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Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to take a three night cruise on Princess Cruises’ Golden Princess. It was a round-trip sailing from Los Angeles (San Pedro) with a port stop in Ensenada, Mexico. I’ve been reviewing the cruise over the past week and today we’ll discuss the ship’s activities and amenities.
If you’ve missed the previous posts, here’s a quick catch up:
* Part IV – Are We There Yet?! – activities and amenities
One of the attractive things about cruising on larger ships is that there is always something going on. Lectures, demonstrations, games, exercise classes, food and beverage events… there is never a dull moment.
The thing is – I happen to LIKE dull moments. My idea of a relaxing vacation is to find a comfortable place to curl up with something to read and while away the hours. The Sanctuary was the perfect place for that.
The Sanctuary is a secluded oasis at the front of the pool deck that features assigned plush loungers, waiter service (including cool towels, cocktails, and a special spa menu), fluffy towels, and free headphone/MP3 rental for the ultimate in relaxation. Guests can also order select spa services for 1 or 2 guests to be performed in an open air tent.
On the first day, you can purchase access to The Sanctuary for the duration of a cruise. Guests are assigned a lounger on a seating chart which becomes theirs for the duration of the cruise. If access to The Sanctuary does not sell out on day one, then each morning they open for reservations for remaining loungers for either a half day or full day. Rumor is that The Sanctuary sells out quickly on some cruises (especially Alaska) where guests want the vantage point to watch nature as the ship sails. We decided not to purchase access for the full cruise since we knew we’d be off the ship on our port day so we chose to go down at 8 am (when The Sanctuary opens) and reserve for a half-day on our sea day.
I loved having a quiet (and fully shaded) place to relax. The attendant set up our loungers for us with multiple towels and brought us wool blankets since it was only about 60 degrees out. It was a wonderful place to spend the morning.
If you prefer your pool time more rowdy, the cruise director staff came out to the main pool to host games on our sea day. I could hear them from The Sanctuary – they were loud and anything but my idea of relaxing!
Princess also has their trademarked Movies Under the Stars events – one of the pool areas has a giant screen and shows movies or concerts day and night. On Sundays they show NFL football. Guests can occupy a full size lounger (with a blanket when it’s cool out) or relax in the pool as they watch the action.
There are also smaller pool areas in a couple of locations on the ship including an indoor pool with a retractable roof.
That afternoon, we visited the Afternoon Tea event that each ship hosts. I’ve heard many diehard Princess fans say that this is one of their favorite events but I was honestly underwhelmed, perhaps because I’m used to having afternoon tea in various European and Asia hotels.
On Princess, we were escorted to a large table where pre-brewed tea was poured for us out of large silver pots. We were then offered various items by waiters who made the rounds with large cookie sheet style trays to present their wares. Our table was offered scones – and then cookies – and then various pastries. But my side of the table was never offered tea sandwiches, which came around after pastries. I have a wheat sensitivity and every last option offered had wheat. I finally accepted a fruit tart and picked around it because I felt so guilty that the rest of the table (strangers to me) kept trying to figure out why I was refusing all the food. I might have eaten the insides of a tea sandwich, perhaps.
Again, not being an activities person, I didn’t participate in many shipboard activities but I watched a few of the cruise director games that took place in the Palazzo and they seemed to be enjoyed by participants and not too loud to disturb other guests in the area.
There were a few paid activities that took place – Bingo, for example, as well as two different wine tasting events we were invited to (one basic one for $9.50 per person, and one premium event for $25 per person). The ship also hosted an “On the Deck for The Cure” event on our sea day which was a promenade deck 5k walk.
All in all, our Princess Patter (daily guide) listed over 30 activities for embarkation day, over 80 for our sea day, and over 50 for our day in port in Ensenada. Some were geared towards specific audiences (teenagers, gamblers, LGBT cruisers, singles, or exercise fanatics) while others were broader in their scope. There is very little opportunity to be bored on board.