Best Suites for Couples Aboard the Golden Princess Cruise Ship

Our goal in taking a month-long cruise around Hawaii and Tahiti on the Golden Princess was to experience – and then write about – how a major cruise line like Princess caters to its suite passengers. It was one of our most enjoyable projects.

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Suites for two

Over the past ten years, we have photographed and written about suites in B&Bs, hotels, resorts, and on cruise ships. It is our writing practice to always consider our subjects from a “couples” perspective. In that light, we have found many suites to be overly expensive or disproportionately large for two people. However, on the Golden Princess, we found a group of full-size suites that were not only luxurious, but the perfect size for two people on a cruise of any duration.

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After boarding the Golden Princess, an elevator whisked us up eight levels to the Sun Deck where we were escorted along an elegant wood-toned hallway to the Palermo Suite – our home for the next 28 days.

A suite life

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The Palermo Suite, was one of ten new suites added to the Sun Deck of the Princess during a 2009 revitalization.

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There are two entry doors to the Palermo Suite, with a small barrier foyer between. The second door acts as a noise and privacy baffle. Upon entering the living room we were immediately impressed by the polished marble floors and shinning granite counter surfaces.

The walls and ceilings in the Palermo are a mixture of delicately textured golden earth-tone material and light natural woods. Light fixtures and other suite features are of brushed stainless, and the suites well-chosen art is framed in a soft muted gold – perfect for the elegant and airy setting.

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The living area can be separated from the sleeping room by floor to ceiling privacy drapes, and there are large flat panel TVs in both chambers. The living area TV also has a DVD player. Guests can select from a library of recently released or vintage movies, and they are delivered right to your door.

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The bedroom has an ever-so-comfortable Queen sized bed, which can be made into two twins, and the wooden ceiling vault houses a handsome alabaster dome that illuminates the room in a warm and subtle glow.

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Bathrooms on cruise ships are not noted for their spaciousness. However, this style of suite on the Golden Princess offers a sink and toilet room, and another room for a large marble shower and a separate full size soaking tub.

A spacious walk-in closet and an electronic safe are also nice amenities for a long cruise.

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Most couples are not working on computers while on a cruise, but we particularly liked having two granite-topped work spaces for the purpose.

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Handily, one space was also a well-lighted vanity with multiple mirrors – such a help when preparing for an evening of exquisite dining and entertainment aboard the Golden Princess.

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Two sets of floor to ceiling sliding doors provide extraordinary changing views of the islands, and two finished teak deck lounges make for excellent conversation, private reading, and contemplation at sea. 

Other in-room distinctions

The first mini-bar setup is complimentary, and the premium upgrades include fresh flowers, delicious canapés, and special bath amenities. Also, one small, big thing – electrical outlets. Plugs for your electric devices are as rare as Indian Head Pennies aboard cruise ships. Being able to plug in only two devices in a stateroom is normal. In the Palermo suite we had eight outlets. Electric Valhalla!

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The Palermo Suite, along with its nine siblings (Corsica, Florence, Grenada, Malta, Pisa, Provence, Sardinia, Seville, and Tuscany) are not the largest suites on the Golden Princess, but we found them to be a perfect accommodation of size, layout, and comfortable décor for a vacationing party of two.

All in all, the full-size Palermo Suite has about 600 square feet of living space, including the balcony. As a comparison, a mini-suite aboard the Golden has approximately 323 sq. ft., and a balcony stateroom about 250.

Suite privileges

Those that occupy the luxurious full-size suites on Princess ships enjoy amenities and privileges not afforded other passengers. After completely reading this article, you may decide that the roominess of a suite along with the following additional niceties, are sufficient reasons to consider reserving the best accommodations your budget will allow.

Breakfast at Sabatini’s

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One of our favorite Princess full-suite perks is the exclusive and private dining breakfast at the Sabatini’s restaurant.

Every morning, the Sabatini’s is transformed from an elegant Italian dinner eatery into an exclusive breakfast retreat for the passengers that occupy the 30+ full-suites aboard the Golden Princess.

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However, not all suite guests take advantage of the Sabatini’s privilege; some prefer the ultimate personal option of suite room service, while still others choose one of the conventional dining forums like the Horizon Court Buffet above.

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The limited number of tables in the Sabatini’s provides an intimate setting for a quiet breakfast.

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An exemplary staff of four waiters is orchestrated by a congenial Head Waiter who greets and seats each arriving guest. Food is prepared by three cooks supervised by a Chef de Cuisine.

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The Sabatini’s Breakfast Menu includes everything imaginable for the morning meal, carefully prepared and skillfully presented.

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The artistic presentation may change with the muse of the chef – but is always to the highest culinary standards.

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We generally started out with a wake-me-up Mimosa and freshly squeezed orange juice.

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That was usually followed by a delicious decaf Cappuccino and a warm-to-the-touch baked mini-pastry and a chilled stemmed glass of hand selected berries.

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For our main course we picked from a unique assortment of waffles and French toasts, and the usual varieties of fresh eggs, such as Benedict, omelets, scrambles, etc.

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Even simple cereals are brilliantly presented in Sabatini’s. 

Sabatini’s by night 

Found only on Princess ships, the Sabatini’s restaurant is a specialty Italian restaurant that is open every night to all passengers. There is an additional charge for dinner dining in the stylish and intimate Sabatini’s, but well worth it to celebrate a special occasion – or simply to enjoy truly outstanding Italian cuisine.

More Suite Privileges

VIP boarding

In many ways, Preferred Boarding can be equated to waiting for an airline flight in a private lounge instead of the communal terminal. Preferred boarding means you are the first passengers to board the ship at embarkation, therefore among the first guests to be settled into their stateroom and afforded early access to the delicious buffet that awaits oncoming passengers. There’s always plenty of food for all, but it is a comfort to be at the front of a line, is it not? 

Priority ship to shore tender passes

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Three of the nine ports we visited on our cruise required being tendered to shore. For those not familiar, this is a procedure where the cruise ship does not dock, but rather anchors offshore, or remains stationery away from the land.

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Passengers wishing to go ashore are shuttled by means of motorized launches called “tenders.” The process is called “tendering.”

The act of tendering is very organized, and within a short time a few thousand people can be transferred to the shore with relative ease.

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While general passengers are issued group numbers on a first come first served basis, and comfortably wait for their group to be called to “tender,” suite passengers are afforded a privilege that allows them to board the next available tender, therefore getting them to shore a bit earlier to enjoy the port.

Complimentary laundry and dry cleaning

Although laundry and dry cleaning services are available to all passengers for a reasonable charge, full-suite guests are provided the service as part of their complementary privileges. Should it be your preference, there are also self-service laundry facilities throughout the ship for all passengers.

Internet Café

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For those suite customers who want to keep in contact with the world while at sea, there is a suite internet program for use either in the Internet Café or from any part of the ship when a personal wireless device is used.

Our recommendation

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During our month long cruise on Princess we noted a consistent level of excellent service for every category of passenger aboard. But, the additional perks afforded suite occupants, made a most pleasant journey that much more elegant and enjoyable. Our recommendation – do it if you can. You only live once, and how suite it is!

Happy travels!

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More stories about our 28-day cruise to the South Pacific on the Golden Princess will be forthcoming. For more information about the Golden Princess check out the PDF file *here* For additional information about booking a cruise on Princess look at their website at www.princess.com or call your favorite travel agent.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

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Photos © Wayne and Judy Bayliff

You can see the world with Google Maps. http://maps.google.com/

A Vacation Aboard Celebrity’s Silhouette

1 Silhouette

Celebrity Cruise Line continues to forge its reputation in the mass appeal luxury cruise category as a ‘notch above’ with the Silhouette.

Design and layout

“Inspired by a balance of light and shadows and the fluid lines of modern art and design.”

The Silhouette has the feel of modern luxury and sophistication, but she is not stuffy or pretentious. She sports contemporary color schemes and inviting tones throughout her interior – yet the overall sentiment is warm and relaxing.

As you can see from the photo gallery, this is elegant space designed with the most discerning cruise customer in mind.

There is much to discover on this ship that is not immediately obvious. There is attention to detail even in the most unlikely places. It was too hard to contain all the new and exciting features in a single article of reasonable length. There will be a Part II, so stay tuned.

Pedigree of the Silhouette

The Silhouette is the fourth of Celebrity’s Solstice Class fleet. The newest ship in this class is the Reflection, which is getting rave reviews.

Captain Nicholas Pagonis
Nicholas Pagonis, Master of the Silhouette on our cruise, and now Captain of the Reflection

The Silhouette is a big ship, but not the biggest. She is 122,210 tons with 15 decks above the waterline. She has 1,443 staterooms with a capacity of 2,886 passengers. She sails with a crew of 1250.

Big ship, but not crowded

Many prospective cruisers fear crowding on these very large ships, but they are so well designed for traffic-flow that there is rarely a jam-up or uncomfortable cluster of guests.

Even 2,000+ passengers tend to disappear when you spread them among seven decks of corridors with 1,443 staterooms, ten restaurants, a huge theatre, a casino, a library, art studio, photo gallery, a computer center, video arcade, fitness center, jogging track, spa, beauty salon, 14 lounges and bars, multiple swimming pools, sundry whirlpools, several sun decks, a dozen or so “quiet hideaways,” a vast real-grass lawn club, and a huge gallery of fine boutique shops. Whew! They should issue walkie-talkies to stay in touch with friends.

Even during port visits, the disembarkations are orderly and the process moves along quickly.

Nice “touches” in the staterooms

The stateroom designs on the Silhouette are sleek, open, and comfortable. Each standard stateroom has sizable modular closets and useful under-bed storage. The beds are luxurious with rounded bed corners. The bathrooms are roomy with sliding doors on a bigger than expected shower. There is a convenient footrest in the shower – sometimes it is the smallest things that make us smile.

Each stateroom has digital entertainment. That means a reasonable selection of free movies, and crystal-clear reception on a flat screen TV. Network TV channels are conveniently available at sea.

The staterooms are quiet – no rattles, squeaks, or passageway noise.

Eat your heart out

The pictured penthouse suite in the slideshow photo gallery is 1,291 square feet of floating luxury. All the suites aboard the Silhouette elegantly avoid being trendy and thematic. Each suite is lavishly decorated to be a fitting home for any duration. We wanted to stay after we took the photographs, but the lucky vacationing key-holders had arrived.

Speaking of eating

Food plays a role of cardinal importance on any cruise vacation and Celebrity prides itself in culinary leadership and innovation.

Plenty of dining choices and venues

With ten restaurants, and multiple dining-time choices, only those who favor open dining without a reservation face any delay in seating in the main dining room.

On Celebrity, passengers can enjoy the traditional early or late seating at the same table and with the same companions at every dinner. Conversely, they can reserve a different time for dinner every night – In which case they can dine alone or with others – a chance to make new friends. In either situation, seating comes quickly in the main Grand Cuvee’ restaurant.

For breakfast and lunch there is open seating in the main dining restaurant for the published hours that the room is open.

For those who don’t wish to ever shed their shorts and T-shirts

The Silhouette has one of the finest casual buffet dining rooms at sea. The Oceanview Café on Deck 14 has both indoor and outdoor seating. It serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner from a series of small food islands in the center of a circle of ocean view tables.

Each island features a cornucopia of different tasty selections at every meal, and the culinary offerings are reassuringly diverse. Care for Indian, Asian, Italian, Vegan – it’s all there to enjoy. It would be a rare guest indeed that could not find an interesting and delicious meal at the Oceanview Café.

The kitchen

Executive Chef Steve Van der Merwe

A very important personage on any cruise ship is the Executive Chef. In the case of the Silhouette, and on our cruise, his name is Steve Van der Merwe from South Africa. Chef Steve is a true master of balance and expediency as he orchestrates 13,000 meals per day among several dining venues. His staff also prepares between 100 and 700 room service trays per day.

An example of the complexity and enormity of a cruise ship kitchen: A favorite dinner on any cruise is one that offers broiled lobster. Typically, passengers on a ship the size of the Silhouette will consume about one ton of lobsters at that single meal. Serving thousands of lobsters at just the right temperature, texture, and consistency is just short of a culinary miracle. Somehow, they get the steaks just right as well.

Kudos to Chef Steve and the other great Chefs of the Seas.

The specialty dining rooms

If you want more intimacy while dining, or wish to celebrate a special occasion, for an additional charge the Silhouette offers the answer. The specialty dining rooms offer food to inspire even the most discerning palates in a most enchanting dinner setting.

We sampled the cuisine at the “Murano,” one of the five specialty restaurants on board the Silhouette. Each of these restaurants has its own kitchen, and each table is replete with exquisite china and gorgeous crystal. Mr.Tudor Soacat, Maitre D’ Hotel of the Murano spares no effort to make certain his guest’s continental dinner is delicious and memorable.

Entertainment

The 1113 seat Silhouette Theatre is the first Theatre on a cruise ship designed to accommodate aerial acrobatics – this is an exciting addition to the traditional Broadway style reviews usually found at sea.

Like other progressive lines, Celebrity Cruises does not require their professional entertainers to do double duty as Bingo hosts or passenger group moderators. Consequently, they can attract a better class of performer. The quality of the “star attractions” on the Silhouette was quite good.

However, we were disappointed in the choreography, costumes, and the set designs of the revues on this Celebrity cruise. In our view, this was the only aspect of the entire cruise that failed to meet the high Celebrity standard. Crews constantly change, hopefully the production will be improved for your cruise.

Notwithstanding our disappointment with the production shows, we heartily recommend Celebrity Cruises and the Silhouette for a vacation at sea. In our fast-paced modern world, the chance to get away from it all can do wonders to recharge our batteries and re-energize our lives. There is nothing like a top-notch cruise to do the trick.

Be sure to see our complete photo gallery of the beautiful Silhouette by clicking *here*.

If you go

Passing the Eclipse in port

It is easy to book a cruise on the Silhouette or any one of the other Celebrity Cruise ships. Call your travel agent, or book directly with Celebrity by calling toll-free in the US: 1-800-647-2251 or by visiting their website at http://www.celebritycruises.com/

The Silhouette will be sailing an Eastern Caribbean itinerary from December 2013 to April 2014.

On this trip, we also discovered a great private-car service in GroundLink.com. They offer private car service throughout the United States (and many foreign countries) and all airports and cruise ports. More on them in the next article as well. You can check them out now at http://groundlink.com, or call toll free in the US: 1-877-227-7260.

Happy travels.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Wayne and Judy Bayliff

You can see the world with Google Maps. www.maps.google.com

Uncompromising Service Aboard the Newest Celebrity Cruise Ship

In our first article about Celebrity Cruise’s newest ship the Silhouette, we intentionally did not write about the extraordinary level of crew service we experienced – because we wanted to give it special attention.

The service aboard the Silhouette was so exceptional that we decided to do a little research into the reasons. We started our inquiry with an interview with an important ship’s officer.

Sue Richardson – Hotel Director of the Silhouette

On Celebrity cruise ships, the Hotel Director is the ranking officer directly responsible for passenger comfort and satisfaction. On our Silhouette journey, the job was well fitted to Sue Richardson a veteran of 23-years of remarkable service to very discriminating guests.

During her career, Sue has been responsible for managing hotels, the hospitality function of several ships, and even a private island in the Bahamas.

Onboard the Silhouette, Sue has ten department heads reporting to her. Her departments make up the majority of the crew and all the folks responsible for making your sea voyage a vacation to remember.

Among her duties, Sue is responsible for the food, beverage, dining, entertainment, and cabin services – need we say more?

Cruise crew contracts

It is not obvious to passengers, but all members of a cruise ship’s company work under a time-definite contract of employment. For example, restaurant servers or room stewards might contract to work for six or eight months at sea with two months off.

Due to the nature of these maritime contracts, ship employees are coming and going all the time. We asked Sue how it was possible to keep the high team spirit that was so evident aboard the Silhouette.

She explained, “We start with an initial core of highly motivated people on every new ship. Our global recruiters are charged with finding individuals who understand and appreciate what excellent service is all about – and are eager to provide it. We then train them in the Celebrity culture.”

She went on, “We select people from forty different countries (always being careful to keep a balance on each ship), and we hand pick individuals who have a positive work attitude.”

Sue said that when nurtured, the ship’s company gels and things start to hum. Over time, each new employee enters the crew and senses the already existing can-do attitude of his or her peer group. They blend in quickly and service remains excellent.

“Celebrity does everything in its power to keep its employees happy, and they in turn keep our customers happy.”

It is obviously a winning formula, Sue!

Toward a happy crew

We wondered what was involved in keeping sea-going employees “happy.” We were invited to tour the crew’s quarters on the Silhouette, and came away most impressed.

We were not able to photograph individual living spaces, but can report that they are quite comfortable. The old days of crowded and impersonal sleeping rooms are gone. One or two people to a cabin is the norm, not the exception.

We were delighted to learn that the crew eats the same food as the passengers and in their own private dining room. They relax in comfortable staff lounges, and exercise in well-equipped gyms.

Being a member of the crew of a contemporary cruise ship is still hard work, but the living conditions are more than adequate – and very different from the stories of old.

More about crew changes

We have found many cruise vacationers to be under the impression that the Captain responsible for their specific cruise and safety is like Captain Merrill Stubing of the Love Boat. They expect to find him at the helm the next time they decide to sail on the same ship.

The reality is that Masters move from ship to ship on a routine basis. A captain’s contract is likely to include three or four months at sea, with equal time-off. By default, that requires an ongoing change of Captains.

Contract times vary, but this practice of rotation is also true of the other ship’s officers and crew. In order to make such an inherently mobile system work effectively, standards, practices, rules, and protocols, must be stringently adhered to throughout the industry.

Service quality starts at the top

Captain Nicholas PagonisMaster of the Silhouette

We have interviewed many ship’s captains. The master of the Silhouette was one of those that immediately makes you feel comfortable and leaves you with the certainty that you are in the hands of an extremely professional and capable veteran of the sea.

Like many of his peers, Captain Pagonis has a maritime family history, which led to his interest in applying for the Marine Academy in Athens in 1981. After graduating in 1984, he spent two years in the Greek Special Forces before returning to the sea. He received his Master’s License in 1998 and his first command in 2003. Married with three children, the captain resides in Belgium and Greece. He has intellectual interests in European and Roman history, and gardening – especially gardening!

What Cruise Ship Captains like most about their job

We always ask each Captain what is his favorite aspect of being a Master of a cruise ship. The answers are often similar. In addition to their primary duty to provide a safe and enjoyable vacation to all passengers, most Captains relish the hands on stimulation of maneuvering and docking these colossal leviathans. These are obviously congenial men of vision with a keen appreciation for the enormous.

Captain Pagonis is an individual you would enjoy having as a neighbor. His enthusiasm for his work and the sea is contagious. We could have listened to him talk all day, but he is indeed a busy man.

A final word – about safety

We noted in our first article about the Silhouette that the unfortunate accident involving the Costa Concordia has dampened the enthusiasm of some prospective cruise vacationers. Please don’t be put off by this isolated mishap. Cruising is one of the safest family holidays available.

The Wall Street Journal quoted G.P. Wild, an industry consultant, “Over the six-year period from 2005 to 2010, the [cruise] industry carried nearly 100 million passengers, but only had 16 fatalities and 518 injuries from maritime accidents.”

Remember – you are infinitely safer on a cruise ship than you are in your family car.

Be sure to read our opening article about the Silhouette at http://is.gd/wgvfVi and see our photo gallery of the ship *here*.

If you go

It is easy to book a cruise on the Silhouette or any one of the ten other Celebrity Cruise ships. Call your travel agent, or book directly with Celebrity by calling toll-free in the US: 1-800-647-2251 or by visiting their website at http://www.celebritycruises.com/

As of this writing, the Silhouette is sailing to the Caribbean from Cape Liberty, New Jersey. Click here to read our review of the Cape Liberty cruise ship port and its environs.

Happy travels.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Wayne and Judy Bayliff – Photo of Sue Richardson compliments of the Silhouette

You can see the world with Google Maps. www.maps.google.com