Hi Shelia.....My wife and I just returned from the Grand. It was our first time on Princess too. From our perspective, everything about Princess from getting on the ship to getting off, from the food and service was far superior than Royal Caribbean. But again, that is just our opinion.
We did have one major dissappointment and that was with our room category and I see you might have the same problem. We had a AA mini-suite on the Dolphin deck. Trust me, that is the worst deck to be on, even though the rooms cost more because of the mini-suite. The decks on the Grand are not all even or level. I mean they stick out from the bottom most deck, then go back as you get higher up the ship. On the Doplphin deck, your balcony is not covered from above and because it sticks out, everyone above you, can see you and look down at you while on the balcony, plus if it rains like it did on our cruise, you can't even sit out on the balcony because you'll get soaked. To some people this isn;'t a big deal because they don't spend much time on the balcony, but to us, it was a major deal. We like to have breakfest on the balcony, rest late in the day, and sit out their at night and we didn't appreciate paying that extra money for a mini-suite, to find out later that every nosy person was watching us, along with getting wet.
I don't remember all the deck names, but if having your balcony open doesn't bother you, then the Dolphin deck is fine. If this will bother you, do not stay on decks 9 and 10. Anything higher you will have your balcony covered from both sides and from above, but on 9 and 10, you are wide open. In addition, the balconys are not larger on the Dolphin deck. They are larger on some of the cheaper rooms on the Caribe deck.
As far as flying into Fort Lauderdale a day earlier. This can be done like we did, but Princess does not do this automatically for you. You have to request that you want to fly in a day prior. At that point, you would also have to book a hotel to stay at on Saturday. that can be done on your onw, through your travel agent, or from Princess through your travel agent. The Embassy Suites and Mariott Harbor Beach are two great places to stay at, event though the Mariott is kind of expensive, but well worth it. Princess has hotels such as those I just listed in their brochure for people who want to arrive a day early. It does make things very smooth for the following day when you have to board the ship because on the morning of the cruise, a Princess representative is at the hotel and completes all of your paperwork, so you can just board the ship and not wait in line.
Good luck. If I can be of further assistantce, just e-mail me.
We know you will Love Princess. Besides that balcony stuff, Princess was just magnificant.