First of all, We had the pleasure of meeting 3 other couples from a posting on a message board that cruised with us on the Grand Princess. I strongly advise using message boards using their "Who's Cruising With Us" option. This allows you to post messages and receive replies with others who are on the same cruise as you are. The cruise would not have been the same without meeting our new found friends. It's a long review, But, If your going on the Grand Princess, You may find the info useful...
DAY 1 - Embarkation It's true...Princess HAS perfected embarkation procedures. They board you by deck assignment, NOT by the usual "1st come..1st serve" basis. We were on board, From terminal to stateroom in 10 minutes (not a misprint!) On past cruises, we waited 30-60 minutes to board. I suggest doing the pre-boarding at the princess website. This really expedited boarding. What a pleasure. Excellent planning Princess!!
DAY 2 - Princess Cays We dropped anchor and used the ships tenders to get to the island. WARNING.....If you are prone to sea sickness, Prepare yourself...this was a VERY rough ride to the beach. All in All...A VERY beautiful beach. They use their own ships tenders and not the contracted boats from the island. The island tenders handle the waters MUCH better.
DAY 3 - Sea Day/1st Formal Night I love the days at sea. On other ships I have been on, They use the ships main theatre for the Captain's reception. On the "Grand", they used the Atrium and had picture taking right in the area of the lifts (elevators) and it was difficult getting off the lifts due to the crowd.
DAY 4 - Grand Cayman I can only compare this wonderful island to Bermuda. We did the "Sea & see" tour (Turtle Farm) and the bus driver (Ivan) was funny and VERY friendly as was everyone we came in contact with on the island.
DAY 5 - Majahual(Costa Maya) Not bad, But not impressed. We did the Uvero Beach Break" tour here. It was very unorganized. We had a 12:45 time for the tour but found you could go whenever you wanted.They have an open bar and sell food. Stay away from the burgers...Don't know what kind of meat it was but it sure wasn't cow!! The buses returning to the ship later in the day ran every hour so plan accordingly. If one bus fills up, You have to stand in the sun for an hour for the next transfer to the ship. This was bad planning on the tours part...They should of had the buses running every 15 to 30 minutes.
DAY 6 - Cozumel This is one of my favorite Islands. We rented a Jeep at the terminal with one of the other couples we met on a message board and had a real BLAST!! Here we did the sun beach break. This was the best of all the beaches. Very clean & very organized. They have an Open Bar as part of the tour and have a $10 buffet that was worth the price. You MUST go to Senior Frogs in the middle of town. We stayed there for a few hours and had a really good time.
Day 7 - At Sea/2nd Formal Night The last day of a cruise is ALWAYS a somber one. The nights dinner included the "Baked Alaska On Parade" dessert.
Day 8 - Disembarkation Nicely done. They began calling groups at 8:20am and we were off the ship by 9:20am. I always hated sitting around waiting to get off on the other ships I have sailed on. Princess Cruises has this down to a science.
PRO's : The Ship was VERY beautiful. The itierary was very good. The ship handled rough waters VERY well. Sabitini's restaurant was excellent, just be prepared to eat for 2 hrs there. It was worth the $20 pp. You weren't inundated with PA announcements. There was always deck hands maintaining the ship. Our room steward (Bricchio) and our dining staff (Monika & Alex) were top notch. The slot machines were very loose and paid out alot. Also not what I had read in other reviews that stated that Princess doesn't pay out.
CON's: The other staff on the ship were VERY unpersonable. They were more patronizing then friendly. I didn't expect this on a Princess cruise that boasts "Were You Belong" as their trademark. The shows sumed up in 1 word....SUCKED!!! The theatre was TOO small and it was more like a High Schools show. We only went to 1 show and my wife fell asleep.I went to Snookers Lounge and had a cigar during the show. Much more pleasant than the show. We heard from others that the other shows were no better. Don't waste your time going to the shows. I'm sure you can find something else to do. The Food was good...But the Menu was VERY out of the norm of my previous cruises. I like the "Towel Animals" on our bed at night, This ship didn't do this. They just turned down the bed and put a chocolate on the pillow. Posting of restrooms on the ship were poor at best. By the time you found a restroom...your eyeballs were floating. Finding the restrooms on this ship is almost as important as the Muster drill!!! I had ordered some stateroom amenities (tray of canapes & tray of Shrimp cocktail) for embarkation day,,,it wasn't there. The baggage handlers at Ft.Lauderdale are thieves. Our friend had a Laptop with a DVD player and 12 movies stolen before it even got onboard.Pay close attention to what you check on and what you carry on. ALWAYS carry on anything of value.
All in All, I have not ever had a "BAD" cruise. I just feel that Princess did not live up to my expectations. Next time I think I'll go back to NCL. I haven't given up on Princess, they have alot to offer, they just need to do some fine tuning. As for the people that have posted reviews saying that the ship is becoming run-down, Let me put it to you this way....The ship sailed on her maiden voyage in 1998. Since then, there have been on average 2600 passengers per WEEK. People can be slobs and don't respect the beauty of a vessel such as the "Grand". There was always some type of cleaning or painting going on on the ship and taking into consideration what I stated above, She is a VERY beautiful vessel. We asked the staff and she is due for overhaul later this year when she relocates to do her Baltic sailings. Would I recommend this ship, YES to 1st time cruisers...NO to Veteran cruisers who have a habit of being too judgemental while comparing it to other ships. To the veterans, Wait till she is refurbished.