I had cruised as teenager but this was our second cruise as a family. We arrived in Fort Lauderdale the day before our Monday departure. Although a major winter storm was gripping much of the US, we still managed to make our flight. We stayed at the Embassy Suites on 17th Avenue. Standard Embassy Suites but with a lovely garden pool (too cold for us to enjoy it) and a convenient location near the port with Ross discount store, supermarket, drug store and liquor store for last minute items. The sun bus trolley stopped right in front for a quick, cheap tour of FLL.
We arrived at the dock at noon on departure day. The line moved quickly when the doors opened but then stalled as MANY senior and disabled passengers went in front. Others told us that they arrived at 2 pm with no waiting - will remember this next time. There was a MAJOR rugby scrum at the Lido deck buffet for lunch. Next time, we will eat lunch and relax in FLL rather than brave the long check in and lunch lines on the ship. Our cabin was an inside on Dolphin deck, right in the middle of the ship. We were afraid that the cabin might be claustrophobic for 4 of us (2 adults + 11 and 12 year old) for 2 weeks but that was not the case. However, if we were people who spent lots of time trying to get dressed up, the small space could have been a problem. Our main problem was the COMPLETE darkness of the cabin. We brought a night light but should have brought a "glow in the dark" alarm clock just so that we would have a sense of time when we woke up.
On the first day we began our usual routine. Espresso coffee in the Atrium coffee bar(make sure that you get a discount coffee card)and a workout in the gym. The gym did not measure up to our previous experience on Royal Caribbean - broken machines, non-functioning TVs, poor ventilation.
We were not that happy with the kids club. On the first day, our kids checked in to the kids club but it was OBVIOUS that they were overwhelmed by the huge number of kids on the cruise (over 200 under 13). The tween group was stationed in a conference room at the back of the ship and the activities were limited. However, they did do a cooking class and a bridge tour that the kids liked. Kids age 13 - 17 were allowed to roam unsupervised until their club started at 10 pm - NOT GOOD. Princess should definitely consider regrouping their kids groups - 13 and 14 year olds should not be with older kids.
Food on the whole was very good on Grand Princess, especially the fish in the buffet. We did dine in the specialty Tuscan restaurant one night which was good. There were 4 formal nights on the 14 day cruise which my husband did not like. On the whole, the Grand Princess was a pretty formal ship with many older passengers. Entertainment was DEFINITELY geared to an older crowd and not particularly good (ventriloquist, jokes about Viagra, etc.)
We stopped in 9 ports on our cruise but many were closed due to the holidays. On St. Thomas on Christmas Day, only the beaches and jewelry stores were open. On St. Kitts on Boxing Day, not even the jewelry stores were open. The highlights were: Grand Turk (nice complex and beach right near the dock), St. Thomas (Magen's Bay), Barbados (floating play structure at the Boatyard), Curacao (lovely town, beaches and Aquarium - get there by 11 am for the dolphin show), and Aruba (pirate snorkel boat with rope swing and fun bus driver).
In a nutshell, the good things about the cruise on Grand Princess were: Movies under the Stars, buffet food, discount coffee card, amazing New Year's party, Skywalker lounge (great quiet place to read with a good view during the day).
The cons of our cruise on Grand Princess were: too formal with most programming geared toward much older guests, inadequate gym, not the best ports, limited kids club activities with bad age groupings and inadequate supervision of 13+ kids, internet service was OUTRAGEOUSLY priced.