Fabulous, Fabulous and did I mention... FABULOUS.
This was my second cruise. The first was on the Star Princess in September of 2003. Seeing that they were sister ships (and because the cost was very low) I felt comfortable booking the Grand. My first cruise I traveled alone (hence the screen name) but a good friend of long standing and I decided we could tolerate each other for a week and she agreed to travel with me.
Pre-cruise: I arrived in Ft. Lauderdale and stayed at the airport Hampton Inn. My friend had flight delays and got there much later than she expected. The hotel was sold out but not overly crowded, clean and the staff was friendly. We took a hotel shuttle to the port and that was a smooth operation.
Embarkation: So easy that I'm convinced Princess should give seminars on registration to hotels, conventions, and theme parks. We handed off the big luggage to porters at 11am, got through the lines and security and were onboard by noon. We dropped off carry-ons and headed to the dining room for lunch, avoiding the zoo that is the buffet the first day. Unpacked carry-ons, explored the ship, participated in the muster drill and met some online acquaintances for drinks. Sailed away to a setting sun and the sound of airhorns and whistles from the shore.
Cabin: Category II Inside cabin, Aloha 411. Roomy closets, sufficient drawer space for 1.5 persons. I brought a closet organizer made of canvas that encircled the closet pole and fastened with velcro. This was a helpful gadget and I stored the bulk of my folded clothes in it. ($10 walmart) With the beds in the two singles configuration there was ample room to move around. Yes the bathroom is small but certainly big enough for all intended purposes. Even with two women, one could shower while the other did her hair or applied makeup at the dressing table. One trick I've used successfully on both cruises was to attach a goodly number of wooden clothes pins to the bottom of the cloth shower curtain. This will keep it from blowing in on you while you shower.
Public areas: Spotlessly clean, decorated with great style. They were rarely crowded even though the ship was sold out with 2600+ passengers. Dining rooms for Anytime Dining were seldom at capacity and the longest wait we had for a table (sharing with others) was 5 minutes. Pools were very crowded on sea days with the exception of the aft pool. Buffet area and tables along the sides of the ships near the pools were always clean and well serviced. Yes, there were early chair reservers at the pools. But I saw some things moved from chairs that hadn't been occupied for an hour by members of the staff. Casino was very smoky but I smoke so it wasn't a problem. Theaters had great sight lines and good pre-show bar service.
Service: Dining room service was exceptional. Friendly and professional wait staff. Our cabin was scrupulously cleaned and our rare requests were met speedily. Room service was fast and friendly. Bar service ran from good (showrooms) to excellent (lounges).
Entertainment: I had seen most of the same shows on my previous cruise but the performers were talented and very enthusiastic. Movies that were offered were very current.
Shore Excursions: Princess Cays was the best beach stop we had. The staff there made the private island a great day for all. By comparison, Uvero Beach Break at the port of Costa Maya was a not to be repeated trip. The beach was cramped, the drinks from the open bar watered down and the staff repeated how they wanted to be of service because they were anxious for tips. As we boarded the bus to return to the ship, one of the staff members stood by the door of the bus with a huge jar marked tips and said if you like us you will tip us. As I said, not to be repeated. The tour of Grand Cayman was an excellent way to get acquainted with this paradise. The Atlantis Submarine tour was incredible.
Food: The food was all delicious and beautifully presented. We ate some meals in the dining rooms and some in the buffet (don't forget the pizza grill). Food quality never wavered. One note - the Princess Love Boat Dream on the first night was wonderful... I also had it at the farewell dinner and it tasted like rubber. Perhaps the gelatin had set up way too much by the final meal.
We had a marvelous time and we will both sail Princess again. Now comes the unpacking, laundering and researching for the NEXT cruise.
Grand, 2/8/04 Star, 8/30/03