Pre night and Embarkation Day 1
Our much anticipated and carefully planned cruise along with our friends had finally arrived! Our group from Ohio has sailed together for the last 13 years aboard all the major lines. Having decided to do the day before program, we arrived in Ft Lauderdale around 12PM on Friday 2/8 after an uneventful flight out of Akron/Canton Regional airport. Surprisingly, check in was a breeze in light of recent enhanced security and luggage inspection. Had made arrangements for a private limo to meet us at Lauderdale airport and take us to 17th St AmeriSuites (which is really on 10th St!)as well as returning on Saturday at 11:00am to take us to port as we had heard about long waits for the free shuttle that is offered by this hotel and just didnt want the hastle!
AmeriSuites is moderate to mid priced, clean, in a good, safe location and provides a continental breakfast with quite a nice selection. Got checked in at hotel then took off for a light lunch at the Wendy's that is nearby and decided to walk to the pier. The Ocean Princess was the only ship in port at the time. Spent a little time visually checking her out from the 17th Street pier bridge then walked back to our hotel. Weather was a little too cool to attempt to lay by the outdoor pool so we spent the next couple of hours just relaxing, sitting in the lobby and having conversations with other folks who were to cruise the next day. Had dinner at Chuck's Steak House which is within walking distance of the hotel. Great food! Called it a night early as we were all pretty beat from having to be at airport at 5:00am for our 7:00 am flight that morning.
Up bright and early on Saturday for our breakfast then walked to Eckerd Drug to buy some potatoe chips, bottled water, juice and a few snacks to have in our cabin during the cruise. Driver met us at the agreed to time and we were off to the pier which is about a 5-10 minute ride from the AmeriSuites. Arrived at pier by 11:15, checked in and were up in waiting area to board by 11:30. What a breeeze that was! Got our first glimpse of the Golden from the second level of the terminal. What a truly magnificent beauty she is...we are seasoned travelers and I must admit I was awestruck!
Had embarkation picture taken (smile pretty now!) and were boarding Golden by 11:45. Met by smiling crew members who directed us to our cabin via closest elevator. We were in E726 and were pleasantly surprised with both the size of our cabin as well as the balcony which is TOTALLY private. (We had BIG FUN on that balcony!) Dropped off our carryon luggage and were off to Horizon court for a quick bite of lunch then on to snooping around and familiarizing ourselves with the ship. Returned to our cabin and watched sail away from my cousin and his wife's balcony as they were in E728 and had the larger wrap around balcony that held all 10 of us easily! True to form, Lauderdale residents gave us a resounding Bon Voyage with bells, music, cheers, waves, banners and flags!!! Our group of 10 had originally requested traditional dining but 2 weeks prior to embarkation our agent was advised that there was little likelyhood of our getting requested seating as there are only 2 tables of 10 available and they had already been assigned. We chose to eat each evening at 6:30 with Personal Choice and made reservations with the Matre D to seat us at the same table each night. So it really ended up much like traditional for us though by definition it was Personal Choice. Will state for the record that food was good but not exceptional...nothing memorable or truly "to die for" That would pretty much hold true for the balance of the cruise. After dinner, we spent remainder of evening checking out the ship stores and the many amenities Golden Princess had to offer. Decided to call it a night when Tom and I couldnt keep our eyes open any longer. Lulled to sleep by the gentle rocking of the ship and the soothing sounds of the sea coming from our open balcony door.
DAYS 2 At Sea and First Formal Night
Put out room service card night before to have delivery between 7:00 and 7:30 am since we are both early risers. Nice selection of food items to choose from including seasonal melon, danish, dry cereal and juices. Knew from reading this board that you could write in anything else you would like including scrambled eggs, sausage and bacon etc. To me, breakfast on your own private balcony at sea is a little heaven on earch and we scheduled this time for ourselves daily..OOH the memory of it alone brings a smile to my face as I type! Spent a few hours relaxing on deck at the pool and catching some rays but we were careful not to over indulge in the sun; learned from past cruises just what can happen! Did see some chair saving going on..typical put your towel down on chair and then disappear for hours. Did my "cruise duty" and told whoever asked about the chairs "Nope, no one has been sitting there or been around since I've been here...go ahead and have a seat!" So much for those chair hogs as far as I'm concerned! Attended the port and shopping talk on the islands we were to visit. Had been to the islands many times but hoped maybe I would be one of the winners of some of the $700 worth of door prizes they were giving away..no such luck ! Around 11:30 or so most of the gang set out for the first triva game on board and the team won that round. Nice ceramic Princess mugs for all team players. Lunch at Horizon Court; pretty good for your standard buffet food. Also be sure to try the hamburgers and pizza from poolside..very good! Afterwards went to Princess Theatre on Deck 7 to catch the afternoon movie "Shallow Hal" Pretty good flick and nice to just relax a little. Later in the afternoon headed up to Neptune's Reef to catch the wet, wild and wacky pool games. Watched but didnt volunteer this time (I know better now' I've learned my lesson from past cruises and embarrasing pictures!) Soon it was time to head back to our cabin to get "gussied up" for the first formal night. Word of advise to the ladies-Dont make yourself crazy trying to get your hair to do what it normally does at home--AINT GONNA HAPPEN! Something about that humidity and air makes your hair crazy! by the time I was done trying to make it cooperate I realized I would need a whole can of hair spray and looked like I had "helmet hair"! Started all over again, blew it dry,let it do whatever it wanted and threw the spray into a suitcase never to be seen or used again the rest of the cruise! Picture taking was in full swing by 5:45..Try to have your formal pictures taken BEFORE DINNER and get there early to avoid having to stand in line because the photographers DO TAKE THEIR TIME! Have to admit that our pictures were actually quite good considering the hair fiasco! Caught the 8:30 showing of Lights, Camera, Action..great production...dont miss this! Course same chair hogs that were by the pool were trying to save whole rows at the show! Sorry...no seat saving I say and plopped myself down amidst the angry looks and huffing and puffing! Wish Princess would back us up on this and handle the situation themselves! Afterwards went to Promenade Lounge and listened to the music maestro Maurizio. He has the most amazing voice! Spent the remainder of the evening trying our luck in the casino (dont ask!) and walking around the outside decks, admiring each other and the calm starlit night! A beautiful ending to a perfect day!
Day 3: At Sea
Awoke to the sound of the ship cutting through the water; kept the balcony door open just a little bit each night to enjoy the fresh ocean air and the calming "music" of the ocean! Slipped out of bed and sat on balcony to enjoy the sunrise while hubby slept in a little. Had our routine morning mini breakfast on the balcony around 7:30, showered and headed up to pool deck around 9am to catch a few rays. Still taking it easy as far as the sun was concerned since we anticipated being out in it most of Tuesday and Wednesday while at the islands.Seeing that I was comfortably "baked" after about 2 hours decided to catch a quick shower and head up to Wheelhouse to see what the Scavenger Hunt involved. Decided to pass on this after seeing the list of everything participants would be expected to find throughout the week. Just way too many hard to find items plus they wanted signatures of different staff members as well as entertainers on the ship...would have been chasing and running the entire week! Too much like work! Had a light lunch in the dining room this time since I was appropriately dressed (no bathing suites here please) and afterward checked out the Art Auction Preview in Explorers...not really my cup of tea but once again I thought maybe I would be one of the lucky winners of the giveaways...NOT! Quick stop to the cabin to pick up the video camera and spent remainder of afternoon catching the Golden on tape for some "live" memories to take back home! At 3:30 having decided to try something we have never done before on any of our cruises, we had afternoon tea in the Donatello Dining Room. Neat experience that everyone should try at least once during their cruising adventures! Sufficiently relaxed we headed back to the room around 4:30 for a short nap; then time to get ready for dinner. Our group had reservations at the Desert Rose this evening at 7PM. Dont miss this Alternative Dining Restaurant. With a cover charge of $8 and the free marguerita it was one of the most enjoyable and delicious meals we had onboard! Many entrees to choose from; not limited to Mexican and wait staff was outstanding. Preferred this experience vastly over that of Sabatini's (more on that later) Entertainment tonight had the 50's theme througout. Caught Shake, Rattle and Roll show then stopped in to the Explorers Lounge for the Sock Hop followed by Karaoke at 11:00. Hit the casino afterwards for another shot...still no luck!!! Do you see a pattern here? Topped the evening off in the Skywalkers Nightclub dancing to some great 50's music! (If the kids could only have seen their "over the hill" folks!) Back to the cabin around 12:30 or so to change into bathing suits and head up to the Neptunes Reef for moonlight swim and dip in the hot tub! Back to the room to enjoy our private balcony and make some "special memories"!
Day 4: St Maarten
Up bright and early with a light room service breakfast at 7:00am on our balcony as we watched Golden Princess come into port at St. Maarten with the Disney Magic directly in front of us and Radiance of the Seas across and in front of us. Grabbed a quick shower, packed the collapsible cooler with a couple bottles of water and cranberry juice and headed up to Horizon court aft, a much quieter and less crowded area, to meet up with the rest of the Ohio group for breakfast. Since most of us had been to this island many times we had decided beforehand to forgo the beach scene and just do some shopping and have lunch on the island. There are three options for reaching the downtown shopping area from the cruise ship: Firstly, by water taxi from the end of the cruise ship pier which operates a continuous circuit, dropping off at the Town Pier and Bobby's Marina before returning to the pier. An all day pass costs $5 and is purchased at the end of the pier. You are issued a colored wristband which is your pass for the complete day. Second choice is to take a regular motorized taxi to the town stopping at the Court House. Cost is $3 per person one way. Third choice is to walk the distance which is about a mile and takes maybe 15 minutes. We opted for the water taxi and where in town by 9:45am. Group decided to go their separate ways for a couple of hours. We did some jewelry shopping at our preferred shop Omni Jewelers on Front Street. We have been shopping there for so many years that the staff knows us on sight and greets us by name! by 10:30 Tom was on the first of many complimentary beers (Oh sure why not..he ALWAYS has breakfast beers back in the states right!!???) Did a little credit card damage as usual (so much for COMPLIMENTARY beers .. Tom says they end up costing him plenty each time he goes in that store!) Snooped around Jimmy Buffet Shop and few of the other shops before meeting up with the rest of our group in front of the court house at noon. While at Omni's we had made reservations for 12:30on to have lunch at DaLivios which is about a half mile up front street past the shops and center of town. We were met at the door by our host Daniel and escorted to our ocean view table under a open air covered veranda. The view was most spectacular with the sail boats , jetskiers and cruise ships as a backdrop. It was the most relaxing enjoyable time..picture perfect and phenominal Italian food! Truly a memorable afternoon!(Looks especially nice on our video) Back to the ship around 5:00 as our sail away was scheduled for 6:00 and went to the Sunset Sailaway Party. Watched the Radiance leave port amidst the sounds of laughter, well wishes and Caribbean music. Theme for the evening was Tropical Island Night so in keeping with the motif we all donned our Caribbean outfits and headed to dinner at 6:30. Decided to catch the 8:15 showing of "Behind Enemy Lines". Afterwards headed up to the deck party on the Aft of the ship followed by the Tropical Isalnd Night Buffet around midnight or so. Dont miss the Chocolate covered strawberries and grapes! (We smuggled a plate full of them for our fridge and enjoyed them the rest of the week on the balcony!)
Back to the cabin to change into our swimsuits and to the pools for a relaxing night swim and hot tub session. A perfect ending for a special Caribbean night!
Day5: St. Thomas
Up very early this morning, in fact well beforee room service was to deliver our 7:00am mini breakfast. Decided to have early bird coffee in Horizon court and watch Golden pull into port and dock in St Thomas from the upper deck. Returned to cabin and sleeping hubby just as troom service was arriving. Showered, packed beach bag and met group in Horizon court for breakfast before disembarking for our Champagne Catamaran Tour to St John. This was the only ship sponsored tour that we signed up for and it far exceeded our expectations! 47 Golden Princess guests boarded the catamaran around 9:15am led by the captain and 2 crew members. Catamaran sailed via motors until we cleared the bay area, then the crew hoisted the sails and for the next 2 hours we truly "sailed" to St John anchoring around noon in around 20ft of water. Rum punch, beer, and assorted non alcoholic drinks were plentiful throughout the sailing with lunch being served on deck around 12:30. Metal/fiberglass stairs were lowered into the water for easy access or you could dive from the catamaran. The shore was approx. 75 feet from where we anchored. We spent 2 hours at St John before pulling up anchor and setting sail for the return trip to the Golden Princess.
Quick shower and change of clothes and out to Havensight Mall for a shopping trip returning in time for the Sunset Sailaway Party at 5:45 or so. Back to cabin to change clothes for our Ohio group's 7:00 dinner reservation at Sabatini's. Sorry to say this restaurant just didnt do a thing for any of us...in fact in fell WAY BELOW our expectations! I am 100% Italian and I KNOW what true Italian cuisine is and believe me..Sabatini's DOESNT! Too much fish and seafood with and on everything including the pizza! Food wasnt hot or seasoned correctly and service was so SLOOOWWWW! Worse of all, we came to find out that Italian night was the order of the day in the standard dining rooms! I must say that we spoke with quite a few folks who raved about the brunch that is served at Sabatini's. Different selections entirely and great service. Guess we should have tried it on one of our days at sea. Oh well, live and learn! Did some snooping in the shops on board, listened to Maurizio entertain in his own unique style in the Atrium for a while then headed up to Skywalkers for 70's "Boogie Night" Gave up and admitted that we were totally wiped out around 1:00am and headed to our cabin. No nightswim or hot tub tonight; afraid we might pass out!
Day 6.....VALENTINE'S DAY 2002
AH..love was certainly in the air! Up bright and early to video the sunrise and snap a few pics. Better half (?) still sleeping soundly so I decided to venture out to Horizon for a cup of coffee and to walk the decks. Worked my way down to the Atrium and was surprised to see them decorating for the "Lover's Special Day" Beautiful display was being set up that was made entirely of hardened colorrd sugar and frosting. There were roses, cakes, plates with a pink letter on each one that spelled out Happy Valentine's Day, candies, and cookies all fashioned from colored sugar. Numerous milar balloons in all shapes with different messages and latex balloons filled with helium arranged to form a large heart shaped "picture frame" on the second level of the atrium. Pink, red and white crepe paper streamers added just the right finishing touch. This was something to share with that special someone so of course I raced back to the cabin to wake up old Rumpelstilskin! Princess also had a special for the day that allowed anyone to call anywhere from their stateroom for only $1 a minute to celebrate Valentine's day with loved ones at home. Took advantage of this and called the kids and our parents ..they were really surprised and the grandkids loved it! They couldnt believe PapaTom and MamaTene were talking to them from a ship in the middle of the ocean! We agreed we had enough sun from St Maarten and St Thomas and decided to pretty much stay out of it today so headed to the galley tour at 9:30 followed by Gaetano and his Close Up Magic at 10:30 on Atrium Deck 5. Visited the Future Cruise Sales desk and decided to purchase 2 cabins. $100 pp deposit is all that is required to hold a cabin until you decide which specific cruise you wish to sail and the date. You simply give the booking number to your agent once you decide and no further money is due until final payment. Vouchers good thru Nov 2004 so knew we couldnt go wrong! Also free onboard credit with each voucher (amount of credit depends on type of cabin booked) Up to the Horizon court for lunch then to Neptune's Reef to watch the Flip, Flop an Fly biggest splash contest. Boy..some people will do anything...(and some of you folks thought I was bad..you should have seen what was on display!) Afterwards we headed to the Princess Theatre to catch Serendipity..great Valentine's flick! Back to the cabin for a quick "nap" (gotta keep it clean here now guys!) and took our time getting ready for second formal night. Another round of pictures (hubby was such a good sport about that!) Had dinner at our reserved time of 6:30 then walked around the outside decks, followed by some time in the Casino. Decided to head up to Skywalkers for a little dancing then back to the Atrium around 11:30 or so to watch the Maitre D and waiters build the Cascading Champagne Waterfall. At midnight the party truly got underway with music, dancing and free flowing champagne. First time for us seeing this and have to admit it was pretty spectacular. By now we are feeling hunger pangs (I know that is hard to believe..like we havent had about a ton of food already!) so headed to cabin first to change into bathing suits, stopped at Horizon for a snack then on to the pools for a swim and hot tub session. I see a pattern developing here! (Wonder if I can get Tom to install a hot tub on our deck...hmm...I can gently remind him of all the good times we had while on board! )
Day 7: Princess Cays
Our last full day aboard the stunning Golden Princess and we all intended to make the most of it. Up bright and early to walk the decks well before dawn, take some sunrise pictures and simply enjoy the quiet morning. Back to the cabin around 7 or so for "balcony breakfast" and to clean up. Breakfasted today in the dining room for a change of pace. Stopping back at the cabin first to pack a beach bag, we headed to deck 4 to catch one of the first tenders to Princess Cays. Princess has done this up right! It is truly beautiful, white sand and so very clean. Knew to turn right off the pier (thanks to this board) walked over the bridge and set up our little area under one of the palm shaded tables. Weather was absolutely perfect; we spent some time walking the beach from one end to the other, watching the folks on the banana boats. No jet skis available to rent; floating mats to surf with or lay out on are $8 each. Barbecue lunch served included hamburgers, hot dogs, sausage, ribs, salads, fruit etc. Snooped around the little huts that are set up by the locals selling various items. Pretty high priced to start out but you can barter with them and get some deals on trinkets to take home. Decided to head back to ship around 1:30 to get a jump start on packing the luggage as I hate to do that on my last evening aboard ship. We had brought a collapsible suitcase that we used all week for dirty clothing. Just had to zip it up and put a tag on it (they had delivered these to the cabin late Thurs night) and it was ready to go. Balance of packing was easy and we were done in no time flat. Headed up to Deck 14 for some pool and sun time; most folks were still ashore so we pretty much had the area to ourselves. Cleaned up then headed to photo area on deck 7 to finalize our choices. We had 6 free vouchers (4 from our agent and 2 from Princess)These are only good on 5X7 pictures not the 6X8 ones so we ended up with all the table pictures as well as the embarkation one. Had dinner at our usual time with our group then headed back to the cabin to place luggage in hall remembering to keep clothes out for the next day. Stayed up quite late spending some time in the various onboard stores for those last minute deals, still trying to hit something in the Casino (never did happen)and walking the decks enjoying the view. Hit the pool and hot tubs one last time before returning to our cabin.
Up early the next morning having breakfast in Horizon as no room service available today. Disembarking was a breeze; we were the 3rd group off, claimed our luggage, out to the busses and were at Ft Lauderdale Airport by 9:15..took about 45 minutes total to get through security. Uneventful flight arriving home around 4:30 to COLD RAINY DISMAL OHIO!!!