We were on the July 1 sailing of the Grand to the Western Caribbean. We had a wonderful time. We read many posts before our sailing, especially one that kept us amused the entire time. We are convinced that this person was overly critical and would probably not enjoy anything.
The Ports: Grand Cayman is expensive, we had a $65 lunch of chicken sandwiches, conch fritters and a few beers! We took our own excursion to Stingray City with several other passengers. We were very pleased. As soon as we were at the dock there were tour guides waiting. We signed up with one for $35 each and were taken in vans to the yacht club with 15 other passengers. Then got onto a charter boat to Stingray City. When we got to the sandbar it was so crowded, mostly with the big boat from the Princess excursion, so we went to the nearby reef to snorkel. It was beautiful, when the sandbar cleared out, we went back and fed the stingrays. It was so cool! Since we were a small group our guide picked up a stingray let us touch it and hold it if we wanted. We loved it. DO NOT FORGET to bring the disposable underwater cameras. THey are much cheaper to purchase at home! Bring 2-3 if you plan on snorkeling, etc.
Cozumel was lots of fun. Shopping is easy and a little less expensive off the main street. The beaches are gorgeous! Make sure you stop a Carlos and Charlies Bar before you head back to the ship!
Playa Del Carmen has replaced Costa Maya due to damage at the dock. We really enjoyed Playa Del Carmen. It is beautiful. We did not take the shore excursion that Princess offers. Upon getting off the ship, we got a taxi driver who stayed with us the entire afternoon for $70. He drove us to Tulum which is breathtaking, but VERY HOT in July, then to a resort where we had lunch and went to the beach. It was nice being on our own schedule and doing our "own thing".
The Ship: The ship itself is impressive. By December when it is refurbished, it will defintitely need it though. Don't misunderstand, it is still beautiful, but with thousands of people on it every year, the carpets, etc, do get worn. The only problem I had was that Princess does not offer non smoking cabins. I have allergies and find ciagrette smoke unpleasant. The people who occupied our cabin before us, must have been chain smokers because it was awful. Fortunately I had a can of lysol with me and it helped. I would recommend to others to bring a small bottle of "Febreze" just in case. Our cabin steward, Ricardo, also brought us fresh pillows and freshened the room. After 2 days of the air conditioning though, the room was better.
Dining: I don't even know where to start with the food and dining other than to say that we LOVED personal choice dining. FOr us, having 1st seating would have been terrible! We always stayed late in port, took naps and enjoyed the back deck pool in the later afternoon. We like to eat around 7:30 so P.C. worked great for us. We were not troubled by the short wait for a table. We got a table for two 3 times and joined a table for 8 once. Since it was our first vacation alone, we preferred the table for 2. We did not have difficulty getting it. We only ate in the dining rooms 4 times. We preferred Da Vinci. One night we ate at Sabatini's and 2 nights at the Horizon Food Court. The dining room food was good. Not great. They offerered a large selection of foods.......veal, rabbit, escargot, lobster, crawfish, salmon, chicken, pheasant. This did not always appeal to us. There were standard items available as well. We always checked the menu before we decided where we wanted to eat. Sabatini's is totally worth the $15 cover charge. They give you so much food that you have to beg the waiters to stop!!!!!!! The waiters are incredible. We also ate brunch at Sabatini's on the 1st at sea day. If you love shellfish(shrimp,lobster, crab legs) this is the place for you!!!!!!! Try it, you will NOT be disappointed. The Horizon Food Court is great! We at lunch and breakfast there. The selection is incredible.....scallops, shrimp, lobster, chicken, beef, salads,fresh fruit, chocolate covered strawberries...........We were always surprised to see what was there. We ate there on the French Night and the last night.
The entertainment was good. We enjoyed the marty Allen show as well as the singers and dancers. Jennifer Stein is very talented. We thought the Cruise Director, Graham was funny. He is a little risque at times, but we enjoy that type of humor.
Princess is incredibly organized. Checking in was so fast, our baggage was at our room quickly. However, we did not come by airplane. I heard a couple of people had trouble with that. I would NOT recommend arriving by air the day of the sailing. Try to arrive in Ft. Lauderdale on Saturday. This will give you plenty of time. In my experience, the airlines are not nearly as efficient. Disembarkations was a snap. We were off the ship, luggage in hand 15 minutes after they called for our group to go. We were very pleased.
We loved our vacation and would recommend it We are in our 30's and were very comfortable with the mix of ages. There were lots of teenagers since it is summertime, but they were very well mannered. I am sure there were many proud parents.