There's been so many reviews of the Grand Princess, so here's one more :) . If you have any direct questions, feel free to email me or post them on the bulletin boards.
Itinerary: Western Caribbean; Fort Lauderdale, Princess Cays, Grand Cayman, Costa Maya, Cozumel
Commodore: Mike Moulin
Cruise Director: Graham Seymour
Five Semi-Casual Nights, Two Formal Nights; the formal nights were Tuesday night and Thursday night. Plan for one island night -- where the dress code is wild tropical shirts / dresses, and the like.
Both went smoothly. Arrived at the dock around noontime, was on the ship by 12:30 pm. At the end of the trip, debarkation began at 8:30 am, and the last person was off the ship by 10 am. Passengers with early flights get off the ship first, of course.
All the food, no matter where we ate, was good to excellent. We had Personal Choice dining and never had to wait more than 3 minutes for a table. The Horizon Court buffet had a great selection of choices, which always included a carving station, cheeses, fresh fruits, and salad choices; sometimes there were specialty items like sushi.
We ate in Sabatinis for brunch one day. They only do this "at sea", and it fills up quickly. The food there was excellent. But, you must be a seafood lover to truly enjoy its offerings. The brunch includes all the bloody marys, mimosas, or screwdrivers that you can drink. I would highly recommend Sabatinis for brunch. I didn't eat there for dinner, but the buzz was that it was also highly complimented. The cover charge for either brunch or dinner is $15.
We ate in the Painted Dessert one night for dinner. The food in this venue was good, but not as good as the main dining rooms or Sabatinis. You get your first margarita for free, however, the margaritas served here seemed to be watered down, and mostly just margarita mix. I would say that you can miss the Painted Dessert. But, for the $8 cover charge, it isn't a bad thing to do for a change in scenery.
The main dining rooms for Personal Choice Dining are the Da Vinci and the MIchaelangela. Boticelli's Dining Room is for the Tradition Dining. However, all three dining rooms have the same menu. The food here was very good. If you're a seafood lover, you should try the crab legs the night they are offered -- however, the portions of them weren't very big, so you'll either need to order two orders of them, or a second entree.
I admit, I didn't participate in the formal nights, although I brought my suit. On those nights we ate at the Horizon Court buffet -- at our choice. They served almost the same exact menu every night as the main dining rooms. As a matter of fact, the Horizon Court offered a couple of desserts not offered in the main dining rooms, such as Cherries Jubilee and Crepes Suzette.
Overall the entertainment was pretty good. A nice way to spend an hour every evening. The Princess Theater is well designed, and there is no bar service there. We saw "Rhythms of the City" and "Lights, Camera, Action". Both shows were entertaining, and had some good numbers in them. High energy dancing, and special effects, were quite good. The only downside of both shows was that they weren't very cohesive -- meaning, sometimes songs were thrown in, seemingly, because the set was there, but had nothing to do with the theme of the show.
Kimika, a British comedy/musical duo, performed two nights. They were very funny and entertaining the first night, but the Saturday night show was basically the same as the Monday night show. I would recommend seeing them at least once, for either show, but not both times.
I didn't go to the comedian/juggler (Rick Klingler) or the vocalist (Karen Saunders) shows, so I can't comment on them. The various musical acts in the lounges were consistently good, though. Try to see The Jackie Harrison Trio in the Wheelhouse Bar if you like "Karen Carpenter" and/or "Irish - themed" songs.
The Ship and Our Cabin --------------------------------
The Grand Princess is truly a beautiful ship. Well designed lounges and staterooms with plenty of storage. We had a minisuite, and it was quite big for three people. Plenty of storage, and room to just hang out. We had coffee on our balcony every morning. Although people could see you on your balcony from other decks, there were never any people staring --- it was quite comfortable. The balcony also has a glass wall, so that you can view the sea through it, even when sitting down. It's very nice.
My only qualm with the ship, was the lack of atrium area stairs. The only stairs were aft and forward. If you wanted to get to the atrium (where lots of lounges/theaters, etc are located), you had to wait for an elevator in the main area or walk all the way to the front or the back of the ship to get to the stairs, then all the way back to the atrium.
It only took us a day to get used to the layout of the ship. There are handy maps in your stateroom that you can use. Also, the color on the carpet lets you know if your cabin is on the port side or starboard side.
The Ports -------------Princess Cays: A very nice private beach/island with lots of room for everybody. There's a number of water activities and equipment that you can rent. There's a nice brunch, BBQ style, on the beach, too. Lots of fun, and relaxation. We rented the aqua bike for half an hour. It was fun, but it's really a workout on your legs. You can also rent snorkeling equipment, kayaks, sail boats, and the like. There's also volleyball.
Grand Cayman: This was a beautiful island. We walked around the main part of town checking out the shops and the scenery. We then did the Stingray City tour. That was quite an experience. We booked the 2nd tour of the day through the ship (although I hear that you should use Captain Marvin's). We lined up and got on a small motor coach to a boat launching area. The buses were then divided up among many different boats. Some of the boats were very crowded. Luckily for me and my group, we got on a small boat with just 14 people. Then our luck ran out. *LOL* The boat would NOT start. So, they took our group over to another boat, which started fine .... until we got out a little bit, then the engine started smoking very bad. So, the captain of the small boat, turn off the engine and radioed for help. Another boat (actually the first boat we were on) came out to meet us and we had to change boats right there on the water.... now that was interesting with the waves and all, but we all made it safely. Once we were underway, we were told that we would all be given refunds (which, we promptly received). Once we made it out to Stingray City, the 14 of us had our own private area away from the other crowds. It was incredible how these stingrays just came right up to us, and even out of the water. They know they're being fed, and even rub up against you. Our tour guide showed some of us how to hold them. I picked up a couple of them. I hope those pictures come out. Definitely do Stingray City if you're in Grand Cayman -- it's the time of your life.
Costa Maya: this is what I refer to as a "private island PLUS*... well sort of. It's a newer port, with a small shopping/eating/entertainment area. It was often referred to as what Cancun or Cozumel was like 30 years ago. It's unspoiled, new, and very beautiful. There were ruins tours offered, but I didn't go on any of them. They really do a great job keeping you entertained. They have Mexican shows and different entertainment all day long. The shopping is a lot like Jamaica or the Nassua Straw Market -- be prepared for some pushy vendors and some bargaining. At one shop, the keeper wanted me to trade my watch for some merchandise -- so, be prepared for some of this, too.
Cozumel: we had a leisurely day in this port. We do a morning sail/snorkel/beach party tour on the Fury Catamaran. That was a lof of fun. First they bring you out to an area for some snorkeling. Since it was raining, I didn't pack my bathing suite, but I should have --- my friends who did say the snorkeling was one of the best they have ever done. We then went out to Fury's private beach. Lots of chairs, tables, and room. They have bar service on the beach, which is included with your tour (there is also beer and margaritas on the boat). When you get to the beach, you get off the catamaran in waist deep water -- because of the water shelf. There is also a bathroom on the beach, a silver shop, and place to buy a burger, if you're hungry. Later in the day, we just walked around the main streets of Cozumel. Then we had a drink in Carlos & Charley's, and also at Senor Frogs. If you go to Senor Frogs, be sure to have a "shooter" when the waitress comes around -- it's quite an experience. I won't spoil it by telling you what happens. *LOL*
I love Princess Cruiselines because they are consistenly good. Overall the food, entertainment, service, ship, ports, and everything was very good. This is a ship, I would definitely sail again.