Grand Princess Cruise Review by snafyensid: Hawaiian Holiday
Overall Member Rating
Embarkation: San Francisco
This was our first visit to the Hawaiian Islands and our longest cruise we have taken. There was very little we did not enjoy and were overall pleased with our cruise. This cruise was during Christmas and New Years holidays.
We flew to San Francisco a day early in order to avoid weather related issues. It was good thing because one hour after we left, they closed the airport and the next day was miserable for all travelers. We stayed at the Tuscan Inn near the port. It was a very nice hotel and convenient to most tourist attractions. We visited Alcatraz and found it to be one of the most interesting museums we have ever been in. The island is very accessible, having a cart that will take you up and down the steep pathway. The rest of the tour is pretty accessible with only a couple of places that are not. It was nice to see the ship as we traveled back and forth to the island. We also visited the Walt Disney Family Museum in the Presidio. It is an interesting museum, focusing More on his life and accomplishments. The worst part of the museum is getting there and getting back. Cab service is very spotty and even if you do call a cab, other guests may take it and the cab companies offer little help.
Embarkation was pretty smooth. We waled the 5-6 blocks from the hotel, a flat, easily accessible route. There was a long line but it only took about 30 minutes to get helped. After that it was pretty quick to get on board and to our room. Since we had eaten lunch prior to boarding we didn't feel the need to join the crowds in the buffet (a smart move since the food will get old pretty fast). We noticed that the hallways were a little wider on the Grand than other Princess ships so that a wheelchair could get down the hallway with carts in it. Unfortunately, there was no way to make it down the hallways on the last night, with all the suitcases in the hallway and the such.
We left San Francisco late, well after midnight. We heard from other guests that were disappointed they didn't get to see the ship go under the Golden Gate Bridge, one of the reasons they chose the departure from San Francisco over Los Angeles. The Captain did very little to keep us informed and took very little responsibility for the delay.
Food was generally good though it would have been nice to be warned about the day they decided to display a cooked pig in the buffet, complete with eyes. Needless to say, we lost our appetite that day. We ate most of our breakfasts in the buffet, where the crew were very helpful in carrying trays and finding us a table that would accommodate the wheelchair. We were not impressed with breakfast in the dining room as the servers were rather rude when I only wanted a small breakfast.
Nearly all of our dinners were in the dining room on the traditional dining plan. This was our biggest grief aboard the ship, combination of the design of the ship and the need of able-bodied to refuse to walk down stairs. The Botticelli Dining Room is located on the 6th floor and is only accessible via the aft stairs or elevators. To make matters worse, there are only two elevators that serve the sixth floor. Many people who are able to walk up and down stairs chose the elevators instead, resulting in some long waits for us to get to dinner. We learned to give ourselves at least 15 minutes to wait for an elevator and that going up to the 14th floor and then catching one of the two elevators to the 6th floor was sometimes the best way to get there. Unfortunately, we did not have any other options on the way up. Patience was the name of the menu for dinner. Once we did arrive, the food was very good and beautifully presented.
We were pleased that there lots of lectures and things to do during the day, especially "at sea" days. Lectures about the island history, geography and animal life were all very interesting. Movies under the stars had pretty good movies, though not overly attended.
Disembarkation was mostly smooth. There is always a lot of grumbling about the process, especially from people who think they know better and think they should be catered to. Princess asks people to be out of their cabins by 8 am but with the last group leaving at 10 am, it will leave lots of room for grumblers. Princess provided an accessible van for our airport transfer which was very much appreciated. Less
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Cabin review: B302
Our cabin was clean and comfortable. Our room steward, Hector, was very helpful and made sure we had ice each day and was around if we needed him but didn't bother us otherwise.When we arrived we noticed our air conditioner did not work properly so we asked ship maintenance to fix it. Well they did and just about cooked us. It took four different requests for them to come back and fix it so that we could actually have air conditioning and adjust it.
Port and Shore Excursions
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
We had a great tour guide who was very knowledgeable about the island and the route along the way. We stopped at the Mauna Loa factory (a big disappointment-mostly a store and not very wheelchair accessible) and then the Dole plantation (again a disappointment as it is pretty much a store with Dole merchandise, no exhibits or cultural information at all but completely accessible). The view from the visitors center was excellent even though it rained off an on throughout the day.
Polynesian Cultural Center
Garfield, our tour guide, was an excellent host and driver. The drive along the north beach was especially beautiful. It was a little disappointing not to stop at the LDS Temple to take pictures as the tour description indicated. The Polynesian Cultural Center was beautiful. We saw a few shows and they were wonderful. The staff were very helpful. PCC was very wheelchair accessible.
We arrived back to the dock with plenty of time before the ship left so we walked around the Aloha center (pretty much empty).
A pretty disappointing tour. The canyon is pretty overrated, not much to see, even after pushing the wheelchair up[ the long, steep pathway. The stops along the way included an overlook in the middle of the coffee fields, a souvenir shop, and a res stop along the beach.
After returning to the ship we had plenty of time to take the free shuttle to hilo Hatties to purchase some Hawaiian clothing. We noticed a number of shipmates also taking other free shuttles that Walmart and k-Mart provided, along with the local bus system. There is very little to see or do at the dock.
This was the port we were mostly concerned about since it was tendered. The policy of Princess is that if the weather is too rough, Princess will not tender wheelchair guests, so we were reluctant to reserve an excursion that might be cancelled with no resource or refund. The night before we read the tender would not allow wheelchair on board but the next morning they did allow collapsible wheelchairs on. The tender crew were very awkward in where they seated us, requiring a disabled passenger to stand in order for them to affix the boarding ramp as we got to the dock in the city. The trip on the way back was uneventful.
Lahaina is a charming city with plenty of shops and restaurants. We were able to find a nice whale watching excursion which was priced much less than Princess was offering. Not only were their whales, dolphins and flying fish observed, but the while boat was wheelchair accessible. Kudos to the Pacific Whale Foundation for a memorable trip! This is a company we will definitely do business with again if given the opportunity.
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