Due to an injury I got after a shore excursion (more on that later), this review is more limited than I had planned.
We flew into San Francisco the night prior to our cruise and stayed at the Best Western Plus Tuscan. The rooms were very clean and that staff extremely helpful. Room was a little smaller than originally thought, but was very comfortable. The onsite restaurant had some of the best food I have ever had in a great, Italian theme. We ate dinner the night we arrived and breakfast the next morning. Both meals were outstanding!
Although the motel was just a few blocks from Pier 39, we arrived too late to make the walk there.
The morning of our cruise we called a taxi and it was there immediately. Short drive to Pier 35 and porters were available to take our luggage immediately. We arrived at the pier at 11:30.
Embarkation was one of the smoothest I’ve ever seen. Outside we were directed to the boarding area, filled out our "Have you had a sniffle today” cards, went through security and were on board by 11:45. Since we had pre-ordered some adult beverages and snacks, they were in our room when we arrived. We got to munch all afternoon on shrimp, cheese and guacamole and chips (all very good).
We had B750 Owners Suite and the balcony was about 9 x 20 with two loungers and a table, and a dining table with four chairs. Could have had a large sized party there! Room was slightly smaller than we had thought, but still plenty of room for the two of us. NOTE ABOUT THE BEDS: All beds on the Grand have been replaced with new pillow tops and were very comfortable. We had also thought the room would be a little prettier than it was.
The ship left the pier at the scheduled time and 40 minutes later under the Golden Gate Bridge.
As it would turn out, our room steward was very, very good and he anticipated our every need.
Since the prior travel day had been a long one and with all the hustle and bustle (and excitement), and being full of snacks, we stayed in our room for the evening to catch up on much needed rest. The next day our fun would start….
We awoke the next morning and ordered breakfast in the stateroom. Since we were in a suite, we had a little better menu, but it would prove to be boring after a few days usually eggs prepared different ways, bacon, sausage, pancakes, fruit, or oatmeal. The international café had a larger selection, and the food was acceptable, so we switched back and forth between stateroom and the dining room menu in our suite.
After breakfast we ventured forth to see what was going on. Sammi, our cruise director was GREAT (and what a character). We watched the Wake Show each morning to start our day off with a laugh. The shops were the usual cruise ship shops, and, other than Facets (the jewelry store), and some great buys on tee shirts, we did not spend much at the shops. My wife and I each bought watches at Facets. The only hang up here was that I was quoted a price for mine and got a phone call later that the band was not included. Since the watches were expensive, I asked that the band be included. At first, they offered only a 10% discount. Upon declining their offer, they said they would call corporate HQ and see what could be done. A couple of days later, the offer came back from corporate and the band was included in the original price. Great service from Princess!!!
Sea days were spent mostly on the Piazza where there was always good entertainment, the casino, eating and eating more (I guess we felt they might run out of food somewhere along the way).
We ate three dinners in Sabbattini’s and the food and service were the best of any specialty restaurant on board. We ate once at the Crown Grill, and, although the filet and lobster were good, the food was not quite up to par with Sabbattini’s. The Crab Shack was open several nights on the ship and was very popular. We ate there one night and vowed not to go back. Those that ate there all seemed to like it, and, since preference in food is a subjective thing, maybe it was just us. We ordered King Crab legs and got crab legs about the size around as an index finger. Everything was also heavily dosed in Old Bay seasoning, which, while we like Old Bay, there was too much for our taste. We asked about the crab legs and the host said they were Kings. Being from the northwest, King crab legs to us are about the size around as a golf ball and very long. Service in the Crab Shack was very good and you can throw your shells on the paper they spread on the table.
Lunches in the Horizon Court were good and varied some of the food was excellent. Service was also excellent.
Since we had done the main dining room on numerous cruises, we took advantage of eating dinner from the MDR menu in our suite. All of the food was very good and the lobster was outstanding, sweet and cooked perfectly.
Casino staff was very attentive, and we never lacked for a beverage (even had some comped). Bar service, in other areas of the ship, when available, was also very good. We found out that the bar staff is moved to the busiest areas of the ship both day and night, and in some of the quieter areas, it was even hard to get a cup of coffee, water, or another sort of beverage.
Activities on board were numerous and varied and there was "something for everyone” going on continuously those with kids on board (not many) noted that their kids loved the childrens area and activities and could hardly wait to go back the next day.
Finally our first port and Lahaina, Maui. We had booked a shore excursion to the Maui Aquarium. After waiting in the Princess Theatre for 40 minutes after the scheduled departure, we were on a tender and headed ashore. Upon arriving at shore, our tour group got in the prescribed line, but, no tour busses. After 1 ½ hours standing in the heat on concrete, many of us simply returned to the ship due to other activities planned and since the tour was so late to begin had other obligations to be met. Kind of a bummer for paying for something you never receive and having your time disrespected. All who returned to ship are still working with Princess for a refund.
Honolulu the next day and another excursion to the Napali Coast. This was a very good excursion with several picture stops although very short stops. The Napali Lookout area is in a dense rainforest (yes, we got wet), with high winds but the view is spectacular. Well worth the cost.
After the tour, we were dropped off by the bus at the cruise terminal. That was when the "fun” started. As I got off the bus, I was waving to some people we had met onboard, and, in my own clumsy way, tripped over a curb and fell. My hand caught the majority of the fall, but my hip also clobbered the pavement. The medical center on board took x-rays and could find no fractures, but sent me to a hospital for a CAT scan. Also negative. Back to the ship just prior to sailing, complete with pain killers and a walker. Princess also let me use a wheel chair when needrd at no charge. Although this created a much lowered activity level for me, I was still able to navigate around the ship, and with my great wife’s help, we were able to carry on. It did end our shore excursion activities for the rest of the cruise. Medical staff on board were great to deal with. They were also busy with multiple heart attack victims, multiple broken bones, and one reported death on board.
The ship condition was good. Rust control is taking place on railings and balconies are being deep cleaned. Out balcony was chipped free of rust on the balcony itself, primer painted over the affected areas, and the decking deep cleaned. New carpet was laid on the floors surrounding the aft pool areas, and hallways were being re-carpeted during the entire cruise. Princess is making an effort to keep the ship in good shape. After having owned a 70 foot yacht in Puget Sound, rust is always a problem and is very hard to keep up with. Princess appears to making strident efforts to take care of affected areas.
Smoking has changed somewhat. Snookers Bar forward, aft on deck 15 (just outside of the One Five, port side) and starboard on deck 7 are the designated smoking areas. Most comfortable is deck 15 with couches, tables, partially enclosed, ceiling fans and was always busy. Smoking still allowed in the Casino on the starboard side and in the casino prior to 6 PM on formal nights.
There were some rumors on board that the Grand would become a completely non-smoking ship after dry dock. I think those rumors were quashed while still onboard. According to the crew, the ship will be dry docked in Victoria, not Vancouver. Still seems to be a little confusion over where she will be.
Our ending impressions are that 15 days was too long mostly because the food all started to taste the same. Some on board wished that an overnight could be done in Honolulu since there is so much to do. Ensenada got mixed reviews and many stayed onboard. Since the ship is not US flagged, it is by law that it has to stop in a foreign port before re-entering the US.
Disembarkation was a nightmare until we got to the pier where a Princess Representative helped us find our baggage and transportation. We could not use the suite/elite area because of my temporary wheelchair status. Instead, we had to wait at the International café area for our color to be called. It was so crowded, there was barely room to walk. Seems everyone shows up at once not matter what time their assigned times are.
One final note: Since I was temporarily in a wheel chair, I saw what many passengers with disabilities see. A few of our fellow travelers went out of their way to accommodate us, hold doors open and get us on elevators. The majority were rude, cut in front of us to get on the elevators and when "wheeling around on the decks.” There was space on one elevator that stopped on our floor during disembarkation which had room for me. One of the other cruises asked a lady in the front park of the elevator if she could hold the door open for us and she replied with "NO! NO WAY!”. The Princess staff was exceptionally great to us during this time and should be commended. They helped my wife wheel me down hallways, over thresholds, and even through the Horizon Court (one wheeling me and another filling my plate for me).