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I just returned from 12 days on the Grand Princess, Istanbul to Barcelona. This mega-ship has 2600 passengers at capacity but seems much smaller. Crowds are seldom a problem; two times that were a oribken was disembarkation in Barcelona, ... Read More
I just returned from 12 days on the Grand Princess, Istanbul to Barcelona. This mega-ship has 2600 passengers at capacity but seems much smaller. Crowds are seldom a problem; two times that were a oribken was disembarkation in Barcelona, where the Spanish seemed totally NOT in control [we tried to get a bus for our group of 45; it made sense since we were all on the same flight - other people haphazardly rushed to the bus we had been assigned that had pulled into an out of the way space away from the buses] and the other times areas seemed very crowded was just prior to tours in the early morning in the Horizon Room, the Lido restaurant-but that was understandable. One morning I counted 160 buses waiting for tours-at approx. 50 per bus, you have 800 people trying to have breakfast at the same time! Where it never seemed to be crowded was around the pools & in hot tubs -- which was very nice. And the dining rooms, 3 of the "seating" rooms plus two other "choice" restaurants plus the Horizon-kept crowding at a minimum. Our stateroom was efficient if small, our balcony in constant use! We unpacked almost immediately & stowed our bags under the beds-freeing up quite a bit of space! We were fairly tidy people, so the room seldom looked very messy, thanks to Leo, our room steward. A comment about the servers' Leo or room steward & Nestor & Michael in the Michaelangelo dining room. The multinational crew is one of Princess' greatest assets; they are MARVELOUS. However, I did overhear an exchange with a young English woman from one of the gift shops & a passenger; the passenger wanted an extra suitcase after the ship had reached Barcelona & the shop [by law] was closed. The young woman just shrugged and said "Too bad!" and walked off. It seems to me an offer of WHERE the problem could have been fixed would have done better; and it seems as if the Philippino crew is held to a MUCH higher standard than the English crew; that seems unfair. The itinerary was delightful; Istanbul was wonderful -a mix of Asian & European. Kusadasi an adventure in shopping and bargaining, Athens; a singularly ugly city-rebuilt quickly after WWII with concrete apartments; The Acropolis a wonderful adventure & so beautiful. Venice...Ahh, Venice. Probably the most beautiful city in the world! With its canals & bridges, its alleyways and squares -- it is wonderful! Livorno & Naples [I had a tour to Pompeii; destroyed 79AD -excavated in the last 100 years and found to be virtually intact under volcanic ash; bodies of people crouched as their oxygen ran out] Monte Carlo -a pretty and very French part of Monaco with several casinos-and into Barcelona, Spain for disembarkation and home. The ship-for all its size is easy to get around; color-coded carpet gives you Blue for odd numbers, brick for even. The walk from Stern to forward is long, but reasonable. Many bars and rooms give you cubbyholes to read, visit or drink. The style is shipboard wood & soft brick, blue & beige's. Probably the biggest asset that this ship has is its Captain-Captain Andrew Proctor-late of the Royal Princess; he is terrific with a wicked Scots humor and a twinkle in his eye. On our Transatlantic cruise in 1998 we rode out the remnants of hurricane Bonnie & Captain Proctor kept us well informed all day during the storm; something I will be forever thankful - I can cope with what I know-but not with the unknown. The food was terrific, the dining room staff great. Would I go this route again? In a flash! 10/10/00 Read Less
We went on the Grand Princess 10/22/00-10/29/00. It was our third Princess cruise and we were very impressed with the exterior of the Grand. We were with another couple (it was their second Princess cruise). We were disappointed ... Read More
We went on the Grand Princess 10/22/00-10/29/00. It was our third Princess cruise and we were very impressed with the exterior of the Grand. We were with another couple (it was their second Princess cruise). We were disappointed with the interior, especially the atrium-only three stories, a lot of wood and glass-not as pretty as the Sun Princess. Our first disappointment with the service was the champagne we had pre-ordered for our shipmates (it was her birthday the day we left 10/22/00) . After dinner that night I finally asked her if there was something waiting in her cabin upon embarkation? She said no, was there supposed to be? I had to tell her what we had ordered for her birthday surprise and said I would check on it. They finally delivered it to her cabin 2 days late! We had booked #511 Aloha deck which was mid-ship, we thought that would be good placement and easy access to the pool deck. Wrong! there are no stairs mid-ship so you have to wait forever for a lift. Also every morning starting at 6:00am the deck hands above us start dragging the metal chairs and tables across the deck for cleaning? It sounded like an earthquake and woke us up with a jolt! So much for sleeping late on this cruise. We called the pursers desk every morning to complain-enough was enough! They said they were sorry and even sent us chocolate covered strawberries to our cabin. They were great but we still got woke up every morning at 6:00am!!! Our last cruise was with 3 other couples on the Sun Princess and our first night at dinner we found our table right in front of the kitchen door where all the waiters come and go. My husband asked the maitre'd if we could be moved as it was so noisy and distracting that it was hard to converse. The next night we had a different and much better table! Imagine our surprise on our first night at dinner on the Grand- our table was right in front of the kitchen doors!! What are the odds? We again requested a different table and was told there was nothing they could do. Noticing an empty table for eight nearby in the corner we asked our waiter if we could have that table. He said maybe those people just didn't come to dinner that night. That table was empty every night of the cruise and no attempt was made to move us-we finally gave up on our table location and tried to enjoy dinner. I know this sounds like we are complaining a lot but we really love cruising and have talked a lot of our friends into cruising, but we decided that the Grand is just bigger not better, especially in service. We loved everything about the Sun Princess and have even told friends that the service, food and entertainment on Princess was better than Royal Caribbean. Now we think that it is more of a ship by ship comparison than cruise line. Our only other disappointment was having to leave Princess Cays so early-2:30pm on our last day! Since it is so close to Ft. Lauderdale you would think that you could have more of a full day on this beautiful island paradise! Oh well, all good things must come to an end!SueD503@aol.com12/02/00 Read Less
GRAND PRINCESS, sailing November 26, 2000 - even better the second time around. I'll be repeating myself, in a lot of cases, from the review I submitted in 1999. We'll get the 'negatives' out of the way with ... Read More
GRAND PRINCESS, sailing November 26, 2000 - even better the second time around. I'll be repeating myself, in a lot of cases, from the review I submitted in 1999. We'll get the 'negatives' out of the way with first: 1). The cruise was far too short. 2). They are doing away with the Limelight Studio. 3). They're no longer going to be selling liquor in the shops for cabin consumption. And finally, 4). The doctor aboard ship does not perform liposuction. This is one humungus ship. A lot of people might not like it because of its size, but don't be put off by this because she "feels" a lot smaller; except for the amount of walking you have to do, which is a lot. The GRAND PRINCESS is a beauty from bow to stern, and she is very "user friendly." The itinerary is just right for this ship - St. Thomas, St. Maarten, and Princess Cays, with 3 days at sea. This was one of the most relaxing cruises my wife and I have taken and we spent 95% of our time aboard ship, and still found we didn't have time to do all there was to do. If anyone wants a laid back cruise, this is it. And first time cruisers will enjoy it because of its blend of ports (probably the two most popular) and days at sea. There are a number of unique things on this ship, as there are on each new ship that comes out. One interesting spot is the 'Voyage Of Discovery' room (for young and old) which has virtual reality based games and rides for just about everything imaginable from simulation rides (we did the interior of a volcano and a magic carpet ride), jet fighters, snow and water skiing, to motorcycle racing and hanggliding, just to mention a few. This room cost $$, but you can purchase a $20 pass and make it stretch for the 7 days. I think this room was designed for younger people, but every time we went, older people (like us) were in the majority. You don't realize how long you've been away from playing with these things; I found out I was terrible, but I had fun being bad. Golfers might like to try the 'Princess Links,' another virtual reality spot where you pick one of a dozen famous golf courses to play. There is also a nicely designed 9 hole mini-golf course for the not-so-serious golfer. For the little tykes, there are indoor and outdoor play areas that look like something you'd see on a kids TV show. They also have planned, supervised activities. For the older ones, there's a place called the 'Teen Deck' (adults not allowed). And for the older, older ones, there's the casino, supposedly the largest one afloat. When you do go to the casino, pay particular attention to the holograms of underwater sealife. For the late crowd, there's the 'Skywalker Night Club,' high atop the stern, gotten to by a skywalk that "moves" you up to the club. Sorry, you have to walk back down, but by this time you're used to walking a lot. We enjoyed this area early morning with a cup of coffee and watched sunrises. Other gimmicks of note are the music chairs in the atrium -- earplugs, controls, keypads -- lots of gismos. These are similar to the reading chairs in the library for listing to books on tape. On your journey exploring the ship, poke your head into the 'Wedding Chapel.' They average 1-2 weddings per day on our cruise. Of the 4 pools on the GRAND PRINCESS, one is called the 'Lap Pool,' or 'swimming against the current' pool. Following are some general observations about this ship: CABIN. Ours was a very nice outside cabin with a balcony. The use of wood, mirrors, fabrics and soft colors give it a homey feeling or look. Using every nook and cranny, there is just enough storage space for a 7 night cruise. There's also some wasted space under the TV, between the TV and refrigerator, which could accommodate a good size shelf or small cabinets. The Sony TV's have front cable plug-ins to make it easy to view videos you tape and/or pictures taken from a digital camera. Don't pack a hair dryer, it's provided, and the beds are just high enough off the floor to slide your luggage (soft sided) underneath. Standard inside and outside cabins aboard Princess ships are not spacious, until you get into a mini-suite, or better, category. But if you pack (and unpack) right, you will have ample room. Our balcony was GREAT!! - again, second time around. We spent a lot of time on it and it was one of the larger ones we've had. The balconies on the Aloha and Baja decks have 4 chairs and a 30"X 30" table and were totally private. The balconies on Dolphin deck were the same as Aloha and Baja, but had absolutely no privacy. Our balcony, on Caribe deck, was twice the size as the others, offered 50% privacy. We lived out here. For all you sun worshipers, choose the starboard side, shade lovers, port side -- at least on this itinerary. AROUND AND ABOUT. Not being a connoisseur of fine art, I really enjoyed the artwork and sculptures aboard ship. I could actually look at and see a painted picture and/or a figure in the later. All the lounges, bars and common areas were attractive and uncrowded. Public restrooms (at least 13 each for men and women, by my count) are spaced conveniently throughout, as are the elevators and stairways. The stores (boutiques) are nice and stock the usual variety of items found on all ships. The ship had a nice blend of brass, wood and soft colors. The only place that might be considered a little glitzy is in the Skywalker Night Club, on deck 17, but only at night. DINING. Uppermost in everyone's mind, even with all the walking you have to do on this ship, is food. The dinner meals we had in the dining room were probably the best we've had in many cruises, probably even better than the last GP cruise. There are three main dining rooms; 'Da Vinci' and' Michelangelo,' which are almost identical and easy to get to, and Botticelli Dining Room,' a little different and not as easy to get to. All are sectioned off to give a more intimate feeling, which it does. We didn't do the alternative restaurants this time around, but the 'Painted Desert,' a southwestern style restaurant, is still charging $3.50 per person. The Italian restaurant, 'Sabatini's Trattoria,' is now charging $15 per person. The pizza slices at 'Poseidon's Pizzeria' and hamburgers at the 'Trident Grill' were excellent. Didn't try the 'Ice Cream Bar' (also a charge for ice cream). The buffets in the 'Horizon Court' were also excellent - we had all of our breakfasts and most of our lunches here. The selections were numerous and the taste outstanding. Just a sampling of what was offered for breakfast: eggs were prepared 3 different ways, a choice of cereals (hot and cold) and yogurts, fresh fruit, sliced melons, fruit salad, pastries, pancakes, 3-4 meats, bagels, breads, French toast, different styles of potatoes, rolls, muffins, 3-4 juice selections, coffee, tea, milk and 20-30 other items I passed up or didn't try; some of which I don't know why they're on the buffet, but it's there. The lunch buffet had even a larger selection and items varied from day to day. I'm not a gourmet, but these 2 buffets offered very tasty food; one is bound to find something to their liking because there's a lot to choose from. Others who have reviewed the GRAND PRINCESS complained about lines; there weren't any to speak of in this dining room. ENTERTAINMENT: Since this was a repeat cruise, we didn't do any of the shows this time, and spent our evenings in the casino and on the balcony. For anyone who hasn't done a Princess cruise, their standard shows, "Glamour," "London Pub Night," "Variety Showtime" with the Chinese acrobats, "Gotta Sing, Gotta Dance," "Pirates," and "New York, New York," are must sees. There has been only one cruise director who has stood out in my mind in the number of cruises we've done - Greg Maxwell, currently on the GRANDEUR OF THE SEAS. As I mentioned, we didn't do any of the shows, but if Tim Donovan, is still on the GRAND, he rates right up there at the top. The man really enjoys what he's doing, seems to be everywhere, is a bundle of energy, is funny and talented. We only did shows in the 'Princess Theater' and the 'Vista Lounge,' on our first GP cruise, but there's other entertainment going on in the 'Explorers Lounge' as well 5 other lounges and bars. POOLS: There are 4 to choose from (5 if you count the kiddy pool). The main pool, obviously, is the most crowded, with a mix of people in all age groups. This seems to be where the children congregate. The Calypso Pool, which is in a more enclosed area attracted an older crowd, but with a few children. The 'swim against the current' pool, adjacent to the Plantation Spa, is for people 17 yrs old +, and 2 hours (I think noon to 2PM) where children are allowed, ACCOMPANIED BY AN ADULT. The Aft pool, my favorite, is strictly for adults only. By my count, there are 8 Jacuzzis/spas and none were crowded when we used them or walked by. ITINERARY: This was a most relaxing cruise, a nice blend of days at sea, 2 ports, and a beach day. We didn't do much in St. Thomas; spent the morning at Sapphire Beach ($5.50 pp taxi fare each way), and a little shopping at Havensight Mall. We didn't go into town because we knew ahead of time that there were going to be 5-8 other ships in port that day. In St. Maarten did some serious shopping (did a very interesting tour last time). There are still deals to be had on these islands, but one has to do their homework and know their prices are back home. Princess Cays has really been developed and upgraded since we were there last. They've added more beach area, expanded the BBQ pavilion, user-friendly walkways and a nice combination of sunny and shady areas. Also, they've doubled the beach area to the right of the tender area, as well as newly constructed pavilions and other buildings. It's a work in progress. The rest of the time was spent aboard ship, swimming, sunning, enjoying the balcony, shopping in the boutiques, eating, gambling, and of course, walking. Princess Cruises does a real nice job of providing their passengers with a booklet with extensive details about their shore excursions. This usually arrives with the cruise docs, prior to sailing. And it seems as though they're adding more tours because people want more and a variety of options. My wife and I loved the GRAND PRINCESS: Part II. This is a totally relaxing cruise which is what we look for in a cruise. Although others may find it too large and complain about the hikes from one end of the ship to the other, we enjoyed that. It's a beautiful ship, and every aspect of her was a pleasure, from our cabin, our balcony, the food, casino, our tablemates, total relaxation, the motion (little), the super-friendly and efficient staff and crew, sights and sounds...... and yes, even the walking. Would we do it again? You bet, but "Part III" may have to wait a bit; there are a few things on our plate before then; already have the next two cruises planned and deposits are in! If anyone has questions or comments, we'd be pleased to hear from you. Wes & Barb Carter (13 cruises) mainecruiser@netscape.net12/07/00 Read Less
Our Cruise Background This was our 5th cruise in 6 years. Prior to sailing on the Grand Princess, my wife and I sailed on Royal Caribbean's Monarch of the Seas, Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas, Celebrity's Mercury ... Read More
Our Cruise Background This was our 5th cruise in 6 years. Prior to sailing on the Grand Princess, my wife and I sailed on Royal Caribbean's Monarch of the Seas, Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas, Celebrity's Mercury as well as on the Sea Princess. This was actually supposed to be a cruise for us on Celebrity's Millennium but our particular sailing was canceled due to ship vibration problems Celebrity wanted to fix. Celebrity gave us ample notice of the cancellation. The Grand Princess was leaving on the same day and from the same port as the Millennium was supposed to sail from. Because of this and since we enjoyed our trip on the Sea Princess last year, we decided to give the Grand Princess a try. Embarkation We arranged for our own air and went down to Ft. Lauderdale the night before our sailing. The morning of our cruise, we took a shuttle from the hotel to the Pier at 11:35. We beat most of the crowds to the terminal so there was no line whatsoever to wait in when we got there. We were in our cabin by 12:10. This impressed me. It pays to it there a little early if you can. First Impressions of the Ship Obviously the Grand is HUGE! Although its interior is very attractive, the Grand Princess is not what I'd call a 'flashy' ship. We read MANY reviews prior to our trip so we expected this. All carpeting and furniture in the public areas seemed to be well maintained and we saw very little wear and tear. Other reviews we've read said that the Grand was not aging very well but I saw no sign of this. I tend to be pretty picky about such things so if I had seen excessive wear and tear to the public spaces I would have certainly noticed it. Our Cabin We booked an outside cabin with a verandah but were fortunate enough to be upgraded to a mini suite. We knew this about two months before our trip. The cabin was on the Dolphin deck. Because it was a mini suite, the room was quite large (for a cruise ship any way). In the bedroom area there was a queen size bed along with a TV, a desk and two night stands. In addition to the bedroom area there was a sitting area with an additional TV, a table and a couch. Both of the cabin TV's were 20". Beyond the sitting area was the verandah. You've probably read in other reviews that the verandahs on this deck are NOT private (they are visible from all of the decks above you). While I understand why some folks might have a problem with this, we did not. It was nice to be able to look up at night and have an unobstructed view of the moon lit sky. It was not too often that any of the folks above us were on their verandahs anyway. The bathroom in the mini suite was nice in that one of the perks is a full-sized tub (not the standard cruise ship tiny shower). Closet space was more than ample. While the mini suite was nice, had we not received it as an upgrade, personally I would not have paid the extra money for it. We really didn't use the sitting area. The butler service that comes with the mini suite was nice, but we really didn't use our butler much at all either. Princess is discontinuing this service soon anyway. The Ship One might think that because this ship is so large it is hard to find your way around. NOT TRUE! In your cabin, you will find a foldable map of the ship that you can carry with you. This is nice to have and it allows you to learn your way around quickly. The ship is designed in a manner that tends to scale things down. For example, the Grand's atrium is smaller that the atrium on the Sea Princess, quite a bit smaller. There were four pools and there was never a problem finding deck chairs (unless you wanted to be right next to the pool). As I mentioned earlier, all public areas were well maintained. There are so many lounges and bars to sit in. All of the lounges were decorated very nicely, especially the Wheelhouse lounge and the Explorers lounge. The sports bar looks like your traditional sports bar back home. Our favorite 'hang out' spots were the Wheelhouse Bar (nautical theme), and the atrium coffee bar. Both had entertainment before and after dinner. The Grand has three dining rooms all of which are similar in layout, appearance and size. We were seated in the DaVinci dining room and my only complaint is that we were seated somewhat close to the kitchen. The noise bothered us a bit the first night but we got used to it and had no problem with it after that. It was actually quite interesting to sit so close to the kitchen because we could see all of the activity going on. It's amazing how hard the waiters on these ships really work. Buffet food was available in the horizon court. Just like on our trip on the Sea Princess last year, we found this area to be a bit unorganized. The serving stations are set up in no particular pattern and everyone getting food seems to wander about getting a bit confused as to where to go next. This is not a horrible experience, just a bit annoying at times. The Food The food in the Grand's dining room was on par with that of the Sea Princess. Most of the food was very good. The only dish that stands out in my mind as being absolutely OUTSTANDING was the eggplant parmagiana. It was absolutely delicious! Buffet food was good as well. Nothing was outstanding, but most of it was very good. We did order room service once via our butler. The food came within 15 minutes and it was piping hot. Pizza, burgers, hot dogs and fries by the pool were all GREAT. We did not have a chance to use the Italian alternative dining option (Sabatini's), but we did have a chance to eat in the Painted Desert (the Southwestern alternate dining option). The service was SLOOOOOOW, but since it was lunchtime we were in no hurry. The food here was excellent. The Staff As it turns out, the cruise director and his assistant were the same two guys that we had on the Sea Princess last year. We loved these guys! Both of them were very animated and always sociable. Waiters were terrific as was the room steward and the butler. Every person we encountered had a great attitude. I have no complaints about anyone on the staff. The Itinerary This particular Eastern Caribbean Itinerary included three sea days. We LOVE sea days so this was ideal for us. The ship made stops in St. Thomas, St. Maartin, and Princess Cays. We had been to all of the ports before with the exception of Princess Cays. Unfortunately, the weather was kind of rainy that day so we stayed on the ship and did not have a chance to explore the island. In St. Thomas we shopped. There were lots of bargains to be found and plenty to keep you busy. In St. Martin we took the "America's Cup Regatta" shore excursion. The seas were a bit choppy when we did this but this is quite an experience to take if you get the chance. You actually get to pilot and race (with supervision) an actual yacht that participated in the 1987 America's cup race. How many people can say they've done that??!! Disembarkation Getting off of the ship was fairly quick. We did have a bit of a problem finding our luggage in the terminal because some of it was put in the wrong place. This added about 10 minutes to our adventure but we eventually managed to find it. Positives The food was very good and the ship was easy to learn. The staff was extremely friendly and they made us feel welcome all week. We again loved that we were able to sign up for shore excursions prior to the trip via fax or via the Princess website. There was plenty to do on the ship and we were never bored. Except just before dinner in the atrium area, the ship seemed crowded only at one particular time (see comment below). Negatives Spa treatments are EXPENSIVE. A simple manicure was $45.00. A massage?..forget about it. The atrium area tended to get extremely crowded just prior to dinner. Much of this traffic was caused but the fact that the shops on board placed sale tables in the atrium. This takes up a LOT of space. Princess ships do not seem to have as many shops on board as some of the other cruise lines do so shopping on the ship can be somewhat limited. None of these negatives had a major impact on our trip, but they are things to keep in mind. Summary Of the five cruise ships we've been on, this one would probably be ranked just about in the middle. We're happy to answer any questions and we love to share our cruise experiences so please feel free to e-mail us.Sascol@att.net01/10/01 Read Less
January 21-28, 2001 This is a LONG review, which I've simply transposed from my daily diary, any questions please email me! About us: Me, 34, insurance claim rep for a large brokerage/agency. Hubby, 37, network ... Read More
January 21-28, 2001 This is a LONG review, which I've simply transposed from my daily diary, any questions please email me! About us: Me, 34, insurance claim rep for a large brokerage/agency. Hubby, 37, network architect/administrator for a dot com company. Cruise was for our 15th anniversary, and it was our first trip without our 3 children, and our first cruise. Itinerary: Ft. Lauderdale-at sea-at sea-St. Thomas-St. Maarten-at sea-Princess Cays-Ft. Lauderdale Pre-Cruise: We flew in to Ft. Lauderdale on Friday, 1/19/01 via AirTran out of Philly—direct flight, and were able to upgrade to business class (note for those who use or can use AirTran—you can book at the cheapest level, and if you get to the gate early enough, they often have business class seats available. You can upgrade at the gate for $25pp per leg—worth it, IMO. Our direct flight ended up costing us $200 pp round trip, including the business class upgrade coming & going-we were first at the gate both times.) We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale & beat the weather in Philly—it was raining & gray when we left, 81 sunny & beautiful in Ft. Lauderdale. Caught a cab to the Marina Marriott ($8.50), room was ready to go. We had a nice view of the ICW back to 15th street, and could actually see my sister's front door (she lives on 15th) from our balcony. The hotel is convenient & close to the port, but next time we're in Ft. Lauderdale we'll stay by the beach. There's not much to do here at the Marina, though the yachts parked out by the docks were great to look at. 15th St. Fisheries was ok, but my sister had recommended some other restaurants which we'll try next time. (Local neighborhood places) We did breakfast at Shula's across from the beach, great views & the food was good, too—awesome fresh squeezed orange juice. It rained Sat. afternoon (we got soaked!) and got really chilly. We went to the Riverwalk for an arts & crafts show. Ft Lauderdale is a nice city that doesn't feel like a city, and I'm looking forward to going to back to visit & explore there some more. (Called home Sunday AM—8" of snow.) Ship: Sunday, 1/21/01 We arrived at the pier at 11:15am. No indication of what to expect, no porters in sight, hubby is NOT happy. Felt that holding area reminded him of when he joined the military-open cattle call with not enough seats. Not an auspicious beginning. I asked a security guard about checking out baggage, she advised we could check them once we had gone through x-ray. NOT TRUE! 11:45 the x-ray opened & the line started moving. We were the 2nd people at our check in line, all our docs were in order (filled everything out online, and when we got our docs from Princess, they were already filled in correctly), and we were ready to go on in 5 minutes. No checking of our baggage—we ended up having to haul all 4 bags to our stateroom. Up to the 2nd level, and we had to wait again, 10 min or so, to be let on the ship. As suite passengers, we were escorted to our stateroom, so we had the greeter take 2 of the bags, which helped hubby's mood. The one benefit of having carried our bags, we were able to unpack our things immediately & put them up (this is not mollifying hubby). By 12:30 we were in our suite & fully unpacked. Our suite was C-422, on the Caribe Deck, "William Berents Suite." There was plenty of storage space, and the bed was put together for queen sized. There was a comp mini bar, and we traded out the beer (Bud) & diet cokes for regular cokes. Full-size bathroom with separate toilet/sink from the shower stall & tub. Shower stall is a little cramped, but the water temp can be set so you can turn the water off, lather up, then turn it back on to rinse off. Glass enclosure so no fighting with the shower curtain. Bathtub was over-sized (even hubby at 6'2" fit!) with Jacuzzi jets. Word to the wise--close all doors before going to bed at night--when the ship bounces around the doors tend to creak & slam. ) LOTS of closet space, and plenty of hangers. Lots of drawers & cabinets in the room. Even with our over packing, we had plenty of leftover space & empty drawers. Balcony was large with a table & 4 chairs, and 2 lounge chairs with side tables. We ate breakfast out there most mornings. Our room steward was Jennel from the Phillipines, and our butler was Daniel from Romania. Both presented themselves at about 3:00 pm. We wandered the ship, had a drink at the Wheelhouse bar, and hit Horizon Court for lunch. The Horizon court is well laid out, but the drink stations are not! We had difficulty locating them. Only time there was a crowd at Horizon that we saw was for this buffet on Sunday. We had champagne on the balcony, even though the weather was chilly (65 with light winds). We did go down & change our dining to Personal Choice (they were taking changes outside the Explorer's Lounge on Deck 7). Our sailing was the first time for this option, and we were moved from the Da Vinci dining room to the Michaelangelo. This was the only dining room for personal choice on our cruise, but it was full most nights. We went down to dinner at 7:45 and were seated at our requested table for 2 by 8:00. (They tried to talk us into a larger table.) Sailing was delayed due to late arriving planes from the snow we were missing up north. We finally sailed around 8:45 or so, and made it back to our stateroom in time for the lights & whistle show on the North Shore as we left the dock. Very nice! 1/22/01 - Monday At Sea Monday dawned cloudy, rainy & warm. Air temp got up to 77 during the day & by mid-afternoon all of the rain had stopped, though it only got sunny a few times. The captain did his best to stay out of the rain. We had breakfast in our stateroom, which Daniel delivered at approx. 9:00 am. We then hit the casino & won $200 at slots, which we quickly spent on a windbreaker for hubby. Lunch was at Horizon Court, the carving station is great. After lunch we hit the wave pool, water was cold & the wave machine is quite strong! We sat in the hot tubs for a while & just relaxed. Very few people at this pool, and 1 gentleman was trying to convince his 3-4 year old son to go in the hot tub, he didn't want to, which was fine by me since this area is clearly marked 17+ years only! He eventually took the child back up to the children's area (which is just above this pool). We didn't see too many kids in this area or the teen area, but we did see a lot of older folks taking over the areas—though I don't understand why since there were so many spots for them to use, and we never saw all the deck chairs in use. Dinner tonight was formal, but we had already arranged to have Daniel serve us in our suite. We hit the movies at 4:30—very disappointing. The movie was Keeping the Faith (which we enjoyed) but we're AV geeks. With all the equipment at Princess' disposal, I at least expected they would show the film in the correct aspect ratio, at least on FILM. However, what we got was a bad copy of a pan & scan videotape (they didn't even bother fast-forwarding past the FBI warning telling them that what they were doing was illegal!), and they didn't have it centered properly on the screen, and people were working on sound equipment during the movie. Pick up a $500 DVD player & at least show 16:9, if you're not going to use the film projector that's RIGHT THERE. No popcorn or other snacks at the movie, though they were promised for later showings (according to people we talked to—never happened). After the movie, we went back to our stateroom. Daniel had left us a plate of chocolate covered strawberries along with the dinner menu. We dressed for dinner & called Daniel to take our orders. I think we threw him off, though. When he arrived, he thought we were going out because we had dressed, apparently he is used to casual dressing for in-room dining. But since it was our anniversary, we were dressing for each other. Dinner was wonderful, and there was a lightning storm off the port stern that was simply gorgeous to watch. We went to Skywalkers at 10:30 for drinks & dancing, then down to Snookers to catch up on the hockey scores. 1/23/01 - Tuesday At Sea Tuesday-sunny! It's beautiful out, I'm sitting on the balcony watching the waves. The water is beautiful, and seas are 6-8', great to watch the waves breaking as we cut through. We went to the buffet for breakfast, food is good, hot & fresh. Scrambled eggs were wonderful! Back to the casino for morning gambling—up $175 today! Jewelry on sale in the atrium, I bought a nice pair of crystal drop earrings & matching bracelet for Friday formal night (since I don't own any jewelry). Back to our room & sit on the balcony for a while, watching the waves & reading. At about 3:00, 2 whales breached off the port side, approx. 1.5-2 miles out. I would have never seen them, but hubby looked up from his book at just the right time. 1 swam around in circles & slapped the water with his fins. The captain didn't appear to have seen it, and as far as I can tell, on the 30-40 of us who happened to be on our balconies saw them—because we shouted down to everyone out there. I also saw a ton of flying fish, which I thought was very neat! Dinner was semi-formal, and we sat at a table for 6 & met some new people. We then went to the 50's sock Hop at the Explorer's lounge. Stopped by the spa for a facial cream (the one thing I did forget to pack, and which they don't carry at the ship's store), the woman argued with me for 10 minutes to try to get me to take a facial, I simply wanted something to get by with since the air & sun was drying my skin out. Finally managed to persuade her to sell me the silly $56 bottle of cream that she would've tried to force on me if I had taken the facial! SHEESH! 1/24/01 - Wednesday, St. Thomas Up at 6:45 am, we're already docked. Also in port today are the Costa Atlantica, RCI Explorer of the Seas, Disney Magic, and the Norway. Magic & Norway were tendering in, we were first in port at the dock. We had already booked the catamaran excursion. We met at 9:00 am and were on the cat & ready to go by 9:30. Ship was the Heavenly Days from the Bolongo Bay resort (www.bolongo.com an all-inclusive that we will likely try). Captain Peter, 1st Mate Shawn, and 2nd Mate Stephanie. We took a 90 minute ride over to Honeymoon Beach on St. John, the rum punch & champagne started flowing the minute we pulled from dock. It was a beautiful trip to a gorgeous beach. Water temp was approx. 80, which Cpt. Peter said was too cold to swim in, but us northerners managed just fine. Lunch was ready as soon as we got there, and everything was great. We couldn't have asked for a nicer day & I would recommend this excursion to anyone. You will get bounced around, and you will get wet, but what fun! They did run a dinghy to shore for those who didn't want to swim over (depending on where we had drifted at anchor, anywhere from 12'-6' water depth, and 20-60' from shore), and had a bag of beach stuff to play with, as well as snorkel equipment for those who wanted to snorkel over to the reef. The ride back was great, and the nice thing about being first in at the pier was that our walk back to the ship after disembarking the cat was about 100 yards. (You will have to remove your shoes on the cat, so plan accordingly—sandals or water shoes that you can tuck in your bag are best). Stood on the balcony for sail-away (we were last to leave port) and did grill & pizza for dinner. Very good on both parts! Down to Snookers afterward for drinks & watched the quarterfinals of the Aus. Open. 1/25/01 - Thursday, St. Maarten Also in port today, Norwegian Majesty, RCI Grandeur of the Seas, Festival Bolero, and there was a very, very large cat anchored out in the bay that I think may have been a cruise ship, but I never did get a change to read the name on her bow. We did dock at the new pier, and they ran a water taxi all day over to town pier for those who didn't want to walk in to town ($5 pp for an all-day pass). I could not believe the color of the water here—it was about 15 shades darker turquoise than I had ever seen, and I could have stared at it all day! Watched the Norwegian Majesty berth next to us was neat—except that their bridge was about 30' directly across from our balcony, and their bridge crew kept staring onto our balcony while we were eating breakfast, laying out, etc. We decided to just shop in Phillipsburg since we hadn't booked an excursion for this island, and we got some good deals—2 watches, a lot of Delft, and t-shirts for our kids (3 boys). Other than shipping, Phillipsburg seems to be a waste of time, and next trip I think we'll try to get over to Marigot & see what's happening there. The water here was actually cooler than in St. Thomas and the wind was very brisk, though the sun was hot. Unfortunately, we're docked with our balcony landward, and there isn't much to see besides the other cruise ships & the container ships loading up. Because we came back early from shopping, it felt like we had the whole ship to ourselves. We were the only ones at the adult pool & the deck 16 spas. Horizon court for dinner—jerked pork & chicken on the menu, VERY good! 1/26/01 - Friday, At Sea Overcast and windy, VERY strong seas. We used up our sunscreen on Thursday, so we went to get some more for Princess Cays—the stores were nearly sold out of Dramamine, patches, and wrist bands. You could hear the waves crashing against the side of the ship, it sounded like thunder. A lot of bouncing around. It didn't affect hubby or I at all, but a lot of people looked very green. They ended up canceling the dance review this evening because of the motion, they were worried for the safety of the performers. We went to the art auction in the afternoon, but we didn't buy anything, and I have the feeling that their 'retail values' were slightly inflated, and the dealer/auctioneer kept saying "insure that for $xx!!" but did advise that it would likely cost $500 per piece for an appraisal. So, he was thereby discouraging people from having these $5000 pieces of art that they were selling for $900 from getting a professional appraisal done. He did say that none of the pieces were appraised per se, but that they got their values by going to galleries & seeing what similar pieces of art were selling for. Made me a little leery of his tactics, but what do I know. Very little was original—most were editions, and fairly high numbers in the series. However, any piece that was shown framed, the frames were included, so there was some value, anyway. They did have a few originals, and these pieces opened in the $1800-2200 range, not many bidders. The one hubby was interested in was sports memorabilia, and the opening bid was $850 "retail" (per the dealer) was $1700. We passed. Dinner tonight was formal, we were seated a table for 10 that /should/ have been for 8—very cramped in our formal clothes, and a lot of folks uncomfortable from the motion, so dinner was fairly quiet. After dinner, we made reservations for tomorrow for a table for 2. Then to the Explorer's Lounge for karaoke & had a great time. 1/27/01 - Saturday, Princess Cays Day started off cloudy & chilly, temps in the low 70's. They started running tenders about 8:30am, and we had a priority pass from our butler. We were getting ready to go—and never made it. Hubby had a BAD allergic reaction to the sunscreen we had bought & ended up with a nasty rash (next time, will bring enough sunscreen!). So we spent today on the ship. Actually, not bad, we again felt like we had the whole place to ourselves! So we spent today relaxing & getting things ready for tomorrow. We didn't buy enough to declare, so not too many problems anticipated at this time. Packed our suitcases & filled out our questionnaires, and completed our tip envelopes. Jennel was wonderful, and he will get larger than the recommended ($3.50 pp/pd) tip. We ended up tipping him almost twice that. Daniel was ok, but we could've done without the butler. We pre-tipped him $50 when we arrived on the ship, and that's where he'll stay. (rec. $2 pp/pd). We got no recognition of our anniversary though it was on our paperwork (others on our deck did with decorated cabin doors, cakes, balloons, etc) and we made it known to him that it was our anniversary. He seemed genuinely surprised when we asked him to drop off film for us, and we had to ask him twice before he said he'd take care of it, then we had to remind him of it 2 days later to pick up. We did tell him one night we were going to have dinner in the room, and he never came in with the menu! We decided later to go to Horizon Court, and the dinner menu was in the holder by the door with a note on it to call him. He consistently brought breakfast early, and twice brought the wrong order, once it was cold. I wasn't impressed, and doubt that butlers will be much missed when Princess discontinues them. I do hope that they offer some other amenities for their suite passengers, though. (Soft towels would be a start!!—that was our major complaint in the cabin. The bath towels were very coarse). The pool towels were nice, and the robes were great. Dinner for 2 tonight in the dining room, casual. Our table was ready for us when we arrived at 7:30. Back to Explorer's for music, then up to the room to put our luggage out. 1/28/01 - Sunday, Ft. Lauderdale We woke up at 2:30 am—don't ask me why. We watched a movie on TV & tried to get back to sleep. I believe at this point we were either traveling very slowly, or traveling in circles. Around 4:45, the pilot boarded to guide us in to Ft. Lauderdale, and we were docked by 5:30 am. Up at 6:30, looked over the bill that was in our door—everything in order, took our showers & got together the rest of our things. They were calling names for people to proceed to immigration & customs so that the ship could be cleared. Suite passengers were being hosted at the Vista Lounge this morning, so we decided to head up there. When we left the cabin, there was an envelope in the holder by the door. Opened it up—we had exceeded our $400 pp limit & customs was requesting we stop by between 6:15-7:00 am. HUH???? We had added up our receipts the night before, and in no way had we exceeded our allowance! As it was now 7:15, customs had cleared the ship. This envelope was NOT there when we put our luggage out at 11:00 the prior night, nor did I see it when I picked up the bill at 6:30. Hubby started stressing out, and we headed to the purser's desk to find out what to do. I wasn't seriously worried because I knew our purchases were not over the limit, and they hadn't called our names, so I didn't think it would be a big deal. Stood in line at the purser's desk for about 45 minutes, for the woman there to tell us we were fine, don't worry about it. (Purser's desk had 4-5 attendants all week—for disembarkation there were 2. Make sense???) Hubby had a back spasm taking the luggage back up the stairs, so he wasn't happy again. Waited in the Vista lounge for about an hour to disembark. Customs took our slips as we exited the gangway, and never looked twice. Luggage is lined up by color in the room where you checked in—number means NOTHING. Our pieces were scattered all over the place, and it took us 10 minutes to find them all. No direction again on where to go or what to do, just 'keep moving, keep moving' as you exit the ship. While embarking & disembarking the ship were fairly speedy, I think some signs & explanations of who needs to go where would be immensely helpful, and could've been handled better. We were off the ship by 9:15. Sis picked us up at the pier, and we went back to Shula's for breakfast & walked on the beach, our flight out was at 4:00, and we got to the airport at 1:30, first in line at checkin again, and upgrade to business class on one of their brand-new 717's. Plane arrived on time & departed on time. No coffee on board though—one of the pressure lines was broken, which also prevented the forward lavs from working. Oh, well, it's only a 2:20 flight! We were running 5-10 min early, when the pilot got stuck in the holding pattern. We circled for about 25 minutes before we finally landed, then we sat on the tarmac for 10 minutes before we could pull up to the gate. They couldn't get the jetway to work, so we finally had to walk down steps to the building, and back up to the gate. WHAT A SHOCK! It was 35 degrees when we landed. Coooold. . Limo driver was waiting for us, though, got our luggage & were home by 8:30. Overall, the trip was wonderful, and very relaxing. I'd give it an 8 out of 10, and we'll probably do it again, but not for a while! I don't think I could cruise without a balcony, though, and I'll never go on a trip again without my kids, while they're young. The ship itself is beautiful, and at NO TIME do you feel like you are on a ship with 4000 people. The group playing in Explorer's every night (Marathon) was wonderful, they're really the only entertainment we went to--we didn't do any of the shows, so I can't comment on them. Most of the pax were older than we were, but there was a fair sprinkling of families & some people our age, it didn't seem to make a difference to anyone. Everyone we met was pleasant. Tip—bring some bright colored straps for your luggage-it will make it MUCH easier to locate in the holding area & on the baggage carousel! If you have a certain type of soda you like (that's not coke/diet coke/sprite) bring it aboard. I needed a Pepsi really bad when we got off the plane. If you like snacks, take some with you!! I didn't realize how much I missed my pretzels until we got off the plane. While there is plenty to eat on the ship, there is /very/ little 'crunchy stuff' (pretzels, peanuts, chips, etc), except in some bars at night--they didn't have stuff out in every bar, and not every night (we hit most of the bars at least every other day--my bar bill was more than anything else. ) I truly appreciated the personal choice dining. You could sit at any size table you wanted, with any number of people, or by yourselves. If you met someone on excursion, or on deck, you could make arrangements to sit with them. Service was efficient, and the food was always served hot & cooked perfectly. They were letting people switch back & forth during our sailing from personal choice to traditional & back, but I get the feeling from overheard grumblings by the crew that they won't do that for long. It is sometimes difficult to get servers out on deck, you really have to catch someone's eye or wave your card--at times it was easier to just go to the bar & get your drinks yourself. I wouldn't let something like that ruin my vacation, but for some people it was a problem. Tips are being pre-charged to your account for all dining, at $6.50 pp/pd. (This caused consternation on the final day—a lot of people were at the purser's desk demanding to have this charge removed, and saying that they never knew it was going to be there—however, there were at least /3/ brochures in our stateroom explaining all of this, so I find it hard to believe that they were really unaware. At least 1 person in line in front of us stiffed the waiters because the purser said he really couldn't take tip envelopes from her at that time to give to individual waiters, and she still demanded the charge be removed from her account.) We left ours alone, and I think it is a fair amount—though it is more than recommended in the brochures. Thanks again to everyone who helped ME get ready for this trip—your tips, hints & suggestions were wonderful, and we had a great cruise knowing in a general way what to expect. Beth Jobeth66@my-deja.com01/30/01 Read Less
Number if cruises [we've taken] = 10+ Quick Rating on a scale from 1-10 10 being the best = 9 My wife and I are 30 with no kids just to give you an idea of our perspective. And as usual, this is only my opinion so please don't ... Read More
Number if cruises [we've taken] = 10+ Quick Rating on a scale from 1-10 10 being the best = 9 My wife and I are 30 with no kids just to give you an idea of our perspective. And as usual, this is only my opinion so please don't take offense. Embarkation - A breeze as usual. From the time we stepped in the terminal to the time we were in our room was less than 25 minutes. We arrived about 1:00pm and there was only one person in line in front of us. The lines are split up by deck and cabin numbers. Princess has embarkation down pat. The Ship - We were on Explorer of the Seas over Thanksgiving and the Grand Princess wasn't as impressive, but it was very close. The layout was very good and I never felt crowded even though it was a full ship. I especially liked the sky bar. It had a moving sidewalk taking you to it which was pretty neat. The Room - We had a Mini Suite which was great. 2 TVs, a large deck, full size couch, bath tub, etc. I will say that even though it was plenty of room for us, it wasn't much bigger than our outside room with a balcony on Explorer of the Seas. It was nice to have a butler and the 2 TVs were nice especially when one of us wanted to sleep and not watch TV. The Dining - the food was great in the dining room. Our waiter and assistant waiter were very good. The alternative dining in Sabitini's was excellent. It was mostly seafood and pasta served in many courses. It was an extra $15 per person, but well worth it. The food in the Mexican restaurant (Sorry I forgot the name) was also very good, but the service wasn't. Still worth the extra $3 per person. Shows - Sorry, I can't help much here. We usually gambled at night because we aren't into the Las Vegas style shows. We did see a comedian one night that was pretty good. They also had a hypnotist that everyone was talking about. Apparently he would hypnotize people from the audience. Pools and public areas - Kids were a real issues on Explorer of the seas but not on the Grand. They did a very good job of enforcing the adults only pools and public areas to the point where I watched one couple with kids get very nasty to the staff about not letting their kids in the adults only area and the staff member didn't back down. Good for him. I don't dislike kids, but it is nice to be able to relax at the pool without them. Boy am I asking for some nasty comments here from the people with kids. There were plenty of hot tubs which were great. I counted 8 and I'm not sure I saw them all. Shore excursions - We did the bike trip on Water Island in St Thomas which was excellent, but pretty strenuous, and the Golden Eagle sail and snorkel trip in St. Martin which was also excellent. I will suggest that if you are interested in shore excursions, you sign up for them before the cruise because about 80% of all of the excursions were full when we got on the ship. We learned this from a previous cruise and signed up for these early. Debarkation - Very good, however, I do like RCI's new carrousel for baggage claim (Like the airports) instead of the warehouse method where you get to trip all over each other that everyone else uses. If you made your own air arrangements, be sure to fill out a card when you embark and you will be able to check you bags to your airline when you get off the ship. Summary - I was comparing the Grand to RCI's Explorer because we went on them both fairly close to each other and they are the biggest ships. We prefer the Grand over the Explorer for a couple of reasons. RCI seems to be catering to the families where Princess still seems to cater to couples. The layout of the Princess ships seems better in that I never felt crowded where on the Explorer, they seem to group everyone together in the center of the ship for most of the activities. The Grand's service beats Explorer hands down. It is also very consistent in that we have always received great service on Princess where RCI is hit and miss. We have been on the Grandeur and Majesty and Grandeur was excellent and the Majesty was just ok. We will probably stick to Princess in the future. Please email me if you have questions at carlwarner@usa.netMarch 2001 Read Less
We sailed on the Grand Princess on April 15, 2001. This was our first cruise, so I am unable to give you a comparison to other ships or cruise lines. We choose the Grand Princess in part for her itinerary. We were looking forward to the ... Read More
We sailed on the Grand Princess on April 15, 2001. This was our first cruise, so I am unable to give you a comparison to other ships or cruise lines. We choose the Grand Princess in part for her itinerary. We were looking forward to the days at sea. Plus that fact that she is large and has lots of options. We were not disappointed.  Embarkation - We arrived at the Fort Lauderdale port around noon and they were already checking people in. We had filled out all of our documentation and faxed it back in to Princess. They had forgotten to give us a Bahamas immigration form, so we had to take a few minutes to fill that out. We then found our line for our cabin and only had one person in front of us. From the time we walked into the terminal, filled out the form, and stopped for our boarding picture, it was less than 20 minutes until we were standing in amazement inside this ship. Were directed to our room with very friendly staff at every turn to make sure we made it to our room.  Cabin - At this point I want to mention we were booked in a Cat. FF with an obstructed view on the Emerald deck. We even received our cabin number before we left home. When we arrived, we found that we had been upgraded to Cat. BA - on the Caribe deck to a cabin with a balcony! That was a pleasant surprise.  The cabins are very nicely appointed and ample space for your clothes for 7 days. We found plenty of hangers, shelf and drawer space. The balconies on the Caribe deck are huge. They are partially exposed to the decks above, but we never found this to be a problem. Having never cruised before and experiencing a balcony, I must say this is the way to go. The balcony was big enough for two chairs and two loungers, a large and small table and there was still room.  I would recommend bringing an alarm clock as there are none and it was nice to see what time it was. Each room has a refrigerator (we made a quick stop before boarding the ship for our own beverages and had no problem taking them on board). The luggage all fit under the bed and we found ample room to move around.  Our cabin steward was terrific. He kept the room tidy, the ice bucket full, and any request was fulfilled. (Ask for extra beach towels when you go to Princess Cays). Dinning/Food - We choose the Personal Choice option and this worked wonderfully. We opted to eat alone some nights and join others on some nights. It is true you do not have the same tablemates and waiters, but it was nice getting to know different people. If you go to dinner between 7:00 and 8:00 you may experience a short wait for a table. The longest we waited was about 10 minutes. You can call down and make reservations, which I recommend on formal nights. You table will be waiting when you arrive. The dining rooms, there are three of them, are very nice and the service and food was excellent.  We did not eat in the Painted Desert, but we did eat at Sabatini's. There is a $15 per person charge, but the experience and food was well worth it. I lost track of how many courses, but the food just kept coming and it took over 2 hours to eat. Make reservations on Sunday when you board as they fill up very fast.  We found the Horizon Court to have good food. Always seemed fresh, hot, and delicious. My wife is not a big fan of buffets, but I never heard her complain about the Horizon court.  We have room service breakfast every morning. If you don't see what you want on the slip they give you, try writing it in. We asked for fresh strawberries everyday and they brought them to us.  Don't miss the pizza and hamburgers/French fries by the pool. They are the some of the best I have ever had.  Public Areas/Pools We always found deck chairs. Maybe not right by the pool, but we enjoyed having some quiet time to read and relax. The pools are fresh water and were very clean. There were plenty of bar servers going around if you needed a drink.  The casino is nice (they took my money). The lounges are very comfortable. The spa looked nice, although we did not use them. My wife went to a makeover class a came back with merchandise. So husbands beware!  Over all the facilities are well designed and very clean.  Entertainment - The entertainment was top notch with the exception of the juggler/comedian. Somebody needed to tell him he was not performing at a 5-year-olds birthday party. Marty Allen was on the ship and his show was spectacular. (I heard he has left the Grand.) The hypnotist was great (or should I saw the participants were). Don't miss Pub Night. The crew does a fantastic job. I have not laughed that hard in a long time. Speaking of the Cruise Staff, they are great and now how to put on a show. Graham Seymour is absolutely hilarious. I think the guy may need some medication, but you just look at him and start laughing.  The production shows (lights, camera, action and rhythm of the city) were done very well. You forget you are sitting on a ship in the middle of the ocean when you are watching these shows. They also have various singers and bands playing in the lounge. We enjoyed them all. When going to shows, be there about 10 - 15 minutes early and you should never have a problem getting a seat.  Excursions- At St. Thomas we shopped (I got stuck buying diamonds) in the morning and went snorkeling at Trunk Bay on St. Johns. That was fabulous.  St. Martin we took the Island tour and had a great time. Did a little more shopping and found prices very comparable between the two islands.  Princess Cays is great. We snorkeled, ate and spent the day laying in a hammock.  Disembarkation - This could use a little work. Looking for your luggage in a big warehouse is not fun. Especially when they put it in the wrong pile. We were told our disembarkation time would be around 9:00 am - so we went down after breakfast around 8:30 - they called our tag color within 10 minutes. We provided our own transportation to the airport and were gone within a few minutes of finding our luggage.  Overall - I highly recommend the Grand Princess. The ship is beautiful, the staff wonderful. They do know how to put on a cruise. A great mix of days at sea and in port. They are very good at getting people on and off the ship at ports. Cruising is a great value for the dollar and know we will cruise again, and probably with Princess. tquast@nacorp.com April, 2001 Read Less
In the last four years we have cruised seventeen times on eleven ships of four cruise lines and we have always had memorable cruises. In the 50's and 60's we made three transatlantic crossings (one trip together) on luxury ... Read More
In the last four years we have cruised seventeen times on eleven ships of four cruise lines and we have always had memorable cruises. In the 50's and 60's we made three transatlantic crossings (one trip together) on luxury liners between Naples, Italy and New York. That's when we were first captivated by the sea and enchanted by ships: these luxurious floating palaces. Now, during retirement we are finally free to cruise and we love it. This was our second cruise on board the Grand Princess and it will not be our last! The beauty of this ship recalled us like the fabled sirens of old. We were on board for her first birthday party May 4, 1999 and for her third anniversary this year. When launched three years ago, she was the largest ship afloat, now the Voyager of the Seas and her sister ship, the Explorer of the Seas, hold that honor. She is truly worthy of a return visit, although some elderly cruisers kept repeating that there is a lot of walking, we found her as lovely as ever and easy to navigate. This review will have some specific information for the physically challenged passengers, which may be of note, since recently we have read negative comments on cruising for the handicapped. We say "Phooey"! Going on wheels or on legs doesn't have to be any different. The Grand Princess welcomes all equally as do all of the other magnificent ships on which we have traveled. The Princess has taken extraordinary measures to make cruisers feel welcome and comfortable, more about that later. FIRST IMPRESSIONS The Grand Princess is easily spotted in Port Everglades, Ft. Lauderdale, since she is the one with the "Spoiler." This month her new sister ship the Golden Princess will make cruisers do double takes before identifying which is which. She is all white with touches of blue on the upper decks and the orange stripe of her lifeboat tenders. She was the 5,956th ship to come out of the Fincantieri, Monfalcone shipyard. She has a gross tonnage of 108,806 and is 951 ft. long and breadth is 118.8 ft. with a height of 185 ft. above the water line and her six diesel engines have 92,500 horsepower. Her top speed is 24 knots and her two Fincantieri stabilizers have a 90% Roll Reduction. Smooth Sailing. She can accommodate 3,100 passengers and boasts a ship's crew of 1,060, and many of these crew members were highly visible during embarkation: assisting passengers onboard, and on each deck stationed at the elevators directing passengers to their cabins of which there are 1,296. EMBARKATION We arrived at the pier at 11:45 where our luggage was removed from our car. We were greeted curbside by a crew member who pushed the wheelchair up the ramps to the disabled check-in counter. We had to fill out one travel document which was not in our ticket packet. We had filed our personal information sheets via the internet, but brought them along just in case. And, as we had predicted, this information was not available on the computer at this counter --- we simply handed the clerk those sheets, signed a credit card form and were escorted directly on board by the same crew member all the way to our wheelchair accessible cabin (there are 28 onboard 18 outside and 10 inside). Very nice and easy does it! By 12 noon, we were in the Horizon Court having the Welcome Aboard Buffet which we are very happy to say was excellent (No tired looking, recycled food here-- it was delicious.). In fact normally we avoid the buffet, but we tried it three times this cruise and each time it was excellent. We had fried calamari cooked to perfection, Waldorf salad that was crisp and crunchy, and the fruit and desserts were excellent. CABIN Our Baja Deck #B301 wheelchair accessible cabin was very clean, spacious and restful. When entering there is a small foyer which is handier that the usual narrow hallway. On the left, there is the extra large bathroom with one sink two mirrors and a set of three shelves. The shower is spacious (5 ft. x 5 ft.) with chrome rails all around, a pull down seat and a call cord for emergency assistance. Then there is the queen size bed, flanked by two low bureaus each with four drawers, a shelf and topped with reading lamps. The headboard of the bed was tucked tapestry and a wall of mirrors. The mirror trick to make the cabin appear larger was not necessary in this spacious cabin, which is about one and one half the size of category BC cabins. When entering the cabin on the right there is a triple armoire: the first door holds several cubicles and the personal safe; the next two doors are the hanging closets with nice removable wooden hangers. There is ample storage for even two-week cruises. Then there is a desk/vanity with three more drawers, and a comfortable chair; the 10 ft. long counter has the telephone and a hair dryer on the wall. There is a coffee table and an upholstered barrel chair, but alas no sofa.. The sliding glass door leads to the balcony (approx. 16 ft. x 5 ft.) with two reclining chairs and a table. The balconies in categories BA and BB on Caribe deck are twice as large as those in category BC on Aloha and Baja decks, but with less privacy from the above decks. The decor is peach/gold and an abundance of maple wood; it is very inviting and the condition is excellent. There is one large picture on the wall depicting a row boat in a calm reflective bay with a small white town on a mountain in the background. Our Cabin Steward was Vitor of Portugal; he was prompt and always smiling. . . . Thank you, Vitor. THE SHIP We found the ship to be in very good condition with perhaps only minor showing of wear and fading in the upholstered chairs and sofas in some of the public rooms (i.e., the seats in the Skywalkers Night Club). >From our several talks with the affable gentleman Gianfranco Sampiero, Passenger Services Director, we learned that the Grand Princess is scheduled for an upcoming dry dock, possibly in December, when it will undergo a long list of repairs and refurbishing in order to maintain its elegance. We found her quite spiffy as is, and easily got around her with the pocket sized directory cards (4"x4") placed in our cabins and colorcoded to the hallway carpeting. Very handy! The Daily Princess Patter distributed to each cabin the night before also gave the times and decks of each activity. More importantly, it is the layout of the ship which makes it easy to "navigate." Decks 4 through 7 and 14 through 17 are Public Areas (restaurants, shops, reception desks, casino, lounges, theater, pools, spas, etc.). On decks 8 through 12 (no 13) and decks 5 and 14, forward, are located all the staterooms, suites and cabins. There are three sets of lifts/elevators, one forward, one mid ship and one aft, which make movement easy. At the top of the "spoiler" is the Skywalkers Night Club (17) which presents a beautiful 360 degree view of the ship forward and the wake and the sea aft. Even if you are not into the disco dance scene, you must not miss this view, during the day it is private and serene. Lido Deck 14 houses the Alfresco Bar, Horizon Court, Horizon Terrace, Calypso Bar, Poseidon's Pizzeria, Trident Grill, Ice Cream Bar and two pools. In addition there are two more pools, one at the aft of the Aloha deck (12) and the lap pool in the Plantation Spa on the Sun Deck (14). Our morning dip was taken in the retractable covered solarium pool and spa while many passengers are still sleeping. It is quiet and relaxing, though after the third day, we felt that the Gregorian chant in the background could be replaced with some other music, or at least expand the repertoire so that cruisers would not be subjected to the same music day after day, hour after hour. The ship has six laundromats located on decks with staterooms. This eliminates the needs to do ironing in the cabins, which is discouraged for safety reasons. We normally carry enough clothes for the week, but families with small children would be pleased to have access to washers/dryers. This cruise we took a closer look at the Atlantis Casino and saw many things we had missed on our first cruise aboard: at one end there are huge Dolphin sculptures and on the walls are several simulated aquariums showing 3D pictures of underwater scenes where the fish and other ocean denizen seem to swim at you and then veer off, fascinating. As usual, the Chapel on board was busy with several weddings and was decorated with large fresh flower arrangements and candles, what a heady scent emerged from the doorway. Other beautiful public rooms that we favored are the Explorers Lounge, a nice tiered room with worldly murals and exotic mosaics evoking travel, and the Wheelhouse Bar, an interesting room with some P&O Line history, portraits, nice ship models and interesting marine hardware. THE FOOD Princess states "We have blown conventional dining out of the water"! The new Personal Choice Dining program is an alternative to the traditional fixed seating dining (main or second seating) and allows cruisers restaurant style seating at their preferred time and without reservations required. Passengers are charged $6.50 per person per day gratuity (a bare minimum by U.S. standards) since this eliminates the last night tipping you would have done for the single waiter serving you for an entire week. You may go to any dining room anywhere on board between 5:30 pm and 10:00 pm. Choose the Michelangelo (Deck 5), Da Vinci or Botticelli (Deck 6), or the Painted Desert (Deck 7), etc. and if you want to have a large group dining together, call ahead for a reservation. We chose this plan and loved it. We also tipped individually for extraordinary service, which we had continually (this is our preference, but it is optional). We thought the prepaid gratuity was a good idea, since we recalled many a last night dinner, in an almost deserted dining room, with many cruisers conspicuously absent so that they could "stiff" the hard working waiters. Excellent service deserves generous tips. For alternative dining in Sabatini's you need to make reservations the minute you get on board ($15 additional charge and it serves lunch and dinner). The first night we dined at Sabatini's with the Maitre d' Mirko and were served with a flair by Davide, and enjoyed the newly designed menu: Antipasti (hot & cold) served from huge platters. We had the veal chops and lobster tails, dessert was Creme Brulee` and Georgia Peach Cobbler and a courtesy glass of Limoncello. The pastas were good cannelloni tricolore, gnocchi al formaggio, the appetizers excellent, but the fish, mussels and clams were not so good. Hereafter, we dined in the Michelangelo. The two Assistant Maitres d', Oscar Perego (Italy) and Carlos Justina (Portugal), flanked by a line of white coated waiters, each evening greeted and seated diners. They were always cordial and prompt to push the wheelchair to our favorite table. There are no sommeliers, the wine list is varied, but not too extensive and the prices are a good value. We met an interesting couple, Dwayne and Deborah, who became our tablemates and with nice and intelligent conversation made our evening dinners delightful events. Tuesday night we were invited by the Maitre d' Beniamino to a table for four and told that Executive Chef Antonio would prepare especially for us a risotto ai funghi Porcini (wild mushrooms). The Chef came to greet us at our table since he had met the four of us on previous separate cruises. Our waiter Virgil and assistant waiter Alex gave quick and courteous service. The risotto was delicious and on succeeding nights we had spaghetti vongole, spaghetti aglio, olio e peperoncino and gnocchi as light as clouds. The Chef makes delicious fresh tomato sauces and you can get spaghetti cooked al dente if you specify it and are patient enough to wait a little longer. Other dishes we enjoyed at dinner were prime rib, duck a` l'orange and cornish hen and of course the desserts: soufflEs, swan puffs, and excellent fruit tarts. We also had Tartuffo, a ball of vanilla/chocolate ice cream covered in dark chocolate and rolled in roasted coconut. Mouth watering! The Painted Desert Maitre d' accommodated us even though we had not made reservations and we enjoyed the Southwestern fare. The salsa was a bit too spicy for us, we managed to use it sparingly, although other diners acclaimed it perfection. We ate several times at the Pizzeria (Deck 14) where Carmelo makes the dough each morning and serves up pizza all afternoon and evening. The pizza was great: There were a lot of young happy faces around here, as testimonial. There is also formal tea served in the Da Vinci every afternoon 3:30 to 4:30. Room service was available 24 hrs. and always prompt for continental breakfast in the morning, but slow and iffy at other times. They need a caller I.D. system like the Millennium and the Costa Atlantica (once, when our order didn't arrive after a 45 min. wait, we called again only to find out that B301 had been confused with P301). The order arrived in 5 min. with profuse apology. SERVICE The service aboard the Grand Princess is TIP TOP and this was particularly evident after our last cruise aboard the new Radiance of the Seas where service was dismal. (We were happy to read in recent reviews that it has improved). The new Captain of the Grand came on board the day we sailed: Captain Andy of Aberdeen (by way of Kingdom of Fife), Scotland. He is very friendly and approachable and we liked his Scottish kilt joke; however, we would have been curious to see his tartan! The Captain's Circle Cocktail Party for repeaters was extremely nice: red and white wines, Manhattans, Martinis, fruit punch and hot and cold hors d'oeuvres. The Bridge tour was thorough, but no champagne and canapEs like the Costa Atlantica, yet still it's a marvel to behold all the hi-tech equipment which makes the easy maneuverability of such a huge ship so awesome. Even the Bridge has wheelchair access! Each night the chocolate on the pillow ritual is augmented by a love note from differing crew members, after all, this is the "LOVE BOAT"! ENTERTAINMENT Cruise Director Graham set the pace for an upbeat ambiance with his infectious laughter. He went beyond the call of duty in the hilarious production of "If I Were Not Upon the Ship," (A tutu to remember is all we can say about his costume). The Asst. Cruise Director Sylvain "Sly" (Canada) and the rest of the cruise staff kept the passengers hopping and entertained. The shows were a fine mix of singing, dancing, comedy and magic. They were abundant, high quality and many were recently staged retaining old favorites and adding new sections, but nothing of memorable note. There were the usual daily activities: Bingo, trivia contests (we participated to some and won four), casino gambling (we played the slots machines and poker and lost every time), and there are four pools (one with retractable dome and one lap pool), several Jacuzzis, Gymnasium, Aerobics and Health Spa with saunas and massage treatments. Here the Grand Princess outdoes herself with a British hydraulic lift called the Oxford Dipper (although we didn't observe anyone using it) which permits wheelchair bound passengers to enjoy a swim. Who says, "Stay home!"? Princess makes cruising delightful even for the physically challenged passengers. PORTS OF CALL Wednesday: St. Thomas U.S.V.I. "The American Paradise" has exotic flowers like frangipani and jasmine and boasts a great beach, water sports and tours, etc. Mr. Tablecloth is a must, since high quality linens are 60% below U.S. prices! Thursday: St. Maarten (or Martin) part of the Dutch Leeward Islands, this island is divided between the Dutch and the French. Take a bus tour the first time to get the lay of the land, but there is also scuba diving, kayaking and mountain biking. Saturday: Princess Cays, Eleuthera, Bahamas (discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1492) is Princess Line's private beach. Tendering is necessary here and there are elevators on Deck 4 expressly for those in wheelchairs to have direct access to tender platforms. The highlights are the ship's barbecue, island music, beach and water sports. Bring cash if you want to purchase souvenirs, credit cards not accepted here. DEBARKATION As on other ships, passengers are given color coded tags for their luggage and for debarkation priorities. We had orange tags which was the 4th group to debark. Passengers in wheelchairs, who needed assistance, assembled at the lobby bar on deck 5, until their color was called and thereafter were accompanied by a crew member to the pier exit. By 8:30 a.m. we were on our way home, looking back to a great cruise and forward to doing it again and again. vnfinelli@mindspring.comMay 2001 Read Less
The Grand Princess, the name says it all. This vessel is nothing short of GRAND!!! Don't get me wrong, there are little idiosyncrasies that are not to everyone's specs, but remember in the business of hospitality, it is ... Read More
The Grand Princess, the name says it all. This vessel is nothing short of GRAND!!! Don't get me wrong, there are little idiosyncrasies that are not to everyone's specs, but remember in the business of hospitality, it is impossible to satisfy all walks of life. This review is quite lengthy, but honest and possibly entertaining for some. I left off tons to keep it this short. Please take my comments for what they are worth, I am not a travel professional although I do have a lot of travel under my belt. And I do know a little something about the business of hospitality. Let me start with the service and staff. One cannot find better service than that to be found on this floating paradise. The wait staff, and that certainly includes the asst. waiters(tress), are unmatched, namely Margaret and Pavel from Poland, in Da Vinci's. Their personalities and work ethic are absolutely amazing. The entire wait staff which includes the bar servers all over the boat, poolside, casino, Promenade Bar, Skywalkers nightclub, the list goes on, all work extensive hours but never loose their smiles or personalities. On past cruises, I wanted to throw the Maitre d' overboard, well not on this one. Vincenzo and Robert were simply a couple of guys trying to assist our group in seating as painlessly as possible. A personal thank you to Robert for introducing us to our table servers Margaret and Pavel. The entertainment service is not quite as smooth. Cruise director Graham leaves a lot to be desired. He is far from "Julie on the Love Boat" and as a matter of fact he is quite unfunny and/or entertaining. His messages over the intercom system are merely a tease to any useful info or entertainment. The rest of his staff does suffice though, I guess. The comedian was the only paid entertainer on this grand ship that is worth any remarks and to be honest, he is down right hilarious. I had read some reviews before my trip and was somewhat hesitant to spend the time with him, but believe me he is worthy of a second evening's time. Those reviewers who wrote about him really have NO CLUE what comedy is. I am not speaking of the comedian/singer with the skunk. As a matter of fact we heard good things about this gentleman but as Graham was opening for him, my entire group said we need to get out of here before we all fall asleep. So thanks to Graham, we never saw him. Beside the paid comedian, the Captain was the most entertaining of all with his announcements that often started with: "From de bridge...." A combination of his accent and serious demeanor, leading into his review or thoughts on an evenings shows, to his announcing our course of sailing and procedures to how we'll get there, to his often squeezed in jokes, he was damn entertaining. The group I was with as well as others around all would stop conversations and stop what we were doing just to listen with amusement to these funny messages. I also heard several passengers imitating this gem on board as well as on land. Congrats to a job well done from the Captain. Now to the ship itself, as I said earlier, one word to describe it is GRAND! One might think that with 3,000 plus passengers aboard, you might feel crowded or have to wait in lines or just not have your space. Well this vessel is so large that you never feel overcrowded or see an annoying long line. As a matter of fact sometimes I was wondering where everyone was??? The 4 pools are spread out throughout the length of the ship and people somehow evenly spread themselves out as well. My group would walk around the ship's decks, play shuffleboard, chess, use different pools, bars, Jacuzzis, etc. and never were we feeling like we needed more space. The dEcor: Again very wonderful. From the pools to the common areas and hallways, nothing less than classy sophistication. Comparing the pool areas to other ships I've been on, there is no comparison. The coloration through tiling and columns and statues are just superb. The spa lap pool is a great workout as well as being beautiful in itself. The small pool located under the nightclub has its own charm all alone, from one angle it's like one of those everlasting pools you might find at a tropical resort. There must have been about 15 Jacuzzis located throughout as well. Often you may find people in them, but some of them are so large that they can accommodate what appeared to be 20 people. Well my friends and me had this discussion one afternoon and that was my guess and I'm sticking to it. Another note about the service staff, even during some of the heavy rainstorms that we had, we might find ourselves in the Jacuzzis with beverages of all types in hand. The staff had no problem coming out of cover and getting soaked just to take or deliver an order or to take an empty glass or bottle. Kudos to them again. Restaurants In the main dining rooms, the dEcor was good, but the service was so intriguing in many ways, that to be honest I really never took notice of it. The food was, well, as one tablemate continued to state-delightful. Try the cold soups, you'll be surprised every time. Sabatini's is an experience. Coming from the part of the country with the best Italian food available, it was no world class experience, but not disappointing either. Food was very good. Service started out awful, but mid-dinner our waiter appeared to give up on us and we received a new one. He was excellent all the way down to singing to us and choosing my meal for me, which turned out to be one piece of all items on the menu after he stated over and over again, trust me. I do recommend this stop, but be prepared to eat way too much food. Painted Desert was another story. The Maitre d' was an absolute mess. First he did not understand the type of reservation we wanted (5 people?). Then while waiting to be seated I saw and heard him turn several couples and small groups away stating that they were overbooked. At best the restaurant was half full. Each night I walked through it to get to the Promenade Bar were my group usually met and I noticed that the restaurant was never full. I just can't understand that one. The food was ok. I've had much better southwestern food. Get the steak, it's the best thing on the menu, not even warm chips with your salsa and they really should hide the "no frills" bags that they pour the chips out of. Service was ok as well. I wouldn't recommend it, but it is a good alternative (for a break) to the regular restaurants. Itinerary We actually originally chose the Western Caribbean on the Grand Princess because it was 3 Islands and 3 days at Sea. We really just wanted to relax and enjoy the ship, then they added Costa Maya to the agenda and as we boarded they explained that a storm had destroyed Costa Maya's dock and that we would be stopping at Playa Del Carmen. Well it turned out great. Playa Del Carmen is awesome from what we experienced with our rainy weather. Other stops were Princess Cay, Grand Cayman and Cozumel. Princess Cay was a huge surprise for me. We had a ball there as it was basically a beach party with all sorts of water sports and activities. A band played all day long while food and drinks were served. A great day. Grand Cayman was extremely disappointing to me. I heard lots of great reviews about Stingray City. I went golfing, good day, really nice course, bring plenty of balls there is a ton of water in all the right places, but it could have been in a LOT better shape. Others went to the beach, but a storm rolled in and put a damper on that activity. Most of those who shopped were disappointed. I stopped by the shops and was so disappointed in about 5 minutes that I just got back to the ship and relaxed. Same shopping and shops as most Islands. I had really been looking forward to this Island for many years, but it proved to be a huge disappointment for me. Cozumel was another great day. Then again I still have not met a day in Mexico that isn't. We did a catamaran sail and snorkel trip. Lots of fun. We sailed out to a snorkel site where you snorkel for I guess about an hour, Mexican time is different then the rest of the world. Then you reload and sail to a beach for a beach party again with plenty of activities and water sports. All along there is open bar, on board as well as on the beach. Food is also available. Then back aboard and sail back to the ship. Now it was a scenic party aboard this boat as the crew brought drinks and more drinks to you, if you wanted them. It was a blast. An extremely nice photographer aboard this boat drew me a map where I can go to this "warehouse" to buy authentic Mexican art and things for my home (versus the tourist traps near the dock). (Excellent map) So we made our way there and negotiated our heads off to find little success. We then made our way through town and had lunch and shopped some more. But before leaving Cozumel, coming from a Cancun veteran, you need to stop by Carlos and Charlie's. Well we did and WOW! Just like we remembered. Probably about 90% of the patrons in this establishment were from our ship. Well I'll make 3 simple comments here: a can't miss, people somehow let loose and do crazy things (we saw a couple, from the ship performing acts of lust on the dance floor and they were no 20 something year olds either), well lets just say a great time, you need to stop by and have a beer and tequila shooter. On our way back to the ship, we had a monsoon. Literally 5 inches of water on the streets and sidewalks. It didn't kill our plans as we continued in the rain and our group grew and grew to about 20 as we approached the ship. The party then continued in the Jacuzzis. Awesome day!!! Playa Del Carmen is a great stop, but it was rainy and dreary all day. We shopped, hit the beach for about 10 minutes and chilled out at Senior Frogs, another place a Cancun vet can't miss. That and Carlos & Charlie's are sister establishments. This could very well have been the best of all ports, but the weather was not good to us this day. Some went to the ruins and enjoyed them although they got muddy. We were tempted to rent a Jeep and drive to Cancun, but the honest man at the rental agency told us that the weather would be the same there. Thank you to him. I do not consider myself an expert or one to have others listen to me, but from my experiences in the Caribbean, my honest opinion, as well as others I was traveling on this trip with, Mexico is by far the highlight of this part of the world. The people, culture, attitude of the natives, beaches, water, activities, shopping, the list goes on, are far superior that the rest of the Caribbean. . Some things to note aboard the ship. When walking by the shops on deck 7, please notice the "martini shirt," in the window. Stop in and ask where they are on the shelf. The response I got from that question was "it's $85.00." Well excuse me! In the middle of the afternoon, while passing through did I need to take the bathing suit off and put my suit on to shop? The Promenade bar is an excellent place to meet up with other people if that is what you are doing. It is centrally located to a lot of things and there is a ton of action there. After 9:00 a good little sing along bar as well. Try the arcade and play some air hockey and outside play shuffleboard and chess. The Skywalker's nightclub doesn't get going until about 1 AM, so be prepared for very late nights. There did seem to be too large of a number of staff members lingering each night. There is no cigar bar like other ships, but there are cigars sold at some bars, but you need to smoke them outside. All in all this was one of my best vacations ever and I highly recommend it. John.Quirin@cendant.comJune 2001 Read Less
This could put you right to sleep............ Embarkation was awesome. Had a rental car (we went to Key West for two days ahead of the cruise), drove from the Marriott Marina with all our baggage and dumped it with the porter, returned ... Read More
This could put you right to sleep............ Embarkation was awesome. Had a rental car (we went to Key West for two days ahead of the cruise), drove from the Marriott Marina with all our baggage and dumped it with the porter, returned our car to the National Car Rental place at FLL and THEY took us over. No need for a cab. Port check-in was an absolute breeze. As most know, Princess has assigned check-in by your deck/cabin. Well, our line had two couples in it already and one of the hosts in another section called us over, went and got our paperwork and did the honors. Not a big deal, but foreshadowing for the type of cruise service we would receive the rest of the time. Total check-in time was about 10 minutes until we stepped into our cabin, A743. Aft, starboard side. Cabin (BC Category). Small, but more than adequate. Ample storage under the bed for two 26" rollerboards and two smaller ones as well. Height clearance was fine for those pieces. Refrigerator was good and cold, and our wonderful attendant, Anna, had it stocked with ice. She was awesome. The balcony, although small, was adequate for our needs and was private from above due to deck location. Now, as a side note, we loved being at that aft location. As much as I complained about wanting an upgrade, this cabin location could not have been better. It was right at the Terrace Pool, the bar (of course) and the entrance to the Horizon Court, I feared for noise from the Horizon above, but not to worry - there was none. Service. It was excellent throughout. Our bartender, Joel, was the best. He and Anna collectively got all our tip money;) Seriously, he would see me coming up the steps each day and had my favorite poured and waiting for me. When my better half had a DOD that she didn't like, he would not charge us for it and give her something else. He was great. The remaining bartenders, golf attendants and other people we encountered were very good as well. The buffet would be my only exception to this. They just didn't look like they were having a lot of fun walking around picking up dirty plates. Food. We had personal choice dining. We ate in the dining room several times, always with very good results. Food was cooked to our liking (the Salmon really thrilled my better half). I liked the lamb and fettuccine Alfredo. Also, ask them to do the Calamari for you - even if not on the menu. Give them some notice and they'll do most anything I found. We always ate after the busy period, and I think this is important. Around 8:30 - 9:00 pm, always sat immediately and got a table for two (and without greasing anyone special!!). We ate breakfast in the Horizon each day, and I will admit that it got a little tiring by day 4 or 5 - as I'm rather limited in what I'll eat for breakfast. Lunch was always good. I've already read comments by some regarding below standard performance on the Personal Choice dining selection. All I will say that if the service I received in the PC dining (Da Vinci Room) was below standard compared to the service in the Traditional Rooms, then that particular service must be in another stratosphere. We were totally satisfied with the PC selection, and again, perhaps our dining time had a lot to do with that. Ship. Truly impressive, to say the least. Thanks to everyone who preceded us on these boards and all the world of information learned here, I knew pretty much what to expect from an activity, ice cream costs, specialty restaurants, golf, small atrium, etc., etc. So, we knew that this ship and itinerary was absolutely perfect for us. It was - pure and simple. For such a large ship I have never seen more guys sanding wood, painting, cleaning glass and just general upkeep in my life. I thought she was in excellent condition. Absolutely loved the freshwater pools - and the really cold water in the Terrace Pool was quite refreshing (and sobering I might add). The other pools were spectacular to look at to be sure, but were very crowded and often had a snorkeling lesson or other item going on. With all the options available, that was never a problem. By the way, for the purists, we never had a problem getting a deck chair. How could you? There were so many spread all over the decks - maybe not in the prime location - but they were there. Stops. We did not do the normal shore excursion thing. We did go shopping in St. Maarten and found that much cheaper than St. Thomas. There are some serious, serious deals to be had on tobacco and alcohol products. Just look around some. Princess Cays was quite nice we thought, nicer than other private Islands we had done previously. The food was surprisingly good there, in our opinion. Go out on the short pier by the snorkel center and you can stand and see a variety of colorful fish, if that's your thing. Others we met on board did various excursions with mixed reviews on them. I would suggest doing some investigating before you go! Overall experience was outstanding for us, as you can tell. We wanted sun, cocktails and superior service. We got all that and then some. No, it's not one of the luxury cruises available out there. But, it's damn sure a superior product in its target environment as a mainstream, large cruise line. It's different than the smaller Princess ships, found it better than RCI by a good margin and I wouldn't put CCL on the same page. This is just a different environment. Laid back, low pressure, no waiter in your face and very, very enjoyable. Not over-run by children either. That's what we wanted and got that and so much more. One thing I will finish up with (yes, I know you are glad) is that before taking this cruise and itinerary, please do your homework. Read all over Cruise Critic's boards. If you want non-stop action this cruise isn't it, necessarily. If you want wild poolside games, this isn't it. If you need a variety of ports and do not enjoy being at sea for an extended period, then this isn't it either. However, if you want great service, relaxation, sun, good food and the opportunity to meet some really nice people - this is your cruise. I know countless others will have different opinions, and that's what makes these boards work, but this is my experience. June 2001 Read Less
Friday & Saturday-Pre-cruise My family includes (husband 43, myself-41, daughter-17, and son-15) we began our trip with a 2 night stay at the Marriott Harbor Beach in Ft. Lauderdale. The hotel was beautiful and the beach was so ... Read More
Friday & Saturday-Pre-cruise My family includes (husband 43, myself-41, daughter-17, and son-15) we began our trip with a 2 night stay at the Marriott Harbor Beach in Ft. Lauderdale. The hotel was beautiful and the beach was so pretty, nice white sand and warm blue water. We did have a couple of rain showers, but that's par for the time of the year. The kids were so excited as the New York Yankee's were also staying at the hotel. Sunday-Arrival We arrived at the cruise terminal around 12:15, and we were in our cabins by 12:30. We had booked a mini-suite and were planning on the four of us sharing that cabin. Then about 3 weeks before the cruise I was checking prices, and found that the cabin prices, had gone way down. We were able to get the kids, an outside cabin on the same deck without paying any more money! I am so glad we did that, as we are not on the same schedule. Our kids had the time of their life, without parents and no curfew! We were in Emerald 720, and the kids in Emerald 229 (way down the hall on the opposite side). We loved our mini-suite, our balcony was covered, and it gave us a lot of privacy. We had breakfast every day on the balcony. We found that room service was terrific. You can order items, which are not on the menu, and they will bring them. After getting settled in our room we explored all over the ship. We were so surprised about the size of the ship. It was raining so we had a little lunch, and continued to explore. Had dinner and then when to the cabin and set on the balcony and continued to have a wonderful evening. Monday-Princess Cays We were very happy with this stop. A day at a beautiful beach! We loved just swimming, and snorkeling around all day. Had a BBQ, and then more swimming. Headed back to the tenders around 2:00, and took a nap, showered, and then got ready for dinner. Had dinner and then went to the Marty Allen and Kate Blackwell show. It was okay; I could have easily done without the show, but still entertaining. Tuesday-Day at Sea Slept late, then had breakfast on the balcony. We went around to all the different pools and found that the adult pool aft on deck 16 was best suited for us. We found loungers on the sun deck and soaked up the sun and read until we decided it was lunchtime. Our daughter came and found us, and we had pizza with her outside by the pool. Then went back to deck 16 and swam and read the rest of the afternoon. This was the first formal night, my husband and son were all decked out in their tuxes, and my daughter and I had long dresses. We had our pictures taken but they turned out horrible! We shared a table with four other people and had an enjoyable dinner. Then the kids left to hang out with all their new friends, and my husband and I walked around the ship, did a little shopping, and then went to the casino for about a hour. Wednesday-Grand Cayman My husband was scheduled to dive, and the kids and I had schedule the stingray and snorkel trip with Captain Marvin. The kids had scheduled the 10:00-1:00 trip. This was absolutely the best excursion of all time. We were the only 3 on the boat, with two guides. I could write pages and pages about this excursion. My daughter and I were a bit scared of the stingrays, but got over it with the help on our encouraging guides. They also took us to three different places to snorkel. We saw all kinds of different boats just loaded with people. We were able to snorkel all by ourselves without people floating on top of us. My husband also reports that the certified reef dive was terrific! After we arrived back from the trip, did a little shopping, but we were ready to get back to the ship and shower. Sat on the balcony with my husband, had a couple of beers and just relaxed until it was time to get ready for dinner. The kids decided not to have dinner with us tonight, as they needed to rest before another long evening. We joined a table for eight and had a lovely evening with these people. After dinner, we went to the London Pub Night Comedy show put on by the cruise director. This show was somewhat entertaining, but again I could have easily skipped it. Thursday-Cozumel My husband went on his first ever drift dive and just loved it. He has been diving in Hawaii, St. John's US VI, British VI, and he thought this was his been ever diving experience. I wish I could be as positive about my excursion. The kids talked me into book an ATV four-wheel excursion over the Internet before we left home. This was a three-hour trip over huge rocks and rough terrain. The kids loved it, so I guess it was worth it. The trail was along side the ocean, and the whole time I just kept thinking about spending time at the beach. We did stop halfway through the tour for about a 10-minute swim. If you were young you would also enjoy this trip. Both of the kids drove their own ATV'S and I rode with each of them half of the time. It was really hot in Cozumel, but not too bad on the ATV'S as you are moving along pretty fast. We arrived back at the ship, showered and met up with my husband, and went back into town to shop, and stock up on our drinks. We did not last very long in Cozumel shopping, as it was just too hot. Went back and sat on the balcony and had a few beers before dinner. Had dinner and then went to the casino. I played the slots for a couple of hours and lost $40.00, my husband stayed longer at the craps table and was ahead about $120.00. Friday-Playa Del Carmen We took the tender to shore about 10:00, with our daughter who wants to get her hair braided. We walked around and found a lady to do her whole head for $20.00. She has had her hair braided before, and we paid a lot more. While she was getting her hair braided, my husband I did some shopping. Again we really didn't find anything we needed to buy. My son stayed on the ship and swam with his new friends. My daughter went back to the ship after her hair was braided. My husband and I then went to the beach. We loved this beach; there were restaurant and bars along it. We swam, then would have a drink, swam some more and so on. We went back to the ship around 4:00. We stayed on the balcony for a couple of hours before getting ready for dinner. After dinner we just walked around and then went back to our room. Saturday-Sea day Another lazy day at the pool. We had lunch on our balcony, because we didn't want to change out of our suits for lunch. They have a great chicken Caesar salad, which we ordered a few times from room service. We had a nice dinner and then went to the casino for about a couple of hours. We were so sad to be packing our luggage. But then again we knew that we were so fortunate to have had the opportunity to cruise on the Grand, and to have such a wonderful experience to remember. Overall- fantastic trip, will go on other cruises with Princess, loved their service. Food was so so, but that didn't bother us. Entertainment was always available if you want it. My husband and I preferred to spend most of our time alone together. Our children loved the trip and have been chatting to their new friends non-stop since we arrived home.slee@bigvalley.netJuly 2001 Read Less
Hi, everyone! It's now my turn to provide a nice long review of a wonderful cruise. I hope you find the time to read it as it's rather long. When I was hungering for tips before my cruise, the longer the reviews were the ... Read More
Hi, everyone! It's now my turn to provide a nice long review of a wonderful cruise. I hope you find the time to read it as it's rather long. When I was hungering for tips before my cruise, the longer the reviews were the better for me, so I hope some of you will feel the same. First of all, our pre-cruise night in Fort Lauderdale proved to be a wise decision. Not only did we not have to worry ourselves sick over whether the flight would be on schedule, get to the pier on time, etc., but it allowed for a smooth transition to the pier. We were at the Embassy Suites (lovely hotel but extremely crowded and noisy) and took the Saturday afternoon to explore FLL's beautiful waterways on the Water Taxi. On the day of sail the Princess representatives set up a check-in desk inside the hotel. We were able to check in within a few minutes and a bus was waiting to take all the Grand passengers to the pier. At Port Everglades we would have been allowed to board the ship immediately if it wasn't for the fact that the Grand had had an unscheduled inspection by the coast guard that morning and the crew was running behind by an hour. We were made to wait about 45 minutes but by noon we were on the ship. Our stateroom was on Lido deck (deck 14). My instinct that this was the perfect room for us without being too extravagant proved to be correct. It was a lovely, spacious room with a floor to ceiling window looking directly over the sea. We immediately enjoyed a breathtaking view of the Port Everglades waterways since we were on starboard side. Our staterooms and 3 others were sectioned off in a separate hallway (other staterooms were lined up along the two corridors) which provided privacy from the constant flow of people flocking to the pools or the Horizon Court. We were right next to the Grand Suite, which we got a chance to visit upon embarkation. All I can say is WOW. Marble, polished wood and brass, whirlpool bath and at least twice the size of our stateroom. But I'm not complaining. I can't say enough about our stateroom. The next time we travel on the Grand (and there WILL be a next time), I will want to book the same category stateroom on the same deck. We had everything at the tip of our fingers. The Reef and Neptune pools, Poseidon Pizza and Trident Grill were a few steps away; the Horizon Court was immediately beyond the pools. We were close to the elevators and one flight up from the laundry room. We had absolutely no problem getting around the ship. It was by no means noisy. We discovered, towards the end of our trip, that deck 14 is also THE most important deck because the navigation bridge is on it. But I'll get to the bridge part later. DININGWe had been booked with traditional first seating but Personal Choice dining kept beckoning to me after all the wonderful things I had read about it on this board. Upon boarding I was faced with two dilemmas: 1) a little upset stomach and the certainty that no way could I have sat down to dinner at 7:30 pm feeling the least bit hungry and 2) we wanted very much to watch the sailaway from the deck. That did it. We immediately went to the Pursers' Desk and asked to trade our traditional seating for Personal Choice. For those who are in doubt about which choice to make, I have to tell you it was the wisest decision we ever made. Not only were we free to dine when and where we wanted, but we could make our own schedule and even customize it into our very own traditional dining. As a test we tried Da Vinci's dining room one night, then Michelangelo the second (in personal choice you have a choice of dining in either one or the other, whereas traditional dining is only in the Botticelli dining room). We felt somewhat more comfortable with the wait staff at Da Vinci's, so we continued to dine there every night. We would go there whenever it was convenient for us, wait no more than 15 minutes. We would ask for the same waiter, Roberto and his assistant Daniele, who were wonderfully attentive and made dining a much anticipated experience each day. They always inquired about our day and they quickly learned our tastes. When we were in doubt on whether to try something on the menu they would make discreet suggestions. Roberto even convinced my very traditionalist husband to try the chilled strawberry soup and hoodwinked him into having the vol-au-vents (whose filling contained brain) which he found delicious. After the first evening, even the head waiter, Oscar, knew us by name. We did not need to produce our cards to be directed immediately to our table. I couldn't disagree more with those past passengers who maintain that the quality of the food is poor. You could not, IMHO, find anything better in some of New York's upscale restaurants. I found the prime rib tender and tasty and the lobster was delicious even without being soaked in butter. The lobster and the escargots were my favorite entrees. We tried a different soup each night. They are delicious, BTW, and I recommend them, especially the lobster bisque. I tried the Princess Love Boat Dream THREE times! It was a miracle my clothes still fit me the last few days. Must have been all the walking around. My husband even got a bonus plate of off-the-menu Spaghetti alla Puttanesca one night and being a pasta loving Italian that made his day. SODA CARDAanother great initiative. Imagine how your onboard bill would shoot up if you had to pay for each drink individually, as with the cocktails. With $17.50 per person we had all the fountain soda we wanted any time and the crew had no problem whatsoever with serving it upon presentation of the card. Someone mentioned in their review that they "had to present the cards at dinner a few times" so that they could be served the soda and that the staff appeared to be resentful with regards to serving them. I don't think these people fully grasp the concept of how the soda card works. When you order soda from a bar, all you need to do is show them the coke sticker on your card. On the other hand, the dining room staff is expected to record you stateroom number each time you order a soda drink. They might not be too happy about having to run to the nearest bar to get it, but that's what the assistant waiter does, go back and forth fetching and carrying from the most remote places. Our assistant waiter not only did this with a smile but even fetched us espressos without us having to ask. Be careful, though, when you order fountain soda from a bar. Once I was served a yellowish liquid that was meant to pass for coke. THE BUFFET We found the buffet to be of a good variety and quality. We had no problem getting to and around the Horizon Court and always found a table even in crowded times. There was no ice cream, though, (ahh, the controversial ice cream again) but I saw it one night at the Bistro. Not that I missed it, since we could have great FREE ice cream in the dining room. We had lunch and breakfast usually in the buffet and tried the dining room once. Once was enough for me as I found the portions too big and preferred to save some room for dinner. The waiters in the buffet were too eager to clean up and you had to watch them or they would take your plate away. ALTERNATIVE DINING We tried Sabatini's one night and though I was stuffed up to my eyeballs I didn't have to get up and take a walk half way through dinner, as I had anticipated through reading this board. I think I may have frightened Francesco, the waiter, into not piling up my plate so much. I told him they had a bad reputation for stuffing people and he appeared to be very impressed by this. He kind of tiptoed around me and looked apologetic each time he came around with more food. So, you see, warning them beforehand works. I had a chat with the Maitre d' telling him about the restaurant's overall good reputation among the Cruise Critics posters. He seemed very interested in people's opinion of Sabatini's and will make a point of looking us up. So guys, let it all out, whether good or bad. It's true that they watch and listen to what we have to say. It irked my husband that I insisted on leaving an extra tip for the waiters, since they get it anyway, but I felt they had gone out of their way to make the dinner a very pleasant one with their playful banter and funny jokes. The food was delicious but I made a point of telling them that the pre-war Italian-Neapolitan music playing in the background could be upgraded with some livelier tunes! The pizza in the Poseidon Pizzeria was very good but I found the hamburgers from the Trident Grill tasteless, though not dry. But then, I'm a salt lover. My husband ate and enjoyed everything without finding fault. He was enjoying the good stuff before returning to endless meals of plain grilled steak and chicken cutlets at home! AUTOMATIC TIPPINGWe too questioned the waiters about the automatic $6.50 daily gratuity charge and they appeared to be quite happy with the setup. It seems they have a better deal now since with the traditional method a lot of passengers did not tip or tipped inadequately. This way all the dining staff are guaranteed a share of the pool. ACTIVITIESThese are endless and there is simply not enough time to try them all. I'm an avid reader but did not find one moment to read a page of the book I had brought on board. There was so much to see and do. Even when I went to the pool I enjoyed the water more than I enjoyed the sun, so I didn't linger long on the lounge chairs. Although we did not enjoy all the shows we saw, we found most of them to be very well produced. We liked Lights, Camera, Action! but were bored with Rhythms of the City. We enjoyed the cabaret shows more but thought the hypnotist pathetic, though a lot of people seemed to find him outstanding. My husband, who has a habit of falling asleep every time his rear end touches a chair, was surprisingly wide awake and unaffected by the hypnotist's attempts to hypnotize the audience! We missed Marty Allen because that night we had our 25th anniversary vows renewal ceremony. It was a wonderful and moving experience, by the way, even though none of our family was with us. Captain Davis, the second in command, conducted the ceremony. For those who wish to renew their marriage vows on the ship, BTW, I recommend the vows renewal package for $149. Besides the private ceremony you get a bottle of Moet & Chandon and 2 souvenir champagne flutes, a bouquet for her and a boutonniere for him, besides a beautifully framed photo of the ceremony. It's worth the extra money. We asked one of the staff to tape the event with our video camera for everyone at home to see. We loved the comedian Miguel Washington. The juggler needs to perfect his act, IMHO, though I give him credit for making the audience laugh. We thought Graham Seymour was hysterically funny and enjoyed his provocative banter. We made a point of watching his morning TV show which was funny and informative at the same time. It was like a shot of adrenaline before my morning coffee. His little act in the song "If I were not upon this ship" had me in tears. The talent show was fun and there were some very talented people. I particularly enjoyed the Island Party and the Champagne Waterfall Party, and like most of the other passengers were a little put off by the insistence of the photographers, especially for the photographs of the Champagne party which were a preposterous $19.95 each! Talking about photos, I took home with me only the ones I liked and had no qualms about handing in the ones I though I could do without. After all, I had not asked for them to be taken. We tried Skywalkers a couple of nights but found it too crowded, though it was fun to sit and watch for a while. We participated in one trivia game and came in...... well, never mind that. We played at the casino twice and lost altogether 10 dollars on the 5 cents slots but we had a fun time. Last but not least, we thought the New Wave's music was fantastic and so was the Nino Fiumara Trio in the Explorer Lounge. I thought the dEcor of the ship beautiful, with it's polished wood and granite trim. The artwork was a delight to stop and admire and even sat through two auctions. I agree with someone's impression that you are not aware of the crowd, as people are distributed throughout the various sections of the ship. It does give you a sense of being in an upscale hotel and what I found wonderful was the friendliness of the people, perfect strangers who would stop and chat with you. Being a New York City resident I found this refreshing. Of course, I do realize that people are more agreeable when on vacation. What I found a little tedious was the difficulty in finding a seat for the shows in the Vista Lounge and I think Princess has a problem there. They should rearrange the timing of the shows. People enjoy the cabaret shows maybe more than the production shows and the Vista is definitely too small to accommodate everyone. ITINERARY I loved Princess Cays. I thought it was a wonderful way to begin our shore adventure and made the most of the day on the beach. My first snorkeling experience was great, thanks to the encouragement of my fellow posters. I'm so glad I did try it after all. I had a little trouble with the underwater camera. I wasn't fast enough for the darting fish and I'd be surprised if out of 24 exposures I manage to get a picture of one fish. Cozumel left me a little deflated. I didn't like the constant soliciting of the local merchants but did manage to buy a tanzanite ring for a bargain price. I made a point of stopping at Carlos and Charlies for a drink, then we returned early to the ship. Grand Cayman was fun. I had checked off the wrong excursion number on the excursion order form and my desired visit to Stingray City did not materialize but the visit to Turtle Farm and the Tortuga rum cake factory was interesting. The town of Hell left me indifferent. My favorite stop, though, was Playa del Carmen, with its gorgeous turquoise water and pristine beaches. When I first looked out of the deck onto it's enchanting coast I thought: This is surely Paradise. To think that we could have gone to Costa Maya! I wouldn't have missed this port for the world. We regret not having been able to spend more time there as we had the Tulum excursion booked through Princess. Tulum, BTW, was an exhilarating experience, the cultural aspect of it, as well as the breathtaking view of the sea from the top. We did find the overall organization of the trip lacking, though. We had to constantly watch the guide so as not to lose him in the crowd and he did not think to hold up a sign so that we could easily identify him. We also had some trouble finding the bus at the end of the tour as the meeting place wasn't explained well to us. The second part of the excursion was at, a beautiful park with natural lagoons and inlets. There we had barely time for an hour of snorkeling before it was time to leave. I highly recommend this excursion. It was definitely one of the highlights of our cruise. Watch those rocks, though. I got a few cuts and scrapes and my husband was bleeding quite badly from the shin. I highly recommend wearing water shoes (thank you, thank you, THANK YOU, to whoever recommended them to me!) BRIDGE Although I had heard mention something about bridge tours on this board I had not seen any announced in the Princess Patter. The thought had completely slipped my mind when providence stepped in. We met and chatted with a young Italian officer who works on the bridge and he offered to give us a private tour. We couldn't believe our luck. True to his word, Massimo met us on deck 14 and escorted us to the bridge. This, ladies and gentlemen, is certainly THE most interesting and fascinating section of the ship. I had often wondered how such a huge monster as the Grand was so easily maneuvered in and out of ports. Here we met Paolo, the senior watch officer and navigator, who explained to us the function of the sophisticated instruments. The rudder is smaller than the steering wheel of a Porsche, and rarely used as most of the maneuvering is computerized. Massimo, our kind guide showed us the radar and we were able to see the objects that it detected at that moment. The radar computer is able to identify the exact position of the object, determine it's speed and direction of navigation. We were shown the extremely sophisticated meteorological instruments and fire safety computer, which is able to identify the exact trouble spot when the smoke alarm sounds. While we were there the alarm sounded at least three times. It was explained to us that often people smoke in their stateroom and set off the smoke detector. Even steam from the shower can have the same effect. Massimo explained to us that when in autopilot, which is most of the time, the ship can run it's entire course independently without human intervention. Two officers have to be on constant watch though in the event that the radar detects an object in it's path. This is only a small part of what we learned in our tour. By the time Massimo led us out my head was spinning. I was able to take some great photos as a testament to our wonderful experience. Anyway, it seems they do group tours of the bridge on the 'at sea' days although they don't advertise them. If you want to take one of these tours my advice is to let the pursers desk know early in the cruise and they will put you in the very restricted list. SOME GRAND TRIVIA I PICKED UP DURING THE BRIDGE TOUR: 1) did you know the 1069 members of the Grand crew are of 45 different nationalities? 2) crew members spend 4 months at sea and 2 at home; 3) crew members of each professional category train in specialized training schools of their sector all aver the world. The navigational crew, for example, trains in London one month each year; 4) the engine rooms take up entirely decks 1, 2 and 3; 5) only 8 feet of this humungous ship lie below water (incredible, isn't it?) 6) the Grand produces enough energy to supply the whole island of Cozumel if it were necessary; 7) in the engine room there is a very sophisticated desalination plant that draws water from the sea, desalts and purifies it for drinking and everything else (having drank that water I would never have believed it!) DISEMBARKATIONThis ran very smoothly and was well organized as was everything else. Everyone was color-coded according the time of their flight and whether they were transferring directly to the airport or taking a shore excursion. In the wee hours of the morning representatives from the different airlines came on board for the passengers who wanted to do a pre-check-in. This method proved very convenient for us. We had a 3:20 pm flight out of FLL and had booked a tour of the city. Delta took our luggage off our hands just out of the port terminal and we only had to take our carry-on bags with us on the tour bus. At the airport we went straight to the boarding gate. (Note: this method of check-in is normally available to passengers who booked their flight with Princess but if you make your own flight arrangements, like we did, just go to the purser's desk in the beginning of the cruise and give them your flight information and they will pass it on to the airline). OVERALL IMPRESSION Although I had come amply prepared, thanks to the wonderful advice gathered on Cruise Critic's Princess board, I was pleasantly surprised and impressed by the impeccable service and organization on the Grand. I found the crew to be efficient and inconspicuous. Even our steward came and went almost unseen and unheard but provided excellent service. Our room was cleaned and clean towels provided twice a day. If more are needed, all one has to do is ask the steward once. I found the ship to be clean and neat and didn't find the boisterousness one would find on some other ships. Even the children were well behaved. We had the teen and children centers directly above our stateroom, and though you could hear some light pacing now and then during the day, it was not disturbing. The only things that bothered me were the lingering smell of food when crossing promenade deck past the Explorer lounge, but that was probably due to the fact that the galley was situated directly below, and the way the photographers were constantly pouncing on you around every corner. I found the tendering service to be fast and efficient and found particularly thoughtful of the Princess crew to set up a water station on all the piers where we could also get iced tea and orange juice. Especially in stops where we hung around the port area, it was a relief to be able to run back to the pier for a refreshing drink. I found the crew members to be helpful and polite. The only crew member I had trouble with was a surly looking young lady from the bar tending staff (yes, the one who gave me the watery coke) who was particularly curt and rude on the only two occasions I was served by her. Everyone else went out of their way to be pleasant, including the pursers desk staff. I exchanged pleasantries with many of them and felt by no means rushed of cold shouldered. Tip: show some interest in the work that they do, ask them if they enjoy it, etc. They seem to appreciate that. I hope I have not bored you with this rather lengthy and clearly positive perspective of my cruise. I'm sorry, but I could find nothing really important to complain about. Oh, yes, those infernal toilet flushers. Uhm, we could start a whole new thread on that one.......... vze24gxc@verizon.net August 2001 Read Less
My family cruised on the Grand Princess on Sept. 2, 2001 - Sept. 9, 2001 sailing. We had 3 cabins 2 inside and 1 outside cabin, the outside cabin were ok size but the inside cabins were very, very, very small!! The inside cabins ... Read More
My family cruised on the Grand Princess on Sept. 2, 2001 - Sept. 9, 2001 sailing. We had 3 cabins 2 inside and 1 outside cabin, the outside cabin were ok size but the inside cabins were very, very, very small!! The inside cabins were very uncomfortable. The food was the worst I have ever had, we could not wait to see a Mcdonald's or Burger -- something just to get a good meal. My sister and her 13-month old son were with us and Princess gave him a top bunk, never provided him with any meals not like he would like it any way but he ate potatoes the whole 7 days. Apple juice was $1.50 for 4oz for the baby. Ice cream was $1.95 for a kids cup. Yes they charge for ice cream. I will never cruise with Princess again. I could not wait to get home and away from all of Princess's rude staff. If you have a problem while on board forget it you will not be helped. Once you're on board you are stuck. I will say I enjoyed Princess Cay Island. We only saw one good show the whole time. It was so sad to see lots of the guest hunting for stuff to do. Nightlife sucked big time. Only one dance floor the size of my kitchen floor for 500 - 600 people a night. The ship is not for young people 21-45. My parents were also with us and they are in their mid 60's and they hated too. We all voted Carnival is #1 in our book. The Thomas FamilySeptember 2001 Read Less
This was our 10th cruise, and our 25th wedding anniversary (on the 24th). We are both 46. Previously we have sailed on four Carnival ships and five RCCI. In March of this year we sailed to the Eastern Caribbean on RCI's "Explorer ... Read More
This was our 10th cruise, and our 25th wedding anniversary (on the 24th). We are both 46. Previously we have sailed on four Carnival ships and five RCCI. In March of this year we sailed to the Eastern Caribbean on RCI's "Explorer of the Seas" and had a FABULOUS time. This was our first Princess cruise. We'll be comparing a lot with the Explorer in this review. For this cruise we traveled with my sister-in-law and her husband. Since the two ladies were stressed out about flying, we agreed to drive. We rented a van and drove to Ft. Lauderdale (1460 miles). We left on Friday at 3:30 pm and arrived at our hotel at 4:00pm Saturday. Driving (which I didn't do any of) was not as bad as expected and much better than agonizing over flying. The best decision at least for me! We stayed at the Ft. Lauderdale Marina Marriott. We booked through Priceline at $40 for the night. We were given a beautiful room overlooking the marina with a palm tree next to our balcony, and a nice view of the yachts. Brother-in-law smokes and their smoking room had a view of the cruise ships. We ate dinner at the restaurant at an outside bar/cafe (there is a nice restaurant inside but we wanted to save our money for the casino). Unfortunately, I was too pooped to sightsee so we hit the hay early. We drove the 5 minutes to the port in the morning and parked at the pier. Rates were $10 a day. We arrived at the Grand check in at about 11:00am. Inside the terminal my bandage scissors (I am a nurse) were confiscated. I don't know why since they left my metal nailfile which I could do a lot more damage with than with blunt ended scissors, but I did not argue. We waited in what turned into a very long line until almost noon. Customs officials were late arriving, which caused most of the delay. Once the line began moving, it went very fast and efficiently. We had completed all our paperwork on line, so we only had to sign our cruise cards and go on our way. Be sure to have your Bahamas card completed! Once on board, we ran straight to our rooms to check them out. We had rooms 8721 and 8723 on Emerald deck. The mini suite balconies (Cat AD) on the Emerald deck are completely private (one of my concerns). The room is plenty big enough (34.5 x 10) with a fridge, two TV's, and a sitting area with a sofa. Nice big bathtub too. The balcony is 7 x 10. As someone else had stated, the towels are thin and not too soft, but that is a minor thing. We did make use of the robes that you can request to use. This is a nice touch we have not had on Carnival and Royal Caribbean. Our room steward Gil was great. I asked for a lounge on the balcony, and was very happy to see it arrive the next morning. By the way, our room was VERY quiet. I am normally a light sleeper and I never heard a peep in the hall or from the showroom below. Impressions We really liked the personal choice dining. We had a bad experience the first evening with a terrible waiter and switched from traditional to personal choice after that. The switch was as easy as telling the Maitre'D in the personal choice dining room the next evening, that we wanted to change - DONE. If anyone is unfortunate enough to have Eugene in the Botticelli Dining Room, run to get your seating changed. We are not fussy about waiters. We have had great ones, good ones, and ho-hum ones, but this guy was terrible. He never did introduce himself or the assistant waiter, never smiled, and sighed when a change in appetizer was politely requested by sister-in-law. He banged things down on the table, and generally looked like someone who hates his job. Very poor impression on Princess to start the cruise. In contrast, when we switched to personal choice, we were lucky enough to be seated at table #78 in the Michelangelo dining room. This is a great table with a window and a terrific waiter (Manuel from Portugal) and assistant waiter (Paulo). Although we were not successful in reserving the table ahead of time, we did manage to get Manuel and Paulo every night. We dined between 5:30 PM and 7 PM and never had to wait a minute for a table. Manuel and Paulo worked extremely well together and were very enjoyable. Since we wanted our tips to go directly to Manuel and Paulo, we cancelled the automatic tipping and gave them tips personally, along with our thanks for a pleasant dining experience. Note, there were no dining room waiter entertainment activities - no singing, Macarena, etc, and we did not miss it. Someone on their first cruise would likely enjoy that kind of thing, but it does get stale after a few cruises (and who can do just one cruise)! There was no midnight buffet. Again not missed by us now, but I do think it is too bad for first timers to miss this experience. There were formal nights on Tuesday (at sea day) and on Friday (Cozumel). The rest were "smart casual" with no semi-formal night. We did not try Sabitinis nor the Painted Desert. We also did not buy ice cream. We don't like to patronize these places. We think it encourages charges for more services in the future, and is not a good trend for cruising. We found the layout of the ship frustrating and confusing, especially if you're used to climbing stairs on the ship. The stairs in midship only go up to the 7th floor. You are forced to either use the elevator or walk forward or aft to walk up to the next floors. Some of the elevators don't go to the upper levels, but you don't know that until you have hopped in. We were on the Empress deck 8, in the aft part of the ship. To get to the casino on deck 6 for example, you could not simply walk down 2 flights of stairs and walk to midship where the casino was, but you had to walk down 1 flight of stairs, walk to midship and walk down the next flight or walk to midship and take the elevator down. There are no stairs midship above level 7. The ship seems to be designed to use the elevator all or most of the time. What were the designers thinking? The ship is pretty. However, I missed the large atriums we enjoyed on almost all other ships. This one is small, only 3 floors high. There are some nice lounge areas. The sports bar, Snookers was not always open??!! And sister-in-law found the limited internet hours maddening. The ship rarely felt crowded - lots of nice little intimate areas. Buy and bring your own drink to them though because there just aren't as many waiters ready to serve you as there are on RCCI and Carnival. Some Positives Hot tubs and pools open all night which was very nice! Also pads on the lounges. Few children and teens whooping it up - older average crowd than we are used to. More buffet choices at breakfast and lunch (Horizon Court ). No cold eggs all week! Good coffee. Fruit basket in cabin. Lifeboat drill inside instead of in the hot sun. Production shows were wonderful - very very good. Disembark was easy after we waited an hour for the inconsiderate folks who didn't go to immigration when told to. (This was the first time we had to go to immigration since we are US). Some Negatives If you're expecting to hear Caribbean music on this ship, forget it. There is no steel band as there is on RCCI and Carnival. In the Horizon Court, you'll hear elevator music. Most of the hot tubs are very small. Enough room for only 4 adults or 6 very close friends. Many are in the full sun with no overhead protection. No bar service in the Princess Theater. The meats at dinner are cooked an extra grade. If you normally like your prime rib medium, it will be cooked throughout. No pink middle. You have to order medium rare to get a pink middle. I learned after a couple nights. Drinks do not measure up to either Carnival or RCCI, although the "Berried Treasure" was very good. I missed my Love Connection (RCCI) terribly. Prices were not consistent for drinks at each bar. No free lemonade or punch at lunch. The Skywalkers Nightclub on the back of the ship is really nice. It's Princess' version of the Royal Crown Lounge on RCCI ships. It affords great views and is always open to go and sit, but something we missed there is that there is no bar service until it opens up for business at night. RCCI gets the nod for this because there was always someone to take your drink order almost anytime. Deserts were not as good on this ship as on past cruises, but are certainly not bad. Dining rooms are all small with very low ceilings. Not large, wide open multiple level dining rooms as are in many of the newest ships. R Comments Food was very good overall. Except for the buffets though, I did not think it was that much different from Carnival and RCCI. Presentation was better though. Barbecue on Princess Cays... not so good. Always found something to make us happy though - no bad meals - miss it terribly. Entertainment Comedian / magician James Michael acts like he missed a few days of Ritalin. We liked his act a lot - we needed a good laugh after recent events. Singer impressionist Tony Cherry very good, but didn't sing anything modern. London Pub Night- fun- don't miss Island Night Deck Night- good fun and a great location on the rear pool of ship; enjoyed throwing the streamers. Liked the band, S'il Vous Plait in the Explorer lounge. They are an extremely versatile band. The female vocalist was excellent and could sing anything. Probably the best band we've ever listened to on the ocean. Newlywed / Not so newlywed game is always good for laughs - we always go. Having so many choices every night was a big plus. Most shows were repeated twice and the Princess Patter tells you when they are on the first night for the whole week, so you can plan ahead. The first of 3 shows that we saw was in the Vista Lounge. The name of it was "Gotta Sing Gotta Dance". We didn't care for this show all that much, not because the singers and dancers weren't very good, but because they didn't sing anything that we've ever heard before and the set wasn't as elaborate as in other shows that we've seen on other ships. We later found that this was the exception. The other shows, "Lights Camera Action" and "Rhythms of the City" were in the larger Princess theater and were absolutely top notch productions. The sets were very elaborate and we enjoyed them very much. Ports Princess Cays We enjoyed just lounging around. As others have said, if you like it quieter, go to the right after leaving the tender. We did not feel at all crowded. Eat on ship! Typical native crafts and hair braiding. Tender required. Princess uses lifeboats for tenders and have poor ventilation - yuck. Doesn't last long luckily. Thanks to all who suggested water shoes - don't go without! Grand Cayman Our favorite! Love 7 mile beach. Tender again. We took a cab to beach for $3 a person. We were dropped of at a hotel and paid $2 a person for beach access (the only way to get on the beach is to pay). Beach has white soft sand and no coral or seaweed. If you walk a bit you will find a quiet area without all your fellow cruisers (if desired). We felt like we had the beach to ourselves. Sister-in-law and her hobby preferred to stick close to our drop-off area since it had a bar! Shopped in the afternoon, but didn't buy anything - this is a rather expensive island. Costa Maya No tender - was a bit rough so they had to re-maneuver the ship to a slightly better position at the pier. Shops are right off the ship. They put on a nice welcome performance with traditional Mayan costumes, but only for the first couple hours. It's small but nice. Go early, and bring camera. Small beach (free) is a short walking distance from the pier. It was cloudy and rough but we enjoyed it. Locals expect a tip for setting up lounge chair. Cozumel We went on the jeep tour and had quite an adventure. It poured rain and we were drenched by the time we got to the end of the pier. Bring a cheap rain cover! Then we had to slog through water over our ankle to the jeeps. We were lucky- ours had windows- not all do. You will go an hour on a VERY bumpy road. Two jeeps got stuck. Water was very deep in the puddles. We had entertainment from sister in law who squealed and hollered the whole way (afraid we would get stuck). Do not go if you have a real back or neck problem. The excursion warns you of this and we agree. You'll need a chiropractor after this trip. The ruins are a joke- a little bigger than an outhouse (really). "Authentic Mexican meal" was fruit, soda, fajitas with beef or chicken, and nachos. Brother-in-law enjoyed, but we did not. Flies all over. The people cooking had to keep fanning them away. Something about September when turtles are hatching makes them worse. Beach is beautiful, except we weren't allowed in water because it was too rough. There are no facilities after a quick stop 10 minutes into the trip! I'll let your imagination consider this one, since you spend an hr riding, 30min at ruins, 1hr at beach, 1hr to ride out again. We laughed more on this tour than we did any other time, but I am afraid it really is a bit of a rip-off. Lots of shops in town at Cozumel right off the pier. More than we remembered from a few years ago. Silver, T-shirts, blankets, crafts. Other notes Laundry has irons which I discovered too late. Sister-in-law and hobby got us the anniversary package with shrimp cocktail, chocolate covered strawberries, and champagne - very nice - yummy. Nice surprise. Bring large zip-lock baggies. They really came in handy when it rained to protect the camera, and store wet clothes. Cruise Director was John Cleford is very good (reminded us of Mr. Bean). Other staff was also very good. The assistant cruise director "Peter", is going to make an excellent cruise director. We think he's ready now. He is very funny and seems to be very comfortable on stage. Always someone at the door at beginning and end of shows. They were a very visible staff unlike some other cruises we've been on. Save your money and don't get a manicure. Lousy job, $15 for less than 10min. Wanted me to spring for a $40 arm massage with it (I can massage my own arm, thanks) Overall, we had a great time (we always do). We will be returning to Royal Caribbean though. The crowd is a bit younger and so seems more lively. The promenade on Explorer just can't be beat. We loved to sit along it and watch people go by. The Explorer is much easier to get around than the Grand. And I can have my Love Connection in the theater! Trademan1@aol.com October 2001 Read Less
The best time we have ever had in our lives! It was our first cruise. Our first "real" vacation. We tried to postpone in light of September 11, but couldn't unless we wanted to lose all of our money. Insurance ... Read More
The best time we have ever had in our lives! It was our first cruise. Our first "real" vacation. We tried to postpone in light of September 11, but couldn't unless we wanted to lose all of our money. Insurance doesn't cover acts of terrorism. So much for our travel agent saying "it covers everything except your not wanting to go." We will pay closer attention to our insurance policy next time and we will look elsewhere for insurance. Lesson learned. We boarded our flight September 22 to go to Fort Lauderdale. We breezed through security and that made us feel more insecure. Obviously it turned out ok. We arrived in Fort Lauderdale at 10:30p and stayed at the Marriott. It was free for us and next to Port Everglades. Bonus! My sister and her boyfriend had booked with us and it was a first cruise for us all. I can honestly tell you we had two entirely different vacations. Both were fun and wonderful but she packed everything she could into her cruise while my husband and myself took it a little easier. On Sunday we got to the port around 11:50am. The line was a bit long but we were in our staterooms by 12:30pm. We had express check in and apparently that means you have no paperwork to fill out. You still have to fill out the Bahama Immigration form again even if you sent it in. Thanks to a previous poster on Cruise Critic's message boards I had photocopied that form and they accepted it so we breezed right through. We had been upgraded to the Caribe deck with the bigger balcony and it was fabulous! My husband had decided to go get "supplies" for the week so he got back off the ship and a Princess baggage handler drove him to the nearest liquor store and back! The Princess crew laughed when he said, "I heard this could take a week" when he embarked again. We had a starboard side balcony and it's great if you want to see Cuba. If you are more interested in watching the ship go in and out of ports with the exception of Grand Cayman get on the port side. My husband's dinner jacket arrived shortly after we checked in and it fit perfectly. We used the cruise lines recommend formal wear provider because my husband didn't want to lug that around. My husband and I went to dinner without my sister and her boyfriend. The Horizon court was open and they ate too much to go to dinner. We had traditional late seating and loved it. We may try personal choice next time for variety. Dinner was good and I ordered the Love Boat Dream based on other cruiser's reviews. Sorry, but it wasn't that good and being a chocolate lover I was a bit disappointed. However, I did try it again 2 days later thinking I had an old one previously. Wow! It's fabulous. Not only was it wonderful but I swear it got bigger each time I ordered it! It's my favorite dessert on the ship. Later that evening my sister and I enjoyed the adult's only pool and hot tubs to ourselves while my husband enjoyed 3 card poker in the Atlantis Casino. On Monday we let the crowd go to Princess Cays before we disembarked. It was wonderful. A nice beach day. Previous posters are correct. If you want a more wild time go to the left when you get off the tender and for a more quiet time alone go to the right. I did both. A wonderful beach to walk on alone or with someone when you go to the right. Find the local merchants and they will get you a deal on rum or shirts or whatever. I found the most wonderful sipping rum from Cuba and a couple of nice Cuban cigars for my husband. Won't break your pocket book. Take your sunscreen. Monday, my husband and I ate at Sabatinis. Great food and they bring you one of everything on the menu. Not kidding! If you don't like seafood, I wouldn't recommend going. I don't care for seafood but I want to, and went with an open mind. I was blown away. It's great food. Tuesday we were at sea and it was formal night. My sister took in all the shows and ship stuff she could and had a great time. I was a bit more relaxed and loved it. Did the wine tasting and it was fun. Had never done one before. A bit of shock when my husband and I realized we were the "experts" at our table. Every bottle we had tried with the exception of one we had both experienced before. If you know a lot about wine I would recommend you skip this portion as you will probably find it a joke. My husband and I are not experts but found it for beginners only. I enjoyed the experience but would enjoy going to a real wine tasting. You can't taste a $6.95 bottle of wine that sells for $22.00 on the ship and call it a good value. Wednesday was Grand Cayman the day I was most looking forward too. It was the best!! I did not book an excursion based on what I read on the posts. I took my chances once I got off the ship. I was looking for Captain Marvin's and couldn't find them anywhere. I decided to go with Kelly's since they were right there off the ship. We arrived at 8am and ended up booking with Kelly's at half the price you would have booked through Princess. Kelly's left at 9:15am. Captain Marvin's showed up at 9:10am and I was a bit upset because of the reviews I've read about how great they are and really wanted to book with them. Kelly's was awesome. I had a ton of respect for the guides as they had done it so many times they had the stingrays named. The guides were friendly and knowledgeable. Our particular tour had a lot of folks from the Carnival Triumph as well as a few from Grand Princess. It was entertaining listening to the comparisons. Listening to everyone, I knew I had picked the right ship for our first cruise. Stingray City is awesome. I felt like I was a child again. The guides gave individual attention and made sure everyone had a good time. I would do it again in a heartbeat. Thursday, Costa Maya. A good day to schedule your spa treatments. No reason to go ashore unless you have an excursion booked. Unless you need a souvenir shot glass get a massage. Jimmy JJ Walker was the comedian that evening and part of his opening was asking how many people had a good time in Costa Maya. Just before the boo's there was a brief silence. It wasn't just us. Set sail at 7p, finally! Cozumel on Friday. It was ok. My sister loved Xacaret. She said the snorkeling was awesome. It did rain Thursday, Friday and Saturday. My husband and I being Northwest natives loved it. The lighting show off of our balcony each night was beautiful. Cozumel was ok, we are not Mexico fans so I don't want to destroy it for someone else. I thought it ok, my husband less so. Friday was another formal night and we had a great time. Took in another show and it was nice. We are not Broadway show kinda people but we weren't turned off either. Saturday was a day at sea. For the first time we decide to have lunch in the dining room instead of at the Horizon Court. Lunch was awesome and our next cruise we will eat in the dining room instead. Not that the Horizon Court was bad, the dining room was better! We had a wonderful dining experience there. Sunday disembarkation did not go off well. Not the fault of Princess. There were some rude passengers that just didn't get to immigration in a timely manner. They were called upon several times. I felt bad for those that had early flights. Myself I had to meet them at 6:15 am because my last name letter fell in A-F. I was there and even though you don't have to have a passport to get through if you want to get through quickly get one. Read the directions on your disembarkation letter and follow it completely. You will get through faster. Anything else is "not needed!" Oh, if your flight is leaving that day from FLL plan to spend that day at that airport. If your travel plans include Delta Airlines try for an alternate (morons, long story). After the incredible service you will receive on Princess, Delta will seem like a bad cab ride. We had the best time and truly relaxed. It's hard to vacation in this nation's time of crisis but believe it or not you can do it and it's welcome relief. I loved our vacation and so did my husband and sister. We have a holding booking for our next cruise. The only tips I can think of that haven't been covered previously are have some slippers if you have a balcony. Myself, I didn't get pressured to buy products at the Plantation Spa. I had my first pedicure there and it was wonderful. We did talk about everything but what she was using on my feet and calves. Maybe that had something to do with it but I didn't buy a single product from there and was treated wonderfully. My sister got a haircut and her makeup done and she looked beautiful. They do a wonderful job. She said she didn't feel pressured either, however she did buy some products just because she liked them. The same happened with her boyfriend. I didn't think the drinks were overly priced but I'm sure that will depend on where you live in the states. If you enjoy wine with dinner get it off the ship. Research your shore excursions you can find a nice one for less money than the ship will charge you. Skip Costa Maya. Maybe if there is a passenger rally we can get Belize or similar on that itinerary. If not the ship is a great place to stay. I at first did not believe other posters who said "if you don't have a good time it's your own fault." I do now. The fact that we could enjoy ourselves so much and take a break from what's happening in America right now was not even imaginable. You can, and probably should. You're not un-American for doing so. Getting on a plane is a tough choice, once you get to the ship you will feel fine and appreciate the time away from it all.gadams@pophost.com October 2001 Read Less
Following are my observations and impressions of my experiences. We flew out of Chicago O'Hare to Ft. Lauderdale the day before our ship sailed from Ft. Lauderdale. We got to the airport 2 hours in advance as advised. Our ... Read More
Following are my observations and impressions of my experiences. We flew out of Chicago O'Hare to Ft. Lauderdale the day before our ship sailed from Ft. Lauderdale. We got to the airport 2 hours in advance as advised. Our flight was at 7:45am. The lines for check in inside at United Airlines seemed to move along with no problem. They were not opening anyone's checked luggage so this moved as quickly as normal. The line for the security metal detector was rather long but as we approached the metal detectors the line split to 4 different detectors. They checked our tickets and photo I D and they had us walk through the metal detector. They sent our carry bags through the x-ray and were only opening carry on bags at random. They did use the wand on both my husband and I and oddly enough a woman checked my husband and the man checked me. I didn't like this distraction because I was trying to keep an eye on my bag since my purse was in there. Only after all of this and picking up our carry bags from the belt did we see the National Guard folks standing watch over all of this. So, I guess no one could have taken my bags anyway. At the gate they checked our tickets and photo ID one more time before we boarded the plane. Our United plane was very full and relatively on time. Our flight home was a full flight too. In Ft. Lauderdale we stayed at the Holiday Inn Express on 17th St. near the Embassy Suites. The hotel was clean and uneventful. The double rooms have 2 doubles instead of Queens and they were very small beds. The location of this hotel is very close to lots of shops, a grocery store, and nice restaurants and there was an Internet cafe across the street. They offered a complementary shuttle to the pier and this worked out nice because I had made reservations for the shuttle to pier when we checked in. I had read in some of the posts on line to make reservations for the shuttles because they fill up with cruise passengers quickly and then you can't go to the pier when you want and end up paying for a taxi. Good Advise! I hope I can help someone else by mentioning this little hint. We arrived at the Grand Princess at about 12:00noon. They opened the check-in at about 12:30 and then everything started to move very quickly. We had three cabins A738, A742, and A732. These turned out to be a great location. They are all the way in the aft on Aloha deck. We were able to go about 10 steps down the hall and out the door to the aft pool area and a few more steps up from there to the horizon buffet. Our balconies were totally private with a full overhang. The ones on Baja are private too. We could see down onto Caribe and Dolphin balconies. Since we had two balconies next to each other we were able to have the door opened between them and could walk back and forth on both balconies. We really enjoyed our balconies and use them quite a bit. We had coffee and breakfast out there most mornings. We also watched the sail out from Ft. Lauderdale and watched the sail in and out from every port. They are also great on sea days to enjoy the sun and a good book. Our first port was the private island and we had a delightful day. The weather was in the mid 80s and so was the water temperature. After returning from this day we found out that because of hurricane Iris and Jerry the captain had decided to sail to the Eastern Caribbean ports of St. Thomas and St. Maarten instead of Grand Cayman, Costa Maya and Cozumel. We were disappointed for a number of reasons. First, we had 5 certified divers in our group who were really looking forward to diving in these ports. Second, my husband and I sailed on the Grand in April of this year and just went to the eastern ports. But, none of us wanted to sail into bad weather so we made the most of the ports that we were given. In St. Thomas we went shopping in the morning and the divers managed to put together a last minute dive trip for the afternoon. In St. Maarten we just went shopping and went to the beach by the pier downtown. The water was little rough but it was warm and sunny. If anyone needs a good jeweler in St. Thomas be sure to see Rocky at the store called "Royal Caribbean" in the downtown location. The deals and selection in St. Thomas are not to be missed by serious shoppers. A few words about the ship. This is a very comfortable ship. The cabins on Princess have some great features. The empty fridge is great for storing your own drinks. The cabin safe is free and easy to use. The balcony is the best thing since sliced bread! The bathroom is small but what cabin bathroom isn't? We had the mini-suite last time on the Grand and the bathroom had a bathtub and full vanity....that was nice. I want to share a great experience that we had sailing out of St. Maarten. We were parked across from the Dawn Princess on the pier. When it was time for the Dawn to sail we went out on our balcony. It was at twilight. We brought our American Flag from home (the big one from the front of the house) We hung it over the balcony to show our American spirit at the sail out. Our family in the balcony next to ours had brought red patriotic (Christmas) lights to hang on their balcony. We put up our display for the sail out and people from the ship across started to yell out "USA" "USA". People were taking pictures and taking video from all over. Then from one of the balconies on the Dawn a group of people started singing "God Bless America"! Well, before we knew it people from the balconies and topside of both ships were ALL singing along. It was amazing! Then they all clapped at the end. As the Dawn continued to back up the front end of their ship was able to see the display (since we were all the way in the aft of our ship). Then the singing started all over again. Believe it or not this actually went on again for a second round of "God Bless America!" I will never forget this. When my husband came in the cabin I told him what had happened and he asked if I got it on video. I was so caught up in the moment that I didn't even think of it. If any one out there was a part of this and got it on video please email me, as he would love to see the tape! Overall, we really had a good time. We had traditional second seating at 8:30pm each night. Our waiters were excellent and this made dinners very enjoyable. My husband tested another tidbit that I read in an online review and asked if he could get a shrimp cocktail each night. No Problem! Some nights he had two! We also had the best cafe ole, and hot chocolate with desert each night! A word about the unlimited soda card. We thought this was a very good deal and very convenient. Since they put a sticker on your cruise card on the first day when you buy it, it was really nice to just flash it for a soda and not have to sign the receipt for each soda. It is only good for fountain drinks. The only place this is a problem is room service or some spots on the private island that only have cans. The sticker for a 7-day cruise is $17.50 per person. Otherwise soda is $1.75. The buffet only offers ice tea and coffee. No punch or lemonade for free. Entertainment: We went to the karaoke a few times and listened to some of the piano music. We are not much for the shows so I can't say one way or the other since we never went to the main show lounge. They also showed movies in the Vista Lounge on certain nights. Casino: I like to play roulette and won a few dollars here. I quit while I was ahead and never went back. The pools: We had a good time with the pools. Since the waters were about 4 to 8 foot waves...the pools were like being in a wave pool. This was a blast! The Spa and Gym: They look nice...we never used either! The Disco: The Skywalkers Disco is located in the "Spoiler" of this ship. It doesn't get going till pretty late but shouldn't be missed at least once. The Tropical night party: Be sure to bring your craziest Hawaiian or Tropical shirt or dress for this after dinner deck party. It is a lot of fun and a great photo op with the streamers and confetti. Debarkation: ALL passengers now have to go to immigration on the last day of the cruise. This creates LONG lines. Get there early and bring a big dose of patience. We cleared the ship to BEGIN getting off around 9:45am so forget any flights before 12:00noon from Ft. Lauderdale. The lines in FLL airport were pretty long for check in and for all the security there too. Try to be patient it is all you can do. I think I have just about covered it all. If you have any further questions please e-mail me. C2cmarci@aol.comOctober 2001 Read Less
"Hurricane Michelle Cruise" This was the first cruise for my wife and me. I wanted to give the details of it to inform people new to cruising or those new to the Grand. I gained a great deal of information from Cruise ... Read More
"Hurricane Michelle Cruise" This was the first cruise for my wife and me. I wanted to give the details of it to inform people new to cruising or those new to the Grand. I gained a great deal of information from Cruise Critic's message boards through reading other peoples' questions and asking many questions myself. I especially enjoyed the cruise trip reports. I will try not repeat the obvious details reported by most of the other reviewers, but will give my opinions and observations and include some overlooked information. I watched the progress of Michelle for a week. All predictions showed that it would cross our projected course. I figured that the itinerary would be changed to the Eastern Caribbean and I spent the last 2 days researching what to do in St. Martin and St. Thomas. Embarkation We arrive on Sat night and rented a car to drive to my mother who lives near Ft. Lauderdale. We originally were going to return the rental car and have its shuttle bus drive us back to the airport to catch a taxi to the pier. However, when we said we were going to the ship, he drove us right to the pier. After a big tip, this saved us 1/2 the cab fare. It turns out that most of the car rental shuttles show up at the pier when the ships disembark. We were dropped off in front of the carts where they load the baggage for the ship. The handlers just put the three bags we had on the cart, but said they wanted a tip "to make sure the baggage is safe". We arrived at 12:30 pm and stood in a fast moving line. Even after calling the Princess office at the port the same morning, they said that we had to wait until we boarded to find out about any port changes. Even though they knew at the boarding desk that we weren't going to Princess Cay, they still made everyone fill out a Bahamas immigration form. Even though we gave all passport info on the Princess web site, we still have to fill out the info again. The express boarding line was the same length as other lines. The total time to get processed and board was only 30 mins. We openly brought aboard two 12 packs of Pepsi and placed one 12 pack in the cabin fridge. We had lunch in the Horizon Court and checked out the ship. A note on the bed said that we were to bypass Princess Cay and proceed to Ocho Rios in Jamaica. That sounded good to me. Sunday Night Due to late flight arrivals, the ship left Port Everglades one hour late. The Coast Guard and other patrol boats stayed close to all 6 cruise ships in port until they left. The winds were already starting to blow (though no rain). The baggage didn't arrive in our cabin until about 5PM. We immediately put on our Sea Bands and took the new, improved non-drowsy Bonine. I took one and my wife took 2 (big mistake) since just as the ship left the protection of the port, it began to roll slightly. We had a nice dinner and went to the Princess Theater for the scheduled singing and dancing show. However, it just consisted of the great Graham Seymour, Cruise Director and another comedian Scott Wyler. I later found out that the ship was rolling too much to allow scenery on the stage. We do not usually enjoy comedians, but they were very entertaining. Having an inside cabin with no clock made it difficult to judge the time. It was a rough night. The ship rocked and rolled and creaked. It would rise up and come down with a boom! I slept very poorly. My wife was out cold. Monday I ended getting up at 8:30 am, very unusual for someone who rarely sleeps past 5:30 am, since the room was so dark. My wife was too doped up to go for breakfast. I went to the buffet. The wind was blowing at 45-60 mph and everything on deck was tied down. The exits to the outside decks were blocked to prevent people from going out into the high winds. The winds gusted to 80 mph and the seas were 8-15 feet. My wife slept the whole day except for meals. Half the ship was probably seasick. The sea remained rough all day. I went to the library to research what to do at Ocho Rios. Later that day, the Captain announced that since he had to sail at a reduced speed through the storm, we would not be in Jamaica until the afternoon the next day, so he decided to sail on. We had a nice dinner. The seas were smoother and we went to bed early. Tuesday My wife was still groggy from the Bonine. The sun came out and the winds remained stiff. It seemed like everyone on the ship was on deck sunning themselves or in the pools. It was a beautiful day. We sat on the back deck of the ship and read. It was the first formal night (our first chance to wear our new formal clothes). Despite what others had said, 90% of the men wore dark suits. I only saw one man not formally dressed in the dining room. There were people in jeans about, but only in the other parts of the ship. We had our pictures taken, but the photographer had my head so contorted to avoid reflections on my glasses that they turned out terrible. We went to the production "Lights, Camera, Action" and thought the show to be odd and not that good. Wednesday We were finally on schedule. The day was sunny, in the 70's, but still breezy. We tendered to the dock in Georgetown, Grand Cayman. Michelle did a lot of damage to the island and caused extensive flooding the week before. We booked the full day snorkel trip on the net with Captain Marvin's boat. This was not necessary since there were only 8 of us on the boat. Due to the rough water conditions (choppy and windy), the trip only lasted about 5 hours. After busing us to the boat, we took a 20 min cruise to a sandy area to get fresh conch. They picked up 4. We then snorkeled around some coral patches for 20 min. I saw a baby spotted moray eel in one of the rocks. They then took us to a yacht club for a nice picnic lunch of fresh raw conch in sauce on crackers, two kinds of salad, bread, and mahi-mahi. We went to Stingray City and stopped about 200 feet from the masses of other people from multiple boats. We stayed there about 25 mins. We fed the rays and each of us were allowed to pick one up and hold it. They are huge (3-4 feet across). I had one suck in my thumb while feeding it. They have no teeth, but the inside of their month is rough. One nipped my wife on the butt. Due to the waves and tide, there were breakers crashing over the barrier reef and we could not snorkel there (the biggest disappointment of the day). They spend another 15 min over some coral heads since a current made everyone tired and then we returned to the dock. It cost only $55 including the big lunch ( a better deal than through Princess). We looked around the shops and returned to the ship at 3 PM. After dinner, we watched "Tomb Raiders" on the TV in our cabin. Thursday We docked at Costa Maya. It was sunny, in the low 80's and the sea was still choppy. I took the Chacchoben Maya ruin tour only because there were no independent tours available on the dock and the beach activities didn't interest us. There were 12 buses with 50 people in each driving one hour to the ruins. We were supposed to have a 20 min intro video on board, but our guide couldn't get the VCR to work. The scenery going there was not at all interesting. The 1.75 hrs tour on the site was interesting, but $72 each was way out of line. They made about $50,000 for that morning excursion! We returned to the ship for lunch and then walked around the area. We found the shops tacky or over priced, even for Mexico made local items. There was not much sand on the beach and it was too rocky. There was a lot of debris on the shore including a board with nails sticking out which should have been cleaned up. Despite what others had written, there was a line of taxis available in the back of the complex. You could go out to the same ruins for $35 ea, but with no tour guide. Friday We docked in Cozumel at 7AM. The day was sunny and warm, but there was still choppy water. I immediately walked down the dock to find an independent snorkel boat. Only one company was stationed on the pier. They had a book of beautiful photos to show. They told me that a 4 hour / 3 reef trip for a maximum of 10 people on a boat was $35 ea. I walked to the parking lot where 2 others offered 2.5 hrs trips for $25-30. I decided on what I thought was a better deal with the first. We were supposed to leave at 9am. At first we were the only ones going, but after approaching everyone that came from the ship, they got 5 more people. However, they told others that it would be only a 2.5 hr trip. We got into a small, glass bottom boat and headed out only 1/2 mile from the dock near the road. We were told that we would get 30 min, 1 hr, and 45 mins at the 3 reefs. When we got into the water, one of the men acted as a guide. The coral formations were 8-15 feet down. He constantly told us to swim with him. We just couldn't stay in one place and dive down where we choose. It was constantly "people, follow me, keep with me" the whole time. After 25 mins we went a little further down the coast, but still not far from the shore. He initially told us that we had 1 hr, but after 20 mins of following him again, we had to move on. Finally, we got close to the ship pier again and only got 5 min in the water. We really felt ripped off! Avoid Fantasy Island Adventure. The ride back to the ship was wet and bouncy. With the rough ride and outboard engine fumes, my wife got seasick. We returned to the ship for lunch and then walked to the shopping area. After 5 mins, we wanted to get away from all the tacky, junk shops and walked toward the real town center and then back to the ship. I watched the Crystal cruise ship next to us sail away. We had our second formal night. This time we brought our own camera and had others take our pictures. We went to the Theater afterwards. The captain said that there would be smooth sailing back to FL, but the ship started to rock and roll again. My wife this time tried to take only one Bonine. Saturday My wife was again knocked out most of the day. If she wants to cruise again, she will have to try the Patch. Sea Bands and Bonine just don't work for her. We attended a cooking demo (showed how they made apple strudel) and a gallery tour (not that great) in the morning. We also watched an ice-carving demo. My wife returned to the cabin to sleep and I took the backstage tour (very interesting). I watched a contest of who can make the biggest splash in the pool. We had a nice dinner and attended the comedy show Kimika. Sunday Debarkation Everyone was suppose to meet in the Vista Lounge at their appointed time between 6 and 7AM for passport inspection by the immigrations dept. It was quite a zoo. There was a line just to stand in the line, which snaked back and forth from the atrium area to the lounge. You just showed your picture ID or passport and that was it. Everyone had to do this before anyone was allowed off the ship. There were several people they continued to page to go for inspection for about one hour. You could have a leisurely breakfast and just wait around for your room color to be called. Once it was called (ours at 9am), you just left the ship and handed over you customs form. Buses and car rental shuttle vans were waiting to take you away from the port. The Ship Like everyone else, I thought it was beautiful and very well maintained. Someone was always painting or wiping the railings of salt. Our cabin was cleaner than some better hotels we have been in. After about 2 days, I became familiar with the layout and was able to quickly move around without checking the map. Since this was the first ship we were on, I hate to think how plain some others may appear. The Cabin We had a nice inside cabin on the Caribe deck. The fridge was larger than a dorm fridge. The bathroom was small, but adequate. The one thing we never got used to was the toilet flushing noise. It made a loud whooshing sound like in an airplane toilet. It always sounded like your partner was "playing music" in the john. The Food I have no complaints about the food in the dining rooms. We chose PC dining which was great. We always asked for "2 to share" and never had to wait for a table. The wait for a specific table setting was sometimes 20-30 min. Food was 5-star quality as far as I was concerned. The variety, quality, and presentation were top notch. The portions were sometimes huge, so I was too full to order a second entrEe. We met some very interesting people at our tables. However, I found the buffet food in the Horizon Court to be only good, but not great. The desserts were only fair. It was good enough for lunches and breakfasts. It did have a great variety of items. We only ate lunch once in the dining room. It was too much to have a 4-course meal 2 times a day. Since this was my first cruise, I wanted to see the baked Alaska parade, which only occurred in the traditional dining room. On the last night, we asked the Maitre de if we could be seated at someone's table. That was no problem. It was worth asking. Entertainment We found that the singing and dance troupe was not so great. We walked out of the second night's performance after 20 min. The comedians were good. The best show of the cruise was a guest appearance of the 50-60's comedian Marty Allen and his singing wife Kate Blakewell. On the last night was saw the comedy /guitar team Kimika. They had the only risquE show we saw. There was always something going on board, but most things were not to our taste (bingo, games, art auctions). I played the 25-cent slots with one dollar and won $10 at which time I just walked away ahead of game. There were 4 different movies available on the cabin TV each day (the latest video tape releases). Many films I wanted to see, but they were shown when I was eating, on shore or late at night. My wife enjoyed the piano lounge. Graham Seymour, the Cruise Director was always entatining whether live or on the ship's TV each morning. Dress Code At first, my wife and I were reluctant to go on a cruise which requires formal dress. We are very informal dressers at home. After being convinced by members of this board, we bit the bullet and purchased formal clothes, which we do not regret. We would have missed some great food in the dining room on formal nights if we had remained casual and ate in the Horizon Court. Service and the Crew We were treated always like royalty. It was like staying in a 5-star hotel. All crew members were friendly. Conclusion We definitely will cruise again. As an added bonus, I will be putting together a simple web page with scanned images (PDF format) of the whole weeks Princess Patters, 7 days of dinner menus, and the ship's TV booklet. I will notify everyone when I get this done. November 2001 Read Less
We just returned from our trip on the Grand Princess (11/18/01) and had a wonderful time! On the trip there was myself, my daughter (8), my sister, her daughter (5), my parents, brother, aunt and cousin. I have previously been on ... Read More
We just returned from our trip on the Grand Princess (11/18/01) and had a wonderful time! On the trip there was myself, my daughter (8), my sister, her daughter (5), my parents, brother, aunt and cousin. I have previously been on Carnival (once) and Royal Caribbean (4 times). My parents and my aunt and cousin had been on several cruises before, including different Princess ships. It seems to me that if you have been on other Princess ships, you will be disappointed in the Grand. If you have never sailed on Princess, you will be impressed - at least that is how it worked with our group. My parents and aunt were very, very disappointed with the size of the cabin and the amount of storage space - they both had much larger cabins on the previous Princess cruises. On the other hand, I thought that the cabin (a standard inside cabin) was fine. I really liked the safe (you enter your own pass code to get in - prior to the cruise I had thought that the cabin card would be how you got into the safe), and I loved the little refrigerator. There were four of us in the room - my sister and our 2 children and I didn't feel we were too cramped and that there were enough storage. We unpacked everything and kept our suitcases under the bed. The service on Princess was very efficient and most of the staff we met were nice, with the possible exception of the personal choice waiter - more on that later! My daughter and I arrived on Sunday without incident. We had booked our own flight but everyone else booked through Princess, and I would strongly recommend booking your own flight over leaving your flight up to the cruise people. We arrived at about 12:30, whereas everyone else was scheduled to arrive around 5:00pm (too late for the first day!), and our return flight left at 1:30, while everyone elses left at about 4:30pm (too late for the last day!). We took a taxi to the airport (it cost $10 including the tip). We arrived at the terminal at about 1:00pm and walked right up to the check-in and was on-board 5 minutes later! We did the usual walking around, bought our drink tickets (get them right away so you can start getting your money's worth!) - these can be purchased just about anywhere! The drink sticker cost $17.50 that is put right on your card. When you want a drink you just show them the card - you don't have to sign anything at all. This works great, especially because pop is not included at dinner. After the first time the waiter has seen the sticker, he will just keep bringing you your pop the entire week - it was great! At this time, we also signed up for Sabatini's for Saturday evening. The muster drill worked better than the other ships I had been on - you gathered in a specific lounge with your life jackets, sat in a comfortable chair while they talked a while, and then practiced putting on the jackets for about half a minute. They also didn't call off your names, which was great. On other ships you had to stand around for a long time while everyone gets their names checked off, then you stand around for a longer time until the captain says you're done! We ate at the Horizon Court for lunch the first day, and switched between the Horizon Court and the DaVinci dining room for breakfast and lunch through out the week. The food was good at the buffet, and my daughter actually preferred this over the dining room. They had a wonderful selection of cheese, they always had pasta, rolls, fruit, salads. They had a lot of dessert, but I actually didn't really like the dessert here (and I generally LOVE dessert) - it was the weird European desserts with unsweetened whipped cream, etc. The breakfast food at the buffet was good, but it didn't really change from day-to-day. I believe that they will make an omelet to order if you ask (I overheard someone asking for an omelet with just egg whites). In the dining room the breakfast menu always had 2 specials of the day, and these were always very good - I heard that the Eggs Florentine were wonderful, and the French Toast with a Corn Flake crust on the last day was also great! The pizza was yummy. They make 2 different kinds a day - one cheese and one different type. They will also make that to-order, if you are willing to wait 10 minutes (someone had asked them to make the pizza without sauce). Again, the people in my group that took a previous Princess cruise was very disappointed with the pizzeria - they said that the other ships had much a much fancier pizza restaurant. I think there was nothing better in this world than eating pizza by the pool and reading a wonderful book with the band playing Caribbean music in the background, and my daughter practicing her dives in a beautiful pool with new-found friends. YES!!! I only had a hamburger at the grill, and I wasn't very impressed - it was pretty dry. They also served onion rings and french fries, which were both just ok. At the grill you could also get hot dogs, sausage, a chicken burger - whatever that is, and a veggie burger, but I didn't try those. We had first seating in the Bottecelli dining room (this room is only used for traditional dining - the other 2 dining rooms are used for personal choice dining). First seating started at 6:15pm - and they didn't let you in one second before 6:15! We had 2 very nice, efficient waiters at table 250. We told them what drinks we wanted on the first day, and they had it ready for us every day after! Here are some of the dishes that I had: Shrimp Cocktail with some weird mango sauce (skip the sauce!) / Mushroom Soup (we decided that it had the consistency of split pea soup, but it tasted ok) / Prime Rib (very good) / Fettuccine Al Fredo (always VERY good - YUMMMM) / Love Boat Dream (a thick chocolate mousse shaped in a hard with an oval chocolate candy piece on top and some kind of crunchy crust on the bottom - I thought it was rice crispies, but my sister thinks it was coconut?) / Cesar Salad (kind of bland) / Bow-tie Pasta with Peas, Mushrooms and Veal (the veal was tough, but there wasn't very much in it - otherwise pretty good) / Chocolate-Hazelnut SoufflE with Vanilla Sauce (YUMMMMM) / Penne with Lobster Sauce (good - not fishy tasting at all) / Harlequin SoufflE (YUMMMMM) / Baked Eggplant (very cheesy on top - good) / the Always Available Chicken Breast (boring) / Tiramusu (OK) / Pumpkin Brulee with Cinnamon Ice Cream (YUMMMMM) / Chilled Strawberry Soup (good) / Twin Lobster Tails with Butter (good) / Tropical SoufflE (good). One night we did the Personal Choice dining. We got there at 6:00pm, and they said they didn't have our reservations (even though my aunt called them). They did get all 9 of us in right away. The room was darker than our usual room, but it was also much quieter, which my aunt really liked, because she had problems hearing our conversations in our regular dining room. I noticed that many people were waiting on our way out. We talked to other people who had personal choice and it seemed that the later you arrived, the more time you would have to wait for a table. Also, if you wanted to have a table for 2 you HAVE to do personal choice - the traditional dining doesn't have tables for 2. My sister and I were not very impressed with the waiter - he seemed to have some type of superior attitude (but it may just have been that we were used to our usual, great waiters and their very nice personalities - I don't know?) On our last night we ate at Sabatini's ($15 per person). It was kind of fancy - I believe there were 15 different appetizers, a choice of soup, spaghetti and a main dish. It was a fun experience and the waiters were wonderful - they joked with our kids. It was my daughter's birthday, so the waiter asked the whole dining room to sing to her, and she loved being the star! There was a LOT to do on-board. We took the line-dancing class, the paper-flower making class, the step aerobics class (not as good as Jazzercise!), we played bingo twice (my mom won $150 the first time, and on the last day I won $150 - hurrah!), took the juggling class (very fun and addicting - my sister and I kept trying LONG after the kids gave up!), the tour of the galley, attended the Cabaret Night with Kikos or some couple that wasn't very funny, the comedy/magician act (good), the Pub Night (hilarious!!!!), the comedian (pretty funny). My daughter and niece really enjoyed the Kids Zone. You have to sign them in and they aren't allowed to leave by themselves at their age. Each time they went there we took a pager and made sure that the staff knew that they should call us if they wanted to leave at any time (it may be silly, but I didn't want them having a bad time on their vacation). They sometimes chose to stay with us and other times chose to go to the Kids Zone. They actually had a lot of fun there - all the kids received a tee-shirt which they got to color, they played mini-olympics, attended the disco and danced to fun songs, watched movies at night, had an ice cream party, played Simon Says, played Bingo and miniature golf, etc. The counselors there seemed very good with the children. The first day there was a little boy screaming his head off and the counselor had him in her arms the whole time, and then the mom came because they had paged her (which I thought was great - the poor kid shouldn't have to be traumatized on vacation!). We went to Jamaica instead of their private island. I had climbed the falls previously and I believe it's too dangerous for kids, so we just shopped for a little bit, my daughter got a few braids in her hair and we returned to the ship to relax by the pool. In Grand Cayman we took the Sting Ray tour through the cruise and was VERY happy with the entire experience. It was great and will be a wonderful memory! In Cozumel we took a cab ($10 for everyone) to Chankanaab Park - we were hoping to get to swim with the dolphins, but they were booked. We were on the wait list, but still weren't able to get in - I would recommend signing up for this tour through the ship. The park was pretty and we swam a while. Costa Maya was actually much better than what I was expecting (but let me tell you that I wasn't expecting anything at all). They had built this new plaza place where you shop, and then there's a free island show at 11:30 which we all actually really enjoyed. You should wear your bathing suites here - it is REALLY hot and you can jump in the pool to cool off. We also went to the beach just to the side of the shops. It was a little scary at first because there are warnings about the tide. It was really rocky, but the water was clear and my daughter had a BALL collecting seashells, and my father had a nice time sleeping in the hammock! This really was a nice cruise. I thought the cruise director (Graham Seymore) was hilarious - how can someone read the Princess Patter and make it hilarious?? There were 2 negatives that I can think of - the pool towels had to be brought from your room and then returned (it's just kind of a pain to lug wet towels around) - I guess they've had problems with people taking the towels? It's really too bad - that's another thing that the previous Princess cruisers mentioned, the previous Princess cruises had the towels at the pool. The other negative was disembarkation. YUK! They let people leave by the color of your luggage ticket, and unless you have an early flight, I would recommend waiting a while until you leave - relax in your cabin, or up on deck! We waited in line to get off with a whole bunch of cranky people, and then since we were among the first with our color tag, I couldn't find our luggage. If you wait, others have gotten their luggage and there's a lot less luggage to search. There were a whole bunch of taxi's around the building just waiting for people (whereas the people who went via bus with Princess seemed to be in huge lines, and were very disorganized and confused). So there it is - our week on the Grand Princess. It was a wonderful week... I wanted to write this as a way to thank the other people who wrote reviews and helped me know what to expect. Have a great cruise!!! karenjoetory@juno.comNovember 2001 Read Less
We enjoyed our week on this beautiful ship. Our party of six included my parents who are seniors, (first time cruisers), my husband and myself, (40's), and our two children ages 19 and 15. Our family of four had cruised once ... Read More
We enjoyed our week on this beautiful ship. Our party of six included my parents who are seniors, (first time cruisers), my husband and myself, (40's), and our two children ages 19 and 15. Our family of four had cruised once before on Royal Caribbean, and booked an inside quad cabin. Our family met my parents in FLL the day before sailing. Our TA recommended Amerisuites for a pre-cruise, and post-cruise stay. This hotel was booked primarily for the free shuttle service it offers. My parents had flown the red eye and once they arrived in FLL. They called for the shuttle. They called a second time, then a third. They waited 3 hours at the airport for the shuttle. Once we arrived later that day, we had no problem at all. The shuttle was there within 20-25 minutes. The next morning we stood outside the hotel at 10:30 to get the shuttle over to the pier. Well, we now understand why my parents had to wait so long for the shuttle. They had one shuttle running people TO the pier, FROM the pier, TO the airport and FROM the airport, all at the same time. When the shuttle arrived at the hotel, there was no system, so people just pushed and shoved to board first. They did not take names, reserve times, give out a numbers, etc., so things would be orderly. After 2 hours, we gave up on the shuttle, and paid for 2 taxis. When we got off the ship, we called for the shuttle. She said 20-25 minutes. After about 50 minutes, my husband called again, and they said to just get a taxi and they would reimburse. How great! I bet they had heard some complaints and I thought this was a nice solution. I wonder why they didn't allow my parents to do this from the airport? This experience was unfortunate, because this hotel was great in all others areas; location, free breakfast, and accommodations. Now about the ship. What a grand ship the GRAND is! When you see the ship for the first time, you just can't get over how big this ship really is. Embarkation went very smoothly. We had completed the documents on the Princess web site, and I would recommend this to anyone. The only form we needed to complete was the immigration form, and this was a snap. We had our shipboard cards in our hot little hands, then onward to the ship! What a warm welcome from the Princess representatives! And they lead you in the right direction to find your cabin. We had booked three cabins in Cat. FF, which are "partially obstructed ocean view" cabins. I really didn't know what to expect, but we were all pleasantly surprised. I would book these cabins again in a heartbeat. The location was great, (mid-ship, portside), and we all had great views of the ocean. My husband has been told, there is no going back to an inside cabin. I just enjoyed seeing the ocean, and it was great to wake up in port and view the shore from our cabin. The cabins were also plenty big, with lots of room to store everything. Those little pocket maps of the ship are wonderful! We all grabbed one in our cabins, and off we went to see our home for the next seven days. I thought the ship was easy to get around, except for the occasional problem of butting heads with the galley, and having to go around. Minor inconvenience. We headed to the Horizon Court to have lunch, and we were not impressed. This didn't change much the rest of the week, but we only went there for lunches. If you stick with salads, cheeses, and fruit, you will do okay. We all tried the pizza and thought it was great. My 15 year old seemed to always have a slice in his hand. The burgers were very good also, and I liked the fries. I refused to pay for the "supreme ice cream", and kindly suggested to the others in our party to boycott. My 15 year old broke down, but everyone else stayed clear:-) No one in our party visited the two restaurants with an additional charge, so I can't comment on them. Our group chose Personal Choice dining. We all liked going to dinner whenever we wanted. Only one night did we have a wait, and 20 minutes was not a problem for us. We always had a table for 6, and took turns having dinner in the Da Vinci, and Michaelangelo dining rooms each night. In our opinion, the food was disappointing overall, (with the exception of my king crab legs, and twin lobster tails), however the service was superb. Maybe this was just the luck of the draw? I must say that I personally enjoyed the appetizers and desserts more than my entree most of the time. We also found the dining experience to be very formal. I thought at first that it was just the waiters, but we had different wait staff each night, and this remained the same throughout the week. I thought they needed to lighten it up some, and not be so stuffy. Don't get me wrong, we enjoy going to fine restaurants, but the formality got old by the end of the week. For breakfast we ordered room service every morning, and this was fantastic. If you wrote something in that was not listed, it was there in the morning. We also requested a fruit bowl in our cabins, and they would replenish it upon request throughout the week. Very nice! Our cabin steward was great. He always had our cabins looking nice and clean. Having our beds turned down at night and a chocolate on my pillow was a nice touch. How spoiled are we? The entertainment on the ship was very good. We took advantage of many shows/acts. We enjoyed the first show by Kimika. My father liked it so much he bought the CD, and they autographed it for him. The Westmorelands in the wheelhouse bar are fantastic. Boy, can that lady sing. The Grand Princess dancers put on a couple very nice shows too. We thought the comedian was okay, and we watched the Newlywed game, and some Karaoke just for fun. There are so many choices, you can't go wrong. About the ports......we missed Princess Cay which was a little disappointing, but we enjoyed the time sitting by the pool and relaxing. We never had a problem finding a lounge chair. If we wanted a quiet spot we headed to the aft pool or the sun deck. Next stop was Grand Cayman, and this place is beautiful. We took a taxi to the beach, which we caught right at the pier. This was very easy to do, and we paid $4.00 per person. The name of the drop off place escapes me, but I think it was something like the Royal Palms or Palace. We paid $2.00 to access the beach, and we just hung out all day. This resort had a bar and there was a Subway right next to it. We grabbed a sandwich there, which got us through the day. We allowed time to go downtown to shop, and the taxi ride from the beach I think was $2.00. Things are on the expensive side, but we did find some nice things, and we had plenty of time to do everything we wanted without having to rush. Costa Maya. Well, I have to say I enjoyed this little place. It was fun to bargain them down at shopping, and I enjoyed just relaxing in a lounge chair. The other reviews are correct though. There is not much there to see and do, but hey you're on vacation! Have fun! Cozumel. If you like to shop, this was the place to do it. We walked through the town in the morning and did the shopping thing. Then back to the ship for lunch. Obviously we did not book any shore excursions this time around, so we just did what we wanted. Later in the day, my husband and I had to check out Carlos and Charlie's at least for one drink. What a wild place this is! We ended up having a couple drinks because it was so much fun just watching the action around you. We wished we would have gone over earlier. Don't miss this place. Saturday we enjoyed our last day at sea. We had to get our last chance of sunning in during the day, and then took advantage of dinner and a show. Of course we had to pack all the suitcases and leave them outside our door before dinner. I have learned the hard way not to laugh when the cruise director talks about "those people" who mistakenly pack all their clothes, and have nothing to wear the next morning. I came out of the shower to find shorts, a top, and sandals.......... That's right, NO underwear, HA! My husband was kind enough to offer me his, but I declined.......:-) Overall we had a wonderful time on the Grand! The best part for me was seeing my parents reaction at every turn. After being very unsure of cruising, they are now more than willing to cruise again. As long as they don't go without us! EMALEMI@aol.comFebruary 2002 Read Less
I would like to preface this review by stating that it is long and very detailed. I have organized it into specific sections for easier reading. It also includes some of my personal packing tips & money saving ideas notated with an ... Read More
I would like to preface this review by stating that it is long and very detailed. I have organized it into specific sections for easier reading. It also includes some of my personal packing tips & money saving ideas notated with an ***. Some of our close friends, my husband & I all began our voyage on the Grand Princess on Jan. 6, 2002. I must say that there is a reason why this ship was named the Grand, for it is a very fitting name for the 109,000-ton ship. It was simply beautiful & at first glance it looked like a huge floating 5-star resort! Embarkation *** We booked our own air thus saving us a substantial savings of approximately $240.00 pp. I chose to pay for the airport transfers $10.00 RT pp. I will never do that again because it cost us about 2 hours of wasted time and for my money every minute counts. The transfer process was very unorganized & chaotic. *** A taxi would have taken about 10 minutes & cost approximately $8.00 one-way. Once at the ship getting on board was a very simple 5-minute process. *** Be sure to do your online registration at the Princess website to expedite the process. Simply sign for your sail in sign card that also doubles for your room key. We had no wait at all and we were quickly put thru the security scanners, up the plank for your picture ($20.- for an 8x10 5x7 is $10.- ), and suddenly you'll find yourself in the beautiful atrium filled with glass elevators, boutiques, waterfalls & a string quartet. It's then that you realize your embarking on the Grand dream. Our luggage was delivered about 3:00 pm. *** If you want to take an early swim be sure to bring your bathing suit in a small carry on or even your purse. If food is what you're after the Horizon Terrace is the place to be and since it's a 24hr. a day eatery it becomes a great hang out about 1:00 am since it's been 3 hrs since you ate & you now have the hungries. Rooms We booked a Gty. cat F & was upgraded to an FF obstructed view. This basically meant that our room for 2 now became a room for four and instead of the pretty mirror & pictures on the wall we were greeted with bunks that slapped us back in the shoulder & the head. *** My suggestion is to spring for the balcony no matter what you have to sacrifice but better to go than to stay at home even if it's an inside room. The balcony rooms were very lovely. The Dolphin deck mini suite rooms have balconies that are very open to everyone above so if privacy is an issue book the mini suites on the Emerald deck as they are completely private. I caught a glimpse of the vista suites on the Emerald deck & they were very nice but to me they didn't seem worth the price of admission however I did like the marble bathrooms. I also saw E716 an inside handicap room & it was very spacious. In general the designers did a fantastic job of utilizing every nook & cranny in the staterooms. I swear it was designed by a woman! *** One incidental thing they left out was an alarm clock, which is so vitally important especially when you have an early morning shore excursion planned. The blow dryer in the room is probably a 1250-watt & is capable of taking care of even the toughest hard to dry hair. The refrigerator is the regular dormitory style refrig. that holds up to 12 cans of pop at a time plus 2 bottles of water. *** Bring your own pop a 24 pack costs just $4.99 compared to the soda card cost of $17.50 pp. *** Stuff your pop in the suitcase (it flies just fine too) & the additional space will come in handy for the trip home with all those must have souvenirs. If you bring your own champagne or fake champagne in our case your room steward will be happy to provide you with a nice container of ice to store that in as well.*** However do not take it into the dinning room or your lovely waiter will attempt to charge you a $10.00 corking charge to screw off the lid with no cork . Princess also supplies your room with plenty of shampoo conditioner soap & body lotion so save your packing space for your snorkel gear *** $18.00 per day to rent. Luggage fits well under the bed & a great spot to store those dirty clothes. The bathroom showers are equipped with a nice pull string for which to hang your bathing suits up to dry. If you were to have 4 people in a room there would still be ample storage space. As for the mattresses on the bed ours left much to be desired as we rolled to the inside & that didn't have anything to do with the movement of the ship. Out of the previous cruises I have been on I have to say that the state of the art stabilizers on this ship are excellent. It does not rock you back & forth but rather it gently glides you if you are lucky enough to even feel it. Food We all felt that overall the food was simply outstanding. Some of our favorites were the lobster tails, crab legs, Alfredo, Prime rib & not to be missed all the wonderful fresh fruit. *** If you request fresh fruit in the cabin they will bring you apples kiwi bananas & an orange but none of the good stuff like pineapples strawberries or grapes. A dessert not to be missed is the chocolate LOVE Boat . It will set you free. We chose the Personal Choice dining & absolutely loved it. I had heard about all the problems of having to wait so every evening as I was putting on the finishing touches to my makeup my husband would run down & put our name in. Sometimes they also gave him a beeper & when they were ready they just beeped us. We never had to wait with this method. We loved the flexibility of this approach, which makes it just like a formal restaurant. Some nights we found ourselves eating dinner at 6:30 sometimes as late as 8:30 or 9. The waiters for the most part were all wonderful. However the one that stands out the most is Stephanie (a man) with his own $100.00 pp fan club area because he was just that good! Horizon Terrace was a 24 hr. eatery that was great for fresh fruit, salads, & cheeses. The hamburgers, hot dogs & pizza were all just okay. Our friends had the ice cream, which is a nominal charge, & they said it was fantastic. Sabatinis is a not to be missed 2-hour extravaganza ($15.00 pp cover charge). Don't eat anything after 12:00 noon the day you go there. It's a lot of seafood however if you are not a seafood lover as I am not you will still have fun & enjoy it. It is a 17-course meal but it felt like I passed up 17 things & ate 17 meals. Room service was fantastic the first day we ordered it but the second day we didn't ever get it delivered so make sure you tip the guy or make it your only room service of the week. We just wrote in what we wanted such as muffins & bacon & they will bring anything you request on that card. BUT DO TIP! Sports Facilities The pools are just incredible. They are the biggest ones I have ever seen on a ship. They are filled with fresh WARM water which made swimming much more enjoyable. When I swam laps I could actually go about 12 strokes going in 1 direction & at 6ft tall I thought that was pretty good. The lap pool is a joke I about broke my arm on the guard rail when I ran into it because it goes way too slow. The work out rooms are completely inadequate for a ship of this size. The free weight area was very small & confining. The aerobic floor 2 times larger than needed & was nothing more than wasted space. About 8 bicycles & maybe 10-12 walking running or stairmaster styled machines. The promenade hosts a 1/3 mile- walking track fully covered which is great for walking off all those 3 hour hungries. Other options are putt-putt, basketball, tennis, shuffleboard & more. If you elect to take advantage of the Steiner Spa I would highly recommend the Chaknaab stone massage. It will set you back about $158.00 but it lasts about 90 full minutes & ladies it's better than #$% if you know what I mean. The cabin exercise afterwards was incredible too so you men will reap the benefits as well ! They do have specials everyday however that particular message never goes on sale. I did a foot message too for $55.00 on sale & it lasted 1 hour. Fantastic. This was my first time I ever used the spa & probably my last only because of the expense but I still say sometimes you gotta splurge. To me it was worth every penny. Entertainment The entertainment was the best on any of the cruises I have been on. A concern for my family is usually the cheap style Vegas thongs, which I did not see this time around. Thank Goodness. The first night was our cruise director Graham. This guy is absolutely the funniest cruise director I have ever seen. I appreciated his comedy, sense of timing, lack of sexual innuendo & his lack of swear words. He really proves that being a cruise director doesn't have to include 4 letter words. The following night we had Kimika & they were fine. Their act consisted of comedy, music & fun with the audience. The following 3 big production numbers by the Princess singers & dancers were for the most part all excellent. Lights Camera Actionwas so bad the first half that a lot of people almost walked out but the second half was simply wonderful. What a big contrast. ***Get there at least 30 minutes early. Gotta Sing Gotta Dance was the best Broadway style production they had. It was really ridiculous to have the best show of the week be in the smallest room & on the smallest stage The Vista Lounge. It needs to be reformatted to the Princess Theater. The Vista Lounge has horrible sight lines & many people standing or leaving because they can't see. To me this was the best show of the week. Rhythm of the City was really wonderful too a not to be missed. We were very disappointed on the final formal night to find out that the only source of entertainment was a stupid hypnotist (no offense just our own opinions). It was soooo not classy ! But once again Graham made up for everything. Be sure to catch his morning show, as it is hilarious. His Hawaiian nite program is great too. Skywalkers nightclub is the place to be for late night entertainment dancing & more of the younger crowd. The Westmorelands in the Wheelhouse Bar is a great couple who plays all the romantic music. Souv Vou Plait is at the Explorers Lounge with a variety of the hits. Ports of Call We were unable to tender into Princess Cays, which was quite a disappointment. Grand Cayman was very beautiful. We got off the ship & for $6.00 each went shopping then off to 7-mile beach. We loved the beach it was finally nice to see some land. *** We brought our water shoes & I highly recommend don't leave home without them. Costa Maya was a small stop but for me it was probably my favorite. I got my son a marble chess set there for about $10.00. It was truly spectacular. There was a small 300-yard walk (free trolleys for those that want to gain those unwanted 10 pounds per cruise). The pools there were wonderful especially if you have kids. While I did not personally attend the Mexican show I heard it was very good. There is a small restaurant in the middle where people will entertain you live & they were very talented. The food here was excellent. It was the best guacamole I have ever had. Cozumel is the place if you're a shop-aholic. We chose the X-caret Park with the underground rivers & we are very glad we did but the tour was very pricey. I would probably say save your money on the shore excursions & grab a taxi to go anywhere you want to go. It's very easy. Disembarkation & Miscellaneous For the most part the crew was wonderful & very friendly. Our cabin steward was great & always left our little chocolates on our bed so we can gain even more weight. The cleanliness of the ship was immaculate with the exception of the dirty plexiglass on the top forward deck. I want to just briefly touch on the children's program. The rooms are small but the water area looks awesome for the little ones. There is also a huge video arcade room ( $20.00 game cards are available) filled with lots of fun stuff including a motion Simulator ride with different themes each day. The disembarkation process was very smooth. *** Beware of the blinking lights that morning at 5:30 am in your cabin. Yes they blink the lights in the cabin & yes it is at 5:30 AM. During the week with the exception of the muster drill (no you do not have to attend this) & disembarkation they will never do announcements in your room. Don't forget to leave your travel clothes out for the next morning when your luggage goes out the night before or they will be charging you $12.00 for that pool towel you wear off the ship to customs but at least you'll have nothing to declare ! While you are waiting for your luggage tag to be called you are at liberty to eat at least 1 more time or two if you prefer in the Horizon Terrace. Then it's out & off to reality again. All in all this was the best cruise I have ever taken & with the personal choice dining & the variety of all your options I found it to be the most relaxing Love Boat I have ever been on. Even though this ship is huge I still felt like I was treated as a Queen.lowe6@netzero.netFebruary 2002 Read Less
Transfer and Embarkation Both of these were extremely smooth. We didn't have to wait long at all for the bus (our flight arrived at 1:30 pm), and since we had our forms already filled out we walked right up to the check-in desk. ... Read More
Transfer and Embarkation Both of these were extremely smooth. We didn't have to wait long at all for the bus (our flight arrived at 1:30 pm), and since we had our forms already filled out we walked right up to the check-in desk. We were pleasantly surprised by how quickly and easily these two things went. Room We were booked in D416, a mini-suite and it was wonderful. The balcony was awesome to have and the bathroom was a good size with a full size bathtub. The room was nicely decorated and very clean. We ordered room service for breakfast two times and it was great to have coffee and breakfast with the door open and the fresh ocean air breezing through the room. How awesome! The Painted Desert We ate in the Painted Desert the first night. The "free" margarita was good, but the food was just ok. It wasn't bad by any means, but I don't think it was any better than the food in the dining room. I had the tequila prawns and can't remember what my husband had! The salsa was very good as was the guacamole. The service was good. The wait staff in this restaurant seemed more relaxed than in the dining room. Princess Cays This was a wonderful stop. It was a great way to start the trip - relaxing on the beach. We had to wait for about 20 minutes for the tender but we were in no hurry. There were plenty of chairs on the beach, so we found two that were calling our names and lounged around most of the day. The buffet lunch was good. I had the chicken patty and pasta salad and my husband had a hamburger and pasta salad. There was also a separate area where there was fresh fruit. I love fresh pineapple so I got quite a bit of it. It's always better when someone else cuts it for you! I thoroughly enjoyed the day at Princess Cays. We chose Personal Choice dining and this was our first night in the dining room. We chose to eat in the DaVinci dining room. We were sat at a table with two other couples, both of who were very friendly. We both chose dinner from the Healthy Choice menu. It was swordfish and a salad. The swordfish was just okay - nothing special, and was kind of dry. I was hungry, however, so I ate it anyway! Since I had the healthy dinner, I felt safe in ordering dessert. I ordered the Love Boat Dream and my husband ordered a butterscotch sundae. The Love Boat Dream was good but not as good as I had expected. After dinner we went to the Vista Lounge for the comedy show. It was Rondell Sheridan and he was the funniest guy I have seen in a long time. I was disappointed that he did not have a second show later on in the cruise. I laughed the entire time. After the comedy show we went to Kamika's second show. While they were entertaining, I did not find the show extremely enjoyable. He plays the guitar and she sings songs from Broadway and a few popular songs. We chose not to see their second show because we just didn't find it that great. Day at Sea We spent this day taking care of a few odds and ends and then lounged by the pool. We had lunch in the dining room. I had the healthy choice menu, which was a salad and a pasta dish. The pasta was wonderful. Once again, I can't remember what my husband had. This was the first formal night. We had our pictures taken and had to wait in line about 20 minutes for our turn. We chose to eat in Michaelangelo for the evening and sat at a table for two. The wait for a table was only 15 minutes and this was the only evening we had to wait for a table. We typically ate around 7:00-7:30. I had the mahi mahi from the Healthy Choice menu and it was an excellent choice. It was cooked to perfection. After dinner we went to the casino for a little bit and then went to bed. It was a short night for us! Oh, as far as dress is concerned for formal night. I saw a little bit of everything. Don't feel like you won't "fit in" in what you are wearing. I guess if you show up in shorts and a t-shirt you would probably feel out of place, but other than that it really didn't matter. Tuxedo wearers seemed to be few and far between. Most men wore jackets and ties and the women wore just about anything and everything. Grand Cayman This was my favorite port! We took the New Waves Catamaran to Stingray City. I would HIGHLY recommend this excursion to anyone. We took a tender to the port and then got on a bus to where the catamaran was. The boat ride to Stingray City was about an hour. As we got closer I heard people screaming and thought "oh, please, it can't be that bad!" Then I got in the water and I have to admit that at first it was really freaky. The water was not very shallow - it came up to my shoulders. I grabbed on to more strangers during this excursion than I've ever touched. One of our guides asked if I wanted to hold one and I said yes. As he tried to give me the one he was holding it swam away. I asked him how safe it is to hold them and he told me it was very safe and you would have to really try to get stung. He dove down to get another one for me to hold and when he came back up he had gotten stung. Lucky for me I didn't know how bad the sting was and I went on to hold a stingray and even feed one. Just as I was getting comfortable with them it was time to get on the boat to go back. When I got back onboard, I noticed the guide who had gotten stung was not looking too good. They ended up sending a boat out to get him as he was getting sick. He was bleeding pretty heavily and his joints were beginning to ache and he was starting to panic. I was surprised at how big the gash was from the sting. However, all that being said, I would go out there again. They said it was the first time in four years they had seen that happen, and remember that he was down on the bottom messing with the rays when he got stung. I didn't put this in here to scare anyone away, but I know people will say they never sting, but they do. You just have to respect them and not be aggressive. We used a small internet cafe to check e-mail while in Grand Cayman. It is off the pier and to the right past Hard Rock Cafe. The rates were more reasonable than onboard the ship. They were very friendly and did not charge to print. Back on the ship was Island Night. It was also French Night in the dining room, so this is the night we had dinner at Sabatini's. Our reservation was at 6:30 and we were there for about two hours. This was the best meal of the whole week. It as definitely worth the $15 per person cover charge. I have never eaten so much in my life, but even so at the end of the meal I ordered two desserts. The only things you choose are the main course and dessert. Everything else is just brought to you. When I tried to decline on the pizza (I was already getting full), the waiter insisted I take it, and of course, I ate it! For the main course, I ordered the Chilean Sea Bass and my husband ordered the Champagne Lobster Tails. We were both very impressed with the meal and cannot speak highly enough of it. Just remember to call the first day and make your reservations. You can also go to their table set up on Deck 7 on the first day to make a reservation, but it was just as easy to call from our room. I would definitely recommend eating at 6:00 or 6:30. It's so much food that you wouldn't want to eat late and then go to bed. You'd be miserable all night! After dinner we went up for Island Night. We sat right in front of the stage and it was a great show. Both my husband and I got "chosen" to go up on stage and participate in their lip synch contest. It was a lot of fun and we hated to see the night end. Graham Seymour was awesome as Cruise Director and he is a great performer. He's not only funny, but he sings very well. I would like to go on a cruise with him again sometime. I heard that he is taking a five-week vacation and then going to a Royal Caribbean ship. Whatever ship he goes to will be lucky to have him. He was also a highlight of the trip. Costa Maya My suggestion - book an excursion for the day or just prepare yourself to do nothing. I'm sure this port will be wonderful a few years from now, and it wasn't awful, but it still needs some work. We went into port for a little bit (I did buy some vanilla at a great price) and then back to the ship for lunch before our excursion. We ate lunch in the dining room for the second time and my husband and I both got cheeseburgers. I have to say that they were very good. I don't know how they are up on the 14th Deck by the pool, but in the dining room they were very good. We went on the afternoon Chacchoben Mayan Ruin tour. It was very informative and our guide, Jesus, was very funny. He made the hour drive to the ruin site enjoyable. The bus we took was air conditioned and very comfortable. The ruin site is newly opened to the public but was still a nice visit. We chose to eat in the Michaelangelo dining room again and sat with a nice group of people. I had the chicken kiev and it was very good. That night I had the berry surprise (or something like that) dessert and it was almost the best I had all week, and believe me, I ate plenty of desserts. My husband had the king crab legs and said they were very good as well. After dinner we went to the early comedy show. By the time we got there no seats were available and we had to stand the entire time. I would recommend getting there at least 20 minutes before the show starts to prevent this from happening to you. The comedian was Scott Wyler and he was funny, but not nearly as funny as Rondell Sheridan. After the show we went to the Rock & Roll 50's Party in the Explorers Lounge for a bit and then on to the London Pub Night in the Vista Lounge. The show was supposed to start at 11:30, but didn't start until around 11:45. IT IS WORTH STAYING UP FOR!! Although, without Graham I'm not sure how great it will be, but I thought it was hilarious. Not everyone felt that way, however, so it is definitely a matter of opinion and sense of humor! Cozumel I really did not find this port all that enjoyable. We did not schedule an excursion. We thought we'd get off the ship, do a little shopping, have some lunch and get back on the ship. I was looking for tanzanite earrings and did find some for a great price (we went all the way down to Emerald Mines jewelry shop and they were more than helpful and had the best selection of loose stones that we found), but other than that I thought most of the items in the stores were junk. We bought t-shirts for the kids and my husband bought some Cuban cigars which he did get a good deal on. Walking down the street there was a pain in the butt as the store employees were constantly trying to get you into their stores. We ate lunch at Kiss my Cactus. The food was good there as was the service. We then went to Carlos & Charlie's for a little while and enjoyed watching everyone. It is quite a place to visit and we would go back there again. For those of you who would like to check e-mail while gone or surf the net, this is the town to do it in. We found a place (couldn't even begin to tell you where it is) that only cost me $1.95 for half an hour. It costs $7.50 per fifteen minutes on the ship, so this was definitely a bargain! This was our second formal night. We once again ate in the Michaelangelo dining room and this was the first time we were seated with someone close to our own age. It was a great table, the most enjoyable dinner we had while we were there. We both had the twin lobster tails and they were incredible. After dinner we went to the Newlywed and Not-So-Newlywed Game in the Vista Lounge with one of the couples from our dinner table and a couple they had met earlier that day. The game show was cute, but really not all that entertaining. We then went down to the Explorer's Lounge to see the Liar's Club. That show was INCREDIBLY boring. After that we went to see the Champagne Waterfall (be sure to get there early if you want to get pictures) and then on to Skywalkers for a little bit. Last Day - Day at Sea Unfortunately the weather was horrible. It was cloudy and rainy most of the day and the wind was strong. We slept in then got up and packed. We had lunch at Horizon Court for the first time and for dessert I got the chocolate cake. It comes in 2nd place for dessert of the cruise after the berry treasure in the dining room. Later on we played Bingo (someone had to win the Jackpot, right?) and we both lost. Oh well. We then went to the Passenger Talent Show. Some had talent, some didn't, but it was fun to watch. We made reservations in the Michaelangelo dining room with two other couples. We didn't make the reservation until 5:30, but they still were able to accommodate us for a 7:30 reservation. Dinner was excellent. I had prime rib and it was the best I've had in a long time. It was my birthday and the waiters and the whole dining room sang happy birthday to me. That was nice (and embarrassing). We went to bed fairly early as we needed to be up early the next morning. Except for the weather during the day, it was a nice last day. This is the only night we hit really rough water and the ship rocked quite a lot right around 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning. It was so bad it woke us up. Luckily we don't suffer from sea sickness. I feel sorry for the people that do. I'm sure they were not feeling too well. Disembarkation This too was a breeze. We were called right after the red tags as our tour of Ft. Lauderdale was leaving at 9:00 am. The only mess was getting our luggage. It's very hard once you locate your luggage to then get it out. People are everywhere! Ft. Lauderdale We did the Land & Sea tour. The land part was boring and so was our guide. The water part was very interesting as they take you through the intercoastal waters and you see some incredible homes and yachts. The tour dropped us off at the airport at 1:00 for our flight home. Airport There was an incredibly long line inside the terminal to check in. We stood in this line for 15-20 minutes and it did not even move. That's when I noticed the line outside. We went outside to check in and only waited five minutes. I highly recommend checking in outside. It was worth the $5 tip to the skycap. We then went to Chili's and ate. Tip - the line looks long to get in, but it moved right along and we were seated in about 10 minutes. This was nice as our flight did not leave until 5:30, so we had lots of time to waste. Other Thoughts It was nice to meet the other Cruise Critic people. We saw some of them a few times during the cruise, but others we did not ever see again. Hope you all had a nice cruise! Fitness Program ~ the program is ok. I took a step class one day and the instructor just didn't seem to have his heart in it. There is no charge for basic classes, but they do charge a $10 fee for spinning, kickboxing and yoga. They have several free classes each day. They just didn't fit into our schedule. We did walk Deck 7 one day for 3 miles. It's nice walking outside like that. I am happy to report that I did not gain one pound while on the cruise! If anyone finds out who the new Cruise Director is for the Grand, will you please tell me? James was very funny and he was the Assistant CD, but Kelvin was the Senior Asst. CD, and he just wasn't all that funny. The girls on the cruise staff were friendly, but none of them were all that funny. Drink of the Day ~ the only time I ordered this was on the last day. It was a Chocolate Banana. Save your money. It has no flavor. Pictures ~ throughout the cruise, gather your pictures and keep them all in one spot on the racks. That way on the final day you can just pick them up from one spot and choose from the ones offered. If not, you may find that some of your pictures have been moved into buckets that you have to go through picture by picture to find yours. Yes, this happened to me, so I'm trying to prevent you from having to sort through them like I did. Service ~ I would not say that the service was anything close to grand while we were onboard. Our cabin steward was Ameli and it was his first day on the Grand. While he was efficient, he did not provide what I would call "outstanding" service. The first day I had requested a lounge chair and some robes and that night we filled out the form for fresh fruit. We had to ask a second time for the chair and robes and had to write him a note to remind him about the fruit. He did an excellent job keeping our cabin clean, and I guess that's most important. The service in the dining room was never outstanding either. We only had one waiter who was friendly, and that was Rafal in the Michaelangelo dining room. Other than him, no wait staff said much more than hello and goodbye. I think that personal service is lost when you choose personal choice dining. Air travel ~ I would strongly recommend you book your own flights. Princess booked ours and our flight did not leave Ft. Lauderdale until 5:36 pm and we did not get to the Indianapolis Airport until 12:45 am. That sure made for a long day. The airfare would also have cost us less had we booked it ourselves rather than having Princess do it. Teen Program ~ while we did not take our kids with us, we overheard some teens talking about how lame the teen program is. I don't know if there is a charge for the teens to go there, but it didn't sound like it was worth the money. The kids didn't want to go. The End I think that's about it. If there is anything I left out, please feel free to ask. This was our first cruise and we will definitely take another, but we think we will take another cruise line just to see what else is out there. We heard a lot of good things about Royal Caribbean from other passengers. dawnhanson@insightbb.comMarch 2002 Read Less
We had a great time on the Grand Princess 2/24/02 Western Caribbean cruise and have come away feeling relaxed and indulged, which was a pleasant surprise as we're not avid cruisers. We last cruised on the Crown Princess in 1992 and ... Read More
We had a great time on the Grand Princess 2/24/02 Western Caribbean cruise and have come away feeling relaxed and indulged, which was a pleasant surprise as we're not avid cruisers. We last cruised on the Crown Princess in 1992 and RCCL's Monarch of the Seas in 1993 as an easy way to vacation with extended family. For this cruise, the family group was just my husband and I (early 50s) in an outside cabin (C607) and his mother (age 85) and her granddaughter (29) across the hall. Cruising has certainly improved. Our stateroom on the Grand resembled a small room at a good hotel, with a safe, refrigerator, large closet, desk, two chairs, TV that receives CNN, chocolates on the pillow at night, and a decent shower with thermostatically controlled water that always comes out at the temperature you set. But the highlight of our cabin was the balcony. Not only did it extend the living area, it allowed us to hear the ocean and check the weather. The Caribe balconies seemed larger than those on the decks above and below. Even though all balconies held a table and four chairs, there was also plenty of room to do stretching exercises, which I don't think would have been the case on other decks. Because of the cantilevered design, anyone standing on the balcony above can see the outer half of the one below, but the barrier between balconies is quite high. The onboard experience is a pleasure. The ship is huge but is so well designed that it didn't feel huge and it certainly didn't feel like there were 4,000 people on board. The space was divided so well that on the last day I was still discovering new areas of the ship. (Study the ship's layout in a pocket-sized brochure that is among the materials on the desk.) The crew was numerous, friendly and helpful, and my mother-in-law was pleased to find two $3 blackjack tables with dealers who seemed to want you to win (she didn't--and don't even mention the tight slots). The food was excellent, attractive and bountiful and we thought Personal Choice dining worked well. Because we ate dinner early we never waited for a table, although people who came around 7:30 probably weren't seated immediately. Personal Choice diners could eat in the DaVinci or Michelangelo dining rooms, but we preferred the latter because it seemed more tranquil. We liked one waiter so much (Rui) that we asked to be seated in his section three times. Almost everything I ordered for dinner was excellent and presented beautifully, but I particularly enjoyed lobster tails, rack of lamb, veal chops, orange roughy and king crab legs. Desserts were delicious, with authentic NY cheesecake and their wonderfully chocolate Love Boat Dream on the menu every night. The menu also offered "healthy choice" and vegetarian selections every night. We were so pleased with the variety of offerings at the 24-hour buffet that we generally went there for breakfast and lunch and carried our trays to quiet tables aft. We were blessed with good weather six days out of seven, and fairly calm seas except the first night out. The ports of call were perfect for us, as we wanted to snorkel, and the two days at sea were restful. The ship provides informative sheets about each port. (FYI, the first two stops required tenders but we were able to dock at the last two). Princess Cays (part of Eleuthera in the Bahamas) is a lovely stretch of beach with loads of lounge chairs, lunch and fruit buffets, covered eating areas, entertainment, equipment rentals, etc. The designated snorkeling area was excellent. At Grand Cayman we took a 3-hour trip with Captain Marvin to Stingray City and two snorkeling stops that we had arranged through the internet. My husband and I had done a similar excursion while spending a week on Grand Cayman, but it's such a unique experience that we wanted our niece to enjoy it. There were about 30 of us on board so it didn't feel crowded, and the boat had easy access to the water and a helpful crew. A scuba videographer came along so you could order a videotape of your trip. At each stop our snorkeling guide, Chris, pointed out highlights and even held onto a nurse shark so we could get a close look. The stingray sandbar was ridiculously crowded so we stayed at the edge, where the water was up to our shoulders. This meant that the stingrays not only rubbed against your legs like cats, but actually swam up your body (they are amazingly soft). Chris provided us with squid and feeding instructions, and also let each of us hold a ray by its wings. This is a fun and educational experience, and it's only available in Grand Cayman. The two ports in Mexico are vastly different. Costa Maya is a stretch of beach abutting endless jungle where they have built a pier and a plaza of typical Mexican stores and a large swimming pool. The day was overcast and cool, but if we had had better weather we would have enjoyed the beach and snorkeling. We walked around the plaza, and although the shopkeepers are friendly, we were turned off by their persistence. If you decide to take a tour of Mayan sites, book it through the ship, as the ship will wait should your tour bus return late (which happens a lot, including the day we were there). At Cozumel we went to Chankanaab Park for a Swim with the Dolphins excursion that we booked early on through the ship (it fills up fast). Yes, it's very expensive, but the fee includes transfers, park admission, locker, and a truly unique experience. Groups of 6 are in the water with 2 dolphins for about 30 minutes. We started out standing on a platform along the edge of a large enclosure while the dolphins swam by so we could stroke them, plus they kissed us and let us hold their fins. After swimming into the center we held sticks for the dolphins to jump over, and we frolicked in various ways. But the highlights were the "rides," first by holding onto their dorsal fins and then by being pushed from behind. (The dolphins put their noses onto the soles of your feet and propel you so fast that it looked like water skiing!) A photographer and videographer captured everything and had the finished product ready for purchase by the time you were ready to leave the park. We stayed for an hour to snorkel at Chankanaab, which now restricts snorkeling to the outside edge of the reef. We had brought bread and immediately were swarmed by fish. (Note to self: don't laugh while underwater.) We may not be the best people to ask about the entertainment on board, as we're not big fans of song-and-dance productions, but our family liked Rhythms of the City and we enjoyed the musical comedy act of the couple named Kimika. The Princess Theater is as large and well equipped as a medium-sized theater on Broadway, and we were even more impressed after taking the backstage tour. In the Vista Lounge, which is smaller, we enjoyed the comic juggler Jack Kalvan. The theaters were the only place on board that felt crowded--there never seemed to be enough seating. We should have relinquished our seats for London Pub Night, which was not our cup of tea. (This was Cruise Director Tim Donovan's first week on the Grand, so it was amusing to count the number of times he said Dawn Princess instead.) Entertainment was also available in the good-sized Explorers Lounge, where we enjoyed a classical piano concert as well as 50s Sock Hop party (although the band started the show with a Bruce Springsteen song rather than something from the 50s or 60s). My husband wound up winning the Elvis impersonator contest and the two of us went on to win the jitterbug contest, so this was definitely Our Night. (Hubby also won the music trivia contest held during the last day at sea, although he reports that several of the questions had correct answers in addition to the one "correct" answer provided to the staff.) We often stopped into the Wheelhouse Bar to swing dance, where the Jackie Harrison Trio provided music for the range of ballroom styles and quickly learned who likes what. The gym facilities were good but we thought the $10 charge per yoga class was tacky. (We managed to ignore the constant selling that takes place on board, particularly the art auctions and spa treatments.) We participated in a number of offerings, including the popular culinary demo/tour and the backstage tour (wish there had been a bridge tour, or even a video presentation on cruise ship navigation), and Mother went to the Mah Jongg gathering, although the cruise staff did not understand that you need a card from the National Mah Jongg League to play the American version. While the main pool was a bit too active for my taste, I enjoyed the large pool in the conservatory area, which has a retractable roof, and the smaller adult pools aft and in the spa area (which provides a current to swim against). All pools are freshwater and open 24 hours a day. Finding lounge chairs wasn't that difficult, as people would move in order to follow the sun or shade (plus there are numerous lounge areas on the decks above the pool level). Embarkation went smoothly and quickly. We received a card that serves as ID, room key and charge card and were on the ship within 10 minutes, where they took a digital photo of each passenger in conjunction with the ID card. (FYI, the purser will punch a hole in the card for you to wear on a chain if you've brought one.) Security was excellent: Each time you left the ship a computer read your card and each time you re-embarked the crew would check that the person with your card was indeed you. Disembarkation went fairly well, considering that everyone in your "color" is rummaging for their baggage and trying to locate transportation. swerdloffs@erols.comMarch 2002 Read Less
The Princess Grand was indeed Grand. We absolutely loved this ship. The service by far was the most superior point on the cruise. The steward for our room Norman was just as sweet and helpful as can be. He kept our room in perfect shape ... Read More
The Princess Grand was indeed Grand. We absolutely loved this ship. The service by far was the most superior point on the cruise. The steward for our room Norman was just as sweet and helpful as can be. He kept our room in perfect shape and we always had clean towels and beach towels. He had a pager so we could reach him any time morning to late evening. The crew throughout the ship were so friendly, always greeting with a smile. Always a drink to be offered. The ports were for the most part good. Princess Cays was boring. Do not snorkel. Very little to see. Small area to swim. Food was fair and lines were long. If you want to lay out on lounge chairs that's just about how exciting it got. On Grand Cayman we used Captain Marvins through the Internet. The only down side was finding Captain Marvin's location on the Island. The island was very very very crowded with at least 4 cruise ships in port. There's very little space to walk and it's British so the cars are on the other side of the street. Be careful I almost got hit. Traffic is as bad and the crowds on the street. After we found Capt Marvin's at approximately 6 -7 hot blocks it was smooth sailing. We took a quick mini van ride to the lagoon to catch the boat. We sailed to 3 snorkeling sites. All were beautiful with bright colored fish. Stingray city was crowed but it didn't matter. There we plenty of stingrays. The stingrays were gorgeous, soft and smooth. They are not afraid of us, many teenage girls were screaming like they were being eaten by Jaws! It was a lot of fun. Our ship captain had a favorite sting ray that knew him. Her name was Emily. He would pick her up and kiss her on the lips. Sounds gross but it was actually very fun to see and the kids enjoyed it. Next was Costa Maya. Very small island but they are building up the area so it will become a better port later on. We took the Jungle Beach break excursion. We rode in very old, non air conditioned buses. But the breezes coming through the windows made it bearable. We saw a lot of poor areas with people living in huts. My sons found it fascinating to see how other people live. When we arrived there was plenty to do. We rode seadoos (not incl. in price) but reasonable $40.00 for thirty minutes with three people who can ride at a time. Very fun. There were other non motorized boats you could use for free. We had a great game of volleyball with guides as the officials. The drinks were included in the price and if you tipped them well you got a stronger drink, obviously. Be sure to keep hydrated, one girl had too much alcohol and nothing else and had to be carried back to the ship for an IV. Not much food options and not included in the price. It didn't matter, we met a lot of nice people from the ship. Next was Cozumel. It was our favorite. No tender, no crowds and plenty to see and do. We could have used more time. We used a local to take us snorkeling on our own private boat. He took us to great sites. We did get stung by jellyfish. They are hard to see. He told us of a great (off the main road) place to eat. Costa Bravo I think it was called. Our husbands got great Cuban cigars. Back on the ship we ate mostly in the main dining room Botticellis. One night we ate at Sabatini's, menu of Personal Choice dining. It was a seventeen course meal that lasted 3 hours. You must have the appetite and the time to take advantage of this. The service was FANTASTIC! Food on the ship had plenty of variety and was always available. You paid for the Hagen Daz ice cream but it was not that much. The card we were given to get in our room, order drinks, buy gifts, get on and off the boat was a real convenience. The ship was spotless and in good shape. The pools were crowded but it was Spring break. All in all we really got our money's worth. Highly recommended **** mfriedrn@yahoo.comApril 2002 Read Less
This very long trip report will cover more about hints, tips and opinions than a more travelogue style report. It is based on my 3/31/02 cruise on the Grand. Hope you find it informative! First, about myself and my roommate, so you ... Read More
This very long trip report will cover more about hints, tips and opinions than a more travelogue style report. It is based on my 3/31/02 cruise on the Grand. Hope you find it informative! First, about myself and my roommate, so you can get a bit of perspective on where I'm coming from. I'm mid-30s, white, currently living in the Denver area, grew up mostly in Alaska and Hawaii, school and post-college on west coast, am currently a Realtor and Political Consultant and have worked in the US Senate. Most of my vacations are oriented around the ocean, now specifically diving, and are land-based. I consider myself someone who is more likely to want to delve into an area than just quickly visit it. I prefer a non-inclusive to all-inclusive, as I feel isolated and cut off at an all-inclusive. I'm somewhat daring and pretty adventurous. I try to take a couple "major" vacations a year. I'm an obsessive researcher about vacations, as I love to know all I can about what I'm going to do. My roommate was taking this trip in anticipation of her 40th birthday coming up this month, is a military brat, works as a drama teacher in a private elementary school in DC, is a theatrical director, is black, and this was her first major vacation, and first time out of the country. Her objective on this trip was maximum relaxation, total pampering, best value. She wanted minimum planning, so most of it was left in my hands. We flew out from our respective cities to Fort Lauderdale the day before the ship embarked, both to accommodate our schedules, and to be as relaxed as possible while avoiding potential complications. Thus began our trip of fortunate occurrences! There is no doubt luck was on our side this entire trip. The luck definitely started as soon as I reached the airport. The shuttle dropped me off at the skycap check in on the lower level of DIA. I was ready with my tip in hand, when the Frontier Airlines skycap informed me that I couldn't check 3 bags if I also had a carry on, and would have to take everything upstairs to the regular check-in. I put on my most devastated, pitiful expression, and asked if there was any way we could work around that, and he said there was not. So I put my bags to the side, and went to get a luggage cart. He must have been watching me load the luggage cart, because he came over to me, and asked if my purse could fit in my carry-on bag (it's a Briggs & Reilly duffle tote, not too large). I said absolutely, and he said he'd check my other bags for me, as that would then count as a single, personal bag. HOORAY! So I got out an additional amount to tip him (originally, he was going to get a $5, I doubled that to $10). After he checked me in, he refused any tip at all, saying "you've already spent it on the cart." What a sweet man! In case you're wondering, I had 3 bags for a very specific reason; one was all my dive gear which technically could have been charged separately anyway. So begins the luck of the cruise! (Point of information if anyone is interested: Frontier didn't blink an eye at 3 checked bags in Fort Lauderdale. Guess their Denver hub personnel are more restrictive.) Based on research I did in cruisecritic.com, I decided to purchase some PackMate travel bags in which to pack my clothes. Those are the bags where you squeeze out all of the air, essentially vacuum packing your clothes into a much smaller space. I was amazed as I packed at how efficient they were, and how easy they made putting everything in my suitcase. Little did I know they were to serve a much more important purpose! Upon arriving in Fort Lauderdale airport, awaiting my luggage, one of the handlers came around on the carousel asking if anyone might be missing Jeep keys. I thought nothing of it, and had a chuckle with the rest of the passengers. A few moments later, to my horror, all by itself my bright red suitcase started around the carousel... wrapped in cellophane packing tape because the zipper had completely split en route! EEEP! While the luggage strap had held, I was afraid of what might have slipped out before the luggage handlers had kindly taped it up for me. The man next to me laughed as it emerged, saying "that's probably where the keys came from." I smiled at him, as he didn't yet know it was my bag, and said, "no, I don't have a Jeep." Thankfully, the zipper repaired as soon as I took it back around (gotta love self-repairing nylon zippers), and when I arrived on the ship and began to unpack, realized that not a single item was missing, thanks to the PackMate bags. The only loose objects I had in the main compartment of the bag were shoes and socks, with everything else neatly compacted into the PackMate bags. If it hadn't been for PackMate, I'm sure most of my clothing would have been coming off the conveyor one piece at a time, not to mention some lost for good, or adorning the "personal collections" of certain less ethical baggage handlers. So, if you're considering PackMate bags for ease of packing, BUY THEM! They saved my vacation! Thankful to be in Fort Lauderdale with my luggage intact, I checked into the Embassy Suites. I had reserved the room on Priceline with the assistance of biddingfortravel.com. I obtained it for the night before the cruise for the rate of $60 (the hotel was 100% sold out that night when I arrived), and the night after the cruise for $55. I'd never have tried Priceline if it weren't for biddingfortravel.com, and the advice they offer. It really helps understand the process and optimizes your bid for lowest rate and highest success. Thank you to everyone who pointed me that way! The only glitch at the hotel was they only had a king room left, when I'd requested 2 doubles. No problem; the couch pulls out into another bed. We could live with that! Ran across the street to Publix before it closed to get a 6-pack of sports bottles of water, a bottle of champagne, and 2 bottles of wine, along with ginger ale and some fresh-frozen lemon juice to make the ship's water taste better. Got back to the room just in time for the arrival of my roommate. Everything was good! We slept in the next morning, getting up around 9. Went down to a great breakfast, with made-to-order omelets, eggs, and other items. Definitely one of the better breakfasts of this type. Leisurely ate, went to our room, called a bellman, and was in a taxi by 11:30. We decided not to take the free shuttle from the hotel as we wanted to be on board ASAP, and since I had the extra dive bag, felt we'd be taking up more than our fair share room. Arrived at the ship at 11:45, gave the bags to a porter, tipped appropriately (with the $2 bills I'd gotten from my bank - what a handy thing they turned out to be - they made tipping and paying for small items all week VERY easy), and went inside to check in. Unfortunately, the Baja Deck Express Check-In was closed, so went to the next line over. There was a little bit of a wait there, as the family in front of us had to fill out some forms, but as we were waiting, discovered that family was none other than one of the Cruise Critic families I had been talking with (Hi, Jenn!) That made the wait worthwhile. After about 10 minutes in line, got our sign & sail cards, went through security, where the only minor glitch was the security officer saying "ma'am, you have bottles in your bags." All I had to say was "it's wine and champagne only - would you like to check?" and we were through and on our way to our cabin, arriving at 12:15PM. And no, he didn't check. Cabin was B242 balcony cabin on Baja deck. It was wonderful! Plenty of room for our money, and the balcony had plenty of room for us. Since our Steward, Ariel, was nowhere to be seen, but I favorably remembered his name from another recent trip report, I left him a note and a pre-tip of $10 with several requests we had. Specifically, we saw there were foot stools on lower balconies, so asked if there was any way he could bring us two. In addition, we asked for wine glasses, a cork screw, robes, ice, and fruit to be brought to the cabin. All but the second foot stool was waiting for us upon our return to the cabin about 90 minutes later, with the promise he'd locate another one for us. It turned out he brought us a shower "chair" which I'm sure is used when necessary for handicapped passengers. It worked for our needs, and we both had foot stools to lounge on our balcony! We went up to the spa to make Lisa's appointments, and I even scheduled a reflexology treatment for our day in Maya Ha, and a Chakra Stone Massage for our last sea day based on the recommendations I'd heard online. While I ended up changing that Stone Massage to a seaweed wrap (to take down some of the water retention and bruising I tend to be prone to when on vacation), I heard nothing but RAVES about the Chakra Stones all week. I'll try it next time! Grabbed a quick bite in the Horizon Court (scallops were the main attraction), then went down to Snookers to see if the NCAA finals were going to be broadcast. Alas, the ship would be unable to get them. Struck up a conversation with a gentleman at the bar and discovered yet another Cruise Critic correspondee! Small ship indeed! Had a great talk with Jim, got hints on the style of blackjack on board, then went back to the cabin to see if bags had arrived. (Hey, Jim - how did you end up doing in the casino?) My dive bag still hadn't arrived, but the rest of our luggage had, so was time to unpack. A few hints here on optimizing your cabin. First, absolutely bring a power strip. Not only is there only a single plug next to the desk, but it's incredibly unhandy to get to. I'd recommend a strip on a longer cord (6' is good) so you can place it on either side of the desk if you wish. At least on this ship, you can use a grounded, 3-prong strip, so you won't have trouble with any of your plug-ins. Next, I'd taken the recommendation of others, and purchased an over-the-door clear shoe "bag" - where there are pockets for shoes which hang down the door. No, not for my shoes, but because I have a lot of toiletries, and didn't want to clutter up the bathroom. I got mine at The Container Store, and got the longer 24-pocket style which went over the door. If you get this style, be forewarned the door hangers may not go over the top of the door. Never fear, just get out your trusty duct tape, and tape it on! An alternative would have been the shorter 18-pocket style which was designed to hang over a door knob. It would have been fine, and would have hung off of one of the hooks on the inside of the door for your robe/nightgown. Just be aware you may want to bring some tape to facilitate this convenience. But boy did it make the bathroom UNcluttered! Storage overall was plenty for two women for the week. We did use all the space, but didn't feel, even with the dive bag in the corner between the refrigerator and the balcony, like we didn't have enough room. There were more than 2 dozen hangars, so no need to bring any of your own. 6 shelves across from the closet, 2 drawers in each night stand, and 3 drawers in the desk. The room does seem a bit smaller with the beds in the twin configuration instead of pushed together in a queen, but it wasn't a problem for us. Muster drill, then time to meet the Cruise Critic group in Explorer's Lounge! Had a good group which varied in size as people came and went, but was so good to meet the people who had been talking here the last few months. While most of us didn't see much of each other on board, when we did, it was like seeing an old friend. Explorer's was perfect for this meeting - quiet and deserted. Thanks to everyone who came! Ship's sailing was slightly delayed waiting for late planes, but we got to watch all the other ships leave port. We sailed out about 8ish, to the traditional fanfare from the Fort Lauderdale condo owners. Responded with our own waves and noise, blew bubbles as we sailed away, and relaxed into the cruise! Lisa was having her first massage during sailaway, and wasn't really interested in "dining," so went to dinner alone. She ordered room service. PC dining was perfect! Went to DiVinci room, sat with 3 enjoyable couples, had Mariana from Romania as the waitress, and both she and her assistant waitress were very accommodating. There was no question she wanted all of us to be satisfied, bringing more than one entrEe to a couple people at our table. Very, very good. Went out on deck for awhile, then retired early to bed. The change in climate (mostly the humidity) had me a bit tired, so went to sleep. Day 2 (I promise, most days won't take that much room!) - Princess Cays. Had breakfast ordered through room service. Ordered scrambled eggs, toast with butter and jelly, tea with honey, sausage and 2 orange juices. Wrote in the hot items, and they were there, on time, as ordered! Gotta love this system! Don't be intimidated by the room service breakfast hanger which only lists traditional continental breakfast fare. If they have it, they'll bring it. Was still tired, so went back to sleep. Finally made it to Princess Cays around 1. First priority was to get in the ocean! Made a beeline to the snorkel area, purchased a card of fish food, and away I went. No sign of any snorkel vest police, but I didn't make a big deal over getting in the water. Maybe it's because I had my own gear, which was obviously scuba equipment. Or maybe they don't enforce it anymore. All I know is I got to go off on my own in the snorkel area with no restrictions other than to stay within the ropes. Snorkeling was fair to poor. Unfortunately, a lot of beginner snorkelers who don't know differently have abused the reef and sea life. I saw several people standing on coral heads. In addition, either storms or the high number of snorkelers had the area especially around the entrance very inundated with sand in the rocks, grasses and what coral was left. I immediately swam to the outside edge, and to the right side of the dock. BIG difference over there! My advice is if you are an advanced snorkeled, go to the far outside edge, to the right corner (as you look from the beach). There I found the only healthy coral head in the enclosure, with lots of very friendly fish. At least a dozen yellow jacks swam with me as long as I hovered around there. There was also a fairly large blue tang, a couple spotted butterfly fish, a needlefish which surprised me and stayed with me awhile, and several other common reef fish which called this smallish coral head home. Do take some fish food with you. They'll love you for it! There were both hard and soft corals on this head, and if you love just being in the water with fish entertaining you, this can keep you happy for awhile. After about 90 minutes of salt water therapy, got out, hung out on a shaded lounge chair for awhile, then headed back to ship. I'm not much of a beach bunny, but I liked the island. I just hope Princess follows RCCL and starts doing dive excursions from their private island. Having been diving off the north end of Eluthera (Harbour Island) this past August, I know Eluthera has some amazing diving available. I'd rate this stop as perfect if they added that! 2nd night dinner went to Michelangelo Room to try it. Sat at a table for 8 with 4 very different couples. It was an interesting conversation to be sure! Unfortunately, the waiter was a bit of a dud. He never introduced himself, and while the service was perfectly acceptable, there was no personality or style in it. Everything was presented well, in a timely manner, but I was just looking for a bit more. Looking around the room, it appeared that this rotation of waiters in the Michelangelo was a bit lower key than the ones in DiVinci. Very unobtrusive, everything well done, but not as much personality. I'm not sure if it was simply the waiters there this rotation, or the Maitre 'd influence, but I liked the DiVinci Dining Room much better. Both dining rooms are exactly identical in layout and dEcor, so when you go, try them both, and see which style suits you better. I don't believe there was more or less of a wait in either, so go with what feels best! Had a lovely conversation with a couple from Yorkshire, England at dinner, which turned out to be fortuitous the next day! Overnight, the ship was moving FAST - 19-22 knots. Captain Christie said he made the speed run in order to have better deck weather for us for our sea day (less wind, easier seas as we rounded Cuba). Definitely a Captain who puts passengers first. There was a bit more motion this night due to the speed, but it still wasn't even what I'd call "rolling," but merely "rocking" like a gentle cradle or chair. Day 3 - Sea day Once again, slept in a bit, but made it down to trivia in Explorer's at 11:15. Planned on trying it alone, but the staff member asked if I'd like to team up. I said "sure" and looked around. Lo and behold, there was the enjoyable couple from Britain! PERFECT! Went over and joined them, then we invited a gentleman from Ohio who came in alone a bit later to join us as well. This turned out to be very wise. We each had very different backgrounds, education, age and experience, and it allowed our team to win! The cruise director staff said as she presented us with our umbrellas, that she's found the best teams usually are made up of a wide variety of people. Those who go in a group of friends (often of similar age, background, geography) all tend to know the same things. Groups such as ours can call on different knowledge to be successful. Turns out she was very correct! Formal night. Hooked up with Renee and John from the Cruise Critic boards, along with their friends Fay and Andrew, as they had found a waiter/head waiter/ass't waiter combination they loved in the DiVinci room. How right they were! Francesco from Italy was the waiter, Robert from Hungary the Head Waiter, and I hate to say but I never could remember our assistant waiter's name, but it started with "E" and he was wonderful and is from Mexico. I've never laughed so hard in my life! The 6 of us ate together almost every night after this, always with the same wait staff, and it made an already nice vacation unforgettable! Amazing service, lots of personality, wonderful company...that's what cruising is all about! The Maitre 'd was extremely accommodating to our reservation request. While he officially made the reservations for 8:30 each night (he didn't like to make 8PM reservations, as he was unsure if the table would be open), when we arrived at 8, we never had more than a 5-minute wait for our table. He even held the table when it opened a bit earlier. Yes, he earned a tip for this, not to mention the extra tip envelopes we gave the last night to Robert, Francesco, and the undeservedly nameless assistant waiter whose name begins with "E". Day 4 - Grand Cayman up next! Was worried about tendering in, as I had arranged diving privately with DiveTech in West Bay. No problem! Went to Explorer's Lounge at 7, and was on a tender by 7:15, ashore by 7:30. Getting a taxi to take me to the dive shop was a bit dicey, as most drivers wanted several people, on a tour. I did encounter a wonderful driver who attempted to help me with the taxis in the lead. His name is Raymond Ebanks, and he can be reached directly at P.O. Box 105H, West Bay, BWI, telephone 345-945-7747, fax is 345-946-5929. He is in the process of getting a web site but doesn't have it yet. After going to all the drivers in the front of the line, he asked permission of the taxi "cop" to jump the line and take me since no one else was willing. He was given permission and off we went! What a nice man he was. If you're looking for a private driver in Grand Cayman, please consider contacting him. He's worth the effort. Helpful and more than fair! I'd love to repay the kindness he showed me by sending some business his way. Shore diving at DiveTech was amazing! If you're willing to make a bit of a trek, it's worth it. DiveTech is right next to the Turtle Farm in West Bay, and they have a mini-wall (about 60-70 feet deep at the bottom) an easy swim from shore. Their staff is extremely good, and if you're looking for any advanced training, they can't be beat. Yes, you can shore dive from Eden Rock right near the ship's pier, but if you want somewhere that 200 other people aren't diving at the same time, where there is pristine coral, lots of friendly sea life (including the largest spiny lobster I've ever seen), and overall terrific diving, head out to DiveTech (www.divetech.com - Nancy Romanica is the one who set up my AOW dives). There's even a Tortuga Rum Factory Outlet right across the parking lot. Wooohooo! However, one caveat if you go. Allow for construction delays which just began on 7-mile-beach road. Evidently they're putting in a traffic circle to ease the daily jams, but in the meantime, what used to be a 15-minute drive can now take more than an hour back to the ship. Take it from someone who almost learned the hard way. I was done with my diving (3 dives) more than an hour before the last tender was scheduled to leave at 3:30. Thought I was in good shape. However, when the taxi arrived to take me back to the ship, he informed me I may not make it, as there was a major jam along 7 Mile Beach. EEEP! Started hoping for a miracle then, that either one of the ship's excursions to the Turtle Farm or elsewhere was also caught in it, or anything else which would keep a tender at shore a little extra longer. The driver even called the police to see if there was anything which could be done to get us there faster. There wasn't. I decided to trust to the luck which had been favoring me the entire trip, and tried to relax. Had a great conversation with the driver about education, the Monarchy, the Governor, internet, and his daughter who would put me up for the night if I missed the ship (seriously - he offered to put me up if necessary!). 3:30 came and went, and we still weren't at the pier. Still praying for anything which would save me, but also trying to figure out the alternatives, like how much I'd have to bribe...er, offer... one of the other ships' tenders to take me to the Grand, or how much it would cost to hire a boat to run me out before the Grand disappeared over the horizon. Finally, got to where we could see the ships, and the Grand was still there. Even better, got to where could see the tenders, and there was a beautiful, orange Grand Princess tender waiting! I threw the money (and a big tip) to the driver, grabbed my gear, and ran to the crowd frantically asking how to get to the Grand tender. There were no Princess signs anywhere anymore - just Royal Caribbean. The RCCL crew directed me through their line to the Princess tender, where security officer Geoff greeted me. He asked with a stern look on his face, but a sparkle in his eyes, if I knew how very lucky I was. I told him I knew exactly how lucky I was, and thanked him. Turns out I was luckier than I realized. A woman had gotten ill aboard ship, and had been taken to the Grand Cayman hospital. At 2:45, the hospital had said she wouldn't be released, and all her bags, and those of her traveling companions, were taken ashore, to go with her back to the US when she was able to travel. However, at about 3:15, the hospital suddenly decided to discharge her, and called the ship to hold for her. The tender was waiting for the three of them! If the hospital hadn't decided to discharge her at the last minute, I may just have been staying at the driver's daughter's for the night. Talk about prayers being answered! Geoff was wonderful. He could easily have been unpleasant to me, but instead joked with me, and told me I needed to hit the casino that night. I assured him I had used up all my luck for the cruise, and wasn't going to tempt fate any more that day! When the 3 passengers arrived, I told them I'd never seen guardian angels before, but they all were guardian angels now for me. We hugged a bit as we got back to the ship, and even Geoff gave me a hug and bussed my cheek. What a fine example of a Princess officer! He had every right to scold me, but instead gave me an unforgettable memory. I went to the Purser's desk that evening, and asked if a note could be sent to his superior officer. The Assistant Purser said he'd get it to him. Little did I know my letter was actually going to Captain Christie. The next morning, there was a note awaiting me at my cabin from Captain Christie thanking me for my commendation, and assuring me Geoff's exemplary actions would be given appropriate attention. Very neat! One other hint. Lisa went with Captain Marvin's 2-hour stingray/stingray trip. Be sure you turn LEFT when you get off the tender. She got a bit lost, and not everyone ashore knew where to direct her. However, even though she got to the office a few minutes late, they drove her out to the boat, and radioed ahead to have the boat wait for her. It was a matter of only 5 minutes, but would have been easy for them to say "sorry." They, too, live up to their reputations! She had a blast! By the way, this was also Island Night on deck. While I'm not much of a "joiner" - this is not to be missed. Day 5 - Costa Maya John and I had planned on diving here, using one of two different options. The first one, Maya Ha Resort (or, as John took to calling it, Manana Ha for their terrible communications) couldn't seem to answer my emails. I called from the US trying to arrange the diving, and they said to call the day before or email from the ship. I emailed, they read it, but didn't bother to answer, not even to say they couldn't accommodate us. I do not recommend trying to use this resort, as they seem less than indifferent to cruise passengers. Too bad! The other option was a local man named Arturo. He can be reached at bucanero_caribe@yahoo.com.mx. He has a very small, 18-foot boat, back roll entry, no dive ladder, but I've been told he shows you to excellent dive locations. I emailed him, and he was extremely prompt and friendly in his reply, stating he'd make sure I got back into his boat (I'm not a small woman, so wanted to be sure he was okay with pulling me in). Unfortunately, as we pulled into port, the waves and chop were significant, as was the wind. John and I decided it wasn't either of our idea of a good day for a small boat dive, so we cancelled. John had spoken with the Princess New Waves dive staff earlier, and they said conditions the past couple weeks had been rough with more current than usual, and they didn't recommend diving, either. They said they were even skipping that day personally (they evidently usually go out on their own in this port). Called the excursion desk, and asked if they would recommend snorkeling for me (and told them I didn't consider Princess Cays to be more than fair), and they said I'd probably not be terribly happy with the options that day. I did hear great reports about the Jungle Beach Break, and that the snorkeling off the beach by the pier was very nice for less experienced snorkelers. I also heard wonderful reviews of the ruins tours, and the Mayan dancing at the shopping center by the pier was enjoyable. Basically I considered this a sea day with an extended ship . Went ashore for about an hour, then lazed around the ship and got my reflexology treatment. I was not disappointed! Planning an excursion here is a good idea, but things happen. Just be flexible and find another way to enjoy your day if necessary. Played trivia here with Lisa. Teamed up with a principal and teacher from Michigan. Again, 4 of us with different ages, backgrounds. And again, took home the treasured Princess umbrella (I knew I'd forgotten my regular umbrella at home for a reason!) When asked if they had any other prizes, as I'd already gotten one umbrella, the staff member said they were short this week, so umbrellas were it. Decided 2 were enough for me, so this was the last of trivia for the week for me. This was also Sabatini's night for Lisa and I. WOW! Talk about a culinary experience! They're not kidding when they say expect 2-2 ½ hours for dinner. I'd plan more on 2 ½-3. There really are 17 courses, though they are grouped in antipasti, appetizers, salad, soup, pasta, etc. 3-4 you get together, followed by a bit of a break between "sections." None of the courses is very big, and you can skip some, or ask for more if you like. The service is wonderful! The group next to us left midway through the meal, saying it was taking too long, and there was too much of a wait between sections. However, I think they really didn't understand what the meal was all about, that the breaks were to give the palate a chance to clear, and because there is no way to eat that much food all in one go! There's no pleasing everyone, but we sure were fully satisfied and happy! They also will take special requests. For example, I love risotto, but it was only offered with the Sea Bass entrEe, and I had my heart set on lobster. No problem! They plated my entrEe specially for me, with both risotto and lobster. By the way, those lobster tails were the sweetest I have ever tasted, and I've had lobster less than an hour out of the ocean. Perfectly cooked, tender, sweet and delicate. This meal is absolutely worth the $15 per person. Remember, these waiters do not participate in the pooled automatic tips. I'd pay far more than that in gratuity for a similar meal ashore (I tend to tip around 20% for excellent service). No, it's not your typical pastas and pizza and lasagna. This is wonderful Italian dining. If you're up for the time and amount of food, it's absolutely worth it! (If you think I'm kidding about the amount of food, however, ask Renee. She, John, Fay and Andrew ate there the next night. I stopped in, just in time for her to announce to the restaurant louder than I think she meant to that she had just unzipped her pants she was so full!) (Sorry, Renee, I HAD to include that!) That evening, we made a fast run to Cozumel. 2 young men had hurt themselves in a jet ski accident in Costa Maya, and needed to get to the hospital in Cozumel. We docked around 12:30AM, so the crew got an unexpected overnight. Our waiter, Francesco, said this was only the second time in 4 months he'd been aboard that they overnighted in port, and I think the entire crew went ashore. Especially since ship's time was an hour ahead of local time, Carlos & Charlies was in full swing! The young men involved in the jet ski accident ended up back on board to return to the US, but one remained in the infirmary the rest of the way home. I was so impressed by the Captain's obvious care about his passengers to deviate from the itinerary in this way, and to keep us informed. We weren't negatively impacted because of this, and many passengers enjoyed the overnight as well, but what was most impressive is I'm sure this cost the ship money. BRAVO Princess! BRAVO Captain Christie! You CARE! Day 6 - Cozumel Had set up diving with Dive Paradise. Couldn't be easier! They are less than a block to the right of the ship's pier, with their dock 2 doors down from their shop at the Barracuda Hotel. Wonderful instructor, dive masters, and boat crew. Had a bit of boat trouble on the way to Palancar Reef, but they took care of it and off we went. They originally had put us on one of their fast boats, but I need shade when on board, so "no problem" they switched us to another of their boats. GREAT customer service! www.diveparadise.com. Kathy set everything up for us. Truly amazing diving, with a turtle, a green moray, the largest rock beauty angel I've ever seen, several enormous rainbow parrot, large grouper, and even a rockfish on the first dive (boy do I wish I had my camera with 20mm lens for this dive), and more fish than I've ever seen on the second dive at Las Palmas. There were so many fish I had jacks bumping my mask. I'd told the DM I was hoping to see a sea horse, and they found not one but two for me to see. They also made sure the photographer in our group was shown a spotted eel, the sea horses, and other critters of interest to photograph. On both dives, the DM and instructor made sure to point out all the special and noteworthy critters. Fabulous! Easy diving. Yes, there's current, but the boat stays right with you. The exit on the second dive was a bit rough, as the waves and wind had picked up. But they made sure I got aboard safely. They even take your entire BC/tank rig so you can easily climb the ladder. I recommend them HIGHLY! One point to make about Cozumel. There are pay phones on the pier, but they do NOT...repeat DO NOT accept US calling cards, nor can you access the 800 numbers to reach them. Not Sprint, MCI, AT&T, etc. You can call collect from these phones, or you can use a credit card. Be forewarned, though, to have the credit card in your hand. I have my numbers memorized, and tried to use one, but they even require the 3-digit security code on the back of the card to authorize the call. ICK! I'm sure there are phones in town which take calling cards, but after diving and a short night, I wasn't up for going in search of them. Oh well, email works on board ship! Lisa did the Dolphin Swim in Cozumel. We had originally tried to book her through the Personalizer, but as soon as we could access it, this excursion was sold out. We decided to go "gray market" and book directly. Technically, if you're on Princess, you have to book through the ship, and that was our preference. She was just afraid she'd never clear waitlist, as she didn't think people were likely to cancel this excursion, and this was the one thing she wanted to do for her birthday. So, we went to www.dolphindiscovery.com, filled out the form, stating she was arriving on RCCL Voyager (which was also in port that day), and they booked her in the 2PM swim. To Princess' credit, they did eventually add additional dolphin swim excursions, but not until she was aboard ship. Had she known this was a strong possibility, I don't think she would have gone the back door, as we don't like to try to go around the system, especially when there was little actual savings. But we had no idea they'd add any, and it was her dream. I hope Princess is a bit more pro-active with this kind of information in the future, so passengers don't feel they might need to bend the arrangements. Tonight was the final formal night, and the Champagne waterfall. Neat! Really nice to see all the people dressed up and having portraits taken. Do look at the different photographic backdrops - they have different ones at the different portrait locations. Don't go by just the shortest line - some of the backgrounds will suit you better than others. Day 7 - Last sea day...SIGH! We were really booking at about 19 knots, but the only real impact was slightly more vibration on the lower levels, both forward and aft. I'm very prone to sea sickness, and took Bonine every day through Cozumel, but didn't take any the last two nights, and was just fine, even though it was a bit rough coming up the Keys and into Fort Lauderdale the last night. Our cabin was forward on Baja Deck (Deck 11), so if there was motion, I should have been affected. I didn't notice it significantly different throughout the ship, but more on that in a moment. Called the spa in the morning to ask if they recommended the Chakra Stone Massage for me, as I was experiencing a fibromyalgia/lupus flare, or if they had something else to recommend. They suggested I switch to the Seaweed Wrap instead, and it was perfect! It was soothing, relaxing, anti-inflammatory (I think I consumed a LOT more salt in the food this week than I was used to, and my body and feet were significantly swollen, even though I could tell I'd actually lost weight from all the walking). I felt MUCH better after the wrap. High, high praise for the spa staff! Very accommodating, and while they did offer products for me to buy, they were appropriate, and never forced. Final dinner we enjoyed with Robert, Francesco and E....consumed 3 bottles of wine between us (the first time we all really had significant alcohol, though others had shared a bottle a couple times earlier in the week). Laughed a lot, bonded more, and made plans to plan a future trip together. Gave the tip envelopes at the conclusion of dinner, and was glad to reward the superior service and attention we received. Couldn't bear to go to the cabin and finish packing, so Fay, Andrew, John and I went to see "The Others" with Nicole Kidman in the Vista Lounge. Terrible sound system for a movie, and while I don't mind it being a "tape" really wish they'd upgrade to a DVD instead. Definitely a weird note on which to end the cruise, but not a sour one. Went back to the cabin, packed my suitcases (okay, I admit it, I was bad and didn't put out either of my cases before dinner as requested), and put them out about 2AM. They were gone almost instantly, and I could see others in the hall, so I wasn't the only procrastinator. Final morning - disembarkation. Couldn't have been easier! Got breakfast, finished packing, went back to the cabin and awaited our color to be called. We were cleared by customs just before 8AM, and I think we were off the ship around 8:30. Lisa had a bit of difficulty locating one of her bags. BIG HINT! If you travel with black rolling luggage, please do something VERY distinctive so you can find it in the rows and rows of luggage ashore. While it's all sorted by tag color, there are so many black bags that unless you do something like lots of bright ribbons, or a bright luggage strap, or a combination, you're going to have a dickens of a time locating your bag. The porter was very patient and helpful, and was well rewarded for it. Got a cab to Embassy Suites and was checked in by 9:30AM. Still had time for another bit of breakfast . They had a room ready for us, even this early. One other big kudo for the Embassy Suites. I wanted to go pick up our rental car around 11AM. While they run a free shuttle to the airport, all the shuttles were booked taking people to the docks to embark on their cruises (I was sooo jealous!). So, they gave me the cash for the taxi fare, called a taxi, and put me in it. Nice job! That's definitely great customer service! We spent the afternoon driving up the coast along A1A being amazed at the sheer wealth displayed in the housing along the shore and inland waterway. It's astounding. Nice life these people have earned! No adventures on the way home except learning the Fort Lauderdale airport's security sensors are set VERY high. My underwires in my...upper body support garment... set them off. No, they didn't make me take it off, but wanded me, and a female agent patted between the cups to make sure there really were wires there. Very non-sexual, inoffensive and professional. But come on, she should have been able to tell by looking! Okay, you've made it this far, now for the final hints and answers to questions I see over and over. 1. Which side of ship is better? If you like a port view while in port, there's a reason it's called PORT side (aka left side of ship looking from stern to bow). Fantastic views there from the balconies as you sail away from port each day. Sunrises pretty terrific on that side, too. Generally, better sunsets on Starboard side. 2. Where are the best cabins for motion? Front, back, center, high or low? I couldn't tell any difference from bow to stern in motion, not even dead center. There was slightly more rolling higher up, but for sleeping it was just right. For ease of getting around the ship, I'd choose the rear of the ship, since all the dining rooms, including Horizon Court, are center or rear. The main things which are forward are Princess Theatre, the spa, and the Kids' Center. Decide what you want to be closest to on board - food or entertainment. The Grand is loooong, though the walking is good for you! I actually lost weight aboard! 3. What type of cabin? I was in a standard balcony, category BD on Baja. Thanks to a Cruise Critic member who graciously allowed me to use her tub to rinse out my scuba equipment after Cozumel (thank you again, Karen!), I got to see a mini suite. Woweeee! If there is only a couple hundred dollars difference between the two, no question, it's worth the $30-40 a day more per person for a mini suite. However, I never felt cramped in the balcony room, and if it were a matter of going in a balcony room or not going, no question, GO first. All the rooms I saw were well laid out and roomy, not to mention pretty good values. Get the best you're comfortable with financially - they're all worth it. But leave yourself comfortable fun money. It's nice to pamper yourself on board or with a special excursion or trinket from your trip, too. Personally, I absolutely need a window, and am not sure I could be fully satisfied if I couldn't open the window and hear the ocean at night (after all, one of my goals in travel is to be near the ocean...seeing it isn't enough for me, the sound is very healing and important...but that's my priority, may not be yours). 4. There was slightly more vibration at all times in the rear of the ship, but I didn't find it bothersome. I made a point of going to the rear when we were leaving Costa Maya, to see if the thrusters would be bad if I had a room back here next time. I didn't mind it at all! It's also neat to see the ship's wake trailing out behind you. So if you don't mind having a slightly vibrating bed (combined with the rocking, this could do fun things to your love life!), I'd say rear of ship, either at the very back for the wake, or by the stairs for convenience would be optimal. 5. Speaking of walking and stairs, be aware if you book in the center of the ship, while there is a nice bank of elevators, there are stairwells only forward and aft. No central staircase going up the entire ship, only the 3 stories of the atrium on decks 5, 6 and 7. So, if you're like me and use stairs whenever possible, you may not want to be dead center for convenience. 6. PC Dining tips. Based on my experience, I'd say each PC room has a slightly different style. This week, DiVinci had more of an animated, involved wait staff, while Michelangelo was more unobtrusive. Both were excellent, but I preferred the higher interaction with the waiters in DiVinci. Be aware, however, that the staffs rotate every two weeks. So the waiters I had will be in either Michelangelo or Botticelli starting Sunday, then in the other 2 weeks from now, then back to DiVinci. So I do recommend trying both PC rooms to see who is where, and which suits your desires better. In addition, I recommend requesting to eat with others unless you're on a particularly romantic holiday. The interaction between other passengers definitely impacted my week for the positive. While there were a couple of people I preferred not to see again, I didn't have to dine with them any other night. The good far outweighed the bad. And if you're like us, and find a waiter you really enjoy, reserve that table/section! Even if you want different dining companions, you can add couples or groups until you have just that right combination. Think of it as make-you-own-perfect-traditional-dining-group...but at the time YOU want each night! 7. Pools. If you are looking for a pool area with high turnover and very little lounge saving, head to the back of the ship to the Terrace Pool on Aloha Deck just below Skywalker's Disco. It's the adults only pool, and while it's full on sea days, there seems to be more turnover here, and far less chair saving. Nice bar here, good service, lots of loungers, and mix of sun and shade. No pool band, but great place to read and listen to the waves or watch the ship's wake. Also neat place to go for a quiet bit of time at night on deck under the stars. 8. Another place to get away if you want fantastic views, especially on sea days, and quiet, is to go up to Skywalker's on 17. While there's no service up there during the day, you can carry up your own food/drinks, and be by yourself and have a 360 degree view. Beautiful! Too bad they don't have skylights/moon roofs, but with all the electrical wiring, probably couldn't be done. Wishful thinking here! 9. Onboard computers. Be aware that the Business Center on Deck 7 (Promenade) has limited hours in port, more extended on sea days. However, a little-known and under-utilized resource are the wireless laptops available from the Purser's Desks on Decks 5 and 6. They are available 24-hours a day, and have the same internet access and cost ($7.50 for 15 minutes). If the Business Center is busy, or closed, head to the Purser! 10. As you can probably tell, I didn't go to many shows. However, the comments I heard favored the hypnotist over all (had the best comments from other passengers regardless of their individual demographics like age, etc.) I talked with a few people who thought he was so good in the early show, they went back to his late show the same night. I felt the dancers were good, the lead singers had great voices, though their dancing was merely acceptable, and overall the shows were the quality of a good regional (though not national touring) production. Shows were good diversions, but doubt anyone will choose Princess for her evening entertainment alone. 11. If you need to transact business with the Purser, like establish an express check out credit card, best bet is to do it by Friday. Saturday all day the desk was swamped, though the desk on Deck 5 considerably less so than the larger one on Deck 6. 12. DEFINITELY if you think you'll ever want to take Princess again, go to the future cruise bookings office on Deck 5 by the Purser and Writing Lounge. Especially early in the week, as she is booked solid on Saturday. FYI, you pay an advance deposit of $100 per person (reduced from the normal $250 deposit), and get from $25-$200 onboard credit, depending on the length of cruise and type of cabin you book. Don't know when you next want to go or where? No problem, she can do a TBD booking, that is put in your travel agent's name, and on this sailing, we have until October, 2004 to select a sailing, which must occur by June 2005 (she said the last date was even flexible). The deposit is fully refundable any time, but why not take advantage of the savings and onboard credit? It's a no-lose situation! 13. I mentioned these earlier, but organizational and cabin helpful hints: Hanging shoe bag for toiletries, power strip, and ask your Steward IMMEDIATELY for extras (like foot stools for an upper balcony which doesn't have them standard). If you wait, they may be all gone and nothing he can do to help you. 14. If there is an online group for your sailing, go to the get-together. Even if you do nothing else together, it's nice to see familiar faces from time to time! It's a great ice breaker. 15. The ship is refined elegance on a large scale, but retaining an intimate feel. The only time I felt there were really 2,600 people on board was the final sea day around the grand atrium with everyone trying to shop at the same time. But otherwise, she is cut into small, manageable pieces which allow for efficient traffic flow and comfortable association. If you don't look down the passageways as you're walking from one end to the other on a deck of staterooms, you might even forget she's more than 1,000 feet long! She may not be 24-hour activity, but you can stay as busy as you like on her. There is lots of light wood, comfortable chairs, and space to be explored. Very few announcements (I actually looked forward to the noon information from Captain Christie), and nothing garish anywhere. If you prefer soft colored wood, gleaming brass and glass to neon and flash, Princess is your line. She's not intimidatingly snooty, yet she says she knows what class is, and prefers first class to coach. I found her the perfect blend of style and comfort, without sacrificing ease and friendliness. 16. Finally, and most importantly: SMILE! The crew and officers will go out of their way regardless, but you'll have a much better trip if you smile your way through it. Things will happen. Kids will punch every button on the elevator right before you get on. Something will go wrong in your cabin. A lounge chair may not be immediately available. But if you smile, people, both passengers and crew, will go out of their way to do nice things for you. They remember you, and take care of you. Passengers are good to meet. Crew wants to feel they're helping. Officers aren't just pretty, but really care about the entire ship and experience. Turn challenges into positives. I got personal reminders from the deck crew in Costa Maya and Cozumel when I got off the ship what time I had to be back . We made it a joke, and I'll never forget the kidding! The Assistant Purser in Training brought me a receipt when there was a delay - he could have just asked me to come back, but instead asked where I would be and brought it. Enjoy others who are enjoying themselves. Involve yourself with happy people and you'll have a happier time yourself. There are 2,600 people on board - you don't have to be around grumps. You also don't have to be a joiner. I probably participated in a lot fewer on-board activities and spent less time around the pool than most. But I had a truly marvelous experience which was exactly what I wanted it to be, and met terrific people whom I hope to continue to grow as friends. Be friendly, see where you go! A "hello" can bring all sorts of things. That's it! If you lasted to here and there are questions I didn't answer, please feel free to email me at BurBunny@aol.com. There are things I didn't cover, like specific food, shows, etc. But I'm happy to answer those questions individually. This was a fabulous vacation, helped greatly by all the assistance and information I received online. I hope Princess adds diving to both Princess Cays and sets up a vendor in Costa Maya for ship's diving excursions (any entrepreneurs out there listen up - GREAT opportunity there to buy a couple 12-pack dive boats, hire some dive masters and boat crews from Cozumel, and have a built in revenue from the ships). Anything I'd do differently? Perhaps go to a couple shows earlier in the week and participate with more stuff on deck. Do I regret I didn't? Nope! Would I go again? YOU BETCHA! Not a single complaint on service or attitude from the crew or officers. Only a few sour faces from passengers, but that's their problem, not mine. Your cruise is what you make it, and Princess, specifically the Grand Princess, made it easy for mine to be one I'll never forget! P.S. Time for me to start bugging my TA to find out the promotional prices for the new ships, R3 and R4, which used to belong to Renaissance, that Princess just acquired in Tahiti. I'd been seriously considering one of those ships right before 9/11, before Renaissance declared bankruptcy, and now think the combo of Princess and those wonderful ships and location would be perfect for the next cruise. Dive in the South Pacific, be pampered aboard ship. Anyone join me?April 2002 Read Less
This was our first Cruise (wife & I). We didn't know what to expect other than what we had read on some of the cruise boards. The hints I used on our cruise we got from these boards were invaluable. We would like to thank all the ... Read More
This was our first Cruise (wife & I). We didn't know what to expect other than what we had read on some of the cruise boards. The hints I used on our cruise we got from these boards were invaluable. We would like to thank all the past cruisers for their advice. Please forgive me in advance for my poor writing skills, I'm not very organized and may add random thoughts. We chose to book our own air (free miles), we flew from OKC via STL to Fort Lauderdale a day early, and this is one of the best advices. I have flown out of OKC at least 30 times over the last 6 years and never had a cancellation; it looked like this would be the day! Large thunder storms and lightning all morning. Most flights delayed or cancelled, they could not land or take-off. However our plane finally landed in OKC and we did make a tight connection in STL but knowing we had an extra day, we were not too nervous. Arrived in FLL around 4:00 p.m. The luggage collection at FLL is EXTREMELY slow; it took a better part of 40 minute to get our suitcase! We took a cab to our hotel; on the way we had to cross the 17th street Bridge over Port Everglades, that's when we saw the sister ship the Golden! WOW we were so excited; Pictures do not do it justice. The cab ride was $16 plus tip. We stayed at the Sheraton Yankee Clipper (again free points) the hotel is old but clean and was right off the beach that had a lot of places to eat and shop. We went to a liquor store to get some wine for our evenings on the Balcony (we brought along 3 special bottles with us for dinner) we had them pack it in a wine case. The next morning I got up around 4:30 a.m. not being able to sleep because of the excitement, went to the window and in the distance there she was the Grand coming into port, it was dark but there was no mistake in her silhouette. We chose to skip breakfast and ride the limousine to the port. The hotel charged us $12 to the port it was about the same as a taxi. About a 10-minute ride and we were handing the porters our luggage at Port Everglades. I just put a Princess room tag on our case of wine and handed it to the porter along with our luggage. Check-in and security was very quick, then had to go to the waiting area to be boarded, we did have to wait until 11:30 for boarding to start, get pictures taken and on to the ship! After reading about the ship and scanning the boards it was like I knew the layout, there were people to guide you but I knew where we were going, to Caribe 242! Thanks again, we chose a balcony room for the balcony (its amazing how we never saw some people out on there balcony!) The Caribe deck is the one to have, it is closer to twice the size of other decks half of it being private, would not want an upgrade to dolphin mini-suite, all the small balconies were exposed right below us. Could not find room steward so went to horizon court to eat (food was O.K.). Went and explored the ship, as suggested went to Sabbatini's to make 2 reservations. On a side note I just can't understand some of the reviews I had read that stated that this ship was showing her age, we thought everything looked great. Finally met Louie our steward gave him a $20 and asked for lounge chair, robes and wine glasses. He was a great room steward! By the way the luggage and the Wine case was delivered to our room by 4:00. Sail-away was great, at first we were on the top deck so we could see the Millennium, Massdam and a RCCL ship in port (oh yeah, and Royal Empress) but after we backed out we went to our balcony portside to hear all the people in the condos, they were wonderful. This is becoming a very long review so I will speed it up. Ports Princess Cays We would not choose to go again, it was a great first stop for first time cruisers just to break the ice. But the snorkeling was not good the food was O.K. Tenders worked very well. Grand CaymenWe had visited here before and had gone to stingray city but we had to go back and see our little friends again. Things have changed in 8 years, the last time we went there must have been a hand full of people there, this time at least 300 - 400 people, of course the Jubilee, Massdam, Explorer and Imagination (I think) was in town also. Did get to do a little shopping. Costa Maya Another small stop, a little better snorkeling and ate on the ship. We did dock next to a RCCL ship (Sovereign) we made it look tiny! Cozumel Best port of all, however I booked the Tulum tour which took way too long and we did not have time to snorkel or go to beach. If I had to do it over I would skip the tour go shopping in the morning and swim in the afternoon. Food We had PC dining and would not even consider traditional, depending on what we did that day and what time we ate lunch our dinner time was anywhere from 6:00 to 9:30 and we never had to wait. We ate at the Painted Desert one night; my wife thought the filet was great I thought dinner was good. Sabbatini's, what can I say we ate there twice, once for dinner and once for brunch, The dinner is every bit of what you hear on the boards it is an event! However I didn't hear much about brunch, It was hands down the best meal we had all week, not another soul eating at brunch, it was the last day at sea but I can't figure out how so many people missed this wonderful experience. The food in the dining room was O.K. except for the lamb chops it was great. Also, if you like your meat cooked Medium Rare order Rare if you like Medium order Medium Rare. Wines, we did bring along some great wines with us for dinner, I did have to decant them hours before dinner and had some stares bringing a uncorked bottle into the dining area. One night we had what seemed to be half the wait staff and the headwaiter coming by to taste our '93 Heitz Martha's Vineyard (they still charged $10 which was O.K. with us). During the whole cruise the boat was steady very little movement, in fact I thought we could have used a little more motion to rock us to sleep! We did see a few shows, they were O.K. to good. Only lost $26 in the slots. Walked around the ship on deck 7 almost every morning after breakfast. OH YEAH Breakfast! Thanks to you all we had a full breakfast every morning on the balcony that was one of the highlights of the trip. Some of the other people started to catch on and asked us how we were getting eggs benedict, omelets, bacon etc... We had to let the secret out. One thing I also noticed was security was not that tight in all the ports except Cozumel, I think it is because Princess has either total or partial control of hard liquor at the other ports. We had picked a week the public schools in New York was out for spring break, The kids were well behaved and for having a load that was over capacity the boat did not seem crowded at all except for sea days around the pools. But we had the private balcony and lounge chairs waiting for us! Disembarkation was very easy, it took all of 15 minutes from the time they called our color to be curbside getting into a cab for the hotel. We rented a car and drove all over south Florida that day, coming back to Port Everglades in time to see the Grand Sail away without us on board. Flight home was uneventful. As I write this all I can think about is where we are going next as we had put a deposit down on our next cruise with Princess while on board!May 2002 hhaddock@mmcable.com Read Less
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