I recently took the September 21, 2003 western Caribbean sailing of the Grand Princess from Port Everglades. Florida. I have been an avid cruiser, sailing on cruises since the age of two. I have cruised on approximately eighty (80) cruises during the past forty years.
Embarkation: Embarkation was trouble free and easy, just as I had expected. As a Princess Platinum Captain's Circle member I had a short fifteen minute wait to complete the embarkation procedure. I then boarded the Grand after having my photo taken by the smiling shipboard photographer (utilizing a digital camera).
Once on board I had my photo taken and my cruise card was swiped with my digital photo encoded on the card. I then was led to a bank of elevators manned by Princess Cruise staff who directed us to our decks. Once we reached our decks we found our cabins and settled in. My first impression was the small size of the cabin, compared to my other experiences on Celebrity and Carnival. The cabin was smartly decorated in warm colors highlighted by light colored wood tones. The cabin was approximately 220 sq. feet including the balcony. The balcony area was covered by a rubber mat, not with teak as I had expected. It was furnished with two plastic deck chairs and a small table.
The cabin itself had a small refrigerator, T.V., and a small closet lacking a door or curtain. The cabin lacked drawer space, but utilized an efficient use of space for walking.
The television programming included Discovery Channel, CNN, MSNBC and ESPN. It also included recently premiered movies and Princess in-house programming.
My first impression after boarding the ship was the immensity of the vessel. It was larger than I had expected, or even dreamed of. I noticed a lack of stairs, especially in the center of the vessel. The middle bank of elevators was busy most of the cruise as a result of a lack of stairs supplementing the elevators.
After taking a tour of the vessel I had the following observations: 1) The main theater was perfectly designed with incredible sightlines 2) The Painted Desert A La Carte Restaurant was extremely underused during our cruise 3) The Vista Lounge was designed with insufficient seating for the large capacity of the vessel. 4) The center atrium was designed to create a small ship feel on a large vessel. 5) The Horizon Court area did not accommodate the large number of passengers on the vessel during the embarkation lunch. 6) Skywalkers NightClub has to be one of the most impressive discos at sea. 7) The pool areas on the ship are well designed and provide a relaxing environment for the sun worshipper.
I found the vessel to offer a myriad of options for the novice and well traveled cruiser. The Grand Princess is a beautiful vessel that incorporates Personal Choice Dinning and alternative dinning options. Sabatini's, the Italian A La Carte Restaurant provides a wonderful dinning option for those passengers that desire a "gourmet" eating extravaganza. The service, ambience and food merit the $20.00 service charge. Make sure that you order one of the Chianti wines that are available.
I traveled on the cruise with my wife, daughter, parents and other extended family members. My daughter is five years of age and she was anxious to participate in the Princess Children's program. We immediately signed her up for the Princess Pelican's (ages 3-6). We were fortunate that there were not too many children on our cruise. My daughter enjoyed the counselor to child ratio of almost six to one. She also enjoyed the nightly movies shown in the playroom and the nightly pizza parties. My daughter enjoyed herself so much in the program that she was sad to leave the vessel on Sunday. She still talks about returning on a Princess cruise so that she can participate in the Children's program.
Food: Well, we have cruised on Celebrity so we had high expectations for the cuisine on board. If you like pasta you will be in heaven on board this vessel. The food is for the most part very good. We also were very skeptical on the service that we would receive in the dinning room with personal choice dinning. We were pleasantly surprised to discover that the service was spectacular, even with different waiters every evening.
Entertainment: Professional, fast moving and high tech. The hardware is expertly utilized by the choreographers. The sound system, moving stages and scenery is Broadway quality. I enjoyed every show and kept begging for more. My hats off to Princess for a top rate entertainment product.
I enjoyed my cruise and the longer I spent on the vessel the more comfortable I felt. If you want a cruise product that offers non-stop activities and dinning flexibility chose the Grand Princess. I know that I will again.