With much anticipation, my husband and I began our Western Caribbean cruise on the Grand princess on Sunday, April 28, 2002. Just like other cruisemate reviewers, we had an exceptionally easy time getting boarded through the express check-in.
I have to say that at first, I was a little disappointed with our stateroom. My husband, however, loved it and thought the balcony was really spacious. We were located on the Caribe level. In hindsight, I would have liked a little more room inside the cabin, but overall it was extremely comfortable. Our steward was Amy; she did a nice, but not exceptional job of taking care of us (but in all fairness, we didn't have any special requests or needs).
Anyway, we began that afternoon getting acclimated to our surroundings -- the ship is huge -- but very manageable -- I don't know how they do it, but you never feel like you're in a megaship! We had lunch at the Horizon Court and ate too much!! We couldn't even go to dinner that night! All in all, the first night was lovely -- balmy air and relaxing drinks on the balcony -- heaven!
We ate dinner the second night at Sabitinis and it was FANTASTIC!! we ate for two solid hours with gourmet appetizers; great service and atmosphere! Highly recommend it to all. We tipped our waiter $50 extra because it was such a special night.
The first show we saw was a "tickler" -- a little of everything wonderful to expect.... and it proved to be true because all the shows were really wonderful. We especially loved the ship's singers and dancers -- they were absolutely fantastic and most of them should be on broadway. Makes you wonder what kind of talent it takes to really become famous since all these kids were outstanding. The only show we really didn't care for was the comedy night -- but I heard a lot of people laughing so someone must have liked it!
Our first port was Princess Cays and that was pretty standard. Beach time; always drinks; on their private island. Not much to do if you didn't want to drink, eat or sunbath. We didn't stay all day but had fun.
We finally met our tablemates at Boticellis that night. A wonderful lady traveling alone from Washington, Delores; a very special cute couple from Texas, Avi and Carolyn; and two other people who we never saw after meeting them that night! I kept thinking I had offended them in some way, but I guess they didn't like the early dining. Anyway, every night we had a lot of fun and great conversation at dinnertime. (I never drank so much wine in my whole life)! Our Waiter and assistant waiter were really excellent and took great care of us.
The second port was Grand Cayman and that was a lot of fun. We opted to walk around town -- my husband is a banker and we wanted to see the banks (but they weren't really exciting -- like in the Firm).... There really was not much to see in the City so we went shopping and I bought some silver jewelry. The prices are excellent. The water there is absolutely beautiful - but wait until I get to Cozumel!
We couldn't get off the ship in Costa Maya because of swells, but if we had to lose a port, that's the one to lose. I understand it is a new port and not very developed (in other words, not really ready for all these tourists!) Most of the attraction is the ruins and I'm not really into that.
Cozumel was our favorite port, as I'm sure it is for almost everyone taking this trip. You could really feel the excitement building in the air as we got closer to port -- literally everyone (including crew) wanted to get to that city -- partly because of the excellent reviews and instructions given by Elizabeth, the tour/shopping person. She was really full of great info and fully prepared everyone for their trip into the city.
We rented a jeep from Budget for $85 (including ins.) and used it to travel around the island. We couldn't believe the ocean... it was 4-5 shades of blue and some of the most beautiful water I've ever seen. We took a lot of pictures. We found out that nobody lives on that side of the island because there isn't any electricity there! Too bad, because it is so beautiful... we also drove into the city but frankly, it's a little scary driving there because the streets are so narrow and people really don't stop at the stop signs! The gas prices are $2 gallon and tax is 10%! We don't know how good we have it!!
We didn't keep the jeep even half the time and wished we had friends to split the cost with. But all in all, it still was worth it to see that part of the island. The people are so nice and even though they're a little pushy in the shopping district, it's really not in an agressive way. We stuck to the instructions from Elizabeth and went to the shops on the ship's list and didn't have any trouble. We purchased a watch for my husband and got about a $500 discount on it. Pretty good....
We really loved Cozumel and the people... We made the mistake of going to Carlos and Charlies (msp?) for a marguerita and WARNING -- don't go there unless you are prepared for a frat party atmosphere where everyone is drunk and dancing on the tables....!! Our two margueritas cost almost $20! It's really a tourist trap....
Sadly, we had to leave that port and head back to Ft. Lauderdale.
That night we went to the Painted Desert for dinner - that is something I wouldn't do if I had it to do over.... it was not very good and cost us each $15= $30 extra. But we met some nice people that night so all was not lost. Have I said that every night there was a fantastic show after dinner?! The cruise staff also entertained with extra shows such as a sock hop, island night, etc. which were so much fun! I can't say enough about the cruise director and his staff!! So much energy!! You couldn't help to have a blast around them! The cruise director is exceptionally talented but I would have liked to have a time where we could meet him and his staff and connect a little more personally. The way it was really kept us at arm's length and there's probably a reason for that , but I like to meet people. It would have been a nice touch. (They're probably so sick of people by the end of the cruise they just want to get away from us for a few hours!!)the night they held the island (tropical) party was such a blast. The kids working for the cruise director went through the crowds getting volunteers to do stupid things on stage, etc. and Graham gave a sort of "rock concert" (didn't know he could sing...) it doesn't seem fair that these people (including the ship's dancers and singers) have so much talent... they can't just do one thing, they do it all!!
Finally, I want to say that this review only scratches the surface of our cruise experience... it's written to give you an idea of what a great time you'll have if you go on this cruise. There was a lot of negativity about going on a megaship, but I have to say they did an impressive job of feeding, entertaining and generally doting on you and it never felt a bit impersonal to me. In fact, I probably like it better than a small ship because there are more places to go and more things to do. As with all things, it wasn't completely perfect, but came really close. As my friend Judy S. says, cruising is your best vacation dollar!! I'd go again on the Grand princess and am already planning a cruise to Hawaii!!