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 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.