34 Princess Grand Princess Cruise Reviews for Repositioning Cruises to Transatlantic

We are Platinum members who decided to take our third Princess cruise this year, this being on the Grand Princess voyage A232, Cabin A508, 14 day cruise for our 45th Wedding Anniversary. We received several emails telling us how beautiful ... Read More
We are Platinum members who decided to take our third Princess cruise this year, this being on the Grand Princess voyage A232, Cabin A508, 14 day cruise for our 45th Wedding Anniversary. We received several emails telling us how beautiful the Grand Princess was after their refurbishment. Needless to say, we did not find the same, but instead have had more problems than on any other Princess cruise to date. Beside the ship being in sad shape, crew that is not very helpful , but rude for the most part with a few exceptions, Joseph, head waiter, Franco waiter assistant. The rudest person we have found on board is Tim at the Purser's desk. Here is a list by date thus far of the unresolved problems we have experienced: The deck carpeting has been wet and damp the entire trip with fans running constantly, stewards using wet vacuums on the carpeting, replacing carpeting, and causing us coughing, eyes watering, wheezing which are the classic symptoms of mold. We are experiencing periodic metallic very loud clangs, like steel smashing into steel, which when it happens during sleep, constantly wakes us up. Friends on Deck 9 midship are experiencing the same annoying disturbances. 11/3/12 Told Steward about leak, wet, and stained carpeting inside and outside of our cabin. He said he reported it, but no resolution. 11/4/12 Steward placed towels in the threshold, but no resolution. 11/5/12 Reported shower temperature was not stable; it went from extremely hot to cold several times during showers. The temperature knob was incapable of holding in a detent position. Reported to room Steward, no resolution was implemented. Additionally reported again about the wet floor and water leak in the walls from ceiling, but no resolution was realized. Reported shower temperature was not stable, it went from extremely hot to cold several times during showers. The temperature knob was incapable of holding in a detent position. Suggested possibly the pool was leaking. No resolution. 11/6/12 Reported shower temperature was not stable; it went from extremely hot to cold several times during showers. The temperature knob was incapable of holding in a detent position. Reported to room Steward, requested he contact engineering. Additionally reported again about the wet floor and water leak in the walls from ceiling above our cabin in the far wall in the corner by the night table Suggested possibly the pool was leaking from the deck above. Again also reported shower temperature was not stable, it went from extremely hot to cold several times during showers. The temperature knob was incapable of holding in a detent position. Reported to room Steward, problems still exist. But no resolution was experienced. Requested he notify engineering. Engineering left a card in our cabin stating they fixed the shower knob. WRONG! Engineering opened the ceiling in the hallway and stated to me" no problem found". Problem still existed! NO resolution to either problems again! 11/7/12 reported same two problems. Two people from engineering arrived on the deck and quarantined the elevator hallway and steps outside our cabin. They worked on the leak for two days, installing orange colored hoses. Steward continued with fans running for the third day and vacuuming carpeting. Both problems still exist. 11/8/12 again, reported problem and complained of musty mold smell which was causing us coughing and sneezing constantly. Lots of movement by personnel, but still no resolutions was realized. 11/9/12 a female officer appeared with an engineer and she felt the carpeting and stated" it was not wet". Also showed her the numerous stains inside the cabin on the carpeting, she stated" they were only stains". They were WATER stains from the still present water leak. 11/10/12 Problems still exist. Found another card in our cabin that had a check mark for Hotel carpenter? Didn't say they did anything. 11/11/12 Problems still exist. 11/12/12 Problems still exist. Too little, too late! We gave up, but Princess was the real loser. We were going to do the future cruise credit for two cabins while on board this cruise. Because of this disastrous cruise, we decided not to do so, and are considering returning to Holland America where we are members of their elite program. Received phone call from Eugene, front desk manager, who stated, he was going to come to the cabin to fix the problem. I guess the engineers are now running the Purser's desk if the front desk are fixing leaks? Eugene stated they were unaware of any problems. Believe, besides all other problems on the Grand Princess, you have major communication problems. Afternoon they replaced the carpeting on the outside of cabin threshold. Engineer stated, they were removing and replacing the "WET CARPETING" that the officer stated, did NOT exist? The refurbishment of the Grand Princess was a farce. The ship is in poor functional and cosmetic shape. Elevators do not work properly. Obviously leakage problems that keep my wife up at night because she's not sure if the ship is going to stay afloat, the padding in the seats in the dining and public areas are non-existent, very old and tired, the mattresses are in need of replacement, you can't walk the decks because they have deck 6 and 7 closed for repairs. On two of our recent Princess cruises we had the extreme pleasure of having the Commodore Romano at the helm and he runs a fantastic ship. Very available to guests and crew, tours the various decks daily, gives a complete and clearly understandable daily verbal report at high noon sharp. His log on the TV is complete with temperature, humidity, speed, etc. Not like this ship's Captain who has an incomplete log on the TV every day since we left Southampton, UK. Also, several guests have complained you can NOT understand this Captain. He doesn't have the microphone close enough, and has poor diction, and cuts off the end of each sentence. As two Platinum members well on our way to Elite (should have been Elite already, but you don't count cruises on your other CCL cruise lines), also CCL stock holders we will NEVER sail on the Grand (not so Grand) Princess ship. We will be sure to tell all of our associates about this nightmare on the Grand Princess. Thank you for destroying this most important cruise for the two of us on our special 45th wedding anniversary. Read Less
Sail Date November 2012
Joined ship in Southampton. This was our first trip with any Princess ship. Experienced long delays mainly at security prior to boarding. We had a balcony cabin on Aloha Deck. We found the accommodation cramped in comparison to ... Read More
Joined ship in Southampton. This was our first trip with any Princess ship. Experienced long delays mainly at security prior to boarding. We had a balcony cabin on Aloha Deck. We found the accommodation cramped in comparison to Cunard ships which we have travelled on prior to this cruise. Storage space was at a premium. We found the electrical outlets unsuitable for use if using more than one adapter because of their closeness to one another. Our first impression was of a less than spacious cabin layout. Dinner on the first night in the Da Vinci Restaurant was a total shambles. It took over two and a half hours for a three course meal to be served and we left without coffee. The level of service and attitude of the waiting staff left a lot to be desired. Having travelled a long journey we retired early to our cabin only to be kept awake all night by a continuous noise from the climate control unit situated above our bed. The same night we reported the noise to a number of stewards, one of which was the cabin steward. We also reported the problem to the Purser's office by telephone. Again, nothing was done. We eventually went to the Purser's Office and spoke with Alexandru Rusu only to be advised that the problem had not been reported. Eventually two people came to our cabin, listened to the noise and disappeared without doing anything and without speaking to us. This coming and going and listening lasted until about 4.30 pm the following day. Eventually an engineer came to the cabin and isolated the unit - as it was cold we turned the heating up and after a short while we were aware of a burning smell. The engineer returned and disconnected the unit completely (at least we didn't have any noise but neither did we have any climate control}. One of many annoying aspects is you are not allowed, nor are you given the engineer's telephone number. You have to go through the same rigmarole to get the engineer to return i.e. you have to go through the Purser's Office. Many of the staff, including Mr Rusu, there were less than helpful and quite rude. The only person who took any notice of our concerns was Eugene who took over the matter and had it dealt with the following day (we had to vacate our cabin at 8.00 a.m. to facilitate work being carried out on the unit). As we were less than pleased at the terrible service in the Da Vinci Restaurant on the first night, we decided to go to the Botticelli Restaurant, for fixed dining. What a pleasant change, we were allocated a table with four others and had a delightful dining experience during the remainder of the cruise. Our waiting staff, Grace and Roger, made dinner an experience to look forward to each evening. We were impressed by both the quality and range of choice of food provided. The ship's entertainment was very good, particularly that supplied by the on-board singers and dancers. The enlightenment programme left a lot to be desired unless, of course, you were an art lover. We were very surprised that there was not a welcome party for new-comers such as ourselves. It would have been nice to meet with other first timers on Princess ships. All in all, the majority of staff were pleasant and helpful. Overall impression - aside from our own experience with climate control problems, we noticed that on our deck, there seemed to be an issue with flooding so much so that two of our dining companions had to be moved from a balcony cabin to an interior cabin. Our opinion is that the Grand Princess should be taken out of service and completely overhauled or simply taken out of service full stop. Read Less
Sail Date November 2012
First of all, we did enjoy our cruise, especially the time spent in ports. However, of all the cruises we have taken this was the one that needs the most improvement. Embarkation: We took the Princess transfer from Victoria Coach Station. ... Read More
First of all, we did enjoy our cruise, especially the time spent in ports. However, of all the cruises we have taken this was the one that needs the most improvement. Embarkation: We took the Princess transfer from Victoria Coach Station. Our information said to get there between 11am - 11:30am with the coach leaving at noon. When we arrived at 11am it was already extremely crowded and we ended up on the last bus out. If you want to be on an earlier coach I would suggest getting there about 10:30am. At the dock we were told we would have a 10 minute wait to get on the ship. It ended to be about an hour and a half. We were given a card with a letter on it and had to wait to be called. Cabin: We had a mini suite on the Emerald deck. Our suite was fine. The bed was very comfortable. Our stateroom attendant was excellent and very personable. Only problem we had here was that we were over the Vista Lounge and it was loud in our cabin in the evening. May not be for you if you want to retire early. We had a similar mini suite on the Coral with no problem. Dining: We had Anytime Dining and it was not a good experience. We had done AT on the Sapphire with no problem and like the concept. On the Grand we had a buzzer every night (tried sharing and made no difference). The waits kept getting longer and finally by Day 10 we were waiting 40 mins. At this point I complained and we were seated in a timely manner for the last 4 nights. We will go back to traditional dining. Food: Variable. It went from a free range chicken dish I had which was excellent to beef fajitas I could not eat. Beef was not good except for lunch we had in final day in Horizon Court. Enjoyed fresh omelets in Horizon Court and lunch there was quite good. Desserts were strongest point, but it was nice not to have to cook. Sabtini's: We dined there one night. I would not do it again. The food was no better then the dining room. We do not need large amounts. Only difference we saw was that it was quieter and service more leisurely. Room Service: We ordered breakfast several times especially on port days and had prompt service. Entertainment: LOUD. Princess seems to think we are all deaf. First shows tended to be SRO. Scholarship@ sea: This to me is a strong point of Princess. We had an excellent art historian Cynthia Venables on the ship who gave very interesting lectures. Ports: We went on excursions with the roll call for Le Havre and Lisbon which were very enjoyable. We love the smaller tours. We took Princess tours for Vigo (Santiago de Compestelo on your own) and the Azores (Sete Cedes with wine tasting) which we really enjoyed. In Bermuda we took the ferry to Hamilton. Sea Days: Could have used more activities. This was a weak point of this cruise. I would suggest at least longer hours for the library. The sales office also had long lines and only had one representative. Disembarkation: Slow. Requesting everyone to leave their cabins at 8:00am caused massive congestion in the elevators. People who are normally nice folks turned quite nasty! Disembarking by color tags was running behind by about 40 mins when we were waiting to disembark at 9:30am. We were told there was a long line waiting to get through customs. We went ahead and left at our time even though our color had not been called as we had to make our flight. No problem. Hardly any line at all and breezed through. Final thoughts: We planned this cruise way in advance to take advantage of frequent flyer flights and hotel points. Were we disappointed or delighted? I think we very much enjoyed the ports and were somewhat disappointed on Princess especially on ATD. We did end up getting a future cruise deposit which at one point I was really wondering about. However, we finally decided there was more about Princess to like than dislike!   Read Less
Sail Date November 2012
My husband & I took a taxi and arrived earlier than our check in time at Southampton and our luggage was taken from us by the porters there. After a short wait having priority boarding we were called to the embarkation desk for ... Read More
My husband & I took a taxi and arrived earlier than our check in time at Southampton and our luggage was taken from us by the porters there. After a short wait having priority boarding we were called to the embarkation desk for passport checking and then security. We then boarded the ship and were able to go straight to our cabin where our luggage was already waiting. We were on deck 14 a balcony cabin L254. The cabin was spacious with plenty of storage space. We met our cabin steward Caesare who looked after us very well Before unpacking we went to the Horizon buffet restaurant for some lunch. The first thing I noticed was that although hand sanitisers were well positioned not many people were using them. There was a good choice of food, the cold displays and salads looked very fresh and appetising as did the sweet display. The hot food display did not look as good, many of the dishes looking very similar. We only visited the Horizon twice during the cruise, preferring the main dining rooms. We were booked for anytime dining and went to the Michelangelo restaurant where there was a very good & varied menu and there was always an alternative menu of prawn cocktail, salmon, chicken or steak. The menus were so good we didn't feel the need to try the alternative restaurants charging a supplement. For breakfast we always chose waiter service in one of the dining rooms where the choice was very good and the waiters very obliging. On deck 14 there is a pizza and hamburger counter. there was also an ice cream parlour which was complimentary which is not the case on all ships The new Atrium is a lovely area serving drinks, tea coffee, and all day snacks ideal for lunch and great for cookies. There is also a restaurant serving great pizzas. My only complaint was that on port days it was very draughty as the disembarkation doors were close by. We were disappointed in the daytime events during sea days. Always very similar so not so good with 4 days at sea. The evening entertainment was very good and varied. On the 1st night the Captain did warn us the crossing through the Bay of Biscay would be rough and it was. The covered pool area was very popular on cold sea days with the hot tubs well used. There was plenty of seating inside whilst it was cold outside. The ports of call were interesting and many people enjoyed the trip to Paris from Le Havre particularly the American and Canadian passengers Vigo in Spain was a pretty quiet town. Lisbon is an interesting city with plenty to see. The hop on hop off bus is a good way to see the city. We then had a day at sea before reaching the Azores. We walked around the town in the morning and then took an afternoon excursion to the lakes. Very beautiful countryside and a most enjoyable trip. 4 days at sea and then Bermuda, sadly it was raining but we caught the ferry to Hamilton to look around. Some people took the local bus around the Island. My only regret was that we didn't have very long in Bermuda One more day at sea before Fort Lauderdale, disembarkation was fine until we got off the ship but we were then faced with long lines in the heat waiting for taxis, not Princess fault. All in all a lovely cruise and we are already looking for our next Princess cruise. Read Less
Sail Date November 2012
Grand Princess 11/3-17/2012 Transatlantic Crossing Pre-cruise. We had planned on leaving from JFK on Tuesday October 30th on American Airlines 142, a daytime flight to London Heathrow. With the impending arrival of Hurricane Sandy into ... Read More
Grand Princess 11/3-17/2012 Transatlantic Crossing Pre-cruise. We had planned on leaving from JFK on Tuesday October 30th on American Airlines 142, a daytime flight to London Heathrow. With the impending arrival of Hurricane Sandy into the New York area around that time, we considered alternative flights leaving earlier. American Airlines did not open no-fee rebooking until Friday Oct 26th when it appeared certain that Sandy would affect flight ops on the east coast. Since I had researched what flights were available, we were able to rebook that afternoon on AA 138 leaving Saturday at 9:35P and arriving Sunday 8:30A, well ahead of the storm. Keep in mind that the AA agents were not all aware of the fee waiver so it took some time to work out the details, but we were able to get preferred seats fee waived as well. In situations like this, knowing what is available and moving quickly to rebook is essential. As I was waiting for the agent to check on the fee waiver, I saw several seats disappear on the flight we wanted. Also, if your air was booked through the cruise lines, you need to ask for group services directly to avoid lost time. Once on the ground, British Immigration moved quickly enough and from there we went to the baggage hall to reclaim our bags. In Terminal 3, there is a large sign board to the right as you come off the escalator that will tell on which luggage belt bags from a given flight will be. We arranged in advance for a car service to pick us up and it went smoothly enough despite the fact that I did not own a GSM cell (GSM or Global Standard for Mobile communications is the standard for Europe. They do not do CDMA or Collision Detection Multiple Access as we do in North America). As I gave them my physical description, the driver found us and we were dropped off at our hotel for '36 plus '5 tip. As an alternative to private car or taxi, the Heathrow Express trains leave from a lower platform reachable by elevator where you can buy tickets using credit cards or cash ('18 per person). The trains leave every 15 minutes and take 15 minutes to arrive at Paddington Station in Westminster, just north of Hyde Park. Go to the far end of Platform 1 for first class service and to be closer to the taxi rank at Paddington station (turn right after exiting the platform, right again then left to the taxi rank). This works well if you are a single traveler or your hotel is near Paddington. Given the short time frame to reserve a hotel, I used Priceline for a hotel for four nights. We got the Doubletree at 2 Bridge Street which is across the street from Victoria Station and a nice four star hotel. At a total price of $220 per night including booking fees, I am sure I left money on the table, but it was still cheaper than the three star Premier Inn Victoria I had previously reserved for two nights. With four days is London, we did some offbeat tours such as the Middle and Inner Temples, two of the Inns of Court in the City of London similar to law schools and practicing legal groups. What makes it interesting is the Norman chapel that dates from the 12th century and a private park. St Paul's Cathedral ('15p p admission, I think not), London Canal Museum on Wharfdale Street near King's Cross Station ('3 pp admission, worth it if you are into early English transportation systems). Also the usual such as Buckingham Palace (saw the arrival of the Polish President), Big Ben and the House of Parliament, Westminster Cathedral (Catholic) and Abbey (Anglican). We also strolled through the Princess Diana fountain in Hyde Park and the Victoria and Albert Museum nearby. Mostly, just enjoyed walking around parts of London we have not seen before. Meals in London like much of Europe are more expensive than in the US including even New York City. A good place for breakfast or lunch is Pret a Manger which is a chain well represented in central London. There was one just around the block from our hotel. Dinners were simple since we would have fancier meals on board ship. Note that in many pubs, you order and pay for your meal at the bar. There is usually a number plaque on the table which you give when you order; the food is delivered to you. Getting around London will involve either London Transport's buses or the Underground (subway). The Oyster card which is an RFID (Radio Frequency IDentification) card gets you the best prices for transport. The deposit on the card itself is '5 but is refundable. Off-peak (after 9:30A), the fare is '2 pp for central city zones. We used '10 for three days, YMMV. There is a London Transport office in Victoria Station in the center bay where you can get the Oyster card and have ticket money loaded on, and get a refund when you are done with it. Alternatively, there is the travel card which is '7 for one day off-peak usage. Other major railway stations will also have these offices and you can get the Oyster card (but not the Travel card) at most Underground stations. Thursday, we took a train from Victoria to Southampton Central and walked our bags to the Novotel Southampton less than a quarter-mile away. There are two train routes to Southampton, one which leaves from Waterloo via Southwest Railway, takes about 75 minutes for about '36 pp. The other by Southern Railways runs out of Victoria to Southampton and takes about 150 minutes over a longer route, but we were able to book an advance fare special for '4 pp. We booked the Novotel at a non-refundable rate of $126 per night for two nights with full English breakfast. The hotel was fine for what we wanted and was close to the station and local shopping at nearby malls. Friday, we went to Portsmouth to see the Royal Naval Museum which costs about '12 per person. Train roundtrip as '10 pp. Some info on what is available is here http://www.visitportsmouth.co.uk/ Saturday dawned reasonably clear and we walked around a farmers market until 11A when we checked out and took a car service to the port. The car cost about '9 with tip. The Grand Princess was docked at a new terminal at piers 46-7 for Carnival and affiliated lines. Luggage was efficiently whisked off and transferred to the ship. Upon entering the second floor waiting area, we were issued embarkation cards coded for your boarding sequence. Being a bit early, we had to wait awhile before being issued our boarding passes. A little after noon, our boarding sequence was called and we cleared through security and boarding the ship. We were initially booked in cabin D309, a Dolphin deck mini-suite. At the pier, we were upgraded to an aft corner suite B751 on Baja deck, only no one mentioned that to us. After ratcheting around trying to figure out why we could not get into our cabin, the cabin change was cleared up and we got to enjoy our upgrade. Of course our bags were tagged for the old cabin and we did not get them until just before the emergency drill. Itinerary and Weather. The Grand Princess crossing was 14 days from Southampton to Fort Lauderdale stopping at Le Havre, France; Vigo Spain; Lisbon, and Ponta Delgada, Portugal; West End, Bermuda and arriving Fort Lauderdale. Weather in London and Southampton was colder than normal (highs 50F, lows in the 30s) with some rain and wind in the evenings. Sunday in Le Havre was rather windy and cloudy. We did a ship's tour of city of Rouen and the Cathedral which involve a fair bit of walking through interesting medieval streets. Since it was Sunday, most of the shops and cafes were closed. Across from the Cathedral of Joan of Arc is JM's Caf' that was open serving food and drinks and more importantly, had rest rooms. The ladies room is a separate room within the men's area. Monday, we transited the Bay of Biscay which had rough seas and 35 mph winds. This was the roughest seas we had during the crossing. On Tuesday, we docked at Vigo and took a tour of Santiago de Compostela. While windy, the sun was out and it was relatively warm. This is a major tourist center and there were at least 25 buses from the ship going there. As you walk from the bus terminal to the Cathedral, local merchants will offer samples of cookies and cake for you to purchase on the way back. While not the largest, this is the most historic cathedral and quite impressive. Lunch was on our own and place we chose was a bit slow so we had to hurry back to the bus afterwards. Perhaps a light snack might have worked better. Wednesday saw us doing a private tour of Lisbon and the town of Sintra. Entering Lisbon harbor, the ship goes under the 25th April suspension bridge and just behind the bridge on the south side is a statue of Christ the King similar to the one in Rio. Opposite the statue is the cruise port where our driver picked us up. We did a tour of the city with an overlook that gave a panoramic view of the city and harbor. After touring some local sites including a brief stop to sample the local liquor (kind of like a non-sweet cherry), we went to Sintra to tour a palace and garden. Unfortunately, the rain was coming down heavily and after a quick view from the van, we went to Cascais, a coastal town about 15 miles west of Lisbon for lunch. The rain continued pounding down so we went back to the ship with two quick stops for pictures. After a day sailing from Lisbon to the Azores, we docked at Ponta Delgada in a warm and sunny Saturday. We chose to walk around the Pont Delgada rather than do another tour since the tours offered did not interest us by this point. There are ATMs in the port area outside security if you need Euros. The city slope steeply uphill and the streets and sidewalks are very narrow. We had a nice lunch at a local place behind the main church with local swordfish, vegetables and potato. Note that in many local restaurants, bread, butter and some local cheese spread are priced separately and you pay for it if you use it, about a euro or so, however, beer and wine are reasonably priced. For West End, Bermuda, it was rainy and windy so we just walked around, having been here a number of times before. Passports for non-EU pax are held by the Purser's Deck to expedite ship clearance. You will get them back after leaving the EU. Have copies of your passport or a passport card for ID when returning to the ship. The weather during the crossing was cloudy most days with some rain until we left Bermuda. Saturday November 17th, we docked at Fort Lauderdale, our final stop. Cabs are plentiful and cost about $20 with tip depending on traffic and port location. We disembarked about 8:30A and got to the airport by 9:30A for our 11:20A flight. FLL now uses backscatter scanners so you have to completely empty your pockets including paper money or you will get patted down/felt up (hey, my hands are still warm from the last guy/gal ). The process is quick. For a detailed day-by-day description if the cruise, Donna Brown's live blog can be read here. http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?p=35954382#post35954382 The Ship. The Grand Princess was the first of the Grand class of ships and went into service in 1997. While the ship does show some wear and rust spots: that is not uncommon for ships of her age and she does not show the kind of wear and tear that some have described. A major overhaul in early 2011 replaced the Skywalker Lounge that was suspended over the Terrace Pool area with the One5 Lounge which was built into the deck structure and added the International Cafe and a new pizza place called Alfredo's on deck 5 in the plaza area. To distinguish starboard (right) from port (left) on cabin decks, the hallway rugs on the port side have red background in the side trim and the hallway rugs on starboard have cream colored trim background. The forward elevator lobby had red and dark blue trim while the aft lobby has light blue with light green trim. The center elevator lobby is U shaped with the bottom of the U facing forward. This appears to apply for all Grand and Crown class ships. Entertainment is on decks 6 and 7. We did not find much that interested us other than the party band Feedback and one or two performers. Princess seems to have cut back in the amount and variety of entertainment. Then again the prices for this cruise were lower than expected so you get what you pay for. While the water in the whirlpools was hot, jets did not work Cabin. As I said earlier, we had booked an AB minisuite and we were upgraded to Baja 751 on deck 11 which is a starboard aft corner Owners suite. This suite was huge and would easily make a comfortable one bedroom apartment in Manhattan. Upon entry on the left side of the cabin, there is a round four seat dining table with a sitting area with couch. Beyond it is a desk area with six drawers for storage, a queen sofa couch, two chairs and a coffee table. To the right of the entry is the bathroom which is divided into two sections, a sink and toilet and then a shower and tub. There is ample shelf storage by the sink. The bedroom is also to the right beyond the bathroom. It has a king bed with a second desk with six drawers and a vanity mirror. There is a walk-in closet with shelves for storage and an extra set of drawers. The bedroom has a second entrance to the shower/tub area and a 19 inch flat screen TV. Back to the living area, there is a 26' flat screen TV, a mini-fridge stocked with beer, wine and soda, a wet bar and 8 single serving spirits (cognac, scotch, gin and vodka). The initial fridge and spirits loadout is included in the room price, reloads are charged at regular room service prices. The balcony runs the width of the suite, about 25 feet and had six chairs, two recliners a 30 inch table and some small side tables. There is no cover on Baja deck unlike suites on lower decks so people on the terrace pool deck can look down on your veranda. Suite amenities include breakfast at Sabatini's, complementary laundry, access to the elite lounge, priority boarding and exclusive line for passenger service among other services. Breakfast at Sabatini's has less selection than the Horizon Court and was slower so we only used it once. Disembarking, there is a separate lounge area with coffee, juices and pastries for suite pax. The Pax and Roll Call. With cruise of this duration and routing, most of the pax are retired (like us) or close to it. Predicated on our experiences, about a third of the pax were from the British Commonwealth with the remainder being North American with a few from other countries. While the weather did keep many pax inside, the Grand did not feel crowded the way the larger Princess ships with the Riviera deck and its extra 250 cabins. For the our cruise, there were three formal nights, the first sea day Monday Nov 5th, the second day after Ponta Delgada, Monday Nov 12th, and the next to last sea day, Thursday Nov 15th. Most men wore suits or tuxedos with a few just wearing sports jackets and no tie. The other nights were smart casual. There is a Cruise Critic roll call for this cruise which proved to be quite helpful and informative. One person set up a webpage which had names and pictures of various roll call members, private tours set up by members and other activities such as a private sea day group lunch with about 70 people present. Another member made up cloth poppies for roll callers to wear on Remembrance Day (British) aka Veterans Day (US). Dining Service. Princess has a decidedly Italian tilt to their cuisine and those dishes are often the best choices. There is both traditional dining (5:45 PM and 8 PM in the Botticelli Dining room (Fiesta deck 6) and Anytime Dining in the Da Vinci Dining Room on Plaza deck (deck 5) and Michelangelo Dining Room (Fiesta deck). With Anytime Dining, you pick the time you want to eat and then deal with the line that may exist. A willingness to share a table generally gets you seated sooner. Breakfast and lunch is served in the Michelangelo Dining Room with open seating. While we have done Anytime Dining on other Princess cruises, this time we opted for early traditional seating. We were joined by two retired couples, one from near Edmonton, Canada and a British couple from north of England. We had lively conversations and a good time was had by all. Note that the Botticelli Dining room can only be accessed by stairs or the rear elevator bank since it is at the aft end of Fiesta deck. The nearest restrooms are on Promenade deck (deck 7) and only two of the four aft elevators go to deck 6. If you have mobility issues and still want traditional dining, be prepared to wait for elevator service. Each dinner has a collection of small plates that include a salad, several hot and cold appetizers and two soups. There are five choices for main courses that change nightly; usually one or two selections of seafood, poultry, red meat and vegetarian. In addition, there are two pasta dishes, one of which is always Fettuccini Alfredo (very good but very rich). Princess has four always available entrees that are the same each night, broiled salmon, broiled chicken breast, New York sirloin and a beef tournedos. French onion soup, plain tossed salad, Caesar salad and a shrimp cocktail round out the always available selections. Lunch is structured with small plates and daily entrees, one of which is often an interesting salad. Breakfast is a standard eggs, breakfast meats and fruits with two specials each day. In general, we found the meals to be more flavorful but often more salty than we are used to, YMMV. The red meat dishes were usually tender though Princess tends towards the well done side. Seafood was good and fresh for the most part, since the Grand had been provisioning in European ports, some of the seafood was unfamiliar to us. The Horizon Court is Princess' buffet area on Lido (deck 14) which is available for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The breakfast and lunch choices are often more expansive than in the dining room. Once you find a table, the waiters will provide your beverage such as juice (several varieties) and coffee at breakfast or ice tea at lunch. Instead of trays and plates, Princess uses a large oval plate that can double as a tray; a good idea since they take up less space on the tables than trays and there is one less item for the pickup staff to clear and clean. The pizzeria on Lido deck has good thin crispy crust pies which are easily the match of most NYC pizzas. There are pizza Margarita and pepperoni and a special that changes daily. The pizzas in Alfredo's were somewhat better but not enough to warrant paying the extra fare. The afternoon teas (3:30 to 4:30 PM) were nice affairs, but the tea sandwiches and pastries were unremarkable and the timing did not always work for us, still you should give it a try. For Suite, Platinum and Elite pax, Princess offered a semi-private cocktail party in the One5 Lounge from 5 to 8 PM with appetizers and a special drink of the day. With over 1,200 pax at the Platinum or Elite level, it was difficult to find a seat at 5 PM. With the addition of the One5, outdoor seating shaded from sun and wind was added, port smoking and starboard, non-smoking. Smoking on the open pool deck is on the port side, but on the promenade, it is starboard. There is no smoking permitted on the balconies.   Read Less
Sail Date November 2012
This was our second Transatlantic Cruise and our first one was in 2006 on the Golden...the sister ship to the Grand. The Grand was supposed to have had a major overhaul around the first of 2011 and from what we saw it certainly wasn't ... Read More
This was our second Transatlantic Cruise and our first one was in 2006 on the Golden...the sister ship to the Grand. The Grand was supposed to have had a major overhaul around the first of 2011 and from what we saw it certainly wasn't on our floor. We booked a balcony cabin as we always do and this was the SMALLEST balcony cabin I've ever seen....I've been in inside cabins that had as much or more room than this one. The shower had mold inside of it...the carpets were old...and this was supposed to have been a ship that was redone...puhhhhleeeeeze! I think the average age on this voyage was 75 years old ( don't get me wrong as age is relative ) and most of the people acted as if they were already dead...in fact half a dozen actually died on this voyage. We ate at Sabatinis and we discovered that it wasn't anything like it used to be as we ate on the Crown and it was Wonderful! On the Grand it was disgusting...the food wasn't any better than your neighborhood Italian Restaurant. They have changed the whole menu and the ambiance stunk....our waiter served us and only put 1/3 portions on our plate while he went back to the kitchen and then ate the other third.....we could see him do this as the doorway had a window in it...so it was easy to see what he was doing and he did this with another table as well. I reported this idiot to management and it took 3 days to settle the issue....they took the charge off our account and let us eat for free at the Crown Restaurant which was very good BTW...we ate there 3 times. Our tour package in the Azores in Portugal was horrible...it was raining the whole time from when we boarded the bus until we returned 4 hours later. They should have canceled the tour as we never even got off the bus to see the destination it was raining so bad. There was a wine/cheese deal at the end but it was so unhygenic that you didn't want to eat any of the crackers and meats....there were other tours there as well and people were literally coughing...sneezing over the foods and I saw at least a dozen other people picking their nose and then would stir the crackers and cheeses with those same fingers...GROSS!!! Worst bed I have ever slept on in my life....I needed morphine for my back it was so bad. A word of advice for others...DO NOT TAKE A CRUISE ON THIS SHIP....horrible. I've heard that newer ships are much better and I will heed that advice. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
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 ... Read More
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. EMBARKATION/DISEMBARKATION 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- SHIP OVERALL 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 café 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 Cafe. 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- TOURS 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 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. VALUE 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 ! Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
These are some supplementary comments to the thorough review which another passenger has already been posted. MAINTENANCE We have sailed on the Grand several times: before the makeover, immediately following the drydock (the infamous ... Read More
These are some supplementary comments to the thorough review which another passenger has already been posted. MAINTENANCE We have sailed on the Grand several times: before the makeover, immediately following the drydock (the infamous May transatlantic), and now 6 mos. following the drydock. While the problems out of drydock have thankfully been resolved, routine maintenance issues remain. Our balcony had flecks of loose paint on the deck and the furniture appeared dirty. Public area ladies' bathrooms had unuseable sinks and toilets (signs posted, no evidence of repair attempts during the entire trip). I was the last person off an aft elevator before it became stuck for an extended period. Later, my husband and I became stuck in a different aft elevator, but for a short time (it was VERY distressing when no one responded to the elevator phone, and the elevator alarm bell did NOT work!) DINING We signed up for early traditional dining, and due to its popularity we were assigned to overflow seating in the Da Vinci dining room. For this cruise, Da Vinci was reconfigured 75% traditional/25% anytime. Food quality was uneven: appetizers were good, hot soups were nice and hot, entrees were so-so and never more than barely warm (quality suffered due to being held under steam covers too long), desserts were usually the best part of the meal! Service was very good. We ate breakfast & lunch at the Horizon Court buffet, where service has improved tremendously. There were always attendants available to assist with trays and bring beverages (sometimes immediately, sometimes with a wait). Food temperature varied -- some items hot, some not. Great salad buffet at lunch. BOTH DINING VENUES ARE DARK at night; hard to see to read the menu at Da Vinci. ROOM STEWARD Good command of English. Excellent service. I was happy to write up the "You made a difference" card on his behalf. ENTERTAINMENT Compared to prior TA's, the offerings were thin. NO local folkloric shows. Perhaps due to bringing on the new cast, there were fewer production shows. All the shows they did were top-notch, even though we'd seen them before. Some nights the featured entertainer was the house band/singer moved from a small lounge to the main theater -- not very special. As always, the sight lines in the Vista Lounge are terrible, nothing works well there. As on prior cruises, the printed TV guide for movies in the cabin did not line up with what was being shown -- don't know why they bother to print it! MEDICAL I ended up in "isolation" (confined to cabin) due to an upper respiratory infection with a fever. If you go to see the ship's Dr., be prepared for this possibility! Fortunately I had several books, sudoku, crosswords and enjoyed watching several movies & travelogues while in the cabin for 30 hrs. The nurse who checked on me several times was kind and compassionate. Room service was a downer -- long wait times, cold food (who needs COLD chicken broth?) There's a special food delivery team & cleaning crew in hazmat outfits when you are confined! ACTIVITIES I particularly enjoyed the Wellness Lecturer Marlane Renner. Her talks were so uplifting! While I only went to one hands-on art session (tropical collage book mark), it was enjoyable. There were always lots of activities to choose from, no need to be bored on sea days! As always, too many activities in the 10am & 11am time slots -- tough to choose. PASSENGER SERVICES Because Princess E-Z air gets messed up when 2 cruises are linked, our travel agent said we should go to the desk immediately upon boarding to advise them that we were sailing back-to-back. I did so. When the disembarkation questionnaire arrived, I reiterated that we were remaining aboard for the next week in the Caribbean in the same cabin. They ignored the info, sent us luggage tags! When I called, they said they had no record of our reservation -- very upsetting. While they were "checking further" I sent an emergency e-mail to our travel agent (why I ALWAYS use a travel agent -- you never know when & which aspects are going to go wonky!) While the matter was cleared up quickly, I couldn't understand why passenger services would fail to call us as soon as the info I gave them didn't agree with their records! Problem #2 I sent my formalwear to the laundry after the final formal night on the first cruise, expecting to have it back in time for the first formal night on the 2nd. Wrong! No laundry on turnaround day, so there's an extra day added to the service schedule -- but no one tells you this, they think you should just know! Fortunately our room steward was able to track it down and call in a favor to get it back just in the nick of time. SHORE EXCURSIONS We didn't book anything with Princess except the transfer from Heathrow to Southampton. I do all my own research and made plans to share excursions with Cruise Critic friends. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
Background Information - My husband and I are in our early 60's, have cruised 25+ times, have cruised on Carnival,Celebrity,Cunard,Holland America, NCL,Royal Caribbean,& Princess. We flew to London several days early to adjust ... Read More
Background Information - My husband and I are in our early 60's, have cruised 25+ times, have cruised on Carnival,Celebrity,Cunard,Holland America, NCL,Royal Caribbean,& Princess. We flew to London several days early to adjust for jet lag. We took the "tube" to London. We stayed at the Hyatt Churchill for 2 nights. We went to the theater, purchasing half price tickets at Leicester Square. Used the "tube" in London - very easy. Transfer to Southhampton - I purchased bus transportation on-line & we took the bus from Victoria Motorcoach Station to Southhampton. Cost $12.50 pounds for the two of us. (We saw long lines of Princess passagers at the bus station,waiting for their transfer, assume Princess arranged this) In Southhampton, we took a taxi to the ship. Embarkation- Arrived around 2 o'clock - no issues Ship Infor- I found the ship in good shape but it was difficult getting from one end of the ship to the other as the decks were cut up. No real walking deck as previous reviewer mentioned, as you had to walk up & down stairs. Cabin- We had a mini suite with full bathroom. Very nice space. No issues. Service - Excellent Dinning - We did any time dining and never had a problem getting a table for two without reservations. We dined at 8 o'clock or later so we had no problem as most passengers ate earlier. We ate at Crown Grill, had a great steak and it was well worth the $25. Activities- There were many but they were not to our liking. Probably just personal preference. Regarding the ship's tour, it was announced that it would cost $75 per person which we thought was a little excessive. Entertainment - Didn't go to many shows but what we saw were okay. Debarkation - Early on, we received paperwork in our cabin to complete, if we wanted to walk off with our luggage. After submitting it, we received walk off tickets with time. We were at 7am & got there at that time to learn, people were there at 6am. We had to wait for US customs clearance so we were delayed until 7:40am. It was rather chaotic as people were hyped about getting off. Some people had too much luggage to be a walk off. Took cab to airport about 10 minutes away. Very easy. Overall, it was what I expected. There were many older passengers who were very frail. It was a quiet group, not much of a party atmosphere. We met several younger couples and enjoyed their company. It rained the first half of the cruise which wasn't a surprise but I was hoping we would luck out a bit. It was very relaxing and we had a good time. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
My husband and I booked this cruise because of its itinerary, which we thought would include a restful transatlantic crossing. Did Princess disappoint us on this one! How could we "Escape Completely?" We have cruised with ... Read More
My husband and I booked this cruise because of its itinerary, which we thought would include a restful transatlantic crossing. Did Princess disappoint us on this one! How could we "Escape Completely?" We have cruised with Princess more than any other cruise line. We have always been pleased with the cruising and the excursions. However, on this cruise we did not receive the value for which we paid for the cruise experience or the excursions. First, this cruise should not have sailed until Princess readied the ship for the passengers. To begin the cruise, passengers were left in long lines in a thunderstorm while their luggage was soaked from the downpour. Throughout the cruise (from May 5 to May 20), the ship's crew seemed to be preparing the ship for the cruise that left Southampton on the day that we arrived (May 21). The ship was dirty when we boarded--dust and dirt were everywhere; hall carpets were dirty and torn, water was leaking from pipes in the hallways; the water temperature in the cabin alternated between cold and hot and then to being too hot for the remainder of the cruise; amenities (which usually are in the cabin on the day of sailing) appeared over the first 5-6 days of the cruise; new towels appeared on the 14th day of the cruise; warm food on the Horizon Court began on the 15th day of the cruise (heating lamps were installed the night before)--much food was wasted because it was not warm enough to eat; the Purser's staff acted indifferent to the passengers' request to resolve issues. We booked our excursions online before the cruise. On our first excursion in Cork, we were not (as stated in the Princess online excursion description) treated to Irish coffee in a traditional Irish pub at a stop on the way to Blarney Castle and The Woolen Mill. There was no stop. Irish coffee was provided at the Woolen Mill located opposite Blarney Castle. Our tour guide said we had to pay (8 to 10 euro) to enter the Blarney Castle. Princess' online description of the shore excursion clearly states that Blarney Castle is included in the shore excursion. Princess' online description of the train excursions in Wales, including the Welsh Rainway (Snowdonia Mountains), clearly states that the train ride will take passengers into the Snowdonia Mountains. We were wait-listed on the excursion that we booked online. The ship's excursion staff came up with an alternative--the Welsh Railway (described on the Princess website), but they changed the train to what they described as the same as the one we were waitliste). However, the actual train was a "Thomas" like train ride along a lake) and charged us $10 more than the one we were wait-listed. Other than our disappointment in the train ride and paying more, this was a wonderful excursion. The bus ride through the Snowdonia mountains was breathtaking and the food at the Royal Hotel restaurant where we stopped was the best food we had during the cruise. In dealing with us and other passengers who were disappointed, the Excursion staff said they did not have access to Princess' online excursion descriptions and they could not be responsible if the excursions were not as Princess described online--that we would have to talk with Princess. Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
The review posted by JimInSmalbany hits the nail right on the head. We had BROWN water coming out of our faucet, they finally got us bottled water to drink after complaining for an hour at the pursers desk. The attitude of most everyone ... Read More
The review posted by JimInSmalbany hits the nail right on the head. We had BROWN water coming out of our faucet, they finally got us bottled water to drink after complaining for an hour at the pursers desk. The attitude of most everyone you had to deal with was one of, your lucky we let you on this ship. Our room was not the cleanest. The drapes where stained and smelled horribly. The deck was dirty with chairs that where stained also. We have a cruise scheduled for next April and I most sincerely want to cancel it and go with another company. I have written to the CEO of Princess and have not heard a word back from him. So I guess the attitude starts at the very top. People who cruised on this trip where disgusted with the ship as a whole. The powers to be made a terrible mistake in letting this ship sail in the condition it was. I will remember this cruise in total disenchantment. I do not like being taken advantage of, and that's exactly what they did. We had an extended four day stay at the Grosvenor House A J Marriott, Hotel in London that was to include BREAKFASTS.When we checked in we where told that breakfasts where not included in this arrangement and we would have to pay if we ate their.Boy where we at surprised this state of affair.What it shows is the total disregards for the customer. They promise you one thing and delivery another. Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
Planned this trip several months in advance, and it payed off big time. this trip had the best quality and quantity of food ever. the best cruise director ever...he and staff were everywhere. Entertainment with british invasion as new ... Read More
Planned this trip several months in advance, and it payed off big time. this trip had the best quality and quantity of food ever. the best cruise director ever...he and staff were everywhere. Entertainment with british invasion as new was a 5++ setting in the 3d row trying to discretely take pics. Got to every port on time and the organization of tours was fantastic for 2500 passengers plus crew..i was quite happy that lots of crew got off to enjoy each port also as i know they must have worked hard to get ship ready for us. internet service from our cabin worked well most of the time except when msn had its own issues. pursers desk was always busy, but thats to be expected. botiques were in service the 2-3 day of cruise and the casino had a great retro in drydock. attrium fantastic also.However the small stuff. toliets that didn't flush for a day or two, no cold water most of the trip, balcony disgustingly dirty and the door never would latch. thermostat was repl twice to get one that worked as we got 5 days out to sea. Cabin steward had attitude with ship and it showed.but none of this could disrupt great fellow passengers, tours and the country side of primarily the uk. plan to do it again this fall and hope all the little bugs are taken care of. Way too many new crew who didn't seem to know their job yet, but thats the way it is on a big drydock i'm sure. Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
We have lots of negative comments about the Grand Princess and our experience on board but we did enjoy the itinerary. Basically the ship was not ready to be taken out of dry dock and more renovation should have been focused on the ... Read More
We have lots of negative comments about the Grand Princess and our experience on board but we did enjoy the itinerary. Basically the ship was not ready to be taken out of dry dock and more renovation should have been focused on the passenger cabins and infrastructure.We began our cruise in Ft. Lauderdale waiting to board the Grand Princess on our 1st Transatlantic crossing. The ship just underwent a renovation and we were requested to delay arriving at the pier until 2pm. Even with that the port was packed with customers awaiting to board. There was not enough staff or information at the pier to advise customers as to what was going on, when they would be able to board, etc. Basically, there seemed to be a lack of supervision over the pre boarding delay and a lack of information.This theme continued on board in most areas of the ship, disembarkation for shore excursions, customer service desk, etc. The renovation apparently focused on the common areas and neglected the passenger cabins and infrastructure from what we could tell. We did not experience, but were told by passengers, stories of toilets not functioning, no hot water for days, water leaks in the cabins, cabins full of trash and dirty upon boarding, no heat or all heat that could not be adjusted and constant noises in some cabins coming from an unknown source.We did see leaks in the hallways being captured by buckets and soaked carpets being dryed by floor dryers. We also smelled sewer at various points within the ship. Out cabin balcony was dirty and a bit grimy with remnants of construction debris and paint chips. Windows in the ships Horizon dining room were very dirty as well and naturally got worse as time went on.The new library/tea area was very small. The library was only open for certain hours in the day and used a manual method for checking out and returning books. Due to the size of the area, people looking at books basically had their rear ends in the faces of the customers in the tea room.Public seating lacked in the new Piazza area. This area was very nice and the staff and supervisor in the area (Francis Tornero) were one of our highlights on the ship. They worked hard getting use to the work flow in the new area and they were always pleasant to us as well.The Internet was extremely slow or not usable at all many times. Although I understand that satellite Internet is slow, customers spent a lot of the minutes just trying to navigate from page to page. Customers should be provided additional minutes under these circumstances.The food was very average in the dining room and Horizon Court. We found that the Horizon Court had a weird mixture of dishes and the buffet lines were laid out in way that did not flow well. We thought the coffee in this area was just plain bad. The only time it tasted good was very early in the morning.Food in the Crown Grill was below average. We had a steak and lobster tail. The steak was average and the lobster tail was minuscule (two bites). Waiters in this specialty restaurant had too many tables and it appeared that the work flow had not been finalized and this lead to long delays serving food. It took us about an hour and a half to get our food and we didn't even have an appetizer or salad. We were disappointed with this meal and service.Disembarking for shore excursions were another instance of lack of communication and organization. There did not seem to be enough staff directing customers who were queued in lines for their appropriate on board departure location so most information was provided second had from passengers within the line. Sometimes pertinent information about shore excursion requirements, like taking your passport with you, were left out of on board correspondence.The information/customer service area was understaffed most of the time and the personnel manning this area did not seem to have the knowledge or the authority to effectively help passengers. Also, printers were down the night before final disembarkation when we attempted to get a copy of our bill for review.The casino was small which seemed to lend to the smokey atmosphere in that area.The entertainment was fair. We did like the idea of afternoon movies on the crossing.We did not have any spa treatments but we did use the exercise equipment and this area was very crowded at times. The equipment was fine and the area was laid out well.Public area seating seemed to lack a little. There were times when you just could not find a place to sit but this my be indicative of a Transatlantic crossing since most people are just hanging out and relaxing.We attempted to call Princess two times after returning to discuss some of the issues that we saw on this cruise and they put us through to a 4 question customer service survey each time. It appeared that they did not want us to talk directly to a person about our experience!?This was our first Princess cruise and we would not take another based on experience with the Grand Princess. First impressions go a L O N G way! Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
We are experienced cruisers. We boarded our ship in FLL after a short non-stop flight. We got a taxi to the ship (very easy and cheap to do in FLL). At the conclusion of the cruise, we stayed over night at the Sheraton Skyline in London. ... Read More
We are experienced cruisers. We boarded our ship in FLL after a short non-stop flight. We got a taxi to the ship (very easy and cheap to do in FLL). At the conclusion of the cruise, we stayed over night at the Sheraton Skyline in London. It was very convenient to the airport and priced better than most London hotels. We used the "Hotel Hoppa" to the airport. It costs a fraction of what taxis charge. Watch out for the "unofficial" taxis -- they will overcharge you greatly -- sometimes 25 GBP one way. The Hoppa cost 4 GBP.       This review is based on experiences on the Grand Princess' first cruise following her 3 week-long dry dock. This cruise left Fort Lauderdale on May 5, 2011 for a 16 day transatlantic and British Isles cruise. I imagine the reviews will start pouring in soon and this will probably be one of the lowest rated cruises in Princess Cruise history. It seems the dry dock planners greatly overestimated the amount of work that could be done in the number of days available. Based on my own informal survey (from taking to other passengers for 16 days of cruising) there will be many, many negative comments - some very negative.       Indeed, the ship was not ready for passengers, based on what we've come to expect from Princess. Our past experiences have been very nice on Princess and I have faith that this will not happen again. I expect Princess will learn something from this post dry dock cruise. This experience will not prevent me from planning future cruises on Princess, although some of the other passengers had so negative experiences that they did say they would no longer cruise on Princess. I will continue to expect a wonderful Princess experience in the future until proven wrong. I think anyone can make a mistake and this was a mistake in over-planning. My husband and I did not experience any major problems although there were lots of lots of small problems and negative situations we do not expect with Princess.       As usual, the Princess crew - the cabin stewards, the waiters and assistant waiters, the entire dining room staff, including "Victor" in the Michelangelo Dining Room - were wonderful. Herein lies the strength of Princess cruises.       To keep it simple, I'll break the cruise down by the bad and the good.       The bad news first: The ship was in bad condition when we boarded. Many areas were half done and dirty. Some cabins were in bad shape and some balconies unusable. The promenade deck was dirty and full on supplies and materials. The pools were dirty and unusable.   The old Skywalkers had been removed, but the new One Five - it's replacement - was nowhere near complete.   There appeared to be a lot of new staff onboard. The service and food in the dining room started off poor but started to improve after about 4 days.   We started out with a delayed check-in and ship stayed in port until 8:16 am Friday (5/6/2011) morning.   The personnel working the Purser's Desk needed some public relations training. They were not very helpful to the point of being rude, particularly to older passengers (who probably needed their help the most - shame on them L). The Internet connection on the newly "upgraded" communication system was hit or miss. When it worked, it was great - the best I've ever had, but it was down quite a lot. Also, the tech person was very much not user friendly - actually he was rude and condescending.   It was a sad cruise for ballroom dancers. We usually can find at least one venue for dancing and frequently have a Big Band night, Jazz night, or Tea Dances, but not this time. The only danceable band was in the Wheelhouse Bar - small dance floor and they played a lot of blues, which is hard for some ballroom dancers to dance to. The orchestra was kept busy in the theater and only played on 2 occasions on a 16 day cruise.           Now the good news: Little by little, the ship started to take shape. The promenade and pools were cleaned and all the supplies and materials blocking the promenade disappeared. Princess always has amazing, hard-working crew who make things happen.   After a few days, the food and service in the dining room improved greatly. Once we were out to sea, we made up all the lost time (including time for an emergency medical stop in Bermuda) and arrived at all ports on time.   The production shows in the Princess Theater were better than most I've seen and several of them were "excellent". The other entertainers (comedians, musicians, magicians, etc.) were a little better than average and not a "stinker" in the bunch.   The best part of the cruise was the redo of the 5th floor atrium into a Piazza (like to find on other "grand" class ships). They did a beautiful job here with the inclusion of the always fabulous, International Cafe, the Vines Wine Bar (but no sushi or tappas), and another extra, Alfredo's Pizzeria - a very nice sit-down pizza.       As far as our room; we stayed in room 407 on the Emerald Deck and it was a great room for the price. It was "partially obstructed" but still has a nice view and it was one of those rooms with the bed on the wall instead of under the window. I will post pictures of the room and view. You can't beat it for the price.       The cruise across the Atlantic was wonderful - very smooth. The ports were very interesting - a good choice of ports. It would have been better to dock on the eastern side of Scotland to see Edinburgh instead of the western. Also, we need more time if you dock in Greenock or La Harve (if you're going to Paris or Normandy). Ponta Delgada (Azores) was a disappointment. Cobh (Cork) was a wonderful little town and La Harve was a nice city to visit. Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
In reality the problems began before we reached Ft. Lauderdale when the Cruise Critic board had info our travel agent didn't concerning the delayed boarding. Princess denied the delay to our TA on the phone, then sent out an e-mail ... Read More
In reality the problems began before we reached Ft. Lauderdale when the Cruise Critic board had info our travel agent didn't concerning the delayed boarding. Princess denied the delay to our TA on the phone, then sent out an e-mail the next day! The advisory, which threatened to turn away cars which arrived in port before 2pm, should have told us that things were a bit awry at the self-styled "Consummate Host". There was no one available at embarcation to direct us to the proper line. We were fortunate to be undercover but still outside when the torrential rain came down all over the stacked up baggage. There was no Welcome Aboard Princess Patter in our cabin, so we had no idea of optional/mandatory activities. Rumors circulated about postponed sailing, so having to return to the cabin for the lifejacket to attend the safety drill was a surprise. The Patter finally came after dinner. The pattern of wrong information and lack of information continued throughout the cruise. In general the crew tended to ignore problems and hope they would go away. If you asked a question and received an answer, it would later turn out to be the wrong answer! I think if the Captain had frankly addressed the passengers and said, "we did this badly, and we apologize" it would have gone a long way towards making passengers feel that they weren't being ignored. On the plus side, we felt the production shows were wonderful. We'd seen them all before, enjoyed them all again! The port lecturer was excellent, and I attended every one except the first (because we'd already been there before and knew our plans.) The food in the dining room was generally very good, though I kept wishing it could be served hot -- not just warm. We enjoyed the perks of booking a full suite, such as the room service steward laying down a tablecloth on our coffee table before setting down our breakfast & lunch. But even in the top digs, some of the finer points were missing. The balcony table was disassembled and the balcony dirty. The door between balconies was unlocked and banging back and forth in the wind. The DVD's we requested never arrived (and no one could help us, other than suggesting we order different ones). Dining room menus in the cabin are supposedly a special feature, but we didn't receive them until we asked for them. Certainly not major complaints, but not up to par for cabins that are top tier. Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
We booked this cruise for 23 days, but Princess considered it two back to back cruises. That had its advantages and disadvantages. The first cruise, on the 18th of Sept, that went to Vigo Spain, Lisbon Portugal, La Rochelle France, and St. ... Read More
We booked this cruise for 23 days, but Princess considered it two back to back cruises. That had its advantages and disadvantages. The first cruise, on the 18th of Sept, that went to Vigo Spain, Lisbon Portugal, La Rochelle France, and St. Peters Port embarked with no problems. We had sailed on the Grand before, but still wanted to familiarize ourselves with the ship again before heading for the Horizon Court for lunch. It was like coming home. Later that day and all the next day I noticed that there was a long line at the purser's desk. I asked what that was about and was told that they were all cancelling their automatic gratuities. Talking with our room steward, he said that is a common occurrence when the ship leaves Southampton (the Grand's homeport). I just wonder how many people under-tip or don't tip at all. Anyway, the stops were great except for St. Peter's Port which was cancelled due to high winds. We encountered some strike problems (nothing violent) in La Rochelle, but the tours finally went on. One returning bus was delayed by the strikers and didn't get back until 2 hours after our scheduled departure. I expect the Captain wasn't very happy! On the 25th we departed for the crossing to Ft. Lauderdale...the second back to back cruise for us. Most of the Brits had disembarked and were replaced by primarily Americans and Canadians. We stayed on board to avoid the embarking crowds. I guess the embarking was a nightmare with down computers and too many people arriving at the terminal at the same time. The ports were the main reason we booked this cruise. We went to Bergen, Norway, Shetland Islands, Faroe Islands, two stops in Iceland (we swam in the thermal pools there!), and on to Sydney, Nova Scotia. It rains 300 days a year in Bergen, but not that day. The only rain we got was in Nova Scotia. INTERNET: Those of us who get free internet were told that we were supposed to get 500 minutes of internet, but in actuality, we only got 400 minutes and even that was a struggle as the system deleted any usable minutes when we started the second cruise and then deleted the entire account. We worked, without much success, with the manager of the Internet Cafe and the Captain's Circle manager, Lola. It was very frustrating, to say the least. DINING: We had traditional dining in the Botticelli dining room with some great table-mates. The service was impeccable, but I found that the food selections had gone downhill from the Princess cruise we took last summer and the eight others that we had taken in the past. As the Grand is usually home-ported in Southampton, maybe the menus changed to accommodate that clientele. Not sure. The food in the Horizon Court was good, but it is always a hassle to find a table. LOUNGES: Our favorite lounge was the Wheelhouse Bar. The place is quiet, intimate, and with great service. They also make great martinis! I just wish that they could have found more peanuts to put on the table. The Skywalker Lounge was a great place to read and just watch the water go by. It was quiet during the day and I understand it was even quiet at night on this trip. Every evening they served tapas and discounted drinks of the day to Platinum and Elite members. Loved that. STATEROOM: Our stateroom, this trip, was an inside one on the Baja Deck. It was perfectly adequate, but we had to ask for a blanket as just the sheet was too cold and the comforter was too warm. Edgar, our room steward, provided great service. ENTERTAINMENT: We passed on some of the entertainment. A couple of times the cruise director, Billy London, had to cancel performances due to the rocking of the ship and schedule something else. Most of the entertainment was adequate to good in my estimation. The ship is old and falling apart. The maintenance crews were busy, but nothing was down enough to inconvenience anybody. You can see lots of wear and tear which is why the ship is scheduled for a 6 week, $60 million dry dock this spring. The Captain stated that we will not recognize the ship when she comes back out. We are looking forward to the first trip out of dry dock. I believe it is scheduled to head back to Southampton on 5 May. NOTE: I noticed that there were more short-tempered passengers on this cruise than on others that we had taken. Spouses were at each other and even strangers were getting testy with other strangers. Most of the passengers were veteran cruisers so there was no explanation (or excuse) for it all. The "Walk-off's" had congregated in the Michelangelo Dining Room for debarkation. When they finally allowed the first group to depart one older man pushed his way to the door and someone pushed him. He came up swinging and apparently connected with the person who pushed him. The fight only lasted seconds, but seems to be typical of the temperament of the people all during the crossing. Maybe these people need to fly next time. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
I think of transatlantic cruising as an opportunity to nibble around the edges of Europe while reducing the major hassles: only one long flight, and minimal packing & unpacking -- only our independent 8 night pre-cruise stay in London ... Read More
I think of transatlantic cruising as an opportunity to nibble around the edges of Europe while reducing the major hassles: only one long flight, and minimal packing & unpacking -- only our independent 8 night pre-cruise stay in London and Portsmouth required changing hotels. While Princess waved its bus passengers into priority embarkation queues in Southampton, the rest of us waited in hour+ long lines outside the terminal in chill wind despite priortity boarding passes (platinum members). It was the worse embarkation I've endured in 28 cruises! This was the first time our luggage made it to the cabin before we did! We were very happy with our decision to book a mini-suite -- to us it's worth the extra cost to have the additional space since we can enjoy being in our cabin. We gained a 3-cushion sofa, small table, extra storage space, and a tub in the bathroom (handy for hanging hand laundry). For dinner we usually choose 1st traditional dining, and we found our 6 tablemates enjoyable. The food was tasty, but I couldn't rate it very good because it usually arrived only warm -- rarely hot -- and diminished in quality from sitting in the warming dishes too long. Since the veggies wtih dinner amounted to a garnish than a "serving," our waiter obligingly provided extras on request. At breakfast and lunch we enjoyed the "sharing tables" in the dining room. It was a tough choice between the dining room and buffet, because I also enjoy the greater variety at the buffet, especially the nice salad bar at lunch. The afternoon tea rates a special mention -- fresh & hot raisin scones are not to be missed! We read on Cruise Critic to be sure to catch lecturer John Maxtone-Graham, so we knew to get the to the theater early to have a seat. Scheduling the 2 lecturers back-to-back in the morning was unfair to both speakers, and led to having to be in place more than 30 min. in advance of the program. We always enjoy the production shows with lavish costumes and talented singers and dancers. As on our prior cruise on the Star Princess, we were baffled by the decision to put a production show Motor City in the small Vista Lounge (terrible sight lines), and put solo performers in the bigger Princess Theater. It was hard to appreciate slight of hand card tricks from 30 rows back! The Vista Lounge is terrible for movies, too -- passengers sitting in the higher single chairs block the view of those on the lower sofas, and nobody can see from behind the columns, or from the side alcoves! The juggler had to look up to make sure the objects he threw didn't crash into the low-hanging lights. The Vista Lounge doesn't work well for anything. There were a lot of activities offered during the day. I would have liked a Scrabble get-together, but this ship lacks a game room (just 4 tables off to the side in the casino). Two small jigsaw puzzles were set up in the library, but there was only seating for 2 people at a time. Too bad the people who design ships don't seem to understand what space is needed! I did enjoy the daily Sudoku sheets, still miss the NY Times newspaper they used to print for us. I liked the chef's demo in the Princess theater and the fruit & veg carving demo in the atrium. It's 3 for 3 -- I was also timed out on Princess' cruise satisfaction survey before I had the chance to finish! Armed with info from the internet, we did sightseeing in Lerwick, Shetland Islands on our own: a walk to Ft. Charlotte and then to the Town Hall. The town hall has beautiful stained glass windows with important characters from the islands' history. The setting in Akureyri, Iceland was so beautiful with the trees in autumn color and the water as smooth as glass. We took a free city bus uphill to the botanical garden, the walked back downhill to the modern church and pedestrian shopping area. There were "photo ops" set up for tourists with giant trolls, a group of polar bears, and a little Viking. I regret not getting out of the city to see the Godafoss waterfall. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
We used Princess Air so we embarked in London at Victoria Station. Princess was unsigned but fairly easy to find - the place is a bus station and reminded me of US Greyhound stations. But we got the bus and the ride to Southampton was ... Read More
We used Princess Air so we embarked in London at Victoria Station. Princess was unsigned but fairly easy to find - the place is a bus station and reminded me of US Greyhound stations. But we got the bus and the ride to Southampton was enjoyable. Embarkation was quick and easy thanks to the special counters for Platinum passengers like us. We were on the ship in a very few minutes. We had picked B622, our room steward was Oliver, and he was great. We put him to work right away, however, as we wanted robes, and a pad to soften my wife's side of the bed, and a new lampshade for my bedside lamp which was equipped with one which didn't let enough light out to read by. He got it all done quickly and was helpful throughout the cruise. Perhaps the ship didn't sail full, for room stewards usually are too busy to be helpful. Entertainment: On our first night we shared a table for 6 in the Anytime Dining room and were fortunate enough to sit with two other couples that we liked from the start. We ate with them for the rest of the cruise and it was quite a bit of fun. Normally we enjoy meeting new people at dinner, but we haven't met such compatible people for many cruises. I put this under entertainment because our dinner companions were excited about the pianist, and the juggler, and the ventriloquist. We did not see any of them, and except the Maxtone-Graham lectures entertained ourselves. I can't recommend Maxtone-Graham highly enough. If you are on a cruise where he is speaking, skip lunch if you have to, but listen to his presentations about pre-cruise ocean liners. He is a very engaging speaker and knows his subject well. Ports: Bergen was somewhat of a yawn. The Bryggen section (old town) was somewhat interesting. We took a boat tour of the fjord but it was nothing to write home about, despite the fact that I seem to be doing that now. If I return to Bergen, I'll just walk around instead of taking a tour. Norway is quite expensive. If only the Euro would collapse.... Lerwick in the Shetlands was a star port for us. My wife is an accomplished knitter, the Shetlands are famous for their wool, and in Lerwick is the #1 supplier of it, Jamieson and Smith (hope that second name is right). We found their establishment was an easy walk from the ship, and spent quite a bit of time there - enough to buy quite a bit of wool so my wife can knit a particular multi-color sweater than caught her fancy. We ate lunch in a hotel restaurant for a million dollars but it was good food. In London I was struck with their street categories. In Lerwick I found a "close" that was about 3 feet wide which may be a record for a tiny public passage. Torshavn in the Faroes was also a good place to walk around. They don't have any native trees, but created a small forest around a stream as a park which we enjoyed. At the top of the park was an art museum, which they opened 2 hours early so that we could see it. We had a very good conversation with the manager of the gallery about all sorts of things - from Faroese art to what immigration problems they might face if they joined the EU (and fishing problems, which is what has kept Iceland out and made Greenland quit). It is a real pleasure for us to have a good conversation with someone in one of the ports. Pack a lunch from the ship, however, or be prepared to have the shrinkage from your wallet be greater than the expansion to your waist from eating there. Our first port in Iceland is one I can't spell but its up top just a few miles below the arctic circle, and rhymes with Tipperary. Great port. Last trip to Iceland we just walked about the capital. Bad move. This time we took a tour to the Godafoss waterfall - incredible. Saw the old time turf houses, and the botanical garden. Great tour, book it yourself when you get off the ship. After a sea day we visited the capital, which I also can't spell. Took a tour to bathe in the Blue Lagoon, which was wonderful. Nice hot water, sauna, waterfall to stand under. They use geothermal heat for power and this lagoon is the overflow from one of the power plants. There were hundreds of people in it. Nice mud to pack on your face, if you're into that sort of thing. Food was expensive, even in the cafeteria. Now the sea days really picked up. We altered course to skirt some serious bad weather and went through a gale, I think. On prior cruises the cabin TV had a channel which shows where you are and gives somewhat current wind speeds, temperatures, and wave heights. Not so on the Grand Princess and what they did have was disappointing, and not informative. Perhaps the only drawback to the cruise (other than spending quite a bit on the internet). Our last port call was Sydney, in Canada. It rained. Best I can say is they were happy to see us - had a very well organized pier building with many, many vendors. I got a used book about the Oxford English Dictionary for $5, and examined but didn't buy, about 100 cds of Cape Breton music. It's pleasant enough but not my cup of tea, so to speak. I'm a blues and old-time mountain music kind of guy. Cape Breton music is a big deal in Sydney and there was a 50' fiddle on the pier. Ate at a chain to get out of the rain, first cheap meal on shore on the whole trip. I needed new shoes as the sole was coming off my right one, and so to my wife's pleasure I actually suggested we go shoe shopping. Got a good pair, but they were not locally made - I could have bought them in any city in the US I imagine. Still, I needed shoes and they had them. Real estate in the outlying regions around Sydney is incredibly cheap - I saw good looking houses, with power, going for well under $100,000. I imagine everyone is moving to the city. Good place to retire to? More sea days and the weather warming quickly as we went south. My sea days are pure luxury. Room service brings breakfast (and as it true of most cruises, can't get the order right so you have to overorder to be sure you get what you want -there is an icebox in the cabin to store extras) I bought quite a few pictures to go through (and took hundreds more) and spent some enjoyable hours working with them. Lunch was often taken up in the cafe - better selection and better view -walk a mile around deck 7 (3 times round) except when the gale was blowing by, catch a Maxtone-Graham lecture, meet our companions for a pre-dinner drink and show 'n' tell of the day's activities, a nice long dinner with some good wine, read a bit and so to bed. The time passes so pleasantly that sometimes I hope we won't be able to land at the next port. (We did reach them all. Last year we missed the Canadian port due to the weather) Princess Survey: I too filled it out at length spending some time on it, and it was really annoying to have the final screen say the survey was closed. A really stupid error on Princess's part. Food: I liked it, and the waiter's wine suggestions were excellent. I hear that more subtle tastes than mine find fault with cruise food - and sometimes it really is messed up, but you just send it back and get something else. Luckily I must have done enough times round deck 7 for I only gained 2 pounds on the trip. Warning: the cheesecake is too dry. In retrospect I wish I had dined up on deck 14 a few times, but eating with our shipboard friends was such fun that I just skipped it. Sometimes the best food on the ship is in the informal cafe. I never heard anyone praise the quite expensive speciality restaurants. The "pub lunch" was quite good, and had a long enough line every noontime that we tried it only once. All in all I had a great time, and transatlantic cruises are considerably less expensive than other routes. Recommended. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
Grand Princess 9/25/2010 Transatlantic Crossing Summary. This is our seventh transatlantic crossing but the first time we took the Arctic Circle route. Given the unpredictable nature of North Atlantic weather, we were very ... Read More
Grand Princess 9/25/2010 Transatlantic Crossing Summary. This is our seventh transatlantic crossing but the first time we took the Arctic Circle route. Given the unpredictable nature of North Atlantic weather, we were very fortunate to visit all our scheduled ports. The ports are unique and well worth seeing. We did have rough seas on the open water portion of the crossing but that is not uncommon for the North Atlantic. Background: We are an early 60s couple, recently retired and living in Brooklyn, NY. This is our 32nd cruise, mostly Holland America with a number of cruises with Celebrity, NCL, Princess and Royal Caribbean. We have cruised in the Caribbean, Alaska, Panama Canal, transatlantic and Hawaii. Pre-cruise. Normally, we book air on our own which is cheaper and more convenient. With an international open jaw (out to one city back from another), we used Princess' EZAir arrangements which worked out OK. Keep in mind that Princess charges a deviation fee each time you request a specific flight. Since the return flight we wanted was not available at the time and we had to book it after our outbound flight was booked, Princess charged us each $150 for the deviations, not $75 as they state in their booking material and website. We flew out from JFK to London Heathrow on Wednesday September 22nd on American Airlines 142 which is a daytime flight that arrives about 8:30 PM at Terminal 3. Due to reconstruction work in the immigration hall and a large number of passengers trying to get in ahead of a possible strike by immigration agents (later canceled), we had to wait about 40-50 minutes to clear immigration. From there we went to the baggage hall to reclaim our bags. In Terminal 3, there is a large sign board to the right as you come off the escalator/stairs that will tell on which luggage belt bags from a given flight will be. After exiting the baggage hall, we went directly to the Heathrow Express (follow the signage in the main arrival hall). American also offered Heathrow Express tickets for sale at the boarding counter for about $28 pp for coach service. The Heathrow Express trains leave from a lower platform reachable by ramp and elevator where you can buy tickets using credit cards or cash, £18. The trains leave every 15 minutes and take 15 minutes to arrive at Paddington Station, just north of Hyde Park. Go to the far end of Platform 1 for first class service and to be closer to the exit from the Paddington station. We reserved a one bedroom suite at the Darlington Hyde Park hotel on Sussex Garden, about 1/3 mile from Paddington for two nights. While it was expensive, the room was very comfortable and the hotel offered a full English breakfast and free Wifi (lobby only). On Thursday which was rainy most of the day, we did see little Venice which is the interchange point between the Grand Union Canal from the north and the Regent Canal which connects to the Thames. We picked a few books at Foyle's Bookstore on Charing Cross road. Although the rain put a damper on it, we did go to the Camden Locks market which had interesting stuff especially if you are into goth clothing and tattoos. Dinner Thursday, we ate at Kolissi which is a comfortable Greek restaurant near the hotel. We later found that along Edgware Road two blocks east of the hotel, there is an extensive Lebanese district which had a number of places to eat along with drugstores and supermarkets. Friday the 24th, we took a train from Victoria to Southampton Central. The cab from the Darlington to Victoria cost about £17 with tip. Note that taxis can be hailed on the street while cabs are arranged ahead of time for a fixed price. The usual train to Southampton leaves from Waterloo via Southwest Railway taking about 75 minutes for about £32 pp. We found that Southern Railway was offering an advance book fare to Southampton for £3.75 pp. This ride took about 150 minutes over a longer route. Once at Southampton, we walked our bags to the Novotel Southampton less than a quarter-mile away. The hotel is a modern 7 floor building which shares a parking area with two other hotels. We prebooked a room with queen bed and full English breakfast for about $110. Nearby are a TGI-Friday and Mickey D. There is an extensive shopping area nearby for anything you might need. That night, we met up with a group of people from cruise-critic on the Grand roll call for dinner. The dinner was in a medieval pub called the Red Lion in the old part of Southampton. Saturday dawned reasonably clear and we walked around town until 11:30 AM when we checked out and took a car service to the port. The car cost about £7 with tip. The Grand docked at pier 106, Mayflower Terminal, the farthest west passenger port. There was a very long line and no indication of whether there was a separate line for Platinum and Elite pax. We finally found that line after a 30 minute wait and we checked in shortly thereafter. Princess needs to add more service people on embarkation days. Unfortunately, the wait for others was much longer. We got our suitcases before muster drill and unpacked by sail-away. By comparison, disembarkation at Fort Lauderdale was simple and fast. With a noon flight, we were one of the last to leave but arrived at FLL with two hours to spare. Itinerary and Weather. The Grand Princess crossing was 16 days from Southampton to Fort Lauderdale along the Arctic Circle. We left Southampton on September 25th at 4 PM; Sunday transiting the Channel and North Sea; Monday, September 27th, Bergen, Norway (noon to 7 PM); Tuesday, Lerwick, Shetland Islands (7 AM to 5 PM); Wednesday, Torshavn, Faroe Islands (7 AM to 5 PM); Thursday, enroute to Iceland; Friday, October 1st, Akureyri, Iceland (7 AM to 4 PM); Saturday, at sea; Sunday, Reykjavik, Iceland (7 AM to 4 PM); three days at sea; Thursday October 7th, Sydney, Nova Scotia (7 AM to 2 PM); three more days at sea arriving Fort Lauderdale on Monday, October 11th at 6 AM. As for what clothes to pack, think Alaska with a one or two pairs of shorts and polo shirts. I did pack two Hawaiian shirts just for fun and found them useful. The weather was rainy in London while Friday night and Saturday morning in Southampton were clear and cool. The transit of the English Channel and North Sea was accompanied by gale force winds and rough seas (2.5 to 4 M or 8 to 13 foot waves) to very rough seas (4 to 6 M or 13 to 20 foot waves). Bergen was sunny and cool while Lerwick was partly sunny and windy. Torshavn was cloudy and rainy. For all three, the sea conditions were moderate (4 to 8 foot waves) which allowed for tender ops at Lerwick and Torshavn. The transit to Akureyri, Iceland had near gale force winds and rough to very rough sea conditions. For both Akureyri and Reykjavik, it was partly cloudy, windy with highs near 50 F. Seas were moderate. After Reykjavik, the weather was cloudy and windy with violent gale conditions and very rough seas to high seas (6 to 9 M or 20 to 30 foot waves) due to a strong low pressure system coming up to the Maritimes. As a result, the captain rerouted us through the Belle Isles passage into the Gulf of St. Lawrence using Newfoundland as a windbreak for our approach to Sydney, Nova Scotia. After Sydney, we sailed into a near gale wind from the south which made for rough seas. The last two sea days were calmer and warmer as we approached Fort Lauderdale. Monday when we disembarked was warm and sunny and our flight home was smooth with some cloudiness at JFK. However, Monday night in Brooklyn, we had severe winds, heavy rains and ½ inch hail that loudly rattled the windows, a rather dramatic ending to our vacation. The Ship. The Grand Princess was the first of the Grand class of ships and went into service in 1997. While the ship does show some wear and rust spots: that is not uncommon for ships of her age, she does not show the kind of wear and tear that some have described. She does not have the International Cafe nor Vines though these service areas are supposed to be added in the April; 2011 dry docking. To distinguish starboard (right) from port (left) on cabin decks, the hallway rugs on the port side have red background in the side trim (even numbered cabins) and the hallway rugs on starboard have light blue trim background (odd numbered cabins). The forward elevator lobby had red and dark blue trim while the aft lobby has light blue with light green trim. This color code scheme appears to apply for all Grand and Crown class ships. The mid-ship elevator lobby is U shaped with the bottom of the U facing forward. There are also two panorama elevators with glass walls mid-ship. Cabin. We booked a category AD mini-suite on Emerald deck. Since our cabin was at the stern, we did get some ship motion though not as much as cabins near the bow. While we were above the Vista Lounge, there was minimal noise from the shows below and they ended by 11 PM. The stern side thrusters made much more noise and vibration and served as a useful alarm clock when we entered port. The heating system worked fine in the cabin and around the ship. The TV channels were limited as expected due to being in high latitudes, however, the Grand does not have detailed routing information that other ships we have been on have. A general map plot showing expected position at local noon along a planned route and general weather conditions for the area was available, but real-time weather and sea states were not. Perhaps this is a software upgrade that can be done in dry dock. The mini-suite is 9 by 30 feet with a shaded veranda measuring 9 by 6.5 feet. The mini-suites are divided into a sleeping and sitting areas each with their own 26 inch LCD TVs. There is a small desk and fridge in the sleeping area and a couch with foldout bed, coffee table and a chair in the sitting area. There is plenty of open shelf space and adequate clothes storage with a walk in closet. The bathroom is full size with a tub and a good amount of open counter and shelf space. There are only two 110 AC sockets in the cabin by the desk. Bring an extension cord or power strip if your electronics use a wall wart charger, otherwise you can use only one socket. There is an extra 110 AC socket behind each LCD TV. The bathroom has Ground Fault Interrupter 110 AC sockets as well. The veranda had two loungers with a cocktail table on one side and two chairs on the other side of the veranda. Only the mini-suites on Emerald deck are covered, all the other mini-suites on Dolphin deck are fully exposed to the weather and the prying eyes of fellow passengers. Ports of Call. As noted above, Southampton embarkation was not handled well. Additional check-in staff is needed to reduce waiting times that exceeded two hours for some pax. Also in port that day were RCI's Independence of the Seas and P&O's Ventura. Due to the size of the Grand, we did not use the regular cruise ship port in Bergen but rather a cargo port in the south part of the city. We took part in a privately arranged tour of Bergen which was arranged by a cruise critic member. The tour included Fort Fjell, built by the Germans during World War II, a stave church, downtown Bergen and the Mount Floyen funicular. Fort Fjell located in a mountainous area south of the city was built to protect the sea approaches to German occupied Bergen and mounted three 11 inch naval rifles. The fortifications supporting the rifle installation was very extensive and was dug into the mountain. Our tour was pre-arranged and this facility is not yet open to the general public. The stave church was typical of early wood structures in Norway where they are much more familiar with boat building styles. Mount Floyen is about 1,000 feet high just north of the city and is easily accessible by funicular from downtown. It is also accessible by road if you are so inclined. While our timing was constrained by our noon arrival, if you can, it is best to go up Mount Floyen in the morning so the sun is not in your eyes/lens as you look at the city. We took a ship tour in Lerwick to a Shetland pony farm and to Scalloway Castle. The pony farm was interesting as the ponies (they are true horses though smaller) were bred for harsh climates and grow a very thick coat as protection. They are capable of carrying a full grown person though their feet may drag on the ground. Scalloway Castle was built by then island governor Patrick Stewart who mistreated the islanders to the extent that they eventually rebelled against him. There are also several wind generators that serves one fifth of the island's electric load. At Torshavn in the Faroe Islands, we just walked around the town; there is a nice park near the top of a hill that gives a view of the harbor. We headed back to the ship when it began to rain. In both Lerwick and Torshavn, tender service was used since we were unable to dock. This necessitated a lengthy wait for going ashore and returning. Not fun waiting in the rain. In both Akureyri and Reykjavik, Iceland, we took tours arranged by two other cruise critic members. Iceland is very geologically active since it is located on the midlantic rift and it has lots of volcanic activity. In Akureyri, we went first to Godafoss which is a large waterfall near the town where the Icelandic leader, Thorgeir Thorkelsson, decreed the island would convert to Christianity and hurled his pagan idols into the falls. Next was Namaskard which are hot sulfur pits and boiling mud pools. This area provides geothermal steam for electricity generation and hot water for heating. We then went to Lake Myvatn which is a popular warm water spa. The water is light blue in color due to the presence of cyno-bacteria. Afterwards, we visited Skutustadir which has large craters that were formed when lava overflowed the lakeshore's sodden ground. Finally, we went to Dimmuborgir or "Twilight Castles" with weirdly shaped lava formations formed by a lava lake that flowed over marshy ground and then cooled and receded. At Reykjavik, we did a version of the Golden Circle tour which included Thingvellir National Park located in a rift valley covered by lava and later covered by typical Icelandic vegetation of low birch, willow trees and blueberry bushes. The western wall of the fault is an approximately 120-foot-high cliff, under which the Althing, Iceland's lawmaking assemblies met from 930 A.D. onward. We then went to Gullfoss Waterfall or "Golden Waterfall" which flows down a series of cascades into a deep gorge. Nearby is the Strokkur Geyser in the Geyser area which has many hot springs. The geyser shoots a 60-foot-high column of hot water at frequent intervals. Iceland uses the volcanic heat source to heat their homes and to generate electricity. Our last stop was at the Hellisheidi Power Plant which produces about 280 MW of electricity from thermal hat water and steam. After three days at sea, we stopped at Sydney, Nova Scotia. Since heavy rain was forecasted for the day we were to arrive, we just walked around a bit visiting a craft fair in one of the churches and retreated back to the ship. Sydney has a dedicated cruise port but can only handle one ship at a time. The Costa Atlantica was also in port and they had to tender in until we left at 2 PM and the Atlantica could take our place at the port. The Pax and Roll Call. With cruise of this duration and routing, most of the pax are retired or close to it. I saw one or two children though they may have been more. Predicated on our experiences, about a third of the pax were from the British Commonwealth with the remainder being American with a few from other countries. The front desk staff told us that about 1,200 of the 2,500 on board pax were Platinum or Elite. While the weather did keep many pax inside, the Grand did not feel crowded the way the Caribbean or Crown Princess felt on bad weather days. Not having the Riviera deck and its extra 250 cabins does help. There was a CruiseCritic rollcall for this cruise which proved to be quite helpful and informative. Known as the Nordic Explorers, there were a number of members who chipped in to plan various activities ranging from pre-cruise dinner in Southampton; coordinating the meet and mingle meeting with Princes; tours of Bergen, Norway; Akureyri and Reykjavik, Iceland and other activities including trivia and various games. A hearty thanks to all those who helped to make these activities the success they were. Entertainment. We normally do not care for ship entertainment so we did not see some of the evening shows. We did catch Princess' newest show, the British Invasion which we did like though some of the music played was is from a later time period. Still, it is worth seeing. The Zach Bartholomew jazz quartet in the Wheelhouse bar was good and there was piano music played in the Atrium or at the Promenade Lounge during the afternoon and evening. As the cruise progressed, the evening entertainment seemed to diminish in quality. There were two lecturers for the days we were at sea. One was a financial adviser who spoke on various aspects of financial planning for retirement. She was mildly interesting. The second lecturer was the eminent maritime historian and author John Maxstone-Graham. He has written a number of books on the history of passenger ships including the Titanic. His lectures were well attended and seating was at a premium or non-existent if you came late. Mr. Graham spoke on the events on the Titanic, on the history of transatlantic crossings and polar exploration. His talks are informative and entertaining. Dining Service. Princess has a decidedly Italian tilt to their cuisine and those dishes are often the best choices. There is both traditional dining (5:45 PM and 8 PM in the Botticelli Dining room (Fiesta deck 6) and Anytime Dining in the Da Vinci Dining Room on Plaza deck (deck 5) and Michelangelo Dining Room (Fiesta deck). With Anytime Dining, you pick the time you want to eat and then deal with the line that may exist. A willingness to share a table generally gets you seated sooner. Breakfast and lunch is served in the Michelangelo Dining Room with open seating. While we have done Anytime Dining on other Princess cruises, this time we opted for early traditional seating. We were joined by a retired couple from Ohio and an American-British couple from Las Vegas. We had lively conversations and a good time was had by all. We had a table of eight but one couple showed up only once. Note that the Botticelli Dining room can only be accessed by stairs or elevators since it is at the aft end of Fiesta deck. The nearest restrooms are on Promenade deck (deck 7). For the our cruise, there were three formal nights, the first sea day, the second day after Reykjavik (possibly due to rough sea conditions) and the next to last sea day. The second formal night also had the Captains Circle repeaters party before dinner. Most men wore suits or tuxedos with a few just wearing sports jackets and no tie. The other nights were smart casual. Each dinner has a collection of small plates that include a salad, several hot and cold appetizers and two soups. There are five choices for main courses that change nightly; usually one or two selections of seafood, poultry, red meat and vegetarian. In addition, there are two pasta dishes, one of which is always fettuccini Alfredo (very good but very rich). Princess has four always available entrees that are the same each night, broiled salmon, broiled chicken breast, New York sirloin and a beef tournedos. A plain tossed salad, Caesar salad and a shrimp cocktail round out the always available selections. Lunch is structured with small plates and daily entrees, one of which is often an interesting salad. Breakfast is a standard eggs, breakfast meats and fruits with two specials each day. In general, we found the meals to be more flavorful but often more salty than we are used to, YMMV. The red meat dishes were usually tender though Princess tends towards the well done side. Seafood was good and fresh for the most part, since the Grand had been provisioning in European ports, some of the seafood was unfamiliar to us. The Horizon Court is Princess' buffet area on Lido (deck 14) which is available for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The breakfast and lunch choices are often more expansive than in the dining room, however, by the time you find a table and get your beverages, the food has often gotten cold. For that and other reasons, we usually preferred the dining room. Instead of trays and plates, Princess uses a large oval plate that can double as a tray; a good idea since they take up less space on the tables than trays and there is one less item for the pickup staff to clear and clean. We did not try the themed dinners which included Caribbean and German cuisines. Other than you have to wear some clothing, there is no dress code here. The pizzeria on Lido deck has very good thin crispy crust pies which are easily the match of most NYC pizzas. There are pizza Margarita and pepperoni and a special that changes daily. The afternoon teas (3:30 to 4:30 PM) were nice affairs, but the tea sandwiches and pastries were unremarkable and the timing did not always work for us, still you should give it a try. For Platinum and Elite pax, Princess offered a semi-private cocktail party in Skywalker's from 5 to 8 PM with appetizers and a special drink of the day. With over 1,200 pax at the Platinum or Elite level (and a number of freeloaders Princess' staff was not checking key cards), it was impossible to find a seat at 5 PM. We found out from others that after the first seating pax (us) left, seating was easier to find. While nice in concept, the execution needs some more work. We gave up on this after two days and went elsewhere for pre-dinner cocktails. After 8 PM, all well drinks and some specialty drinks are available for $2.99 each. Miscellaneous. The Grand was not full and there were a number of empty cabins. We found out from a fellow passenger that unoccupied cabins are coded with a blue label (for first-time pax to Princess) tagged Mr. Smith/Mrs. Smith with no first name or initial. This made it entertaining to figure out which cabins near us were empty. For this crossing, passports for non-EU residents were held by ship until after we left Sydney. This is the first time we experienced this in six crossings since 2000. This may now be an EU requirement so keep a photocopy of your passport or a passport card on your person when you go ashore. The UK has recently changed its currency to add anti-counterfeiting security features. Older currency without these features will no longer be accepted at most retail outlets and will have to be exchanged for newer currency at a bank. The Shetland Islands are part of the UK and use the same currency. Norway is not part of the EU so you will need either Norwegian currency (Norwegian Kroner) or a credit card for purchases. The same goes for Torshavn and Iceland. Icelanders will accept Euros or dollars at the current exchange rate. The UK is five hours ahead of US east coast (NYC) time, except for the transition to/from summer time which occurs at different dates for US versus UK. Norway is one hour ahead of the UK while the Shetland Islands and the Faroe Islands are on UK time. Iceland is four hours ahead of US east coast time and Sydney is one hour ahead. Keep you watches synchronized to ship time whether or not it differs from local time. I heard that several pax had missed the ship in various ports and had to catch us to us at the next port at their own cost. Gripes. What is a cruise review without a few of these! Southampton check-in is probably our biggest gripe as there were insufficient staff and/or service positions to handle the crowd of people at the terminal. I have heard from some UK pax that is a recurring issue at Southampton. Such overcrowding has not been an issue at their US terminals and Princess needs to resolve this quickly. There are 14 elevators on some of Grand class ships (Grand, Golden, Star and Caribbean), however, they are dispatched in a quirky manner. The four aft elevators do not serve the same decks. The two outer units serve decks 6 (Botticelli Dining Room) to deck 17 (Skywalker's Lounge). The two inner units serve decks 7 to 14 only. This means a long wait to go to/from the Botticelli Dining Room or Skywalker's to other decks since there are only two elevators available for those decks. This is a design flaw that was rectified in Diamond and Sapphire Princess pair built in Japan and on the follow-on Crown class ships. The four forward units operate as a group and have no issues. The mid-ship elevator bank has six elevators but only the four non-panorama units are linked together so only one unit answers a call for service at a given deck. The others in that four can pass through without stopping. The two panorama elevators are individually controlled so you may have to hit three call buttons to ensure that a unit will stop at your deck. This means that other elevators will also stop at that deck with no one boarding. At a minimum, Princess should reprogram the two panorama elevators to operate together as the other four now do. Ideally, all six units should be programmed to operate as a group for the decks they serve in common. The Grand has nine hot tubs, two forward in the Lotus pool area, four mid-ship on Lido deck two aft by the Oasis Bar on Sport deck and one in the teen area. Of the six working tubs in the Lotus and mid-ship area, none had functioning bubblers. The water was warm, but no circulation. I assume this will be fixed during dry docking. Useful Weblinks. For info on transfers from Heathrow or Gatwick airports to central London, from London to cruise-ports and general hotel info, this site is useful. http://www.londontoolkit.com Google Earth, an interactive global map that you can populate with all sorts of info http://earth.google.com/intl/en/download-earth.html To which you can add mappings of cruise ships worldwide, live plots most of the time. After downloading and opening Google Earth, click on Add, then Network Link and put in the following. For storm tracking in the North Atlantic, click on Add, then Network Link and put in the following, http://bbs.keyhole.com/ubb/download.php?Number=110283 For stand-alone ship tracking near shore, go here. http://www.marinetraffic.com/ais/ Hurricane havens courtesy of the US Navy. http://www.nrlmry.navy.mil/pubs.htm For information on how wave heights are categorized, see this. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_Sea_Scale If you have not yet gotten cruise insurance, this site may be helpful. http://www.insuremytrip.com/ Finally, some amusing observations on working on a cruise ship. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ve2_8aDv0xE Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
Embarkation: Oh dear... I'm sure there's a collective groan from many hundreds of people who stood in line (in my case for over two hours), mostly outside in the freezing wind and with the nearest restrooms a cold walk ... Read More
Embarkation: Oh dear... I'm sure there's a collective groan from many hundreds of people who stood in line (in my case for over two hours), mostly outside in the freezing wind and with the nearest restrooms a cold walk away in another building. Simply unacceptable. One of the reasons I was given for the time it took to check in was that Princess had forgotten to ask non US passengers to print off a spare copy of their 'ESTA' form to present at check-in and staff were having to write everything out long-hand. Entertainment: There was a wide variety of activities and entertainment. If you didn't like the act or show in the Princess Theatre, there was always something on offer elsewhere. I personally enjoyed the daily darts tournament in 'Snookers' bar and met some great people while playing. On a few occasions, I heard passengers complaining to the ever patient cruise directors staff that "they were bored" or had "nothing to do". In my opinion, there was plenty to do if you were prepared to make the effort and join in. People also had to take into consideration that our position on the globe and the weather closed off a lot of the outside deck areas where additional activities would normally take place. An evening with Ray & Billy in the Vista Lounge was a highlight among the shows I saw. I enjoyed the afternoon movies although some of the movie choices weren't ideal for the age demographic. Another minor criticism is the venue for a majority of the movies. The Vista Lounge, at times, didn't have enough seats for everyone and the seating layout offered a lot of 'obstructions' between the viewer and the screen. 'Skywalkers' night club was always empty but a small group of us took full advantage and had a great time with the place to ourselves most nights! I also enjoyed the comfy leather sofas, live jazz band and singer in the 'Wheelhouse Bar' of an evening. All credit to the cruise director, Billy, and his staff Dave, Andy, Adam, Andrew, Jimmy Lee, Sonja and Karen who, without exception, worked tirelessly and with great patience and humor. They always remembered your name and always had time for a few words. Dining: I had 'Anytime Dining' and never had a bad experience with food or service in any of the restaurants & food outlets. A memorable meal was in 'Sabatinis' which was well worth the $20 per head cover charge. I did have to ask for extra vegetables with a lot of meals but it was never a problem for the staff. I used room service a lot, the food was always good and arrived quickly. I just had to remember to order cold milk along with my pot of tea! Internet: The internet worked well but was, as usual, pricey! Cabin: The cabin was comfortable and offered plenty of space with no noise disturbance from the cabins either side or from the hallway. The balcony offers more than enough room for the two chairs and table provided and always felt private. Most importantly, the bed was very comfortable! Big thank you to Randy who was an excellent concierge / cabin steward, friendly, always remembered my name and was helpful and efficient. Spa & Fitness: The gym was never overcrowded (probably something to do with the average passenger age being 74!) and well equipped. Great views out to sea too! The Spa offered a wide range of treatments in a pleasant environment and all the staff I spoke to and was treated by were polite, knowledgeable and friendly. 'Ultimate Ship Tour': A real highlight of the cruise was the 'Ultimate Ship Tour', a three and a half hour tour of the parts of the ship the passengers (and even some of the crew) normally don't get to see. The tour is strictly limited to one group of 12 people per cruise and costs $150 per person. The tour included Princess theatre & back stage, mooring deck, engine control room, kitchens & stores, print shop, photo print shop, laundry and concluded with a tour of the bridge and champagne and canapes with the captain. The ships photographer accompanied the tour to capture it all. That evening when I returned to my cabin, there was a Princess bathrobe, chefs whites, personlised note book and a copy of all the photographs taken from the tour (with a album to put them in) to keep as souvenirs of the tour. Brilliant! Princess Survey: I completed the survey a few days after I got home and after putting a lot of thought and time onto answering the questions, clicked the 'submit' button to read the message on the screen "survey was now closed". I even emailed Princess to ask if it was an error and if they'd received my survey but I've yet to receive a reply. One more thing... With reference to 'couple of cruisers' review, I also noticed a high number of short-tempered passengers. At times I was on the end of it as I was mistaken for crew as I was at the younger end of the passenger spectrum! The most memorable time was in the library when a lady stormed up to me and 'returned a book' by throwing it at me and without a word, storming off again! I found her ignorance amusing but it was disgraceful behavior at best. I used the lift to go up one floor, not a crime surely? As I got out a guy commented "who gets in a lift for just one floor", followed by his friend saying "I can't believe they just did that". They were of course ignorant to the fact that I was with my wife who suffers from chronic knee pain and struggles with steps. Luckily for them, that was the last I saw of either of them for the remainder of the cruise... Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
*************************************** * Iceland/Norway Explorer Cruise 2010 * *************************************** ~~ At Sea Again: September 26th ~~ Yes, we are currently again at sea on the Grand Princess on our ... Read More
*************************************** * Iceland/Norway Explorer Cruise 2010 * *************************************** ~~ At Sea Again: September 26th ~~ Yes, we are currently again at sea on the Grand Princess on our way to Bergen, Norway, having left Southampton, UK, yesterday afternoon at 4 PM. The ship is apparently full to capacity at 2600 passengers, increased by a few hundred from 3 or more per some staterooms. This is our third time cruising aboard the Grand Princess (1998), the first of the "Grand Class" cruise ships of Princess: Grand Princess, Star Princess, Golden Princess, and the larger Caribbean Princess, Crown Princess, Emerald Princess, Diamond Princess, Sapphire Princess, and Ruby Princess. In surprisingly good condition, the Grand Princess is due soon for an extensive dry dock to bring it up to par with the newer ships: Piazza on Deck 5, Crown Grill premium dining, International Marketplace and "Vines" on Deck 5, etc. My Air New Zealand flight Wednesday from LAX to London Heathrow Airport (LHR) was excellent, as I have come to expect from this airline; comfortable seating on a beautifully refurbished 747-400 with individual TV screens and customized entertainment options, delicious food and open bar - VERY different from the sub-mediocre United Airlines service. The flight departed LAX at 4:30 PM and arrived in London 9 hours later - an hour early! - at 10 AM on Thursday, with only a few short periods of "Fasten Seat-belts" bumpy air: overall, a very enjoyable flight. After a lengthy wait getting through Immigration Control - the UK has very intensive examination, I easily retrieved my luggage and passed through Customs and was ready for the Hotel Hoppa shuttle bus over to the nearby Renaissance LHR Hotel where we would stay for two nights: Thursday and Friday. This is the same hotel where we stayed before and after our British Isles cruise in August, with the view from our room being onto the north - busy! - runway: airliners from all over the world, landing and taking off every 2 minutes. Fortunately, the triple-paned windows prevent almost all sounds from the aircraft. Many 747s, 777s, and a few of the HUGE AirBus 380s, as well as AirBus 330s and 340s: quite a display! Thursday afternoon was spent napping, relaxing and watching the action from the airport. Later on in the evening we again walked over to the nearby Pheasant Inn, which we had discovered in August; this time, however, it was pouring rain when we left the hotel but with our trusty umbrellas we arrived to a packed pub and were lucky to find an empty table. Again, the food was very delicious, very large portions, and at a reasonable price; the two pints of London Pride - for me - added to the enjoyment. By the time we finished and started back to the hotel, the rain had stopped and a full moon was visible in the clear skies. Sleep came easily - at least until around 2 or 3, but we persisted and slept in until 7 AM when the airport action resumed in earnest. Our plan for Friday was to take the public bus (free) from the hotel back over to Heathrow Airport's Central Bus Station, descend to the Underground "Tube" station and take the train into Central London, to the Green Park Station from which we would walk through the park to Buckingham Palace for our 11:30 AM tour of 19 of the State Rooms. Our arrival was early, BUT almost immediately, due to an unexplained package left between the Palace and the Victoria Fountain, the ENTIRE area was cleared by security personnel, pushing all of the hundreds of us down the Mall for a considerable distance, until the bomb squad examined and disposed of said package. Our return to the Palace was in time for the tour, and proceeded with further complication. The interior Buckingham Palace tours began in 1994, as a result of the disastrous fire at Windsor Castle, and the financing of its rebuilding. Now, for two months each summer in August and September, these tours have become among the most popular in London. The tour is extensive and well planned, and these formal staterooms are absolutely splendid in their lavish dEcor and art displays. The only comparison I might make would be to either the Peterhof/Summer Palace or Catherine's Palace near St. Petersburg in Russia. Buckingham Palace, however, exhibits a warmth and feeling of comfort with its superb lighting and presentation. It was a truly memorable experience to see the Queen's "home" during her summer absence. The rest of the afternoon and evening were spent with Canadian friends of Patric, my friend and travel agent, who reside and work in the Canadian High Commission building on Grosvenor Square in Mayfair, once the home of the United States Embassy, now located in a newer building across the Square. Their apartment on the 6th floor of "MacDonald House" is spacious and comfortable and our dinner that evening was excellent, making our 10 PM departure all that more difficult. We located the Bond Tube Station, took the train back to the Green Park Tube Station, transferred to the Piccadilly Line train (very crowded) for Heathrow Airport, ascended to the Central Bus Station, and caught another public bus back to our nearby hotel. It was a long but very interesting, informative, and enjoyable day and evening in London. Yesterday morning at 9 AM we departed the Renaissance LHR Hotel for Terminal 3 Arrivals area, by means of the Hotel Hoppa shuttle bus, where we met Princess personnel for our coach transfer down to Southampton and the Grand Princess; our names were checked against the Princess manifest, our luggage was checked in, we were given a red sticker identifying our coach and, after a wait of about 30 minutes in this very crowded Arrivals area, our coach was called and we departed for the port, a journey of about an hour and a half. On our noon arrival at the Mayflower Cruise Terminal - one of 4 such cruise terminals in Southampton, we encountered HUGE lines of passengers awaiting delayed check in, which was supposed to have started at 11:30 AM. Being of Elite status in Princess' Captain's Circle, however, we were ushered to a much shorter line for our Preferred Check In which proceeded without further delay, and soon we were through airport-style security and allowed on board the Grand Princess, getting to our stateroom #326 on Emerald Deck 8 at about 1:30 PM. In view of the time of year and the northern itinerary of this cruise, we had chosen an (obstructed) ocean view stateroom near the center of the ship for stability considerations; Emerald Deck 8 is the lowest of the passenger decks which is also preferable in case of the substantial sea motion that we expect. Last evening we got our first experience of "moderate" to "rough" seas; tonight we may get "very rough" sea conditions. The "obstructed" ocean view from our stateroom is not really that bad, over the top of a covered lifeboat. It is now raining and quite cool outside the windows here in the Conservatory on Deck 15, a mezzanine surrounding a covered swimming pool; it is one of my favorite places of recluse. The pool has been drained and its surface netted in anticipation of rough seas, but up on the upper level it is pleasant, dry and quiet. This afternoon I will finish my unpacking and then attend a 2 PM meeting of the Cruise Critic group aboard with whom I have been communicating online for the past several months; the Captain, Cruise Director, and other crew are expected to join us in the Skywalker's Lounge on Deck 17, the ugly "Walmart shopping cart handle" feature of the Grand Princess and its two sister ships. So this is the first issue of updates on this cruise "journal" to which I will be adding periodically. Tomorrow we are due in Bergen, Norway, from noon until 6 PM; having been there before it will be a leisurely walk-about on our own. ~~ Beautiful Sunny Day in Bergen, Norway: September 28th ~~ After a rather rough ride at sea from Southampton (rough to very rough), the seas finally calmed around midnight on Sunday and our arrival at noon in Bergen was under clear skies and warm sun! Quite a change! Our docking was at a more distant pier than had been indicated, requiring a local shuttle bus through the crowded industrial dock area into the center of Bergen; the lines of passengers waiting for a bus were long, LONG, but were accommodated rather quickly. Having been to Bergen before in 2006 at the conclusion of an 11-day Norwegian Coastal Voyage round trip from Bergen to Kirkenes, near the Russian border, there was little new for us to see or do. Our previous visit had allowed us to tour extensively. We again chose to take the "Fløibanen" funicular up to the top of mountain with a fantastic view over Bergen city and harbor. Since it was such a clear, sunny day the views were awesome! We observed a Hurtigruten boat approach and dock while we watched; this is the company that operates the Coastal Voyages. Of course, the HUGE Grand Princess was easily seen at the distant dock. After descending back down to the city we walked the short distance to the First Hotel Marin where we had spent 4 nights in 2006; it had not changed a bit, of course. Then it was time for me to find a comfortable sidewalk table at which to enjoy a glass or two of wine while Jim made his rounds, shopping and photographing. Around 5 PM we returned to the park with a spectacular fountain in lake's center near which the shuttle buses back to the ship were located, reboarding the ship well before the 6:30 PM "all aboard." The 7 PM departure was accompanied by a local brass band serenading us from the dock. With blissfully smooth seas again last evening, this morning we are at anchor in Lerwick, Shetland Islands, Scotland, where our 9:45 AM tour of Jarlshof Ruins and Hoswick Centre will give us a nice visit of this rather small island - complete with sights of the famous Shetland Ponies. So it is time to wrap this up, finish my breakfast of delicious melons and fruit, and prepare for our day ashore. More later... ~~ Yesterday in Lerwick, Shetland Islands, Scotland: September 29th ~~ Except for the strong winds, increasing during the day, our visit to Lerwick on the largest of the Shetland Islands, part of Scotland, was most pleasant under clear, sunny skies - BUT chilly and dry! Lerwick is the capital and is a quaint city with architecture - primarily of stone - reminiscent of Norway, Denmark and Sweden, all of which at one time claimed the Shetland Islands. Even our tour guide Astrid was Norwegian, living in Lerwick. Our tour of the day, from 9:45 AM until 1:45 PM, was all the way down to the tip of this Island, to the Jarlshof Ruins that were uncovered by one of the fierce North Seas storms years ago, and date back to ancient times. The main attraction to me was the coach ride down through the unique countryside and the frequent views of grazing Shetland ponies which themselves also date back to the days of the Vikings who inhabited these territories. The landscape is unique in its stark absence of trees; they just refuse to grow in the severe weather conditions with the North Sea on one side of the Island and the Atlantic Ocean on the other. The prevalent strong winds, and the salt spray they carry, are not conducive to the growth of trees. Although North Sea oil is a main contributor to the area's wealth, heating oil on the Island is still quite expensive and peat is still cut from the loamy soil and burned for heat. It is not a very friendly climate, that's for sure! Our drive was first through the small city of Lerwick and then along the rugged coast of the North Sea, until we approached the bottom tip of the Island where we crossed over and proceeded down the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. At the very tip is the airport that appeared to be quite busy, considering the location; our roadway actually crossed over the end of the runway. On our return trip we had to stop for a plane to take off. Midway in our journey was a stop at the Hoswick Centre, a very nice, modern visitors center with clean bathrooms, hot coffee, tea and wonderful scones - a welcome stop. Also in the Centre were numerous photos and artifacts denoting history of the region. Arrival at the Jarlshof Ruins and the large old hotel located nearby, the bright sunshine disguised the cold wind and chilling temperatures, and the hour visit of the Ruins was quite sufficient for viewing this organized display of ancient rocks. My choice was an early exit back to the warm hotel and a glass of wine. Back on the bus, returning to Lerwick, we saw more Shetland ponies with their thick coats and sturdy, short legs; our route back was on the major highway, in contrast to our transit on the way down on very narrow - many times one-lane - roadways. The scenery was spectacular and especially enjoyable from the comfort of our tour bus. Back in Lerwick at the pier, we encountered an already lengthy line of passengers waiting for a tender back to the ship and I chose to join the line even though it was only 2 PM. Jim wanted to further investigate the city, photographing and shopping; he would be on the last tender at 4:30 PM for our 5 PM departure. Even standing there in the tender line for that short time I was chilled to the bone and return to our ship and our WARM stateroom was very welcome. Of course, we were well prepared for the cool weather with our sweaters, leather jackets, and earmuffs, but it was still COLD! Today we are again at anchor at Tórshavn on one of the Faroe Islands, part of Denmark, and the weather forecast is for much cooler temperatures and the possibility of rain, so yesterday might have been a "treat" weather-wise. I'll report later on our experiences. ~~ A Day at Sea in Route to Iceland, September 30th ~~ Today, Thursday, September 30th, we are at sea headed for our first Icelandic port of Akureyri tomorrow, which is on the north shore of this island nation. The seas are "moderate" with some motion although not enough to be of concern. With our stateroom location on Emerald Deck 8 and near amidships, the sea motion is at a minimum; the most we feel are the large swells, up and down, and a little of the rolling motion: not nearly as bad as we had anticipated. So all is fine - so far! There are many more days at sea, yet to come. Yesterday, Wednesday, we were at anchor in the harbor of Tórshavn, Faroe Islands, Denmark, and our tour of the day was by no doubt THE MOST SPECTACULAR of ANY tour I've had on ANY of my 34 previous cruises! After tendering ashore in midmorning, we went by bus from the moderately sized town of Tórshavn up to the northern part of this Faroe Island, Streymoy - one of 18, to a small port village of Vestmanna where we boarded a good-sized launch for our "Cruising of the Vestmanna Cliffs." We wisely chose to sit on the upper, open deck despite the cold wind and threat of rain, and are we glad that we did. Our cruise proceeded past several fish pens where salmon, primarily, are "farmed," and the large fish were jumping wildly, much to our delight. Then we passed near the very steep hillside on which multitudes of sheep were precariously grazing. I concluded that instead of grass on these hillsides they were using Velcro to keep the sheep "attached" to the steep hillside. Seriously, the problem of sheep venturing too close to the rugged shoreline and falling into the surf, and being unable to climb back up, is of constant concern, partially addressed by short sections of fencing along such precipitous edges along the slopes. Farther on we came upon increasingly steep, shear cliffs, soaring upwards to over 600 meters, formed by volcanic activity eons ago. If any of you have toured the Napali Coast on Kauai, Hawaii, you will have a "partial" feeling of the immensity and verticality of these cliffs that are inhabited by scores of wild birds. Unfortunately for us, most of these nesting birds have departed for the year but we did get to see many, many puffins (sea parrots). The waters near the base of these cliffs is a beautiful, medium turquoise blue and is, of course, very deep even at the water's edge. Several times our boat would enter what looked like a large cut in the rocks extending far into the mountain, surrounded by these towering spires, and the boat guide's narration would reverberate from the surfaces. Those of us on the top deck were required to wear bright yellow hard hats in case of any falling debris. (None did!) The farther we proceeded up the coast the more spectacular became these towering rock spires. Our last entrance into one of the "cracks" mentioned above found many seals or sea lions playing in the calm waters inside, and our exit was by a different route, this time passing through a huge arch in one of the rocks. I quickly ran out of superlatives to express this awesome experience! I had NO IDEA that such raw, rugged beauty was in store for us when I randomly booked this cruise. When it was time to finally head back to the dock at Vestmanna, our return was much more rapid, farther out from the cliffs, and the strong winds were blessedly shielded by our earmuffs, scarves, and watch caps - besides our heavy coats and gloves. Those inside on the lower deck had no idea of the splendor and grandeur that they had missed; our outside discomfort was well worth the sensation of looking directly upward at these towering citadels of rock. WHAT AN EXPERIENCE! After our return to the dock and disembarking our cruise boat, there was time for bathrooms and a cup of hot chocolate that, for whatever it cost, was a welcome treat. Then back on our WARM bus for our hour-long trip back to Tórshavn and the long LONG line of passengers awaiting return to the ship by tender. Fortunately, the line moved rather rapidly, there being two tenders at a time, and shortly we were soon back aboard the wonderfully comfortable Grand Princess by mid afternoon. Rain had commenced just after we reboarded the buses in Vestmanna, but had subsided by the time of our arrival at the tender dock. We were quite lucky with the unpredictable weather in this remote place in the North Atlantic. The departure of our ship at 5 PM was on schedule and we are now headed for Iceland. Tomorrow we are on tour for the majority of the day so my report may have to wait until day-after-tomorrow when we are again at sea for our second Icelandic port of Reykjavik. ~~ Our Day in Akureyri: October 2nd ~~ Today we are again at sea, headed for our second Iceland port of Reykjavik on the southwest corner of this Island nation. Our route is to the west of Iceland and to the east of Greenland. There is a gentle motion of the seas presently due to large ocean swells but so far our only really rough seas were on the first sea day out of Southampton. After tomorrow we will be at sea for three days in route to Nova Scotia, Canada. Our day started early since the report time for the tour, "Best of Akureyri," was 7 AM. We encountered a HUGE line of passengers checking in for tours of the day and were assigned Bus 7 (of 8) for the 7:30 AM - 3:30 PM, 8-hour tour. This would leave little time after our return to the ship with 3:30 PM being "all aboard" for a 4 PM departure. First we were given a nice tour of the city of Akureyri, the second largest in Iceland, by Tristi our tour guide, a very blond, young "Viking;" his narration in English - without notes - was excellent throughout the day. What impressed me most about this city was its spotless cleanliness and complete absence of graffiti; the dominant architecture was very Scandinavian in style: Norwegian, Danish, etc. ... , and we were told that great care is taken to ensure the integrity in style of the buildings and homes, many of which are centuries old. The newer buildings were quite modern in contrast, and public facilities were everywhere: schools - elementary and high school, junior colleges & universities, sports centers - gymnasiums, swimming pools, sports fields & arenas, medical facilities - hospitals & offices, civic centers & meeting halls. The Vikings in ancient Iceland were the first to establish a parliament, as a matter of fact. Our journey then took up and across the upper end of the fjord which forms the excellent harbor of Akureyri, near the city's international airport, one of three in Iceland, then back along the opposite shore through lush farm lands with pastures dotted with many sheep, cattle and horses, first brought to this Island by the Vikings. This fjord is over 65 kilometers in length and is a calm refuge from the North Sea beyond. The highways - mostly two-lane - are excellent and we soon turned inland into a wide valley between high smooth, tree-less mountains, up and over a high pass to another such valley, similarly dominated by lush green farm lands streams and rivers. Many stacks of large "marshmallows" - mown hay wrapped in white plastic - were visible everywhere, as well as some "mint-flavored" marshmallows wrapped in light green plastic: words from our very clever guide, Tristi, who said these were treats for the Icelandic trolls who live in the hills. The first stop was at the famous Godafloss Waterfall whose photo most dominates any you might have seen of Iceland. It was here in the year 1000 that Thorgeir Thorkelsson and the Icelandic parliament decreed the island would convert to Christianity. At the Falls, Thorkelsson commemorated the event by hurling his pagan idols into the cataract. The strong, cold wind made our visit brief and we soon were back on our warm, comfortable bus. Fortunately, the partially overcast skies did not produce any rain during the day. For an early lunch (included) we stopped at a large restaurant near Lake Myvatn, a huge lake in an area of extensive volcanic activity at one time. Nearby was "Skutustadir," a group of large craters known as pseudo or rootless craters, formed when lava overflowed the lakeshore's sodden ground. Several of our tour buses were being accommodated but we had our own dining room and were seated at tables of 6. On each table was a large bowl of hot, delicious tomato soup of which we served ourselves a bowl - or two, along with slices of wonderful bread and butter. Then came to each table a platter of trout fillets - seasoned and steamed to perfection, together with a Cole slaw and small boiled potatoes, which we also served ourselves. I've never before tasted such delicious trout! Earlier our guide Tristi had mentioned that the lakes alongside which we were traveling were teaming with brown trout that made our lunch even more special. When I asked later as to the origins of the trout in these lakes, he said that no one really knew. Next we stopped at "Dimmuborgtir" which in Icelandic means "Twilight Castles," or the "Dark City" as we were told by Tristi our guide. As this former lava lake cooled and receded, weirdly shaped lava formations were left exposed in its bed. Driving on farther around Lake Myvatn, and up and over a large round, smooth mountain, we came to an active geothermal area "Namaskard" with many steam vents and boiling mud pots, reminiscent of those in Yellow Stone Park. After walking among these phenomena for a while we boarded our bus for the return trip to Akureyri and our ship. The hills here looked to me like those near the summit of Moana Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii: barren, smooth and multicolored. We were told that some of the US Astronauts had visited here years ago in preparation for their visit to the moon; I can now see why! The ride back found many passengers on our bus napping, as did I, with the warm sunshine flowing in as we traveled back toward the west. Again, the bus rides coming and going were highlights for me with their varied and interesting landscapes: such contrasts to behold. The Grand Princess was waiting at dock for our return and I think we were the last bus; shortly after our reboarding the ship pushed away at 4 PM and set sail back down the long fjord to the ocean and our day at sea today towards Reykjavik, our last port of call tomorrow in Iceland. ~~ Last Port in Iceland, Reykjavik: October 3rd ~~ We have just pulled away from the dock in Reykjavik, Iceland, and are now headed for our next port of call: Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada, after three days at sea. Our captain announced that he is expecting rough seas as we travel west and south, especially tomorrow; there is a low pressure system which he is trying to avoid by veering farther north, near the tip of Greenland. So the next three days may be somewhat of a challenge. We have been SO LUCKY thus far with the weather and sea conditions that our good luck could not last, I guess. The low-pressure system in question is most probably the remnants of a hurricane traveling up the Atlantic coast from the Caribbean. Today's full day tour was excellent, although it started very early - 7:30 AM, as did our tour day before yesterday from Akureyri. Reykjavik is the capital city of Iceland as well as its largest city and our ship was at dock at quite a distance from its city center. Our initial journey was first to a unique geological site, the junction of the North American Tectonic Plate and the Eurasian Plate, and the gradual parting of these plates is dramatically evident from the "riff" that we saw and through which we walked: on one side, the North American Plate whose opposite edge is the San Andreas Fault in California, and the Eurasian Plate. The parting of these plates has caused a noticeable lowering on one side as they drift apart. Nearby is the ancient location of Iceland's first parliament meeting place and the current location of the (female) prime minister of Iceland. A dramatic waterfall spilling over the edge of the North American Plate created an active river into a nearby lake. The next stop on our tour was at the Gullfoss Waterfall, another HUGE waterfall over two cataracts - each formed by a different lava layer, fed by an enormous glacier - the largest ice field other that those at the poles - and containing heavily sedimented water, on its way down the river into the fjord and the ocean beyond; it had a distinctive grayish color from the glacial sediment. My earmuffs, gloves and scarf were certainly of valuable use today in the clear, cold air! Next was an active geothermal district with many steaming mud pots and vents, along with an impressive geyser that erupted with regular frequency and was most exciting to observe. Not quite an "Old Faithful" geyser, but never the less impressive. Nearby was a resort hotel and restaurant where we enjoyed our early lunch: hot broccoli soup followed by poached salmon with small boiled potatoes, a delicious rice stuffing along with Cole slaw. The salmon was WONDERFUL! Strong, flavorful coffee followed which was a fitting end of an excellent meal in the warm, comfortable dining room. Our last stop on this "Best of the Golden Circle" tour was at a new geothermal processing plant which captures the super-heated waters from deep wells, uses it to create electricity as well as transporting the hot water into the city of Reykjavik for heating. This enormous plant appeared to be quite new and the modern reception center was splendid! An impressive staircase of finely crafted woods lead to the second level, as well as twin elevators to the third level where informational videos explained geothermal energy and how it was being harnessed to provide electricity and heating for the populace of Iceland. Views into the gigantic workings of this plant were available through large glass windows; the plant is almost totally automated. Outside, the distinctive aroma of sulfur is inescapable! The return to Reykjavik included an informative city tour featuring universities, hospitals, senior citizen housing, sports facilities, libraries, theaters and other educational institutions, along with an impressive business district and spectacular churches. Everything was SO CLEAN! How dare ANYONE drop so much as a gum wrapper! The Icelanders are great readers with many published authors - some Novel prizewinners. Languages are emphasized: Icelandic (of course), English, Danish, etc. Iceland's history has experienced domination by both Norway and Denmark until their independence. The guide for our tour was an older gentleman whose extensive knowledge and polished presentation made our day a virtual learning extravaganza; he is retired from Icelandic Air and is currently involved with tourism as lecturer on cruise ships and in local educational institutions. We could NOT have been more fortunate as far as a tour guide. The Icelanders are very literate and educated people, I learned. Now we are cruising out of the long fjord into the North Atlantic towards Greenland and shortly we expect the sea motion to increase. So our next few days at sea may be a little "bumpy" to say the least! ~~ Third Day at Sea: October 6th ~~ Today is Wednesday, October 6th, our last of three days at sea after leaving Reykjavik, Iceland, two days ago. Tomorrow we are at dock in Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada, for the day before another three days at sea on down to Fort Lauderdale and the end of this cruise. Hopefully we will NOT encounter any hurricanes on their way north along the Atlantic Coast! The seas have been rough after leaving Iceland and our Captain diverted our route westward towards the tip of Greenland to better avoid a low-pressure system to the south. Even then, Monday evening was quite rough, becoming more moderate yesterday morning. Yesterday was "moderate" with the Captain cruising at FULL SPEED throughout the day towards the Belle Isles Channel between Newfoundland and Labrador, again to avoid a second low pressure system in the Atlantic. This morning the seas are quite flat and I think our bumpy cruising is now in the past. The position of our stateroom E326 on Emerald Deck 8 has helped a lot in minimizing the sea motion: "the lower the better; the more midships the better." Last night was the second formal night with the first of FOUR Captain's Circle parties; with over 1900 Members aboard (of 2350), there are now required 4 different parties to accommodate all of us previous Princess cruisers. (We were told that there are now in excess of 10 million Captain's Circle members worldwide.) The top award on our ship went to a couple with over 100 Princess cruises and over 1200 days at sea! My measly 18 cruises and 241 days at sea only rank me at #73 on this cruise. Yesterday was also the fourth in a series of lectures, "Only Way to Cross," by John Maxtone-Graham, a noted author on maritime topics - more specifically famous ocean liners; his "standing room only" lectures and first person experiences have been outstanding! He is a very interesting and entertaining speaker. Of course, his lecture about the Titanic was a highlight of the series and the best I have heard, and his personal interviews with many of the survivors were "ones of a kind." At the rate he is selling his several books, he should be paying Princess to be aboard instead of the contrary! Day before yesterday we enjoyed a special "Pub Lunch" in the specialty dining room, 'The Painted Desert' (once named 'The Sterling Steakhouse', until Carnival took over Princess and has since tried to erase any reference to Lord Sterling, the former CEO of P&O and Princess); my menu choice was "Bangers & Mash" (sausages and mashed potatoes) along with a Bass' Light Ale; it was quite good, a nice change. Days at sea are usually very relaxing with lots of time for doing little, or nothing, and I have gotten quite a bit of reading done; Frederick Forsyth's, The Cobra, is turning out to be a very topical and excellent historical novel. References to our current President, drug wars, and spy technology are well researched, as is typical of Forsyth. I am reading it on my iPad, of course. Through our "obstructed view" window (not all that obstructed) right now I see blue, clear skies with sunshine streaming in, and smooth, flat seas. A pleasant change from the last couple of days! That's about it for these last few days at sea; internet access has been spotty until this morning, and CNN is not always available on TV, but this morning things seems to be returning to normal. ~~ A Rainy Day in Sydney: October 7th ~~ Yes, it is WET today here in Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada, and our tour of the day, "Sailing on the Bras d'Or", a large inland sea forming the heart of Cape Breton Island, was canceled last evening by the tour operator because of today's predicted inclement weather. The tour was to have been from 7:30 AM until 1:30 PM, with the ship's departure at 2 PM, so I didn't fret that much over its cancellation. Having been here before - with better weather, and in view of the early departure of the ship, we decided to just walk into the nearby downtown area with umbrellas, etc., and look around. I found a nice, busy, warm and dry Tim Horton's Coffee Shop on Charlotte Street, the main street, and spent my "visit" with a large hot chocolate. It was such an interesting place, sitting there looking out onto the wet street, and observing the primarily local clientele inside the Shop. So, of course, I decided to have a SECOND large hot chocolate! The rain was not heavy but came in sporadic showers, with relatively dry sessions in between. After finishing my hot chocolate, the rain seemed to have let up so I made my break back to the ship, almost making it there before the rain again increased; it was only a distance of a few blocks. This afternoon our ship sails for Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and the conclusion of this 16-day cruise. The next three days at sea may at first see some rough seas as we travel from Nova Scotia across to the Maine and Boston area, where there is now a large storm in progress. With luck, our last two days at sea will be on smooth seas as we near Florida. Just as long as no eager hurricanes decide to venture northward along the Atlantic Coast. There is one more formal night aboard, the night after tomorrow, I think, so then it will be time for serious packing and preparation for leaving our cozy stateroom we have inhabited for the past couple of weeks or so. Even with the "obstructed view" our ocean view stateroom has been quite satisfactory; no need for a balcony stateroom in this weather and with this itinerary across the North Atlantic. In Fort Lauderdale we are spending one night after disembarking the Grand Princess on Monday, October 11th, at the Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Beach Hotel - hopefully warming up! - before flying back to Los Angeles on Tuesday, October 12th, via DFW and a plane change. I am looking forward to warm sunshine and sandy beaches! ~~ Final Day at Sea: October 10th ~~ The end is near! The end of our 16-day Iceland/Norway Explorers Cruise, that is. Early tomorrow morning we arrive in Fort Lauderdale's Port Everglades and our scheduled late disembarkation from the Grand Princess is at 9:30 AM - since we are not flying out until Tuesday, remaining at the Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Beach Hotel overnight. We will actually have the better part of two days in Fort Lauderdale with our early arrival and late departure on Tuesday; our American Airlines flight #1031 is not until 6:40 PM with our arrival in Los Angeles at 11 PM (via DFW). Today's weather forecast is for another beautiful and warm day at sea with temperatures up in the 70s; yesterday was almost as perfect, with smooth seas and balmy breezes - quite a change from the cold, strong winds of two days ago after leaving Sydney, Nova Scotia, and the moderate to rough seas we experienced as a result of the rain storm over Nova Scotia and Eastern Canada. Yesterday on deck it was as if another ship-load of passengers had appeared: shorts, sandals, swim suits and sun glasses replacing parkas, earmuffs, scarves, gloves and umbrellas. "What a difference a day makes..." There will be many sunburned bodies even before arriving in Florida! Last night was our final formal night accompanied by the Captain's Farewell Party (FREE drinks!) and the last of the productions shows in the Princess Theater, this one entitled "The British Invasion." There have been several such production shows presented during the cruise - all excellent - with two lead male and female singers, along with 7 female and 4 male dancers; it was really a great ensemble and the shows were fresh, new, energetic and challenging with many and varied costume changes as well as elaborate sets. This last production show was the pinnacle and surpassed anything I have yet seen aboard a cruise ship. Some shows were presented during our "bumpy" evenings and the cast is to be congratulated for carrying off the show under less than ideal conditions: the Princess Theater is at the very front of the ship. Dinner menus offered lobster tails served along with Tiger Prawns (I was served TWO EACH!), finalized with yet another delicious Princess' dessert soufflE, this one Warm Citrus with Vanilla Sauce: wonderful! Today will be a lazy day for me with packing lurking in the very near future. This afternoon at 2 PM there is a final get-together for our Cruise Critics group aboard, the "Nordic Explorers;" it has been a very active group. Today's meeting in the Skywalker's Lounge on Deck 17 will be quite different than our first meeting there on the first day at sea (rough). So there is not much more exciting news to report today from the Grand Princess; my final journal entry will most probably be on Tuesday morning from Fort Lauderdale. Until then... ~~ Fort Lauderdale: October 11th ~~ Fort Lauderdale! We have arrived in Florida, now at dock in Port Everglades along with many other cruise ships; this has become one of the busiest of cruise ports on the East Coast. It is still only a few minutes after 7 AM and the sun has not yet made an appearance. The visual quiet scene outside disguises the beehive of activity going on as 2400 passengers - on this ship, and thousands of others on other ships, clamor to disembark, collect their mountains of luggage ashore, and proceed on - most to the airports: Fort Lauderdale as well as Miami, traveling home. Since we are staying the night here before our own flight back to California tomorrow, our departure from the ship will be among the last, and hopefully accompanied by the fewest; let the "herd" go first! Our baggage was placed outside in the hallway last evening and now awaits our collection - at the appointed time - ashore in the terminal; the few remaining things we will carry along this morning, clearing our stateroom for its next occupants, due to be checking aboard around noontime for their Caribbean cruise. Lots of baggage coming and going, staterooms being cleaned and readied, ... A busy morning for the ship's crew. Around 8 AM we will go down to the Botticelli Dining Room on Deck 6 for breakfast and then to the Vista Lounge (for Elite and Platinum Captain's Circle Members) just above on Deck 7 to await our 9:30 AM call for disembarkation. By that time the great majority of passengers should have already departed. In the Vista Lounge there will be juices, coffee, tea, Danish pastries, yogurt, etc., for our pleasure whilst waiting. It is nice to be Elite! "Noblesse Oblige." This will probably be my final email for this cruise since the Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Beach Hotel may or may not have internet access available; we shall see. This has been quite a different cruise experience for me, the 16 days with many (8 total) at sea, the Trans Atlantic crossing, and the spectacular sights of new places: Iceland, Faroe Island and the Shetland Islands. I am not ready to do this again, at least for quite a while, but it was a great experience. Now it is time to go home and stay there for a while! ~~ Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Beach Hotel - WOW! October 11th ~~ That's all I can say about our 10th floor room in the Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Beach Hotel: WOW! Without delay we were checked into our room on arrival at around 10:15 AM and have late checkout tomorrow at 4 PM, so that gives almost two full days to enjoy Fort Lauderdale. Ours is a corner room on the 10th floor, with the beach and Atlantic Ocean in full view to the east and Port Everglades - with a full view of the Grand Princess at dock - to the south. Floor to ceiling windows give a virtual panoramic view! It is really breathtaking! As I may have mentioned, this room is being paid for with my Starwood's Preferred Guest "Starpoints" (7000) which I earn by using my SPG American Express card; these points can also be transferred to any of my airline frequent flyer programs. How can I loose? This hotel has recently been substantially remodeled and the appointments in our large room are quite modern: flat panel TV, wireless internet access, Starbuck's coffee service, wonderful air-conditioning, and ultra modern furnishings - desk with chair, large overstuffed chair and ottoman, credenza and HUGE pristine bathroom. Not bad for free! I think my choice of accommodation in Fort Lauderdale was a good one! http://www.starwoodgp.com/gsp/connections/home.do?CNURL=https%3A%2F%2Flogin.globalsuite.net%2FIndex&PID=664&CNTD=no&TP=&RT= More later... ~~ Adios, Fort Lauderdale! October 12th ~~ As the sun begins to rise in the east, beautifully visible through the large, floor-to-ceiling windows here in Room 1080 at the Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Beach Hotel, the final day of our journey is at hand with our American Airlines flight back to Los Angeles this evening at 6:40 PM, arriving at 11 PM. The Hotel is granting us late check-out until 4 PM which is just about the right time to leave for the nearby Fort Lauderdale Airport, so all has worked out splendidly! This Hotel has been a delightful treat: the spectacular views from our windows, the spacious modernly furnished room, the exquisitely comfortable beds, and the convenient wireless internet - have all contributed to a pleasant visit, and for FREE! Yesterday afternoon while enjoying a Margarita at the Beach Bar & Grill, I happened to look out just in time to see the Grand Princess edge past the buildings, out to sea, turning slowly to the south on its way to the Caribbean; apparently it sailed around 5 PM. It was a beautiful sight: brilliant white ship against the blue and turquoise waters of the Atlantic Ocean in the fading light of the day. "Bon Voyage!" Last evening we walked up Seabreeze Boulevard a few blocks to Bubba Gump's Seafood Restaurant for dinner, adding yet another location of this chain to my growing list of those visited: Lahaina, Maui; Long Beach, CA; Cancun, Mexico; Victoria Peak, Hong Kong. The original location is in Monterrey, CA, yet for me to visit. Today we are going to take a local Water Taxi around the area's inland waterways which should give a nice overview of Fort Lauderdale's substantial waterfronts: residential and commercial. With the current overcast skies, perhaps it will not be as hot as it was yesterday. Just so long as the rain stays away. So this is AT LAST my final email to you for this trip that started all those weeks ago on September 22nd with our flights from Los Angeles to London; it has been a long one, and it is now time to go home. ~Ron Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
The Good - This was our 20th cruise, 10th on Princess and 5th on the Grand. The first 15 days were spent crossing the Atlantic, visiting Bermuda, Scotland, Ireland, England and France. Other than the fact that we actually spent our days at ... Read More
The Good - This was our 20th cruise, 10th on Princess and 5th on the Grand. The first 15 days were spent crossing the Atlantic, visiting Bermuda, Scotland, Ireland, England and France. Other than the fact that we actually spent our days at sea and on shore palling around with a lot of the couples we had met on Cruise Critic, our experience wasn't much different from those reviews previously posted by Billco and Dr. John. My DW and I enjoyed several of the cruise activities such as Bingo and the Horse Racing. We also participated in the Slot, Poker Pro and Blackjack tournaments. For the most part, there were always a lot of people in the casino and it was sometimes difficult to find a slot machine that wasn't being played. All in all, we really enjoyed the first fifteen days of the cruise and were giddy to start the next half. The second half of the cruise was different from the first as we went to the warmer climates in the Mediterranean. All the ports we visited were exceptional. We especially enjoyed the quaintness of Cadiz, Alghero, Cannes and Gibraltar. We also loved our time in Florence and Rome. The Bad - As mentioned in previous reviews, the beds on this ship need replacement really bad. So, for the first nine days on the ship, we had to endure constant changes to our bedding by our room steward and housekeeping staff until they finally found a combination of things that let us have a restful night's sleep. The Ugly - First off, let me say, we met some very lovely British people on the second half of this cruise. While I am not condemning any one person or group in particular, there were several things that made the first half and second half of the cruise seem like night and day. The first fifteen days of this cruise was comprised of 90% American and Canadian and 10% other nationalities. Of this, there were a total of eight children on board, all behaving very well. The second fourteen days was comprised of 90% British and 10% other nationalities. Of this, there were over one hundred and sixty children on board, a lot with little or no parental supervision at all. This was very evident particularly during the Newlywed Game Show. There were at least 10 children who were loud and running all over the stage making it hard to hear or see the show itself. No one, including the cruise director's staff emceeing the show did a thing about it. After leaving Southampton, we noticed the long lines at the Purser's office for several days. Upon inquiring what this was all about, we were told by one of the crew that the lines were the British passengers canceling their tips. We later learned from our room steward that over half of his room tips had been cancelled. How this affected us was in the drop off in service to everyone in the dining rooms and buffet. This was really obvious during the last week of the cruise as one could tell by the attitude of the crew they weren't very happy campers. In addition, several of the Slot, Blackjack and Poker tournaments were cancelled or the prizes were reduced due to lack of interest. Most of the time, one could literally walk around the Casino and pick any machine to play. The most disturbing thing we noticed was the un-cleanliness of a number of passengers that had joined us in Southampton. Using the elevators and smelling someone that hadn't taken a shower in several days was not very pleasant. During the last two days of the cruise, the ship was on Code Red with Norovirus. If I had to bet, I would surmise it had to do with the number of people that avoided using the hand sanitizer dispensers outside of the dinning room and buffet. Prior to the outbreak, I had mentioned to my DW that I had never witnessed such poor hygiene compared to other cruises. My last issue happened during the Final Jackpot Bingo session. Prior to the jackpot game, the Bingo caller named a game she wanted to play (as all callers do), but she was literally jeered and cussed at by some of the people in the audience because they did not like her choice. Being loud and belligerent they held up the game and refused to play until she changed it to one they liked. After the final game, she actually broke down crying because she had been so humiliated. Overall, we were very happy with our cruise and glad we made the journey. On the other hand, we will try to do a little more research about some of the people who we will be traveling with in the future. Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
Grand Princess Transatlantic Trip Review April 2010 I am delighted to report how much we enjoyed our first transatlantic cruise. We crossed on the Grand Princess and it was our first time on a Princess cruise. This is our 6th cruise out ... Read More
Grand Princess Transatlantic Trip Review April 2010 I am delighted to report how much we enjoyed our first transatlantic cruise. We crossed on the Grand Princess and it was our first time on a Princess cruise. This is our 6th cruise out of Port Everglades but all the others have been to Caribbean destinations. We read in the Princess Patter about a nice couple from Texas who were honored by the captain as the "Most Traveled Passengers" with 644 sailing days with Princess. The couple in second place had 625 days. How fortunate they are. I have read the excellent reviews on our transatlantic crossing by fellow passengers billco and DrJohn and highly recommend them. I will try to give my impressions without too much repetition. We booked this cruise because we now have time to do more traveling in the spring and fall. And because we live within an hours drive of Port Everglades we wanted to travel beyond the Caribbean ports we had already visited. We have wanted to do a repositioning cruise and this itinerary appealed to us. This would be our first visit to Ireland, but we have traveled by car in Scotland, England and France. Embarkation: It was very smooth. We hired a car service to drive us to Port Everglades which was cheaper than leaving our car in the parking garage or offsite long term parking. We arrived around 1:30 pm and there were no particular delays getting on board. Our cabin was B232. We picked an inside cabin because we thought a balcony wouldn't get used in the cold stormy North Atlantic and with all those sea days we could see the ocean from the Lido and Promenade Deck and save some money. But for the ports of call I did miss a balcony view. B232 on the 11th deck forward was an inside cabin with opposing mirrors giving the cabin a spacious ambiance. We had plenty of drawer space and our bags fit easily under the bed. We both found the bed more comfortable than expected. I had faxed a request for an egg crate but it wasn't there and wasn't needed. There was only one 110v electrical outlet but we were prepared with extension cords and multiple plugs to charge our camera and laptop batteries. We had room in the small refrigerator for a bucket of ice which our hard working room steward kept filled. The bathroom was adequate except I prefer a hand-held showerhead but the showerhead provided worked well enough. In the beginning the shower's temperature valve delivered only lukewarm water but we complained and it as immediately fixed and we had plenty of hot water after that. I would have preferred a cabin closer to the stern but we were late making our booking and took what was available. This forward location was nice because it was close to the front elevator bank giving quick access to the large theater, the exercise room and forward hot tubs. We did not use the adult sanctuary which cost $10 per half day. The front elevators also gave us easy access to the excellent hamburger + hotdog grill and excellent pizza station on the Lido deck. I did noticed only minor maintenance efforts that seemed routine to me and I took no particular notice of signs of aging or wear and tear. The ambiance was classical browns which I preferred over the gaudy pinks on newer ships. Itinerary: Sea Days: I was amazed the weather was so nice on the entire trip. I had expected heavy seas and was delighted the seas were so "slight" to use the captain's term. To keep us busy they had Photoshop, Excel and Word computer classes which were $75 for a 4 hour package or $25 per class. The instructor did a excellent job and sometimes full classes had to turn away passengers because of limited space. They also had other things like fruit carving which we enjoyed and cocktail demonstrations. Every day they had a classy afternoon tea and there were two wine tasting classes which were full in spite of the extra cost. The Princess Patter was always full of things to do. We were never bored. Titanic: I was very pleased that on April 15th in the afternoon the captain came on the PA system and somberly announced that we were approximately 134 miles from the position where the Titanic sank on this day 98 years ago. We were iceberg free. Another nice feature I was surprised to find was the excellent Promenade Deck which was well used and very enjoyable. It gave exercising walkers 360º views. Toward the bow you went up some stairs (ladder in ship's terms) to the level of the Emerald Deck where you had access to the very tip of the bow. What a grand view it was albeit sometimes windy. This was the first ship I have been on that offered this unique tip-of-the-bow view to the passengers. Bermuda: the ship docked at the King's Wharf (also known as the Royal Navy Dockyard) at the far western end of the island which required a one way $4 ferry ride over to the capital of Hamilton. We walked around Hamilton and up to Fort Hamilton which was free and offered nice views. To return to King's Wharf we decided to take the public bus which made the trip in about 50 minutes and gave views of the long gone railway line. There is an impressive fort at King's Wharf that is worth a visit. If you wanted to visit St. George at the eastern end of the island and don't want to pay for a taxi ride or risk a traffic jam delaying your return, there are high speed ferries leaving and returning to King's Wharf. Greenock: We purchased the excursion into Edinburgh with a tour of the famous castle and time for shopping. No gloves or winter hats were for sale. It was a comfortable 2 hour bus ride and the excursion guaranteed we would be sure to return to the ship before sailing. Dublin: We purchased the Princess excursion with included a city tour and time for lunch on our own. We had our best on-shore meal at a pub near Trinity College. Cobh and Cork: We purchased the Princess bus tour that included Blarney Castle. It included an almost inedible lunch at a country hotel. I don't recommend it. Falmouth: The Princess excursions we wanted was booked. We rode the tender into Falmouth and walked around. We visited the maritime museum which was very nice and there was a discount for Princess passengers. Le Havre: We booked the Princess excursion for a 1.5 hour bus ride to historic Rouen but after boarding the bus we were advised that the loud continuous horn blowing was due to a impromptu French truckers strike blocking the port entrance. The French on strike? Who would expect that? After a while we were allowed to return to the ship and were offered refunds. Originally the shuttle to downtown Le Havre was $5 each way but the ship offered it for free once the French truckers decided to unblock the port of Le Havre. We rode downtown and did some window shopping. Le Havre is a very nice modern city rebuilt after near total destruction in WW2. The window shopping was fun and the citizens of Le Havre were very nice. South Hampton and disembarkation: We disembarked without difficulty and our luggage, put out the night before, was waiting for us in a warehouse. We took a taxi over to the Hertz rental car office. We had to wait on the curb until they opened their doors at 9:00 AM. Our first stop was the Titanic museum which we felt was not worth the money. Next we visited Fort Nelson where they had an excellent live fire demonstration of a 25 pound gun. We spent the next 5 days driving around Cornwall. We were happy the Icelandic volcano ash that shut down Heathrow for several days had past and no flight delays were experienced by the passengers going directly to Heathrow or by us a week later. Food: It was excellent. Both in the buffet on the Lido deck and in the formal dining rooms. We had no desire to pay extra for the specialty restaurants but I am sure they were also excellent. This was the best food we have ever had on a cruise. I especially want to praise the pizza counter and hamburger grill. The pizza was great and the hamburgers and cheese burgers were always cooked to order. They would also grill sausage and bratwurst to order. Entertainment: We don't like having to show up 45 minutes before a show to get a seat and the early shows were always a full house. But we did attend some of the 10:15 PM shows and we were always entertained. We saw several movies on MUTS and it reminded me of going to the drive-in as a child in our Desoto convertible. Blankets and popcorn were provided. Blankets were provided and always necessary at night. We found the Skywalker Lounge, which is the handlebar of the shopping cart look of the ship, to be a quiet place for afternoon reading or sending emails on our laptop or just enjoying the fabulous view. Regrets: Just after leaving Bermuda the ship's store had a sale of gloves and watch caps. They quickly sold out. At the most northern end of the sea crossing and visiting Edinburgh, I dearly wished for gloves and winter headgear. I envied fellow passengers who brought ski parkas and winter gear. While suitcase space was limited and heavy coats take up a lot of room, I regret not packing gloves and winter hat. We did pack in layers, even bringing long underwear, but I would have been more comfortable with my winter coat that I left behind. In conclusion this was our best cruise so far in our limited cruising career but we look forward to our next cruise on the Grand Princess. We enjoyed our days at sea and would go on a long transatlantic cruise with Princess Cruises again without hesitation. Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
It takes time to sail a transatlantic itinerary, but if you can fit it in, you'll enjoy the luxury of traveling slowly. In today's world we constantly strive to do everything fast, but some things can only be appreciated when you ... Read More
It takes time to sail a transatlantic itinerary, but if you can fit it in, you'll enjoy the luxury of traveling slowly. In today's world we constantly strive to do everything fast, but some things can only be appreciated when you slow down and enjoy the passage of time. Appropriately, the Grand Princess cruise of April 9-24, 2010 was called the British Isles Passage. We'd sailed transatlantic a year ago on NCL and wanted to see how a crossing with Princess would compare. The Grand Princess is one of their older ships, built in 1998. She'd show her years, but be well maintained. The crowd would be what could graciously be termed "mature". Filling fifteen nights with quality entertainment might be a challenge. The weather would vary, more cool than warm, and the seas could possibly be felt. The food and service would be good, the cabin - comfortable, and all in all we'd have a good cruise, with the chance to see that area of the world for the first time. That's what we expected - and for the most part that's what we got. This was our fifth Princess cruise, so we felt at home - confident there'd be no surprises. Yes, the Grand is older and it's interesting for repeat Princess passengers to see the first ship in her class, having sailed her sisters further down the evolutionary line. Considering that she has hosted tens of thousands of guests over the years she looks great, but you can see the high mileage if you look around. Most obvious is what twelve years of salt air and sea spray can do to balcony dividers. The corrosion was evident everywhere out there. It's hard to fault her for design flaws - such as a non-existent midship stair tower - that would be corrected in ships built later. Call it character. She's a comfortably sized ship with adequate public space. Adequate, that is, when everyone spreads out. Instead they hogged the indoor seating, and ventured out to the open decks - where I guess they were afraid of suffering frostbite in 52-degree air - only rarely. In fact, The Sanctuary, where you can pay extra for outdoor privacy was deserted. No surprise, because after Bermuda most everyone stayed inside. But I enjoy any weather warmer than a New England winter so while they were warming chairs in the Atrium I was bouncing a basketball, looking out over the ship's wake, and celebrating - believe it or not - a wind-assisted hole-in-one on the miniature golf course. Don't sail a transatlantic expecting your fellow cruisers to be spring chickens. We were quite obviously among the younger passengers, even though the half-century mark is not far off for us. They like it warm; they go to bed early. They ride scooters and use wheelchairs and walkers and canes. The cruising clichE is "overfed and nearly dead", for a reason. But, they have the money - and the time - for these itineraries and you've got to give them credit for getting off the couch and getting out there. Our adventure began in Fort Lauderdale where four other ships left port just before us. After two sea days we called at Bermuda on Monday. Monday evening we began the crossing with a long stretch of sea days that wouldn't end until the pace of the cruise shifted at Greenock, Scotland the following Monday, when we'd begin visiting a new port each day thereafter: Dublin and Cobh in Ireland; Falmouth, England and Le Havre, France and Southampton, England, where the cruise would end. We had a roomy mini-suite on Dolphin Deck. The bathroom had a tub, and that meant a comfortable showering experience compared to the usual coffin-sized shower stall in other cabins. There was a separate sitting area with a couch, chair and coffee table - extra space you appreciate on a 15-night sailing. The balcony was fully exposed to the sun, and because we chose a cabin on the starboard side we had the sun on our side as we sailed eastward across the Atlantic. Our Cruise Director, Billy London is obviously a firm believer in the delegation of responsibility. I saw him at the Captain's Circle Party, the farewell event in the Atrium and on his morning TV show. That's it. Oh, and once having dinner with the Captain in the steakhouse. Is it just me, or should the crew never be allowed to dine with the guests, no matter their rank? I digress. Billy left all the heavy lifting up to "number two, Stuey Stu", his deputy. He was omnipresent. There was a full schedule of entertainment daily but most of it did not appeal to me. I skipped the Huber Marionettes and anyone described as a "singing sensation". I still want the hour Kevin Devane stole from me with his amateurish, unfunny "comedy" set. My time would have been better spent sleeping. Greg Moreland, a "magician", lamely attempted an act using joke-shop props like the linking rings and the knot that slides off of the rope. Your typical birthday-party-and bar-mitzvah guy could do better. We avoided the production shows - been there, done that. And I'm sorry, but I couldn't get excited about daytime activities listed in the Princess Patter such as Paper Airplanes, Elevator Roulette and Come Down and Talk About Your Grandchildren! What's next, tic-tac-toe? Many nights we entertained ourselves in-cabin by ordering room service and playing Scrabble, or watching recent movies on TV. There were lots of those, most recent and all free, from Avatar to Crazy Heart to The Blind Side. The music was good. Tempo Quatro from Hungary kept things lively with their peppy, accordion-based tunes. Funky party band Flare was often heard out by the pool or in a lounge for evening dancing. Dan Hodge held court nightly in the Promenade Lounge and Bar, the Grand's Piano Man. They all superbly set the cruise to music. Food aboard the Grand Princess was as good as it was plentiful and ubiquitous. We enjoyed it all, from the burgers and pizza by the pool to the Horizon Court buffet to the free soft-serve cones and root beer floats at the ice cream bar to our nightly, second-seating dinner in the Botticelli dining room, served by Alejandra and Andrey, two of the ship's best. Rafael, our big, comical Mexican teddy bear of a headwaiter should be proud to have them on his team. There was a new menu every night of the cruise and, honestly, there wasn't a bad dish in the lot. Prime rib, lobster tails, lots of shrimp, more beef, excellent pasta, hot and cold soups, fish, and salads - all at the correct temperature and in quantities sufficient to choke a horse. The weather. Everybody talks about it but nobody does anything about it! The North Atlantic in April is not the Caribbean Sea in August. I don't know what some of my fellow passengers were expecting, but I sure overheard a lot of complaining. I don't know why. The seas were as smooth as a millpond, and I don't hide indoors when the temperature is below 60 with anything more than a puff of breeze. I didn't bring a scarf, or gloves, or a parka. I swam in the outdoor pool. I sat on my balcony every day of the crossing; though I must admit it got too chilly to stay long as we neared Scotland. We had only a little rain. I was prepared for worse, given the bad winter Europe had this year. But it was fine. The cruise was divided into two distinct portions: The Crossing and The Ports. The Crossing allowed plenty of time for naps, reading, movies, going for a walk, air hockey in the arcade and lingering over breakfast, lunch and dinner. The Ports was a five-day grind, one after another, with early starts and long days thanks to the extensive shore excursion schedule we'd set up for ourselves. Our ambitious agenda featured a trip to Edinburgh on Monday out of Greenock, a day with Over the Top tours into the mountains during our Tuesday in Dublin, Killarney and county Kerry during our Cobh call Wednesday, a cliff walk around The Lizard, the most southerly point in England on Thursday from Falmouth and - the pièce de rEsistance - a long ride into Paris from Le Havre on Friday. All were ship's tours except for Dublin. All the guides were good except for Manus from Over the Top. He was friendly and funny, but he'd seen all this a thousand times before and didn't seem to remember that we had not. It's a long, two-hour ride from Greenock through Glasgow and into Edinburgh, where the highlight was Edinburgh Castle and some free time along Princes Street after lunch. So much to see and so little time - our visit was just a teaser, and I'd love to go back someday and fill in the gaps. Because of the distance to the city the pace of the tour was nuts. The visit to Holyrood Palace turned out to be no more than a bathroom break. Our Cruise Critic roll call group organized the tour with Over the Top on Tuesday that took us along the coast to Powerscourt Gardens, into the Wicklow Mountains and to the town of Laragh for lunch (where, incidentally, a bowl of hot beef and Guinness stew will set you back almost 12 euros), then to the monastic ruins of St. Kevin's at Glendalough before heading back to Dublin via the Wicklow Gap. The green hills of Ireland are only a half-hour out of Dublin. We saw a lot, but I wish I'd seen more of the city itself. Again, you'd need at least a few days to do it justice. Cruises are great for covering a lot of territory but in no detail. Think of it as a sampler - to build your list of places to return to. Wednesday we were headed for the hills again, this time to see the Lakes of Killarney from Aghadoe Heights and to drink in the Victorian splendor of Muckross House, where the queen herself spent two nights of her reign. We shopped for souvenirs in Killarney after lunch, good touristy fun. The yellow blooms of gorse painted the hillsides. At first, I thought it was pretty but when I learned it was a thorny, invasive species I began to view it as a blight on the landscape. The winds howled but the sun shone Thursday in Cornwall along The Lizard, a steep and winding path along the rocky seacoast that turned out to be my favorite excursion. Lunch was at the Witchball. The sign out front said, "Beer is proof God loves us and wants us to be happy", so I knew I was among kindred spirits. They served us fish & chips and a dessert of strawberries with clotted cream - an authentic Cornish delight. We shopped for serpentine stone, had a pasty from the world-renowned Ann's Pasty Shop and bought Cornish sea salt at Retallack's butcher shop. Falmouth was a tender port, and the ride back to the ship in one of the Grand's lifeboats made me feel like I was inside a Maytag during the rinse and spin! The sea had become rough and the boat cut through the waves with the grace of a hockey puck. We held on, my wife beginning to turn green, as water began pouring in! The thing leaked like a sieve. The sea seeped in around the window frames and gushed from an area overhead. "Don't they have a better boat than this to send out on tender duty", I wondered. Back aboard, I gave the boat number to the Purser's desk and suggested it was time for some maintenance - but they would hear none of it. They said it must have been a shore side tender and completely disregarded the report. Take my advice: if you sail the Grand and it becomes necessary to abandon ship, avoid lifeboat number 19. Then it was Friday - and the big disappointment of the week - Le Havre. We sat in the Princess Theater at 7:00 A.M. waiting for our tour to Paris to disembark. After a three-hour ride we'd be treated to a tour of the City of Light followed by a cruise on the River Seine including lunch. I'd done my homework, reading Eiffel's Tower by Jill Jonnes over the winter. Around my wife's neck was the tower in pendant form, a Christmas present given in anticipation of seeing it first-hand. We couldn't wait to go - but the dockworkers in Le Havre had other plans. They were on strike. As horns honked and a pile of tires burned their picket line blocked many of the tour buses from entering the port area. It ended by 9A.M. but for us it was already too late. The Grand Princess tour staff disseminated confusing and conflicting information over the loudspeakers but in the end - the tour was cancelled. We were left to roam the streets of Le Havre. We browsed the shops, we ate pastry, we had lunch, but it was no April in Paris. So the goal remains elusive - but not abandoned. We'll get there someday, but thanks to a French labor union it won't be in 2010. The cruise ended on that sour note the next day. London made up for it, almost. We had arranged a post-cruise stay through Princess for a single night - all our schedules would allow. That was the other setback we encountered during the voyage. We were informed midway through the cruise that the hotel we had booked was "full" and that we'd have to be moved. I wasn't happy, but the deed was done - they insisted we couldn't stay at the Crowne Plaza - but would stay instead at the Millennium in Mayfair. On disembarkation day I learned that not everyone was switched, because the Crowne Plaza was the first stop and plenty of passengers got off. But you go with the flow, roll with the punches and make lemonade out of the lemons - clichEs, yes - but words to live by when traveling. The hotel was not nearly as handy to things as the Crowne would have been but our room was clean and ready for us when we arrived shortly after noon. We bought our tickets for the Big Bus open-top tour of London from the concierge and set off. It was warm and sunny, and we saw all the sights from our upper-deck seats. A cruise on the Thames was included in the price. We boarded after threading our way through the crowd around the London Eye and sailed under all the famous bridges in the direction of the Tower of London and Tower Bridge. Back on the bus, we closed the tour's loop and rode back to our starting point. The hotel was convenient to one thing - and a very important one - food! Dinner that night was at The Audley around the corner on South Audley Street, with pub food and hand-pulled local pints in a convivial atmosphere right out of the Victorian era. You place your order by stepping up to a long, beautiful old hardwood bar. One of my favorite meals of the trip was Sunday breakfast at Richoux, also on South Audley. Imagine: cozy tables set in a turn of the last century setting and Belgian waffles, back bacon and a pot of great coffee for company. Oh, my wife was there too. Sorry - that meal held my attention. I want to go back. At noon a car picked us up for the drive to Heathrow where our flight would depart - on time, half-full and without incident, even though the UK's airports had reopened only days before, after the Eyjafjallajokull volcano's ash cloud kept people on the ground all over Europe for the better part of a week. We had ample time to enjoy the ship and not enough in the ports of call, but we are happy with how we chose to spend our time each day. We enjoyed the Grand Princess and all it had to offer, and our list of places to which we must someday return for a more leisurely visit is now longer. Our horizons broadened, our perspectives altered - we returned home with a little more of the world now considered familiar territory. Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
The following Information are Facts and Not Judgements. After selling me Cabin B401, my travel agency put me in B433 without my approval. Could not change on the first leg as Ship was overbooked. Princess Cruise Line although not at ... Read More
The following Information are Facts and Not Judgements. After selling me Cabin B401, my travel agency put me in B433 without my approval. Could not change on the first leg as Ship was overbooked. Princess Cruise Line although not at fault put me in Cabin D415 for the second leg. Thank you Princess. Food was fantastic, Service was fantastic. We were notified we needed 2 Visas for Fortaleza Brazil even though we did not care to get off the ship after we paid for the cruise. 2 Visa's cost $425. Port time in Fortaleza was 8 hours and the tour was just a shopping trip. The Port was the worst I have ever seen on 9 cruises. Port area filthy and the local area unsafe to walk in. Later found out the only reason for the stop was to refuel after 4 days at sea and the Princess/Brazil Contract for fuel prices was half of what it would have been elsewhere. shame on you Princess for putting us all through that. You heard about it from 90% of the passengers but I suspect you will not change your ways. Sailors beware. If the cruise is stopping in Brazil and you don't specifically care to be there, don't go. It will cost you a lot of money for nothing. _Price of Princess Sponsored Tours are astronomical. There only saving grace is that if Princess sponsored, the Ship will not leave you standing on the Dock if returning a little late. Oh, ask the 85 year old lady from Tampa Florida who was on a Princess Sponsored Tour and got disoriented in the Kusadasi Turkey Port building on her return and was left on the dock. She had to find her way to Istanbul to catch up with the Ship on her own at her own expense. Shame on you and your Tour Operator Princess. Aloha and Baja Deck Balconies were power washed 2 days out of Italy. Balconies full of paint streaks and paint chips for the remainder of the cruise and filthy from the washing. Balconies were unusable. Still had to pay for them. Currency exchange on the Ship was almost non-existent. They never had enough foreign Currency or US Dollars. ATM Machine on Deck 6 was inoperable. Bingo Games. the big jackpot was not won until the very last day. One of the consolation $400 jackpots was won and paid to a passenger with a fold over number card which he used for several days. The card was not stamped with the date so the Casino was stuck for paying the gentleman. I know for a fact as I was the verifier of the winning card. There was no stamp on it. The Casino never added any more money to the consolation prizes. shame Shame on your Princess. With the exception of a Jerry Lee Lewis style piano player, the entertainment was the worst I have ever seen on a Princess Cruise and verified by many many passengers.. Grand Princess is in need of sprucing up. There are some real worn out areas on this vessel. All in all it was a fair cruise just about 10 days to long. I have given you the facts you make up your own mind. I have 9 Princess Cruises completed and never sailed with anyone else. My next cruise will be with another line.   Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
Grand Princess Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 3.0 4.0
Dining 4.0 4.0
Entertainment 3.0 3.7
Public Rooms 3.0 4.1
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.8
Family 4.0 3.8
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.8
Enrichment 4.0 3.6
Service 4.0 4.3
Value For Money 3.0 3.8
Rates 4.0 4.0

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