Number of Cruises: 4
Cruise Line: Princess
Ship: Grand Princess
Sailing Date: January 18th, 2004
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
This being our fourth winter cruise with Princess we traveled to Florida a day early to avoid possible weather problems. We stayed at the Marriott Renaissance, which is very close to the cruise terminal. This is the first cruise we have been on since the line was sold and a new tipping policy was established where tips would be automatically deducted from your shipboard account. We boarded the Grand Princess without difficulty but were immediately met with signs advertising all the soda you can drink for $22.00. We had not seen this type of marketing on previous cruises. We later found that where on earlier cruises you could get fruit juice or lemonade all day long from the cafeteria, that benefit had stopped. You could however still have iced tea during the day. We traveled with four couples two of which were veteran Princess cruisers. From the first impression to the last the veterans saw a decline or cheapening of services, the first time cruisers thought it was a great experience. The ship is almost to big, it is beautiful but by making it bigger they simply get more people onboard. There is still only one buffet dining room but two additional charge dining rooms have been added. We had traditional second seating reservations. The food was okay but not great, the portions were small. The shrimp in the shrimp cocktail were so small they had to be laid down on the ice. The service was courteous but not outstanding. It was apparent that the staff was getting a tip whether you ate or not. On previous cruises the dinner was a form of entertainment with the staff often performing bits of magic or telling joke or even just small talk about your day. That has now been replaced by efficient service. The official welcome party on the first formal night was staffed so poorly you could not get service. However the captains party thrown for returning cruisers on the night of the second formal was excellent.
We had breakfast in our room and made great use of the balcony. Room service was good. We had lunch in the Horizon room, which is the buffet, and the food there was okay. The problem in this room was with language and attitude. This room and the ships bar staff are almost entirely from the Philippines, Mexico and Eastern European countries. The bar staff on previous cruises was heavily British and since probably 99.5% of the passengers on these cruises speak English as a first language these employees fit well with the passengers We were constantly subjected to staff speaking back and forth in their native languages while waiting on us. As for attitude there was surliness about the staff that was never present before. Some examples: While asking for cream for coffee on the second day of the cruise we were told the ship was out of cream (not true) and to use milk by a server who then turned and walked away, or the bartender who added a large amount of lemon to a pina colada drink that made it undrinkable and when it was brought to his attention said maybe you just don’t like pina coladas. His supervisor also echoed this statement before she relented and made the drinks over.
The cruise took us to Princess Cays where it was too rough to tender off. Then on to Grand Cayman, which was beautiful. We took a tour of the British colony, which was interesting. Followed by Costa de Maya, which is a port with not much else. Since my wife uses a wheel traveling to the ruins was out. Colzumel is the last stop on the cruise and you must take a cab for about three miles the get to town the ride was cheap (six dollars a car load) the ocean front tourist area is pretty but that’s about all.
The return to Fort Lauderdale was terrible with multiply cruise ships disembarking made for extreme confusion and impossible to get a cab. Princess offers you no help unless you buy the Princess transfer package.
In summary, the purpose of this trip was to escape the winter weather and it did that just fine. The weather on the cruise was a delight. We slept with the sliding door open each night to the sounds of the sea and the refreshing sea breeze. The room which was handicapped equipped was nice and the balcony is a must. When planning this trip we never thought about another cruise line because we knew Princess for the high quality that it once offered- that is no longer true.