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Copyright 1995-2002 
Linda Coffman

 

Golden Princess
Barcelona to Venice Cruise
June 7-19, 2002

by Jean and Ralph Walker from Adelaide South Australia

This was our first cruise for a number of years. The reason we chose the Golden Princess was the itinerary and the personal choice dining which really appealed to us. We are in our mid 50's my wife a nurse and I a Tourism Lecturer. 

We departed Barcelona on 07 June for the cruise to Venice and enjoyed our voyage very much. From the moment we arrived at the dock until disembarkation we were looked after superbly. The crew were there to make sure that you had a great time. We are planning another cruise with some friends on this ship later this year in the Caribbean.

We highly recommend the express check-in which can be organized on the Internet before you leave home. We were on board the ship within minutes of arriving at the dock. Other passengers who had not arranged this had to queue for quite a while prior to embarkation. You are given security cards which you use for all purchases on the ship, entry to your cabin and embarking and disembarking at the various ports of call.

Once we were on board we went to Horizon court to sample the buffet. What a great introduction to the ship. Make sure you get the soda soft drink sticker when you first get on board. This is stuck on the front of your security card. For a flat fee of USD 25.00 per person you can have as many soft drinks as you like whilst on the ship. After returning hot and bothered from a tour the idea of several cold soft drinks was very welcome. 

We suggest that the ship evacuation drill time be set so that all passengers know exactly when it is. We were told it would be prior to embarkation and were half way through a meal in Horizon court when told the drill was on. This was a little inconvenient. I might add that we take lifeboat drills extremely seriously. Our last cruise was many years ago and about 6 months after we returned home the particular ship we traveled on hit a rock somewhere in the Aegean sea and sank. Unfortunately there was some loss of life.

We would strongly recommend that you undertake the introductory tour of the ship as it quickly shows you where everything is and some very useful tips. Use  the stairs if you can. Sometimes the lifts can be a little slow. We suggest you photocopy the cabin plan of the ship from the tour brochure and take that with you. The deck plans they give you on the ship are a little small. 

We had a large inside cabin Baja B316 which was away from the stairs and elevators and beautifully located. The room had lots of wardrobe space and drawers and was very spacious. There was a safe which you could use with your own pin number. Towels were replaced morning and night. Our cabin steward Arthur was fantastic. Couldn't do enough for us. 

We would strongly recommend the personal choice dining. Some passengers returning from a tour were late and had to rush to get to the 1st sitting at 6.30pm. With preferred dining you can dine when you wish and it is nice to meet different people each meal. Some of them we dined with again during the cruise. We quite often had drinks in one of the bars prior to having dinner later. We never had to wait for more than a few minutes for a table. You can book a table if you want. The quality and variety of the food in both the restaurants and the Horizon court buffet was excellent. Horizon court is open 24 hours a day but does get very busy late morning. However busy it is you still will not have to wait long if at all for a table. We would highly recommend a visit to the special Italian restaurant Sabatini's. A great dining experience. It costs USD 15.00 per person extra. 

Cocktails generally seemed to be cheaper than ordering a glass of wine. The price of bottles of wine were reasonable and the quality generally fine. Very few Australian wines however!! Be careful to get a receipt for any drink or other purchases on the ship.  On several occasions we were not given a receipt and it made it hard to reconcile our account at the end of the cruise. Sometimes we obtained a receipt but there was no date on it. This should be rectified. You receive an account the night before departure for all purchases on the ship.

There were two formal nights for the trip the rest of the cruise was smart casual in the dining rooms. If you don't want to dress up you can go to Sabatini's or one of the other theme restaurants. Antonio Cereda is the executive chef and we complement him and his staff on their service and quality of the food. We would thoroughly recommend his culinary demonstration and tour of the kitchens. The size of the kitchens is overwhelming.

We were amazed at the versatility of John Lawrence our cruise director. He would be out and about at 1.30am in the morning then you would see him on the Good morning show at 6am. Great effort from him and his staff.

We went on several tours and generally speaking they were well organized and reasonable value, however you need to undertake some research prior to departure, in order to ensure you have booked the right tour for you. Our favorite tour was in Naples to the Amalfi Sorrento coast and Pompeii. Excellent guide and comprehensive tour. At one port all the Tour buses returned at the same time and everyone was waiting out in the hot sun for about 30mins waiting to get back on board. They should try and stagger the return of the busses so this doesn't happen. All of the tours can also be pre-booked on the Internet prior to your departure from home. Spain, Italy and Greece are good places for pickpockets. We always use safety pouches attached round your neck and inside your clothing and have not had any problems.

If Princess cruises are contemplating returning to Valetta Malta in the future I think a different tour company should be used. Our tour guide seemed to be very inexperienced and traveled at a cracking pace so much so that she left half our group behind. There were quite a few older people in our group and they were getting very upset. I think she was on a very tight time schedule and that didn't even leave enough time for a toilet stop. She had to be told in no uncertain terms that it was not good enough. Even when we finally did have a toilet stop she was hurrying people up. Not very good.

In Athens we took the tour to the Parthenon temple on Acropolis hill and then journeyed to the Temple of Poseidon on the Cape Sounion drive. This was a excellent tour with an excellent guide. We had one elderly man on the trip who wasn't able to walk from the coach car park to the top of the Acropolis to view the temple of Poseidon. It was a very hot day with the temperature about 33 Celsius or 90 Fahrenheit. This was the one thing he really wanted to see and it was unfortunate for him to have to miss out. People should be warned that the climb up the hill is quite strenuous for older people.

In Livorno we took the tour to Pisa and Florence. An excellent tour but there is a fair bit of walking to be undertaken. Lunch in Florence was excellent Make sure you have a glass of champagne in your hand and that you are at the rear of the ship for the departure from Monaco with Edith Piaf playing in the background. A very beautiful sight. We also enjoyed the departure from Athens/Piraeus seeing all the ships of various sizes coming into the harbor. Naples is also a good departure with Mt Vesuvius in the background.

I am a reasonably fit person but would like to warn people about ports where tender boats are used to transfer passengers from the ship to the shore. When we arrived in Monaco there was a large swell and as I transferred to the tender boat I lost my balance. You need to hang on extremely tightly whilst on the tender boat. The eye viewing socket of my video camera was damaged but luckily I was still able to use the camera for the rest of the trip. When I returned home I wrote to Princess cruises and received a refund from them. It is most important if you have a problem with loss or damage to articles associated with your time on the ship to report the matter to the Pursers office. You will have to complete a claim form and you keep a copy of this form. I have suggested to Princess cruises that a warning sign should be erected near the  disembarkation point to the tender boat making passengers aware of the dangers of traveling on the tender boat if the weather is inclement.

Most of the decks have laundries and the best time to go is early i.e. 6-7am on at sea days. 20mins for wash. USD 1.00 for wash and 0.50C for drying. Jean took own laundry powder and bounce for spin dryer. She said that visiting the laundry was a great way of meeting people and getting some useful hints about the ship etc.

Skywalkers lounge at the back of the ship is great during the day if you want to find a quiet area for reading with an excellent view. Very few people are there during the day. In the evening Skywalkers is where the disco operates and this starts up around 10.30pm. You had to pay extra for the ice cream bar and we think this should be included in the cruise price. There was however was a free ice cream bar near horizon court open between 3.30pm and 4.30pm on most days. 

I was able to get up early each morning and go for a run around the promenade deck. All the staff would greet you with a cheery good morning. The gym is well equipped and the assistance there very good. 

We went to quite a few of the shows and they were all very good. They usually last for about an hour. The comedian was wonderful. He was able to talk about shipboard life and staggering around with food overload. As it was a Mediterranean trip he was talking about "rocks and ruins". A very funny man. The live bands were great and Maurizio playing in the lobby lounge drew a large following each night.

The general age of the passengers was 45 years upwards with very few children. Mainly Americans, but I did find out there were approximately 100 Australians on board. Some passengers were in wheelchairs and they seemed to be having a great time.

We would strongly recommend that passengers use the Princess transfers to and from the airport. We arrived at Barcelona airport independently and took a taxi to the port. It cost about EUR 23 and the driver wasn't sure where to go. I had to draw a picture of the Golden Princess on a bit of paper and he got the message. Spain was playing in the World cup football and as we were driving along the motorway Spain scored a goal  and the driver was beside himself. The hands came off the wheel and he was a very happy man. We weren't so sure if we were going to make the ship alive however!! If you haven't got transfers arranged in Venice it will cost you a lot of money for a water taxi from the ship to St Mark's square unless you are prepared to walk with all your baggage to the nearest  vaparetto station which would be about 15 minutes walk at least.

We tried the internet cafe and found it very convenient, no wait although it was a little expensive at USD 7.50 for 15 minutes. 

We took the opportunity to speak to quite a few members of the staff and crew. They seemed to be very happy working on the Golden Princess and said they were well looked after. Captain Bernard Warner is an excellent Captain and can be seen from time to time moving round the ship. He is a very approachable person and the right person for the job. One day he had 6 weddings to perform so he was fairly busy that day.

We are extremely happy with this ship and look forward to being back on board later this year. Even though there are 1300 crew and 2700 passengers on board when fully laden you don't realize that there is this number on board. There are plenty of places where you can avoid the  crowds.


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