Number of Cruises: 4
Cruise Line: Princess
Ship: Grand Princess
Sailing Date: November 26th, 2005
Itinerary: 7 Day Western Caribbean
First let me say that my husband and I love to cruise and have enjoyed each of our 4 cruises.
Embarkation was easy and quick. We had stayed at a Hotel in Galveston and parked our car there, took a taxi to the port for $7. Handed over our check on luggage and trundled off with our carry ons. The line was long but we were on the ship in less than a half hour.
We were in cabin Plaza 209, this was the first time we had been on so low a deck and also our first outside cabin. I tend to have motion sickness so we had always booked inside before. We had decided to try the outside cabin. I tried to purchase an upgrade when we realized we were in the bow area of the ship where motion is felt more. The ship was fully booked and all rooms were waitlisted. No luck there but our room was adequate and though the ship was rocking and rolling with the help of dramamine I managed to get my see legs. There was a lot of noise from the engines and the slap of the swells against the ship in our room and climate control was sketchy. The view out the window was magnificent however. We found the whole ship vibrated and rocked most of the trip.
Food - We had chosen traditional seating with some friends from Oregon so we had the Botticelli dining room. Far from our room in the bowels of the ship. Smells from the lower decks wafted up the stairwell and made it unpleasant at times. This dining room was not as elaborate and spacious as the two others. The DaVinci and the Michelangelo. Why they dont put one of the specialty restaurants there I dont know. It would make more sense for an intimate dining experience than for the larger crowd. Our table was right in front of the kitchen door and the smells and noise of the kitchen bombarded us nightly. When apprised that we were not pleased with our table location the head waiter turned around and walked off never to return again. It was the rudest behavior and very unprofessional of him. Our waiter was attentive as could be, but everyone seemed overworked with too many tables. The food was good and we enjoyed it. THe beverages did not meet our standards and complaints brought no changes. The ice tea is made from an instant concentrate both in the dining room and in the buffet. It tastes terrible. This southern girl likes her ice tea. Since Princess has long held a British lineage, I was appalled to find instant tea considered part of a fine dining experience. The coffee is also made from a concentrate but it was palatable. The Horizon court buffet was good and we ate there for most of our breakfasts and lunches. We did enjoy the afternoon tea one day. A very nice tea service and tasty. Real brewed tea was served Thank goodness!!
Our ports of call: We were looking forward to Belize since it was one of the two ports we had not visited on previous cruises. Having read a number of reviews panning Belize as a destination we were not sure what to expect. The people were friendly and pleasant. We had booked the Mayan Palaces tour from the ship and after tendering to shore boarded tour buses that took us the 90 minute drive to the Mayan ruins. Our guides were informative and the tour was very good. We were a bit rushed because the ship took so long getting us to shore and we had an early departure time. THey did stop at Ceasars a very nice shop and snack place. Belize is obviously a poor country but seems deternined to attract and keep the cruise lines coming. We would definitely go back. I liked that there werent so many of the same diamond and watch shops lined up for us to Shop til we dropped. We enjoy seeing the countryside and geting to know a little about the place we are visiting. Other ports offer the shopping experience perhaps a little too much of it for me.
Costa Maya should change its name to Cost Too Mucho. It was hot and muggy the day we docked there and since we had not booked a tour there we went on shore to do a little shopping. Wow! The prices were like on the ship. We did not go to Majahual, next time I think we will try that. We spent a little time and a little money but since a beer cost $3.50 we opted to tender back to the ship and enjoy a nap.
Grand Caymen was a port we had visited on a previous cruise so we booked a tour of the Turtle farm, Hell and the Nautilus semi submersible. I really enjoyed the turtle farm and our stop for rum cakes, would have liked more time at the turtle farm. Unfortunately when we got to the semi submersible, there was an accident that broke the ramp and injured one of the passengers ( not seriously) they cancelled that part of the tour. We did a bit of browsing around but soon went back to the ship as the port shopping area was so jammed with 7 cruise ships in port that day. Grand Caymen has some visible damage from the hurricane last year but they are making great progress on repairs. The water is gorgeous there.
Cozumel - our favorite tour.
My husband likes to snorkel. I dont swim so it isnt my favorite thing but we took a tour that included the snorkeling, and the beach break at Playa Mia with Mexican buffet and open bar. Needless to say we took full advantage of the bar both on the beach and the snorkel boat. After the snorkel the crew of the boat opened up the rum punch and margaritas on board and served tequila slammers. We all danced and laughed and a good time was definitely had by all. The crew were very good and careful with the snorkelers. I was impressed with the way they handled it all. The beach was very nice and there is a shopping area there. They were ready to bargain.
Overall, the ports were good and we had a nice time on our cruise. That said let me add that we were disappointed with many things on shipboard. Service was adequate but not excellent. Food was good but not great, and the ship is needing a good overhaul. None of the chairs in the lounge areas were comfortable. Everything was just a notch or two off from what I have come to expect from Princess since this was our 3rd cruise with them. I have never felt so crowded on any previous ship and we have been on ships as large Such as the RCI Voyager. It was like one cattle call after the next and we seemed to be constantly hurried up so we could wait in line again. I would not recommend the Grand to my friends and I probably not only not book the Grand again myself but plan to try a different cruise line next time. One fellow cruiser said he had cruised on the Carnival Elation and it was better than the experience on the Grand Princess. I cant attest to that as I have never cruised on Carnival but I can compare it with previous Princess cruises that I loved and with RCI. It just didnt stack up in so many areas.