We boarded Grand Princess with the assumption that this would be like every other cruise vacation -- there is no bad cruise. But we were hit with a bunch of unexpected negatives -- don't expect a cruise to be perfect but we do expect the crew to try and make the experience special for the passengers.
Embarkation was efficient and fast -- boarded about noon. Our cabin was open to us and very nice condition but the toiletries & robes were not there -- quickly fixed by our steward who was good at his job throughout the trip. Cabin was ok except the shower was the smallest on any ship we have been on -- DH had been in crew cabins with bigger showers. Kept hitting my elbow -- not easy to get yourself clean. Removable shower heads definitely would be a plus. No place to store anything in bathroom. Garbage can open -- can be embarrassing for a woman.
Saw a man selling soda packages as we boarded - asked which dining room was open for lunch -- he said go to the buffet on deck 14. Did not take his direction -- I had read here on Cruise Critic that there is a nice Dining Room lunch on embarkation and we found MDR open and had a wonderful lunch. The buffet is very crowded especially with some passengers carrying small luggage.
Muster drill was well done -- and personnel efficient and considerate to let us all perch on railings instead of standing unaided.
First evening for dinner we had personal pizza at the Pizzeria at the International Cafe -- lovely comfortable windowed space very good pizza - good service, In fact the International Cafe with the savory and sweet snacks, quiche, donuts, pastries, sandwiches (included in your fare) was one of our favorite places on the ship. But we spent alot of time there after buying a coffee card in search of decent coffee. The regular coffee is terrible and the capucchino (for charge) is better. It is a great spot for people watching and the stewards are the nicest we met on the ship. There is also a string quartet often.
Speaking of the entertainment, I must say that it was mostly boring -- the production show had good singers and dancers but dancing to recorded music. The swing band didn't swing. On the other hand, the party band Opus was excellent and the dance party on deck was the most fun -- although it would have been nice if they had served at least snacks or dessert. Also funny was the comedian Al Katz. One caveat about the Lounges & Theater -- get seats very early. There weren't enough seats for all that wanted to attend the shows especially the comedy shows in the lounge. There was standing room only. We saw several movies a few on deck on the big screen -- there Princess has it down. Nice covers on the lounge chairs and popcorn & blankets distributed. Also movies in the lounge. There was a craft beading demo overflowing with people and a warning that the next demo would be even more people yet the venue was the same -- lots of people got no help with their projects. I was the last one at one event and a nice passenger took pity on me & helped me finish my project. Good idea but not nicely executed.
Lots of selling going on. At one point on my way to the craft demo alone I was approached in the hallway by someone trying to sell me teeth whitening. I said no thank you -- but she went on telling me that she would be available the next day should I change my mind. If I wasn't suffering with a tooth ache I still wouldn't have wanted to get treatments by strangers on a cruise ship. In the cabin there is a form -- "what can we do to make your cruise better?" I filled it out and asked that the soliciting stop and the coffee was awful but there was no acknowledgement of the form and the solicitation didn't stop.
We had "Anytime Dining" -- don't let the name fool you -- there was no Anytime Dining for us unless we wanted to eat at 8pm. We were told to make reservations but there were none for the early times. DH's dinner was OK but mine was very tough beef. The waiter was ok and offered to replace it. We tried again next night to get early dinner but had to wait till 8pm -- this time husband was served dinner, & it was OK. Mine, the beef was served but the waiter (different man) put it down in front of me but never reappeared until time to take away the empty plates. Mine was untouched (DH finished eating). I told him about the problem and said he should have checked with me. He said that he was too busy to check back on us and that I should have found him. Not the way to serve the meal in any restaurant and a very poor attitude -- he should have checked that the food was ok. It was dried out and way overcooked. Next night we again couldn't get early reservations but went relatively early and waited. Were told that it would be a 15-20 minute wait but it was more like twice that. We finally spoke to the Maitre D Roberto who was very understanding and found us a table for the next night (early) and with a wonderful waiter Mel who helped us the rest of the nights. The food was mostly ok. Wonderful are the pastas -- fettucini alfredo was perfect and ravioli also. The system just doesn't work even though Roberto was doing his best to make it so. Lots of people with beepers waiting for tables to get in.
The Lido Buffet was fine. Attendants serve coffees & cold drinks at your table which are nicely set. On one occasion a passenger tried to enter the food area without using the hand-sanitizer and was stopped by the Princess rep at the entry. He tried to say he had just washed his hands but she wasn't having any. Can't say I blame Princess for being strict on that. On another occasion a man asked the Princess rep at the entry what it was in the tray of salad. She said to him to read the card at the top of the display but it said something like "salad" a one-word non description. He asked again what it was -- she wouldn't help him. It was actually a very delicious mozzarella ball salad. It would have taken barely seconds to be nice to the man that was clearly embarrassed & for her to look closely at what was in the dish or take the extra step to find out.
Tried room service breakfast -- limited selection and not very good. There is an egg sandwich -- very soggy and not as good as the fast food version.
On another day, at lunchtime a man asked for a panini at the International Cafe and was told by the steward that he couldn't heat the sandwiches because the machine wasn't working but that wasn't good enough for the man who continued to ask again & again to heat that panini. On formal night, passing in the hallway coming up to a group of people who were passing gas loudly and laughing about it -- luckily made a quick right turn (not children either). At the elevator, we pressed the up button, and an elevator opened going down -- passengers on the elevator yelled out -- look at those nasty people, they don't want to get on with us. A big laugh for them but we going in the other direction. Not very nice. DH got bumped 3 times from behind by those mobility carts -- again, they laughed. Not so funny if you are the one bumped into.
Service very uneven -- on other cruiselines the officers and crew pass by smile, say hello, even sometimes short conversations. Didn't find that on Princess. The only opportunity to meet the Captain (usually occurs during a show in the Theater on other lines) was during dinnertime so we missed it. By the way, we missed a port (their private island) because they said it was too rough although we had no feeling of rough seas.
Casino was very tight -- did not see winners -- and certainly not me so I held onto my purse for most of the cruise.
Chairhogs were out in abundance -- never saw so many empty lounge chairs with just a book or one shoe -- very inconsiderate. People wandering around looking for a place to sit. Princess personnel had to see there were so many unoccupied chairs and people needing them but they didn't seem to care. Ship appeared very crowded alot of the time.
One afternoon I used a public ladies room and there was a passenger very upset about the way the service desk treated her when she had a surprise woman's problem discovered in the ladies room. She said the Princess rep would not help her -- said they didn't have what she needed. Was very surprised that she would be treated this way. Just one more example of poor service and attitude. I did make sure that she was OK.
During dinner on only one formal night the ship's photographer came to our table -- I asked if my husband can stand behind me in the picture. She said no that is not the way it is done. Again, not nice attitude. We usually buy at least 1 or 2 pictures per cruise but this time bought none. No time was taken to take nice pictures.
Curacao was nice -- we just walked around the town. Aruba was nicer -- we took a ship's excursion with a tour & boat ride -- well worth the money.
Disembarkation was efficient.
All in all we were very disappointed in Princess.