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.