We have been on three cruises on the QE2 previously which we absolutely loved and had to find a different ship for obvious reasons. We chose the Grand Princess based on the itinerary and the reviews I had read and also our limitations on when we could travel.
The booking was quite smooth and we were upgraded which was a good sign. We counted down the days with eager excitement at the prospect of being back on the ocean.
We travelled down to Southampton the night before and stayed in a hotel nearby. A good start to our cruise.
We knew the routine for embarkation from previous cruises and on the whole this was much smoother and quicker. Whilst going through security I was stopped as something was bleeping which was fine. I was searched, again no problem, I'm glad they do this. As I was waiting the lady made derogatory comments to a colleague about a piece of my luggage. I was three feet away from her. It was very rude and upsetting. I ignored her and went on my way.
When we entered the ship I was impressed. Everywhere looked new and shiny and the staff seemed pleasant. We were taken to our stateroom where we met our steward. He was polite but obviously very busy.
Our stateroom (p321) was clean, and a good size for an ocean view. The storage space was adequate but no door on the wardrobe which was not as we would have liked it. We were happy with our cabin.
Our room steward however was very poor. I rang him several times in the evening and he did not ring back so I gave up. We ordered the fruit basket and got a wrinkled pear, a black banana and an old apple in a metal mixing bowl with a doily. We didn't bother again.
Our bedding was changed twice in two weeks. Is this normal? When we had used our towels and needed clean ones we put them on the floor of the shower. He picked them up, folded them and put them back.
The food / dining
We opted for anytime dining and on the first night we were put on a table with 6 other people which was not what we had asked for but we were tired and didn't mind too much. We changed this the next day.
One of the selling points for a cruise for me is the food. I love eating out and it should be a good experience. On the Grand Princess it was not. The food was awful. The menus sound grand and the choice is extensive but the quality, taste and presentation were hideously below par. We started in the Michelangelo restaurant and the food was cold, congealed and tasteless - apart from the deserts which were good. The service was good but not as good as Cunard and was a little sloppy at times. Our waiter told us the food was 'rubbish'. We persisted for three nights and then gave up.
Next we tried the Horizon Court, well aware that it was self service etc but hoped the food would be fresher and hotter. It wasn't. It was even colder. I think eating off a plastic plate may have had something to do with it. We then tried the Da Vinci which was slightly better than the other two. Maybe a long chat with the Maitre'D had something to do with that as he said he wanted us to enjoy the food.
We had wine with our evening meal and on two occasions the wine was corked. We told the waiter this and they didn't know what it meant! Let alone what to do about it. One waiter couldn't open a bottle of wine.
We enjoyed Alfredo's as the food was hot and fresh but there is only so much pizza you can eat, especially for my other half who doesn't like pizza. The service here was the best we had on the ship.
The barbeque and pizzas at lunchtime were hot and fresh but you can't eat them everyday.
Breakfast in the Horizon had a good choice but the aircon was up so high that by the time you sat down it was literally cold.
Eventually we decided to give the Crown Grill a try on a formal night. We were seated next to a very large rowdy party and a man wearing a football shirt and trainers - dress code?? We asked to move and were given a lovely snug table which was nice. After a very patronising talk about what a pork chop looks like we ordered medium rare fillet steak. When the food came it was hot!! Fantastic, but sadly one wasn't medium rare, it was well done. It was taken back, a new one was cut in half lengthways to cook quickly and returned so that we could eat together, although mine had gone cold by then. The chef himself came and apologised which was a nice touch and above the service we had received elsewhere. The steak was lovely.
After a week of this we arrived in one port, saw a McDonalds and ran. Hot food.
One evening the lavatories near the Horizon Court were closed and an announcement in the newsletter told people to use the bathrooms in their cabins rather than the public ones. Staff suddenly started wearing plastic gloves, which they should have been wearing anyway. One of the people we had met on the cruise was confined to his cabin with 'issues'. He was ill for three days. He was not the only one. His cabin was hosed down by men wearing protective clothing and masks. He was questioned about where he had been eating. Says it all.
Maybe more antibacterial hand wash around the ship and in the restaurants would have been a good idea.
The ship itself was good. A variety of areas for different people and different activities. The main pool was very noisy and crowded but this was the school holidays. The 'youth security' felt like an omen. Sunbeds were hard to find. I waited next to one with a towel on it for an hour before the deck steward would move it.
The entertainment was not my thing. Bingo and karaoke. We enjoy a quiet dinner and cocktails instead which is why we were gutted by the poor food.
The disco was non existent despite a refurbishment. I saw the dj chatting instead of playing music.
Formal nights were a let down. Not many people made an effort. Don't be fooled by the brochure with pictures of passenegers wearing chinos whistfully looking out to see with a cool glass of champagne in their hand. Its more like a can of fosters at 11am and a Chelsea Football shirt.
These are always over priced whichever ship you go on so we don't do many and usually do our own thing. We did do one to Sorrento and Pompeii and it was fabulous, much better than one we did with Cunard. Best day of the cruise.
At some ports they charged to get a shuttle to the port entrance - approx 9 dollars. There were however port buses that were less than half the price.
We will not be going on a Princess Cruise again. We were hungry, unwell and unimpressed.