We have lots of negative comments about the Grand Princess and our experience on board but we did enjoy the itinerary. Basically the ship was not ready to be taken out of dry dock and more renovation should have been focused on the passenger cabins and infrastructure.
We began our cruise in Ft. Lauderdale waiting to board the Grand Princess on our 1st Transatlantic crossing. The ship just underwent a renovation and we were requested to delay arriving at the pier until 2pm. Even with that the port was packed with customers awaiting to board. There was not enough staff or information at the pier to advise customers as to what was going on, when they would be able to board, etc. Basically, there seemed to be a lack of supervision over the pre boarding delay and a lack of information.
This theme continued on board in most areas of the ship, disembarkation for shore excursions, customer service desk, etc.
The renovation apparently focused on the common areas and neglected the passenger cabins and infrastructure from what we could tell. We did not experience, but were told by passengers, stories of toilets not functioning, no hot water for days, water leaks in the cabins, cabins full of trash and dirty upon boarding, no heat or all heat that could not be adjusted and constant noises in some cabins coming from an unknown source.
We did see leaks in the hallways being captured by buckets and soaked carpets being dryed by floor dryers. We also smelled sewer at various points within the ship. Out cabin balcony was dirty and a bit grimy with remnants of construction debris and paint chips. Windows in the ships Horizon dining room were very dirty as well and naturally got worse as time went on.
The new library/tea area was very small. The library was only open for certain hours in the day and used a manual method for checking out and returning books. Due to the size of the area, people looking at books basically had their rear ends in the faces of the customers in the tea room.
Public seating lacked in the new Piazza area. This area was very nice and the staff and supervisor in the area (Francis Tornero) were one of our highlights on the ship. They worked hard getting use to the work flow in the new area and they were always pleasant to us as well.
The Internet was extremely slow or not usable at all many times. Although I understand that satellite Internet is slow, customers spent a lot of the minutes just trying to navigate from page to page. Customers should be provided additional minutes under these circumstances.
The food was very average in the dining room and Horizon Court. We found that the Horizon Court had a weird mixture of dishes and the buffet lines were laid out in way that did not flow well. We thought the coffee in this area was just plain bad. The only time it tasted good was very early in the morning.
Food in the Crown Grill was below average. We had a steak and lobster tail. The steak was average and the lobster tail was minuscule (two bites). Waiters in this specialty restaurant had too many tables and it appeared that the work flow had not been finalized and this lead to long delays serving food. It took us about an hour and a half to get our food and we didn't even have an appetizer or salad. We were disappointed with this meal and service.
Disembarking for shore excursions were another instance of lack of communication and organization. There did not seem to be enough staff directing customers who were queued in lines for their appropriate on board departure location so most information was provided second had from passengers within the line. Sometimes pertinent information about shore excursion requirements, like taking your passport with you, were left out of on board correspondence.
The information/customer service area was understaffed most of the time and the personnel manning this area did not seem to have the knowledge or the authority to effectively help passengers. Also, printers were down the night before final disembarkation when we attempted to get a copy of our bill for review.
The casino was small which seemed to lend to the smokey atmosphere in that area.
The entertainment was fair. We did like the idea of afternoon movies on the crossing.
We did not have any spa treatments but we did use the exercise equipment and this area was very crowded at times. The equipment was fine and the area was laid out well.
Public area seating seemed to lack a little. There were times when you just could not find a place to sit but this my be indicative of a Transatlantic crossing since most people are just hanging out and relaxing.
We attempted to call Princess two times after returning to discuss some of the issues that we saw on this cruise and they put us through to a 4 question customer service survey each time. It appeared that they did not want us to talk directly to a person about our experience!?
This was our first Princess cruise and we would not take another based on experience with the Grand Princess. First impressions go a L O N G way!