Back To Line

Princess Cruises: Golden Princess

Golden Princess Review

Insider Take

Overview

One of the classic "Grand-Princess" style ships with a "Skywalkers Disco" - big but cozy ship.

Best For People Who Want

A roomy ship with ample choices for alternative dining, wide-ranging fitness programs; true onboard weddings as well as vow renewal; programs for children of all ages, tweens and teens; balcony cabins; lots of nightlife choices, extensive golf and snorkeling programs.

Should Be Avoided By People Who Prefer

A more personalized cruise experience on a smaller ship, world-class cuisine.

Decor

Unlike the theme park atmosphere of some other cruise lines, these Grand-class Princess ships decor bestows a refined, understatedly elegant atmosphere, with hand-painted murals and etched glass partitions in the dining rooms. Little apparent expense was spared on materials, with rich fabrics, beautiful woods, and marble everywhere, all topped of with a $2 million art collection aboard each ship. The cabins are tastefully decorated in soft, inoffensive shades - beiges, creams and muted pinks.

Public Rooms

The Vista Showlounge presents production shows, cabaret, comedians and magicians. The performers in the smaller lounges are of consistently high quality.

Skywalkers, the real disco, is suspended between two pillars protruding high above the stern, fully 18 stories above sea level. The moving sidewalk you ride up to Skywalkers is one of the most breathtaking views on any ship, and one that many passengers probably never discover.

As with all Princess ships, you will quickly find the Wheelhouse Bar and the Explorers' Lounge offering cabaret, trivia competitions, art auctions, and pre-dinner dancing. Churchill's Lounge, the one-time sports bar, is now behind the casino and is used for the cognac and cigars set. The sports paraphernalia is still there, but seems oddly out of place.

The main gathering spot, the maple-paneled atrium paneled, has boutiques, cafes and public rooms on each of its three levels, all connected by a circular glass staircase. A string quartet adds to the airy ambiance. The gigantic Casino contains some 285 slot machines and gaming tables beyond counting. You can view live sports on ESPN in the Sports Bar, or recline in leather chairs while perusing any of hundreds of books in the beautiful library.

The Internet room on these Grand-class ships do not qualify as "cafes" as there are no cafe-style treats available. Even worse, there is no tech support and if you can find the printer you may have to fix your settings on your computer to make it work yourself. The connection is generally slow and inconsistent. Sadly, these are some of the worst, and most under-utilized, Internet centers at sea.

Those who want the captain to pronounce them man and wife will meet him in the Hearts and Mind Wedding Chapel, which has much stained glass.

Cuisine

What can you say about a ship that offers three main dining rooms instead of the usual multi-tiered, bigger than life one? They are more intimate and definitely quieter, but like the Princess "included in the cruise fare" cuisine, they are not likely to elicit a "wow" response either. These main dining rooms predictably offer Princess' Continental-style cuisine unlikely to win any culinary awards, but also elicit few complaints. For gourmet dining, try the alternative option, refined but not snooty, Sabatini's Trattoria for a wonderful selection of Italian antipasti, complemented with such garnishes as Sevruga caviar, delicious pizza, homemade pastas, soups and breads. Salads are tossed before your very eyes, and soup ladled into fresh bread bowls. Seafood predominates on the list of main courses; there are lobster, langoustines, tiger prawns, Chilean sea bass and scallops, with red meat dishes also on offer. Save room for the exquisite Italian pastries that will be wheeled before you toward meal's end.

Restaurants

The three principal restaurants, Canaletto, Donatello and Bernini Dining Rooms, seating from 486 to 504 passengers, feature hand-painted murals and etched-glass partitions. The drapes and carpeting in the main dining areas absorb sound efficiently enough to preclude diners having to holler across the table to one another.

Personal Choice Dining offers either traditional cruise dining (In the Canaletto), with a set seating time (6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.) and the same waiter and tablemates each evening, or new restaurant-style seating, allowing passengers to dine when and with whom they choose, with each party seated at its own table, as at a restaurant ashore (offered in the other two dining rooms). Restaurant-style diners may be seated in either of the two elegant main dining rooms any time between 5:30 and midnight. Many passengers are understandably grateful for this reprieve from having to hurry to dress for dinner in the traditional way after a long day ashore.

Sabatini's, (surcharge $20 per person) described above, seats 100, the Sterling Steakhouse features Angus beef and other grilled red meats (surcharge $15 per person). The Horizon Court is open 24 hours per day, with menu service at night, plus casual breakfast and luncheon buffet. There's also a festive pizzeria. For $100 per couple, you can book the Ultimate Balcony Dinner, to be served by a butler who discreetly makes himself scarce behind drapes or out in the hall between courses. The ship's photographer snaps a complimentary photo while you're eating.

Service

While Princess has a well-deserved reputation for good service securely footed in its British roots, truly personalized service may be too much to expect on a ship this size. That noted, cabin stewards and waiters are both efficient and personable. And rote processes that should be standardized and well executed on other ships but often fail miserably, such as efficient disembarkation, are generally practiced and polished to the point of excellence here.

Fitness/Spa

It is rare to find such ample fitness facilities. The four pools, including a "swim-against-the-current" lap pool, are uniformly gorgeous, thanks in no small part to colorful mosaics and surrounding palm trees. Low marks, though, to whoever decided to put the separate jogging track right above the spa, as the relentless thundering of hooves overhead isn't terribly conducive to one's enjoying her massage or beauty treatment. Even though prices are substantially higher than ashore, spa services are very popular, especially in the afternoon. You'll occasionally have to stand in line for some of the more popular workout apparatuses in the gym. There's a golf simulator and 9-hole putting green, and courts for basketball, volleyball or tennis.

Attire

Seven- to 14-night cruises offer two opportunities to put on the Ritz in formal attire. Many men opt for dark suit instead of tux, while their distaff companions often prefer dressy pants to gowns. The rest of the time, think smart casual.

Onboard Experience

Golden Princess entered service in 2001, a sister ship to the 2,600-passenger Grand Princess, once the biggest Princess cruise ships at sea, though that didn't last for long. Despite the mega-ship status size of these ships at 108 gross tons (anything over 100,000 ton is considered mega-ship for now), the fact is Golden Princess and her sisters carry far fewer passengers (2600) than cruise ships of similar size from other cruise lines. The Carnival Conquest class at 110,000 tons, for example, can carry close to 3400 passengers at maximum capacity. This means that the space per passenger ratio on these ships results in lounges, theaters and dining rooms that are all intimate enough to make passengers forget they are aboard a megaliner.

Thanks to shrewd layout, multiple dining venues, four expansive outdoor deck areas (1.7 acres!), multiple sports facilities, four pools, and nine hot tubs, passengers are rarely concentrated in any one area. As a result, these ships often feel almost too spacious, eerily empty at times. Not that this is a bad thing, most luxury ships have the same feel. Meanwhile, the mega-ship amenities included for those who can never get enough dining, entertainment, and fitness choices, means the Princess ships of this class make the best of everything for ships in this size and price range. Their programs for younger passengers are exemplary, and their Lido buffet dining spot is open around the clock.

Having offered the first wedding chapel at sea (with the Captain doing the honors) on Grand Princess, Golden Princess now also features a complete professional digital photography studio in the F/X Digital Photo Center for those all-important wedding photos. The medical center is one of the most advanced at sea, the first to offer real-time teleconferencing support from a leading national cardiac care center in the United States.

The most incongruous factor about these mega-ships is that the public rooms aren't much bigger than those on much smaller ships, and there are surprisingly few bars and lounges for a ship this size. The one head-scratcher to the design is the compromised privacy of many balconies that extend out far enough from the ship that people from several decks above can look right down into your "private" enclave. From the Baja Deck, for instance, you can watch other passengers on their Caribe and Dolphin Deck balconies. Caribe occupants can in turn observe their counterparts on the Dolphin Deck.

Tipping

A charge of $10 per person per day (including children) is automatically added to your stateroom account for dining and stateroom personnel. This applies to all passengers, adult and child alike, whether or not they choose traditional or personal choice dining. The amount may be increased or lowered at the Purser's Reception desk during the cruise.

A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to all beverage tabs. Gratuities for spa, casino and other staff are at your discretion.

Entertainment

With a dozen or so venues for nightlife, you're virtually assured of finding something that floats your boat, to coin a phrase. There's no faulting the lavishness of the production shows, which feature extravagant special effects. The performers in the cabaret are a talented bunch.

Cabins

Cabins are built out from the body of the ship so as to permit bigger staterooms. Seven hundred ten of the 1300 staterooms have balconies, ranging up to 257 sq. feet, but they're not very private, as they're in plain view of the occupants of the cabin on the next deck up. Standard inside staterooms are 160 sq. ft., while outside cabins range from 168 to 210 sq. feet. Closet space is minimal except in the suites; leave some things home! Mini-suites with private verandas are 325 sq. feet. Vista Suites, called mini-suites on other Princess ships, range from 515 to 800 sq. feet. Sun and Dawn Princess offer larger minisuites for less money.

All staterooms have color TV with CNN and movies, a radio and small refrigerator, and spacious bathrooms with storage space and hair dryers.




Ship Overview

The second ship introduced to Princess Cruises’ Grand-class in 2001, Golden Princess was essentially a twin of Grand Princess before the latter received a major overhaul in 2011. Less extensive renovations of Golden Princess have added many of the cruise line’s most popular signature elements, including Movies Under the Stars and The Sanctuary.

When Grand Princess was introduced as the world's largest cruise ship in 1998, futuristic Skywalker's Disco hovered approximately 150 feet above the waterline, but in a dramatic—and fuel-saving—transformation, it was removed from Grand Princess in 2011 and replaced with a more conventional nightclub in the heart of the ship. Subsequent ships did not have the same design problem, so Skywalker’s remains.

Like their predecessors, the interiors of Grand-class ships have splashy glamour in the sweeping staircases and marble-floor atriums. Surprisingly intimate for such large ships, human scale in public lounges is achieved by judicious placement of furniture as unobtrusive room dividers. The 300-square-foot Times Square–style LED screens that hover over the pools show up to seven movies or events daily.

Princess Cruises may be best known for introducing cruise travel to millions of viewers, when its flagship became the setting for The Love Boat television series in 1977. Since that heady time of small-screen stardom, the Princess fleet has grown both in the number and size of ships. Although most are large in scale, Princess vessels manage to create the illusion of intimacy through the use of color and decor in understated yet lovely public rooms graced by multimillion-dollar art collections.

Princess has also become more flexible; Personal Choice Cruising offers alternatives for open seating dining (when you wish and with whom you please) and entertainment options as diverse as those found in resorts ashore.

Lovely chapels or the wide-open decks are romantic settings for weddings at sea with the captain officiating.

What You Should Know

Pros

  • Skywalker's Disco on Golden Princess and Star Princess is virtually deserted during the day, when it's the ideal quiet spot to watch the sea
  • Self-service passenger laundry rooms have ironing stations
  • The nautical Wheelhouse Bar is a Princess tradition for cocktails and dancing

Cons

  • Sports bars get jam-packed—and stuffy—during big games
  • Accommodations aft and above the Vista lounge are noisy when bands crank up the volume
  • Minisuites don’t include the perks offered to full suites
Ship Stats
  • Crew Members 1,100
  • Entered Service 2001
  • Gross Tons 109,000
  • Length 951 feet
  • Number of Cabins 1,300
  • Passenger Capacity 2,600
  • Width 118 feet
  • New

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.

Read More
  • New

Sep 30, 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.

Read More
  • New

Jul 8, 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.

Read More
  • New

May 12, 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.

Read More
  • New

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!

Read More

Cruise Forums

Have a cruising question? Ask our Fodorite community.

Cruise News

Read our latest news about cruises.

Store

Shop our travel guides on European, Caribbean, and Alaskan cruises.

Back To Top