This was our first time on Princess, as we had typically sailed on Carnival in years past. I will say that Carnival cruises can be a lot of fun, but we were going for a relaxing and enjoyable vacation, ideally free from kids and rowdy ... Read More
This was our first time on Princess, as we had typically sailed on Carnival in years past. I will say that Carnival cruises can be a lot of fun, but we were going for a relaxing and enjoyable vacation, ideally free from kids and rowdy groups. Princess delivered.
The Grand Princess is an older ship, but she wears it well. The interiors have been updated probably several times since its construction and I found the decor to be neutral with a side of elegance. It isn't hard to find examples of the ships age all in all, but it wasn't necessarily detracting from the experience. If you want to find something to complain about then I'm sure you can, but if you want to enjoy a laid back vacation on a well laid out and apportioned ship, then I'd recommend the Grand. The amount of public spaces, 4 pools and 8 hot tubs ensured that no area was every overly crowded. The majority of the time, when we wanted to go for a swim or a dip in the hot tub we were by ourselves. Our itinerary involved a lot of sea days, so having a ship that didn't feel crowded made the sea days all the more enjoyable. We were always able to find open seats / loungers in the areas we wanted to be in and usually had a fair amount of privacy at that. The aft portion of the ship has (essentially) 4 decks available: The pool and loungers on 12, the Lido Deck / Horizon Court patio with tables and chairs on 14, the covered lounges on either side of Deck 15, and the hot tubs on deck 16. The amount of available space in this area was awesome and really made the trip for me.
The wrap around promenade deck on 7/8 was fantastic as well. They have padded seating on both sides of the promenade deck which allowed us to sit and watch the ocean from a shaded and somewhat sheltered position. The promenade also doubles as the walking / jogging path for most people on the ship and we would spend a good amount of time everyday doing laps to help burn off the excessive amounts of food we consumed. Personally, I love being able to go to the bow (conditions permitting) and stern of the ship and being able to look out from those positions to get some amazing views.
I really can't say enough about the layout of this ship. Having been on multiple Carnival ships, the Grand Princess was much more enjoyable.
Pretty....pretty...pretty...pretty good....pretty good. For the most part, the food was excellent. There are always dishes that don't suit ones particular fancy, but the selection was plentiful and it was always easy to find something delicious to eat. We opted for anytime dining and once we figured out the schedules, we will never do anything differently. Having the flexibility to adjust our dining time based on our schedule for the day was great, and the dining room staff learned our preferences right away and was able to set us by ourselves most every night, at the same table with the same staff. The menu in the dining room consisted of a dozen or so new options every night with a handful of consistent offerings. There was something good on the variety menu every night and I never had to dip into the "regular" offerings except once when I really wanted to try the burger, and even then I paired it with two 3 items off the variety menu.
The Horizon Court had consistent breakfast offerings that grew a little tiring, but it's breakfast and there is only so much to realistically be offered. The breakfast selection was still very extensive with everything from meats and cheeses to a salad bar, granola and cereals, fresh breads and pastries, breakfast meats, pancakes, french toast, biscuits, etc. Lunch and dinner varied a lot and again always had something good to offer. The dessert bar in the Horizon Court will be the death of me, especially the bread puddings they make. Delicious.
If you don't want seated dinner or the buffet, Alfredos makes excellent Pizza and the International Cafe (open 24 hours) always had great snacks to keep me stuffed to the brim. We ate at Sabatinis one night, also fantastic and well worth the $25/pp uncharge. We had the pub lunch in Crown Grill one day (highly recommended) but never dined there in the evening. Of course there is also the pizza and grill stations by the pool on Lido deck if that's your fancy.
Bottom line: the food is good and there is plenty of it. The International Cafe is way better than just having 24 hour pizza, and I highly recommend a few visits to it.
We aren't big drinkers, so we didn't spend much time at the bars / lounges. That said, they had a surprisingly thorough and diverse collection of single malt scotch, which is right up my alley. $8 for a pour of a Highland Park, Cragganmore, Aberfeldy, Talisker, Glenfiddich, etc is definitely worth it if that is your thing.
The ship has consistent and plentiful activities throughout, though most of it catered to the older crowd. Not a problem for us as we prefer to do our own thing most of the time anyway. The few shows / events we did catch were well done and worth the time spent. The Movies Under the Stars was a favorite evening activity for us. The performers and musicians were all quality and showed a fair amount of diversity in their productions, which was nice. They had a comedian a couple nights in the beginning but not thereafter, probably because no comedian has enough jokes to last for the 6 sea days on the backend of the cruise.
This is a long cruise and not for those who don't like sea days. 15 day cruise with 4 of them spent in port, so you can do the math. (Not counting ensenada which is there simply to overcome the Jones Act) I love sea days, so this was the cruise for me. We got around 8 hours in most ports which is enough to get off the ship and do a few activities. We hit Pearl Harbor in Oahu, rented a car and drove around Kauai, went snorkeling and perusing in Maui, and explored Hilo with a friend of ours. We didn't take any ship sponsored shore excursions so I can't speak to that, but there is plenty to do on the island.
Given the length of itinerary and time of year, the demographics were probably 85% over 55, which was fine by me. We, in our 30's, liked having a quiet and relaxed group on board. There were very few kids, probably less than 20 that I ever saw. If you want to go on a cruise and rage, this is not the one for you. If you want to go on a cruise and do nothing but eat sleep swim and drink, sign up now. The only downside was the abundance of walkers and motorized scooters which would occasionally congest walkways and corridors. Good luck taking the elevators unless you want to stop on every floor. The stairs were a good excuse to further work off the excessive food that was consumed.
The beginning and end of the trip was cold, but the middle was great weather. Bring a jacket and warm clothes if you're taking this cruise in the fall / winter months.
Embarkation / Debarkation
The embarkation process was the most amazing thing I have ever seen. From the time we arrived to the port to the time we were on the ship was less than 10 minutes. I don't know how they pull it off, but they do a damned fine job.
Debarkation took a but longer only because everybody wants to leave at the same time, but even then, once our group was called it was no more than 15 minutes before we were in our Lyft on our way home. Far better than any experience we ever had on other cruises.
I'm pretty sure I've conveyed my message well enough. Bottom line is that if you are going on a cruise hellbent on perfection and want to complain about every single thing that doesn't go your way then spend some coin and go on Crystal or something. If you want a quality vacation experience for a good price then Princess and the Grand Princess deliver. Read Less