Monday, May 30, 2011

Golden Princess Review - Part Two

Part two of our Golden Princess review is "The Good" - what we liked.

The Ship: For an older ship that was refurbished last year, the ship is in pretty good shape. The Passenger Service and Excursions Desks are done in a beautiful wood and look very classy. As usual, the International Café is one of our favorite areas on a Princess cruise and we always purchase a coffee card. The public areas and shops on Deck 5, 6 and 7 are lovely.

Our cabin: We had a balcony cabin, B309 on the Baja deck. We were in a perfect location – a little before mid ship, just a few doors down from the elevators. Baja deck balcony cabins are covered on top – which was great if it rained, as we could stand on the balcony and not get wet. The room was spacious enough with plenty of storage. Our cabin steward, Araceli, was excellent. The cabin was clean and anything we requested (bathrobes, a mattress topper for the hard mattress, extra shampoo and conditions, etc) was brought promptly. There was some wear and tear, particularly on the lamps, but that is to be expected from an older ship. I highly recommend getting a balcony for ANY Alaskan cruise. We constantly saw whales, otters, seals, and dolphins frolicking in the sea from our deck. Several in our group booked interior cabins and did not get to see any whales – where we saw an abundance of them.

Ports: We enjoyed the ports more than we thought we would. Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan and Victoria were wonderful ports. The day spent in Glacier Bay was also great (and one of the reasons we chose Princes, since between them and HAL, they hold 80% of the permits to sail in Glacier Bay). Victoria was a particular surprise, as it was such a lovely city to visit.

Weather: We could not have had better weather. Temperature in every port was 60 degrees and no rain! The only days we had rain were the first day at sea going to Juneau (and the ship rocked and rolled on heavy seas – it was the first time in 15 cruises I ever had a twinge of sea-sickness) and Glacier Bay (and after getting wet on deck 15, once we went back to our cabins with the roof over us, we were able to enjoy the view without getting wet).

Excursions: We wisely chose excursions that were outstanding – but since the ship was in port late in Juneau and Victoria, we lost an hour on excursions in both ports which we felt hurt us. In Juneau, we booked a Whale Watching/Mendenhall Glacier tour which took us up fairly close to whales. We then visited the Mendenhall Glacier by bus. Losing the hour because of being late, we were rushed through the Mendenhall Glacier and had less than an hour there. We were fascinated by the stop – not only was it beautiful, the history and seeing how much the Glacier has receded, even since the 1930’s, was amazing.

In Skagway, we did the White Pass Railway through an outside company, Shore Trips, with a return by bus. Another fascinating tour where we spotted a moose, bear and eagles.

In Ketchikan, we booked a float plane excursion. Because it wasn’t raining and it was so clear, we had a birds’ eye view of Misty Fjords and could see full mountain tops and spots where an October storm had done much damage to the trees. The pilot landed the plane in a glacial lake and we were permitted to get out of the plane and stand on the pontoons for a picture.

In Victoria, we booked a trip to the Butchart Gardens, which was the most beautiful garden we’ve ever seen. There were thousands of tulips and other beautiful plants. However, because the ship was an hour late getting into this port we had a very short time frame to take pictures before it got too dark.

Glacier Bay was also very interesting. We were lucky to see calving at the Marjorie Glacier – the sound of the ice breaking is unbelievable!

Staff: Having just disembarked an NCL ship six days before this cruise, I can say overwhelmingly that the staff on this ship was cheerier, more professional, and more friendly than many other cruiselines – for the most part. We met some delightful waiters and waitresses in Horizon Court that we thoroughly enjoyed speaking to. Most were very helpful and if I needed to stop and ask a question, I never once experienced a cross word or short response from the “little guys” on the ship. Passenger Services was another story which will be detailed lin "The Bad" in part four.

International Café: Our favorite spot to eat was the International Café. They had a wonderful choice of muffins for breakfast, paninis’ for lunch and dinner as well as excellent desserts and coffee. The best tasting food on the ship was located here. Buy the coffee card- well worth the money for some delicious specialty coffees and all you can drink brewed coffee. If you don't finish all the card punches on the card you can use it on a future Princess cruise!

Say tuned for part three!

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