We just returned from a fabulous cruise aboard the Grand Princess, sailing Nov 3 - 10. There were four of us in two cabins, my friend, Cindy, and myself, and my sister, Debbie, and brother-in-law, Larry. We departed early Sunday morning and arrived in Ft. Lauderdale shortly after 1pm. Thankfully, all of our luggage arrived with us. Cindy said, "We're here, we can start having fun and relax!" I told her I would relax when I saw all my bags. I am always phobic about losing luggage, but was greatly relieved when all our bags made it. Took a cab to the port for $10.00, made a stop at the Publix for water and sodas on the way.
Embarkation: We had express check-in, and it took less than 5 minutes. Then we were directed to our cabin by very courteous staff.
Cabin: We were on the Dolphin deck, near the rear elevators, port side, cabin D630; my sister and B- I-L were in D632. These are categorized as mini- suites, with a separate sitting area and a large balcony. The balcony was completely open, with no cover at all. The sun was very hot, but in the shade it was very comfortable out there. We spent little time on the balcony because of decks above us looking down on us. We opened the small door separating the balconies so we could go back and forth without going out in the hall. The sitting area was very comfortable and a great place to get everyone together to plan our activities without feeling crowded or use the bed for seating. The closet was enormous; the bath was small, but larger than others I've used. William, our cabin steward, introduced himself and did a wonderful job the entire week. We met up with Debbie and Larry and headed up to the Horizon Court for a quick lunch before our Cruise Critic social at the Oasis Bar.
Cruise Critic social: We attended a wonderful "meet-and-greet" social with about 25 people who answered the roll call on the Cruise Critic message boards. Thanks to Yevon and Butch Prater for organizing and making clever nametags. Thanks, also, to Scott Proctor, who posted pictures on a page so all could get a glimpse of other passengers before we sailed. There was a group of about 14 who met for dinner each evening. We also went on some excursions together. Thanks to Jack Myers, who made our dinner reservations each evening.
Dining Room: We chose Personal Choice dining and had dinner in the Michelangelo dining room with our CC friends at 6:30 each evening. Since there was 14 in our group we sat at two tables and rotated dinner companions each evening. Our waiter and assistant waiter, who both were named Carlos, were competent and accurate servers, but did not converse very much. The food was very good, but not spectacular. One evening there were only 10 of us, so we sat a one large table. Our waiter, Constantine, was VERY slow; consequently, we spent 2 hours and 35 minutes at dinner, which was ridiculously long.
Room Service: We ordered coffee and juice every morning using the card placed on the door the night before. I had no complaints, but Debbie and Larry's coffee was cold one morning.
Entertainment: We caught the end of the show of one of the comedians. Wish we had stayed in the casino. The hypnotist was entertaining and I went to the show mainly to satisfy my curiosity. There were many good comments about his first show, so we attended his second show. We saw the culinary demonstration by the chief chef, and the tour of the galley. It is difficult to imagine the large quantities of food being prepared every day. Princess Cays: We tendered into this port, and spent the morning sitting on the beach under a cabana watching the world go by. The water was very calm and the shore very rocky. There were several quaint gift shops and some local vendors beyond the back fence. We briefly scoped them out, had lunch on the island, then headed back to the ship for a nap.
Grand Cayman: We and several couples from the CC board booked a private Stingray City and snorkel tour with Nativeway Watersports. I had read many glowing testimonials about Capt. Marvin's, but chose Nativeway for three reasons: they did not require a deposit in advance; their boat had easy access into the water; and they provided transportation from the tender dock to their vessel and back to town. The crew was extremely professional and helped all who wanted to hold and feed the stingrays. The coral reef we snorkeled was the best I have ever done. After the tour we were dropped off in the shopping district; we looked around in a few of the shops, then headed back to the ship for lunch and a nap.
Costa Maya: I had read numerous comments about this port, and I had absolutely no expectations at all. There were some new excursions here that weren't printed in the excursion booklet. I persuaded Cindy to take the ship's catamaran snorkel tour, just to give us something to do for a few hours. We met at the end of the very long pier and rode a nice bus to the catamaran. We drove through the fishing village-very primitive. The catamaran was very nice, and the captain, Pepe, had a good sense of humor. He and the rest of the crew were very helpful. The snorkeling, however, was less than ideal. There was a strong current and very choppy. The coral reef was impressive, but not many fish. Moreover, it was overcast and at one point rained for about 10 minutes. There were two crewmembers in the water and one in a dinghy at all times. I would recommend this tour only for strong swimmers. We then checked out the shops, and watched the Mexican dance show before heading back to the ship for lunch and a nap.
Cozumel: We decided to venture out on our own and took a cab to Chankanaab National Park. We spent an enjoyable few hours there, saw the sea lion show, had our picture made with the tropical birds, watched the dolphin swimmers, and strolled through the archeological and botanical gardens. Took a cab back to town, walked around the shops, then headed back to the ship for lunch and a nap.
Disembarkation: Princess handled this task very well. Customs and Immigration checks were done in the terminal and we were off the ship by 9:00.We rode the Dollar Rent-a-Car van to the airport, where we picked up a rental car and drove up to West Palm Beach for our departing flight. Overall, we had an enjoyable cruise and look forward to another Princess cruise in the future.