Needs Work...Crew that is, not ship!
Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades)
The Grand Princess is more than an OK ship. It's not really that grand, but despite what others have said, it is in good repair (we saw none of the worn carpets and other things folks here seem to have written about) but the crew and the ship line need some help fast and badly. The worst part was they were ill-prepared for six sea days between Bermuda and Greenock (Glasgow) and left passengers napping or twiddling their thumbs. The cruise staff was purely awful. Most didn't REALLY seem to care about the passengers, the cruise director was like one out of the 60s with "we know you will want to go to..." this or that in his too-frequent announcements, and the daily ship's agenda has an idiotic name (Princess Patter) and even less information than the name implies. It tells little or nothing about activities aboard-problem is there really aren't many or any that most would participate in. We got so desperate we did origami and took a lot of naps.
The biggest More
reason was the ship did roll a BIT. We have been on other lines a total of 12+ times, so we'd know rough if we felt it. This was NOT rough. But the staff immediately closed all swimming pools, most decks and essentially assigned all of us "to quarters". Problem is the Princess folks don't print any daily news sheets, and the TV had no outside broadcasts for days - only rolling notices saying they couldn't get any. No pool, no major walking on the promenade deck (which was closed partly after dark, anyway) and no news or TV and you begin to see why we often felt we were on a prison ship and not a luxury cruise!
Events like the daily afternoon tea were a shambles. Never mind the white gloves of Cunard were gone, but the dining staff didn't anticipate 200-300 of the 1600 of us (not but 1/2 to 2/3 full, depending who you believed) would show up. Of course, when you have no pool, no TV and nothing else, why not? They wanted to serve the sweets first, used Lipton tea and looked astonished when we asked for real Twinings or English Breakfast or Earl Grey. In short, they apologized a lot, but were clueless as the cruise staff was.
Were there good parts? Yes for sure. The waiters we had were excellent and got an extra tip for their efforts, and the staff at the Purser's Desk tied their best to please. Meanwhile, the room steward (Edwin) should have been chucked overboard as he never did get the hang of our use of late seatings, showering before dinner and always calling my partner Mark when he asked to be called by his usual name of Ivan. Mark is his legal first name but it's only on passports and tickets, not ever used. You'd think in 15 days Edwin could have gotten it right after repeated askings. The odd thing was he was OVERLY friendly, but never cleaned, dusted or did his JOB. In short, he needs to be fired, though the purser's staff looked at me oddly when I suggested that. I wasn't joking.
The other problem - this was our first time on Princess - was that they were on a 15-day sales pitch. Next time (there won't be one on Princess, but if there was) I'm getting a T-shirt that says "NO" on the front and on the back "Pictures...sales pitches...soft drink cards or fresh pepper on anything I am eating unless I ask you for it!" The trip was sales pitch after pitch. The first day after the 3rd person looked shocked I did NOT want their Coke promo glass for "only" whatever price I told the 4th and 5th "look go away...scram. I have told 3 people NO THANK YOU already!" They never did get any of the hints nor the direct approach....sigh. I'd have paid dearly for some CNN or a ship's daily bulletin, but none of those were offered much of the trip!
The quality of the food was good to excellent, the portions were ginormous (that means huge) and the staff there wonderful.
What to say about our fellow passengers? Mainly RUDE RUDE RUDE Americans, a handful of Brits and one or two Germans. It was like being in a Florida retirement village with all worn out New Yorkers. Again, very close to the hell we imagine being sent off to Australia was like for the British when it was a prison colony. If we were shoved and treated rudely by one passenger, we were treated that way by 51. It's little wonder we generally go with Cunard, which have a more international passenger list and polite folks. They definitely were NOT on this cruise anywhere at all. Even our table mates (newlyweds who married on the ship) came three nights and informed us "We won't be back...it's too much trouble to dress up and be here on schedule. We are going to eat in the Lido (Horizon Court)..." and they were never seen again, leaving the two of us and a friend we were travelling with alone at a table for six. So much for new friends, huh?
Finally, a word about Fort Lauderdale as an embarkation port: don't. I have now done it several times and find their staff (all retired over 65s) rude, nasty and downright control freaks. One yelled at some poor man waiting to board because his cell phone rang and threatened to not let him on the ship! We are talking extreme here! There was also a LONG delay to board, and we sat in what looked to be a former warehouse with airplane terminal benches. What a way to begin what was billed as a luxury cruise.
Finally, the rules...NO swimming "for your safety" when it wasn't totally smooth...had to sign a release to get a rare burger for lunch "for your safety", etc etc. Totally BS and worse.
Look elsewhere for our review of Queen Mary 2, which we took back home several weeks after Grand Princess brought us to England and you will see how it should be done. This line and this ship don't have a clue, which is why we won't be back.
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Port and Shore Excursions
Nice city and a lot to buy, see and do. We did lunch at Bewley's, the traditional tea room and loved it (come hungry and with leg muscles-the lift is slow and steps can b long, but it's worth it!) They had some wonderful street musicians and more here, too. We even bought a CD from one group which plays the street as a promo-and last year did Carnegie Hall! By the way, the ship line charged $5 each way to get from the dock to town on their bus. Better than Glasgow, but a rip when it's impossible to walk thru the very busy and big port area. They need to INCLUDE these type short transfers in the price. They did the same thing in LeHavre.
Great port, lovely city, but sadly buses were out on strike. The good part was that meant we took the 20-minute water taxi ride in from West End (old Naval Dockyard) to town and loved the views and the harbor. Skip the bus and take it even if the buses are running. The prices were a bit steep, but face it - Bermuda is a long way from anywhere. The architecture and the people and the ambiance made for a wonderful day...we'd have liked 2 or 3 more and plan to return!
We didn't leave the LeHavre area as the Paris trip was 12+ hours, $100+ and one of the buses got caught in traffic, so they held the ship and made it even longer for the pool souls who did go. Politely put, we never want to return here. The city is OK, but the residents are VERY rude if you cannot speak French, and the town closes totally (So totally that you don't even have to feed the parking meters) from noon until 2.30 for lunch and nap time! No wonder the French are always at the bottom of productivity as basically nobody really works - at least nobody WE saw. We went back to the ship for our lunch as we got stared at as foreigners at two places we tried and never were waited on despite them being in the tourist quarter a block from where the ship's $5 bus left us off. So much for the local cuisine.