Number of Cruises: 7
Cruise Line: Princess
Ship: Grand Princess
Sailing Date: January 20th, 2007
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
This was our 7th cruise and our 4th on Princess. It was easy for us to cruise all 4 of our Princess cruises on the Grand since we live in Dallas, TX. & the ship leaves out of Galveston, TX about 6 months out of the year. It is only a 4 ½ hour drive. We are very sad to hear that the Grand will not be back next year. Rumor has it that 2-3 crew members left the ship at Galveston and did not return. Immigration officials frowned on this very seriously (too bad they don’t do as good a job at our borders but that is another story altogether). We drove to Galveston the night before the cruise & stayed at the Ramada Limited.
Embarkation: We arrived at the terminal at
about 12:00 noon. We dropped the girls off with the luggage and Brad & I zipped
on over to EZ cruise parking. They are very convenient & professional. Both of
us are musicians and because of the longer hair were asked for autographs &
pictures by the staff Ha! Ha! Big ego boost! Since the weather was not all that
great at the time Brad rented a cover for his SUV. Rental space cost $50.00 for
7 days online & $10.00 for the cover. You should take note to always book your
rental ahead of time because they can fill up & you might have to use terminal
parking (YUK..$70.00 for the week and no shuttle service). When we entered the
terminal it was just 2nd nature on where to go since we have been on this cruise
4 times in the last 2 years. The lines were not too long at the security
checkpoint but were VERY long at the check in counters. Teri & I went to express
check in and showed our Captains Circle member cards. The lady sad that only
Platinum & Elite members could use that line where there were hardly any people.
I promptly said “Well what use is this card”. This is when Princess really
shined for me on customer service. The Princess rep asked if she could see my
card again and said she did not realize that we were Gold members and let us in
the line. Always remember to ask for things in a nice manner & good things will
come. When we were checking in we asked if the couple traveling with us could
check in there also. The counter rep said “YES” (BIG BROWNIE POINTS FOR
PRINCESS) but keep it a secret. Next was the line for the pictures. I am not
fond of this due to the fact that people don’t always look their best after
traveling. Big mistake on my part. Our group picture turned out great. Our extra
bonus for this cruise was $25.00 per person shipboard credit and a free photo.
Good thing we did not bypass the first picture. This is the only one we had time
for the whole cruise. We were on the ship in less than 30 minutes. I cannot say
enough about the way Princess works their muster drills. It is done in the
theaters where it is calm & relaxing. Other ships usually do this outside where
it can be very uncomfortable. at times (weather & standing).
Rooms: We purchased our cruise online at BEST PRICE CRUISES.COM. I think we received a fantastic price of $1371.26 per couple. The rooms were ocean view balconies on the aloha deck (A-214 &A-218 also connected on the balconies) Rooms are fine in size for 2 people but any more would be kind of cramped. Bathroom is ok in size but set up only for one person at a time. Beds were fine in size (seemed more like a king than a queen) This is an OK location for rooms but not our favorite And it is true that the balconies on the Caribe deck are much larger but Teri & I insist our favorite is the Lido deck. If you stay on this level you can walk just down the hall to sooooo much of the ship activities without using the elevator. We have been on this deck 2 times before. You are on the same level with all the pools, the pizza, hamburger, & hotdog stations, the Horizon buffet, and last but not least M.U.T.S. (Movies under the Stars - a 300 sq ft dynamic picture screen). This is the best idea I have ever seen on any cruise ship. And in response to anyone who does not like it by the pool GO TO ANOTHER POOL!!! We enjoyed this entertainment during the entire cruise. They even played the NFL conference finals. Many times on our balcony you could see the flying fish come out of the water & glide for about 30 yards. Then the time (about half way through the cruise) came that was one of the highlights and why you have a balcony. THE DOLPHINS They swam right up to the ship and went under the ship as to not have a care in the world. There were 4 packs of about 4 to 5 each. Too bad that on some of the islands they are caged & trained to do stunts & interact to swim with people just for the almighty dollar. They just look so much more happy in the wild. What wonderful species they are. Our room steward was Dom. I think she was from the Philippines. We tipped her very well at the end of the week (I will let you know what we think of the automatic gratuities at the end of this review) due to her great service.
in comparison to the Grand. You should know just about where everything is after the first day at sea with a little exploration. This is a good reason to always book 7 days and NO less. You are just getting used to your surroundings in about 2 to 3 days. Some cruises only last 3 days (very bad idea). Starting at the back of the ship, Skywalker's disco is magnificent. The location and views are perfect being at the highest point of anywhere on the ship. The back pool area under the disco is 3 tier. First tier for laying out. Second tier for the same plus ping pong tables. Third tier for the same plus shuffle board and a gigantic chess set. Very good for any type of photos. Starting on the 2nd tier & going forward is the Horizon buffet. Next is the indoor pool (very nice on bad weather days) which has a retractable roof. After that is the outdoor pool with MUTS, pizza, hamburger,& hotdog stand. As for hot tubs, there are as many hot tubs as there are bars (about 12)& you know how much they like to make money off those drinks. All pools & hot tubs are FRESH WATER. I don’t think any other ship in this price range has this feature (one I will miss dearly when cruising on another)
Food:This one segment is where I guess you just cant please everyone. Horizon food court is good food for a buffet(I compare it to the Golden Corral chain) The restaurants were also very good. Da Vincci, Michaelangelo, & Bottacelli. We chose the anytime dining and only had to wait only once (Very nice for a ship that has roughly 2800 passengers) If you order something that does not agree with your taste just have the waiters take it back & chose something else. How hard can this be? But I guess some losers would just not have anything to complain about. The wait staff in the restaurants are just fantastic. They did not frown upon certain clothing attire while dining. If you wish to dress up as to go to a funeral or a wedding that is fine but don’t be snooty to other people because they choose not to. We are on VACATION .We (the men) wore nice slacks & button shirts, (the girls) nice dresses and still got the look. All I have to say on this is we all pay our right to be on this ship so if you wish to be on a snooty ship go ahead & pay a snooty price (which I am sure most of you complainers can not afford). The extra cost dining rooms are Sabbaitini's and the Painted Desert. I have dined at Sabbatini's and it is just not my cup of tea. And that is what I mean about everyone being different .Most people that I have read their reviews love it. I have not tried the Painted Desert so I cannot comment on it. Next the pizza, hamburger,& hotdog stand are always delicious due to being very hungry after excursion days. There is an ice cream station that is an extra charge (One of the only complaints I have with Princess). Remember this you can always satisfy your ice cream needs in the Horizon buffet from 3:30 pm to 4:30 pm daily where they serve ice cream for free.
Entertainment: I cannot comment on any of the live shows due to not getting to see any. We were just to busy with other activities. There is just so much you can do in a week. There is a 9-hole putt putt course behind the MUTS screen. There is a video arcade for the kids(a little pricey at almost a dollar a game) Ping pong tables, Gigantic chess set, shuffle board, work out room, and my favorite the CASINO. This is one of the only ships I have been on that have Texas hold 'em poker. I have paid for 2 of our cruises due to my winnings in this room. They also have an $80.00 buy in tourney at the end of the week that pays winnings to the top 3 places. I have finished 4th both times(what luck but still had a great time). Kind of ironic that the most popular gambling game in the world is not even legal in the state that it is named after. (Thanks goes out to our beloved governor Rick Perry from Las Vegas & Louisiana ----I’m sure he enjoys a little spare change from these entities to try and keep it illegal) The casino also has the regular games & slots. Teri had a blast with yoga, wine tasting, working out, and the ice sculpturing. The karaoke activities are held in the explorers lounge (did not participate but was very entertaining).
1st day at sea: We mostly relaxed this day (knowing all the activities I had planned for the island days) and showed the couple around the ship that joined us on this cruise. The first and last night we had fairly rough water. It was a little scary to our first time cruisers. I let them know that this is common coming out or going into Galveston by cruise ship. Some more good info I picked up on Cruise critic & Cruisereviews.com. As for me I love a boat that rocks me to sleep.
2nd day Costa Maya, Mexico: Docked This stop is a total waste of time if you do not know of its secret (Majahaul)Costa Maya is a big round colored mall with a big pool built by the cruise lines. If you shop here you are missing out on some of the greatest buys you will find on this cruise. Just walk straight thru through mall to the back entrance and catch a five min. shuttle to Majahaul. The shuttle will cost only 2-3 dollars per person. To get back it is the same price for a cab. Majahaul is a little fishing village with shops & restaurants right on the beach. What can I say $20.00 massages (45 min.),$2.00 cervezas, good food, serenading musicians, non crowded beach,& crystal clear water. PRICELESS. When you walk down the little dirt road-all the restaurant owners will try to convince you to eat at their establishment. We chose this route and what we got was paradise .A waiter that would wait on you at your beckon call. supply you with any of the services that I mentioned above. Our waiters name was Adolpho. He was tipped very well for his efforts. A last note about any of the stops is DO NOT buy shipboard sponsored excursions unless you are too old and need special assistance or wish to pay double the price. You can either find them online or right of the ship on shore. I recommend doing research online to find tour guides with a good reputation. I will show you all the bargains we received by just doing a little research with CRUISE CRITIC.
3rd day Roatan, Honduras: Docked:This stop by far was my favorite. It is a poor third world country island. Its lush green foliage & beautiful country are just an amazement to the eyes. I booked our day here with Bodden tours Victor Bodden is the owner. Try to book with him early so that he does not fill up and you might miss out. You pay by how many people you have (minimum 4).The cost is $25.00 per person to have your own driver & trans for the day. When we stepped off the boat there were dancers & a marimba band to entertain your arrival. Please tip if you are able. Just a few steps more outside the dock gate was our driver Alie. He was fantastic. His joyful personality & knowledge of the island were a great match for a tour guide. First he drove us to the zip line tour. We went to the one at Palmetto Park. Alie got us there quick to avoid the crowds. I can see why the cruise line does not use this one due to the fact it is a little strenuous. But it was right up our alley. When you arrive they ( the guides) fit you with harnesses. Then just a walk down a some steep stairs & you are there. Cathy was a little nervous at first but after the first couple of swings she came through like a real trooper. There are about 20 lines with a few rope bridges and small 6 ft rock climb. Our group loved the whole experience. The cost is $45.00 per person. It was worth every cent .The guides see to your safety the whole time with one guide at the beginning and one at the end. This way they can catch you and help to avoid accidents. The guides were teenage boys that work for tips. They earned their tips this time. Sometime it is kind of hard to look out for someone’s safety when they constantly coming down either upside down or spinning (sorry but I was just having too much fun playing Tarzan). .After this FANTASTIC excursion you will be a little tired. Alie took us to the iguana farm next. (another FANTASTIC place). Cost was $5.00 per person. Again worth every cent. There are hundreds of iguanas. No need to be scared they are just like any other house pet. They just love to be fed & scratched on the head. There are little boys who will pass out leaves so you can feed them. Again a dollar or two tip goes a long way to make a little child’s day in this poor country. We got some great photos of the creatures. The owner loves to come out and introduce himself. You can tell he loves what he does for a living. He introduced us to an iguana stampede. They go crazy when he brings out any type of banana (rotten or not ripe—any type). After this Alie took us to Half Moon Bay. A great place to relax, lay out, have drinks, and a bite or two. Note: Remember here the drinks are very stout & can sneak up on you TERI HA! HA!I didn’t care too much for the snorkeling (not much sea life)but my gosh everything cant always be perfect.( Ours almost was). Then at the end of the day Alie returned us to the ship. He definitely earned his tip. If you like what you read here the online site is Boddentours.com. Lastly a comparison of cost.: On the boat you would probably pay $100.00 per person for just the zip line in a sort of cattle truck operation. that might last at the most 2 hours then they drop you back at the ship. We on the other hand had the whole day (all tips included) for $100.00 per person. I’m sure you will decide which you would enjoy more.
4th day Belize Tender: This is the only port that we had to tender into. (for those who don’t know this is where you have to take a smaller boat to shore due to the fact that their dock cannot accommodate cruise ships) I had booked our excursion with Cave-tubing.com. Yhony Rosado is the owner. I booked this online so that we could beat the masses to the caves. When we arrived from the tender Yhony was waiting right outside the gate for us. I told him why we wished to beat the crowds & he said “I’m sorry for the inconvenience but my tour starts out with a little tour around the city(The main reason I found out was that he was still waiting for other people off another cruise line). BOY I was very mad. After the little city tour we returned to pick up the other people. Yhony saw how mad I was & said to me ”Mr. Beene if you feel like I have not provided you with the type of service you are used to---at the end of the tour you don’t have to pay.” I said that is one of the best customer service deals I had ever seen. We left to go to Jaguar Paw resort .It is a 90 min drive. When we arrived Yhonys guides got us our tubes and off we went for a 40 min hike through the rain forest. How beautiful it is. I was able to dive off the small cliffs with some of his guides .We arrived at the water only to see there was a big mass of people in the water that was from the ship. Almost 30-35 were grouped together arm in arm with only 2 guides. You can imagine how mad I was getting at this point. This is where Yhony shines ---He places 1 guide to ever 4-5 people .We passed the masses as if they were standing still. It was so amazing. We went through 3 caves with cave lights on our heads to see in the dark. Don’t worry about the 40 min walk you took to get to the caves. You only have about a 5 min walk back to the buses. There we changed into dry clothes and boarded the bus to go back to the dock. On the way we stopped for an authentic Belizean lunch at Amigos (Chicken, Rice & beans,& potatoes. Very good for only $5.00).I paid for a !
round of beers for our guides due to their hard work., We were also treated to a round of shots of the native Cashew wine. When the bottle had made the rounds it was given to Brad to finish it off due to it being his birthday. After lunch we arrived very early back at the dock. It was about 1:30 pm and we did not have to catch the last tender until 5:00 pm. Coming off the bus Yhony stopped me and asked if I thought I should pay him. I asked him was he crazy.? It was a great day. He said OK( in a rough voice ) NOW SIT DOWN WHILE THE OTHER PEOPLE CAN LEAVE IN PEACE! I didn’t know what he meant but we just sat back down and waited .After everyone had left he said he makes a living by making sure that no one ever leaves his business disappointed. He told me that for the next 3 hours the bus (with two of his guides )was ours for the rest of the day NO CHARGE. What a great time we had .We didn’t want to leave at the end of the day as everyone seemed to be like family. So remember CAVE-TUBING.COM and book ahead of time.
5th day Cozumel, Mexico Docked: We really lucked out here. There was about 7 cruise ships and only 3 got to dock. I guess the cruise gods were following us this whole trip (Great weather and ports) Teri & I have been here several times not only on cruises but for 7 days at a time (land package) Our dock was so close to downtown I was able to jog with Brad to rent a car at Smart car rental. I have used them before many times. Rates are very good. Once we had the car we were off to pick up the girls at our dock. After we had found them we headed off to Chankanaab Park..$16.00 per person entry fee (You can get $2.00 off plus other discount coupons at Cozumel insider.com) When we were inside I told Brad that this is the perfect place to snorkel. He saw that I was putting on my thin wetsuit and asked why I needed it. I loaded up my sleeves with all forms of bread I had picked up at the buffet that morning. Once in the water the fish were so numerous and colorful. Caution: If you plan to do this DO NOT feed them directly from your hand. Just pitch out the bread and watch the excitement. There will be hundreds of fish and most of the people who saw me asked if I worked there. (HA HA I wished) After we snorkeled I told Brad it was time to scuba dive. He has never dove before. No problem ---my friend Eduardo who I have known since our first time here (almost 8 years ago) takes people all the time off the shore to experience scuba diving for the first time without being certified. He has an Instructors license in case you are leery. The cost is amazing.$45.00 for a one tank dive with all equipment and him as a guide. Try to get THAT on the ship. Our dive consisted of lobsters, octopus, barracudas, all other species, statues, and caves. I could not have asked for a better first dive for my friend than this. Brad said it was so amazing he will probably get certified soon. After we said our good byes to my friend we headed back to town to do some shopping since it was only 2 hours till the ship was to leave. We had planned to see the other side but just not enough time. Loaded up on all the usual things T shirts, jewelry, and various souvenirs. Then back to the ship.
6th day at sea: Same as our 1st day Very relaxing day. A lot of naps and eating. Took more pictures due to the Grand not coming back next year. She will be missed dearly. With that bad news I was in need of some good. I just heard that next year Jan 2008 Galveston will be receiving RCCL’s Voyager of the Sea. I cant wait!
Pros - too many to list. Brad and Cathy said they had never had such a wonderful trip. I think we have found the perfect cruisemates. I owe a lot of my information to Cruise Critic & Cruisereviews.com for activities and just overall knowledge.
Cons: Our only major complaint is the idea of automatic gratuities. I think someone in the higher mgmt of Princess has the meaning of this word mixed up with the word SURCHARGE. Never is a gratuity considered automatic. Don’t they know the meaning of the word .You (the consumer) are showing your gratitude for a good service. The consumer and only the consumer should decide what level of pay this service deserves. At the end of the week we made our way to the pursers desk to have these so called charges taken off our tab. We tip very well and will never be forced to accept what someone else deems worthy.
Debarkation: We had signed up for the
express checkout. When our number was called (about 7:30am)we were off the boat
and on the road in less than an hour. I know this review is very long but if you
are a cruise junkie as I am I know you will enjoy it and hopefully it will help
inform others how to have as great a trip as we did. Bye for now & good