Golden Princess Cruise - Alaska Cruise

Alaska / Canada Border - Skagway Excursion
Last week, we went on our 2nd cruise, 1st Alaska Cruise on the Golden Princess cruise ship. Being this my first Alaskan Cruise, not to mention many years since my last cruise, the experience was very positive. I highly recommend anyone to go to Alaska, either by Cruise or Land, there a lot of great nature to see, fresh air to breathe, and valuable natural wonder to be part of. Due to global warming, the glacier, once left behind by the great Ice Age is quickly melting and might not last much longer. Take the opportunity to see it and be aware on how to contribute to saving from global warming.

Golden Princess - Dock @ Skagway, Alaska
Princess Cruise Line, owned and operated by Carnival Corporation, is in a premium category of cruise ship. They have approx 11 cruise ships. As of 2011, about 1/2 of their fleet sail for Alaska. Either leaving from San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver, or Whittier / Anchorage. The one I was one was the Golden Princess, leaving out of Seattle, Washington. This cruise ship was dry dock renovated a few years ago (2009). The sister ship, Sapphire Princess, also cruise out of Seattle for Alaska, will dry dock for makeover in 2012. Golden Princess Alaska Cruise itinerary:


Port Arrival Departure
1 Seattle, Washington
4:00 PM
2 At Sea
3 Juneau, Alaska 12:00 PM 10:00 PM
4 Skagway, Alaska 6:00 AM 8:15 PM
5 Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska (Scenic Cruising) 6:00 AM 3:00 PM
6 Ketchikan, Alaska 7:00 AM 12:30 PM
7 Victoria, British Columbia 7:00 PM 11:59 PM
8 Seattle, Washington 7:00 AM

Golden Princess Cruise Ship

Overall Summary
Like:
  • International Cafe Bar - This was a great addition to the cruise ship. You can order specialty coffee, hot cocoa, hot brew coffee, and a nice large selection of pastries. Fresh hot cookies every few minutes and panni sandwiches!
  • Cover Heated Pool and Spa - One of their many pool area was covered. Extremely nice on Alaska cruise where rain and weather could be un-expected
  • Movies Under The Stars - This was a nice feature. Cuddle up in a warm blanket and watch movies while the ship is sailing. 
  • Trident Grill - Hot fresh pizza made in front of you, cook to order hot dogs and hamburger
  • Sky Lounge - Was a nice spot with great view
  • Anytime Dining - Good food, great service, enjoy the convenience of anytime dining.
Dislike:
  • Horizon Court Food Buffet - Small and very limited selection. Soup was bad.
  • Small Balcony Cabin - A bit small compared to others
  • Mid Ship Attrium small / cramp - Only able to see as high as 3 floors, not very open. Feel cramp.
  • No Sushi - No sushi buffet. Only available as complimentary at the Vine Bar if you order Wine. 
  • Trying to do too much - They try to cramp too many features, end up with everyone of it small and lack quality. Basketball 1/2 court size mixed on Tennis Court. Extremely small mini-golf. Their technology arcade has 4 machines, all old games.
  • Location of venue not thought out very well. You have the gym, adult spa and pool, teen room, kid room, all in front of the ship. The basketball is back of ship.

Entire Pictures Of Golden Princess Can Be Found (HERE)


Food / Beverages:
Tip #1 - If you drink soda or coffee, I highly recommend you pick up a soda card and coffee card the minute you board the first day.
Tip #2 - When Booking, select anytime dining! The longest we had to wait for a seat was no more than 20 minutes. But it gave us the flexibility to eat at our leisure time and could request to sit separately.
Vine Bar - Wine Tasting & Complimentary Sushi / Tappas
  • My overall experience of the Golden Princess was positive. The dining room offers very good meals and great services. The addition of the International Bar & Cafe was a great plus. It offer specialty coffee and brew coffee for a additional fee. I recommend people buy the Coffee Card, it will give you 15 specialty Coffee (i.e.: Latte, Espresso, etc.,), unlimited brew coffee, and unlimited hot cocoa drinks. All the pastry (i.e.: cakes, flan, cookies, etc.,) are FREE. The nice specialty snacks are FREE. No coffee card required for these items. 
  • If you are swimming outside by the pool or hanging out watching movies with their Movies Under The Stars (MUTS), you will enjoy the Trident Bar and Grill. There is a pizzeria with fresh bake pizza through out the day. The grill offers top quality burgers, hot dogs, sausages, and fries. All free with the cruise. The Bar and Grill is open between 11AM - 11PM
  • International Cafe & Bar
  • Beverages is a bit tricky. Rule of thumb: Tap Water, Ice Tea, Lemonade, and pre-made coffee are free of charge. Fountain Soda has a fee. For those who like to drink soda, there is a Soda card which gives you unlimited sofa for $4.50 per day. Upgrading that to premium level $7.00 will allow you access to Milk Shakes, Root Beer Floats, and other premium soda. 
  • Ice Cream Cone is free of charge. 
  • Horizon Court food buffet could be better. The food was ok and nothing special. The buffet is small, no where close to compete with any casino @ Las Vegas. A bit disappointing in my opinion. While the food is not horrible, the selections are limited and quality aren't the best. The only benefit is that it is ready available 24 hours a day.
  • Room Service, at limited menu selection, is free and offer 24 hours a day.
  • Compared to my previous trip and to my surprise, especially this being Alaska Cruise, the offering of Smoke Salmon was limited. It wasn't even on the room service menu and only offer at the cafe once.
  • Golden Princess offer two specialty restaurants at additional fee ($20.00 per person). They offer premium dinner and is by reservation only. I didn't try it on this route, but have heard from people on the ship, it was an excellent experience. 
  • If you enjoy Sushi, prepare to be disappointed. No where to be found, except for a small area and only available as complimentary to those who purchase wine at the Vine Bar. 

Entertainment:
Tip #1: While the theaters are large, come at least 30 minutes before the show. They do pack up fairly fast!
Tip #2: I highly recommend going to Movies Under The Stars, it is a nice cozy experience. Wear plenty of layers, ask for blanket, they do offer them, and a nice cup of Hot Chocolate!
  • The minute you board the ship to the last day of your cruise, entertainment is non-stop. You have one of several lounge you can relax, have a drink, and listen to live band or listen to the music over the ship PA system. At night, there is a nice Sky Bar above the rear (AFT) of the ship. The view is spectacular while you party all night. Bare in mind that while in Alaska, sunset way past 10:00PM, so the sunset view is something that will leave an impression on you. 
  • Princess Theater
  • There are two theaters on ship. The main large Broadway style is towards the front of the ship called the Princess Theater, while the smaller and more intimate Vista Lounge is towards the back of the ship. Both offers good shows, stand up comedy, and musical through out your trip. 
  • They do have a casino, extremely small, but do offer some of the popular games and slot machines.
  • There are locations for kids, teens, and young adults to hand out with peers of their age.The teen room is actually pretty neat. Small, but neat. It has a large 55" LCD TV hooked up to playstation 3 with tons of games to keep them busy. Plus a lot of board  games and other activities. 
  • Movies Under The Stars or if you are watching during the day, Movies Under The Sun, is a nice experience. The LCD screen is bright enough to watch during bright day light. 

Accommodation:

Tip #1: If you are going to get a balcony room, I recommend Aloha Deck or Baja Deck. Your balcony is covered and you have the privacy of not having people above you looking down. Otherwise people above you can see you. See sample pictures below
Balcony Room - AFT Aloha Deck

View from Aloha Deck. Directly below is Baja Deck you don't see, but see all other decks
  • The room we had was located on Aloha level (floor 12) on the AFT left side of the ship (rear left). The room offers the standard typical amenities. There is an LCD TV, Small Refrig, Hair Dryer, several electrical outlets, a small safe, and a balcony. Nothing special or WoW about. It is small, but serve the purpose. We were directly below the Horizon Court and Neptune, but it was isolated well enough,  we didn't notice any noise. 
  • One thing to my surprise was the shower. The shower flow / pressure is so much better than most 4-5 stars hotels I've stayed! 
  • The bed is pretty firm. For those who like something softer, you could request for a foam pad added. The pillows are soft.

Sports / Fitness / Pools:
Fitness Center
  • There is a full fitness center towards the FWD (front) of the ship. The typical equipments are available. Separated sauna, steam room, and showers are available for males and females. There are also two spas and a small pool. 
  • The ship has daily fitness activies you can sign up for, such as the popular Zumba and Lance Style Cycle Exercise.
  • AFT top deck you will find a small court. Large enough for one tennis game or two 1/2 court basketball. 
  • Middle of the ship top deck hidden right behind the large movie screen is a small golf putting green.
  • You have about 4-5 heated swimming pool. One of them are covered. You have about 8-10 hot spa tub.
  • If you want to relax, they do offer massages, facial, and other body refreshment for a fee. 
  • Towards the front of the ship, directly above the fitness center is an adult only oasis. You can relax in this environment for a small fee. The Sanctuary is an  adult only resort relax environment. I did not see too many people utilized this except for the day we were at Glacier Bay National Park. 

Photographers:
A common questions I see reading forums and I too ask myself is around what gear to bring on the cruise. I took a boat load, it as a pain to carry around. From now having seen the cruise and have an idea what to expect, here are my opinions:
  • Go Light! For me, I carried both my camera bodies and two lens, thinking it would save me effort in swapping them. That was a mistake. I rarely need to go beyond 70mm. I hoping to see a great amount of wild life and sea life to make use of the 70mm-200mm F2.8 w/ 1.7x TC, but I took no more than 10 shots with it. Most of my pictures were taken with 17mm-55mm F2.8. 
  • If you have 2.8 or faster, by all mean bring it. I find myself only use flash twice. All of my shots, I took advantage of 1600 ISO and F2.8 when necessary. Flashes, while great, sometime tends not to bring out true colors. I like to use ambient lighting. Pop-Up flash found on the Nikon works fine.
  • If you have 18-200mm VR lens, go with it. That would the best partner you can  have while going on excursion. Outdoors are extremely bright, especially when sunset after 10:00 PM, the added daylight really helps. So the 18-200mm will work nicely. The F2.8 or faster lens will help you with interior shots while you are on the ship or maybe late night shot around ship. For me, next time I think getting an 18-200mm VR lens and 50mm F1.4 would be perfect setup to use.
  • Small Backpack or Sling Pack
  • No Tripod Required! That was my largest dilemma. Should I bring a tripod? I am glade I did not. With what I had carried with me, the additional weight of tripod would kill me. What I used was to hold it steady or use tools around me. Such as rocks, boulders, trash bins, chairs, benches, etc. Brace yourself steady and fire away. I took a shot with the waterfall down to 1s shutterspeed w/o tripod!
  • Bring Neutral Density or Polarizing Filter if you have them.
  • Bring a lot and I do mean a lot of extra CF/SD cards. I enjoy shooting raw and it saved me many times.


Additional Photos: (CLICK HERE)