Golden Princess, a vessel measuring 109,000 tons with a double-occupancy capacity of 2,600 passengers, splits its time between Australia, New Zealand, the South Pacific and Asia. In October 2015 it became the largest cruise ship ever to be based in Melbourne.
The ship's size means there is plenty of space for four swimming pools, nine whirlpools, 10 restaurants and cafés, and a wide range of entertainment venues. More than half of the cabins have private balconies, which suits its scenic destinations.
Its distinctive stern has drawn comparisons to the handle of a shopping cart (shopping trolley, if you're Australian) or a car's spoiler. This long, narrow section, suspended above deck 15, is actually a nightclub called Skywalkers, which is reached by a moving ramp along a bridge.
While the ship's design was created more than a decade ago, it was refurbished in early 2014 with minor cosmetic work and a major reconfiguration of the Horizon Court buffet area to improve the flow. Golden Princess also has the Crown Grill restaurant, Sabatini's Italian, and the adults-only Sanctuary, made popular in the line's newer Crown Princess series of ships.
Our favorite onboard spaces include the following:
The Piazza is the perfect onboard hub, surrounded by the International Cafe for coffee and anytime snacks. (The aroma of baking cookies and cafe lattes is heavenly.) Vines Wine Bar is also nearby for tapas, sushi and drinks. Clusters of cozy chairs make it the best place to enjoy the street theater-type entertainment, meet with friends or just people-watch.
The two specialty restaurants, Crown Grill and Sabatini's, take onboard dining up a notch. At Sabatini's, you'll eat your way through Italian favorites like antipasto, pasta and tiramisu desserts. The New York-themed Crown Grill expands the typical steakhouse menu to include all sorts of seafood while still offering a wide assortment of premium-grade beef. Both are well worth the extra fee.
The Sanctuary is an oasis of calm for adults, with snooze-inducing cushy lounge chairs, a soothing atmosphere with touches of greenery and the ultimate in pampering -- alfresco massages.
Movies are always better on the big screen, and Princess' pioneering Movies Under the Stars has made its way to Golden Princess' Calypso Reef Pool. Enjoy a concert or sporting event as you splash around during the day, or curl up next to your sweetie under a blanket with some popcorn to take in a feature film at night.
The teens-only sun deck provides this hard-to-please group with an outdoor place to mingle, and the splash pool area, although small, offers parents a tot-friendly place for water play with their preschoolers.
Four pools ease the swim crunch. The outdoor Calypso Reef draws kids, teens and adults, while the covered Neptune Reef provides a climate-controlled space so water enthusiasts can get wet even in inclement weather. The spa's outdoor current pool, targeted for swimmers 16 and older, is peacefully located off the ship's Lotus Spa, while the heated Terrace Pool provides great views at the aft of the ship.
Three show lounges -- the Princess Theater, Vista Lounge and Explorers Lounge -- allow you to find entertainment, no matter what time you finish dinner. Production shows and performances by headline entertainers are repeated three times over two nights, so everyone has a chance to enjoy them.
With supervised activities in the Fun Zone (a children's area for ages 3 to 7 and 8 to 12) and Remix (the daytime teen room), Golden Princess works well for families.
When the ship is based in Melbourne, onboard pricing switches from U.S. dollars to Australian dollars, and some of the food and drinks are changed to cater for local tastes. Don't forget you can bring onboard one bottle of wine or Champagne per adult per voyage.
Golden Princess has an impressive number of cabins and suites with balconies: 736. The balconies are larger on the Caribe and Dolphin Decks than on the Baja and Aloha Decks. But from the Baja and Aloha Decks, you can look down and see passengers on their Caribe and Dolphin Deck balconies, and from the Caribe Deck you can see those on the Dolphin Deck. So be careful which deck you choose and what you do when you're on your balcony. (The couple cuddling in their nighttime attire two decks below us probably forgot we had a good view.) As long as we're on the subject, many of the midship and forward balconies are visible from the bridge, so remember: unlike on some other ships, you're not as alone on your balcony as you might think.
Of 1,316 cabins, 366 are standard insides (measuring 160 square feet), 214 are standard outside cabins (168 to 206 square feet), and 514 are balcony cabins (185 to 193 square feet, with balconies measuring 45 to 81 square feet). Golden Princess also has 42 suites (ranging in size from the 304-square-foot Premium Suite with 180-square-foot balcony to the 864-square-foot Grand Suite with 450-square-foot balcony) and 180 mini-suites (268 square feet with 55-square-foot balconies). Six sizes of suites are available, including two Family Suites, each of which can sleep up to 10 people. (If four are children -- otherwise, eight adults can be accommodated in the 493-square-foot cabin with 102-square-foot balcony.)
Subtly decorated in beige, cream, baby blue and other soft colors, standard cabins come with flat-screen TVs, in-room safes, mini-refrigerators, hair dryers and desks. Bathrooms feature tiny showers (with the dreaded curtains) and come with small bottles of eucalyptus-scented shampoo and conditioner and bath gel, as well as soap and lotion. Princess' unique quasi-walk-in closet arrangements situate storage space in a type of anteroom or hallway by the bathroom. The plus is that the bedroom area feels larger without closet doors getting in the way; the minus is that many of these closets lack doors, so your wardrobe is on display for everyone to see. Drawer space is limited to the desk area, but ample shelving in the closet makes up for it. Standard balconies are each furnished with two chairs and a small metal table.
Mini-suites add sitting areas with pull-out sofas, second flat-screen TVs and bathrooms with tubs. Mini-suite and suite passengers automatically receive bathrobes. (However, other passengers can ask for robes; when we asked our room steward, he brought them quickly.) Suites come with upgraded faux teak balcony furniture. The Grand Suite features an enormous whirlpool tub, sitting/dining area with wet bar and walk-in closet.
On Deck 6, you'll find seven window suites. Uniquely located on a deck otherwise devoted to public spaces, the suites are 341 square feet and feature two picture windows each. Up on Deck 15, two deluxe outside cabins and 10 balcony suites (Owner's and Penthouse Suites) replace the previous golf simulator and video arcade. Signs still point to the golf simulator, so you'll likely see confused passengers milling around. The Owner's and Penthouse Suites are the highest cabins on the ships, offering expansive ocean views. The outsides measure 212 square feet each and come with picture windows. The suites range from 374 to 411 square feet, with 162 to 180-square-foot balconies, and are decorated in neutral earth tones and light woods. They feature separate bedroom and sitting areas and marble bathrooms, each with both a shower and a tub.
Cabins have 110V sockets so Australians should pack an adapter as for the U.S. power outlets. If you forget, ask your cabin steward. A deposit of AU$20 will be applied to your account and refunded when the adapter is returned.
Anytime dining offers flexibility, with the same freedom as land-based nights out. Show up in the designated dining room whenever you feel like it, between 5:30 p.m. and 10 p.m., to free yourself from the "hurry up and get dressed for dinner" rush that all too often comes after a long and active day in port.
Because of the popularity of anytime dining, the ship utilizes both the Bernini dining room from 5:30 p.m. until 10 p.m. and the Donatello from 7:30 p.m. onward. If you're willing to meet new people and join a group table, then you could be seated more promptly. But, if you desire a solo table during the popular 7:45 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. slot, you might wait up to 15 minutes. The dining room host will hand you a pager that will buzz when your table is ready. By arriving around 7 p.m., we were able to finish our meal in time to double up on our evening entertainment, taking in the first show at the Princess Theater at 8:30 p.m., followed by the comedian or singer in the Vista Lounge at 10:15 p.m., with enough time left over to throw away our quarters in the casino's slots.
Tip: Reservations for a specific time for any size group, even for a couple, can be made throughout the cruise.
Traditionalists who like the camaraderie of the same table and service from the same waiter -- the one who knows you like extra lemons with your iced tea -- can book tables for the traditional dining plan in the Canaletto dining room for either 5:30 p.m. or 7:45 p.m. service.
Despite seating hundreds of people at once, the dining rooms don't feel cavernous. Railings divide the rooms into manageable areas, and the drapes, carpeting and other measures absorb much of the background noise, so you don't ever have to yell to be heard by your tablemates. Each dining room is its own enclosed room, rather than a tiered multi-deck space. The decor is lovely and floral, with paintings of country gardens.
Each night, diners have a choice of two pastas, appetizers, soups and salads, and main courses. Vegetarian items are marked on the menu. Always-available selections include Caesar salad, shrimp cocktail, broiled chicken breast and grilled beef medallions. An adequate selection of wines, ranging from $20 to $50 per bottle, is available.
Open-seating breakfast (7 a.m. to 9 a.m.), lunch (noon to 1:30 p.m.) and afternoon tea (3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.) are also served in the Donatello dining room. A nice touch is that late-riser's breakfast items, such as corn flake crusted French toast, are always included in the dining room's lunch menu.
The Horizon Court serves buffets on Deck 14, with the stations all contained in one small area, so you're never in danger of overlooking food options. Breakfast, from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m., features the usual array of hot and cold cereals, smoked fish, scrambled eggs, omelets, and alternating days of waffles, pancakes and other traditional fare. For lunch (11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.), in addition to cold cuts, the spread includes a hot fish, chicken or pork dish (often all three), vegetables, greens and, sometimes, special platters like sushi. For dinner (5:30 p.m. to midnight), the Horizon Court also offers a variety of hot and cold entrees, along with salad and desserts. For early risers, a continental breakfast is served from 5 a.m. to 6 a.m.; those looking for a post-lunch snack can grab something between 3:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. When it's not busy, one side or the other is shut down; we rarely had to wait in line, but we did struggle finding a table. The staff, however, keeps an eye out for this and efficiently ushers people to open spaces. The selections for breakfast and lunch there are heavy on the carb and sweet side, so if you're looking for some leaner options or protein, Donatello might be a better option. Horizon Court will undergo a complete overhaul as part of the ship's refurbishment, scheduled for early 2014. The area will be opened up, providing more space and better flow.
The dining options continue out by the Calypso Reef pool, where chefs toss pizzas at Prego Pizzeria (open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.) and grill up burgers and dogs at the Trident Grill (11 a.m. to 11 p.m.). We loved swinging by Trident Grill for a midday snack and delicious French fries. Vegetarians be warned, though: While a "veggie burger" is offered, you'll probably be surprised when you're handed mashed potatoes mixed with peas, carrots and broccoli formed into a patty and put on a bun. Satisfy your sweet tooth with soft-serve ice cream and all manner of sprinkles at Sundaes Ice Cream Bar.
The International Cafe, located on the Piazza, is another casual dining option. Open 24 hours, it serves complimentary snacks, including breakfast pastries, soups, quiche, salads and desserts. (Think warm, melty cookies, as well as fancier items.) We enjoyed the prosciutto, mozzarella and chicken breast sandwiches. Specialty coffee drinks cost extra. It's quite pleasant to grab a seat in the atrium, munch on your snacks and observe whatever entertainment is happening in the Piazza (or simply people-watch).
Next door, Vines Wine Bar (11 a.m. to 11 p.m. or 4:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. on port days) serves up complimentary sushi and tapas with the purchase of a drink. Its corner of the Piazza is like stepping into a traditional winery with oak barrels for tables and flooring that looks like tiled stone. Pair your meal with a great glass of wine, or try one of several reasonably priced wine flight options.
Golden Princess offers two specialty restaurants: Sabatini's and Crown Grill, available by reservation only. To get the time and day you desire, reserve well in advance. Dinner is served in both venues from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.
If you like Italian fare, don't miss Sabatini's, a steal at the $25-per-person extra charge. Our favorites included the buffalo mozzarella (essentially, a big old hunk of fresh cheese), fried calamari and lobster three ways. The menu is heavy on seafood, but the staff is willing to tweak items to keep those who don't eat fish happy. Pasta is, of course, wonderful, and our waiters sang to us as they added Parmesan and fresh-ground pepper to our plates. By the time we licked the last of the tiramisu from our forks, we were stuffed and very happy.
The Crown Grill has a more traditional vibe. A New York-style steakhouse, its ambience is set with black-and-white photos of New York City, red woods and carpeting paired with blue upholstered chairs. The menu focuses on seafood, chops and steaks, with the additional choices of appetizers (black tiger prawn and papaya salpicon, lobster cake), soups and salads (black and blue onion soup, marinated goat's cheese and heirloom tomato salad) and the delectable sides that always crop up in steakhouses (garlic fries, mashed potatoes, creamed spinach). The fee for a multicourse dinner is $29 per person and $14.50 for children ages 3 to 12.
Room service, although limited to a set menu of breakfast items (pastries, coffee, fruit) or sandwiches, salads and burgers, is available 24 hours a day.
Ultimate Balcony Dining proved an incredible in-cabin experience. Our personal "butler," after draping our balcony table and chairs in yellow linen, began our experience by offering us Champagne and canapes. Then, the ship's photographer snapped our complimentary photo. Next, we dined on our balcony, enjoying the seascape, the swooping gulls and the breezes as our butler served us, course by course, discretely positioning himself behind the cabin drapes or out in the hall when not needed. The food was good and bountiful. We started with blue crab in pastry shells, followed by salad, then lobster tails and filet mignon ... and for dessert, walnut and vanilla mousse, plus chocolates. The meal was both romantic and memorable, and though an indulgence at $100 per couple, it was well worth the extra splurge.
Evening attire is typically "smart casual," but two or three nights will be formal, depending on the itinerary length; a standard seven-night cruise will have two formal nights. On formal nights, most women wear gowns or cocktail dresses, and men wear tuxedos or dark suits. Men don't need to wear jackets or ties on smart casual evenings, though some do; open-neck shirts are just fine. Shorts and T-shirts, frayed jeans, and swimwear are not acceptable attire in the dining rooms. Passengers generally tend to dress more casually on Australian cruises.
Editor's Note: Golden Princess' theater now hosts the line's own spinoff of NBC's "The Voice," called "The Voice of the Ocean," in which passengers who are handpicked from karaoke auditions earlier in the week compete for winning title.
Both the Princess Theater and Vista Lounge can host production shows and featured entertainers, and each show runs several times onboard. The Princess Theater is done up more like a Broadway theater than a typical cruise-ship show lounge. It has same-level orchestra seating, with stadium seating behind and a few boxes, though there's no second balcony level. The Vista Lounge is more cabaret-style, with chairs clustered around small drink tables and large windows facing aft, making the room pleasant and light during the day.
Side by side on the Promenade Deck, the Wheelhouse Bar and Explorers Lounge are smaller entertainment venues, hosting theme parties, karaoke, pianists and dance bands, as well as trivia and games during the day. The blue-and-gold Wheelhouse Bar has a nautical theme with model ships and captain's wheels on display, and it boasts plenty of nooks for tete-a-tetes. We especially liked its comfortable couches, live oldies band and modestly sized dance floor, where even we felt at ease moving to slow rhythms. The larger Explorers Lounge has a somewhat over-the-top Egyptian theme, not quite in keeping with the "casual elegance" exuded by the other venues.
The Grand Casino is on Deck 7, just forward of the atrium. It's outfitted with 11 gaming tables for poker, blackjack, craps and roulette, as well as oodles of slot machines. There are even screens for video poker. If you're extra-competitive, look for poker and other tournaments held throughout the cruise.
The moving ramp that takes passengers into Skywalkers Night Club enhances the spaceship feel of this top deck (Deck 17) disco with its panoramic sea views and outer space-inspired decor. The place didn't get busy until after midnight. Each night, a D.J. spun country, contemporary, Latin and other dance tunes. Open to ages 18 and older, the nightclub only serves alcohol to passengers 21 and older, as do the other bars onboard.
Other places for drinks include the Promenade Bar at the top of the atrium. For smokers, the Players Bar, tucked away behind the Crown Grill, offers cigars and cognac in an intimate space, with big TVs for watching sporting events. It's completely enclosed, so, for the most part, the smoke didn't seep out into other areas.
Movies Under the Stars, the big-screen outdoor theater located above the Calypso Reef Pool, shows movies, concerts, sporting events and other special programming throughout the day and evening. Afternoon movies might be shown in the Vista Lounge, as well, and on in-cabin TVs. At night, you might also be able to catch a late movie in the Princess Theater.
The video arcade is oddly located on Deck 6 near the Passenger Services Desk. It's nowhere near the youth facilities.
Through Princess' ScholarShip@Sea program, lecturers discuss art, diamonds and digital editing. The line brings on fascinating specialists to speak about destination-specific topics, such as Alaskan wildlife and sled dog-racing. We enjoyed the enrichment activities onboard, especially the expert lecture on Alaska as we sailed through Tracy Arm.
For wine-lovers, the ship staged one tasting in the dining room for $7.50 per person and a gourmet tasting for $25. Passengers can purchase ship tours, which will take them to places such as the bridge, the medical facility and engine control room for $150 per person.
Although the Fun Zone, the activity area for ages 3 to 12, isn't as large as those found on later Grand-class ships, the program is the same and is well thought-out. For most of the day, except for ice cream socials at the Horizon Court and a few other activities, 3- to 7-year-olds spend much of their time in the bright red, blue and yellow room face-painting, coloring, making puppets, decorating masks and playing games.
The adjacent area for 8- to 12-year-olds has craft tables, games and a plasma television, and it leads into an alcove with computers. These kids also create lanyards, play bingo and other games in the Fun Zone, and use other shipboard spaces. Children, ages 8 to 12, may sign themselves in and out of the program with their parents' permission, a freedom cherished by cruise-savvy kids. One deck up, The Fun Zone has its own outdoor deck with a whale-shaped kiddie pool, play houses and tricycles.
When at sea, the free children's program operates from 9 a.m. until noon, 2 p.m. until 5 p.m., and 7 p.m. until 10 p.m. On port days, the children's program operates from 8 a.m. (or a half-hour before the ship arrives in port) until 5 p.m. and from 7 p.m. until 10 p.m., also complimentary. Reserve ahead for group babysitting, available from 10 p.m. until 1 a.m. for $5 per child, per hour.
At Remix, the teen center located on the other side of the Fun Zone's computer alcove, 13- to 17-year-olds mingle and play Ping-Pong, foosball and cards. They also get to know each other during hip-hop dance classes, obstacle races and pizza parties. Teens can hang out, sun and soak in their own hot tub on the teens-only deck area, which is accessed by a set of stairs just outside the youth lounges. Older kids can come and go from youth activities as they please.
Golden Princess' demographics change with the seasons. Asia sailings tend to attracts families and multigenerational groups from a more international mix. In Australia, passengers are largely local families and older couples; on short cruises, the crowd is younger, with more singles and groups of friends, but mostly couples and some families.
With four pools onboard, there was less of a rush to grab a lounge chair than on ships with just one or two pools. Alas, some passengers still insisted on saving chaises for the afternoon by plunking down towels and books in the morning.
In warm weather, most kids and teens congregated around the outdoor Calypso Reef pool, while the glass-roofed Neptune Reef pool attracted fewer kids and more adults. But on rainy or chilly days, the climate-controlled Neptune Reef pool was quite crowded. The Conservatory offers extra indoor deck space above the pool, and it's there you'll find Ping-Pong and, interestingly, jigsaw puzzles. Tucked away on Deck 12, aft, the smaller heated Terrace Pool offers views off the back of the ship. Outriggers Bar, on Deck 14, overlooks the Terrace Pool. Sun deck space above on Decks 14 and 15 ultimately lead to the Oasis on Deck 16, which includes two hot tubs, sun loungers and a giant chess set. The Oasis Bar is also located there, but it was closed during our trip, and we were told it's open seasonally.
In addition to these pools, the spa features a small outdoor current pool, activated with the touch of a button. It's targeted for swimmers 16 and older. It's flanked by two hot tubs.
Above the spa and spa pool is the Sanctuary, Princess' adults-only, spa-inspired deck area. Access to this gated sun deck is available by purchasing half-day passes (8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. or 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.) for $10 per person, per half day. There, you'll find two cabanas for alfresco massages; cushy padded lounge chairs in striped, neutral hues; and serene, potted plants and small trees. Serenity Stewards provide cooling Evian misters, chilled towels and, at a nominal fee, MP3 players and healthy and refreshing drinks and snacks, such as fruit skewers, spring rolls and smoothies.
The Lotus Spa offers a range of wraps, massages and treatments, including facials, Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture, men's barber services and teeth-whitening, done by competent therapists. We enjoyed the bamboo massage, which made us feel a little bit like a piece of dough being worked over by a rolling pin -- in a good way. We also tried out the teeth-whitening and were satisfied with the results -- and the price, which was significantly less than we would have paid on land. Spa services book up quickly, especially for the popular afternoon hours.
Unlike some other ships, Golden Princess doesn't offer a pre- or post-massage relaxation area -- only some chairs that ring the often-busy treatment check-in desk. Also missing is a thermal sanctuary suite with heated mosaic tile lounge chairs, common on other vessels. The small dressing room has three very narrow showers and not a lot of privacy. Incongruously, the sauna and the steam rooms are located on the outside area, facing the coed current pool, which made it awkward to sashay over wearing just a towel or bathrobe. The women covered their glass-fronted sauna with a towel, which, of course, slipped off every time someone opened the door.
Although the aerobics area takes up a major portion of the gym, treadmills, stationary bikes and ellipticals are available, along with weight-training equipment and a small assortment of free weights. If you arrive during peak morning hours, you'll likely have to wait for equipment; we showed up at 7:30 a.m. and waited about five minutes for a treadmill. The sea views from the gym made exercising more fun than usual. Golden Princess hosts a variety of free fitness programs, including stretch, Zumba and abdominal classes. Pilates, yoga, boot camp and Tour de Spin sessions cost an additional $12 per class. TRX costs $45 for a three-class package. Participants in boot camp classes use the free weights in the main gym area, so if you arrive while class is in session, you might not have access to the weights you require.
Golden Princess doesn't have a traditional jogging track. We asked several different crewmembers where the jogging track was located, and all of them directed us to Deck 7: the Promenade. Yes, you can jog on the Promenade deck, if you're comfortable feeling a bit like a jerk running between people out enjoying the views. You'll also have to walk when space is tight around the aft of the ship, and you'll need to take a flight of stairs up to Deck 8 to get around the bow of the ship before returning down to the Promenade Deck. During peak hours in the early morning and around dinner, jogging is nearly impossible. For deck-strollers who exercise by taking long walks, the Promenade Deck proves perfect anytime, though. A mile requires you to put in 2.5 laps.
Passengers will find shuffleboard on Deck 16 and can shoot hoops on a half-size basketball court. A large putting green, with a number of holes to practice your short game, is located on Deck 16 behind the Movies Under the Stars screen.
The policy varies depending on the departure port of the cruise. When the ship departs from a port in Australia, there is no compulsory tipping. In other countries, Princess automatically charges gratuities to onboard accounts. The daily gratuity is $12.95 per person (including children) for passengers staying in standard accommodations and $13.95 for passengers staying in mini-suites and suites. A 15 percent gratuity is added to beverage purchases onboard (except in Australia). Spa and casino staff do not share in the gratuity charges, so if you use these services, tips are advised.
Date Refurbished: 2015
Country of Registration: British
Regular Capacity: 2600
Maximum Capacity: 2600
Number of Crew:1100
Crew Nationality: European/Asian
Officer Nationality: British/Italian
Language(s) Spoken:< Multiple Languages
|Escape completely on board Golden Princess, a brilliant ray of sunshine in any destination. Pamper yourself with a calming massage in the Lotus Spa® or de-stress as Serenity Stewards offer you refreshing beverages and light snacks in The Sanctuary®. Providing you with a wide array of restful venues on board, including the Piazza and Movies Under the Stars®, Golden Princess is truly a relaxed, rejuvenating retreat at sea.|
No. of Dinner Sittings: 2
No. of Dinner Sittings: 6:30pm & 8:30pm
Special Diet: Available upon request
Dress Code: May vary from Cruise Casual to Formal.Gratuity Policies
Suites $15.50 USD per passenger per day
Club Class $14.50 USD per passenger per day
Regular Staterooms $13.50 USD per passenger per day