1. Overall comments: This cruise exceeded all my expectations. I’d give it 10 stars if I could. I had read many reviews of this ship on Cruise Critic and they were decidedly mixed. Thus, I wasn’t sure what to expect. This cruise was amazing! The ship was wonderful and I saw no signs of the age and decay that I had read about. Everyone from Princess we met was great. The food was excellent. Our mini-suite cabin was very comfortable.
I don’t know why people are so negative about this ship. Perhaps some people have ridiculously high expectations that no ship could live up to. For us, the experience on the Grand Princess was truly “grand.”
How much did we enjoy this cruise? We only got off the ship one time even though we visited four ports in Mexico!
a. Horizon Court: The food in the buffet was uniformly excellent. Things were very fresh and everything was really tasty. So many people posted negative things about the Horizon Court, but I don’t get it. The staff was very friendly and the hand-washing station at each entrance was very comforting to see. All passengers entering were gently encouraged to wash their hands. There wasn’t a piece of brown lettuce in sight, typically the sign of a bad buffet. The smoked salmon was plentiful at breakfast, one of our favorites. The baked goods and fruit was all fresh. What REALLY surprised me was the overall atmosphere in the Horizon Court. It was downright calm and low-key. The indirect lighting, the carpeting, the comfortable chairs all worked together to create a very pleasant ambiance.
b. Sabatini’s: We ate there one night and it was spectacular. The food was very rich and tasty. So many great flavors. The 3-pasta course was amazing. Service was also great. This was worth every extra penny.
c. Crown Grill (Daniel from Brazil): We ate there early in the cruise. One of the steaks (the Sterling Chop) was perfect while the 14oz ribeye was a bit disappointing, although my partner ate it. The next day, he casually mentioned it to someone at the Guest Services desk. That person was named Oana who turned out to be an Assistant Maitre’D. She was very apologetic and said she would make this right. She invited both of us to dine again at the Crown Grill at no cost. This we did a few nights later. This time, the waiter (a wonderful guy named Daniel from Brazil) brought the raw steak to our table to get our approval before cooking it. The piece of meat was great and was cooked exactly as requested.
d. Alfredo’s Pizzeria: Several Cruise Critic reviews suggested having lunch here on departure day, since it would be a lot less crowded. They were right. We had some wonderful pizzas that kicked off the cruise deliciously. They are hand-tossed and made to order. The view outside the window as the ship was getting ready to sail was a bonus. I thought about eating again at Alfredo’s later in the cruise but didn’t make it there.
e. Salty Dog poolside: Food here was fresh and VERY tasty. The regular burger was great, but the Ernesto Burger made with prime rib and pork belly ($5 extra) was well worth it. Two thumbs up here!
f. Coffee and Cones: Right between the two big pools, this location was great. I am not a coffee drinker, but I sure do like soft-serve with sprinkles on a hot pool day. There were almost never an lines waiting to get served here.
g. International Café: Very popular spot located in the Piazza area. Even at peak times, I didn’t need to wait too long. The offerings were fresh and the options changed all the time. The sandwiches and soups were very tasty. This is a great concept.
3. Condition of cabin: Despite reviews to the contrary, everything worked in E729. All the doorknobs matched (a common complaint), the safe was handy, and the bed was very comfortable. The linens were like silk. The twin LG flat-panel TVs worked just fine. There were a number of lighting options. Closet space was more than ample, and the large bathroom was great. Having a tub was nice, and the water pressure in the shower was STRONG!
4. Elevators: On two occasions, elevators were out of commission. But, in both cases, crew members were working on the issue and the elevators were back in business very shortly.
5. TVs in cabin with on-demand programming: I knew that all-new LG flat panel TVs had been installed during the retrofitting earlier in 2019. We had two of these and they worked great. The choice of live TV channels was limited but acceptable. The on-demand programming was quite extensive. We watched several movies from the comfort of our mini-suite.
6. Production shows (Motor City, comedian, British Invasion) and movies in the Princess Theater. The two production shows we saw were quite good. The one comedian we saw was also very funny. We also took in the film “Rocketman” in the Princess Theater. That worked very well and the sound and picture quality were great.
7. Balcony: We carefully chose our mini-suite because it had the double-width balcony that was private. Nobody could see onto it and the balcony wrapped around the stern of the ship providing views in two directions. That was great!
8. Ease of boarding and disembarking: Nothing could have been easier. The relatively new cruise port at Pier 27 in San Francisco worked super well. In the ports, people seemed to be getting off and on the ship with no major issues. I didn’t see a single “pier runner!”
9. Pools: We mostly used the Neptune and Calypso pools, neither of which were ever very crowded. There were always plenty of chairs and loungers available; space was never an issue. The pools were large enough and the water was just warm enough. With one pool exposed and one covered, these were great choices. I didn’t visit the other pools on the ship, but they looked nice. I didn’t watch any “Movies Under The Stars” poolside, but I did see some other shows shown there. Watching an NFL game on the giant screen while lounging in the pool was a major highlight of this cruise!
10. Casino: I spent some time there. It was decent sized but a bit dark and forbidding. The smoke smell was strong, but not on the smoke-free days they had there. Most of the staff was Eastern European and not uniformly friendly. Still, it was a positive experience.
11. Internet: Despite what cruise lines say, internet speeds are slow. Princess claims to be fixing this with its Ocean Medallion service, but I’ll believe it when I see it. Speeds were no slower or faster than I’ve experienced on other ships.
12. Cabin steward: We had the best steward ever: Roberto Leynes. He was always hanging around in the hallway outside our cabin, but not in a creepy way at all. He was just so friendly all the time!
13. Friendly staff: Leo and Oana at the Guest Services deck were exceptionally helpful. Knowing all the crap they must deal with on a daily basis, I was so happy to receive such excellent service from them.
14. Walking on the Promenade Deck: This was our regular form of exercise with great views and fresh air to boot. In order to completely circumvent the ship, one had to go up a flight of stairs to the Emerald Deck at the bow and back down the stairs to the Promenade Deck on the opposite side. The deck narrows down quite a bit in some locations, but things never got too crowded and it was easy to work up a sweat while circling the ship.
Despite reviews to the contrary, everything worked in mini-suite cabin E729. All the doorknobs matched (a common complaint), the safe was handy, and the bed was very comfortable. The linens were like silk. The twin LG flat-panel TVs worked just fine. There were a number of lighting options. Closet space was more than ample, and the large bathroom was great. Having a tub was nice, and the water pressure in the shower was STRONG!
The embarkation process at Pier 27 was flawless. The crowds were managed very efficiently.