My wife and I, first time cruisers in our mid-20s, are sailing on the Grand Princess on February 29th, 2004, for our honeymoon - got married in May 2003 but didn't want to waste any of the "warmth" in our short Wisconsin summers!
I am wondering two things:
1) Can anyone offer any tips or advice for sailing on this ship?
2) Is there anyone else on this board sailing on this cruise? Would love to meet some new people!
The Grand is a great ship! There is much to do and as large as it is, there's always quiet places around if you look. The upper level of the enclosed pool is a great place to veg out and read a book. The disco is great, but doesn't really get going until midnight.
What kind of info are you looking for? Read whatever reviews you can find in the various cruise boards and you will learn a lot. Just keep in mind that you are only getting a minute sampling of opinions. Thousands of people cruise each week and only a handful write reviews. My best tip - scout out the layout of the Horizon Court when it's not busy. The method here is basically "grab and go". They tend to put the same type of foods in the same place each time - except the butter, you never know where that will end up If you ar familiar with the layout, you can get through it quicker.
Are you doing an eastern or western route? We've done both and enjoyed both a lot.
Thank you for the well wishes and the advice. We are doing the Western route and are quite excited.
I guess that since we are new to cruising, we are looking for subtle nuances. Such as, should we bring bottled water aboard? Where should we go on Princess Cays (it's pretty much divided between going left or right once off the boat)? What do people find to be the most fun on the boat? Things like that.
Location: Wisconsin....about 100 miles south of the Frozen Tundra and 70 miles east of Camp Randall
Re: Grand Princess Advice?
Bottled water on the ship is expensive, but the tap water on board is distilled on board and it is purer than most bottled water you can buy. And all staterooms on the Grand have mini fridges where you can store water and other beverages. I would suggest bringing one or two bottles of bottled water on board and then refill as needed from the tap and chill in the fridge as needed. You will also get an ice bucket in the room.
The Grand is a lovely ship - Skywalkers (the disco) is a really quiet place to sit in the day and watch the sea go by...at night it is hopping starting around midnight.
The aft Terrace pool is adult only and is a really nice place to unwind and relax. It is close to the Horizon Court buffet and a couple of bars. That was my absolute favorite area during the day when I was on the Grand.
When you go to Princess Cays, if you are looking for less of a crowd, go to the left and over the footbridge once you get off the tender. Less jostling for beach space over there, but you still have a buffet hut and waiter service there.
Besides Skywalkers, the Explorer's Lounge can be a pretty hopping place in the evening before Skywalkers gets going.
Any more questions, just ask!
Crown Princess 1/18/14....the NEW Me, Myself and I cruise!
My wife and I will be celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary on the Grand Princess, February 15, Western Carribean. We are traveling with 2 other couples. We are all in the 33-35 yr. old range. We are leaving our kids at home to enjoy a week of relaxation. My wife and I took a trip on the Sun Princess back in 1996 through the Western Carribean. We are looking forward to making the same trek but on a different boat. Any suggestions on excursions? We haven't made up our mind if we will do any this time around. We thought about Passion Island? Anyone been there?
We sailed the Grand Princess in July, 2003. It was wonderful!!!! My only complaint was the money we lost in the casino - lol. A miniscule piece of advice, which helped us avoid multiple "differences in opinion": Carry the small card with the diagram of the ship, which lists the different areas, e.g., Princess Theater, Wheelhouse, Explorer's, etc. This way, when we got off the elevator and checked out which direction we were facing, we found our destination without any power struggles! I appreciated this most, because I was usually wrong!! You will love the service, the food, the ship, and the shopping.......Happy Cruising! (P.S. - We went on another cruise just last month since we loved the first one so much - it's addictive!)
My wife and I took the Grand in Nov on the Western trip, as well as a different cruise ship on the same route the year before. My advice is as follows
1. Buy snorkel equipment in advance and bring it with you. I am always amazed how many people spend 1500 to 2000 dollars for a cruise and then rent snorkel equipment for 40 - 60 dollars. For the same amount or a bit more you can invest in snorkel equipment that fits and is yours. This was the 4th time we have used our snorkel equipment.
2. Princess Cays - go to the left when you get off the tender. We went to the right, snorkeled, observed a few fish, and walked to the other side. At the observation deck, we noticed a large variety of fish, so in we went. Some have complained about the barbeque the ship offers - if you like barbeque - I am sure you will be pleased.
3. Grand Cayman Island - our first time there we went to Eden Rock which is walking distance to the right of the docks. Great snorkeling with wonderful views of colorful Parrot fish. This time we booked a tour with Soto's for 19 dollars each. Not only were they efficient, but we stopped in three places to swim, including Stingray City. You have to do Stingray city - it is amazing standing around with stingrays shooting all over the place. You can also feed and hold the stingrays. It was fortunate that we booked the tour with Soto's as the surf was so high at Eden Rock we could not see anything.
4. Cozumel - we always grab a taxi and go to Dzu-Ha ( pronounced Shu). Not only is it free, but many of the land and sea tours stop in the area as the snorkeling is great. You can stay there all day for the cost of a couple of cokes ( two dollars) and a locker ( two dollars. We tied up at the international pier, and one fellow traveler said he walked to the hotel next to the ship and also enjoyed snorkeling. Up to four people can take one taxi - lowering the cost per person.
5. Don't expect to much from Costa Maya. We have been there twice and we have been underwhelmed. There is swimming to the right of the pier - but no snorkeling. I understand one can walk into town and book tours to the ruins nearby for less money than the tours on the ships. My wife and I spent a month in the Yucatan traveling on our own and exploring the major ruins, so we did not take that option.
6. Don't overlook the mini golf course. It sounds corny - and it looks corny - but we had so much fun there my wife and I played a few rounds almost everyday. It was particularly challenging on the day the ship was traveling through rough waters.
7. We brought a bunch of oranges to our stateroom and kept them in the fridge. Everytime we wanted a drink - freshly squeezed orange juice.
8. If you dine alone - forget reservations for personal choice dinning. They won't make them for two. Go down earlier than the time you wish to eat. Also ask for a round table - not a square one. Those square tablles for two are about two feet square. The menu had substitutes - we found the steak and the cheesecake to be very good. After one lunch at the buffet we did not notice any desserts that we liked - so we went to the dinning room for only cheesecake dessert. Even though it was not on the menu - they were nice enough to obtain it for us.
9. Any questions - please e-mail me. Have a great time and remember lots of waterproof sunscreen. The sun is brutal down there - even for half hour
We sailed on Grand Princess in March '03. It was also our first cruise, and our honeymoon. We had an absolutely fabulous time! There were probably a few things that we did on this cruise because it was our honeymoon that we might not have done if it was simply a 1-week vacation. Namely, we had a "what the heck" attitude when it came to saving a few bucks vs. making sure that we did something if we wanted to do it. So, things like getting the 'honeymoon package' for about $300 that included a bottle of champagne & commemorative champagne flutes, a rose on the table that stayed fresh all week, & chocolate covered strawberries in our cabin when we first boarded were nice touches. We got to keep the terrycloth robes, got an 8x10 framed photo that we had taken on board and fresh canapes in our cabin each afternoon when we returned to clean up for dinner. It also included a tour of the bridge. Was it all worth $300? Nah. Was making my new wife all giddy with these nice touches worth $300? Easily.
Our cruise was the Western Caribbean itinerary, and we thought it couldn't have been a better one. Days at sea were perfectly spaced with days in port. The length of time at port was long enough to enjoy the port without being hurried to get back to the ship.
It absolutely poured the day we were at Princess Cays, so we can't offer much insight except that the barbecue they offer on the island is your basic burgers/dogs/chicken picnic. Of course, your cruise card pays for drinks there, so that's a plus.
We did the 'Highlights of Grand Caymen' tour and were only slightly disappointed. Our tour guide was nothing more than a taxi service. The turtle farm, the rum cake "factory" and Hell were pretty underwhelming. Stingray City was as advertised. Very fun, very unique, and very crowded (but that didn't really bother us). The only thing I would add is that it seemed like we had barely gotten into the water when they were telling us it was time to go. So, I would recommend that you accelerate your process of getting over the natural reluctance to touch the rays as quickly as you can so you can enjoy your time there as much as possible.
In Costa Maya, we did the Chaccoben ruins tour. It was quite interesting. I've talked to other who have done the same tour and didn't find it as enjoyable. I think it depends greatly on your guide and your personality. If you're not that interested in historical tours such as this, then it probably won't impress you much. Also, the "air conditioned" bus reminded me of the A/C I had in my Ford Escort when I moved to Phoenix to go to college years ago. I used to say I had '270 air': 2 windows down & go 70 mph!
We really enjoyed Cozumel. We did the beginners scuba tour which included a crash course in scuba diving. It was really thrilling to be down in the coral reef with all those tropical fish. We did that very early in the morning and that left us the rest of the day to shop and enjoy what Cozumel had to offer. My time there was definitely enhanced by my speedy recollection of college Spanish classes and the reasonable price of Tecate at the street vendors (2 for $3).
I'm the quintissential Food Network wannabe chef that thoroughly enjoys good food, good service and a good menu, so I guess I'd characterize myself as somewhat of a restaurant snob. The reviews by passengers on this website concerning food ranges from it being awful, unimaginative delivered with poor service to awesome, delightful with exemplary service. I suppose it varies from cruise to cruise, restaurant to restaurant and waitperson to waitperson. Also, I think it really depends on you. I went not expecting much, and was really pleasantly surprised. I thought the food was very good with the exception of the room service menu (although you can also ask for items not found on the menu) and the service on the ship was always first-rate.
We're in our mid-30's and thought there was a nice mix of young passengers and older ones. We really enjoyed the fact that there wasn't an abundance of children. Because we were on our honeymoon, we didn't need to be entertained 24-7, but we found that there were many more activities available than we could have ever participated in. People were very friendly (passengers & staff alike), and even though we didn't really care to meet anyone on board, we did end up chatting with several couples & groups and made some new friends with another couple.
Some of the comments in this thread regarding quiet places on board, the happening spots and things to do were right on, so I'll just say ditto to that. One recommendation, be sure to take your video camera. Memories can fade. We bought a brand new camera before our wedding and took it along only to find out that it was defective. It didn't work one day. So, 10 months later I'm wishing I had some video footage of our cruise. We have a 9 yr. old, so we don't know when we'll be able to go again...but we can't wait and will certainly make it with Princess based on our experience!
We sailed on the Grand July 27/03. It was our first cruise and only big vacation of our 26 years of marriage. We had the time of our lives.
Before you go, check out the deck plans for the ship on the Princess website. I studied them before our trip so that I wouldn't have to waste precious time once on board. It worked out great. We went on board and we were in our cabin in about 10 minutes at the most.
Pack sunscreen, bathing suits and any other things you might want right away in your carry on. Your luggage may take a couple of hours getting to your cabin. I must say everything was very efficiently taken care of.
We just sailed the Grand on 12/14. We went on the cruise with a group of 35 family members. My wife and I are in our late 20s and were first time cruisers. The service on the ship was more than what we expected and the dinner waiters and our housekeeper earned an extra tip at the end. The only downsides about the ship were the roaches that we encountered (one in our cabin and one large on outside the elevators) and the overpriced photos taken during special occassions (formal nights, etc.) There was major rattiling in the Botticelli Dining Room (as a result of going full-speed ahead) when we had to make an unexpected stop in Jamaica for a medical emergency, which made us kinda nauseous.
The Cruise Director, Tim Donovan was very entertaining and his show on TV in the morning gave you plenty of information on what's going on in the ship.
Not sure about the weather you'll be getting, but it was a good thing we carried umbrellas with us, as we got a big, intermittent downpour in Grand Cayman. Other than the day at Princess Cays, the rest of the trip was overcast.
The maitre'd wine tasting (cost $25/person) is worth attending. They offer their better wines (in comparison to their regular tasting). Also, I like the fact of ordering more than one item in any course when we had dinner. I didn't eat the entire day just to have 4 lobster tails and a beef wellington!
As far as excursions at the ports, you may want to find out more about booking outside the ship. Since we had a large group, we paid around $25/person for the Mayan ruins in Costa Maya and saved a whole lot of money by booking outside the ship.
There was one entertainer on the ship that had a really good performance. I forgot his name, but he was pretty fond of Sammy Davis Jr. The comedy was okay with Carl Strong being the better comedian on the ship (check out his adult show, if you're up to pretty lewd stuff).
The casino is pretty cool, with plenty of table games. Craps is pretty difficult to play on the ship, with the dice flying out of the table quite often. If you like playing slots, the .25 Wheel of Fortune Machines in between the roulette and crap tables pay out pretty well (the bonus spin comes out quite often). My wife had two 5x pays and a 7 for $750. Mother-in-law also hit $250 on the bonus spin and at least three other members of the family hit more than $100 on these machines. Overall, everyone won in the casino with one of the relatives winning more than $1,500. Also saw someone hit a royal flush on $1 video poker for a jackpot of $4,000.
Stay with the snorkeling and water sports activities in Grand Cayman rather than the land-based tours. I recommend a tour that includes some reef snorkeling along with the stingrays. Once you get over the willies, the stingrays are a lot of fun. Try to go with a smaller group - the boats that go the the stingray sandbar only tend to be very large and crowded.