Princess Cruises - Cruisemates Reader's Cruise Reviews
CruiseMates' Readers Cruise Reviews
Princess Cruises

Grand Princess
by Jack Holt
Western Caribbean
November 13, 2004

Itinerary

Galveston:The Port of Galveston has not developed the Cruise terminal embarkation facilities that have been promised. The terminal building is haphazard and crowded. Local parking lots are available on Santa Fe street for $45 for seven days. Your local travel agent can get you coupons. Shuttle bus is provided by the lot. The company we used was "E-Z Cruise Parking".

At Sea: The Seas were relatively calm throughout the trip. Short periods of a small amount of rolling but very slight.

Belize Belize is a small costal town with narrow streets and a shallow port. (ships have to anchor out) Passengers go ashore via launch boat. Prices are reasonable.

Costa Maya: This is a picturesque and beautiful coastal stop. Shop at the port. Town is $5 away by Taxi. When you return to the ship the "Mexicans" will not allow you to just walk down the dock to your ship. You have to pass through an I.D. check where they want to see your ship pass card and a picture I.D. then you must walk through their shopping mall building, which is very well stocked, before you return to your ship.

Grand Cayman: The Cayman Islands are highly over rated. Everything is sky high in cost and there are no good eating or relaxation restaurants along the shopping quarter downtown area. We went out on the glass bottom boat to see the reefs everyone is bragging about. The reefs are dead and lifeless, all brown and covered with pollution. this place is a dud.

Cozumel: Cozumel is a beautiful little island with lots to offer. The ship docked about 5 miles from the main downtown shopping area. We rented a two seater motor bike across from the terminal for 2 hours for $20. Then we rode all over and had fun.

At Sea:

Galveston:

The Ship
This ship shows a lot of wear. The claim that it was put into service in 1998 may or may not be true, but for just six years of service the ship needs attention. The carpets and all the surfaces show a lot of wear. The bright work in the elevators, theaters, rest rooms and lounges show salt tarnish from finger prints and general use. Some marble and glass floors are scarred, cracked and damaged from use and abuse. This ship is tremendously large and for the first few days you stay continuously lost and turned around. The main areas are on decks 5,6 and 7 amidships fully enclosed with no atrium, just a staircase. The elevators are slow and sluggish although there are lots of them. In every elevator lobby you are constantly confused as to where you are because the lobbies are not well marked. They all look the same whether you are in the "Forward", "Midships" or "Aft, Stern" lobby with one small sign on the wall telling you which floor you are on but not where you are located and all the print is small and hard to read. The paint on the exterior is beginning to peel and flake off at many locations. You can tell the management is not putting very much into maintenance. The "Cruise Director" was a big mouth blow hard with a strong British accent by the name of "Tim Donovan". This guy yells and hollers over all the load speakers like a raging bore daily telling passengers where to spend their money. The Bingo games are the biggest rip off game you've ever seen. 200 people in a theater paying 20 to 25 dollars a piece for bingo cards to have fun. They take in 4 to 5 thousand a session and give away $500 in prizes.

Embarkation
This ship is as long as 3 football fields and holds 3000 passengers.(950 feet) The terminal was a madhouse with snaking lines of people for over an hour to get aboard. What an experience! If you don't like crowds your not going to like this. It is the Carnival Cruise Lines policy to add $10 per day per person to your room bill as a gratuity rip off as if you didn't have enough sense to do your own tipping. Therefore before you board they want you to give them a credit card number to bill your account so you can't refuse to pay this form of extortion. I chose the "Cash" option and refused to give them my credit card number.

The Cabin
Generally, rooms on a large ship are spacious and accommodating. Our room was an inside cabin and was large enough to be fairly comfortable. The mattresses for the queen size bed (two singles put together with a crack in the middle) were worn and marginal. Some large heavy person must have had mine because there was a large indentation in the middle of mine. The other mattress was normal. There were only two movie channels on the TV. The ships movie channel and the satellite channel "TNT". The satellite tracking system was sluggish and about every two seconds the screen would trash out and come back in two seconds later. This was continuous throughout the voyage. The ships movie channel was clear at all times but there was only one clear movie channel. All other channels were shopping or informational. They had CNN international news but it also had the same sat tracking problem.

After Boarding
After you arrive at your room a fire drill is immediately scheduled and it is mandatory for you to attend. This is for your personal knowledge and safety but the bad part is you have to stand in place and listen for a half hour to a pre-recorded "Captain's Message" in his broken English of redundant information and boring pointless sentences of things that you really don't need to know. There is only three things a person needs to know. #1. The whistle signal for life boat muster. #2. How to put on your life jacket. #3. Where your muster station is located. All other activities are supervised by the crew and officers.

Dining Rooms
There are 3 main dining rooms (all Italian menus) The "Boticelli" on deck 6 aft. The "DaVinci" on deck 6 midship. And the "Michelangelo" on deck 5 midship. Also, two other (in house) restaurants, the "Painted Desert Steakhouse" and "Sabatini's" (Italian) where you pay $15 per plate plus a 15% gratuity ($2.25) in order to eat at their tables. The "Boticelli" is a stuff shirt totally enclosed Italian. Most of the time you can't understand anything the hired help says to you so you can only guess. The "Davinci" had a few windows mostly all covered and had the atmosphere of a New York restaurant with over crowding and waiters moving all around you with dishes banging and silverware rattling, it is far from a relaxing experience. I know a lot of restaurants where you can have a nice meal for $17.25 a plate and be treated as if they appreciate your business. There is no dinner entertainment or music in the dining rooms. Just noise.

Food/Service
Carnival has cheap company policies that you will experience on all Carnival owned ships. Only water is served on dining tables and all the water smells like bleach. When I complained that my water smelled like bleach the waiter said, "We have to sanitize the water. All the water smells like that." Iced Tea is never put on the table, you have to ask for it after all the table hawks come around to prod you into ordering wine or something from the bar. If you ask for Iced Tea they bring it to you in a small little 6oz glass full of ice with lemon. Lime is not available. Carnival Corporation orders things in bulk because they are cheap. There is no individually wrapped butter. All butter is served in small pats in a small silver bowl coved with crushed ice along with all the cold stale hard bread they serve at all meals except breakfast. All the kitchen staff has been handling your butter before you get it including what they have taken off other tables. There is never any warm fresh bread served. The same goes for the jellies and jams at breakfast. These are bought in bulk, dispensed in small demitasse ceramic cups. A waiter will come around with different flavors on a tray and ask who wants jams or jellies. They are never put on the tables and never served as individual sealed portions. Syrup is only portioned out as one small serving pitcher per table of eight. This is disgustingly cheap service. It doesn't surprise me why they have outbreaks of onboard viruses spreading from crew member to passengers and vise-a-versa. In all the time I was aboard, I was not served one outstanding or remarkable meal. All the menus are cock full of cheap pasta and cheap meals. The food is bland and under cooked. All vegetables are served in small portions (six strips of carrot, 3 brussel sprouts, ect.) and always blanched and half cooked with no spices. I ate things such as "Green Pea Soup", "Red Bean Soup", "Cream of Chicken Soup". There was not one decent seafood entrée served during the entire trip. On the second day lunch I ate "Red Snapper". The fish was dark and oily on the inside and brown on the underside. That afternoon I came down with food poisoning, stomach cramps until I was hollering with diarrhea in my stateroom. I called the pursers desk and told them what happen and asked if they could send some coke-a-cola to my room. They acted unconcerned and removed from the situation and I was told "I can connect you with room service!". So I soon learned that to Carnival Corporation you're not a person, you're just another buck.

Bars
There are an abundance of bars onboard. If you ask for a mixed drink such as a "Rum and Coke" it is served to you in a small 6oz glass full of ice with about 1/2oz of rum and fountain coke. After about two or three sips it's done. For this privilege you pay them $3.90 plus $.59 (15% gratuity fee) for a grand total of $4.49 for a super small Rum and Coke. Do you know any local bars that treat you like this?

The Squeeze
On the second day in the afternoon when we arrived at Belize we found two letters on our stateroom door. (one to my wife and one to me) telling us that since I did not register a credit card with the pursers office, they wanted me and my wife to deposit with them "a minimum cash deposit of $300.00 per person by the end of the day today!" in order to settle our bill at departure. Why didn't they just come to the room, put a gun to our head and say "give us $600 or we'll throw you off the ship!" They just wanted to insure that all their gratuity rip offs were paid at the end of the voyage. Carnival Company policy of course. I ignored all their threats and when I arrived back at Galveston I had a total of $25 in onboard charges. I called the pursers office and asked them to send a final bill to my room. They refused, they said they don't have personnel to deliver bills. They said I would have to come to the pursers desk. I went to the pursers desk. My bill was $240.00. The travel agent had paid a $100 ship board credit to my account in appreciation of my business, so the balance was $140.00. $25 worth of on board charges and $215.00 worth of tacked on gratuities thanks to Carnival Corporation. I paid the $140.00 in cash but I will never be high jacked on the high seas by Carnival Corporation again, period.

Disembarkation
The night before the ship sent printed material to our rooms stating that we need to be ready to disembark from the "Explorers Lounge" and out of our rooms by 7:30 a.m. Do you know any hotels that tell you to be out of your room by 7:30 a.m.? We complied. We sat around the ship for 3 hours waiting to be called to exit the gangway. All 3000 people had to be cleared by customs before they would let anybody off. So at 10:30 that morning we were finally invited to exit the gangway. What an ordeal for everyone on board.

Recommendation
If you choose to sail on any Carnival Ship, Beware! Carnival Cruise Lines, Princess Cruise Lines, Holland America, Seabourn Cruise Line, Windstar Cruises, Costa Cruises, or the Cunard Line will all treat you in this manner. Go sail with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. You'll like it a whole lot better. Bring bottled water aboard with you. Buy bottled water at every port as needed. Buy cokes and soft drinks ashore. If you go to the theater take a coke with you.