Grand autumnal calms and storms: Grand Princess Cruise Review by Corielotauvi

Grand Princess 5

Overall Member Rating

Grand autumnal calms and storms

Sail Date: October 2011
Destination: Europe - Western Mediterranean
Embarkation: Southampton
We picked this 17 night cruise for its itinerary.

Drove to Southampton and pre booked car parking paid by Princess. Short queue to drive up, unload (porters take luggage), hold over keys to car parking rep (they drive car away), and to a disorderly queue for check in. Once through that, everything was very smooth. We picked a Caribe deck cabin because they have the largest balconies with part roofed over. Cabin itself was good, service excellent,

This was our third cruise on Grand princess, the first since its refit. The main changes we notices were expansion of the atrium (good), removal of that monstrosity over the stern (excellent), the library shrunk and combined with a 'tea bar' (poor) and blocked access to the central stairs from all the main cabin decks causing more-than-before pressure on the lifts (why on earth?)

Food, as usual, was very good - so long as you don't board with the unrealistic expectation of individually cooked three Michelin star More dishes. The ship cooks (excellently) for thousands. Dinners, we mostly ate in a lower deck any-time dining restaurant, apart from the three penguin nights (sorry, formal dress nights) and a couple of others where we couldn't spare the 1 1/2 to 2 hours it tends to take. Horizon court buffer dinners have virtually the same menu and you pick exactly whatever mixture you fancy. Breakfasts we mostly took in Horizon court and, hurrah they had proper back bacon in addition to the usual frizzled fatty streaky stuff. We had room service breakfasts on the three mornings of early departure excursions - good and on time, Lunches we invariably omitted: we adore Princess' afternoon teas yet wanted out clothes still to fit us at the end of the cruise. The deck 5 International cafe does a nice Waldorf salad but, shame, charges for the most basic coffee.

Entertainment also depended on expectation. Princess, I consider unwisely, advertises Broadway style shows. Don't expect anything like full Broadway on a cruise ship, but the production shows they put on were excellently designed and performed by the (slightly fewer than previously) singers and dancers.

Most nights the main theatre had a single person event. Some were good, others less so. Entertainment in bars and the explorers' lounge was mostly excellent.

The ship had a superb string quartet (Ukrainian - where else?)called Tea for Four which enterprisingly had adapted parts of a couple of Mozart symphonies and one of his early 'Salzburg' divertimentos. A single bad point - for their 'classical concert' in the Vista lounge they had to use speakers and amplification which wrecked virtually all of the instruments' overtones.

We frequented trivia quizzes along with two or three hundred others. These were well run, often hilarious, and always great fun. The golden rule is never take these seriously. Prizes were, as usual, pathetic.

Art auctions were exceedingly frequent. In addition to the usual unique original works, three artists were on board with their work featured. One day, squeezing out of a lounge between stacks of paintings, I found myself looking as the auctioneer's open laptop with a spiel about prices sparkling and rich people and industrialists buying. I burst out laughing, saw a pair of shoes in front of me, above these a natty pair of well pressed trousers, then a jacket... you can guess the rest and he didn't look at all happy with me.

Excursions - probably on the expensive side (many people grumbled they were) but at places you don't know they are a hassle free way to get an overview so long as you avoid ones with 'free time for shopping'. We had an excellent boat cruise in Venice which seemed by far the best way to see it -and the queues in a packed st Mark's Square. A tour of Diocletian's massive purpose built retirement home (palace) fascinated me.

Weather was patchy. Some days the sea seemed almost calm. On others, stormy. One night a gale reached force 10 and the wave smashed a couple of windows in the atrium on deck 5 causing local flooding. The crew quickly fixed metal plates over the holes (captain had to turn the ship to put that side downwind) and the glass looked to be replaced at - where else for glass - Venice. The high wind meant we missed Malta, which we first intended to see on our honeymoon over fifty years ago and still haven't.

Some people grumbled about this cruise, the ship, the staff, even the storm was all the captain's fault. Maybe their expectations were unrealistic. I came across one lady having a hissy fit in the (hideously expensive) Lotus Spa about a perceived slight in a completely different part of the ship. She cancelled all her booked treatments - which I estimate generated more than enough to pay for another cruise. We heard a few others say they will never travel on Grand Princess.

We liked and enjoyed this cruise very much and are booked on Grand again. Less

Published 11/08/11

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