(10:05 a.m. EST) -- Grand Princess, which will turn 20 next year, underwent a December dry dock that gave the vessel a bit of a facelift. In addition to new carpeting and other cosmetic refurbishments, the ship also became the first in the Princess fleet to receive the line's new kids club, Camp Discovery.
Check out our first impressions after several days onboard.
Designed as an extension of Princess' Discovery at Sea partnership with Discovery, Grand Princess' new children's facilities, known as Camp Discovery, include The Treehouse, The Lodge and The Beach House for ages 3 to 7, 8 to 12 and 13 to 17, respectively. Activities for the younger two groups include science experiments, cultural learning, puppet making and scavenger hunts, all themed after the locations the ship visits. Given Grand Princess' current long itineraries to Mexico and Hawaii, it's an odd choice to be the first to receive the upgrades, but the handful of children onboard seem to enjoy the spaces' colorful, cheerful vibe.
Princess' Luxury Beds are now a staple on Grand Princess, and we finally understand all the fuss. Our last two nights of sleep have been nothing short of fantastic, and a choice of cushy pillows makes the experience even more comfy.
Service on Grand Princess has been stellar across the board. Our dining room waiter wasn't fazed when we requested two appetizers and two entrees at dinner, our room steward always says hello and asks if there's anything else we need (even after making up our room), the entertainment staff are personable and fun, everyone at the front desk has been exceptionally efficient, and one notable member of the dining room staff was even able to have some extra apple cider soup sent to our cabin via room service when we asked.
At a time when other cruise lines are investing in making their internet connections more speedy, reliable, affordable and relevant for passengers, Grand Princess falls a bit short. Although we've had decent luck with connectivity speeds, there are times when emails fail to send and web pages take several minutes to load -- infuriating for passengers who pay by the minute at a cost of 79 cents. Packages are also available, but they remain expensive, with the cheapest costing $69 for 100 minutes. There are no flat-fee-per-day packages available.
Carrying nearly 2,600 passengers, Grand Princess is only a midsize ship, but despite that designation, it often feels more crowded than vessels that carry twice as many cruisers. Lounges and corridors are highly trafficked until after 10 p.m., when most passengers have gone to bed. The early shows each night are standing room only. Elevators take forever to arrive, and when they do, they're already jam-packed. Indoor buffet seating is scarce. Overall, the ship is lovely, but passengers who relish quiet alone time in public areas might want to steer clear.
--By Ashley Kosciolek, Editor