Just Returned From The May 20th Grand Princess Sai
Hello Everyone...My wife and I just returned late this afternoon from our first cruise on Princess Cruise Lines. We were on the May 20th sailing of the Grand Princess to the Western Caribbean. About 24 other people from this site also sailed on the same cruise, so there will be many different assesments of the Princess experience.
Let me first say that even though we met others from this site, it was difficult to do things together because everyone really had their own plans and such a short time. I suppose my wife and I could have made a better effort to do something together with some of the others, but we were just running around trying to get so much done ourselves. I would like to thank Jennie and Todd for being so nice and of course Sharron.
Now, on to the cruise experience. I am not going to give a day by day accounting of what we did, because I really don't think anyone cares. I will give an opinion on several categories and it is just our opinion. I realize that what we like and dislike might be different for someone else.
I start off by saying that after cruising on Royal Caribbean 7-times and Carnival once, Princess, in our opinion has both of them beat by a wide margin. We loved everything except one thing with Princess, that I cancelled by January 5th cruise on Royal Caribbean's Radiance Of The Seas to the Southern Caribbean, and booked it with Princess's Dawn Princess.
In light of giving Princess our flight numbers, credit card info, excursion info and other things on-line, everything was set upon our arrival at Fort Lauderdale Airport. The Princess representatives were very friendly, helpful and right on the ball, while people who were going on Royal Caribbean, were in a state of confusion at the airport, especially waiting for busses to take them to their hotels. We arrived a day prior on Saturday, May 19th and stayed at the Marriott Harbor Beach Resort. If you can afford the extra 60 to 80 dollars for the room, do it. The place is magnificant, the food is out of this world, and their Private Beach can't be beat. Beautiful rooms, private balconies, and our view was looking right at the port where the Grand Princess docked on Sunday morning.
On Sunday morning, a Princess representative was at the hotel and gave us our cruise card, checked all of our papers, and told us where to meet for the bus to the pier. Very easy. Got to the pier at 11:30-AM, and walked right onto the ship.
Now to brief explanations of the ship. We loved this ship more than others only because we wanted this cruise to be quiet, relaxing and not crazy. The Wheelhouse Bar to us, is by far the best lounge we've ever been in. Low light, rich furniture, deep woods and jazz music. The ship also had other quiet places to sit for a drink or coffee. The snookers sportsbar also had a richness to it.
In our opinion, the food was superb and better than any food I've ever had on RCCL or Carnival. We chose Personal Choice dining where we could eat at whatever time we desired, and it worked perfectly. We always had a table just for the two of us. Food choice was excellent, service terrific. We even tried thei Horizon Court Buffet which was the biggest surprise. What a selection of food. Several entree choices compared to the same few items with RCCL and Carnival. I never saw Beef Wellington, soochee(pardon my spelling) huge shrimp that you didn't have to peel, Prime Rib, Roast Pork, and many other items on the other cruise lines. Hats go off to the chef and to Princess for sparring no expense on the food. Even real butter, not margerine, and real light cream for coffee, not half and half or the fake stuff.
We thought the entertainment was very weak, even though as others have stated, the cruise director on the Grand is fantastic, friendly and funny. The entire staff on this ship always went out of their way to pamper and put on the TLC.
The ships ride was very smooth, even though would you believe we had rain for almost 5 our of the 7 days. The islands of Grand Cayman, Cozomel and Playa del Carmen were fine. The tenders used by Princess when there was no pier to dock have the others beat hands down. You're always enclosed.
Disembarking is a Princess masterpiece. The others cannot and do not compare, period. If you provide Princess with your air flight numbers, or if they have those numbers because you booked your flights with them, they give those flight numbers to the various airlines who are on the ship the morning of disembarkation. All you do is go to the specified lounge, give them your name, and the airline gives you your boarding pass for you flight, seat numbers and luggage tags right in the lounge. Then, when you get off the ship, you hand those luggage tags to the airline respresentative who is waiting outside, and they take your luggage and load it up to the airport. You just get on the bus and go straight to your gate for your flight. No other check in required at the airport. Princess also is so smooth with getting you off the ship. They give you colored tags, and call you by tags and room numbers, then you get off. Your luggage is then in a big hanger under your tag color. Not this way with RCCL or Carnival. Yes they give you colored tags, but have you exit the ship like feeding time at the zoo with no organization. The enitre ship of the Grand was off by 9:30-AM. We were off the ship at 8:55-AM and at the airport by 9:30. WE actually had nothing to do for 2-hours until our flight of 11:55-AM. While we were relaxing at the airport, here are hundreds of RCCL people who didn't even get off the ship until 10:30 running to make their flights, plus the line at the airline counter to check in was almost an hour wait, so you can see the way Princess checked us off the ship and to the airline was smooth baby.
My only complaint, and to us it is a big one, even though many of you said it doesn't bother you. Even though we're 47, we can party with the best of them. But for this cruise, we wanted to spend a lot of quiet time on our balcony. Because the mini-suites have no cover above, there is no privacy, like the top two floors of the ship and like other ships. Because of no cover, and because of it raining for 5 days, we couldn't spend any time out there. Plus, everyone told us no one looks down from above, well, guess what, they do. From the top pool deck, the guy just above my head, we had to privacy at all. I will complain to the president of Princess on this one. Here we paid more money than others, and they get a private deck on both sides and above and we don't.
Besides that, we love Princess. I'm sure I've missed something, but if you have any questions, just e-mail me. I am more than happy to reply.
Re: Just Returned From The May 20th Grand Princess
I'm glad to hear that you had, by all indications, a wonderful cruise -- and I'm very sorry to hear of your disappointment with the visibility of your private balcony. As I explained to some other folks in a couple other threads, the term "private" does not mean "not visible" -- it only means that the balcony is for the exclusive use of the passengers staying in one cabin. If you look at real estate advertisements, you will find that they use the word "private" in the same way -- i. e. there's a "private dock" on a waterfront lot or a "private deck" on a condo. Of course, the fact that you don't have a case against Princess for false advertising probably is even more frustrating since the balcony was not quite what you wanted.
Based upon your description, I think that you will be even more pleased aboard MV Dawn Princess. Her balconies are built within the hull, so they don't extend beyond the higher decks and consequently are not visible from above. The Wheelhouse Bar aboard MV Dawn Princess -- which is fast becoming a Princess trademark feature -- is much larger than the Wheelhouse Bar aboard MV Grand Princess and, of course, it has a similar decor.
MV Dawn Princess also has teak steamer lounges on both sides of the Promenade Deck -- where nobody will disturb you. I do need to warn you to use the lounges on the shady side of the Promenade Deck rather than the lounges on the sunny side, though. The lounges have a certain magical property that causes folks who sit in them to become completely oblivious not only to the cares of this world, but also to the passage of time -- and some folks have been known to enter into an altered state of consciousness while using them, too. If you use a lounge on the sunny side, you run the risk of excessive exposure to solar radiation....
In case you can't tell, I would choose a cruise aboard MV Dawn Princess (or any of her sisters) over a cruise aboard MV Grand Princess without thinking twice!
Re: Just Returned From The May 20th Grand Princess
And thogh I very much enjoyed my cruise on the Ocean Princess (sister to the Dawn), I HATED the verandah cabins on the ship. I find that when the verandahs are built inside the hull, they become little and airless. I would sail a Sun class ship again in a heartbeat but I would get a regular outside cabin. I liked the cabins better as well, they were bigger and IMHO, designed better. Still, I am getting ready to sail one of my favorite Princess ships, the Royal Princess on a New England/Canada cruise this fall. Love the old girl. I sailed her on her second cruise back in 1984. At the time she was the most advanced ship of her time. She is still gorgeous and I love the fact that she is about half the size of the newer ships out today. I really like Princess. The worst problem I've ever had was the need to change a washer in my cabin sink. My travel companion was deaf and once heer hearing aids were out, she never heard a thing. Sometimes in the middle of the night she would get up and then leave the bathroom door open. At that point all I heard was a steady drip, drip, drip. Once reported, it was fixed within 24 hours.
Re: Just Returned From The May 20th Grand Princess
Welcome to the wonderful world of Princess. Thanks for your review of the Grand. We are going on a family vacation to the Western Caribbean on her July 1st to celebrate our 25th anniversary and can't wait. We are taking the "kids" (ages 23,20 and 2 16 year olds) because of the seemingly diversity of the ship. Yes we did get separate suites for us and them. You mentioned that you are going on one of the sun class ships for your next cruise. We went on the Sun Princess a few years back for a Southern Caribbean cruise and absolutely loved her. From what I hear there is no comparison between the sun class ships and the grand other than them both being Princess. We went on this ship without the kids and loved the intimacy that the Sun offered being a smaller ship and the food and staff was just wonderful. I dont remember much about the shows though so I can't comment on them for you. Our trip was 5 days of islands with only one at sea day which was just what we wanted. Hope you enjoy the "Sun Class" as much as we did.