Much to do by land and by sea

NEW YORK -- With nearly 4,000 passengers and crew aboard, the Golden Princess qualifies as a floating city. For those who fear the offloading of so many folks might overwhelm the woodsy spectacle, a bit of planning can sort this out.

For one thing, Princess has mounted an excellent Web site that enables passengers to pre-book all shore excursions.

More good news is that a large passenger capacity results in a huge choice of options: motorcoach tours, hikes, town walks, carriage rides, cycling, kayaking, rafting, amphibious vehicles and boat excursions, not to mention the opportunity to ogle the rush of colorful leaves on your own, either on foot or in a rented car.

Onboard lectures about available tours, the tour desk itself and in-cabin TV shows lay out what passengers can expect to see, and that was helpful during the initial two nights and one full day we spent en route to Halifax -- before the flurry of five ports in five days started.

Dining and entertainment

For dining, the Golden Princess -- like the Grand Princess, which will offer the foliage itinerary this year -offers a choice of reserved seats at first or second sitting in one main restaurant, or open seating (what the line calls Anytime Dining) between 5:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. in the other two main restaurants.

There also are alternative "specialty" restaurants, like the Desert Rose's southwestern cuisine (which will become a Sterling steakhouse in April) and Sabbatini's Italian experience. Charges apply for both eateries. One evening we enjoyed sea scallops with Kalamata olives, capers and herbs, a cooking demonstration dish the executive chef had shown us earlier in the day.

For evening entertainment, the Princess Theater mounts major stage productions, and the Vista Lounge hosts vocalists. There's dancing in the Wheelhouse Lounge, Karaoke in the Explorer's Lounge and party time in Skywalkers, a nightclub located in a pod poised 155 feet above the sea.

With so many venues, the ship never seemed crowded, day or night. -- T.S.

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For more details on this article, see Princess' foliage tours peak in New England.

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