This was our 2nd cruise and 2nd with Princess. We cruised in Alaska in July 2009 on the Star Princess and loved every minute. This time we booked a longer cruise (14 Days) on a sister ship. To be frank, I expected the worst having read all the reviews posted here. I seriously considered changing to another ship, but the itinerary was what we wanted and we decided to go for it.
As it turned out, most of our fears were unfounded. Our mini suite was identical to the one we had on the Star and apparently smoke free. The furnishings were older but not worn or soiled. There were some broken tiles in the bathroom, but that was the worst of it. Our cabin steward Manuel was wonderful and could not do enough for us. It was the same in the dining room. Our waitress Aliena and her helper Manuel (another one) were first rate and even gave us extra desserts each evening.
The food was very good--perhaps too good as we gained weight despite having only breakfast and dinner. We chose to eat at 8:30 and this worked out very well as we had plenty of time after exploring the ports of call to get ready, etc.
Entertainment was very nice---three production shows that were well done. A couple of the solo acts were just OK, but that kind of thing is a matter of taste.
It was a decidedly older crowd than we encountered on our Alaskan cruise. Since we sailed round-trip form Southampton, it was an easy trip for folks from UK--and there were many. There were about 100 Americans on board and the rest were from the UK.
Embarkation and disembarkation were a breeze. Since we were flying from the US I booked a flight that arrived in London at 6:30 a.m. and this meant we arrived at the terminal shortly after 8:00 a.m. A long wait until boarding began at approximately 11:00. We anticipated this but did not anticipate that the terminal facilities would not have restrooms or a coffee vending machine. Next time we will arrive closer to departure. Getting off the ship was amazingly easy. Porters were available and our luggage was right where it was supposed to be and the coach to Heathrow was comfortable and on time.
Negatives were few. The elevators were slow and often hard to get. This was not true on the Star so I do not know why. Another difference we noticed--both ships were booked to capacity, but in Alaska it never seemed crowded. On the Grand there were always people around and it was hard to find a table in the Horizon Court for breakfast. I think they could do a better job of crowd control on the Grand. Also, we agree with the earlier complaints about people hogging the lounges all day long by leaving towels on them. Not much in the way of enforcement there either. I heard lots of complaints about the "kids" taking over the pools. There weren't that many on board so I can only imagine how bad it was this summer. Princess would do well to consider having a couple of hours a day for adult only swimming and hot tub use.
The Grand is going in dry dock in April and I think it will be more like the Star after that. I did miss the coffee bar this time around.
All in all, it was a great trip.