Took our second cruise of the summer, this time on the Grand Princess, and I can safely say that she is certainly Grand. Princess has this industry down pat, and we love to sail on her ships. This one was certainly no exception.
Since we had some extra time, we decided to drive down and park our car at the cruise terminal at Fort Lauderdale. This has always been a good decision for us, we enjoy seeing a bit of the countryside on the way down. (we live in Missouri) We got into the cruise terminal about an hour early, however, and Princess was certainly adamant about not allowing anyone to board the ship before noon. Once onboard we were just awestruck. This ship is beautiful and took our breath away. What my husband phrases as tasteful elegance. When you get to your staterooms, you'll notice pocket sized maps of the ship. These are really handy and we used ours repeatedly during the week.
After we checked out our stateroom, we decided to go and get a quick bite of lunch at the buffet and do some exploring. It was during our exploring that we had our first glimpse of comedian Marty Allen. He was sitting at a coffee bar, people watching, with his T-shirt that read his trademark "Hello Dere". We stopped and chatted with him for a while and he was very gracious and friendly. Don't miss his show. I don't care what someone else may have reviewed about it, we thought that his show (along with his very talented wife, Karon "Kate" Blackwell) was one of the best shows we've ever seen on a cruise ship. We laughed so hard we had tears running down our cheeks. And, keep an eye out for him on board, for he mingles among the guests frequently. Marty - you were great and we loved you. And someone else on this cruise is pretty great, also. The cruise Director, Graham. This guy is a hoot. Get up early enough to catch his " breakfast" show on the television in your stateroom. It's not only very informative, it's extremely entertaining as well. London Pub night is not to be missed, as well as the hypnotist act.
We chose Personal Choice dining, and for us, it was the right thing to do and what we'll continue to do. We enjoy going to eat when we are ready and don't care so much for the chit-chat with other table mates as some do. We like to eat and get through, so that we can go to the shows, or the casino or whatever activity there may be that evening. We found out though that upstairs in the Horizon Food Court that they usually had the exact same items that you could order down stairs in one of the main dining rooms. And you could get as much or as little as you liked, etc., and be about your business. What really impressed me about the Horizon Food area was the freshness of the food there and the selection. Every day I got to have fresh asparagus spears with my salad, and every morning and night I ate fresh raspberries with cream. There was such a selection, I couldn't begin to relate it all here. Let's just say that for my husband and I, there was the largest selection of foods to choose from on a buffet in a total of 16 cruises. And, kept clean as a whistle. We had heard all the rave reviews about the alternative dining on the Grand, so we were quick to reserve our table at the Painted Desert. We were unable to reserve a table at Sabatini's as these were reserved all the first day. We were a bit disappointed with the Painted Desert, we just thought it was ok. Our margarita's were way too sweet (I guess it's what you pay the $8 per person for) and I've had better fajitas at my local Mexican restaurant. I suppose it depends on what you like - it was just overrated for us.
I wish the other cruise lines would take note and keep their pools and hot tubs open the hours that Princess does. One of my biggest disappointments when we first began cruising was how early most cruise lines close their pools. But, Princess is the exception, keeping theirs open practically 24/7. We appreciate this. What I didn't care for was having to bring my beach towel from the room every day as they don't keep any around the pool. So, don't start out without that blue towel in your room if you're going for a swim, it's there for a reason.
One thing that really surprised me with a ship this size was how small the gym facility was in proportion to every thing else. There is really not enough exercise equipment or even space in that area. However, the aerobic room seemed quite large, in comparison. I can also advise you that if you want any spa "treats" book early in your cruise, the lines the first day were very long and took up available space quickly.
The ship is easy to navigate, surprisingly so. Once you sort of get the basics down, you don't have any difficulty getting around from place to place. It may take a bit longer, but I appreciated the extra bit of exercise that I got walking around. We had a great room steward, "Rick", kept us in clean sheets and towels and always had a smile on his face.
All in all, a fantastic experience, one that we'll definitely want to take again. (and again, and again!)