My wife and I have been on eight cruises, two on Princess. This time we travelled with friends. My review, amateur as it may be, is based on our other cruise experiences and information from our friends and other passengers on this voyage. Rating is done using the A,B,C,D and F method. I hope you find this helpful.
Boarding was done by deck. Our deck was first to board at 1130. Clearly there were many passengers on other decks also boarding during this time slot. Even so the process was fairly painless. We were on board in about 30 minutes. Our luggage was in our cabin within 30 minutes of boarding. Again painless.
The day before disembarkation the ships television station broadcast details of the process. This was a relief from having to gather in the main theatre for this information as we have done on other cruises. Those of us that could carry our luggage off the boat were allowed to disembark earliest, between 0700 and 0725. The TV broadcast did not mention that those of us doing walk-off disembarkation were required to have a "Walk-Off Card". This was to be turned in just prior to leaving the ship. A trip to the Cruise Desk, a wait in line and I had said card in hand. The plan was for all walk off passengers to gather in the Michelangelo Dining room and leave by groups (A, B, C) We were in Walk Off group B and were would be allowed to leave at 0715. As it turned out virtually everyone left the Dining room at the same time and headed for the gangway. No one ever asked for me for the infamous Walk Off Card. Friends we were travelling with had checked luggage. They were advised they could leave the ship at 0815. As it turned out, they were not called to disembark until 1100. Our rating for EMBARKATION/DISEMBARKATION Rating= C-
The exterior of the Grand Princess appeared to be well maintained. No rust or corrosion. Exterior equipment seemed to be in good order (no overpainted rusticles). The removal of the "shopping cart handle" from the stern of the ship left no impression that it had ever been there.
Interior of the ship was clean and in good order. Corridors were well lit and carpets/walls were pleasing to the eye. During the voyage some of the elevators appeared to be in a constant state of repair. The Piazza was underwhelming; smallish with a good deal of room occupied by the stairway. I'd be interested in knowing what it looked like before the recent refurbishment. The interior design of the vessel is dated but as I said, in good order. Overall the ship showed only slight wear.
Cabins were comfortable, nice decor. Ours (C-222) had a large balcony with room enough for a small table and four comfortable lounge chairs. The single power outlet in the sleeping area was 120 Volt (US). The one in the bath operated either at 120 or 240. Shower was of good size for cruise ship. There was a hair dryer at the bedside vanity.
A small refrigerator held bottled water and a few sodas. All at moderate cost. The balconies on the top tiers of cabins are staggered in wedding cake fashion so that those standing on the higher balconies are looking down on those below them. I could see where this might be a little disconcerting to some. But on the positive side it is a safety feature for those traveling with young children.
I like to work out in the gym. Though the gym is somewhat undersized compared with other vessels of this size it was well equipped. The problem was the layout of the gym complex. The locker rooms were down a hallway from the gym. Locker rooms had lockers, towels, robes, toilet, but no showers. To shower off it was necessary to go outside to an open pool area, here were open showers. Also in this area, and outside of the gym, were the sauna and steam rooms. Neither of these were adjacent to the locker room. I overheard many people in the gym complain about this arrangement.
The two main dining rooms were elegant and spacious. The smaller dining rooms were comfortable with an air of intimacy. The Horizon Court buffet served from 0600 until 2300. Seating was never in short supply (unless you wanted to dine alone).
The Princess Theatre held 1000 people on two levels. With seats trimmed in polished wood and box seating the theatre had plenty of character.
The casino was complete with slots, roulette, craps, blackjack tables and tons of stale cigarette smoke. We don't' do casino so I can't comment on other aspects of it.
I never counted the pools on this ship. There were at least four. Each with two to four hot tubs .
The little private spaces one finds on other cruise ships were in short supply on the Grand Princess. It's also worth mentioning that a stroll around the promenade deck (three times around = 1mile) required climbing a flight of stairs at the aft end of the ship.
My wife did the outside movie theatre which was adjacent to the main pool. In cool weather warmed blankets are provided. Movies are shown during the day and at night. Because of the November weather in the North Atlantic attending the night showings were not an option for us. The cabin's flat screen TV had a nice assortment of movies. The on screen TV guide did not give accurate times. However this may have been due to crossing multiple time zones during this repositioning cruise. The ship has number of Wi-Fi hot spots, available at cost.
Library was more of a nook off a main thoroughfare. The internet cafÃ© appeared to be busy most all day. Of course there was shopping, including a variety of paintings shown for the ships art auctions.
This is a large vessel and we did not get a chance to visit other venues so as to adequately provide comment here. Our SHIP OVERALL Rating = B-
FOOD ABOARD THE GRAND PRINCESS
As with most other cruise lines food is included with the cost of the cruise. For those wishing "truly gourmet" dining there were Sabatini's and the Wheel House. These were smaller, more intimate, restaurants. Charge for this was $20.00 per person.
We chose to eat one of the two main dining rooms (the DiVinci and the Michelangelo). Tables were set with fresh linen tablecloths, polished flatware and fresh flowers.
Menu's offered a good variety in each of the five courses. Included in the menu were options for those wishing more traditional fare. We chose the Michelangelo dining room
The first few nights onboard we found the food disappointing. "Fresh" shrimp had a strong smell; meat lacked flavor; poultry was dry. As the cruise progressed, quality of the food seemed to improve, though it was still a bit of catch-as-catch-can. Four of us dined together and found that some of the dishes, e.g. Chateaubriand, were delicious. On another night the Prime Rib had little resemblance of anything to do with this normally splendid cut of meat. The lobster was good. That said, most of the time the food was quite good. Desserts were typically outstanding (The traditional baked Alaska was the best I'd ever tasted).
Doubtless everyone on board had eaten at the Horzion Court buffet at least once. This was a popular breakfast spot. I especially liked the large platters each passenger was given upon entering the food line. Breakfast fare varied from morning to morning. Food was plentiful and good. From doughnuts, danish to eggs, bacon, pancakes, sausage, oatmeal (aka porridge), waffles, French toast and some ethnic goodies, even grits. The Horizon Court never let us down on choices. Coffee and tea were included. The Horizon Court was an option open for all three meals. We thought a visible omelet station would have been a nice addition to the breakfast buffet.
Two other eateries deserve mention here. The International Cafe was a light deli and dessert bar located adjacent to the Piazza. Here one could pick up a light sandwich and some sweet treats, sit down at one of the Piazza tables and take in the sounds of the talented string quartet or the pianist on the grand piano. There was no cost for the food at the International CafÃ©. Charges were made for drinks. I bought a small pot of tea for $2.00.
Adjacent to the midship pool was a real live pizzeria complete with pizza ovens. Choose which pizza you wish to have from the menu and in a few minutes a delicious piping out pizza is ready. Drinks are available at cost.
The ice cream bar was opened after lunch. Located on the pool deck one could get a free soft serve cone (chocolate, or vanilla). Shakes were extra.
Considering the trend in cruise ships to have less food of lower quality food we felt the Grand Princess did pretty well. Our FOOD ABOARD THE GRAND PRINCESS
rating = B.
ON BOARD ENTERTAINMENT
Most every night we attended functions held either the Princess Theatre or the Vista Lounge. Most nights we thought the entertainment was good. Some nights it was not so good. Some other nights it was very good. The two extremes- the mind reader was awful. The Princess Dancers were terrific. Clearly we were not able to be witness to all the onboard shows. What we did see we rate ON BOARD ENTERTAINMENT a B-
ON BOARD ACTIVITES
Since this was a repositioning cruise we had about a week of sea time. There were four consecutive days as we did the transatlantic portion of the voyage. There was no shortage of activities. The big hit on the boat was the lectures on the US Space program as presented by former director of Kennedy space center, Jim Kennedy. His easy going lectures and dynamic slide shows was a shipboard favorite. Other activities included everything from arts and crafts to a meeting of Freemasons. A small sampling of other activities included a Wellness Lecture; Ceramics Painting; Interdenominational Bible Study; Trivia Contest; Dancing (everything from two step to ballroom); Bridge lessons; Bridge games; Singles Ping Pong; 50& 60's quiz and of course multiple opportunities to win money in the casino, including a growing bingo jackpot. No one should ever have a reason to be bored on this cruise.
Also offered was a one time "behind the scenes tour" of the Grand Princess This was a three hour tour of the ship from stem to stern. Only 16 people were allowed on this tour. Among them were our travelling companions. They raved about this remarkable tour. Not only did they get a great tour but tour participants were given a heavy duty embroidered chefs tunic, heavy terrycloth robe, personalized ships stationery, a Grand Princess picture frame. This was a great thing until our friends got their final statement of account. They were charged $75.00 apiece for this tour. At no time prior to getting the statement were they told there was a charge for this tour. Of course the bathrobes alone went for $110.00. Still, would have been nice if they were advised up front of this charge.
We rate ON BOARD ACTIVITES A-
There were lots of tours available for each of the six venues. My wife and I choose tours only in Belgium, France and Portugal. Other places we went on our own. One of the problems with our tours was no fault of the cruise line---The weather in this part of Europe is typically crummy in November. Light to moderate rain was a key feature. We were prepared for this. We were not prepared for the tour guide in France whose English was not quite good enough for the tour guide business. Nor the tour guide in Portugal who went through the tour too quickly. We heard others who had language issues on their tours. One final word on the weather. The ship's forecast seemed to miss the mark substantially on weather forecast at an upcoming port. At least three times we were told the weather would be nice only to find that the weather was wet, cold and windy. We rate TOURS Rating=C-
Service on the Grand Princess was superb. Our cabin steward, Joselito, handled our every request perfectly. When we left the cabin for breakfast our cabin was always made up we returned 60 minutes later. If we needed him he was there. When we didn't need him, he was invisible.
During our cruise we had two minor problems with our cabin, a stopped up shower drain and a balcony door that would not close properly. After reporting these problems they were repaired quickly and unobtrusively. The day after the repair we had a personal visit from the Maitre d' Hotel checking to see that the repairs had been done to our satisfaction.
Roberto, the head Maitre D' in the Michelangelo dining room was great. My request for a table for four next to a window was not only taken care of but Roberto assured me we could have that table every evening.
We did Anytime Dining, despite the name it is key that reservations be made each day, otherwise diners may have to wait in line for a table. Thanks to Roberto we had the same table every night at our requested time of 6:00. No reservations necessary. Thank you Roberto.
Our dining room stewards Allan and Carmelo did their job perfectly. Food was delivered in a timely manner. Requests were met quickly and without issue. Their friendly welcome and cheerful attitude went a long way to make this a memorable cruise.
Just one dark spot. Our first three days were at another table in the same dining room. Service there was slow, especially waiting for the entre. On one occasion one in our party asked the waiter about an optional item on the menu and received a rude response. SERVICE Rating=A.
Not much comment needed here. We got this cruise at a very good price. Balancing what we paid for with what we got we give VALUE Rating= B.
End of this review Bon Voyage !