Before I give my review of the ship, I guess I should tell you about the people I traveled with: I sailed with my fiancee, and a couple we are good friends with, and we are all in our early 20's. My fiancee has been on several other cruises with Norwegian, Celebrity, and Cunard; The other couple had sailed on Princess 2 times before; as for myself, this was only my second cruise. My first was on the Disney Magic, which I surprisingly loved. :)
Itinerary: Western Caribbean; Fort Lauderdale, Princess Cays, Grand Cayman, Costa Maya, Cozumel
Cruise Director: Tim
Dress: Each night was smart-casual, with the exception of the at sea evenings, which were formal. On the smart-casual nights, we saw everything in the dining room from t-shirts to cocktail dresses and suits; on formal nights we saw everything from polo shirts to white tuxes.
Embarkation ----------------------------------- This went very smoothly to our surprise; it was a very quick and well organized process. We used the express check-in and it seemed to really save a lot of time.
Food ------ I should start off by saying that I personally am a vegetarian (nofish, no chicken, no beef), so that probably affects my views on the dining situation. My traveling companions are not vegetarians. For the most part, with the exception of the island night buffet, all 4 of us were very underwhelmed by the Horizon Court buffet. We really felt that most of the buffet food was mediocre at best, with breakfast being the worst. The eggs were strangely rubbery, no omelette station (as previously mentioned), and the hashbrowns were as if someone deep fried a blob of mashed potatoes until all the moisture was gone. I will say, however, that my fiancee raved about the banana bread every single morning. Dinner in the dining rooms was exceptionally better. We had personal choice seating, and no matter what time we ate we never had to wait for a table. I enjoyed most of the appetizers, soups, and salads I sampled, while I felt that the vegetarian entrees were lacking in variety/creativity. Lots and lots and lots of pasta. The meat-eaters in my group had nothing but good things to say about their entrees each evening. The desserts were actually somewhat dissapointing...mostly everything looked good, but tasted bland and boring. The raspberry creme brulee was excellent. We had planned on eating at Sabitini's one evening, and after we had already paid the $20 cover charge per person and been seated, I told the waiter that I do not eat meat...he informed me that "they most likely could not accomodate me". How can an Italian restaurant not have one single vegetarian entree? The maitre 'de came to our table and apologized, and promptly credited our account. As for the service in the dining rooms, maybe it's due to the personal choice seating, but the waiters seemed rather unfriendly most nights and some nights even a little bit snobby. I experienced FAR superior service on the Disney lines. The maitre 'de however was EXCELLENT. He gave us personal attention and always made us feel welcomed. If you want a real treat, request Guido in the Da Vinci dining room to bring you a flaming Sambuca shot. He becomes very enthused with the whole process ;)
Entertainment ------------------- As far as entertainment during the day went, we particicpated in a few of the organized activities such as the trivia challenges and the dicey horse racing. Not many people show up for the trivia, so your chances of winning are very good. Over the course of the cruise we ended up winning a beach bag, a toiletry bag, 3 really nice insulated coffee mugs, 2 key chains, and a ball point pen. The dicey horse racing was a lot of fun even though we lost every single solitary game we played (grr). And if you plan on participating in the horse auction, be prepared to pay in the upwards of $200 for a horse (we did not participate in the auction). In the evening, there was always something for everyone going on in the 3 main theatres/lounges. Every night there was some type of Las Vegas production with lots of dancing and singing and lights etc. We only watched one night, and it was a nice show, just not really our taste. We saw the two comedians aboard the ship, Scott Wyler (not our favorite), & James "the kid" Michael (funny in an...obnoxious kind of way). There was also a comedic juggler aboard who we did not see. My hands down favorite act was the hypnotist ("Alexander") on board. I went to all three of his shows and they were absolutely hysterical. Don't miss this if it is an option on your itinerary. We also participated in some of the passenger game show type events (Jeopardy, Passenger Feud, The Newlywed Game) which were a lot of fun, and more prizes. Oh, and I have to add one thing, about the shopping talk: It's way way way way way way WAY too LONG! The advisor was supposed to cover three ports in his talk, and we left after an hour and a half of listening to him, and he had only covered one port so far! YEESH!
The Ship and Our Cabin -------------------------------- The Grand Princess is a beautiful ship, while I found it just a little bit on the plain side. atrium is very pretty, as are the theatres and the dining rooms. I found the pool areas to be somewhat congested and felt that they could have been larger. I did not like the fact that some portions of the ship (i.e. the Boticelli dining room) could only be reached by taking a certain elevator...and the area where the photographs are sold becomes WAY too congested after shows in the Vista Lounge let out...but other than that the crowd control is pretty efficient, and the elevators work well. The cabin we stayed in was on the Plaza level (5) and it was the cheapest of the cheapest cabins available. We honestly could not have asked for more. The closet had plenty of hangers for our formal outfits, and the steward had no problem bringing us extra hangers. There were plenty of drawers for everything else. The bathroom of course was tiny, but this was to be expected. The service from our room steward, Benjamin, was excellent. He was extremely friendly and efficient. The bed was always made before lunch, and the covers were always turned down by dinner time. We had fresh pool towels every days whether we returned the old ones or not, and we got plenty of fresh bath towels, shampoos, and conditioners daily as well. No complaints about our cabin at all.
The Ports -------------
Princess Cays: Princess Cays is Princess's private island in the Bahamas. It was actually a little chilly the day we stopped at Princess Cays, so we didn't go in the water, though it looked nice and clear. From what I could tell there were all kinds of water toys for rental like kayaks and rafts, and I believe you could rent snorkel gear as well. They had all kinds of beach games (which were kind of silly) and they had a barbecue lunch set up which was kind of minimal and nobody in our party really enjoyed very much.
Grand Cayman: We did not venture out of the ultra-touristy shopping district in Grand Cayman except to go on our excursion, which was AWESOME. We booked outside of the ship with a snorkeling boat called "Soto's Cruises"...it was $19, and the boat took you to 3 different locations; 2 reefs, and of course Stingray City. The fish were very diverse and beatiful, and the guide we went with was great; he chased a huge morray eel out of his rock for us, he pointed out a nurse shark to our group while snorkeling, and he showed us all how to pick up the stingrays. I was reluctant to do this tour at first because I am scared of the water, but I am so glad I did it, because it was such an awesome experience. Plus, to book a similar tour on Princess, they wanted $54 and that tour only stopped at Stingray City. One warning about Camanian money: Remember that it adds up QUICKLY in U.S. dollars. Just two of us ate lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe, we ordered two sandwich entrees and one drink, and our bill was $53 USD! Imagine our shock!
Costa Maya: We were so very unimpressed with Costa Maya. We had actually booked an excursion for the Uvero Beach Break (which was basically a bus trip to a near-by "white sands beach" that promised an open bar, water toys, and fun activities) since we had heard that there was nothing to do at the actual port. What a RIP OFF. First of all, the bus driver drove like a complete maniac. We thought we were going to die. Everyone on the bus was screaming as the driver ripped around sharp curves and skidded through stop signs. Then, the beach itself turned out to be basically a trash heap. There was litter everywhere you looked on the shoreline. Most of the lounge chairs were broken and they were all extremely uncomfortable. And the "open bar"? They didn't even have blenders. They could basically make you about 4 different kinds of drinks, all of which tasted watered down and generally, well, bad. There was no toilet paper in the restroom stall I used and the attendant had the nerve to tell me that "it is customary to tip the attendant". I told her that it is customary to stock up the toilet paper! Needless to say, I expressed my displeasure to Princess and I was pleasantly surprised when I got my bill on the last day and saw that they had credited us 50% of the excursion price without us even hinting for such an action to be taken. We felt taken care of in that incident.
Cozumel: We rather enjoyed Cozumel, and we all wished that we would have had more time there. This time we found our excursion outside of the ship again. We went horseback riding at Ranchos Palmitos (apparently there are 2 stables by this name...we went to the one closest to the port). It was $35 for two and a half hour ride through the jungle, where you would supposedly see small caves, a brook, and mayan ruins. Aside from the fact that I felt terrible for the horses, who looked on the malnourished side in my opinion, we really had fun on this excursion. The "caves" were underwhelming...the "brook" was a large puddle, and the mayan ruins, well, they were basically a big pile of rocks...but the ride was FUN and we did see some beautiful butterflies along the way. I would say that this is not an ideal ride for a totally unexperienced rider, because the horses would go into a full throttle GALLOP sometimes without warning and the guide did not seem to see any problem with this. In fact, he was laughing at us when we expressed fear (i.e. when we SCREAMED lol). I will tell you that I am not an experienced rider, and I was SCARED, but it was still fun at the same time. One other thing: the guide spoke no english, so if your Spanish is poor that is something to consider. We did a little bit of shopping downtown because the taxi driver told us that we would find better prices there than by the port- I did not find this to be the case at all. We eventually returned to port and did most of our shopping there. And of course, almost anything you are interested in buying you can get the price down if you haggle a little bit. Especially the jewelry.
Disembarkation --------- Overall this went very smoothly, and while the lines to get out to the terminal became annoyingly long at times, I suppose it was an organized madness. They handled it well.
Overall ---------- I had a wonderful time on the Grand Princess. The ship itself was beautiful and clean. The food was mostly good and definitely plentiful. The Cruise Directors were funny and charismatic and made the cruise very enjoyable. The entertainment was mostly excellent. The ports of call were interesting to say the least. I'm not sure that I prefer Princess over Disney, but it comes close, and would I do it again? In a heartbeat.
Princess Cruise Line Was Horrible!
We recently had the displeasure of celebrating our honeymoon on Princess Cruise Line. We were on the Grand Princess from 1/04/04 to 1/11/04 without our luggage or adequate help from your Purser's staff. On 1/04/04, we arrived by bus, a bus transfer that was offered by Princess Cruises, at the Princess Pier with our luggage. A Princess representative who greeted us told us to take our carryon luggage to check in and told us that the rest of our luggage would be delivered to our room. We checked in and waited, but our luggage never arrived at our room. We visited the Purser's desk a dozen times the first evening and each time we were treated as if we were bothering them and our missing luggage was a waste of their time. The last time that evening we visited the desk was at midnight and the man told us he could not help us and if we were that concerned we should check outside each door on each floor for the luggage. I explained to him that this was our honeymoon and we did not haveany clothes to enjoy it with so far. He said again, there was nothing he could do. We asked to fill out the missing luggage form mentioned in the cabin book, but he said we should come back the next day to fill it out.
The next day we docked at Princess Cays. My husband and I started our day putting on our dirty clothes and revisiting the Purser's desk. The gentleman we spoke to on 1/05/04 was much more helpful and allowed us to fill out the form. He told us we should had filled out the form the night before and apologized for the laziness of his colleagues. We were told that the Senior Assistant Purser would look into it and we should go and enjoy ourselves. Unfortunately, we only had jeans and sweaters and the store would not sell us anything. Since the staff delayed explaining to us where our luggage could be or help us in finding information, we were unaware that we would have to buy clothes from the store before we docked. Luckily, a nice passenger on board offered us clothes since the staff was brushing us off. The passenger told us she was appalled at the behavior and attitudes she saw us getting from the staff.
In order to enjoy ourselves we had to buy all new clothes at Princess Cays. Throughout the cruise, we had to cancel excursions because we did not have proper clothing, we had to go to dinner in the same clothes repeatedly, we could not enjoy some of the activities on board since we did not proper clothing, we felt dirty and sad throughout the honeymoon, and we were angered at the rudeness we received due to the cruise line's mistake. Three days into the cruise, we were offered free laundry service; before that, we were not offered anything. My husband was offered a tuxedo for formal night, but I had to spend $200 more on clothes to wear.
We are extremely disappointed in the way were treated throughout the whole ordeal. It was our honeymoon; we spent a lot of money to be there yet the Purser's staff treated us as if we were coral at the bottom of the ship. My husband mentioned, to Elizabeth Williams, that he had read the 10 commandments of Princess Cruise Lines in the cabin book one of the first commandments said something similar to this, "A Princess Cruise Line Representative would never tell a cruiser no, but would find the answer out if s/he could did not know the answer." This was not the case for us unfortunately. From the moment we entered the ship all we heard was no from the Purser's staff. They were surprisingly unwilling to help us out in finding our luggage, clothes to wear, or a honeymoon to enjoy. As representatives of Princess Cruise Lines it was up to them to keep us in the know regarding our luggage and to make our stay more comfortable. We were left feeling as if our lost luggage was a nuisance and we were the shipwrecked honeymooners aboard the "Black Pearl."
The cruise line lost our luggage and we still do not have it. We were blamed, the airlines were blamed and finally four days into the trip the manager from the Purser's admitted that Princess lost the luggage; however, she could not locate the luggage. She supposedly worked on finding it without any success. Unfortunately, she did not keep us posted on the results and she would not return our phone calls throughout the trip. We met with her once, but she would not meet with us again. All together, we spent at least a $1000 on new clothes in order to enjoy ourselves and we now have to spend money on clothes in order to go to work. We lost our shoes, our casual and work clothes, along with other irreplaceable items. All we got in return was a disappointing honeymoon and rude customer service. To top it all off, the last day there we asked if they could give us a complimentary bag in order to get our "new" clothing home (since they admittedly lost our luggage) and we again heard their favorite word, NO! My husband and I had to bring our clothing home in a plastic bag that did not close from the boutique. The Purser's would not even give us rope or string to tie the bag with in order to keep it closed. I was astounded at their ignorance.
This was supposed to be a wonderful honeymoon that was ruined by the uncourteous and obnoxious Purser's staff of Princess Cruise Lines. I am disappointed in the treatment we had to endure from them as well as the fact that we still do not have satisfaction, or a conclusion, in our search for our luggage.
As a first time cruiser on Princess and a past cruiser on RCL I felt that a review of the Grand was in order. Princess does a great job as does RCL of embarkation. We liked the express check in. We were on the ship in about 15 minutes after we arrived. I liked that they check you in by deck.
Cabin was immaculate and Imelda our cabin attendant was great. The muster in the theater ( life boat drill) was a great idea esp. for older people. We did notice that Princess seemed to go out of their way to accomodate persons with special needs. The age of the passengers was a little older than RCL. We chose Personal Choice dining and found out that it is a good idea to make reservations each evening. Not hard just call the dine line. We ate in the Micheangelo as we found the waiter there very friendly (Hi Ken and Allen). They also were able to seat us in his section one evening when there was a large group at our usual table.
Food: I loved the 24 hour buffet. Foodwas good and varied. Dining room was ok but the service made up for it. Food I thought at the buffet during the day was a little better than RCL but no cooked to order omelettes. Princess does an afternoon tea that was a delight and a real treat. There was only one late night buffet with a tropiacl theme but it was great.
Cabin: We had a balcony cabin on Caribe deck. The balcony was great and quite large. We had 7 people out there and not crowded at all. the door between the balconys open to go back and forth to the next cabin. We did that with one of ours. We had breakfest on our balcony each morning and that was good for room service. On time and even early.
This was our first cruise, with the last two of our five kids graduated from college, so it was time for us to try something new.
We had researched a number of cruise web sites. Here, we have to thank all those who wrote reviews of their experiences. They were invaluable and made us better educated shoppers, and we enjoyed our cruise experience more because of you.
We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale a day early after making our own flight arrangements. We got a non-stop from Detroit and the cruise arrangements would of had us playing airplane hop-scotch and arriving just in time to sail.
Our pre- and post- cruise stays were at the Best Western Marina and Holiday Inn Express, respectively, the Holiday Inn was the better of the two, in our opinion. A large shopping center is on 17th, and we stocked up on some carry-on items there.
All your comments about Princess' embarkation procedures were correct, it went very smooth and we were on the ship directly.
We dropped off our carry-on bags in our cabin, Caribe deck, port side, met our room steward Nilo, and headed out to explore.Our requests for robes, extra ice, a foam "egg-crate" pad on the bed were already done. Nilo was superb all week, we never knew how he did it, but our room was kept super clean and stocked with everything we needed (and the chocolates on our pillow, which we didn't need, but enjoyed anyway)!
Our cabin was a category BB stateroom and the layout was fine for us, plenty of storage under the bed, 20+ wooden hangers in the closet area, three small shelves in the bathroom, for some personal "stuff". We brought a power strip for the desk and it worked fine. Our balcony was half covered, with two loungers, two chairs and a table, it was one of the best parts of the cruise. It had more than enough privacy for us, The most a Baja balcony occupant could have seen were my toes at the foot of the lounger!
The pocket map was a great help and we learned the ship quickly. Barb picked up the "bar-hop" card and I got the Coke sticker. Barbara did get to all fourteen bars, got her card stamped and got her gift.
In no particular order:
We found the food above average, Horizon Court was very good, and our Personal Choice dining was the Da Vinco dining room. We requested a table for two and our first night's servers were Katryna and Pavel (both from Poland). They were an exquisite part of our trip, remembering our names, drink preferences and all their guests enjoyed a excellent level of service.
We liked the ports of call, on Princess Cay we headed to the right side of the beach, like many of you suggested, plenty of chairs in the shade. Grand Cayman was interesting with the cars driving on the "wrong" side of the road, Costa Maya was not much more than the "created port" many of you reported. Cozumel was interesting with five or six other cruise ships in the harbor that day. It was fun seeing all the different cruise lines tote bags swinging through the crowd, and stopping off for a drink and visiting with cruisers from the other ships. Early in the cruise, before we reached Grand Cayman, the ship's Port and Shopping Advisor, Michael, gave a lecture, re-broadcast over the TV regularly. After visiting the ports we realized it was a pretty smart thing to do. Along with the 4-page daily "Princess Patter," we would get another 4-page "All Ashore" before each port. The local info and map were very good. Granted, we knew they were identifying their "preferred" shops for us, but it was still helpful. At each port there are many stores with raffle contests, some just require a filled out coupon, other, you have to "guess" the number of loose gemstones, or something else in the store. There were very nice prizes from diamond tennis bracelets, to tanzanite rings, t-shirts, etc...A good tip for Michael's first lecture, get there early and sit in the first few rows, he tosses things into the audience, and while a few frisbees made it our way, things like t-shirts, rings, cigars, etc....went down front. We brought a yellow highlighter and marked stores or attractions on the maps and it made it easier to find our way around.
Tim Donovan, our Cruise Director, and his staff, Kelly, Liz, Drew and the rest, were always about the ship, running many activities. Those not to be missed were "Jeopardy", a hilarious version of the "Weakest Link", the "Newlywed-Not-So-Newlywed" game, daily trivia, British Pub night, the Island Deck Party, and the passenger talent show. The dicey horse races and the auction to "own" a horse and decorate it for their "Derby" brought out the "horse trader" in a lot of folks.
The Internet links were fairly quick, I was able to logon to our Yahoo mail account, check and send messages to our family and friends, and it didn't cost as much as I thought it would.
One thing we noticed, was the line at the Pursers desks on the last morning as people got a listing of their shipboard account. The looks on their faces was a perfect definition of "sticker shock". Barb and I stopped by every other day or so, picked up the list, and it allowed us time to review it and if necessary make corrections, and not when we were trying to get off the ship.
Disembarkation was smooth, and even with one of the last color tags called, we were off the ship and in a taxi to the Holiday Inn Express in about two hours.Our overall experience was wonderful, the Grand's staff was a huge part of that feeling. We would like to try other cruise lines also, but Princess' cruises will be on our itinerary on a regular basis.
We recently returned from our first cruise aboard the Grand Princess. I had never cruised with Princess before and was afraid that I wasn't going to like it but we had a great time. I'm going to go over some different things about the ship.
Check in was a breeze we were on the ship by noon and then went to the horizon court for lunch. The food wasn't that great there but none of the buffets on ships thrill me.
We used PC dining and thought the food was good not great though.
First formal night they had a little cocktail reception with free drinks which are always a plus :)
Second formal night they had the champagne waterfall that was pretty neat to see.
The ship is in great condition for being 5 yrs old everything was always clean and I never saw anything that was ripped or torn.
We really enjoyed princess cays went snorkeling and just relaxed on the beach.
Grand Cayman we've been there before and its not one of my favorite places.
Costa maya there isn't much there but we went to the beach thats on the right hand sideof the dock the snorkeling was ok there but make sure you wear wet socks its very rocky getting into the water.
Cozumel is one of my favorite places we went to Chankanaab lagoon and had a great day of snorkeling. Later we ate at Panchos Backyard food was very good there.
During the day you can get pizza on the ship which was good and they has a seperate place for burgers,hotdogs etc.
There were 4 pools we only used the solarium pool which was very nice and the spa deck pool. That pool has a wave machine which was pretty fun if you wanted a good workout. It was nice being able to swim in freshwater.
All in all we had a great time and would definately cruise on the Grand again. If anyone has any questions don't hesitate to email me. Happy cruising:)
I recently took the September 21, 2003 western Caribbean sailing of the Grand Princess from Port Everglades. Florida. I have been an avid cruiser, sailing on cruises since the age of two. I have cruised on approximately eighty (80) cruises during the past forty years.
Embarkation: Embarkation was trouble free and easy, just as I had expected. As a Princess Platinum Captain's Circle member I had a short fifteen minute wait to complete the embarkation procedure. I then boarded the Grand after having my photo taken by the smiling shipboard photographer (utilizing a digital camera).
Once on board I had my photo taken and my cruise card was swiped with my digital photo encoded on the card. I then was led to a bank of elevators manned by Princess Cruise staff who directed us to our decks. Once we reached our decks we found our cabins and settled in. My first impression was the small size of the cabin, compared to my other experiences on Celebrity and Carnival. The cabin was smartly decorated in warm colors highlighted by light colored wood tones. The cabin was approximately 220 sq. feet including the balcony. Thebalcony area was covered by a rubber mat, not with teak as I had expected. It was furnished with two plastic deck chairs and a small table.
The cabin itself had a small refrigerator, T.V., and a small closet lacking a door or curtain. The cabin lacked drawer space, but utilized an efficient use of space for walking.
The television programming included Discovery Channel, CNN, MSNBC and ESPN. It also included recently premiered movies and Princess in-house programming.
My first impression after boarding the ship was the immensity of the vessel. It was larger than I had expected, or even dreamed of. I noticed a lack of stairs, especially in the center of the vessel. The middle bank of elevators was busy most of the cruise as a result of a lack of stairs supplementing the elevators.
After taking a tour of the vessel I had the following observations: 1) The main theater was perfectly designed with incredible sightlines 2) The Painted Desert A La Carte Restaurant was extremely underused during our cruise 3) The Vista Lounge was designed with insufficient seating for the large capacity of the vessel. 4) The center atrium was designed to create a small ship feel on a large vessel. 5) The Horizon Court area did not accommodate the large number of passengers on the vessel during the embarkation lunch. 6) Skywalkers NightClub has to be one of the most impressive discos at sea. 7) The pool areas on the ship are well designed and provide a relaxing environment for the sun worshipper.
I found the vessel to offer a myriad of options for the novice and well traveled cruiser. The Grand Princess is a beautiful vessel that incorporates Personal Choice Dinning and alternative dinning options. Sabatini's, the Italian A La Carte Restaurant provides a wonderful dinning option for those passengers that desire a "gourmet" eating extravaganza. The service, ambience and food merit the $20.00 service charge. Make sure that you order one of the Chianti wines that are available.
I traveled on the cruise with my wife, daughter, parents and other extended family members. My daughter is five years of age and she was anxious to participate in the Princess Children's program. We immediately signed her up for the Princess Pelican's (ages 3-6). We were fortunate that there were not too many children on our cruise. My daughter enjoyed the counselor to child ratio of almost six to one. She also enjoyed the nightly movies shown in the playroom and the nightly pizza parties. My daughter enjoyed herself so much in the program that she was sad to leave the vessel on Sunday. She still talks about returning on a Princess cruise so that she can participate in the Children's program.
Food: Well, we have cruised on Celebrity so we had high expectations for the cuisine on board. If you like pasta you will be in heaven on board this vessel. The food is for the most part very good. We also were very skeptical on the service that we would receive in the dinning room with personal choice dinning. We were pleasantly surprised to discover that the service was spectacular, even with different waiters every evening.
Entertainment: Professional, fast moving and high tech. The hardware is expertly utilized by the choreographers. The sound system, moving stages and scenery is Broadway quality. I enjoyed every show and kept begging for more. My hats off to Princess for a top rate entertainment product.
I enjoyed my cruise and the longer I spent on the vessel the more comfortable I felt. If you want a cruise product that offers non-stop activities and dinning flexibility chose the Grand Princess. I know that I will again.
We just got off the Grand Princess on 9/21. WOW! What a trip. We were originally supposed to go to the Eastern Carribean, but hurrican Isabel took care of that. We ended up on the Western Carribean route, going to Costa Maya first, then Cozumel, then Grand Cayman, and the last stop at Princess Cay.
This was our first cruise, so I'm probably more optimistic than most. The ship was great, the crew was great, the food was outstanding. You can't go wrong with the Grand. We had a mini-suite with a balcony on the Dolphin deck. Boy, were we spoiled with the view. I didn't realize how much you get pampered on a cruise ship. Even though the ship is 5 years old, I didn't see anything that showed excessive wear and tear. If you're looking for a great ship and a great time, the Grand Princess is the way to go!!
This is a detailed review of the April 6, 2003 sailing of The Grand Princess. This was my first cruise with Princess and I have nothing but good things to say. I loved the ship! It was tasteful and beautiful. The decor was understated and elegant, lending itself to a soothing, relaxing environment, while at the same time being as upbeat and lively as our group was. I hope this review helps to inform those interested in this ship and itinerary and also helps anyone thinking about booking a cruise on this Grand ship.
I planned this trip for my husband, myself and four friends of ours (two other couples) who had never cruised before. Their delight was such a relief! Cruising with a group was a new experience for us and totally changed our usual cruise routine - but it was so much fun!
I'll try to break down my experiences.
Pre-Cruise: We flew out of JFK in New York City on Saturday April 5, 2003. Security was tight, as was to be expected. Our flight was on Delta and despite trying to organize six adults and our entire collection of over-packedluggage everything went very smoothly. We arrived in Fort Lauderdale on time and checked into the Amerisuites Hotel on 17th Street. It was only a short wait at the airport for the Amerisuites van, which we quickly filled with our luggage and boarded for the short ride to the hotel. We left cold brutal weather behind in New York City and welcomed the warmth of the sunshine in Florida. The Amerisuites has several restaurants close by as well as various places to shop for anything you might want to pick up at the last minute. We ate at the Tex-Mex restaurant across the parking lot and started our vacation off nicely with a walk up the causeway to see the ships in port. We swam in the pool that evening and enjoyed each other's company with some salsa music, dancing and liquor that we purchased nearby. It was an attractive suite and the price was extremely reasonable. I would stay in this hotel again. From our window in the hotel I could see some of the ships in port and I was able to see The Grand on Sunday morning. I'd worked hard on organizing this trip for my friends and I couldn't wait to introduce them to cruising. Looking out the window upon waking on Sunday and seeing our ship heightened my excitement. We were about to start our adventure. We gathered for breakfast in the hotel lobby area and were greeted by many others heading to Port Everglades to board their ships. Our breakfast was good; there was a waffle maker and fresh batter, among the usual continental breakfast staples. We finished eating, gathered our luggage and lined it up outside to wait for the hotel shuttle to the pier. There were many people and their piles of luggage, all clamoring to grab the two Amerisuites shuttles as they hustled people to and from Port Everglades. The wait wasn't long, as our group was able to fill one of the small buses and we were off to the port.
Embarkation: Princess was seamless in this operation. They really have this exercise down to an exact science. Amazingly, the lines were short and check-in was a breeze. We were posing for our embarkation photo in less than thirty minutes. I can't express enough how utterly smooth and painless this process was. It was just an indication of things to come.
The Ship: I'd read that the Grand is showing wear and tear. If it is I didn't notice it anywhere, believe me, I looked! Everything was immaculate and I didn't see anything on this vessel that needed repair or attention. Getting used to the layout of the decks took me a day. It's just not that hard to figure out. Public areas seemed to flow easily and there was never any congestion or long waits for elevators. The ship of course is huge, but it always felt intimate and comfortable. There were never crowds or long waits in the Horizon Court Buffet areas. Everything was nicely laid out and staff members were courteous and helpful. The bars and lounges were attractive and intimate. Service was courteous, prompt and attentive no matter where we were. The subdued color scheme was elegant; the artwork was interesting and often quite beautiful. I'd say it was a soothing, relaxing environment.
Cabins: We had mini-suites E729, E727, and E725. Our cabin steward opened the dividers to our balconies so that we had easy access to each other's cabins without having to use the hallway. These mini-suites are the last 3 cabins starboard side, aft. Our cabin, E729 had a balcony that was a little larger because it was the last cabin aft and it wrapped around, giving it enough space for 2 full lounge chairs, as well as the two upright chairs and round table. The balcony was covered and totally private. Afternoon sunshine always poured onto this space making it a favorite spot to relax pre-dinner. We like to book cabins that we enjoy spending some time in, and this cabin was wonderful. There is nothing like sitting on the balcony late at night before bed, listening to the sounds of the ocean and star gazing while we talk about our day. Several late nights we gathered on our balcony and enjoyed a few drinks, each other's company, laughing hard and being silly, totally immersed in the atmosphere and experience. We are big fans of room service breakfast and ordered it nightly to be enjoyed every morning on the balcony. You are not limited to what is printed on the breakfast form to be placed on your door each night! Write anything you like on it and they will bring it piping hot at the time specified. It was lovely! The cabin itself was beautiful. There was a full bathtub in the bathroom and plenty of shelf storage next to the mirror. A large opened closet made for more than enough room for our hanging clothing and shoes. There was a closet with double doors covered with a full-length mirror that was all shelved inside and contained the safe, which is operated with your own personal code. The sitting area had a sofa, table, comfortable chair and separate television. The sofa is a pullout and above in the ceiling is a pull down single bunk. Roomy, spacious and decorated in lovely peach and blue colors, I would book a mini-suite like this again in a heartbeat.
On the first day of the cruise our friends in cabin E725 noticed a musty smell in the area outside the bathroom and discovered that the carpet was wet. They reported it, and the entire carpet was replaced on our first port day while we were ashore on Princess Cays. I thought this was amazingly prompt and considered it terrific service. My friends didn't consider this a huge deal, nor did they voice a big complaint. They reported it just wondering if someone could come with a wet-dry vacuum to try to dry the carpet out some. None of us expected to see that brand new carpeting waiting outside the door the morning of our first port day. Kudos to Princess for the excellent response to what we thought was a minor inconvenience! This is just another example of the outstanding service we received throughout the entire cruise.
Cabin Steward: I believe this needs special mention because our cabin steward was the hardest working, most attentive and wonderful young man I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. Eldee, from the Philippines, was serving us on the last week of his ten-month contract. Not one detail was ever overlooked and he went above and beyond to make our vacation special. He certainly achieved that! There was always a smile on his face and every request was promptly attended to. I asked him one morning how it was that he could work so tirelessly every day for what seemed like endless continuous hours. He smiled and replied, "It's my life". I hope Eldee is enjoying some well deserved time off doing something he loves right now. Needless to say, we all tipped him generously on the last morning before we left the ship. We shook his hand and thanked him from the bottom of our hearts for being so wonderful. He smiled his signature smile. It was obvious that he is a dedicated young man and he deserves the best life has to offer.
Pool Areas: Fresh water pools that even by the end of the cruise remained clean and at cool refreshing temperatures were a delight. Light and dark blue mosaic tiles, live tropical plants and sea-themed sculptures made these areas comfortable and inviting. The "swim against the current pool" was adjustable, tailoring it to different swimming strengths and abilities. The hot tubs were usually all in use, but never crowded with children. There was always space to take a soak if desired. Yes, there was the usual deck chair saving, and with a group of six it was a challenge finding space together for all of us, but we did stake out our favorite spot and with a little patience and rearranging, always found a group of lounge chairs together. Drinks were always just a hand wave away, but never was there pressure or drink hawking. The band that played daily by the pool was always well received. The music definitely made for a Caribbean atmosphere. I happen to enjoy music of any type and even the piped in music around the pool when the band wasn't playing made me feel relaxed and happy. I was on vacation and soaking up everything I could, letting my senses enjoy every taste, smell and sound.
Food: There was something to suit every preference. The Horizon Court Buffet had a wide selection of varying and diverse dishes. Since we spent our sea days out by the pool we lunched in the buffet. The pizza was very good, fresh and hot. There were never long lines making it convenient to grab a quick snack on a whim. We dined at the Painted Desert alternative restaurant one night and everyone was pleased with both the food and the service. Coming from New York City we all felt that the cover charge was minimal ($9.00 per person) considering it included a Margarita that would have cost us that much alone in a similar land-based restaurant. We chose Personal Choice and opted to dine on the late side most evenings. We never waited for a table in either Personal Choice dining room. The service was impeccable. The food was good to excellent, choices varied each night with something interesting to tempt the palate. Presentation was appealing and portions large enough to satisfy the hearty appetite.
There was never a question ordering two different selections and we did this often, trying something new or a favorite for the table to share. We were never charged for sodas at any dinner venue, sometimes even served cans. One person would order alcoholic drinks and wine for the table and always ordered our standard sodas, showed their soda sticker and it would promptly arrive and be refilled without asking. Water glasses were kept filled with fresh ice and water. I've often heard people complain about the difficulty with soda cards and not once in any bar or food venue on this ship was there ever a question or a charge for someone ordering six sodas with one soda card (we did each have a sticker) and on more than several occasions we were served canned sodas with a glass of ice. Cash tips were handed out generously at dinner and at the various bars and lounges. The outstanding service made us feel catered to and pampered and was rewarded in turn. Sabatini's was a gastronomical experience not to be missed. Again, the additional charge per person ($15.00) was minimal, as we figured the same service, food, wine and drinks on land would cost our group close to a thousand dollars (no kidding!). We all rolled out of dinner stuffed to the gills savoring each morsel we ate. We ate in Sabatini's on our last night as we wanted to end our cruise with something special, and it was!
A Note About Personal Choice Dining: Since we were a group of six this option was perfect for us. It gave us the flexibility to organize ourselves each evening in an unhurried manor. Gathering for drinks on our balconies while we got dressed for dinner was so relaxing. Watching the captivating sunsets while talking and laughing about our day or posing for pictures was bottom line fun. We had the option of relaxing in one of the lounges for a drink, strolling the shops or browsing for our photos in the gallery. Sometimes we would just casually explore, making unscheduled pit stops for drinks on a whim and at our own pace make our way to the dining room. I would choose this dining option again, even when cruising alone with my husband. Sometimes early seating is just too early and late seating is just too late. Personal Choice suited me. This may not be the case with everyone, but I certainly enjoyed it. I didn't find a lack of service by not having the same wait staff each night. Every wait staff member we encountered gave us outstanding and attentive consideration.
Ports of Call: We really lucked out in the weather department as we were on the heels of a nasty storm system that had been preventing the ship from making scheduled ports of call for three weeks. A staff member told me that we were the first group to be able to visit Princess Cays, (among our other ports of call) in weeks. The weather was hot and balmy, perfect beach weather. We didn't book any excursions except for the Dolphin Swim in Cozumel. We all decided to play it by ear and enjoy doing things on our own as a group.
After breakfast we headed for the designated lounge to get our tickets to board the tender to take us ashore. The wait wasn't long at all as they called groups of over one hundred at a time. It was a quick ride to the island. Princess Cays is a laid back relaxing beach day. There are shops, food, drinks, lounge chairs and a very pretty beach to sun and swim on. We didn't have to walk very far into the shallow ocean waters to see dozens of colorful tropical fish swimming through our legs and around our feet. We walked through the fenced off area to shop at the booths set up by the locals. One of my friends picked up a bottle of Mango Rum there. No bags were being searched or any liquor purchases confiscated by the ship (at every port this was the case), so we enjoyed this delicious liquor on the rocks several times while getting dressed for dinner. The guys purchased some Cuban cigars to enjoy on the balcony and I picked up my usual finds, tee shirts and ashtrays, magnets, inexpensive necklaces and cute silver bracelets for the kids I left at home. It was a nice way to start our adventures on land.
Grand Cayman was our next port of call. This was another tender port. The ride seemed rocky, but it was fun. We had rented snorkel gear for the week from the ship. Lugging our beach bags, we left the ship and took a taxi to Seven Mile Beach. It was a van and we all were able to ride together. Another hot and sunny day made the sight of that turquoise ocean very inviting. The beach itself was very quiet and low key. Where we were dropped off seemed almost pristine. There was no shade, only a building housing bathrooms and an outdoor shower. An ice cream truck provided our only source of food. I didn't quite get the hang of snorkeling and I was happy to lounge on the beach while most of the group took to the water. They reported good snorkeling, seeing many varieties of tropical fish. A taxi van took us back to town where we did some shopping and snacked on conch fritters. We were all starving! We got in line to get back on the tender. After another fun, rocky ride back to the ship, we dropped off our bags and ran to the buffet.
Costa Maya had to be one of the most interesting enjoyable port days I can ever remember. From the reading I had done I wasn't sure what to expect, but it was amazing! One of the couples in our group of friends is from Central America and Spanish is their native language. Their ability to speak the language of Mexico made it possible to wander off the beaten path and have a real adventure in this beautiful town. After speaking to several local cab drivers we found one that took us into Majahual to an area that wasn't built up yet. A dirt road led us on foot past local vendors with booths filled with amazing bargains to be had. I would have never been able to shop here without my Spanish-speaking friends; I would have been eaten alive! The local merchants were more than happy to try to take advantage of us, however, this was not to be the case. As we wandered passed horses tied up to palm trees and gazed at the untouched beach behind them I really felt a sense of adventure fill me. Beautiful silver rings and bracelets, hand made Mexican blankets, Aztec calendars, Mexican vanilla, fire opal rings set in silver and gorgeous hand made lace were only some of the local treasures we were on the hunt for. Because our friend was able to bargain with the local people in their language, we got fabulous deals! We were having a great time. It was genuinely an adventure and I felt immersed in the local culture. The items I brought home with me are treasures, in part because of the memories they will always invoke. A new restaurant had just opened up along that strip of dirt road and we headed for it after finishing up our shopping. What a treat! A gorgeous rustic tall palm covered hut housed our outdoor eating venue as we gazed at the beach we were all soon to relax on. Wonderful authentic Mexican food was our lunch followed by the traditional after meal tequila shots. The smoothest tequila I've ever tasted. Wonderful! We bought our waitress a couple of shots that she downed with us. She was a young mother, hard working and so interesting to talk to. We headed for the chairs on the beach, dropped our bags and ran into the ocean. It was a beach that seemed so untouched by humans. The water was the color of turquoise stone with the tropical fish we'd become accustomed to. We relaxed here for a while, had another shot of tequila, the restaurant called for the taxi that delivered us, and we headed back to the pool, bar and shopping area where the ship had docked. We swam in the pool, had a yard tall margarita, danced, strolled the shops, danced some more.
The salsa music was blasting; another group from the ship joined us to dance and the bar servers brought us huge Mexican hats to play with. We all let our hair down and had the best party you can imagine. I think we were the last group to get back on the ship that day! I loved this port!
Cozumel: I'd booked the Dolphin Swim as soon as I was able to online through the Princess web site. Everyone was looking forward to this experience. I've always dreamt of doing this ever since I knew it existed. The memories of that day will always be in my heart. It really was the experience of a lifetime. We had our usual balcony breakfast, got ourselves ready to roll and got off the ship in time to meet the excursion leader who offered a refund to anyone who might be allergic to a small type of jellyfish. The weather had been stormy during the prior week that we were told brought in the black tide, jellyfish that looked like living, breathing Reese's Peanut Butter Cup wrappers! One couple found this frightening and backed out. Refunds were being given because of these unusual ocean conditions. This wasn't going to deter any of us! We were placed in taxis, two by two and were taken to Chankanaab Park, where the Dolphin Swim takes place. Chankanaab is a national park and a treasure. This recreation spot is carved out of jungle landscaping and kisses the beach. We arrived with time to spare, got ourselves lockers to keep our belongings in, gathered with our group and set off on our days adventure.
After being placed in damp life vests we were seated in a cool room to watch a training video. We were so anxious we all watched in anticipation of what was to come next. When it was over we were led to the water area where the dolphins were waiting. We walked down the stairs into the penned off ocean area, and it was filled with those little black jellyfish! We tried our best to pretend they weren't there. After my friend did his first trick with one of the dolphins, all thoughts of peanut butter cup wrapper jellyfish were gone! I was hooked. Just being able to touch, pet, stroke, kiss, be pulled and pushed up into the air by these amazing animals was worth every potential jellyfish itch! We had free time to swim with and pet them. When it was time to say goodbye and the two dolphins swam by for their last strokes as they waved, I was speechless and grinning ear to ear. The video and pictures are priceless. We turned in our life jackets, watched the amazingly edited video, which of course we all had to purchase, went to the photo shop to buy some more pictures, and we had our memories secured! People were being advised not to snorkel because of that black tide of jellyfish. We decided to stroll the park and see the sights. We found a nice place to have a light lunch and warm up in the sun on the beach right there. After finding a bar that made delicious drinks in whole pineapples we walked through the jungle paths looking at huge iguanas and other lizards, feral cats and gorgeous plant life. We wandered around through the Mayan Ruin replicas. In one of the huts a woman was making hand made tortillas. We strolled our way back to the taxi area and handed our return tickets to the driver. After being dropped off in town, we shopped some more. The shopping area closest to where the ship was docked is like a small outside mall with shops of all kinds. We gravitated to Carlos'N Charlie's where I was introduced to their famous shots. I had another yard tall drink, bought an adorable picture of my husband smooching me on the cheek under a huge Mexican hat, and we ran for the ship! Another great port day!
Entertainment: We're not ones for the shows, so I can't comment on the quality. I don't choose the ships I book for the entertainment, as we tend to like to make our own! I did enjoy several of the lounges and bars. We laughed at the comedian one night; he was very silly and funny. Skywalkers disco was lively and a lot of fun. The room itself floats in space above the back of the ship. The Wheelhouse Bar was an intimate lounge where we danced to the romantic music of the band. The Explorers Lounge was a fun place to have some drinks and listen to the brave Karaoke singers. The Atlantis Casino had slot machines galore and I even came out ahead! Don't forget to check out the ceiling in the casino, it changes from dusk to dawn periodically. The guys enjoyed playing Let It Ride and Blackjack. It was easy to find a place to go that suited our mood. Changing our minds wasn't a problem either as this ship offered something for every whim. I love finding one of the pool bars late at night to relax with a tropical drink, listen to the ocean and feel the wind.
Strolling the outer decks late at night can be romantic and always makes me feel adventurous. I love the feeling of being on a cruise!
Debarkation: We were able to remain in our rooms until our luggage tag color was called. Sitting on our balconies for the last time we were all sad our vacation was over. The process was again painless. We walked off the ship and quickly located the entire collection of our luggage in the terminal. After flagging down a porter we were directed to the customs line. We handed in our declaration form and off we went. We used our Princess transfers for the bus ride to the airport. With so many ships pouring out homebound vacationers the airport was a mess. Our flight wasn't until later in the afternoon. We were shuffled from line to line. Security seemed tighter in Fort Lauderdale than it had in New York City. Eventually we were checked in and issued our boarding passes. We found a table at a pizzeria and our long wait began. Once they began boarding for our flight things progressed and our flight home went smoothly except for a short delay on the ground. We didn't want our vacation to end, but despite our wishes we were soon on the ground in New York City complaining about the weather.
How Princess Handled Illness Onboard: I'll never know exactly what made me so sick, but the first evening shortly after sail-away I fell ill. Once I started vomiting it became an endless non-stop event. After hours of misery I was so weak I couldn't even get out of bed. My husband had called for towels three times. I had tried to keep down two different prescription anti-emetics I had brought with me to no avail. Bonine didn't stay down either. by 3:00 in the morning I told my husband he had two options. Shoot me, or call the ship's doctor! He'd been resting sporadically on the couch, getting up to check on me frequently. He was feeling very helpless because the only thing I could squeak out of me were orders not to shake the bed and to just leave me alone. He called for the ship's doctor explaining how sick I was. Within twenty minutes or so the doctor arrived at my cabin with a nurse. I was questioned in detail and did my best to answer everything I was asked. My vitals were checked and I was given two injections. One was to stop the stomach cramping; the other was to end the vomiting. I was given instructions on what to eat for the next few days as well as a prescription for Compazine (a very effective anti-emetic, anti-nausea drug). I was also told not to eat in the buffet areas for the next 48 hours. The nurse left a detailed report for me to fill out for the CDC in Atlanta and Princess. The history of where and what I ate for the three days prior to embarkation was one of the most detailed reports I'd ever seen. In addition to all of this, the next morning there was a knock at my door. A man in a white haz-mat suit complete with a gas mask was there to fog and disinfect the entire cabin and bathroom. On the last morning of the cruise he appeared again.
Princess did not charge me for the medical care I received. I felt this entire episode was handled with the utmost regard and concern for the protection of every passenger on board. I also felt that I was treated professionally and with respect. Princess certainly handled this situation properly. I had a bad night, but things happen and it didn't ruin my vacation. I was fine the next day, as if it never happened. We did have rough seas that first night. I seemed to notice the motion more in our particular cabin location. Was it seasickness? Something I ate? My nerves? I'll never know for sure. I do know that if it had to happen I'm glad I was in such good hands. It's also reassuring to know that the Princess staff and crewmembers do everything in their power to protect their passengers from potential outbreaks of illness.
Summary: I give The Grand high marks all the way around. I am not a picky stickler for detail and I don't go out of my way to look for things to complain about. I understand that many things can and do go wrong on vacation, and at anytime. Given this, I tend to roll with things and I can have a good time almost anywhere. If I had to try to look for something to complain about, it would be very hard to find something negative to say about this cruise. Yes, there was motion- ships move! We did follow some bad weather, but we were so lucky to have great weather the entire week. Princess gave me a wonderful vacation and wonderful memories. I would take another Princess cruise without hesitation.
My sister and I went on the Grand Princess Christmas Western Caribbean cruise 2002. We feel it is our obligation to inform others, especially minorities, regarding the treatment they will encounter on Princess. Not only was the cruise overbooked by over 200 people, there were not even enough towels to go around.
We had expected the entertainment to reflect the Caribbean culture, however, it was suppressed and given very little significance. In fact, it would not be an exaggeration to claim that this cruise line is very prejudice. It was obvious that certain "people" were excluded and neglected. In fact, to blunt be it was anti-Latin!!!
If you are a minority and want to receive subpar treatment and be marginalized then this is your cruise line. But if you expect to receive equal treatment then avoid this cruise line by all means necessary.
The entertainment was as bland as oatmeal with no diversity. The nightclub was as exciting and fun as a dentist visit. The DJ was the worst! He could not play a hit record if it was glued on his ass.
In addition, people were getting into verbal arguments over the lack ofchairs/tables/space on the decks - especially near the pool or in the sun.
Our luggage as well as many others were lost from the embarkation in Ft Lauderdale. It was very late that night that our bags were "found" in the ship.
The Ship: C
The Grand Princess is big ship. Yet, since it was overbooked it still felt crowded especially in the pool area, restuarants, and sunbathing spots.
The Room: B
OK space but could be better in terms of bed, towels, and linens. In fact, we had to wait for hours for extra towels.
The Food: Overall D Dining Room: B+ The Dining room was the best option. The food was still bland. Photographer were rude and took teh worse pictures and we did not purchased not even one. Many individuals went around trying to sell stuff,
Horizon Court: B-
The buffet area was awful. The food looked and tasted awful. It was like eating in the mess hall of the armed forces or a prison.
Fast Food in the Pool Area: C
It was bad and cheap but readily available fast food that quickly became boring and tasteless increasingly each day.
Entertainment: F Again, no diversity. Boring, boring and boring. The nightclub was as exciting as a coma. The DJ sucked and played the worst music every single night. My 80 year old grandma would have done a better
Drinks & Booze: C
Very expensive. They penny pinch you here. They do not tell you that drinks (non-alcoholic is not free). You have to pay even for water!
Again since it was overcrowded the pools were always full. I rarely used them. Plus the against current pool is a joke - my five year old cousin could overpowered it.
People were hoarded spots as early as 6 a.m. They would leave "stuff" on the chairs all day to keeo the spots. It was very incumbment on the staff to prevent this. It is not fair to have passengers take it upon themselves to stop this unfair and abusive practice. Hence, many people "fought" for a bit of space. I am a NYer and I do not to deal with that crap on a cruise ship.
The worst! The manner in which they are displayed is so unorganized that it can take up to a hour to even find your photos and then they turn out terrible.
The Ports: OVERALL B-
It is like they say you go on a cruise for the ship not the ports.
Grand Cayman: B- Requires a tender to get ashore and that makes a pain in the butt.
The port is not well organized and you must pass hoards of people selling you stuff.
Terrible terrible and terrible. People are rude and simply out to get $ out of you. Can¡¯t happen too soon for me.
A big mess where your bags are thrown without any regard. Porters are so eager for their tips that they are rude and show complete disregard for your belongings.
I will definitely cruise again but never with Princess. I truly felt that their service was awful and insulting.
Avoid at your own risk.
As an experienced world traveler and reader of travel logs, I thought I should sit down and write a review for my most recent adventure, a seven day Princess cruise.
This was my fourth trip (ever) on a cruise ship and my second ride on the Grand Princess in the last twelve months. For those of you that have commented about how the ships are getting bigger and the service poorer, my experience may ring a bell for you.
My wife and I had a rather horrid experience on the ship this trip and rather than attempt to describe it, I am going to insert the letter we are posting to Princess at the bottom of this log.
For the trip in general, I will use the pattern others have used and assign a final grade based on the A to F scale to various categories, and then expand on some details. After traveling in many countries in a variety of accommodation levels, I tend to be critical when it comes to basic and more tolerant of complex situations.
I hope that you find the information and tips I provide to be useful.
Embarkation:B We live in Florida so we simply drove to the cruise terminal in Ft Lauderdale. The main surprise in this was the $12 daily parking charge. We were told $8 by Princess which seemed high for port parking and $12 was asinine. No time to make other arrangements so we parked. No help in the garages and no carts either. For $12 a day, a few push carts would be nice¡
Once in the terminal, the processing was quick, however the longshoremen handling the bags are rather seedy, rude and pressed hard for a tip even though he just dropped the bag (rather forcefully) on a pallet. Glad I did not pack anything fragile in that bag¡The Ship: A The Grand Princess is a great vessel. We sailed on her last June and were happy to be back. It¡¯s a big ship but easy to navigate.
I read the following from another review and second it! ¡°The layout is pretty good, but there are a few dead-end spots to look out for, like near the dining rooms. The mid-ship stairs stop at deck 7, and it was a pain to wait for the elevator to go to up one floor to our cabin on the Emerald deck. The elevators are slow and patience is required for those people who seemed like using an elevator was a new experience.¡± Actually, it seemed to us that many of the lifts were shut off at times as they would be on the same floor as you but refuse to open.
The Room: B- We had Emerald 317 on Deck 8, starboard side and mid-ship. It had a partially obstructed view with a life boat hanging outside but we could see everything clearly.
Our room was small, however storage space was ok. A TV with A/V inputs (great if you take a camcorder, refrigerator, and safe were included. The beds were not very comfortable since they use thin cots as mattresses, and they have minimal support and in our case, the beds had large sinkholes in the middle. After a few days our backs HURT. I asked for and got a back board placed under the mattress which helped, but would a 4¡± mattress really cost them so much in a cabin that goes for $2000 a week.
Cabin steward was good and when we allowed, cleaned the room two or three times a day. These folks can be a little nervous around you. Try to be nice to them as they work very long hours (15 hrs+ a day for little money) and can be fired on a whim by the line. I saw many people (ugly American stereotypes) being very rude and nasty to these people for absolutely no reason. Kids were extremely nasty to them¡ while the parents watched¡ there are times when I feel like pretending I am Canadian on travel because of the way Americans behave¡.
The Food: Overall B- Dining Room: B+ The Dining room food was generally good and the atmosphere nice. Service was usually attentive and friendly but there were frequent photographer interruptions and several high pressure sales efforts by the waiter.
Horizon Court: B-
The buffet area was not really to my liking. The serving area was cramped and the options limited. Half of the tables had the same food 24/7 and it was not great. Get better breakfast at Dennys for $4. Only up side was that after 11pm, it turns into a sit down restaurant with a menu that is ok. .
Fast Food in the Pool Area: C-
There are pizza and burger areas on the pool deck that are rather horrid. Worse than high school caf¨¦ food. They also close this area early in the evening which is bad when you want an alternative to the buffet and it is closed. When it comes to basic food, Carnival was better and that is a really mean thing to say¡
Entertainment: B Strange how this worked out. In June, the Broadway shows were great. Top notch singers and dancers, but the comedians really sucked. Over Christmas, the singers and dancers had changed very much to the worse but the comedians (with one very horrid exception) were great. One was close to getting tossed over the rail by the passengers he stank so badly, but the others were really good. Only complaint is the short show times. Spent more time waiting for the show than enjoying the show¡
I will throw a salute the entertainment staff at this point. They really seem to be a good bunch on the whole if a bit strange to look at as a group. A real collection of strange people, but good at the job and nice to speak with. While I do not have any children, the parents I spoke with seemed very happy with the children entertainment. This is a big plus on Princess as you will find a slightly higher class crowd with almost no visible drunken folks stumbling around and an obvious effort on the part of the staff to control bad behavior. If you just want to get drunk to a band, go to Carnival¡
Nasty staff that would not explain the games even during the day when the place was empty and we went through $20 on the slots without a single hit. Got the feeling from other players that the odds on the machines are not even close to Vegas standards and not worth playing unless you just like to watch the wheels spin¡ Heard a lot of people complain about similar experiences (no the losing) with unpleasant staff in the casino. Also, very poor ventilation to clear the smoke.
Drinks & Booze: B-
We are not drinkers but I will say that $6 for a small glass of white wine is a bit steep for the venue. Paid $22 for open tap on the coke which seemed ok¡ Be careful with this. I saw some bar tabs at the end of the trip that were bigger than the fare.
Pools seem to have a problem staying clean, but I guess that is to be expected with the number of people in them without cleaning up first. Best to swim early before they get bad.
The staff do not enforce the chair hording rules but I just waited for an hour or so in a poor spot and then went and tossed the stuff out of an unused chair in the sun. Several hours later, people showed up and bitched and I told them the deck boys had come through removing things to the back after complaints. This shut them up as the sign is right there saying that chair hording is not allowed.
The photographers are very nice smiling pains in the ass. They seem to feel like they have the right to interrupt you at will and order you around. We tried to bypass some of them only to get pushed and bossed around. I bit one head off and told her that I don¡¯t remember the contract requiring me to pose whenever they feel like it. Had several table interruptions on the trip last June. They just push your food around and do not ask if you want the picture. The Dec trip we stayed out of the main dinning room due to problems outlined in the letter at the end of this log.
Virtual Reality: N/A This is an arcade style game-room with a bunch of video games and motion simulators that you can play, for a price. You need to buy a card for $20 first, and each game may be $1.00 or more. They had an Air Hockey table and a bunch of other games, but no classic games like Pac-Man or Space Invaders. They run ¨o price specials on port days, so that is usually the best time to go.
Internet: N/A Available, but very slow. Took the entire $7.50 / 15 min session to read just three yahoo emails. Tried other sites with similar results. After poking around a bit discovered that the ships offices share the link and get priority on the bandwidth¡ nice¡ Internet cafes are available at most stops for better bandwidth and less money. All in all, still better than the $5/min telephone that never seems to be available.
The Ports: OVERALL B-
Princess Cays: B Nice beach area, go early if you don¡¯t want to waste the day in lines waiting for expensive rentals. Food was nasty and bring bottle water from the ship as the stuff they had in the food area tasted nasty. Better to have a good breakfast on the ship and wait for dinner. If you just want to lay in the sun and don¡¯t care for the water, stay on the ship and be comfortable.
Grand Cayman: A- Probably the best island that the lines visit. Requires a tender to get ashore and that makes stopping there a bit unreliable because of weather. There were 3-5 foot swells the day we landed and the crew really worked to get us tied up and off the tender. Better late in the day when we returned. A small plug for Royal Caribbean Line as they had MUCH nicer tenders that handled the seas better and did not throw you around as much.
An ok port. Getting in and out is a pain because of the shopping plaza you have to go through followed by the row of seedy characters waiting for you. Also be advised that safety is an issue in this port. Don¡¯t just wonder off. Do some homework before the trip and taxi to the places you want to see using the official taxis. Don¡¯t try any other cars¡ The tours in this port were very expensive so do a bit of homework on the net before your cruise and have a map and a list of things to see with you. Will make the trip much nicer.
Jamaica: D- No nice way to say it. Jamaica is a dump. One upon a time it was a paradise but after they went independent, it crashed hard. The locals are mostly out to hassle you and if you are not careful where you go, you may end up without your money and a bump on your head. Seems like the lines are starting to avoid the place more and more. Some day Cuba will open up for Americans and Jamaica and Porto Rica will never see a cruise ship again. Can¡¯t happen too soon for me.
Debarkation: B/A Trip in June had us standing around for an extra hour in the morning while the purser folks hunted down the last few unpaid bar tabs. Really pisses me off that they risked making people late for flights over a couple of bar bills. Goes to show that customer service is not on the top of the list for the purser folks. In Dec we got off quickly as everyone was paid up, however there were other problems with the purser folks that I have in the letter at the bottom. Suffice to say that everyone on that ship outside of management worked hard for us but the hotel management folks only care about getting the money and the passengers are just not that important to them¡ unless there is a bill to collect.
Cruise Insurance: D I know they tell you for cruises to buy insurance¡ I would stay away from the Princess care. It is expensive and while it claims to offer medical, in June they spent an entire day trying to get a simple Band-Aid for my wife when she got a blister on her heal. Ruined one of our port days as she could not wear a shoe without it and they would not let us take one from the shop as we were in port. Can you imagine, an entire day trying to get a 5cent bandage out of the hotel and medical staff. They simply did not give a damn and said wait until evening when the medical staff returns. (closed shops and med facilities in ports)
Buy fare insurance and emergency evac from one of the travel insurance companies and leave the Princess care alone is all I can say. We paid a lot of money for it and could note even get a Band- Aid¡
Overall: B The Grand is a great ship and overall the entertainment was great the dinners top notch. The only real complaint about the operation is the way the management treats the guests and the constant digging for extra dollars. The constant harassment by photographers and the excessively priced tours tended to cheapen the experience as did the food outside the main dinning rooms.
The entertainment staff was top notch on both rides, but the performances were somewhat inconsistent between the trips. Still, all in all a good time. Our June trip was def much better at the $700 per person fare+extras. Dec ran us closer to $2800 for the two of us and we def did not get that kind of value even forgetting the problems we had with the hotel management.
SUMMARY: If you can get a good deal from these folks, it is a nice trip for the family or a couple not looking to swing with a bunch of drunks. Entertainment is good and most of the staff was very attentive. The line management is another story. If you have any problems with the ship or anything else, you are on your own. The management staff seemed very arrogant and disinterested in passengers or ship problems. There seems to be a rather large detachment between them and the other staff including how they treat the passengers and general demeanor.
Letter we posted to the Line on Dec 30. December 30, 2002
Princess Cruise Lines Attn: Customer Relations
Re: The December 22 sailing of the Grand Princess
This letter is a formal complaint regarding the handling of problems that arose during the Dec 22 sailing of the Grand Princess. My wife and I were assigned to cabin E317 for this seven day trip over the Christmas holiday which proved to be one of the worst holidays I can remember. On Christmas day, a drain line broke in the hallway outside of our cabin releasing odors and chemicals that can not be described in this letter. Suffice to say that it was worse than the trash dumpster behind a bar. The resulting flood of waste water had filled the walls and soaked the carpeting to such a degree that it took several days to remove the water and dry the carpets. During this time, extremely strong odors and chemical smells filled the halls and entered the cabins and at no time did we see more than one or two people attempting to correct the problem. At the peek of the effort, there were several sections of walls cut away and equipment left throughout the hall with no workers present for hours at a time. Even the cabin stewards were avoiding our area.
Repeated requests to the hotel staff for assistance were greeted with the highest level of indifference and claims that the problems had been corrected when in fact little had been done. When I asked that a member of the senior staff come to our section and inspect the conditions, I was told that the accommodation manager would come to our cabin and a senior steward was sent in his place. A passenger calls and complains about waste and chemical leakage in a poorly ventilated, confined space and they felt that a cabin steward is the appropriate response? Or perhaps they already new of the problem and did not wish to have to come into that air and speak with us.
When we asked, we were told that other cabins were not available which I find difficult to believe and not until the last day of the cruise was another cabin offered which upon inspection had been vacated by someone that was likely ill before leaving the ship at the last island stop. Not wishing to risk exposure to the unknown, my wife and I remained in our original cabin for the last night. At this point, we had been living in the stench for several days and there was only one day left in the cruise.
Please understand that for several days, in an effort to dry the carpets, the carpets were partially raised and a fan placed on the floor. This only aggravated the situation by pushing the waste into the air for the passengers to breathe. I do not want to think about the waste we where forced to breathe especially in light of all of the recent problems with shipboard illnesses. For several days, my wife and I were so sickened by the smells, we refrained from eating most meals and tried to avoid our cabin. However, we had to sleep and bathe leaving us no choice but to sleep in the stench and risk whatever we might be breathing. On multiple occasions, the purser desk informed us that the carpet was being removed only to find that nobody was even working in the hallway on the problem. We were forced to keep the cabin steward from cleaning the room during those days as he is required to leave the door open while working and that only allowed the fan to blow more contaminated air into the cabin.
To think we paid over $2000 for the privilege of spending our holiday trapped in a broker sewer with a desk staff that was very clearly disinterested. I can only say that we have not intention to cruise with your company again and that none of our acquaintances will have any illusions of how our trip was handled. Upon my return, I spent time reading travel logs written by people like myself on a number of web sites and have come to understand that while the entertainment staff on your ships seems to have a good reputation, your hotel management personnel are frequently the target of some of the worst reviews I have read and often termed as arrogant and only interested in collecting payments with no regard to passenger welfare. This is my second cruise with your line and while noticing this callus attitude on the previous cruise, I did not fully appreciate how little interest they have in the passengers until confronted with it directly on this trip.
After going through this experience, I have little expectation that your company will feel even the smallest regret about this incident as the shipboard management staff obviously did not. I am writing this letter in hopes that someone will prove me wrong. It is currently my intent to post this letter to as many of the travel log sites as possible. In light of current health issues on these cruise ships, I feel the behavior and attitudes of your shipboard staff should be made known to the traveling public.