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April 10-17, 2004
by Robert and Margarett Downie
Following an orderly disembarkation from the
Princess, we set our sights across Port Everglades to the second half of our vacation, a cruise to the Eastern Caribbean aboard the Golden Princess. Our cab driver was very upset that we’d been dropped off at the wrong ship as he loaded our bags, already sporting Golden Princess tags, in the Caribbean Princess’ terminal parking lot. My wife tried to explain that no one had made a mistake, but language issues got in the way and in the end we just thanked our driver for being so helpful in getting us to the proper ship.
When two Princess ships are using Port Everglades, one of them is forced to berth across the harbor at an alternate terminal. It is not quite as orderly as what we’ve become used to at Berth 2, but all was taken care of quickly once the doors opened. The staff allowed handicapped people into the terminal first so that they could
board more quickly. Again, we used Platinum check-in where the lines were
short and were on board in just a few minutes.
The Golden Princess looked muted and a little worn compared to the shiny newness of the Caribbean Princess. As we were soon to discover, though, the service on board the Golden Princess is highly polished. We made our way sternwards to our suite on Caribe deck. In a strange coincidence, we were in exactly the same cabin that we had aboard the Caribbean Princess. We
booked a mini-suite, but the Upgrade Fairy saw fit to move us up in the world. Upon arriving at our cabin, we were greeted by our cabin
steward and a bar steward who was setting up the mini-bar and stocking the fridge. We were supplied with a variety of glassware in sufficient quantity
so that any group capable of fitting in the cabin could be properly supplied with adult beverages.
The dining room was closed for a private wedding reception this particular day. Normally there is one dining room open for lunch when passengers embark. This was not a setback, and gave us an excuse to go upstairs and have pizza for lunch.
Later that evening, we met with a group of friends in our cabin for a sailaway party. With some concern I picked up the phone to call room service. My call was answered on the first ring, and within five minutes a knock on the door signaled the arrival of our order. A wonderful time was had by all.
Once again we chose the late seating in the traditional dining room. Our waitress, Liz, and assistant, Dennis, were there to greet us, as was our headwaiter Constantin. This was not the last we’d see of Constantin. In fact, he stopped by every night to say hello and check on things, and did this for every table in his section. As pleased as I was with food preparation and presentation on the Caribbean Princess, the food service department on the Golden Princess outdid them. From the first night, I knew that this cruise was going to add a few pounds to me.
Our first port call, after two very relaxing days at sea, was in St. Maarten. Our planned tour to the French side of the island had been cancelled, so we booked the America’s Cup tour instead. The level of activity is not terribly strenuous during this tour, but it does require a fair degree of mobility to enjoy. Everyone takes a crew position during the tour and is responsible for some aspect of the boat’s operation. Even the non-sailing people were kept busy, especially the bartender! This is not a tour for those with mobility limitations. There is no need to worry about seasickness. These boats ride nearly as well as the cruise ship itself even in rough seas. The trip is great fun and is over all too soon.
It is very easy to get a little too used to the privacy of a stern cabin on the Grand-class ships. On port days it is important to find out whether or not a Royal Caribbean ship has docked directly astern before proceeding outside in a less than securely fastened robe. A feature of their Voyager-class ships is an observation platform accessible to passengers at the bow of the ship. It is of convenient height to look directly across into the stern balconies of a Grand-class ship.
After warning my wife to keep the curtains securely drawn, I decided that it would be prudent to dress more appropriately for the day’s activities. We booked the “Luxurious Catamaran to St.
John,” a ship-sponsored tour to a beach on St. John for snorkeling and swimming. It is an all-day tour that can be enjoyed by those with mildly limited mobility, but should not be attempted by anyone who has extreme difficulty getting around. People intending to book this tour should also be aware that the passage between St. Thomas and St. John can be rough.
Our Cruise Director was Graham Seymour. We normally do not pay much attention to the cruise director, but found ourselves turning on his morning program for an early laugh. He definitely keeps people on their toes and added to our enjoyment of this cruise.
It is difficult to find anything to find fault with during the entire week on board. Our biggest concern was a shower that sometimes drained slowly. In fact, the service on board was so finely tuned that our waitress sought us out after dinner to see if we wanted Baked Alaska delivered to our cabin. We’d had to leave a few minutes before it was served to meet with friends. She felt badly that we’d passed on dessert that night, thinking that she had been too slow to serve it. In fact, we were just full after a week of the Golden Princess’ wonderful food. The rest of the ship’s staff measured up just as well. I cannot recall ever turning in so many comment cards for individual crew members as I did this cruise.
We have been on many great cruises with Princess in the past. None has rated as highly in all categories as did this cruise on the Golden Princess. “Excellent” does not adequately describe our feelings about the ship or her crew.
& Margarett Downie
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