Great itinerary, Tired Crew, Grumpy Guests-Still a Good Time: Grand Princess Cruise Review by Darshan1

Grand Princess 4
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Great itinerary, Tired Crew, Grumpy Guests-Still a Good Time

Sail Date: October 2012
Destination: Southern Caribbean
Embarkation: Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades)
While I enjoyed this cruise and while I'd be willing to take Princess a second time, I would probably prefer a different line based on this sailing. Note: This was one of the last sailings of the Grand Princess before its 2011 re-fit. Even though there were some leaks and elevator issues, the ship itself was not a problem. The problem was the skimping. Carnival seems to have made Princess more of a nickel and dime line which puzzled a lot of guests who see it as a step up from Carnival and a rival to a RCL's Celebrity. The worst of this appeared to the crew's own experience. Our steward was visibly exhausted (he appeared feverish at times) and we never saw him have any help. He was friendly, though, and thorough. Our waiters were also overworked. Other corners cut included no beverages in the buffet other than water for most of the voyage and a reluctance to let diners have more than one entree in the main dining room, which sounds reasonable to me, but caused More complaints.

Here are some good points:

The Princess crew was highly responsive. The issue with only having water in the buffet was met with signs about asking for lemonade. Problems with not knowing where to meet tours in one island were dealt with at the next. When the air went out in our room, it was fixed within the hour. The captain seemed more amenable to waiting for "lost sheep" than any other I've sailed with. The entertainment staff did a great job - although one junior staffer named Daniel couldn't score trivia competitions to save his life, they were overall a very fun and funny bunch.

Food was good in the main dining room, and often exceptionally so. Menus were not as clearly marked for special diets as Carnival's, but still fine. Service was fantastic. Princess (at least on this voyage) did a much better job than other lines (including Celebrity) when it comes to feeding its guests at off hours and late nights.

The stateroom was smallish but serviceable. In my mom's opinion, the beds seemed oriented in the wrong direction to handle the rocking of a ship, but I slept fairly well. Public areas were comfortable as were noise levels. Smoke-free nights in the casino worked better than "smoke-free areas"(note the quotes)on other lines.

The itinerary was fantastic as was nearly every tour. Princess had a generous cancellation policy for their tours and a helpful excursion staff.

To look at the negative, the dining room staff messed up our dining as we'd asked for a set time and table with hopes of meeting new friends we'd eat with every night. Thanks to overbooking of the "eat when you want" program, we ate with new people nearly every night, and unfortunately the nice people we'd never see again but the grouches would be sure to turn up. :) The inattention to fixing this problem led to the maitre'd receiving our only complaint on their survey form. Still, this wasn't something that would seriously mar a nice trip to the tropics.

Believe it or not, the main problem with this cruise was our fellow guests. We were not the only ones commenting on how many people said, "I hate cruising" on this voyage and making ridiculous statements like "There's nothing to eat on this ship. All I've been having is crushed ice". I've never sailed out of Fort Lauderdale or anywhere else in Florida before, so the "Geez, what a drag cruising is" mentality might be more related to the port of departure than Princess, but I think enough guests were disappointed with an apparent drop in the level of amenities on Princess that it contributed to an overall atmosphere of frustration.

Other notes:

Embarkation/Debarkation: - smooth in both directions, Princess transfers seemed a bit expensive considering how close the Fort Lauderdale airport is to the pier.

Entertainment: - Enjoyable, especially good was a comedian who was also a self-help lecturer-excellent. Note that trivia competition was fierce and taken to an oddly serious level, so study your foreign capitals and Oscar winners!

Would I recommend this cruise? Yes, for the itinerary. It's not easy to get to Saint Vincent or Santo Domingo, and they were both fantastic. I would recommend it even more so if they switched out a few islands like St. Kitts and Princess Cay for others like Grand Turk, Tortola, or Martinique. Less

Published 10/30/12

Cabin review: JJ

Port and Shore Excursions

California Lighthouse

Aruba is not an island that lends itself to bus tours and watching beautiful scenery go by. Similar to Grand Cayman, if you want to enjoy Aruba, you need to get in the water or enjoy something active like hiking or three-wheeling. (Or shopping) The California Lighthouse is picturesque, but skippable. The arid, rocky landscape, dotted with cacti, and the local lizards,goats, and small donkeys appeared to be photographed as much as the lighthouse.

Island Tour

Our driver's sense of humor made this better than it could have been, but it was nice overall. Aruba is neither incredibly scenic in terms of lush beauty nor historically fascinating, but our driver's explanations of local architecture, customs, and legends make up for the fact that their natural bridge has crumbled and their famous church is about as impressive your average airport chapel. There are enough views of rocky coastline and unusual trees and plants that I'd recommend this tour to someone who wants to see what the arid, "non-lush" Caribbean looks like.

Ostrich Farm

This was a nice walk and an all right experience, but the fact that we chose this shows there weren't a lot of options. The guide at the Ostrich Farm seemed a bit bored and didn't actually seem to be a big fan of ostriches himself. There were some nice views from the farm and the birds, including a baby ostrich and baby emu, made for cute photos.

Island Tour

This was our third visit to Barbados and our favorite. We saw Orchid World the previous year, but Andromeda Gardens was even more beautiful. The incredible rocky coast at Bathsheba should not be missed.

Island Tour

The only drawback to Curacao was the surprising amount of pollution in the port from oil refineries. It was only bothersome at the height of the Lido Deck, but it did sting the eyes. The tour was a good combination of island history (much richer than Aruba's as well as other islands) and well as some scenic views overlooking gorgeous beaches and crystalline water. Included a history museum that was worth a short visit. The capital, Willemstad, is very pretty (noted for its colorful Dutch buildings) and it might have been worth exploring it more as our tour didn't go through the town.

For the combination of cliffs and lush foliage, Grenada is one of the most dramatically beautiful islands I've seen even if not quite as much a riot of green as Dominica. Unlike Dominica, the water in Grenada is the often the famous Caribbean blue. The hilly capital of Grenada, St. George's, looks beautiful from the ship - much of it must be rebuilt since Hurricane Ivan in 2004. It makes for fantastic viewing while lounging on the ship or taking photos.
Read 531 Grenada Reviews

Before getting to Princess Cays, Santo Domingo deserves a 5. Not many large ships call there, and touring a teeming, historic city with a vibrant Latin American flair was a superb treat after island after island of English Caribbean culture. The beautiful old town was well worth a tour, especially the governor's house belonging to Colombus (the guide made this stop fascinating) and the cathedral. Shopping is great there too. There's nothing to do on Princess Cays unless you want to swim or get in the water, but that's just fine. It's pretty and relaxing. The cruise line provided a buffet. There are kiosks with cute trinkets and postcards. There's some music. It was actually quite relaxing to sit around and watch sandpipers. For those determined to go on a bus tour, Princess did offer a tour of Eleuthera, but at a slightly steep price.

Island tour

St. Kitts is too small to support the amount of tourism it receives and still retain substantial natural beauty. Romney Gardens was again beautiful, but other areas seemed to have more development and fewer flowering trees. The area near the port did feel a bit safer than our first visit. Overall, this feels like an island that's fun and pretty enough to visit once, but not twice.

St. John Tour

I'd definitely recommend this, but don't sit in the middle seat in the front (an open air bus) if you have trouble breathing when wind blows in your face. Rain and clouds made this less than perfect, but St. John does look like all the incredible photos you see online.

St. Vincent was an incredible day. A very friendly guide, a wonderfully unspoiled island, and rich history made this perfect. Our tour included a stroll through a botanical garden, a hilltop fortress, and a stop at a beachfront restaurant/shop to try local rum and take pictures of the neighboring island, Bequia. Couldn't have been better.

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