Mexican Riviera Cruise
Mexican Riviera Cruise Reviews
Golden Princess, Mexico, 11/24/07 Mar 09, 2008
First, here are some links to both photo and video from this cruise, enjoy…
Getting this booking is a small story in itself. In a nutshell, by the time we get the OK for the time off from work, the ship is full. Princess, online, etc, all show waitlist only for this cruise. Bouncing around the web for two days get the same answer, "sorry". On a whim, I search on an auction site and get a hit. Only draw back is they have no interior bookings available, only a balcony. But since the deal will only cost $44 more than we were going to spend on the lowest category interior, I quickly make the booking. In less than 24 hours, our reservation shows on the Princess web site as an unassigned BB (balcony in good location)
Ten days before the cruise, our guarantee assignment changed and we are in Baja 409. The way Princess categorizes the cabins, we have moved up about 15 levels from the original cabin I was going to book.
This will be our sixth Mexican cruise, five on Princess and one on Carnival, all on different ships. I will not write based on what I think a cruise should be, but what I know Princess is capable of doing and what experience we have had in the past at the Los Angeles cruise center, Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas
Got the bags out and double-checked if anything needed a trip to the dry cleaners. Make a pile of the various electronics, wires, batteries and chargers I drag along. True some are not needed, but they make the trip easier and more enjoyable for us. Funny thing, we don't make a "list" anymore, almost second nature when we pack.
Time whizzes by and its "turkey day". The cruise is now under 48 hours away and I'm getting that "you forgot something" feeling. I bought a new PDA on eBay and know it may or may not show up in time, but that's not the cause for the uneasy feeling. Friday arrives and physical packing starts. Just after noon the mailman shows with the package, of course packing must be suspended to play with the new toy.
Within 20 minutes I discover that this wonder of new technology will not "talk" with my old PDA. Even better, my laptop is too old to communicate even the simplest appointment to this wonder of the 21st century. Why does Bill Gates require me to buy all new stuff when the old stuff works fine, just to use one new piece of hardware? This is starting to sound like a Mac commercial.
Saturday morning we get up way to early and watch the news as nearby Malibu burns again. 35+ houses burn to the ground during the night with about 35 more that will turn to ash before this fire is over.
Get the bags into the car just before 12:30 and head down to the ship. We have been let out at the cruise center, given the bags to a porter to handle for $10, pass through the first layer of security, gone up stairs to the registration lines, showed our passports and credit card, go through the actual security screening, get our pictures taken, board the ship and are standing in our cabin at 1:20. I don't know how they did it, but 50 minutes from leaving the house. In talking to others, this has been the fastest check in we have all experienced.
This is the first time we have been on the Golden, and her age (all of six years) is starting to show. Large rust scales bubble under dull white paint on the hull. Balcony railing should have had a new coat of varnish months ago. Small rips are witnessed in the carpet in the Horizon Court, which turn into large rips by the fourth day (then fixed with multiple layers of masking tape). Just a few of my observations during the first couple of hours
We are in B409 and it's like most every other Princess cabin we have been in, except for the third bunk built into the ceiling, In fact it's starting to feel like a Motel 6. Same carpet, furniture, wallpaper and room configuration. Sorry, but why bother looking to cruise on a different ship when they all look alike. No obvious signs of damage in the room itself, just small marks here and there on the walls. The two mattresses have already been put into the queen configuration and look fine. However, we soon find out they are quite worn with a large trough in the middle of each one from numerous strange bodies. As a side note, when we were getting off the ship the following week, we witness a stack (30?) of brand new mattresses going on and a pile of stained mattresses coming off the ship. The bathroom is another story. The toilet paper holder dangles by one loose screw although I point it out to the steward twice, it is never repaired. Dead center of the step over of the shower had a chunk missing the size of a quarter. Solution, cover it with the clean bath mat rather than putting it on the linen rack where it normally would go.
The television in the room is a nice 20" Panasonic and does what it's supposed to do. But a quick check shows no A/V connections at all; just a faded sticker showing the TV was made in 2001. The same year the ship was launched.
The in room refrigerator is in a cabinet with far to little ventilation, like every ship we have been on. We carry medicine that must be kept cold, not cool. To accomplish this, the outer door of the cabinet has to be left wide open, which we have learned from past cruises solves the problem. .
Ship's crew: Cruise director Hygate is high energy and quite a performer on stage. Problem is we have heard bits and pieces of his act on all the other ships we have been on. Don't know who stole what material from who, doesn't make a difference, we don't hear anything new. The only times we see the CD is when he is on stage or on the ship's TV channel. Don't know where he is the rest of the day, but it's not on deck.
Other than one assistant CD named Paul, I can't recall any of the CD's staff. They were all very professional and did their jobs. But like Hygate, they were never seen about the ship, just on stage.
Room Steward; Our steward is Glenn from the Philippines, on the first day we first see him actually on the run delivering ice to the room next door. After introductions, we ask for an egg crate cover for the bed. We know he has been working hard and can tell he does not want the extra work. With what might be called a small smile, he says he will see what he could do. After diner, the egg crate was in place. The second day, robes were delivered without us asking. Over the week's cruise, we never find Glenn in our cabin and only passing in the hall four times. In short, everything we expect from a cruise steward.
Entertainers: John Macdonald, young stand up comedian with some original material, his claim to fame was being on Letterman. Not that great, but if your stuck on a ship, worth the time.
Dan Bennett is a comedian/juggler who has been working the Mexican cruise circuit for years. I am still amazed at what he can do on a moving ship. Talked with him briefly after the show and appeared to appreciate the interaction with the pax.
Gaetano, magician. OK, I don't know what the different classifications are of magicians. But it appears this guy went and bought six or seven large "gags" or illusions and lumped them together for an act. I was more impressed by one of the waiters that did a little close up trick with three cups and some candy. Don't waste your time with this act.
Roger Carr, piano player. We passed this guy in the Promenade Lounge at least 12 times, as did the rest of the pax. Never saw more than six people actually sitting and listening.
Ed Regine, comedian. Has enough for a solid fifteen-minute set, however he was doing a 45-minute show. He performed in the large Princess Theatre, for his act and the number of people he drew; they should have used the smaller Vista Lounge. Rather embarrassing for the guy because of the number of people who walked out.
On our previous cruises, we have seen a performer or two off stage about the ship. For whatever reason, we observed every performer just passing the time in the public areas this cruise. It was almost like Princess had locked them out of their cabins.
Princess Productions Went to see Cinematastic, which appears to be a new show for the ship. Saw several groups of crewmembers waiting to watch the show. Song and dance production doing "hit" songs from the movies. The lead singers are either backed with a vocal track, or fully lip syncing the songs. Either way entertaining and different from the stale shows that Princess has had running for years.
Later in the week we watch the older production of "Motor City" in the smaller Vista Lounge. I can tell the band is actually playing and most of the vocals are live. However, a CD of some nature was running within the production board. Don't know if this was to "sweeten" the sounds or to run the robotic lights. It appeared the cast was having fun while doing this production, well worth the time.
On the first night, we were exploring the ship and were in the "art" gallery just off the bottom floor of the Atrium. There were balloons and what I thought was some guy dressed like a pirate at the rear of the gallery. When I see some guy with boots, a satin sash tied around his waist and a three pointed "pirate" hat, get ready to hear parrot jokes. Luckily, I realized just in time that the pirate was actually one of three "VIP's" on this cruise. Three artist: Sharie Bohlman, Bill Mack and Michael "the pirate" Godard. Godard is known for the martini and dancing olive paintings sold on every Princess ship we have been on. All three had "demonstrations" during the cruise. We happened by when Godard was doing his thing and got one or two photos as he laid paintbrush to canvas. Through the telephoto lens, Godard did not look like he was having any fun doing the P.R. thing in front of potential marks, ah, customers.
Dinning Room. We know the trade offs between traditional dinning and anytime dinning (PC). If we have a choice, we go with PC. On the Golden, two of the three dinning rooms are for the PC crowd. The Donatello and Bernini rooms are on Fiesta and Plaza piggybacked close to amidships. On the first night, the line to Donatello was twice as long as that at Bernini. For some reason pax were unaware of the second room and the staff of Donatello did nothing to divert the crowd to the other dinning room. Basically same room with the same menu. We used these two rooms six out of the seven nights. As those with experience with PC, we had some dinning companions that were great, and a couple we could have done without. Combining food and service over the week, I would give them a solid B+ rating.
Desert Rose Dining Room Back in 2001 when the Golden was put into service, South Western food was the fad. The Desert Rose had a tamale/enchilada/taco type menu back then. According to the Maitre d', that menu was scraped in 2004 and they stated using the Sterling Steak House menu that is in use fleet wide. Maybe when the ship is retro fitted they will lose the sand and tumble weed theme of the room. $15.00 "cover" charge is well worth it. Service teams only handle three tables with staggered starting times. This results in a feeling of having your own wait staff. This combined with some excellent prime beef gets them an A+.
Horizon Court Nothing-different here, above average cafeteria food on a ship. I understand that they are not going to waste money on quality food that will just sit under a heat lamp or in a steam table until it has dried out or died a slow death of being exposed to the elements to long. To survive this environment, foods have to have a high water and/or fat content. A nice angel hair pasta with a light tomato sauce has to be served within minutes, while macaroni and cheese can last hours. As most people have pointed out, there is a "flow" problem with the design of the Horizon court on this and other Princess ships. Simply, you can enter on the left or right and leave in the middle. This would work except that you must circle the entire floor plan to make your selection of everything offered. I know it sounds simple, but how about one entrance and one exit. Why listen to me I'm just a pax who has been on a few ships and has seen the problem repeatedly.
Room Service: On returning to the room late on the second day, made a call just past midnight. Was on hold about three minutes before placing the order. The menu states 15-20 minutes are required for prep and delivery. Two fresh sandwiches on toasted bread and just cooked French Fries with a salad show up in just less than 10 minutes, outstanding.
Ports Puerto Vallarta: we have done this route several times already, so we didn't bother to get off the ship here. There is a Wal-Mart about a 1/3 of a mile away, but from past experience the prices are the same or higher than back in the states (except for liquor and tobacco). There has been more construction over the past year though. Before, there was space for one cruise ship to dock, all-additional ships would have to tender. Work is almost finished; three ships will be able to tie up when they're done.
Mazatlan: pulled into the harbor pre-dawn at around 5 AM. Mazatlan's docks are and will continue to be industrial rather than tourist based. I watched the docking proceedings for about ten minutes before the stench from the fuel oil bunkers next to the pier drove me inside. After 8:00 I tried again, there was a slight breeze that made breathing much easier. But now the workers have arrived and the noise level is incredible, again I retreat inside. For the fourth time, we go ashore with the sole purpose of getting lunch at "Tony's On The Beach". On the way there, we see that much of the older part of the city is now covered in graffiti. Very sad, even decades old adobe is not safe. When we get to Tony's, we enjoy extra large shrimp prepared a verity of ways, about 35 feet from the ocean. By chance, we run into Mazatlan Frank, a local tour guide that turned us on to Tony's so many years ago. After countless e-mails, we finally shake hands.
Back on the ship, we take up a position to watch any pax tardy enough to miss the ship. This trip, a family of four makes it back on board with three minutes to spare amid a torrent of cheers and boos from the railbirds waiting on the Promenade deck.
Cabo San Lucas: A tender ride ashore to the flea market for a couple of trinkets and back on the ship. I do notice more high end stores, more "chain" operations, more new construction and according to others, higher prices.
Internet Café: What a joke, on the third day we used it to check email from home. That's all, see if our kids had sent anything and to send out a two line message. 22 minutes that would take about 5 with old dial up service. On Friday, I attempted to check something and was unable to get any connection at all, I had waited to long. From experience, I know the ship passes through a dead zone where there is no satellite coverage plain and simple. However there is a paper posted at the desk that sunspots are to blame. I see quite a few folks who are frustrated since they planned to print out boarding passes for airline flights the next day. Either invest the money in equipment that works, or close down the entire operation. Princess, or any line, should not charge for this service that works poorly at best,
On the night of the second "formal night" they have the "captain's circle" party. For the first and only time we lay eyes on Capt. Calabrese. Again, for whatever reason, the ship's staff are invisible this week.
The first six days had calm to glass like sea conditions. Last day, as always, we have 4-7 foot seas.
As I said when I first started, this was based on past cruises. We had a great time and nothing occurred that would rise to the description of a complaint. All in all a very enjoyable and restful cruise.
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