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After our last Princess cruise, we swore we wouldn't cruise one of their big ships again, convinced that the onboard experience just didn't meet our standards. But we had reckoned without the one thing Princess does better than any other line: offer fabulous itineraries at very attractive prices. So here we were aboard Grand Princess for back-to-back cruises, 12 days roundtrip from Rome on a voyage which included two Egyptian ports followed by 21 days touching on three continents before landing in Florida. Heck, we figured, we can survive the line's weaknesses better this time because we know what to expect. Here's a summary of our impressions: Air arrangements: We used the Princess air program; our Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt was cramped and uncomfortable, the connection time was alarmingly tight, but the hop to Rome and bus to the pier were efficient and comfortable. Getting on and off: Embarkation was smooth. Disembarkation 33 days later ran about 30 minutes late, the baggage hall was chaotic and the lines for Customs very long. Port Everglades is not a customer-friendly place to get off a ship. The Grand Princess: Lots of rust showing around the balconies, carpets and chairs were worn, at least one leak develop in the ceiling of the Promenade Deck, our shower died during the trip our cabin heat got stuck on 'cool.' The ship was kept clean, with two exceptions: Horizon Court windows (on Deck 15) were left salt-encrusted and not cleaned for six days after we went through a storm, and there were frequent smells of garbage and sewage in the aft end of the Princess Theatre. Itinerary: Superb. Going ashore: We took ship-sold tours in all but three ports. The chance to see the pyramids of Giza was perhaps the number one reason we chose the cruise and we were happy with the result. We booked the ridiculously overpriced Princes Grand Cairo overnight tour - $799 per person. (We now know why it's overpriced: people like us are willing to pay that much. However, unless you're planning another visit to see Egypt's fabled attractions, it's worth it). The tour gave us the usual places - Sphinx, Giza pyramids, Egyptian museum - plus the sound and light show, the step pyramid at Sakkara, a breakfast cruise on the Nile and a night at a luxury hotel. It was marred by a typical example of Princess sleight-of-hand, the Water Scam, wherein you're repeatedly told to buy bottled water on board only to discover it's freely available on your tour. We noted how well the tour staff mustered passengers to go ashore on all our tours, but they were virtually clueless when asked details of the tours they sold. Many passengers refused to buy tours, went ashore on their own, and discovered they really weren't ready for exotic third-world places. The food: Dining room food quality was good, though freshness began to suffer as we neared the end of our journey. In the Horizon Court, I sensed the budget had been reduced: both quality and variety were down from our last cruise. At the The Painted Desert extra-cost steak house we paid $20 each for the worst service I've ever had on board a ship. The service: Other than that, excellent. On-board management: I made a list of about 20 glaring instances of sloppy management or inattention to detail, from poor training of front-desk staff to constant mistakes in the Princess Patter to poorly programmed elevators to Internet-center chairs exactly one inch too wide for the under-desk space into which they should have fit. We heard of several instances where the ship lost passenger documents or otherwise screwed up. If I'd performed that badly as an executive, I'd have been fired. Entertainment: Mediocre, with some exceptions. There were some good comedians, and the singer/dancers (who seemed to be in practice mode) tried hard, but most shows of all types featured constant hectoring of the audience to applaud more often and more loudly, as if the performers were amateurs at a kids' camp and not paid professionals. One of the lounge bands had difficulty singing on key. Cruise staff: Enthusiasm and dedication were outweighed by a belief that passengers need to be badgered several times a day with obnoxiously loud promotional announcements. The Deputy Cruise Director, the main miscreant, appeared to think none of us had been at school long enough to learn to read, thus requiring his bellowed exhortations to show up at one event or another. The deputy's boss seemed to have no control over his subordinate. Safety: For the first time in 38 cruises, I was left with some doubts. On our last night before getting back to Rome, driving hard through a gale, the ship was struck by a "freak wave." There were three loud crashes followed by complete loss of power with the vessel drifting in the swells. Power was soon restored and we limped toward port at seven knots, arriving nearly nine hours late. Beyond a reference to the freak wave, no real explanation of the crashes was ever given. We saw days later a large patch on the bow above the anchor; the captain was replaced when we reached Gibraltar: "normal rotation," we were told. Overall: As long as you accept that Princess is a second-class cruise line with very low basic fares to go with its outstanding itineraries, you won't be disappointed. This is our last Princess cruise, unless, of course, we see a trip that's dirt-cheap with ports that are irresistible.

Last cruise with Princess?

Grand Princess Cruise Review by peter g

Trip Details
  • Sail Date: November 2008
  • Destination: Transatlantic
  • Cabin Type: Balcony
After our last Princess cruise, we swore we wouldn't cruise one of their big ships again, convinced that the onboard experience just didn't meet our standards. But we had reckoned without the one thing Princess does better than any other line: offer fabulous itineraries at very attractive prices. So here we were aboard Grand Princess for back-to-back cruises, 12 days roundtrip from Rome on a voyage which included two Egyptian ports followed by 21 days touching on three continents before landing in Florida. Heck, we figured, we can survive the line's weaknesses better this time because we know what to expect. Here's a summary of our impressions: Air arrangements: We used the Princess air program; our Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt was cramped and uncomfortable, the connection time was alarmingly tight, but the hop to Rome and bus to the pier were efficient and comfortable. Getting on and off: Embarkation was smooth. Disembarkation 33 days later ran about 30 minutes late, the baggage hall was chaotic and the lines for Customs very long. Port Everglades is not a customer-friendly place to get off a ship. The Grand Princess: Lots of rust showing around the balconies, carpets and chairs were worn, at least one leak develop in the ceiling of the Promenade Deck, our shower died during the trip our cabin heat got stuck on 'cool.' The ship was kept clean, with two exceptions: Horizon Court windows (on Deck 15) were left salt-encrusted and not cleaned for six days after we went through a storm, and there were frequent smells of garbage and sewage in the aft end of the Princess Theatre. Itinerary: Superb. Going ashore: We took ship-sold tours in all but three ports. The chance to see the pyramids of Giza was perhaps the number one reason we chose the cruise and we were happy with the result. We booked the ridiculously overpriced Princes Grand Cairo overnight tour - $799 per person. (We now know why it's overpriced: people like us are willing to pay that much. However, unless you're planning another visit to see Egypt's fabled attractions, it's worth it). The tour gave us the usual places - Sphinx, Giza pyramids, Egyptian museum - plus the sound and light show, the step pyramid at Sakkara, a breakfast cruise on the Nile and a night at a luxury hotel. It was marred by a typical example of Princess sleight-of-hand, the Water Scam, wherein you're repeatedly told to buy bottled water on board only to discover it's freely available on your tour. We noted how well the tour staff mustered passengers to go ashore on all our tours, but they were virtually clueless when asked details of the tours they sold. Many passengers refused to buy tours, went ashore on their own, and discovered they really weren't ready for exotic third-world places. The food: Dining room food quality was good, though freshness began to suffer as we neared the end of our journey. In the Horizon Court, I sensed the budget had been reduced: both quality and variety were down from our last cruise. At the The Painted Desert extra-cost steak house we paid $20 each for the worst service I've ever had on board a ship. The service: Other than that, excellent. On-board management: I made a list of about 20 glaring instances of sloppy management or inattention to detail, from poor training of front-desk staff to constant mistakes in the Princess Patter to poorly programmed elevators to Internet-center chairs exactly one inch too wide for the under-desk space into which they should have fit. We heard of several instances where the ship lost passenger documents or otherwise screwed up. If I'd performed that badly as an executive, I'd have been fired. Entertainment: Mediocre, with some exceptions. There were some good comedians, and the singer/dancers (who seemed to be in practice mode) tried hard, but most shows of all types featured constant hectoring of the audience to applaud more often and more loudly, as if the performers were amateurs at a kids' camp and not paid professionals. One of the lounge bands had difficulty singing on key. Cruise staff: Enthusiasm and dedication were outweighed by a belief that passengers need to be badgered several times a day with obnoxiously loud promotional announcements. The Deputy Cruise Director, the main miscreant, appeared to think none of us had been at school long enough to learn to read, thus requiring his bellowed exhortations to show up at one event or another. The deputy's boss seemed to have no control over his subordinate. Safety: For the first time in 38 cruises, I was left with some doubts. On our last night before getting back to Rome, driving hard through a gale, the ship was struck by a "freak wave." There were three loud crashes followed by complete loss of power with the vessel drifting in the swells. Power was soon restored and we limped toward port at seven knots, arriving nearly nine hours late. Beyond a reference to the freak wave, no real explanation of the crashes was ever given. We saw days later a large patch on the bow above the anchor; the captain was replaced when we reached Gibraltar: "normal rotation," we were told. Overall: As long as you accept that Princess is a second-class cruise line with very low basic fares to go with its outstanding itineraries, you won't be disappointed. This is our last Princess cruise, unless, of course, we see a trip that's dirt-cheap with ports that are irresistible.
peter g’s Full Rating Summary
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Cabin Review

Balcony
Cabin BB A311
Standard balcony cabin was fine for a week, but had very cramped storage space for a longer cruise. There were no hanging hooks beyond the bathroom door. Cabin A311 is across the corridor from the laundromat but it wasn't a problem. Cabin is underneath the deck around the pool above so subject to the noise of moving furniture late at night and very early in the morning: be sure to check what's above you. Aloha deck cabins have a big overhang above them, which means they're almost always in the shade.
Aloha Deck Inside Cabins, Outside Cabins, Balcony Cabins