A perfect cruise. We boarded in San Francisco on a warm sunny day and the city views from the decks are amazing - you could see the Financial District, Bay Bridge, Coit Tower, Ferry Building, Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge. If we had ... Read More
A perfect cruise. We boarded in San Francisco on a warm sunny day and the city views from the decks are amazing - you could see the Financial District, Bay Bridge, Coit Tower, Ferry Building, Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge. If we had never left port it would still have been a great cruise.
We live within driving distance and parked at 55 Francisco, a short three block walk from the boat. They charge $18/day for indoor parking. I dropped my wife off at the traffic circle by the dock, but lots of folks just rolled their suitcases over from the parking garage. If you walk to the end of Francisco and cut across the little park you'll be across the street from the cruise terminal. Can't miss a boat that big.
Embarkation at the new Pier 27 cruise terminal was a breeze - friendly, efficient service and very little waiting. Princess let's you bring as much wine as you like, but you have to carry it on (do not put booze in your checked baggage). There's a table where you show them what you have; first two bottles are free, then $15 corkage after that. The wine sold on the ship bears typical restaurant prices and is a fairly mediocre selection, so if you have some good stuff at home, bring it. They put small labels on the bottles for which you've pay corkage so you can bring them into the restaurants at no extra charge. The "free", untagged bottles are best consumed in your stateroom.
The service was exceptional everywhere on the Grand Princess. The crew seemed to be in good spirits about heading south after a long summer of 10 day Alaska Cruises. All the ports were beautiful and fun.
Santa Barbara - we caught the trolley to the courthouse and took a long, leisurely stroll back downhill to the ship. We enjoyed a little self guided architectural tour, tacos al fresco on State Street and several stops for local wine tasting.
Long Beach - Princess offers lots of L.A. and Hollywood trips like studios tours, Beverly Hills and Grouman's Chinese Theater. We've done all that so we opted for low budget and walked over to the Queen Mary, where your cruise card gets you in for free. We explored the ship for hours from top to bottom, The engine room is a marvel of sophisticated complexity.
San Diego - walked off the ship and bought Old Town Trolley Tickets at the end of the pier. It's a hop on hop off trolley that goes all over town. More "hop off" than "hop on" though, as the trolleys run full and you typically have to wait for three or more to get back on. Balboa Park was the highlight of the day. Lot's to do and see. We had lunch at El Prado in the courtyard. The bar menu is great and affordable with a good wine selection and you can sit outside.
Ensenada - we opted for the wine bus, operated by Bajarama, Great fun. They bus you to a nearby valley that produces most of Mexico's wine. LA Cetto is a big operation and fun to visit. Next is Casa Dona Lupe which is at the other end of the scale, for pizza and more wine tasting. Nothing is great but the comradeship of your shipmates and a dose of Mexican culture makes it fun. The tour guide offered to stop for a couple bottles of tequila to drink on the way back if we would take up a collection. Even though it was a mostly older crowd, I have never seen a more enthusiastic bunch of tequila drinkers.
We made a point of having a bite at every food venue on the ship and it was all good. Okay, the room service burger was dry, but the club sandwich was good and the cream of artichoke soup was excellent. All the soups on the cruise were seriously gourmet and after touring the galley I know why.
The main dining room food and service were outstanding, as was Alfredo's Pizzeria, where you can eat at the bar and watch them make your individual pizza fresh or sit at the ocean view tables. They also have bar service.
The Piazza on Grand Princess is a better design than some of her sister ships. The performance area is surrounded by no less than four venues: Vines Wine Bar, Alfredo's Pizzeria, The International Cafe, and The Piazza Bar. The entrance to anytime dining in the Michelangelo Room is also off the Piazza and one day they were backed up and sent us off with a pager. We snagged a table at Vines and soon three guys in mariachi suits showed up in the Piazza and started playing La Bamba. Couples started spontaneous dancing - so fun!
Our cruise came with some onboard spending credit so we tried both specialty restaurants. Service and food were over the top. Sabatini's has wonderful appetizers - we tried three. The three lobster entree is a good way to go. The first lobster is the creamy orzito and the second is a nice sized grilled lobster tail - which appears to be a tail sitting on top of an empty shell, as is traditional. In fact, your third lobster dish is another tail that's hiding in the shell! Fun!
At the Crown Grill, we each had the back & blue soup - delicious. I had the 8 ounce filet mignon and the wife had sea bass topped with large tiger prawns. It would be hard to recommend one specialty restaurant over the other. If you're in a mood for a dark, New York style chop house, go with the Crown Grill. If you prefer a Mediterranean and seafood vibe, try Sabatini's.
The International Cafe can provide you with a quick sandwich or salad. I like a good Cuban sandwich and their's was no disappointment. The Cafe offers the same scrumptious desserts as the main dining room, even the Norman Love chocolate specialties, so if you're in the mood for a late night snack, just hop on the elevator.
We had breakfast at the buffet on the lido deck several times. Good variety. They do made to order omelets and you don't even have to wait - just fill out the order card and leave it on your table and a server will have your omelet made for you and bring it back.
We ate breakfast in the dining room one day and choose to be seated at a large, round table with three other couples. It was nice having a leisurely meal while getting to know some fellow passengers. And it paid off when one of the other couples turned up on our Bajarama tour.
There is so much to do on the Grand Princess that we could have used another week.
If you like movies, there are plenty abroad Grand Princess: on the deck at Movies Under the Stars, in at least two lounges and on the TV in your stateroom. On Channel 27 they show a different episode of the Love Boat everyday, all day. It's fun to see the old 30,000 ton Pacific Princess while on board a ship of three times her size, and it's interesting to see which famous stars show up.
I highly recommend this cruise to anyone who wants to explore the California Coast aboard a large, well equipped ship with great food, spacious cabins and excellent service. Read Less