We drove up from Cornwall on the day before our cruise as the traffic in our area is particularly congested at weekends in July. Our overnight hotel in Southampton was the Highfield House; it was perfectly adequate for overnight & included a breakfast to start us off the following day.
The hotel was 20 minutes from the port & we arrived to have the porters take our luggage & park our car whilst we joined the small queue. After, 20 minutes we were on board the Grand Princess & we were very impressed. Despite some really awful reviews she was sparkling clean & in pretty good shape. We went straight to our stateroom & were very pleased with the size & amount of storage; I particularly liked the amount of drawer space. The hanging area was open but, we quite liked this & we had loads of hangers. Marlon, our room steward offered us more when he brought our robes & ice! He was brilliant & kept the room spotless in his "invisible" manner. The balcony was big!! Four chairs & a table & partly shaded due to the "overhang" above.
We left our hand luggage & set out to have lunch & explore our new home for the next 14 days. We had chosen "Anytime Dining" as we prefer to eat when we are ready & on our own. We spend precious little time together & enjoy dining with just the two of us on our holidays. Having said this, we met many lovely people during the cruise on adjacent tables or sharing tables at lunch in Horizon Court.We chose Da Vinci dining room most evenings & the food was first class. I have a few dietary problems but, had no problem finding food I could manage. The waiters were very helpful in helping me decide & were very attentive. We never had a problem getting a table for two & didn't have to wait. We ate breakfast, lunch & many "in-between" snacks in Horizon Court & found the choice to be excellent. The cakes & pastries were to die for & were always laid out beautifully. Although, there was often a shortage of tables we always managed to find a seat. At peak times we'd find the table first & then collect the food alternately.
We loved walking around the decks & were always able to find quiet areas to sit away from the crowds. We enjoyed the Aft Pool & the views over the wake were stunning.
Most evenings we attended the shows in the Princess Theatre & found most of them to be professional & enjoyable. We particularly enjoyed Berni Flint & Paul Fredericks who sang songs from "our era"!!! The comedians were a bit "weak" & we disliked the singer/pianist Paul Burton who hammered the keyboard & "shouted"! We went to the talks on the ports & found them very interesting. Also, a talk by John Martin on "Operation Anthropoid" which was fascinating; John certainly put a lot of work into his research. The Dept Cruise Director also gave an interesting talk on "The day I cried live on air" an occasion we both remembered!
Our first port was Malaga & the day was extremely hot (it was to get hotter in Rome & Naples!!). We wandered around the pretty streets & parks. Then sat & watched the green parrots building their nests before catching the shuttle-bus back to the ship.
The other ports were lovely with the exception of Barcelona which we found overcrowded & overrun with pickpockets. Despite being careful (I had a Pacsafe bag) my handbag was opened although there was nothing for them to take! I however, felt vulnerable & unsafe & was glad to get back to the ship. The only ships excursions we took were in Rome & Naples (see Port Reviews) as we were a little apprehensive about missing the ship if we ventured too far on our own!!
Our favourite ports were the opulent Monte Carlo, Beautiful Sorrento, gorgeous Ajaccio (Corsica) & "home from home" Gibraltar!
We didn't take part in many activities but there was plenty going on; we enjoyed sitting on our balcony in lovely hot weather spotting turtles, dolphins & whales swimming by....perfect bliss!
The "Great British Sailaway" from Gibraltar was fantastic, the crowds lined the decks waving Union Jacks, Welsh flags, St Andrews flags & St Georges flags and sang along to songs from GB. A lovely atmosphere & very moving!
All too soon the cruise came to an end. We packed our cases & prepared for disembarkation the following day. This was a well organised process & we sat in the theatre until our time was called & we left the ship quickly & found our luggage with no problems before collecting our car & driving home to a chilly & wet Cornwall!!
Would we sail with Princess again? Most definitely YES as long as we can do Anytime Dining. On Grand Princess; absolutely YES, looking forward to seeing her after the upcoming refit. We are definitely "hooked" on cruising & are looking at next year already.