Embarkation in SF: Wonderful experience. We are local to the area so we used a parking structure within walking distance to the pier, dropped our luggage with a porter, and made it very quickly through security and into the terminal. ... Read More
Embarkation in SF: Wonderful experience. We are local to the area so we used a parking structure within walking distance to the pier, dropped our luggage with a porter, and made it very quickly through security and into the terminal. Check-in was a breeze and personnel were friendly and helpful. Boarded almost as soon as we checked in and since rooms weren't ready yet (we boarded before noon), we were free to explore the ship/have lunch.
Alfredo's: One of the first places we checked out on embarkation day and we loved it! Pizza was delicious and service was wonderful. We visited frequently over the course of our cruise. Only downside: if you order wine or beer, be prepared for it to take FOREVER to get your beverage...I'm assuming they don't have a dedicated wine/beer fridge and have to go across the ship to the closest bar to fulfill drink orders. On one of our visits it took longer to get the first beer I ordered than it did to order the pizza, have it made, then brought to the table.
Room: An announcement was made over the PA system that all staterooms were ready at 1PM on embarkation day. We meandered our way up to our room (Caribe 514 balcony) and were pleased to find all of our luggage waiting outside the door. Things went downhill from there. Upon entering the room, I immediately noticed there were small pieces of trash/paper and pistachio shells all over the carpet. No luggage mat(s) on bed(s). Walked out onto balcony and noticed patio furniture was covered in paint splatters and/or bird droppings. As we began to unpack our luggage, our room steward came in and the first words out of his mouth were, "I haven't vacuumed yet!" (while I was relieved that he hadn't vacuumed and he was apologetic about the mess, it still made me wonder what else may not have been done since the room all-clear had already been given by the cruise director). He never introduced himself, the only reason I knew his name at all was because later that night when he knocked on the door, I read his name tag aloud and asked if I was pronouncing his name correctly (either I was or he was being polite). The next day we asked that our patio furniture be either cleaned or replaced due to the unknown stains on the chairs, but our room steward advised that the stains were permanent (not bird droppings, but unremovable paint/other substance) and there were no replacement chairs available. We didn't spend too much time on our balcony this trip (for other reasons outside the ship's control, e.g. loud neighbors regularly playing card games on their balcony, someone on a nearby balcony above ours that insisted on cutting their fingernails and/or toenails outside on an almost daily basis, etc.), so the stained furniture ended up not being a huge issue but definitely not ideal. On one of the few afternoons that we did sit on the balcony, I saw what appeared to be a dried chicken/animal bone (perhaps from a chicken wing) just under the balcony railing. I wasn't about to touch it so can't say for sure, but again, not ideal. Mattresses seemed worn; way too soft for our taste and no support. Flat sheets were used in place of fitted bottom sheets so everything came untucked quickly every evening and (if you move at all while sleeping) became wrinkled and bunched uncomfortably while sleeping. Pillows were feather (or down alternative) and offered no support whatsoever. We didn't get a good night's sleep any night of the cruise. On a positive note, the mattresses, pillows, and linens on Princess ships will give you a newfound appreciation for your own bedding at home! There were rusty screws hanging out of the cabinet facing around the refrigerator; I tightened them by hand so as to not snag our clothes or legs (it's one thing to get Montezuma's Revenge while in Mexico but I didn't want tetanus too!). Room steward was efficient throughout the cruise; other than the patio furniture, we made no special requests but he cleaned our room well every day and supplied us with plenty of towels and ice. Space in shower and bathroom is serviceable and comparable to other ships (i.e. not large). Plenty of hangers in closet/wardrobe area and lots of shelving for folded clothing. TV was tiny, not many choices, remote worked only intermittently or only if standing right in front of TV (and battery cover was sloppily taped on), and no on demand or PPV options (I realize this is tricky while at sea/depending on satellite reception, etc.). Room slept hot every night, air conditioning (if you can even call it that) basically non-existent; no specific temperature control in room (only "warmer/cooler" adjustments could be made, but even on the lowest "cooler" setting, room was stuffy and warm at all times).
MDR: Food was same or worse quality as buffet so we only ate in the MDR three times (two times for dinner, once for lunch). Surf and turf was supposed to be filet mignon and prawns and while prawns were good, the "filet" was brown rubber and didn't even taste like beef, let alone a filet. Salmon was delicious and is an everyday selection so is a good go-to if your unsure of night-specific selections. Ordered albondigas soup (Mexican meatball soup) and salad at lunch and there was no meat in my soup, only green beans, a few bits or carrot, and peas. Chef's salad was room temp and lettuce was limp.
Sabatini's: One of the highlights of our trip was our dinner at Sabatini's. Food was amazing, service even more so. Our waitress, Liudmyla, was so personable, knowledgeable, and efficient. We were stuffed by the end of our main course and were not interested in dessert, but she insisted on bringing us the sampler so we could at least try a bite. So glad she did as there were some delicious bites we would have missed out on! She even brought us complimentary limoncello (made in-house) digestifs. We ate here on the first formal night as per the Patter, formal dress was only required in the main dining rooms and were happy to see that others dining at the same time were also only adhering to the "smart casual" dress code.
Crown Grill: We attempted to make a reservation for this restaurant on the second formal night of our cruise, but the maître D' insisted that we must be dressed formally to dine in "his" restaurant that night. We pointed out that we had eaten at Sabatini's on the previous formal night while only dressed "smart casually" and that the Patter indicated formal dress was required in main dining rooms but made no mention of other areas of the ship, but he said formal dress is supposed to be observed "everywhere" on the ship (his words). We got the sense that he just didn't want US in the restaurant so we gladly accommodated him and left without making a reservation.
Other dining (Prego's, Trident, buffet, International Café, etc.): Prego's pizza was always good (especially enjoyed the BBQ chicken) and service was fast, Trident Grill almost always made burgers fresh to order (and the grilled buns were a nice extra) so not as fast as Prego's but worth the wait for a freshly grilled burger, buffet was as to be expected most mornings/nights and we particularly enjoyed "Italian Night", and International Café always had a nice selection of sweets, sandwiches, salads, and soups. We enjoyed the specialty coffees and teas at New Grounds next to the IC and service was wonderful there.
Pub lunch: This was offered three times on our 10-day cruise and we had three wonderful lunches. Husband ordered fish and chips all three times and every time they were tender, flaky, and had a crispy coating. I ordered the bangers and mash twice and the Scotch egg once; all delicious. Dessert on the first and last pub lunch day was bread and butter pudding (just the right amount of sweetness and caramelized, crunchy bread) and for the life of me I can't remember what the middle pub lunch day dessert was (apparently not remarkable).
Entertainment and Activities: House band (Finesse) was great; we made it a point to see them every chance we could. We didn't see any shows in the theatre as production shows really aren't our thing. We would have done more trivia events but the theme/genre/category was never disclosed in the Patter, it was always just "morning" or "afternoon" trivia. On our previous Princess cruise, trivia info in the Patter included more details (e.g. "'90's music trivia" or "geography trivia"). Bingo was fun up until the last day when we arrived 45 minutes early to the final game to purchase our tablets only to find out that all tablets had been reserved much earlier in the day. At no point was it announced that this was possible; tablets had been sold just before each game leading up to the final game, so we had no reason to think otherwise.
Service: Other than the rude maître D' at Crown Grill, all of the service on the ship was good to top notch.
Ports and Shore Excursions: This was our second time cruising to the Mexican Riviera and we enjoyed every port for different reasons. We love PV and Cabo for exploring on our own; in PV we walk the malecon, cross the river, and visit some local craft breweries in the Romantic Zone and in Cabo, we walk the marina and meander our way to Medano Beach, eat/drink at The Office, then take a glass bottom boat out to Los Arcos and all those spots before being dropped off back at the marina to catch the tender back to the ship. The excursions we booked (through Princess) in Manzanillo (turtle sanctuary) and Mazatlán (estuary cruise) were educational and fun (plus we got to hold a baby sea turtle at the sanctuary!).
While we had some disappointments, snafus, and downright gross-outs on this trip/ship, we enjoyed ourselves enough to put a couple future cruise deposits down, but I will not sail on Grand again until she undergoes MAJOR refurb. The dry dock she is currently scheduled for in March 2019 is mainly for public areas so I don't expect any improvements to the cabins (which desperately need it) anytime soon. Read Less