We just returned from the July 21 eastern Caribbean sailing of the Grand Princess. This was our 14th cruise, and our second on the Grand Princess. We were in Florida on other business and decided to take a break. We originally planned a five-day Carnival cruise, but discovered that the seven-day Princess cruise was less expensive.
Princess does a great job with passenger check-in. For the most part, it is fast and efficient. We booked a JJ category cabin and were not upgraded. We like inside cabins because they are so dark in the morning. We don't care for a balcony and are not willing to pay for something we probably won't use. This cabin was nice, standard fare.
The Grand Princess is still very nice; a bit worn in places, but age does that. It is elegantly appointed with much marble and wood.
Service: Throughout our cruising career, we have found that service has been about the same from ship to ship. We have sailed all the major cruise lines, including Cunard, and found that, with the occasional exception of a waiter or cabin steward, they are all trying to do a good job. Some people are better at what they do than others, and some people are nicer than others. We believe the quality of service depends on the individual server, not the cruise line's policy.
Entertainment: For the most part, we found the entertainment mediocre at best. We only went to one production show, since we had seen the same show last year. It was entertaining and similar to the 20 or 30 other shows we have seen. The comics were good, the comic juggler was OK. We were always entertained -- maybe not to the caliber of Broadway, but adequately. We were bothered by the use of movies as the main source of evening entertainment (We say "main" because they were in the main theater). The movies were OK, but not that new. There was always a selection of gambling, nightclub and lounge options.
The ship offers trivia games two or even three times a day. Since we are big trivia fans, this made us very happy. We met some wonderful people at Trivia, which greatly enhanced our trip. Princess should have a Trivia Theme Cruise. The mandatory art auction was held almost every day, Bingo about 10 times a day. What bothered me about Bingo was the size of the progressive jackpot ($2,200); they must have taken in 20 times that amount. I have seen jackpots as high as $6,000.
Food: This is our main area of interest, and the best basis for comparison to other cruises. This is one of the main reasons we like cruising, so here is where we will get picky. First, we wanted traditional early seating, but we were put on a waiting list of 155 people, and never got past 119. If so many people want Traditional, why don't they rethink their dining policy? We decided that if we did not get Traditional, we would try Personal Choice. We give Personal Choice mixed reviews. We like to meet new people, and feel that eating alone diminishes the cruise experience. Since we ate before 7 p.m. and were willing to sit with others, we didn't have to wait for a table. Only once at 8:15 did we have to wait 20 minutes.
Personal choice is OK, but we aren't sure we would do it again. The dining room food was just OK, the same menu as last year. We ate beef three times for lack of something else to order. The lobster was good, as were the escargots. Desserts were poor to average. We ate lunch in the dining room once. It was adequate.
We never had breakfast in the dining room. The Horizon Court Buffet is among the best we have ever seen on a cruise ship -- very good selection for all meals, and the food was comparable to the dining room. But there were a few problems that bothered us last year which have not been fixed: No Lemonade. No half-and-half for coffee (we had to ask the headwaiter, and he brought us whipping cream each morning, so we made our own half-and-half. No omelet station. If you like French toast, wait until you get home -- they brush the bread with egg, but it never gets inside. On the plus side, there was a great selection of fresh fruit, fresh bread and rolls. Smoked salmon (lox) was available at the buffet five of the seven days. They even had kippers one morning.
Ice Cream: A charge of $2-$4 for ice cream, even premium, is outrageous! All the other ships we have been on had free soft ice cream machines for all (RCCL had yogurt only, which was not worth eating). There was one new development this year: Each day from 3:30-4:30 p.m., they had a FREE "make your own sundae" in the Horizon Court. The pizza was good, and so was the hot dog, sausage and hamburger bar. Princess has stopped midnight buffets, apparently in the belief that since the Horizon Court Buffet is open 24 hours a day, they are no longer necessary. We feel that a Grand Buffet, with the ice carvings, fancy platters, bread figures etc. adds to the cruise experience and should be reinstated.
A word on pool towels: One towel per person is left in the cabin at night. No towels are available by the pools. This inconvenience is something we have not seen on any other ship. The pools were very nice, fresh water, open all night. We saw many children in the pools and hot tubs late at night. Speaking of children, there were many on board - and some of them needed but did not get proper supervision from their parents or whoever was in charge. Gym facilities were inadequate for a ship of this size.
Tipping: A charge of $10 per day (up from $6.50) is added to the cabin account for everyone, not just Personal Choice diners. This bothers us. You can go the purser to remove the charge, but that means you have to take an extra step to stop a tip. Next it will probably be added to your cruise fare as a service fee. We believe in tipping, but we also believe that a TIP (To Insure Promptness) should be earned.
Ports. We have been to the ports countless times. We stayed on board and played Trivia.
Granted some things we mention are not great problems. This review is only our opinion. Personally, we like to read "picky" reviews. by hearing the worst, we can better understand the entire picture. Overall, we met some great people and had a great time. As we get older, different things become more important.