It was with some interpretation having read various passengers reports on the internet since the refurbishment to the Grand Princess that my wife and I boarded at Southampton. However comments I now make are mixed but I hope they are informative.
Being a person with walking disabilities I did take the opportunity of wheel chair assistance through the boarding procedures. The wheelchair operative was confident, competent and most attentive thus making this initial part of the cruise a pleasure.
State Room with Balcony
Our balcony stateroom was on the eleventh deck and near a lift which was ideal with surprisingly no noise coming from passengers passing by. The state room was acceptable but did need a deep clean to the windows, balcony and carpet. The balcony chairs were covered with white paint which obviously was the aftermath of dry dock refurbishment.
Our deck towels, water in the fridge and bath robes were missing but were supplied upon request. The electric plugs were not of the type that we had used on american ships previously. I did approach the purser's office that had had a supply of adaptors but none were left and the ships shop did not stock this type albeit they did have the american style round two pin type! A solution however was found when we moved one of the single beds and we discovered an american round two pin plug which serviced the bedside lamps. A most disturbing matter was that the vertical jams of the balcony sliding doors where their bases had rotted away and needed repair.
Albeit the company's terms and conditions state that $11.50 per day per person was to be added to the account, unlike many UK passengers who requested deletion of this charge we appreciated that many crew working behind the scenes cannot be tipped personally so we chose to pay $75 each and then tipped those crew such as the stateroom steward and a few others who went the extra mile.
The food was excellent being well prepared, presented with numerous choices. The Horizon Court offered a really good choice of menu at all times and we only used one other eating venue that being Da Vinci Restraunt, but do not order the English Steak and Kidney Pie as it was anything but!!!
On mornings because there is no tea/coffee in the staterooms we took a light breakfast in our stateroom then if we required it went to the Horizon Court at about 10.30 am for a bacon sandwich.
This is a very important issue on any ship and in this regard the Grand Princess failed miseribly.There were very few hand sanitation points and what there was were not enforced by any member of staff. Other cruises we have taken we have not been able to move for hand sanitation points with these even being positioned in lifts, lift exits and numerous other areas. Further the ships staff reinforced the ships policy by being in attendance at all eating areas with hand held sanitation appliances. I have even witnessed on one ship a passenger being chastised for ignoring the sanitation point.
Without exception the staff were attentive but not patronising, in this regard the Grand Princes deserved full marks.
Stuart Mac (Cruise Director) and Matt his assistant were brilliant especially when doing their early morning TV show; unfortunately the good news stops here because in my view along with those of numerous other passengers communications needed much to be improved.
The cruise newsletter entitled Princess Patter did list the day's events but there was little about ports of call disembarkation details should as which decks to be used, how to get to the cities, transport from and to the docks etc.When we took this matter up we were told that we should listen to announcements on the ships tannoy.This we found was not ship-wide, was in the corridors that could not be heard in staterooms. Some information was given on the ships TV Channel but who I ask as this on all the time.
Entrainment is not our forte but the occasional show attended was good with Bernie Flint a comedian who won Opportunity Knocks a record twelve times being exceedingly good. The ships song and dance staff were also excellent.
Ports of Call
Every one of these was worth the visit (we only took one excursion and that was in Corfu) but disembarking and embarking was difficult even for non- disabled passengers because the ramps were to steep, even Sir Edmund Hillary would have struggled. Again communications as to where passengers should alight were not well communicated.
Amongst other activities was a talk upon each port given by Ken Broadhurst who was very good indeed giving relevant facts and advice. Other Employees responsible for communications could learn from him
Personally as a person with walking difficulties my main complaint is that the ships embarkation/disembarkation ramps were far far too steep. Many other passengers, even those non-disabled agreed this also. In fact it's a simple matter to have more gradual inclines as the MSC AROMA illustrated as she came along side in Corfu. That ship had a special extending ramp which serviced two purposes, one the crew could unload their shore side equipment and two it was great for disabled passengers to alight and board. In fact on the Grand Princess there were even other arrangements that could have improved the well-being of disabled passengers i.e. inward opening disabled toilet doors.
On the matter of discrimination the last captain's cocktail party was for those in formal wear only. We found this very offensive feeling like second class passengers paying the same price for the cruise. My wife and I dress smartly but now that we have retired we wish to relax not dress up!!!!
All in the entire cruise was value for money but I wished that upon refurbishment a little more had been made to detail not just structure of the ship.
(Retired National Disability Officer)