a nice change of pace. Breakfast and lunch in the Horizon Court were fine. Dinner, however, declined since our last cruise. This time there was an over abundance of deep fried foods, heavy (many cream-based) sauces, pizza, burgers and hot dogs. Perhaps Princess was trying to cater to families with young children who might prefer to eat in the Horizon Court rather than in the dining rooms. That’s understandable, but I wished there were a larger selection of lean meats and simply prepared seafood. If we wanted a light meal for dinner, we were basically locked into a green salad, some vegetables and a cup of soup. We did not eat at the Trident Grill, Prego Pizzeria, or at the ice cream bar. We did not eat at the two alternative restaurants, Sabatini’s and Desert Rose. Anytime Dining. We’re fans of the “anytime” dining option. We don’t want to eat at the same time every night and with the same group of people. On port nights, when we didn’t feel like dressing for dinner, we ate on our balcony without making apologies to assigned table companions. We didn’t have the same waiters every night, but that didn’t matter. All our waiters gave us attentive service. (We rarely ate more than 2-3 courses at dinner. Without exception, our waiters expressed concern that we weren’t getting enough to eat!) We dined between 6:30-8:30 p.m. We never waited for a table. If you’re asked to wait 10-15 minutes (7:30-8:30 p.m. was the busiest time), grab a beverage and listen to classical music in the Atrium. The time will pass more quickly than if you hang around the doors stewing or yell at the headwaiter. Activities and Entertainment. The Princess Patter listed activities and fees, if any. There was no shortage of things to do. The Scholarship at Sea Program offered computer classes for $25 each. We attended a wine tasting class for $7.50 per person. Other activities included exercise classes, line dancing classes, crafts, bingo, art auctions, galley tours, an Island Deck Party, cooking demonstrations, card tournaments, gaming lessons, special interest meetings and so much more. A free martini-making demonstration was fun. Attendees were given a taste of 3 different martinis (even though it was only 10:30 a.m.). John attended a free snorkeling lesson. The fruit and vegetable carving demonstration was fascinating. The two men who do all the carvings learned that skill on their own. The Wheelhouse Lounge was our favorite. It was dimly lit with comfortable leather seating. House Party, the Pete Nilson Duo and the Perry Phillips Trio were very good. Tenacity, a calypso band that played by the pool in the afternoons, really put us in an island state of mind. We don’t like loud DJ music, so we avoided Skywalkers. We weren’t interested in the singers, dancers, juggler-comedians, and magicians. One night we stumbled upon the Princess Theatre a few minutes before curtain time. We sat in the last row just to see what the entertainment – Gregg Bonham – was like. Although Bonham had a good singing voice, he was so 30 years ago. We left after 10 minutes. Pools. There were 4 fresh water pools on board. The pools were quiet on port days and mobbed on sea days. Lots of passengers saved pool chairs on sea days by draping towels over them early in the morning, then showing up a few hours later to claim them. Chair saving over 30 minutes is not permitted; there were signs to that effect and notices printed in the Princess Patter, but passengers ignored the rule and the crew didn’t enforce it. If you want a chair that’s saved, remove the towel, sit down and ignore the saver. Ports. St. Maartens. The first sight of this island early in the morning as the ship slowly approached it was breathtaking. I wished we had more time there; it looked beautiful. We went on a ½ day barefoot sailing excursion, booked through Princess, on an 80-foot catamaran called the Golden Eagle. We were supposed to sail to an uninhabited island called Tintamare, but due to wind and high seas we sailed instead to a beach owned by a resort. In the brochure, it looked like the catamaran anchored in shallow water. Perhaps it does on Tintamare. On our trip, however, the Golden Eagle anchored about 500 feet off shore in 12 feet of water. We were told to swim to the beach. Right! Noodle floats and snorkeling vests weren’t secure enough for me. A crewmember took non-swimmers to shore in a motorized dinghy. That was a good decision because there was a nasty undertow near the beach. John and a few others either stumbled or crawled onto shore gasping for breath. Hint: Don’t take any chances. If you’re not a strong swimmer, ride in the dinghy. After an hour, we returned to the catamaran. Some who had trouble swimming to shore rode back in the dinghy with us non-swimmers. The crew played calypso music and served (generously) sandwiches, chips, rum punch, champagne, beer and soda. We had a fun time, the swim to shore notwithstanding, and highly recommend this excursion. We changed on the ship, then took a water taxi into town. The water taxi cost $5 per person round trip and operates continuously. We ate delicious jerk chicken at the Barefoot Terrace, then went shopping. Most of the stores sold jewelry. Other shops sold spices, sauces, rum cakes, souvenirs and liquor. A café called Saviers de France on Old Street sold light groceries, pastries and cookies. We purchased a cup of French roast there. It tasted heavenly compared to the coffee served on the ship. St. Thomas. We went on a ½ day barefoot sail and snorkeling excursion, booked through Princess, on a small sailing yacht. We sailed to Buck Island, a wildlife refuge. There, the boat anchored in Turtle Cove in 20 feet of water. After reviewing safety procedures and demonstrating the proper way to wear snorkeling equipment, one of the crew took passengers on a guided (and supervised) snorkeling tour of the reefs. People said the fish were gorgeous colors. I stayed on the boat watching sea turtles surface for air. It was very peaceful. After an hour, we sailed back to the dock. The crew served bowls of chips and salsa, rum punch, beer and soda. We highly recommend this excursion. (I wore sea bands and swallowed ginger capsules prior to the excursions. Even though the seas were rough, I did not get seasick.) After changing on the ship, we took a van into town. Vans were very easy to get (they troll for passengers) and cost $3 per person one way. The stores sold the same items that we found on St. Maartens. Hint: Save the cab fare and shop at the outdoor Havensight Mall, across the street from where the ship docks. There you’ll find 50 stores that duplicate what you’ll see and spend downtown. Eight ships were in port. Downtown Charlotte Amalie was mobbed. It was almost impossible to find a seat in a restaurant without a 50-minute wait. We found a café called Tavern on the Waterfront on the 2nd floor of a building on the main street. Prices were higher than expected, but we were seated almost immediately. We waited 35 minutes for our food because they were so busy. The food was worth the wait, though – delicious! I had jerk chicken and shrimp on skewers over coconut rice. John had sautéed grouper. Princess Cays. We stayed on the ship. This is not our favorite port. It’s just a beach with bars, souvenirs, and expensive “water toys” that you can rent from Princess. A mediocre BBQ was served on the beach. I went to the spa instead for the Spa Tasting, a “port day special.” It included a 25-minute massage, followed by a 25-minute facial and scalp massage. I was so relaxed afterward that I couldn’t walk for 1-2 minutes! If you chose this special, ask for Lisa from New Zealand. She was wonderful. Disembarkation. Two words describe it: Chaotic and stressful. The process began at 8:15 a.m. with the red tags (first off the ship). We waited 50 minutes for our tag color (Orange 7) to be called, then inched along to the terminal. It took a few minutes to find our luggage. Forget about grabbing a cab right away unless you engage a porter – and porters were few and far between (in the cab “pecking order,” porters seem to have priority). For all others it was a free for all. There were no cabstands with orderly lines like you find at airports. We gave up and took a privately operated van ($8 per person) to the airport. Seven ships returned to port that morning. Thousands of cruise ship passengers descended upon the airport at virtually the same time. We waited in line almost an hour to talk to a Customer Service agent about arranging an earlier flight home. Booking the flight took about 10 minutes (computer problems). We waited in a long line to put our bags through the CTX, and then got into another long line to go through security. John’s bag was selected for a thorough search. It took 3 hours and 45 minutes from the time disembarkation began until we reached the gate. Hint: Take this into consideration when making your return flight reservation, or you could miss your plane. Bottom Line. We had a wonderful time on the cruise. Can’t wait to sail again!

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By Mark_CR

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Feb 7, 2004

Eastern Caribbean

This was the Eastern Caribbean tour on the Golden Princess from February 7 to February 14, 2004 out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.. A sold-out sailing, meaning approximately 2600 passengers and approx. 900 crew. sea, Day 3 at St. Maarten, Day 4 at St. Thomas, Day 5 at sea, Day 6 at Princess Cays, Day 7 return. Cabin: Mini-suite, Dolphin

deck, located middle-rear of deck, left side of ship. Great space, with balcony. Bed was comfortable, sitting area was very nice. Cabin service was excellent. Weather: Moderate seas (e.g. some swell, some wind, periods of light rain) during first 2 at-sea days. Otherwise sunny, hot, and slight seas/no wind the rest of the cruise. Food: Abundant and good. Personal Choice dining option. Always dined after 8:00PM. Never a wait for a table, whether just for ourselves or for a group table to meet other folks. Cruise staff: friendly and service-oriented. Entertainment: moderately good to really bad. Fellow passenger demographics: majority 40’s to 50’s aged couples, mostly American and Canadian. Few 30’s couples, some families, some 70+. Some large groups. One medical evacuation during the cruise, but no effect on the ship’s itinerary. Embarkation/Disembarkation process: very smooth for what it could have been – read the detail for more information. DAY BY DAY SUMMARY Embarkation Day We had flown into Miami a couple of days ahead of the ship’s departure, and drove our rental car to Fort Lauderdale, which was approx. a 30 minute drive. We had planned to drop off our rental car at Fort Lauderdale Airport, then take a taxi from the airport. **All major rental car companies (Hertz, Budget, National, Alamo) run shuttle buses directly to the cruise terminal so there is no need to be shuttled to the airport and hire a taxi to the cruise terminal. The ride is approximately 15 minutes. We checked in at 2PM. Luggage porters were on hand to take our large luggage – no tipping required. There were no lines and since we used the website to input our details check-in took all of 5 minutes. We did notice a huge line for the next cruise when we returned, which began to build about 11AM. If you want to check in easily, be sure to arrive after 1PM. **You may carry on as much wine and champagne as you wish..There is a $10 corkage if you drink this in a dining room. Hard alcohol will be confiscated at check-in. Water will be confiscated if you try to carry it on, however if you pack it in your packed luggage, then there’s no problem. It is a good idea considering that it’ll cost you $2 a bottle if you buy it on board – and they don’t miss any opportunity to sell it to you especially during port days. >From check-in you proceed through a security checkpoint, then up through the waiting area. This leads to the ship’s gangway. A welcome aboard picture is taken, then you have a picture taken to assign to your cruise card. At that point you’re on board! Staff are stationed all over to guide you to your cabin. Upon arrival to our cabin we met our cabin steward who introduced himself and gave us a quick room orientation. **The room includes a refrigerator (we used it for our wine, water, and leftovers during the trip). There is also a room safe for your valuables. Robes aren’t included by default but your cabin steward is happy to provide them upon request. Same with extra pillows and blankets. There is a digital thermostat to control the room’s temperature (in mini-suites there are two, one for each zone). The bathroom soaps are nice, though shampoo and conditioner is provided in little squeeze packets. Turndown service (complete with chocolates on pillows) is provided nightly. Pool towels are provided in-room and can be replaced with fresh ones upon request. We stowed our stuff and proceeded to explore the ship. The Horizon Buffet does have food available throughout the boarding day in case you need a nosh, but it is slim pickings (looked like leftovers from the previous cruise). The Horizon’s food vastly improves during the cruise as you will see later. At 4:30 PM there was a muster (fire) drill where we all had to grab our lifejackets and run through evacuation procedures. The staff made it bearable and it’s a great picture taking opportunity. :) We went up on deck for the sailaway, which included a live band. There are no streamers or anything like that anymore, but the local Ft. Lauderdale folks who live along the channel were all out waving. Some waved Princess flags and one fellow even had a bullhorn and kept shouting, “Don’t eat the lobster!” It was a bit cold on deck so bring a sweater. Anyway, once we were clear of the channel most folks went down to their cabins and/or to dinner. **This first evening is by far the most chaotic in terms of executing Personal Choice dining. We correctly anticipated the chaos and chose to dine extra-late, about 8:30, and in one of the alternative restaurants  (The Desert Rose) rather than one of the main Dining Rooms. This avoided the long lines and unhappy people who were all trying to have dinner at the same time. Don’t fret, the dining situation improves vastly after the first evening, but take my advice and avoid the crush on the first night by choosing either a late dining time (the Dining Rooms take new diners until 10PM) or an alternative restaurant, or both. The Desert Rose was, well, deserted during our entire meal. The food at the Desert Rose was acceptable. $8/person extra, but that includes a free Margarita or Daiquiri. The food ranges from quesadillas to fajitas to grilled entrees (steak, seafood) with Mexican-influenced flavorings and styles. Very good guacamole and salsas, too. That evening we saw a stage show which was somewhat lame. Singing, dancing, you know the drill. Day 1 – First day at Sea Now for the oh-so-sensitive topic about poolside lounge hoarding. In spite of the many signs and warnings around the ship not to do this – it happens. And with a vengeance. The lounges in full sun, closest to the pool entry areas, go by 9AM. The next couple of rows are gone by 10AM. All lounges are occupied by 11AM. While the warnings exist, no staff actually ever enforced the no-reserve rule, so here’s my advice: **If you want a “prime” lounge, have breakfast early and be out there by 9AM. Hopefully you’ll be traveling with at least 1 other person or better yet, a group, so that you can snag a group of loungers and then rotate in and out as your group wants to go to lunch, or to an event, etc. Again, the lounges closest to the pool go first, followed by the partial sun/shade lounges, then the upper deck lounges. Oh, I should explain there are 3 main pools, one at the front (the most popular) of the ship, one amidship (which has a retractable glass roof), and one at the very back of the ship. The middle pool seemed to attract mostly older folks, I think because there was more shade and more chair/table seating than simply loungers. I’m not sure about the demographic at the back pool as we never actually hung out there. As many other reviewers have noted, the poolside food is great. There is a grill at the front pool serving hamburgers, hot dogs, etc. There is also a pizza place, with great pizza, though there are only two choices – cheese and pepperoni. When that got tedious we ventured into the Horizon Buffet where we could grab a sandwich or a hot entrée and bring it back to our loungers. Now, a couple of notes on daytime food: **The biggest food queues for lunch are from about 12:00 to 1:00PM. Maybe you have to wait 8 minutes in line – no biggie. The Soda Sticker (purchased at sailaway) is a great bargain. We purchased one as a couple but often ordered two sodas and were given both against the Sticker. Technically they’re supposed to charge you for the second soda since we only had one sticker between us. I think they enforced this a total of twice the entire week. And we had a lot of soda. Interest in poolside activities waned around 2PM, so we ventured into the Art Auction. I’m not sure who this is targeted for, as many of the pieces start at several thousand dollars. Unless folks deliberately come prepared for this, I can’t believe anyone would just plunk down $14K on a painting on a whim – and they didn’t. The auctioneer, while entertaining, was visibly frustrated by the lack of interest in buying, even though he had a good sized audience. There were 3 more auctions during the week, and some things did sell, but mostly prints and serigraphs of originals that were several hundred dollars, not several thousand. The selection includes pieces Wyland and Kincaide, sports memorabilia, animation art, and some other classic as well as contemporary stuff. The rest of the afternoon and early evening were a mélange of naps, reading on the balcony, watching some movies, and playing cards. Now as for dinner, this was the first formal night. The dining rooms were not as chaotic as evening #1, though there were still some confused souls roaming about. Once again – if you dine after 8PM, there is no wait. So we grabbed some appetizers from the Horizon about 6PM and hung out with friends over drinks for the early evening. Of course we had to go change into  formal attire (yuck) but them’s the rules. There is a laundry on each deck ($1.00 for a one-load box of detergent, $1.00 for washing, $.50 for drying, change machine available in the room) complete with 2 washers, 2 dryers, and 2 irons with ironing boards, should you need any of these facilities. Anyway, back to dinner: **Don’t be intimidated by the line at the maitre’d’s podium at the dining rooms – it often looks like a lot of people waiting for tables but in fact when we saw this it was only a large group (8-10) waiting to be seated. If you are 2 or 4, it is immediate seating after 8PM. The maitre’d’s and the head waiters are very accommodating so bring a smile and some patience. We saw a lot of people getting exasperated for no reason at all. You’re on vacation – relax. They won’t run out of food, believe me. The waitstaff on our cruise was mostly Portuguese or Romanian, but everyone spoke English well. We noticed that they had trouble with Southern accents in particular. If you speak clearly and slowly though, they’ll get it. Service was always swift and attentive. In fact because we dined towards the end of dining time, we noticed that the waitstaff was more relaxed since the dining room wasn’t full. They were fun to joke with, too, and it really made dinner all the more fun. Day 2 – Second Sea Day A repeat of Day One. We did a scuba review class in the pool on this morning with the resident divemaster, ahead of a scuba dive excursion we had planned. Apparently we were that morning’s poolside entertainment, too, flopping around in full gear and all. But that was about the biggest highlight of the day. We attended a shopping “seminar” hosted by the ship’s “Shopping Coordinator.” The premise was that she was going to show you where the best bargains were and talk about how to get around each island. The reality was that she just read aloud the flyers that she had previously created that described all this. These flyers are included in every cabin, so there’s really no need to attend. And she went on and on about how if you purchased something from one of these “preferred” stores, even a t-shirt, it was “guaranteed” by Princess and you could get your money back any time if you wanted. What in the honey-baked hell? Skip that presentation – all the information is in the flyers. Including maps. Later, we went to high tea. This was quite fun, actually. It’s served every day at 3:30 and it’s got all the things you’d expect, including scones, little finger sandwiches, etc. It’s never very crowded, and an elegant way to spend an hour. Day 3 – St. Maarten First port. Our ship secured a pierside mooring so a simple march down the gangway put us on dry land. We noticed ourselves weaving a little bit after two straight days at sea. We had booked an excursion (a hike through a rainforest preserve) and folks were standing at the gangway to direct us and other folks to their various excursion transportation. Our excursion took us by bus up to the hiking trail. This included lunch, and afterwards our bus driver took us over to Marigot (the French side) for just a few minutes so we could look around. Basically St. Maarten has better shopping on the Dutch side, better beaches on the French side. He then drove us back over the Phillipsburg, dropped some of us off there, and carted the rest back to the ship. We got off in Phillipsburg and went shopping. The shopping experience is kind-of-a yawn…jewelry, linens, tacky tourist stuff, etc. We did have some good ice cream, though, and people watching. Anyway when we had our fill we simply walked back to the ship – about 15 minutes. You can take a taxi back to the dock if you want. The ship left the island about 6PM. Dinner was as I have previously described. We then went to that evening’s show called “Lights, Camera, Action,” which had been advertised all week as a great experience. We were anticipating a great show as the curtain went up and the lead came out, but as soon as he opened his mouth we new it was doomed – a really bad rendition of an early 90’s song. So after about 5 minutes we got up and left, and when to the other side of the ship where a guest comedian was performing. His show was packed (we should have known we made a mistake since the Lights, Camera, Action theater was only ½ full) and it made up for the other show. Day 4 – St. Thomas Once again, we managed to secure a pierside mooring, while other ships had to tender (motorboat) their passengers into town. Since we were back in the US, immigration is necessary before leaving the ship. You are given an appointment time to show up in one of the lounges where you march by an immigration officer and hand him your passport. Once they OK you, you get a little card allowing you to leave the ship. You don’t have to honor your appointment time, and are welcome to go earlier, which is especially important if you have an early morning excursion, like we did. So off to scuba diving. Again an excursion representative was there to collect us and others from different ships. We boarded another boat which took us out to an island off the St. Thomas coast. It was a fabulous dive day – calm conditions and 15-20 foot visibility. We did two dives, one on a wreck called the Castanza, the other over a typical coral reef. We were back at the cruise ship by Noon so we washed down our equipment, showered, and changed. Of course, there’s nothing better than a giant burger after diving, and as we returned we had asked one of the dive boat folks for a good recommendation. Just down the street from the port there was a great dive bar called Shipwreck Tavern which served huge burgers and Red Stripe beer – a winning combination. After lunch we grabbed an open-bed taxi over to Charolette Amalie ($3.50/person fixed) to the main shopping district. Lo and Behold, it was the same thing as St. Maarten – the exact same stores. Yawn. So we walked around, purchased a couple of knick-knacks for those relatives we don’t see very often, and headed back to the ship. We did look in the Passman Black Coral Store – watch out for these guys. If you don’t like a hard sell, don’t go in. They will stick to you like flies on **** until you buy something – and they’ll act really disappointed when you don’t. No haggling here, by the way, unlike other stores in both ports where haggling is expected. Anyway, we left St. Thomas about 6PM, but had to turn back about 8PM for a medical  evacuation. We didn’t really notice until the Captain got on the PA system and told us. It had the potential to shave some beach time off our stay in Princess Cays, but in the end I think we lost 30 minutes. We had dinner at Sabatini’s this night, which is the cover charge ($20) Italian Restaurant. **The experience at Sabatini’s is organized as a tasting menu. What this means is that you get many courses of various things in small portions (I think I counted 16 different dishes in all). Bring your appetite – we made the mistake of thinking this experience was like that of the regular Dining Rooms or the Desert Rose, where you order a single appetizer, salad/soup, entrée, and dessert. Instead you get a full antipasti course, appetizer sampling, pizza course, soup/salad course, entrée, and dessert. Little bits of each thing (they don’t serve you a whole pizza) but when you add it up it’s a lot of food. I don’t remember what entertainment was that night – must’ve been drunk on too many Chocolate Bananas. Day 5 – Last Sea Day Same as first sea day. Second (and thank goodness the last) formal dining day. Day 6 – Princess Cays So we get to Princess Cays about 7AM. This is a tender-only port, which means they lower a number of lifeboats and use them as shuttles back-and-forth from the island. It is also a short day in port – approx. 8:00AM to 2:30PM. Of course you’ve already figured out the potential for chaos as hordes of oiled-up humans rush the boats in order to get dibs on the best loungers. But the way the staff handled it was great – ahead of the tenders being ready, you show up at a lounge and grab a number ticket…first come, first serve. Then when the tenders are ready they call off groups of numbers and off you go. The first 5 – 6 boats require this procedure, after this there are enough boats running back and forth that it’s just walk up. The loungers that go first at the Cays aren’t the beachside ones – frankly there isn’t a bad lounger in the house based on view. No, it’s the shady ones that go first, as there are only a few little shade structures on the beach. As always, the saving begins immediately so if you want a shady lounger, be on one of the first tenders – or send out an advance party to hold them for a larger group. Great snorkeling is available here, as is equipment if you need to rent it. The snorkeling area is divided into two sections – an entry area and then a reef. The staff is very good about watching out for idiots that try to stand up on the reef or otherwise trash the place –they’ll pull you out of the water if you don’t look like you can handle it. Basically respect the reef by not touching anything, don’t stand unless you are on sand, and you’ll be fine. Avoid snorkeling in the entry area as it’s full of first-timers flailing around. Just swim around to the right of them, around the lifeguard shack, and into the reef – it’s about a 100 yard swim. Then there are few people, lots of fish, and a relatively healthy reef to view. Lunch starts at 11:15AM, which consists of a full barbeque (chicken, ribs, hot dogs, sausages, hamburgers) and all the trimmings. It’s staffed by the ship’s staff. **Soda stickers don’t work on Princess Cays – you pay for all drinks. It’s $2 a soda, by the way. Whether you want to carry some of your bottled water to the Cays (see my previous tips above) or not is up to you and your wallet. After lunch we took a Catamaran lesson and then got to sail around on our own for a while. That was fun – we paralleled the tenders a couple of times and tried to race (just kidding). By 1:30 I had had enough fun and sun so I headed back to the boat, while my wife and our friends stayed on. There was a line to get back at 1:30, which I waited in for maybe 10 minutes. Last tender is at 2:30. Everyone makes it back to the ship - no castaways. Dinner was the Captain’s Gala dinner. You know, the one with the lobster and all. No Baked Alaska though, however it may have showed up in the traditional seating dining room. Can’t remember the entertainment on this evening, either. The last night on board there’s a lot of information passed around about disembarkation procedures, and there’s definitely a right way and a wrong way to do this. Here are my recommendations to make this easy: **Get a printout of your shipboard account from the purser’s desk sometime on Day 6. This gives you time to review it and ask questions/make adjustments BEFORE the masses. Most people won’t see their bill until first thing in the morning, and you can just guess that the purser’s desk is pretty chaotic as a result on that morning. The night before disembarkation you are given color-coded luggage tags that designate when you will be allowed to leave the ship. They publish a complete list of these colors, but basically you disembark from the topmost decks downwards. The lower you are, the later you leave. Everyone’s off by about 10:30AM, though. If you have an early flight, you can inform the Purser’s Desk and they will provide Red luggage tags, which are the very first to go. Luggage needs to be staged outside your cabin after dinner on the last night. This can be really late, so don’t feel pressured. But be sure you set out enough clothes for sleeping and getting ready to go the next morning – once you set your bags out they’re gone until you’re off the ship. And don’t pack you’re bathroom stuff! Otherwise how would you brush your teeth? :) This is also the last night to purchase the reams of pictures that the ship’s photography staff have been taking all week. I’ve never been a fan of these, but a couple were good enough to purchase. The photo staff is great about cropping  and retouching, too, so if you like something that needs adjustments, just ask. Day 7 – Disembarkation Day This day is actually not Armageddon if you read my tips, and have patience: **We chose to double up on breakfast the day before and store it in our refrigerator for disembarkation day. Fruit, cereal, milk, even bagels and doughnuts. There is a regular breakfast service on disembarkation day and the Horizon Buffet is open for breakfast from 7:30 – 8:30AM, but we expected both those to be swamped. Thus we had a leisurely breakfast on our balcony at our own pace, without a crush of people. After breakfast we said goodbye to our room steward and hung out on deck until our color was called. A quick walk off the ship, down through the cruise terminal, and passport check and you find yourself in the check-in area from a week ago, except this time it’s filled with luggage. Luggage is organized by color (remember the colored tags?) and you have to wade through the other 400 bags in each color to find yours. It took me about 5 minutes. Outside the cruise terminal, the same rental car agencies that drop you off are available to pick you up. **If you choose to rent a car right out of the cruise terminal, be sure to book it from the airport (FLL) location. Hertz and Budget both have “local” rental locations nearby and it’s not hard to misbook a reservation. The airport shuttle will not allow you on unless you have a car reserved at the airport location. Not that you won’t get a car, but the shuttles to these local locations don’t run as often nor are they as organized as the airport locations. Because of all the cruise ships arriving on the same day (I believe there were seven) it took about  45 minutes for the shuttle to reach us and for us to circle all the cruise terminals for other passengers. So ended our great trip. I hope this was helpful. Enjoy your cruise!

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Jan 17, 2004

Southern Caribbean

This cruise was my second and Dan's first. I had to practically beg Dan to go on this cruise. Princess was everything we expected and more. The crew made us feel like royalty and very comfortable.   Arrival in Florida - We stayed at the Ramada Inn -- word to the wise - DON'T - Very dirty, doors didn't lock; only a trickle of water for our shower,

beds smelled, were horrible. Food was expensive and awful. The morning of the cruise, we took a hotel shuttle to the port. Port Arrival - We arrived at the Port 2 hours before embarkation. This was okay in that we were practically first in line and that we were able to meet many people that had cruised before. Everyone was sooooo upbeat; we were excited to be experiencing everything. At 11:00 am we started the embarkation process and were in our stateroom by 11:20am. Accommodations We stayed on the Emerald Deck at the front of the ship and stayed in a balcony room. The room seemed larger than we expected plenty of closet storage, small bathroom. TV had up to date movies, small refrigerator, table, queen bed, and 2 night stands. The balcony had 2 deck chairs, dining table and 2 dining chairs. Our cabin steward kept our room very neat and clean. Clean deck towels were provided 2 times a day. We highly recommend a balcony room - If we didn't feel like being around alot of people, we would go to our room, have drinks, lunch or whatever. Sometimes we just wanted to read and relax---- this was the place to do it. The ship was immaculate and beautiful, the crew was very friendly. Ages of the passengers were mostly in their 40's. Although, we did see plenty of younger families and older cruisers. I honestly don't remember how many pools were on board, but we spent most of our time in the 'adult only' end of the ship. I think this was on deck 12 at the back of the ship, wonderful for reading and relaxing. The other pools were fun and exciting for those that like to party...and we did do some of that. The cruise director had plenty of activities booked... so much to do. He made you feel like he's known you for such a long time. Things to do After we left our cabin on the first day, I booked a spa treatment at the Lotus Spa - manicure, pedicure, and massage for the next morning. It was absolutely the best thing I could have done. The massage was completely relaxing. The manicure/pedicure area overlooked the ocean, relaxing music, wonderful aromas, friendly crew....I was in heaven and so relaxed. We also experienced a wine tasting at $7.50 per person, well worth it. Dan took a cooking class, he loved it. We experienced a couple of shows in the Princess Theatre, very enjoyable. All activities were listed in the Princess Patter. There was just so much to do, we couldn't do everything we wanted. The lounge acts were funny; the lounges also had terrific dancing and entertainment. Dining Anytime dining is the way to go. We usually dined in the evening at Donatello’s; smart casual, except for formal nights. Women dressed in anything from sundresses and sandals to long dresses and shoes. Men were in khakis and open neck shirts to pants and sport coats. Five new entrees every night as well as the regular menu….5 courses! I couldn’t begin to eat all the food. For the most part everything was very good. And you could have as much as you wanted…..we couldn’t eat all 5 courses, can’t imagine asking for more. The wait staff was exceptional, anticipated our every need.   Daytime dining was usually in the 24 hour Horizon Court. The food was very good, especially for buffet style dining. The wait staff was younger, and probably not as refined as the more formal dining area, but it didn’t detract from the experience. The views were amazing! What a way to dine! St Maarten/St Martin We took an island tour by bus, very enjoyable. After the tour we walked the streets, shopped, had a drink on the beautiful beach and walked back to the ship…overall nice experience. St Thomas Didn’t know about the jewelry until the tour activities director on the ship kept giving pointers about the best jewelry buys on the island. What deals you can get on jewelry! We took a 3 hour snorkeling trip, well worth the money - $65.00 each. The water was a little cooler than I expected, but still very nice. We saw so many stingrays, and they were quite friendly too. We were with a nice, fun group of people. They served rum punch, sodas, snack foods, and fun music. Highly recommended. Princess Cays Owned by Princess. BBQ, snorkeling, souvenirs, nice island. Unfortunately it started off as a very cloudy day, and cleared up about 1 hour before we had to leave. Next time, I’ll probably stay on the ship, get a spa treatment – usually discounted on Port days, and relax or participate in one of the ship board activities. Disembarkation Not too bad, we waited about 45 minutes to leave the ship. Had no problem finding our luggage. Princess had busses for those of us that had airplanes to catch. We got to the airport about 4 hours before our flight, had lunch, and wished we were back on the ship. Overall experience Wonderful, highly recommended. Dan is now hooked and has already started booking our next Princess Cruise. This time we are taking our entire family. I can’t believe how wonderful it was. Next time we are going 2 days early so that we can relax before the cruise and enjoy everyday of the trip without being worn out from getting there. We will definitely stay at a nicer hotel before hand though.

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Jan 10, 2004

Eastern Caribbean

STAFF: The people were so friendly. The waiter would bring us 3 extra deserts every meal so we could try the stuff that no one ordered. The people always said hello to you when you walked by. My friends and I made friends with a bartender and he even invited us to tour St. Martin with him. The cabin steward kept the room very nice and would even fold

our clothes for us. There was always clean towels waiting for us as well. ROOMS: We had an inside cabin on the Aloha deck. The rooms were fairly same, but who goes on a cruise ship to sit in their rooms anyway. The beds were comfortable. The bathroom was about the size of two airplanes bathrooms put together. The TV in the room played up to date movies. ST. MARTIN: My friends and I loved this place. They sold beer on the side of the road for $1.00 and a carton or cigarettes for $9.95. Definately the place to shop. We also went jet skiing here for $35, which was a good price. However, I would recommend eating on the island, especially since food is free on the ship. We ate at a chinese restaurant and my friend paid $19 for shrimp fried rice. ST. THOMAS: Watch out for the taxi drivers here, some try to rip you off. We were told one price and then when we arrived the rude lady demanded more and made a huge screen. We went shopping here and it was mostly jewelry stores. We then took a tour of St. Thomas which was nice because the tour guide stopped the bus at certain places allowing us to take pictures. We were advised by our tour guide to visit Sapphire Beach for water sports so we went there and went snorkeling. We saw tons of fish. The beach was very nice and the water was a pretty teal color. PRINCESS CAYS: This is also a good place to go snorkeling. You can see your feet when you look down in the water. It was really rocky so it was better for snorkeling rather then swimming. It was a nice island with a free BBQ buffet. AGE: My friends and I felt that there were a lot more older people on this ship. It was ok though because the pools weren't crowded and there was always a hot tub open. SKYWALKERS NIGHTCLUB: My friends and I found ourselves here every night. They played a variety of music for everyone. In the early hours they played older music and as the night got late it changed to more up to date music. The nightclub looked very nice and had comfortable seats for lounging and the lighting made a good clubbing effect. FOOD: EXCELLENT!! There was a 24 hour buffet so you could never go hungry. The menu at the buffet as well as the dining room changed daily, expect for breakfast, but there is only so many things that you can eat for breakfast. On Lobster night we all ordered two entrees so don't be afraid to ask for seconds. ACTIVITES: My friends and I went to see a magician, a comedian, and we painting ceramics. I didn't feel as though there were many events that sparked our interests, although most of the ones we planned to go to we never made it to because we were busy with other things. SHIP: The ship was beautiful and big. It took me four days to realize the ship had a basketball court, track, and lap pool. The golden princess is very elegant and it makes me hesitant to go on any others. I would definately recommend this ship to people off all ages.

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Jan 10, 2004

Eastern Caribbean

I sailed on the Golden Princess Jan 10, 2004 Eastern Caribbean. This ship was kept up very nicely for being a few years old. All of Princess ships are so nicely kept up. The Golden Princess had a lot of things to do maybe too much to do. Although I had a nice time on this ship, but it was just too big for me. This was my 20th cruise 6th with

Princess. I wanted to try a big ship because I heard so many people talk about how nice a big ship is. Well, it's good to go on it if the cost is cheap. We only paid $520 for outside cabin for P203 which was in a great location in the front of the ship. No, I could not feel any motion on the big ship which I disappointed   Food: The Horizon Court buffet was good. I thought the food was better on the Sun Princess which I just went on two months before this cruise. Dinner was very good. Im always to full for dinner anyways. We ate at the "eat wherever dinning" which we all loved. You could go whenever you wanted. Since we had such good service from our waiter and buss boy we asked for them all time and always had the same table by the window table 14. The Golden Princess dining rooms were just like the Sun class ships. Very cozy! Not big or loud like on other cruise lines. In the Horizon Court from 3-4pm they have free ice cream. If you were still hungry after dinner, the Horizon court had dinner up to 10:30 pm. Some times they had the same food as in the dining room. After 10:30 p.m. they brought out sandwiches. I would eat every two hrs on this ship. You will never go hungry on princess like you do on other cruise lines. Food is everywhere! The pizza was very good at the pool area. The Golden Princess did not have the Sterling Steak House, but had some other pay restaurant instead which looked nasty. This place was never crowded. And the main walkway cut right though the restaurant. This pay restaurant was only $8. The Sterling Steak House was so awesome on the Sun Class Ships. So I was disappointed they did not have the Steak Houses on the big ships.. Entertainment: The Entertainment was very good on Princess. They use to suck, but have gotten a lot better since Carnival bought out Princess. Some people we saw were: STU MOSS(Comedian), Sarge(Comedian), David Deeble(Comedy/Juggler), Gaetano (Magic & Illusions), Ed Fernandez (Comedy Hypnotist) They also had some evening movies in the Vista Lounge. Cabin: Our cabin was P203 outside front of the ship. I like the front so I can feel motion. With this cabin we never really felt motion. So I was disappointed in that. You have lots' of space for your clothes. This cabin is so big. I was use to the Sprit of Alaska on Cruise West. Their cabin was the size of princess bath room. Don't complain about the bathroom being small because on the Cruise West their bathroom was the size of princess shower. So Princess has some big bathrooms and cabins. Why I don't like this ship? I did not like this ship just because it was too big. Things were to spread out and you had to walk far to get somewhere. You had no deck chairs on promenade deck because the walkway is to narrow. Instead, they had a few benches. It sure isn't like the Sun class ships. Too many people everywhere. You can never get away from people on this ship. People are everywhere. Even at 1:30 in the morning I saw people. At the dinner buffet at 10:20 it was always packed up there. Whenever you went to the dinner buffet at 10:20 on the Sun Class Ships, you were basically eating with just the crew. You can tell there is an extra 650 passengers than the Sun Class Ships. Another bad thing about this ship is you could not go in the front of the ship to see the bow. The only area where you could see forward was in front of the basketball court looking though glass and you still could not see forward. The only good area to see forward was on promenade deck, but was closed after dark. I like to see forward and look for animals with the wind in my face. Not on this ship! Golden, Grand, Star, Diamond and Sapphire Princess would be terrible for Alaska. You could not see anything. My family booked a balcony on the Diamond which is just a little bigger than the Golden. Since you could not look forward on this ship, the balcony we choose was facing forward. But Princess just changed the forward balconies because on their sea trails the wind was blowing furniture around. So instead of the front balcony, Princess will just have a window for the front. So we booked a north bound on the Dawn Princess instead of the Diamond. The Dawn is just like the Sun. The Sun Class Ships are the perfect size. Since I don't like the bigger ships, I asked the caption why princess keeps building bigger ships. He Said "Princess gets a lot more money with the bigger ships."One more thing, If you have a balcony on the Golden Princess you may be looking down on another balcony or a balcony above you may be looking down on you. The Golden's balconies don't go strait down but, stick out more by each level. One good thing about the bigger ships are you always have seats to sit at the buffet compared to the Sun class ships. The Golden Princess is a nice ship with a ton of things to do. It's great for the Caribbean or Mexico, but wont be good at all for Alaska. My family and I booked a cruise to Alaska on the Dawn Princess a north bound. After we get off the Dawn, my sister, bother and I will go on Cruise West The Sprit of Alaska where you can actually see stuff. Feel free to write me if you have any questions. Im very picky on my ships and one of my hobbles is cruising which I know a lot about. Most people love the big ships since there is so much to do, but for me I like the smaller ones where it seems like your on a ship. Brian Lashchuk

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Jan 3, 2004

Eastern Caribbean

Carol Shipley My review is going to be very different than any I’ve written before. I normally come back and write a great review of our cruise but this time, I’m trying to be fair to Princess, but yet, I find myself having a lot to talk about. I have sailed on Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and Celebrity and my husband and I were really up to trying

something new…Princess. We had heard a lot of great things about Princess cruise lines and we love the bigger ships, so we made our reservation on Golden. We were cruising with 3 other couples and my husband and I had everyone excited about this cruise b/c it was the first time for all of us on a Princess ship. We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale the Friday before we were to depart and we recommend this to anyone traveling. We were able to rest and relax before we had to board the ship and it put all of us in a good mood (didn’t have to worry about the airlines being late or losing bags, etc). We arrived at the port and this is where the fun begins…the boarding was horrendous…and I’ve never said that about ANY boarding process in my life! It was terrible though…the lines were out of control, there was no organization and it was like a 1,000 people were let loose in a huge warehouse building and you had to “figure out” what to do. There was maybe one employee there to help out, and she looked as confused as everyone else, directing people into the wrong line, etc. We were very disappointed about the check-in and hope that Princess will somehow improve the boarding process. Organization in general does not seem to be one of Princess’ strong points in any area. The ship itself is very BIG, but yet, nothing really stood out as being extravagant or grand. The main foyer was very “plain and normal”, nothing really out of this world or drop dead gorgeous about it. When I walked on, I thought, this couldn’t be the main foyer, is it? Well, sure enough, it was. Oh well… We had balcony rooms on the Aloha deck. All of us were very bummed about the balconies. Everything Princess advertises (pamphlets/magazines), pictures are shown that each balcony has a deck chair that lies down. When we walked out on the balcony, there were 2 sitting chairs and a round table. We inquired at the front desk about this and all that was told to us – well, the brochure is very misleading and we are sorry. So, our idea of the balcony was not quite up to our expectations. And, if you book a room on the Aloha deck, your balcony is fully covered or not open to the sky above you. The room itself was fine – the normal ship room, plenty of closet and drawer space. I really liked the lighting system – when you were in bed, you could reach above you and turn on the cabin lights if you needed to. The vanity was fine and there was a fridge in the room. I’m going to take a moment to discuss our room steward – he did a fine job but nothing extraordinary or anything “above and beyond” like some cruises I’ve sailed on. He was very nice, but it’s like they know what their tip is going to be at the end of the cruise…so they don’t go beyond the call of duty. I was a little disappointed. For example…I asked for additional towels at the beginning of the cruise and got one extra one, that night. The rest of the nights, I had to fend for myself – no more extra towels were brought in. Oh well, not a biggie but not up to my expectations, either. The ship itself is nice and maintained. I didn’t really see anything major to discuss in this area. I will comment that Tom and Mary had an excellent review of the Grand Princess about the pool area. They didn’t like the way the wall structures blocked the view of the activities in the pool. I agree with them. You couldn’t really see much of anything if you were laying in your deck chair. But, this brings me to not much of anything was going on at all, anyway! I’m so use to having activities by the pool (the cruise director playing games with everyone) or bands playing music, or ice sculpting – something but there wasn’t much of anything happening. I was really surprised about this, considering our itinerary had 2 days at sea back to back. Oh, and that’s another thing, I’ll never choose another cruise that has 2 days at sea back to back again. It was just too much. Especially with Princess not really having a lot of activities and the weather wasn’t all that great sailing to the islands, so we were “bored” and that’s not even a great word to use b/c we weren’t really bored, I think we were more tired than anything of just being on the boat and feeling the boat MOVE! The cruise director himself was pretty “annoying” and I don’t even know if that’s a great usage of words. We never once saw him walking around the ship the only time I actually saw him in person was at one of the shows. He was heard on the speaker system everyday and he had the corniest jokes I’ve heard. Some people thought he was a hoot but I guess my definition of funny is different than others. But, he was something else – for sure! The dining rooms were, once again, nothing spectacular. I really enjoyed the Personal choice dining – we never had a problem with the dining or getting a table at all…and we were a group of 8. So, I commend Princess on doing a great job with personal choice dining. Only complaint I have is that the service was a bit slow and the assistant waiters were never to be seen after they gave you your first drink. We all ordered iced teas/cokes to drink and after the first one, it’s like we had to “hunt down” someone to give us another drink. Normally on other cruise lines, before you even finish your drink, a fresh one is sitting there. So…just a little thing I noticed that kind of bugged me but to someone that doesn’t care about that…then it wouldn’t bother you. The food was very good – can’t think of anything bad to say about the food. Even at lunch or b-fast, the food was all very good. I will stop to say that I was kind of shocked to see this or actually kind of surprised that they did this for such a big crowd, but the b-fast and lunchroom was very different than anything I’d ever seen. There wasn’t any organization to this dining room whatsoever. You could enter at 3 different locations and the buffets were set up at 7 or 8 different places. So, at any moment, someone would just jump in front of you or walk in front of you b/c no one really knew which way to go or precede. I guess I’m from the old school and like the buffet line to move in one direction and it be organized. Well, this was far from being organized and my only complaint about the buffet was just this…it was very chaotic. After awhile, everyone just kind of followed everyone else and you’d just wait your turn but it was very different. I did like their sanitary wash devices they have. You put your hands under the device and it squirts out anti-bacterial disinfectant. I thought that was a great idea considering all the “bugs” out there. The shows were a HUGE disappointment to me. My husband really doesn’t get “into” them as much as I do but I really enjoy going to the shows in the evening and I can honestly say, there was only one show that was good – the magician, but other than that, we steered clear of the shows. The thing that bothered me was that they showed the same show over a couple of times during the cruise and this just blowed me away. I am so use to going to a show and it’s something different or new but not these. Their musical show was terrible…we walked out of it. The comedian’s were fair but didn’t understand why they had their show in one of the smaller showrooms and it did not fit everyone. Very strange. But, like I said, I was very disappointed with the shows and that’s something I really enjoy. The ports were fine. I’ll give you some highlights as to what we did on each island. The first island was St. Maarten and we rented 2 jeeps and drove around the island. This was a lot of fun and highly recommend it. The second stop was St. Thomas, we took a ferry over to St. John’s and went snorkeling there. Beautiful beaches and water. And, the third stop was their private island in the Bahamas. Beautiful water again and we laid out on the beach and just watched the sights. My husband and our friends took a banana boat ride and they enjoyed that. Departing – we didn’t have any problems getting off the ship when it was our turn to leave but once again, Princess proved me wrong about their organization. Trying to find our luggage in a warehouse was crazy. Thankfully, ours was close by but I felt sorry for those people that had to search for theirs. Once again, they had no one to help people and no one knew where to go or how to go through customs, etc. Chaos!!! Our friends opted to use the bus transfer to take them to the airport at the end of the cruise. My husband and I just simply took a taxi over to the airport and were there in less than 10 minutes. I would recommend taking a taxi to anyone, but I think our friends simply got “jinxed” on their ride. The bus driver couldn’t find somebody’s luggage and he made everyone wait on the bus until it was found for more than an hour. I think our friends were upset but there wasn’t anything they could do about it once they were on the bus. Now, let me stop to say that after pointing out all the negatives about this ship and cruise line, we still had a GREAT and wonderful time cruising, just wish it had been a different cruise line. My husband and I still believe that it’s the only way to do a vacation. We are hooked on cruising and probably will be for the rest of our lives. And, our friends had a great time as well – together we had a fabulous time and were able to relax and have a lot of fun. But, if I were to recommend this cruise line to anyone, I wouldn’t. I would have to recommend other cruise lines over Princess any day. Overall, maybe our standards were set too high or maybe we were expecting more out of this ship, but I have to say that we were very disappointed with the cruise line. If this is your first cruise you will probably be happy with this ship, but if you have cruised before, especially on one of the other lines Mega Ships, don’t go on the Golden. Part of the reason we were disappointed is because we were on Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas one year before. There is no doubt in my mind, for the quality and price of a cruise; Royal Caribbean definitely has a great more to offer than Princess. Everyone has their opinion and I’m trying to be as unbiased as I can but I think I’m highlighting a few areas that Princess could improve in. We can honestly say this was our first and last time to cruise on Princess. Happy sailing to you.

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Dec 14, 2003

Eastern Caribbean

This is our 26th cruise. My husband is 62 and I am 56. This is our first on Princess. Our last 5 cruises have been on Celebrity. Day 1: Very smooth embarkation, we were on the ship within 45 minutes. Luggage arrived 2 hours later. Fastest ever. One very annoying and unexpected glitch, we were stopped at security because we had a bottle of

alcohol in our carry on luggage. This also happened to many people we later found out. When we told the official this was the first time in 26 cruises that this had ever happened he noted our cabin number, we had to sign something and he let us take it on board. We were on Caribe deck, lovely balcony cabin and very friendly room steward. Nice touch, there is a decent sized empty refrigerator for your use in the cabin. The bathroom was very tiny. Lots of closet space for hanging clothes. We chose alternate dining and had about a 15 minute wait. Food was good but a far cry from Celebrity. Day2: At sea. Room steward gave us 2 towels for the pool, very unusual as there are no towels at the poolside. So once the towel is wet you have to bring a wet towel back to your room and leave it on the floor. You can request extra pool towels but you have to ultimately bring them back to your room. This was a first for us. Had breakfast at the Horizon buffet. There are no trays so you cannot get a drink and food at the same time as you need to be a juggler. The set up of the food line was very poor. People were going in every direction trying to juggle their food, very disorganized and a recipe for dropping food. However the food was decent, again not up to Celebrity standards, no omelet station, juices were already poured in glasses and warm, smoked salmon was only available by request and unless you happened to see someone with a plate of salmon you would never have known that they even had any salmon. They were very stingy with the portions of salmon that they gave out (like gold dust!). This created some very irate campers. The day at sea was lovely with the exception of the constant hawking of drinks by the swarm of bar personnel. We were constantly interrupted by waiters trying to sell us drinks. Very annoying. The drinks served at the various bars throughout the ship are very meager and expensive. The wine list at dinner is reasonable, no logic to this. Captain’s cocktail party was very well done, we had a choice of drinks, champagne or wine and canapés. This cocktail party was far superior to Celebrity, who has changed their party to an after dinner desert and champagne. Dined in alternate dining, had a very experienced and pleasant waiter and assistant. Had filet mignon and it was excellent. Went to the show after dinner. Typical average cruise entertainment. Day 3. At sea. Learning the system in the Horizon buffet, go during off peak hours. If you want a deck chair in the general pool area, get there before 10am. Tried the pizza today, it was excellent, thin crust, well cooked which we like. Far better than other cruise line pizza which we found to be always undercooked. Today smoked salmon appeared in the Horizon buffet and it continued until the end of the cruise. Day 4. St Maarten. Good day of shopping, dinner was excellent, did alternate dining and had the same waiter. Contributed to the casino! Casino smelled exceptionally smoky! Day 5. St Thomas. Much like day 4. We took the Kon Tiki tour, average at best. Alternate dining, same waiter. Dinner was excellent had rack of lamb with real mint sauce, Celebrity only had mint jelly. Day 6. At sea. Wonderful weather, everything is continuing very nicely. Alternate dining, twin lobster tails were served, they were excellent. Day 7. Princess Cays, their private beach. We were tendered in to the beach. Well organized, very pretty location with plenty of beach chairs, bars, music, water sports and a large barbecue courtesy of princess. The water sports were extra. Unfortunately this was the first cloudy day and cool temperatures prevented us from trying them out. If you want some quiet on the beach go over the little bridge to the right as most of the crowds go to the left. Day 8. Disembarkation. We were off the ship by 8.45am. They were very well organized. We would advise you to get a porter to clear customs, made it very easy. Overall we were very happy with the cruise once we learned the system. On board we booked 2 more cruises with Princess in the coming year. No one ship will make everybody 100% happy, Princess compares favorably with Celebrity in almost every area except their smoking policy which allows people to smoke anything anywhere while on open deck. Celebrity divides their ships in half. One side is smoking and one side is non smoking a very easy policy to live with.

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Dec 13, 2003

Eastern Caribbean

My husband and I sailed on the Golden Princess the week of December 13th to celebrate our 3rd year wedding anniversary. This was my husband’s first cruise, my second. My first one was a 3 night Carnival cruise about 8 years ago, so after this experience, I won’t even count that. I am 29 and my husband in 31. We have no children and did not travel as

a part of a group. The first thing I will say to anyone who is worried about the cruise, don’t worry! I found myself reading review after review and wondering if I had made the right choice. If you have booked a cruise on the Golden, you will not be disappointed. Our trip started with an overnight stay in Ft. Lauderdale Friday night. We stayed at the Sleep Inn in Dania, Florida. It was a very clean hotel, with good rates and service. The best thing about the hotel was the free transfers from the airport to the hotel and from the hotel to the cruise terminal. Both are about 10 minutes from the hotel. There is also a Walgreen’s next door for last minute items and a park nearby for an early morning jog/walk before you make your way to the ship. I had heard horror stories about airlines loosing your luggage or your flight getting delayed and missing the boat, so I wanted to make sure I was there and settled in. You can avoid the hassle by booking air with the cruise line, but we found better rates, and wanted to travel on our airline at our convenience. We left the hotel at 11 AM, arriving at the dock around 11:20. There was already a line formed in front of the check in doors. We waited for a half an hour as the line got longer and longer. They opened the doors around 11:50. Check in was quick and simple. Make sure you do the advance check in. With security and everything we were on the ship and in our room in 10 minutes. We found our room on the plaza deck. We booked an inside cabin in July hearing about all the upgrades available. We did not get any free upgrades and the cost of a balcony or an ocean view was higher than if we had booked it from the beginning. We were concerned, being in a small room on the lowest level of the ship, but I was very happy we did not spend the money to upgrade our cabin. It was perfect for us! I expected the rooms to be somewhat low level and perhaps slightly cheap looking. I was surprised to find wood trimmed furniture, a spacious closet, nice lighting, pleasant paintings, mirrors, and a comfortable bed. The bathroom is tiny but there is a ton of storage space for toiletries and clothes. I had heard that I would need a nightlight and a power cord. Neither was necessary. There were plenty of outlets; we only used it because my husband’s razor was not compatible with the outlet. The night light was nice because of the fragrance, but the controls for the hall light for the bathroom were conveniently located on both sides of the bed. We did not miss the balcony or seeing the water. There were plenty of private spots a short walk from our cabin to spend time outside or to watch the water. We were on the same floor as on of the dining room, the library, and only 1 or two floors from the shops and the theatres and other show lounges. We were far from the pools, workout facility and the food buffet, but it was not problem to take an elevator, and we got plenty of exercise taking the stairs. Back to the balcony; I will not pretend they are not a nice option to have. If you are going to spend the money, just make sure it is private. Some balconies can be seen by those above-if it is not going to be private, you might as well go sit with the other folks and save $500! Also there are some balconies and extend right over a public deck. My husband and I are talking a walk on the promenade deck and looked over to see two people sitting on their balcony. They were less than 5 feet from us and maybe elevated a couple of feet above the railing on the deck. I would not consider that type of balcony worth the extra cost. The first night of our cruise, I was pleasantly surprised by all that the ship had to offer. By dinnertime we had seen most of the ship. We decided to eat in the dining room. We had personal choice dining, so we were able to eat at any time the dining room is open. Be prepared for lines. I did not expect that, but there were lines 20 to 30 minutes long to eat at dinnertime. Reservations did not help because the Maitre D did not take kindly to people coming along side of him to tell them he had a reservation. It was very chaotic and distracting for him. So reservations did not really help, we still had to wait in line. The food was something I was worried about. I work for a company that allows me to dine in the finest restaurants during business meetings, and on my own terms I dine at non-chain restaurants for the most part. I was hoping the food was decent. It did not have to be 5 star, but I was looking for tasty, quality food. I was not disappointed. I did not have a “best I have ever tasted” experience, but the food was good. You eat what you like and leave the rest on your plate! Just because it is there and free does not mean you eat things that are not good! You can maintain your weight on a cruise if you don’t eat things you don’t like and to eat small portions of the things you do like. The pizza was great, hamburgers good, and the buffet was good if you use the rules I specified above. Some things on the buffet were good, others were not. Just pick and choose. And use the small plate! They hand you a huge platter sized plate when you walk in. You would never eat on plates that big at home, so why do it now? Tell the waiter, no thank you and find the smaller plates near the fruit section. One more tip, if you drink cokes at every meal or in between, buy the coke card for $22.50. It covers cokes from the bars, at all shows, and in the dining rooms. They give you a sticker to place on your cruise card. The coke card does not work with room service or on Princess Cays. The entertainment was decent, depending on your taste. Although we are younger, I felt that some of the entertainment was a bit racy and if I had young kids I am not sure I would have wanted them exposed to some of the material. The opening show was no better than an MTV video with provocative dance moves and outfits. The magic show was good but again, the assistant was wearing bikinis and g-strings. Not to judge others tastes or preferences, but you should be aware if you do not prefer this type of entertainment. Outside of those issues, the comedians were funny for the most part. My advice is to just go. You can always leave if you don’t like it, but it is better than sitting in your cabin. We did not go to the casino or nightclub, but I am sure it is pretty standard. During the day there were a variety of activities. Again, I would suggest trying something you may not normally do. We went to a trivia session and had a great time and met some nice people. My husband entered some of the basketball competitions and won 3 silver medals! There were movies that played during the day. It was very nice; the only thing missing was the popcorn! We did not spend a lot of time at the pool, but they are very crowded during the day. The lap pool near the lotus spa had fewer kids and you could actually swim a bit. The workout facility was great. It has everything you need. Take advantage of the free classes they offer. They are a good way to again maintain your weight and it is fun to vary your normal fitness routine. The Lotus spa was very nice too. Watch for daily specials and you get a break on the prices. I got a mini facial-that lasted about 45 minutes-for only $20. The ports of call were nice. It was our first time to the Virgin Islands. St. Marteen had good shopping. We chose to explore on our own instead of a tour. They will tell you a ride to the French side will cost you $15/pp, but if you get with another couple or more, they will only charge $5/pp. The ride was nice, but I was not that impressed with the island. It might have been better to do an official tour or something to get more out of it. We are not big shoppers so I can not really comment. I will say, save your money on a water taxi or a land taxi to get to downtown Phillipsburg. It is a ten minute walk and there is a sidewalk all the way. We did have an official tour scheduled on St. Thomas. Godfrey was a tour guide and he has a website. This was the highlight of the trip. He will pick you up from the ship at 9, 10, or 11 depending on how long you want to shop, and he will take you downtown. The island tour starts at 12 from downtown and it takes you over the entire island. You can visit one of three beaches, Sapphire Beach, Coki Beach, or Megens Bay for 2 hours or have him take you back to the ship. We chose to go to Sapphire Beach because it was less crowded, no charge to get in, and the snorkeling is great. We rented beach chairs, and there was snorkeling and other water sport items available for rent. For this personal service and the ability to cater the day to your preferences made the $20/pp price seem like a steal. Especially if you compare it to the excursions the ship offers. Princess Cays is a nice way to end the week. You have the beach with picnic food. Our day was cloudy, so it was not enjoyable, but it is nice to have this to look forward to the last day of the cruise. This was a great vacation. We spent last summer at the Ritz Carlton in Jamaica for a week, and although not as luxurious, there was more to do on the boat, especially at night. For the money, this is a great deal. Have fun and enjoy your cruise!

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Nov 22, 2003

Eastern Caribbean

Itinerary 22 November 2003 Departure from Fort Lauderdale 23 November At sea 24 November At sea 25 November St Maarten 26 November St Thomas 27 November At sea 28 November Princess Cays 29 November Arrival Fort Lauderdale We are Australian, married a “Baby boomer” couple still working. We travelled with 2

very good friends, also from Australia. Our occupations are Manager of a Travel College, Registered Nurse and our friends are Managers of General Stores in the Australian outback. This was their first cruise and the fourth in total for us. We stayed at The Holiday Inn express prior to the cruise and between cruises. This hotel is well located about 5 minutes by taxi from the Princess Terminal. It is a comfortable “no frills” hotel reasonably priced. We took a taxi to the ships, as the Shuttle bus at times was unavailable or booked out. The taxi ride was about USD 5.00 per person. We will talk in this report about the cruising experience on the two ships as much has been written about the ports of call in other reviews. The Golden Princess cruise In June 2002 we undertook a cruise from Barcelona to Venice on the Golden Princess and were so impressed that we booked again on the same ship for the above Caribbean cruise. We had exactly the same cabin, B316 an inside on Baja deck 11. 1/ Positive Comments The design of the inside cabin made good use of mirrors to enhance the feeling of light and maximize space. The open space wardrobes without doors provided plenty of hanging and storage space for our requirements. The self-service laundries were spacious with plenty of washing machines, dryers and ironing facilities. Change machines and laundry powder dispensers were available in each laundry. Cost of laundry – USD $1.00 per wash and 0.50 per drier. The service in the “Go as you please” dining rooms was excellent on all occasions. We tried these restaurants at breakfast, lunch and dinner. During the evening, if there was a wait for a table, we were given a paging device and we had a drink in one of the bars until it activated. We found this very civilized. The two “Ozzie” men having hearty appetites, had 2 entrees at some dinners. This was not a problem for the waiting staff or kitchens and the second entrée was supplied cheerfully and graciously. Exactly the same thing happened on a few occasions with extra desserts being requested. The Horizon court buffet self service operates 24 hours a day and was also very popular, particularly before and after shore excursions. The availability of any type of cooked egg including boiled eggs for breakfast in the main dining room was great. Sabatinis Restaurant, where a surcharge was paid was good. The Italian food was excellent and well presented. The service was a little slow, possibly due to the staff stopping to sing congratulations to most of the customers who were celebrating birthdays and anniversaries etc. A master class wine tasting was also very well done, held in Sabatinis during an afternoon when we were at sea. The Head Waiter was extremely knowledgeable about the wines presented. The coke card, purchased for USD $22.50 per person enabled us to get as many club sodas or cokes as we wanted. We found this very good value, particularly when we came back hot and thirsty from the tours. We were the only four “Ozzies” on board and must have made a lot of noise or had distinctive accents as quite a few people commented, “you must be one of the “Ozzies”. The wine list in the restaurant is a great improvement on our last Princess cruise with much greater variety and well priced. The Skywalkers lounge is a great place to relax during the day a very quiet spot with a great view. Afternoon tea is served in one of the dining rooms at 3.30pm by white gloved waiters worth “putting on the Ritz” The cooking demonstration and tour of the galleys is great. The Golden Princess was also promoting its cookbook, personally signed by the Head Chef. Our mate Gary, who is also a very good cook himself, bought one and was impressed with its photographs and recipes. The service aboard Golden Princess was exemplary. Toiletries were replaced in our cabin without asking. The dining and drink waiters didn’t miss a beat. These staff came from all parts of the world such as Eastern Europe and South East Asia and spoke excellent English, even understanding our Aussie accents! Captain Bernard Warner stated, “This is a happy ship.” How right he was. He and his officers were highly visible in all areas of the ship – managing by walking around and ensuring the passenger’s needs were met. Nothing was too much trouble. 2/ Negative comments The decking or wooden veneer on the Promenade deck was very slippery when wet for people walking and running for exercise. The main evening show “Lights, Camera and Action” we had seen 18 months previously on the Mediterranean cruise. Perhaps they could change the shows every 12 months or so. The comedians were also not very funny in comparison to our previous cruise. I think that ice creams and Cappuccino should be included in the cruise fare, rather than as an added expense. We were confused once we arrived at the Princess Cruise terminal at Fort Lauderdale. After getting out of our taxi we were not sure if we had to take our luggage to the check in counter ourselves as was done on our Europe cruise. Eventually a porter told us to leave our bags behind and they would fix things up. It was a little confusing and we suggest that a large sign be placed telling people to leave their bags with the porters and that bags do not have to be taken into the terminal building. I think that more Princess staff should be outside the Terminal building assisting with “meet and greet” as first impressions that people make are important.

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Nov 8, 2003

Eastern Caribbean

My wife and I traveled with our two sons, ages 15 and 17, my sister-in-law, and mother-in-law, on a 7-night cruise from Fort Lauderdale to Princess Cays, St. Martin, and St. Thomas. This is our 2nd time on this exact cruise on the Golden. We really enjoyed it the first time and couldn’t pass up the low price being offered. OVERALL RATING:

Overall, the cruise was great and an excellent bargain for the money. Unfortunately, it rained so much the first part of the week that we were unable to go into St. Martin. Instead, the ship went into St. Thomas a day early and we stayed overnight there. Princess was able to get our ship in early and that gave us the opportunity to explore St. Thomas. Although missing St. Martin was disappointing, we were glad that Princess acted quickly and got us a berth in St. Thomas a day early. At the same time, there were at least two other ships having the same problem trying to get into St. Martin and they were unable to dock in St. Thomas early and instead had to sit and wait outside the harbor. WHY CHOOSE THIS CRUISE? In deciding which cruise to book, my wife and I primarily wanted to cruise on a quality ship at a reasonable price. Also, we wanted to visit nice ports. We got everything we were after with this itinerary on the Golden Princess. This was our 2nd trip on this exact cruise on the Golden which speaks for how much we enjoyed it. GETTING THERE. We opted not to purchase Princess airfare and had no problem getting good fares into Ft. Lauderdale. We flew Southwest Air into Ft. Lauderdale from Baltimore. We got in a day early and took a taxi from the airport to the hotel. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend purchasing airport transfers through Princess as Port Everglades is right up the street from the airport and taking a taxi is a convenient and inexpensive. I was in a party for 6 and had lots of luggage; I paid $6 per person from the ship to the airport for a large van. The Princess price was $15 per person. EMBARKATION/DEBARKATION. We arrived to the ship at 11:00am and there was somewhat of a mob of people waiting to get in. But, lines which moved quickly. (p.s., bring a pen). We disembarked around 9:00am and were at the airport by 9:30am. Princess disembarks based on your cabin location (top down). ROOM. Inside Quad, Aloha Deck, Cabin A-716 (12th floor). Most of the inside activities (dining rooms, show rooms, etc.) on the Golden are down on Deck 6 or Deck 7 so I wouldn’t worry about spending more to stay higher on the ship although we found it very convenient being at the back of the ship only a few steps from the rear swimming pool and one floor down from the buffet. We were impressed with the rooms which we found to be large for a cruise ship and laid out well. There is adequate closet space. The room also has a hair dryer, a safe, a refrigerator, and television. Television channels though were very limited. Princess plays movies on one of the channels but tended to play the same movies over and over. FOOD. Overall, we enjoyed the food but it was not sensational. I wasn’t impressed with the choices for dinner. We actually skipped two dinners opting for the 24-hour Horizon Buffet instead. We had traditional, first seating. Service was good but slow. Elsewhere, I thought the food in the Horizon Court (buffet) was just ok. Variety also suffered as offerings in the buffet were frequently left-overs from dinner. The coffee and iced tea in the Horizon Court were good. The desserts in the Horizon Court unfortunately were rather tasteless. I think they try to get too fancy; lots of puffy stuff. Nine months earlier they offered hot tapioca one night that was excellent; this time around they tried to fancy it up and combined it with a caramel sauce and it ruined it. SHORE EXCURSIONS. If you like to just get off the ship and walk around or shop, these ports are great. If you are looking for nice beaches, this would also make a great itinerary. These ports also offer a variety of reasonably priced excursions. Unlike many of the other ports that I have traveled to (in particular, the Mexican ports), it isn’t really necessary to spend a small fortune on excursions to have a good time at the ports. FT LAUDERDALE is your first port!. Don’t waste the day. Ft. Lauderdale has a lot of options. We decided to get into Ft. Lauderdale a day early (Friday) and got a great deal on a hotel through Priceline.com. We searched Priceline.com for a 4-star hotel in “Ft. Lauderdale Beach” and ended up at the Sheraton Yankee Clipper Beach Resort (1140 Seabreeze Blvd.) for $69/night. The hotel is directly on the Beach and close to the pier where the Golden docks. This was a nice spot to stay and allowed us to get to the ship early and stress free. I took the kids on a 4-hour fishing trip on a “head” boat or “party” boat. There were several to chose from right up the street and they all seemed to offer 4-hour trips at $25 each. They run 3 trips daily. We took the 7:30pm trip and did night fishing on the Atlantic. I’ve never been night fishing on the ocean and it was fun; lots of fish but none too big. To get the most out of your vacation, get there early! PRINCESS CAYS was great if you enjoy a day at the beach. We left the ship around 11:00am and were tendered in quickly. Go to the far right. The further you go, the quieter and less crowded it will be. We found a nice spot with lounge chairs. Princess Cays offered lots of non-motorized water sports. We swam and had a barbeque lunch. We cruised in November but the water was very warm. The lines were pretty long for food and quite frankly were not worth standing in. The food is mediocre. If you do go for the food, stand in the middle lines (#2 & 3) which are much quicker than the outside lines. The water is calm here with very little waves. This is also a great spot for families with kids. If you want to go to the beach and relax, this is a great spot. In ST. THOMAS, we just walked around and shopped. Our tour was canceled due to bad weather. For what it’s worth, we found liquor prices on the ship to be at least as inexpensive as in the stores which all seemed to have the same prices. We even took a taxi out of the shopping district to K-Mart based on the advice of some other travelers but their prices for liquor and tobacco turned out to be the same or higher. Liquor/tobacco prices in St. Thomas are generally less than in the States but we didn’t find them to match what we have previously paid in St. Martin. One nice thing though with shopping for liquor in the island stores is that they offer free samples. We found a great vanilla rum that I would never have found otherwise. So sample the local products! SHIP. Most of the other reviews will cover this area well so I won’’t say much except that the Golden Princess is magnificent. Two specific things come to mind: (1) Princess’ pools have fresh water as opposed to some other lines that fill their pools with salt water, and (2) the Princess Theater, which offers stadium seating and affords great unobstructed views of the entertainment and movies, is magnificent and a tremendous improvement over lounges offered in smaller, older ships. ENTERTAINMENT. Good. Shows were also held in the Vista showroom which is a traditional, smaller, tougher to see anything, venue. Various musicians played elsewhere throughout the ship. My only complaint was that they kept playing the same movie over and over again in the Princess Theater. MISCELLANEOUS. We previously cruised on the Golden and its sister ship, the GRAND PRINCESS, and I saw very little difference. The ship offers HIGH TEA everyday (which I admit might not sound too exciting... but, it actually is a lot of fun). I highly recommend you try this activity at least once during your cruise. The kids ARCADE has a lot of different video games. The CASINO is large and offers a lot of choices. Table games, like roulette, had reasonable minimum bets ($1 inside/$5 outside). There were higher minimums on the Grand Princess. This was a November cruise but there was still a modest number of kids on-board. SUMMARY. You get excellent value for your money on this cruise. The Golden is a magnificent ship, the service was good, and the food was generally good. Having cruised several times before, I could have picked out several things to nag about that Princess could have done different but overall I was very happy to have taken this cruise.

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Jul 15, 2003

Grand Mediterranean

Introduction This is my fifth cruise, second in the Mediterranean and also second with Princess. Before the cruise my parents and I toured Spain for two and a half weeks before the cruise. We went to Madrid, Sevilla, Granada, Estepona, and Barcelona. It was a great experience and when the cruise finally arrived it was finally a chance to relax….! Embarkation We arrived at 11.30 with our friend from Norway who was also going on the cruise

and went straight to check in. Express was very easy plus priority embarkation so we were on the ship in no time. It was very exciting and our first glimpse of the ship was really amazing…she is definitely big! Cabin It was really easy getting to the cabin. Rooms were ready at 12 pm so we went up to Horizon Court buffet and enjoyed some food while looking at Barcelona’s Port Vell before going to the cabin. It was a beautiful day for embarkation!! Our cabin, Malaga Suite Caribe 425 was gorgeous. It was incredibly large with plenty of space. Luckily we had got a last minute upgrade from category AA. I can mention some special things you receive in suites such as appetizers around 5 in the afternoon and expedited embarkation but no debarkation. And…of course bathroom stuff and besides that nothing else. There were two rooms. Double bed and sofa bed separated by blue curtains, two TVs (not many channels), and a large sized marble bathroom. The best part was the balcony! It was gigantic, half covered by the Baja cabins above and half uncovered, perfect if you either wanted to relax in the shade or get a golden tan…. Public Rooms & Pools The public rooms are not that bland as people often mention in the reviews though there could be some help with the many paintings that appear amateurish all around the ship. The internet café is really nice and useful and there is always a computer available (almost people don’t want to think of home or work or school if they are on holiday!) The connection is considerably fast with a charge of 35 cents per minute. One note, remember to check the bills on your internet use… Sky walkers is very relaxed and quiet with no people during the day, a nice place to stop if the sun and heat is too overwhelming. I don’t know if the music is very good. My parents said it was not that great. All the rooms were nice and it would take forever to cover every point!..... and Its true that although there are 2,800 people on this cruise, (fully booked and over capacity) you never really feel crowded on this giant ship. The lounges were very normal… they never really used the wheelhouse or explorers except auctions or bands. The pools are okay, they look nice with cool fresh water but it is one area where you know its going to be crowded during the day, especially when you are at sea. The terrace pool on aft deck 12 which I had a chance to walk by is really nice but I don’t recommend standing by the railing overlooking the wake of the ship right on the back because it makes you feel as if you are falling forward into the ocean. I might mention that some nights while going through the Aegean Sea, the ocean was very very rough and the winds were extremely strong. Dining We had previously heard of the excellent dining on princess and were shocked. My parents love food and it is a major part of a vacation to us. We had no problems with the food being fresh but it was mainly on taste. My parents considered the food as horrible, I myself didn’t think that it was too bad but they could definitely work on it. The dining rooms served the same food as horizon court and if you ordered room service (which took eternity) they would just go up to the buffet and pick what you wanted….this was not prepared in a kitchen…now what is that?? Dining room food was okay but my parents sent back almost everything they ordered. Some of the stuff was impossible to eat. I think that Princess should really concentrate on putting more care on this department, a very big disappointment………. On the positive side, we did try the alternative dining choices and found that they were actually quite good. The desert rose food was good, try the Papaya and cheese quesadillas.. We like spicy food too so if you wanted it to your taste they made it really good. Sabatini’s was delicious. We ate there twice…and they do give you a lot of food, it just kept coming and coming! They have quite a few good antipasti! If you are going on the Golden Princess, don’t expect gourmet food. Entertainment Entertainment was advertised in the Princess Patter and was pretty much okay. Lights Camera Action was good but the scenes were a little bit awkward sometimes. Uber Rossi was fantastic! Some of the entertainment was also usually held in the vista lounge. Bingo was horrible; you can’t imagine how rude the people were. If someone got bingo and shouted it so gleefully, the whole room would go Boooooooooo… I also liked the bands that were playing around the ship. The comedy jugglers were not bad and the comedian did have a knack of teasing and making fun of people that left in the middle of the show as my friend unfortunately experienced. The Cruise director was Paul O’Loughlin, he seemed to be everywhere at once! And then there was Frankie who appeared to be quite popular to the older aged ladies! 1. Here is a simple list of the nightly activities in the Princess Theatre, Explorer’s Lounge, and Vista Lounge Day One Barcelona Welcome aboard showtime with Reeves Watson and Billy Vader Welcome aboard anything goes dance party with Hip Pocket band Barcelona Folkloric Show – Music and dance from Barcelona Day Two Barcelona Lights Camera Action ( you should see it) with Uber Rossi! Newly wed and not so newlywed game with Hip pocket band Golden Showtime with Lorenzo Clark comedy magician Day Three Monte Carlo Lights Camera Action (last show 10 pm) Karaoke Party with Hip Pocket band Spotlight showtime with Vocalist Jacqi Michaels Day Four Livorno Musical Comedy Duo Kimika Maurizio in Concert with Hip Pocket band Feature Movie – The Hours Day Five Naples Feature Movie – Catch me if you Can Believe it or Not Trivia time and 50’s Sock Hop Shake Rattle and Roll Day Six At Sea Magic and Illusion by Gaetano (YOU HAVE TO SEE THIS) Karaoke with Hip Pocket Band Country Roads show with Noelle Kenney and Michelle Chadwick Day Seven Athens Spotlight Showtime Duo Miro ‘from flamenco to tango’ Name that TV Theme and Country and Western Night Country Roads show Day Eight Kusadasi Musical Variety Showtime with Las Vegas’ Glenn Smith Hip Pocket Band Movie Night – My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Pub Night Comedy Show Day Nine Istanbul Comedy Showtime ‘the final ruin’ with Billy Vader Maurizio in Concert Movie Night – Chicago and Gangs of New York Day Ten At Sea Words and Music an intimate cabaret Karaoke Night and Hip Pocket Band Musical Variety showtime with Mark Donoghue Day Eleven At Sea Spotlight Showtime with Darren Lynton 70’s night Fever Golden Showtime with world champion comedy jugglers ‘freefall’ Day Twelve Venice Feature Movie – Emperor’s Club and Chicago Dancing under the stars, Essence, and Ciao Maurizio A Classical Concert – The Lodz String Quartet Onboard Experience They had many activities on the ship but with this 12 day itinerary there are so many days in port and only 3 at sea. There were quizzes and game shows. Basketball court was always busy. The gym looked very good but the spa on the boat was much overpriced. They had many lectures onboard and a lot of pool games. The duty free boutiques didn’t seem to have great things on sale and each day they had a special like watches, pearls, bracelets, and princess shirts with each port specialized. A word on the teen program which wasn’t very good, I was surprised that none of the activities were on schedule and it really wasn’t fun for much younger teens…. Overall I really expected much better onboard programs. Service Some of the staff was outstanding like my mom told me such as Arnold from the Philippines who was at the Lobby bar near the atrium but most of them were fair. For those who had a suite you would expect more than average service which we certainly did not get. Our cabin steward Pol was also very nice. Shore Excursions As my parents have been on many cruises they know that shore excursions are not very good on ships. First of all if you want to learn something especially in Europe with so much history to be explained, you are most likely not to hear much when traveling in a group of around 50 or more persons. Then you have no freedom in the ports…. We did go on one in Pisa but I will explain it in a little while. PORTS…. Barcelona Barcelona is a great city with so much to see. We stayed 5 nights before the cruise and it was hardly enough… We stayed at the Hotel Claris which is very nice with a great location in the Example district. Because we stayed here before we didn’t go offshore after going on the ship. The weather was perfect. We went on a trip to Montserrat one day with a private car and driver which was definitely worth it, Gaudi’s fun and kitschy Parc Guell with its beautiful ornamental details. Sagrada Familia we didn’t go inside but it was amazing on the outside. Las Ramblas was much too crowded for us and if you want to shop the example district is pretty nice. The Gothic area is quite charming but again there are too many people. Spanish food proved to be quite bland so when we went on our last night we had dinner at a great place with outstanding food. The restaurant, which I think was named La Torre Del Mar was situated in an old tower overlooking Port Vell which was originally built for a cable car. You would zoom up in the high speed elevator and reach the glowing restaurant with a great view. The food was delicious; you can’t find a better restaurant in Barcelona. My parents highly recommend it. You had a nice panorama of the Barcelona waterfront and it was perfect as we could gaze at the Golden Princess, tomorrow’s beginning adventure! Monte Carlo No tour again…. We have been to Monte Carlo twice before this so we wanted to take it easy. We decided to walk to the Hotel De Paris where we stayed before and had tea before we went shopping at the boutiques near` the hotel and the Metropolitan shopping center. Then we took a taxi up to the royal palace on the hill which was a huge disappointment when we went to a ridiculously expensive restaurant. If you are lucky to take the bus down to the harbour, you can walk a short distance and be at the tender to the ship in no time. My mom said that the fashion is too much for older ladies. The best part was definitely the view of the Monte Carlo and its plush blue waters from our balcony on the starboard side… Florence/Livorno/Pisa There is nothing to see in Livorno and the dock is very ugly, so basically you had to know where to go in Pisa or Florence on your own or take a ships tour. This is the only day that we took tours and we definitely wish we had not. My dad and I took the Italian beach and Pisa but more to our taste should be Pisa and Italian beach. It was easy getting to the bus and it was about 45 minutes to Pisa where we were dropped of and told to meet 40 minutes later. Hardly enough time to see anything and we wanted to climb the leaning tower. It was so hot and we were soon on our way where we had 5 hours at Viareggio a beachside resort. It wasn’t attractive but it had good shopping. We had lunch at a nice place and spent the rest of the time doing nothing on the beach when we could have been in Pisa where we would really be doing something! My mom and our friend took the Florence on your own tour. They started off at the Santa Croce church and went straight to the Gucci stores and fashion stores and went to lunch at the Savoy Hotel at the Piazza Republica which had excellent Pasta Dishes. The Strotsi Palace and saw a remarkable exhibition of still life, perhaps the best in the world by everyone from Carabaggio to anonymous painters. Baroque to Renaissance period. They wanted to go to the Uffizi because there were too many lines. Here is some advice, if you want to go to the Uffizi you have to book tickets by reservation and they will be waiting for you if you can find the number otherwise you are lucky to get it after waiting for half a day in line. If you do take this tour you have to be prepared and know where you are going to go because you only have 5 hours on your own. Naples/Capri Two years ago we were delighted by staying in Amalfi’s Santa Caterina and Capri’s Grand Hotel Quisisana for a week, and it really was heaven. This was a difficult choice to make. Crowds in Capri at this time of year is almost impossible to go especially if it was a Sunday! We had heard of some incidents when passengers missed the ship and had to fly to Athens to meet it. Or you could take the $166 tour… definitely not if you didn’t want to go through the ship’s strict itinerary paying $600 for the four of us when you’re herded around in a group on a Sunday when the shops are also closed. You could take the risk of going to Capri and back or just hang around Naples beautiful nearby towns… and that’s what we decided to do. We hired a car and driver and made our way through Naples to our first stop, the mountaintop town of Ravello. An amazing lunch at one of the five star hotels and a browse through the ceramic shops is just as enchanting. Positano is worth a visit but a warning on the twisted windy roads that can make your stomach feel queasy! Very queasy! After lunch we drove through Amalfi and Sorrento (the view of the sea is heart-stopping) and arrived at the ship about an hour and a half before the ship moved on. DON’T MISS when the ship passes Capri at Sunset on the starboard side around 8.30…. At Sea The first day at sea is a perfect time to indulge in some of the ships relaxing and grueling activities! There’s movies in the theatres, music groups in the lounges, the boutiques, the LOTUS spa, game arcade, virtual reality center, basketball & tennis, POOL activities with Calypso music, the library, bridge, shuffleboard, lots of health seminars, Bingo, Art Auction, Dancing lessons, Scavenger Hunt, Princess Grapevine wine tasting… and the list goes on! Whatever you do its your choice!!! Theres no doubt that you’ll have fun!! Athens, Greece Today in Greece my mom and our friend went on the ‘Best of Athens’ cruise tour and from what u heard they said that it was excellent. They got everything they needed and the guide was incredible, of course lunch could’ve been better Greek Food. On the other side, Dad and I chose to go around in a hired car and driver again by the ocean. We left Piraeus and drove by the glistening azure sea of the Aegean, little white houses, and small ruins. Our destination was the Temple of Poseidon about and hour and a half away. It was beautifully perched on a rocky cliff overlooking the ocean… an amazing backdrop… something I will never forget. Then we went to the countryside, more inland to see the farming villages and dry paddocks and mountain towns. We also stopped at the Temple of Artemis for some pictures. Then we drove back towards Piraeus and stopped for lunch at a Greek restaurant overlooking the water. We ordered delicious grilled seafood which was pretty good. Then we went back to the ship and decided to relax for the rest of the day. When my mom came back she said that the Acropolis was very crowded and soooooooo hot!! We were lucky to have been by the ocean with cool winds! Busadasi/Ephesus, Turkey Located right on the Aegean, Kusadasi is a marvel of a seaside village… the water was a limpid crystal color just like the Caribbean and the air smelled of history. We had hired a guide, who was not very informative and was hard to understand and a private van. We went through some mountains to the ancient ruins of Ephesus! Now this was beautiful. Make sure you have someone to explain the history well enough for you. You could see the faint lines and scratches on the marble from those days when the kids used to play games on the street…a little bit like tic tac toe. The ruins stood majestically and the Library was astonishing. You could also see the harbour path where Antony and Cleopatra entered Ephesus. On the way out we purchased some books from the street vendors and some fresh orange juice to sip the heat from the sun out! After Ephesus we went on to the House of the Virgin Mary, a very special place… Then we went to the best kebab place the best best best restaurant you could ever hope for Istanbul, Turkey Istanbul was an amazing port. Right on the dock we met our guide, this time he was so kind, his name was Levent Solmaz, also recommended by a cruise reviewer. We took taxis to the Topkapi Palace. There was really so much to see there he said that we needed three hour to see the main things. One horrible thing occurred before we even went in.. We forgot my dads digital camera in the taxi… and he never came back. Oh well, that was that, we had to continue our awesome tour of the palace. First we went to see the Chinese Ceramics collection, not too interesting! Then we went to see the inside of the palace. The big gate, courtyard and everything else. DON’T MISS the topkapi when you come to Istanbul. Then we went to see the Harem, which was amazing having to live there and not being able to come out, they must’ve been driven crazy! The walls and interior were incredible…. The Jewellery collection was just spectacular and really charmed my mom. The story was sad of the end of the empire here… Then what were really amazing were the old relics of the prophet Mohammed. This you should really see! We decided to go back early after a bad lunch in town! DO NOT MISS the view of the Dardanelles after you pass the sea of Marmara. Around 12 or 1 you will see the Turkish city lights only a few hundred meters away from the balcony. This was the most beautiful night of the entire cruise…you wont be disappointed. At Sea and At Sea The next two days were a time to go back over everything and everywhere we have visited. It was sad to think that the cruise was almost over and I would not think of saying goodbye to my new friends…. Make sure you’ve done everything possibly fun on the boat, even if there are many things you found disappointing you have to look on the bright side. Enjoy the time that you have, because its your last days on the cruise… Venice, Italy We’ve arrived at the last port and guess what!? It’s a Sunday again! What horrible time for most shops to be tight on the time schedule. Very busy with the Costa Atlantica also there.. But Venice is a true marvel. We were here also for four nights two years before but it was just as beautiful… We walked around alone over the bridges and through the winding alleys… Sigh… What a perfect way to end the cruise… It was really gorgeous. The artists and everything. We walked ourselves numb the entire day browsing through shops and dodging dangerous flying pigeons! There were many people in Venice that day. We walked past the Guggenheim and took the Vaporetto to the Rialto where we bought a soccer shirt for a fan at home and went on a search for a restaurant. We finally found Trattoria a la Madonna. One of the best restaurants of the trip. Fresh Fresh Fresh. Back on the ship it was time for a siesta. We planned on going back for dinner so at sunset the few people who were willing to go out to PAY for a nice romantic dinner all enjoyed a ride to the Piazza San Marco and took a vaporetto to the restaurant we had enjoyed two years before, El Gondolieri… great food. We enjoyed a great last dinner there appreciating the whole trip. On the way back, we strolled through the empty streets of Venice with lanterns lighting the way…it was in a way quite haunting!!! We took a private taxi back zooming through the waters for one last goodbye to this Serene Paradise…. Improvements: 1. Mainly of course the food! 2. The tours could have been better proportioned RECOMMENDATIONS: Barcelona: Dinner at the La Torre del Mar Athens: Temple of Poseidon and Artemis Kusadasi: Lunch at Oz Zurfa Istanbul: Topkapi Venice: Lunch at the Trattoria a la Madonna Venice: Dinner at the El Gondolieri CONCLUSION! This cruise was definitely a dream. We enjoyed every single day especially in our cruising adventure! My mom hasn’t been on a cruise for seven years but my dad and I have been going on many. Maybe my mom will be back for another cruise soon! I am already looking forward to a next one! But in the meantime I should like to say that the Golden Princess is a magnificent ship, one of a kind and somewhere you won’t be able to find an experience like this one. You’re in luck if you’re booked but if not yet then what are you waiting for! Whatever you do, and whatever it is you’re looking for, you’re sure to have a brilliant, audacious, tranquil, and unbelievable HOLIDAY!!!!! Diahndra B.

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By Len _CR

  • New

Jun 9, 2003

Mediterranean

Captain Bernard Warner Cruise Director Graham Seymour First, I would like to direct my comments toward items that I didn't pick up on other cruise reviews, and detailed instructions to those who would like to make their own shore excursion arrangements. Yes, the ship is beautiful, the staff very friendly, all areas exceptionally clean, the production shows were good to excellent, etc etc etc... Here is my account of the other useful

stuff: We spent two prior days in Rome, and arrived for an early Rome-Venice flight. The ship was parked at the commercial docks on the northwest part of Venice, and we could readily see it from the plane on approach to the airport. It looked to be very close to the Piazzale Roma on the crude map in my Lonely Planet Mediterranean Europe guidebook. We didn't use the transfers, and used an airport ATVO bus to take us to Piazzala Roma at about 3.50 per person. This was actually a mistake on our part. A taxi would have been better. We also saw a ACTV city bus going into the commercial port, which could have been the ACTV #5 bus from the airport. The walk from the Piazzale to where the ship was docked was back along a narrow sidewalk next to traffic on a high bridge and then a half kilometer walk on the port road to where the passenger terminals were, and the ship was docked. The ship was facing us docked starboard side on a pier to our left. There was a red two story red terminal at the base of the piers, and another older yellow terminal on the pier to our right, where another ship was docked. (there was quite a lack of guidance for pedestrians approaching the pier. We took the left turn toward the ship, our second mistake, and checked the red terminal , which was locked up. We continued walking toward the ship, dragging our luggage in high heat. When we arrived at the boarding ramp, we were told to drag all of our luggage all of the way around the port back to the yellow terminal. I was quite angry at this point. I went by myself, leaving my wife and child at the ramp with our luggage, because I wanted to make sure that I wasn't making another mistake. I took our documents, passports, etc to the yellow building and found two lines. One line was quite long, and was labled "Express Check In" The other line was shorter and labeled "Check In". Since we bought this cruise at the last minute, we had never received our cruise tickets. So I entered the shorter line. I had totally missed anybody directing people to the correct lines, and missed receiving the SARS form which was required. The long line was feeding about sixteen desks, and our short line was feeding about two. The wait in line, in the poorly air conditioned building, was well over an hour at 12:00, although it did get shorter later in the day. Finally, the agent and I filled out the required immigration information in her computer. The information which I put in the Princess web site had either been lost or was entered too late. I received three cruise cards, and was given instructions to pass through immigration with my family. I walked out the front of the building and back to the ship, where my family had been waiting. I asked the crew members at the ramp if we could board with the cards, and they said yes. We took our luggage as carry on to our stateroom. We dined at the Horizon court buffet, and later walked back to the passenger terminal, where we went through the immigration desk, and our passports were taken. The normal procedure was to take a bus from immigration to the ship, which we did, and asked the driver to drop us off at the water shuttle. This shuttle boat took Princess passengers to Piazza San Marco and back. We were told that in the future, the boat would park further into the Castello direction, perhaps where we saw the RCI Brilliance of the Seas parked. Venice: Most of what you need to see is at Piazza San Marco -- The Doges' Palace, the Duomo, the Campanile, etc. We did pay a lot for a gondola ride, but we considered it a must do. All gondola licenses are owned by an oligopoly of ten companies, so the prices are pretty much fixed. The only difference is determining where in the city you want to start your ride. We went for a gondola just inside the small canal under the Bridge of Sighs. To see the grand canal, ride the vaporetto No 1 (public water bus) instead. Istanbul: The ship docks in the Tophane area, which makes it very accessible to the Dolmabahce Palace, but you must cross the Golden Horn to get to Old Istanbul, Sultanahmet. Plenty of taxis. We negotiated for $8 for a taxi to take us to the Blue Mosque in Sultanahmet, and $11 to return to the ship from the Grand Bazaar (Kapili Carsi "Charshi"). Don't leave the return to the last minute. During rush hour, the traffic is terrible. In Turkey, don't be surprised to find that the taxi fare you negotiated in good faith to not be enough money at the end of the ride for whatever reason. Stick to your original deal. Turkey is not on the Euro. The exchange rate with the Turkish Lira was about 1,410,000 to the dollar. Kusadasi: We walked past the astronomically priced first tier of taxis, to the more reasonable second and third tier. It took a little haggeling, and at one point even getting right back out of a taxi, to get our price of $50 for a ride to Ephasus, The Virgin Mary house, and St John's Cathedral ruins. The port city is very touristy, and walkable. Lots of tourist shopping can be done here -- don't forget to bargain, and walk away if you don't get your price. Piraeus (Athens): The ship parked at the international ferry terminal, which is directly across the harbor from the Metro station, where you want to be. Leaving the terminal, turn to your left, to walk counter clockwise around the harbor. Go early for a cool morning walk that takes about 20 to 30 minutes and no, I haven't figured out which bus takes you there. When you pass a large round fountain, you will find the metro station at the next major intersection, in a large, old unmarked building, where a lot of people are moving through the doors. The fare to Monastiraki in the Plaka (same line) was E 0.60 and to Akropoli (change to line 2 at Omonia) E 0.70. Buy your tickets at the window, and validate them in the slot near the metro entrance. The trains are air conditioned. the Architectural Museum is closed for renovations, and the Acropolis/Parthenon is adorned with a lot of scaffolding, hence they are not charging admission to the Acropolis. All this is in preparation for the Olympic Games. Be sure to check out the view passing the Messina Strait (between Italy and Sicily), and the Stromboli Volcano! Napoli: Here, we only wanted to see Pompei. Take a right after leaving the ship, and walk down to the next pier. Walk inside the office to buy a round trip ticket, get on the bus and validate the ticket in the machine. The bus makes one stop in Naples, and the next stop in Pompei. We spent pretty much the entire day walking around the fascinating ruins. To return, go to outdoor restaurant where the bus let you off, cross the street (near the yellow post office sign) and catch the bus to Napoli. Get off at the second (last) city stop, turn left at the castle, and you'll be back at the ship. At the terminal, I bought a telephone card to reserve a museum in Florence. Put the card into the payphone slot, and dial this exact number (inside Italy): 055-29-48-83. Listen for instructions in English, and talk to an English speaking reservationist. We booked the Accademia for 11:30. 12:00 would have been more realistic. Use the rest of the phone card to call relatives to tell them how much fun you're having. For international, dial "00" then country code (1 for US/Canada) area code/city code etc. Livorno: The only option is to take the Princess shuttle ($4 each way) to the Piazza Grande. You can then walk back from the shuttle to the square to find the public bus #1 which will take you to the train station (stazione). A lettered bus, 'D' I think, takes you back. For two adults, and our child, the round trip to Florence (Firenze) cost about E22. Validate the outbound ticket in the machine. There is a direct train, but the faster one for us was to take the train to Pisa (about 20 minutes) and connect to the more frequent Florence trains (about 65 minutes). Don't get off at the first Firenze station, take the second one Santa Maria Novella. We walked to the Galleria del Accademia and went to the short reservation line. We paid 6.50 plus 3.50 reservation fee per ticket, and saw Michelangelo's David. Outside, we walked to and toured the Duomo, and the Ponte Vecchio, returned to the station, and took a train to Pisa (ticket was checked on this train -- always be sure to validate). There, we took bus No 3 (buy tickets at the tabac, validate on the bus). Cross the river, and get off where you see a long midieval wall. On the other side of this wall is the Leaning Tower and the Duomo. Cross the street to take a lettered bus back (ask the driver: Stazione?) and train back to Livorno. Lots of trains make stops in Livorno but it won't show as the destination on the electronic signs. Check the posted schedule. Monaco: We anchored and tendered in to the end of Quai Antione 1er. Ask the tourist information booths for a bus map. The buses are air conditioned, and save the climbs. The driver sells tickets, and you can save by buying a multi ticket. Validate it once for each passenger in your group. We went to the world famous aquarium, and took the little tourist train on a trip around the sites. Barcelona: From where the ship docks, you have the choice of taking Princess Shuttle for $4 or the port bus for 2 Euros. Not so many taxis. The shuttle was stalling for time, so we got off and took the port bus to the Placa del Portal de la Plau, at the end of the Rambla. We walked to the Picasso museum, took the metro to Gaudi's Sagrada Familia Cathedral, made the climb to Parc Güell (metro station "Lesseps" and follow the signs) and metro to Catalunya and walked the evening length of the Rambla back to the port bus. Disembarkation: There were plenty of taxis to take us to the airport. However, one note: My family boarded a minivan type vehicle, and on top of the 20 Euro meter, and about 9 Euros in extras (luggage?) he wanted an extra 7 Euros for the vehicle type. This was new to me, and I was unprepared to challange the charge. So, for my family, and luggage, the fancy taxi fare was 36 Euros. Be prepared. Also, the international check in for Iberia (we were going to spend 3 days in Nice, France) was long and slow. There seemed to be no line at all for Iberia domestic. All in all, a very nice vacation. It was very hot, and you should not be concerned with bringing warm clothing, unless you are sensitive to the ships air conditioning. All of this is the information that I would have wanted to know. I hope that you find it useful. If you find something I wrote is wrong, then please correct it in your own cruise review.

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  • New

Jun 8, 2003

Venice to Barcelona

Princess does everything it can to discourage the independent traveler down to and including a refusal to provide detail of how to get from the train station to the Princess dock. It's a quite pleasent 10 minute walk. Or would have been had their been any signs showing the way to the terminal. We went to the ship and were told to go back to the terminal. After throwing a Mel Gibson, they permitted my wife to remain with our luggage

in the shade and actually gave her water to drink, while I hoofed it, passports in hand to the terminal. (This was not the first nor the last of the games Princess plays so I've set up a website with all the information the independent traveler needs. Just write me pigood@oco.net  for the link.) Princess had replaced 50% of the dining room crew while promoting a number of individuals far beyond their abilities. The result was chaos at dinner in the Donatello while professional service could still be found in the Bernini.

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  • New

May 4, 2003

Mediterranean

We ended up with approximately 2000 passengers on the May 5th sailing of the Golden Princess. There were about 900 from the USA, 700 from Canada and 400 from Great Britain. There also appeared to be a pretty large contingent of Russian and Asian speaking passengers. I know that they did not upgrade to fill all of the suites. When you walked along the Caribbean deck you could see that some of the penthouse suites were not occupied.

We ended up not getting an upgrade, but we were happy with our cabin. We were in Aloha 632. It was small, we would find ourselves constantly bumping into each other as we walked around the bed to get to the balcony. We also had to keep opening and closing the bathroom door as it blocked access to the shelving where our clothing was. There are no dressers in the cabin, but the shelving had more than enough room for our clothing. Suitcases (even the very large ones like mine ) fit nicely under the bed. We had a very small round table inside the cabin and one comfortable chair. The balcony had a round plastic table and 2 plastic chairs. The balcony was totally covered. We had 2 more chairs delivered and they fit just fine. It was a tad cramped with 4 on the balcony, but nothing that we couldn't live with. Our steward did a great job. We never had to ask for anything twice, and we were never disturbed unexpectedly by him. We were quite aft and never felt any motion from the ship. That, of course, could be due to the fact that we had perfect weather the entire cruise. Temps in the low 70's, never a cloud and perfectly glassy-calm seas. Even Captain Warner kept commenting how unusual it was to have the seas be so beautiful. Our cruise docs said that embarkation started at 5pm. I sure didn't believe that. Since we had been in Barcelona a day early, we arrived at the ship at 2pm. There was no one in line and we got on the ship within 3 minutes. The next day, while looking at embarkation pictures, I noticed that they had them categorized by time of embarkation and it looks like passengers had been arriving since 11am. Barcelona - We stayed at the Regencia De Colon hotel. It is a sister hotel to the Colon, both which sit at the foot of the Cathedral and a 2 minute walk from La Rambla. The room was small, but well appointed in a great location. We had to go to the Colon to get ice for our drinks. We had dinner at Neya's. A small tapas bar 1 1/2 blocks from the hotel. The food was great-tapas and paella. and very inexpensive. We really enjoyed the city. La Rambla is maybe 6 blocks long and activity abounds! We spent much of the time just watching the street mimes. They get dressed up in amazing costumes and hold perfectly still till you come up to have your picture taken….then they go into action! Quite a site to see. La Rambla is also lined with plenty of street vendors, artists etc. But they even have street vendors that are pet shops along with the normal florists and trinket sellers. We had sangria at a street side cafe. Ugh...it was thick and really sweet and reminded us more of children's cough syrup than a cocktail. On the day of embarkation we took the hop off/hop on bus. We took the north route to catch all of the architecture and it really was a beautiful ride. It did, however, take the entire morning as the traffic in the city was really bad. We bought a one day ticket that would have allowed us to take the south route if we had the time. Two day tickets are also available. Cash only, but you purchase the tickets at the boarding stops. We thought Barcelona was beautiful, we were pleasantly surprised. It is a very easy city to do on your own. Cabs are very easy to get either in the city or at the pier. It is about 10-15 E from the pier to the close end of La Rambla. Make sure and negotiate price before you get in. We had late seating, traditional dining. We love traditional dining, however, due to the lateness of some of the tours we ate every night at 8:45 pm. That's pretty late even for folks who like to have prolonged cocktail hours! We were rarely finished with dinner by 11pm. I won't comment too much on food...but...all of the soups were absolutely fantastic. we never had a bad one. Many of the nights I had a hard time choosing which entree to select as none of them completely excited me, but they were all good. Muster drill was noon on sail away day...it took many folks who were having lunch in the Horizon Court by surprise as they were herded out by the staff to attend the muster. Sail away was also our 1st formal night. We never had any pomp or circumstance for any of the sail ways. I find that disappointing..I really used to love watching the bands or school children perform as we sailed away. We met Pebbles, Don and Diana from Vancouver, while standing in a cab queue at the pier in Barcelona. The 6 of us got in a cab together…Don asked where we were from and when I responded Minneapolis..he looked at Diana, she looked at him and then asked if I was Crowsie! Talk about a small world. We had a great time chatting while walking La Rambla. We didn't meet any other CC'ers. Shortly after sail away Captain Warner announced that the predicted weather for Monte Carlo was going to be windy, so we tendered from Villefranch instead. The cities are 5 coastal miles apart. All of the tours went on as scheduled except for the Grand Monte Carlo, and it was replaced with another tour. We took the tour of the medieval village of Eze (pronounced eh-zzz...like how a Canadian would say it!!! ) It was a beautiful little village..lots of steps with a cactus garden at the top..not what I would have expected for a Mediterranean town! The drive to the town was spectacular and the guide pointed out the homes of Bill Gates, Tina Turner and Bono from U2. Princess ran free shuttles to Monte Carlo, about a half hour drive. We had all been there before so we opted to head back to the ship and relax on deck. Florence. Very hot, no wind, very crowded. All museums in Italy had free admission for the entire week as they were celebrating Italian Cultural Week. Bonus for us as we did Florence on our own. After much deliberating we took the Princess transfers into Florence instead of trying the train. There was just too much at risk if the trains went on strike. The transfer was pleasant and the guide gave us a nice history/cultural lesson on the area. It was 1 ½ hours by bus and then a 5 minute walk from the drop off point into the city. The queue for Uffuzi is very misleading. They have a sign out front telling you how long the outside queue is, but there is also a queue once you get inside. We got in line before the gallery even opened, but still had to wait almost an hour before we were admitted. There are 4 or 5 very long/steep sets of stairs to climb before you even get to the showrooms. Also, the showrooms are very poorly labeled. A good guide book of the gallery is a must or you could wander for hours aimlessly. Unless you’re really into the masters..I’d pass. It was also hot in the building. The open air leather market had spectacular shopping, but it was very crowded. If you’re willing to pay cash versus credit card you have more price bartering ground to work with. We loved the food markets and bought 6 bottles of Tuscan wine (red and white) for 5 euros each. When our waiter wanted to charge us corkage we jokingly stated that we hadn’t been charged in the past. This was the first time that the new ownership was mentioned to us…they said that the new policy no longer allows for waiters’ discretion on charging corkage. Oh well..we figured with such inexpensive wine we were still way ahead based on the wines Princess offers. Oh..and the local wine was superb. The street cafes had big umbrellas for blocking the sun and we had a great lunch. Everyone we encountered spoke good English. The bus picked us up at 3:15 for the transfer back to the ship. Four passengers did not make it back to the ship before we sailed. Never found out what happened to them. Naples. We took the morning Pompei tour. We stopped at a cameo factory before heading out to the ruins. The demonstration was very weak and they expected you to shop, although they didn’t shove it down your throat. Small cameos started around 35 euros. Pompei is amazing…a not to miss site. I had no idea how huge the city was and how well preserved it is. You can still see many frescos. We had a fantastic guide with great knowledge. He was showing us one of the cisterns used to collect water and was swinging his F2 (our tour number) sign around when he dropped it down the cistern. He was embarrassed and we all had a great laugh…he kept saying he didn’t know how he was going to explain what happened to his supervisors! The walking is extensive on very uneven cobblestones and it was HOT. We found that in all of the sites where we visited ruins (Ephesus, Acropolis, Pompei) that it was always hot…up on a hill, no trees for shade. Be prepared to wear as little clothing as possible and carry water bottles. Back to the ship by 2pm, had lunch, hit the deck for tanning and reading. Here I digress…we had some issues with our wait staff. While they did some wonderful things for us, the service was inconsistent. Not at all what you’d expect with traditional dining. For instance..on 3 different nights we had to wait a very long time before our entrée was served. One of the waiters told us it was the kitchen that was backed up….our waiter blamed it on his assistant – saying that she forgot to put the order in. In any case…if he was covering up he shouldn’t have blamed her. We did complain to the head waiter about the delays and it never happened again, but I think he chewed them out pretty well because they were cool toward us after that. I like lemon in my water and had to ask 3 nights before it was automatically on the table. But..we also told them we like garlic and every night they had roasted garlic waiting for us on the table..that was great. On the last night we got the shameless pitch for an excellent rating on the comment card as a good rating does them no good. Frankly, this was more information than I wanted. While we didn’t rate the service as fair, we certainly weren’t going to give them an excellent and settled for the good rating. They just didn’t seem to gel as a team. Saturday at sea. We went at full speed of 22 knots and even though the seas were totally calm it was windy on deck because of the speed we were doing. No big deal as the weather was outstanding. It has to be a hurricane before it forces me off the deck. We used the Terrace pool as our cabin was aft. It was never crowded, but we did have to move several times throughout the day to follow the sun as Skywalkers can block the sun depending on the ships course. Athens. Acropolis and Plaka Sampler tour. Acropolis is really really really crowded and the stairs up and down are narrow. You can have quite a queue just getting up and down. Again, we had a terrific guide. We walked down from the Acropolis to the Plaka..he gave us a map to show us where the pick up point would be and off we went for lunch and shopping. Great food (I’m Greek) and great shopping. I got lots of kisses from the older ladies when they found out I was Greek…sure didn’t help get me any better prices tho’! Kusadasi. Pronounced Ku sha dasi. We were so thrilled to make it to Turkey and they were thrilled to have us. This was definitely the highlight of the trip. What amazed us all was how clean and beautiful Turkey was. No garbage in the streets, beautiful parks and landscaping everywhere. And the architecture…wow. We were only in port til noon…not nearly long enough. For 6 of us booked a private van and a guide for $125 from a local, very reputable tour operator. They were first class and the guide was very helpful, informative and very flexible. They took us to Ephesus and the house where Virgin Mary lived..it’s a beautiful drive up a very steep and winding mountain road. Lots of great ruins and tons of religious history. I’m not all that religious but even I was fascinated by it all. You did not need to have knees and shoulders covered, but you do for Istanbul. We thought the shopping at the bazaar (right next to the port) was better than the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. More quaint, great trinkets..very friendly folks who definitely encouraged you to come into their stores, but again…it wasn’t shoved down our throats. We bought lots of artwork and "I Dream Of Jeannie" costumes for our daughters. An aside…all of the WC’s were in fine condition…nothing to worry about. This was true in all of the ports, although in Venice they are difficult to find and you have to pay .50 euros for a public WC. Istanbul. Amazing city…extremely clean with lots of parks. I expected it to be more like Marrakesh..dirty and crazy and always watching my back. Actually, it was more like Des Moines…calm, lots of flowers and beautiful. We again booked a van and a guide from the same tour opeartor, we used in Kusadasi. . Again, we had an amazing guide..a history professor with a huge amount of knowledge. He took us to many spots and treated us like treasured friends. I highly recommend them to everyone (really reasonable). Worth every penny. We had a dynamite lunch at a Turkish restaurant that included all the beverages you could drink..yes, that included beer and wine. You do need to have knees and shoulders covered to enter the Blue Mosque, but they provided oversized scarves you could wrap around your waist or shoulders. The Grand Bazaar has amazing, very high end shops. It is very clean and beautiful and very large. It was more like a shopping mall, but still very fun. At Sea. Perfect weather, again. Formal night and Captains Circle Party. On the 2nd at sea day we tried to see the future cruise gal. Man is she busy. I recommend you queue up at least an half an hour before she’s scheduled to open. We want to do the Bankok to Sydney cruise in 2005. It’s scheduled to be on the Sapphire, but since she’s not out yet we couldn’t book. So, she gave us an open booking that we can transfer to our TA as soon as the Sapphire is available. Venice. We did Venice on our own for both days. Princess offered a free boat shuttle from the pier to the city..took about an half an hour and dropped you at San Marco. Get a good street map..we used Streetwise. It was a lifesaver. Prices for glass are the same in Murano as they are in the city and there is very little bartering. We bought lamps for our screen porch, Christmas decorations and quite a spectacular statue that is being shipped. Everyone spoke great English…look for signs that say they will ship…even in the food markets you can have wheels of parmesan shipped home. We had an early evening flight out to London. The last Princess transfer to the airport left at 3pm. Perfect for us. Even though it was more expensive than a cab, it was well worth the money as they held our luggage for us. So..we were able to spend the day of disembarkation touring (without worrying about what to do with our luggage) and then get to the airport in a timely fashion. In conclusion…no problems, no complaints. Yes, I would’ve liked a bigger cabin and yes, I would’ve liked the wait staff to be better, but all in all…we had a lovely time. Enjoy your cruise ! Dennis

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May 4, 2003

Eastern Mediterranean

Summation: WOW - What a trip! We ended up with approximately 2000 passengers on the May 5th sailing of the Golden Princess. Of the 2000, there were about 900 from the USA, 700 from Canada and 400 from Great Britain. There also appeared to be a pretty large contingent of Russian and Asian speaking passengers. I know that they did not upgrade to fill all of the suites. When you walked along the Caribe deck you could see that some

of the penthouse suites were not occupied. We ended up not getting an upgrade, but we were happy with our cabin. We were in Aloha 632. It was small, we would find ourselves constantly bumping into each other as we walked around the bed to get to the balcony. We also had to keep opening and closing the bathroom door as it blocked access to the shelving where our clothing was. There are no dressers in the cabin, but the shelving had more than enough room for our clothing. Suitcases (even the very large ones like mine ) fit nicely under the bed. We had a very small round table inside the cabin and one comfortable chair. The balcony had a round plastic table and 2 plastic chairs. The balcony was totally covered. We had 2 more chairs delivered and they fit just fine. It was a tad cramped with 4 on the balcony, but nothing that we couldn't live with. Our steward did a great job. We never had to ask for anything twice, and we were never disturbed unexpectedly by him. We were quite aft and never felt any motion from the ship. That, of course, could be due to the fact that we had perfect weather the entire cruise. Temps in the low 70's, never a cloud and perfectly glassy-calm seas. Even Captain Warner kept commenting how unusual it was to have the seas be so beautiful. Our cruise docs said that embarkation started at 5pm. I sure didn't believe that. Since we had been in Barcelona a day early, we arrived at the ship at 2pm. There was no one in line and we got on the ship within 3 minutes. The next day, while looking at embarkation pictures, I noticed that they had them categorized by time of embarkation and it looks like passengers had been arriving since 11am. Barcelona - We stayed at the Regencia De Colon hotel. It is a sister hotel to the Colon, both which sit at the foot of the Cathedral and a 2 minute walk from La Rambla. The room was small,  but well appointed in a great location. We had to go to the Colon to get ice for our drinks. We had dinner at Neya's. A small tapas bar 1 1/2 blocks from the hotel. The food was great-tapas  and paella..and very inexpensive. We really enjoyed the city. La Rambla is maybe 6 blocks long and activity abounds! We spent much of the time just watching the street mimes. They get dressed up in amazing costumes and hold perfectly still til you come up to have your picture taken….then they go into action! Quite a site to see. La Rambla is alsolined with plenty of street vendors, artists etc. But they even have street vendors that are pet shops along with the normal florists and trinket sellers. We had sangria at a street side cafe. Ugh...it was thick and really sweet and reminded us more of children's cough syrup than a cocktail. On the day of embarkation we took the hop off/hop on bus. We took the north route to catch all of the architecture and it really was a beautiful ride. It did,however, take the entire morning as the traffic in the city was really bad. We bought a one day ticket that would have allowed us to take the south route if we had thetime. Two day tickets are also available. Cash only, but you purchase the tickets at the boarding stops. We thought Barcelona was beautiful, we were pleasantly surprised. It is a very easy city to do on your own. Cabs are very easy to get either in the city or at the pier. It is about 10-15 E from the pier to the close end of La Rambla. Make sure and negotiate price before you get in. We had late seating, traditional dining. We love traditional dining, however, due to the lateness of some of the tours we ate every night at 8:45 pm. That's pretty late even for folks who like to have prolonged cocktail hours! We were rarely finished with dinner by 11pm. I won't comment too much on food...but...all of the soups were absolutely fantastic..we never had a bad one. Many of the nights I had a hard time choosing which entree to select as none of them completely excited me, but they were all good. Muster drill was noon on sailaway day...it took many folks who were having lunch in the Horizon Court by surprise as they were herded out by the staff to attend the muster. Sailaway was also our 1st formal night We never had any pomp or circumstance for any of the sailaways. I find that disappointing..I really used to love watching the bands or school children perform as we sailed away. Shortly after sailaway Captain Warner announced that the predicted weather for Monte Carlo was going to be windy, so we tendered from Villefranch instead. The cities are 5 coastal miles apart. All of the tours went on as scheduled except for the Grand Monte Carlo, and it was replaced with another tour. We took the tour of the medieval village of Eze. It was a beautiful little village..lots of steps with a cactus garden at the top..not what I would have expected for a Mediterranean town! The drive to the town was spectacular and the guide pointed out the homes of Bill Gates, Tina Turner and Bono from U2. Princess ran free shuttles to Monte Carlo, about a half hour drive. We had all been there before so we opted to head back to the ship and relax on deck. Florence. Very hot, no wind, very crowded. All museums in Italy had free admission for the entire week as  they were celebrating Italian Cultural Week. Bonus for us as we did Florence on our own. After much deliberating we took the Princess transfers into Florence instead of trying the train. There was just too much at risk if the trains went on strike. The transfer was pleasant and the guide gave us a nice history/cultural lesson on the area. It was 1 1/2 hours by bus and then a 5 minute walk from the drop off point into the city. The queue for Uffuzi is very misleading. They have a sign out front telling you how long the outside queue is, but there is also a queue once you get inside. We got in line before the gallery even opened, but still had to wait almost an hour before we were admitted. There are 4 or  5 very long/steep sets of stairs to climb before you even get to the showrooms. Also, the showrooms are very poorly labeled. A good guide book of the gallery is a must or you could wander for hours aimlessly. Unless you’re really into themasters..I’d pass. It was also hot in the building. The open air leather market had spectacular shopping, but it was very crowded. If you’re willing to pay cash versus credit card you have more price bartering ground to work with. We loved the food markets and bought 6 bottles of Tuscan wine (red and white) for 5 euros each. When our waiter wanted to charge us corkage we jokingly stated that we hadn’t been charged in the past. This was the first time that the new ownership was mentioned to us…they said that the  new policy no longer allows for waiters’ discretion on charging corkage. Oh well..we figured with such inexpensive wine we were still way ahead based on the wines Princess offers. Oh..and the local wine was superb. The street cafes had big umbrellas for blocking the sun and we had a great lunch. Everyone we encountered spoke good English. The bus picked us up at 3:15 for the transfer back to the ship. Four passengers did not make it back to the ship before we sailed. Never found out what happened to them. Naples. We took the morning Pompei tour. We stopped at a cameo factory before heading out to the ruins. The demonstration was very weak and they expected you to shop, although they didn’t shove it down  your throat. Small cameos started around 35 euros. Pompei is amazing…a not to miss site. I had no idea how huge the city was and how well preserved  it is. You can still see many frescos. We had a fantastic guide with great knowledge. He was showing us one of the cisterns used to collect water and was swinging his F2 (our tour number) sign around when he dropped it down the cistern. He was embarrassed and we all had a great laugh…he kept saying he didn’t know how he was  going to explain what happened to his supervisors! The walking is extensive on very uneven cobblestones and it was HOT. We found that in all of the sites where we visited ruins (Ephesus, Acropolis, Pompei) that it was always hot…up on a hill, no trees for shade. Be prepared to wear as little clothing as possible and carry water bottles. Many folks carried umbrellas to use as sun shades. Back to the ship by 2pm, had lunch, hit the deck for tanning and reading. Here I digress…we had some issues with our wait staff. While they did some wonderful things for us, the service was inconsistent. Not at all what you’d expect with traditional dining. For instance..on 3 different nights we had to wait a very long time before our entrée was served. One of the waiters told us it was the kitchen that was backed up….our waiter blamed it on his assistant – saying that she forgot to put the order in. In any case…if he was covering up he shouldn’t have blamed her. We did complain to the head waiter about the delays and it never happened again, but I think he chewed them out pretty well because they were cool toward us after that. I like lemon in my water and had to ask 3 nights before it was automatically on the table. But..we also told them we like garlic and every night they had roasted garlic waiting for us on the table..that was great. On the last night we got the shameless pitch for an excellent rating on the comment card as a good rating does not benefit them. Frankly, this was more information than I wanted. While we didn’t rate the service as fair, we certainly weren’t going to give them an excellent and settled for the good rating. They just didn’t seem to gel as a team. Saturday at sea. We went at full speed of 22 knots and even though the seas were totally calm it was windy on deck because of the speed we were doing. No big deal as the weather was outstanding. It has to be a hurricane before it forces me off the deck. We used the Terrace pool as our cabin was aft. It was never crowded, but we did have to move several times throughout the day to follow the sun as Skywalkers can block the sun depending on the ships course. Athens. Acropolis and Plaka Sampler tour. Acropolis is really really really crowded and the stairs up and down are narrow. You can have quite a queue just getting up and down. Again, we had a terrific guide. We walked down from the Acropolis to the Plaka..he gave us a map to show us where the pick up point would be and off we went for lunch and shopping. Great food (I’m Greek) and great shopping. I got lots of kisses from the older ladies when they found out I was Greek…sure didn’t help get me any better prices tho’! Kusadasi. Pronounced Ku sha dasi. We were so thrilled to make it to Turkey and they were thrilled to have us. This was definitely  the highlight of the trip. What amazed us all was how clean and beautiful Turkey was. No garbage in the streets, beautiful parks and landscaping everywhere. And the architecture…wow. We were only in port til noon…not nearly long enough. But we saw the house where the Virgin Mary lived..it’s a beautiful drive up a very steep and winding mountain road. Lots of great ruins and tons of religious history. I’m not all that religious but even I was fascinated by it all. You did not need to have knees and shoulders covered, but you do for Istanbul. We thought the shopping at the bazaar (right next to the port) was better than the Grand Bazaar in Instanbul. More quaint, great trinkets..very friendly folks who definitely encouraged you to come into their stores, but again…it wasn’t shoved down our throats. We bought lots of artwork and "I Dream Of Jeannie" costumes for our daughters.An aside…all of the WC’s were in fine condition…nothing to worry about. This was true in all of the ports, although in Venice they are difficult to find and you have to pay .50 euros for a public WC. Istanbul. Amazing city…extremely clean with lots of parks. I expected it to be more like Marrakesh..dirty and crazy and always watching my back. Actually, it was more like Des Moines…calm, lots of flowers and beautiful. We did the Grand Istanbul tour and saw the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, the Cistern and Topkapi Palace. Worth every penny. The palace was officially closed that day, but they opened it up just for us. So..if you weren’t on a tour you wouldn’t have been able to get in. One gal in our tour did get pick pocketed by kids. When we first got off the bus we were approached by kids selling postcards..they held them up  under her chin then reached underneath and unzipped her fanny pack. The guide did a great job of contacting the port agent and they got her card cancelled right away. Again, we had an amazing guide..a history professor with a huge amount of knowledge. We had a dynamite lunch at a Turkish restaurant that included all the beverages you could drink..yes, that included beer and wine. You do need to have knees and shoulders covered to enter the Blue Mosque, but they provided oversized scarves you could wrap around your waist or shoulders. The Grand Bazaar has amazing, very high end shops. It is very clean and beautiful and very large. It was more like a shopping mall, but still very fun. At Sea. Perfect weather, again. Formal night and Captains Circle Party. On the 2nd at sea day we tried to see the future cruise gal. Man is she busy. I recommend you queue up at least an half an hour before she’s scheduled to open. We want to do the Bankok to Sydney cruise in 2005. It’s scheduled to be on  the Sapphire, but since she’s not out yet we couldn’t book. So, she gave us an open booking that we can transfer to our TA as soon as the Sapphire is available. Venice. We did Venice on our own for both days. Princess offered a free boat shuttle from the pier to the city..took about an half an hour and dropped you at San Marco. Get a good street map..we used Streetwise. It was a lifesaver. Prices for glass are the same in Murano as they are in the city and there is very little bartering. We bought lamps for our screen porch, Christmas decorations and quite a spectacular statue that is being shipped. Everyone spoke great English…look for signs that say they will ship…even in the food markets you can have wheels of parmesan shipped home. We had an early evening flight out to London. The last Princess transfer to the airport left at 3pm. Perfect for us. Even though it was more expensive than a cab, it was well worth the money as they held our luggage for us. So..we were able to spend the day of disembarkation touring (without worrying about what to do with our luggage) and then get to the airport in a timely fashion. We did not use the spa, beauty salon or gym. Nor did we eat at any of the alternative dining rooms. We saw Uber Rossi, a very talented and physical showman, and enjoyed his performance. We also saw Shake, Rattle and Roll. The music and costumes were fun, the dancing very lively. One of the lead performers was obviously more of a Broadway show tune kind of gal than a rock and roller. We likened her performance to Judy Garland doing Janis Joplin. In conclusion…no problems, no complaints. Yes, I would’ve liked a bigger cabin and yes, I would’ve liked the wait staff to be better, but all in all…we had a lovely time. Already counting the days until Bangkok to Sydney, March 2005.

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Mar 22, 2003

Eastern Caribbean

EMBARKATION Embarkation was very easy and ran very smoothly (be sure to take care of everything ahead of time on the website). The bus ride from Ft. Lauderdale airport is about 10 minutes. Once at the boat, we were sent to the big warehouse where the luggage is put after your cruise. There were lines there, based on which deck you were on, to check in. There was no line at ours, so we were ready to go in after about 2 minutes

at the check in desk. I think all we had to show was our passports. She gave us our room cards there. Be sure to look and make sure everything is valid before you step away. Our dining time said PC dining, when it was supposed to be Traditional Early seating. After check in, they take your picture (to purchase later on, if you want) and they also take another picture for security reasons. I have heard that this is the picture they see when you scan your room card after each port. THE ROOM This was our first time with an outside room and it was worth it. We stayed in C510 (Caribe deck). The room was small, but we were expecting that. The shower was VERY small. The drawers that they have in the end tables beside the beds are not big enough for clothes. We hung up what we could and stored our suitcases at the bottom of the closet and lived out of them. There are a few shelves where you can put some things where the safe is, but it is not a lot of room. If you want a private balcony, do not get a deck that is below Caribe. All of the decks below us were 100% non-private. Ours was 50% private and 50% non-private (the front half being the non-private part). I don’t know if they had any that were 100% private – possibly on Aloha deck. THE FOOD I was unimpressed with the buffet food. I did not care for the choices (or lack of choices) offered. I also did not like how the buffet was set up; it was a big circle, instead of a long line of tables. It made it very congested at times. I did like the lunch and dinner sit down meals. There are “always available” choices (steak, chicken, etc.) for the sit down meals if you can’t find anything you want on the menu. The pizza is AWESOME! The only problem is they are only open 11:00 AM – 7:00 PM. We would have had much more pizza if they were open later. You can purchase a soda sticker (gets put on your room card) for $20.00 (or $22.50 with the Coke container). The Coke container did not hold much soda, especially when it was filled with ice, so I would not recommend buying the container. The wait staff does not get the “automatic” bar tip that is included when you purchase alcoholic drinks, when you only order a soda with the Coke card, so they were not really enthusiastic about getting sodas for you. My husband and I only purchased one sticker for the two of us. Sometimes, we were able to get 2 cokes for free and other times we were not. It just depended on the wait staff. We did not eat at either of the restaurants where you had to pay extra, but we heard nothing but good things about the Italian one – Sabatini’s. PERSONAL CHOICE DINING As I mentioned earlier, we were originally scheduled for Traditional Early Seating. This means that you show up to the same dining room every night at 6:15 and sit at the same table with the same wait staff. Some people like this, so you get to know your wait staff and the people you are sitting with. After the first night, we decided to try Personal Choice dining and loved it. It gives you the choice of going to dinner when you want and if you want, you can sit by yourself some nights. It also lets you meet new people every night. We usually showed up between 5:30 and 6:00 for dinner and never had to wait. The last night, we met another couple at 8:00, so we had to wait about 10 minutes. We will stick with Personal Choice dining in the future. THE CASINO My husband and I spent a lot of time at the casino. We thought it was excellent, and we had a lot of fun. My husband actually won the blackjack tournament. We have been to Vegas several times and the dealers on this ship were by far, much more friendly and talkative (excluding a few small casinos in Vegas). Be sure to tip your dealers since they only make $7-11 a day! They work for their tips, so help them out once in awhile. There was never an issue of the casino being too crowded that you couldn’t find a seat somewhere. I did hear though, that it varies week to week. The following games were available: Blackjack, Caribbean Stud, Caribbean Draw, Let It Ride, Three Card Poker, Roulette (double zero), Craps (single odds) and many slot and video poker machines from 5 cents to 5 dollars. Table minimums were almost always $5, with the exception of a few $10 or $25 blackjack tables (but most were $5), and roulette which had a $1 minimum. TIPPING As for the $10/person/day tipping system they now have, we were fine with it. It saved us the time, at the end of the cruise, of having to get the tips together for each area. These tips include all of your wait staff at the meals and your room steward. At the end of your cruise, you can have the amount adjusted up or down. Each meal is split out on your bill, so if there is a particular waiter that you liked or didn’t like, then you could just adjust that day if you wanted to. I had read before the cruise that people were concerned that service would suffer due to this automatic tipping system. This was not the case at all; service was excellent throughout the entire cruise. THE PORTS We took a taxi over to Orient Beach at St. Maarten. Since it was a full van, it cost $6/person. On the way back from the beach, since it was only 2 of us in the van, it cost $18 for both of us. Orient Beach is a clothing optional beach. There were only a handful of naked people on the beach; the majority of them should not have been naked. The taxi ride to and from the beach was scary. They don’t really have 2 lane roads there, but they drive like they do. After coming back, we went back to the ship to eat lunch. Then, we took a water taxi ($5 per person for the whole day) to downtown for shopping. It was a festive atmosphere; you could walk around with open containers. St. Thomas was a lot of fun. We went on a snorkeling excursion to St. John’s. It was amazing. We stopped in the middle of the ocean by some reefs and saw a large number of fish. It was an incredible experience. The second stop was at Honeymoon beach and we saw a lot of fish there too. I would highly recommend the snorkeling excursion. I don’t even really know how to swim and I still enjoyed it. After that, we went back to the ship to eat lunch. Then, we took at taxi for $3/person downtown for shopping. Be sure to check out Touched by the Sun, Del Sol and Captain’s Corner. We had heard that if you want liquor and/or jewelry, the better deals are in St. Maarten. We did not have to tender to St. Maarten or St. Thomas. In the Princess contract with the islands, we are guaranteed a docking spot. You will have to tender to Princess Cays. We had storms and rough seas the day we were supposed to go to Princess Cays, so the captain had to cancel it. He took us out to a sunny spot for the rest of the day. ENTERTAINMENT The entertainment was high quality. We really liked Randy Johnson, the comedian. I walked out of the other comedian, Rick Starr. We saw Lights, Camera, Action and really enjoyed that. We saw Kimika, but it didn’t interest us; however there were plenty of people that really enjoyed them. They were billed as a musical comedy duo so we were expecting funny songs, but all they did was tell a few jokes in the beginning and sing songs during the rest of the show. Pub Night was so-so. The Battle of the Sexes game they did was great, but the closing bit they did was not all that good. We absolutely loved our cruise director – Graham Seymour! He was so funny! We would try to catch his morning show on the TV and any other shows he had, when we were in the room. The first day at sea, we decided to go to the art auction, just to check it out. We know NOTHING about art, but ended up buying 3 pieces on the first day. You would be surprised to hear that you can get items for less than $200. They also give free champagne at the first auction. We ended up going to all 5 art auctions and buying 2 additional pieces. Mitch, the auctioneer, really knows his art and made it very interesting. There is not just art at these auctions, there’s animation cells, sports memorabilia and sometimes music memorabilia (there was a guitar signed by all of the Eagles there). EXTRAS The ice cream by the pools was not free. The only place you can get free ice cream is for dessert at the sit down lunches or dinners. The pictures that they take of you are expensive. We bought a formal picture for $20. I asked it we could get one smaller than 8x10, and she said yes, but it costs the same. All bar bills add a 15% gratuity. Bingo was $20 for 3 cards for each game and you can’t share, since you cannot rip one or two games off of the strip (or they are invalid). The soda sticker was $20 ($22.50 with the container). Horse racing was $2 a game I think. It was just as much fun to watch, since all you win is $4-8 a race anyway. The water sport equipment rental was expensive for Princess Cays ($30 for a half hour on a kayak). Since we didn’t go, everyone was reimbursed for the equipment they had already signed up for. Also, if you bring kids, they can charge their arcade time to your room card. The way the arcade works is it costs $20 to purchase tokens. You can’t just go in and play one game; you have to buy $20 worth. Don’t forget the $10/person/day tipping, although that was worth it. If you take all of these into consideration, the bill at the end won’t sting quite as bad. DISEMBARKATION This is never as smooth as embarkation. On Thursday night, you get luggage tags in your room. The color is based on your flight time and your deck. If your flight leaves before 12:00 PM or if you scheduled an excursion in Ft. Lauderdale, then you will get red tags. The rest of the people get colors based on their deck. We were on the Caribe deck and got orange tags. After red is called, they call the other colors at random. You then proceed through security and then down to the luggage area. It is a mob scene in there. Your luggage is in the same HUGE room that you first checked in at. All of the same colors are together, but that doesn’t help. There are too many people looking for their luggage to even move around. Also, they told us to have our passports available, but we didn’t have to show them once. We had to show our room cards as we left the boat and we had to turn in our customs paper. I would suggest getting a porter to help carry your luggage to the buses, since they get a much shorter line and you will get to the buses sooner. OVERALL EXPERIENCE Overall, we had a great time. We would definitely cruise with Princess again. We visited the Future Cruise rep on the boat and paid for an Open booking. We gave a $100/person deposit (unlike the $500/person your travel agent would ask for). This will entitle us to $50/person ship credit, if we book an outside room ($25/person for an inside room). It also gives you 4 years to make/change your plans without losing your deposit. We did not know where or when we wanted to go next, so we did the Open booking. Once you decide, you can still work with your travel agent for your arrangements. Next time we go, we will not book our cruise during spring break. We were told it was not spring break, but it actually was for other states. There were a lot of young teenagers and pre-teens on the ship that we could do without (college kids were not a problem). I heard that the middle of March through the middle of April is spring break season.

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Mar 15, 2003

Eastern Caribbean

7-Day Eastern Caribbean Cruise leaving from Fort Lauderdale, Florida and visiting the following locations: St. Maarten, St. Thomas, and Princess Cays in the Bahamas (Private Island owned by Princess Cruises. Rating of Cruise: Excellent, One of the Best Vacations we’ve had, Can’t wait to cruise again, loved relaxing on sea days and being busy on port days Food: A- Entertainment: B Service: B Embarkment/Debarkment: A Ports:

A- Cabin: B (as expected) Fort Lauderdale: For the past few weeks, my husband and I were debating whether to change our flight to Fort Lauderdale to arrive the day before. We were concerned the plane would delay (our flight would arrive in Fort Lauderdale at 2:15pm) and we would miss the ship. We took the chance and made it on time. We took Airtran Airways from Philadelphia to Fort Lauderdale. We arrived at Fort Lauderdale’s airport at 1:45 (30 minutes early). Unfortunately, we waited almost an hour to get our luggage. Many folks complained about this delay even though there was nothing we could do about it. The cruise rep from Princess Cruises came by as we were waiting for our luggage and told us where to go to get the bus transfer to the ship. The bus driver loaded our luggage on the bus and we were off to the ship. The transfer only took about 10 minutes. Embarkment: We arrived at the pier around 3:15. We did not see our luggage until after 5:00. We waited a few minutes in line at the check-in. We had express check-in and got our cruise cards immediately. The Muster Drill at 4:30 was fast and orderly. We took a tour of the ship and the ship left around 5:10. Our Cabin: Our cabin was L208 on the Lido Deck (14 floor). This was an inside cabin. The cabin was small as I expected since this is what we paid for. The beds were very comfortable and we slept great almost every night. Our cabin steward Diamond from Romania was excellent and kept the cabin clean and he was helpful as well. Always catering to our needs very promptly. The only regret we had was that we did not bring an alarm clock and you could sleep there forever since it was always dark in our room especially if you did not get up to check a watch to see what time it was. We utilized the wake-up call feature from our phone and that helped up get up early on days we needed to. Hopefully, next cruise we will splurge and get a balcony. Things to do: Laying out by the pool, swimming, hot tubs, trivia games, bingo, movies, afternoon tea, shuffleboard, internet café, tread mills, other fitness machines, art auctions, wine tasting, gambling, film developing, photo gallery, lotus heath and beauty spa (hair, makeup, facials, “Detox” treatments, stone therapies), aerobics, yoga, fitness seminars, step, scuba diving training, library, golf, culinary and fruit craving demonstrations, volleyball, pool games, massages, basketball, arcade, movies, ice craving, excursions, snorkeling, etc. Entertainment: “Lights Camera Action” was an excellent show and Uber Rossi was hilarious. “Shake Rattle and Roll” was good in some parts and ok in others. We did not get a chance to see all shows. Food: Breakfast: We ate at the horizon buffet. There was a large variety of food: scrambled eggs, bacon, bagels, muffins, breakfast sandwiches, different types of cereal, oatmeal, eggs benedict, different types of fruit, etc. I loved the granola cereal and ate that every day. Sometimes, I got something addition to my cereal and that was good, but my cereal was my favorite. My husband loved the eggs benedict. Lunch: We ate mostly at Prego Pizza. The pizza was excellent and we both enjoyed it very much. The pizza would have been perfect if it had more sauce but we still enjoyed it. We both also liked the burgers at Trident Grill, but we both opted to eat the pizza since we liked it so much. We dined once in the dining room on Thursday and had lasagna. My husband had the lasagna on the grand princess during a lunch on his last cruise and loved the lasagna. However, this lasagna was ok and it was very cheesy. My husband was disappointed that it was not as good as he had on the Grand Princess. Although, some friends we met on the ship really liked the Lasagna. Dinner: Both my husband and I are not seafood eaters but found the food in general to be good or excellent. Our favorite dish was “penne alla arrabbiata” made on Italian night. I am Italian and loved the tomato sauce used in all the pasta dishes we had. We loved the desserts especially the ice cream and soufflés. We had personal choice dining and loved it. We loved the flexibility with it especially since we had dinner at different times. We both do not like to be tied down to certain dinner times. Fruit: The fruit in the dining rooms and the horizon court was disappointing at times. Sometimes, it was not fully ripe. I was expected the fruit to have more flavor. Anytime, the fruit was prepared with a liquor it was excellent. Dining Rooms: We ate at the Bernini dining room a couple nights and found the service to be a little slow. Most nights, we ate at the Donatello dining room. The service was excellent in this dining room. Some waiters were very pleasant and friendly. Others were nice, good with the service, but not so outgoing. Since we ate at different times, we had different waiters so we did not really get to know really any of them. Here is a listing of food choices we made each day and how we rated it: Saturday: Sail Away Dinner Appetizer: Seasonal Fresh Fruit w/ Armagnac- excellent, crisp spring rolls- good Soup: Iced Pina Colada Soup- ok Salad: Watercress, Shredded Carrots & Iceberg Lettuce w/ Balsamic Vinaigrette- good Entrée: Nebraska Prime Rib- excellent Dessert: Hazelnut Ice Cream- excellent, Love Boat Dream- good Sunday: Gala Dinner Appetizer: Seasonal Fresh Fruit- ok (not all fruit was fully ripe) Soup: Chilled Yogurt & Tamarind Soup sprinkled with Grated Lemon Rind-good Salad: Mixed Salad of Arugula, Endive & Butter Lettuce w/ Low-fat Garlic Chive dressing-not very good dressing, Classic Caesar Salad-good Entrée: Homemade Fresh Pasta Tossed w/ Tomato and Grated Parmesan Cheese- excellent, Tournedos of Beef Tenderloin- ok Dessert: Peppermint ice cream- excellent, Chocolate Hazelnut Soufflé- excellent Monday: French Dinner (thought it would be on Wednesday): My husband and I are not into French cuisine. So, we went to the Dessert Rose. It was very disappointing and a waste of money for the cover charge. I wish we had gone to Sabbatini’s instead. Appetizer: Guacamole & Salsa w/ Chips- Excellent for me, but too spicy for my husband Chili Beef and Cheese Empanadas- not very good, very greasy Entrée: Traditional Chicken Fajitas- ok but lacking in flavor Tuesday: Chef’s Dinner (thought it would be Monday) Appetizer: Pineapple Dotted with Honey-Roasted Pistachios- ok Soup: Chilled Golden Delicious Apple & Peach Soup with Rum- excellent Salad: Classic Caesar Salad- Good Entrée: Grilled Skinless Chicken Breast- ok (dry breast) Grilled Dry Wednesday: Italian (thought it would be Tuesday) Appetizer: Prosciutto crudo di parma with sweet cantaloupe melon- good Salad: Baby leaf Spinach with Butter lettuce, bacon, pecorino cheese, & pine nuts w/ Italian dressing- excellent Entrée: penne alla arrabbiata-excellent, fabulous, five stars, Brasato di Manzo al Barolo (beef pot roast)-excellent Dessert: Cassata all Sicilian Thursday: Commodore Appetizer: Golden Fresh Fruit Collection flavored with Kirsch-excellent Soup: Chilled Strawberry Cream Soup-ok Salad: Boston lettuce, Radicchio and Tomato with Balsamic Vinagrette-good Entrée: Ravioli di Ricotta with Fresh Tomato Sauce- very good (but small portion) Dessert: Hazelnut Ice cream Friday: Landfall Appetizer: Oranges Steeped in Grant Marnier and Mint- Excellent Soup: can’t remember Salad: can’t remember Entrée: Prime Rib au Jus- good but fatty Dessert: can’t remember The Ship: The ship was beautiful and quite large. I thought it was kept very clean and nicely. Whenever we were at a port and I saw our ship near the other ships I was proud of how beautiful the ship was compared to the others. The pools and decks were beautiful. Internet Café: The computer is very easy to use. My husband spent around $15.00 for so many minutes. It costs .50 a minute. It was nice to email our parents back home. Fitness Center: State of the art equipment, enjoyed working out Ports: St. Marteen, Tuesday: St. Marteen was a bit of a disappointment for me. From the ship, St. Marteen looks beautiful. We took at water taxi for $5.00 was is an entire day pass for each person. That was a great deal for us since we utilized this several times. The water taxi takes you to the town’s pier (main shopping area) and back to the ship. We went shopping looking for watches and found the best deal on a gold ladies watch at Grand Jewelers. The watch is valued twice as much here in the states. There are many jewelry shops and much to chose from. I was not impressed with the other store that sold stuff other than jewelry. When you get to the pier, be careful to not allow anyone to talk you into seeing their resort in return for giving you some cash and gifts. One lady tried to talk us into seeing a resort. We nicely listen to her and then we told her that we were not interested she kept persistently trying to talk us into it. She was very annoying. Finally, we got away from her. Supposedly, I hear people like them get people to lock into the time-shares and then they later rip you off. People like this lady are usually located in front of the stores you want to go into. My husband learned to walk faster and ignore these people. After shopping, my husband and I took the water taxi back to the ship and placed our purchases in our cabin. We then ate pizza at Prego to save money and then went off the ship. Next, we decided to try the beach near the town pier. Even though it was a beautiful day and the water was clear. The beach is very rocky which makes the sand uncomfortable to walk on and the beach was not so clean. However, it was convenient to the ship. Regretfully, we did not go to Orient Beach or travel and see the French side. St. Thomas, Wednesday: I really thought it was a beautiful island. We got up early and went through immigration very smoothly. We took a taxi downtown for $3 per person not including a tip. We got off our taxi and met our private tour guide: Timmy from Timmy’s Tours. He explained the tour and we reserved our seat for 12:30. He charged us $20 per person not including a tip. We then had time to walk around to the shops and shop. The shops here were better than at St. Marteen. There is a greater selection for good quality t-shirts, memorabilia, jewelry, watches, and there is more shops there. Again, there were annoying vendors and tour guides asking for your business as your walked the streets near the shops. There weren’t as bad as St. Marteen. We ended up getting a great deal on a JVC Digital Camcorder at the Royal Caribbean Store. It was around 11:00 and we decided to bring our purchases back to the ship. We took another taxi from downtown back to the ship for $3 per person not including a tip. We placed our purchases back in our cabin and ate Pizza at Prego Pizzeria to avoid having to buy lunch on the island and spend extra money if we did not have to. We then took another taxi back to downtown (same price as above) to meet our tour guide Timmy. Timmy was a great guide. He was very knowledgeable with St. Thomas. He took us to some beautiful spots on the island for great pictures. One place was on the Mountain top where the world famous banana daiquiri was created supposedly. We tried it and it was good but nothing spectacular. In this location, we saw one of the most beautiful views I ever seen of Magen’s Bay. Then, he took us to Coki Beach. He claimed that it was cleaner and beautiful then Magen’s Bay’s Beach plus there is no fee to enter the beach. Even though National Geographic rates Magen’s Bay as one of the top ten beautiful beaches of the world. The tour guide gave us the option to take us there if we wanted. Coki Beach was very clean and the water was clear. We spent $10 dollars for 2 beach chairs. They were comfortable and worth buying. Coki is a small beach and some of the vendors were very annoying and very untrustworthy. One vendor guy would not stop bothering me to buy stuff and then rudely started talking loudly on his cell phone near husband and I. I felt like he was being a jerk because I did not buy anything so he wanted to be in my way. Due to this reason, I wish we had gone to Magen’s Bay beach. Timmy came to pick us up in a couple hours and took us back to the ship. The entire fee for his tour was $20 per person not including a tip. Princess Cays, Friday (Private Island owed by Princess Cruises part of the Bahamas) This was our Favorite Island and beach. We took a tender to the island. It was very fast and efficient process getting to and from the island. The fruit was actually great there and the buffet food was ok. There was burgers, grilled chicken and other barbeque related foods. The beach was very clean and the water was blue and turquoise in color. It was very clear and breathtaking. The vendors were nice and did not bother you to buy stuff. It was a more comfortable and a safer atmosphere compared to the other beaches we went to. We snorkeled near the red pier and there was a lot of fish there. It was really fun. We rented snorkeling equipment (the Deluxe Package that comes with a fish identification card and fish food). This was worth it because the fish came up whenever you feed them. The last tender left at 2:30 and we had to get ready to pack and eat dinner. Debarkment: We were off the ship around 9:00. It was sad coming home.

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Mar 8, 2003

Eastern Caribbean

Wonderful cruise. They thought of everything. Food was the best, (we loved personal choice dinning) room service was excellent. We had a balcony and enjoyed it very much. Great value when you compare it to others. Entertainment was top notch, but I wish they would have held all production numbers in the larger "Princess" theater. I don't know how you could top this cruise line. One piece of advice. We waited for three and a half

hours in line (outside in the fumes) at the airport on Sat. morning when we were trying to return home. Stay an extra day if you can or leave from an airport other than Ft. Lauderdale. Cruise gets a 10, airport gets a 2. Allen

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Aug 7, 2002

Southern Caribbean

I would like to tell other possible cruise passengers about the experience my family and I had on our recent cruise on the Golden Princess. Once we got on the cruise, we were bombarded by people trying to sell us an unlimited amount of soda for $22.50. I was under the impression the soda, about a six cent cost to the cruise line (all from the fountain),

was included in the cost of the cruise. The cost of a soda was not included. When we check into our room, my family met our cabin steward. I found out in the first few minutes that he did not have a great command of the English language. I asked him about any special places I should not miss on the cruise. He told to look in the catalog. He was very good on getting us the things we needed for our stateroom, but that was all he was good at. You could not ask him a lot of questions about the ship. He always met us with a smile and a thank you. We had a minor problem with our room keys. We went to the purser’s desk to get the keys straightened out. The purser was very helpful. When I asked her where the sports bar was on the ship, she told me that there were four bars on the ship, but she did not know which one was the sports bar. I had to find where the sports bar was on my own. I thought, incorrectly, that the purser should know where thing are on the ship. As it turns out there are at least 10 bars on the ship. The first night after we set sail, my wife and I went to the Skywalkers' Bar. It was about 11:45PM. Our 15 year old daughter walked up to us. Passengers under the age of 18 are not allowed into the Skywalkers' Bar after 11:00 PM. She told us that she was there with three of her friends all under the age of 18. She told us that she just walked past the two people supposedly checking the age of the passengers going into the bar. They weren't even asked for their ID. A few nights later, she told us that she was in the bar before 11 PM. No one came around after 11 PM to check to see if the passengers were over or under the age of 18. She could stay there as late as she wanted to. Our 15 year old watched one of her 20 year old friends get drinks at the Skywalker’s Bar without the bartender asking for his ID. It was after 11 PM when this happened. I can only suppose that the bartender just assumed that any passengers in the bar after 11PM must be over the age of 21. After a few nights, my wife and I started to here stories from our 13 year old about how underage kids, 13 to 16, were getting drunk on the ship. On a few occasions, they had to help other teenagers back to their rooms, because they were so drunk they could not walk. There was even one incident when one of the kids was so drunk that they fell off a balcony onto another. If there had not been another balcony underneath, the kid would have fallen into the water. The ship had control over all of the alcohol. If you bring alcohol on the ship, they hold it for you until the last night of the cruise. So the only other place to get alcohol is at the bars. Where are the kids getting the alcohol? I understand that the alcohol sale on the ship is a major profit center for the cruise company. One night my wife and I decided to go to the midnight buffet. After we got our food, we sat down to eat. A group of twenty kids came roaring into the buffet yelling and screaming. There was NO security around at the time to try to calm the kids down. I know that the ship should not be a babysitter, but there should be some security around to try to stop this at night. The only time I did see security was when we embarked and disembarked the ship. I NEVER saw any security on the ship. We ate at the Bernini and Donatello restaurants, personal choice seating. The food in the restaurants was good. After a while, it got to be very boring. The service in the restaurants was always good. One night my family and I went to Sabatini's. We had to pay an additional $20 a person to dine there. When our 13 year old daughter wanted to order a cola, they asked to see if she had prepaid for the soda. When you are paying an additional charge to dine, I would think that all non-alcoholic beverages would be included. I don’t know who the brain at Princess cruises that thought this one up. This was just one of the many things that ruined our dining experience that night. The food at times was uneatable. I would not pay the extra $20 for this. The buffet for breakfast was the best, although the food was almost exactly the same every day. One day we ate at Berninis’ for breakfast. We all agreed that the buffet was better. If you play craps, the game is very slow at the casino. I had one of the people running the game ask me where the nine was on the table. It takes the crap people a while to figure out the payoffs at the table. It ruins the rhythm of the game. If you do play, just be patient. Vegas this is not. The three best excursions that we took were at Barbados, the sea turtle snorkel, very fun, the rain forest hike and swim in St. Lucia and the Trunk Bay swim at St. Thomas. I was told by the purser to call the company to when we got back to tell them about the alcohol drinking by the underage passengers and about the lack of security on the ship. When I called the company, they told me to wait on the phone for twenty or thirty minutes. This is how concerned they are about getting you a better cruise experience. In conclusion, with all that was right, there was so much more that was wrong with the Golden Princess and Princess cruises in general. I know that you can get to the same island with other cruise companies. My advice is to LOOK ELSWHERE!! This was my first cruise and it may be my last.

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Jun 30, 2002

Barcelona to Venice

The positives included: an excellent, very attentive dining room waiter and busboy; beautiful ship with lots to do, including well appointed gym (the hours could have been longer); lots of food and great variety, but the food was inconsistent, especially with fish and chicken which more often than not was dry. Beef on the other hand was generally prepared to order and was very good. Selection of ports was good and time allowed at each

port was enough (Malta could have been excluded leaving an extra day in Venice) Princess cruise tours (for a van holding 8 people) was triple the cost we paid privately. The most common phrase heard was that of "being nickled and dimed". Also in all the time in the casino, I never heard the ringing of the slot machines, absolutely never!! Internet service was costly and unreliable. However, despite the negatives, I will remember this cruise on a positive basis, because it was just great. DC

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Apr 19, 2002

St. Maarten - St Thomas - Princess Cays

Excursions: First stop St. Maarten. We took the butterfly tour. It was good, worth the price of admission. You also get a nice tour of the Island. They stop along the way for pictures and some shopping. Ok here’s a BIG tip…Booze, jewelry, cigarettes,(I don’t smoke) and Cuban cigars if you want to buy them are CHEAPER here then at St. Thomas. Example, a large bottle of Baily’s Irish Crème, under $10.00 in some stores. Prices

vary a little from store to store. In St. Thomas around $13.00. Cigarettes, in some stores under $10.00 a carton, St Thomas around $16.00. Jewelry I was pricing a bracelet for my wife, gold with crushed black opal inlaid in it. The best I could do in St Maarten was $259.00. St Thomas, the first store, wanted $1,200 I walked out. The best price $310.00 and I tried my best to get if for the $259.00. Cuban cigars are not available in St. Thomas since it’s owned by the US. St Thomas carries one brand you can buy legally. Next stop was St Thomas. We took the Island tour it was OK. We shopped the rest of the day. The stores are all pretty much the same as far as merchandise. Last stop: Princess Cay. We snorkeled which was awesome, my first time. They had a nice spread of food and basically your relax all day. Nice, after two days of shopping. Summary: Ok, the good, bad and the ugly, here it is… Bring something for an upset stomach. My brother got sick from the water on the ship. He improved once he started drinking only bottled water. They will not give you any medication until you see their doctor for a $60.00 fee. Not even an aspirin. That was disappointing… Don’t do what I did, on the last night you have to put your luggage in front of your door. I carefully packed my (6) bottles of liquor, labeled them and put it out with my stuff. We saw them take everything away. Well, my booze was stolen and man was I mad…In the fine print they say to carry your liquor, but someone should have said something. They are not responsible for as they say it, lost or misplaced items. Be prepared for a nice bill at the end of your trip. My wife doesn’t drink, I had about 30 beers and bought a few rounds, with bingo, pictures, gratuities and your excursions we had a $600.00 plus bill. I’m not saying it’s not worth it but just be prepared. Everything being said, it was a great trip. We were very satisfied with every aspect of our trip. We don’t have anything to compare it to since it was our first cruise but we look forward to doing it again. We spoke to one women on the ship this was her 59th cruise; she placed Princess at the top.

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Apr 12, 2002

Eastern Caribbean

I woke up very early this morning (like a child who can’t wait for Christmas). We couldn’t see the port from our room window, but could from the one at the end of the hall. I went down and looked out and . . . there she was!!! The Golden Princess towered over the buildings between us and the port and it was a magnificent sight! We boarded the hotel shuttle, along with another Golden-bound couple (Hi Linda and Larry!!!) and headed

to the port. A Princess port employee told us we would have to wait outside while the passengers from the previous cruise disembarked. I felt so sorry for them – their cruise was over. But ours was just beginning! We gave our luggage to the attendant and then after about a half-hour (spent talking to other excited passengers and getting tips from the Princess port staff), we were ushered inside to start the embarkation process (about 11:30 I think). We used the Princess online booking form, so all we had to do was fill out the immigration card, and then we got in line to go to one of the many check-in counters (TIP: They direct you to an area with writing desks to fill out your paperwork, but it doesn’t take long to just fill out the immigration card and, if you want a better place in line, you can get in the line immediately and fill out the card while your standing there). We had to wait a long time in this line (about 45 minutes) because the check-in lines were still not open. We soon found out that the Coast Guard was doing a surprise inspection of the Golden and they couldn’t board until it was over. We were told that this doesn’t happen very often (and the ship passed with flying colors!). Things went very smoothly when they finally opened the check-in counters, and after a quick security check (we had no problem carrying the wine on board) and the obligatory snapshot, we were on the ship!!! The Golden is very impressive, very pretty, and just plain HUGE! I have heard the outside of the ship described as a floating tennis shoe, and they’re right – it’s kind of funny looking. But the inside is very classy and elegant (lots of wood and gold trim – no bright purple and orange carpet like Carnival!!). Our first stop on board was the Purser’s Desk – right there where you walk in. We wanted to ask about a bridge or engine room tour (my husband is an engineer and really wanted to see the "insides" and controls of the ship). We were told that they no longer have bridge tours (after 9/11) and never have done engine room tours, but that one of the engineers would meet with us in a few days and answer any questions we had (see OUR SECRET TOUR below for the rest of this story). We then went off to find our cabin. We originally booked a guaranteed inside cabin at the lowest level Category N but were upgraded to a Category JJ, located amidships on Caribe Deck (cabin C327) – great location!! The cabin was small, but pretty and well laid out. Lots of drawer space and a nice closet with about 15 wooden hangers. We had heard how notoriously small the bathrooms were, but I thought it was fine and had no problems with the size – including the shower. I also found the hair dryer to be sufficient. The laundry room was 3 doors down from us and there were plenty of washers (1.00 per load), dryers (50 cents) and irons with ironing boards (free). We met our room steward, Jose, who took very good care of us. We didn’t spend much time in the room, because we were just itching to look around, so we headed off to tour the ship and took lots of movies as we explored. We stopped at the ship’s gym because my husband wanted to check out the treadmills and running facilities. There are 10 or 12 treadmills and they have a sign-up sheet where you can reserve any one of them, but they ask that you to only sign up for a 30 minute block (a lot of people did not follow that rule and put their names down for more than one block, but they must be the same people who reserve deck chairs when they are not supposed to, and who stay on the islands later than the posted time and cause delays – ARGGHHH!). TIP For Runners or Walkers: There is a track (astroturf?) on the Sports Deck, but it is a 1/10 of a mile circle and can make you a bit dizzy. Also, there is a walkway on the Promonade Deck (7) that goes all the way around the ship – (though you have to go up stairs when you get to the front of the ship), but the faux-teak (plastic?) deck is a bit slippery and squeaky. Then we went to the Horizon Court on Deck 14 for some lunch. The food at the Horizon Court is fantastic. We are both vegetarian and the salad bar was fresh and abundant. They had some items I have never seen at a salad bar before, (such as sliced asparagus, kalamata olives, sundried tomatoes and pumpkin seeds), along with the usual choices, several dressings, and three kinds of beautiful fresh lettuce. Lunch and dinner buffets usually offered 6 or 8 different vegetarian items. There were also fresh fruit, rolls, and delicious desserts. The drink stations offer hot water, coffee (weak), and iced tea (not very good) taps, along with tea bags, ice, cold water and lemon. (TIP: For fresh iced tea, make a cup of hot tea and then pour it over a tall cup of ice and lemon slices – it’s much better than what they have in the taps). After lunch we went up on the Lido deck to watch the ship get underway. It is amazing to see how the ship moves sideways out of the berth with such ease (using the massive side thrusters), and soon we were chugging down the causeway past the luxurious houses, lofty condos and jettys. People along the way shouted and waved, and little boats (they’re all little when you’re on the Golden!) playfully circled around us. The folks in the condos saluted us with Princess banners and very loud air-horns, and the big ship answered back with a tremendous bellowing HOOOOOOOT. There were tears in my eyes as we headed out to sea and began our long restful voyage to St. Maarten. We had dinner that night in one of the dining rooms (I don’t remember which one, because they all seemed the same to me). We had PC dining and arrived at the dining room a little after 6:00. There was no wait and we had no problem getting a nice romantic table for two. The waiters took good care of us but fawned a bit too much. We also found the vegetarian selections in the dining room to be a bit limited and uninspired, so we didn’t eat in the dining room a whole lot on the cruise – just one other regular night and the two formal nights. We never had to wait more than 5 minutes for a table and you can have a seat (and a drink) at the lounge while you wait (TIP: Take a moment to get a posed picture taken on the formal nights – there are several photographers stationed around the atrium and they do a great job. The pictures are fun to look at even if you don’t want to buy. We didn’t plan on buying any pictures, but the formal portraits were so nice we actually didn’t mind spending 21.95 for such a nice keepsake). After dinner, we went to see the Welcome Aboard show in the Princess Theatre located on Deck 7 forward. The theatre is gorgeous! I think it seats about 750 people and most of the seats are good – no poles to obstruct your view. We were introduced to the cruise director (Alistair Greener, who bears and uncanny resemblance to Paul McCartney) and his staff. Then the ship’s company (dancers and singers) performed a number or two. (Hint: For most shows, the theatre is pretty close to full by 10 minutes before showtime, so I recommend getting there at least 15-20 minutes before – more for the bigger shows. The waiters serve drinks while you wait and the chairs are comfy). From here on, I will just cover the rest of the cruise by topic (otherwise, this will go on forever!): ENTERTAINMENT Highlights: Lights Camera Action! (Princess Theatre) -- A wonderful production with multi-talented headliner Uber Rossi and the Princess dancers and singers. (TIP: Get to this one early, so as not to miss the hilarious pre-show antics.) Comedy Variety Showtime with Uber Rossi and Kevin Hughes (Princess Theatre)– My favorite performers on the ship. Kevin does some very funny ship-related and relationship comedy. Uber is just plain amazing!! Kevin Hughes Relationship Show (Explorer’s Lounge) -- Get there very early for this show – the seats fill up fast. This is one of those, "I know exactly what he’s talking about" relationship comedy bits. Kevin has great insight into what makes men and women tick and how we interact. Word and Music – A very delightful, if a bit jumbled, Broadway review. The singers and dancers on this cruise were wonderful! Other entertainment: Gaetano (magician) – pretty cool if you’re into magic shows, but I thought he was too pretentious. Pete Matthews (comic juggler) – crazy, frantic and pretty funny (we only saw a short version of his show the last night, would like to have seen more) Rick Star (comic) – didn’t like him at all, his personality grated on my nerves. Also, did not care for the Shake Rattle and Roll Show. MOVIES Shown most afternoons and some evenings in the Princess Theatre, included: Bandits, Harry Potter, Gosford Park, Oceans Eleven, Kate and Leopold, Count of Monte Cristo TV Not many channels. One movie channel that ran current movies – they only showed a couple of R-rated movies late at night – most others were PG or PG-13. ESPN, CNN and TBS were available most of the time. There were also 4 ships channels: Princess Information channel (where they replayed a lot of the port and shopping lectures); Princess Overseas TV (with a very funny morning show with Alistaire and Frankie and broadcast of entertainment from the previous day – like the crew talent show); a navigation channel that gave you the ship’s location and nautical info along with a weather log (which was not too helpful because there was no forecast, just current readings); and a the Golden Princess cam channel which was nice for inside cabins, because you could see what was going on outside (this channel also broadcasted all ship’s announcements which were not broadcast in cabins) CASINO I am a blackjack fan and had a great time playing and meeting lots of great people!! I played the $5 dollar tables and came out $150 ahead for the cruise (they also had a $25 table and sometimes a $10). A lot of the dealers were reserved at best (mostly the men), but I did find some very nice friendly and helpful ones (most of them women . . . hmmmmmm) and we talked about everything from the game to what it’s like to work on the ship. If you are new to blackjack (or any casino game), tell the dealers, and they will talk you through the game and give very good advice – listen to them – I saw a lot of people waste a lot of money making silly bets because they didn’t know how to play and didn’t ask for help. They also have formal lessons for all the games (I think it’s the first day at sea). There were lots of different slots and poker machines which I never played but I saw quite a few winners (probably because it’s hard not to notice when all the bells and lights go off!!) (TIP: If you are bothered by smoke, you can usually request that a table be designated non-smoking, if all the other people seated there agree) OTHER SHIPBOARD ACTIVITIES We attended a couple of trivia contest (which were okay) and the Pyramid Game (which was a blast). We won some coffee cups and key chains. Went to one Bingo session and didn’t win squat – for $20 you get three cards for each game (I think they played 5 or 6). It’s kind of fun, but expensive. I also attended one of the bridge (the card game, not where the captain stands) lectures, and enjoyed it – though it was not very well attended. I heard that they may discontinue the lectures and organized bridge games. There were also all kinds dance lessons and sports events (basketball, shuffleboard, ping pong) which we did not attend. PORTS St. Maarten – We had scheduled the afternoon America’s Cup Regatta, so we just went ashore in the morning to walk around. We took the water taxi over to the town (it costs $5.00 for unlimited transfers during the day – the land taxis are 3.00 one way). The town of Phillipsburg is not very nice; there are a lot of liquor, electronics and jewelry stores and a no sidewalks to speak off. There are also a lot of locals constantly in your face trying to sell you something. I got tired of having to watch out for cars and vans everywhere I walked, so we decided to bag the town and go for a walk on the beach, which was nice. We then went back to the ship for a nice quiet lunch, after which we went back to the bottom of the gangway to meet our tour guide for the regatta. Let me start by saying that I HIGHLY recommend the regatta but it is not for everyone!! You must keep in mind that there is usually a lot of wind off St Maarten and that these boats really heel (lean) a lot. There was one person on our boat who had a very hard time keeping her balance (she fell hard one time) and was not happy. But if you have good balance and are not afraid of a little action, then this is for you (we have a sailboat, so I am used to it). Before the race, captain (tour guide) asks each person if there have experience, and if they want to be active of just sit and enjoy. My husband (a life-long sailor) trimmed the mainsheet, and I chose to just sit back and take pictures. (TIP: If you say you want an active job, you may be asked to crank the winches, which is pretty tough work – so if they assign you to the "grinders" and you don’t want to work that hard, tell them you don’t want to do it). There were 3 boats in our race and we came in last, but all the boats finished within 100 feet of each other (I think they do this on purpose -- my husband said he noticed that the captain eased up at one point in the race to let another boat get closer – but maybe that’s just sour grapes ‘cause we lost – tee hee) St. Thomas – We didn’t book any ship’s tours for this island. St Thomas is much prettier than St. Maarten, bright teal water, and lush green hills dotted with beautiful white houses – so otherworldly, that it’s very funny see all the American icons there, like Wendy’s, Subway, Kmart, Radio Shack etc. I highly recommend taking the cable cars to the top of the mountain (great big hill?) right across from where the ship docks. It costs $15 per person (this is not a ship’s tour, so you don’t need to sign up – just walk across the street and buy tickets) and the view is magnificent. There is a little restaurant at the top where you can get sandwiches and drinks if you want. You can go even higher if you walk up the nature trail to the top of the next hill (there are signs that indicate the local flora and there is a bench at the top) – OH BOY what a view from there!! Princess Cays – In my opinion, the best stop we made!! Princess Cays is actually a leased portion of the island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas. It is nothing but a beautiful white beach with sparkling teal blue water. We rented snorkeling equipment on the island (didn’t have to reserve it) – cost is $18 and includes mask, snorkel, fins and vest -- you can also get fish food and a fish ID card at an additional charge. I had never been snorkeling before and had a FANTASTIC time – I can’t believe I waited this long to do it!! It was just like the nature shows on TV! We saw lots of bright-colored fish and beautiful coral. (TIP: Go early in the morning – the first tender leaves at about 8:00. We were practically by ourselves in the water and it was very peaceful. By 10:00 or 11:00 the water gets very crowded – I was kicked couple of times by exuberant teens and the crowds stir up the silt and it isn’t as much fun later). POOLS There are 5 pools on the ship and quite a few hot tubs. The water in all of the pools is quite warm (86 degrees – too warm for me). The aft pool is the smallest and quietest (no children allowed and no hot tub), but it can get a bit windy and chilly on sea days. Then there are 3 main pools, one is under a retractable cover (which they closed during a short rain squall). I think there is also a wave pool located on the Sports Deck, but we never went there. On sea days, if you don’t get a lounge chair before 9:00, you are just plain out of luck because you will find half of them full of people and half full of towels. The saving of chairs thing is OUT OF CONTROL and they really need to do something about it. But on port days, the pools are quiet and there is no problem getting even the best lounge chairs -- so come back early from the ports if you want to spend some quality time at the pool. OUR SECRET TOUR (shhhhh) And now the rest of the story: After thinking that we would never hear from the engineer as the purser promised . . . on the third day we found a hand addressed envelope in the mailbox outside our cabin. Inside was a gold engraved Princess note card telling us that the "Captain cordially invites you to tour the bridge, Friday at 4:30" It said that this was not a standard tour and we were asked to tell no one about it while onboard. It was hand-signed by Captain Bernard Warner. Wow! On Friday, we went to a designated area where we found about 10 or 15 other tight-lipped people waiting, and were quietly escorted to the bridge for a quick "veddy-british" hello from the captain and a informative lecture by the First Officer (Kai from Finland). We were then allowed to look around an ask questions. We spent quite a while talking to a ship’s officer-in-training (a young British fellow named Tristan) who was very helpful and pleasant. It was pretty cool. We found out that most of the other invitees got their invitations by asking the captain directly but that they don’t do this on every cruise. So it doesn’t hurt to ask if you really want to see the bridge. FINAL TIP: BEST PLACE TO RELAX ON THE SHIP The Skywalkers Lounge (this highest point on the ship) on starboard side looking forward over the rest of the ship. I was surprised at how empty this place was during the day. It is a great birds-eye view, and a nice comfortable, cool, relaxing place to watch the seas and the rest of the ship. The bar up there is not open during the day, so grab a drink before you head up. DEBARKATION On the last (and very sad) night, you are asked to have any luggage you don’t want to carry in the hallways before midnight. We packed light and decided to carry (or wheel) our luggage ourselves, which saved time since we didn’t have to go find it amongst the thousands of other bags. They give you color-coded tags which they call in specified order during debarkation process (first to go are people with early flight and tours, then they go by deck -- highest first. We awoke at about 6:30 on Saturday morning, showered and got everything ready to go. We then went up to the Horizon for a last breakfast (it’s very crowded up there on the last day). Then went back to the cabin, picked up our bags and went up to wait in one of the lounges for our color tag to be called (they start calling colors at about 8:00) The gangways are on Decks 5 and 6 and a lot of people gather around those areas (even with constant announcements asking you not to do that). We sat in the Desert Rose restaurant – not many other people there and it was very relaxing. When they called our color, we marched down the gangway, got through security very quickly and then grabbed a cab to the airport (didn’t have to wait even though we were right in the middle of the rush of exiting passengers). The cab cost us about 12.00 including tip. We were at the airport by 11:00 and had a VERY LONG wait for our 4:00 flight back to Baltimore. Well that’s all for this review except to say that this was the BEST VACATION I HAVE EVER HAD!!! We had only been on Carnival before this and Princess is about 100 times better. Everyone is so friendly – I was especially impressed at how even the busiest of crew members would stop whatever they were doing when you walked by and offer a hardy and very friendly greeting. I will definitely sail with Princess again! I have lots more info if you want. Just ask!!

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Apr 12, 2002

Eastern Caribbean

I woke up very early this morning (like a child who can’t wait for Christmas). We couldn’t see the port from our room window, but could from the one at the end of the hall. I went down and looked out and . . . there she was!!! The Golden Princess towered over the buildings between us and the port and it was a magnificent sight! We boarded the hotel shuttle, along with another Golden-bound couple (Hi Linda and Larry!!!) and headed

to the port. A Princess port employee told us we would have to wait outside while the passengers from the previous cruise disembarked. I felt so sorry for them – their cruise was over. But ours was just beginning! We gave our luggage to the attendant and then after about a half-hour (spent talking to other excited passengers and getting tips from the Princess port staff), we were ushered inside to start the embarkation process (about 11:30 I think). We used the Princess online booking form, so all we had to do was fill out the immigration card, and then we got in line to go to one of the many check-in counters (TIP: They direct you to an area with writing desks to fill out your paperwork, but it doesn’t take long to just fill out the immigration card and, if you want a better place in line, you can get in the line immediately and fill out the card while your standing there). We had to wait a long time in this line (about 45 minutes) because the check-in lines were still not open. We soon found out that the Coast Guard was doing a surprise inspection of the Golden and they couldn’t board until it was over. We were told that this doesn’t happen very often (and the ship passed with flying colors!). Things went very smoothly when they finally opened the check-in counters, and after a quick security check (we had no problem carrying the wine on board) and the obligatory snapshot, we were on the ship!!! The Golden is very impressive, very pretty, and just plain HUGE! I have heard the outside of the ship described as a floating tennis shoe, and they’re right – it’s kind of funny looking. But the inside is very classy and elegant (lots of wood and gold trim – no bright purple and orange carpet like Carnival!!). Our first stop on board was the Purser’s Desk – right there where you walk in. We wanted to ask about a bridge or engine room tour (my husband is an engineer and really wanted to see the "insides" and controls of the ship). We were told that they no longer have bridge tours (after 9/11) and never have done engine room tours, but that one of the engineers would meet with us in a few days and answer any questions we had (see OUR SECRET TOUR below for the rest of this story). We then went off to find our cabin. We originally booked a guaranteed inside cabin at the lowest level Category N but were upgraded to a Category JJ, located amidships on Caribe Deck (cabin C327) – great location!! The cabin was small, but pretty and well laid out. Lots of drawer space and a nice closet with about 15 wooden hangers. We had heard how notoriously small the bathrooms were, but I thought it was fine and had no problems with the size – including the shower. I also found the hair dryer to be sufficient. The laundry room was 3 doors down from us and there were plenty of washers (1.00 per load), dryers (50 cents) and irons with ironing boards (free). We met our room steward, Jose, who took very good care of us. We didn’t spend much time in the room, because we were just itching to look around, so we headed off to tour the ship and took lots of movies as we explored. We stopped at the ship’s gym because my husband wanted to check out the treadmills and running facilities. There are 10 or 12 treadmills and they have a sign-up sheet where you can reserve any one of them, but they ask that you to only sign up for a 30 minute block (a lot of people did not follow that rule and put their names down for more than one block, but they must be the same people who reserve deck chairs when they are not supposed to, and who stay on the islands later than the posted time and cause delays – ARGGHHH!). TIP For Runners or Walkers: There is a track (astroturf?) on the Sports Deck, but it is a 1/10 of a mile circle and can make you a bit dizzy. Also, there is a walkway on the Promonade Deck (7) that goes all the way around the ship – (though you have to go up stairs when you get to the front of the ship), but the faux-teak (plastic?) deck is a bit slippery and squeaky. Then we went to the Horizon Court on Deck 14 for some lunch. The food at the Horizon Court is fantastic. We are both vegetarian and the salad bar was fresh and abundant. They had some items I have never seen at a salad bar before, (such as sliced asparagus, kalamata olives, sundried tomatoes and pumpkin seeds), along with the usual choices, several dressings, and three kinds of beautiful fresh lettuce. Lunch and dinner buffets usually offered 6 or 8 different vegetarian items. There were also fresh fruit, rolls, and delicious desserts. The drink stations offer hot water, coffee (weak), and iced tea (not very good) taps, along with tea bags, ice, cold water and lemon. (TIP: For fresh iced tea, make a cup of hot tea and then pour it over a tall cup of ice and lemon slices – it’s much better than what they have in the taps). After lunch we went up on the Lido deck to watch the ship get underway. It is amazing to see how the ship moves sideways out of the berth with such ease (using the massive side thrusters), and soon we were chugging down the causeway past the luxurious houses, lofty condos and jettys. People along the way shouted and waved, and little boats (they’re all little when you’re on the Golden!) playfully circled around us. The folks in the condos saluted us with Princess banners and very loud air-horns, and the big ship answered back with a tremendous bellowing HOOOOOOOT. There were tears in my eyes as we headed out to sea and began our long restful voyage to St. Maarten. We had dinner that night in one of the dining rooms (I don’t remember which one, because they all seemed the same to me). We had PC dining and arrived at the dining room a little after 6:00. There was no wait and we had no problem getting a nice romantic table for two. The waiters took good care of us but fawned a bit too much. We also found the vegetarian selections in the dining room to be a bit limited and uninspired, so we didn’t eat in the dining room a whole lot on the cruise – just one other regular night and the two formal nights. We never had to wait more than 5 minutes for a table and you can have a seat (and a drink) at the lounge while you wait (TIP: Take a moment to get a posed picture taken on the formal nights – there are several photographers stationed around the atrium and they do a great job. The pictures are fun to look at even if you don’t want to buy. We didn’t plan on buying any pictures, but the formal portraits were so nice we actually didn’t mind spending 21.95 for such a nice keepsake). After dinner, we went to see the Welcome Aboard show in the Princess Theatre located on Deck 7 forward. The theatre is gorgeous! I think it seats about 750 people and most of the seats are good – no poles to obstruct your view. We were introduced to the cruise director (Alistair Greener, who bears and uncanny resemblance to Paul McCartney) and his staff. Then the ship’s company (dancers and singers) performed a number or two. (Hint: For most shows, the theatre is pretty close to full by 10 minutes before showtime, so I recommend getting there at least 15-20 minutes before – more for the bigger shows. The waiters serve drinks while you wait and the chairs are comfy). From here on, I will just cover the rest of the cruise by topic (otherwise, this will go on forever!): ENTERTAINMENT Highlights: Lights Camera Action! (Princess Theatre) -- A wonderful production with multi-talented headliner Uber Rossi and the Princess dancers and singers. (TIP: Get to this one early, so as not to miss the hilarious pre-show antics.) Comedy Variety Showtime with Uber Rossi and Kevin Hughes (Princess Theatre)– My favorite performers on the ship. Kevin does some very funny ship-related and relationship comedy. Uber is just plain amazing!! Kevin Hughes Relationship Show (Explorer’s Lounge) -- Get there very early for this show – the seats fill up fast. This is one of those, "I know exactly what he’s talking about" relationship comedy bits. Kevin has great insight into what makes men and women tick and how we interact. Word and Music – A very delightful, if a bit jumbled, Broadway review. The singers and dancers on this cruise were wonderful! Other entertainment: Gaetano (magician) – pretty cool if you’re into magic shows, but I thought he was too pretentious. Pete Matthews (comic juggler) – crazy, frantic and pretty funny (we only saw a short version of his show the last night, would like to have seen more) Rick Star (comic) – didn’t like him at all, his personality grated on my nerves. Also, did not care for the Shake Rattle and Roll Show. MOVIES Shown most afternoons and some evenings in the Princess Theatre, included: Bandits, Harry Potter, Gosford Park, Oceans Eleven, Kate and Leopold, Count of Monte Cristo TV Not many channels. One movie channel that ran current movies – they only showed a couple of R-rated movies late at night – most others were PG or PG-13. ESPN, CNN and TBS were available most of the time. There were also 4 ships channels: Princess Information channel (where they replayed a lot of the port and shopping lectures); Princess Overseas TV (with a very funny morning show with Alistaire and Frankie and broadcast of entertainment from the previous day – like the crew talent show); a navigation channel that gave you the ship’s location and nautical info along with a weather log (which was not too helpful because there was no forecast, just current readings); and a the Golden Princess cam channel which was nice for inside cabins, because you could see what was going on outside (this channel also broadcasted all ship’s announcements which were not broadcast in cabins) CASINO I am a blackjack fan and had a great time playing and meeting lots of great people!! I played the $5 dollar tables and came out $150 ahead for the cruise (they also had a $25 table and sometimes a $10). A lot of the dealers were reserved at best (mostly the men), but I did find some very nice friendly and helpful ones (most of them women . . . hmmmmmm) and we talked about everything from the game to what it’s like to work on the ship. If you are new to blackjack (or any casino game), tell the dealers, and they will talk you through the game and give very good advice – listen to them – I saw a lot of people waste a lot of money making silly bets because they didn’t know how to play and didn’t ask for help. They also have formal lessons for all the games (I think it’s the first day at sea). There were lots of different slots and poker machines which I never played but I saw quite a few winners (probably because it’s hard not to notice when all the bells and lights go off!!) (TIP: If you are bothered by smoke, you can usually request that a table be designated non-smoking, if all the other people seated there agree) OTHER SHIPBOARD ACTIVITIES We attended a couple of trivia contest (which were okay) and the Pyramid Game (which was a blast). We won some coffee cups and key chains. Went to one Bingo session and didn’t win squat – for $20 you get three cards for each game (I think they played 5 or 6). It’s kind of fun, but expensive. I also attended one of the bridge (the card game, not where the captain stands) lectures, and enjoyed it – though it was not very well attended. I heard that they may discontinue the lectures and organized bridge games. There were also all kinds dance lessons and sports events (basketball, shuffleboard, ping pong) which we did not attend. PORTS St. Maarten – We had scheduled the afternoon America’s Cup Regatta, so we just went ashore in the morning to walk around. We took the water taxi over to the town (it costs $5.00 for unlimited transfers during the day – the land taxis are 3.00 one way). The town of Phillipsburg is not very nice; there are a lot of liquor, electronics and jewelry stores and a no sidewalks to speak off. There are also a lot of locals constantly in your face trying to sell you something. I got tired of having to watch out for cars and vans everywhere I walked, so we decided to bag the town and go for a walk on the beach, which was nice. We then went back to the ship for a nice quiet lunch, after which we went back to the bottom of the gangway to meet our tour guide for the regatta. Let me start by saying that I HIGHLY recommend the regatta but it is not for everyone!! You must keep in mind that there is usually a lot of wind off St Maarten and that these boats really heel (lean) a lot. There was one person on our boat who had a very hard time keeping her balance (she fell hard one time) and was not happy. But if you have good balance and are not afraid of a little action, then this is for you (we have a sailboat, so I am used to it). Before the race, captain (tour guide) asks each person if there have experience, and if they want to be active of just sit and enjoy. My husband (a life-long sailor) trimmed the mainsheet, and I chose to just sit back and take pictures. (TIP: If you say you want an active job, you may be asked to crank the winches, which is pretty tough work – so if they assign you to the "grinders" and you don’t want to work that hard, tell them you don’t want to do it). There were 3 boats in our race and we came in last, but all the boats finished within 100 feet of each other (I think they do this on purpose -- my husband said he noticed that the captain eased up at one point in the race to let another boat get closer – but maybe that’s just sour grapes ‘cause we lost – tee hee) St. Thomas – We didn’t book any ship’s tours for this island. St Thomas is much prettier than St. Maarten, bright teal water, and lush green hills dotted with beautiful white houses – so otherworldly, that it’s very funny see all the American icons there, like Wendy’s, Subway, Kmart, Radio Shack etc. I highly recommend taking the cable cars to the top of the mountain (great big hill?) right across from where the ship docks. It costs $15 per person (this is not a ship’s tour, so you don’t need to sign up – just walk across the street and buy tickets) and the view is magnificent. There is a little restaurant at the top where you can get sandwiches and drinks if you want. You can go even higher if you walk up the nature trail to the top of the next hill (there are signs that indicate the local flora and there is a bench at the top) – OH BOY what a view from there!! Princess Cays – In my opinion, the best stop we made!! Princess Cays is actually a leased portion of the island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas. It is nothing but a beautiful white beach with sparkling teal blue water. We rented snorkeling equipment on the island (didn’t have to reserve it) – cost is $18 and includes mask, snorkel, fins and vest -- you can also get fish food and a fish ID card at an additional charge. I had never been snorkeling before and had a FANTASTIC time – I can’t believe I waited this long to do it!! It was just like the nature shows on TV! We saw lots of bright-colored fish and beautiful coral. (TIP: Go early in the morning – the first tender leaves at about 8:00. We were practically by ourselves in the water and it was very peaceful. By 10:00 or 11:00 the water gets very crowded – I was kicked couple of times by exuberant teens and the crowds stir up the silt and it isn’t as much fun later). POOLS There are 5 pools on the ship and quite a few hot tubs. The water in all of the pools is quite warm (86 degrees – too warm for me). The aft pool is the smallest and quietest (no children allowed and no hot tub), but it can get a bit windy and chilly on sea days. Then there are 3 main pools, one is under a retractable cover (which they closed during a short rain squall). I think there is also a wave pool located on the Sports Deck, but we never went there. On sea days, if you don’t get a lounge chair before 9:00, you are just plain out of luck because you will find half of them full of people and half full of towels. The saving of chairs thing is OUT OF CONTROL and they really need to do something about it. But on port days, the pools are quiet and there is no problem getting even the best lounge chairs -- so come back early from the ports if you want to spend some quality time at the pool. OUR SECRET TOUR (shhhhh) And now the rest of the story: After thinking that we would never hear from the engineer as the purser promised . . . on the third day we found a hand addressed envelope in the mailbox outside our cabin. Inside was a gold engraved Princess note card telling us that the "Captain cordially invites you to tour the bridge, Friday at 4:30" It said that this was not a standard tour and we were asked to tell no one about it while onboard. It was hand-signed by Captain Bernard Warner. Wow! On Friday, we went to a designated area where we found about 10 or 15 other tight-lipped people waiting, and were quietly escorted to the bridge for a quick "veddy-british" hello from the captain and a informative lecture by the First Officer (Kai from Finland). We were then allowed to look around an ask questions. We spent quite a while talking to a ship’s officer-in-training (a young British fellow named Tristan) who was very helpful and pleasant. It was pretty cool. We found out that most of the other invitees got their invitations by asking the captain directly but that they don’t do this on every cruise. So it doesn’t hurt to ask if you really want to see the bridge. FINAL TIP: BEST PLACE TO RELAX ON THE SHIP The Skywalkers Lounge (this highest point on the ship) on starboard side looking forward over the rest of the ship. I was surprised at how empty this place was during the day. It is a great birds-eye view, and a nice comfortable, cool, relaxing place to watch the seas and the rest of the ship. The bar up there is not open during the day, so grab a drink before you head up. DEBARKATION On the last (and very sad) night, you are asked to have any luggage you don’t want to carry in the hallways before midnight. We packed light and decided to carry (or wheel) our luggage ourselves, which saved time since we didn’t have to go find it amongst the thousands of other bags. They give you color-coded tags which they call in specified order during debarkation process (first to go are people with early flight and tours, then they go by deck -- highest first. We awoke at about 6:30 on Saturday morning, showered and got everything ready to go. We then went up to the Horizon for a last breakfast (it’s very crowded up there on the last day). Then went back to the cabin, picked up our bags and went up to wait in one of the lounges for our color tag to be called (they start calling colors at about 8:00) The gangways are on Decks 5 and 6 and a lot of people gather around those areas (even with constant announcements asking you not to do that). We sat in the Desert Rose restaurant – not many other people there and it was very relaxing. When they called our color, we marched down the gangway, got through security very quickly and then grabbed a cab to the airport (didn’t have to wait even though we were right in the middle of the rush of exiting passengers). The cab cost us about 12.00 including tip. We were at the airport by 11:00 and had a VERY LONG wait for our 4:00 flight back to Baltimore. Well that’s all for this review except to say that this was the BEST VACATION I HAVE EVER HAD!!! We had only been on Carnival before this and Princess is about 100 times better. Everyone is so friendly – I was especially impressed at how even the busiest of crew members would stop whatever they were doing when you walked by and offer a hardy and very friendly greeting. I will definitely sail with Princess again! I have lots more info if you want. Just ask!!

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Mar 30, 2002

Caribbean - Eastern

My wife and I traveled with our two sons, ages 13 and 15, on a 7-night cruise from Fort Lauderdale to St. Maarten, St. Thomas, and Princess Cays. OVERALL RATING: A-. Overall, the cruise was great. In this review, you will find a few things here and there that could have been improved upon so I lowered the score from an A to an A-. But, overall I highly recommend this cruise. WHY CHOOSE THIS CRUISE? In deciding which

cruise to book, my wife and I had two primary objectives: (1) quality and (2) we wanted to visit nice ports with fine beaches. We got what we were after with this itinerary on the Golden Princess. GETTING THERE. We opted not to purchase Princess airfare and ended up having a little trouble getting good fares into Ft. Lauderdale as it was Spring break. We ended up though getting pretty good rates ($120 rt pp) with Southwest Air by flying into Orlando (from Baltimore). Going through Orlando sounds like a lot to go through but it really isn’t. We then did a one-way car rental (AVIS @ $53) and drove to Ft. Lauderdale which took about 3 1/2 hours. We had purchased airport transfers from/to the cruise ship but as it turned out AVIS ran a shuttle directly to the ship so we didn’t need the airport transfers we bought as part of our package. Even if you aren’t going to rent a car, I’d recommend you not purchase the airport transfers and opt to go by taxi instead because the airport isn’t that far away from the ship and why wait at the airport. For a family of 4, it probably would be cheaper anyway. EMBARKATION/DEBARKATION. Very smooth. We arrived to the ship at 11:15am and there were only moderate lines which moved quickly. For future reference, the first to disembark are those passengers who have early flights purchased through Princess. Debarkation started around 9:00am. After that, Princess disembarks people based on their cabin. Premium cabins go out first. For those who buy less-expensive cabins, expect not to depart until 10:30am or thereabouts. The major car rental agencies all run shuttles directly to their lots. We ran into a family on the shuttle with an evening flight who decided to rent a car for the day. This seemed to be a very good idea as the cost of renting a car for the day to see Ft. Lauderdale, with free shuttle service, was probably in-line with the cost of Princess airport transfers for a family of four. ROOM. Inside Quad, Emerald Deck, Cabin 117 (8th floor). The Golden has 15 decks plus a few more topside (no deck #13). Most of the inside activities (dining rooms, show rooms, etc.) on the Golden are on Deck 6 or Deck 7 so being on Deck 8 turns out to be very convenient as well as inexpensive. To get on the top deck, we would have likely taken the elevator up no matter how much more we paid to stay on a higher deck. We were very impressed with the rooms which we found to be large for a cruise ship and laid out well. There was lots of closet space. The room also has a hair dryer. Television was limited to CNN, ESPN (International), and ship channels (which included a movie channel, outside ship cameras, shipboard activities, and weather/position tracker/time). I point out that the ship had ESPN “International” which doesn’t necessarily carry the same line-up as regular ESPN in the States. Except for a brief period while the ship was in port in Ft. Lauderdale, the ship didn’t pickup any of the major networks. We were on-board during college basketball’s “Final Four” and championship game and were unable to watch. This was frustrating as we were from Maryland and Maryland won the championship. FOOD. Overall, we enjoyed the food. Our dinner meals in the dining rooms were generally very good, especially the main courses. We also enjoyed the salads. This was our first attempt at “Personal Choice (Freestyle)” dining and we didn’t care for it. With a family, I thought it was convenient because I didn’t have to worry about everyone getting ready on-time. But, I felt the service was a notch below what I’ve experienced on other Princess cruises. It was the little extras that were missing such as having your coffee along with serving dessert. We frequently had one or the other but not both at the same time and we rarely were asked if we would like a second cup. The staff seemed to disappear. Also, tips are automatically added to your bill now. With automatic tips and “Personal Choice” dining, I didn’t see the wait staff going out of their way to provide excellent service. Overall, the dining service was still good but it just wasn’t excellent. We went to dinner early (around 5:30pm) and had no wait. For those who arrived later, there was frequently a wait. TIP: You are able to make reservations even with “Personal Choice” dining. The ship offers traditional seating and I'd recommend that instead. Elsewhere, I thought the food in the Horizon Court (buffet) was good. Much of it though was leftover from dinner in the main dining halls so variety suffered. The coffee and iced tea in the Horizon Court was not very good as they were frequently bitter. The desserts in the Horizon Court were also not all that impressive and some were somewhat tasteless. However, I really enjoyed the hot tapioca served late one night. Some additional observations: Lobster - tasty. This is the first cruise I’ve been on (Except NCL) that the waiters didn’t go out of their way to bring you another lobster tail. I felt somewhat hurried. Pizza (poolside) - fair at best, very greasy. Burgers (poolside) - very good.  Room Service - the food was good but the service was inconsistent, i.e. we’d order service for four and get only two cups; we’d order hot chocolate and get only the pot and chocolate mix but no hot water or milk in the pot. Soda Card - $17 and appeared to be a good value for soda drinkers. My kids both had cards and had no trouble getting a soda whenever they wanted one. I noticed a lot of adults with cards as well. SHORE EXCURSIONS. St. Thomas is upscale. St. Maarten is in the middle somewhere. Princess Cays is a private island. All are nice places to go and a definite improvement over our last cruise ports which included severe poverty-riddled Belize and Roatan. Cruisers can take one of the many excursions offered by the ship or arrange private excursions. We did two excursions arranged through the ship: “Tale of Two Cities” in St. Maarten and the “Megans Bay Beach Getaway” in St. Thomas. One convenience with Princess is that you are able to sign-up for excursions via the Internet. This makes things convenient and gives you a better idea how to budget the cost of the cruise. In ST. MAARTEN, the “Tale of Two Cities” tour was generally good. It explores both sides of the island and makes a 45-minute stop on the French side for shopping. If you watch closely, you can see iguanas in the trees, some of which are rather large. The Golden docks pier-side in St. Maarten. You need to either walk 20-minutes to town or, for $5, can purchase an unlimited daily card for the water taxi. I found liquor and cigarette prices to be very good here and less than in St. Thomas. Cartons of cigarettes in St. Maarten around the dock area were around $8 for name-brand. In ST. THOMAS, we went shopping in town for the morning and then went to Megans Bay in the afternoon. To get to town, people usually catch a taxi for $3 ea (although you could walk in about 15-20 minutes). There’s also nice shopping at the pier and a good spot to pick-up items from the grocery/drug store if needed. Megans Bay is beautiful, with perfectly white sand and crystal clear water. This spot offers ok snorkeling in nice gentle water. There are no waves to speak of. Even with a moderate crowd, this was a quiet restful spot. I think it would be a great spot to take kids of any age. The ship’s tours here left for Megans Bay at 12:20pm so you had to do your shopping first. I’m sure it might be cheaper to get to Megans Bay by taxi but it was very convenient arranging this through the ship and it was actually a lot of fun riding on an open-air bus of sorts up and down the mountains, stopping a few times, and taking in the scenery. Also, I didn’t see a lot of taxi’s available to take people back to town except for the tour buses. In town, there are lots of shops to visit and it’s easy to catch a taxi back to the ship. PRINCESS CAYS was great if you enjoy a day at the beach. We left the ship around 9:30am and were tendered in quickly. We found a nice spot with lounge chairs under a small palm tree. Princess Cays offered lots of water sports which Megans Bay does not. I rented a two-seater “Water Trike” with one of my kids, one of the kids rented a kayak, and we snorkeled and swam and had a barbeque lunch. The water is calm here with very little waves. This is also a great spot for families with kids. This was a much nicer spot that I had anticipated and it made for a great day at the beach. If you want to go to the beach and relax, this is a great spot. SHIP. Most of the other reviews will cover this area well so I won’t say anything except that the Golden Princess is magnificent. One plus worth mentioning with Princess is that the pools have fresh water as opposed to some other lines that fill their pools with salt water. There is a difference. ENTERTAINMENT. Great. The Princess theater is the main stage for entertainment and, through its wonderful stadium seating, everyone has a good seat. Shows were also held in the Vista showroom which was smaller and a bit more tight. Various musicians played elsewhere throughout the ship. MISCELLANEOUS. The ship offers HIGH TEA everyday (which I admit might not sound too exciting... but, it actually is a lot of fun). I highly recommend you try this activity at least once during your cruise. The kids ARCADE has a lot of different video games. The prices are reasonable at $1 each ($0.50 early in the morning). You don’t use money but instead use a pre-purchased card (which of course can have money added to it). The CASINO is large and offers a lot of choices. Table games were reasonable as well. Roulette started at $1 while Blackjack started at $5. The ship has a variety of nickel, quarter, and dollar slots. On the down side, we were somewhat dismayed by the ship’s apparent lack of consideration for SAFETY. Early on during our voyage, my wife stumbled over a chair with a broken wheel, cutting her foot. She reported the chair, which had a very sharp edge on it, to the Purser’s office and other shipboard personnel on several occasions. The chair was never removed or fixed during our stay. Also, the CABIN STEWARDS only work during certain hours. If you happen to be in the room during these periods, you miss your clean-up. We had two teen-age kids staying in our room with us and this meant we missed several clean-ups. I hadn’t run into this on other ships. But, with automatic tipping, the cabin steward will get their tip anyway! SUMMARY. Overall, although I’ve brought up a few things that could have been improved upon, you still get good value for your money on this cruise. It’s hard to say whether the cruise industry is suffering from 9/11 fallout to the extent they are employing fewer service personnel or if we just happened to run into a few problems. In any event, I highly recommend this cruise, especially if you want a great ship and to go to nice beaches.

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Jan 26, 2002

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Eastern Caribbean Vickie Bowne Back to back Caribbean Cruises Golden January 26 – February 2 Grand February 3 – 10 Cruisers – myself (Vickie 36) and my husband (Bernie 46), this was my 5th and sixth cruise, having sailed 3 times with Carnival and once prior with Princess, this was my husband’s 2nd and 3rd cruise. We live in Vancouver, B.C. and we purchased the air through Princess, at a comparable price, and Princess included

a night accommodation in Ft. Lauderdale prior to cruise. I am going to try and make this review a little different than others I have read. I am not going to do a day to day breakdown of events, I am going to comment on what I saw, what I really liked, and what I thought could be improved. I am also going to compare the differences of the two cruises. Air Travel Booked air through Princess. Flight to Ft. Lauderdale was scheduled with Continental via Houston. Flights were on time, no surprises, and security was everything we had read prior on these boards. National Guard at airports in US was a surprise when I first saw but felt comfortable having them around, and understand why. Return trip was with Air Canada via Montreal. I was originally concerned with the connection in Montreal as it was only an hour and 20 minutes, and didn’t know if we would be able to clear customs, retag our bags, and get to the gate. When we checked in at Ft. Lauderdale on the day of departure, the Montreal flight was delayed and we were informed we would have to overnight in Montreal. Needless to say we did not have clothes for cold weather with us, so we asked about any other flights. The check in representative beside us said “route them via Toronto. We ended getting on the Toronto flight and then a connection there to Vancouver. We arrived home a half hour after our scheduled flight. ­ Make sure you bring extra food as you will get hungry on the plane. ­ Bring lots of water. ­ Try not to sit in the back row, the smells from the washrooms can be interesting. ­ Give yourself enough time, check in and security line ups were long. ­ If you can fly in the day before and extend your trip by a day, much more relaxing. ­ If you fly out of Ft. Lauderdale on a weekend, prepare for extra long line ups as many ships are sending passengers home on those days. Hotel In Ft. Lauderdale through Princess Included in our air package was a free nights accommodation at the Hilton Hotel near the airport. If you live West of the Rockies, Princess pays for this one night and includes transfers. They do offer this hotel in their precruise package that you can purchase, which I believe is $119 Canadian per person. A Princess rep. met us at the airport and transported us plus two other couples to the Hilton. Note you must collect your baggage now and take it with you to the hotel. The bus ride was only five minutes and the driver was helpful with some information on what we could expect the next day in regards to meeting the Princess representative. The Hilton is an older hotel (guess about 30 years old), the lobby, bar and restaurant were very clean but seemed small for all the guests that were staying there. It took 15 minutes to get to the counter to check in, and checking out was even longer. Not only does Princess put their guests up here, there were also people from RCL as well. The room is a good size, we had two double beds, and a good size washroom. There was only one bath towel in the room, so we called housekeeping left a voice mail, after a half hour we called the front desk and asked for another towel. The towel arrived an hour after our first request when we were checking out. The sheets that covered the bed were too small, half way through the night I woke up to find myself sleeping on the mattress, the sheet had come off, the mattress pad had come off. I must note that I am a messy sleeper. We had been informed to have our bags outside our room at 10 am the morning of departure, and check out is 11 am; however a Princess Rep. is not scheduled to arrive until 12:30, and the bus is to arrive at 1:00. They placed all our bags, along with probably 200 other bags along the sidewalk around the driveway. This was a very hot day and we got tired of waiting around so we got our bags and took a taxi to the pier. Cost was $6 per person, arrived at the pier at 11:45 and were in our room at 12:15. The security line was long; however it moved fast and it was nice to chat with people in line. ­ Book your own hotel, and not the Hotel Princess recommends ­ Don’t take transfers offered through cruise line, cheaper to take taxi and get there earlier ­ Don’t pack anything in your suitcase that could be affected by the sun as the bags spend a lot of time in direct sunlight at hotel and at the pier. Cruise Comments from both cruises ­ Muster Drill was very well organized and professionally done – took place at 4:30 on first day on Golden, and at 4:00 on first day for the Grand (I believe it was moved up an hour due to Superbowl Party). ­ Make sure you meet with your CruiseCritic friends, the first week we met at 4:00 pm in Explorer’s Lounge. Sue arranged to have a sign made up from the Purser’s Desk saying that there was going to be a CruiseCritic meeting there at 4:00 (thanks Sue). The second week we were to meet at 4:00 pm, but in the Wheelhouse Bar; however it interfered with our Muster Drill which was also at 4, but we met up with Joe and Linda right after. I would recommend the Explorer’s Lounge over the Wheelhouse as you can sit right beside the Promenade and it can accommodate a large group. ­ For both cruises we had booked and inside guarantee, for the first cruise on the Golden we were upgraded to the highest inside cabin (don’t think there is much difference) cabin B536. On the second cruise we were upgraded 15 categories to an outside cabin on Plaza deck P304. The cabins were very similar with minor differences. Outside cabin had a bigger bathroom, but less space on each side of the bed. It also had two upper berths, which we often hit when getting out of bed. Inside cabin had more closet space and more shelf space. Both cabins had a safe, about five shelves for shirts and t-shirts, closet with lots of hangers (wooden), bathroom with three vanity shelves for toiletries, shelf under sink, shower which was large enough that my butt wasn’t outside of shower if I dropped the soap and of course a toilet. Princess includes soap, body lotion, conditioner, and shampoo. The last three are in cardboard holders that you have to rip the ends off to get at. Well this was very difficult to do when you are in the shower, had to often resort to using my teeth (bad taste). After that we kept small nail scissors handy to open containers up. The bedroom had a desk with chair, three shelves on side of desk, three drawers in desk, fridge, t.v., lounge chair, and small coffee table, and two end tables with two drawers in each and a shelf. On each cruise we asked the room steward to remove the small table as we don’t need it and it only got in the way. The bedside lamps are great, there is a dimmer switch which came in handy when having to get up in the middle of the night. We found the rooms to be the right temperature, but you can easily change it with the thermostat on the wall. Terry Cloth robs are provided but you must ask, they’ve seen better days, but came in handy. Fruit is available on request all you have to do is fill out the card and your room steward will replenish. There were lots of mirrors in room, inside cabin had a mirror above bed where the window is on the outside cabin. Mirror above desk, and full length mirror in closet area. We really like our inside cabin, it was easy to make very dark if you wanted to nap, and it was very quiet, quieter than our outside cabin, but that depends where cabin is located. ­ Gym on board is a very good size but could be bigger. The equipment is the same on both ships; however we noted that there were more elliptical machines and treadmills on the Golden than on the Grand. There are free weights, weight machines, floor mats, exercise balls (Golden only had one, Grand had many), bicycles for spinning classes, stationary bikes, treadmills, elliptical machines, and stair climbers. Towels are provided and there is a fountain for water. The gym was very busy early in the morning and around 4 pm. We did notice that a lot of people came the first day or two and would try some of the machines for a minute or two then move on to another. There are change rooms for men and women with a shower. The steam room and sauna are located just outside beside the lap pool. We both found the gym to be rather warm, even though there was AC, fans would be a definite plus. I never sweated so much, but it could have been all those toxins from the food and alcohol coming out. Restaurants on Board We chose Personal Choice Dining and personally I would never go back to traditional dining. Because we met so many of our CruiseCritic friends we often went to eat with them and this was easy to do. The same menu is served in all dining rooms and the service is just as great too. When we did choose to eat on our own we would request a large table and met many nice people, and once we ate at a table of two and enjoyed a quiet evening. Yes there was the occasional wait for a table, but it was never long and only once were we told that it would take 15 minutes and sure enough it took only 15 minutes. There never seemed to be a wait for the dining room after 8 pm on the first cruise (we did note that there were a lot of older people who I assume ate earlier). On the second cruise the busiest time was 7:45 to 8:30, but after that no problem. Twice on the first cruise we walked into the dining room requesting a table of 8 and one time 10, but we were smart and didn’t attempt this until after 8. Horizon Court was beyond expectations, no it wasn’t the dining room; but the food was very good and plentiful. Since neither of us wanted to dress up this cruise we ate here on the formal nights, and so did many others. There are 10 stations with various foods at each. You just wander around to each station and grab what you want, if one station is busy you just go to another then return when there are fewer people. The menu at dinner usually comprised of similar items on the dining room menu. We found lobster, crab legs, scallops, shrimp, steak, pork, ham and much more. Breakfast is good here with lots of choices, there is even someone making toast so you are guaranteed hot toast. If you want an omelet made, just ask one of the toast makers and they will arrange it. There was a wide range of fruit, cereal, juice, muffins, eggs, bacon, ham etc. etc. Grill, Pizza, and Ice Cream Bar – we tried all of these at least one time during our two weeks. The hamburger/hotdog grill was great, they had various burgers, hotdogs, fries, onion rings and I never once encountered a line. The Pizza was good, but not what I am use to; however pizza varies so much just in one country, so there is no way to guarantee that everyone will like it. They had many different varieties, and you can have one made, but there was always pepperoni available. Ice Cream Bar, I have to get the comments from my husband as I didn’t eat here. He didn’t mind paying extra for the ice cream, and it was a special treat. On the first cruise there was never a lineup, but on the second there almost always was. It seem to hit the spot for him, but he was disappointed that they served a banana split in a cup. Don’t know if this is normal. Room service is great and always hot. If you request breakfast in your room you can order different juices, cereal, coffee, tea, muffins, bagels (don’t ask for toasted as it comes very dry), and fruit. You can put in a request for any other breakfast item like eggs, pancakes and they will deliver it. I heard from others that it came hot and I also heard that it was sometimes cold. Tipping room service, the first week we usually gave him $2. On the second week, the first day I went and got change at the Purser’s desk (20 one dollar bills) and he laughed saying were not in Mexico yet. When I said it was for room service he said that they are included in the $10 per person tip charge. After that we tipped only if he did something over and above, like feed us. Sabatinis and Painted/Desert Rose Restaurants -- We ate in both restaurants. Sabatinis charges $15 but personally I felt it was worth it. Make sure you go there hungry because the food never stops. They asked us if we wanted water and of course we said yes, and then in the end we noticed a bottle of water was charged to our bill. We didn’t eat there the second week because there was just way too much food and the meal is very long – ours was 3 hours! Painted Desert and Desert Rose, we ate here on both cruises. The cost is $8 but that price includes a Margarita or beer. It certainly doesn’t compare to true Tex Mex, but it was a nice alternative. We did notice that the food was not spicy at all except for the salsa, but that I am sure is because not too many people can tolerate spicy foods. The location of this restaurant is in an odd spot, people going to the Princess Theatre walk through the restaurant, but we didn’t really care. They also have live music that was very nice on both ships, and dancing. Entertainment ­ Casino – we visited the casinos on both ships. Neither of us is a big gambler. The casinos looked the same to me; I did notice a difference in some of the machines. According to Shelly, the Golden didn’t have his favorite machine that he fell in love with on the Grand. Comments from people on the ship were that it was very tight. ­ Evening Shows – we didn’t attend any of the their cabaret shows, but on the Golden they offered Lights Camera Action; Words and Music, for which we heard only great things about. The Golden had many comedians on board this cruise and we had a good laugh almost every night. A piano player that we had heard about on the message boards called Maurizio should not be missed and you always found a crowd around him. On the Grand they offered Lights, Camera Action; Gotta Sing Gotta Dance; and Rhythms of the City. There weren’t as many comedians on this ship; however we did get a good laugh from Kimika. The piano player on the Grand was David Moore and he was very funny and should not be missed either. Both cruises had Passenger Talent Show, Karaoke, Movie nights, Country Night, London Pub Night (hilarious), Tropical Island Night Deck Party, Dance Night, Family Feud, Newlywed and Not So Newlywed Gameshow, Liar’s Club, Comedy Shows, 50’s Rock and Roll Party, Golden also had a 70’s Night party. Needless to say there was so much to do in the evening. The Disco was out of this world, really, it felt like you weren’t even on the ship. It really didn’t pick up until 11 pm, but it certainly was open till the wee hours of the morning. Make sure you get there at least once on your trip. ­ Daytime activities – there is so much to do and we managed to do most of it sometime during our two weeks. We love trivia games and took part in many. On the second cruise we met a challenging team on the first day and the race was on to beat them each game, we didn’t even care what the prize was. At the end of it we came home with 4 umbrellas, 5 pens, 4 china mugs, 3 stainless steel travel mugs, 1 key chain all with Princess on it. Guess what the family is getting for Christmas. We also took part in the Scavenger Hunt on the Golden, now prepare yourself for this because it will consume you for the entire week, it is like a drug! We won a bottle of wine for this and some more umbrellas, but it sure made the week interesting, and fun. ­ Bingo and Horseracing – for Horseracing on the Golden it was a $2 bet (either in cash or with your cruise card) per horse per race. On the Grand it was much easier, you bought casino chips, they were $2 each or you could buy 12 for $20 (bonus chip), these charges could only go on your cruise card, they did not take cash; however if you won they paid you cash. Didn’t play bingo on the Golden, but on the Grand the cost was $20 for a package of cards, which consisted of five games and you had three cards for each game. If you didn’t buy the package it was $10 per game for three cards. Each game was different, with the last game always being a blackout. The prizes started at $100 and went up each game, $150, $200, $250 then $300 for the blackout if you didn’t get it in the required numbers called. ­ Voyage of Discovery – on both cruise there is a Voyage of Discovery where there are video games, air hockey etc. On the Golden the virtual ride was not working. You can buy a $20 card from a vending machine in the arcade room; however on both ships these machines were broken and you had to go to the purser’s desk and buy one. They did have an attendant in the arcade at times, but he did double duty in the Casino too. If you want to play you have to buy the $20 card, once that runs out you can add more too it in different denominations. Stores on board -- God forbid you should forget your toothbrush or any other item of necessity because they charge an arm and a leg for one in the store. I got a very bad cold on the second cruise and commented that a nice cup of Neo Citron type medicine would be good. In the store they have an individual serving packet for $2.89; instead I went to the bar and got a Hot Toddy drink for about the same price but the rum was better. I will comment favorably on the cost of perfume and alcohol in the onboard ships. We compared both with most of the ports and in every case except with one perfume did we note the ship’s price was either the same or cheaper. However the selection on board is minimal. We didn’t really buy anything else anywhere as with the exchange rate the costs was just too high for us Canadians. They did have sales on all kinds of items around the Atrium on T-shirts, watches, gold/silver by the inch, clothes, leather items, etc. Exchange rate for Canadians – our travel agent had commented to us that the price of the cruise was sold to us at a 1.45% exchange rate through Princess to encourage Canadian travelers. We weren’t sure what they would give us onboard but we figured lets try since the banks at that time were offering 1.61%. Once on board though they were quoting us 1.69%! Needless to say we waited till we got to port and change traveler’s cheques there. St. Thomas has a Scotia Bank right in town and in Grand Cayman, there is every imaginable bank. Alcohol Policy – As many of you are aware by now, Princess no longer allows you bring alcohol on board. At every port including Ft. Lauderdale they x-rayed your carry on baggage and took any alcohol away. They carefully tagged it and you receive it the last day of the cruise in your room. Note you can bring on wine and champagne to enjoy in your room or in the dining room (they do charge a corkage fee). One couple we met had trouble bringing wine on board in Ft. Lauderdale, they wanted to take it, but she quickly pointed out the sign saying you could bring on wine. They waved her through. They don’t check your checked bags though, or at least not carefully. We had bought a bottle of Baileys on our first cruise and packed it in our suitcase and we didn’t get questioned about it. Debarkation -- I can’t believe how smooth it goes, considering the numbers getting off. The night before you receive a document that clearly states what color you are and what order they will be calling people to the gangway. We had breakfast both cruise on the last day in the dining room; however the Horizon Court is available too. We carried our overnight bags to the dining room where we were able to place them to the side to keep them out of people’s way. This also gave our room steward more time to get the room made up for the next cruise. After breakfast we went to the Explorer’s Lounge and chatted with some of our new friends and waited for our color to be called. Both ships have two gangways and the process runs smoothly. On both cruises we noticed so many people crowding around the Atrium, sitting on the stairs, sitting on the floor… people, go make yourself comfortable, go sit in a lounge. Plus crowding around the gangways when it is not your turn only makes the process slower for those trying to get off. There was a US Customs form to fill out and hand over to the Customs agent, amazingly there were some people who didn’t have them filled out or didn’t have them. Make sure you have all your documents ready. Customs and Proof of Citizenship – We both have passports and wouldn’t travel without them. For Canadians it now costs $85 and it is good for five years. All you need to travel into the US and into the Caribbean is proof of citizenship. Make sure you have either a birth certificate or passport. On the last cruise we noticed a man in front of us that showed the agent his driver’s license and the agent said “that only proves to me you can drive” show me your birth certificate. He was directed to the side and questions. He was in there a while because we waited for a half hour for our ride and he still hadn’t come out. Another lady was off to the side crying (don’t know why) but they were checking her bags and asking her lots of questions. I don’t mean to scare people here, but if they ask for proof of citizenship they mean it. I am not going to talk about each port here, but each port is what we expected and more. We never took any Princess Excursions because that isn’t what we like to do. But heard good things from those who did, and if you have a problem, talk to the Tour Desk, in some cases they can correct the problem and perhaps offer a credit. Favorite Things ­ Loved the Promenade deck, you could walk entirely around the ship, or just sit and look out at the ocean. ­ Latte every day in the coffee bar; we did notice that they use a powdered chocolate mix for their iced coffee drinks, not our favorite but might be to someone else. ­ Beautiful flowers, and artwork everywhere. ­ Every crew member says hi when you walked by them ­ Participating in events, great way to meet people. Don’t be afraid to join people at their tables for meals or to make up a bigger team for trivia games. ­ On the Grand (perhaps also on the Golden but didn’t go there on formal nights) in the Horizon Court they had tea light candles in decorative holders. Was very pretty, also waiters served us coffee and water right at our table. ­ Princess now gives out a Log of the Cruise at the end which outlines what was in the ship’s log. On the first cruise I thought this was so cool and a great souvenir. My feelings were short lived though, on the second cruise I scanned over the log only to notice that it stated we left Costa Maya at 1755, we were scheduled to leave at 1730; however due to an accident on the main road a few of the tour buses were late and they didn’t even arrive at the pier until 1820, so the log is not really a log of our exact cruise but a standard for every cruise. I will keep it anyway. ­ Bernie’s eyeglass lense fell out of it’s frame one night. We called to the Purser’s Desk and they said to bring them down they would fix them. And they did! It was a little tricky and it took him about 15 minutes but he never gave up. The Purser’s Desk was wonderful on both trips and invaluable and not once did I see them loose their patience with any passengers. ­ Love the voice mail option on the phones. It was easy to phone our room or any of our friends and leave a message on where we were. Pet Peeves ­ People who saved seats for hours ­ Although smoking on either ship was not bothersome and 99% of the smokers smoke where they designated smokers, you still found the odd few that would go over to the bar get an ashtray and smoke beside you on deck even though you specifically went to the side of the ship for no smoking. ­ Why do people attend shows then talk all through them, and not even whispering ­ Not too many shows started on time, some as late at 20 minutes. Not sure why. ­ Photo display, they have this situated on the Promenade deck from the end of the Explorer Lounge to the Vista Lounge, when the displays are open and people are looking for their shots and paying for them it is almost impossible to walk through. ­ Not enough public washrooms (can only speak for the womens), in the evening I usually had to wait in line for a washroom. Outside the Vista Lounge there is only one washroom with one toilet? One night on the Golden none of the washrooms were working and all were closed, this was around 7:30 pm, wonder what everyone had eaten that day! Tips ­ Bring small scissors to open shampoo and conditioner packets ­ Keep shower curtain completely in shower, forgot once and there was a large puddle on floor when I came out ­ Bring some air freshener, trust me ­ Make sure you wear sunscreen, it is amazing how strong the sun is. We say too many people to count that were very badly sunburned and had to skip dinners/shows etc. Also remember to reapply sunscreen if you’ve been in the Jacuzzi, I had 30 on and sat in the Jacuzzi with a beer in one hand and I guess my other resting on my leg, because that night I had a very bad sunburn on my leg that was the outline of my hand. Needless to say people looked at my leg, then looked at Bernie, it looked like I was beaten with a whip… us crazy Canucks! Should have had a beer in each hand. ­ If you plan on doing laundry bring soap tabs, they sell them individually packaged for easy transport and not as messy as soap powder. Cruise line charges $1 for soap in individual boxes. Wash is $1 and drying is $.50 for 30 minutes. ­ We did the sailaway from Ft. Lauderdale on different sides each week. The Port side is better, don’t miss the people on shore waving and making noise. It left a smile on my face for the entire night. ­ Espresso drinks are free in the dining room with dinner, and surprisingly didn’t keep me up. ­ Make sure you buy insurance for your trip, on both cruises the walking wounded came out of the woodwork. We saw many people with new casts, crutches, bandages etc. The medical services on board are great from what we heard but can be expensive if you don’t have insurance. Comparisons Between Ships ­ Grand definitely is older, we noticed more rust, seats in the public area are more worn and often sagged in the middle, carpets have frayed spots, but these things are very minor and the ship overall looked fabulous. ­ Menus are exactly the same, even in the Horizon Court, we noticed the same salads etc. Did notice a few difference, the salad bar on the Grand didn’t have Feta cheese, and they didn’t have Bernie’s favorite cookies that he fell in love with on the Golden. ­ Florists are available on both ships; however on the Golden we only saw a table set up outside the stairwell on the third and fourth day. On the Grand he was set up in the Atrium on the first, second and third days. We ordered a bouquet of lilies for $15 and it was beautiful to look at every day in the room and the smell was out of this world. They still looked great the last day so I gave them to my favorite bartender at the coffee bar to enjoy. ­ On both ships they celebrate Anniversaries, Honeymoons, and Birthdays by decorating the doors. I did notice that the Golden does more here. They not only put balloons and a sign as the Grand did they also put up streamers. ­ The Grand has these comfortable chairs around the Atrium on deck 5 that have a sound system in the arm rest. Just plug in your earphones and choose from around 100 different artists. ­ On both ships there is a news flyer that is available at the Purser’s Desk. On the Golden there was news from either the US or Britain. However on the Grand each night we received in our room a news flyer with Canadian News. When we commented about this to one of the Pursers he thought that was interesting because on the Grand they don’t get news from the US, only Canada and Britain? ­ Cruise Directors – now we had Janet Edwards on the Golden and Graham Seymour on the Grand. Both did great jobs and both made us laugh till our sides hurt. Janet is very high strung, and Graham is very quirky. Each do a morning show, but I must say Janet and Frankie (assistant cruise director) did a 100% better with their show. Many took place in different spots all over the ship and they invited different people to talk. We heard from the gym staff, the spa staff, Sabittinis, Painted Desert, etc. etc. They also gave us a tour of the workings of the ship. We got to see the laundry room, florist, printers etc. Whereas Graham always did his show from his office and basically he read the Princess Patter. He did have some funny jokes. Janet/Frankie’s show was a half hour, and Graham’s was 10 minutes. Janet also did another show in the evening that was about 10 minutes long where she went over the evening’s events. I am not criticizing one over the other, and I really couldn’t pick my favorite but I know that if I had to spend an hour with Janet in a room I think I would of gone crazy – she has a lot of energy. ­ The Atrium area is different on each ship. On the Golden the open area looking down the three floors is bigger and the walking area around the Atrium is smaller which makes it more crowded. The Golden has two staircases in the Atrium, where the Grand only had one. The Grand has a nice waterfall on deck 5 in the Atrium. ­ The coffee bar on the Golden is on deck 5, we loved sitting at a table next to a window and looking out at the ocean; however on the Grand the coffee bar is on deck 7 and you look out at the Promenade Deck and people walking around. ­ The covered pool with a retractable roof on the Golden was never opened; but on the Grand it was opened every day. ­ There were a lot more older passengers on the Golden, don’t know why, maybe they prefer the Eastern Caribbean. Some of the older passengers made us laugh so hard, as they often had to yell for their spouse to hear them and the comments were too funny – “eat your prunes”, “come here, come here, come here!!!”, and the lovely way they still looked in each other’s eyes and held hands was priceless. Comments ­ In Costa Maya we were told by an assistant cruise director that two people from the RCL ship that in port with us missed their ship. Our Captain allowed them to come on board and sail with us to Cozumel where they would meet their ship. Wonder if they would of done this if it was a Carnival Ship. ­ Tender process was very smooth, never waited. ­ There were not many kids on either cruise, I would say more on the Grand, but certainly not noticeable. When we did see them they seemed to be having a great time. ­ The Captain on the Grand who is actually a Commodore, we could understand. Commodore Mike Moulin from Scotland was very friendly and had a good sense of humor. Captain Giuseppe Romano from Naples was very difficult to understand but very friendly and many crew commented on how great he is to work for. ­ The first day of our second cruise was the Super Bowl, Princess did an outstanding job presenting it. They showed the game in the Explorer’s Lounge as well as in the Vista Lounge and had finger foods, drink specials as well as a host of the event. Even though I didn’t attend I heard from others that it was a great fun. ­ There were about 20 passengers that were doing back-to-back cruises with us. Ironically we never met one of them on the first cruise, but after meeting most of them at the pier after the first cruise, we saw them a lot on the second cruise. We loved our cruises, and were glad we took back-to-back trips. After the first week we wanted more, but after the second week we were ready to go home. I think the next time though I will sail one week with Princess and another week with another line just to compare. Overall this cruise was a 9.9 out of 10. I am sorry this was so long, but there just seem to be so much to say. We had experienced no air conditioning in our cabin L256 balcony. The vents were making noise yet no air coming through. This was for a 7 day cruise. I use inhalers for asthma and used it to much to breathe. many complaints were lodged to the cabin steward and to the pursers office. No one there could have cared. Someone comes into our room at 7.30 a.m. while we were sleeping and asked if the air was any better. They claimed to have fixed the problem. No way was this corrected. Wrote a lengthy letter to princess main office in California. Awaiting their out come. Anyone who cares to email us we will tell you more. Princess will never see us again. Regards Michael & Geri

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Jan 26, 2002

Eastern Caribbean

Cruisers – myself (Vickie 36) and my husband (Bernie 46), this was my 5th and sixth cruise, having sailed 3 times with Carnival and once prior with Princess, this was my husband’s 2nd and 3rd cruise. We live in Vancouver, B.C. and we purchased the air through Princess, at a comparable price, and Princess included a night accommodation in Ft. Lauderdale prior to cruise. I am going to try and make this review a little different than others

I have read. I am not going to do a day to day breakdown of events, I am going to comment on what I saw, what I really liked, and what I thought could be improved. I am also going to compare the differences of the two cruises. Air Travel Booked air through Princess. Flight to Ft. Lauderdale was scheduled with Continental via Houston. Flights were on time, no surprises, and security was everything we had read prior on these boards. National Guard at airports in US was a surprise when I first saw but felt comfortable having them around, and understand why. Return trip was with Air Canada via Montreal. I was originally concerned with the connection in Montreal as it was only an hour and 20 minutes, and didn’t know if we would be able to clear customs, retag our bags, and get to the gate. When we checked in at Ft. Lauderdale on the day of departure, the Montreal flight was delayed and we were informed we would have to overnight in Montreal. Needless to say we did not have clothes for cold weather with us, so we asked about any other flights. The check in representative beside us said “route them via Toronto. We ended getting on the Toronto flight and then a connection there to Vancouver. We arrived home a half hour after our scheduled flight. Make sure you bring extra food as you will get hungry on the plane. Bring lots of water. Try not to sit in the back row, the smells from the washrooms can be interesting. Give yourself enough time, check in and security line ups were long. If you can fly in the day before and extend your trip by a day, much more relaxing. If you fly out of Ft. Lauderdale on a weekend, prepare for extra long line ups as many ships are sending passengers home on those days. Hotel In Ft. Lauderdale through Princess Included in our air package was a free nights accommodation at the Hilton Hotel near the airport. If you live West of the Rockies, Princess pays for this one night and includes transfers. They do offer this hotel in their pre-cruise package that you can purchase, which I believe is $119 Canadian per person. A Princess rep. met us at the airport and transported us plus two other couples to the Hilton. Note you must collect your baggage now and take it with you to the hotel. The bus ride was only five minutes and the driver was helpful with some information on what we could expect the next day in regards to meeting the Princess representative. The Hilton is an older hotel (guess about 30 years old), the lobby, bar and restaurant were very clean but seemed small for all the guests that were staying there. It took 15 minutes to get to the counter to check in, and checking out was even longer. Not only does Princess put their guests up here, there were also people from RCL as well. The room is a good size, we had two double beds, and a good size washroom. There was only one bath towel in the room, so we called housekeeping left a voice mail, after a half hour we called the front desk and asked for another towel. The towel arrived an hour after our first request when we were checking out. The sheets that covered the bed were too small, half way through the night I woke up to find myself sleeping on the mattress, the sheet had come off, the mattress pad had come off. I must note that I am a messy sleeper. We had been informed to have our bags outside our room at 10 am the morning of departure, and check out is 11 am; however a Princess Rep. is not scheduled to arrive until 12:30, and the bus is to arrive at 1:00. They placed all our bags, along with probably 200 other bags along the sidewalk around the driveway. This was a very hot day and we got tired of waiting around so we got our bags and took a taxi to the pier. Cost was $6 per person, arrived at the pier at 11:45 and were in our room at 12:15. The security line was long; however it moved fast and it was nice to chat with people in line. Book your own hotel, and not the Hotel Princess recommends Don’t take transfers offered through cruise line, cheaper to take taxi and get there earlier Don’t pack anything in your suitcase that could be affected by the sun as the bags spend a lot of time in direct sunlight at hotel and at the pier. Cruise Comments from both cruises Muster Drill was very well organized and professionally done – took place at 4:30 on first day on Golden, and at 4:00 on first day for the Grand (I believe it was moved up an hour due to Superbowl Party. Make sure you meet with your CruiseCritic friends, the first week we met at 4:00 pm in Explorer’s Lounge. Sue arranged to have a sign made up from the Purser’s Desk saying that there was going to be a CruiseCritic meeting there at 4:00 (thanks Sue). The second week we were to meet at 4:00 pm, but in the Wheelhouse Bar; however it interfered with our Muster Drill which was also at 4, but we met up with Joe and Linda right after. I would recommend the Explorer’s Lounge over the Wheelhouse as you can sit right beside the Promenade and it can accommodate a large group. For both cruises we had booked an inside guarantee, for the first cruise on the Golden we were upgraded to the highest inside cabin (don’t think there is much difference) cabin B536. On the second cruise we were upgraded 15 categories to an outside cabin on Plaza deck P304. The cabins were very similar with minor differences. Outside cabin had a bigger bathroom, but less space on each side of the bed. It also had two upper berths, which we often hit when getting out of bed. Inside cabin had more closet space and more shelf space. Both cabins had a safe, about five shelves for shirts and t-shirts, closet with lots of hangers (wooden), bathroom with three vanity shelves for toiletries, shelf under sink, shower which was large enough that my butt wasn’t outside of shower if I dropped the soap and of course a toilet. Princess includes soap, body lotion, conditioner, and shampoo. The last three are in cardboard holders that you have to rip the ends off to get at. Well this was very difficult to do when you are in the shower, had to often resort to using my teeth (bad taste). After that we kept small nail scissors handy to open containers up. The bedroom had a desk with chair, three shelves on side of desk, three drawers in desk, fridge, t.v., lounge chair, and small coffee table, and two end tables with two drawers in each and a shelf. On each cruise we asked the room steward to remove the small table as we don’t need it and it only got in the way. The bedside lamps are great, there is a dimmer switch which came in handy when having to get up in the middle of the night. We found the rooms to be the right temperature, but you can easily change it with the thermostat on the wall. Terry Cloth robs are provided but you must ask, they’ve seen better days, but came in handy. Fruit is available on request all you have to do is fill out the card and your room steward will replenish. There were lots of mirrors in room, inside cabin had a mirror above bed where the window is on the outside cabin. Mirror above desk, and full length mirror in closet area. We really like our inside cabin, it was easy to make very dark if you wanted to nap, and it was very quiet, quieter than our outside cabin, but that depends where cabin is located. Gym on board is a very good size but could be bigger. The equipment is the same on both ships; however we noted that there were more elliptical machines and treadmills on the Golden than on the Grand. There are free weights, weight machines, floor mats, exercise balls (Golden only had one, Grand had many), bicycles for spinning classes, stationary bikes, treadmills, elliptical machines, and stair climbers. Towels are provided and there is a fountain for water. The gym was very busy early in the morning and around 4 pm. We did notice that a lot of people came the first day or two and would try some of the machines for a minute or two then move on to another. There are change rooms for men and women with a shower. The steam room and sauna are located just outside beside the lap pool. We both found the gym to be rather warm, even though there was AC, fans would be a definite plus. I never sweated so much, but it could have been all those toxins from the food and alcohol coming out. Restaurants on Board We chose Personal Choice Dining and personally I would never go back to traditional dining. Because we met so many of our CruiseCritic friends we often went to eat with them and this was easy to do. The same menu is served in all dining rooms and the service is just as great too. When we did choose to eat on our own we would request a large table and met many nice people, and once we ate at a table of two and enjoyed a quiet evening. Yes there was the occasional wait for a table, but it was never long and only once were we told that it would take 15 minutes and sure enough it took only 15 minutes. There never seemed to be a wait for the dining room after 8 pm on the first cruise (we did note that there were a lot of older people who I assume ate earlier). On the second cruise the busiest time was 7:45 to 8:30, but after that no problem. Twice on the first cruise we walked into the dining room requesting a table of 8 and one time 10, but we were smart and didn’t attempt this until after 8. Horizon Court was beyond expectations, no it wasn’t the dining room; but the food was very good and plentiful. Since neither of us wanted to dress up this cruise we ate here on the formal nights, and so did many others. There are 10 stations with various foods at each. You just wander around to each station and grab what you want, if one station is busy you just go to another then return when there are fewer people. The menu at dinner usually comprised of similar items on the dining room menu. We found lobster, crab legs, scallops, shrimp, steak, pork, ham and much more. Breakfast is good here with lots of choices, there is even someone making toast so you are guaranteed hot toast. If you want an omelet made, just ask one of the toast makers and they will arrange it. There was a wide range of fruit, cereal, juice, muffins, eggs, bacon, ham etc. etc. Grill, Pizza, and Ice Cream Bar – we tried all of these at least one time during our two weeks. The hamburger/hotdog grill was great, they had various burgers, hotdogs, fries, onion rings and I never once encountered a line. The Pizza was good, but not what I am use to; however pizza varies so much just in one country, so there is no way to guarantee that everyone will like it. They had many different varieties, and you can have one made, but there was always pepperoni available. Ice Cream Bar, I have to get the comments from my husband as I didn’t eat here. He didn’t mind paying extra for the ice cream, and it was a special treat. On the first cruise there was never a lineup, but on the second there almost always was. It seem to hit the spot for him, but he was disappointed that they served a banana split in a cup. Don’t know if this is normal. Room service is great and always hot. If you request breakfast in your room you can order different juices, cereal, coffee, tea, muffins, bagels (don’t ask for toasted as it comes very dry), and fruit. You can put in a request for any other breakfast item like eggs, pancakes and they will deliver it. I heard from others that it came hot and I also heard that it was sometimes cold. Tipping room service, the first week we usually gave him $2. On the second week, the first day I went and got change at the Purser’s desk (20 one dollar bills) and he laughed saying were not in Mexico yet. When I said it was for room service he said that they are included in the $10 per person tip charge. After that we tipped only if he did something over and above, like feed us. Sabatini’s and Painted/Desert Rose Restaurants -- We ate in both restaurants. Sabatini’s charges $15 but personally I felt it was worth it. Make sure you go there hungry because the food never stops. They asked us if we wanted water and of course we said yes, and then in the end we noticed a bottle of water was charged to our bill. We didn’t eat there the second week because there was just way too much food and the meal is very long – ours was 3 hours! Painted Desert and Desert Rose, we ate here on both cruises. The cost is $8 but that price includes a Margarita or beer. It certainly doesn’t compare to true Tex Mex, but it was a nice alternative. We did notice that the food was not spicy at all except for the salsa, but that I am sure is because not too many people can tolerate spicy foods. The location of this restaurant is in an odd spot, people going to the Princess Theatre walk through the restaurant, but we didn’t really care. They also have live music that was very nice on both ships, and dancing. Entertainment Casino – we visited the casinos on both ships. Neither of us is a big gambler. The casinos looked the same to me; I did notice a difference in some of the machines. According to Shelly, the Golden didn’t have his favorite machine that he fell in love with on the Grand. Comments from people on the ship were that it was very tight. Evening Shows – we didn’t attend any of the their cabaret shows, but on the Golden they offered Lights Camera Action; Words and Music, for which we heard only great things about. The Golden had many comedians on board this cruise and we had a good laugh almost every night. A piano player that we had heard about on the message boards called Maurizio should not be missed and you always found a crowd around him. On the Grand they offered Lights, Camera Action; Gotta Sing Gotta Dance; and Rhythms of the City. There weren’t as many comedians on this ship; however we did get a good laugh from Kimika. The piano player on the Grand was David Moore and he was very funny and should not be missed either. Both cruises had Passenger Talent Show, Karaoke, Movie nights, Country Night, London Pub Night (hilarious), Tropical Island Night Deck Party, Dance Night, Family Feud, Newlywed and Not So Newlywed Gameshow, Liar’s Club, Comedy Shows, 50’s Rock and Roll Party, Golden also had a 70’s Night party. Needless to say there was so much to do in the evening. The Disco was out of this world, really, it felt like you weren’t even on the ship. It really didn’t pick up until 11 pm, but it certainly was open till the wee hours of the morning. Make sure you get there at least once on your trip. Daytime activities – there is so much to do and we managed to do most of it sometime during our two weeks. We love trivia games and took part in many. On the second cruise we met a challenging team on the first day and the race was on to beat them each game, we didn’t even care what the prize was. At the end of it we came home with 4 umbrellas, 5 pens, 4 china mugs, 3 stainless steel travel mugs, 1 key chain all with Princess on it. Guess what the family is getting for Christmas. We also took part in the Scavenger Hunt on the Golden, now prepare yourself for this because it will consume you for the entire week, it is like a drug! We won a bottle of wine for this and some more umbrellas, but it sure made the week interesting, and fun. Bingo and Horseracing – for Horseracing on the Golden it was a $2 bet (either in cash or with your cruise card) per horse per race. On the Grand it was much easier, you bought casino chips, they were $2 each or you could buy 12 for $20 (bonus chip), these charges could only go on your cruise card, they did not take cash; however if you won they paid you cash. Didn’t play bingo on the Golden, but on the Grand the cost was $20 for a package of cards, which consisted of five games and you had three cards for each game. If you didn’t buy the package it was $10 per game for three cards. Each game was different, with the last game always being a blackout. The prizes started at $100 and went up each game, $150, $200, $250 then $300 for the blackout if you didn’t get it in the required numbers called. Voyage of Discovery – on both cruise there is a Voyage of Discovery where there are video games, air hockey etc. On the Golden the virtual ride was not working. You can buy a $20 card from a vending machine in the arcade room; however on both ships these machines were broken and you had to go to the purser’s desk and buy one. They did have an attendant in the arcade at times, but he did double duty in the Casino too. If you want to play you have to buy the $20 card, once that runs out you can add more too it in different denominations. Stores on board -- God forbid you should forget your toothbrush or any other item of necessity because they charge an arm and a leg for one in the store. I got a very bad cold on the second cruise and commented that a nice cup of Neo Citron type medicine would be good. In the store they have an individual serving packet for $2.89; instead I went to the bar and got a Hot Toddy drink for about the same price but the rum was better. I will comment favorably on the cost of perfume and alcohol in the onboard ships. We compared both with most of the ports and in every case except with one perfume did we note the ship’s price was either the same or cheaper. However the selection on board is minimal. We didn’t really buy anything else anywhere as with the exchange rate the costs was just too high for us Canadians. They did have sales on all kinds of items around the Atrium on T-shirts, watches, gold/silver by the inch, clothes, leather items, etc. Exchange rate for Canadians – our travel agent had commented to us that the price of the cruise was sold to us at a 1.45% exchange rate through Princess to encourage Canadian travelers. We weren’t sure what they would give us onboard but we figured lets try since the banks at that time were offering 1.61%. Once on board though they were quoting us 1.69%! Needless to say we waited till we got to port and change traveler’s cheques there. St. Thomas has a Scotia Bank right in town and in Grand Cayman, there is every imaginable bank. Alcohol Policy – As many of you are aware by now, Princess no longer allows you bring alcohol on board. At every port including Ft. Lauderdale they x-rayed your carry on baggage and took any alcohol away. They carefully tagged it and you receive it the last day of the cruise in your room. Note you can bring on wine and champagne to enjoy in your room or in the dining room (they do charge a corkage fee). One couple we met had trouble bringing wine on board in Ft. Lauderdale, they wanted to take it, but she quickly pointed out the sign saying you could bring on wine. They waved her through. They don’t check your checked bags though, or at least not carefully. We had bought a bottle of Baileys on our first cruise and packed it in our suitcase and we didn’t get questioned about it. Debarkation -- I can’t believe how smooth it goes, considering the numbers getting off. The night before you receive a document that clearly states what color you are and what order they will be calling people to the gangway. We had breakfast both cruise on the last day in the dining room; however the Horizon Court is available too. We carried our overnight bags to the dining room where we were able to place them to the side to keep them out of people’s way. This also gave our room steward more time to get the room made up for the next cruise. After breakfast we went to the Explorer’s Lounge and chatted with some of our new friends and waited for our color to be called. Both ships have two gangways and the process runs smoothly. On both cruises we noticed so many people crowding around the Atrium, sitting on the stairs, sitting on the floor… people, go make yourself comfortable, go sit in a lounge. Plus crowding around the gangways when it is not your turn only makes the process slower for those trying to get off. There was a US Customs form to fill out and hand over to the Customs agent, amazingly there were some people who didn’t have them filled out or didn’t have them. Make sure you have all your documents ready. Customs and Proof of Citizenship – We both have passports and wouldn’t travel without them. For Canadians it now costs $85 and it is good for five years. All you need to travel into the US and into the Caribbean is proof of citizenship. Make sure you have either a birth certificate or passport. On the last cruise we noticed a man in front of us that showed the agent his driver’s license and the agent said “that only proves to me you can drive” show me your birth certificate. He was directed to the side and questions. He was in there a while because we waited for a half hour for our ride and he still hadn’t come out. Another lady was off to the side crying (don’t know why) but they were checking her bags and asking her lots of questions. I don’t mean to scare people here, but if they ask for proof of citizenship they mean it. I am not going to talk about each port here, but each port is what we expected and more. We never took any Princess Excursions because that isn’t what we like to do. But heard good things from those who did, and if you have a problem, talk to the Tour Desk, in some cases they can correct the problem and perhaps offer a credit. Favorite Things Loved the Promenade deck, you could walk entirely around the ship, or just sit and look out at the ocean. Latte every day in the coffee bar; we did notice that they use a powdered chocolate mix for their iced coffee drinks, not our favorite but might be to someone else. Beautiful flowers, and artwork everywhere. Every crew member says hi when you walked by them Participating in events, great way to meet people. Don’t be afraid to join people at their tables for meals or to make up a bigger team for trivia games. On the Grand (perhaps also on the Golden but didn’t go there on formal nights) in the Horizon Court they had tea light candles in decorative holders. Was very pretty, also waiters served us coffee and water right at our table. Princess now gives out a Log of the Cruise at the end which outlines what was in the ship’s log. On the first cruise I thought this was so cool and a great souvenir. My feelings were short lived though, on the second cruise I scanned over the log only to notice that it stated we left Costa Maya at 1755, we were scheduled to leave at 1730; however due to an accident on the main road a few of the tour buses were late and they didn’t even arrive at the pier until 1820, so the log is not really a log of our exact cruise but a standard for every cruise. I will keep it anyway. Bernie’s eyeglass lense fell out of it’s frame one night. We called to the Purser’s Desk and they said to bring them down they would fix them. And they did! It was a little tricky and it took him about 15 minutes but he never gave up. The Purser’s Desk was wonderful on both trips and invaluable and not once did I see them loose their patience with any passengers. Love the voice mail option on the phones. It was easy to phone our room or any of our friends and leave a message on where we were. Pet Peeves People who saved seats for hours Although smoking on either ship was not bothersome and 99% of the smokers smoke where they designated smokers, you still found the odd few that would go over to the bar get an ashtray and smoke beside you on deck even though you specifically went to the side of the ship for no smoking. Why do people attend shows then talk all through them, and not even whispering. Not too many shows started on time, some as late at 20 minutes. Not sure why. Photo display, they have this situated on the Promenade deck from the end of the Explorer Lounge to the Vista Lounge, when the displays are open and people are looking for their shots and paying for them it is almost impossible to walk through. Not enough public washrooms (can only speak for the women’s), in the evening I usually had to wait in line for a washroom. Outside the Vista Lounge there is only one washroom with one toilet? One night on the Golden none of the washrooms were working and all were closed, this was around 7:30 pm, wonder what everyone had eaten that day! Tips Bring small scissors to open shampoo and conditioner packets Keep shower curtain completely in shower, forgot once and there was a large puddle on floor when I came out Bring some air freshener, trust me Make sure you wear sunscreen, it is amazing how strong the sun is. We say too many people to count that were very badly sunburned and had to skip dinners/shows etc. Also remember to reapply sunscreen if you’ve been in the Jacuzzi, I had 30 on and sat in the Jacuzzi with a beer in one hand and I guess my other resting on my leg, because that night I had a very bad sunburn on my leg that was the outline of my hand. Needless to say people looked at my leg, then looked at Bernie, it looked like I was beaten with a whip… us crazy Canucks! Should have had a beer in each hand. ­ If you plan on doing laundry bring soap tabs, they sell them individually packaged for easy transport and not as messy as soap powder. Cruise line charges $1 for soap in individual boxes. Wash is $1 and drying is $.50 for 30 minutes. We did the sailaway from Ft. Lauderdale on different sides each week. The Port side is better, don’t miss the people on shore waving and making noise. It left a smile on my face for the entire night. Espresso drinks are free in the dining room with dinner, and surprisingly didn’t keep me up. Make sure you buy insurance for your trip, on both cruises the walking wounded came out of the woodwork. We saw many people with new casts, crutches, bandages etc. The medical services on board are great from what we heard but can be expensive if you don’t have insurance. Comparisons Between Ships Grand definitely is older, we noticed more rust, seats in the public area are more worn and often sagged in the middle, carpets have frayed spots, but these things are very minor and the ship overall looked fabulous. Menus are exactly the same, even in the Horizon Court, we noticed the same salads etc. Did notice a few difference, the salad bar on the Grand didn’t have Feta cheese, and they didn’t have Bernie’s favorite cookies that he fell in love with on the Golden. Florists are available on both ships; however on the Golden we only saw a table set up outside the stairwell on the third and fourth day. On the Grand he was set up in the Atrium on the first, second and third days. We ordered a bouquet of lilies for $15 and it was beautiful to look at every day in the room and the smell was out of this world. They still looked great the last day so I gave them to my favorite bartender at the coffee bar to enjoy. On both ships they celebrate Anniversaries, Honeymoons, and Birthdays by decorating the doors. I did notice that the Golden does more here. They not only put balloons and a sign as the Grand did they also put up streamers. The Grand has these comfortable chairs around the Atrium on deck 5 that have a sound system in the arm rest. Just plug in your earphones and choose from around 100 different artists. On both ships there is a news flyer that is available at the Purser’s Desk. On the Golden there was news from either the US or Britain. However on the Grand each night we received in our room a news flyer with Canadian News. When we commented about this to one of the Pursers he thought that was interesting because on the Grand they don’t get news from the US, only Canada and Britain? Cruise Directors – now we had Janet Edwards on the Golden and Graham Seymour on the Grand. Both did great jobs and both made us laugh till our sides hurt. Janet is very high strung, and Graham is very quirky. Each do a morning show, but I must say Janet and Frankie (assistant cruise director) did a 100% better with their show. Many took place in different spots all over the ship and they invited different people to talk. We heard from the gym staff, the spa staff, Sabatini’s, Painted Desert, etc. etc. They also gave us a tour of the workings of the ship. We got to see the laundry room, florist, printers etc. Whereas Graham always did his show from his office and basically he read the Princess Patter. He did have some funny jokes. Janet/Frankie’s show was a half hour, and Graham’s was 10 minutes. Janet also did another show in the evening that was about 10 minutes long where she went over the evening’s events. I am not criticizing one over the other, and I really couldn’t pick my favorite but I know that if I had to spend an hour with Janet in a room I think I would of gone crazy – she has a lot of energy. The Atrium area is different on each ship. On the Golden the open area looking down the three floors is bigger and the walking area around the Atrium is smaller which makes it more crowded. The Golden has two staircases in the Atrium, where the Grand only had one. The Grand has a nice waterfall on deck 5 in the Atrium. The coffee bar on the Golden is on deck 5, we loved sitting at a table next to a window and looking out at the ocean; however on the Grand the coffee bar is on deck 7 and you look out at the Promenade Deck and people walking around. The covered pool with a retractable roof on the Golden was never opened; but on the Grand it was opened every day. There were a lot more older passengers on the Golden, don’t know why, maybe they prefer the Eastern Caribbean. Some of the older passengers made us laugh so hard, as they often had to yell for their spouse to hear them and the comments were too funny – “eat your prunes”, “come here, come here, come here!!!”, and the lovely way they still looked in each other’s eyes and held hands was priceless. Comments In Costa Maya we were told by an assistant cruise director that two people from the RCL ship that in port with us missed their ship. Our Captain allowed them to come on board and sail with us to Cozumel where they would meet their ship. Wonder if they would of done this if it was a Carnival Ship. Tender process was very smooth, never waited. There were not many kids on either cruise, I would say more on the Grand, but certainly not noticeable. When we did see them they seemed to be having a great time. The Captain on the Grand who is actually a Commodore, we could understand. Commodore Mike Moulin from Scotland was very friendly and had a good sense of humor. Captain Giuseppe Romano from Naples was very difficult to understand but very friendly and many crew commented on how great he is to work for. The first day of our second cruise was the Super Bowl, Princess did an outstanding job presenting it. They showed the game in the Explorer’s Lounge as well as in the Vista Lounge and had finger foods, drink specials as well as a host of the event. Even though I didn’t attend I heard from others that it was a great fun. There were about 20 passengers that were doing back-to-back cruises with us. Ironically we never met one of them on the first cruise, but after meeting most of them at the pier after the first cruise, we saw them a lot on the second cruise. We loved our cruises, and were glad we took back-to-back trips. After the first week we wanted more, but after the second week we were ready to go home. I think the next time though I will sail one week with Princess and another week with another line just to compare. Overall this cruise was a 9.9 out of 10. I am sorry this was so long, but there just seem to be so much to say.

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Jan 5, 2002

Eastern Caribbean

We arrived at the debarkation port of Ft Lauderdale a day early. Highly recommended if weather is a worry. We stayed at the Comfort Suites near the cruise port. Great choice – reasonable rates and the included breakfast, which featured make-your-own waffles, was filling. Their shuttle service from the airport to the hotel, and hotel to the cruise port, worked well. Just remember to sign up for the available slots to the cruise port since the

van only holds 10 people at a time. But cab fare is only about $5 because the hotel is so close. We had friends stay at the Ramada Inn. Bad choice – not professionally run or kept up and their shuttle was a disaster. Embarkation - A breeze, especially if you fill out the paperwork beforehand using Princess’s Internet site. We were on the boat before noon. Let the feasting begin. But first - the cruise director was Alistair Greener. Not the best we have encountered, but not bad, a very nice guy. He also grows on you – the more you see him, the more you like him. However, this was his last cruise before taking a 2-month vacation. He will return to the Golden and again team up with his side-kick Frankie (the assistant cruise director) for their two-a-day “Big G TV” show. It’s a fun show, and it’s somewhat interactive. You can participate by writing to them, answering quizzes and challenges for prizes, and they will read whatever you put down on paper. Alistair will be leaving the Golden for the new Star Princess when it is launched. This was our second cruise with Frankie. He remembered us and always stopped to talk to us, a nice touch. It’s almost worth booking a cruise based on who the cruise director personnel are. The entertainment – The shows put on by the ship’s crew were outstanding. The talent brought aboard were a different story. Other than Rick Starr, a comedian, the “professional” entertainers were of the Catskills talent level. There were plenty of bars and music on this ship, and for those who wanted to exercise their intellect also, lots of trivia and group games for prizes such as coffee mugs and umbrellas. If you’re smart, carry an extra handbag to carry these home in. The Pub Night show is a must see. Non-stop laughing. However, the passenger talent show on the last night which is usually hilarious was a dud because only three people (singers) signed up. Everybody else was probably off the ship on Princess Cays when auditions were held. The food – The dinners were good, reminiscent of good hotel fare. Our waitress was only too eager to bring seconds and thirds of any course you desired. The water glasses were kept full. Any request was filled within 15 seconds. Even though we chose Personal Choice seating, we ended up eating at 8:30 PM each evening, and had the same wait staff since we asked to be seated at their station. I think next time we will opt for the traditional late seating. That seems to meet our requirements for relaxing before dinner. It also gives you room for those afternoon snacks of pizza, or pasta from the buffet line. Princess has great pasta. Anyway, I hope the service will be as good in traditional seating as it was in Personal Choice seating for us. Note, if you opt for Personal Choice seating and want to have the same personal service as if you were in traditional seating, it is up to you to engage the wait staff in friendly banter. This will make your dinners more than just “dinner out.” Our waitress and assistant were Georgeta and Dumitri in the 5th floor Bernini dining room. Ask for them if you can. Part of our group tried someone else’s station one night, a real bad decision they said. As far as breakfast goes (not very, looking at the lunchtime crowds), eat at the Horizon Court buffet. Breakfast in the main dining room is not a fun experience nor is the food very good. I mean the buffet had lox omelets that were 10 times better than the dining room’s. Now the Horizon Court Buffet is constantly slammed in reviews about how it’s lines (or it’s patrons) are disorganized when trying to retrieve food. I’m here to tell you it’s true and I loved every minute of it. Would you rather queue up for 20 minutes while waiting for the “Florida crowd” to decide on each and every food item that was being offered (more on lines later) or would you prefer to just grab and run. As disorganized as it might seem, I saw nobody complaining and everyone was able to get what they wanted, when they wanted it. This planned (I hope) disorganization was just what a large ship needs to get ‘em in and get ‘em out. We had dinner one night at Sabatini’s, the alternate dining Italian café. Well, the food is not any better than the regular dining room. They also give you too many courses so that by the time you reach your entrée, you are too full to enjoy it. And the staff are not solicitous by any means. It was not friendly service. Wait there’s more. Not only do you have to fork over $15 per head for this, but they expect a tip beyond that. To be fair, we talked to other passengers who said it was so good, they are going back again. However, nine out of ten of our group said don’t bother. High Tea – Which reminds me, we had one night of whistling wind and high seas, but nothing to cause us to fall over, just gentle rocking. Anyway, I recommend High Tea. Great scones and pastries. Look, it’s free, okay. And speaking of free, the Laundry Facilities aren’t. The Sun and Dawn Princess ships had free washers and dryers, at least when we were on them. The Golden does not. However, the washer is only a dollar (4 quarters) and the dryer is only 50 cents. Be careful if you get change from the change machine in the laundry room. Check to see if you received any Princess gambling tokens instead of real quarters. You will be hard pressed (no pun intended) to tell the difference, as it was, obviously, for the change machine mechanic. Beverages – Back to food. You can now get a soft drink “card” for $17.75 for unlimited soft drinks. They have removed the free liquor from the mini-suites. You can no longer take liquor you have bought on board back to your room. Princess is going all out in reducing room rates following recent events (that’s how we got a mini-suite for less than a Carib deck outside cabin with balcony) and in doing so has tried to make up the difference by selling more “popcorn.” During our snorkel adventure, I was waiting for a fish to come up to me and ask if I wanted something from the sand-bar. Ice Cream – Back to food (It’s on the pyramid somewhere). More nickel and dime-ing with the Haagen Daz ice cream shop? Maybe, but you can get as much ice cream as you want at dinner and lunch in the dining rooms. And this ice cream is freshly made on the ship and it’s good. So quit complaining. Exercise – What’s this doing here? For those who want to exercise more than their elbows, my wife says the exercise programs (like yoga) and the gym were good. Just walking around the promenade desk was not half bad. I think 3 complete laps make a mile. We did enjoy ballroom dancing in the Wheelhouse Bar, great band and “standard” type music. For good funky music and a great view (day and night), try the Skywalkers lounge, but bring your own oxygen – you’ll see what I mean. The Room – Our mini-suite had more than enough space for all our stuff. We actually had empty drawers and shelves. The standard staterooms that some of our group had were adequate. I particularly enjoyed the tub-shower, having remembered what it was like to use the phone booth size showers of the standard stateroom. The sitting area with couch is great for entertaining. The mini-suite is easy to get spoiled over. There has been a lot of talk about the balconies on the Grand class ships. Ours was exposed, so what. We didn’t feel like we were being spied on at all. It was also plenty large for what it is used for which really wasn’t that much despite our intentions. My wife, Debbie, though, enjoyed breakfast on the balcony and sitting out there in the late afternoon. For me, it was just more convenient eating room service food inside the room. The big plus of having a balcony is all the glass, your window to the outside world. Balconies were great in Alaska, but in the Caribbean, not that useful. The Pools – My preference was the indoor pool area on deck 14 which is identical to the outdoor area just forward of it, except for the retractable dome of course. The domed pool was more comfortable for me temperature-wise and quieter. This area is where the pizza and burgers stands, and Horizon Court buffet, and bars are located so it was very convenient for meeting our goal of staying stuffed. By the way, you can add “and bars” to any location description on this ship and probably be correct. I’ll bet they have a bar next to the Friends of Bill W. meeting room, seriously. Land tours – We took the 5-star snorkel trip to St. John’s Trunk bay. That’s 3 hours of boat trip with 1 and ½ hours of snorkeling. Actually, that’s plenty, there’s not that much to see. But the water was great and the beach was nice. The only free refreshment they served on the boat was punch, with or without rum. This trip does not hold a candle to Hawaiian snorkel excursions but that’s another story. On St. Maarten, we hired our own tour bus. This way we got to tour the island and spend time at Orient Beach (where else!). It’s a great beach, and I don’t mean because it can be clothing optional. Having said that, seeing people naked on the beach is really not that titillating, sometimes, quite the opposite. Princess’s own island in the Bahamas was a pleasant surprise. The tour staff on the boat kept telling us it was 60 degrees in the water. This seemed plausible for January in the Bahamas. This turned out not to be true however and also caused us to leave late for the island. I mean, what was the point of going. When we got there, we went to the right like all the other reviews said. It was deserted, for good reason. The entertainment was to the left, the food was to the left, the chairs were to the left. The reviews were correct about the chairs and the shade though – if you want them, go early. The burgers at the food hut were good, but the corn was soggy, way soggy. Oh yes, the water was warm enough to be fully immersed and not get chilled when exiting. Not as warm as the Caribbean, but warm enough – so don’t ask, just go. Well this is “the later” I mentioned earlier. The lunch lines at the BBQ buffet grill on Princess Cays are agonizing. You cannot hit and run but must stand and wait while some of your fellow travelers make retirement projects out of finger food. But maybe I can help here. There are four lines but they are not equal. The food stations are staggered so that lines 2 and 4 are closer to the front than lines 1 and 3. So while all the lines seem to be equal from the outside, lines 2 and 4 are actually quite a bit closer to the booty. Disembarkation – Don’t believe the stories you’ve read, it went very well. The only hard part was finding your luggage, since everyone now seems to have the same style luggage, but it was nothing to get upset over. The whole process was fast enough even for type A personalities. Conclusion – Princess has a nice mix of passengers, of all ages. The staff and amenities were up to the standard you would expect on a cruise ship. If any one in our group complained about something, we just accepted it as part of our entertainment, albeit from a passenger instead of the crew. No one on our trip said they would not go again on a Princess cruise.

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Dec 8, 2001

Eastern Caribbean

After much research and trying to fit everyone’s budget and lifestyle I came up with the Golden Princess and an Eastern Caribbean sailing. The Golden worked well for everyone value wise, it offered personal choice dining, and the reviews from other passengers looked favorable. I was a little apprehensive about another Princess cruise so close to our last. Summary: For all of you who don’t want to wade through my babblings.

Here are my grades for the cruise. Staff: B+ Embarkation: A- Stateroom: A Personal Choice: B The Food: B+ Entertainment: B Disembarkation: A Oh the Carpet: C- J Pre Cruise: We arrived in Ft Lauderdale the night before and stayed at the Marriott Marina courtesy of a great deal on Priceline. We enjoyed a quick bite at the hotel’s bar and went off to bed. The next morning we awoke to a view of the Golden Princess. We had a nice breakfast, a walk around the grounds and headed off to the pier. Embarkation: Mistake number one: Don’t arrive too early. We were at the pier at about 11:15am and there we already a hundred or so passengers waiting to get on the ship. No big deal. We all were boarded in about 15 minutes. I talked with others who arrived after 12:30pm and they said there was no wait and they just walked on the ship. First Impressions: I have seen many pictures of the Golden on the net and was pretty familiar with the set up. However, I was impressed with the atrium. Beautiful mosaic tiles, wonderful metal work on the elevator shafts, and the very nice curving staircases. All the finishes looked first rate. Our Stateroom: We booked a mini-suite on the Dolphin deck. I am very glad we did. The stateroom was a perfect size. Nice bathroom with a tub, quality fixtures, cute mosaic tile and lots of storage. I did avail myself to a bath one day. Good size, even for my 6’ 1” body. The sleeping area is a nice size with a desk, two side tables with dimming lights (loved those dimmers). The sitting area had a decent sofa, nice coffee table and a side chair. The sitting and sleeping area share a built-in that accommodates two televisions and the refrigerator and lots of counter space… I guess this is where the bar USED to be before Princess eliminated this amenity. The balcony was a treat. Two reclining chairs and a small bistro set for dining. Cheap plastic, but hey, it worked. Balconies on this floor are completely exposed to the Caribbe, Baja and Aloha decks above. This really never bothered me and I noticed that not a lot of people used their balconies for any extended period of time. Wonder why? It was nice to look directly down at the water and look up at the stars at night. The stateroom was nice to space to entertain as well. We usually all met before dinner to share a drink and chat. Our cabin steward, Angelo was great. Extremely professional. We never saw the guy. The stateroom was always kept in great shape with lots of new towels! He also did the best birthday decorations of any cabin steward on the ship. Three balloons, streamers and a nice birthday sign for John. Good job, Angelo. The Surprise: As John was getting settled in our stateroom, little by little his friends came by to surprise him. And he was surprised. I’m glad we were able to pull this off! Along with me and John, were Alex, Eric, Bill, Mark and the other John. A nice group of seven. We all did what we wanted during the day but always met for dinner. Everyone seemed to find something to fill their day. Here’s to Princess for having a ship that caters to so many different personalities. The Many have commented on the ship and its public areas. Just a few comments from me. I found the public areas to be very nice, but bland. I think all of us were impressed. The highlight was the atrium and pool areas. The two large pools were very nice, good size. Beautiful tile work. The spa pool was very enjoyable. The swim against the current feature was a great feature. That pool was adjacent to the gym (good variety of equipment) and the men and women’s sauna and steam rooms. The pool and whirlpools located on the aft of the ship were a nice quiet area. An oversized chess set was nearby as well. There were quality loungers in the Calypso pool area. Not much teak deck spaces on this ship. After much searching we found the Princess Links golf course, very cute. The Promenade deck had ‘simulated’ teak. The promenade deck was a nice walking space except for the aft portion. Very small space to walk around. This seemed like an after thought. The bars and lounges were ok, but nothing that had a ‘wow’ factor. I was not really impressed with any of the artwork in these spaces… Most of the art seemed kind of amateurish. The Princess Theater was impressive and had a quality sound system. It was always a popular room. Skywalker’s (the ‘disco’ located in the spoiler of the ship) was a fun space. The moving walkway to the entrance added to the excitement. The disco offered lots of unique sitting areas and a very creative interior design. The Vista Lounge was ok, but many columns affected the site lines. I played some bingo there and that’s about it. The library offered an excellent variety of books. The stores along the atrium offered your basic cruise clothing, jewels, and cologne. Stores were very nicely furnished and had an upscale feel. The dining rooms were virtually identical single story spaces. Tables were nicely spread out and the dining rooms never seemed too loud. The Carpet: Why do I even mention it? I just found it strange that the carpet really never matched the tile. The tile work, be it marble or mosaics, just clashed with the strange patterned color carpets. I think the interior design team went to sleep during this phase of the project. No big deal, but the ship would look so much better if some attention was given to coordination. It’s just something that needled at me. Personal Choice and the Food We opted for Princess’ Personal Choice Dining. The first night, I said I’d never do this again! The concept is that you can choose when and where you want to eat from 5:30 to 10pm. Well all seven of us decide to eat around 7:30pm. We arrive at the Donnatello dining room to find herds of people waiting… sitting on the floor and cluttering the entrance. We asked for a table for 7 and are told it will be a 45-minute wait. Oh my. I requested the same size table in the Bernini dining room and I was told the same thing. The Maitre D’ looked very frazzle along with all the passengers. We finally get our table and our waiter, if you want to call him that, is not to be seen. When he finally shows up, he greets us and says things are a little unorganized tonight, but we will get to you. OK. No water, no menus, no nothing for 15 minutes. Finally a menu. Then our table mate Mark, remarks to the waiter that he looks just like Doogie Houser. We all agree and the waiter is not that pleased. I don’t think he was turned off by the comment, I just think he was a lousy waiter. Suffice it to say we did not have an enjoyable first dinner. I wrote down a name of waitress that a fellow Golden Princess reviewer, Jeff Coud, had on his cruise [thank God] and asked if we could make a reservation in her section. The Maitre D’ said fine, but only at 6:30pm or 9pm… 9 just seemed too late and 6:30 way too early. We opted for 6:30 just this once to see if the service would be any better. We were very happy. Great service. What you would expect. Esther, from Mexico was terrific. Alex, one of our gang, enjoyed speaking Spanish with her each evening. We convinced the Maitre D’ to give us a table in her section for the rest of the cruise at 8pm. That worked out fine. A wait staff can make your cruise, or ruin it. The food was very good, not awesome. We all thought the fish was a little dry and the beef was not up to par. Soups were wonderful. I found all the pasta dishes to be excellent. ( I had a taste of each one) We all agreed the lobster was the best. The desserts were very good as well. No problem getting a steak knife, or extra spoon. And the ice cream was never melted! Stay away from the Brandy Alexander Pie. Three of us had it and we all ‘hated it’! No taste. Remember to order a cappuccino or a mocha. They are great. A general comment about Personal Choice on this voyage: Arriving to dinner each night we would see lots of people waiting for a table. I mean lots. And these people didn’t seem all that happy. Personal choice worked for us, but when I chatted with others, they weren’t all that happy. My suggestion is make a reservation for a table early on in your voyage and don’t assume you can walk into the dining room and get a table when you want it. We ate breakfast most days in our stateroom. Remember to write in anything you don’t see on the menu. The omelets and pancakes were very tasty. Lunch was usually pizza or something from the Horizon Court buffet. Buffet food was good. But I found that area to be crowded almost always and a lot of rude people pushing and shoving to get their food. We all ate one night at the Desert Rose, a Princess alternative restaurant. For $8 a head you get a great Tex-Mex meal and a quality margarita. These were good. We had a great waiter and a good country band doing their thing. We thoroughly enjoyed this experience. We did Sabatini’s (The Italian alternative restaurant) for brunch one day. For $15 a head you get all the champagne you wanted and great buffet of sushi (Italian??), cold shrimp, crab legs, smoke fish and cheeses, plus an egg dish, a salad dish, a main course, and dessert. It was good food. But, based on all the great comments I’ve heard about Sabatini’s, I was a bit under whelmed. It was nice, but not all that memorable. Dinner probably would have been a better choice. The Passengers Let me just say I was surprised how crowded the ship was. I heard it was sold out (2700 +). Many have commented on how well the ship handles the capacity. Well I found all the sun areas of the ship extremely crowded. There really wasn’t an area to escape and be quiet. This wasn’t a cruise designed for the quiet crowd. I did find a space here and there to relax, but it just seemed so much more crowded compared to other ships I’ve sailed. Maybe it was the itinerary or the great weather, but it seemed all 2700 passengers were always up top. Thank goodness for our balcony… It was a great retreat. My other traveling mates loved the crowds and really got into the activities and met tons of new cruise friends. The Staff The cruise director, Alastair and assistant director, Frankie were terrific. They did this morning TV show called “Big G TV”.  It was so campy.  Not to be missed. Alastair is from the British Isles and Frankie is from Hershey, Penn. What a combination. They read letters, went over the Princess Patter, lip-synced songs and just made you laugh. The Purser’s Desk personnel were friendly and professional. No bad comments about the staff. First rate. Entertainment: We saw a few shows. “Lights, Camera, Action’ was horrible. We all ‘Hated it’, Well not quite, John tells me he liked it. The Broadway montage was much better. Karaoke was fun, but that depends on the passengers. We didn’t see the comedian. All you Maurizio fans out there, we enjoyed his tunes in the Atrium. This was his last cruise. Don’t know when he’ll be back. The Ports of Call: (summarized version!) St Martin: Rented a Jeep, saw the beaches, saw a dead guy (that’s another story), had a great French lunch. St Thomas: Went over to St John on the ferry. Explored the beaches and the small, cute town. St John is a gem. Wish we had more time. We took the ferry back into town shopped a bit. Princess Cays: Very nice island. I was very impressed. It didn’t appear to have too much hurricane damage. Lots to do. Beautiful day. Disembarkation Leaving the ship was a breeze. Everyone was gone by 9am or so. Princess really excels at this. Conclusion: I hope you can tell that we all had a great time on the Golden Princess. For what we all paid for our cruise, it was a tremendous value. No trip is perfect and nothing will satisfy your every need. Princess puts out a quality product. I really saw no significant cost cutting or cheapening of the cruise experience. For me, too much Princess for now. Time to try some other line. I would recommend this ship, but my lasting impression was how crowded it seemed. Maybe it’s just me, but there seemed to be too many people on board.

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By Rob _CR

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Dec 8, 2001

Eastern Caribbean

We were with Princess for the whole package, from UK - door to door. Domestic flights from Newcastle to London, overnighting at the LaMerridian Gatwick, onward next day with Virgin to Orlando, 3 nights in the Hyatt, Kissm, then transfer by coach to Ft Laud. to embark Golden Princess. Then a day in Miami/Ft. Laud. prior to overnight flight home, with a 10 hour transatlantic, then 7 hours stop-over in Gatwick before our domestic North to NCL - the

travel home was a nightmare - JET LAG. The Princess package was fine, while we paid well in advance, then later found the price for our AD mini suite well reduced on-line at Travelocity - £1562 down to £659 [cruise only], we were happy to get the cabin we specified etc, so while last minute price reductions do hurt to see, there are risks with them I guess too. We got all the travel vouchers for all the transfers/hotels etc, and everything was fine and no delays. My party was of 10, 5 adults and 5 kids. I have 3 kids; 1x3, 1x9, 1x14. Grandparents came along in a E cabin and a family friend and their two kids in a DD. The kids loved the Virgin seat back tv's and fun packs - Brnson does a good offer - though his flight attendants look sooo young - I really wonder how they would cope in an emergency - I have always flown BA who employ more mature crew. Not impressed with food on flight and no choice for kids, not even to take an adult meal - not even a sandwich or bag of crisps [chips]. The Hyatt in Kissim. is a great hotel, excellent for families with optional extra Parlor rooms attached - I took one at an extra $75 a night - well worth having the Murphey and sofa bed plus 2nd bathroom, and space, these connecting to grandparents room, so 3 rooms in all - all connecting - kids loved this. Pool right outside window, well spaced out with 5 pools surrounded by low level accommodations. Room service expensive but good quality. Food market available for late snakes and hot food or full restaurant. I would recommend this hotel for a family going to WDW - ask for Pool view room though or you may get a parking lot view. Transfer to Ft. Laud. was 4 hours, but only our group of 10 on coach -so real nice. Arrived port to see many ships, Golden towering over them all - easy embarkation - no wait - only 2 in line in front of us. Princess need to get the declaration form for the island in the pre-cruise docs though, as EVERYONE was having to complete this doc in the embarkation hall - a real pain. Onboard within 20 minutes, tight security slowed it up, but still well organised and smooth. Really MISSED not having help with carry-ons, asked 3 crew to help -no-one agreed- just pointed us on. Carried my tired 3 year old and 3 carryon's to the cabin. The AD's are WELL WORTH the extra. to have a full bath, a sofa bed, a 5th pull down birth and the twins [so could sleep 5] was excellent - can't find the 'sleep 5' info on any UK or US brochure for Golden - this info would help large families !! The balcony is cool, with blue glass barrier, so no incentive for kids to climb on chair, as they can see out without. Wished we'd taken adjacent rooms as the balcony divider can be removed/folded back, if requested - would have been great fun. We were in E720, this side of the ship on Eastern C route is IN SHADE - may be important to you, so check this out. The AD balconies are NOT looked down on from above - 100% private, some upper balconies are either 50% or 100% viewed from above !! Note- cabins at rear suffer badly from side thrusters, every morning at port/s, while docking –this wakes you by SHAKING you awake, and continues for an hour, at 6am. Same for tender days. The early morning customs call for the island was a real pain, even if you planned to stay onboard you had to be up and out, and wait for 2 hours, from 7am to see customers onboard. Surely with their computerised cards they could just block your card out, so if you didn't show, you were denied disembarkation at the islands. This would keep these pax happy and reduce the numbers having to see the sole customs officer. The Golden Princess is beautiful. I, and my late wife had been on QE2 the year before - no comparison - while QE2 has style and romance -the Golden is just stunning and soo much bigger and up to date. The kids adored the kids club and arcade, the pools and the hot tubs. The public areas of this ship are very smart - 5 stars all the way, and no crowds. The only time you saw a crowd is when a show closed and everyone walked along deck 7 to other areas. Elevators are slow, but hey, we all needed to walk off that mountain of food anyways - SO WALK. With the kids I opted to eat 100% in the horizon court - excellent, but did repeat sometimes and if you ate late early for lunch you would find the exact SAME food still on offer until 6.30pm. Once this planned into the day the food was excellent, choices and presentation could only be faulted by the sort of people who will complain about everything and anything - you know the sort that goes on vacation planning to moan and try and get refunds. Entertainment was mixed. I walked out of some of the comedian shows, others were excellent. I hated the British entertainment director- he intro the shows trying to be funny and in my opinion he was not - I was embarrassed to be British !! The Port presenter went ON AND ON about shopping, hardly any info about the ports themselves - I guess it is all down to 'back handers' Our cabin steward was 1st trip on Golden, had come from Sea P. so I guess an advance for him. I was sure he would work for his $120 tip, as I know how messy my kids are !!. He was great. I left him the complimentary champagne [$25] as I do not drink. St Maarten is nice, but DO take the water taxi, as the walk is on a fast road with narrow sidewalk - not safe nor pleasant. Beautiful weather and nice beach at port. As our 1st 'real' cruise I stayed close to ship - no tours taken. Rained all day in St Thomas. Shops - lots but just tourist tat. perhaps better inland ? Princess Cays beautiful - GO RIGHT at dock -this is quiet -perhaps only 10 people all day - a private beach to yourself. Go left -for activities, beds, BBQ, noise, kids centre, shops. 10 minute walk between the two. Disembarkation fine - even though flight was 6pm we were called at 9.20, and on coach by 9.30. Golden is beautiful - just wish they had her on a AT SEA option. Any Q's just e-mail Rob

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Nov 24, 2001

Eastern Caribbean

The front or bow of the ship looks like the nose of a dolphin and the rear or stern has a giant tailfin that holds the disco in the sky called Skywalker’s. The part of the ship that from a distance looks like the mouth of a dolphin is actually a covered walkway that goes all the way around the front. There’s something special about being able to lean over the rail at the foremost point of the ship and let the breeze blow thru your hair …

well … I’m almost bald but you get the idea. To get to the walkway you’ll need to go to deck seven which is the Promenade Deck. Next, go outside then walk forward to some stairs that lead up to the next level. The inside of the ship is not as appealing to me as the outside because I’ll admit there are others that are prettier. The colors on the Golden Princess seem to be a little subdued which makes it more elegant but I personally prefer brighter colors and bold designs. Our stateroom was very nice and had plenty of room. We would have preferred a balcony room but couldn’t afford it at the time. We settled for an outside room with a large window. We seldom looked out the window so we should have saved the money and went with an inside room. If you prefer a very dark room while sleeping you should choose an inside room – you’ll not only sleep better because it’s darker but also because it’s cheaper. One thing concerning security that we noticed is when you leave your room you have to give the door an extra tug or it won’t close completely. The dining rooms are nice but not very impressive. They tried to give it the feel of a smaller ship but one of the ways it was accomplished is by using smaller tables. It wasn’t a real problem but what made me notice it is that on most other ships the table setting starts with all the silverware needed for the whole meal. To compensate for the smaller tables the waiters had to bring silverware for each course of the meal. The food was out of this world! It was really that good. There were plenty of interesting entrees to choose from. Remember that when you’re on a cruise is when you order things you wouldn’t normally order at a restaurant. If you don’t like it you can order something else. If you do like it guess what – second helpings are free! One night I ordered frog legs for the first time. They were very good and it’s true they do taste like chicken. The only problem was my wife kept whispering Ribbit! Ribbit! The food in the Horizon Court, which is the informal buffet, was very good but sometimes I didn’t know what I was eating. They even had a sushi bar. I personally would prefer to have the fancy foods in the dining room and just plain old good cooking on the buffet. How about some fried chicken? The alternative restaurants are a great idea. For a change of pace you can make reservations and eat in a restaurant setting. On the Golden Princess there are two: Sabatini’s Italian Restaurant and The Desert Rose Mexican or Southwestern Restaurant. Many people love Sabatini’s but I’ll have to admit it just wasn’t my “cup of tea”. I’m a meat and potatoes kind of guy but this place is for the gourmet lover in you. Let me explain. After you order your entrée they bring little tastes of authentic Italian foods. Each little taste arrives about ten minutes apart for at least an hour before your entrée arrives. I suggest that you do experience Sabatini’s but my advice is to go with a group so there will be plenty of conversation between the little tastes, next make your reservation for lunch on a sea day rather than miss something in the evening and be sure to order the lobster. Also note that you will not only be charged for the meal but also for a tip for the waiter. The Desert Rose never seemed to be crowded and that’s a shame because the food is great, the entertainment is great and it costs less, they didn’t even ask for an extra tip. The meal starts off with chips and salsa as you would expect from a Mexican restaurant but the steak was one of the best I’ve ever had. The price is only eight dollars and it includes a margarita. Sabatini’s had atmosphere but the Desert Rose had a great country band. The Midnight Buffet is gone – what a shame. The Golden Princess didn’t even have a Gala Buffet where you come in and take pictures of the food display. Their answer for the Midnight Buffet is the fact that there is food available from room service and usually in the Horizon Court if you get hungry. Well duh! The Midnight Buffet is NOT because you’re hungry. Have you ever seen a hungry person on a cruise ship anyway? The Midnight Buffet is a tradition, something to look forward to just for topping off the perfect evening before retiring. It should be mostly desserts with lots and lots of chocolate. Lets hope they bring it back someday. The AOL 24 Hour Internet Café is a great place to send email home to friends and family to let them know what a great time you’re having. You won’t do much surfing though because it costs fifty cents a minute. By the way it’s not really a café because no drinks are served but it is open twenty-four hours. Some of the other new ships have internet access in your stateroom for your laptop but the Golden Princess makes it available only in the “café”. Something you should know if you do use a computer is that the large prominent buttons in the center of the computer screens are for AOL users or for people who want to sign up for AOL. If a person clicked on the wrong button they could possibly enter their credit card number thinking it was for use of the computer when really they would be signing up for an AOL account whether they have a computer at home or not. The button you should click on is the small button at the bottom of the screen. AOL is great for people who are new to the internet and just don’t know any better. The things that amazed me most about the Golden Princess are the swimming pools. There are four large pools. The adult only pool is on the very back of the ship. You can get out of the pool and look straight down at the water. The family pool that has most of the activity is on the top deck in the center and just beyond that is the indoor pool with a retractable glass ceiling. There’s also another pool in the front of the ship next to the gym. This pool has a pump at one end so you can get your exercise by swimming against the current rather than having to swim in circles. There are plenty of whirlpools and the pool areas are beautiful. During our cruise the weather was great but there was also some pretty strong winds up on deck at times. This resulted in a little more rocking back and forth than I was accustomed to. It was almost as if the stabilizers were not working properly. Not enough to cause motion sickness but it would be good advice to bring along some seasick pills just incase. There had been a long tradition where the purser’s desk would give out Dramamine for free but that tradition is also gone. Now you have to pay. The following is a list of things that I think need improvement. Even with these complaints we still had a great cruise and we recommend the Golden Princess for everyone. It’s just that with this information you can have an even more perfect cruise than we did. 1.  The daily schedule, which is named The Princess Patter, has some shortcomings. I thought it was interesting that most of the things that are emphasized are activities that cost money but important things like the hours for the dining room or the movies of the day were omitted. 2.  Most ships headed to the Caribbean keep the same time as the embarkation port. Princess however, changes one hour forward usually on the second day of the cruise. This wouldn’t be so bad except for the fact they didn’t announce it and it wasn’t emphasized in the daily schedule. 3.  The public announcements made by the captain and crew are often missed if you are in your room. The reason is that there are no speakers in your room that you can control. The speakers that are in your room are only used for emergencies. If you want to hear the regular public announcements you have to turn on your television and tune it to channel 35. If your television is off or if you’re watching another channel you miss the announcements. 4.  Wheelchair access throughout the ship is very good with one important exception. Wheelchair access in the main showroom is almost non-existent. If you’re in a wheelchair and want to watch the shows in the Rainbow Theater you have to go to the deck where the upper level is located and have someone push you up a rather steep L-shaped hallway. You can then watch the performance only from behind the last row at the very back of the theater. Also you need to be careful going back down the ramp because there’s a four-inch high metal ridge that looks like a speed bump about halfway down the ramp. We witnessed an elderly lady be thrown from her wheelchair because her husband didn’t see the “speed bump”. 5.  The design of the ship is such that to get to certain areas you have to be on the correct elevator. It’s not that much of a problem after you learn your way around but “to add insult to injury” the deck plans or little map of the ship they give you is useless. It is only a side view of the ship and not very detailed. For example the atrium is not even on the diagram. This little problem was the source of most of my frustrations but it’s something you can easily solve. The Princess brochure that’s available from your travel agent has excellent deck plans in it. Just cut the page out and bring it with you. If you forget, just sneak one from the Future Cruise Consultant on board. 6.  Personal Choice Dining is a great idea on the surface but in reality it’s not everything it’s “cracked-up” to be. When you make reservations for your cruise your travel agent will ask you if you want traditional dining for dinner or if you want personal choice. Once you make your choice it’s very difficult to change it. Most cruise ships today have what they call “open seating” for breakfast and lunch. What it means is that you just show up anytime you want to within a time period of a few hours. When you arrive at the door the dining room personnel will seat you where they want you to sit. Personal choice dining is for all practical purposes just “open seating” for dinner. Let me explain: It’s advertised that you can make a reservation for when you want to eat dinner that evening and you can even specify a certain table. The reality is that you can only make a reservation for when the dining room isn’t busy which is when the dining room first opens or later in the evening when there plenty of empty tables. If you want a specific table they will only hold it for you if you’re going to dine when the dining room first opens or shortly thereafter. Even if you have a reservation you still have to wait at the door until those in line in front of you, that just happened to show up, have been seated. Now I hate to “bad mouth” something that’s supposed to be so positive but I’m just “callin’m like I see’m”. While I’m on my soapbox please let me continue. Personal choice dining does solve what has been in the past a real problem. The way it used to be was that if you came back late from visiting the port, or more likely if you over slept while taking a nap your only choice for dinner was to eat from the buffet. Now with personal choice you can still have a nice restaurant style dinner when you’re running late or just want to finish a movie. Personal choice solves that problem but it also causes some problems that you may not be aware of: A. When most of the ship’s passengers are divided into two groups and having dinner at a specified time it worked as a form of crowd control. You could easily get a seat in the theater because half of the passengers were having dinner. B. There used to be a cocktail party to meet the captain for each group of passengers but now it’s logistically impractical. C. If you don’t have the same waiter each evening you lose something that always made the cruise experience special. D. Something that is even more special is the singing and dancing by the dining room personnel. This can only take place if everyone is ending the meal at the same time. With personal choice, people are coming and going all the time so the singing and dancing is gone along with an opportunity for some of your best cruise memories. My opinion is that they should bring back traditional dining and just have an area of the dining room for those arriving late. Another idea is to have an alternative restaurant that doesn’t cost extra and doesn’t require reservations. This concludes our very first cruise review. We hope this information along with my rants and raves can in some small way help you to have a perfect vacation. Thanks to Tom Ogg for his CruiseReviews web site. Also be sure to read Tom and Mary’s page. If anyone has any questions please feel free to email us. Leland and Yvonne Garner

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Nov 24, 2001

Eastern Caribbean

Some other passengers and we were disappointed and frustrated with personal choice dining. We were placed in personal choice when we requested second seating traditional cruise dining. Don't wait in the long line the first day of the cruise to change things if you receive the unwanted personal choice. Just show up at second seating on the first day, the dining room will be empty, trust me. We were dumb and did not do this. We waited in line an

hour for a Godfatheresque style meeting with dining room manager. I felt like the character Luca Brasi rehearsing reasons they should change my seating while waiting in line to see the "Don". I even offered a very good bribe to no avail. The bottom line is, learn to say "I love personal choice dining" with a smile. Repeat it a couple of times, it will grow on you. Personal choice doesn't really exist. I believe there is an underlying plot to change to this new dining plan to take away our choices. I am sure this feeling has nothing to do with my paranoia. Let me try to explain. My personal choice was to have second seating traditional dining for my dining experience on board. Why was I so adamant on eating second seating? First, I wanted the same waiter and assistant for my entire cruise. Look, in general, the wait staff is not happy with this change. They seem overworked and lacked any reason to treat you any better then you would be treated at your local Chinese buffet. It is not that the Chinese are not pleasant people, but they want you in and out quickly. The wait staff had to turn tables quicker, never got to know their diners, and never had the incentive of earning a greater tip then is being charged to "you" at the end of your cruise. This tip is automatic, a no-brainer. All the waiters get paid the same now. Those waiters at regular cruise seating do not work as hard, have better relationships with their diners over the course of the cruise and hence have a better chance at getting additional tips. Why? There are only two seatings in traditional dining and sometimes people don't show for dinner, giving the waiters a bit of a break. My experience with one day of personal choice dining was awful (to me) for many reasons. First, I brought my own wine and the waiter, prior to doing anything else, ran to charge me the $10 corking fee. He was correct to do so, but this would have not happened in regular dining. There is a give and take relationship that builds and plays out over the cruise with your wait staff. The waiter may chose not to charge the $10 in hopes of making the money back later in some way such as increased cocktail sales or additional tips. Second, my waiters in personal choice were rushed and not as attentive as for my preferences I would have liked. The waiters were not given tables of diners in a way that would allow them some recovery time to give personal attention. On the other hand, my waiters in second dining built a relationship with us. They did not charge me a corking fee for the specialty wines I brought on board with me. I then as a result bought more of their alcohol and wine then I normally would have over the course of the cruise. My waiters in traditional dining made more in tips from us in the long run. Personal choice allows you to go to dinner at any time you want during the offering hours of usually from 5 to 10 PM. Keep in mind you may have to wait at peak dining times for the table of your choice especially if there are only two of you. You may never know who you will be seated with each evening (good and bad). Who you walk into the dining room with may become your companions for dinner. This would be a great strategy for a single person looking to eat with that special other. Plan your entrance to the dining area right behind that person. Personal choice allows you to choose from the dining room, one of the other specialty restaurants (may come with an additional charge), the buffet and room service. Keep in mind that in traditional seating you always had to the choice to eat in the buffet or in your room whenever you wanted. Don't quote me, but I think they are trying to get rid of traditional dining. I am a purist when it comes to cruising (when it suits me) and I will surely miss it if it goes. Keep in mind that you may not have a "personal choice" if you chose traditional dining, and they don't give it to you. All that said, I think they may have in mind getting rid of 24-hour food, like on Celebrity. They had a questionnaire on their web site asking questions about cruisers preferences for dining options. Please note that the announcement that Princess will acquire Royal Caribbean was made while we were on our cruise. What this means for cruisers will evolve over the next few years. Nevertheless, it was a pleasure to be able to board the Golden (and any other Princess ship) and get a wonderful lunch meal in the buffet, something that is not offered on Celebrity. I have learned that the quality of food on board is dependent on the port of embarkation and the quality of the individual cruise ship's kitchen on any given day. The fruits and vegetables on board leaving from Puerto Rico in general is not as good or fresh as when leaving from a Florida port being these items are first imported to Puerto Rico. The kitchen's team and wait staff on the Grand, my last trip, was better in my opinion than those on board the Golden. Keep in mind that teams and individuals switch ships all the time especially when they take the best from other ships to start a new ship. The overall quality of the food and choices offered on this cruise was above average. There were a few more disappointing dishes than I would have expected, but there was always another dish to chose from to make up for a bad dish. I was not sure weather this was because of cut backs or the ability of the kitchen. As I have said before, you can always have a great meal on board a Princess ship. They have a reasonably priced wine list with some really good wines. May I suggest the Baron D'Oro, a Spanish red about $26? It is an awesome red wine for the beginner and experienced drinker. They also offer a reserve list, which was also reasonable. I suggest you call or email Princess and ask them to send or fax you an example of the actual list or previous lists. I was disappointed in their practice of pre-selling wine. I figured they would have to make up for the low cruise costs so I dealt with this intrusion. The deck staffs were also a bit pushier than I was accustomed to when it came to selling alcohol. Again, I think they were trying to increase revenues and a simple "no thank you" always worked. As always, we enjoyed the hot tubs between 5PM and 7PM. On a ship with 3000 people I am always surprised when we are the only ones enjoying this relaxing time on the back of the boat while watching the sun set. Sometimes we go up to the buffet and get snacks and drinks to enjoy while hanging out in the hot tub. The tubs were actually hot this trip. I am always concerned about the cleanliness of these pools, but the bottom line is we survived nevertheless. It was Thanksgiving and there were a bunch of Kids on board. All in all they were very well behaved and for most of the time pretty out of site and hence out of mind. The back pool is reserved for adults. The middle pools developed their own character throughout the cruise as people found their favorite. Depending on what you would consider the best lounge chairs there were times that they were all taken and other times when you could get a seat. Remember it is a big boat and having to find a new spot may not be all-bad, especially if you are a guy and happened to find the topless deck on your trek to find a lounge chair. My dad actually found the topless deck, not on the Golden, but he had my binoculars and scoped out the Carnival boat at one of the ports. There was a golf putting deck on board, but it is not like putt-putt. Because it was not like miniature golf I say it was not designed well. However it was fun for a time or two during the cruise. We never got to try it with some alcohol in us, but I believe, in that state, it would have been more fun. There was a Captain's cocktail party. They did a great job on this. Lots of drinks (free) and appetizers. Lots of people too. I was excitedly surprised. There was a time when the Captain's cocktail party was held in a small room somewhere. This one was held midship around one of the pools. I give Kudos to Princess on this one. The Captain made the announcement about Princess getting Royal Caribbean during the party. I think, post 9/11, there was an overall different feeling on board. I noticed that there were more men who opted not to wear tuxedos on formal nights than I had ever noticed before. It may be a trend but it felt weird. My dad and I decided on dark suits for this trip and it seems many other guys did also. I wonder if the other guys couldn't fit into their tuxedos also? Although there were a lot less tuxedos, it was still great to see everyone all dressed up. Smoking is still a problem on Princess. I always get a bunch of email from smokers who don't like to hear how unhealthy and rude their habit is, but this time I'd appreciate them saving their email and rationalizations for someone who cares. We discovered the card room this trip and spent a few evenings there as a family. This was a very enjoyable room stocked with hundreds of decks of cards and many games. On most nights we were accompanied by 4 older people from Italy at the next table. There were never many people in this beautiful room. One afternoon we entered to find a group of 20-year-olds and what appeared to be parents playing cards. One of the Kids was smoking a cigar. Please keep in mind that the rights of smokers always trump those of nonsmokers on board (pun intended). This time, because it was a cigar and not a cigarette, a crew person went and made the kid put out the cigar. The kid's response was, "I never saw a card room where you could not smoke." When you think about it, it is sad that people still think this way. Anyway, the card room is supposed to be nonsmoking and cigars are banned inside the ship, especially if someone complains. Princess appeared to separate the sides of the ship into smoking and nonsmoking by only placing ash trays on one side, but it is not enforced and smokers will smoke anywhere regardless of rules. When my parents first walked into their room it smelled as if someone had just put out a cigarette. The crew made attempts to "clean" the room, however we insisted on having the room changed. The crew was very accommodating given the situation. I was angered to see people requesting ash trays put in their rooms. Not only was I disgusted by this request, but also so were the stewards who have to clean these rooms. Their hands are tied though. It only takes one smoker to ruin the cleanliness of a small room creating problems for everyone that follows them. The smoking problem on the ship was enough to convince me to try the Carnival's nonsmoking ship for our next cruise. The art auction was, as always, interesting. We spent a bit of time there watching the goings on. One funny note happened when they tried to auction a piece of religious Jewish art. The way they do the auction, anytime a piece is brought up for a second time for auction, they start bidding about $20 above the price that was paid for the same piece that sold earlier in the cruise. My girlfriend is new to the Jewish community, but she is a quick study. When the auctioneer put up the piece he stated it was sold earlier in the cruise for less than it would be auctioned for this time. When the piece did not sell, my girlfriend noted that this was no surprise to her. When my Mom inquired how she knew the piece would not sell, my girlfriend said, "What Jewish person would buy anything that they knew someone else bought for less earlier? The guy should have put it up for auction with out the explanation about it selling for less earlier on the cruise." We still laugh about this… The entertainment was the same as when we were on the Grand earlier in the year. Like the kitchens crew and wait staff, the entertainment crew also rotates ships. The dancers, actors and comedians were wonderful and much the same. It amazes me that they have such a great range of talent. The few actors on board do all the shows. Even if you may not think the show was great, you have to be impressed with what goes into putting on all of the shows they put on day after day. If you don't like the show, get up discretely and go find something else to do. No problem. The actors are mostly young, think of them as your children or a friend's child and you will enjoy the shows even more. As far as ports of call, I have some things to say. They sent us to Nassau instead of Princess Cays. Nassau is trying to recapture the cruise ship market. It was a pleasant stop. No great shopping bargains. The Straw market is now in a big tent like building. Most of the stuff sold is made in china. It takes 10 seconds to walk in and 10 minutes to try to escape. It seem like it is a developing tourist trap, but pleasant to just walk around. St Thomas, in my opinion, was the worst I had ever seen it. A majority of the shops have become overly aggressive to the point of ridiculous. The change in the economy has made them even more aggressive. The bargains in St. Thomas are no longer existent and have not been for years. My recommendation is to save the $5 per person cab ride and wasted time going into town. Use this money to rent a car at Budget at the docks. You must reserve prior to going on your cruise which is easy to do on line or with your agent, about $30 - $60 for the day. Take the rental car and explore the Island and beaches. Stay away from the shopping area in town unless this is your first time to St. Thomas and you are the kind of person who likes to learn on your own. Maybe the people on the island will learn their lesson? Actually, most shop owners in town are not islanders. You'd find these same shop owners and products in New York City and the products probably for less. If you want to shop, my recommendation would be St. Martin/ St. Maarten. I love that Island. You can still find some good deals if you know what you are doing. Deals can be had on liqueur on the Dutch side and on perfumes on both sides. Don't buy electronics anywhere on your cruise. You will always do better in the states or on the Internet and it will be safer. One problem is that because the cruise ships leave early, you cannot enjoy a meal at one of the wonderful French Restaurants, as the best are not open until dinner. See my previous posts for lunch ideas on the French side. We rented a car for about $30 for the day. I used Adventure Car Rental and was very satisfied. We received a nice car for $32. Reserve you car on the net. When you get to the dock, walk out towards the main road and mountain outside the most distant gates of the dock. The driver will be waiting for you there to take you to the rental place to get your car. Stay away from the rental places where the busses are right after you get off the boat and don't ask those guys for information because they will lie to you. The best part of the rental experience, according to my father, is meeting the nice young lady working there whose father owns the operation. Buy your gas anywhere as the price is high everywhere. We went back to the same hut on the water on the French side we went to our last cruise. There are a number of little shacks in this area of Grande Case Beach, but we go to the one on the water that is on your right when facing the water. What a blast. We had blood sausage, conch sausage, fried fish, ribs and for only a few bucks a person. We found some great 1/2 price deals on Kosta Boda crystal. We found great deals on perfume. We were not hassled and the people were in general extremely welcoming and friendly. The beaches were beautiful. Shopping on board was pleasurable. I did not mention it earlier but I purchased a signed piece of glass from the on board store for 1/2 price, a savings of over $200. When the ship changes itineraries it usually sells off old merchandise and the Golden was coming off a European stint. I got some Versace China for 1/2 off and I did not have to pay taxes. You can buy your liquor on board at very good prices especially at the end of the cruise. When you do this you may pay a dollar or two more than on the islands if you were to find the best deals. However, you don't have to schlep around all those bottles and you have more time to waste your money on other things on the islands. To sum things up, this was another wonderful Princess Cruise. The boat was large, but manageable. The dining was very good. St. Martin was as always awesome. St Thomas was a shopping nightmare. We enjoyed traditional dining as well as all the other things we had not done on previous cruises. We are looking forward to our next cruise, probably a non-smoking ship or maybe a smaller ship.

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Oct 26, 2001

Eastern Caribbean

OVERVIEW "It's more than a cruise, it's the Love Boat." This 21st cruise for us (in the past five years), had a full moon and since we had cruised twice on its sister ship, the Grand Princess, there was also a sense of deja vu as we spent an excellent week aboard the beautiful new Golden Princess. She was built by Fincantieri Shipyards, Monfalcone, Italy and is the 6050th ship launched by this venerable company.

Her Port of Registry is Hamilton, Bermuda. The Golden has a gross tonnage of 109,000; a length of 951 feet; breadth of 118 feet (not Panamax); her cruising speed is 22.5 knots and a passenger capacity of 2,600 (this cruise had approximately 2,500) with a crew of 1,150. Princess has made these two sister ships distinctive through the use of a rear spoiler, which houses the Skywalkers Night Club-- a gorgeous two tiered room with surround view (and an automatic moving sidewalk to reach the club). This is the closest place to heaven on the ship and an excellent place for reading and ocean watching during the day, and disco dancing at night. The first two cruising days were rainy, but port days were sunny. The last two days we rode the high seas caused by Hurricane Michele. There was a bit of movement and we saw "barf bags" placed at every elevator, but fortunately we never saw anyone in need of them. They were just precautionary. Captain Bernard Warner is an excellent skipper, who treated us to a lovely sail away from St. Thomas, USVI on the Bridge -- 6:00 pm, at dusk, we watched the sunset and then the lights of St. Thomas came on and twinkled as we departed. This was a fabulous first time experience for us. EMBARKATION We normally embark at noon, but this time, because of a family obligation, we arrived at Port Everglades, Ft. Lauderdale at 3:30 pm, when most of the passengers had already boarded. The shore crew was closing up and we had no wait! There were no curb side attendants left, so Mary had to push the wheelchair on board by herself. We also missed the Welcome Aboard Buffet, but judging from those we had during the week, our old friend Executive Chef Antonio Cereda (14 years with Princess Lines) out does all others and surprises the passengers with delectable culinary masterpieces. When we saw that he had moved over from the Grand Princess, we knew that we were in for a week of dining pleasure. . . . Complimenti Antonio, you've surpassed yourself. THE SHIP'S PUBLIC AREAS As passengers board on Plaza Deck 5 (first of the three lower decks of public rooms), they enter the three deck high Grand Plaza (though not as grand in size as we have seen in some other mega/giga ships), yet it is a very lovely and stylish area with lots of mosaics, especially a really nice round one on the floor of the atrium. Glass cage elevators with truly unique fern and wildlife walls face the Plaza. Here also you will find a nice, larger than life bronze sculpture by George Kerish called "Standing Woman." Deck 5 has the reception desks, the library, card room, Bernini Dining Room, and the art galleries (with one of the most extensive collections afloat (and art auctions boasting 85% off). Fiesta Deck 6 has a second reception area, boutiques, the Atlantis Casino (almost exactly like the casino on the Grand with 3D aquariums on the walls. Mid ship is the Donatello Dining Room, the ship's galley and aft is the Canaletto Dining Room, while forward is the Princess Theater. Promenade Deck 7 has boutiques, the Desert Rose Restaurant (Southwestern/ Mexican), Explorer and Wheelhouse Bars, Sabatini's upscale restaurant, the photo shop and aft is the Vista Lounge, where Captain Warner hosted the Captain's Club Repeater's cocktail party. This room has tiered seating and a spacious dance floor. On decks 8 through 12 and 14 forward are cabins, mostly with balconies. There are 21 wheelchair accessible cabins: 14 with balcony, 6 inside, and 1 suite. Decks 14 through 17 are again public areas: Lido Deck 14 has Mermaid's Tail, Trident Grill, Prego Pizza, Neptune's Reef and Pool and The Conservatory with the Calypso Pool, which sports the Oxford Dipper, unique to Princess. This lift allows wheelchair bound passengers to be lowered into the pool and gives them the joy of swimming. The Conservatory has a retractable roof with eight functional columns supporting it, which are decorated with mosaics of fish. Very nice! Aft, on Lido deck, are the Horizon Court (buffet), the Horizon Terrace and the Outrigger Bar (a beautiful outdoor setting overlooking the ship's wake). Sun Deck 15 has the Lap Current Pool, Lotus Spa and Beauty Parlor, Aerobics and Gymnasium Exercise Rooms. Also on this deck and on 16 there are the Off Limits (Teen Ctr.) and the Fun Zone (Children Ctr.). Sports Deck 16, in addition to the Kids and Teen Centers, has a Jogging Track, Center Basketball Court, and, at mid ship, Shuffle Board and other deck games. This ship has something for everyone. FOOD AND SERVICE Princess offers Personal Choice Dining which gives passengers the freedom and opportunity to dine in varied venues with different menus and at flexible times. No longer are passengers rushed on port days to meet a rigid dining schedule. We are happy with the Personal Choice system and hope other cruise lines will adopt it. Two of the restaurants offer Personal Choice, the Donatello and the Bernini from 5:30 pm to 10:00 pm. The third restaurant, the Canaletto dining room still has the traditional main (6:15 pm) and late seating (8:45 pm) arrangement. All three of these formal restaurants use the same menu, and are beautified by murals and pictures evoking the work of the famous artists for which they are named. There are many beautiful tables by the windows. Chef Antonio Cereda offers the passengers wonderfully prepared and plated food always fresh and palatable. We feel he is the best chef we have encountered afloat. His pasta sauces are authentic. The menu is vast with many choices for appetizers (some of our favorites are fried calamari, the avocado boat filled with shrimp and seafood, prosciutto and melon, escargot, and small portions of pastas made available as appetizers). The soups were excellent including the oriental ones, minestrone and the pumpkin one served for Halloween. Salads aboard the Golden were especially fresh and crispy (Caesar is available every day, but there were excellent combinations of fruit, nuts and vegetable salads, Belgian Endive and roasted zucchini, eggplant and red peppers, etc...). Breads and breadsticks were fresh, hot and varied. At dinner there were five or six entrees to choose from in addition to a list of constant dishes always available: steak, chicken and the delicious Fettuccini Alfredo, fresh made noodles served in a basket made of Parmiggiano Reggiano cheese. Also Chef Cereda prepared delicious Risotto with Porcini mushrooms, Rolle` of eggplant and angel hair pasta and, on Halloween night, potato gnocchi with pumpkin; what a treat! Aaaah!, the desserts were out of this world both in presentation and flavor. The pastry chef Franco Gentile is a wizard; he made chocolate do things that we had only dreamt about. Vincent's favorite Swan Puffs were tiny, delicate and presented floating on a heart shaped pond of melted chocolate. Chef Gentile's baskets of chocolate and pulled caramel were decorated with butterflies so light that they seemed to float. Bravo Franco! Sabatini's upscale restaurant charges $15 per person. Make reservations as soon as you board, since it fills quickly.  Sabatini's Supervisor Luigi Clesceri makes this three hour dining experience unforgettable; if you are really nice, Luigi will treat you to an after dinner liquor Limoncella (and his recipe).  We had a nice table for two by the window with a view of the full moon rising: This is cruising, this is living! The antipasto here is excellent with freshly sliced prosciutto, porcini mushrooms, and a superb Pizza Margarita made by Antonio (he also makes the pizza at Prego's, Lido Deck).  Our waiter Augusto was excellent. Princess has an Afternoon Tea served in the Donatello Restaurant from 3:30 to 4:30 pm. There are gloved waiters offering hot scones with clotted cream and preserves and delicate tea sandwiches. Don't miss it. The 24 Hour food service is as follows: The Horizon Court is open from 4:00 am to 11:00 pm. Trident Grill and Prego Pizza is open from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm. The Bistro is open from 11:00 pm to 4:00 am. There is also 24 hour Room Service (we usually have breakfast from room service, linen napkins and silverware). Service aboard the Golden is top notch under the direction of Maitre d' Giuseppe Gelmini (Italy) whose background includes two of London's best Hotels, the Dorchester and the Savoy -- he knows how to pamper people and he has taught his staff well. Our head waiter Sandro Ranieri (Italy) was very attentive and kept a close eye on the waiters.  We were served excellently by waiter Ricardo De Guia (Philippines) and ass't. waiter Luciano Patrasou (Romania). Of course service depends on a great leader, which Golden has in Nigel Stewart, Passenger Services Director, with whom we had a nice chat. He patiently provided answers to all of our questions. Thank you Nigel. CABIN Our Baja Deck 11, wheelchair accessible Cabin B302 is spacious and beautiful. Entering, on the left is a triple armoire (with personal safe, shelves and wooden hangers). Then there is a wall unit with TV, refrigerator, and then a long desk/vanity with lighted mirror and hair dryer. Entering, on the right is a large bathroom with a 5'X5' shower, safety rails all around and handy. The there is a double dresser with dimmer lamp, a king size bed, and another double dresser with dimmer lamp. The wall behind the bed is mirrored and there are two upholstered barrel chairs. The sliding glass door leads to a balcony (60 sq. ft.) with room for a table, stool, two chairs and a chaise, which Vincent used extensively, especially on sunny days. The spectacular view of sun rise among interesting cloud formations on the morning of arrival to St. Maarten, with all of the splendor of changing colors from fiery red clouds to the brilliant golden rays and pastel blue sky, is a sight to remember: Another dose of pure pleasure to our eyes and minds to keep our "addiction to cruising" alive! This cabin with almond cabinets, maple wood trim, and linens and carpets of blue, peach and salmon was crisp in its newness and quite spacious. The in cabin T.V. offered several satellite channels, such as CNN, ESPN, TNT, Discovery, and a Financial News channel, along with several movies, repeated during the week, and the regular ship's channels showing nautical data, shore excursion information, taped shows and a live cam from the bridge. The entertainment and T.V. guide available in the cabin was very clear and accurate. ENTERTAINMENT Cruise Director Alastair Greener (England) with his varied background and managerial expertise kept the ship's routine working with clock like precision. The Cruise Staff was everywhere, leading everything from Trivia Quizzes, Bingo, Basketball, Ping Pong (Paddle tennis) and Golf (both Virtual and Real Rolling greens) to Sail Away Parties. This ship has it all. The shows were on a par with those of other cruise lines. The headliners "Welcome Aboard Showtime," "Lights, Camera Action" and "Words and Music," featuring Hunter Gerard, Joseph Hale, Susan Orrell and Tiffany Hale are the usual Las Vegas style shows -- the dancers were bouncy, but the truly notable performers were the following: 1. Maestro Maurizio, a singer/musician, performed in both the Promenade Lounge (packed) and the Explorer's Lounge (in concert). He sang many songs from around the world, but the show stoppers were Andrea Bocelli's "Con Te Partiro" and Modugno's "Volare" with standing ovations. 2. Acrobat/ Comic Uber Rossi was superb and his contortions were unbelievable. 3. The Magic and Illusion Spectacular show by Gaetano was excellent. ACTIVITIES AND PORTS In addition to previously mentioned activities there is also the Lotus Spa and Fitness center. Vincent tried some of the equipment and liked the set up. Many cruisers enjoyed the art gallery as we did. This seven day cruise starts with two sea days, then two port days, a sea day and a final port day and then return to Ft. Lauderdale. Ports of Call: 1. St. Maarten (7:00 am to 6:00 pm) Capital of the Dutch Leeward Island Group is divided between Dutch and French rule. It presents a unique opportunity for cruisers to enjoy two international cultures. There are several shore excursions: 1. Beach and Shopping ($25.) 2. Mt. Bike Adventure ($69.) 3. Hidden Forest Hiking ($79.) 4. "America's Cup Regatta" ($82.). 2. St. Thomas US Virgin Island (6:00 am to 6:00 pm) This lovely island has it all -- beaches and shopping (especially Mr. Tablecloth with the best linens and prices available). There are three tours available: 1. Sailboat & Snorkel ($49.) 2. New Waves Snorkeling ($69.) 3. Wild Thing Around St. Thomas ($66.) This port also has taxis available at the pier and for only $3 you can go downtown for shopping, or you can also arrange for a private island tour; however, always remember to fix the price and the itinerary first. 3. Princess Cays (8:30 am to 3:00 pm.). The ship gives a Barbecue & Buffet ashore from 11:30 to 1:00 pm. There is tendering ashore, so the physically challenged may encounter problems if the sea is choppy. SUGGESTIONS After a great cruise there is very little to suggest. However, there is always room for improvement until perfection is achieved. The following suggestions are about minor things which can be easily corrected. 1. We arrived at the peer at 3:30 pm and did not find any wheelchair assistance for boarding. This was unexpected since boarding time was until 4:00 pm and helping staff had already disappeared. What a difference from our embarkation experience on the Grand, six months ago, when we were escorted from the front of the terminal all the way to our stateroom, albeit at noon. We suggest that Princess Lines make available staff personnel to help those in need during embarkation until the gangways are closed. 2. The drinking water in the dining rooms, as well as the juices, cold drinks and ice cubes has a strong chlorine smell, more so that we experienced on other ships. We suggest that Princess Lines install water filters at the various distribution points, where needed. 3. A problem in common with some other ships is the type of pasta used aboard, not the freshly made one, but rather the pre packaged one. We noticed that even though the chef has tried to cook the pasta al dente, it always tastes starchy and gluey. We believe that the fault is in the quality of the pasta. It is possible that several cruise lines use the same pasta supplier, thus, the problem is rather common. Pasta is not an expensive ingredient, thus for a few cents more per pound, the chef can achieve better tasting pasta dishes. As pasta lovers we can attest that the great sauces of Chef Cereda deserve a better pasta, such as La Molisana, Barilla, Colavita or some other good durum wheat pasta, possibly imported from Italy, the cradle of pasta lovers. We will surely cruise with Golden Princess and other Princess ships again; however, our next cruise will be on the new RCI Adventure of the Seas on 12/9/01. We are addicted cruisers who have never had a bad cruise, but we'll always be looking for the perfect one. Happy Cruising!

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Sep 24, 2001

Transatlantic

GOLDEN PRINCESS September 25, 2001 – October 10, 2001 15 Day Transatlantic Voyage Ports: Barcelona, Marseille, Monte Carlo, Livorno (Florence), Civitavecchia (Rome), Lisbon, Ponta Delgada (Azores), Ft. Lauderdale Senior Officers: Captain......................................: Andy Proctor                                                      

Bernard Warner (from Lisbon) Staff Captain.............................: Stefano Ravera Passenger Services Director.:  Nigel Stewart Cruise Director.........................: Alastair Greener Cabin: D736 (St. Tropez Suite) Cruise Pictures:  Go to  http://www.cruise-addicts.com/picturepost/ Click on “GOLDEN PRINCESS Transatlantic” from the drop down menu Background: 34 year old male from Atlanta, GA Past Cruises: 45 total including….Holland America, NCL, Celebrity, Princess, Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Premier, Sitmar, Home Lines, Royal Viking Line, Dolphin, Costa, Chandris, Eastern Steamship Line Next Cruises: CARNIVAL PRIDE 1/9/2002……..SEVEN SEAS MARINER 6/6/2002 PRE-CRUISE  A+ Princess Cruises does an excellent job with pre-cruise documentation, including shore excursions, a cruise answer book, and other pertinent information. This package is sent out approximately 60 days prior cruise and is a nice way to get geared up for the upcoming trip! Princess allows you to pre-book shore excursions online. In addition, you may enter all your pre-cruise documentation information online (including credit card info for onboard purchases) by going to www.princess.com . Princess is currently the only cruise line which allows you to pre-enter all this information. You may also look at your booking online to check on dining and cabin assignments. The great thing is that Princess allows you to do this regardless of who you booked through, so long as you have the correct booking number and name. Other cruise lines such as Carnival will only let you view the booking if you booked it directly through them on their website. The actual tickets arrived about three weeks prior to sailing. They are in a ticket-book style with coupons rather than paper tickets. This seems to be the norm for most major cruise lines these days. Since I had already entered my personal information online, everything on the immigration and credit card coupons was already filled out for me. Princess calls this feature “express check-in”. EMBARKATION   A We flew into Barcelona the day of the ship’s departure. We took a Delta flight from Atlanta to Madrid, then a short flight on AirEuropa from Madrid to Barcelona. We were in BusinessElite on Delta, which truly made the flight enjoyable. We befriended one of the flight attendants who supplied us with a bag full of liquor upon deplaning. Nice touch! The amenity kits in BusinessElite were great. They are in a “period style” tin with the old Delta logo embossed on the front. The AirEuropa flight was also pleasant, and a brief service was provided on the 45 minute flight. Upon arrival in Barcelona, we easily claimed our luggage and caught a cab to the ship. The actual embarkation was painless. We handed over our forms and ticket along with a credit card and were issued our cruise card (cabin key and ID). Our picture was taken for the A-Pass security system, and a second picture by the photographers. We were onboard GOLDEN PRINCESS within minutes of checking in. While Princess does not offer an escort to your cabin, they do position staff throughout the ship to offer directions. CABIN   A+ The St. Tropez suite is located all the way aft on Dolphin Deck (Port Side). I loved the suite and location. The suite consisted of a marble entry, living room, bedroom, walk-in closet, mini-bar area with sink, two TV’s, and a marble bath in two sections (green marble sink and toilette in one room, Jacuzzi tub and glass enclosed shower in another room). Of course the best part was the balcony. It was quite large and contained all teak furniture. A table and four chairs along with two loungers and cushions. We made great use of the balcony and suite, entertaining guests with no less than four parties during the voyage. I loved the aft view of the wake, especially at high speeds, which was the case many times during this cruise. There was a fully stocked bar upon arrival (not replenished) and two flower arrangements from the ships staff (Captain and Passenger Services Director). Robes and terry cloth slippers were provided, as were upgraded linens and towels. I loved the huge ribbed white towels which were quite luxurious. Every night at 5pm, a fine selection of hot and cold canapés were delivered to the cabin. This extra service was not because we were in a suite, but because we were placed on the ship’s VIP list thanks to a friend of mine that works in the Purser’s Office. A nice touch in the corridors are glass mail slots outside each cabin. They use these to deliver the Princess Patter (daily activity sheet) and any other mail to your cabin. It’s a lot better than slipping things under your door, and it must save the backs of the poor delivery personnel. Part of this device includes a place for your name, which is printed onboard for every passenger and placed in the slot. Very nice touch Princess Cruises! THE SHIP     B GOLDEN PRINCESS is a lovely ship, although not my favorite in terms of décor or layout. The ship is very low key, and nothing stands out that could be considered garish or over the top. The ship is almost too mainstream or cutesy for my liking. The artwork is probably a bit below average although I’m no connoisseur. All the materials used are first rate, but certainly no chances were taken on the design. You might be wondering what type of décor I prefer, well, Celebrity Cruises is more my style in this department. They are a little more daring and unique in their artwork and décor. They take a few chances and might be considered a bit eclectic. I also prefer the large two and three story dining rooms offered on Celebrity and Royal Caribbean. Princess is trying to be intimate even with large ships, and they succeed at this but at some cost. For example, the three dining rooms on GOLDEN PRINCESS are virtually identical and are largely forgettable in terms of décor. There are some areas that stand out, and they include all four pool areas which are exceptional in function and design. Of course Princess uses fresh water in the pools and they are open 24 hours. I certainly enjoyed this feature which I think is unique to Princess. Skywalkers is the disco (or shopping cart handle from the outside of the ship) and serves it purpose well. I would rate it as one of the best night clubs afloat and we had great fun in this lounge. Another bar which we enjoyed every night around 8pm is the Wheelhouse. All new Princess ships offer this bar, which is nautical in theme and includes music and dancing. The Lotus Spa/Gym was an area I frequented every day except for a day or two. I like to work out and the gym was fairly well equipped. The cardio equipment was by StarTrek and was quite good. Of course there were free weights and resistance machines that were first rate. The gym itself probably needs to be larger, especially for cruises in the Caribbean, and that is something that will be addressed on the new STAR PRINCESS. Just outside the spa area is the “swim against the current” pool, which really works, and separate men’s and women’s saunas and steam rooms. I enjoyed speaking with the trainers (especially Corey from New Zealand) as these guys were in incredible shape and really gave me some good tips. The spa area is run by the infamous Steiner, and I did not partake in any of their services. There were two supervisors onboard from Steiner’s Head Office who were trying to boost sales and get the spa team onboard into high gear. Apparently this team was not even close to meeting their sales goals. For those of you familiar with Steiner, you know how aggressive they can be. The rest of the ship is also lovely but nothing really strikes out in my mind. My previous cruise was onboard RADIANCE OF THE SEAS in May, so many things about that ship were fresh in my mind. The RADIANCE had a lot of the “WOW” factor which the GOLDEN does not. For those of you familiar with GRAND PRINCESS, there are some differences between these two sister ships. They include: Atrium – the atrium on GOLDEN is much more open and bright, with glass staircases Mid-ship Staircase – this staircase is actually a crew staircase on the GRAND PRINCESS (although it is scheduled for refurbishment to a passenger staircase) Gym/spa – The juice bar is removed and the aerobics area enlarged. Wedding Chapel / AOL Internet Café – on the GOLDEN, the wedding chapel is located where the F/X Limelight studio is on the GRAND and the AOL Café has been greatly enlarged. The F/X Studio has been moved adjacent to the video games on Deck 15 aft. Promenade Deck – Unfortunately on GOLDEN, this area has a rubberized surface instead of teak as on GRAND PRINCESS Most other areas are identical between the two ships. More extensive modifications will be made to the next sister in the series, STAR PRINCESS. On this ship, the spa will be greatly expanded offering far more services by moving the kids and teens area to Deck 15 aft. Of course everything on the ship was basically new, and was kept in pristine condition. Painting, varnishing, carpet cleaning and so forth seemed to be a round the clock operation. FOOD   B- I’m not going to get too in depth about food, because it’s so subjective. Suffice it to say, no one should starve onboard the GOLDEN PRINCESS. Food was literally available 24 hours a day. I’ve found food to be pretty much equal in quality and variety on all the major cruise lines I’ve recently sailed. When serving 3000+ passengers, there is only so much you can do. I never ate breakfast or lunch in the dining room, always opting for room service and my far more scenic balcony, or the Horizon Court / Trident Grill. Breakfast was the usual and you could request made to order omelets, pancakes and French toast even in the Horizon Court. In most cases I had lunch from the Trident Grill. Here you could order hot dogs, hamburgers, grilled chicken and so forth. Everything was made to order and fairly fresh. I did nickname the server in the Trident Grill “soup nazi”. For those of you that watch Seinfield, you will understand. He was probably the only unfriendly crew member I encountered on the entire ship. Dinners were quite good for the most part. I was surprised to see so many repeated items on the menu during this 15 day cruise. We opted for Personal Choice dining and I’m glad we did. I loved being able to show up at the dining room at anytime and be seated. In fact, on the second night of the cruise we sat in a section of the Donatello Dining Room with exceptional service. The waiters were Darius and Kataryna, and we decided to sit in their section every night. This was never a problem and the Maitre d’ knew exactly where to sit us the minute we walked in. Some nights we ate alone, other nights with new friends that we asked to join us. It really worked out well and we enjoyed the flexibility. With Personal Choice, your orders are more made to order, and this was evident in that all items arrived at the proper temperature and did not appear to have been sitting under a heat lamp for a ½ hour. One night we ate in Sabatini’s with several new friends. The cost is $15 per person and I thought it was OK, but not great. Our servers in the main dining room were actually much better than our waiter in Sabatini’s. I don’t eat a lot of the items that Sabatini’s serves (I watch my carb intake) so that may be part of the reason I did not enjoy it as much. We never did eat in the Desert Rose, as we just did not find it appealing. The décor looked like something out of your local Acapulco or Red Onion restaurant. Not a lot of atmosphere in my opinion. I will say other’s that ate there were impressed. I believe the cost is $7.50 per person which includes a margarita. Room service was excellent, delivered on time, and with all items as ordered. We really took advantage of room service due to the large balcony. Sometimes we would order cheeseburgers at 3am after the disco. Never a problem. Also, we were able to order off the dining room menu during dinner hours if we chose to. SERVICE  A Service on GOLDEN PRINCESS was excellent all around. The staff was friendly and always helpful. Most everyone said hello in passing, which you don’t see as much of these days. As stated earlier, our waiter and assistant were exceptional, as was our cabin steward. No complaints here. ENTERTAINMENT   B- Entertainment was good, but not great. In 15 days there were only three production shows, which I tend to enjoy. The first was “Lights, Camera, Action” which I consider to be the best onboard production show I have seen. The only exception to this might be the ice skating show on VOYAGER OF THE SEAS. The second show was “Shake, Rattle & Roll”. Typical 50’s and 60’s type show which I did not care for. The last show was “Words & Music” which was also excellent, but not as good as the first show. Of course there were other entertainers onboard, in fact three different shows a night in the different lounges. I really can’t comment on the rest of the performers because I did not see their shows. We usually were so late getting out of the dining room (our choice) that it was too late to see anything. Certainly the Disco was the best show in the house! We made friends several of the dancers and Officer’s since they also frequented the disco. It was great to hear about shipboard life on GOLDEN PRINCESS and also have such talented dance partners! There were actually two different dance teams onboard, as one was preparing to leave in Ft. Lauderdale and they were rehearsing with the new team to get them up to speed. Regarding other activities, they were all offered as you might expect. Dance classes, napkin folding, pool games, etc. This was pretty much the same as any major cruise line. WEATHER Some of you might be wondering what the weather was like on a fall transatlantic cruise? Well, it was excellent for the most part. Out of 15 days, I think there were only 2 or 3 days that were not sunny. Most days were warm and I certainly came home with a tan. The crossing itself was quite smooth except for maybe the last day. Surprisingly, GOLDEN PRINCESS handles the seas fairly well considering how top heavy she is. One night during some moderate swells we were up in Skywalkers. The periodic shaking was incredible! You literally had to hold on to your glass or it would shake off the table! Too much fun. PORTS The ports on this cruise were fantastic! It was such a great mix of interesting places and wonderful sea days. I love days at sea, and that is one of the reasons I picked this cruise. A westbound transatlantic cruise is truly idea for another reason as well, you pick up an extra hour sleep almost every night of the crossing. Believe me, that came in handy. My favorite ports were Monte Carlo, Rome and Florence. We took an escorted tour in both Rome and Florence as we wanted to see as much as possible. Both tours were excellent. Princess has this down to a science and they use first rate tour operators. I was amazed at how easily the ship was able to organize hundreds of people and several different tours and not lose a single person. Kudos to a job well done! In the other ports we were on our own, which is what I usually prefer. They were all easy to walk around and Princess provided maps for assistance. I any of you have specific questions, please feel free to email me. One interesting tidbit happened in the Azores. About an hour after we left, Captain Warner came over the PA with an “important announcement”. The ship was returning to the Azores as two passengers had disembarked with no explanation. Of course the logic was that these passengers may have planted something like a bomb onboard the ship. The crew went into high gear and started searching the ship left and right. Once we were back at the Azores we never actually docked. The Captain made another PA stating the situation was resolved, the ship was safe, and we would be on our way. It was not until returning to the US that I found out what really happened. One of the Cruise Staff members made a bomb threat from onboard the ship. It was supposed to be a joke, which in this day and age is not something you joke about. He was locked in a cabin for the remainder of the cruise and arrested upon arrival in Ft. Lauderdale. Needless to say, his employment was terminated from Princess Cruises. He was only employed by the line since April of this year. SECURITY  A Speaking of security, let me touch on this for a moment. I think Princess did a suburb job in this respect. They are one of the only cruise lines which use the A-Pass system. Other cruise lines are getting it, but it may take a little time. The A-Pass system imprints a picture of you in the computer (taken at embarkation) along with your cabin information. You swipe you cruise card each time you enter and depart the ship. Your picture pops up and the officer on duty can identify you. Also, it lets the ship know if you are on or off the ship at any given time. I felt security was taken seriously onboard GOLDEN PRINCESS, and never once did I feel a lapse or have concerns in this area. DISEMBARKATION  C Disembarkation was a bit disorganized in my opinion. Although this was the first time GOLDEN PRINCESS had entered the US, the GRAND PRINCESS uses the same dock every week, which is pretty much exclusive to Princess Cruises. Each of us had to go through Immigration onboard the ship beginning at 6am depending on your last name. Well, the Customs and Immigration Officers did not even board the ship until after 6am, so this is where the trouble began. The line stretched through every lounge on the Promenade Deck. I took one look and decided to eat breakfast instead (lines are not my thing). By the time I finished breakfast things were moving and I was through in about 20 minutes. As it turned out, there was a single Immigration Officer taking a quick look at your passport picture compared to your face. Nothing else to verify you even went through this line. I’m all for extra precautions, but only when they accomplish something. This seemed like a waste of time since they were not crossing off your name when you passed through. We were the second group of passengers to debark, and I was amazed at the congestion to find your luggage. By far the worst set up I have seen. The luggage for the first group was placed right at the entrance to the luggage holding area. For this reason, a huge bottle neck formed with people literally unable to move. Only a small walkway was left open between the luggage and the exit. Adding to the problem were the porters who had large luggage carts and were blocking the only exit. It was a nightmare and very poorly set up. Once we exited the building, there was no problem getting a cab for the short ride to the airport. I never use the ships transfers because I hate busses and waiting for the seats to fill up. I guess I’m too impatient for that. In this case, as usual, I was relieved to get in a cab and leave the madness behind. Of course we arrived at the airport far earlier than any of the busses, and zipped right though the check-in lines at the airport. Just as I finished checking in, the first busses were beginning to arrive. Boy was I glad I took a cab! CLOSING In closing, I hope you can tell this was an exceptional cruise in almost every way. Although the ship itself was not my all time favorite, the entire experience as a whole ranks as one of the very best. It’s been several years since I’ve sailed Princess, and I’m happy to say they are still an exceptional cruise line, which offers a superior product. Should you have any specific question about the ship or this review, please email me at eroller@peoplepc.com and I will do my best to answer it. Until then, BON VOYAGE! Ernest Roller

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Jun 20, 2001

Mediterranean - Barcelona to Istanbul

This review is broken into three sections:  The Ship; Ports of Call; Contact Information I began writing this review as a spectacular sun was setting over eastern Canada as we made our journey across the Atlantic to meet up with the Golden Princess in Barcelona.  It was a wonderful way to begin a cruise vacation.  Actually, the fun began months ago during the planning process.  I’ve decided that part of the fun of

a cruise vacation is in the planning and anticipation. The friends you make through research for the trip just adds to the fun.  This is our 14th cruise and the planning had already made it grand.  This review will contain three separate sections.  One that focuses on the ship; one that discusses the ports of call; and the final which will list all of the contact information for the tour guides we used and favorite restaurants.  My husband and I cruised with our 14-year-old daughter.  We selected the Golden Princess for several reasons.  First was the itinerary and ports of call.  Second, we had cruised with Princess four times in the past and they remain among our favorite cruise lines.  It had been two years since we were on a Princess ship so we were looking forward to returning. We book our own air (and have done so since nearly missing a ship through the cruise line air several years ago).  We arrived in Barcelona three days prior to boarding the Golden.  It gave us a chance to adjust to the time change, really enjoy a spectacular city and arrive in plenty of time.  We didn’t want to miss the ship!  This was one of the best things we did.  By the time we boarded the ship on Thursday, we were completely adjusted to the time change.  A lot of passengers who arrived the day of boarding were tired for the first several days. THE SHIP Our Cabin The Golden Princess is a gorgeous ship.  Our cabin, D729, was a mini-suite with a nice sized veranda on the Dolphin deck.  It was the third cabin from the rear of the ship.  We loved the location.  The decks are staggered on this ship so there is little if any privacy on the verandas on most decks.  The laundry room was just across the hall (a nice convenience on a 12 day cruise).  The cabin was spacious with a king bed, a sofa bed for Amanda, a coffee table, and two chairs.  There was a great hutch in the center of the room with two TVs and plenty of shelves for storage.  A large closet and plenty of drawers offered more space than we needed.  The bathroom was good sized and the balcony was very nice – four chairs and a table.  Our cabin was located deck 9 between two floors of other cabins.  For the least noise, we’ve found a floor between decks of other cabins to be best.  If you are under or above public decks, you get a lot more noise. Our cabin steward, Narciso, was quiet and efficient but often seemed “stressed.”  I kept telling him we were never in a rush for anything and by the middle of the cruise he seemed to be a bit more comfortable.  A nice convenience was our room was directly across from the self-service laundry on our deck.  For a 12-day cruise, this was great as the laundry areas seemed to fill quickly, especially on the days at sea.  Being so close made it easy to use the facilities early in the morning. Public Spaces The Lido, Sun and Sports decks offered a nice variety of outdoor activities during the days.  There were plenty of deck chairs around the pools at all times.  I think this was partly due to the itinerary (we’ve been on the Grand in the Caribbean and there were never deck chairs available).  The pools and hot tubs, all very nice, are fresh water and do not close early like they do on other ships. The Spa, located on the Sun deck was lovely and I had a great massage, however it had two drawbacks.  First is there system of booking appointments.  We were on the ship at 11:00 AM (two hours prior to published boarding time) and I had to wait in line 45 minutes to make a massage appointment.  Two crew would shuffle paper schedules back and for so much that neither of them could keep anything straight.  You would think in the age of technology on a brand new ship that they would have computerized the scheduling of spa appointments.  The second drawback is that the massage rooms are located directly beneath the outdoor basketball court.  Consequently, there was the constant “thud” of a basketball above the room at all time during the massage.  Not exactly relaxing.  It makes one wonder who really designs ships!  But as I said earlier, the massage itself was great, even with the “thud.” Entertainment Most of the evening activities were all located on the Promenade deck.  From the Princess Theater, to the lobby lounge (always hopping with Marucio playing), the Wheelhouse Bar (our favorite hangout where Edy Smith plays a mean piano), the Explorer Lounge and the Vista Lounge.  Entertainment throughout the ship was generally very good if not excellent.  Production shows were great and the entertainers in the lounge were outstanding.  There was always a good variety of evening activities to keep you going late into the night.  Unfortunately, I think everyone was pretty tired from the busy port days and the ship was pretty quiet by 11:00 PM. Dining Even though we are younger (my husband is 38 and I’m 43) we prefer traditional dining.  We like having the same tablemates and wait staff each evening.  On this particular cruise, one dining room was traditional, one was personal choice and our dining room was split (but probably 75% personal choice).   The first evening, we were very skeptical.  All of the crew in the dining room seemed to be running around in a frenzied hurry to keep the personal choice diners moving in and out of the dining room.  It was an atmosphere we didn’t care of at all.  Additionally, there were no other people seated at our table, even though we had a table for six or eight.  We were considering requesting a move to the all-traditional dining room.  However, we REALLY like our waiter (Hakan) and assistant waiter (Chris) so we thought we’d try it a second night.  As we were seated the second night, we heard another couple walk by saying to our waiter “we’d really like to be seated with other people.”  I told our waiter that they could join us and by the third night they brought another couple to the table and we were having a great time.  The atmosphere seemed to quiet down as the cruise went along and everyone seemed in less of a hurry.  The captain even dined at a table next to us one evening in an inconspicuous table on the side of the room near a window. The food was very good, although Princess had pretty much done away with their popular tableside pasta dishes and flaming desserts with the advent of personal choice dining.  We mentioned this to Hakan and from the seventh evening on, our head waiter was preparing things tableside for our table.  We shared with other traditional tables around us and it was a nice touch that they offered to do these dishes for us.  If you are with a group of people or a larger family, I can see the where personal choice is an attractive option.  However, we’ll probably stick to traditional dining as long as we can.  By the way, Princess food is still far superior to Royal Caribbean.  The pizza on the pool deck is 1000% better. We did not try either of the alternative restaurants and the design of the Horizon Court was very disorganized making it difficult at times to get food.  There aren’t really “lines” like a typical buffet.  It’s kind of a circular area with an additional food bar in the middle.  Consequently, you have people coming and going in all directions.  The food here was average. PORTS OF CALL For this trip, the itinerary was more important to us than the ship.  We really wanted to visit these ports of call.  The fact that we could do it on this fabulous ship was a bonus!  Before I describe our port experiences, please note that I’ve listed the cities by their European names.  It kind of bothers me that we don’t use the “real” names of the cities.   Barcelona We arrived in Barcelona three days prior to the ship’s departure.  We connected through Paris without any problems and were very happy that all of our luggage arrived with us in Barcelona.   We had a bit of a wait in line for a cab to our hotel, but once in the cab it was a short (5 minute) ride to our hotel that cost less than $5.  We stayed at the Hotel Colon in the heart of the Gothic district across from the Barcelona Cathedral.  It was a perfect spot!  We walked almost everywhere from here.  We spent our first evening just exploring the area and having an early dinner since we were a bit jet-lagged.   Our early arrival in Barcelona allowed us plenty of time to adjust to the six hour time difference – a huge benefit.  On the next morning, we were met in our hotel lobby by a private guide I arranged for through APIT - Barcelona (the Association of Professional Tourists Guides of Catalunya – the state where Barcelona is located).  Anna Maria was a marvelous guide and provided the perfect overview of Barcelona.  Whether you begin or end your cruise here, we highly recommend at least a ½ day tour (with a private guide or through the ship) to get acquainted with the city.  Anna Maria pointed out things we’d never have noticed on our own.  Our tour with her included sites in the Gothic Quarter, Gaudi’s  La Sagrada Familia  (its unfinished by the way and not scheduled for completion until 2082 !!!) and Parc Guell (another Gaudi development).  She also recommended dining and shopping (more on those later). We found Barcelona to be a warm & friendly city.  Cabs were very inexpensive as was the food & shopping.  On our final day before boarding, we walked from our hotel down to the pier to catch our first glimpse of the Golden Princess.   On our return walk, we visited the Picasso Museum (a must for anyone who enjoys his art) and then dined that evening at the 4 Cats restaurant – a Picasso favorite.   The morning of boarding, we left for the ship at 11:00 AM.  We had a tough time explaining to our cab driver exactly where the ship was docked even though we had walked there.  Be sure the driver understand that the ship is not at the main Barcelona harbour.  When we arrived at the ship, this was by far the easiest embarkation ever.  We walked in, signed our payment card (we have done all of our “paperwork” on line before leaving home), got our keys and walked on the ship.  We were in our cabin by 11:30 AM!  Since we had been in Barcelona for a couple of days, we didn’t get off the ship again even though we overnighted in Barcelona before sailing the next afternoon. Monte Carlo/Nice This was one stop where we took a ship’s tour.  We wanted to visit Nice so we did the early morning trip to Nice and had the afternoon to explore Monte Carlo on our own.  The tour to Nice was well organized and the drive was very scenic.  We had an hour to walk around Nice on our own.  We drove past the medieval town of Eze on our return to Monte Carlo….a great sight to behold on the mountainside.  We lunched at Quai des Artistes, a delightful French restaurant on the harbour in Monte Carlo.  We were in search of a water color for a gift so we walked around town after lunch looking for art galleries.  After finding the perfect painting, we took our daughter back to the ship and returned to town to visit the casino.  There is a $7 per person charge to enter the casino but it was worth it.  It is VERY different from any casino you’ve seen in the U.S.  It was very elegant and extremely subdued for a casino.  Just walking around was an experience.   Firenze (Florence) This was a GREAT stop.  We want to go back and spend a week here.  We visited on a Sunday but that didn’t have a tremendous impact on what we could and couldn’t see.  We took the ship’s tour here as well (our last one) as it’s a 90 minute drive from the ship to Firenze.  Our guide was great and gave us tremendous background on the trip to Firenze.  That passed the time quickly.  When we arrived in the city, another guide joined us (apparently you have to be licensed in the city where you are providing guiding services).  She, too, was very good.  As we began our tour at the Duomo, the Annual St. John the Baptist parade began so we stayed and watched the festivities.  If you are going to be in Firenze around this time of year, read up on the event.  It was a great site!  Our guide spent two hours with us before giving us a couple hours to explore on our own.  It was very informative but there is no question that there was just far too much to take in in one day.  You need four or five days here to truly appreciate the city and everything it has to offer.  We met friends from home for lunch who were vacationing in Italy and explored with them for the rest of the day.  Of course, the highlight for Amanda was the two gelati stops at the SAME store….Vivoli’s.  Our map said it was the site of the best gelati in the world.  Amanda agreed! Napoli (Naples) We hired a private car and guide here through a service in Roma (Rome).  We’d highly recommend doing this at this stop.  Our driver/guide, Pietro Mastromano, was outstanding!  This was a terrific port of call for us.  I knew before we arrived that we wanted to visit Pompeii early and spend the rest of the day along the Amalfi Coast.  We arrived in Pompeii and even though it was early in the day, it was very hot and crowded.  There is very little shade here on a hot summer day.  It was extremely interesting and we could have stayed much longer except for the crowds and heat. After leaving Pompeii, my favorite part of the tour began.  Pietro took us to a charming mountain town called Ravello where we ate a wonderful lunch at a small Italian restaurant and visited the quaint shops before moving on.  I could spend a week here.  Uncrowded, secluded and picturesque!  An ideal spot after the crowds of Pompeii.  From there we drove to the coastal towns of Amalfi and Positano.  Breathtaking is the only way to describe these.  The drive is reminiscent of the Coast Highway in northern California only the cliffs are steeper and the villages much older.  I loved this area and could easily spend vacations in any of these coastal towns.  Venezia (Venice) This was probably the port we were most looking forward too prior to the trip.  We were not disappointed.  We knew there would be a lot of tourists so we were prepared for the crowds.  The sail into Venice is amazing.  You want to be at the front of the ship or on the starboard (right side) of the ship as you sail into Venice.  If you have a veranda on the starboard side, all the better.  On this sailing, the ship docked away from the main tourist areas so you had to take one of the ship’s water taxi or take a vaporetta (local water taxi) to get to the tourist sites.  This wasn’t a big deal to us but probably bothered some people.  We had planned a private cultural tour here the first afternoon through www.venicescapes.org .  However, upon arrival, we learned our tour guide had an accident and was unable to accommodate our tour.  We were flexible and headed out on our own.  We may have missed out on a bit of the culture but we had a grand time exploring the streets and canals on our own.  The food was incredible from the gelati to the pizza, sandwiches and pastas.  The first day we just roamed.  It was amazing to walk down an alley into a square with a spectacular church.  Photo opportunities abound (I took about 200 photos in Venezia alone).  The amount of Murano glass is amazing.  You do not have to take the tour to Murano to find plenty of beautiful glass.  We had visited the Murano glass factory in Venezuela so we didn’t feel the need to go in Italy.  We took a late evening gondola ride (a must) and then searched for dinner.  The gondola was $75 for 45 minutes. This was probably the find of the cruise.  We were walking from alley to alley looking at menus and finally selected a restaurant with what we thought were good pasta dishes.  To our surprise, we picked what turned out to be the best restaurant of the trip – Ai Leoncini.  We shared three pasta dishes and a veal dish.  The ravioli in a tomato cream sauce was some of the best pasta we’ve ever had and we eat a lot of pasta.  As it turned out, we discovered we entered the “back” door of the restaurant and when we left through the “front” door, we were just off St. Mark’s Square. Princess did run continuous water shuttles from the ship to St. Mark’s Square but we also purchased a 24 hr. vaporetta ticket that allows you to ride any water bus all day long.  Water taxis (which are smaller, private boats) are very expensive and we didn’t see anyone using them.   On day 2 in Venezia we got an early start to see the Doges Palace and St. Mark’s Basilica.  Doges Palace begins selling tickets at 9:00 AM (we were first in line – a one time occurence).  Escorted tours like those from the ship are allowed in at 8:45 AM while individual tourists are allowed in at 9:00 AM.  I’d recommend bringing a map of the Palace from a tourist guidebook.  Posters in many of the rooms describe where you are but with all the tour groups you often couldn’t get to the posters.  They also have audio hand held recorders to rent for $3 that describe the rooms.  The Palace was indescribable.  Paintings filled every room and ceiling.  Amazing gold molding could be found everywhere.  The palace contains a great collection of armour and swords.  There is so much here that it is overwhelming. When we left to go to St. Mark’s Bascilica at 10:30 AM the lines were enormous so we were forced to skip going inside.  While we hated to miss it, we were on overload at this point.  We finished our visit to Venezia by doing a little shopping and having another calzone. Sail away, in our opinion, was even better than the sail in.  Andre Bottecelli played over the ship’s loud speakers.  Get a spot on the rear of the ship.  It is fabulous back here!  There were not very many people and the view as you leave Venezia is unobstructed and unforgettable. Athena (Athens) We once again hired a private tour guide here.  The guide we originally hired had tourists the previous day that wanted him for a second day so we ended up with the partner of the person we originally booked.  As it turned out, Dimitri was a fabulous guide and driver and we couldn’t have asked for anyone better.  We got an early morning start.  Our first stop was at the “original” Olympic stadium.  It seems a shame that they do not play to use it during the next summer Olympics which will be held in Athens.  From there, we went to the Acropolis.  Without question, this was at the top of our list for sites we visited.  An important note that I had read in other reviews – there is a tremendous amount of walking on very old, uneven stones, including walking up and down some steep areas.  It is very important to wear proper shoes here and be very cautious, especially if you have trouble walking.  Words really cannot describe this masterpiece that sits atop this exciting city.   The Acropolis should not be missed if this is your first time to Athens.  Our last stop was at a great restaurant in the Plaka.  We could definitely spend more time here and would love to visit the Greek Isles on a future trip.  The people here were wonderful! Kusadasi/Ephesus Again, we had made arrangements for a private guide.  Our situation here was a bit unusal.  I had been corresponding with our tour guide (Lale Kosagan) for several months when I learned her 5-year-old daughter was scheduled for surgery during our visit.  She enlisted the services of her sister (Hale) who is also a guide.  The great thing was Hale could be with us both days in Turkey.  She and our driver, Uhls, drove from Istanbul to Kusadasi the day before we arrived.  They spent the day with us then drove back to Istanbul to meet us the next day.  We were amazed since it was an 8 hour drive each way and the cost for her, the driver and the car for each day was very reasonable. Hale was delightful and another wonderful guide.  I don’t know if we simply lucked out or if all guides in Europe are good but we were fortunate that we had great guides everywhere. We spent most of this day touring Ephesus.  We visited the Virgin Mary’s house, the ancient city of Ephesus where the “library” must be seen to be believed, had a terrific lunch on an outdoor patio overlooking a scenic valley and visited a rug factory.  Actually, the rug factory was a lot of fun (I had read a lot about “rugs” before we left) and the process amazing.  As a special treat, Uhls bought us a bag of fresh peaches which we took to our head waiter that evening at dinner.  He flambéed a wonderful dessert for our tableside! Istanbul It was great to get off the ship in Istanbul and have Hale and Uhls meet us again.  It would have been great to have one guide to tour all of Europe with!  I’d strongly recommend using the same guide in both locations.  It made the second day even better.  In Istanbul we visited the Blue Mosque, the Palace (be sure to go into the Harem) and finally the Grand Bazaar.  The traffic was horrendous and it took a long time to navigate the city streets.  This is a BIG city.  By the time we reached Istanbul, we were tired.  While we always wish cruises would last longer, we were ready to head home.  On the final morning, we disembarked and took the ship’s tour up the Bosphorus River.  This was a relaxing ride and best of all, they transferred our luggage and us to the airport at the end of the tour.  I’d recommend this excursion if you have a later flight.  Our return trip (with an overnight in Frankfurt) was uneventful.  I took some 600 photos and probably could have taken more.  The sites, the people, the history and culture were fabulous even though it was easy to be overwhelmed by it all. SHOPPING We really didn’t do a lot of shopping.  We did this trip to see the sites.  We did purchase several nice souvenirs (the pottery in Ravello was my favorite) but I can’t report on great buys on leather goods, jewelry, etc. as we didn’t look for any of the these items. FINAL IMPRESSIONS We had been on the Grand Princess in the Caribbean several years ago and did not care for it at all.  We were pleasantly pleased, however, with the Golden Princess.  We’ve come to learn that cruising is about the entire experience, not just the ship and not just where it goes.  While the Golden and Grand are sister ships and in many ways the same, our experience on the Golden was much better than on the Grand.  The passengers, the atmosphere, the service….everything was a step ahead of the Grand.  So when you read these reviews, keep in mind that your experience could possibly vary from others depending on a number of different factors.  The most important thing, regardless of the ship or where you go, is to have a wonderful time! Final comment:   Go on-line and complete all your immigration information, onboard credit card form and shore excursions.  It will make your cruise vacation much more enjoyable! CONTACT INFORMATION Here is a listing of the guides we used and some of our favorite restaurants.  Email me for more info. Barcelona Hotel Colon:  $150 per night; Phone 34-93-301-1404 Email:  reservas@hotelcolon.es   Tour Guide:  Anna Maria Sangenis Crotogino; Phone 34-93-207-3321 Booked through APIT-Barcelona:  Email: apit@ctv.es Restaurants:   Caputxes in the Gothic Quarter; Phone 34-93-319-7757 4CATS in the Gothic Quarter:  34-93-302-4140 NOTE:   34 is the phone country code if calling from the USA; country codes are listed for all countries below.  You do not need the country code once you arrive I that country. Monoco Restaurant:  Quai des Artistes on the harbor Napoli Tour Guide:  Pietro Mastromano Phone:  39-081-870-8985 Venezia Restaurants: Ai Leoncini (our favorite restaurant for the entire trip) just off St. Mark’s Square (Piazza S. Marco); Phone: 39-041-523-6049 Food & Wine Store: Antica Drogheria Mascari:  www.imascari.com   Athena Tour Guide:  Dimitri; Phone: 30-093-788-3786 Kusadasi/Istanbul Tour Guides Lale Kosagan Email: lalekosagan@yahoo.com    Hale Koca Email: halekoca@hotmail.com   

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Jun 8, 2001

Grand Mediterranean

The 06/09/01 Grand Mediterranean Cruise aboard the new Golden Princess was everything we expected it to be and more. WOW! We have been home two days and are still in sensory overload. I am hoping here to sort out all the places we have been and all the things we have seen. We flew to Istanbul one day early and decided that was a great way to help prepare for a long port intensive cruise in a time zone seven hours ahead of ours. We

had paid for air deviation to use Continental for mileage credits. As it turned out Princess would not book us with them. They must not have a contract with Continental for European flights, so we went on KLM and returned on Delta. We played around with flights and times a little and ended with what we thought would be OK and were happy enough with our final arrangements. We arrived about 2:30 p.m. and whisked right up to purchase our Visas ($45.00 USD each). We had the exact change counted out which seemed to make it run smoother, after watching others. Then we went right through Immigration where they stamped our Passports. This was the only stamp we got for the whole trip. Others said they asked in Greece, Italy, Monaco and Spain and were not able to get their passports stamped anywhere else. We were met by Princess representatives at the baggage claim area. This was a little confusing as they did not speak English - just enough to rush us out to the busses. It was a short ride to the Conrad International. This was a very nice hotel! We are in our mid fifties and were accompanied by my mother who is 83 and a friend who is in her late 60's. We knew we would all be tired that first evening so we arranged to experience a Turkish bath. We were all glad we did - but once was enough. I would still recommend it to anyone who has never had one! We went to one that has quite a history (300 years old) so that made it even more interesting. If you are interested, email me and I will give you more info about this. We had eaten enough on the plane and had a few snacks with us so we did not eat dinner. After the bath experience we returned to the hotel and went to bed early. We had arranged for a tour guide for our one full day, that night and the next morning in Istanbul. He was really wonderful and I would be happy to give his name and email address to anyone interested in contacting him for Istanbul and/or Ephesus. We started with The Chora Museum. This is a beautiful 14th century church, not much visited by tourists - so glad we got to see it! Then we went to see Topkapi Palace and had a good lunch in a restaurant at the Palace - with a great table overlooking the sea. There is lots of walking at Topkapi, as the palace is actually a small self-contained city. After lunch we visited Hagia Sophia and The Blue Mosque. We shopped here and there along the way. Our guide is not a fan of the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul but would have taken us. We were getting tired and were anxious to get to the Golden, check in and prepare for our night on the town. He dropped us off about 5:00 and planned to pick us up again at 8:30. I am not going to go into any details about the ship as they can be discovered so many other places. We love to cruise and it would take something really bad for us to have any complaints. This was our 5th cruise, 3rd on Princess. The service, entertainment, cabin, public rooms, food were all good. The Princess staff on each of our cruises with them has been especially friendly. We used personal choice dining and it was wonderful to go when we were ready, instead of at a pre-ordained time. We had the opportunity to chat with several waiters and assistant waiters - who all did a fine job! Pre-cruise, we had met another group on the cruise bulletin boards. We arranged to meet them at the Wheelhouse Bar at 8:00 and they joined us for dinner and a Turkish show at The Orient House. We were glad that our guide joined us for dinner and it was a really fun night of food and entertainment! The next day our guide met us and our new friends for a last look at Istanbul before sailing in the afternoon. We saw Dolmabahce Palace, took a short drive along the Bosphorus and then saw The Suleymaniye Mosque. All of these were magnificent. Istanbul was just the beginning of our great adventure and we were surely not disappointed. We saw many beautiful places, the people are friendly and the city is clean. Some of the street vendors will bug you to buy but our guide helped with that. Walk on by and don't give them any encouragement. The next morning we were at the port in Kusadasi. We had committed to a different tour guide here before contacting the one we used for Istanbul. As it turned out the guide at Istanbul also does Ephesus and it is his specialty. Our new friends used him in Ephesus and we used the tour we had already committed to. We were not unhappy with our guide but would recommend using Nejat in both Istanbul and Ephesus. What a day of history! Ephesus is incredible! We also went to the House of the Virgin Mary, had lunch at a great Turkish buffet where we sampled more good Turkish food, went to the museum, and saw what little is left of the Temple of Artemis and St. John's Basilica. We declined the offered stop at a carpet factory, as we knew none of us wanted to purchase one. We did go to ceramic place and shopped for jewelry - where we had apple tea (very good). We found one of our best bargains of the trip outside the entrance to Mary's house where we purchased wool & silk Pashmina scarves for $15.00 each. For the following day in Athens, we had arranged for a private taxi to meet us at the pier. Our driver was very informative about the history of his city, spoke excellent English and we were very happy using him as a guide. The pollution was so bad that day our eyes burned and watered as we walked through the Acropolis. This was a little disappointing, but at least we can say we were there. We drove by several more Athens sights - watched the changing of the guard at the palace and then returned to the ship for the afternoon. We were ready for a day at sea before arriving in Venice. We toured Venice on our own, which is very easy to do. Venice is a magical place! We walked the streets, shopped a little - had ice cream and watched people and pigeons. The next morning we went ashore early to get in line & see St. Mark's Basilica - WOW! Admission to the Basilica is free but you must pay approximately $1.50 per person at each location to see the treasury, the precious Pala d'Oro and the famous Horses of the Basilica. A total of $4.50 well spent! Even with an overnight at Venice, there was not enough time to see everything. I'd rather leave a place wanting to see more than feeling like I had to stay too long. Cruising does dictate the amount of time you have at each port - but that's OK by us! One tip here - the Basilica closes at 5:00 p.m. They let people in right up until then and there were no lines at about 4:50 p.m. We had arranged to meet mom & her friend at 5:00 by the center flagpole outside and they arrived 5:03 so could not take advantage of popping in when there was no line. Venice was followed by another day at sea - which again was welcome. If I were forced to find something wrong with this itinerary, it would be that it's such a busy one. Naples was our next port. We went on the Amalfi Drive and Pompeii tour offered by Princess and were happy with our choice here. Pompeii is amazing and the Amalfi Coast is breathtaking. We enjoyed a short stop in Amalfi where we visited the Cathedral of St. Andrea, and purchased some Limon liquor - an area specialty. They advise keeping it in the freezer to make it very cold and drinking a small amount on ice after dinner. We have not tried it yet. The stop for the cameo shop was brief and painless - no pressure. After docking in Livorno, we took another Princess shore excursion, the Florence Sampler. This was simply a walk through the Piazza Del Duomo and the Piazza Della Signoria where the guide pointed out some of the most interesting features. We then had a nice guided tour through the Church of Santa Croce, followed by time on our own. There is NO WAY to see Florence in this little bit of time - what an amazing city - filled with art and history. We found a real bargain spot here for souvenirs. Standing with your back to the Church of Santa Croce, it is about half way down on the right side of the square. It says souvenir shop and is filled with lots of "stuff". It is a shop, not a stand on the street. On the right hand side as you enter, they have small pieces of Murano glass. The discs that are sold on the ship for $12.00 are $6.00 here. They also had small Murano hearts to put on a necklace or bracelet for $3.00 each. We also found pretty leather bookmarks for $1.00 and little marble hinged boxes for $2.50. This was a real bonanza for those little things it's fun to bring to lots of people. Monte Carlo was fun. In the morning we walked to Old Monaco and visited the Palace and the gardens. The gardens are lovely and we could have spent more time sitting there. The part of the Palace you are allowed to see is interesting but not as spectacular as others we had seen on this cruise. For the afternoon, my better half walked to the casino, and felt like it was nothing special inside, though the outside is very pretty. Mom's friend and I took the ships tour to the Medieval Village of Eze. The drive there was very picturesque and Eze is absolutely charming. We were really glad that we went there! I had read some good things about it, and had also read that it was just a shopping trip, so we were not sure what to expect. You do have to climb up quite a ways to reach the entrance and then more to get to the cactus garden. Once inside the garden we were on our own, where we climbed to the top and had a photo opportunity. Then we returned to the narrow winding streets of Eze, where we could have spent more time than we were allowed. We did do some shopping - how does a woman resist? It was a lovely afternoon. We arrived in Barcelona at about noon the next day. We had planned to take the ships tour to Montserrat but because of a strike by tour bus drivers all tours for the afternoon were cancelled. We had mixed feelings because we really wanted to see Montserrat, but were glad to have the extra time to relax and pack up to disembark the next morning. Because we were staying over two nights in Barcelona, we did not leave the ship until 11:40 a.m. We spent the morning having a leisurely breakfast at the Horizon Court, then sat in the Explorers Lounge until they called our color. We were transferred to Le Meridien Hotel in Barcelona. This was a very nice hotel and a GREAT location. We spent the afternoon walking the length of Las Ramblas and then went to the Gothic Quarter and walked through the Cathedral. We all agreed on a combination lunch/dinner and at about 6:30 p.m. walked toward Placa Catalunya at the top of Las Ramblas to eat at a spot recommended by the Princess representative at the hotel. We found a waiter who spoke pretty good English, but still did not all make especially good selections from the menu. Restaurants do not open to serve dinner until 8:00 p.m. or 8:30 p.m. We don't like to eat late and wanted to call it a night so we could get up early to meet our private tour guide the next morning for a full day of sight seeing. We were really happy with the tour guide we had in Barcelona. Again, I'll be glad to give you her email address if you want it. She is an American from Atlanta so we did not even have to listen carefully to understand her. Traveling at our own pace, we saw La Sagrada Familia Church, Park Guell, many of Gaudi's buildings and drove to the top of Montjuic Mountain where we watched the Golden Princess leaving port taking her new passengers for their Grand Mediterranean adventure. She took us to lunch at a restaurant favored by locals and after talking about the kinds of things we liked to eat she ordered a variety of Tapas. This meal was really enjoyable and we all felt like we had sampled some of the genuine foods of Spain. She returned with us to the Gothic Quarter and pointed out many things that we had not seen when we were there on our own the previous evening. We had a really good day experiencing Barcelona! That evening we walked some more on Las Ramblas, enjoying the mimes, music and dancers. We stopped at a little spot and shared a pizza - then had ice cream and used up the last of our pesetas. Our trip ended with our long flight home the next day. We had no problems and our luggage got here at the same time we did. This was a wonderful way to have a first taste of Europe, and I recommend Princess and their Mediterranean itinerary! These are a few bits of incidental information. Other than the pollution in Athens, we were fortunate to have very good weather for the 12 days. We had lots of sun so used hats, sun screen and a couple of times took our umbrellas for shade. Later cruises in the summer are sure to find higher temperatures than what we experienced. Some people carried umbrellas that looked like they were made with a silver material designed to reflect the sun - I may try to find one of those. US currency and credit cards were widely accepted in Turkey and Italy. In Monaco the only place we had to have local currency was the casino ($7.50 entrance fee and you do need to have your passport with you). In Barcelona, no one wanted US dollars, but they would accept credit cards for larger purchases. Take a copy of your passport to carry with you when you are ashore, leaving your original in the safe in your cabin. That and your ID card from the ship are all the identity you need, except for the casino at Monte Carlo. We were advised by guides in Turkey and Barcelona not to carry our original. There were 3 formal nights and 9 smart casual nights - no semi-formal. If anyone has questions I might be able to answer, or wants the names and email addresses for private tour guides we used, just contact me at juliejoe@swbell.net Julie

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Nov 30, -0001

Eastern Mediterranean

Our 12 day Mediterranean cruise on the Golden Princess was an incredible vacation in every respect. It met every expectations and exceeded many. I won't go into much detail on the ship itself as others have written some excellent reviews regarding the ship on Cruisecritic.com. I'll concentrate mainly on what we did in the various ports and offer some random thoughts as well. Hopefully, won't be too long and you will be able to garner some

bits of information that you will find helpful. To those of you that haven't started your journey, you are in for a trip of a lifetime. How we wish we were just starting our journey instead of just having finished it. We arranged our own air since we wanted to spend 3 extra days in Istanbul. Are we ever glad we did. Istanbul was incredible and quite possibly the highlight of our trip. The Turkish visa is easily obtained at the Istanbul airport on arrival. They have a special desk set up to sell them. They cost $45 each and they only take cash and dollars work just fine. Probably a good idea to have the exact change. I am not sure what you would get if you gave them a hundred dollar bill. Istanbul is such a fascinating city. The following link has some great information on Istanbul. http://www.turkey.com/news/viewpoint/merrell01.html I also suggest you obtain the August 21, 2001 issue of Conde Nast magazine. It has an excellent article on Istanbul. I would strongly urge you, if it is at all possible, to plan on spending at least a couple of days there. I would love to go back...and stay a while. I can't find the words to describe Istanbul, to tell you why I liked Turkey so much. You have to be there to feel it, there aren't words. In Istanbul, women were scarce throughout the day, but at night they came out. The smells were that of food cooking, cobs of corn by street vendors (a favorite snack of the Turks) and the aromas of the Spice Bazaar. The sounds are the haunting sounds of Turkish music, and five times a day, the Muslim prayers being broadcast from the minarets of the Mosques, over 2,000 of them in Istanbul. We found most of the people we came into contact with to be friendly and helpful. Our hotel was near the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, two of the world's most perfect buildings. We never tired of looking at them. We visited both of them, plus other Mosques. We visited Topkapi and Dolmabache Palaces. We cruised the Bosporus and found that to be one of the highlights of our stay in Istanbul. The coastal towns are lovely and there are many small palaces from the days of the Sultans along the way. We went to the Grand Bazaar which dates back to the 15th century. It is crowded but an amazing place. It is all indoors and has over 3,500 shops selling rugs, coins, silver and gold jewelry, pillows, leather goods, ceramic tiles, fake designer jeans and just about anything else you might think of. It goes in all directions and is worth going to just to see the variety of what is sold. We didn't necessarily find the sales people overbearing although if you stop at a shop and look, they will certainly try to sell you something. So go with the flow and don't let it bother you. The Egyptian Bazaar or Spice Market as it is also known as was fascinating. The colors, sounds and smells of the place were indescribable. We bought some saffron for use on rice dishes which we found to be very reasonably priced. Something to be aware of is the number of well dressed young men who will approach you and try to start a conversation with you. They are perfectly safe and only are trying to get you to a nearby shop to buy carpets. We found this particularly true at the Blue Mosque. They will start a conversation with you and ask you where you are from or start telling you some detail about the Blue Mosque. They are always extremely courteous. They will continue the conversation if you let them. You will read on this board how much this irritated some people. Don't let this bother you. We found it quite easy to manage. Simply ignore them. Don't even say NO to them. Don't even look at them. Just keep walking and after you walk a few feet without any response of any kind from you, they will lose interest and go to someone else. If you simply say no, we are not interested, they will continue. They have a reply for everything as surely they have heard it all. I know this is hard to do because they seem so nice. But trust me, they are persistent and nothing else works. This was my daughter's suggestion after seeing me start to get frustrated. Believe me, I tried it and it works. Ephesus is beyond description. If you want to get a feel for Ephesus, go to this web page: http://sailturkey.com/panoramas/ephesus A visit here will put you in touch with some of the most incredible Roman ruins you will ever see. The library of Celsus is an impressive 2 story facade that has been carefully restored and is one of the most impressive sights in this town. We sat in the seats of the Great Theater that holds 25,000 people. Surprisingly, it is still in use today for concerts. You will walk on a street paved with marble that gives a hint of this city's great wealth years ago. Kusadasi has a bazaar which is the second largest in Turkey and it is situated right at the dock. Just in case you missed the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. We got a laugh at the sign on the table selling Rolex watches for $10 that said, "Genuine Fake Watches." I could go on and on about Turkey. We had a private guide, a very knowledgeable Turk, who studied in the U.S. If you are considering a private guide in Istanbul and/or Kusadasi/Ephesus I would highly recommend Levent Solmaz. He made the places we visited come alive. He also met the ship on arrival in Kusadasi and we toured Ephesus with him. You can e-mail him directly at primy@turk.net or visit his web page at: http://www.leventtours.com Athens was our least favorite port. We found the city to be very, very crowded, smoggy and really, in my view, not a particularly pretty city. However, the Acropolis is spectacular and something that everyone should see once in their lifetime. If you have a choice, go as early in the morning as possible. We were there around 10:30 a.m. and it was starting to fill up, and I do mean fill up! We took the tour that included the Acropolis, Corinth and the Corinth canal. It was Ok, but not something that I would highly recommend. By the time the cruise is over, you will have seen both Ephesus and Pompeii. The Roman ruins of Corinth are not nearly as developed and a bit of a let down. However, it does have a great biblical significance and for some that may be worth the trip. My wife on the other hand loved Corinth as to her it was the perfect continuation of what we had seen in Ephesus. She enjoyed it very much. So, as you can see, even in the same family there will be a difference of opinion. The Corinth Canal is alright but not worth the trip. If I (not my wife) had to do it over again, I would take a cab to the Acropolis in the morning and after seeing it back and enjoy the ship in the afternoon. You really don't have a great deal of time to spend on the ship as with only 2 days at sea the others are fairly intensive with touring the various ports. Venice is Venice. It is everything and more than you expect. When the ship pulls in it is as if you are looking at a postcard. Venice is extremely easy to do on your own. The vaporetto's are easy to use although some can be very crowded. We bought a two day pass. I don't recall the cost but it was quite reasonable. Take the #4 vaporetto which completely goes around the Grand Canal and harbor with only 5 or 6 stops. Go to Murano Island. They talk about the glass factory and I almost didn't go because I thought it might be very commercial. We just ignored the pitch to go see the glass factory and headed out on our own. It is beautiful with many quaint colored houses along a small canal. Lovely to walk along. A photographer's paradise. You can take a vaporetto there as well. Quite simple. Mainly we just walked around the small streets in Venice. A hint: leave St. Marks Basilica for the 2nd day. When we arrived, it seemed like the everyone from the ship was waiting in line to get in. Instead, make it your first stop on the second day. It opens at 9:30 a.m. We got there around 9:00 a.m. and while there was a line we got in by 9:45 a.m. In Naples, we took the Princess tour that included Sorento, Capri and Pompeii. It was grand. We loved Sorento and Capri. They are such lovely and picturesque places. Pompeii was unbelievable. It was much bigger than I had anticipated. I am so glad we got to Pompeii. It was more than I expected. While this tour was a bit expensive, I think it was worth it. There is no way we could have seen everything we saw on our own and these are all places I wanted to see. We felt very rushed in Florence. We made the mistake of taking the "Florence on your own" tour. This is the tour in which they take you by bus into Florence, drop you off and then meet you at an assigned spot for the return bus ride. In spite of the fact we docked at 7:00 a.m. the "tour" didn't leave until 9:30 a.m. and by the time we arrived in Florence it was 10:30 a.m. We wasted over 2 hours while many of the other longer tours left shortly after docking. I guess Princess was just taking care of the higher priced tours first. We simply were not given enough time to do the city justice. We didn't make it to any of the spectacular museums because we just didn't have the time to wait in line for entrance. If we had waited in line to see Michelangelo's David in the Accademia, we would have missed other sights. If I had to do it over again, I would take the train as was highly recommended to me by others before we left. Unfortunately, I opted not to do this, because of my concern of missing the boat, so to speak. However, it is incredibly easy and many, many others took that option. I wish I had as well. But, in spite of this, Florence is also a wonderful, picturesque city. Everything is very close together and easy to see (providing you have time). Get a good map. We got a National Geographic map at Borders Books which was perfect for our needs. Incidentally, we also got the National Geographic map for Venice and Barcelona and found them to be very helpful. This is where we said goodbye to Italy. What a beautiful country. Florence and Naples are destinations in their own right and deserving of much more time than a day on a cruise. We will be back. In Monte Carlo we walked to the train station on our own and took a train to Nice. There is a small little tram that looks like a small train that tours Nice. It is called Trains Touristiques de Nice and costs 35 francs per person. We found a brochure at the train station and followed the map to find it. It took us through some lovely parts of town. This small tram took us thoughout the old city of Nice and eventually up a hill which gave us the most incredible view of all of Nice. The tram then took us back to the originating point where we walked back to the train station to catch our train back to Monaco. Along the way we stopped and had a great lunch at an outdoor cafe. Got back on the train and headed back to Monaco. In the afternoon, we took a tour to the village of Eze. It is a quaint little village on a mountain top. It is pretty commercial and has mainly shops and a couple of restaurants in it. It is quite pretty, but I think I would pass on it and explore Monaco instead if I had to make a recommendation. You will love Barcelona! We spend 3 days there after the cruise. What a unique and exciting city. They have a tourist bus that has two routes. You can get a one day or two day pass and these buses cover all the sights. You will see the buses everywhere. The top level of the buses do not have a roof, so when you get a top seat you will have a great view of the many sights. Additionally, you can get on and off at any sight as often as you like. One of the highlights was sitting at one of the many outdoor cafes and sipping a sangria and snacking on Catalan bread which is a bread coated with olive oil and tomato...ummmm, delicious!! This is a great way to people watch. Walk Las Ramblas. It is crazy with people, street artists and vendors. We walked it once and then came back a couple of more times to soak up the atmosphere. Through our hotel we hired a car with driver who took us to Montserrat. It is the sight of a Monastery and home to the world famous Montserrat Boy's Choir. They perform daily at 11:00 a.m. but unfortunately we were there during their summer vacation and we missed their performance. We took the funicular to the top of the mountain where there are several trail. We were short of time so we missed taking a short hike along the top. It would have been spectacular. Montserrat is not to be missed and can be done in as little as 3-4 hours from Barcelona. While there don't forget to take in the small museum. They have an impressive collection of antiquities and paintings by Casa, Pissarro, Picasso, Monet and others. Some other random thoughts.... The evenings were the best. Everywhere we went, we found that the people come out at night. They fill the restaurants (indoor and outdoor), the plazas, and the parks. It is a social time. Don't be in such a rush to see everything that you miss the opportunity to sit at a sidewalk cafe sipping a glass of wine or a cappuccino and watching the world go by. This may well be the highlight of your day. Don't be afraid to get out on your own. There was no place that we could not communicate in English. Some struggled, but as long as you are kind the people there will go out of their way to help you. I am sure that the guy I heard refer to the local currency as "funny money" didn't get nearly as much assistance from the local people as others did. (Come to think of it, he probably didn't get as much out of the trip either....what an idiot!) The cruise documents we received said there would be 3 formal night, 3 semi-formal and the rest smart casual. Forget the semi-formal. They are 3 formal and the rest smart casual. Before we left, I heard this might be the case. I called Princess myself and was also told there would be 3 semi-formal. Well, there were no semi-formal nights. Just thought you might like to know as it might save some packing space. Cash is king most places. Some places will discount purchases for cash. ATMs are everywhere. We used the money exchange machines on the ship. I suspect that the exchange rate may be a little in Princess' favor, but we only changed $50 - $100 in each port and the convenience was worth the little more it cost us. You can exchange Italian Lira for French Franc, US Dollars for Spanish Pesetas, etc. It doesn't take Turkish Lira. When they say this cruise is very "port intensive" they are not kidding. You are on the go the entire time except for the two days at sea. Expect to be tired and expect to wait until you return home to rest. There is no time to rest on this trip! As far as we are concerned, personal choice dining is the only way to go. It is so convenient to be able to walk into the dining room at any time and be seated. We generally ate between 7:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. and never had to wait once. This is particularly important on this cruise as you will be touring all day, get back to ship and there is no need to hurry up, shower and change in order to make a certain sitting time. We liked this so much that we canceled our Eastern Caribbean on another line that does not have personal choice dining and re-booked on Princess. Traditional is fine for some, but not for us. Personally, I did not notice any less service from the various waiters than if we had the same waiter each time. If you are traveling with teens, they are in for a treat. The Teen Center on the Golden Princess is great. Our daughter has a marvelous time and made several new friends that she has been e-mailing with since we got home. They have tons of activities. If it had been up to her, I think she would have just as soon moved in up there. We only used the Internet on the ship on one occasion. The cost is $7.50 for 15 minutes. (Try to tell a teenager they only have 15 minutes to read and send e-mail to her friends!) However, we found Internet café's everywhere along the way so we could send e-mails home and check our e-mail as well. Our family were pleasantly surprised to receive an e-mail from the various ports. In Kusadasi there is one a few steps away from the where you board the ship. We used them in Venice also and saw them in other ports as well. The cost ranged around $2.00 - $4.00 for 30 minutes. Considerably less than on Princess. If you plan on visiting some of the Cathedrals or Mosques make sure your knees and shoulders are covered. We saw one lady from the cruise refused admission to St Marks Basilica in Venice because she was wearing shorts. I believe they are far more strict about this in Italy. Although, out of respect, we always tried to dress appropriately when visiting any Church or Mosque. Most Churches do not permit photography or video, while there was no problem with photo's or video in the mosques.

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Nov 30, -0001

Istanbul to Barcelona

We just returned from the 7/3 Princess Golden Istanbul to Barcelona (plus 6 day Land Tour to London, Paris and The French Countryside). I learned so much that helped my trip from reading the posts before I left, that I want to pass on the favor. If you are booked on this cruise, you are in for trip of a lifetime!!!!!! In Istanbul, you will wake up with Mosques outside your window!! My husband and I traveled with our 16-year-old

son, and our travel agent got us a last minute upgrade to a mini suite-- D424. We loved the ship and our room, and lived on the balcony, even though it is true, that everyone from above can see you. We got used to it. ROOM SERVICE. If you are in a mini suite, you can order room service from the restaurant menu, but they keep this quite. You have to know about it, and say “Hello, I’d like to order from the Restaurant Menu”. To know what to order, get a copy of the room service menu or have the room service person read it to you. The food from the restaurant menu was great, but the food from the regular room service menu-- that they tell you about in the maroon book-- is sometimes inedible. Cold fries, dry cake, bad sandwiches. Order a lot, so that if one thing is bad, you have choices. We landed in Turkey, and I knew from reading CC that we had to pay $ 45 each, in cash. Have cash ready, and you have to stand in the long $45 visa line first, THEN go to the passport stamp line. (We were told by someone there that you could buy the Visa from the shorter passport stamp line, so we went to the passport stamp line only to have to go back to the end of the long Visa line again). If only we‘d have known, our first experience in Turkey would have been a little less frustrated. It was HOT, so be prepared for bringing water to every port. We spent a lot of money on incidentals on our last cruise, so we went on this one determined not to get nickel and dimed, and we spent much less than we expected--a nice surprise. You can buy bottled water from the ship every day, or you can bring your own water bottle and fill it up. We bought three 99 cent plastic bottles of water before we left, and emptied them to pack them. It worked great. And we saved much $. A word on the tap water on the Golden. It is VILE. I only met a couple of people who could drink it. The water in the Horizon Court is bottled water so you can fill up bottles there. Or you can buy a bottle in your room for about $3 each. ($3 for 3 people for 12 days is $108! It adds up) Coffee is bad if you are a “coffee snob”, so bring a small coffee pot, (it will plug into the ship outlet with no converter or plug extras). Espresso is free after dinner, so you can get your fix there, too. Washer and Dryer are great. $1.00 per wash and 50 cents per dry. 50 cents for soap. Bring your own Bounce sheets (they act as great smell fresheners in the suitcases).. We used the laundry room 2 times and it was a lifesaver, even though we thought we had packed enough clothes. Iron and ironing board are free. THE PORTS: I called Princess before the trip to see which ports you really need to get a tour from, and which you can walk to. They weren’t sure. ISTANBUL: The dock is 4 miles from city center. You need a taxi or a tour. For touring we used a very reputable local tour operator called Ephesus Tours ( http://connect.to/ephesustours ). They aranged us an extremely knowledgeable guide and a very polite driver. We had our own Mercedes Van for our party of 12 pax. For the 12 of us we paid $260 for a 8 hours tour. Which was the best tour we ever had. KUSADASI: You can walk off the ship to the town. You need a taxi or tour for Ephesus, which is a few miles away. We again used Ephesus Tours. Highly satisfied from their services for this port too.. ATHENS: You need a tour or a taxi. VENICE: You can walk right off the boat to the shore (or get the free water taxi to the shore if the boat has to park farther away.) Our boat docked right into Venice. It was the highlight of the cruise for us. My husband took 7 roles of us just coming in to Venice!!!! NAPLES: We dock 3/4 mile from the city center. You could walk or taxi to Naples, but need a tour to Pompeii, or other places. LIVORNO: Princess has a shuttle bus for $4 each way to the city center, 2 miles away. Tour or other transport needed to Florence and Pisa. MONTE CARLO: You can walk up to the city and the Casino. (The casino is the building with the green roof--use the elevator behind the souvenir shop to get to it.) BARCELONA: Need taxi or tour. The day tours were the highlight of our trip. We booked online at princess.com ahead, so the tickets were waiting for us in our stateroom. No hassles, and no worries about them selling out, which they can do quickly. We took tours in all cities except Monte Carlo, and were glad we did. The only city that we could have had as good a time without paying for the tour was VENICE, where you can walk right up to St. Mark’s Square and Gondola rides. We didn’t need a tour for that. For tours, pick what sounds good to you, and you will have a great time. Saint Mark’s Square alert: Our tour guide warned us that if you sit at the outdoor cafes, you pay extra for music. We were hot and figured cokes couldn’t be that much. So we ordered 4 cokes for the three of us, and the bill was $34.00!!!!!!!!! ($6 each for the cokes and about $4 each for the music surcharge!) In Venice, the shops are behind the bell tower in St Mark’s Square. It was great, but a maze, and we actually used my husband’s compass to find our way out! $$$$$$$The dollar is surprisingly strong. You can buy $5 shirt from Istanbul to Barcelona. The souvenir I like best is a black classy bag that you can find in most ports for $5. OTHER HELPFUL HINTS: TENNIS SHOES. I am NOT a tennis shoe person, unless I am exercising. I shuddered at the thought of walking around Europe in tennis shoes, but I bought some, and am SO glad I did. The Acropolis, for example is lots of steps on slippery marble. (I saw lots of cute- sandal-wearers with band-aids.) PHONECALLS HOME : It is easy from your stateroom and is $5 a minute. (Watch out, 58 seconds is $5 and 62 seconds is counted as 2 minutes $10.) CLOTHES: 3 Formal, which is what you would wear to a fancy New Year’s Eve party, and the “smart casual” which is what you would normally wear to a nice restaurant. LUGGAGE: Put a florescent color on all of your bags (we used bright pink plastic tape on the handles) and you will be so much less stressed at baggage claim. We talked to a couple people who’s luggage was lost by the airlines, so bring something to wear in your carry on bag just in case. (Though they got reunited w/ luggage soon.) $$$CHANGING: There is a state-of-the-art money changer on the GOLDEN at the Purser’s desk. Just put in $ and it will give you the currency for the next port. Easy and hassle-free. PICTURES: You can walk around to the various picture taking areas and get your picture taken more than once so you can choose the best ones! Even with all of the WONDERFUL ports, the view of the moonlight shimmering on the sea from our balcony was the most beautiful sight I have ever seen. If you need any other info please do not hesitate to email me at mka1934@hotmail.com Hope this helps!!!!!!!!!!

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Nov 30, -0001

Eastern Caribbean

1. Large ship but does not feel full even though it was sold out. 2. 4 out of 5 on Food. Sabatini's 5+ stars. Pizza 5+ stars on pool deck. 3. Best recreation facilities compared to any other cruise 4. Best entertainment compared to any other cruise 5. Good crowd mix. 6. Overall this ship the Golden and Princess cruises rocks!

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Nov 30, -0001

Mediterranean cruise

Pauline Woods Cruise Line: Princess Cruises Sailing Date: October 6th, 2002 My husband and myself spent our honeymoon on a 12-day Mediterranean cruise on board the golden princess and we had an absolutely fabulous time. The staff were fantastic and despite the fact that my husband is a wheelchair user we had no access problems throughout our cruise and for any wheelchair user who is thinking about going on a cruise we would fully

recommend it. The entertainment, food and weather were out of this world. Looking forward to our next cruise. Pauline & Frank

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Nov 30, -0001

Eastern Caribbean

Cruise Line: Princess Sailing Date: November 23rd, 2002 My husband and I took our teenagers. They loved it as much as we did. The seas were a little rough leaving Florida. The next time I cruise I'll probably get the patch. The food and entertainment was excellent. Most of the crew were friendly. I ran across one snippy jewelry salesperson. The islands were fun. Don't believe what those cab drivers tell you. They all want to make a buck

off of us tourists. I would definitely leave the day before the cruise sets sail in order to make sure I don't miss the boat. Coming from New York we almost didn't make it due to bad weather and poor service from us airways. I would cruise again. Be prepared for a bill from the cruise line the day you depart. It has extra charges and may surprise you if your a heavy drinker. All in all I think everyone should try it and we will certainly do it again.

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Nov 30, -0001

Eastern Caribbean

We just returned from our Golden Princess cruise to the Eastern Caribbean. We have also taken the Sea Princess Western Caribbean itinerary in October of 1999 (more about that in just a bit). Since we were familiar with cruising and the Princess way of doing things some items were easy to adjust to, others were a first time occurrence. Arrival in Fort Lauderdale: We purchased our own airfare well in advance so we were able to get a

better rate than the cruise/air package. Plus, we were able to get an earlier flight which meant we could get to embarkation earlier. Tip: When purchasing separate airfare, be sure to call Princess and verify that you have transfers and when you’ll be coming in. We weren’t on the transfer list but the representatives at the airport were happy to accommodate us, along as we had the transfer voucher that comes in your ticket packet. Embarkation: The easiest it has ever been. We had express check-in (by going to the Princess website) and were ticketing in no time. Some delay at the security gates and the always present embarkation photos but then right on board. Talk about the weather Fort Lauderdale was in a cold snap, the coldest in two decades. So the usual rowdy sendoff was hampered by cold winds. Although no one seemed to care, really. I guess because all were on vacation on one of the best ships afloat.. It was funny to see all the embarkation photos with people in coats and sweaters and latter photos showed them in T-shirts and swimsuits. The reason I mention the weather is that when we took the Sea Princess in 1999, we encountered Hurricane Irene which forced us to sail around it and actually caused us to miss the Caymans. More on weather later. On Board We were celebrating our fifth anniversary and bought the deluxe renewal of vows package. I recommend the packages because of the nice things that come with it. We got the plush terry cloth robes to wear in the cabin all week and to take home (although they used to package new, clean ones for the trip home and don’t do it anymore). Champagne in the room, although the Commemorative glasses never arrived and we had to ask for them. Canapés each night, one night wasn’t that great, we enjoyed the rest. Champagne breakfast in bed one morning. And a 30 minute massage we did the first morning, which set the tone for the rest of the cruise. Nice and relaxing. We never get massages any other time at home, so it’s great. The renewal of vows ceremony in the Hearts and Minds wedding chapel complete with beautiful bouquet, boutonniere, and officiated by the Staff Captain. Also included was a framed portrait and certificate. Laura wore a white dress and I wore a tux, and everywhere we went that night people were congratulated us. It was really special. Also balloons and a sign on our door and a special cake in the dining room was added for good measure. Celebrations on board are great occasions. Cruise Staff: One of the first and probably most visible persons you’ll see is the Cruise Director. In this case, and to our great pleasure, it was Alastair Greener. We had him on the Sea Princess and is perhaps the best CD in the line. We hear he’ll be moving to the Star Princess which may well be our next vessel. His energy level as well as Teesh, Gavin and the rest made the trip extremely enjoyable. They go out of their way to get to know you and ensure a good time. The Ship Overall: Simply beautiful. Spacious and well appointed. The atrium seemed a bit smaller than the Sea Princess (someone may want to confirm or deny that observation). More on specific areas as we get to them. The Rooms: Had a double outside with private balcony – Caribe 701. Now, while the rooms were a bit bigger, and the balcony was much larger it was hardly private. We could be observed from above and below. I believe some of he upper and lower balconies are more secluded, however the majority on the Sea Princess gave a more private feel, although slightly smaller. This still didn’t damper the sensation of the open air over the ocean. Believe me, if you can afford it spend a few extra dollars and get a balcony or at least an outside stateroom. I traveled in an inside cabin on the old Crown Princess and always had the feeling of disorientation in regards to motion and time. Dining: Whereas there has been a general decline in the food quality and service over the years, I believe the advent of Personal Choice Dining makes up for it. We traditionally are late seating diners who enjoy the conversation of others. In fact, on past cruises, table mates made dining a more delightful experience. That said, we prepared to eat our first dining room dinner at the late seating. The dining rooms seemed a lot more confusing. A sort of keystone cops feel. They finally located our table, right under their noses and we were seated at table for six with two already seated. We never saw the other couple at the table. And the second night, formal night, the first couple had opted for Sabatinis (an Italian themed dinner that many have said is overrated but not having experienced it, I’ll leave it at that). So we had the table all to ourselves. The next two nights we ate at the Desert Rose (Tex-Mex) which had decent food, and the Horizon Court (the 24 hour dining). Another night, second formal night, we opted for first seating. We simply contacted the Maitre d’ and he seated us at a table for two. So the traditional table mate scenario never really played itself out, however we felt that we dined well. Final notes on dining and service. Even with PC dining, select a dining room. What we noticed is that those who opted for PC dining only found themselves without a dining room if they wanted it. They were sold out, so to speak. Take advantage of room service. Although limited, you can get a good sandwich or burger and eat it in the comfort of your room anytime you wish. Don’t expect the pampered service that used to come with cruise dining. It seemed rushed and without elegance. In fact our first night the waiter was actually rude, almost pushing the food choices. The second night he was much better, almost over the top to please. Maybe he heard my wife’s complaining. The art of presentation seems to have been lost, perhaps due to the shear volume of people. I did miss it, but not worth dwelling over. Activities: Maybe you were wondering why we didn’t eat in the dining room every night. Well, it’s because of the many activities that are on board and the fact that we wanted to do it all. Some people are content with relaxing on deck, in the spa, on the balcony. We like to engage ourselves in the doings on the ship. We read the Patter in its entirety every night and listened and watched Alastair describe the day’s events and the night’s entertainment. The AFC/NFC championship games were shown and it was fun to see all the people with rooting interest. We played bingo and actually won once ($25 and a six pack of beer). We bet on the sea horse races as they were held poolside. We bought a horse and were owners for the last race and were treated with goody bags and champagne and got to move the horses. It was a chance to win about $1200 with 1 in 6 odds but we came up short. Good investment though. Will probably do it again. We did the limbo and came in second, and I was drafted to be in the Mr. Golden Princess contest. This is always fun and not to be taken seriously. We sang karaoke on two nights and participated in the Newlywed Not So Newlywed Game Show, the same night we renewed our vows so we really looked the part. The questions are a bit racy but a lot of fun. We didn’t do well but people had a good time at our expense. I also sang in the Passenger Talent Show and had a good time there as well. It’s not a contest and again is not to be taken seriously. I would encourage anyone to get up there and have fun with it. Other things we did or saw included poolside games. Nothing beats watching a belly flop competition while sipping a Rum Punch. The casino was fun although the machines are pretty tight. Th size of it gives you quite a few options. The dealers are semi-friendly and seemed to be on a roll, taking people’s money hand over fist. We did fine the first night but gave it right back the next. The disco was always hopping with usually the same folks jamming away late into the night. One night they had a New Years Eve party with streamers and the cruise staff. The fact that the disco is high above the ship accessible by a moving walkway adds to the fun. Pools: Laying by the pool is a great activity. If this is your thing, get there early. Unfortunately, there just seems to be nothing you can do about the reserving of chairs. If you are a chair reserver, I know you wish to get a good seat, simply start your day earlier. There are plenty of sun options, of course most want to be where the action is and this would be the outdoor pool by the Grill and Pizzeria (fabulous pizza by the way). This is also where the band will be playing during the day. They were TNT Treasures and were quite good. Other pools included the one under the retractable roof, the sports pool and for great relaxation – the Terrace pool at the back for adults only (people with kids, please read the signs). The 9-hole mini golf, while appealing and a great new feature to cruise ships is not well designed. It’s actually better to look at than play. And the space it takes is prime real estate at the top of the ship (more sun deck room?) The champagne waterfall is a must see, although on the Golden Princess it seemed more crowded in the Atrium than on the Sea Princess. They also seem to be cutting back on the champagne these days. It’s still a great Kodak moment and shouldn’t be missed. In addition to these, of course, are crafts, trivia, scavenger hunts, Art auctions, sports competitions and more. A note about activities: There really is something for everyone on board. Those that come back saying they were bored just didn’t or wouldn’t let themselves take advantage of the opportunities available. You’ll probably see a lot of the same people participating in activities. I admit, my wife and I were everywhere, but we really took the bull by the horns, and our involvement never excluded anyone else that wished to participate. Some cruises have more doers than others. This one didn’t so it gave us a good opportunity to do some things we saw on other ships but were unable to because of the amount of people that wanted to participate. Entertainment: This too is something you’ll check the Patter for. Again, there is a lot to see so dining arrangements may have to be reworked. The big shows like the welcome on board show, Shake rattle and roll and Lights, camera action had great costumes and sets and the dancing was good but the singing wasn’t the best. The other shows like Gaetano and the Pub night we’d seen before so we opted to do other things. The various combos and groups on board were pretty standard but good. Now for the not to be missed portion of Entertainment – Bert Stratton. He is a piano player and songwriter. Generally plays the kind of material found in piano bars, except for the fact that he is extremely funny, witty, charismatic and loves what he’s doing. Early in the cruise he played the Promenade Bar and could easily be missed if you took a different way. I was passing through the third night on board and was stopped in my tracks. He has the ability to sing Andrew Lloyd Webber then turn around and sing Jerry Lee Lewis. I was hooked and caught a portion of his act every night. In fact, we stayed and watched his show til the end one night. As everyone else left we went up to him and shook his hand and introduced ourselves. He commented on how much he enjoyed having us in the audience (we laughed at his jokes and great facial expressions) and we told him we were renewing our vows that week. He sat us down and with a two-hour show already under his belt and no one else in the bar, he sang us a special song. That’s an entertainer. He cruises about 46 to 48 weeks a year and then goes to write and record. If he happens to be on the ship you take, make it a point to watch and sing along with Bert Stratton. He’s simply unbelievable. Shore excursions. St marten – We took the Shipwreck Cove Snorkeling trip and found it to be average. It was sort of cool seeing sunken ships but the general snorkel area was gray and the fish were only available when a food bag was on hand. They were good to look at though. Of course the rum punch and the information about St martin on the return trip was fine. The excursion didn’t leave much more time for shopping. St Thomas – We booked the Wild Thing around St Thomas tour. It is truly a fun experience. It resembles a large speedboat, and takes you to a snorkel spot and beach. The snorkeling here was fabulous and the beach was relaxing. Hardly anyone on the beach and the rum punch was flowing here as well. The down side, although understandable, is the fact that the boat travels at such high speed you can’t get out of your seat. But the wind, music and occasional blast of sea spray make it a fun experience nonetheless. Again, not much more time to shop but I know that St. Thomas is a destination that I would like to revisit. Princess Cays – Well I said I’d get back to the weather. Whereas Hurricane Irene caused us to miss The Caymans in 1999, a windy, cold front made it impossible to tender to Princess Cays on this trip. Oh well, we had been before but I felt for the folks that had never been. So the staff reworked and created more onboard activities. They even reprinted the patter so you’d know what was going on. Service and Tipping: The service varied. Some bars and beverage waiters were attentive others were not. The cabin steward and dining room waiter were not as eager to please as in the past. As others had said, this may be due in part to the automatic gratuity included in your bill. I haven’t decided how I feel about this new policy. While it was a hassle to get the little envelopes and have enough cash to fill them for all involved, PC dining has made it so you may vary rarely use the dining room and to tip less would involve a trip to the Pursers desk the last morning which could be a trying experience. Unless your cabin steward completely fouls up, it works well for his services. They say in their literature that tipping is a personal matter, although changing the tips up or down involves the purser, so is it truly personal anymore? As you know there is a gratuity placed on all bar tabs. So after 7 days of charging drinks, boutique items, bingo, horseracing, shore excursions, photos, tips, etc you are looking at a pretty hefty bill. Know this going in and your sticker shock will be minimal, you’ll still have it, just be ready. Disembarkation We were ready for the hurry up and wait of disembarkation. It is true that the Horizon Court is the focal point of the morning and gets quite crowded. Many people are grumpy as well (vacation almost over, perhaps or buyers remorse after seeing their bill) If you treat this part with patience it’s not that bad. We found two lounge chairs in the conservatory and napped until they called us to the gangway. It was smooth. In fact, we underestimated the time and was off the ship two hours earlier than expected. Customs was very relaxed and even let Laura take her bridal bouquet off the ship – as it still looked pretty. We then transferred to the airport and rented a car so we could stay another day. We were so early in fact, that we were unable to check into the hotel until later. This was long but I wanted to be thorough. All in all, the Golden Princess, her staff, the itinerary lived up to our expectations. Now if we can only do something about the weather. Hope this helped. Perhaps, we’ll see some of you on the Mexican Riviera aboard another Princess ship. After thought: Upon writing this I learned of the probable merger of Princess and Carnival. While I’ve never taken a Carnival cruise I do have a prejudice based on others’ reports. I hope for all who enjoy the Princess experience that any changes made are for the better and that Carnival doesn’t try to fix something that isn’t broken.

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Nov 30, -0001

NOT FOUND

Princess Golden British Isles Rob Holloway My wife and I (60/62) booked this British Isles cruise in April 2005 and learned a lesson, book as soon as you can with a deposit, other wise the price or offers change. Cruise lines are now like airlines, capacity controlled values. We have been to Alaska with Celebrity (Infinity) and Mexico with Princess (Sea Princess ) in 2001 now we are finally in 2005 on a cruise we have wanted to

do for a long time. We live on Vancouver Island, Victoria in Canada, so 10+ hours later via Air Canada and 8 hours ahead time zone, we arrived in London for three nights and Southampton for one night prior to the cruise. It is a great way to go and be relaxed. Stayed at London Hilton Euston and Novotel Southampton, great hotels for about 65 GBP (pounds) a night, about $125 CDN. For August, good rates as we prepaid back in April. Also stayed at Novotel Heathrow for 1 night on way back, it is isolated on airport row if you want to walk around. Arranged for Imperial Cars Southampton to drive us from London to Southampton, to the pier next day and return to London. Great service and value for not dealing with taxis, tubes and buses. Arrived 12:45 at pier and with express check-in onboard within 15 minutes, gave a few pounds to the luggage porter, bags onboard about 1 hour later. Bypassed the photo hounds while boarding except for security picture to match your cabin card. The ship had about 2,800 passengers with 700 Brits, 1,700 US and rest of us around the world. Food choices were great on the buffet and Horizon was well run. It does take awhile to find food choices on different islands but not long. Plenty of seating though tables for 2 or 4 are limited. We chose 2nd seating fixed with a table of 8 which soon became 6, very good company. Ports were: Southampton & sea day, sea day, Dublin, HolyHead Wales (Tender), Belfast, Grennock (Glascow), sea day, Orkney Islands Kirkwall (Tender), Queensbury, Edinburgh (Tender), sea day. It of course rained a bit once we got to Wales and Northern Scotland but if you have a sweater, light jacket and umbrella (brolly), not an issue. Lots of fun, countryside was wonderful and beautiful. We took basic tours in most of the ports and walked around in Greenock and Kirkwall. Currency is GBP everywhere except Euros in Dublin and the ship now has machines that convert your monies for you, great feature. Entertainment was great with local talent brought in in some ports, bagpipes greeted us in Greenock , a band in Belfast and a local youth music group in Wales. The Welsh in Holyhead were great greeters and made us feel welcome. Staff on ship were friendly and our cabin staff including dining staff were fantastic. It is a large Hotel on water , if you accept that then its hard to fault the services. We will come back to the UK, especially Wales and Orkney and Southern England. Get out into the countryside, Only blip was food costs in London , for us its 2-1, what you pay locally becomes same but in GBP, outside of London it is less expensive. We considered this cruise as a wonderful way to sample, like a buffet, the British Isles. Course I do admit to being born in UK but had not been back since 1968, year I was married. It was wonderful

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Nov 30, -0001

Eastern Caribbean

This was only our third cruise. The first one in 1995 with Hawaiian American and in 2000 with RCL on the Grandeur of The Sea. My husband and I are not the athletic type that goes snorkeling or scuba diving. We enjoyed cruising for the relaxation. We flew in Ft. Lauderdale on Saturday, December 7. All went well with the flight and arrived around 11:30. I do think the next time I cruise I will fly in to port the day before. I did feel it

was more stressful flying the same day as sailing. We took the transfer bus which was already waiting. When we got to the Princess terminal it was very crowded. We did have express check in. But that didn't seem to matter. The lines were long. When I finally got up to the counter the girl saw my express check in and kept apologizing to me because I had to wait so long. Apparently too many people don't read signs and were in the wrong line. We probably reached our cabin around 1:45 We were on the Emerald Deck, port side, aft, room 718 mini suite. I was really happy with our room. It was more than what I expected. What was really nice was the private balcony. I think the highlight of my trip was having coffee on my balcony every morning watching the sun come up. Our cabin Stewart Patrick was wonderful. I needed some things a few times and he was right there for us. Our room was kept spotless all week. If anyone wants a mini suite on the Golden I suggest don't get the ones on the Dolphin deck. As there is no roof over their patio and every deck above can look right down on you. Ours on the Emerald deck was perfect. The bath tub was of nice size and lots of cupboards and drawer space. We choose PC dining. the first night we had to wait 30 minutes for a table for two. After that we decided to dine early around 6:00 and we requested the same section all week. Our two servers were Jenny from South Africa and Happy from Thailand were fantastic!!!I was concerned about service changing since they eliminated how the tips are given out. But Jenny & Happy treated us like we were their only guests. We did tip them extra at the end of our trip. We found the food to be excellent. Especially their cold soups. Anywhere we ate I was happy with the selections and quality and taste of the food. I think I gained 20 pounds. As for the ship I found it to be spotless. I saw many times crew members washing railings, walls, etc. The ship is beautiful but, I do find it was hard to get around on. Too many times have to go up and down steps to get where you wanted to go. The elevators I thought were confusing. You never knew when you got on an elevator which floors it would go to. That was a big complaint that I heard from most people. The entertainment was pretty good. Better than what we had on my two previous cruises. Now for the Casino. Those machine were so tight it was ridiculous. People didn't stay long in there because on one was getting anything. I would put a $10 in a machine and not get one coin back. You don't expect to win big but at least get something to keep you playing. They need to loosen up their machines a little. And yes you do feel the motion of the ship this large. The first night out we hit rough water and the ship rocked and rolled. After that the water was calm but I still felt the boat movement. Princess Cays was a nice island. Weather was great, the BBQ they had was good. The staff on the Golden I found all to be very friendly. Lots of areas to layout on the decks. My favorite spot was in the aft on deck 16. Nice and peaceful. Not as crowded at the two main pools in midship on deck 14. We really enjoyed our trip. As for the Princess Cruise line. I would definitely cruise with her again and on the Golden. I do have to mention that the week we were on the Golden that I would say that 75% were people over 70 years old. What happen there were so many groups booked that week of senior citizens from Florida. There weren't a lot of children, but the ones that were on the ship were very well behaved. Looking forward to booking my next cruise.

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Nov 30, -0001

Eastern Caribbean

As our first vacation since Carole's passing, I and my 3 children, with grandparents and family of 4 [relatives], booked 3 cabins on the above. I took the AD mini Suite, the grandparents a nearby by outside twin, and the relatives another outside twin, but were unable to get one closer than the far end of the ship, - phew, what a hike, just to say 'hi'. My AD was excellent for the 4 of us. Why Princess/P&O do not publicize the 5th berth,

a totally concealed recessed pull down bunk above the so called double sofa/bed, I will never understand. This 5th birth gives you more options, my two smallest didn't ned to share the 'double' sofa bed [which it isn't - way too short for an adult]. A larger family too would make use of it, I have NEVER seen any ship with 5 births in one [large] cabin? The full size bath was excellent and the balcony gave us even more space and an eye on the passing ocean. The two tv's are pointless. The coffee table is too big for the space, and it has to go out overnight on the balcony when sofa bed is pulled out!. An excellent cabin, well worth the extra cash. The location is another matter, the back of the ship is VERY prone to NOISE from the SIDE THRUSTERS used at ports and for holding ship steady for tendering, so every a.m at 6, we were SHAKEN awake by these monsters. Book higher cabins or forward. The laundry was excellent and close by, just a few dollars. Kids club were fine, 3 sizes, one for each of mine!!, kids can grade down, but not up, so when my smallest got bored his sister came from her club next door, but he couldn't go looking for her. Kids hot tub was dangerously hot, scalding hot. Set in the kids deck, for kids only, even signed. It would have injured anyone using it. I had reported this 3 times during cruise and nothing was done. Puser's desk uninterested. Pools were great, but the pools are surrounded by 'paddle water', just a few cm deep, and no lip/wall between this and the actual pool, so a small one [yes I know one should watch them 24/7 but anyone who says they do is a liar] would not realize until too late and would fall into the deep pool. A nice idea, just be warned if you take your kids to the adult pools [they ARE allowed]. Pizza bar fine, burger bar slow and very rude staff. Horizon Court great, ate their all meals. [I wouldn't ruin others cruise by taking my 3 into a dining room]. Tea machine always faulty. Soda cards saved me a ton, well worth the $18 or so. Have the kids door card 'blocked for charging' so if they lose it no-one can use it to make a purchase. Make your kids a necktie with their cabin/ship/emerg tel/sail dates/flight details etc on it. If they get lost there is a real good chance you'll get them back faster. One of mine was lost in the WDW precruise package, we got them back very quickly, the staff said how good the necktie idea was. Islands were OK, just loads of usual tat on dock and nearby. We went for the cruise experience/facilities, so this made no diff to me. Princess island was great, go to the quiet side and you'll get the beach almost to yourself. BBQ was a farce, way slow queues, and silly paper plates that just flip over. Food soso, loads of fab fresh fruit though. Any Qs on kids and Golden, just ask

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Mediterranean/TransAtlantic

This was our first cruise on Princess. After having cruised on RCCL, Norwegian, Celebrity, Renaissance 14 times we were looking forward to the Golden Princess. The lines reputation is exemplary. This was our second Trans Atlantic. It was a seventeen day cruise. The first was on the Splendour of the Seas and was wonderful. Naturally we continued to compare everything on the Golden to all the other cruises we did in the past. We started

in Venice Italy, definitely not all its cracked up to be. The ship stayed in port for 2 days and we used it as our hotel. I found out that I was allergic to pigeons. There are probably millions of those birds in St. Marks Square. My wife picked up her fourth cameo. What would a trip be without a jewelry purchase? Nobody told us that the restaurant put a cover charge on the bill. We continued on to Florence, Isle of Capri, Monte Carlo, Lisbon, Azores and ended in New York. By a large margin the highlight of the trip was Monte Carlo. We encountered a storm coming across the North Atlantic and the ship was delayed seven hours arriving in New York and we had to spend a night at a hotel in Newark NJ. The ship was superb. The service was first rate. We had a cabin with a balcony and that was delightful. We really enjoyed the open seating for dinner which gave us a great deal of flexibility in scheduling our activities. There was always somewhere to dance and since my wife and I dance pretty regularly we really took advantage of that opportunity. They even invited us to participate in the passenger talent show, but we declined. As I mentioned earlier, we were constantly comparing to our experiences on other ships. The food was wonderful. The service was without fault. We celebrated our wedding anniversary while on board and they decorated outside our cabin and sang to us at dinner. The closest cruise line to Princess was RCCL and Celebrity. Each have some advantages and some disadvantages. RCCL probably was somewhat more active and fun oriented. Celebrity’s food was better in some respects. Overall, a great cruise. I got sick on board and found out that the doctors and staff were fully up to the job. I felt that I could not have better care at a regular big city hospital. This is something we don’t think about much but one never knows. I like large ships and the Golden Princess is large. Not as large as the Voyager or Explorer of the Seas, but few ships are. One could easily get lost and it took over two weeks to familiarize myself to the layout. One night I was waiting for my wife in a lounge only to find out that she was looking for me and I was in the wrong lounge. I was found by the ships doctor sitting in that lounge. He advised that everyone was looking for me. The entertainment was typical of all these ships, with the mix of staff singers and dancers and some guest performers. Very good but not great. I would definitely do Princess again. No disappointment at all.

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Nov 30, -0001

Canada/New England

Our cruise to Canada and New England on the Golden Princess was great. We had been on the Golden in the Caribbean the previous year, so there weren't many surprises about the ship. Probably the most surprising thing was that even though the ship was full, it almost never seemed crowded to us. We learned early on to do things later than most other people on board to avoid any sense of being crowded. The Golden Princess is a large ship,

with 2,600 passengers and 1,150 crew members. I miss the grander atriums of some of the Royal Caribbean ships we've been on. The one on the Golden seems small in comparison and not as grand. The Princess Theater and Vista Lounge offer evening entertainment. There are also smaller venues on board, such as the Wheelhouse Bar, Explorers Lounge, and Desert Rose, with live music in the evenings. We enjoyed the productions shows even though they have not changed much since our last cruise. We also enjoyed listening to Joey and the Boy in the Desert Rose. Our favorite, though, was the Fontana String Quartet. They played in the Grand Plaza of the atrium before dinner each evening and at the afternoon teas in the Donatello Dining Room. This was our first cruise with Princess's 'personal choice' dining. It worked out well for us this time, although we have requested to go back to traditional second seating on our next cruise (on the Star Princess to Alaska). The food in the dining room is good. I like that the 'always available' selections are on the menu each night as a fallback in case the other items don't look appealing. These include shrimp cocktail, Caesar salad, grilled salmon, strip steak, and fettuccini Alfredo, and chicken breast. I got hooked on shrimp cocktails and ordered one each night, even on nights when I ordered another appetizer. The food on Princess is good, not great. As I mentioned earlier, there is a nice selection. I think a lot of the stars of the menu are in the appetizer and soup and salad offerings. I had a nice pate one night and a very tasty garlic soup another. My partner enjoyed some of the cold soups. The matzo ball soup (with tiny little matzo balls) was good at lunch one day. My other weakness is desserts. The raspberry creme brulee is delicious, as was the chocolate-hazelnut souffle. The ice cream flavors almost always included something intriguing, so I ordered a few of them along with another dessert. My favorite was the rum raisin. It went well alongside the Love Boat Dream, a chocolate mousse confection from the 'always available' part of the menu. For many of our cruises, we think of the ship as our destination. This cruise was different: we were there to see the ports. We enjoyed the five ports on this itinerary and would like to return to visit them more in-depth some day. That is what I think is one of the biggest drawbacks to cruising: not enough time to do the ports as fully as I'd like. We did not have time to do anything in the sixth port--New York City. But there's nothing like sailing away from the city at sunset. The weather that evening was perfect. The sun shone on the buildings, making them gleam. We passed Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty a little bit late (after sunset) due to waiting for some late luggage. But the view was still awe inspiring, even if my photos did not turn out very good. Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Saint John, New Brunswick, were the Canadian cities. Both are charming. We found enough to do within walking distance in Halifax, enjoying a walk through the Public Gardens, a tour of the Citadel, seeing the inside of Province House, viewing the exhibitions (especially the one on the Titanic) at the Maritime Museum, and a wonderful tour of Alexander Keith's Brewery. I heartily recommend this last tour, and we were lucky enough to fit it in, getting back to the ship with a half hour to spare. In Saint John, we shopped in some of the antique shops (or maybe all of them, since there did not seem to be very many), ate lunch at the market (a wonderful poached salmon with french fries on the side), then took a city bus to the Reversing Falls. My mother had clued me in about the famous tides of the Bay of Fundy. It was a remarkable site. We walked back to the boat. (Not recommended unless you are in shape for the three-mile hike.) Bar Harbor, Maine, was our first U.S. port. It is a quaint, touristy village. We did our only ship-sponsored tour excursion here: kayaking around the Porcupine Islands in the harbor. It was a fun excursion. Bar Harbor was the first of the ports that we had to tender to shore, which went smoother than on some of our previous cruises. We took the tender back to the ship for lunch and then back to shore for some shopping and walking along the beach trail. In Boston, the ship docks a good ways from the tourist area. Nevertheless, we decided to walk instead of taking the shuttle the ship had available ($8 per person round trip to Quincy Market). We enjoyed walking through town to Boston Common and Public Garden, toured the state capitol, walked through Faneuil Hall, and then ate a delicious lobster lunch at a restaurant nearby. After lunch, we toured the New England Aquarium. When I asked at the shore excursion desk, the woman there could not find any information for me about the aquarium. We had been to Boston a few years ago, and it was the one thing we did not have time to do then that I wanted to do on this trip. I enjoyed watching the penguins. We got there just at the start of feeding time. Staff members in wetsuits were feeding sardines to the penguins and making notes about what each one ate. The central feature of the aquarium is the 200,000-gallon giant ocean tank. A spiral ramp leads around the tank, allowing viewers to see fish at different levels. Newport, Rhode Island, was another highlight for me of the ports on this itinerary. I read ahead of time about the mansions and ordered us a household membership in the Newport Preservation Society. It allows access to all of the society's properties at a cost that's less than seeing just one of them through a shore excursion. We toured five of the mansions: the Breakers, the Elms, Rosecliff, Chateau-sur-Mer, and Marble House. It would be hard to choose a favorite. Our guide at the Breakers was wonderful, but we also enjoyed the freedom of the audio tour at Marble House. It rained all day when we were in Newport. We walked along the famous Cliff Walk for a small portion. I would like to enjoy it on a fair day. We enjoyed the Calypso swimming pool and hot tubs most evenings. The water in the pool was a pleasant 86 degrees. Our cabin steward brought us terry robes after we asked for them. One of the secrets to having a great cruise is knowing what to ask for. The people we ate lunch with while docked in Bar Harbor were surprised when we ordered capuccino in the dining room. They'd been on the ship for four days and had not found out it was available in the dining room for free. The cruise director may be perfect for the older crowd but we found him totally lacking. The final straw was his pitch for 'excellents' across the board on his televised show on the final day. I think the comment cards and ratings should help the cruise line to improve. A blanket 'excellent' across the board for everything will not help those areas that need improvement. The embarkation went smoothly. We were on the ship in less than 30 minutes after getting to the passenger ship terminal. The longest wait was for security screening, unfortunately a necessary step these days. We had express checkin and did not have any wait to receive our cruise cards. The other little wait was for the obligatory photos. Disembarkation was a different story. We had our own airline reservations and were taking a taxi to LaGuardia. (I thought the cost that Princess was charging--$40 per person each way--was excessive. We were able to take taxis for less than half that, including a nice tip.) They announced our number and color at 10:15, about an hour after disembarkation had begun. By the time we made it to the gangway, they had called three more groups--so there was quite a line. I think there should have been more time between announcements to keep from having a crowd converging all at once. We found our bags easily and cleared Customs. After that was madness. The employees of the Passenger Ship Terminal were directing people the wrong way (trying to get people to go up an escalator that was going down). We finally made it to the cab line, but thngs weren't much better organized there. We've disembarked in San Juan, Miami, and Fort Lauderdale and never seen anything as disorganized. But our number for a cab was finally called and we made it to LaGuardia on time to catch an earlier flight. I recommend this ship and itinerary. Overall, it's a great cruise experience.

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Nov 30, -0001

Eastern Caribbean

This was my seventh cruise – but the first with the whole family! My wife and I sailed on the Golden in March 2002 on this same itinerary (well, actually it was reversed, but the same ports of call), and enjoyed it so much, we decided to bring four children AND an 18 year old niece. Our travel agent, Ray at Lighthouse Travel, was able to convince the Princess powers-that-be to give us three cabins, even though we didn’t have a 21 year

old to put into each. I thought this was only fair, since Princess didn’t offer any 3rd/4th passenger rate reductions. Hats off to Ray and Princess for this accommodation! Our past cruises have been the Golden in March 2002 in the Eastern Caribbean, HAL Ryndam in 2000 to the Western Caribbean, Sea Princess in 1999 to the Western Caribbean, Sun Princess in 1997 to the Eastern Caribbean, NCL Norway in 1995 to the Western Caribbean (I think…), and the old NCL Starward way back in 1991 in the Southern Caribbean. As you can see, we’ve about worn out the Caribbean itinieraries! With this many going, it made economic sense to drive to Ft. Lauderdale from our home in West Virginia. It is about a 14 and a half hour drive, not including stops for gas and food, so we drove to Daytona Beach on Friday, spent the night, and then drove the last four hours on Saturday morning. In all, it’s not a bad trip, and it is actually less nerve racking than hoping that flight delays don’t cause you to miss the boat! On the return trip, we drove straight home, arriving at 2:00 Sunday morning. We arrived at the port at just about noon on Saturday, unloaded and parked the van, and were in line for only a few minutes. Unfortunately for the passengers behind us, traveling with 3 children who didn’t have passports or photo IDs, and checking into 3 cabins, took a while – the Princess rep on the phone said not to worry about photo IDs, since our names would be on their birth certificates and we had photo IDs – but the nice folks at the pier didn’t know about this, and would prefer photo IDs. Next time, we’ll have them! So, after about 15 minutes of checking IDs and handing out cruise cards, we proceeded directly to the ship. Having sailed on the Golden only 9 months earlier, it wasn’t too hard to find our way to our cabins on the port side of the ship, almost all the way to the front, on Dolphin deck. After dropping off our bags and meeting William our steward, we headed for the obligatory grazing at the Horizon Court buffet. William was a wonderful cabin steward, always letting us know who of our party was in their cabin or out and about (the teenage boys seemed to sleep a lot during the day). Many things were the same as our last trip – Alistair Greener was still the cruise director, although his assistant was now Gavin, the illusionist Gaetano was performing on board, and even the captain, Bernard Warner, was still at the helm. The kids wanted Coke stamps – now $22.50 with a large metal cup, or $20.00 for just the stamp. They used them a lot, and by the end of the week discovered that they could also get a Shirley Temple for free, which they then always got – whether they really liked them or not I don’t know, but it looked like an adult drink, and thus was much more fun. By Sunday afternoon, the two youngest kids had lost their cruise cards. The pursers desk was more than helpful each time in replacing the cards, and giving us a receipt to take to the nearest bar for another Coke stamp. We bought the neck strap for each child – although I think it would be in Princess’ best interest to give them to child passengers for free – whomever found the lost cards could also get free Coke each week, since the bar staff never examines the card in the least. But, we paid the $2.95 per head to avoid the embarrassment of having to go back a third or fourth time to get another card. We ate dinner in the dining room each night, but not all of the kids ate with us each night. We called for reservations by 4:00 or so, especially when all seven of us were eating together, and never had a problem getting right into the dining room at our scheduled time. We had wonderful service each night except for one. In the Bernini dining room on Deck 5, at Table No. 5, we experienced THE WORST waiter I have had or even seen on seven cruises – Santos from Portugal. Our 18 year old niece asked for a garden salad with honey mustard dressing, which she had eaten the night before. Santos then went on a 5 minute lecture about how she had a menu, and she could order things from the menu, but not things that were not on the menu. When she said “okay, I don’t want a salad” he then had to continue on explaining that certain dressings were in large containers and how they couldn’t just serve them any time, and that the only dressings available were those on the menu, etc. It was embarrassing for her, and put a damper on our entire dinner – formal Lobster night no less! I have never seen a waiter act this way – even if it wasn’t available, any other waiter would have said “I’m terribly sorry, but we don’t have honey mustard dressing available this evening. Is there something else I can get for you?” But Santos treated our niece like she was an idiot for even asking for something not on the menu. It was a real shock to everyone, after experience four previous nights of service where I believe the waiter would have gone back to the kitchen and MADE the dressing for her. Needless to say, we turned in three comment cards (one for each cabin) describing this horrific experience. Otherwise, service was good, but not as good as it is with fixed time dining, which I noticed on our last cruise, in which we also had PC dining. Nothing compares with having one waiter who knows your likes and dislikes. This may also be partially due to the “automatic” tip system in place, but other than Santos, we never had bad service. We took one Princess shore excursion – at St. Martin we went on the Pinnel Island snorkel tour. It was a nice bus ride and ferry ride over to the island, the group leader provided commentary and information about the island of St. Martin as we drove from the ship to Marigot on the French side, and then over to the island. As expected, a lot of the snorkeling area has been trampled down, or is covered with a thick layer of sand as a lot of snorkelers don’t understand that standing up isn’t part of snorkeling – it just stirs up a lot of sand. But at the outer edges of the snorkeling area, there were a lot of fish and coral life to look at. For $35, it wasn’t bad – a bus tour of St. Martin and a few hours on a private island snorkeling is about as good a bargain as you’ll find as far as shore excursions go. St. Thomas was spent just around the ship at the Haversight Mall – no one from our group ventured much past that. I did go to the AT&T Internet building a little down the road from Haversight, to check my email and such. It’s a pretty good deal there at $2.00 for 15 minutes, and provides faster access than is available onboard the ship, which costs $.50 a minute. The final stop was Princess Cays on Friday. Most of our group went over at about 10:00 and stayed until about the end of the day there – 2:00 or so. Princess has really done a good job of expanding the area… the beach to the right side of the tender dock is now populated with its own BBQ/dinning area and bar, and is less crowded overall than the left side. With ships the size of the Grand and Golden, I guess they had to do something. I can remember being crowded there when on just the Sea Princess. This time, it wasn’t too crowded, but there was a fairly long, though fast moving, line to get on the tender back to the ship at 2:00. Disembarkation was the same as always – just remember to keep your proof of citizenship handy. They didn’t mention that in any of the onboard stuff – just have your cruise card and Customs form handy – so ours were in a suitcase. The INS guy asked where we were from, and where we were born, and let us through with that. Given the scrutiny before and after the cruise, and at St. Thomas, I think we’ll all have passports next time – plus that would be another reason to go ahead and take that Baltic cruise we’ve been dreaming of for a few years now! One last little tip is to be sure to go ahead and put a $100 per person deposit down with the future cruise sales lady on board. Not only does that mean you don’t have to pay any more until the final payment is due, but you get $50 per person of that back as shipboard credit for outside cabins, and $25 for inside (which is a change – used to be $50 regardless). They also are more insistent that you book an actual cruise, instead of just getting a “temporary” booking number to convert later – but since we asked about 2004 European cruises, which aren’t in the system yet, we were able to get the generic booking number. We may even try out a New England / Canada cruise next summer – but are really interested in the Baltic cruise, if we can save up enough money to pay for one! As usual, Princess Cruises provided us with a great vacation – and since everyone enjoyed it so much, I doubt that it will be just my wife and I alone in the future… we’ll probably always be family cruisers from now on.

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Nov 30, -0001

Canda/New England

We recently returned from a very enjoyable cruise aboard the Golden Princess. The itinerary was Canada/New England. Embarkation – We arrived at the pier aprox 12:30 p.m. via a purchased Princess transfer from the Newark Airport. There was some delay getting off the bus, but it wasn’t bad. When we got off the bus, we were told to identify our baggage for the Longshoremen, who would see that they got to the room. We then proceeded to check

in. I would recommend using the express check in. This is can be done 1 of 2 ways, the Princess web site or Princess will mail you the documents approx a month before sailing. Since the express check in provides everything in advance, your cruise/identification/on board purchase cards are waiting for you. We were on board very quickly. The Golden Princess – This ship is awesome. It is a sight to behold. It is beautifully decorated in all public areas and there is much attention to detail. The Lido area is twice the size of any other ship I have been on. The area next to the Horizon Food court has a removable cover (which stayed closed this time of year) covering a pool and 2 jacuzzis. There is a second Lido area that has an open deck and jacuzzis as well. We explored the ships many lounges, shops and public areas. I suggest looking up the deck plans if your going on this ship to get familiar with all there is to see. This ship has plenty of space, and even though it was full (2600 passengers), it never seemed crowded. All areas are kept very clean. Our cabin was an inside unit on the Caribe deck 10. There was a lot of space to unpack your clothes including a very a nice closet with plenty of hangers. The bathroom was small, but typical for most rooms in this category. Lots of mirrors and well lit. Very nice. The Food – This is a big part of the cruising experience. We chose traditional early seating. The ship offers “Anytime” dining in two of its 3 dining rooms. Anytime dining, as well as alternate restaurants, seem to be the trend in the cruise industry. The Golden Princess offers two alternative restaurants, Italian and Mexican cuisine. The problem I have with alternate restaurants is the additional charge ( I think it was $15 per person). Since you already paid for the great dining experience in the dining room when you booked the cruise, and then you pay an additional fee, you are really paying more than $15. That’s just my opinion. Anyway, breakfast in the dining room was good. Eggs benedict, pancakes, french toast, hash browns, fresh baked pastries, omelets. Good selection, somewhat formal sitting, and you will be seated with someone you never met (but that is always fun, and you meet nice people). I never got to eat lunch in the formal dining room, but did eat dinner there each night. There were several selections based on the theme of the night. There were also “always available” items like Caesar salad, Fettuccini Alfredo, Sirloin Steak or a Chicken Breast. Of course there were great desserts, ice creams of the day, and coffee, cappuccino, latte (at no additional charge). Beverages included on the ship are tea, coffee, milk and juice. Soft drinks are available for an additional charge. Princess offers all the soft drinks you care to drink for $12.50/person at the beginning of the cruise. On the 14th deck of this ship is the Horizon Court. The Horizon Court offers two identical serving areas. This turned out to be my personal favorite dining area. There are several food serving areas. An extended selection of prepared salads, a made to order sandwich bar, prepared meats (fish, chicken, shrimp, turkey, and even sushi). There seamed to be enough variety so everyone would find something good to eat. And as always.. desserts. (The desserts here are not as extensive as in the dining room, but very good). For breakfast, there are made to order omelets, prepared omelets, a variety of scrambled eggs, smoked sausage, turkey sausage, bacon, eggs over-easy or fried. A large variety of pastries (all made on the ship and are very fresh). I should also mention on the other side of the Lido deck is a 24-hour pizzeria with a hamburger/hot dog grill that is very good. I think the food on this ship is excellent, and the Horizon Court is open 24 hours. The Ports – We went to three ports on this 5-day cruise. Halifax, Nova Scotia – We purchased a walking tour of Halifax. We boarded a bus for a very short ride to the downtown gardens, then walked through the gardens to the Halifax Citadel with a very friendly and knowledgeable tour guide. The tour lasted two hours and allowed us enough time to shop around and see Halifax. The people here are very friendly and this is historically beautiful site. This tour was good, but you probably could see just as much on your own. The weather this day was very clear, yet cold, but we enjoyed this port. Bar Harbor, Maine – The ship has to drop anchor for this one, so you have to tender into port. Here we chose a bus tour of Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park, which includes a drive to the top of Cadillac Mountain. Prior to the tour, we did some shopping around the local stores. Since it was so late in the season, there were some great sales, with most stores selling for 50% off. We didn’t have enough time to shop as much as we wanted because the tour started at 12:00 noon. We boarded another bus for this tour. There were a lot of beautiful sights as the leaves were changing and the weather was sunny and clear. The tour got started late, and ended of course late. Because the tour ran late, we were late for what was said to be the last tender @ 2:30pm. We arrived back at the pier along with several hundred others trying to get back to the ship for a 3:00 pm departure. Needless to say, this caused some stress, and our ship was approximately an hour late leaving port. I would recommend anyone who ever tours in port, to do so only if the tour ends with plenty of time to get back to the ship at least an hour before scheduled departure and avoid long lines, especially when more than one ship is in port (2nd ship, Royal Princess also had folks trying to return to their ship, which seemed to cause some confusion). Newport, Rhode Island – Once again a tender was required to get to shore. It was rainy and cool this day, but this is also a very historical and beautiful area. We did some shopping in the port area. The deals were not as good as Bar Harbor, but there were a few good finds. In Newport, we took a bus tour of the historical mansions around the city. I think my wife enjoyed this better than I , but it was interesting. Back to the ship (earlier this time for a 7:00 p.m. sailing) less stressful since there was much more time in port. Disembarkation – As with any cruise, you pack your luggage and leave it outside your cabin on the last night. Be sure to keep the essentials in you carry on luggage, as well as what you are wearing home. We went to the Explorers Lounge and relaxed with CNN on the big screen until our baggage color was called. The waiters even served coffee! This went well and we got our luggage and headed to our bus for the trip back to Newark for our flight home. Things that I liked: Princess served “tea and crumpets” in the waiting lines at Embarkation In port, Princess provided hot drinks where we tendered. This was a nice touch. Princess took pictures only at a few occasions. We never felt pressured to buy drinks or be “nickled and dimed” Nice facilities and excellent service Piano music played on regular basis in the grand atrium – very nice Princess runs a class operation A few negatives: (if there has to be) Felt obligated to tip the Longshoremen at embarkation. (This operation is independent of Princess and probably can’t be avoided. I was just not expecting this, after all, that’s what the transfers are for that I had already paid thru Princess.) They didn’t serve lobster (but I found out later they do on 7 day cruises) Poor me! Summary – I would certainly recommend the Golden Princess as well as Princess Cruise Lines. We had a wonderful vacation, and were treated with lots of kindness and TLC. I look forward to sailing Princess again!

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Nov 30, -0001

Eastern Caribbean

We booked this cruise in November 2001 for the kids’ spring break. Princess wouldn’t take the booking for a quad room, as they were trying to limit the number of children and teens on the sailing. They were happy to book the same kids as long as we booked two adjacent cabins. We did and got a good price. We flew Southwest for the first time from Norfolk to Ft. Lauderdale, less than $100 each way. Called the Holiday Inn Express, Convention

Center, shuttle and were delivered about 1115pm the night before sailing. Saturday we had breakfast at the hotel, walked 1 ½ blocks to the bridge overlooking Port Everglades and could see Golden Princess, Celebrity Century, A HAL ship, and RCCL ship. Walked back to the Publix which was on 17th, a block from the hotel and purchased 12 packs of soda for the kids to carry aboard. We took the 1230pm shuttle to the pier (a 5-minute ride) and were through check in by 1:10pm. They x-rayed everything, and took a photo which is used to check faces and ship ID cards. They were confiscating for safekeeping all hard liquor. We were on Caribe deck 725 and 729, two adjacent inside rooms, but not connected. Refrigerator with filled ice bucket, ample space, end tables, dressing table with drawers, mirrors give the room a feeling of spaciousness. There is a closet with 7 feet of hanger space, a cabinet with 8 shelves and a save, and the entrance to the bathroom. No trouble storing all luggage under the bed, and the case of wine under the dressing table, with several bottles of champagne in the fridge. This was the largest three inside cabins we have had on Princess. Muster in cool lounge where they instructed everyone on how to put on lifejackets. We had opted to try Personal Choice dining. We have normally been traditional late seating on all previous cruises, with or without kids. We had read that 7-8pm was the busiest time so we sent down at 8:30pm and were told there was a 15-20 minute wait in both PC dining rooms. We got to a table at 9:05. The show was a comedian who toned down the late show due to the large number of children in the front rows. The Princess pools are fresh water and open 24 hours, so we did a late night dip before turning in. Many of the hot tubs are closed and emptied, however, at night. The first at sea day was Easter Sunday. There were Protestant and Catholic services at 9, and huge chocolate eggs decorated in the atrium. I attempted to make a dinner reservation for PC dining but was advised at 10am that only one PC dining room was taking reservations and had only 5:45-6:15pm available. With that, I went to the dining room captain in the traditional dining room and request late seating. He said if we had not heard from him by dinner, just show up at 8:30 and he’s find a place. From that point on, everytime he saw us all week he was able to call us by name. 16 years with Princess, starting as Asst Waiter. We checked out the four pool choices: Terrace Pool, aft, which is adults only, the spa pool which is a lap pool with artificial current, the Calypso Pool with the retractable roof, and the Neptune Pool. Family preferred the more secluded Calypso Pool, but seldom could find an empty chair due to inconsiderate passengers marking their spot with towels and disappearing literally for hours. This was the first formal night. Ordered rose corsages for my wife and daughter for $8 each, delivered to room. The 11 year old was thrilled! Captain’s Welcome Aboard reception, formal photos. The dining room seated the four of us and two others at a table for 10, and by the next night had us at a table for 6 with a good wait staff, Jun from the Philippines and Flavio from Acapulco. They were great. The show that night was Lights, Camera, Action, a Vegas style show. Afterwards we tried out Skywalkers, the disco suspended high above the stern, accessed by escalator from deck 17. Lots of current top 40 hits, a conga line, we had it all. The second at sea day we had made a lunch reservation in the Desert Rose, the southwestern theme restaurant with an $8 cover charge. We had ample salsa, chips, guacamole, fajitas, empanadas, quesadilla’s, and the first drink free (great Margarita’s). Much of the day as spent at the pools, but I spent time exploring the library (not only books, but computers with games, and other programs), shops, the exercise gym where I rode stationary cycles and they had many other machines, walking track. Tried out the pizza, which is available by the slice on Lido Deck only 11am –6pm. Also great burgers, hot dogs, brats, etc….all just off the Neptune Pool area. The evening show was Shake, Rattle and Roll, an anthology of music/songs from that era with singers and dancers. We took our own wine each evening to the dining room. The first three nights, we were not charged the $10 corkage fee. We had heard that it was sort of up to the waiter to write it up. They wrote it up the 4th and 5th nights, because they said it was apparent that the ship did not carry these wines, and the dining room captain would notice. I told them we would be bringing champagne the 6th night and they said to wrap in it something and they wouldn’t charge us. We did and they didn’t. Nor the last night. So we paid $20 corkage and had 7 bottles of wine of our favorites that I had purchased at discount wine shops and had shipped as luggage. Total expense for 7 bottle: about $91, which would have cost about $26 each, or more on board for a total of $182. We saved 50%. While we did attend wine tasting ($5 each refundable if you purchased dinner wine), the ship’s wine list is poor. Sure they have a few $60-110 wines, but most are $10 wines that cost $28 each onboard. The third day was St. Maarten. We berthed at the new pier, across from Disney Magic, with her crumpled, fire marred funnel and smokestacks. We took a taxi from the pier to Orient Beach on the French side for $6 per person, found a beach vendor, Pedro’s, where we got four chairs and 4 drinks for $20, and he tossed in a free umbrella later. Despite SPF 50, I got quite sunburned while swimming, sunning, snorkeling (got three nice conch shells). They have parasailing, jet skis, etc. Also visited the clothing optional end of the beach, although the kids remained in the more public side in the chairs. The joke back on the ship is always: “Gee, I didn’t recognize you with your clothes on.” Back by taxi to town to the Guavaberry Emporium, the local liqueur, and a little shopping. Ended the day by being at Every T’ing Cool until last call, which comes early since the ships are leaving. Two beers, a rum punch, and a soda for $8.25. Taxi back to ship was $3 per person. There was a nice sail away party with two bands, and that evening was Island Night. Starting about 1015pm the aft Terrace Pool was covered over with a bandstand, There was dancing, limbo contests, a Mr. Golden Princess contest, in which at the asst. cruise director’s urging I joined. A great night under the stars. This venue, right below the Skywalker’s lounge, is superb for this kind of evening. The next day was St. Thomas. We were berthed at the West India Co. dock at Havensight, and walked to the pierside shopping mall to make our liquor purchases, and some other souvenirs. There is also a drug store for those who might want something not available onboard. We went back aboard with all our purchases, had lunch in the Horizon Court on Lido. The rear section of Horizon is very quiet glass all around, and my favorite place up there. After a king crab dinner was the crew talent show, with the “If I were not upon the sea” skit. Alistair was the cruise director. He and his assistant did a good job during the week. Thursday was an at sea day. We ate in the dining room where they had and outstanding Cioppino seafood soup, and glasses of Italian wine for $3. That night was the second formal night, and the Captain’s Circle member reception. I was surprised at how relatively few were present, and with 3 or 4 exceptions, most were, like us, on about their 3rd or 4th Princess Cruise. After lobster and Beef Wellington dinner there was a champagne waterfall put on by the matre’de, with photos’ available for those who chose to get up and help pour, as my wife and daughter each did. Friday was the visit to Princess Cay, by tender. It was beautiful, and I liked it much better that HAL’s Half Moon Cay. The snorkeling was great, with coral fans and lots of fish. The sand was a bit rocky, the picnic lunch was a typical picnic lunch. Some local crafts, bars, music, etc. were available. But the scene must have been cut out and pasted from the Corona’ “change your whole latitude” commercials where they skip their pages across the water. The green water, white sand, sun,…it was the best! But it was Friday, and time to begin filling out forms, luggage tags, and packing. They wanted bags all but one bag in the hall when you leave for dinner, with the other to be out when you turn in. Prime rib and turkey dinners highlighted American Landfall night. Wish they would spread it out more instead of having multiple stellar entrée’s on the same night. Saturday we returned to Ft. Lauderdale. Breakfast was 6:30 – 8:30 in the dining room and 5:30-9am in Horizon Court. They called the first tags away about 8:10, and we were called about 9:30, with about 30% still waiting. We had chosen to wait in the Vista Lounge after vacating our room after breakfast. Hardly anyone there. They prefer to clog the stairwells and passageways for an hour and a half in the belief that somehow that will speed their departure. Customs and immigration was painless and the bags were waiting. We hustled them to an Alamo bus and rented a van so we could store the luggage and go to the beach strip. You can’t check luggage at the airport anyway until 4 hours before you flight. We drove by the Elbow Room I had visited on my own college spring break many moons ago. We parked in a lot for 75 cents and hour and walked to Sloppy Joe’s, of the Key West Sloppy Joe’s venue, and enjoyed lunch overlooking the beach, then off to turn in the car and to the airport for a return home on time. A few general comments. Food is available 24 hours a day in the Horizon Court. It typically parallels what is being served in the dining room. However, sitting on a buffet line, it is usually overcooked and drying out. There was lots of steamed and pealed shrimp available on several days. There are 3 identical dining rooms. Two for Personal Choice and one for traditional dining. We did not use the cover charged Sabattini’s Trattoria. Maybe if it had been a steak house. But not for Italian. The dining room food was medium, at best. It was not up to our prior two Princess cruises, and was more on a par with RCCL: good, but not exceptional. It was better on Carnival Sensation last spring. Lots of fish. Steak, Caesar salad, fettuccini alfredo are always available. Desserts did include banana flambé and cherries jubilee. Coffee was okay to me, and I drink it black. I know lots of people complain about cruise coffee. Maybe 20 years of black Navy coffee helped me adapt to any kind of coffee. They were not pushing alcohol. It was available, period. Soft drink stickers for your ship card were $17.50 for unlimited soft drinks by the glass. Same with photos. The only candids were upon arriving, leaving the ship in port (but only till 1030), and a few on Princess Cays. 8x10’s are $21.95, and 5x7’s are $7.95. I found not so many quiet little corners. The ship is huge. There were over 2900 people aboard but it didn’t seem like it. There were laundromats on every deck: new equipment, $1 wash, 50 cents dry. Soap and bleach $1 each, 4 irons and boards in each. It cost $3.75 to have my tux shirt laundered and pressed. Motion of the ocean was greater on this ship than I would have expected. Is it top heavy? Even in mild seas it rocks and rolls. My teenager had plenty to do with virtual arcades, miniature golf, internet café, and lots of teens to hang out with. All in all, a nice week on a nice ship. But it is nicer with just me and my wife, than supervising the 11 and 14 year old, who thinks he is 20 and dad of course knows nothing, and times to check in are optional. We’ll cruise as a family this summer, but looking forward to anniversary cruises with my wife. More romantic. Oh, must have been a good week, as I did put down the $100 per person fully refundable till Nov 2004 deposit on a future Princess Cruise. How can you lose on a deal like that? The Love Boat……….strains of music

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