Occupation:stay home mom
Number of Cruises: 1
Cruise Line: Princess
Ship: Grand Princess
Sailing Date: August 24th, 2004
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
My husband (an engineer) and I (stay home mom) took this cruise with our two children, ages 13 and 7, out of Fort Lauderdale. It was the first cruise any of us had ever taken. We flew in the night before from Los Angeles because we were worried about the reviews we had read saying some people missed their cruises because they were delayed somewhere along the travel route. Though it was one more night of accommodations, it was much less stressful. We booked our cruise through Vacationstogo.com and found them to be helpful and fairly knowledgeable about the cruise process. I would definitely use them again.
The embarkation process went very smoothly. We had filled out all our paperwork ahead of time and everything went like clockwork. It was amazing how fast they could process so many people and we were on the ship within about 15 minutes. Of course, because it was our first cruise, we were amazed with every step we took. The beauty and grandness of the ship was awe-inspiring and held our attention as we boarded. I am not sure if the process would seem so fun the second time around but we were not impatient with the boarding process at all.
Once on the ship, we found our rooms. We had booked an inside cabin for our children directly across the hall from our room which was an outside cabin with a balcony. Supposedly you can put four people in a room but for about $100.00 more per child, we were able to book them a separate room and were very happy with this decision. We highly recommend getting a balcony if you can. We sat out on the balcony at night sipping wine and enjoying the warm ocean breeze. I had wanted to surprise our children with a Princess Bear on their pillows when they walked in and to surprise my husband with wine and chocolate covered strawberries when we walked into our room. You can purchase these items out of the Princess Brochure that is sent to you ahead of time before the cruise but none of these items ended up in our room before we got there so I was slightly disappointed. They eventually delivered our wine and strawberries to us later in the day, after I had inquired about it, and we had to go to the gift shop to pick up the Princess Bears for the kids. Oh well. The rooms were very adequate for all of us. The shower/bathroom was much better than I expected. I had read about bringing a hanging closet organizer with many pockets in which to store bathroom items and I do recommend doing this. It really helps with the clutter. The room service was very good. Our steward was very attentive, no complaints. On our ship, they had a self- serve laundry area pretty close to our room and though I didn’t want to and hadn’t planned on it, I did end up doing a load or two. It was pretty easy, had no problems getting into the machines and finishing within a reasonable amount of time.
The buffet area had a good selection and is open all day and night. The kids really enjoyed being able to go in at any time and get food and drinks. We had to pay separately for cokes, but they had milk, coffee, juices, and water to choose from. We decided to do the traditional seating for dinner and ended up being very happy with this decision. It seemed strange at first to sit with other people at your table but for the first few nights it was just our family at the table. Half way during the cruise we had another family of three join us. It was fun to get to know them and to see them later on the cruise and say hi. But more importantly we enjoyed the service we received at the traditional seating. My son was too little for the chairs so he needed a cushion. Every night when he pulled his chair out to sit down, they already had the cushion there. The waiter would entertain us with riddles we had to solve during dinner and one was so difficult that he gave us 24 hours to try to solve it. Nice that we could come back to the same waiter for the answer! The food was very good and there was always something for everyone and as much as you wanted. Just ask and they will bring it to you. Some people on the cruise chose the alternative dining and we saw them waiting in long lines to try to get a table. We walked right in at our dinnertime and sat right down at our table, no waiting. We did not seem to have a problem with getting back to the ship on time to get to our table. We did choose the late dining option, though, to insure this. And, since the kids can eat all day, we never seemed to have a problem with them being too hungry before the 8:30 time slot. We did try the separate Italian Restaurant one night and we were very pleased with that experience too. It was worth the extra money.
Every step of the way, there seems to be someone taking your picture. We had fun every day looking for the photos they had taken of us. You are not obligated to buy any of them but we bought a few and, once home, I am glad we did. There is so much to do on the ship that we were never bored. We saw the comedians, learned to cha-cha, went to the disco bar, used the fitness center, and did a lot of swimming and relaxing by the pool. They have a teen center, perfect for my oldest child and she met a lot of kids and had a good time connecting with them during the cruise. My son is a little shier and didn’t want to go to the kid’s program alone, so he hung out with us most of the time. But the program looked fun and interesting. Every night you get a newspaper outside your room that tells you what will be happening on the ship the next day so you can plan what you want to do.
I really enjoyed the itinerary on this cruise. First, we went to the Princess Cays, which is a beach that Princess owns. They provided food on the beach and the water was beautiful. The ship anchors just off shore and swimming at the beach while looking at the ship was very picturesque. Next, we went to the Grand Cayman. We took a tour around the island and signed up for the Stingray snorkeling tour. I think that was the best part of the whole trip. I was a little nervous about getting into the water with stingrays, and yes, they are real stingrays, but it was awesome! The kids were blown away, too, and weren’t as frightened as we thought they were going to be. We also went to Costa Maya where we took a Mayan Ruins tour. It was a great tour and very educational for the kids. The last thing we did was to visit Cozumel. That day was a huge tropical storm and we were rained out, however, they did not cancel our trip to the Water Park on the mainland and they really should have cancelled it and given us our money back. All we could do for $400.00 was sit in the restaurant and wait out the storm (which never disappeared while we were there). So that was a bust, but the rest of the excursions were wonderful. We booked all of our excursions through Princess and even though you can probably save some money booking them individually, I think we preferred the peace of mind that comes with booking with Princess.
There was a night or two at sea that my husband and kids felt a bit queasy. My husband felt queasy enough to end up in the gift shop buying wrist-bands for seasickness. He claims that they helped him feel better. I gave the non-drowsy Dramamine to the kids and they were fine with that. The ocean was not rough, however, it was when the boat was going fast that my family felt the movement the most. For most of the trip, though, the ride was smooth.
Went very smoothly. We did wake up fairly early to get breakfast and then ended up waiting for some time before our group was called to exit. We could have gone a little more leisurely. You will need to put most of the luggage out the night before, keeping only the necessities to get dressed in the morning. We put our luggage out pretty late, thinking it might have been too late, but they got it, no problem. We were definitely sorry to go. It was a great trip. We don’t have anything bad to say about Princess cruising. We would definitely choose Princess again. On a scale of 1-10, I would rate our experience a 10.