by Bob McGorkic
February 4, 2006
You may have heard about the "mishap" on the Grand Princess on Feb. 4, 2006. I will talk about that later. Please allow me to give you a review of this cruise as though it had not happened. There was the problem on the first day and the one due to weather on the last day. Bottom line, except for the first two hours and the last three hours it was a good cruise for us. But I realize that others will not be able to say the same.
I might be comparing this cruise to two others. Rhapsody of the Seas (RCI) and Elation (Carnival).
Parking - Went very well. Used EZ Cruise Parking. Would certainly use them again. We have used both the Dolphin lot and the Port Authority lot. I would not recommend either of these two.
Embarkation - Smooth and quick. Less than 30 minutes from time we entered terminal to being on the ship and in our cabin.
Ship - Very nice. Deck 7 has several nice show lounges and venues. Beautiful "Skywalkers" disco. Dining room very spacious. Some dining rooms (Elation) feel cramped and dark. The Princess Theater is very nice. It seats over 900 and there is hardly a bad seat in the house. The main theater on Elation is terrible.
Entertainment - Excellent! The Magician, Juggler, Comics, & Musicians offered excellent entertainment. The magician does a close up show, in the atrium, on the last day of the show. This is not to be missed. But I could say the same for the juggler and the comics.
Food - Very good. You might be able to find better food but it would not be easy. When we compare the food to Elation - well there is no comparison. The food on Grand Princess was many times better. We chose the "Any Time Dining" experience. This was really different for us. But, I must say, it worked really well. All of the waiters were helpful and friendly.
Crew - Always Friendly. Always helpful.
Ports - What can I say? Ports are ports. But we really love Belize. If you go to Belize, do not book an excursion from the ship unless you just happen to want one of the really special things. If you want to see the Baboon Reserve of just take a tour of the city, etc. hire a driver from the Belize Tour Guides Assn. Do not get a "taxi". Anyone with a car can have a taxi. To be a licensed tour guide you have to be trained and licensed from the government. They are great! You will also save money. You can find them on the dock. They will have ID cards around their necks and will take you to a small building where they will write up the charges. You will see a sign over this that says "Tour Guide Assn". We have done this twice now.
Disembarking - This did NOT go great. Problems, beyond the control of the ship probably caused many people to miss flights. The ship was supposed to dock at 0600. Customs was supposed to clear the ship for passengers to leave by 0830. At 0700 the Captain came on the PA and informed us that the winds were over 70 knots (80mph). This is beyond what the ship can maneuver in. He informed us that we would have to wait for the winds to die down to less than 50 kts and then wait for four tugs to take us in. If you looked you saw dozens of ships anchored around us because they could not go into the ship channel as well. It was 0830 before we docked. The original plan was for the bags to be offloaded and Customs was going to take 2.5 hours to let people off the ship. They must have sped things up because by about 10:00 people were being let off. Because we did not have air connections and we were in less expensive cabins, we had expected to be let off by 11:00 if the delay had not happened. They called our color at 11:58. By about 12:30 we were out of the terminal and before 1:00 we were on the way home. Unfortunately a highway warning sign told us that I-45 was shut down just south of Houston due to a major accident. It took us 2.5 hours to drive from just south of Houston to just north of downtown. I am sure that many of those trying to make flights were not able to do so. It was a nightmare but I can‚?Tt say that this was the cruise‚?Ts fault. The problems with getting off the ship were compounded by all the people who were trying to get on. Because we were not off, there was no place for them to park and the shuttles that were supposed to be picking up passengers at the airport were stuck trying to get people there.
But that is not the big story.
We sailed at 4:00 (1600)
We were in our stateroom, having just returned from the required muster drill, when we perceived that the ship was turning. I commented on it to my wife. She called me to see that the drawers on our dresser were coming open. Having sailed on several other cruises and not seeing this before, I said, "That's new."
The ship continued to turn and a moment later items on our dresser began to slide off. I began hearing groaning sounds from the ship and crashing noises from outside our cabin.
This is where I joked, "Have we hit an iceberg?"
Looking out of our cabin there were people in the hallway. Some were crying and wondering what had happened. The cabin steward was doing his best to control rolling carts and reassure passengers that everything was OK. He commented to me that "This is deck 5. The upper decks will have more movement."
A few moments later the Captain came on the PA and explained that he had to make an emergency turn in tight shipping lanes and return to Galveston because of a critically ill passenger. He also explained that the ship had heeled over more than expected but there was never any danger to the ship.
We left our cabin to find that the ship was in disarray and the crew was busy trying to pick up things. It seems that everything on the port side of the ship had tried to move to the starboard side.
Some people were a little panicked.
Here are some other facts or information we were told.
News report here: http://galvestondailynews.com/story.lasso?ewcd=8a3a7d0d4e5dc3d0
I know that some people have very valid complaints and concerns. I am sure that if my wife had been even slightly injured I would be very angry right now. But for us, and many other people we spoke with, the cruise was fun. If I could, I would go back on it tomorrow. I also know, that if it had been me or my loved one the captain was trying to save by the quick turn, I would consider him a hero. It probably just depends on who you are.