We chose the Grand for 2 reasons....firstly, it sailed from Southampton meaning we could take as much luggage as we wanted, and secondly, because it was recommended to us by family members. After reading all the reviews I was worried that the cruise wouldn't live up to expectations. I had nothing to worry about, it exceeded my expectations in every way possible!
Princess has a reputation for appealing to 'older' passengers but this was not the case on this cruise, there were a mix of ages on board, including 400 children who behaved extremely well as far as I could see. There was also a good mix of singles, solos, BGLT, family and group travellers on board. We made loads of new friends on board ranging in age from 8-80 years!
We arrived at Southampton around 2.45pm and were on board by 3.15pm without any hassle. Our stateroom was fine, flat screen TV, fridge, reasonable storage space, nice power shower and good size balcony. Sure, it's not 5* luxury but we didn't plan to spend too much time in our cabin and always managed a good night's sleep with no problems on the air con or mattress front.
The first night we ate at Horizon Court and then headed to Explorers lounge for a fun evening of entertainment and dancing, followed by a trip to the newly added One5 which was quiet but nicely decorated and very friendly.
During sea days, we filled our time at the casino, playing Bingo, sunbathing and having coffee in the Piazza. Zumba with Paul was a real bonus and kept the pounds from creeping on too quickly! There was always plenty going on - trivia, competitions, music, group meets etc and we never quite managed to do everything we set out to do. The coffee card is definitely a bargain and we enjoyed many a cappuccino, hot chocolate and tea in the International Cafe (even at 4am).
We chose to eat in the Horizon Court most evenings as the choice of food there is outstanding and we liked the more informal style. On the nights we ate in the main dining room the food and service was excellent - there aren't many tables for 2 in Anytime Dining so be prepared to share tables. We were lucky with our table mates but I know this wasn't the case for everyone.
The entertainment on this cruise was a mixture of shows, games, karaoke, music and dancing and everyone we met commented on how great the Entertainment Team was. The shows were hit and miss, we enjoyed the Elton John tribute and So You Wanna Dance show but by far the best was the International Crew show on the last night - very funny and highlighted a range of talent across the crew.
Most nights we spent in Explorers lounge where we enjoyed the music from Atomic and trivia games with Paul, Angela and the crew, followed by a trip up to the One5 for great tunes from DJ Eddy. The sailway party from Gibraltar was great fun, and the Deck Party following sailaway from Malaga was amazing.
The ports were again hit and miss for us, we enjoyed Rome and Barcelona, buying Hop on Hop off passes in both meant we could see the whole city in a relatively short space of time. Monaco was OK but not too much to see. We didn't go to Naples, choosing to get the bus to Pompeii but others commented how dirty and threatening they felt it was. Gibraltar, Ajaccio and Malaga were a real surprise for us as they are beautiful places which we could just walk around and enjoy.
I would not hesitate to cruise on the Grand again and can't speak highly enough of the majority of staff we encountered during our trip. In particular, the bar staff and Entertainment crew really made our holiday special, always stopping to pass the time of day and remembering our names, without ever being intrusive. We never had to wait long for service and staff went out of their way to be friendly and accommodating at all times.
Go with an open mind, be prepared to get involved and don't sweat the small stuff - you will have a ball!